24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - Mr. President, it is with regret that I advise the Senate of the death on 31st March of Mr. Edgar Russell, the honorable member for Grey. Mr. Russell was elected to the House of Representatives at the general elections of 1943. He was, therefore, a member of that House for nearly twenty years. During that long period he held important offices. He was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on War Expenditure from July, 1945, until August, 1946. He was a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works from December, 1946, until March, 1951. He was a member of two parliamentary delegations to Japan, the first in 1948 and the second in 1958.
Mr. President, it may be well said that the late Mr. Russell was a man of quiet disposition. Because of his quiet disposition and the obvious sincerity of the views he held on public matters he made for himself a wide circle of friends among his parliamentary colleagues. He was certainly an energetic representative of his constituents in the Parliament and I have no doubt at all that he will be as greatly missed by them as by his friends here. Against that background, Mr. President, I should like to move the formal resolution that we adopt on these occasions expressing our sympathy with the family of the deceased member in the following terms: -
That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of Edgar Hughes Deg Russell, member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Grey, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its sincere sympathy to the members of his family in their bereavement.
– On behalf of all members of the Opposition I second1 the motion proposed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir William Spooner). Edgar Russell’s death, even though some of us had been prepared for it, left all his colleagues in this Parliament with a sense of personal loss and grief and with deep sympathy for the surviving members of his family. His life was marked in an extraordinary way by devotion to his family, to his electorate, to his party, to duty and to principle. The golden thread of loyalty ran continuously through his activities for the causes he espoused, and accounted for the sincerity, enthusiasm and persistence of his efforts. That loyalty spilled over into the friendliest and kindliest associations with all the people he met. He had a proper appreciation of the dignity of the individual human being, and I am sure he passed through life without offending or undermining it in even one case. He held the confidence of the electors of his division for close to twenty consecutive years. I doubt whether any member of this Parliament has ever represented his electorate more assiduously and effectively than Edgar Russell represented the division of Grey in South Australia. As an eminently practical man, he realized that in looking after his farflung electorate he was making his best contribution to his State, to Australia and to the party of which he was an honoured member. He has set a high standard indeed for his successor in Grey, whoever that may be. I pay tribute to his work and his fine personal qualities.
Edgar Russell was one of the first persons I met when, following the 1943 elections, I came to Canberra as a senator-elect to take part in the choice of the second Curtin ministry. My education on Grey began that very day, as also did a great personal friendship that ended1 only with Edgar Russell’s death on 31st March last. Mr. Russell served his party and the Parliament under three Labour Prime Ministers - Mr. Curtin, Mr. Forde and Mr. Chifley - and under two Leaders of the Opposition - Dr. Evatt and Mr. Calwell. He was trusted and respected by each of them. Edgar Russell enjoyed the respect of everybody who knew him and the affection of all who were privileged to know him well. His passing will be mourned by many thousands in his electorate as well as by his parliamentary colleagues. I extend the deepest sympathy of all members of the Opposition in the Senate to his sorrowing daughters and relatives, and trust that their grief will be mercifully eased.
– I desire, on behalf of the members of the Australian Country Party, to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir William Spooner). Mr. Edgar Russell, a personality in his own right, will be sadly missed not only by the members of the Senate but also by the members of another place, for to know him was to like him and appreciate his many virtues. He lived to serve his fellow man, and few members of Parliament know their electorates and the needs of their electors better than he knew his electorate and its needs. His devotion to his responsibilities took toll of his constitution, and those who knew him were grieved to witness the decline in his health which was apparent for some time and which culminated in his untimely passing.
To his sorrowing daughter may I suggest that she take comfort in the knowledge that the devoted service she rendered her late father during his illness greatly eased the burden of his latter days. On behalf of the Australian Country Party I extend to members of his family our deepest sympathy.
– It was with great regret that I heard of the death of the late Mr. Edgar Russell. He was a very kindly gentleman and one who did more, I suppose, for his electorate and his electors, than any other member of this Parliament. It may be that he has set a good example by saying little and doing much, and I should like to express my sincerest sympathy to his sorrowing family. I am sure that they will get great comfort from the fact that he lived a good life during which he tried at all times to help people in every walk of life.
– I desire to contribute to the sentiments that are being expressed in relation to Mr. Edgar Russell. Senator McKenna has spoken on behalf of Opposition senators generally, but I should like to pay a special tribute on behalf of South Australian Senators who from time to time over a period of twenty years have worked on behalf of and with Mr. Russell in the vast electorate of Grey. Having read the speeches delivered in another place and listened to those made here to-day, I believe that I can claim the honour of having had a longer friendship with Mr. Russell than has anybody else who is associated with the Parliament.
Some 25 years ago I was employed for a period of eighteen months at Port Pirie. Mr. Edgar Russell, the son of a mayor of Port Pirie who was held in very high esteem in the town, and I were both members of a sub-branch of the Australian Labour Party and we used to meet at Labour Party functions to further the political cause which we both held dear. In those days Mr. Russell was a freelance accountant and auditor, and he audited for various firms, farms and companies. Although one can visualize that his employment opportunities might have been enhanced if he had held different political beliefs, he at all times stood solidly for those which he thought to be correct and never hesitated to express them in any company in which he found himself. I do not know that at that time either Mr. Russell or I had any political ambitions.
I married my wife, who was a member of the second generation of a Port Pirie family, as was Mr. Russell, in that town at a time when all in the town were neighbours, and our family association has remained for two generations. After leaving Port Pirie I did not see Mr. Russell until 1942, when he attended a Labour Party conference to contest a plebiscite for the seat of Grey. The system of pre-selection adopted on that occasion was one of exhaustive ballot. There was a number of aspirants for selection. During the process of elimination and before the final vote was taken, the conference adjourned for tea. Mr. Russell came to me and expressed the belief that he had no hope of being selected. As the result of a remark I had heard I said to him, “You may get a surprise when the final vote is taken “. Mr. Russell won the pre-selection by a comfortable majority. His opponent at the final ballot, a Mr. Davis, who later represented Port Pirie in the South Australian Parliament, received fewer votes than in the previous ballot. Since that time Mr. Russell has at all times given me credit for playing a part in his pre-selection - credit which was far in excess of that due for any contribution I had made. He never hesitated to express his appreciation of what he considered to be a service rendered to him.
When I sought pre-selection for tha Senate, success was dependent upon defeating Mr. Russell’s daughter. Voting for the pre-selection was held at night. One of the first persons to telephone me to congratulate me upon selection was Mr. Edgar Russell. I expressed regret at the fact that, to be successful, it had been necessary to defeat his daughter. He said “ Don’t worry about that. I would just as soon see you selected for the seat as any other candidate. I have not forgotten what you did for me.”
My wife and I attended the funeral of the late member, and I had the honour to represent the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) at it. At the time one could not help but feel that we had lost a great friend, a stalwart of the Labour Party and a great statesman who had represented his district well. Although I could point to the increasing majorities with which, from time to time, Edgar Russell won the seat of Grey, I think he achieved no greater success than when he won the seat in 1943. In 1943 the electorate of Grey was not the same area as it is in 1963. It included that large area of Yorke Peninsula which now represents, possibly, the strongest Liberal voting section of the electorate of Wakefield. It was not held by Labour previously, and Mr. Russell’s herculean achievement of winning that far-scattered seat in 1943 was something that had not been achieved by the Labour Party previously.
Because of the quiet manner of Edgar Russell we might be inclined not to recognize some of his achievements which are not shown in “ Hansard “ reports. When first elected he immediately established his daughter as his secretary to answer the queries of his electors. This was before the Government provided secretaries for federal members. The innovation was a success. No letter came to Edgar Russell that was not properly acknowledged, the request dealt with as far as it could be, and a reply directed to the person who had made the complaint or the report. The innovation increased the popularity of the honorable member and could have had repercussions that helped to bring about the appointment of secretaries to all members of this and the lower house. It may well be that we all owe a debt of gratitude to Edgar Russell for establishing such an innovation affecting all members.
Edgar Russell was to my knowledge the first member - the first in South Australia and possibly one of the first anywhere - to establish an office for the transaction of parliamentary business away from a city area. He established an office in Port Pirie, the principal town of his electorate. I do not want to weary the Senate, but during his twenty years of office we witnessed an industrial development throughout the district greater possibly than we have seen in any other district in Australia. Whilst one cannot say that it was directly and fully attributable to Edgar Russell’s influence we know that he co-operated, and was in many ways instrumental, in attracting to his electorate the industrial centres that are there to-day. We have seen the growth of Whyalla from a small country town mining iron ore to a large city with a blast furnace, a ship building industry and a rolling mill.
We have seen also the establishment, in the desert, of the village of Woomera, with its contribution to missile development in Australia and many other countries. We have seen at Port Augusta the development of the Commonwealth Railways and the establishment of the largest power plant in Australia, which distributes current to all parts of the State. We have seen the finding of coal and the development of the coal-fields at Leigh Creek, with the employment of a large number of workers in the area. We have seen the development of gypsum production first at Inneston and Streaky Bay, when the Yorke Peninsula was part of the Grey electorate; later, we saw the finding of huge deposits at Thevenard, which are the basis of a thriving township. We have seen many other developments, including the establishment of the important tuna industry at Port Lincoln.
Although we cannot say that these developments were the direct result of Edgar Russell’s activities, we know that he was interested in them all and that he did much towards attracting industries to his area. Having lost a great member, we can console ourselves with the thought that he has left behind three daughters, who, I feel sure, will carry on the great tradition of service to the Labour Party and to the people of Australia that has been followed by two generations of the Russell family. We can say, too, that the barren waste of the far-flung division of Grey, together with the rest of Australia, has benefited much from the life and activities of Edgar Russell.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
– I suggest, Mr. President, that as a mark of respect to the late Mr. Russell the Senate suspend its sitting till 8 o’clock to-night.
Sitting suspended from 3.22 to 8 p.m.
Senator COHEN presented a petition from 51 citizens of the Commonwealth praying that Parliament will take early action to remove from the Commonwealth Constitution section 127 and the words in section 51 which discriminate against the aboriginal people.
Petition received and read.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Audit Bill 1962. Repatriation Bill 1962.
Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Bill 1962.
Northern Territory (Administration) Bill 1962. Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1962. Loan Bill (No. 2) 1962.
Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund (Disposal) Bill 1962.
Copper and Brass Strip Bounty Bill 1962.
National Health Bill 1962.
Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads)
Bill 1962. Patents Bill 1962.
Australian War Memorial Bill 1962. Tariff Board Bill (No. 2) 1962. Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1962. ‘
Derby Jetty Agreement Bill 1962. Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Bill 1962.
Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill 1962.
Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1962. Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1962. War Service Homes Bill (No. 2) 1962.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1962.
Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1962. Broadcasting and Television Bill 1962. Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1962. Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1962. Wool Industry Bill 1962. Wool Tax Bill (No. 1a) 1962. Wool Tax Bill (No. 2a) 1962. Gold Mines Development Assistance Bill 1962. Brigalow Lands Agreement Bill 1962. Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement Bill
Honey Industry Bill 1962. Honey Levy Bill (No. 1) 1962. Honey Levy Bill (No. 2) 1962. Honey Levy Collection Bill 1962.
– As some honorable senators will know, the Commonwealth Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association joined in presenting a sandglass to the Parliament of Uganda on the occasion of the independence of Uganda in October last year. The Speaker of the Uganda National Assembly, Sir John Griffin, has since written conveying to the Commonwealth Parliament the thanks and appreciation of the Assembly for the gift.
– 1 address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It relates to misunderstanding by the general public on the question of whether members of Parliament contribute to a superannuation fund. Is it not a fact that since the members’ superannuation fund came into being nearly £500,000 has accumulated in it? Will the Treasurer introduce the necessary legislation to carry out the wishes of the trustees of the fund to bring the benefits more into line with those of other parliamentary superannuation funds, particularly those of New South Wales and Tasmania? Will the Minister inform the Senate how the money in the fund is invested and the rate of interest it is earning? If he refuses to accede to my requests, is he prepared to call a meeting of the shareholders in the fund, namely, the members of all the parties in this Parliament, to ascertain their wishes in the matter?
– I do not undertake to answer all the questions asked by the honorable senator, but I can at least give him some solace. It is a fact that all members of this Parliament contribute towards their own superannuation fund, on a basis which is generally regarded as involving greater contributions than those made to most other superannuation funds, either in private industry or in the government service. The remainder of the question was too lengthy for me to have taken it all in. If the honorable senator will put that part of the question on the noticepaper I will look at it, but I think it should be directed to the particular parliamentary committee that looks after parliamentary retiring allowances.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development. As the view has been expressed in some quarters that oil search in Australia has declined as a result of the reduction in the rate of subsidy, can the Minister give any information as to whether this is happening?
There has been no diminution in the search for oil in Australia. Expenditure was £7,000,000 in 1959; it went to £8,000,000 in 1960; it was £8,750,000 in 1961; and last year it reached £18,000,000. So those who claimed that oil search would be prejudiced by the alteration of the subsidy arrangements are shown by those figures to have been wrong in their forecasts.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Has authority been granted to any farmers in Tasmania, or elsewhere in Australia, to experiment in the growing of the type of poppy from which the vegetable alkaloid known as the dangerous1 drug opium is obtained? If so, what are the reasons? Is not the importation of opium to Australia and many other countries forbidden? Are not synthetic equivalents, which are useful in medical treatment but which do not have consequences of addiction, available in Australia?
– The honorable senator must have been reading, perhaps, the most ill-informed article 1 have read for a long time on this subject in the current issue of “ Nation “. Experiments have been carried out in four States - Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania - under the control of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State agriculture departments in the growing of poppies in an endeavour to ascertain whether the production of opium derivatives from the poppy straw is a practicable proposition in Australia. At the present time, these are being imported into Australia. About three and a half years ago, I think, application was made to import a small quantity of these seeds to be planted and grown under strict supervision by the State agriculture departments and the C.S.I.R.O. for testing purposes for, I understand, a British manufacturer. These tests have been carried out for about three and a half years. The suggestion that the United Nations has not been informed of them under our international obligations is incorrect. Naturally, the United Nations has been kept fully informed of the plantings, the crops and the tests, and has been supplied with all the relative information that we are committed to give under our international obligations. The figures for the year 1962 are almost complete and almost ready to be sent as the rest have been sent to the United Nations. I understand that the experiments will be continued until the people responsible are satisfied whether this can be a commercial proposition for a British manufacturing firm in Australia.
– Has the
Minister for Health seen a statement issued on 1st March by the chairman of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales which asserts, among other things, that since the formation jointly of a management company over two years ago to administer the Hospitals Contribution Fund and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited, administrative costs, instead of decreasing, have increased to an extent that cannot be accounted for by the nonrecurring costs of integration and the introduction of a new table? According to the statement, the management company and representatives of the Medical Benefits Fund have made it difficult for the Hospitals Contribution Fund so to organize its affairs as to be in a position to commence independent operations on 1st November as it has said it must do. Because these funds operate under Commonwealth charter and because of the large number of members of the public who contribute to such schemes, and having regard to the serious allegations made by the chairman of the Hospitals Contribution Fund, will the Minister order a public investigation into the administration and affairs of the management company?
– I cannot recall having seen the statement referred to by Senator McClelland. I take it that it would have been in a New South Wales newspaper and, as a Victorian, I do not always have the opportunity to see New South Wales press statements. I do know something of the matter to which Senator McClelland has referred, which is, in blunt terms, a dispute between two funds in New South Wales. I cannot make any comment to the Senate on the validity of the statement because, as I say, I have not seen it. The honorable senator has asked me whether I will initiate a public investigation into these allegations. At this point of time, Mr. President, the answer is, “ No “. I would certainly need to be fully informed on all the implications of the disagreement between the two bodies before I would be in a position to make any considered judgment on the issues involved.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services been directed to an announcement made by a Labour senator of an alleged change of policy with regard to the payment of social service benefits to eligible persons who are discharged from mental hospitals? Is the Minister in a position to confirm the announcement which has been given wide publicity by newspapers and radio stations alike? Under what authority can a Labour senator make an announcement with regard to a change of government policy since announcements of that kind are usually made by the appropriate Minister?
– I heard the news item over the air, and I was very surprised to hear it because I had not heard of any change of policy on our part in connexion with that matter. I made inquiries from my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, and found that the practice which the honorable senator on the other side so loudly praised had been the practice and procedure of the Government during the whole of its thirteen years in office. So I think that the honorable senator has just brought himself up to date. There is no change of policy. It is a longstanding arrangement, and I do not know by what right the honorable senator made the announcement. It would have been better had he properly informed himself on the matter before making that announcement.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he has been advised that a bulk sugar handling installation is in course of construction at Cairns and that it is expected that the bulk handling equipment will be operated in the 1964 sugar season. Has the Minister under consideration any repatriation scheme for the 400-odd waterside workers who will lose their employment as the result of the change-over from bagged sugar to bulk sugar?
– I have no specific information on the points which the honorable senator raises, although I can bring them to the attention of the responsible Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service. But I am quite sure that the majority of the sugar-growers in Queensland, especially those in the Cairns area, will be glad to know that bulk sugar handling facilities are being installed at Cairns which will prevent growers from being held to ransom at any moment in the way in which they have been held to ransom from time to time in the past when there was no bulk sugar handling installation. I am sure that the Minister and his department, as they always do, will seek to provide employment for anybody who has not got it. I will ask the Minister for specific answers to the specific questions raised by the honorable senator and let the honorable senator have them by letter.
– I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question relating to the wheat industry stabilization scheme. Has finality been reached in connexion with the terms of the wheat industry stabilization agreement which is to replace the present scheme, which will expire shortly? If so, has consideration been given to extending payment of the guaranteed cost of production price to a maximum of 150,000,000 bushels instead of 100,000,000 bushels of export wheat? Has the cost of production price yet been determined by the Division of Agricultural Economics?
– The answer to the first part of the question is “ No “. That being so, there is no need to answer the other two parts, but I can give the honorable senator some additional information which may be of interest to him and the Senate. The Division of Agricultural Economics has been asked to conduct a survey of the cost index. That survey has been completed, but up to the present time there has been delay in taking up negotiations with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation for a; renewal of the scheme because of the illness of one of the members of that body. I understand that a conference on this issue was set down for to-day, but the result has not yet been made known to me.
– I address to the Minister for Health a question about the exclusion from the operation of the National Health Act of the treatment by dental practitioners of jaw and mouth injuries. Will the Government consider amending the act to cover medical services performed by suitably qualified dental practitioners?
– The recognition of oral surgeons, which I think is the appropriate term, has been discussed by myself and my departmental officers on several occasions, but I must confess that I am not sufficiently well informed to give the honorable senator an adequate answer. I suggest that he place his question on the notice-paper and I shall ask my officers to give me some further details about the matter he has raised.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen a recently published statement by Mr. Graham, the assistant secretary of the Council of Co-operative Building Societies, when he returned from overseas, that a large pool of money was available in America on long-term and cheap rates of interest for housing in Australia? Can the Minister provide any information about such a pool? Has his department investigated the availability of such money in any country? Does he believe that this money would flow into Australia if a Commonwealth Government guarantee were given to the lenders?
– I did see Mr. Graham’s statement. This is a constantly recurring theme. Reports come to us from time to time that the British permanent building societies, various governments and private investors are willing to invest money in housing in Australia. I can assure Senator Buttfield that not only my department but also the Department of the Treasury never let such reports remain uninvestigated. It is generally found upon inquiry - I am not saying this in relation to Mr. Graham’s statement - that it is a hope rather than an anticipation that funds will be available and that the picture is not as rosy as it would at first seem. It is found from time to time that there is a possibility of such money becoming available, but not on the exchange terms upon which Australia will accept overseas investment in this country. In other words, overseas lenders want guarantees of repatriation at a constant rate of exchange, or guarantees of repatriation of profits, and arrangements of that kind, whereas the Government has maintained an independent stand on overseas investment. It has said, in effect, that this is a good country in which overseas people may make investments but they have to make them in ordinary commercial terms without the Government guaranteeing them against contingencies which nobody can foresee.
– Can the Minister for Health explain to the Senate the circumstances which caused him to intimate to members of the medical profession that they should not over-prescribe antibiotics to pensioners?
– The statement that is credited to me was not made by me, but was made by the Director-General of Health. However, I assure the honorable senator that I take full responsibility for what the Director-General has said. He is a very learned man, and he offered no criticism at all on the prescribing of antibiotics. What he did was to point out to the medical profession that there were trends in the prescribing of antibiotics that were of some concern. I suppose, of course, the cynic would immediately say that the cost factor was the reason for directing the attention of the medical profession to this matter. That is not so, for the very good reason that men skilled in these arts are always concerned with what effects there may be in over-prescribing. Immunities are built up. That type of problem has to be watched all the time. I emphasize that the Director-General made his statement really for the benefit of the medical profession, so that it might have some thinking of its own on the problem.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. As safflower is of importance to the Ord River scheme in Western Australia, can the Minister say whether the fusarium wilt disease in safflower is caused only by seedborne fungus? How is the disease identified? Are there any preventive measures? If so, what are they? What is being done to provide the 500 tons of seed which was needed, but which was rightly rejected by the Minister because of its suspected contamination?
– Might I answer the last portion of the question first and say that when the application for the importation of 500 tons of seed was rejected the Department of Health interested itself in obtaining for the people who were seeking the seed information which would enable them to make some progress with their planning. The action the department took has, of course, been proved to be the proper action because of the outbreak of the disease in the State of California, I think it was. At any rate, it was in the United States of America. The other questions that have been asked are beyond my ken. They require the advice of the Director-General of Health. I shall refer them to him and let the honorable senator have an answer as soon as I can.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that the Mining Act of Western Australia prohibits the employment of Asians in the mining industry in that State? Is it a fact that the Western Australian Minister for Mines allowed the employment of Asians in the mining industry and that the said Asians were convicted of a breach of the act by working in the industry? Were the Asians given a vis6 by the Minister for Immigration so that they could work in the mining industry? Was the Minister for Immigration aware of the restriction when he granted the vis6?
– The honorable senator should direct the first three parts of his question to the Western Australian Minister for Mines. I am not aware of the provisions of the Mining Act of Western Australia. That being a State act, it would be more appropriate for the honorable senator to obtain the information required from the State Minister. If the honorable senator will put the last three parts of his question on the notice-paper, I shall arrange for the Minister for Immigration to furnish him with a reply.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether the Government, in appointing the committee to inquire into the economic resources of the country, set a date as an objective for the furnishing of its report.
– My recollection is that because of the scope and nature of the committee’s inquiries, the Government did not nominate a date for the making of the report. I think our approach has been that we would like the job done properly and as soon as practicable, but that it was not possible to put a time limit on the committee’s work.
– I remind the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service that during last sessional period I asked whether another industrial officer of the Department of Labour and National Service could be made available in Tasmania, particularly in northern Tasmania, to handle a build-up of industrial problems arising from federal awards. The Minister replied that he would refer the matter to his Ministerial colleague. As this shortage of staff still persists and as the backlog of cases needing attention is increasing, will the Minister direct his influence upon the Minister for Labour and National Service to inquire into and remedy this situation as soon as possible?
– I shall certainly direct my influence upon the Minister to inquire into this matter and to consider whether the situation ought to be remedied as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development in relation to the recent press statement to the effect that as the work of the great planning organization of the Snowy Mountains scheme was coming to a close, there would be no further use for the retention of that great body of experts and therefore it would have to be disbanded. Is this press statement correct? If it is correct, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government has considered ways and means of retaining the services of this most expert body of planners in some other capacity in Australia, so that their valuable work will be preserved?
– It can hardly be fairly said that the work of the Snowy Mountains Hydo-electric Authority is coming to a close. I should think that there would be, at the least, another seven years work ahead. It will take at least that long to complete the Snowy Mountains scheme. It may take longer because, as we go along and get more experience and knowledge, ways in which the scheme can be improved by additional works become apparent, so I do not put this matter in the category of an immediate problem. 1 subscribe completely to the view that the Snowy Mountains Authority is indeed a most efficient organization. I devote a good deal of my time and thought to ways and means of ensuring that the organization shall be maintained. At the present time, it is developing quite a stream of work which it is doing for State governments and other authorities. They are referring technical problems to it, and it is giving technical advice. As honorable senators may know, a team of engineers from the Snowy Mountains Authority is at present carrying out work in the Mekong River area. I should like to see further work found for the authority. I should like to see it continue its operations, and I am doing what I can to achieve that result.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Is it true that over the past few months many hundreds of notices threatening eviction have been issued to families who have fallen behind in their repayments of war service homes loans? Can the Minister say why the policy which allowed families to undertake to pay off arrears by weekly payments has now been changed to the present policy, which is to barrel, or serve eviction notices on, families which are three months behind in their payments? Is it true that in the month of February notices threatening eviction were served upon nearly 1,500 families in New South Wales who had fallen behind in their re-payments of war service homes loans?
– I am quite certain that Senator Fitzgerald has fallen into the same error as did another honorable senator on that side of the chamber. There certainly has been no change of policy in the administration of war service homes matters. It is inconceivable that a change such as the honorable senator has suggested could have occurred without being brought to my attention as the Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division. I give him an assurance that no such matter has been brought to my notice. There has been no change of policy. I just do not believe the statement that 1,500 eviction notices were served in New South Wales in the month of February.
– Notices threatening eviction.
– I do not believe it. I cannot say any more than that. At the present time, there are about 160,000 recipients of loans from the War Service Homes Division, and from time to time some of them fall into arrears.
From time to time action has to be taken and homes have to be repossessed. This is the largest housing scheme in Australia. Mr. President, you could not have 160,000 advances without some incidents of that kind. Frequently I have on my table papers showing must unusual sets of circumstances involving people who have left homes without having a rational excuse for doing so. The War Service Homes Division has had to go into possession in order to protect its interests, and it is extraordinary that in so many of those cases, when the home ha9 been sold, there has been a substantial cash balance to be paid back to the people concerned. In many of those cases the War Service Homes Division did not want to take action; its action was due to domestic or other circumstances. If Senator Fitzgerald is suggesting that there has been a change of policy and that matters are being administered in a different way, or that a purge or something like that is occurring in New South Wales, I give him the simple answer that that is not true.
– I direct a question to the Minister for- National Development. Is it a fact that tremendous reserves of bauxite have been discovered and proven in the Darling Ranges of Western Australia, at Gove in the Northern Territory, and at Weipa in north Queensland? If that is so, can the Minister inform me of the steps that have been taken to increase the production of aluminium in Australia and of the extent to which production has been increased over the last few years? Can he state the quantity of bauxite which has been shipped overseas from Australia?
– The honorable senator’s question relates to one of the great developments in Australia and one of the fruits of the effective policy pursued by the Menzies Government. I refer to the search for, and the development of, our natural resources. Whilst I do not claim that the Bureau of Mineral Resources is responsible for all the work that has been done, it has made a great contribution. In recent years we have found that Australia possesses great resources of bauxite. As with other large natural deposits, development takes some time. In this respect, I think we are doing well. The people concerned in Western Australia already have shipped bauxite overseas. I do not keep in my mind the quantities involved. They have set up a consortium of companies. They are engaged in building a big alumina plant in the west, and a smelter is being built in Victoria. The organization at Weipa has made its first shipments overseas of bauxite. It has built a port at Weipa and has greatly enlarged the smelter at Bell Bay. It is still sorting out the problem of where to locate its alumina plant and a large-scale smelter.
We have entered into arrangements with the French group, the Pechiney organization, for the development in Arnhem Land which, I think, bids fair to become the greatest single development we have ever had in the Northern Territory and perhaps in the whole of the north of Australia. In three years’ time, the people concerned with the Weipa development will commit themselves to the building of an alumina plant of 500,000 tons capacity, at a cost of something like £40,000,000. They have three years in which to make further tests of the deposits and to come forward with a definite proposal. In the interregnum they are to spend, I think, some £2,000,000 in constructing a port and exporting bauxite until such time as the alumina plant has been completed.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, relates to circumstances in which an employer defaults in paying to the Taxation Branch money he has deducted from the wages of employees for the purpose of paying taxation. If such money cannot be collected from the employer because of his bankruptcy or change of address, does the Taxation Branch compel the taxpayers concerned again to pay the amounts that have already been deducted from their wages?
– The question involves a matter of administration, the details of which I am not familiar with. I shall inquire into the matter and let the honorable senator know the position.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Australian public has a great interest in the proposed change to the decimal system, is the Government likely to consider a rather novel suggestion, put forward in to-night’s Perth “ Daily News “ cartoon by the now famous Paul Rigby, that the larger denomination be known as a “ Menzies “, which would equal ten bobs, and that the smaller denomination be known as a “Calwell”, with 50 to equal one “ Menzies “?
– I have no argument with Mr. Rigby’s relative valuations of the proposed units, but I do not know whether the names will be acceptable.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development and refers to the finding of bauxite in the Northern Territory. Can the Minister give any information about the press statement which said that two men in the Northern Territory refused a grant of £250 each offered to them by the Commonwealth Government for the finding of bauxite? If this is a fact, does the Minister consider that there is a danger that such a small reward is likely to cause people to suppress knowledge of mineral deposits on their properties because of the damage which would ensue to their own grazing or agricultural activities?
– This is a long-standing matter. Those two gentlemen have made claims in the press as to the contribution they made, but the Commonwealth Government does not agree with those claims.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. Is it true that this Senate will rise to-morrow night until the 30th of this month? Also, is it true that the Liberal Party proposes to implement the Labour Party’s policy as regards the abolition of the Senate as early as possible?
– It is true that we have had in contemplation that after the close of business to-morrow we shall re-assemble on 30th April, when we shall have legislation from the other House with which we can deal. As to the second part of the question, I invite Senator Benn to let us see the stuff that he is made of when the Senate re-assembles. I am certain that the Government side will show the Opposition that it is the abolition of the Labour Party we aim at, not the abolition of the Senate.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service and it concerns the Government’s pool of unemployed. Will the Minister tell us approximately how many persons in this pool have been unemployed for more than three months and how many have been unemployed for more than six months?
– The information is published month by month by the Minister for Labour and National Service, and as the honorable senator should know, it indicates clearly those who have been unemployed for more than three weeks because they are the people who draw the unemployment benefit. I have not in my mind at the moment the latest published figures of those who had been unemployed for more than three weeks-
– Three months was the question.
– I know, but I am making it better for you; I am making it those who have been unemployed for more than three weeks.
– You mean that you do not know.
– That number would be about 30,000. All other people to whom members of the Opposition refer as being unemployed are those who have been registered for employment but have not been unemployed for as long as three weeks. I suggest to the honorable senator that if he has any genuine interest in this matter he will look at the monthly statement made and published in the press by the Minister for Labour and National Service. It sets out the total number of people registered for employment, which is not, of course, the total number of people unemployed; the total number of people who are drawing the unemployment benefit, or in other words, those who have been unemployed for three weeks or more; and the total number of vacancies registered with the Department of Labour and National Service. If the honorable senator finds this too difficult, I shall be happy to cut it out of the newspaper and send it to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Does the Minister consider that the published unemployment figures are misleading when they include people who are not eligible for the unemployment benefit but who have registered for employment? Those people may be pensioners, married women or physically handicapped people. If the Minister does consider the figures to be misleading, will he take up with the department the possibility of categorizing the various unemployed so that one can see easily those who are really unemployed and those who have put their names down for employment while not being in such great need of employment?
– I do not know that the figures as published are misleading, but I am certain that the use that is made of them and the usual name given to them are misleading. The figures which are published by the Department of Labour and National Service show those registered for employment. These, of course, include the categories to which the honorable senator has referred, and also people who are engaged, and prefer to be engaged, in seasonal work and who, in the intervals between jobs, register for employment. I may say that when those people are employed they receive a loading for being engaged in seasonal work. The figures also encompass people who have registered for jobs but have not informed the department that they have received jobs in the interval and, therefore, are still registered. If the total number of people registered with the Department of Labour and National Service for employment is regarded as the number unemployed, then this is undoubtedly misleading. I do not know that it would be altogether easy to categorize, but I think it would be of some assistance to the public if some - if I may use this frightful word - categorization took place.
– Find a better one.
– There is no doubt that, above everything else, the constant misuse by honorable senators opposite of the term “ unemployed “ for people “ registered for employment “ does tend to mislead the Australian public, though not as much as it did a year or two ago; they are becoming used to this catch-cry.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that a Japanese company has been given a permit to mine and export copper ore from Whim Creek in Western Australia? Is it a fact that this body of ore is the last-known body of soluble copper ore in Australia? Should not this ore be reserved for the use of Australian primary industry?
– 1 think it would be better to put the question on the notice-paper. I have some recollection of this, but my recollection is very different from that of Senator Cant. My recollection is that it was an old mine which had been discarded as being uneconomic and which had not been worked for many years. So, when the Japanese came in and said that they would work it, they were doing something which we thought was pretty hazardous from an economic point of view. Therefore, I do not see any justification for criticism of whoever was responsible, but if the honorable senator puts the question on the notice-paper I shall get facts instead of opinions.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question arising from the answer supplied by the Minister to Senator Murphy a few minutes previously. Is the Minister aware that the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics in Sydney has been engaged and is still engaged on a survey of 6,000 homes in the metropolitan area of Sydney in order to determine a truer picture of the extent of employment and unemployment than that reflected by the figures furnished by the Department of Labour and National Service?
– The method used by the Department of Labour and National Service to compute the number of unemployed has not varied for years and years. From time to time, endeavours have been made by various interests and organizations to get some other method of figuring out the number of people who may be temporarily unemployed. This endeavour to find some new method has occurred merely because the method which has been in use for years and years - I believe ever since the Opposition was in government - has not thrown up figures which are satisfactory to the Opposition. It appears that at the present moment the figures for those registered for employment are not satisfactory to the Opposition, which, therefore, is seeking to find some other means of measuring unemployment which might lend more credence to its catch-cry that this country is riddled with unemployment. Surely if you are going to make a comparison over a period of fifteen or more years you must compare like with like. You must take the same basis year after year. You must adopt the same method of presenting the figures year after year. This is what has been done. If it does not meet with the approbation of the Opposition, that is just too bad. At least it provides a proper and an unaltered basis on which to figure out this problem in this country at the moment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
The Minister for Trade has supplied the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER__
The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
In view of the increasing use of credit as an export sales technique, and the consequent risk of greater losses to our exporters through credit sales, will the Minister inform the Senate of the number of policies accepted by the Export Payments Insurance Corporation during the five years of its existence, and the amount of the insurance cover involved?
The Minister for Trade has provided the following information: -
Since the inception of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, and up to 30th June, 1962, the corporation had issued 847 policies which had a face value of over £121,000,000.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
The Minister for Trade has supplied me with the following information: -
Wheatmeal is included with the oaten products in oats for human consumption as this is the only form in which the statistics are published by the Commonwealth Statistician.
Barley - United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, United States.
Sorghum - United Kingdom.
Maize - New Zealand, Singapore.
Oats - Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom.
Millet- United Kingdom. New Zealand, France.
Wheat - Mainland China, United Kingdom, India, Japan, Germany, New Zealand, United Arab Republic, South Africa and Hong Kong.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
Minister for Trade has supplied the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The questions posed by Senator Kennelly refer to the shareholding interests of Sir John Williams in certain television and broadcasting stations, and the Postmaster-General has supplied me with the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Premier of New South Wales that. Communist China has resold Australian wheat to other countries for hard currency and is using the proceeds of such resale to buy arms to wage war on India?
Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. Apart from a few small shipments, which I understand have been made to Albania, Tunisia and Morocco direct from Australia, from Chinese purchases, Commonwealth authorities have no reason to believe that Australian wheat sold to mainland China is being re-exported. I would point out also that it is a normal exchange control requirement that exports from Australia to non-sterling area countries be paid for in an appropriate convertible currency, whether the sale is for cash or on terms. Thus, even if Australian wheat sold to mainland China on credit terms were resold by the Chinese for convertible currency during the period of a particular contract there would be no net gain to that country’s reserves of convertible foreign currency at the end of the relevant period.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied me with the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Such a trawler was purchased in the United Kingdom and between March, 1960, and November, 1961, 31 fishing trips were carried out by Southern Trawling Company Limited, a company set up to conduct the trawling operations backed with finance from the trust account.
In the early stages all fish was marketed in the round in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. During later stages, fairly extensive tests were carried out with filleting and freezing the fish before sale. Under the market prices obtainable it was not found possible to catch enough fish to make the venture pay.
Although the venture was not a commercial success, a great deal of valuable information was obtained with regard to the fish resources of the bight, trawling conditions and marketing requirements.
The total cost of the experiment, as reported in the sixth annual report to Parliament on the operations of the Fishing Industry Act, was approximately £250,000.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer: - 1 and 2. The Cabinet considered the question of the site of a proposed new Parliament House in 1958 and decided in July, of that year in favour of the lakeside site.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– My colleague, Mr. Hasluck, has now supplied the following answers: -
– I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper: -
Welfare of the aborigines of Gove Peninsula, Arnhem Land - statement by the Minister for Territories, dated 9th April, 1963. and ask for leave to make a statement in relation thereto.
– The personal pronoun in the statement which follows applies not to myself but to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck).
I have asked leave to make this statement because it has come to my knowledge that a good deal of misleading information is being passed around concerning the effect on the life of the aborigines of the Gove Peninsula of the granting of mining leases over bauxite deposits with a requirement for the early commencement of mining and the eventual development of an alumina plant. Members on both sides of this House have been good enough to direct my attention to statements made on this matter and have suggested that an official rebuttal is needed.
We all deeply respect the motives and the warmth of sympathy of most of those Australians who have the welfare of the aborigines at heart and I do not question for a moment the genuine concern of such persons. We would be blind, however, if we did not also recognize that the Communist Party has also seized on this issue and is assiduous in trying to misrepresent what has happened.
The bauxite deposits are on Gove Peninsula on the north-eastern tip of the Arnhem Land reserve. The Arnhem Land reserve for aborigines totals 35,000 square miles. It was created in 1931 at a time when official policy for those aborigines who were still tribal nomads was to protect them from contact with other Australians by keeping them apart on inviolable reserves. On these isolated reserves, Christian missions were established to bring the Christian religion to the people and to minister to their physical needs. One was established by the Methodist Church at Yirrkala on Gove Peninsula.
In the present generation considerable changes have taken place. Under the policy of assimilation the intention is that the aboriginal people should have the opportunity of living without any limit on the exercise of their Australian citizenship and on equal terms with all other Australians. For the sake of their advancement, more purposeful measures in health, education, housing and occupational training have been commenced. On government settlements as well as on the missions, facilities and staff have been increased and the Government has helped finance the missions with both capital assistance and subsidies for staff so as to improve schools and promote industry. With these changes in the manner of living and with the increase in the aboriginal population that has taken place as a result of them, one of the emerging problems on all settlements and missions to-day is how best to help the transition from a sheltered life on a mission to a full life in the general Australian community at the normal Australian standards. At the heart of this task is the difficulty of providing gainful occupations. If there is nothing profitable to do at home the up-and-coming educated younger generation either will leave home too early and make a mess of their lives or they will stay at home and rot in disappointment. In gardening, fishing, cattle-raising, forestry, production of aboriginal artifacts for sale and similar enterprises we have been trying to foster home industries at all missions in Arnhem Land side by side with measures for the advancement of the people. In these circumstances the coming of industry to eastern Arnhem Land can represent a valuable opportunity for an advancing people and need not be a source of any harm.
In negotiating the terms of the mining leases we have kept in mind several different interests of the aborigines. Basically we have tried to ensure that no social evils will have a harmful effect on the aborigines either as individuals or as a community, and that the work of the Yirrkala mission, in sheltering, guiding and inspiring them, can continue undisturbed for the benefit of the community centred on the mission. We have also been conscious on the one hand of the need for ensuring that those of the older generation, for whom the ancient traditions are strongest, shall not lose access to their totemic sites or spirit centres; and on the other hand that those of the younger generation shall obtain the greatest possible benefit from any new opportunities of employment and training that may be created.
In the negotiations of the leases and agreements for mining development we have relied on the Director of Welfare and his officers in the Northern Territory, who are in close touch with the aboriginal people themselves, to advise us on what conditions should be imposed to serve the interests of the aborigines. There is not a single condition that the Director of Welfare thought necessary that has not been obtained. We have also been in close consultation with the mission authorities, who are perhaps in even closer touch with the people. I have personally had discussions with the general secretary of the Methodist Board of Missions, the Reverend C. F. Gribble, and with the superintendent in the Northern Territory, the Reverend G. J. Symons, about the details of the leases and on my last visit to the Yirrkala mission also discussed the prospective situation with the missionary in charge. Before the leases were concluded arrangements were made for representatives of Gove Bauxite Limited, the prospective lessee, to meet the members of the Methodist Board of Missions in Sydney to discuss all problems.
The Methodist Board of Missions has agreed to a statement of measures safeguarding the interests of the aborigines. It is of public interest to know that the general secretary of the Methodist Board of Missions, in informing me that the board had accepted this statement, wrote as follows: -
We feel that there are going to be many problems, some of them perhaps grievous ones, arising in our work with the aborigines in this area. However, we believe that your department and the mining company have taken all possible care to safeguard the interests of the people. We trust that if difficult situations arise from time to time as the venture proceeds we will be able to reach amicable agreement on the best course to follow for the welfare of the aborigines.
In the same spirit, I can give an assurance on behalf of the Government that the care we have shown over native welfare at the inception will be applied at every stage of the development and in the handling of any difficulties that may arise. I should add that the representatives of the mining companies, both Australian and French, showed throughout our discussions an appreciation of the principles that both the mission and the Government will apply and a readiness to co-operate in finding the most practical way of applying these principles.
I turn now to describe what has been done. First, an area of 140 square miles has been excised from the Arnhem Land reserve. Excision was regarded as the most practical way of handling the administrative arrangements to be made both in respect of the mining venture and the welfare of the aborigines.
The mining leases, which have been granted over a defined area, contain provisions, inter alia -
The lease documents also provide that if, at a later stage it is considered desirable to move and re-establish the mission the whole cost of removal and re-establishment will be borne by the lessee.
A collateral letter accompanying the lease contains provisions designed to ensure that the aborigines and the mission shall participate in the benefits of employment and the supplying of requirements to the mining operation. These provisions include the training of aborigines for skilled labour. If the lessee employs aboriginal wards it will accept in principle the preservation as far as practicable of the family unit so that employees will either live on the mission while working for the lessee or be provided by the lessee with suitable housing units of a standard laid down by law. The mission authorities will in the latter case continue to have full access to the wards and their families for spiritual, physical and social welfare purposes. On the request of, and after discussion with, the Administrator of the Northern Territory the lessee will make available to the mission arable areas or areas of religious significance to aborigines within the boundaries of the special mineral leases, and if required will surrender such areas from the mineral leases.
The special authorization of the Administrator will be required before the lessee can conduct mining inside the mission boundary fence or within a mile of the mission, whichever distance is the greater, and if there is any loss of developed land the lessee will either pay compensation or provide equivalent improvements on other land. The lessee will, in consultation with the Administrator and the mission, make rules for the conduct of its employees towards the aborigines.
It will be seen that exceptional measures have been taken to protect the welfare of the aborigines and to give them a full opportunity to share in the benefits of the development. Our belief is that they will gain considerably in the coming years from the establishment of an industry close to them and that the younger generation, who are now receiving an efficient schooling on the Australian pattern, will find new and unexpected opportunities in the years ahead of them. In addition, under an act of this Parliament resulting from a bill which I had the privilege of introducing in 1952, the royalty on all minerals mined at Gove will be double the usual royalty and the whole of this royalty will be paid into a trust fund for the sole benefit of aboriginal wards of the Northern Territory. At a conservative estimate, if the full plans for the Gove development are realized, this trust fund might well reach a total of £4,000,000.
In the immediate present, as an earnest of the good intentions of the Government and the mining company towards the aborigines, our officers are entering into consultation with the leaders in the native community at Yirrkala to provide some tangible form of compensation, probably in the form of a series of cottages to be built for them. This will be a witness to the older men, who themselves may not share in the full future benefits of the venture, that the development is intended to be for the good of their people.
When talking of compensation I think that in the interests of accuracy, it should be stated that the creation of an aboriginal reserve did not create any legal title either to the land or resources of that reserve for those living on it. Reserves were created as an act of policy in furthering what was considered to be the welfare of aborigines in isolating them from the mass of the population. Our aim, however, is to ensure that any development of reserves takes place in such a way as to promote their welfare. For example, in other parts of the Territory we are embarking on planned forestry development on reserves so as to provide a future industry for the local population and, in yet other places, directions have been given that land with agricultural potential is to be held on the reserves so that when a coming generation seeks opportunity in farming there will be land available for application by them. In the same interpretation of the nature of a reserve, the double royalty is to be levied on minerals and the royalty, instead of going into Consolidated Revenue, will be paid into a trust fund for aboriginal wards.
There will be those who would argue that a new industry in the Northern Territory with a potential investment of, say, £45,000,000 and a great export potential is worth having for itself and that this advantage outweighs other considerations. I do not myself argue in that way. I trust that all Australian citizens will also agree, after considering the statement I have made, that in grasping this prize we have also been not merely considerate but scrupulously careful of the interests of the 450 aborigines who will be directly affected by this major national development. There will be a continuing need for care but it should be noted that the development will take place progressively over the years and that the full impact of change will not be felt at Yirrkala for at least seven years to come so that the younger generation of the people will be growing up with the Gove project. The impact of change can be harsh for any group of people. We will take the utmost care for the protection and advancement of these people in the changing circumstances.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [9.28]. - I move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reports on Items.
.- I lay on the table of the Senate reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Aluminium and aluminium alloys.
Automotive electrical equipment.
Garment formers (finishers).
General textile reference interim report on “ Other yarns “.
Linseed, linseed oil, &c.
Metal working machines.
Precision ground tapered roller bearings.
Styrene monomers, polymers and copolymers.
Tinned iron and steel hoop, strip, plates and sheets.
Vehicle road wheels, rims and rim side rings.
Weftless fabrics and interim report under the general textile reference on weftless fabrics.
I also lay on the table of the Senate reports by a special advisory authority on the following subjects: -
Knives incorporating “Waterloo “ bolsters.
Phthalates (Phthalic esters).
– For the information of honorable senators I wish to lay on the table of the Senate the text of fifteen treaties which have been entered into by the Australian Government, together with a short note on each agreement. With the consurrence of honorable senators I shall incorporate the headings in “ Hansard “. They are -
Senator WADE (Victoria - Minister for
Health). - by leave - I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper: -
Australian Broadcasting Control Board Report and Recommendations to the PostmasterGeneral on Applications for a Licence for a Commercial Television Station in the Sydney area and in the Melbourne area.
In making this statement to the Senate I remind honorable senators that where the pronoun “ I “ occurs it is to be taken to refer to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) who originally presented the statement in another place.
On 8th March, 1962, I announced that the Government had invited applications for the grant of a licence for a third commercial television station in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, and for a second commercial station in Perth.
A total of 30 applications were received for the licences as follows: -
Sydney - Nine applications.
Melbourne - Six applications.
Brisbane - Four applications.
Adelaide - Six applications.
Perth - Five applications.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Broad casting and Television Act 1942-1960, the applications were referred to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for public inquiry and report to me. The board subsequently conducted inquiries into the applications received in respect of Sydney and Melbourne and has submitted to me its report and recommendations thereon and this I now lay on the table of the House. I might here say that because of its commitments in respect of other inquiries relating to the grant of licences in country areas, the board has not yet been able to deal with the remaining capital cities.
Following consideration of the board’s report, the Government has authorized me to grant the licences as follows: -
For the Sydney area - United Telecasters Sydney Limited.
For the Melbourne area - Austarama Television Proprietary Limited.
The constitution of these companies, as well as those of the other applicants, is set out in the board’s report.
The licences will not be granted until I am satisfied as to the directors and shareholdings of the two companies and as to their compliance with the provisions of the act. As provided in the act, the licences will be granted for an initial period of five years.
It is perhaps opportune that I should say that the board has now almost completed its inquiries into applications for licences in thirteen country areas and will submit its recommendations to me as soon as possible. It anticipates being in a position to commenceinquiries into the applications received for the Brisbane area about mid-May to be followed by those for the Adelaide and Perth area.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [9.36]. - I move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator ANDERSON (New South
Wales). - I present the report of the Public Works Committee in relation to the following proposed work -
Launceston Airport, lengthening and strengthening of the runway and development of taxiways and hard standing area.
In the summary are nineteen recommendations and conclusions. The estimated cost of the work is £1,025,000. In order to permit all aircraft up to the Boeing 727 standard to operate, the existing runway is to be strengthened and extended to 6,500 feet. It will be necessary to close the runway to carry out the work. A temporary strip, capable of use by DC3, DC4 and Fokker Friendship aircraft will need to be in use for a period of from six to nine months.
– 1 present the report of the Public Works Committee in relation to the following proposed work: -
Construction of Traeger Park School at Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
There are six recommendations and conclusions. The estimated cost of the work p:oposed in two stages is £325,000. The new school will accommodate 660 infant and primary school children.
– by leave - I should like to inform the Senate of ministerial arrangements during the absence of the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). While Sir Garfield Barwick is away, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) will act as Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) will act as Attorney-General. During the absence of Mr. McEwen, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) will act as Minister for Trade.
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 purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States of an additional nonrepayable grant of £5,000,000 for expenditure on employment-giving activities bringing the non-repayable grant for this financial year for this purpose to a total of £17,500,000.
At the meetings with the Premiers in February the Commonwealth agreed that, in addition to supporting a further increase of £5,000,000 in the State works and housing programmes and an increase of £6,000,000 in the borrowing programmes of semigovernmental and local authorities which borrow more than £100,000 during the financial year, it would be prepared to make available during the remaining months of the current financial year an additional £5,000,000 non-repayable interest-free grant for expenditure by the States on employmentgiving activities. As legislation was passed during the budget session to authorize the payment of a grant of £12,500,000 to the States for this purpose in 1962-63, the effect of this offer is to increase the total amounts being paid to the States in this way to £17,500,000 in the current financial year.
The increase in the non-repayable grant to the States will be allocated in proportion to the 1962-63 borrowing programme for works and housing - it will be recalled that the distribution of the original grant of £12,500,000 was drawn up having in mind the employment situation at that time and in particular the situation in Queensland and Tasmania. Taking into account the additional amounts to be paid to each State, the total amounts which each State will receive by way of additional assistance grants in 1962-63 are as follows: -
In offering the additional £5,000,000 to the States by way of a non-repayable grant it was stipulated that this money should be expended on employment-giving activities and that this expenditure should be over and above that made on account of the State works and housing programme. The purpose here was to deal specifically with certain classes of unemployment, especially where employment opportunities were not so likely to arise from more general measures or normal economic expansion.
The State Premiers accepted this stipulation. They also agreed that in planning the expenditure for this purpose their States would keep closely in touch with the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service as to the nature and incidence of local unemployment problems.
Along with this additional grant to the States went an increase of £5,000,000 in their borrowing programmes and an addition of £6,000,000 to the borrowing programmes of the semi-governmental authorities. So far as local bodies are concerned - that is, those borrowing no more than £100,000 this year - there is no ceiling on the aggregate amount they may raise.
I think it is fair to say that in the judgment of most if not all of the Premiers, the increases in the non-repayable grant and the programmes agreed upon at the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council represented about as much as was necessary in these particular fields to support employment.
I commend this bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner) read a first time.
[9.45].- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill before the Senate is to authorize the Commonwealth to offer to the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia grants for the University of New South Wales, Monash University and University of Adelaide respectively, which are supplementary to those already offered for the years 1961, 1962 and 1963 by the existing States Grants (Universities) Act 1960-1962. Honorable senators are aware that since the Government’s acceptance of the Murray report of 1957, Commonwealth grants to the States for their universities have been on a triennial basis. The grants for the years 1958-60 were those recommended by the Murray committee, and those for the current triennium, 1961- 63, are those recommended in the first report to the Government by the Australian Universities Commission established in 1959.
Grants for a period three years ahead have advantages both for the universities receiving them and for the governments responsible for providing them. The former have an assured income for the period, and so can plan with a large measure of certainty, while the latter know, broadly, the level of finance required of them by the universities. The Government’s policy is to offer, for a period of three years in advance, specified sums of money for the university purposes which have been recommended to us by the commission. In general, our view is that if a State university requires additional money during that period it must obtain it from other than Commonwealth sources. In fact, this usually means State government grants and private benefactions. The State governments recognize that they have a special responsibility for their own universities.
On the other hand, we know that the judgments on which the commission’s recommendations for the years 1961 to 1963 were based had to be made on evidence presented by the universities as long ago as 1959. Accurate forecasting of needs and costs for such a long period ahead is difficult, and we recognize that in certain circumstances exceptions to the principle of fixed offers by the Commonwealth for a triennium are justified. For this reason, in 1960 we agreed to increase our grant to Victoria for the early stages of the planning and development of Monash University. Again, in May last year, we amended the act to permit increased Commonwealth grants so that the Commonwealth and States would share the cost of providing higher salaries to university academic staffs.
From time to time during the present triennium too, the commission in the course of its continuing discussions with universities, has received requests that it should recommend that the Government make additional grants for this period. The commission, knowing the advantages of the triennial system - to the universities as well as to the State and Commonwealth Governments - decided that there was sufficient justification for additional grants in three cases.
It is clear that to permit many exceptions to the triennial arrangements would be a serious breach of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which this act reflects. The commission recommended that the special problems involved in establishing two rapidly growing universities - the University of New South Wales and Monash University - and in planning a new constituent part of the University of Adelaide on a new site at Bedford Park justified supplementary grants of the amounts indicated in clauses 3 and 4 of the bill for the purposes mentioned there. These are -
These amounts mean a total Commonwealth grant of £420,000.
The commission had discussions with the appropriate State government authorities and established that the State governments concerned would match the recommended Commonwealth grants on the customary basis, that is to say, £1 for £1 capital expenditure and £1.85 to £1 for recurrent costs. In these circumstances, the Government, knowing how thoroughly the commission had considered the claims put to it, was prepared to accept the recommendation. The result is the present bill, which I commend to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner) read a first time.
[9.52]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give the Treasurer authority to raise loan moneys totalling £2,711,000 for financial assistance to the States for housing. This amount will be additional to the £45,900,000 already authorized to be raised under the Loan (Housing) Act (No. 2) 1962, thus making a total authorization this financial year of £48,611,000.
In accordance with the requests of the States, and the approval of the Australian Loan Council, the total amount of £48,611,000 will be distributed as follows: -
The additional amount of £2,711,000 in 1962-63 should stimulate activity and employment in the building industry. Advances to the States of the moneys referred to in this bill will be made under the authority of the Housing Agreement Act 1961, which provides that the Treasurer shall advance moneys in accordance with the scheduled housing agreement with each of the six States.
The Loan Council approved of an overall borrowing programme for State works and housing in 1962-63 of £255,000,000 compared with £247,500,000 in 1961-62. It is interesting to note, however, that although the total funds provided were increased, the States, by their own choice, nominated a smaller amount for housing. The relative figures are £50,400,000 for 1961-62 compared with £48,611,000 for 1962-63.
Although less money is being provided by governments, the number of dwellings being built is increasing. Present indications are that commencements are now running at a level equivalent to about 90,000 per annum, which compares with 86,400 for 1962. This indicates that more private investment is going into housing.
During the December quarter of 1962 the total value of loans to home builders which were approved by banks and major life offices was £20,700,000, compared with £15,400,000 in the December quarter of 1961 and £16,700,000 in the December quarter of 1960. I am sure that we will all watch this trend with interest. The States have great demand for funds for development works other than housing. It would be a useful contribution indeed to see increased private investment in housing reducing the demand for governmental housing funds which in this year’s Commonwealth budget will amount to £92,000,000.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement with the States has three years to run. Its basic principle is to provide funds for the States at a concessional interest rate for the provision of homes for those with low or moderate means. In general terms, within this charter, each State makes its own decision on the amount of money it appropriates for housing and the policy it adopts within its own borders.
There is, however, another important provision under which the States are required to appropriate at least 30 per cent, of the moneys they receive to building societies and other institutions for the encouragement of home ownership. Under this provision some £16,297,000 of the total appropriation of £48,611,000 will go to building societies and other lending institutions this year. This policy has given more homes than the expenditure of like amounts by housing commissions because the building societies receive higher deposits and obtain repayment of their advances over shorter periods. There is also more scope for individual choice of site and building by the prospective home builder through building societies. There has been a marked and welcome increase in the building society business over the last few years.
The recent trend towards the provision of more funds by the other private lending institutions is also contributing towards the higher level of home building. If continued this trend should allow a change in the character of home finance in Australia. We have also recently seen signs of a fall in interest rates which will assist home builders.
Another interesting development has been the effect of the increases in the maximum advance allowed by lenders for home building, particularly savings banks. According to recent indications this has resulted in a marked fall in the number of second mortgages on homes which are issued at high interest rates.
These are all healthy trends which may reduce the demand for government funds for housing with consequent benefit to other development programmes, which the governments must finance.
This may be somewhat of a digression from the strict contents of the bill, but I thought they might be of interest when commending the bill to the Senate, which I now do.
Debate (on motion by Senator McClelland) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 26).
.- Mr. President, the Opposition does not oppose this bill. The bill seeks authority for the payment to the States of an additional nonrepayable grant of £5,000,000 for expenditure on employment-giving activities, bringing the non-repayable grants for this financial year to a total of £17,500,000. With a little bit of arithmetic, by subtracting the amounts allocated in the 1962 act from those now proposed, it will be seen that the proposed additional grants for the respective States are as follows - New South Wales, £1,602,000; Victoria, £1,285,000; Queensland, £600,000; South Australia, £691,000; Western Australia, £470,000; and Tasmania, £352,000.
The introduction of this bill invites attention to the Government’s lamentable and continuing failure to deal effectively with the problem of unemployment. The latest figures issued by the Department of Labour and National Service show a total number of 96,042 . registered for employment as at 1st March. That total was made up of 58,602 males, of whom 15,687 were juniors under 21 years, and 37,440 females, of whom 21,145 were juniors under 21. Those receiving the unemployment benefit totalled 40,482, including 27,803 males and 12,679 females. The total number of juniors under 21 registered for employment as at 1st March was 36,832. The number registered for employment in the previous month was 45,950 juniors, so that the drop of nearly 9,000 in February still leaves a very high number of juniors unemployed.
That is the present situation, and it will be seen that unemployment is not limited to pockets, as is suggested in the speech introducing this bill, but is very widespread throughout the community. One only has to look at the Minister’s March statistics, which I have amplified and explained, to see that the unemployment is spread over a very wide area in country towns and provincial cities. I have selected as examples cities over a substantial part of New South Wales. In the Sydney metropolitan area 6,460 were receiving unemployment benefits; in Newcastle there were more than 2,000; in Wollongong more than 1,100; in Cessnock, 709; Maitland, 650; Murwillumbah, 239; and Lismore, 502.
In Victoria, in the Melbourne metropolitan area the number was 4,685; in Geelong, 570; in Ballarat, 318. These figures do not represent the number registered for employment but are figures for the recipients of the unemployment benefit. One only has to see the very large number in each of these towns and cities to realize that we are not dealing with some ephemeral problem, a problem of little account or one to be coped with by the allocation of small amounts of money; we are dealing with a problem of national dimensions.
In the case of Queensland, 3,886 people are receiving unemployment benefit in the Brisbane metropolitan area alone. A thousand or more people are receiving the benefit in each of the cities of Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Cairns. These examples could be multiplied in the country towns and provincial cities of the other States. That is the present position which the present bill seeks to relieve. As I have said, we on this side of the chamber will not oppose this bill. But in order to judge how effective it is likely to be in the total situation, it is necessary to look at it in the light of the Government’s policies over” the last three years or so. It will then be readily apparent that the grants proposed will not, by themselves, solve the unemployment problem in Australia. In fact, the grants will make only a very small contribution to the solution of that problem unless they are part of an overall plan to make the economy move forward at a much more rapid pace. This grant is merely another illustration of the recognized policies of the Government over the last few years which, again and again, we have stigmatized as stop-go policies. The total picture is of a frittering away of opportunities by the Government over this period, so that what was a little while ago a stagnant economy is only beginning now to move at a very modest pace.
It should be unnecessary to recapitulate the sequence of major economic blunders made by this Government since early 1960, and the consequences of those blunders. There was the lifting of import restrictions in February, 1960, and the consequent boom. Then there was the deliberate and disastrous credit squeeze in November, 1960, which threw the economy into reverse overnight and administered crippling blows to industry and to a dazed business community and which caused widespread unemployment and distress to thousands of working people and their families. With the country in that plight, with 100,000 unemployed in December, 1961, this Government went to the polls in a general election. In the course of that election the Government, through the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), pledged that full employment would be restored within twelve months. Let us not mince words about it. That pledge has been completely broken and with the broken pledge has gone the confidence of the ordinary people and of the business community in this Government and in their own and Australia’s future.
These days, the Government never attempts to justify its failure to keep its promises. Government members and senators merely behave and talk as though the promises had never been made. They castigate those who, like senators on this side of the chamber, are under a duty to remind them of the worthlessness of those pledges. There is no escape for the Government on this issue. It stands condemned, beyond hope of redemption. On 19th March, following the release of the latest figures, the “ Canberra Times “, a respected journal, pointed out: -
It is now twelve months since the Commonwealth Government introduced the measures in February, 1962, which were to have redeemed the pledge to restore full employment. The Government has sorely failed, for either it made the pledge wantonly in the mere hope that it would be fulfilled, or it believed that it could restore full employment and has abjectly failed.
That is the position that the Government faced. Honorable senators on the Government side can take their pick as to which of these two explanations they regard as the true one. Some of them, indeed, would like to have a little each way. It is obvious, from the Government’s thinking, that senators on the Government side want the luxury of several positions on this issue. The first position that some of them take is to concede that there is an unsatisfactory level of employment and, at the same time, to contend that all is going well and there will be much improvement either very soon, so some of them say, or, according to others, in the fullness of time when, as they put it, the policies which the Government has instituted have their full effect. They do not say when that will be but they put it as a pious hope for the future.
Alternatively, they say that the level of unemployment is satisfactory in view of the percentage of what they call “ unemployables “ which they do not specify. Without saying it in so many words, they imply that there is now virtually full employment. They do not say it, but they leave it to be inferred from their complacent, negative attitude that conditions are not too bad when you consider the number of unemployables. They have never attempted to count the number of unemployables. but they attempt to blunt the attack of the Opposition on Government policies by suggesting that the virtually 100,000 unemployed in the country at the moment contain a not inconsiderable percentage of unemployables. It is left there. It is never quantified but we are asked to accept that as being a fact when, indeed, there is no proof.
At the same time, some Government senators attribute the general pessimism in the community concerning the employment situation to the critics of the policies and not to the deficiencies in the policies themselves. In other words, they say: “You are really to blame for this. It is not proper to criticize our policy because, somehow or other, you contribute to the deterioration of the situation if you dare to criticize the deficiencies of the policy.” At the same time, others among them occasionally say it is unfair to criticize the Government for non-fulfilment of its promises. You do not hear that often these days. It is said less frequently than it used to be. Occasionally, Government senators go so far as scandalously to accuse the Opposition of relishing continued unemployment because of the opportunity it provides . to criticize the Government. All these attitudes can be found, sometimes overlapping, among those who attempt to defend the Government’s policies - among those who attempt to defend the indefensible.
Since that election promise was made, in December, 1961, the Government has gone through a number of measures, gone through the hoops, in and out, several times, in an attempt to do something to remedy the position as it sees it. For in-‘ stance, there was the little Budget of February, 1962, when, for all practical purposes, the Government took over some of the Opposition’s proposals - proposals which it had characterized as irresponsible, dangerous and inflationary during the election campaign. This is not the occasion to go through in detail the whole of what was proposed, but certain it is that what was attempted by the Government in February, 1962, was too little too late.
Then we came to Budget time. Last year the Government budgeted boldly - or so it said it was doing - for a deficit of £118,000,000. The policy on which thai was based has apparently evaporated in the presence of the circumstance that Government loans have been heavily oversubscribed within the last few months. We on this side of the Senate make it perfectly plain that, in our view, the reason for the over-subscription of those loans was that the community lacked confidence to make its own investments and looked to an opportunity to invest in Government loans; where the hazard was less. This has been said again .and again not only by members of the Opposition in this Parliament but also by responsible persons in the world of business and commerce.
– Throughout the community.
– It has been said right throughout the community, as the honorable senator says. There is this- feeling of pessimism, this feeling of want of confidence in the Government-
– Is that why they lent their money to the Government?
– They lent their money to the Government because they’ could see’ no way of safely investing it elsewhere. Government loans are still regarded as gilt-edged securities. I want .to quote now not from sources that could be regarded as Opposition sources, but from sources which, normally, would support this Government. In October of last year the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited in its “ Quarterly Review “ had this to say - the rate’ of growth has not yet been resumed with the .necessary degree of ‘ strength and rapidity to absorb the numbers of unemployed which still remain at unsatisfactorily high levels. There is an atmosphere of hesitancy in business circles which , appears to Inhibit the businessman from going full ahead with his plans for investment and expansion.
This atmosphere of hesitancy is perhaps nowhere more clearly exemplified than in banking figures where a rise in deposits has been accompanied by a rapid expansion of overdraft limits during recent months, in conformity with official policy to assist the expansion of business. Yet, statistics of actual advances show a relatively small rise, particularly compared with the expansion in overdraft limits.
The survey continues -
It could well be that individuals are hesitant to extend their commitments until there is clear evidence that the economy is moving forward under conditions of active business and with opportunities of relatively full employment for alL It could also, be that business hesitates to expand into new ventures and undertake new commitments because Its experiences ‘ since 1960-
I emphasize those words - ‘ bays fundamentally altered the outlook of business and its expectations of continued growth. These altered Views are reflected on the Stock Exchange where, despite a reasonable number of satisfactory” company reports and evidence of profitable earning rates, the market has been slow to respond.
On nearly every hand there is evidence of the need for restoration of confidence, both at the business and’ individual level, to enable the Australian economy to move forward strongly once more on the upward path of expansion.
To underline that point, lest it be suggested that this survey was made in October, 1962, and that that was almost six months ago, I point out that this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ reports that according to the Australian and New Zealand Bank Limited -
Public lack of confidence in spending to stimu-. late employment, production and income was part of the story of the Federal Government’s failure to implement its budget . .
That is to say, the latest “ Quarterly Survey” of the bank re-states the point and re-emphasizes it, not for October, 1962, but for April, 1963.
The plain fact is that this Government lacks a cohesive long-term policy of development and planning in the economic sphere, and this is inhibiting confidence even in the short term. .People are not prepared to look ahead because they remember that what the Government thought was good one day was reversed the very next day, because they remember that we have had so many shifts and starts, so many stops, so many goes, so -many alterations of policy, so many desperate attempts to deal with emergency situations that they cannot perceive any consistent line of policy or planning related definitely and solely to the future welfare of Australia.
– There are none so blind as those who will not see.
– I do not know whom you are talking about. It sounded to me as though you might have been describing yourself, for you are not willing to see that 100,000 people unemployed means the loss of 4,000,000 man-hours a week, which is as great as the total number of man-hours lost through industrial disputes in Australia in the whole of 1962. Just remember that, and think of what is involved in the loss of production alone, leaving aside altogether the . .human, question, leaving aside the warped lives, the broken opportunities in the unemployed youth, leaving aside what the Reverend Alan Walker has described as a .” chronic problem “ of unemployment in our youth. That is the picture that you have to watch if you are concerned - with the unemployment question. Do not. continually write that problem down; do not continually regard unemployment as a mere matter of juggling statistics. Regard it as a matter that goes to the very root of our society and, when you complain about industrial stoppages, about which you are continually harping, through slanted questions about the reasons for industrial disputes, and try to place all the blame for such stoppages all the time on the industrial unions and the workers in those unions, remember that industrial stoppages through all causes in 1962 resulted in a loss of just Over 4,000,000 man-hours, which is exactly what is lost in one week when 100,000 . people remain unemployed. That is the way we see it when we look at what this country needs. This country requires full employment as a stated article of faith and of Government policy. It requires vigorous planned development; it requires high incomes and low interest rates; it requires extensive programmes for health, education and housing. It does not want stop-go policies and deliberately created conditions of recession.
The Minister said there would be cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth in the allocation of these funds. We on this side of the Senate support the allocation of this sum of £5,000,000, even though it is a drop in the ocean. But the suggestion is that all the Premiers were more orless content with it as being what was necessary to support employment in. these particular -fields. The Minister did not use the term “ full employment “ but spoke only of employment. But the Government can draw no real comfort from the Minister’s observation, because the New South Wales Premier has been reported as having said on 20th March, that is after the February meeting of the Australian Loan Council at which this allocation was agreed upon and after publication of the March employment statistics -
The Menzies Government has no reason to preen itself-
That is, in relation to these grants - because it alone was responsible for apragging the national economy in such a way as to cause a change from full employment.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Retirement of Mr. L. D. O’Donnell.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon: Sir Alister McMullin). - I have to announce to the Senate that Mr. L. D. O’Donnell retired from the office of Principal Parliamentary Reporter on 2nd April last. Mr. O’Donnell, who served the Commonwealth Parliament for nearly 36 years, held that position from 1957. He was born in New Zealand and began his working life as a journalist with the . “ New ‘ Zealand Times “, Wellington. He studied for the Diploma in Journalism at the New Zealand University. In 1925 he came to Victoria and reported the proceedings of the State Parliament for a group of country newspapers. Later, he worked for the “ Courier “ newspaper in Brisbane.
Mr. O’Donnell was appointed to he Commonwealth “Hansard” staff in 1927 and in the intervening years reported the debates in fourteen Parliaments and served under eight Presidents of the Senate. In parliamentary recesses during the first two years of World War II he was seconded to the Royal Australian Air Force, Melbourne, where he carried out important tasks in the Directorate of Public Relations. On behalf of honorable senators I thank Mr. O’Donnell for his valuable services to the Parliament and express the hope that he and Mrs. O’Donnell will enjoy long life and pleasant times.
Mr. W. E. Dale has been appointed Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr. A. K. Healy Second Reporter, and Mr. W. J. Bridgman Third Reporter.
– Mr. President, it would not be appropriate for your announcement to pass without some comment by the Senate. The Parliament has lost one of its most senior and most responsible officers. We have parted with the company of one who was in the service of the Parliament for nearly 36 years. He was appointed to the “ Hansard “ staff in 1927 and was appointed Principal Parliamentary Reporter in 1957. That is a long time for. anybody to be associated with any great institution. On behalf of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber I echo what you, Mr. President, -.said when you wished Mr. and Mrs. O’Donnell a long and very happy life.
We take a lot for granted. The writing of shorthand is an occupation which requires not only great skill but also a great deal of learning, the gift of concentration and’ ability to think quickly.- For the past six years Mr. O’Donnell has been the leader of his profession in the Parliament. Indeed, the only thing I have ever heard about him to his disadvantage is that he uses the Gregg : system of shorthand ‘instead of the Pitman system to which most of us who are shorthand writers so strongly adhere. We have been very well served by Mr. O’Donnell. We wish him and his wife happiness in the future.
– Mr. President, I should like to associate the Opposition with the remarks made by yourself and the Leader of the Government in the Senate (S.Bator Sir William Spooner) on the occasion of the retirement of bur Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr. O’Donnell. I confess that I was quite surprised to learn that he had reached the retiring age. Judging by his appearance, I should have thought he still had many years of service before him. I . am sure I speak for my colleagues when I express my personal sorrow that we in- this Parliament are to be deprived of his very valuable services.
I pay tribute to Mr. O’Donnell for his maintenance of the highest traditions of his office, his literary knowledge and competence, his impartiality and, above all, bis infinite patience. I had the pleasure for years of sitting very close to Mr. O’Donnell at this table.
– May you long continue to sit there.
– I shall yield to the honorable senator at any time he wishes. I shall then have a better view of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter than I get from this side of the table. I had a good opportunity to observe Mr. O’Donnell in action. Two characteristics which continually impressed me were the’ objectivity of bis outlook and the complete inscrutability of his countenance. One could never discern the faintest betrayal of the thoughts that coursed through his mind during the ebb and flow or the thrust and parry of debate in this place. ‘
Probably the best testimonial I can pay to Mr. O’Donnell and his staff is to say that for many years I have never even looked at the -proofs of my speeches. Indeed, years ago I requested that they be not sent to me. I have left myself, without fear of injury, completely in the hands of the “ Hansard “ staff. I have never had occasion to regret doing so. It has not been blind trust;, it has been trust founded upon experience and a keen appreciation of the quality of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and his excellent staff.
I learn that Mr. O’Donnell has two brothers, one a former editor of a newspaper in New Zealand, and now a farmer in New South Wales, and another who took part, I understand, as a racket buster for Mayor La Guardia in New York:’ The latter has had the distinction of addressing joint meetings of both Houses of Congress on - land and farm problems and is a businessman in Florida. I noticed from a press interview that Mr. O’Donnell contemplates travel. I have no doubt that he will see something of his brothers who have achieved fame in their own field as he has done in his.
Mr. O’Donnell is built on particularly lean lines. We could call them staying lines because he has weathered the strain and turmoil of 36 years in a most arduous and I testing occupation, and is still looking completely fit and well. So I think he has demonstrated his capacity as a stayer.
On behalf of my colleagues I wish him a long, healthy and active life, and, best of all, that priceless possession, peace of mind. I think he has the merits to deserve it and the quality to pursue it successfully. I wish him all that he wishes for himself for the future. I trust that he and Mrs. O’Donnell will have many happy years to come. I place on record the Opposition’s appreciation of the very distinguished service he has given in this Parliament.
Perhaps, Mr. President, it would not be out of place if- 1 were to convey the Opposition’s congratulations to Mr. O’Donnell’s successor, Mr. Dale, to whom you have made reference. We wish him well. We congratulate him on his appointment as Principal Parliamentary Reporter. We congratulate Mr. Healy, who moves to Second Reporter, and Mr. Bridgman who moves to Third Reporter. We wish them well and we will extend to them all the co-operation we have extended to their predecessors in the past.
Transport of Members of Parliament - Newspaper Reports - Department of Supply - Housing at Woomera Rocket Range - Representations to Senators.
[10.37]. - I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I should like to speak to the motion myself, because I have been informed that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made an attack on me to-night in the other place. I am sorry that I have not the full details of the attack. I have only pieces of information that my staff have been able to gather for me. The burden of the criticism was that I used a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft on 15th March for the purpose of going to Dubbo. I think it might be useful if I were to put on record the circumstances in which I did use that aircraft. I do not think, Mr. President, there should be any great need for Ministers to have to explain the use of aircraft on minis- rial duties. I think there would be the general assumption that life as a Minister has many advantages, but it has the one disadvantage of being very hard work and requiring a. great deal of travelling.
The circumstances are that I used a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to travel to Dubbo on the afternoon of 15th March for the purpose of attending a Liberal Party meeting, I came back that night. My journey to Dubbo was made against this background. I left Sydney on 8th March and on 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th March I was down on the Snowy Mountains scheme. I came up from Cooma on the morning of 12th March, and on 12th, 13th and 14th March I was in Canberra: I arrived home on the evening of 14th March. I had an engagement on 16th March, and then had to go to Canberra again the following week for the purpose of attending the meeting of the Water Resources Council. There was not only the need to be in Canberra for that meeting but also a need to do a fair amount of preparatory work for it. I had a good deal of What we colloquially call homework to do before the meeting of the State Ministers constituting the Water Resources Council on Tuesday of the following week.
There were no ordinary commercial services that would get me to Dubbo, enable me to attend the meeting, and return to Sydney. I could have obtained an aircraft out of Sydney about half-past seven in the morning, but I could not have obtained one back at night. It would have meant my putting in a whole day in Dubbo and being unable to get back at night, although my business in Dubbo was only of a couple of hours’ duration.
I just put the facts to the Senate as they are. It was the end of a heavy week, with another heavy week ahead, with’ no way of keeping an engagement I badaccepted _ some months previously. It so often happens that engagements you accept months ahead seem to fall due in the midst of a heavy business period. I had made this engagement some months previously. I had had a heavy week and I had another heavy week to follow. ‘ There was no way of 1 keeping the engagement by using ordinary’ commercial air transport. Really, *MiPresident, in view of facts like that I fe* that there is no need for me to apologize,.
All I have to do is to put the facts before i the Senate and those facts alone are an answer to any criticism.
.- I rise to correct some fabricated statements that have appeared in the press. I should like to assure you, Sir, that I received your telegram notifying me of the postponement of the resumption of the Senate sittings within one hour of its being sent. There was no delay on your part in notifying me sufficiently early to enable me to change my arrangements. I wish to make that perfectly clear because, according to the press, it could be interpreted that you did not send the telegram in sufficient time.
The second statement to which I wish to refer appeared in the Sydney press of last week. It described me as a very lonely senator. Probably it is one of the very few true statements that the press has made about me. Even as much as I should like to deal with the reporters of “ Truth “ newspaper, 1 would not even wish on those reporters the loneliness that I have experienced, because it brings suffering and misfortune to another party. The question I wish to raise concerns a campaign of persecution by “ Truth “ reporters and subeditors which has hastened the death of an innocent person. If such a death had been brought about by shooting or poisoning it would have been straight out cold-blooded murder. I can see no difference between poisoning a person or shooting a person and torturing them to death by persecution. That was done by the sub-editors and reporters of “ Truth “ newspaper, in conjunction with Mr. John Burton - who posed as representing the Australian Broadcasting Commission - and the “ Courier-Mail “.
I shall now get a little more up-to-date and deal with the subject matter of this persecution. Some honorable senators may have read the issues of the newspaper called “ Truth “ for the last couple of Sundays. By innuendo the newspaper accused my secretary of being corrupt, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) of being corrupt for allowing such conduct to continue, and also myself of being corrupt for being a party to such conduct. When anybody goes so far, some reply is called for.
The fact is that the statements appearing in this newspaper which were alleged to have been made by my secretary were never ade. At no time did any newspaper reporter interview my former secretary while she was in my employment as such. A representative of the newspaper did have a telephone conversation with a person whom he tried to blackmail into getting me. The conversation went along these lines. The reporter said: “ Where is Senator Aylett? We would like to speak to him. You had better get him, because it will not be in his interest if he does not come and speak to us. We have a number of anonymous telephone calls and letters dealing wilh matters of vital concern to him.” The lady being spoken to was my office assistant who had been at that stage nine months in my employment on the full award rate. She told me that “ Truth “ reporters had telephoned, and she told me of their threats. I picked up the receiver and when I was told who was speaking I said: “ I do not wish to talk to yellowgutted curs. Good-bye “, and I hung up the phone. The newspaper then came out with this screed about what my secretary was supposed to have said, although its representative had not spoken to her at all.
Next, a Melbourne newspaper, by innuendo but without making any straightout accusation, stated that my secretary was serving in a shop during secretarial hours. The facts are these: My secretary at no time during her secretarial hours served in a grocery shop, either mine or anybody else’s. On Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays she did serve in a grocery shop, and she was paid full award rates for this. She was paid at casual rates, timeandahalf for Saturdays and double time for Sundays. From 4th February she served occasionally in the shop after she knocked off work. For this, she was paid full award rates. Never at any time did she do this work in office hours.
I can understand there being anonymous letters or telephone calls because there are some people at Palm Beach who think that because I am a senator, own a store which does a steady business supplying groceries, and employ labour, I should be Father Christmas as well. That is something to which I strongly object. When they found that I was not prepared to be Father Christmas and that I had taken certain actions, some anonymous telephone calls or letters went in. Quite recently I have had some anonymous letters. They were not all about myself. I even received a couple about Sir Robert Gordon Menzies. If I stood up in the Senate and repeated what was in those anonymous letters, I would consider myself an even worse skunk or rat than the persons who wrote them. The same considerations apply, whether the letters be about me or about anybody else. Any honorable senator knows the calibre of a person who is not prepared to put his name to a letter. We know how low such a person can sink. The lowest depths are reached by somebody who reprints such matter and does not name his informant. This is exactly what the editor of “ Truth “ has done.
I do not care for my own sake. I care for the sake of innocent people who are attacked and cannot defend themselves. This newspaper, having achieved its object in the case of one innocent woman who never in her life had said one word or had acted to harm anybody, turned on a second woman, with the object of putting her out of my employment. This is a lady who, eight years ago, was left with three children who were virtually babies. Their father was electrocuted on high tension wires while working for the Southern Electric Authority. For the past eight years she has reared these children and educated them -veil, so that they are a credit not only to their mother but also to their district and to the schools that they attend. She has done that without applying for social service benefits to which she was probably entitled. She did it by her own hard, honest work. This is the woman that the press is trying to persecute without limits, just as there were no limits in the other instance.
Was I within my rights when I gave her extra work in her own time and paid her double rates, knowing the responsibility she had and the job that she was doing? I claim that T was justified and that she was just as justified in accepting that employment to help her family along.
Three or four weeks before the article appeared in “Truth”, I discussed with my former secretary the question of shifting to Tasmania. She could not shift, on account of her family and her home on the Gold
Coast. As early as four weeks prior to the newspaper article, my present secretary took her position in Tasmania. I discussed the matter with her and she was engaged a fortnight before she took up duty. She would have taken up duty a week earlier, but she had to give a week’s notice at the place where she was working. She has had seven years’ experience and she should be a very efficient secretary.
Those are the facts. I leave the matter there. The statements in the newspaper are fabrications and innuendoes implicating another innocent woman, the Minister for the Interior and myself. I made a flat denial to the Minister and told him the facts. I might add that while this sort of thing is going on we are giving shelter here to some of those newspaper reporters. I do not take much notice of what the boys up there in the gallery write, because, apart from a couple of them, they were not even born when I came into the Senate. I have suffered a lot from the press at times. When newspapers go over the bank, attack innocent people and are prepared to stop at nothing short of murder, it is time to put the facts before the Senate.
– I rise to discuss a situation that affects an employee of the Department of Supply who is working at Woomera. I am sorry that the hour is so late. I raise the matter now because of its urgency; the employee has received a dismissal notice. I have made representations about the matter to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), both by correspondence and personally, but unfortunately I could not persuade him to alter the policy which I shall briefly state. I trust that as a result of what I say the Minister who represents the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in the Senate will investigate the case of this employee and his wife and particularly the policy in relation to housing accommodation categories applicable to employees of the Department of Supply at Woomera.
The person concerned is graded as a driver and he serves as the driver of a semi-trailer coach. He has held that position since 1953, when he joined the department, except for a short time when he was working as a labourer. In 1953, he was given a cottage for himself and his family. No agreement was signed and no intimation was given that at some time employees might be required to vacate their cottages because of the categories in which their employment fell. The employee and his wife claim that there is a continuing obligation on the department to provide accommodation for them.
In 1955, the department, for reasons of its own, decided that housing should be made available on the basis of employment categories. One category that was not given priority was that of transport driver. The department argued broadly that housing should be available for scientists and for tradesmen who could not otherwise be encouraged to work in the area. In my opinion, this policy is wrong. I have told the Minister that I believe it is wrong, and I believe that many of his officers think that the policy is wrong. If wage rates are used as a means of assessing skill, I suggest that an efficient semi-trailer driver or a driver of an articulated vehicle is a highlyskilled man and cannot be easily replaced.
Another injustice is apparent in this matter. The man is a war neurosis case. He has received treatment from the Repatriation Department for a number of years. Last year, he was an inmate of the Dawsroad Repatriation Hospital on a number of occasions and the repatriation doctors have affirmed that his health is better when he is working at Woomera. The Government should give compassionate consideration to employees in these circumstances.
Another factor makes me believe that the case has not been dealt with justly. I do not challenge the Minister on this. No doubt, he has taken the advice of his department and is fulfilling some routine obligations to the department, but the department is being unjust to the employee. The employee’s wife was employed as a waitress from 1954 to 1958, when she was injured. She is now receiving weekly compensation payments, just as any employee injured at work does. However, in my opinion, she still remains an employee of the department. In this instance, the employee, who suffers from war neurosis, is an efficient driver and no complaint is made about his work. In addition, his wife is receiving weekly payments following an injury she sustained at work. They have been told to vacate the accommodation that they have been occupying. While the Minister was considering the first representations I made in March, the local superintendent in the field issued a termination notice to the employee. This was withdrawn when I brought the matter to the attention of the Minister.
In view of the lateness of the hour, I will not labour the point. The essentials are contained in the statement I have made. When I made my representations to the Minister, I wrote -
I take the opportunity of briefly restating the basic points of my representations to you:
Mr……. is a war neurosis case and the Woomera location is better for his health. Mrs. …… is still receiving compensation and is in fact in a similar position to any employee on injury pay. You will recall that I put to you that these circumstances constituted an eligibility for housing under the existing policy.
This policy was that if two persons in the household were employed by the department, the department gave them priority, although their categories may have been low on the scale for houses. My letter continued -
I told the Minister that I thought I should ventilate the matter in this chamber. I hope the Minister will give proper consideration to it. These people are working on an important project on which many hundreds of thousands of pounds is being spent by this Government and by other governments. The importance of the project is emphasized in press statements and we are told that 4,500 employees are very well housed and that new nouses are being provided. However, not enough money is being spent on the provision of accommodation for workers in the field. The secretary of the South Australian Trades and Labour Council recently criticized the accommodation that was offered to trade union officials who visited the works section of the project to consult their members. He complained about the housing and I understand that representations are being made on this matter by the trade union movement.
Mr. President, I conclude by asking the Minister to investigate this matter with a view to making the department’s policy more liberal. I believe that the people I have mentioned should be given more consideration than they have received. I ask the Minister to give some weight to the human factor. The lady in question is in a state of nervous unbalance, which has been brought about by the long delay in meeting her requests. If the Government acts as I believe it should, it will be doing a good turn to this family and will be righting an injustice.
– I also wish to speak on the subject of housing at Woomera. The policy at Woomera is to make homes available for those who work in positions that cannot readily be filled by single men. If single men, who can be accommodated in the single men’s quarters, can be found to do the work, they are engaged. Houses are allocated on the basis of the skill of the employees.
I have taken up the case of a driver who has nine years’ service and who has received seven awards for safe driving in the area. He has been driving a 61- passenger semi-trailer without an accident. It is wrong to say that that does not require skill. However, the unemployment position in Australia to-day is such that drivers who are single men can be found to take the places of married men. The employee about whom I speak occupied a house for nine years. The policy of the department is that if the wife of an employee works, even in an unskilled occupation, or two members of the family work, for the department, the couple may retain possession of a house. This is a joint policy adopted with the approval of the British Government. The department does not want to undertake heavy expenditure on the construction of a village in the desert, particularly as the village would be valueless if the missile project were discontinued. There should be no class distinction. To compel a woman to work cuts across Australian standards and the belief of many people that a woman’s place is in the home.
The wife of the driver to whom I have referred had worked until two years ago, but owing to a nervous breakdown could not continue to do so. When they were threatened with the loss of their home, she was prepared to make the sacrifice of returning to work. However, she gave birth to a baby. What should have been a blessing became a tragedy in that household, under the policy of this Government which decreed that the family was to be deprived of accommodation. Millions of pounds are being spent at Woomera, and ample provision should be made for accommodation for employees. They should be able to work under conditions of their choosing.
The driver whose case I went to investigate at Woomera stated that both the project officer and the industrial officer had told him that they had no desire to get him out of Woomera; it was the department’s desire to get another employee on to the field and they had to bring in this classification of “ Not fit for the purpose “ in order to get somebody else out at Woomera. I took this matter up with the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) when he was in Adelaide on 20th March. He knew nothing about the individual case, but he stated the Government’s policy. He went to Woomera and saw the man concerned, and my report was that, as a result of a conference between the Minister and the employee, which lasted for a period of two and a half hours, it was admitted that 90 per cent, of what the driver had said was correct. I then went to Woomera and investigated the matter. I should say, in view of what has been said concerning the treatment of the driver, that every facility was given to me, both to journey to Woomera and to go over the area. I was placed in accommodation which was far superior to the accommodation I have in Canberra. In fact, the accommodation was amongst the best and the treatment amongst the most elaborate that I have received. This accommodation is to be found in a desert locality. It would seem that there are housing facilities there, but that they are not available to everybody.
I was asked whom I wanted to see, and I named the particular driver. They said, “ We will have him here at eight o’clock at night “. When I met the driver, he said, “ Mr. Cavanagh, the position is that I want to have nothing at all to do with the matter from now on “. I said: “ What is this? I have heard you have been told not to get any outside assistance at all.” He said, “ That is correct, and I have no desire to proceed any further with the matter “. 1 said, “ Are you frightened of your future? “ and he said, “ Yes, very frightened of it “. I said, “ Did you say that you were being evicted out of this place because of other people? “ He said, “ I said it, but I do not want to discuss it now “. I then went back to the industrial officer and he asked, “ Are you satisfied? “ I said; “ No. This man is terrified and will not give us the facts of the case.” He said: “ I cannot understand the reason, because we held no threats over his head at all. The man said to me that while he did not want to leave Woomera, he stipulated that he would leave Woomera only on condition that they put him in the Grotestreet transport depot and gave him a house somewhere near the sea and the metropolitan area.” I went back to Mr. Lynch, the assistant project officer, and asked whether that was the fact. Mr. Lynch said: “ Yes. We found him a job there. He did not want to got to Smithfield or Salisbury, and therefore we said we would find him a job and a house within the metropolitan area.”
The Minister replied to me in a letter dated 3rd April, which stated in part -
Finally, Mr. Ward was offered transfer to Salisbury, Finsbury or to the Central Transport Depot, Adelaide; was assured that the department would find accommodation for him at Elizabeth,, or, if that were not acceptable, would give what assistance it could to find suitable accommodation elsewhere; lastly, it was made clear that his transfer would not occur until medical advice indicated that Mrs. Ward and her new baby could travel safely without inconvenience.
As you are aware, Mr. Ward accepted the arrangement made for his transfer as meeting his problem satisfactorily. He also indicated that he desires to take no further action and to drop the matter completely.
– He did all right.
– The particular individual could have exonerated those associated with the matter by saying that the previous statements were untrue. He admitted the truth of them, and he also admitted to fear of the future.
I could not understand why the Minister should spend two and a half hours with an employee. He must have had plenty of time on his hands. The administrative officers denied that the conference had lasted for 2i hours. They said that the Minister had spent an hour and a half with the driver, but it was found by those who took over his job that the two truck drivers were taken in at eight o’clock on the morning of the day on which the Minister arrived there and returned to the job at a quarter past twelve, during the lunch hour. In order for the driver to see me at eight o’clock at night, he was taken to the administrative office at four o’clock in the afternoon. I do not know what is behind this matter. When he came out after seeing the Minister he told his workmates that it was all settled and that the department was prepared to give him a written apology. What that written apology is, we cannot extract from him, but there is some story that we cannot find behind the plans at Woomera. The fear that exists at Woomera at the present time is a continual source of annoyance to the trade union movement.
I have given the Senate the facts, Mr. President. I say that the method of allocating houses at Woomera is quite contrary to the interests of the community and cuts across the Australian belief in the value of home life. I say that it should be altered, whatever the consequences. I saw recently a report to the effect that 25 flats were to be erected for a contract price of £154,000, or about £6,000 each, for the purpose of housing employees. I am informed that there is a shortage of 65 homes there. Yet, Government supporters boast of the job that is being done in the field of housing, as we heard to-night during the debate on the States Grants (Additional Assistance) Bill. For the purpose of carrying on the project at Woomera, men are taken out into the desert, but the Government is not prepared to provide homes for them unless they make their wives go to work. Those who want to protest, or to reject proposals put before them, dare not open their mouths. They have been threatened and told not to go to outside sources; otherwise, they will find themselves in trouble.
– As the Senate Minister representing the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), I think I should say a few words on the subject which Senator Cavanagh has raised. I begin by saying that I cannot agree with him. He has produced no facts concerning threats. For the second time to-day, he has said a great deal, but he has given us no evidence. The honorable senator did not read to the Senate a letter which was written to him by Mr. F. J. Ward, the person to whom he has referred. It is as follows: -
Thank you for your letter of 21st March, 1963, concerning my housing problem*.
On 21st March I was interviewed by Mr. Fairhall and Mr. Knott and arrangements have been made which meet my problem satisfactorily. I wish to advise you therefore that I desire to take no further action and to drop the matter completely.
I do want to thank you for your interest in my case and for the amount of effort used.
That letter clearly indicates that Mr. Ward was quite satisfied with the alternative job which had been offered to him in Adelaide and with the housing accommodation which also had been offered to him in Adelaide, and to which he had been moved at the expense of the department.
I shall now deal with the problem raised by Senator Bishop. The same conditions have been offered to the driver in that case. We should remember that Woomera is an outpost in the desert. It may close some time, and then we will be faced with having there buildings that will be of no use at all. Therefore, it is quite proper for a department to take the taxpayers’ point of view and say, “ If we want to have drivers at this outpost and we can get single drivers and put. them in single accommodation, it is far better in the interests of everybody, particularly the taxpayers, that we should have single drivers there “. That is quite a proper policy to pursue.
As the pressure for skilled people in that area grew, the housing problem became worse. The policy laid down was that single housing would be available only for skilled men, as Senator Bishop said; and a concession was made, namely, that if the husband and wife were both working they would not be asked to vacate their house. Alternative employment has been offered to the man to whom Senator Bishop referred. A home will be found for him in Elizabeth. If that is not suitable to him, every endeavour will be made to secure for him a home closer to the employment in Adelaide. These people will be transferred to Adelaide at the department’s expense. The department has done everything possible to see that they are treated fairly and justly.
– The Repatriation Department says that the driver to whom I referred is better off at Woomera.
– That is what the Repatriation Department thinks, but it has not tried him in Adelaide. Adelaide is a very nice city. He has been offered very good employment there. Who knows what will happen? You can get people to say all sorts of things if you want them to. You are an old hand at this game, and you know that very well.
– And you can get copies of letters that are written by one man to somebody else.
– Yes, but at least I quote the letters. I do not mind any one knowing that I have them.
– I want to ask you how you got a copy of the letter.
– How did I get it? It was given to me by the Minister whom I represent in this chamber, of course.
– Any one in the office could say, “ You had better write this and we will keep a’ copy “.
– Senator Bishop and Senator Cavanagh received these letters long ago. What nonsense are you talking? Get back to the Albert Park lake and kill the weed down there. That is more in your line. Let us deal with the position in South Australia.
As I said, these two men have been given very fair treatment indeed. They have been offered alternative accommodation in Adelaide. The department has offered to pay all their expenses. Homes will be found in Elizabeth which is a very nice, modern city, I understand. When I saw it last it looked very well. If that is not suitable, other arrangements will be made. I do not think the department could do more. I was interested to hear Senator Cavanagh say that he had a trip to Woomera. I am very glad about that. I am also very glad that he found the accommodation up to standard. I am sure that the Government was only too happy to make that opportunity available to him and let him see for himself the conditions there.
– I should like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) to explain how it is possible for a letter that is written by a person to a senator to be on the ministerial file. Am I right in saying that this letter was written at the instigation of somebody else on the job, who said, “ You had better leave us a copy, too “ ? That is all I want to know. It seems to me that if that is not so a copy must be taken of every letter that comes out of Woomera. If any one in Woomera writes to me, irrespective of what the letter is about, and forgetting what the Minister said about other matters, I want to know how a copy of such a letter, or this copy of a letter, which says to a senator, “ I am satisfied; I do not want you to take any more interest in my case “, gets on the file.
– Might not the writer send a copy to the Minister?
– How nice. Would it not be more in keeping to suggest that somebody said, “ You write this letter “ ? That has more common sense to it. Is this the usual thing that happens out at Woomera? If some one writes me a letter from Woomera, is it censored and is a copy taken and put on the file? If that does not happen, I do not know how private correspondence - I take it that this is private correspondence - gets on the Minister’s file. All I want to know is how it gets there.
– Mr. President, may I just ask the Minister-
– You have spoken once.
– I will not be two minutes. May I ask the Minister-
– I rise to order, Mr. President. Senator Bishop has already spoken in this debate.
– Order! The honorable senator cannot ask the Minister a question, but he may make a personal explanation.
– As I understand the Minister’s statement to the chamber, he did not indicate that he would consider the representations-
– I rise to order. Is this a personal explanation?
– Order! I am waiting for the honorable senator to develop his point, but it is not shaping like a personal explanation.
– What I asked the Minister to do was to consider my representations
– I rise to order.
– Order! The honorable senator is not making a personal explanation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 April 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630409_senate_24_s23/>.