24th Parliament · 1st Session
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that a letter has been sent to the Premier of Western Australia on behalf of the Rio Tinto Mining Company of Australia Proprietary Limited over the signature of Mr. J. N. V. Duncan, the company’s managing director, offering the immediate expenditure of £25,000,000 on a development project in the Hamersley Range in that State? Does that offer include proposals for the building of a port, railway, houses and hospitals without cost to the Western Australian Government in exchange for a long-term lease of land? Does the land involved contain vast iron ore deposits centred on Duck Creek in the Hamersley Range? ls it not a fact that the Federal Government has been aware of the impending offer to the Western Australian Government since 29th March? That was the date on which the chairman of the Rio Tinto mining company, Mr. Blake Pelly, told the annual meeting of the company -
A proposal for the development of the area has been submitted to the Western Australian Government.
As the Commonwealth Government, therefore, has had ample time in which to consider the implications of such a proposal, is the Minister able to assure the Senate that these vast and vital national assets, the benefits of which should accrue to all Australians now and in the distant future, will not be sold wholesale to overseas interests in order to gain a short-term advantage and/ or to suit the needs of a short-sighted policy?
– I do not know of the letter to which Senator Cooke has referred. I do not doubt that such a letter exists if he is sure that it does. Such a letter would not be unexpected by me. These are very great deposits of iron ore. A very great capital expenditure will be needed to develop them. I know that in general terms the approach of the Western
Australian Government to this matter has been to make areas available on the basis that the holder of the area will carry out a developmental programme to the satisfaction of that Government. So, I am not a bit surprised to hear of such a letter. Indeed, I would be surprised if there were not more than one such letter. There might be other letters from holders of other areas or prospective holders of other areas.
There is no doubt about the size of the iron ore deposits, and as more information becomes available the greater they are found to be. 1 counsel Senator Cooke and others not to be too hasty in coming to a conclusion as to the best method to adopt to develop these deposits in the national interests. Without any doubt at all, in extent they are infinitely greater than will be needed to meet Australian requirements in the foreseeable future. They are really very large deposits. Naturally, we want to see them developed on a basis which will provide the greatest export income to Australia, and the more the iron ore is treated and processed, the greater will be our export income. I think it would be a short-sighted policy not to approach the development of a very great mining venture like this on the basis of allowing a good deal of latitude to the mining companies concerned to establish their developmental organizations and get them into operation.
I think history has shown that with any great mining proposition the big task is to get the initial development under way. If, in the case of these deposits, it means that for some time to come iron ore must be exported, I shall not be very greatly concerned in the national interest because I believe that the size of the deposits has first to be proved and the quality of the ore proved acceptable to world markets. Having established that the deposits are large and that the ore is good quality you naturally go from there to the development of the manufacturing processes associated with it. It would be so much better, of course, if you could start off with the manufacturing processes, but these represent such a big investment that I would be prepared to be a little patient. The great task at the moment is to get a suitable market because the ore must be marketed in very big quantities. The deposits are so big and the capital outlay required to develop them so heavy that you really need a big contract at the start to justify the capital outlay involved.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether his attention has been drawn to the leading article appearing in the “ Adelaide News “ of 7th November under the heading “ Lopsided “. Amongst other things, this article states -
South Australia will observe that Queensland has again scored heavily in the field of Commonwealth aid.
The Commonwealth Government last night decided to make a grant of £7,250,000 to the Queensland Government for development -of the central Queensland brigalow country.
What is being done for Queensland contrasts sharply with what is not being done to help South Australia.
The article goes on to deal with certain aspects of development in Queensland which have been assisted and other developmental projects requiring assistance in South Australia. Whilst I am in favour of national development in Australia, wherever it occurs, 1 ask the Minister: What .system is used by a fortunate State to encourage the Commonwealth to make these loans, grants or handouts? Does the incompetence, ineptitude or inability of a State, without Commonwealth aid, to clear its .own scrub, relay its own railway lines or develop its own ports act as an invitation to the Commonwealth to .grant aid? On the other hand, does the good husbandry of a State in its own internal affairs spoil its chances of getting a Commonwealth ‘grant, loan or handout? Has not the time arrived for the appointment of an authority -similar in pattern to the Interstate Commission ‘envisaged in the Constitution, or the Australian Universities Commission, to advise the Government on important matters?
– It is ‘difficult for me to answer in detail all the points that Senator Laught has made in his question, but I think 1 can give a satisfactory general answer. There is a great national need, in both the short-term and the long-term, to increase Australian export income. The Commonwealth ‘Government has set out, over the last few years, to assist proposals in the various States which might achieve that objective. The construction of beef roads in the Channel country of Queensland and the development of the brigalow area are first-class proposals in terms of the export income that they will yield. In the present national circumstances, we would be unwise not to utilize them.
Senator Laught has implied that something is being done to the prejudice of South Australia. I say to him with all the force that I can command, and with respect to his point of view, that that simply is not so. We have had proposals from South Australia. We also have had proposals from Tasmania and New South Wales, but those proposals have not established that a level of export income would be reached to justify the substantial capital investment that would be needed. Our Australian resources are not unlimited. We have to husband our resources. We have to give priorities to the works that will yield us the results required in terms of the national need. This is not a question of unfriendliness to South Australia or of derogating that State in any way. We are consciously trying to assist oil exploration in South Australia because we think that the prospects for the discovery of oil in that State are good. We are prepared to look at proposals from any State of the Commonwealth, but we must have an order of priorities, and that order must be based on a higher concept than State boundaries.
The ACTING PRESIDENT.- Before calling the next honorable senator who wishes to .ask .a question, ‘I invite the attention of the Senate to the need for silence while questions .ace being asked. In fairness to the Ministers who are .expected to answer the questions, they should be able to heaT them properly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the state of world affairs, , does the Government believe that the flax industry is an essential industry? Because of the parlous condition of the growing and milling sides of the industry, what is the Government prepared to do to see that it is placed on a profitable footing? Does the Government consider that if ‘Overseas .sources of fibre imports were cut off, there would be .alternative .methods of .providing .materials of sufficient strength and an sufficient quantities to ‘take .the place of those .produced from flax?
– As the honorable senator is ‘well aware, for .a long time ‘the Government -has given serious ‘consideration to the needs <o’f the ‘flax industry. -I should be the first -to concede that ‘during the war years the growers of flax produced a great national effort in meeting the needs of >our armed forces. Since then, however, the picture has changed completely. To-day, flax is a commodity that is freely available on many world markets. The Government, in its wisdom, lias done what is could to induce private industry ‘to take over the growing of flax. On two or three occasions,, it has given very substantial concessions ito private interests which were ‘prepared to undertake this responsibility. If it is not an attractive proposition to private industry, surely the honorable senator is not suggesting that the ‘Government should spend the taxpayers’ money in bolstering the industry, particularly when overseas ‘supplies of the product are freely available. That is the crux of the situation. I repeat that there is no justification for asking the taxpayers to foot the bill for the production of a commodity that is readily available on other markets.
– My question to the “Leader of the Government in the Senate is related to a report published in the press to-day that the Federal Parliamentary “Labour Party had appointed a committee to examine the possibility of setting tip what was termed “ a national newspaper ‘control committee “. Does the Minister ‘interpret this decision to mean that if the Australian Labour Party were ever ‘to occupy the treasury bench, ‘inevitably legislation would be .passed by the Labour ‘government Chen in office, first, to control -the publication of press material and, secondly, to control the writings of newspaper employees?
– So far as certain sections of the press in New South Wales are concerned, .1 must confess .that my head is bloody but unbowed, but that does not prevent me from recoiling from any suggestion of curtailment of the ‘freedom of the press. In all the buffets we have had, I have never yet run into a situation in which I was refused the right of reply when I was subjected to criticism. I think we have to go carefully. I read the newspaper report with great interest because the implication was that the intention was no’t only control of newspaper proprietors but also control of newspaper employees. I was most intrigued to see two of our senators named as mem’bers of the committee.
– Three of them.
– Were there three? I noticed two of them, and if my information is correct, those two ‘senators -are members of the Australian Journalists Association. In the fullness of time, I will be fascinated to see how honorable senators opposite will .reconcile this proposal with their general ‘policy of freedom of the press which, I understand, is also one of the objectives of the United Nations Organization. I shall he fascinated if the two honorable senators on the Opposition side to whom I have referred will explain in the fullness of time on the .floor of the Senate how this scheme is going to work. I shall be interested to hear them tell us how they are .going to Live with their fellow members .of the .Australian Journalists Association, .and how they are going to tell them what they are to write or not to write. I tissue .them an open invitation to do so, and I .promise to .move for the suspension of the Standing Orders at any time they desire to tell us all about this proposal.
– Will the Leader of the ‘Government in the Senate state when we can expect the transfer of Commonwealth departments from Melbourne to Canberra to he completed?
– This question does not lend itself to a simple answer. There is a continuing programme, with an order of priority. First priority is given to the defence departments, or certain sections of them, .and the other departments are then given their order of .priority. The process, naturally, must be spread over a period of years, because we have to provide buildings, housing and other facilities for the departments on their arrival. It will be seven or ten years, I think, before the programme is completed.
– Has the Minister for National Development any information concerning the prominence given in the Tasmanian press last week to the proposed inauguration of an industry based on the Savage River iron ore deposits?
– No, I cannot give, as it were, a ball-to-ball description of what is happening. I have a general knowledge of these deposits which, if I may say so, are taking the pattern of other new deposits that have been found, that is, as more and more information becomes available, the greater is the known size of the deposit. The size of the Savage River iron ore deposits is considerably greater than was estimated a few years ago.
The Premier of Tasmania, if I am correctly informed, has adopted with respect to these deposits the policy that he will not permit export of the iron ore but will conserve it and get a steel-making industry based upon it. I respect his judgment on that; it is a matter of judgment. Can he attract the capital to do it? As I said in reply to an earlier question, my own disposition is to think that you get better results if there is gradual development of a big deposit. This is a big deposit, and we shall wait and see what happens.
I should like to make also a point that is becoming increasingly apparent. The existence of tremendous mineral deposits has come to our knowledge in recent years. These include lead, zinc, bauxite, copper and iron ore. We really need only oil now to have almost every natural resource. These mineral deposits, of course, are the foundation of manufacturing industry and additional population. I make the final point that so much of the knowledge of these deposits has been the results of the work of officers of my department. I stress how wise the Prime Minister was in establishing the Department of National Development in 1949 for the purpose of finding these natural resources upon which we could develop Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. What are the latest figures of registered unemployment in each State of Australia? Can the Minister ascertain with some degree of certainty the approximate number of unemployed persons in addition to those who are registered? In view of the annual addition to the work force of thousands of school leavers seeking employment in the New Year, what does the Government propose to do to honour its promise and give effect to its oft-repeated statement that its objective is full employment?
– I do not carry in my mind the latest published numbers of persons registered as unemployed in each State. Those figures were issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service. They are publicly and easily available to Senator Sandford should he wish to get them. If he does get them and if he looks at them, I suggest that he make a distinction between the number of people registered for employment throughout Australia, which I think is about 78,000, and the number of people drawing the unemployment benefit. It is those latter people who are in fact unemployed. A person must be unemployed for a week before he can draw the unemployment benefit. I think that throughout Australia about 30,000 people are drawing that benefit.
Turning to the question of school leavers, I direct the attention of Senator Sandford to a public statement that was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service two days ago. That statement contained the answer to the question asked by Senator Sandford. The Minister said that there would be far less trouble in placing school leavers in employment this year than there was last year, and that manufacturers and various employers’ organizations in Australia were already working with the Department of Labour and National Service in this field. In past years we heard from people such as Senator Sandford prognostications of disaster in the employment field, but no disasters occurred. It is much less likely that a disaster will occur this time, in view of what the Government has done to promote full employment.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. By way of explanation, I point out that on Tuesday last I asked the Minister to tell me whose responsibility it was to look after country roads, including beef roads, in South Australia. The Minister gave an answer to that question, in which he said that £50,000,000 was allocated annually to the States for roads purposes, that 40 per cent, of that money was made available for expenditure on country roads and that some of the 40 per cent of the £50,000,000 could be used for the building of beef roads in the northern parts of Australia. I now ask: Is the Minister aware that neither that part of my question nor his answer to it was mentioned in the two leading Adelaide newspapers, although on the following day both those newspapers published leading articles criticizing the Federal Government and certainly attacking the representatives of South Australia in this Parliament? Whenever there is a difference of opinion between the Federal Government and the South Australian Government, the South Australian press leans over backwards to present a biased picture to the South Australian people favouring the South Australian Government. Will the Minister take up with the Prime Minister the suggestion that the Prime Minister make a public statement explaining just what consideration has been given to the case which is frequently presented to the Federal Government by the representatives of South Australia in this Parliament and explaining also why it has been decided that that case is not sufficient for assistance to be granted? Repeating a question asked by Senator Laught, which I think the Minister overlooked, I ask whether he will establish a committee on which South Australia will have equal representation with the other States - something that we do not have now in this Parliament or in the Cabinet - with a view to showing the people of South Australia that they are receiving consideration equal to that received by the people of the other States?
– I begin my reply to Senator Buttfield by saying that I still believe in the freedom of the press. Personally I would not support a proposal for the establishment of a committee, on which the various States had equal representation, to consider what might be called export proposals. As I said previously, the criterion that we use in considering a request for financial assistance is the export worthiness of the project. The Commonwealth has the responsibility for providing the money requested and it is primarily responsible for the expansion of export income. In these matters it works on the basis of seeking advice from the States - very valuable assistance is received from State officers in particular - and of making its own judgment in each particular case.
– Has the
Minister for Health seen a statement in the Sydney press regarding the Canberra lakes scheme? Under the heading “ Health hazard in lake “ the press statement reads -
Local residents are shocked by a declaration by authorities that an artificial lake to be built here may pose a health hazard.
Swimming may be banned because of pollution from septic tanks discharging into the Molonglo River.
The ban would run counter to a long-held official view that the lake would be a major tourist attraction.
The costly lake, to be known as Lake Burley Griffin, is due to begin filling in mid-1963.
The Department of Health has warned that polio and hepatitis bacteria could be spread by septic tank effluent.
Would the Minister care to comment if such danger does exist in the building of these lakes? What safeguards are being taken to overcome such danger?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable senator refers. I remind him that the responsibility of the Department of Health is solely one of caring for the health of the community. It is true that certain investigations into this problem are proceeding, and until those investigations have been concluded, I think it appropriate that I withold any comment.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that intensive foodselling campaigns are to be undertaken in Japan and Hongkong early next year, and that these campaigns will be aimed at more than 3,000 retailers, importers, caterers, buyers from armed services organizations and government agencies? If the Commonwealth Government is associated with the campaigns - as I expect it will be - will it seek to obtain the services of suitablytrained and experienced women to assist in these promotion drives?
– 4 have heard something of these food-selling campaigns in Hongkong and Japan. The Commonwealth’s interest in them would be through the Department of Trade. I remind Senator Wedgwood, that the trade missions that go overseas are composed of people from industry rather than officers of the Public Service. My recollection is that when a trade mission of perhaps 20 or 30 people goes overseas to some particular area only one officer from the department accompanies it. The other members are representatives of various companies that hope to do business in the area. I confess that I have the feeling that it should be an advantage in food-selling campaigns to have some women members of the delegation. I do not know about the practicability of the suggestion. I will bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Trade.
– My questions are directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that by a vote of 67 to 16 the General Assembly of the United Nations yesterday passed a resolution deploring South Africa’s refusal to heed pleas of the United Nations since 1946 to abandon its racist policies, and asking United Nations members to act - separately or collectively - to carry out trade and diplomatic boycotts against South. Africa? Did Australia vote against the resolution? Does the Government propose to act upon the resolution or to ignore it?
– It is a fact that the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution - probably the numbers mentioned by the honorable senator are correct - on the question of racialism in South Africa and on whether a boycott should or should not be imposed on South Africa. The Australian representative in the United Nations voted against the imposition of sanctions or a boycott. In the course of his address to the United Nations, speaking for the Australian Government on the question of apartheid, he said -
We have on many occasions stated that apartheid is repugnant to Australia and, in the words of our Prime Minister, spoken several years ago, it is “ unworkable and doomed to a most terrible disaster “…
The Australian delegation associates itself with the frustration expressed by many of the representatives here, particularly the African representatives, in the face of South Africa’s continued non-compliance with resolutions of the Assembly.
It will be noted that in that debate the Australian representative put the same point of view as he put in the debate in the Third Committee on the question of religious discrimination inside Soviet Russia.
The question of the imposition of sanctions was a completely different one and the Australian representative voted against that, first, on the ground that sanctions should emanate only from the Security Council, according to the United Nations Charter, and that the proper conditions for the emanation of such sanctions from the Security Council did not exist. Thoseproper conditions are that something is creating an immediate threat to the peace of the world. The second ground was that sanctions hurt people rather than governments and that the imposition of sanctions on the trade of South Africa would hurt not only the people who were employed in the countries that imposed the sanctions but also the prosperity and employment of the people in South Africa whose cause the United Nations most wanted to help. We expressed and still express the belief that in this and related matters the use of moral pressure through the United Nations is the proper course for the Government to take.
– I ask the Minister for Health the following questions: - What is the position of members of Australian medical benefits societies who require medical or hospital treatment- while they are travelling outside Australia? Can they claim such expenses on their return on production of overseas receipts?
– Australians who have hospital treatment while travelling overseas may. draw- their normal hospital benefits upon return to Australia, provided always that all subscriptions have been paid on the due date, that all receipts and vouchers are presented in support of the claim, and that the contributor has retained his Australian citizenship while travelling overseas.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the attention of the Government been directed to suggestions made by Mr. C. P. Hazelgrove, a leading South Australian winemaker, on ways to increase Australia’s wine export trade with the United Kingdom? Mr. Hazelgrove is reported in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of 6th November, 1962, as recommending the establishment of additional fine-wine centres for the retail and introductory wholesale trade in such cities as Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Mr. Hazelgrove also urged that direct grants be made to distributing firms from funds available for wine advertising in Great Britain. He suggested that the grants be in proportion to the firms’ existing sales. Can the Minister advise the Senate whether these suggestions will be considered by the Department of Primary Industry or the Australian Wine Board?
– The matter raised by Senator Bishop relates to two departments, namely the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Trade. The making of the additional grants that have been suggested is the prerogative of the Australian Wine Board. That board has been set up at the request of the wine industry and comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Primary Industry. The establishment of additional overseas selling centres is a matter for the Minister for Trade. Therefore, I suggest to the honorable senator that I bring these matters to the notice of both of those Ministers and ask them to communicate with him directly on the matters that he has raised.
– I do not want to avoid answering this question asked by Senator Sir Walter Cooper; but recently I received a report from a committee that we set up a couple of years ago to investigate new uses for coal. My recollection is that that report deals rather comprehensively with the very matter that Senator Sir Walter Cooper has mentioned. I should like him to put the question on the notice-paper. I would not like to say something from my recollection of what is in the report and find subsequently that my recollection was at fault. This matter is of considerable importance to the coal-mining industry.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether patients who contribute to medical benefits funds receive refunds of only 63 per cent, of doctors’ fees. Can the Minister say when contributors can expect to receive the 90 per cent, refund which was agreed upon when the present medical benefits organizations were established?
– I presume that when Senator Ormonde suggests that contributors to medical benefits funds receive a refund of 63 per cent, of doctors’ fees, he means that that is the average percentage.
– That is right.
– The percentages vary considerably in accordance with the services rendered by the doctors. I do not think any government would ever undertake the responsibility of providing a medical benefits system that would be applied to follow, either up or down, the fees charged by medical men. Their charges are their prerogative. We have never set out to close the gap between the fees and the refunds and we will not set out to close that gap because the members of the medical profession are free agents. We believe that they have the right to assess what their labours are worth and to charge accordingly. Therefore, I cannot give the honorable senator an undertaking that the Government will ever accept the responsibility of closing the gap. By and large, the fund benefits that are available do the greatest good for the greatest number of people and we will ensure that that position is maintained.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the splendid service being rendered to Mr. Calwell and the Australian Labour Party generally by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, does not the Labour proposal to control and muzzle the press seem like base ingratitude? Whilst not suggesting that the Australian press is perfect, I ask the Minister: Was not government and party control of the press one of the early measures taken by the barbarians Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin, in order to maintain an iron dictatorship in their respective countries?
– I give this short answer to Senator Hannan: Yes, I am against it, too.
– My question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is consequent upon the questions that have been asked of him by Senators Vincent and Hannan. Is he aware that the Australian Journalists Association has an ethics committee to enforce within its own ranks a code of ethics that is issued to its members? Is it a fact that shortly after that code of ethics was drawn up and issued to members of the Australian Journalists Association, Australian Consolidated Press Limited, in what is known as Penton’s case, sought deregistration of the association as an industrial union of employees on the ground that its rules were tyrannical and oppressive? Also, is the Minister aware that the application was rejected firstly by the then Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and subsequently, on appeal, by the High Court? Further, is the Minister aware that for some years now the Australian Journalists Association has been pressing for the establishment of a general council of the press for the purpose of protecting the interests of not only those engaged in the industry but also the public generally?
– I am not aware of all these things to which Senator McClelland refers, but one point that does occur to me from his question is that, coming from Sydney, I remember the Mr. Penton to whom he referred, and I remember that Mr. Penton has been dead for some years now. So that the matter raised by the honorable senator must be getting to the stage of being history. All these events to which the honorable senator refers must have happened many years ago. Surely what we have to deal with is the current situation, not past history. The Australian Journalists Association may have been pressing for this, or the Australian Labour Party may be pressing for it; I do not know. However, I do not believe that you get a good national result when you have control of freedom. I always find that in the final analysis control of freedom turns out to be something close to tyranny. Personally, I would sooner suffer a little disadvantage in the political arena from time to time rather than risk what I would think to be a far worse condition.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation whether there is any truth in the statement appearing in this morning’s press that the Australian internal airlines, Ansett-A.N.A. and TransAustralia Airlines, are to order a small version of the Boeing 707 - the Boeing 727. If this rather larger than usual internal aircraft is to be used in Australia, can the Minister indicate whether we can expect added passenger traffic or whether we have sufficient passenger potential to fill this type of aircraft? If so, is there any chance of reducing fares in Australia when these new planes are in operation? I also ask whether there is any indication that the ordering of these rather large planes will be an encouragement to the internal airlines to break into the overseas airline traffic.
– I have noticed that there is a more than usual degree of speculation in this morning’s press about the acquisition of aircraft. Indeed, if I might refer to the question just asked by Senator McClelland, I was wondering how this sort of reporting lined up with the ethics of journalism and the ethics of the committee established by the Australian Journalists Association of which he spoke in terms of rather warm praise. In one newspaper this morning, the speculation takes the line that aircraft of the kind mentioned by Senator Buttfield are to be operated by both airlines. In another, it takes the line that at least one airline is to buy aircraft of a completely different type. I do not suppose the press will be interested in what I have to say because, obviously, in this regard, the press is not prepared to let the facts spoil a good story, but the facts of the matter are that the airlines have not yet advised me of their final choice; and they do not have to do so until 18th November at the earliest. I have no doubt at all that when they advise me of their choice they will by then have taken well into account the factors such as passenger traffic, fare levels and so on, which were mentioned by Senator Buttfield. I do not think that either one of the domestic airlines will be taking into consideration the possibility of breaking into overseas international traffic.
The only other comment I want to make on the speculation that has occurred is the suggestion in at least one newspaper that the Government airline, Trans-Australia Airlines, has found itself under some pressure - of course, the source of the pressure is not specified - to buy aircraft of one type rather than another. Apart from the fact that, like the other operator, Trans-Australia Airlines has not yet advised me of its final choice of aircraft, I remind the Senate that, by legislation passed by this chamber only quite recently, the airlines are free to make their own choice of the aircraft they want, always provided that they purchase aircraft which are in the same general category.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether Sir Leslie Melville resigned as chairman of the Tariff Board because he disagreed with the present tariff policy of the Government. If so, when and on what issues did such disagreement arise?
– My colleague, Mr. McEwen, says that Sir Leslie Melville did not give an explanation of his desire to resign. In reply to a question addressed to him, Mr. McEwen said that, as Sir Leslie has never given him any reason, he thinks it would be improper indeed for him to try and interpret what is in Sir Leslie Melville’s mind. There has been an exchange of only two letters between Sir Leslie Melville and Mr. McEwen, and I heard Mr. McEwen say in another place this morning that he was willing to make those two letters available to the Leader of the Opposition in another place. That being so, I would be sure that Mr. McEwen would be prepared to make them available to Senator McKenna.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether he has noted that the head of our trade mission to Jamaica - a Queenslander, by the way - was reported to have said that Queensland produced rum in large quantities but the quality was below that of the Jamaican rum and he felt that Jamaica could sell considerable quantities of rum in Australia. The question I ask is: Is this trade mission a selling mission for Australia, or for Jamaica?
– I can only say to Senator Maher that it is a selling mission, and I can hardly imagine any product easier to sell than rum.
– If I might add to the answer I gave to Senator McKenna a moment ago, I should like to mention that Mr. McEwen also said that in his relations with Sir Leslie Melville, Sir Leslie had expressed discontent in connexion with one matter only. That was the size of the staff of the Tariff Board and the rate at which additions were made to that staff.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Earlier, he indicated that he was willing to make available to the Leader of the Opposition the letters that have been exchanged between the Minister for Trade and Sir Leslie Melville. Is the Minister willing to table the letters in the- Senate for the information of all members of this chamber?
– I shall have to ask Senator Wright to place his question on the notice-paper, because I know only what my colleague has stated in this connexion. I do not know whether personal issues or other matters were raised in the letters. If the question is placed on the notice-paper, I shall ask Mr. McEwen to provide an answer.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions - 1 have seen press reports of Dr. Chowdhury’s statement. The Commonwealth Government has on several occasions indicated its support in principle for the introduction of a decimal system of currency in Australia. Contact has been maintained with the United Kingdom and New Zealand authorities on this subject and, on his recent visit overseas, the Treasurer took the opportunity to inform himself of the latest developments in these countries on this matter.
The honorable senator may be assured that the Commonwealth Government will decide for itself the time when a decimal currency will be adopted in Australia.
I inform him that regulations under the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960 include the units in the metric system as part of the Commonwealth legal units of measurement. Australia adheres to the International Metric Convention and the National Standards Laboratory of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has a full range of standards of measurement in the metric system. The metric system of weights and measures, in addition to .the British system, is already permitted in commercial use in Victoria and Queensland and the question of permitting use of the metric system in the other States is under discussion, with the State authorities.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Relative to the announcement by the Minister for National Development that the Government was considering the holding of an inquiry into the economy and the statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service indicating that a conference is being promoted to consider the subject of skilled tradesmen, will the Government (a) give consideration to the subject of automation and mechanization, and relative incidence of redundancy arising therefrom, as a special matter during the proposed inquiries, or (b) give fresh consideration to the proposal of the Australian Council of Trades Unions that a special branch of the Department of Labour and National Service be set up to investigate all aspects of automation?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the1 honorable senator’s questions: -
The Government, of course, recognizes that automation and mechanization are important from many aspects, and the Department of Labour and National Service, after consultations last year with representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has already increased its provision for the study of the implications of technological change.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Will the Government consider giving a wife’s allowance to the wives of age pensioners, where the wives are over fifty years of age, and there is no family income other than the one age pension and no means of augmenting it?
– The following answer is now supplied: -
Subject to the means test, the. non-pensioner wife of a permanently incapacitated age pensioner can qualify for a wife’s allowance irrespective of her age. The question of extending the conditions of eligibility for wife’s allowance involves Government policy and is considered each year when social services are reviewed in connexion with the preparation of the Budget.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answer: -
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal purpose of this bill is to adjust the pension entitlements of the majority of the contributors to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund in respect of salary increases which have taken place since 1959. The pension entitlements of members of the forces were last reviewed by the Government in 1959, following the Allison committee’s exhaustive review of the act, and the amending legislation of late 1959 restored the basis of pension entitlement to salary that was adopted by the Government in 1954 for both the Superannuation Act and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act,
The 1959 table of pension entitlements was based upon pensions which, at age 60, would be 70 per cent of salary for those on lower and middle salary ranges, reducing to 40.9 per cent. of salary at the top level. The majority of servicemen retire at earlier ages than 60 years, and their entitlements represent an appropriate proportion of the age 60 entitlement.
Since 1959 there have been further substantial increases in the salaries of public servants and servicemen. Within the limits of the scale of units contained in the Superannuation Act, public servants have automatically qualified for increases in their pension entitlements as their salaries have advanced. Servicemen’s pension entitlements, however, are at present fixed in amount by statute and remain at 1959 levels. The object of this bill is to adjust Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act pension entitlements to take account of salary increases which have occurred since 1959, to the extent that they have already been reflected in the pension entitlements of public servants. In order to avoid a repetition of the present situation, the bill also provides for automatic adjustments in these service pension entitlements upon new rates of pay being prescribed in the regulations. Thus, for any future general increase in servicemen’s salaries, increased pension entitlements will be applied without any delay.
The Commonwealth Actuary has examined the rates of contribution which should be paid by existing members to qualify for the additional entitlement. Although it is still too early to estimate with accuracy the adequacy of the rates which were introduced in 1959, the Actuary reports that there are indications that the fund is at present accumulating some surplus. On his recommendation, the bill provides for existing contributors who were contributors prior to 1959 to pay, for the additional amounts of pensions now arising, additional contributions at a rate equal to 85 per cent, of the contribution rates contained in the schedules to the 1959 act. Existing contributors who joined the fund after the introduction of the 1959 act will continue to pay 5 per cent, of salary, or appropriate higher percentages for late entry, in respect of the higher salary now to be taken into account, but will not be charged arrears.
The cost of taking up the additional entitlement now becoming available will be heavy for some members who are approaching retirement. Subject to the same conditions as applied in 1959, they will have the option of declining some or all of the additional entitlement arising under the bill or of deferring payment of portion or all of the additional contributions until their retirement when they will be required to pay the outstanding amount, plus interest, in a lump sum.
Provision is also made for existing contributors to elect, within six months, to take up any additional pension entitlement under the 1959 act which they previously rejected, provided they contribute for the full amount of the additional entitlement under the bill and are medically fit.
The bill also gives effect to two minor changes. The scheme of the act requires contributions on promotion to be paid during the period of service remaining to retirement, which in some cases is short and the contribution is accordingly high. Members will be permitted in certain circumstances to defer until the end of their service some or all of the contributions payable on promotion. At the end of their service most members become entitled to payments such as pay in lieu of furlough from which the deferred contributions, plus interest, may be met. The second minor change is to permit members who have attained the age for retirement applicable to their rank, but have been retained in the service, to contribute for any increases in pension entitlement which may become available within a period of two years after attainment of that age.
The Government believes that the changes embodied in the bill constitute a substantial improvement in the scheme of retiring benefits for members of the forces, and I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sandford) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 7th November (vide page 1278).
Department of the Army.
Proposed expenditure, £67,299,000.
– I refer to the Citizen Military Forces and the training of cadets, more from the point of view of omission than of commission. We have abolished compulsory military training. As one who believes in compulsory military training, I think it has served a very useful purpose, not only for defence but also from the point of view of health. Everyone knows that from a military point of view, if war broke out, as it might have done easily only recently, we would have very few trained soldiers in Australia. We have an Army which consists of permanent forces and for every private or member of equivalent rank, there is one of higher rank. For every service member of the permanent military forces, we have one civilian member. We have very few. trained personnel in our permanent forces so we must rely on the Citizen Military Forces, which are pathetically weak.
At one time, we gave our young men training in the various services for three to six months, but even that has gone. That was a retrograde step. Irrespective of the expense involved in training young Australians, we should have continued the system. But apart from the military side of the question, compulsory military training was one of the best preventive health measures that could have been instituted. Even if we did not train the young men as soldiers, at least we were doing something constructive for the health of the people. It is a fact that every man who went into camp for military training increased his weight by a stone. He came out of camp medically and physically fit. While he was in camp, he had medical and dental attention, and when he left camp he knew something about hygiene. These things alone, to my way of thinking, are worthwhile. When we see on our streets to-day the people that we call teenagers, their attitude to life and their physique, and then remember those teenagers who came out of camp and the marked difference in them, we should not hesitate to spend money on national service training.
Another factor in regard to compulsory military training was that it did bring together all classes of people. In a democracy, I think, that worked to a better end than teaching them how to fire a rifle. There were graziers, farmers, peasants, working men from the city, and sons of the wealthy, all mixed together and finding out each other’s way of life. That, too, was something worthwhile. I rose only to deplore the fact that the Government saw fit to abolish compulsory military training. The Government decided that the price of continuing with it was too high. As I say, even if we disregarded completely the effects of teaching these boys how to be soldiers, we would be doing something at least to improve the health of this nation.
– I want to repeat briefly the question I asked last evening in relation to Division No. 504. It was really a policy question, which would apply to all the services. The question was: To what extent do the Army and other services adopt the policy of using Australian made equipment, including vehicles, generating plant and earth-moving equipment, from the point of view both of using Australian products and of having an immediate supply of replacement parts? I should like the Minister to give me a reply at some stage.
– The other day I read somewhere - I cannot state where - that the Department of the Army intended to invite 1,000 service personnel from the United Kingdom to Australia. Is the Army going on with that proposal? I thought it was a very good idea. The intention was that 1,000 members of the British Army, apparently, were to come here and train with the Australian Army. I should like some information on that.
I should like to raise another point. A couple of days ago I read in the newspapers that some medical authority - again, I have not the reference to the newspapers in which the criticism appeared - had criticized the medical services of the Army and other inter-related sections of the defence set-up. He said that nothing had been done to guarantee modern health services in the forces, having in mind the new health hazards that exist as a result, for example, of close association with Indonesia, which is a country prone to smallpox, and with other islands to the north of Australia, where medical and health services are not as strict as they should be. I should like some information on those two points.
– I should like to reply to the questions asked by Senator Bishop, because he has been very persistent. The matter really comes under the administration of the Department of Supply. Nevertheless, I think I can cover it. I am advised that the provision of all major items of equipment for the service is discussed with the Department of Supply before procurement action is taken. From these discussions is determined what equipment can in fact be produced economically in Australia, bearing in mind operational requirements of the Army, particularly in relation to the time factor. Provision is made in this year’s Estimates for the expenditure of £16,477,000 on Equipment - Capital and Maintenance. It is estimated that all but £2,700,000 of this amount will be spent in Australia.
I turn now to the comment of Senator Turnbull. Our military advisers and the Government gave a great deal of consideration to the matter of whether national service training should be abandoned. What the honorable senator says about the benefits from the point of view of health is quite right. No one can deny that the training did confer on the lads in that age group some benefits in relation to health and discipline. At the same time, the Government’s advisers felt that the money would be fair better spent on the field forces and the preparation of the field forces for active participation in time of trouble, and so the decision to abandon compulsory training was made.
Senator Turnbull also referred to the present organization of the Army. I am afraid that he fell into the trap that catches the rather glib critic who says that we have very many top-ranking officers in relation to soldiers. That sounds very clever and glib when it is said in that way, but this is an embryo organization, which we must have in preparation for rapid expansion. I say, with due respect, that you do not have a large number of private soldiers in an organization if it is to train newcomers to the Army in time of trouble. This is the type of arrangement normally used by every country in the world, which has an embryo organization to train its army. In that organization, the proportion of top-level officers and noncommissioned officers to soldiers must be greater than would be the case when the Army was brought to full strength in time of trouble.
– I should like to elicit some information from the Minister in respect of Division No. 504 - Administrative Expenses and General Services, item 16 - Defence food research. We note that the proposed expenditure for 1962-63 is £11,850, compared with a provision last year of £7,000 and an actual expenditure of £4,578. We are providing this year an amount equal to the amount appropriated last year plus the actual expenditure last year.
I have no doubt, having been in the Army, that expenditure on food research for the Army is very commendable. The armed forces must be fed in the best possible manner. I hope that this research’ will lead to the elimination of remarks that are sometimes made about the cook - what he is called and what he should be called. Nevertheless, I should like the Minister to explain the nature of the research and the improvement that is expected as a result of the additional expenditure.
I also ask the Minister whether any amount is being set aside for research into the medical services available to the Army, which will face an absolutely new situation in the fast moving type of modern warfare. The position is such that members of the Australian Medical Association and medical people throughout the world have publicly expressed their concern about governmental neglect of this kind of research. I should like to see some action taken by the Australian Government in this field. This is not a matter that can be passed over lightly, as the Government appears to be doing. I have seen some of the results of the explosion of which might now be called a miniature nuclear bomb over Hiroshima. That explosion devastated the city, and the treatment of the injured people proved to be beyond the capacity of the Japanese or the allied medical scientists. The medical men had absolutely no idea of what to do with the injured people. I believe that all honorable senators would like the Minister to give a full explanation of what the Government is doing in this matter. We should like him also, if possible, to give a firm assurance that the neglect of this type of research will be quickly corrected.
– Perhaps I may reply first to Senator Cooke. Let rae assure him that, whatever may be the justice of the comments that are made about the cook in the Army, I should be one of the first to protest if similar comments were made about the Cooke in the Senate.
The honorable senator asked about the item in Division No. 504 relating to defence food research. I have been advised that this item covers expenditure on research studies and investigations of means of compressing and preserving foodstuffs for military purposes. The proposed increase of the appropriation is due to greater activity, following appointments to technical staff positions. I have a personal interest in this matter because this research work is carried out mainly at Scottsdale in Tasmania, where the research station is situated. There has been a great increase in the work, and it is serving a very useful purpose. No provision is made for medical research under this item.
– Can the Minister tell me where that research is covered in the Estimates?
– I am linking Senator Cooke’s question with a question that was asked by Senator Ormonde. At the moment, I cannot give a satisfactory answer to either question, but I hope to be able to do so later in writing.
asked about the training of 1,000 British soldiers with the Australian Army. I have been advised that this has been agreed to in principle. However, the project is still the subject of negotiation and a final decision has not yet been made.
– I wish to refer to several items that appear in Division No. 504. Item 12 relates to payments to the Repatriation Department for medical and dental services. I assume that those payments are in respect of soldiers admitted to repatriation hospitals. I should like to know about the hospitals that are available in military establishments. Is there a hospital at every base where soldiers are stationed in considerable numbers? I realize that soldiers who are seriously ill must be sent to repatriation hospitals, but I should like to know what medical and hospital facilities are available in the various Army camps.
Item 13 of Divison No. 504 relates to the hire of aircraft, vehicles and equipment, for which an appropriation of £82,000 is sought. Apparently this is a recurring item, involving £70,000 or £80,000 a year. Can the Minister tell us what types of equipment are hired and from whom they are hired? Would it be better to provide the Army with the money to secure its own equipment?
I turn now to Division No. 509, item 02, “ Strategic Reserve, Malaya - Payment towards construction costs of Terendak Camp, Malacca, £327,000”. The appropriation for this purpose last year was £690,000, of which £608,000 was spent. There is to be a total payment of about £1,000,000 towards the cost of constructing this camp. Is it intended to be a permanent camp? What will happen to it if Australian troops are withdrawn from the area?
In Division No. 504 we find an item which appears in the estimates for most of the departments. A very large sum is set aside for incidental and other expenditure. In this case, the expenditure last year was about £203,000 and this year the proposed appropriation is £214,000 - practically the same. Could not that item be broken up? Nearly a quarter of a million pounds is involved. As the expenditure under this heading appears to be fairly constant, could we not be given more detailed information about it each year?
.- I shall relate my remarks to the estimates for the Department of the Army and make some observations about what I saw recently when I attended the Army exercise known as Operation Nutcracker.
– The Nutcracker Suite.
– 1 can assure Senator Ormonde that the conditions were anything but sweet. The Army conducted the exercise under conditions as near as possible to battle conditions. In my opinion, the Army authorities showed good judgment in selecting the terrain for the exercise. During my visit to the Putty area near Singleton I saw that although the Army has only a limited amount of equipment, that equipment is of a very high quality. There is no doubt that the equipment which was displayed was a source of pride to those of us who attended the exercise.
The morale of the officers and men engaged in the operation was of the very highest standard, despite the conditions under which they were operating. They had to traverse precipitous and rugged country. We have heard unofficially about accidents suffered by the troops, but accidents are inevitable in conditions such as those in which this operation was carried out. I found - to my great surprise really - > that there was a high degree of co-ordination of the various branches of the Army. The officers in control of the operation not only were very courteous to the visitors but also were very keen to show what was being done and the standard of efficiency that had been achieved. Supplies were landed al the seaboard and were transported through various bases and up to the front line. In that respect there was a high degree of co-ordination and efficiency. However, 1 felt that co-operation with the Air Force could have been developed more fully. I understand that the Air Force carried out exercises in dropping supplies at the various places where they were needed, but too few sorties were made by aircraft. I would have expected every available section of the Air Force to be called in to share in this very realistic exercise. It was as near to battle conditions as you could get.
I felt that while we were debating this particular section of the Estimates providing for an expenditure of £67,000,000 on the Army, I should mention this spearhead of the Army in the really operational sector. The amount of finance available is limited, of course, but this exercise was very efficiently organized, and the work I saw does great credit to the officers concerned, particularly Major-General Murdoch who was in charge of the whole exercise. I pay tribute to the work done by his many officers in mounting this very big operation and in creating an atmosphere of realism. The troops engaged wholeheartedly in the exercises, their morale was high and they displayed great energy. I think credit is due to them and I take this opportunity, during the debate on the estimates for the Army, to raise the matter.
– I thank Senator O’Byrne for his comments. I am sure he gained practical experience during this training campaign, and I feel the Senate is indebted to him for the comments he has made. In answer to the question raised by Senator Tangney about hospitals in Queensland, I inform her that there is one Army hospital in Queensland but there are hospital quarters in all camps. From those quarters personnel are sent to the repatriation hospital.
The camp at Terendak in Malaya is a permanent camp owned by the British, New Zealand and Australian governments. The Australian Government pays according to the number of people we have in that camp. The incidentals include recruiting, publicity, propaganda, public relations, education facilities, miscellaneous expenditure on the Royal Australian Survey Corps and minor matters. I think that covers all the questions that have been raised so far.
– I should like to seek information about a very sad incident that led to the death of two servicemen during Operation Nutcracker. Did the next-of-kin of those persons who suffered death during the operation request that their bodies be taken back to their home States for burial? Can such a request by the next-of-kin of persons in the armed services killed during peacetime be acceded to by the authorities? The bodies of American airmen and other American service personnel who unfortunately have met their death in this country have been taken back to America for burial. I should like to have an explanation of the position regarding Australian servicemen and receive an assurance from the Minister that the wish of the next-of-kin will be acceded to if it is their desire that the body be returned to their own State for burial so that they can obtain access to the grave.
– I understand the position is that at present burial takes place where death occurred. The answer is not quite clear to me as yet. I should like to elaborate to the honorable senator by letter the actual procedure that is followed. Then he can raise the matter again in the Senate if he so wishes.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of Air.
Proposed expenditure, £66,368,000.
– I wish to raise under this section of the estimates a matter related to the case I have just brought before the Minister. He gave me the assurance that he would advise’ me later on the position of members of the forces who meet their death in peace-time, particularly in relation to the practice of interring the bodies at the place where death occurred. I wish to raise a matter about which I have a little more knowledge. I have two cases in mind.
One is that of a young airman who met his death in Western Australia while carrying out stunts and air exercises during Air
Force week. He was buried in Western Australia but I do not think that anything has been done by the Royal Australian Air Force to mark his grave. I understand that the regulations do not permit expenditure to be incurred for this purpose. I would like to say at this stage that in every case I have been associated with the highest commendation has been paid to the officers of the Department of Air who have had anything to do with the matter. They have shown sympathy and a desire to help the parents or the next-of-kin of the deceased member. Unfortunately the regulations governing these matters seem to be somewhat archaic.
In my opinion this situation is a relic of the horse-and-buggy days when it would have been very difficult to transport a body from one distant part of Australia to another, but in these times when aircraft are being moved from place to place all the time I cannot see why there should be any difficulty. As far as expense is concerned it would be simply a matter of the Queen paying the Queen. In the case where the deceased man is a junior, an infant in law, and the parents desire his body to be transported from one State to another, I think that wish should be acceded to. The boy I mentioned who was killed in Western Australia was highly commended for his services in the Royal Australian Air Force. The parents inserted in the press a notice stating that they did not wish the boy’s grave to be totally neglected. They said that they were not able to visit the grave but they requested any kind person who could place flowers on it to visit it on their behalf. Western Australians responded magnificently, but the matter received unfortunate press publicity. The parents should not have had to rely on the kindness and sympathy of the public. The regulations could quite easily be amended making it possible for the administration of the Air Force to have the body of a member of the service buried in his own State so that his parents could have the opportunity of marking the grave, and thus relieve to some degree the sorrow inevitably associated with an unfortunate happening of this nature.
I wish now to mention the case of a young Western Australian of 17 years of age.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall continue my remarks on the estimates of the Department of Air. The Government and the Opposition desire to conclude the debate on the Estimates quickly, so I will say what 1 want to say as concisely as possible. I hope the Minister representing the Minister for Air will be able to give me some assurances in relation to the matter on which I seek the Government’s consideration. The case to which I was referring when the sitting was suspended was that of Robert L. McRae, a minor whose parents had approved his enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force and signed the forms appointing the R.A.A.F. as his guardian. He had been in the Air Force for only a short time when he met his death as the result of an accident outside the camp. The R.A.A.F. officers and authorities were as attentive and generous to his relatives as they could be. A request was made to have his body taken back and interred in Western Australia. I understand that the Air Force was prepared to pay £50 or possibly £60 towards the cost; but the lowest quote that the parents could get was £250. However, his father and mother were brought over from Western Australia while he was in hospital and again for the funeral. His mother was distraught and in a very poor state of health.
After a good deal of correspondence with the Department of Air, I received a letter which stated -
In the event of the death of a serving member the responsibility and authority of the R.A.A.F. are quite precise. The policy, which is applicable to the three Services, permits burial at public expense in the locality of the particular Service unit. The erection of the headstone and the maintenance of the grave remain the responsibility of the next-of-kin.
Approval was given for the next-of-kin to be brought, at public expense, to attend the funeral, but there is no authority for accommodation or travelling expenses to be met from Commonwealth funds.
Not much would be left out of £250 after paying the cost of air travel to and from Western Australia. The parents of this child are not in affluent circumstances. They had to borrow money to pay the expenses involved in coming over to attend the funeral. His grave will be unmarked and it will be away from his parents’ home. This has had a- very serious and deleterious effect on his mother and father. They are trying to take third party action to recover the expenses that they have incurred as a result of their son’s death. He was still a minor at the time of his death. He was under the guardianship of the R.A.A.F.
I submit for the consideration of the Minister that in such cases the wishes of the next-of-kin should receive consideration and authority should be given for the body to be buried at the place desired by the nextofkin. In support of that submission, I could submit in writing the desire of senior officers in the R.A.A.F. that that be done. It is probably desired by all members of the forces without exception. At least two padres - one from the Church of England and one from the Roman Catholic Church - desire that such arrangements be made. They have said that the present procedure has led to a great deal of distress and unhappiness among the parents and next-of-kin of serving members of the forces.
I believe that the expense involved would be infinitesimal in comparison with other appropriations in the Estimates and the services would be making a humane approach in these unfortunate cases. As I said, we have read in the newspapers that United States servicemen have died in Australia and their bodies have been sent home. I imagine that the parents of the serving child who were not in affluent circumstances would have no alternative but to do as these people did. A family in more affluent circumstances would be able to afford the expense involved; but it is not right that they should be able to do that and other people should not. Therefore, I believe that the Government should consider altering the regulations to bring them up to date with the regulations of overseas defence forces and meet the request that I am making.
I do not know what the position is in respect of higher ranks. I imagine that the procedure is applicable to all ranks. My submission is made not in terms of individuals but in terms of the policy. If the Minister requires any further information, I can give it to him. If I do not get satisfaction now, I shall certainly raise the matter again. In order to facilitate the speedy passage of the Estimates, which is the express desire of the Government and the Opposition, I will conclude my speech.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [2.22]. - Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Air for some information about Division No. 533, item 10 - Training of personnel at other than Royal Australian Air Force establishments. The amount appropriated under this item last year was £132,000 and the expenditure was £128,992. This year the appropriation is £165,000. I should like some information on that rather large increase and how the appropriation will be spent. Under item 13 of the same division - Incidental and other expenses - the expenditure last year was £90,587 and the appropriation this year is £185,200. This year’s appropriation is more than double last year’s expenditure. I would like the Minister to give me some idea of the reason for the additional expenditure.
– Senator Cooke has raised a matter which relates to policy and which has been discussed by governments from time to time. Because of the humanitarian aspect of his submissions, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I will try to explain to him the Government’s point of view on this matter. I was very pleased to hear Senator Cooke express appreciation of the attitude of the Royal Australian Air Force as an organization towards these people who suffered the loss of a loved one in an accident while on service. That is the finest tribute that members of the Air Force would wish to have paid to them. It indicates that this is an arm of the services that has a soul. I believe that it is fair to apply that to all of the armed services. There are two avenues through which benefits may be made available to the dependants or nextofkin of people who lose their lives in circumstances connected with their service. First, the victim may be buried, at government expense, at the scene of his death. No qualification is attached to that, in addition, the Government makes provision to bring to the funeral, at the Government’s expense, the next-of-kin and one companion. Their fares are paid by the Government. There is an alternative method which may be chosen by the next-of-kin. If a private funeral is desired, the next-of-kin can arrange for the transportation of the body and the Government will contribute £60 towards the funeral expenses. I think it only fair to add that on various occasions, when service aircraft have been going in the required directions, the Royal Australian Air Force has provided transportation for bodies in those aircraft.
I know that there are differing views of what a Government should or should not do in these matters. I suppose we would all like to see the utmost done in the circumstances to which the honorable senator has referred, but a government has to take a broad view of these matters. It must be in a position to meet an emergency at any time. A government might be faced with the embarrassing position that it could not meet its obligations if it had legislated to meet different circumstances at different times. The fact that there are two methods by which the needs of next-of-kin are met as much as possible is an indication that the Government is not dogmatic in this matter and that it does all that it possibly can to ease the burden of those who have suffered loss.
During the suspension of the sitting, I endeavoured to find out from the department the person in Western Australia to whom the honorable senator was referring when he mentioned a matter about which there had been some criticism. Since we met this afternoon, the honorable senator has mentioned the late Robert McRae. ls that the case to which the honorable senator was referring earlier?
– That is one case.
– I have not been able to get any information on that. I shall ask the department to give me more details on the questions raised by Senator Cooke and I shall communicate with him later.
– I can give you the reference. It is 569/4/136.
– I shall make a note of that. Senator Sir Walter Cooper sought information concerning item 10 of Division No. 533. He asked for the reasons why there is an increase in the cost of training personnel at other than Royal Australian Air Force establishments. I would point out for the honorable senator’s information that the Royal Australian Air Force now has at Point Cook an academy which will be invaluable to the Air Force and to those personnel who are privileged - I use that word advisedly - to be admitted to it. It is, in effect, a university. There is an agreement with the universities of Australia for the provision of certain professional staff at universities. That is the reason why the appropriation has been increased to £165,000 this year. Last year the appropriation was £132,000, and the expenditure was £128,992. Last year, salaries totalled £24,000. This year they are expected to cost £44,000. The amount expended on research last year was £213, whereas this year it is expected to be £17,500. I mention these figures to give some indication’ of the work that is being done. The activities of the academy at Point Cook are responsible for the greater part of the additional appropriation. This is the first full year of operation of the academy; hence the increase in the appropriation. Senator Sir Walter Cooper also asked for information about item 13 of Division No. 533, which covers incidental and other expenditure. He pointed out that for this year the appropriation for this item is £185,200, against an expenditure of £90,587 last year, when the appropriation was £106,700. Almost £85,000 of the increase is due to the added cost of the maintenance of technical data. Honorable senators know that the Sabre jet aircraft has gone out of production. The sum of £125,000 required for technical modification data was charged previously to the Sabre manufacturing project, but as that project has been completed it is now charged to other incidental expenditure.
– I propose to address my remarks to item 02 of Division No. 533. This item relates to office requisites, stationery, printing and text-books. Yesterday, in answer to a question which I asked of him, the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) said that the practice of asking applicants for admission to the Navy the question “ What is your religious persuasion? “ was general to all branches of the services. He said that this question was asked for the purpose of ascertaining what number of padres would be required, and so on, after applicants had been admitted’ to the Navy. He also’ said that there was no reason why questions such as this should not be asked after a person had been admitted to the
Navy and, presumably, to any other branch of the services, instead of at the time of making application.
This is a most serious matter. The question of possible religious discrimination was considered by the founders of the Commonwealth to be so serious that they saw fit to include in section 116 of the Constitution a command that no religious tests shall be required as a qualification for any office under the Commonwealth.
– I take it that you are linking your remarks with the Royal Australian Air Force.
– Yes. I submit that when an applicant to join the Royal Australian Air Force or any other branch of the armed services is supplied with an application form on which he is required to state his religious persuasion, the Government is acting contrary to the command which is contained in the Commonwealth Constitution. I repeat that Senator Gorton has admitted that it is unnecessary to ask this question at the time of making application. The Minister freely conceded that there was no reason for such a question to be on the application form. It could happen that there were more applicants than a particular branch of the services could take, and that a selection of applicants became necessary. In those circumstances it is very wrong that an applicant should be asked a question such as the one to which I have referred. Applicants can only infer that their religious persuasion will be taken into account when their applications are being dealt with. No such question should appear on any forms issued by the Government. All forms on which such a question appears should be withdrawn. No application form asking a person’s religious persuasion should be issued. If it is necessary for persons in the services to indicate their religious persuasion - and I can readily understand the need for that and the reasons behind it - it should be done as a matter of administration afterwards. No applicant should have to answer such a question as is posed on the application form, nor should this Commonwealth give rise to any suggestion that the question of religious persuasion is a matter which might be taken into account in dealing with any application.
.- I think that Senator Murphy has been led astray by an extremely narrow and, it appears to me, silly approach to the particular problem that is exercising his mind at the moment. He sought by implication, if not by direct statement, to suggest that the form that he mentioned represented some sort of test, or some sort of qualification. He has no scintilla of evidence whatever to back up his suggestion that it is in some way a test or a qualification. I think that any sensible person, in considering this matter, will realize that this is the normal procedure which has been adopted for the last half-century or so. The forms which a person fills in when he applies to enter a service are a part of his record as a serviceman. I suppose it would be possible to wait until the person concerned had joined the service and then to enter in the form, in the space for religion, the religion to which he belongs. It seems somewhat peculiar, however, that for 50 or 60 years, or for however long the Commonwealth defence services have been in existence, this practice has been followed and that until Senator Murphy became worried about it I had not heard one complaint, from either an individual or a religious body.
– What about the Plymouth Brethren?
– I have not even heard a complaint from the Plymouth Brethren.
– I should like to say a few words on this matter because I had the privilege to be Minister for Air for about twelve months. Frankly, I am fascinated by the workings of Senator Murphy’s mind when he suggests that the answer given to the question “ What is your religious persuasion? “ may affect a man’s entry into the service. Senator Murphy needs no reminding that this is a Christian country. I should have thought that the Australian Government would be commended for putting first things first and for acknowledging that any man who offers himself for the services undoubtedly has some Christian persuasion. To suggest that that question may affect a man’s entry into the service is to cast a slur that is intolerable in a democratic country. That kind of thinking, that kind of insinuation and that kind of innuendo are things which we in this country abhor and will resist to the utmost. If Senator Murphy has any lingering doubt in his mind that the answer to the question may affect a man’s entry into the Royal Australian Air Force, I invite him to go to any recruiting centre in the Commonwealth. If he does so and still has doubts on the matter, I shall be the first to retract what I have said to-day.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of Supply.
Proposed expenditure, £22,800,000.
– I wish to address some remarks on the proposed expenditure of the Department of Supply and to ask the responsible Minister some questions. First, I wish to compliment the department on the excellent report that came to our hands in the last few weeks. On page 3, reference is made to the Weapons Research Establishment, where 4,790 people are employed. As honorable senators know, that establishment is in South Australia. There is a section at Salisbury, near Adelaide, there is the section at Woomera, and there are smaller sections further out. The department is to be complimented on the work it is doing in the Woomera village for the purpose of providing amenities. The report indicates that, in conjunction with the Department of Works, houses, flats and single quarters are being provided, making for comfortable living conditions in a difficult climate. In addition, a good deal of beautification work has been done.
I ask the Minister whether he can give me a figure showing the expenditure in South Australia by way of capital improvement at Woomera and also at Salisbury. I should like to know the amount being expended in South Australia this year and the amount that is to be expended in the foreseeable future. I am conscious of the fact that very considerable amounts of Commonwealth money are being spent in South Australia on the two establishments of the Department of Supply that I have mentioned, in the way of building materials and the provision of services. In addition, there is expenditure in connexion with payments to the people employed in the areas concerned and in the provision of supplies.
In passing, I mention the importance of the department’s work in regard to the European Launcher Development Organization. In connexion with this organization, personnel are coming to Australia from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. I understand that Denmark also may join it. This presages very big developments in the1 Woomera area. What intrigues me is that a good deal of the research and trial work is being carried out in the interests of the peaceful uses of atomic energy and of rockets and satellites. I was interested to read the great tribute paid by the American nation to the departmental officers at Woomera for their co-operative work in connexion with the launching of American satellites.
The figure that I hope the Minister will be able to supply should be of great interest, especially to people in South Australia. On this point, I wonder whether the Minister could let me know whether it is possible to open up to public view more of the remarkable achievements that are being made in the Woomera area. I agree that very strict security - perhaps extremely strict security - was imposed by the Chifley Government when the venture was first mooted, but the need for such strict security appears to me to be receding, since so much of the work being done in the Woomera area is similar to work being done publicly all over the world.
I was privileged to see the fine film the department has made of life and work in and near the Woomera village and I know that many persons have complimented the department on the film. If the department would lift some of the screen that is round Woomera at present, many visitors would be able to appreciate the achievements of their fellow Australians there. Men and women are patiently doing fine work, particularly in tracking satellites, and other Australians would be thrilled to learn at first hand of that work and of the further developments at Woomera. With the installation of the European Launcher Development Organization at Woomera,
Australians and persons from Western Europe are carrying out duties, as it were, in partnership.
I should like the Minister to tell me what has been done with the millions of pounds that have been spent on Woomera and what is to go into it. I should like to have some information on the possibility of opening up more Woomera activity to the public. What I had said about Woomera I would also apply to the developments at Salisbury near Adelaide. This work is most commendable and I believe that no harm could be caused to Australia or its partners in these ventures if the public were to know more about them.
Finally I direct the attention of the Minister to a matter that I raised in my speech on the Budget. I refer to the possibility of greater use by the Department of Supply of the east-west railway which passes within a mile or two of Woomera and is connected with it by a spur line. Complaints have been made to me, particularly by people at Port Augusta and those connected with the Commonwealth Railways, that too much cargo is being carried to Woomera by road transport when there is a magnificent railway passing close by. It is rather surprising that more of the department’s transport is not done by the Commonwealth Railways and the South Australian Railways. I refer not so much to scientific instruments and similar accessories that can best be carried by air or by road, but to commodities such as timber, bricks and foodstuffs. Trucks are going backwards and forwards with beer and cool drinks. Such commodities could be carried by the Commonwealth Railways. Has any consideration been given to the suggestion I made in my speech on the Budget that there should be a high level conference between the Minister for Supply and the Minister for Works or their officers on that point?
– In reply to Senator Laught, I am advised that from its inception in 1947 to 30th June, 1962, £138,000,000 has been spent on the joint United Kingdom and Australian project. It is impossible actually to analyse what has been spent in South Australia because it will be appreciated, for example, that some specialized equipment and supplies necessarily have been obtained elsewhere in Australia and, for that matter, abroad. However, it is unquestionable that the bulk of the joint project expenditure relating, for example, to such items as salaries and wages and works charges, would have been directly paid in South Australia. In regard to new works, expenditure of £46,000,000 has been incurred in South Australia to 30th June, 1962.
asked whether any consideration had been given to opening up these areas. I am advised that there are no restrictions on genuine visitors to Woomera. Approval of visits needs to be obtained, and the restrictions apply to the area for the testing of weapons at the range head.
I was interested in the suggestion by Senator Laught that we should make greater use of the Commonwealth Railways link with Woomera. I am informed that the Department of Supply does make considerable use of this rail service, but there are particular circumstances associated with the carriage of goods to Woomera which necessitate fairly extensive use of road transport. Many articles of technical equipment required for range purposes are of a nature which demands special care, in packing and even in the transport vehicle itself. For example, air bag suspensions have been developed for the carriage of some of these stores, and the department considers that the success achieved by the use of these methods in transporting technical stores of great value justifies their continuance. The Australian Services Canteens Organization uses road transport for the carriage of the major part of the foodstuffs and domestic supplies required by the Woomera population.
I shall bring to the notice of the Minister for Supply the suggestion by Senator Laught that greater use should be made of the Commonwealth Railways and we will advise him in due course by letter.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [2.52]”. - I refer to Division No. 561 - Administrative, and the item, “ Training of personnel, £87,000 “. Last year the appropriation was £59,000 and actual expenditure was £51,191. Does the large increase mean that there has been an enlargement of the number of personnel, or has the training system been changed so that greater expenditure is required? Under Division No. 566 - Defence Research and Development Laboratories, there is an item *’ General maintenance, £7,500 “. Last year the appropriation was £24,000 and actual expenditure was £21,214. I should imagine that maintenance would be a fairly static item, and I should be interested to know why there is such a marked decrease in the proposed vote.
.- I refer to Division No. 569 - Central Transport Authority - Vehicles and Equipment. The proposed vote is £980,000 compared with actual expenditure last year of £157,677. Does that mean that this year, there will be a large change-over in motor transport? Has the Department of Supply ever considered operating the cars on a yearly basis? This may involve sales tax as a factor but I wondered whether the Government was able to sell its motor cars after they had been in use for a year. I admit that the transport covers a big mileage and that a lot is spent on maintenance, but I have always believed it is economic to change a car after twelve months’ running and that may apply here if it is not tied in with sales tax. Some government and semi-government organizations, including one I am interested in, have to keep a car for a couple of years in order to get the advantage of sales tax, and I wondered whether that applied to the Commonwealth Government. I take it that the very large increase implies that the additional money is required for transport.
I refer to Division No. 581 - Acquisition of Sites and Buildings. Last year an amount of £3,032 was expended. This year the proposed appropriation is £71,000. Is this for the acquisition of sites or buildings by departments? I am all in favour of departments acquiring their own buildings rather than paying rent. If the proposed expenditure is in relation to sites, I should like to know where these are and for what they are to be used.
– Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin asked a question in relation to Division No. 561, subdivision 2, item 05 - Training of personnel. This item previously covered only the costs of overseas training of departmental officers and of departmental training seminars. This year, it also provides for the university fees of cadets; membership of and subscription fees to institutes and associations, £4,800; and the costs of external courses for departmental officers in Australia, £1,000. Post-graduate fellowships require the provision of an additional £10,000.
Senator Kennelly sought an explanation concerning the proposed appropriation for the Central Transport Authority. The provision in 1960-61 was sought to enable the Central Transport Authority to meet the increased demands from other departments for additional vehicles and transport services. Following a Treasury instruction in 1961-62, the purchase of replacements, as well as additions to vehicles and equipment, are to be financed from this division in 1962-63. The Munitions Stores and Transport Trust Account, which was used for the purchase and replacement of vehicles in former years, was closed as at 30th June, 1962. As from 1st July, 1962, amounts charged to transport operating costs for depreciation and the depreciated value of vehicles sold at the end of their economical life are to be credited to Consolidated Revenue. The amount required during 1962-63 is, for additional vehicles £80,000, for replacement vehicles and equipment £900,000, a total of £980,000. The department has a policy of replacement of vehicles at predetermined mileages. For example, the general type of car used for pool running by the department is replaced at 50,000 miles, or after three years’ running, whichever comes first. This has proved an economical policy over a period of years. Of course, no sales tax is payable on these vehicles by the department.
The acquisition of approximately one and a half acres of land and improvements, located at Alexandria, New South Wales, has been provided for to permit future extensions to the heavy transport depot and workshops at present being developed for the Central Transport Authority oh the area ajoining the proposed acquisition. This consolidation of transport activities, ; when completed, will permit of the location of the Waterloo Heavy Transport Depot.
In Division No. 566, subdivision 2, Item 08 - General Maintenance, provision is made this year only for maintenance of plant and equipment. Other general maintenance is now provided for in other items, following the issue of new Treasury regulations.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure £5,390,000.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether it is a fact that the Canberra to Queanbeyan railway is to be transferred to the New South Wales Railways Department. If so, what are the particulars of the transfer and when is it likely to take place?
– Negotiations are still continuing for the transfer of this line to the New South Wales Government. They have not yet been completed.
– I should like to ask a question and make a few remarks about the Commonwealth Railways. I think it is well known to honorable senators that the South Australian people are very unhappy about the railway situation in our State. At the outset, I should like to ask whether it will be possible for the Government to make a statement as to when it intends to extend the Trans-Australian Railway to Adelaide, that is, the Broken Hill to Port Pirie section of that railway. A great many people in our State, particularly in the manufacturing line, who are waiting to make plans, are wondering when this extension of the railway line will be made. I think that South Australians have been very patient. I know that there has been a lot of talk in the Senate recently, excusing ourselves, or asking the Government to give an explanation. Nevertheless, I do think that on the whole we have been extremely patient.
The one thing which the manufacturers are asking for is the date when the railway will be extended. They are not insisting that it be done immediately, but they want a date so they can plan accordingly. It does not seem to be a very unreasonable thing to ask for the date when the extension can be expected. We in our State are nationally minded, in that we realize that these things have to be done in sequence, but it obviously is South Australia’s turn to get some consideration in this matter. Unfortunately, whenever there is a difference of opinion between the Commonwealth and the State governments, the South Australian people are not given a fair picture of the thinking of the Federal Parliament. The newspapers, for very obvious reasons, lean over backwards to paint a State picture, in other words a picture in favour of the State Government’s point of view. The people of South Australia do not get the true picture. They do not know what the Commonwealth is thinking. For that reason, a feeling is building up that the Commonwealth is not giving consideration to our State. I ask the Minister whether he can give some indication of when South Australians can expect the consideration which is rightly their due.
– I should like to make a brief comment on the same subject, but first I should like to ask another question. Recently in the chamber I raised the matter of the Commonwealth Railways workshop at Port Augusta. I questioned whether it could become a completely manufacturing workshop, making the passenger cars and rolling stock which have been imported or otherwise purchased. I suggested that the workshop should be surveyed to see whether it could undertake some of the larger construction work, in view of the importance of this sort df work to the Commonwealth railways and having regard to the fact that in Port Augusta there are now very few opportunities for apprentices. I should like to know specifically whether any new consideration has been given to the question of reviewing the whole workshop, so that it might undertake not only repair work and the overhaul of some power units but also some of the larger work. Can the Minister tell us the number of apprentices at present employed in the Commonwealth Railways?
I want to make a very brief reference to the matter raised by Senator Buttfield. Since honorable senators on this side of the chamber urged that a special appropriation be made for the Broken Hill to Port Pirie standardization work, we have noticed that the South Australian Railways Commissioner, in submissions before the Public Works Committee, has pointed out that it would be uneconomical to use the diesel locomotives provided by money from the Commonwealth, without having substantial permanent-way and rail works done. The commissioner made the point that this would depend on whether the Commonwealth Railways would provide the finance to do the standardization work, as urged by the State government and by Labour senators quite recently. We take the same stand on this matter as we took previously. We believe that the recent evidence presented to the Public Works Committee by the South Australian Railways Commissioner in fact supports our proposition. On that occasion Senator Buttfield was not pressing the same kind of submissions as we made.
– Replying to Senator Bishop, the workshops at Port Augusta are maintenance workshops only. The present intention is to continue to operate them as maintenance workshops. After all, to engage in manufacture to-day involves the use of more than mere hammers and chisels. It involves setting up comprehensive plant. It is not an economic proposition to set up a manufacturing plant unless you have a continuity of goods being manufactured. Apprentices engaged number 71 and there are eleven vacancies.
In reply to Senator Buttfield, I understand that the sections of railway line to which she referred come under the State railways. They do not come under the Commonwealth Railways.
– They are extensions of the Commonwealth Railways, are they not?
– I am advised that they are not. Much as I would like to do so, I cannot give the honorable senator the date upon which this work is expected to be completed.
Senator Buttfield has complained about the State slant given to news items published in the press. I counsel her not to worry too much about the press. Throughout
Australia the press is a State press. Every member of this Parliament knows that ha cannot win in his own State against the) State press. That fact has been made plain to me in the past twelve years. I agree with Senator Buttfield when she says that all we require is a fair opportunity to put our case.
– I do not want to prolong the debate, but I should like to say something on the subject raised by Senator Buttfield. I think it is correct to say that the railway line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill and the standard-gauge section from Port Pirie to Adelaide are State railways and that they are likely to remain State railways. I am sure that the Premier of South Australia would be most reluctant to have his bestpaying line - the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line - taken from him and placed under Commonwealth control. The section between Adelaide and Port Pirie is part of the State railways and I am sure that the Premier of South Australia would be loath to see that section revert under standardization to Commonwealth control.
I endorse what Senator Buttfield has said about standardization. No one is keener than are South Australian Liberal senators - I do not want to exclude entirely my colleagues on the cross benches - to have Commonwealth assistance granted for standardization of the lines mentioned by Senator Buttfield. To have a standard-gauge line from Brisbane through Sydney to Melbourne and also across to Broken Hill, but to have a break from Broken Hill to Port Pirie and a resumption of the standard gauge from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie and on to Kwinana, would be the greatest tragedy imaginable. It would be a tragedy to leave that one small section at a gauge other than standard gauge. Such a break in the standard gauge would deal a severe blow to Australia’s defence and to our transport system, which we are so keen to improve. If we do not improve our transport system Australian industries will find themselves at a disadvantage competing in world markets with industries from other countries. An efficient railway system running through all our capital cities will be of incalculable benefit to Australia.
I realize that my remarks have strayed a little from the subject now before the committee, but this is a matter that is very dear to the hearts of South Australians generally. I hope that in the nottoodistant future the Commonwealth will see its way clear to implement the 1949 railways agreement with South Australia. We are very eager to have the work envisaged under the agreement proceeded with. Our sincerity in this regard cannot be doubted. Criticism from the press and other sources in relation to this matter is unjustified. I think all honorable senators will concede that Liberal Party senators from South Australia have for years striven to obtain a better rail service and in particular a standard gauge. We sincerely hope that the Commonwealth will soon see its way clear to proceed with this work.
– Senator Hannaford is to be congratulated on his advocacy for rail standardization in South Australia, although he has come forward a little late. We on this side of the chamber are pleased to note Senator Hannaford’s changed attitude, because we know that he refused to seek a grant from the Commonwealth for rail standardization in South Australia. His attitude to-day suggests that he has repented. I remind honorable senators that Senator Toohey has given notice that at the appropriate time he will move that the Commonwealth assist South Australia with regard to rail standardization. Senator Hannaford and other South Australian Liberal Party senators will then have an opportunity to put into effect what they are preaching now. They will be put to the test and we will see whether they are earnest in their support for South Australia or whether they are merely seeking publicity by bemoaning the fact that insufficient assistance is being given to South Australia.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Commonwealth Railways, Capital Works and Services, £2,300,000- noted.
Proposed expenditure, £106,459,000.
– I desire to raise one or two matters related to the administration of the department in South Australia and to consider whether the Commonwealth is doing enough ‘ to meet the requirements of the postal services. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has issued a document disclosing that the Postal Department did not make a profit last year, but in fact lost on its operations. Therefore, we must consider carefully whether the best use is being made of the money expended and whether we are getting efficient administration.
Some time ago I asked about the recognition of non-official post offices in South Australia. I received a reply from the department to the effect that it agreed that the amount of business conducted by these post offices justified their recognition as official post offices, but I was told by the Minister that, although the department had agreed to their recognition, no buildings suitable for post offices could be found in the localities about which I inquired. When I pressed the matter and said that buildings could be erected, I was informed that the department would be prepared to do that, but it had to comply with the order of priority for the construction of government buildings. One might have expected a short delay before suitable buildings were provided, but nothing has been done yet although the department agrees that some of these non-official post offices have been regarded as deserving of recognition as official post offices since June, 1961. I live in an area where there is a non-official post office that conducts a volume of business sufficient to warrant its being recognized, yet the postal business of the area is still being conducted in a haberdashery shop. This is causing great inconvenience to the public. In addition, what is happening in this connexion is prejudicing people who have made the postal service a career occupation and are looking for promotion that is justly theirs.
In South Australia there are postal establishments scattered all over the State. The General Post Office building in Adelaide is badly in need of reorganization and requires to be brought up to date. The mail sorting branch is situated in Curriestreet. There is another branch at the corner of West-terrace and Grote-street The telephone accounts branch is in Franklin-street. These establishments are scattered over a wide area. I asked a question, which is on the notice-paper, seeking information about the cost of converting premises in Grenfell-street, formerly occupied by Wilkinson’s wholesale store, into a mail exchange branch. These premises are situated in a congested area of the city. There is great difficulty during busy periods in getting mail from the post offices to the mail exchange branch and in getting it out to the transport depots for despatch to various destinations. I am informed that the cost of purchasing this old building and converting it to a mailing exchange branch is far in excess of the cost of constructing a modern building of the standard of the department’s buildings in Roma-street, Brisbane, and in Redfern in New South Wales. The department is using as a mail exchange branch in Adelaide a building that was never built for the purpose for which it is being used. It was built for the storage and distribution of groceries.
– I think it is functioning very efficiently.
– Those associated with the Postal Department in South Australia are not of that opinion. Great difficulty is being experienced in this mail exchange, and the unsuitability of the premises is resulting in damage to letters. Despite what Senator Hannaford says, I think it must be agreed that it cannot be expected that a converted building would have the advantages of a building built for the special purpose of handling mail.
Why was this old building purchased at a time when the department had property closer to the General Post Office in Adelaide? I refer to the property on the corner of Grote-street and West-terrace. The department could have constructed a mail exchange building on that site. Cost could not have been the difficulty. My information is that the cost of purchasing and converting Wilkinson’s old building was in excess of the cost of erecting a modern new building. I think this matter is worth looking at. Wilkinson’s wholesale grocery business was facing financial embarrassment in 1958. It was a firm of long standing, having been in business since 1911. With out-of-date premises, it could not meet the requirements of modern day grocery distribution. In the 1958 report of the chairman of directors, however, it was stated that the firm’s finances had improved considerably as a result of the very satisfactory sale of the firm’s city premises for £200,000. The firm then had constructed an up-to-date building, outside the congested city area, for the purpose of storing and distributing groceries. It was a modern building which enabled the firm to operate efficiently. Later, after it had been placed on a profitable basis, the asset was sold to J. G. Coles and Company.
Let us look at the shareholders in the Wilkinson concern. The chairman of directors was Sir Frank Tennyson Perry, who owned 1,000 shares. Miss Vera M. Perry, whose address was given as care of Sir Frank Perry, owned 2,000 shares, and Perry Investments Limited owned 3,500 shares. Perry is a member of the Legislative Council in South Australia, representing the Liberal Party. We find also that there is a Mrs. Elizabeth Hornibrook Wilson, of 79 Tusmore-a venue, Tusmore, who owns 1,100 shares.
– What is your motive in mentioning the names of these people?
– If the honorable senator will be patient and if he has not a guilty conscience, I will get to the point. Mrs. Wilson resides at 79 Tusmoreavenue, Tusmore. That happens to be the address of Mr. K. C. Wilson, the honorable member for Sturt in the House of Representatives. I am suggesting that this building was purchased at a cost in excess of that at which a new building could be built, at a time when the firm was in financial difficulties, and that the main shareholders of that firm happen to have some association with the political party that was in power when the purchase was made. Whilst it may be all right in Senator Hannaford’s ;view, or that of other honorable senators, to assist the investments of members of his party when they get into difficulty, I say that it is unfair when it causes the things of which I have complained and hinders the advancement of post office services. I ask the Minister to explain why such expenditure was incurred when all the indications are that the building was not suitable for the job.
I am informed that it is not profitable for post offices to open on Saturday mornings. People engaged in providing post office services have given the department assurances that no delay or deprivation of essential services would be caused by post offices closing on Saturday mornings. Yet this concession cannot be given to those employees. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the case that has been put forward by the combined Post Office employees unions for the closing of post offices on Saturday mornings. The people employed in the post offices have given assurances that the closure would not delay essential postal services, and there would be no cost to the Government because I understand it is not profitable for post offices to open on Saturday mornings.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 716, subdivision 5, item 01 - Telephone exchange services. My association with the Postmaster-General’s Department while I have been a member of this chamber has been a very happy one. I appreciate very much the work that is done by the department and its officers. They are doing a magnificent job. It is a very big one, particularly in this period of development through which the Postal Department is going.
I wish to say something about the criticism of the department that we are hearing, particularly in the agricultural areas in Western Australia. The criticism stems mainly from the small manual exchanges in country areas which have been operating for anything up to 30 or 40 years. In many cases the exchange is made up of a number of party lines. This service is not of a very high standard, although it has enabled people to communicate with each other over the years. When people who have conducted the exchanges for a number of years decide, for various reasons, to give up conducting them, we are faced with the problem of finding people to take them over. Quite often no one wants to be bothered with operating an exchange, so the Postmaster-General’s Department has no alternative but to close down the exchange and leave one or two - subscribers connected to the trunk lines. Although that gives those subscribers a means of com munication, it is a most unsatisfactory service. In many cases those people have been subscribers for up to 30 or 40 years
It is quite evident that something has to be done to speed up the installation of rural automatic exchanges. The figures for the installation of rural automatic exchanges show that in the year ended 30th June, 1957, the department installed 74; in the year ended 30th June, 1958, the figure rose to 145; in the year ended 30th June, 1959, it fell to 123; in the year ended 30th June, 1960, it fell further to 93; and in the year ended 30th June, 1961, it fell even further to 79. There must be some reason for that. Perhaps it is a lack of materials or skilled technicians; but I believe that the root of the trouble is that the department is not getting enough money to carry out the work that it has to do.
When we interview officers of the department they can lay out before us plans of what the department has in mind for years ahead. In fact, I can inform the Minister representing the Postmaster-General that only recently, at a very large meeting in the South Stirling area of Western Australia attended by settlers from miles around, departmental officers showed the settlers the plans that they had for the development of communications in the area. I can say here and now that those settlers were literally astounded to know that the department had planned so far ahead for telephonic communications in that area. However, they were informed that it would be some years before those telephone facilities were put into operation. So, it is evident that the department has to have far more money.
That story is not confined to the South Stirling area. In the Corrigin-Pingelly area, at a place called Kiveda the settlers have been on the exchange for years and years, but because the little store has closed down as the result of the closure of the railway those people are now left without telephonic communications. Further to the south, a vast area east of Pingelly will have an automatic exchange in two or three years; but on the fringe of that area there are dozens of people who want telephone facilities but will not receive them because of the department’s lack of money. So, I make a plea to the Minister to see whether the provision of money for these very important communications can be speeded up.
– I should like to make one or two comments before the matters raised escape my memory. The first comment I make relates to the submissions made by Senator Cavanagh. The first time he rose to his feet in this chamber to display his eloquence, he complained bitterly about what he alleged was a smear campaign. I, in my innocence, believed that here was an honorable senator who considered that he had been victimized, that he had been injured, that he had been hurt. In my innocence, I believed that here was one man who, when he entered this chamber, would not indulge in tactics similar to those of which he complained. But alas, to-day in the highest parliamentary chamber in the land, he himself has indulged in a smear campaign.
When he discussed this converted building in Grenfell-street, again in my innocence I thought that he was concerned about the welfare of the employees and the public who require the services of the Post Office. But again I was wrong. Then the honorable senator alleged that a certain grocery firm was in financial difficulties.
– Which it was not, incidentally.
– The honorable senator took advantage of his position in this Parliament - he did it with great gusto - to engage in a smear campaign. But he was not satisfied with just smearing the grocery firm. By tortuous methods, he traced some of the shareholders of this grocery firm to the residence of a member of another place in this Parliament. He tried to leave the impression that a respected member of this Parliament had been influential in persuading the Postmaster-General to spend public moneys to ease the burden of some of the honorable member’s friends. I want to say to the honorable senator that those members of this Parliament who know Mr. K. C. Wilson would refute that allegation most vigorously. I say to Senator Cavanagh that the allegations he has made to-day do him no credit whatever. For that reason, I do not think it necessary for me to pass any further comment upon the complaint he has made about the conversion of the building in Grenfell-street. His concern was not for the employees or the members of the public who are obliged to make use of the facilities there; his sole objective was to try to smear a member of this Parliament who has served his country with distinction in peace and in war.
In a more moderate tone, I want to make some reference to the honorable senator’s complaint about official and non-official post offices. The Postmaster-General’s Department has pursued a policy that has remained unchallenged for many years with relation to raising the status of non-official post offices to that of official post offices. Decisions are based purely and simply on the volume of business done, and no one can quarrel with that. When the demand is evident, the Postmaster-General’s Department makes haste to provide the requisite facilities. If they are not coming as fast as the honorable member would like, or as fast as we would like, let me remind him that this is a very rapidly developing country and that we have more obligations than just the few to which he has referred to-day. I believe that, in the main, the people of Australia are happy and content to go along with the progress being made by putting first things first.
Senator Drake-Brockman made some reference to automatic exchanges. He did not mention any specific case about which he sought information, but I know and appreciate his concern for the vast open spaces he represents in Western Australia. The only information I can give him is that I will refer his submissions to the Postmaster-General. If anything can be done to expedite the installations to which he refers, it will be done.
.- I refer to Division No. 716, in relation to Western Australia. I should like from the Minister, if he will be kind enough to give it to me, a break-up of the amounts of £266.000 and £2,573,000, in subdivisions Nos. 2 and 3 respectively, which are described as being chargeable to capital works.
I also request some information from the Minister with relation to improvements to the General Post Office at Perth. I know, from the complaints I have been receiving for some time now, not only from the public but from officers working there, that the present building is not suited for the work being carried out in it. I understand that the noise in the main hall is excessive and that officers working on the mezannine floor suffer a good deal from nervous trouble. Representations have been made about these difficulties by members of the Postal Workers Union and other officers of the department.
I wish to support strongly the remarks made by Senator Drake-Brockman. I can assure the Minister that this question of automatic telephone exchanges has been well canvassed. 1 know the areas to which Senator Drake-Brockman refers. They are not being adequately served. Western Australia, with its great areas, has always been at a disadvantage in relation to communications. With pedal wireless sets and with manual telephone switchboards in lean-to buildings, the people in the areas mentioned by Senator Drake-Brockman and also in the gold fields could get messages through in emergencies, but their position has deteriorated. The department has a planned programme for these areas, but progress has been so slow that this plan might just as well not be in existence. No doubt the Minister will say, as he did in answer to another honorable senator, that first things must come first. I would like to remind him that when postal charges were increased recently, no doubt justifiably, one of the arguments in favour of the increases was that the postal services must be made efficient. It was also stated that although one objective was that the Postal Deparment should show a profit - which it did - the increased charges were being levied with a view to extending services into areas where they could not be operated profitably.
In conclusion, I ask again for a break-up of the amounts to which I have referred. I should also like to know what the department proposes to do about putting into effect the plan that it has had before it for fifteen years now. I should like to know what will be accomplished by the provision of £375,000, under item 15, for engineering services other than capital works.
– I refer to Division No. 716. About a fortnight ago, I received a letter from the Postal Department advising me that one section of the department - I cannot remember just which one it was - was to be moved out of the General Post Office building to another building known as London House, situated in St. George’s Terrace. London House is not owned by the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is a privately owned building and, if the department were to occupy floor space in it, obviously a rental charge must be paid. I have studied all the items mentioned in Division No. 716 but am unable to find any appropriation for rent to be paid by the Postmaster-General’s Department, for the use of floor space in London House. I should like the Miniser to give an explanation of that matter, if he can.
Both Senator Drake-Brockman and Senator Cooke referred to the lack of efficient postal services in country areas, particularly in the south-western part of Western Australia and on the gold-fields. I wish to refer to the postal facilities at Cockatoo Island, in King Sound, some 1,500 miles from Perth and 90 miles from Derby. There is a weekly boat service which brings in the mail. The post office is an iron building 8 feet by 10 feet. The population to be served numbers approximately 700. Four hundred are on Cockatoo Island and the other 300 on Koolan Island. There are no postal facilities at Koolan Island, but it is only about 8 miles from Cockatoo Island. The workers employed on Cockatoo Island are shift workers, which means that during part of the day they are either at work or are sleeping, having come off shift. The post office is manned not by a postal official but by an employee of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. It is manned only during rostered hours, so that the workers who are on shift work have to miss their sleep if they want to transact postal business when the post office is open.
The post office is also a branch of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and all business with the bank is conducted there. The 300 workers employed at Koolan Island are, in the main, construction workers. There are no living facilities for families. For the most part they are either single men or men living away from their families. This means that they make rather heavy demands on the postal and banking facilities which are provided at Cockatoo Island, especially as the majority of the workers at Cockatoo Island also are either single men or men whose families are not living on the island. When the “Yampi Lass “, the boat which runs between Derby and Cockatoo Island, comes in every Thursday, there is a rush on the post office to collect mail. I have seen a queue of 50 or 60 yards in length. This means that if a person at the front of the queue wants to conduct banking business, all the others in the queue are held up while his business is being done, and they cannot get their mail.
– I am not being facetious, but would the honorable senator tell me the size of the queue to which he refers?
– There would be 100 or 150 people. Cockatoo Island has been a settled area for a good many years and will continue to be so for many more years. It is time that the postal officials had a look at the matter and decided to build a decent post office there for the purpose of providing both postal and banking facilities during the whole of the day. I think there is sufficient business at Cockatoo Island to warrant such expenditure.
I also want to refer to the facilities at Wyndham, which is one of the few remote towns in Australia not connected to the rest of the world. There is a telephone service within the township of Wyndham. I know there is some difficulty about this matter because the State administration has not yet decided where the permanent town of Wyndham will be sited, despite the fact that a township has been there almost since the turn of the century. The authorities are thinking about moving the town three or four miles further out, and perhaps the Postmaster-General’s Department does not want to build a post office there until a firm decision has been made. There is not a continuous telephone service at Wyndham, nor is the town, so far as I know, connected to the rest of the world. I raised this matter with the Postmaster-General some time ago and he informed me that as soon as Wyndham had a power plant installed provision would be made for a radio telephone service. I understand that the State Government has now installed a power plant at Wyndham. I should like to know whether Wyndham has been connected to the radio telephone system and, if not, when it is proposed to do so. At present, the people of the town have to rely on being able to get messages through on the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and that is not always convenient. This is a developing area. Wyndham will be the port to handle the production that flows from the development of the Ord River scheme. It is time that the department looked at the question of up-grading the postal facilities there.
– In connexion with the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department, I wish to make some general remarks and also some comments in reference to postal facilities in South Australia. First, I want to dissociate myself entirely from Senator Cavanagh’s comments. I compliment the Minister on the reply that he gave to the honorable senator’s remarks. The first matter that I raise concerns the collection of letters from pillar boxes in the suburban areas of Adelaide. About four months ago, the department announced the policy of closing for the day at approximately seven o’clock in the evening the letter boxes in the suburban areas. It was said that an additional clearance would be afforded at midday, thereby allowing of three clearances of pillar boxes instead of the two which in most cases had been made hitherto. This policy has resulted in great inconvenience to suburban householders.
It should be understood that most letters written by such people are written in the evening, after the evening meal. In most suburban areas it was common to see, at about half-past nine or ten o’clock at night, letters being posted which obviously had been written that evening. I should say that very few letters would now be posted in time for the evening mail clearance. The clearance of letters posted at the normal time, between, say, seven o’clock and halfpast nine in the evening, would not be made until the next morning and they would not be dealt with at the mail-sorting centres until perhaps midday. If they were letters for areas outside Adelaide, in all probability they would not go on until the following day.
It has been made clear to me by constituents and others that great inconvenience is being caused in that the recipients of these letters receive them a day later than normally would be the case. I should like to know from the Minister whether a survey was made by the department in the Adelaide metropolitan area before it introduced this change. What was the nature of the survey? How many sources of information were tapped? Did the survey show that this policy would add to the convenience of the public, or that it would be more convenient for the department? I would be interested to know whether this additional midday clearance was sought and if so by what percentage of the people who were asked. I urge the Minister to have inquiries made to make sure that the department’s economy has met with the approval of the public.
It should be remembered that postal rates were raised very considerably four or five years ago. Obviously, the public got better service in the way of air mail, but a lot of the value of this service is lost if the clearance of pillar letter boxes takes place as at present with the last clearance for the day about 7 p.m. That is too early for the average householder who wants to post a letter to catch the late mails. If the change has been made at the request of postal officials, I would like to know because it has been suggested that pressure was put on the department by officials of the Post Office. If that is so, the convenience of the general public should be balanced against that pressure.
This matter has been mentioned many times in the Adelaide press by means of letters from householders. I notice that the whole spectrum of the Adelaide suburbs has been involved and this is a matter of great importance in the social activities of people living in the Adelaide metropolitan area. I am not sure whether the new scheme has been introduced in other parts of Australia. If it has, I think that the Minister should, as a matter of extreme urgency, ask his colleague to look closely into the whole question.
– Senator Cooke asked several questions about items under Division No. 716 which covers the proposed vote for the Postal Department in Western
Australia. The honorable senator sought information concerning amounts chargeable to capital works. The information he seeks is related closely to the eleven items shown under the heading of administrative expenses.
Some information on capital works will be of interest to honorable senators. This year, the provision for purely engineering works is £49,290,000 and it includes £6,750,000 for new buildings and £540,000 for sites. This is an increase of £3,300,000 over the amounts available to the Post Office previously. This means that the Post Office will be able to provide at least another 8,000 telephone installations and to reduce the deferred applications for telephones by at least 12,000.
I should like to highlight some of the proposals because I am sure they will interest honorable senators from all States. The amounts I have mentioned total £49,290,000 or an increase of £3,300,000 over the amount allocated last year. With the extra money, the Postal Department plans to install 261,000 telephone services compared with 247,000 last year. There will be 3,065 new trunkline channels compared with 2,300 last year. This year 55,000 new country automatic lines will be installed compared with 42,000 last year. The amount made available by the Government will enable the Post Office to start a drive to catch up with the lag in industrial and country areas and it is proposing to do so.
Apropos that reference, I might add some information that has been sought by Senator Cooke and Senator Drake-Brockman, who referred to the need for rural automatic exchanges. I am advised that when we refer to country automatic lines, we no longer refer to rural automatic exchanges. This is because the term can be misleading. Formerly we may have installed 200 rural automatic exchanges with an average of twenty to 25 lines each. In the next year, we might put in 100 of these installations but with an average of 100 lines each. We now determine the services by the1 number of country automatic lines.
In 1961-62, 42,000 country automatic lines were installed, and it is planned to install 55,000 in the coming year. This is an indication to honorable senators that the Government is planning vigorously to take up the slack, not only in industrial areas, where there is a big lag, but also in the rural areas where people have a tremendous dependence on telephone services. For my part, I welcome the information that the increase this year will be considerably higher than last year.
Senator Cant sought some information about the Cockatoo Island Post Office. I am sorry that I cannot be specific about Cockatoo Island or Wyndham but I do know that the Postmaster-General is aware of these problems. I have been informed that he knows they exist and that he is seeking ways and means of providing some relief. I know that is not a complete answer to the honorable senator’s question but it is the best information available at present. If I am in a position later to be more specific, I shall be happy to convey the information to the honorable senator.
Senator Laught sought some information concerning clearances of letter boxes in suburban Adelaide. The honorable senator asked questions about this matter some time ago in the Senate and he has pursued it vigorously from time to time. The burden of his question was whether an adequate survey had been made of the need for the early clearances prior to the changeover and what was the reason behind the alteration in the times of clearance. I can tell the honorable senator that a very thorough survey was made of the service that was being rendered to these people, and the decision to clear these boxes earlier was not taken haphazardly. It was taken as a result of a survey which revealed that the country’s interest would be served generally by closing these boxes earlier so that interstate airways and railways could speed the mail on its way. This would not have been possible had the later closing hour been maintained.
– The last interstate aircraft leaves about 5.20 p.m.
– I cannot argue on a specific case because I do not know the details, but that is the position of the department in this matter. I am informed and I have no reason to doubt the information that this policy of the Postal Depart ment is designed to expedite deliveries interstate. To do this, it was necessary to effect earlier closing.
– Will the Minister have another look at the position in South Australia, because what has been said does not apply there?
– I have been hearing lately so much about South Australia’s achievements and its needs, that I should be surprised to think that South Australia seeks preferential treatment compared with any other State. For that reason, I am rather surprised to learn that my South Australian friends have the temerity to suggest that they should seek even further preferential treatment. But having been asked by South Australian senators to refer this matter to the Postmaster-General, I shall do so. If the points that I have made are not relevant to South Australia and if those arrangements are not in the best interests of the State, South Australian senators have my assurance that the Postmaster-General will do his utmost to meet their needs, as the Government always does so far as South Australia is concerned.
– Can the Minister explain in lay language the reason for the loss by the Post Office of £1,961,718? To me, that is a big loss for a department that increased revenue very substantially during the year. Are there any extraordinary reasons - they must be extraordinary reasons, or this would not have been done - for charging the Post Office in interest in one year over £20,000,000? Did that charge cause the loss of profit last year? Was it primarily responsible? Is this not a departure from general departmental practice?
.- I had better have a word on Senator Ormonde’s point before it escapes my notice. I think the honorable senator was facetious in suggesting that I might reply in other than lay language. The matter that he raises is one on which there has been considerable disputation for some time. The merits of charging interest on the undertakings of the Post Office are arguable, according to one’s point of view. I am often surprised to hear criticism of this system coming from members of the Australian Labour Party, because my short stay in this place has led me to believe that they take unto themselves the right to protect the interests of what I might call the lesser lights in the community.
If honorable senators opposite criticize this system, they are proposing as an alternative that all and sundry should be taxed to pay for a service which, in the main, is a facility and amenity that is used by trading and commercial interests and other people who have a much greater financial stake in the community than what I choose to call the lesser lights. Does the honorable senator think that the man in the street, who goes to work in a bus or tram, should be taxed to make available a facility to a huge industrial concern at a lower rate than would normally be a commercial charge? That is the crux of the situation.
The Government has decided that the Post Office and all of its undertakings shall be regarded as a commercial venture and that those who use the service shall pay for it.
asked whether the loss of approximately £2,000,000 was the result of charging interest on the undertaking. That is not the reason. I can give the reasons at some length. The Government has determined that the Post Office shall be run like any other commercial undertaking, that those who use the service shall pay for it, and that the charges shall be as economical as possible. Reasons for the loss of £1,961,718 for the current year have been enunciated. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate them in “ Hansard “.
The net loss of £1,960,000 represented less than 0.S per cent, on the funds made available to the Post Office which were £479,433,676 at the 30th June, 1962. No credit has been made in the accounts for losses on services provided to the public at less than cost.
Although earnings increased by £4,058,494 to £140,285,874 for the year, business did not expand as rapidly as in preceding years. This was an important factor in the adverse trading results recorded for the year.
Expenditure rose by £8,783,375 to £142,167,592. This included a charge of £20,085,586 for interest on funds advanced to the Post Office and provision of £13,705,890 for depreciation and of £7,328,387 for superannuation and furlough liabilities.
Of the increased expenditure, £2,440,000 was due to interest on net cash advances. Investment in new plant, particularly in the telephone service, continued at a high level and had the effect of increasing depreciation charges by £1,320,000. There was also a write-off of equipment destroyed by fire at the Civic Exchange, Canberra, involving a further amount of £350,000.
Costs attributable to the 1961 basic wage adjustment were responsible for a rise in direct labour charges of £1,300,000 and £200,000 for superannuation and furlough liabilities, while expenditure associated with the carriage of mails increased by £150,000 largely as a result of new and extended mail services and higher railway and shipping charges.
The rise in management and administration expenditure was minimized at £130,000.
– I have a query with regard to the totals on page 121 of the Estimates, at the bottom of which is a footnote reading - £13,000,000 previously provided under Ordinary Services now provided under Capital Works and Services, Division No. 955, see page 250.
In the break-up of the figures for the various States, there is no indication whatever, so far as I can see, of the figures charged to Capital Works and Services. Evidently there has been some reassessment in the minds of officials of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as to what previously constituted an annual charge and now constitutes a capital charge. For instance, under the general heading, “ Salaries and Payments in the Nature of Salary”, expenditure this year is estimated to be £74,687,000, whereas last year’s expenditure was £81,835,042, so there is to be a reduction of roughly £7,000,000. It is very hard to understand how items that were previously regarded as salaries and payments in the nature of salary have now come to be regarded as capital works and services. I should appreciate from the Minister some explanation of these charges that were previously regarded as annual costs and are now regarded as capital costs.
– I refer to Division No. 712, subdivision 1 - Salaries and Payments in the Nature of Salary. I desire to raise, under that heading, the question of furlough payments to employees in the Postal Department. This question affects not only employees in this department but employees generally in the Commonwealth Public Service who have engaged in the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. As a result of a decision by this department, presumably in line with what has been done in other departments, there is a risk of a most serious situation. Endeavours have been made by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia to have this matter dealt with otherwise. I am assured by Mr. Mayell, secretary of the New South Wales branch of the union, that all attempts to obtain a satisfactory conclusion of the matter have proved unavailing. It is for that reason that I now raise the matter in this chamber.
The matter that I raise concerns a member of the union named Rush. He is a mail officer employed in the Mail Exchange Branch, Sydney, and he has agreed to the revelation of the details of his career. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1926 and was discharged in October, 1945, after continuous service, including service during the war period. He was in the Navy for more than nineteen years. In April, 1946, he commenced full-time training under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme and continued his training at a technical college for some six months. While still training under the scheme he was directed by those in charge of his training to undertake subsidized employment with a private employer. He did that for a period of fifteen months and then, again at the direction of those conducting the scheme, undertook subsidized employment with the Department of Works and Housing. The subsidized employment in each case was for the purpose of completing the plumbing course that he had undertaken. He duly completed the course in 1950 and thereafter continued to be employed in the Postmaster-General’s Department. He is still employed in that department. Under the furlough scheme he is entitled to furlough after fifteen years’ service. It is understood that the period during which a man is training under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme is not to be counted as employment for the purpose of calculating furlough but also that it shall not constitute a break in his employment for the purpose of furlough. Indeed, Mr. Rush in 1959 was granted two weeks’ fur lough on the basis that he had . been employed by the Commonwealth, in effect since 1926.
– When did he join the Postmaster-General’s Department?
– In 1950. There is no question of any break in Commonwealth employment since 1948, when he commenced duty with the Department of Works and Housing. So you have the position that the department took the view and told Mr. Rush that he had continuity of service without any break because of his training under the training scheme, although the period involved in training was not counted for the purpose of furlough. Mr. Rush was granted furlough on that basis. Now the Postmaster-General’s Department has changed its attitude. It states that his continuous service must date only from 1948 when he went to the Department of Works and Housing and that he has not even yet completed fifteen years’ continuous service with the Commonwealth. The department’s reason for adopting this attitude is that the fifteen months immediately preceding his taking up duty with the Department of Works and Housing was with a private employer, although it was subsidized employment - that is, subsidized by those in charge of the training scheme. This attitude does not seem right.
– What is the point? Does it arise under the furlough?
– Under the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. The training scheme was introduced to assist exservicemen. The idea behind the scheme was that employees should not be prejudiced by reason of their war service or their rehabilitation afterwards. It seems wrong for the Commonwealth to deprive this man of his continuity of service merely because it directed him, as part of his training, to undertake subsidized employment with a private employer. . That employment was subsidized because the man was in effect being further trained. The department should consider abiding by what it told Mr. Rush in 1959 when it granted him furlough.
– Will you remind us of what period of service he requires to maintain recurring rights when transferring?
– But for the change in attitude by the department, this person would be entitled to claim continuous service since 1926 but would not be entitled to include the peroid during which he was training under the scheme as service for the calculation of furlough rights. Mr. Rush and the union to which he belongs contend that the period during which he was training under the scheme should not be used to break his continuity of service. I think honorable senators will agree that that is a reasonable attitude.
That is one aspect of the matter. Another aspect of the matter is that although the Comonwealth has granted him a period of furlough on the view that it took in 1959, it has now changed its attitude and contends that he is not entitled to furlough. The department proposes to deduct from his future furlough the short period that he has already been granted. In other words, the department has said that it allowed Mr. Rush to take furlough on the basis that it was part of the long period to which he would be entitled but that it made a mistake and now proposes to deprive him not only of the full period of furlough but also of the period that it erroneously allowed him to take earlier.
– Did this man retire from the Navy on a pension?
– I cannot answer that query. It is clear that but for the view taken by the department Mr. Rush would be entitled to furlough on the basis that he had continuous service from 1926 but that the period during which he was training under the scheme would not be taken into account in calculating his furlough rights.
– What does the Postmaster-General say about this matter? Have you spoken to him?
– Correspondence with the department reveals that it has altered its attitude. In 1959 the department was acting in the way that I have outlined and it has now changed its attitude.
– Senator Henty wants to know whether you have submitted this case to the Minister.
– I have not submitted it personally. I have before me the document containing the PostmasterGeneral’s answer to submissions that have been made. I raise this matter in this chamber because the union ha9 not been able to obtain satisfaction. This is a matter which affects many other persons. This man’s service in the Navy, which was referred to by Senator Wright, is an incidental feature of this case, but the principle has general application. The principle adopted by the department would apply equally to a man who had been engaged in some other Commonwealth department, or even in the same department, during the whole period. The principle being applied by the department is that if there is any break in employment in excess of twelve months, the man loses his continuity of service. That seems a harsh attitude to adopt in the case to which I have referred. This was not a case of a man going out and taking a job of his own volition. He went to a private employer at the direction of those conducting the training scheme and as part of his training under the scheme. I suggest that in this instance the administration has not been, perhaps, as favourable as it could have been to persons so situated. Because of the general effect, I think that some alteration should be made.
– I shall reply to Senator Murphy before I take up the matters raised by Senator Prowse. I am sure Senator Murphy does not expect me, as representing the Postmaster-General, to be able to give him chapter and verse for a specific case. I think the best results may often be obtained by taking special cases directly to the Minister concerned. If you do not achieve your objective by that method, then by all means ventilate what you consider to be a grievance. I am not complaining because the honorable senator has raised the matter. I merely regret I am not able to give him the information he seeks. The inference I have drawn from his remarks is that the Postmaster-General is seeking to evade a responsibility.
– I am not attacking the Postmaster-General. I am merely saying that this is a matter in which the administration ought to be altered.
– I am very glad to have that assurance, because I do not want to do the honorable senator an injustice. I merely want to say that this is a matter that cannot be resolved by myself or by the honorable senator in debate. It has implications that reach as far as the Public Service Board and that affect many other public servants. I give the honorable senator the assurance that, if he does not care to take the matter to the Minister, I shall do so on his behalf, and ask the Minister to consider the points that he has raised.
Senator Prowse sought information about the transfer of £13,000,000, which had previously been treated as maintenance, to capital. The explanation is fairly complex, but I believe the committee is entitled to have it. It is as follows: Because of the importance of changes in the classification of ordinary services and capital estimates for 1962-63, it has been felt necessary to set out the background and the new arrangements which will operate. During the financial year 1961-62 the Post Office, in a memorandum to the Treasury, drew attention to the anomalies in the present estimates arrangements, including the issue of providing funds under capital works and services instead of ordinary services votes for the particular types of engineering expenditure previously treated as renewals and charged to maintenance, and which, from 1st July, 1962, would be charged against capital appropriation. This was necessary to conform with directions of Cabinet on the principles to be followed in allocating expenditure between assets and working accounts.
The honorable senator now asks for only the final paragraph of the notes I have been given. That is as follows: Treasury agreed to an alteration in funds provision necessary in connexion with renewals expenditure, but decided also, as a matter of policy, to meet from capital funds certain other items of a capital nature which had been previously funded from other votes.
The various items included in the adjustment are then set out. I am not going through the whole list of items. I shall give what I think are sufficient examples, and make the document available to any one who would like to peruse it. For instance an amount of £379,000 for mail handling plant had previously been charged to maintenance. It is now rightly charged to capital works. An amount of £124,000, which had previously been charged to maintenance, for letter receivers and boxes, has now been transferred to capital account. There is also an item of £164,000 for other postal equipment which is in the same category. The list reveals items that have been transferred from maintenance to capital.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditures - PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Capital Works and Services, £62,643,000; Broadcasting and Television Services, £14,120,000; Broadcasting and Television Services, Capital Works and Services, £4,175,000; Overseas Telecommunications Commission, Capital Works and Services, £3,500,000- noted.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 4.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 November 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19621108_senate_24_s22/>.