24th Parliament · 1st Session
|[LOAN (HOUSING) BILL 1963. ‘||](#debate-27)|
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the
Minister for Health read a recent report that certain members of the New South Wales Parliament were establishing a fund to assist parents of children affected by the drug thalidomide to obtain artificial limbs? Is the Minister yet able to comment on my suggestion made late last year that the limbmaking facilities of the Repatriation Department be made available for providing all such children with artificial limbs, irrespective of whether or not their fathers are ex-servicemen? If the Repatriation Department can do this work, what financial assistance will be available to the parents of such children who are not in a position to pay for the artificial limbs?
– I acknowledge the continuing interest of the honorable senator in this matter, for it is some time since he asked me a question on the subject. I have read the report to which the honorable senator has referred concerning assistance for these unfortunate children. When the honorable senator asked me whether the facilities of the Repatriation Department’s artificial limb factory could be made available for the manufacture of limbs for these children, I placed the honorable senator’s request before the Minister for Repatriation. I am very happy to say that the Minister has replied that he is able and willing to assist in this matter irrespective of whether or not the children concerned are the children of ex-service personnel. Further, my inquiries have led me to believe that parents who are unable to afford these artificial appliances may seek financial assistance either from voluntary organizations or from State governments.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that a Qantas aircraft flying south from Asia in the early hours of this morning was diverted so that it did not fly over West Irian, and as a result arrived late at Sydney, which was its destination? If this is so, will the Minister state the reason for the sudden change of route? Can the Minister assign a reason why the Indonesian Government does not permit a commercial flight over West Irian while it does permit frequent flights by Australian airlines over its other territories and territorial waters?
– Some days ago, application was made to the Indonesian authorities for approval of Qantas continuing its Sydney-Manila flights, which occur four times weekly, on a route which takes the aircraft over territory that has become Indonesian as from to-day. That was quite a normal procedure. Although the application has been submitted, we have not yet received the necessary approval from the Indonesian authorities. In accordance with international airline practices, until the approval is received Qantas will slightly divert the course of its aircraft in order to avoid over-flying the territory concerned, and the airline will continue to do so until the approval comes to hand. I understand that the Indonesians have already indicated that they will give a favorable reply to the application that has been made. I further understand that the delay has been occasioned by circumstances related to the taking over of West New Guinea, rather than to a disinclination to grant approval or to an unfavorable reaction to the application. The Department of External Affairs has advised that it expects a favorable reply to be received in the course of the next two or three days.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the Australian Council of Trade Unions some weeks ago made the interesting suggestion to the Commonwealth Government that it should set up the necessary research and technical machinery to provide for a productivity index in Australia? Can the Minister tell us when the Government proposes to accede to the A.C.T.U. request, if at all?
I hesitate to run counter to Senator Ormonde’s statement. I remember this matter being discussed, but I do not remember the suggestion being made that a research organization should be set up. I have been engaged over the years in so many discussions about a productivity index that it is natural for me to become a little confused. The consensus is that the practical and technical problems associated with the evolution of a formula which would give a fair result are so difficult as to prevent the introduction of a productivity index, not only in Australia but also overseas. I am interested in this matter, but I do not pretend to be an expert on it. As I understand it, the influence of mechanization, changes in the methods of operating ships and in handling cargoes, and conditions that are passing or transitory, all contribute to bringing about a set of circumstances in which there is great hesitation on the part of both employers and employees to put into operation a system which may not give accurate information on a subject that is of really great importance.
– The delay is causing great trouble.
– It is a matter not of delay, but of inability at this stage to find a formula. Senator Ormonde said that the A.C.T.U. had asked for research to be carried out. I am certain that if the A.C.T.U. could find the answer it would be putting forward a concrete proposal.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has he seen a press report, which was published in Western Australia recently, to the effect that farmers in that State were so short of labour with which to carry on cropping programmes that they were offering more than twice the basic wage in order to secure labour? I ask the Minister: In view of the shortage of rural workers in Western Australia and the condition of overfull employment in that category of labour, will he give consideration to making a proposal to the Government to bring out people from overseas to fill these vacancies?
– I think that the question involves Government policy, and, of course, it is not customary for a Minister to answer such a question without notice. In any case, it is a question that I am not qualified to answer on behalf of the responsible Minister. I gather that there is in many places in rural areas throughout Australia a shortage of workers. Just how that problem should be overcome is a matter for the Minister. I will bring the honorable senator’s question to his notice.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question. Is he aware that the present minimum amount of income from personal exertion for which a taxation return is required is £105 and that that amount was set in 1943? Does the Minister agree that since then there has been great inflation and that the values of money then and now are not comparable? Is he aware that the submission of taxation returns causes great inconvenience to age pensioners and others on low incomes who, after submitting returns, find that they do not have to pay tax or have very low assessments? Will the Minister ask the Government to take note of and adopt the recommendation of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation that the minimum amount of income for which a return must be lodged should be raised from £105 to £209, or higher, per annum, thus reducing congestion in the Taxation Branch which is caused by the Government demanding the lodgment of many returns which are not assessable and relieving age pensioners, juniors and others of the obligation to submit returns which are uneconomic to process and really not desirable?
– While it is true that the minimum income from personal exertion for which the lodgment of a taxation return is required has remained at £105 for a number of years, it is equally true that there have been introduced, since that figure was fixed as the new minimum, many other taxation concessions and reductions, and many other benefits, particularly in relation to health and hospitalization, and especially as they apply to pensioners, as was mentioned by Senator Cooke. It is, however, a matter of fact that the Treasurer has recently announced the appointment of Mr. O’sullivan to report to the Government on the submissions made by the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. When that report comes forward from Mr. O’sullivan it will, of course, receive full consideration. In any event, the question raised by the honorable senator is one that receives consideration as a matter of policy when a budget is being proposed, and I am sure that it will be considered this year.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. As a good deal of publicity has arisen out of the recent visit to New Zealand by the Minister for Trade, could the Minister inform the Senate what were the specific objectives of Mr. McEwen’s visit to that country?
– The visit to New Zealand by the Minister for Trade was triggered off by the natural desire of New Zealand that Australia should buy more from New Zealand than it does at the present time. I suppose most honorable senators are aware that we sell to New Zealand more than she buys from us because we produce most of the things that New Zealand produces, but we are more industrially developed than is our sister dominion. New Zealand is, of course, one of our very good customers and there has always been a very close relationship between us. At the present time, about 90 per cent, of exports from New Zealand come into Australia duty-free and about 75 per cent, of the exports from Australia to New Zealand are admitted dutyfree. So the start of the negotiations is the establishment of an organization on the officer level to look at the items of trade, product by product, to see to what extent, over a period of time, the duty-free transactions between the two countries can be increased. That is the stage that the negotiations have reached up to now.
– Yesterday, the Minister for Civil Aviation, in reply to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator McKenna, said that there were 59,000 Australians who were shareholders in private airlines. I should now like to ask the Minister whether he can tell the Senate how many shareholders there are in Trans-Australia Airlines.
– There are 10,000,000.
– Are they not to be considered?
– There are no shareholders in Trans-Australia Airlines.
– Can the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority intends to proceed with works in the primitive area at Mount Kosciusko despite the prohibition by the Kosciusko State Park Trust? I ask the Minister to clarify the position in respect of this area because of a report in yesterday’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ which stated that the authority did intend to proceed with its work.
– The works that are contemplated in the socalled primitive area are an integral part of the Snowy Mountains scheme. Failure to carry them out would appreciably reduce the efficiency of the scheme. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is quite forthright in stating that it can carry out those works without great detriment to the objective of retaining the native flora in the primitive area. Furthermore, the Academy of Science, a scientific body which I think commenced its movement in 1959, says that the Geehi aqueduct leading to Geehi dam, which is the work that is currently under construction, if carefully constructed, would not seriously affect native flora in that area. The objection to it was based on the ground that it would reduce the scenic possibilities of the area.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the airport at Wittenoom Gorge the alternate airport to Port Hedland? Are the air flight schedules of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited so arranged that night landings take place at Port Hedland? If the Wittenoom Gorge airport is the alternate landing ground to Port Hedland are night landing facilities available at Wittenoom Gorge? Did the Department of Civil Aviation promise last September to instal night landing facilities at Wittenoom Gorge? Were those facilities installed? If not, when will they be installed? Is it a fact that because of the frequent warnings of probable fog conditions at Port Hedland and the lack of night landing facilities at Wittenoom Gorge, hundreds of tons of freight are not loaded for Port Hedland and ports beyond?
– It is true that on occasions when Port Hedland is unable to be used Wittenoom Gorge airport is used as an alternative. The Department of Civil Aviation has recognized the need to instal night landing facilities at Wittenoom Gorge and, as indicated by the honorable senator, intimated some months ago that a night landing system would be installed. At the airport both runway lights and navigational aids are required in view of the nature of the surrounding terrain. The navigational aid which is to be erected on top of a very high piece of country in the vicinity of the town of Wittenoom Gorge has proved extremely difficult to site. Actually, the difficulty has been to construct a road. I have no doubt that Senator Cant knows this piece of country, as I do, and he will agree with me that it is extremely steep, even precipitous. The contract has been let and the work is under way, but because of the nature of the work it is taking longer than was expected. It is expected that at the very latest the road will be built, the beacon will be installed and the runway lighting system will be in operation towards the end of the year. I repeat that it will be completed by then at the very latest.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Did I understand the Minister to say, in answer to Senator Ormonde, that the Australian Council of Trade Unions had made an application to the Government to evolve a productivity index? If the implication is that it was intended by that body that the index should be used for wage adjustment I should think that that is a factor of the first significance. Over the past ten or twelve years during which, to my knowledge, the technical considerations of this matter have been the subject of discussion, has the Commonwealth Statistician prepared any studied paper on the subject? If he has not, will the Government arrange for him to do so? In either event, will the Minister lay such paper on the table of the Senate for the Senate’s information?
– I think I should ask Senator Wright to put the question on notice. He may remember that the point of issue between Senator Ormonde and myself was that I could not bring my recollection around to whether the Australian Council of Trade Unions had made such a request or whether I was relying on various discussions that had taken place on the matter. If the question is put on notice 1 shall obtain the correct information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. On 10th October, 1962, I asked the Minister a question about a resolution passed’ by the National Health and Medical Research Council recommending the complete prohibition of tobacco advertising, and also asked that in the meantime urgent attention be given to the imposition of restrictions, particularly to prohibit the making of unsubstantiated claims. The Minister replied that the National Health and Medical Research Council advisory committee had the resolution under consideration. In view of the urgency expressed in the resolution, could the Minister inform me how much longer we have to await this report, and from whom copies of it can be obtained?
– The views of the National Health and Medical Research Council concerning the relationship of smoking to king cancer have been published in the report of its fifty-third session and those views are now available. Quite recently, in answer to a question, I made a copy of the report available to an honorable member of another place, and I shall be pleased to put a copy in the honorable senator’s hands.
– I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question which relates to the published report of a committee appointed at the instance of the
Western Australian Government to consider the abandonment of the town and port of Onslow and the rebuilding of the town some distance away. Was the Minister, or his department, consulted in relation to the provision of an airport at the proposed new site of the town? If not, can the Minister explain whether the proposed new town site has natural facilities for the construction of a new aerodrome, having regard to the fact that the new town will substantially rely, as did the old town, on air services for its existence?
– While my department is represented on what is known as the Disaster Committee in Western Australia, which functions when events such as those which happened at Onslow occur, I am not sure that the department was asked by the governmental committee for an opinion about the advisability or otherwise of moving the town of Onslow. I express this lay opinion with respect to the construction of an airport anywhere else than at Onslow: We are particularly fortunate inasmuch as the Onslow airport is located on coral country, which gives a firm and permanent base. I do not know whether such a condition exists at the proposed new site. No doubt, if the matter is pushed further, we shall be consulted concerning our intentions of providing an airport, and we shall then let the State Government know what the position is.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, with reference to the recent decision by the Government to grant a Sydney television licence to United Telecasters Sydney Limited, a company of which the promoter was Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and in which A.W.A. Limited and Email Limited are substantial shareholders. I ask the Minister: (1) Did these two companies, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Email Limited, between them previously hold over 200,000 shares in Australian Television Services Proprietary Limited, the licensee of Channel 7, Sydney? (2) Did these two companies in January, 1961, sell their shares to John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited for £6 a share? (3) Did these two companies make a profit of £5 a share on the sale, or a total profit of £1,038,000? (4) Did the Minister give his approval to the transfer of these shares as required by the Broadcasting and Television Act? (5) What reasons did these companies advance in support of their application to the Minister to approve the transfer of those shares? (6) Will the Minister lay on the table of the Senate the complete file relating to the application far and granting of the approvals?
– I am sure the honorable senator would not expect me to carry in my head the figures which he has mentioned, and which even include those contained is a profit and loss account. So that he may get the information he seeks, I ask him to place the question on the notice-paper.
– Will the Minister for Health make the necessary investigations into, and report to the Senate upon, the amount of white lead which is contained in all brands of toothpaste both manufactured in and imported by Australia?
– The honorable senator sets me a formidable task when he seeks an analysis of the white lead content of ali the toothpastes on the market. Al] I can say to him is that I shall consult the officers of my department and, if it is possible for the necessary research to be undertaken and for the information to be supplied, we will consider the request.
– Has the Minister for Health received from a New South Wales hospital benefits fund its proposed new scale of benefit tables to cover the increased hospital charges that will come into effect in New South Wales as from to-day? Is it true that, before new scales can be implemented, ministerial approval has to be obtained to enable the Commonwealth subsidy to be attracted? Will the Minister expedite his decision on the matter when he receives the application, if he has not already received it? In any consideration of the proposed tables, will the Minister look very critically at any proposition which would disadvantage any single classification of subscriber, as distinct from the other classifications, in relation to benefits thai can be obtained?
– I have received the proposals of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales, and they are now under scrutiny at my department. I will do my utmost to expedite the examination of these proposals, but I should like the honorable senator to know that a great deal of actuarial research will be necessary. I will not press the independent registration committee into making a hasty decision. Far too much is involved for me to say to the members of the committee, who carry a heavy responsibility, “ Please let us have your decision by such-and-such a date “. But having said that, let me add that I have asked the committee to treat this matter as one of great urgency.
We will, of course, critically study any section of the tables that may adversely affect one section of contributors as against another. We shall, naturally, do our utmost within the limitations imposed by the legislation to see that all sections of the community are treated equitably.
– I address the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories: - Has the Minister noted an almost incredible statement that since Port Moresby hotels were opened to natives the consumption of bread has dropped by more than 1,000 2-lb. loaves a week and that the quantity of flour used by a bakery chain has dropped from 50 tons to 15 tons a week? Is it true that bar takings at a Lae hotel, where the bar drinking has been taken over almost entirely by natives, averages £300 a night? Are native women participating in this drinking? Will the Minister later furnish to the Senate a report giving a true picture of the consumption of alcoholic liquor, bread and flour?
– It is well known that some months ago the scope of the legislation in respect of drinking in New Guinea was widened to permit the indigenous people to partake of liquor at hotels. As it happens, I was in New Guinea and Papua some weeks after the introduction of these laws to allow natives to drink and I heard in part the story which Senator Brown has recounted to-day about a drop in the consumption of flour and bread during the first week. But my information was that although this drop occurred in the first week, the demand returned to normal shortly afterwards. That is only information that I gleaned personally when I was there, and I should imagine that the honorable senator’s question would best be answered by a considered statement from the Minister himself. If the question is put on the notice-paper I shall see that the honorable senator gets an answer to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to the discovery by certain enterprising young people of the wreck off the Western Australian coast of what is believed to be an old Spanish treasure galleon? In view of conflicting statements appearing in the press, is the AttorneyGeneral able to inform the Senate of the practice of the Australian Government in dealing with ownership of wrecks off our coast-line? If ownership is claimed by the Crown, is this claim based on the discovery of wrecks only within the three miles territorial limit? If the wreck is claimed as Crown property, does it belong to the Crown in right of Commonwealth or State, and what is the authority of the Commonwealth controller of wrecks? If it is claimed by the Commonwealth, under what head of federal power is the claim based? What rights, if any, are conceded to the country of origin of the ship and cargo which were wrecked? Does not the Minister believe that in view of the enterprise, courage and resource shown by these young people it would be a crying shame if any official action were taken to deprive them of the fruits of their labour and the hazards they undertook?
– I think it would be better if the question were put on notice so that the Attorney-General, who is conversant with the legal facts regarding wrecks, could give an exact answer to the honorable senator. By way of comment on the question I would merely give a purely lay opinion on one aspect of it, and that is to say that if the Commonwealth Constitution had been in being when the Spanish or Dutch galleon was wrecked I presume the wreck would have belonged to the Commonwealth because the galleon was engaged in overseas and not interstate trade.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Have any suitable buildings been discovered at Clovelly Park, Flinders Park, Rosewater, Seaton Park and Windsor Gardens, in South Australia, to enable the grant of official status to existing non-official post offices, as I was informed in August last year this would be granted when suitable buildings could be found? Was an offer made to the Postmaster-General, approximately twelve months ago, to build a suitable building at Rosewater to rent to the department? Was the department asked to co-operate in preparing plans, and did the department refuse such co-operation? Is there any significance in the fact that all the suburbs mentioned, which are entitled to official post offices and have not received them, are in Labour-held electorates?
– I suggest that the latter portion of the honorable senator’s questions has no bearing on the state of the postal facilities available in the area to which he has referred. No self-respecting government does business on that level. I have no knowledge of the other matters to which the honorable senator has referred and I ask him to put his questions on the noticepaper.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It has further reference to the report of the Committee on Taxation, mentioned in an earlier question. I remind the Minister that I, myself, found strong objection to several of the recommendations of that committee; but, in respect of many of the recommendations, I took the view that loopholes or evasion should be stopped as a matter of urgency. Is it a fact that since that time the Commissioner of Taxation has furnished a report to the Government on the committee’s report and that his report, in turn, is now being referred to the succeeding Commissioner of Taxation, who has retired and is now operating in an independent capacity, so that he may comment upon it? Do these circumstances persuade the Minister to take the view that it would be prudent to make available to members of the Parliament early, and later to bodies within the community, such as accountants and taxpayers’ associations and commercial people, for study, if not a complete report by the Commissioner of Taxation, then a summarized statement of its substance? Will the Minister undertake that when Mr. O’SuIlivan’s report goes forward, first members of the Parliament and then these other interested bodies will have adequate time to consider these technical proposals before the legislation on the matter is presented?
– The question obviously requires the attention of the Treasurer, and I shall refer it to him for reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Is information contained in the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes disclosing that the Commonwealth has received interest payments of £105,000,000 on an outlay of £470,000,000 from the inception of the scheme to 1961-62? If so, does not the scheme represent a sound investment? Therefore, will the Minister consider recommending to the Government the provision of additional funds to ensure that the benefits conferred by Parliament upon exservicemen under the War Service Homes Act can be fully applied? Will the Minister also recommend that housing loans be provided for members of the women’s services and Citizen Military Forces who served in operational areas inside Australia, such as Darwin, during the 1939-45 war and who are eligible for the returnedfromactiveservice badge?
– I fear that I have two pipe-lines in my department - one that brings oil from Moonie and the other that brings questions from the War Service Homes Division to Senator
Fitzgerald to ask me in the Senate. The statements that are in the annual report of the War Service Homes Division are correct, I have no doubt. War service homes advances are made at 3i per cent, per annum, which is a very favorable rate of interest to the recipients. Any investment in housing for ex-servicemen is a sound investment, but this is of course a great concession to ex-servicemen. I find it rather difficult to accept the point of view that, because you get returns of interest on money lent at a concessional rate, that is a foundation for granting further benefits under the legislation. What has happened is that this year, as the honorable senator knows, war service homes advances have been increased to £37,500,000. This will enable the division to finance the obligations that are before it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, relates to recent press announcements concerning the possibility of the Government of Indonesia landing large number of troops in West New Guinea. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the actual position in this respect? Is it correct that the Government of Indonesia proposes to send large bodies of troops to West New Guinea and, if so, can the Minister explain why such a move is considered to be necessary? Is he able to state whether the Government of Indonesia has given the Australian Government reasons for the movement of the troops? Finally, can he assure the Senate that the Australian Government is in very close contact with the Government of Indonesia regarding this very important matter?
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER__ I can assure the honorable senator that the Australian Government is taking very close notice of what is happening, but I cannot attempt to give the Senate the thinking of the Indonesian Government or its reasons for making these arrangements. I think, however, that I should repeat the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs in another place. He said that it must be remembered that the Indonesian Army is used for duties other than those of a purely military nature. It is used not only for police duties but also for construction work. I do not say that in mitigation of the need for us to watch closely and to keep in touch with the events that are happening.
– Has the Minister for Health seen a report that the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia proposes to set up its own hospitals contribution fund in New South Wales? Does the Minister not think that it is about time that this undignified struggle between the funds, both hospital and medical, was brought to a conclusion, before the whole of the hospital and medical benefits system falls into disrepute, with consequent disaster to the investments of the contributors? Has the Minister any comment to make on this report?
– I have seen the report referred to by Senator Ormonde. My understanding is that it was not as specific as the honorable senator would lead us to believe. I was under the impression that the announcement indicated that the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia was considering the establishment of a hospital contribution fund. I remind the honorable senator that the present agreement does not expire until 1st November of this year. I am convinced that there are pretty powerful forces which are endeavouring even at this point of time to maintain the association between the two funds which has existed for some two years. I believe it could be argued that there was a good deal of merit in that objective. I also remind the honorable senator that when this matter was first ventilated in the Senate 1 suggested that the parties to the controversy should settle their differences behind closed doors. That suggestion still stands. This is a domestic matter.
The management company which was established to maintain liaison between the two funds and to reduce management costs, is not registered with the Government. The Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales are registered separately with my department and are individually responsible to the department. The management company, which it is suggested may be abandoned, provides a purely machinery method of running the two funds. Like the honorable senator, I hope that this undignified struggle, to adopt his words, will cease, because I believe that the interests of the people are paramount, since they are the contributors and the actual owners of the two funds.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The following answers are now supplied: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice - -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer: -
Five Japanese were recently convicted for a breach of the Mining Act 1904-1961 of Western Australia. They have now served notice of appeal. It is accordingly inappropriate to answer questions affecting the substance of the matter as it is sub judice.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will the Government consider amending the National Health Act to cover medical services, such as the treatment of jaw and mouth injuries, performed by suitably qualified dental practitioners?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
Under the present medical benefits scheme, Commonwealth medical benefits are payable only for medical services rendered by qualified medical practitioners. While consideration has, from time to time, been given to the possibility of extending the benefits of the national health scheme, it is not proposed at this stage to amend the National Health Act along the lines suggested by the honorable senator.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The favours and concessions extended by the Commonwealth Government to companies with which Mr. R. M. Ansett is prominently associated including the recent grant of a commercial television licence in Melbourne and the Government’s approval of the take-over of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.
– Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– The matter of urgency which I wish to discuss has been read by Mr. President, and circulated to all honorable senators, so I shall not repeat it. My first comment on this, matter is that I believe that no man or group in Australia has ever received so many or such valuable privileges and concessions at the hands of any Commonwealth government as has Mr. R. M. Ansett and his’ associated companies. The Opposition makes, ho attack on Mr. Ansett or his companies; they are entitled to get all they can for their shareholders.
They are “ an energetic, daring, powerful and successful group. Our attack is against the Menzies Government for the extravagance of the help it has handed out to the Ansett group, with resultant discrimination against the national airline, TransAustralia Airlines, which despite what the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) said this afternoon has some 10,500,000 shareholders.
The trouble with which we are concerned began in 1952 with the Government policy of two, and only two, airline operators on interstate routes. That policy, as I have said before, is unreal. In the first place, it failed because the Ansett airline muscled its way in on top of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and T.A.A., and then despite the policy there were three, not two, operators. Secondly, this policy was unconstitutional, because after the airways case of 1946 and the road hauliers cases in recent years it is completely clear that any competent and well-equipped operator cannot be kept out of action on interstate air routes. Thirdly, the policy is completely hypocritical, because here is a government that, where it is not restricted by section 92 of the Constitution in its overseas airline activities, has one operator only, the Government airline Qantas Empire Airways Limited. The Government also had its interest in Tasman Empire Airways Limited until it sold out to its government partner, the New Zealand Government. In addition, we have the spectacle - I shall develop this theme at a later stage - of monopoly developing in favour of Ansett in the intrastate services throughout Australia, in one State and then another. This policy, with those defects - unreality, unconstitutional and hypocritical - has, in the view I put, been fulfilled by the Government merely for the good of A.N.A., in the first instance, and later its successor, Ansett-A.N.A.
Going back to 1952, to give the background of what has been done, I remind the Senate that T.A.A. was forced by the legislation of the Menzies Government in that year to comply with an agreement made between the Government and A.N.A. These are some of the things that were done under that agreement. The Government reduced by £600,000 its claim for £1,000,000 against A.N.A. for air routs charges - a reduction of approximately twothirds. In consequence, it had to repay some £444,000 to T.A.A. Air route charges generally were cut in two and an arrangement was made that they would not be increased, except in particular circumstances. The Commonwealth Government guaranteed A.N.A., the competitor of its own airline, the repayment of £4,000,000 worth of loans. It required T.A.A. to surrender the carriage of half of the airmails which it had transported up to that time and to pass them over to its competitor. The policy enunciated by the Minister included the provision that there should be fair and equal competition. Why were not tenders invited for the airmails? Why not let us have some real competition in the matter? But no, the business was parcelled out to A.N.A., the competitor of T.A.A., the government line.
Another thing done was to open government business in passengers and freights to both T.A.A. and A.N .A. Neither the commercial airline nor the government one was to be free to buy aeroplanes without the consent of a chairman of a rationalization committee. T.A.A. was required to pay tax and to pay a dividend specified by the Treasurer from time to time. Those requirements imposed additional burdens on that company and lessened its prospect of providing reduced fares and low fares for the people of Australia. That was done in order to keep it on a par with its commercial airline competitor. Despite all that was said about the desired competition, we then had the system of rationalizing air routes, fares, freights and time-tables. That position has drawn criticism from the Opposition, and recently from Mr. Warren McDonald, a former chairman of T.A.A., who has pointed out that what is being done is the complete negation of competition. I refer to the statement he made in Perth on 22nd June last year.
The private airline, so bolstered, failed in 1957. It defaulted in payments of some £500,000 of the loans that the Government had guaranteed and was obliged to sell out to the Ansett group, in August, 1957, for £3,300,000. So, at that point, the Ansett organization stepped right into the shoes of A.N. A. and acquired the benefit of the 1952 act concessions which I have just detailed. The term of loans for AnsettA.N.A. was re-arranged. They were extended for five years and were guaranteed to the tune of £3,000,000 by the Government, which operated its own airline.
About the same time, on 23rd May, 1957, a customs and excise duty of 6±d. a gallon was imposed on kerosene for the first time. Of course, that penalty fell almost entirely upon the Government airline, T.A.A., which almost alone at that time had turbo-prop jets. That, of course, set that airline back to the tune of £350,000 per annum. In 1958, when it became necessary to re-equip the airlines of Australia, the Government provided a guarantee of £5,000,000 on loans to Ansett-A.N.A. to buy Electras and Fokkers. Early in 1960, the Minister for Civil Aviation, acting under the 1958 act, compelled T.A.A. to hand three Viscount turbo machines to Ansett-A.N.A. in exchange for two out-moded and practically unsaleable DC6’s. I need merely to state these things in order to show the favoritism displayed towards Ansett-A.N.A. and the discrimination against the Government airline.
Then we come to the Airlines Agreements Bill 1961 which was introduced just two months before a general election. The agreement entered into in 1952 was to last for fifteen years, expiring in 1967. So, in December, 1961, when this bill was before the Parliament, the agreement still had six years to run, but this Government extended that time for an additional ten years. In other words, the agreement is to run for sixteen years from 1961. This was arranged on the eve of a general election when there might have been, and nearly was, a change of government. That is one of the most unprincipled actions I have witnessed in this Parliament. It bound future governments with respect to the charges that could be made. It even prevented future governments from increasing air route charges by more than 10 per cent, per annum.
The Senate may recall that, at that time, I made a speech in which I pointed out that Mr. Ansett had published a letter setting out the things which his airline required from the Government. There were eight points. When the Minister read his secondreading speech in this place my private comment was that it was just a re-writing of the requests that Mr. Ansett had made. In reply to each request, the Government had said, “ Yes, Mr. Ansett “. I have mentioned one of these requests - that air route charges should not be increased. In addition, a guarantee to Ansett-A.N.A. covering the purchase of £6,000,000 worth of jet aircraft was written into an act of Parliament. In the same act, the Ansett organization was given access to Darwin from the eastern routes that it ran. The Government again put T.A.A. on a comparable profiting-earning basis. T.A.A. had to make 10 per cent, profit after paying tax and setting apart reasonable sums for reserves. Does the fare-paying public of Australia get any consideration when fares on the national airline are forced up all the time so as to make things easier for its competitor? Certainly, in my view, the crowning piece of wrong-doing at that time was the legislative provision that T.A.A. was not to be free to use in its own business the reserve it had created from insurance premiums - some £3,000,000 - but had to invest it in Commonwealth bonds.
– But the Government guaranteed Ansett’s account!
– Yes, at the same time, the Government guaranteed Ansett for £6,000,000. That is the background against which we direct our attack in two specific matters. The first concerns what has happened recently in Western Australia. I direct the Senate’s attention to the fact that since 1957 Ansett-A.N.A. has acquired all but one of the private airlines operating intra-state. First of all, it took over Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited; then Southern Airlines in Victoria fell to it. It took over Guinea Airways Proprietary Limited in South Australia, Butler Airlines in New South Wales, Queensland Airlines, and New Guinea Airlines under the Carpenters. A desperate attempt to collar East-West Airlines Limited in New South Wales was happily frustrated by the action of the New South Wales Government and as a result of a lot of activity in this place on the part of the Opposition. I remind the Senate that Mr. Drummond, one of the Minister’s own colleagues in another place, said that he was present, together with the directors of East-West Airlines Limited and the Minister, when the Minister issued an ultimatum to the directors of the airline company to get together with AnsettA.N.A. That attempt was warded off with, considerable difficulty after a great fight. Now there falls into the lap of AnsettA.N.A., again in the intra-state field, MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited of Western Australia. That has been done, as the Minister acknowledged yesterday, not only with his full knowledge but with his express approval.
The Minister is not concerned at these take-overs right around Australia. Seven companies have gone over to Ansett-A.N.A. since 1957. Only one independent intrastate line is left operating and it had the narrowest escape. The Minister admitted yesterday that, from the inception of its life, T.A.A. has never sought to take over and has never taken over any airline in Australia. It has run under its own power. Here we see the Minister and the Government encouraging monopoly of intra-state services in the hands of one body - the Ansett organization. It is doing so although the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), for three years, has been talking about the need for legislation to curb restrictive trade practices and monopolies. He has been talking about it but has been doing nothing about it. On the other hand, his colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, is doing his utmost to build a complete monopoly, not in one State, but in all the States. He is endeavouring to place all intra-state services in the hands of Ansett-A.N.A.
The Minister acknowledged that he did not give T.A.A. an opportunity to buy the shares that were available in the MacRobertson Miller organization in Western Australia. He. said that T.A.A. was not free so to move because Commonwealth legislation forbade it. When, in the 1959 legislation, we sought to open the door to T.A.A. to extend its activities in the event of any future reference of power by a State the Government rejected the proposal. Consequently, there is no power in Commonwealth legislation to enable T.A.A. to make such a move, nor has the power been referred to the Commonwealth by the State of Western Australia. We learned yesterday from the Minister that in 1957
T.A.A. itself approached the Western Australian Government on the matter. That Government was prepared to give power to T.A.A. to come into Western Australia until the Minister for Civil Aviation indicated that if there were competition in the intra-state field in that State the subsidy that was being paid would be withdrawn. The matter was then dropped. The Minister said, “ The whole thing then lapsed “. He killed it. So the mere feet that Western Australia has not referred the power is due primarily to the action of the Minister in 1957.
I invite the Senate to consider the vast improvement of feeder services to the interstate operators. Those who control these feeders have a ready-made clientele for their interstate services. It is almost impossible for somebody who wants to go on an interstate trip to the outback part of any State not to continue on the airline which books him on the route from the capital city. It certainly would be exceedingly inconvenient for him not to do so.
Of course, the great interest of Ansett in those intra-state activities is that in that way he is building up his passengercarrying capacity on the larger and more lucrative interstate routes. Who thinks that the States are going to be static? They are all developing. I suppose that in the years that lie ahead no part of Australia will see more rapid development than the north and north-west of Western Australia. Exmouth Gulf is opening up. Vast development is taking place in the light industries and many activities are about to be generated in that area. The time for an airline to go into the field is not when things are booming; it is when the area is being developed. lt should be in at the inception, to grow with the development and to provide the facilities. Trans-Australia Airlines is shouldered out of this.
The Minister may answer that this is purely an intra-state activity. I answer that it is not. MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited not only has a free run within Western Australia but also holds the licence to run between the State and Darwin, which is in a Territory of the Commonwealth. In regard to trips between a State and a Commonwealth Territory this Government and this Minister have every power. Now these two facilities are wrapped up in the one organization in Western Australia. I accept that it would be difficult to prise them loose. But there would have been no difficulty about the Minister using his powerful position - when Ansett-A.N.A. wanted to make another kill in the State of Western Australia - to say: “ Yes, but you have to play fair. You have to share. You have to agree that when T.A.A. wants it, it can gel a run from Perth to Darwin with intermediate stopping places.”
I say to the Minister that that need not have meant denial of the subsidy to the MacRobertson Miller organization. TransAustralia Airlines would not be running around the homesteads and mission stations and performing the activities that attract the subsidy of £120,000 to £130,000 per annum. But did the Minister even think of T.A.A.? He made no conditions, although he was in a perfect position to help T.A.A. A Minister who was interested in the national airline should have been out pressing the States for the right for T.A.A. to come in. He should have been looking for opportunities for it instead of saying to its competitor, “ Come in and take over all you can in the intrastate field “. We have the position to-day that, with the granting of the run to Darwin to Ansett in 1961, and now the taking over of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, the Ansett organization can go completely around Australia. But there is a gap between Perth and Darwin in the case of T.A.A. The Minister had the opportunity to fill that gap, but he did not take it.
The Opposition objects to the fact that the Minister is not prepared to table in this place the subsidy agreeme.nl in favour of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, an agreement which will now be in favour of Ansett, who will get the benefit of the subsidy which, the Minister said yesterday, will be of the order of £130,000 per annum. The Minister declined also to tell us what price he, as the Minister in charge, had approved in connexion with the sale. He said he knew the price but that he would not tell us. What does the Minister think he is running? His own private civil aviation business? He is a Minister of the Crown and a servant of the public. He is transacting public business, and we of the Opposition protest against his attitude in keeping information that is important and vital to a lot of people.
This is on top of what he has done with the 800 shareholders in MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited who have had no offer for their shares which have been taken over. These are 800 electors in the Minister’s own area of Western Australia. He did not even meet the conditions that they should have the advantage of an offer similar to that which was offered to the major shareholders in MacRobertson’s and Miller’s - two sets of interests. It is enough for Ansett that he got control. Ansett did not care about the other 800 shareholders and, quite obviously, neither did the Minister. There is a grievance about that. The other shareholders, according to a survey by a Western Australian newspaper, knew nothing whatsoever about the proposal for the take-over by Ansett-A.N.A. until they read about it in the press. After Mr. Ansett announced what he called, according to the newspaper, the “take-over”, Senator Paltridge denied that it was a take-over. He said’ it was merely the substitution of an Eastern airline operator for an eastern chocolate manufacturer. That statement is not accurate, because not only did Ansett take over the chocolate manufacturer’s interest in the airline in Western Australia but he also took over a substantial portion of the Miller interests as well. Of course, what that statement conceals and disguises is that here is the last link in the chain of intrastate monopoly that Ansett has built around
Australia, with the support and concurrence of the Department of Civil Aviation and this Government. All through, of course, the Minister has ignored the monopoly aspect. He indicated yesterday, in reply to Senator Murphy, that he thought the only hope for the various States was that there should be no competition. It may be true in regard to a State, but what does he say when that “ no-competition “ applies Australiawide? Does he regard it as a good thing for the public, does he say that the public would not be adversely affected, to leave the intra-state services of Australia at the mercy of one airline? What about the competition he talks about, but does not permit, in the interstate field? Why should that principle be not applicable in the intrastate activities?
In the other four or five minutes that I have let me pass to the other great benefit that accrued to Ansett in April. It was a case of “ April for Ansett “, all right. Not only does Ansett obtain the airline in Western Australia, but he is granted a television licence in Victoria - a benefit in a field in which his company has had no experience whatsoever. Among six applicants, Austarama Television Proprietary Limited is a subsidiary of Ansett Transport Industries Limited, and Ansett obtained the licence on a recommendation from whom? The Director-General of Civil Aviation.
– That is not true.
– Listen to the report. It will show that it is true.
– It is nothing of the sort.
– Let me read’ from the report of the board. It says -
Statements by the Director-General of Civil Aviation were submitted, in very favourable terms, as to the record of the company in its operations and the calibre of its staff. We have carefully considered these submissions and appreciate their force.
Why did the board add the words “ and appreciate their force “ ? In its mind, of course, was this most unprecedented recommendation from the head of a department on a private matter - a matter concerned with a person seeking a valuable licence. This is one of the rarest things that happens under any government. The board knew that the Director-General would never have made that statement without the knowledge and the approval of the Minister and the Government. In the light of prior experience the board knew only too well that a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. When the Director-General was permitted to put up a recommendation in very favorable terms the board realized that the Government was behind the Ansett application and that there was no use in bypassing it. It was educated over the Adelaide issue in 1958. The other day, in the Parliament, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said, “ One never sets aside a recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board without very powerful reasons “. He forgot about what happened when the board stated, in its first report of July, 1958, that the danger was that the three applicants in Adelaide and Brisbane were newspaper bodies already with vast interests in television and broadcasting, and then stated the issue in these terms -
The issue again is whether this expansion of the interest of groups already powerful in the fields of mass communication is to be accepted or whether in the public interest the local ownership of stations and the independence of licensees is the objective to be achieved.
The board stated that there were no suitable applicants and that there should be only one commercial station in each of those capital cities, but did the Government accept that? The Government said: “ We will not call for further applications. You decide on the unsuitable ones you have got and grant two, not one.” What would the board think when it had pressure from the Department of Civil Aviation for Ansett? lt recognized the hand of the Government and, of course, it said, in relation to Mr. Anderson’s submissions, “ We appreciate their force”. The board did; it had felt the force before.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– In raising this matter of urgency, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) uses such terms as “ favours and concessions extended to certain parties “, and from that start proceeds to rail against the evils of monopoly. In doing so, he has taken the Senate back to 1952. In the circumstances, it is not less than fair that I go back further than that year to test the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition, particularly as to what he felt then and what he feels now about monopoly, and particularly about government monopoly. I do not go outside the scope of airlines to do that.
I remind the Senate of the legislation brought down by the last Labour Government in respect of the conduct of airlines in this country. What did that legislation provide for? It provided for the setting up of a government-owned monopoly throughout Australia with the licences of existing operators to lapse as soon as Trans-Australia Airlines provided an adequate service on any route in Australia. Conclusive proof as to the adequacy of the service provided by T.A.A. was to be a statement published in the “ Common wealth Gazette “ by the Minister for Civil Aviation. Monopoly! This was the very quintessence of monopoly, created by a Government of which Senator McKenna was a member, the same Senator McKenna, let me remind the Senate - then Minister for Health - who, again in connexion with monopoly and government control in another sense, told the doctors of this country, when negotiating with them, that if they were to do any good with him they would want the Almighty on their side. This is the man who, as Leader of the Opposition, acts in this hypocritical way in the Senate to-day.
Under the Labour Party’s bill, the airlines were to be wiped out on the basis that they were to be compensated for the remainder of a licensing term of twelve months. The lurk was, of course, that they were to go for eleven months or eleven and a half months and then their licences were to lapse. Guinea Airways Limited, operating to Darwin, was given the choice of accepting £25,000 to get off the route or to be run off, and under duress it took the £25,000. Yet Senator McKenna to-day expresses his opposition to monopoly. It is all right if it is government monopoly! Through the efforts of the Opposition parties cif those days, the Liberal Party and the Country Party, and the fact that private enterprise fought the Labour Government through the courts of this country, that legislation was defeated.
Then, what did the Labour Government do? Having been defeated fairly in the courts, it set about taking administrative action to wipe the airlines out, in a way with which we remain particularly familiar and to which the Leader of the Opposition referred to-day. The first move was the imposition of stupidly exorbitant air navigation charges. It did not matter at the time that the government’s own airline, T.A.A., was losing money hand over fist, in one year the amount rising to £200,000. It could afford to pay air navigation charges and damn the loss; it was a government show. But the private enterprise airlines could not. The government airline was given a monopoly of government business. Any one travelling on a government warrant had to travel by T.A.A. It was given a monopoly of the carriage of mail. Here is another neat little trick that the government of that day pulled just before it went out of office.’ It over-provided the Australian National Airlines Commission with capital to the extent that it was not necessary for T.A.A. to have further capital made available to it for another seven years. This is the monopoly that the honorable senator talks about, the unfair monopoly!
Import licences were granted; dollars were given to the government airline, but they were denied to the private enterprise airline. The whole weight of government administration and power was brought down against private enterprise in the air by Senator McKenna and those who sit behind him, who to-day rail against monopoly. How sincere are they? I leave it at that, apart from saying, if I may, that at the time the Labour Government went out of office1 - it is a matter now of objective fact - the airline industry was in chaos, the government airline was running at a loss and had done indifferently for a number of years before that, and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had been financially crippled.
What is the position in the airline industry to-day, taken on a broad basis, compared with the position when the Labour Party left office? We have an airline industry that is soundly based. It contains two elements, one a government airline and one a’ private enterprise airline. Both airlines, I suggest, are good airlines, well conducted and well managed, and both run at a profit and to the satisfaction of both taxpayers and shareholders alike. What is the comparison between the position to-day and the position in 1950?
I wanted to say something about the development of our own policy before I answered some of the particular points raised by the Leader of the Opposition. He talks of monopoly. He says that our policy is private enterprise monopoly. If he were completely honest, he would at least acknowledge the fact that our policy since 1952, as purposefully and deliberately stated, has been a two-airline policy. May I read the agreement which was passed by this Parliament. The relevant paragraph of the agreement, which is attached as a schedule to the Airlines Agreements Act 1961, reads -
AND WHEREAS one of the objects of the parties to this agreement is to secure and maintain a position in which there are two, and not more than two, operators of trunk route airline services, one being the Commission, each capable of effective competition with the other, and the parties intend that this agreement shall be construed as having regard to that object:
No provision is made there for a government monopoly airline or a privately owned monopoly airline. Written into our legislation is a provision that there shall be two airlines, one of them being the government airline.
What happens off the trunk routes of Australia? The feeder services are conducted by a number of airline companies, some of them being subsidiaries of the Ansett organization. One service, which is in Queensland, is conducted by TransAustralia Airlines. There has been a lot of loose talk about the subsidizing of feeder services. Let us be realistic in our assessment. There cannot be anything other than a monopoly in relation to feeder services for the simple reason that the areas which they serve would not support competition, as I said yesterday. Frequently feeder services have to be supported by subsidies; otherwise there would not be feeder airline services. To speak about monopoly ownership in these terms is to play rather stupidly with words.
– Of course it is monopoly.
– I shall not bother about that interjection.
– I think you should.
– What is the situation when private enterprise conducts one of these feeder services? Quite bluntly, quite frankly, it is not the policy of this Government to move the government airline in to take over the activities of a privately owned airline which has been conducted satisfactorily. To do that may well be the policy of the Opposition; indeed, it is. Yesterday Senator Cant, and to-day Senator McKenna, referred to the desire of T.A.A. to break into an area which was being served quite satisfactorily by a private enterprise airline, despite the fact that the move, if it had been successful, would have brought about the end of subsidization in the area served and the early collapse of the private enterprise airline.
Apart from the political philosophies which govern our approach to the operation of airline services, and feeder airlines in particular, there are good practical reasons why, if private enterprise is prepared to operate feeder services, it should be permitted to do so. Surely those reasons are plain. From a purely civil aviation point of view, surely it is better that as much as possible of the money which is available to me or any one else as Minister for Civil Aviation be spent on the provision of airports, communications systems and the navigation aids that we were talking about earlier, than to put it into government airline services when private enterprise is ready, willing and able to provide the services. lt is not the purpose of the Government to move into the field of providing airline services; its purpose is to provide the facilities that make those services possible.
Now let me deal with the matter from a governmental point of view. In view of all we have to do in Australia to-day to provide roads, ports and railways, and to promote exports, is it not better for us to spend our money on such projects than on the provision of air transport services when the necessary finance is available from private enterprise sources? Somebody may say, “ That is all right, but it has a damaging effect on your government airline “. Indeed, Senator McKenna quite erroneously tried to make that point. If such a policy did have that effect, it may well have to be looked at. But what has been the record of the government airline during this Government’s term of office? It has been re-equipped time and time again and is a good modern airline. It was first equipped with Convairs, then Viscounts, later with Fokker Friendships and Electra aircraft, and now it is to be equipped with Boeing 727 aircraft.
The staff has been increased by many hundreds, and provision for its reasonable expansion is exemplified by the erection of a building in Melbourne which will cost £1,500,000. Does all this represent the action of a government which wants to run the government airline out of business? Of course it does not! Where is there evidence that the government airline is suffering because it does not operate as many feeder services as are operated by private enterprise airlines? The government airline certainly has not suffered in relation to its profitability. Honorable senators opposite tried years ago to level against me the charge that I was trying to send this airline broke. The Government has given the lie direct to that charge, because year by year the government airline has increased its standard of efficiency and profitability. To level such a charge against me will just not work. Whereas the policy of the Labour Party produced chaos, ours has produced a sound two-airline system that is giving satisfaction to the people of Australia, which is operating efficiently and - this is not the least important aspect of the matter - which is operating at a moderate profit.
I wish to run over some of the specific points which the Leader of the Opposition raised. Some of them are humorous. He took the Government to task because it imposed a tax on kerosene. Mr. President, you will recall that we imposed a tax on kerosene at a time when the private airline operator was paying tax on petrol. The Leader of the Opposition quite untruly - I say this deliberately, and he owes me an apology - said that I compelled T.A.A. to sign a cross-charter agreement. That statement is completely, utterly and, I believe, deliberately untrue. TransAustralia Airlines was a completely willing party to the cross-charter agreement, which was tabled in this House.
Why did T.A.A. sign the agreement? As I said at the time, T.A.A. realized that it was to its advantage to do so. The airline knew what would happen if it did not sign the agreement. It knew that the Ansett organization had a case for re-equipment and that that organization would have got equipment that was more modern and which would have had a better passenger appeal than T.A.A. aircraft. The crosscharter agreement was not cooked up suddenly. More than three years before there had been attempts to get that document signed for the purpose of equating the fleets, but T.A.A. would not come to the party despite the fact that to do so would have been good for the industry as a whole. Trans-Australia Airlines did not come to the party until it was to its advantage to do so. When the Leader of the Opposition said that I compelled the government airline to sign the agreement, he told an untruth, and I believe that he knew he was doing so. .- “ -
Reference was made to the government guarantees that were extended to the Ansett organization. Yes, government guarantees were extended to Ansett. They were extended in a way and on a basis which did not place the Australian taxpayers at risk for one penny. Not for one penny! What irks the Australian Labour Party more than anything else to-day is that by April of next year all the government-guaranteed loans taken out by Ansett will have been repaid. It is interesting to note that Ansett had available guarantees for the purchase of some aircraft of which he did not avail himself, but whatever he took will all be repaid next year, and Ansett will be completely free of obligation arising from guarantee given by the Government.
The Leader of the Opposition had something to say about provisions which were written into the Airlines Agreements Act in 1961. What is he complaining about? The effect of those provisions really was to put the national airline’s commercial operations on the same basis as private enterprise. Is the Leader of the Opposition not satisfied unless he gets an advantage for the national airline? Is that what he is saying? Must he have an advantage for the national airline to make it a success? The Leader of the Opposition knew full well, from his own extensive commercial experience, the purpose of these particular amendments, but when the provision was to be applied to a government show it was not good enough, because in his view it took some advantage from the government airline.
As to the acquisition of the airlines, I referred to this matter briefly the other day. Butler Air Transport Limited and Queensland Airlines Proprietary Limited were part of the original A.N.A. purchase negotiations. As to the rest of the airlines, what was wrong with the acquisition as a commercial proposition? If the shareholders of Guinea Airways Limited want to sell their shares to a certain person would the Leader of the Opposition prevent them from selling? Maybe he would do so. Maybe we are getting an exposure of what Labour policy really is in respect of share transfers.
Reference has been made to the sale of Mandated Airlines Proprietary Limited in New Guinea. As a result of that sale the Carpenter interests came into the Ansett organization and are now its biggest shareholders.
I turn now to the recent sale of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited. I gave express approval for the vendors - the MacRobertson Miller interests - to sell. It was a case of a willing buyer and a willing seller. What would the Leader of the Opposition have done? Would he have said, “ No, there is a provision in the agreement which states that if, during the currency of the agreement, the main shareholders want to sell, they must give to the Commonwealth an option for some 60 days in which the Commonwealth can either purchase or nominate another purchaser “?
– Why not?
– That was written into the agreement to cover the remote possibility of some quite impractical scheme being produced by some purchaser, but the fact is that it was not written in to prevent a genuine transfer to a genuine buyer by a genuine seller. It was not written in to prevent the transfer of shares to people who were in every way equipped, willing, ready and able to run an air service.
I cannot say any more at the moment on airlines, because I am running out of time, but I want to say something about a completely misleading reference that was made by the Leader of the Opposition to a letter submitted by the Director-General of Civil Aviation, Mr. Anderson, to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in connexion with an Ansett subsidiary’s application for a television licence. The circumstances were these: On 30th November, during the hearing, Mr. Harris, assisting the board, put to Mr. Walker, who was giving evidence on behalf of the Ansett people, the following question: -
Would it be too sweeping a statement to say that the history of the parent company bad been largely one of struggling with Government control rather than co-operation with Government control?
Walker said, “ No “. But on the completion of the day’s evidence counsel for Ansett, realizing that this might be taken up by other counsel, thought he had better reinforce his position. He asked Ansett to get letters describing what his relationship was not only with the Department of Civil Aviation - and the Leader of the Opposition might be surprised to hear this - but also with the Victorian
Transport Regulation Board. The Transport Regulation Board submitted a letter, written in very commendatory terms, about Ansett’s association with the Transport Regulation Board and subsequently the Director of Civil Aviation provided a similar type of letter.
The Director-General’s letters are factual statements of the department’s association with Ansett. Does the Australian Labour Party object to the truth being told to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in circumstances such as 1 have described? Does it object to the truth being told because it does not suit the Labour Party’s political purposes? All that happened was that Mr. Anderson was asked to provide a factual statement of his association with Ansett Transport Industries Limited in the same manner as the Victoria Transport Regulation Board provided a letter.
– What did the Transport Regulation Board have to do with it?
– The board is a government organization with which the Ansett group has had as close an association in surface transport as Ansett has had with the Department of Civil Aviation in airways.
– What has that to do with television?
– As I explained, my reference to television arose out of a query as to whether the Ansett group was capable of getting on with government departments and both government departments said “ Yes “. I have one thing to say, and 1 have done. The Opposition has brought this matter into the Senate. I say quite deliberately that if the Leader of the Opposition wants Ansett or his shareholders to believe that they are not under attack, then he is going to have a very hard job convincing them. Every word the Leader of the Opposition has said, and every word used by Labour spokesmen, about Ansett Transport Industries in recent years has been a deliberate attack on a private enterprise organization which over the years has committed the sin - in the eyes of the Australian Labour Party - of achieving relatively reasonable prosperity. In the process it has attracted to it no fewer than 59,000 shareholders and noteholders - good
Australians who were prepared to put their money into a private enterprise show. What we have heard to-day is no more than another manifestation of the enduring hatred that the Labour Party has for private enterprise in Australia. What it has done to-day, and what it will continue to do, will achieve no more than to steel private industry against the activities of the socialists who succeed in exposing their intentions all too frequently. No promise of temporary or ephemeral abandonment of socialism, such as that with which the leader of the party tried to win the support of the Australian electorate at the last general election, will succeed. The Labour Party is known too well. I welcome the proposal that has been brought forward by the Opposition to-day, as another manifestation of the deep and bitter hatred that it feels towards people who are reasonably successful.
.- I support the case which has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I was delighted to hear the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) say that the Australian Labour Party would not put its case in a temperate way.
– He was temperate!
– Was he? The moment we mention Ansett, what happens? The Minister flies off the handle. One wonders why. He did not answer the case submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. Since Senator Paltridge has been Minister for Civil Aviation, every bill dealing with civil aviation that has been brought into this chamber has meant something for Ansett, to the detriment of the government-owned airline. This subject seems to be a very sore point with the Minister. Apparently, we could all be very friendly with him if we always supported Ansett and were prepared to give him and his company concessions, as the Minister does.
Senator McKenna outlined a number of events which have occurred since Senator Paltridge became Minister for Civil Aviation, but the Minister did not answer the case presented. He said that the Labour Party was concerned only to see a governmentowned monopoly. I say that we of the Labour Party are concerned to see him put into effect the aim, which he has so often voiced, of bringing about free and fair competition between the two main airlines in this nation. Has he introduced legislation to achieve that objective? He knows, or he should, that the moment Ansett gobbles up feeder airlines, free and fair competition between the two major airlines no longer exists for the passengers who are affected. 1 think it fair to say that, with AnsettA.N.A. controlling MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, 95 per cent, of passengers from that line who want to travel interstate, will travel by Ansett-A.N.A. On numerous occasions I have asked the Minister to give Trans-Australia Airlines the same intrastate rights as those enjoyed by AnsettA.N.A. When Mr. Warren McDonald was chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, he asked for the same thing. But no. Ansett may buy up, or make agreements with, all the feeder lines in New South Wales, but T.A.A. has no feeder line. It has only an arrangement with East-West Airlines Limited. The position in civil aviation circles to-day is that between 80 per cent, and 90 per cent, of all the feeder services on non-competitive routes are operated by Ansett-A.N.A. Can it be wondered that we object to the fact that every amendment of the act has helped the competitor of the nation’s own airline?
The Minister becomes very excited whenever we say anything about Ansett. One wonders why.
– What do you suggest?
– I am not suggesting anything. I merely wonder why. We want the Minister to provide the free and fair competition about which he has spoken time and again. If he does so, we shall see then which airline rules the Australian skies. Surely the Government does not expect the Opposition to applaud all the handouts to the competitor of the nationally-owned airline. Is there any other country in which the government says, in effect: “We own the Post Office and we nin all the mail services. To be fair, we will give half the carriage of mails by air to the competitor of the nation’s airline.” ? That is what has happened in Australia. It is a stupid thing to do. So long as that arrangement continues, the Opposition will I aix its voice in protest.
The Minister said that he did not make a point of the rationalization decisions, which had been reached in accordance with the legislation that has been introduced, in order to help his friends, the Ansett people. He did not mention the routes which previously were operated exclusively by T.A.A., but to which AnsettA.N.A. has been given access, such as the Brisbane to Mount Isa route, the Rockhampton to Longreach route, the Alice Springs route, and the route to Darwin from Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. Any one who tries to find the routes which T.A.A. has received will have to keep on looking. He will not find one. Is that free and fair competition, in the interests of the nation?
The Minister also said that the crosscharter arrangement was a wonderful boon to T.A.A. No one connected with T.A.A. will support him in that contention.
– Yes, they will.
– That statement is like others that the Minister has made. He has never said why T.A.A. was compelled to agree to the cross-charter arrangement. He has not stated that if T.A.A. had not agreed, Ansett would have been able to obtain an additional Electra aircraft. He did not say that if T.A.A. did not agree to this course Ansett would not have been able to introduce economy fares on the eastern States to Perth run. One wonders whether this free competition, about which the Minister speaks so glibly every time a civil aviation bill is before the Senate, will ever operate to ensure fair play between both airlines. Since the present Minister for Civil Aviation has been in office every airline bill brought down has helped only one airline - the Ansett airline. I have a list of these measures here, but I do not want to go through them now.
The Minister took strong exception when Senator McKenna read the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s recommendations for the grant of a commercial licence.
– He did not read all of them.
– He was not given time to read them all. If I have time I shall read them. Did the Minister consent to the Director-General of Civil Aviation going before the board to give evidence?
– He did not go there.
– That is so. He sent the board a letter. Did the Minister agree to that? Honorable senators cannot argue with what Senator McKenna read from the report -
We have carefully considered these submissions and appreciate their force.
Unless the Director-General of Civil Aviation had permission from the Minister to write the letter he should not have written it. The board did not ask for it. Who asked him to write it? It was the friend, Ansett.
– Why do you say “ friend “?
– Because every bill that has been introduced with regard to civil aviation has helped one airline against the other, and if that is not friendship I should like to know what is. Senator Wright looks at me as if I am impugning some one’s honour. I am not; I am saying that this is legislation for friends. 1 am not implying that there was any wrongdoing, but if any honorable senator reads the legislation he will find that this is one of the blots on the political history of this nation in recent years.
– It has been legislation passed by the Parliament for the maintenance of competition.
– How nice it is that you have got away with it! In every instance that the Government has brought in legislation that legislation has had one purpose - to take away from the people’s airline and to give to its competitor.
– That is why they are still in business.
– That is all very well. An airline cannot be expected to be making a profit the year after its establishment.
– Would you say that-
– If you keep to your indentured labour you will make almost as much profit as Ansett does.
– You misunderstand the honorable senator.
– What I say is true. I do not want to take it from him.
What he did last time was filthy, and I do not forget it. He is fit for the donkeys and for sweated labour.
– What I did say-
– I want to get back to the topic of the debate and to leave the donkey alone.
– Did you not say that favours were given to Australian National Airways when Holyman was in control?
– I never mentioned Holyman at all. Every amendment of the act since the present Minister has been in office has taken away from the nation’s airline and has given to Ansett.
– But the next question is: Did not the Holyman company-
– Listen; I am stating the facts.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Within two minutes of the commencement of this debate this censure motion stood revealed as a sham and a mockery, for did not the. Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) stand up with an unctuous air and use words something like this: “I make no attack on Mr. Ansett or his companies. They are daring; they are courageous; they are progressive and they deserve to prosper.” ? What arrant humbug! Was the Leader of the Opposition not aware of the scurrilous attack upon Mr. Ansett by the leader of the Australian Labour Party in another place when this very issue was under discussion? Did not the Leader of the Opposition in this Senate know that the Honorable Arthur Calwell used these words-
– Under privilege.
– He used the words under privilege, I am reminded, and he has been invited to say them without privilege, but I have not heard of his uttering them. Mr. Calwell said -
Ansett Transport Industries Limited has £6,000,000 worth of dubious assets.
– What did he mean by that?
– You can put your own interpretation on that. I do not trade in that sort of stuff. You may be able to supply the answer. Mr. Calwell continued -
The liabilities amount to some £32,000,000.
Can it be said that that is not an attack on an individual, on a company that Senator McKenna describes as daring and progressive? But the gem of all, from the leader of the Australian Labour Party in another place, is revealed in these words -
To all intents and purposes the man is broke.
I tell my friends of the Opposition quite bluntly, if they do not already know, that that personal attack, plus this personal attack, has in the nostrils of respectable, decent, thinking people been revolting, and they just will not support that sort of attack made under privilege. If you have a case to state and it is a good one you do not have to become excited about it. You do not have to scream to high heaven, nor do you have to make damaging statements; you stick to the facts and you make your point.
This is not a criticism of this Government’s policy on television. The record of this Government is an impeccable one and the envy of many countries of the world, for at this point of time, when the present stage is completed, this Government will have provided a television service to 91 per cent, of the people on this great land mass of Australia. What a magnificent record that is. This attack by the Opposition, Mr. Deputy President, stands revealed, as my friend, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), has said, as an attack on private enterprise. It is an attack on a spirit that is developing this country and bringing it to the point at which it is the tenth largest trading nation in the world. That is what private enterprise is doing for this country. The people who criticize private enterprise stand in their places and advocate the dead hand of socialism in a young and developing country. This is an attack on a successful man who had the courage and the vision and the know-how to start at the bottom and build for himself and his shareholders a magnificent business which is serving the development of this country. That is the sort of thing that Opposition senators are eager to criticize. If you take private enterprise from this country you take out the pioneering spirit. God help this country if that ever becomes a reality.
Even worse than the attack of the Leader of the Opposition in another place, I suggest, was the attack made to-day by Senator McKenna on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. He said, in effect, “ Here is a body of men who are susceptible to pressure”. He quoted the old adage, “A wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse “. Surely I am not doing him any injustice when I say that that statement is to be interpreted as meaning that here is a body of men who are susceptible to pressure. I believe that every rightthinking person in the land will reject that sort of allegation in its entirety. Of course, Sir, it must be conceded immediately that licences to operate television stations are very valuable assets which are sought by many sections of the community. Because this Government knew the real value of those assets it made quite plain to the people of Australia that television licences’ would be granted on a basis that would stand any examination. The Government appointed a royal commission to investigate and report upon this matter. The commission, which furnished its report in 1954, stated that television licences should be granted on the recommendation of a statutory body. The royal commission laid down this principle -
There should be a licensing system for commercial television stations similar to that which at present applies to commercial broacasting stations. The licensing authority should be the Minister, who should exercise the functions of granting, renewing and revoking licences. In exercising these powers he should be required to take into consideration recommendations made by a statutory authority which should also discharge certain technical, administrative and regulatory functions.
That is what the royal commission recommended. Yet members of the Opposition in another place have screamed to high heaven for the appointment of another royal commission to inquire into television and broadcasting. What would they dowith the recommendations of another royal commission when they will not accept the recommendations of the royal commission which has already been held? If the present system is so objectionable to Opposition senators I remind them that there have been two general elections since this has become the policy of the Government; yet never once have I seen any variation of this system proposed in any policy speech. So successful has this system been that in every instance in which the board has made a recommendation for a licence the Government has accepted it.
I know that some one will ask, “ What about Adelaide and Brisbane? “. To-day, some one told half the story in this regard. The facts are these: In calling for applications the Government did not say whether one or two licences would be issued. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, having heard the applications, recommended to the Government that one licence only should be available in each of these two cities. The Government said: “ No. We have come to the conclusion that those cities will each carry two commercial licences. You go back and recommend the people whom you think should have the licences.” The board did that and the Government accepted its recommendations. How right the Government’s policy was! To-day, both of these cities are carrying two stations which are functioning successfully.
Let us look at the extension of a third television licence to Victoria and the successful applicant, Mr. Ansett. The Government called for applications and some six companies lodged applications. The applicants formed themselves into companies. They established themselves with boards having widespread interests in their own State. They spent huge sums of money in the establishment of their financial arrangements and on the structure of their proposed companies. They arranged for expert advice to be made available to them in order to present evidence to the board. To my knowledge, at least one company brought overseas experts to this country to assist it in the preparation of its case. The applicants engaged counsel and went into this project determined to secure the licence if they could. Not one individual, not one company and not one member of the Labour Party suggested before these hearings that the board was suspect. Not one! But to-day the Leader of the Opposition stands in his place and says that the board is subservient to government pressure. The board, having taken evidence in Melbourne which filled 5,000 pages of transcript, came to its conclusions and recommended that the licence be granted to Mr. Ansett. Is there any member of the Opposition who has read the transcript of evidence? No one answers, “ Yes “. Yet Opposition senators have the temerity to stand and claim to speak with some authority. The board alone, apparently, examined the transcript with diligence and then made its recommendation.
What would the Opposition have the Government do to-day? Would they say to us: “ Reject the recommendation of the board. Dispense with Mr. Ansett’s application “? What is the alternative? Would you have us pull a name out of a hat and revert to the law of the jungle? Would you have us give the licence to some of our friends? Is that what you are suggesting?
– To whose friends?
– I repeat - to our friends. Or do you suggest that we give it to some of your friends?
– That might be better.
– Or do we send the matter back to the board to have another look at the applications? Do we say to those people who spent great sums of money in preparing a case for examination by the board: “ lt is just too bad, fellows. Start all over again. Dig deeper and deeper into your pockets and present a bigger and brighter case.”? If we say that we have to say this, too: “ Mind you, gentlemen, even when the hearing is concluded and the board makes it recommendations we give you no guarantee that the board’s advice will be accepted because its recommendation might not make provision for some one who is acceptable to the Labour Party.” That is exactly what the position could be. Such a state of affairs would be a pretty sad state for Australia. I say, Mr. Deputy President, that this Government’s policy of adopting the recommendations of the board is the only policy acceptable to the people of Australia. They will not countenance patronage or haphazard methods of dealing with a great national asset. Their support for what this Government has done in relation to television completely vindicates the action that the Government has taken.
Finally, Mr. Deputy President, I ask the people on the Opposition benches who criticize - not logically but vigorously - the Government’s action in accepting the board’s recommendation of R. M. Ansett: Whom, out of the eight applicants, would they nominate?
.- The Minister for Health (Senator Wade) has been very much out of character in his reply to the statements made by Opposition speakers. It would appear that he has decided to abuse the Opposition rather than follow his usual logical approach to matters such as this. That proves that he is defending an indefensible case in answer to that presented by the Opposition against the privileges granted to R. M. Ansett.
– The Opposition’s case is a completely indefensible case.
– I refer to the actions of the Minister for Health, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) and the Government generally as being indefensible. Senator Wade made the point also that no one had criticized the Australian Broadcasting Control Board before this had happened. That is our case exactly. The Minister for Civil Aviation has not only consistenly given these favours, privileges and patronage to R. M. Ansett and Ansett Transport Industries Limited, but now the favours are spilling over into a new field as the result of the granting of this television licence in Victoria.
– What is your definition of the word “ favour “?
– My definition of the word “ favour “ is the giving of undue consideration in every field to one section of the investing public against another, and to one section of business interests against another. In the present context it also means basically depriving the Australian public’s own airline of the ability to compete with private interests. The Minister for Civil Aviation has consistently given such favours. I believe that the Government will obtain considerable benefit in return at the next general election, just as it has obtained benefits at past elections.
– Have you anything to suggest that?
– One never has anything to suggest these things, but in the byelection campaign for the division of Grey vast sums of money are being expended by the Liberal Party. Where does that money come from? As a result of the credit squeeze private enterprise has lost confidence in this Government. Senator Wade and Senator Paltridge spoke about the support of the bank officers who canvassed for the parties now in office in the 1949 general election campaign. Those officers are talking now about going out and canvassing against the Government. They have been betrayed. Private enterprise has been betrayed. The small businessman is being gobbled up by this huge organization that is receiving the patronage and the favours of the Minister and the Government. The granting of concessions such as have been granted to this organization is not becoming in a democratic country such as Australia.
Speaking about Mr. Ansett, Sir Giles Chippindall was reported as follows: - “ What does Mr. Ansett want? “, asked Sir Giles Chippindall. “More than half the passenger traffic and more than 60 per cent, of the freight. “ Is he a believer in competition only when it benefits his company and does he seek to apply political pressure when he is unable to obtain his desires by fair competitive means?”
Sir Giles Chippindall pointed out that Ansett Transport Industries:
Handled about half the passenger traffic on all routes run in competition with T.A.A.
Carried 60 per cent, of the freight on all competitive routes.
Was granted 50 per cent, of all mail carriage, valued at £500,000 a year by his company.
Had free access to all Government travel.
Had certain Government guarantees on finance.
Sir Giles Chippindall said Ansett’s had intrastate rights which were used extensively by the company and its subsidiaries which fed substantial traffic to main inter-State routes. T.A.A. was restricted in this respect to Queensland and the Northern Territory.
– What is wrong with that?
– I am pointing out that consistently down through the years this favouritism and favorable bias has been shown to Ansett Transport Industries and has now overflowed into another field. Mr. Ansett has a monopoly of intra-state airlines. He has the advantages that Sir Giles Chippindall pointed out. Finding that Ansett has now reached saturation point in air transport the Minister has helped him in the television field by the advice he gave to his departmental head to go before the Australian Broadcasting
Control Board and speak on behalf of Mr. Ansett, who is now able to enter new fields and pastures.
This man has taken over Butler Air Transport Limited, Queensland Airlines, Guinea Airways Limited and Mandated Airlines Proprietary Limited. The important thing about these takeovers is that these feeder airlines feed the main trunk airlines. He has interests also in Cathay Pacific Airways Limited of Hong Kong, Pacific Air Maintenance and Supply Company, South Pacific Airlines of New Zealand and Air Beef Proprietary Limited. Mr. Ansett complains about Trans-Australia Airlines being able to operate on 5 per cent, interest. The point is that in the long run the fact that Ansett Transport Industries Limited pays 10 per cent, interest on loans is one of the most evil influences on the loan market in Australia, for the simple reason that by being able to pay 10 per cent, interest as the result of being maintained by government subsidy it is depriving other organizations of the opportunity to go on to the market and obtain cheaper interestbearing loans. In that way it is keeping interest rates up.
Mr. Ansett has been placed in a most favoured position as the result of patronage and the consistent support of members of the Government, and particularly the Minister for Civil Aviation.
Some one mentioned the condition of the company’s balance sheet. On 30th June, 1962, the assets of the organization were worth £35,762,000. Its liabilities amounted to £25,567,000. It is claimed that that shows that Ansett is in a very strong position financially, but the position is that the total liabilities of £12,273,000 exceeded assets of £8,500,000. So, although Ansett has been given these concessions, the organization is feeding on companies such as Mandated Airlines Proprietary Limited and the various transport companies that it has been taking over. It has done this in a similar manner to the way in which Reid Murray Holdings acted. Each time that organization took over a new company the books were so fixed that new assets could be shown and taxation concessions claimed.
The Ansett organization is becoming a monopoly within the private enterprise group. Although both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Civil Aviation have claimed that they are in the forefront of the fight for private enterprise there is really no such thing as private enterprise to-day in the true sense of the word because the Ministers to whom I have referred, and their supporters behind them, have stood by and watched the gobbling-up of smaller business organizations.
The Government was responsible for the credit squeeze in the first place. That drove many of the smaller men so close to the wall that they were in the position for taking over. Take-overs have been the order of the day, aided and abetted by the policy of this Government, and particularly by the Minister for Civil Aviation who is acting in his own sphere with a tremendous amount of arrogance in a similar way to which R. M. Ansett is acting in the business sphere. He has a very arrogant approach. He says, “ We are powerful and if any people oppose us we will abuse them and fix them “. That is not a proper state of affairs. Mr. Ansett says that he wants to create an Australian image on television. I hope that I shall never live to see the day when the Australian image is represented by a monopolistic set-up, under which small enterprises, companies and businesses can be taken over with money that is, so to speak, taken from the taxpayer in the form of guarantees. Mr. R. M. Ansett himself says that the profits of his company are guaranteed for fourteen years ahead at 10 per cent. That means to say that, right or wrong, whatever happens to Ansett Transport Industries Limited, a return of 10 per cent, is assured. It is the only airline in the world and the only company in Australia that can say its profits are assured at the rate of 10 per cent, for the next fourteen years. Yet the Minister says: “ That is good. It is private enterprise. I shall make certain that that state of affairs continues”.
We of the Opposition believe that it is a public scandal that this organization, having all of the privileges that it has been granted over the years, should be able to continue with the influence of the Minister for Civil Aviation and of his departmental head, who went in to give evidence on his behalf before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
– That is not true.
– On whose behalf?
– On Ansett’s behalf, before the Broadcasting Control Board.
– He did not. He wrote a letter.
– He did. He took with him all of the power, status and other qualities which traditionally go with the head of a Public Service department, to speak on behalf of Ansett Transport Industries. Did he go on behalf of any other applicant? Did any other head of a Public Service department go on behalf of any other applicant? No! As has been stated before in this debate, it is unprecedented in the annals of the Public Service for a departmental head to go into a matter that is completely outside his field. Television should be the last field into which the Director-General of Civil Aviation should venture. We say that nothing is beyond R. M. Ansett’s reach. He does not want only a monopoly over the airways. It looks as though he wants a monopoly also over the air waves. His field of activities is extending further and further out into the tourist, transport, freight, hotel, airways and television industries. This is called a dispersal of interests, or some other such technical term.
– They are all ancillary industries, anyhow.
– Every feature of life is ancillary to every other feature. I believe that the Australian image, which Ansett claims to want to present, should be very different from the image of monopoly. We are at a very important stage of development in relation to transport facilities. T.A.A. has been deprived of concessions for intra-state operations, which have been given to the Ansett organization. There is a concession in regard to feeder airlines. In relation to DC3 aircraft and certain other aircraft there is a concession on aviation petrol. Most of these aircraft are being operated by Ansett-A.N.A. A surcharge of 6d. a gallon was applied to aviation kerosene; this was in addition to the surcharge of Id. that previously applied. It operated in favour of Ansett-A.N.A. and against T.A.A. We have found that the Minister will never come into this chamber and propose anything that will be of assistance to the government airline, the people’s airline, the tried and trusted airline. Hearing the Minister speak, one would think that the members of the Australian National Airlines Commission were a bunch of ogres, or a bunch of blackcoated plotters, and that the great staff of T.A.A., which has done such a magnificent job-
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I have been in a reminiscent, contemplative mood for the past quarter of an hour, because during my absence from the Senate for some years I had quite forgotten what Senator O’Byrne, of Tasmania, was really like when he got wound up. I am afraid that his speech, like the matter of urgency now under consideration, consists of a series of allegations. One of Senator O’Byrne’s most serious allegations results in the character and quality of the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation in Australia being impugned. The honorable senator said - I quote from memory - “ Mr. Anderson appeared before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and gave evidence on behalf of Mr. R. M. Ansett “. I think you know, Mr. President, and the Senate should know, that that statement is quite untrue.
What happened before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was simply that one of the counsel assisting the board raised the question of whether Mr. R. M. Ansett, in relation to a television licence, had enough experience and association with government regulatory agencies to know how to operate. As a result of that, Mr. Ansett’s witness was asked whether he would provide evidence to that effect. He said, “ Yes “, and added that Ansett had been associated with the Victorian Transport Board and the Department of Civil Aviation. A question was then posed as to whether these authorities could give any evidence to the effect that Ansett was capable of working with a government department. The Director-General of Civil Aviation was asked by the board whether he would give some evidence on that matter. But he did not appear before the board. He, in common with the secretary of the Victorian Transport Board, wrote letters to the board, stating that he had a lot of experience with Mr. Ansett and had found him always to be a man of probity with ability to sustain his undertakings. That position has to be made perfectly clear because this is one of those constant, repetitive allegations that have been made against this man.
What I and every other man and woman In the Senate would like to know is why Mr. R. M. Ansett is being singled out to be particularly and personally attacked in relation to his conduct of airlines and his proposed conduct of a television station. Why is this man being singled out? His critics are not singling out so much his industry. He owns only 3 per cent, of the shareholding in Ansett Transport Industries Limited. He is being singled out in accordance with the old socialist street-fighting system of denigrating one man, just bawling away at him until you put the idea in the public mind that this man is not all that he might be. That is exactly what honorable senators opposite mean to do by their repetitive allegations against Reginald Myles Ansett. It is character assassination. I think it is time that this was dragged out into the open.
By way of interjection to Senator O’Byrne, I asked, “ What do you mean by favours? “ He immediately began - as I knew he would, because it is characteristic of him - to associate favours with money. That is what he meant and that is why I interjected. So he is imputing, in fact, that anything that is done for Mr. R. M. Ansett is a favour and is associated with some form of corruption.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– We have been debating a matter of urgency which has been raised by the Australian Labour Party and which really is in the nature of a censure motion. I have always believed that a censure motion is something about which the Opposition feels very deeply, but it is interesting to note that now, upon resumption of the debate after the suspension of the sitting, only four Opposition senators are in attendance. That seems to indicate that Opposition senators do not feel very deeply about the matter they have raised. It seems that they have brought it forward merely as an exercise.
I am sorry that Senator McKenna is not in the chamber at the moment, because I intend to refer to some matters that he raised when he led on behalf of the Opposition this afternoon. I have a distinct dislike of making reference to any member of the Parliament, particularly the
Leader of the Opposition in this place, during his absence. However, I am compelled to proceed in his absence.
Senator O’Byrne has repeated the Labour Party’s accusation that Mr. Anderson, the Director-General of Civil Aviation, behaved improperly in giving what amounted to a character reference to Mr. R. M. Ansett, who, with some of his executives, appeared before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in support of his application for the television licence which was becoming available in Melbourne. Actually, Mr. Anderson did not appear before the Broadcasting Control Board. Counsel assisting the board asked the specific question as to whether Mr. Ansett could give any indication that he was used to dealing with government departments. Mr. Ansett or one of his officers said that he could, and he was asked who could furnish that information. He said, “ I have been operating with the Department of Civil Aviation in the course of aviation business “. The board then asked whether the Director-General of Civil Aviation was willing to provide it with information about his association with Mr. Ansett. Mr. Anderson supplied the information desired. I believe that Mr. Anderson acted quite properly. If he had refused to provide the board with that information, it would have been quite within the board’s power to subpoena him to appear before it.
The second matter to which I wish to refer is the statement made this afternoon in the most direct terms by my learned friend, the Leader of the Opposition, that the Melbourne licence was granted to Austarama Television Proprietary Limited, one of half a dozen applicants, on the basis that the Broadcasting Control Board anticipated, recognized or had been told that the favoured applicant was one that represented Ansett Transport Industries Limited. That is a most scandalous statement. It impugns the foundations upon which licensing systems of any sort are based. The Parliament, when debating the broadcasting and television legislation from time to time, has been most careful to ensure that the legislation provides for a means whereby the government of the day can be informed about the character and quality of applicants for television licences.
Provision has been made for devilling into, if I may use that word, or exhaustively examining the character and quality of applicants by the Broadcasting Control Board and for the board, as a body of disinterested men, to recommend to the Government to whom the licence should be granted.
It is well to remember that the Parliament has made provision for these licences to be granted, in the first place, for a period of five years to give the successful applicants an opportunity to establish themselves, and for them to be renewed annually thereafter. In addition, a most stringent set of conditions has been laid down so that licence holders may be controlled by the Postmaster-General, presumably on the advice - and very properly so - of the Broadcasting Control Board, which exercises vigilance on behalf of the Parliament and the Government in relation to these matters.
It is interesting to examine the report and recommendations submitted to the PostmasterGeneral on the applications for licences in the Sydney area and the Melbourne area. This very exhaustive document deals with the qualifications, implicit or explicit, of the various contenders for these television licences. The board’s recommendations were accepted by the Government, as has been the case with every other recommendation submitted by it to the Government. In Part III. - Observations, the board sets out the criteria which it applies in examining the qualifications of applicants for television licences. Stated briefly, they are as follows: - Good character and high reputation, directors and executive officers with a proper appreciation of their responsibilities, a genuine intention to commence on high standards, financial stability, a good record in allied fields, and ability to provide a satisfactory service. That was the test which was applied to all the applicants in Sydney and Melbourne. Having applied those criteria, the Broadcasting Control Board stated that in its opinion there was only one applicant in Victoria who could satisfy its requirements.
In making its recommendation, the Broadcasting Control Board said -
There are special features about this application lo which we think we should refer shortly.
The board was referring to the application which had been submitted by Austarama Television Proprietary Limited. It continued -
Austarama Television Pty. Ltd., as shown in paragraph 22, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. In addition to the directors of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd., Messrs. R. M. Ansett, R. Moore, Sir George Jones and Sir Douglas Copland -
Two of Australia’s darling socialists, in the opinion of the Australian Labour Party - the following are members of the Board of Directors of the applicant company: - Messrs. W. M. Woodfull-
Those who are interested in cricket know who he is -
Walter Scott, Lewis Bennett and R. R. Walker. Ansell’ Transport Industries Ltd. is a public company incorporated in Victoria with, at present, 26,781 ordinary shareholders, to be increased to 40,083 . . .
It is not Mr. Ansett who has got this licence; it is the 40,000 shareholders. Then the report continues -
The only large shareholder in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. is W. R. Carpenter Holdings Ltd., which holds 7 per cent, of the shares and votes. Mr. R. M. Ansett and his family hold 3 per cent’, of the shares and votes.
I hope that statement will dispose of the accusation that Mr. R. M. Ansett has been unduly favoured.
In conclusion, I should like to make this comment. Members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board interview and cross-examine all applicants for licences, together with their associates, directors and executives, and form their own opinions about the ability of the men who will conduct the television stations to be established. The point is that the board stated that the outstanding applicant for the Melbourne licence was Austarama Television Proprietary Limited. Members of the board were of the opinion that at the present time only one man in Victoria had the necessary drive, energy and capacity to provide that which was sadly lacking in Victorian television services. That was the opinion of unbiased men who have been maligned and impugned to-day by members of the Australian Labour Party and in particular by the Leader of the Opposition, who I believe behaved and spoke quite out of character this afternoon.
– I support the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). In my opinion the Government and its supporters have failed to answer the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and the ground has been shifted to general assertions that Trans-Australia Airlines was a monopoly and that the Government had done something about that. But the Opposition believes it has a duty to the Australian people to bring forward matters such as this because, it feels impelled to take every action to stop monopolistic trends within the economy. We believe that such trends are actually developing and that although the Government talks about these things it fails to recognize that they are actually happening and is doing nothing about the problem.
When we criticize what the Government has done about T.A.A. and when the Leader of the Opposition asks, as he has done, for answers to stated points, all we get in reply are attacks such as those that have been made by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) and the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). These attacks have centred on the Leader of the Opposition personally. I am surprised at the reaction of this Government, which introduced into this chamber only last year a statement on restrictive trade practices. This submission was made by the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) on behalf of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). It is astonishing that the Government now should try to defend the developments which are taking place in Ansett Transport Industries. This organization is intruding not only into airways, where it has the strong support of the Government, but is also intruding further into road transport, and now into television. When we study the ramifications of the Ansett organization we find that it comes within the scope of the statement on restrictive trade practices to which I have referred. In his statement on behalf of the Attorney-General the Minister for the Navy said on 7th December, 1962, as reported at page 1841 of “Hansard” -
The Government, having been furnished with the results of my efforts in this connexion, has concluded, and I think few, if any, will deny, that there are practices current ir the community which by reason of their restrictive nature are harmful to the public interest - that interest being in the maintenance, of free enterprise under which citizens are at liberty to participate in the production and distribution of the nation’s wealth. . . .
At page 1842, the Minister for the Navy stated on behalf of the Attorney-General -
Before outlining the scheme of legislation which the Government has in contemplation, I ought to indicate broadly the philosophy which underlies it. In opening the second session of the twentythird Parliament, the Governor-General indicated that the Government desired to protect and strengthen free enterprise against tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry. . . . The criterion or test which accords with the Government’s philosophy and its understanding of the needs of the economy as a whole is that a practice which in its operation substantially restricts competition, either in a particular area or areas of business activity or generally, and which cannot be shown to be justified as either conferring a public benefit or as having no public detriment, is harmful. Expressed in legislative form, the justification may be said to be that the practice is not contrary to the public interest.
We believe that the nurturing of the A.N.A. organization since its very difficult days has in fact been against the public interest. Although we have a national airline operating successfully - and still doing so despite the difficulties - we have seen an absolute insistence by this Government on the privately owned airline being kept on sound financial footing. The Government has supported the private airline financially so that it has been able to make important inroads into aviation traffic. The important factor which makes this competition unfair is the association that Ansett Transport Industries Limited has with road services, property and now with the persuasive field of television.
When the Leader of the Opposition made well-founded attacks on this system he made no personal attack on the person who runs the enterprise. We are not concerned with individuals. We are concerned only with trends in the Australian economy which are unfair to competitors and are not helping the development of the economy. In this case, our complaint basically is applied to road and air transport and to practices which are unfair to the Government’s own enterprise, which the Minister for Civil Aviation should be nurturing and protecting.
The points which the Leader of the Opposition has developed were not answered. There was no answer to the evidence adduced by the Leader of the Opposition that since 1957 there had been seven take-overs by this combine and that the interests of T.A.A. were not watched in the deal over MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited in Western Australia. Rather than acquiesce in this sort of deal the Government should have been concerned first of all with its effect on T.A.A. There was no answer to the charge by the Leader of the Opposition that the Ansett-A.N.A. organization could now operate all around’ Australia. There was no attempt to justify the deals that have taken place. These are things that the Australian people want to know about.
In reply to other statements by the Leader of the Opposition we heard assertions that since the establishment of a national airline the Australian Labour Party had gone out of its way to make sure that T.A.A. would become a monopoly. If this were true - and there is no reason to suppose that the Labour Party should not have done what it did, because the Minister for Civil Aviation has admitted that T.A.A. is a successful enterprise even when running in adverse conditions - it must be remembered that this is part of a world trend. It is recognized that governments should have a sound airline organization for use not only in peace time but also in time of war.
The Government has shifted its ground in this debate and the Leader of the Opposition has been attacked after some of his statements were twisted to make them appear to be an attack on Mr. Ansett. But where are the answers to the questions that were raised by the Leader of the Opposition? He made no personal attack on anybody. He did not attack the leader of the Ansett enterprises. It is true that T.A.A. is suffering from some very unfair competition. First of all there is the channelling of services which has resulted from the successful operation of Ansett-A.N.A. and the takeovers that the Leader of the Opposition has mentioned. In all States where there are intra-state services the passengers will normally and naturally also use the trunk lines of private enterprise. Then there is the road transport organization. People who want to travel where there are no air services will use Ansett buses. So he will have a close grasp on road passenger services, intra-state air services and trunk-line air services.
If this were not sufficient to complain about, we now have a television licence granted to a subsidiary of the Ansett organization. This again is most extraordinary. I want to read some extracts from the report and recommendations of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which the Minister should study, to give some picture of what this means to the Australian people. Does the report mean that, because this is a successful enterprise and has been efficient in industry, it is entitled to go into another field in which it has no experience? In this respect, let me refer to the report and recommendations which were made to the Postmaster-General by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on applications for a licence for a commercial television station in the Sydney area and also in the Melbourne area. In reference to the application by Austarama Television Proprietary Limited, the Broadcasting Control Board stated in paragraph S3, at page 105 of the report -
The application is unusual in this series of applications in that it is made by a subsidiary of a large public company. It was submitted that by adopting this course two purposes were achieved -
substantially because of the wide spread of public shareholding in Ansett Transport Industries Limited, the application was made on behalf of a very large and representative group of members of the public;
there was no possibility of doubt as to the ownership or control, or financial resources, stability and competence of the applicant, since these did not depend on proposals or undertakings but on the known and established facts as to the ownership, financial capacity, competence, ability and executive skill of Ansett Transport Industries Limited.
In paragraph 85, at page 106, the following statement appears: -
The airline operations of Ansett Transport Industries Limited are not only strictly regulated under the laws of the Commonwealth but as a result of the Civil Aviation Agreements the successful operation of the company’s airline is in effect guaranteed by the Commonwealth for a lengthy period. We have considered whether a company with such a privileged position under the airlines legislation should also be enabled to operate a commercial television station . . . since it is clear that the number of such licences must be strictly limited and they confer valuable privileges.
The following statement should concern the Minister for Civil Aviation very much: -
This point was not clearly raised or fully argued before us: we have given it careful consideration and, in our opinion, this applicant is not disqualified on this ground. While we do not think that the contention of the applicant that television is a logical extension of its transport operations is justified in the terms in which it was put forward by Mr. Ansett in evidence, it seems to be fairly claimed that the very large service industry which is carried on by Ansett Transport Industries is not entirely dissimilar to a television service in the sense that experience in conducting public services is an essential qualification for each. 1 suggest that persuasion of that kind is nonsense. It means that a great monopoly like Woolworths Limited, or the Coles organization, which functions in the consumer field, would be entitled to have its efficiency in that field given weight if it were to apply for a television or broadcasting licence. The Minister clearly should have said, “ Such persuasion is carrying things too far “. I believe that Austarama Television Proprietary Limited will be used to further the aims and objectives, and also the profit motive, of the Ansett organization.
I was rather amused by a statement in paragraph 53, at page 84 of the report, concerning the educational quantum of the material which Austarama Television Proprietary Limited proposed to telecast. I think we all agree, and I am sure that the Australian people do, that this television station will play an important part in the operations of the organization which is competing with our government-owned airline, the airline we have established and which the Minister agrees is still successful, despite unfair competition. As I have mentioned, the channelling of airline traffic will be greatly to the detriment of TransAustralia Airlines. Before I conclude, I wish to refer to the effect which the takeover of MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited by Ansett Transport Industries Limited will have on T.A.A. I have been concerned for a long time, as have many other people, with the psychological effect which activities such as those of the Ansett organization, supported by the Government, have on successful government-owned organizations. The Government is always apologizing for the intrusion of private enterprise.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The matter before the Senate raises two questions for discussion. First, there is the granting of a television licence to one of the Ansett companies, and secondly, and quite disassociated from the first question, there is the acquisition by Ansett Transport Industries Limited of a controlling interest in MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, of Western Australia. I propose to confine remarks mainly to the second question because I feel it is the more important. I think ir would be correct to say that in this debate the Opposition has developed a two-pronged attack regarding the acquisition of a controlling interest in MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, lt seems to me, however, that the two prongs point in opposite directions.
The first prong points to the matter of take-overs. We had the opportunity this afternoon to listen to the best eloquence of Senator O’Byrne. With real Gallic frenzy and fire, he expressed himself as being very sorry for the little man who was being taken over by this great octopus, Mr. Reg. Ansett, in collaboration with and supported by, the Commonwealth Government and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in particular. When we look at the organization which has been taken over, we find to our surprise - although it will not surprise Senator Kennelly - that it is the Robertson organization. If the late Sir Macpherson Robertson is regarded by Senator O’Byrne as a little man, Mr. Reg. Ansett must surely be a pygmy! I suggest that Sir Macpherson Robertson was worth a lot more when he died than Mr. Reg. Ansett will ever be worth. Such an appeal about the crushing of a little man does not affect me very much. Of course, when the members of the Opposition discovered that the take-over of this little fellow was by the large capitalist, Mr. Reg. Ansett, they became very indignant. I shall have something more to say about this aspect in a moment.
The first prong of the attack concerned the matter of the take-over. The other prong, which I suggest was pointed in the other direction, dealt with another matter. Senator Kennelly, and also the Leader of the Opposition, said, in effect: “ We do not object to a take-over. We would welcome a take-over if it were by T.A.A.” That is an interesting argument. Actually, it is a lovely bit of political nonsense. Here we have an Opposition which was stung years ago and which, when matters concerning airlines are raised, always promotes an argument which is found to be futile when it is analysed. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. It may object to a take-over by Mr. Reg. Ansett if it likes, because that is good socialism, but it cannot then come along and suggest that, while it is wrong for Mr. Ansett to take over this company, it would be proper for somebody else to do so. I do not follow that line of argument, and I invite the Opposition to elaborate it.
Let us look at this matter in more detail. First, let us consider the parties concerned in it. The proposal put forward on behalf of the Opposition refers to -
The favours and concessions extended by the Commonwealth Government to companies with which Mr. R. M. Ansett is prominently associated . . .
I think it is important to keep that in mind. It is an argument against, and an objection to, the concessions extended by the Commonwealth Government, which would include, of course, the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner).
Let us look at what has happened. Mr. Ansett, through his subsidiary company Ansett Transport Industries Limited, made an offer to buy a controlling interest in another company. Has the Opposition suggested any evidence that the Government, in any respect, either directly or indirectly, has been guilty of extending concessions to Mr. Ansett? Has he not a legal right to offer to buy those shares? Is he not entitled as a matter of law to buy these shares? Is the Opposition now, in effect, saying that it is wrong, either legally or morally, for the Ansett company to offer to buy shares in another company? Is that what the argument is? If the Opposition should ever return to power, does it propose to prevent by law one company buying shares in another company? Is that the argument that is being offered? Senator Cant knows perfectly well that, as a matter oflaw - I will come to the ethical argument in a moment - the Ansett company has a perfect right to make the offer, and he has not put forward one tittle of evidence that the Government or any one else has influenced Mr. Ansett in that regard.
Let us look at the interests of the vendor shareholders, which means little more than Sir Macpherson Robertson interests. Again, how do you stop those interests selling to the Ansett company? Have they not a perfectly good legal right to do so? How would you make them sell to somebody else? Is the Opposition suggesting that the Government should have tried in some way, by subterfuge or by some illegal process, to force the Macpherson Robertson interests to sell to T.A.A. or to some one other than Ansett? Senator McKenna, as a lawyer, knows perfectly well that there is no power in this Commonwealth, or anywhere else, to stop the Macpherson Robertson interests from selling to Ansett or to anybody else, if they so choose.
Then we come to the shareholders who have been included in the deal. It was alleged this afternoon that some of those people were annoyed about it, but I quote from the “ West Australian “ a news item that shows that that is not true -
The consensus of shareholders’ views, however, favoured Ansett control of W.A’s. internal airlines.
This report is by a newspaper that does not favour in principle the deal going on at all. The report proceeds -
Country and city shareholders agreed that Ansett-A.N.A. would be able to keep pace with development in country districts, especially in the North-West.
Does the Opposition argue about that?
Does it not agree that that is true?
– Would you read the top paragraph?
– I will read the lot.
– Just read the top one.
– The report continues -
They said they expected bigger and better air services would inevitably follow because AnsettA.N.A. had the resources and the experience to keep abreast with industrial and population developments.
Is that denied by Opposition senators, too? Do they suggest that that is not true? I shall read further -
Mr. Jasper W. Green, of Swanbourne, said M.M.A. could not possibly cope with the development in the North-West and had little or no hope of raising the capital to finance airline expansion in this area.
Does not that also have to be true? Will any honorable senator opposite say that that is not a. very important factor in any shareholder agreeing with the purchase of shares? The report says -
Ansett-A.N.A. interests could also help develop the region’s tourist potential.
Is that denied? The report continues -
It was the only company in Australia capable of co-ordinating bus and aircraft services to open up the North-West for interstate and overseas tourists.
They were the views published by the newspaper which was not very happy about this deal, and it gave the views of the shareholders whose interests were taken over. Is there anything wrong with that?
Let us look at the ethics and the real merits of it. In the short time available to me I should like to refer to the interests of the people most concerned, the interests of those living in the north-west. The views of a few of those people were reported in the “ West Australian “ of Monday, 22nd April, in these terms -
North-West residents said yesterday that with the backing of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd., M.M.A. would be able to provide a bigger and better service to help develop the North-West.
I do not hear any Opposition cries of “ shame “ or “ untrue “.
– Tell me what facilities are there to develop it, Senator.
– Wait until I finish. The report continues -
Spokesman for town councils from Geraldton to Derby-
One thousand miles apart - said they favoured the Ansett move. “ I think it is a happy decision with the great development now taking place in the NorthWest “, said Geraldton Mayor, C. S. Eadon-Clarke.
I know Mr. Eadon-Clarke very well; he is by no means a supporter of this side of the chamber. Speaking on behalf of those in that neck of the woods, he said he believed that the change-over would do good. The Mayor of Carnarvon, C. Radley, said -
We think we will get a better and more frequent service.
And so does everybody else. Does the Labour Party think that it will deny these facilities to the north-west? The report continues -
Business houses think the move could mean the end of penalty rates for bringing goods from Perth. The trouble with M.M.A. is that it has not enough planes.
Does any body, on the other side deny that? Mr. A. W. Nichols, president of the West Kimberley Shire Council, said -
I see nothing but good in it.
M.M.A. needs a company with enough capital to keep up its part in the development of the North-West.
The report goes on -
Broome Shire Council president D. T. Farrell– the one referred to by the Minister the other day - said it was inevitable that one ofthe two major Australian airlines would take over M.M.A. He would make no further comment.
This part of the world is more than onequarter of the whole continent, the population is spread over enormous areas and relies almost entirely upon the airlines for the development of this great region, the pastoral industry, agriculture, mining, fishing and so on are more or less in their infancy. The security of the area is vital to the security of the whole of Australia. There are no roads and few harbours. When honorable senators have seen this part of the world they must realize the significance and importance of a modern air service which only T.A.A. or Ansett-A.N.A. could provide. Our friends in Opposition wish to deny this right to those people. I think, to put it in a nutshell, that we have to accept the argument that the Labour Party is not prepared to go along with the development of the North-West, and I ask the question: Why? It is merely because of an individual, Mr. Reg Ansett, who is the successor of Mr. Ivan Holyman as the object of hate of the Labour movement. Mr. Ansett is the man who first bucked the socialist ideals of the Labour Party, the man who first bucked Labour. The A.L.P. has never forgotten that, and never will. It does not matter what Mr. Ansett does in future or how he does it; it will be wrong, it will be smeared, and it will be said to be with the connivance, of course, of the Government and the Minister. Mr. President, the Opposition has not produced one tittle of evidence to-night to show how the Government is concerned in this matter at all.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have heard four speakers from the Government side of the chamber since the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge.) who led for the Government in this debate rose to speak, and I have been waiting all night for honorable senators opposite to deal with the business before the Senate. I shall not deal with the remarks of Senator Vincent except to give an example of the degree of accuracy of his statements. He quoted Mr. EadonClarke, of Geraldton, and then said that this man was not on his political side. I may be wrong, but I should think that a man who stood as a candidate under the banner of the Australian Country Party in a State election would be supporting the Government, but evidently 1 am wrong.
– He also sought Labour endorsement at one stage.
– Maybe he did not have the qualifications to obtain it. However, let me get down to the business before the Senate. First, I have been waiting for honorable senators opposite to deal with the matters before the Senate; but all we have had from them has been a lot of evasion, distortion, and generalities and common abuse, and I am sorry to say that in this debate Senator Paltridge showed himself to be a master of common abuse. First, it was said that this motion constituted a personal attack upon the person of Mr. Ansett. I want to quote from the notes which Senator McKenna used in this debate. I endorse every word that he said on this matter. At the outset of his address his notes contained these words -
The Opposition makes no attack on Mr. Ansett or his company. They are. entitled to get all they can for their shareholders. They are an energetic, daring, powerful and successful group.
With that I heartily agree. That was the official statement of Senator McKenna, representing the Australian Labour Party. Government supporters have been going out of their way to avoid the issues before the chamber. They have resorted to distortions because they cannot answer the specific attack mounted by Senator McKenna on behalf of the Australian Labour Party. What is the gravamen of the Opposition attack to-night? Again I quote Senator McKenna. His notes also contained these words -
Our attack is against the Menzies Government for the extravagance, of the help it has handed out to the Ansett group with resultant discrimination against the national airline, Trans-Australia Airlines.
The Senate will recognize that as the moderate language of Senator McKenna. As blunt speaking is the order of the day, I go a little further and say that the question that we pose to the Senate to-night represents an attack, not on any person outside this Parliament, but on a Minister who, sitting in judgment on these two airline operators, should be completely impartial. Yet every time one mentions the name “Ansett-A.N.A.” he finds it necessary to make apologies and to act as an agent for the private airline company as against the Government airline. I pass over that aspect because it has already been dealt with in detail to-night in more than one speech.
In this debate, twelve or fourteen points have been detailed, first by Senator McKenna and later by Senator O’Byrne. They mentioned the actions taken by this Government, under legislation, to give an unfair advantage to the private airline over the Government airline. The Minister took umbrage at only one of those twelve or fourteen points - the question of the cross-charter in which Trans-Australia Airlines got older model planes in exchange for newer model planes which it gave to Ansett-A.N.A. On this subject, I shall simply repeat the evidence which has been supplied by the Minister. I do not know whether or not he used undue force on T.A.A. I shall merely remind the House of what he said. He said that Ansett-A.N.A. had been badgering T.A.A. for upwards of three years, trying to get T.A.A. to sign a contract but T.A.A. would not sign it. Suddenly, T.A.A. decided to sign it. T.A.A. saw the light and said, “If we do not do this, Ansett-A.N.A. will have a clear case for re-equipment, and we will find ourselves at a disadvantage “. So after three years, somebody put the point before T.A.A. that it was to its advantage to sign the contract. I say to anybody who wants to make an impartial judgment that that is the evidence provided by the Minister. Let the people judge for themselves whether outside influence was brought to bear on T.A.A. to give away new machines for older machines in the cross-charter. As I have said, I have quoted only the evidence of the Minister himself.
I believe that the most important point raised by Senator McKenna concerned the question of allowing T.A.A. to operate on an interstate route between Perth and Darwin and land its aircraft at selected intermediate ports on the way. I think this is a point of tremendous importance. The Minister, however, was completely silent about it. I still hope that, if he gets the opportunity in the next f;w days, the Minister will say something about this. He had a golden opportunity to put T.A.A. in the picture when he granted a licence to Ansett-A.N.A. to move from the eastern side of Australia to fly to the gateway of Australia - Darwin. Surely at that stage it would have been suggested that T.A.A. should at least have the same opportunity. Surely it would be a great benefit to link up the service from the west coast of Australia. But this was not done. A second opportunity came a few weeks ago when it become known that Mr. Ansett would move up the west Australian coast. Even now, it is within the power of the Minister to grant the right to T.A.A. to fly up the western Australian coast, calling at intermediate ports and going on to Darwin. There was a chance for the Minister to take bis tongue out of his cheek in talking about the competition between the two airlines. Here was a chance to provide competition and provide a better service to a section of Australia that badly needs it. This is so particularly with respect to freight because the people in the north west of Australia rely so much on freight and the service at the moment and for some time past has been most unsatisfactory. Here was a clear case, crying out for the Minister to give an opportunity to T.A.A. and, at the same time, to give some semblance of credence to his statements about competition from time to time. The position now is, as Senator Bishop pointed out, that Ansett-A.N.A. has the right to circle Australia. One may go into any of the offices of Ansett-A.N.A. and book flights to circle Australia without having to change to another airline operator. That opportunity is denied to T.A.A. Surely that bears out our contention that undue favouritism has been given to this company.
On the question of a subsidy, Senator Paltridge has pointed out that it is uneconomic to subsidize two airlines over the one route. The subsidy was attracted by MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited because the services it operated were obviously uneconomic. They covered runs out to mission stations off the coastline and doing little milk runs to selected stations and giving an amenity to the outback people of the areas that they could not otherwise hope to attract. That accounts for the bulk of the subsidy. We have always found that to be so when we made representations for an enlargement of the subsidy.
On the question of subsidies, I should like to put a question to the Minister. There has been monastic silence on his part on the question of how much subsidy was paid. In recent times, the information was revealed - I believe by somebody in MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited - and publicity has been given to it. Surely when the Government or the Minister spends taxpayers’ money for some purpose the details of the expenditure should not be kept a secret. When a subsidy is given I should like to see the amount appear in the books of the company which receives it at the end of the accounting period. It should appear in accounts that are published such as the profit and loss account or the balance sheet or other financial statements. But one never finds this information, particularly with regard to MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited. I have noticed this over the years because I have had reason to want to find out what the subsidy was. Surely this information should be available to people who might be investing and to the public of Australia whose money is being spent. I am not an accountant but surely it would be more appropriate for this information to appear in the profit and loss account rather than in the trading account. I fail to see how this item can be classed as trading income.
The other question that was distorted by Senator Paltridge, and which was further distorted by Senator Vincent, was the question raised by Senator McKenna concerning small shareholders. Both Senator Paltridge and Senator Vincent asked, “Would Senator McKenna demand that these people should’ sell their shares to Ansett-A.N.A. or to somebody else? “ They seem to miss the point. If Senator McKenna or any other Labour man had been the Minister he would have been discouraging the sale of these shares to anybody. Senator Paltridge knows perfectly well that he is playing for the suckers when he talks in that way. He knows perfectly well that the power does not vest in anybody in this country to make anybody sell shares if he does not want to do so. The fact is that the Minister had the undoubted opportunity, both by law and because of his influence, to say to Mr. Ansett when this was coming up, “ Look, Mr. Ansett, what about making the same offer to the smaller shareholders? “ If that had involved Ansett in finding too much money surely there were a dozen ways in which it could have been worked out on a pro rata basis. This kind of thing makes small investors cynical. All this talk that under our publiccompany system small people can invest and finally control the destiny of a company is completely wrong and so much poppycock. The Minister has completely distorted that.
I ask the Minister this question: Why did you not think of those people you claim to be representing in this place? I have only got fifteen minutes so I cannot answer any interjections.
– I am going to tell you that. This was an offer to sell by MacRobertson Miller.
– What happened was that the Minister chose to turn his back on those people whom he, as a Liberal, claims to represent. Worse still, he turned his back - this is on the other question - on Mr. Anderson, the head of his department, who wrote in a most unprecedented manner backing the application before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. When the simple question was put to the Minister - “ Did you authorize your directorgeneral to do that? “, no answer came from him. I think it is worse to walk out on one of your employees and leave him to bear the blame for what has happened than it is to walk out on anybody else. I have heard a lot about this. I have seen the two letters that came before the board. There was the one of fifteen lines from the Victorian transport authority, but Mr. Anderson took SO lines to say the same thing. I have not time to go into all this. It is completely unprecedented for a government department to act in that way.
We are always hearing from Senator Paltridge about the two-airline system and how the future of Australia rests on it, and all the rest of it. How he gets away with it, I do not know. Firstly, what has happened is the opposite of what he preaches at election time to the effect that any young businessman with the know-how and the money can form a company in Australia and that that is the best possible thing for the economy of Australia. He reverses that. He negates competition by having these twelve or fourteen sections of the act which bind T.A.A. He says that T.A.A. is still making money, and be is the person who is surprised that it is making money. Ought not an expanding company to make money? Of course it should! The Minister talks about the future of the two-airline policy. I will tell him how long the twoairline policy will last. It will last just as long as Ansett Transport Industries Limited wants it to last. The day that that organization says to him or to the Government that it wants T.A.A. is the day that he or his successor will come before this place to alter the act that prevents the disposal of T.A.A. to-day. This sort of thing has happened too many times. It happened over the Electras and the Caravelles. The Minister said that neither could come in. Within days he had to change his opinion, and I believe he had to change it as a result of a decision of Cabinet, but I do not know for sure.
The answer is that Ansett Transport Industries Limited does not want the other airline to-day. It is not easy to run an airline. That organization does not want T.A.A., but when the Government runs T.A.A. down sufficiently - and if it keeps at it it will do so - the position will change. It is only good business and a sense of fair play on the part of the Australian public that is keeping T.A.A. going. As soon as the Government gets the nod from this powerful private organization, it will sell T.A.A.
Mr. President, let me repeat, before I sit down, that this is not an attack on young Australian businessman who started very humbly and made his way through the jungle of big business to reach the position he is in to-day. It is an attack on the Ministers and the Government that have allowed that young businessman to push them around and use them as a pawn in the grim game of the battle of big business.
– In rising to speak to this motion I direct myself to questions which, I am sure, the Australian public must be asking themselves. They are: Why has the Opposition introduced this matter and what is its motive? In my opinion the answer to the question is this: Immediately after the war the Labour Government set out to create an airline monopoly. Its attempt was challenged successfully in the High Court by the old Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The High Court’s decision was one of the biggest nails ever driven into the Labour Party’s coffin. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was thereafter hated by the Opposition. That hatred has been inherited by Mr. Ansett. The old guard is still smarting under that High Court decision. As Senator Willesee said, the subject of the motion is directed against the Government, but it also mentioned Ansett. You cannot escape that fact. The Government is in a very good position to defend itself in this place, but Mr. Ansett cannot defend himself from within this chamber.
Until to-day the only complaints that have been registered publicly have been registered by Mr. Calwell and - a very mild one - by Mr. Joe Chamberlain. It is the right, of course, of the Leader of the Opposition in the other place to complain and criticize. That is his inherent right, but all rights connote responsibility. I think that the Leader of the Opposition was most irresponsible in the way that he attacked in the press this sale of shares. The sale has been attacked also by his assistants in this chamber. But what is the reaction of the people who are vitally concerned? They consider that Mr. Calwell’s criticism was irresponsible and the action of a man who was slightly hysterical over this other man Ansett. The mention of Ansett is like a red rag to a bull to Mr. Calwell, just as it is, in my opinion, to some honorable senators in this chamber. However, that was the opinion of the official Leader of the Opposition, and apparently his opinion is supported by some in this place. But it is interesting to find out what are the opinions of people whom the matter affects very closely. Let us consider what spokesmen for the people in the areas affected, from Geraldton right through to Wyndham, had to say. The Geraldton mayor, Mr. C. S. Eadon-Clarke. said -
I think it is a happy decision with the great development now taking place in the North-West.
M.M.A. will not lose its personality and with a big organization behind it it will be able to provide more modern and serviceable aircraft.
Of course it will. It has the resources to do so.
– He would have said the same if it had been T.A.A.
– It did not happen to be T.A.A.; it happened to be AnsettA.N.A. The Carnarvon mayor, C. Radley, said -
We think we will get a better and more frequent service.
Business houses think the move could mean the end of penalty rates for bringing goods from Perth. The trouble with M.M.A. is that it has not enough planes.
That is correct. It has one Fokker and a handful of D.C.3’s. The West Kimberley Shire Council president, Mr. A. W. Nichols, said -
I see nothing but good in it.
The Broome Shire Council president, Mr. D. T. Farrell, said it was inevitable that one of the two major Australian airlines would take over M.M.A.
They are the people who are affected. Let us have a look at what was said by those connected with the State itself. Mr. Nalder, who is the acting deputy Premier of Western Australia, spoke of the sale with approval. The Minister for the North, Mr. Court, who is intimately connected with this area, also gave his complete approval. When a poll was taken of the shareholders who still retained their shares, they also agreed with this sale.
– What did the “West Australian “ say about it?
– When the honorable senator has his opportunity, he can tell us that. The Opposition cannot gainsay ; the fact that the Menzies Government has done more for the development of Western Australia than have all other government since federation, including other Liberal governments as well as Labour governments. Activities in the north have increased enormously and the services that MacRobertson Miller Airlines is providing are not and will not be sufficient to cater for the increased traffic. It has done a marvellous job in Western Australia, but the job has become too big. The airline attempted to meet the demand by buying a Fokker Friendship aircraft and putting it into service.
– From whom did the airline get that aircraft- T.A.A.? ! Senator BRANSON. - I do not intend to answer these questions in the fifteen minutes allowed to me. When that aircraft had logged 10,000 hours and required a service overhaul, the airline faced great difficulty in getting a charter aircraft as a replacement. It even went to New Zealand and tried to get one there. Had there been an accident or had this aircraft been out of service for any reason, the airline would’ not have had the resources to replace it or to obtain another aircraft. We must accept that fact.
Surely the Perth-Darwin run, which is about 2,000 miles, warrants a service at least once a week by an aircraft of a higher standard than the Fokker Friendship. I could point to honorable senators on both this side and the other side of the chamber who do not like travelling in a Fokker Friendship even from Canberra to Sydney or Canberra to Melbourne, because the aircraft is too small, and I agree with that point of view. Yet Western Australians are expected to travel in a Fokker Friendship a distance of 2,000 miles from Perth to Darwin. An airline with the resources of Ansett-A.N.A. can divert a Viscount for use on this route once a week, providing a fast, through service to Darwin.
– Could not T.A.A. do that?
– It has not the opportunity to do it. I maintain that the north is entitled to a. service a little better than can be provided by a Fokker Friend ship. Yesterday, by questions and interjections, the Opposition made great play of the fact that MacRobertson Miller Airlines was a subsidized airline. Of course it is subsidized and has been for a number of years. Any airline that opens up and develops country such as the north of Western Australia must be subsidized in the early stages, and this airline has been subsidized for years.
– With our money.
– Whose money does the honorable senator think it would be? When an airline is helping to develop such an area there is not a high traffic density, so the service does attract a subsidy. If there were no subsidy, there would be no airline and no service. Opposition senators are putting up the proposition, which appears to me to be stupid, that T.A.A. should be permitted to operate on the same route. How can we subsidize an air route if it is busy enough to support two competing airlines? That does not make sense.
– Why did you not let T.A.A. take over the airline instead of Ansett-A.N.A.?
– We were elected on a two-airline policy. The people put us back on that policy. When the Labour Party is elected to government, it can pursue its own policy. MacRobertson Miller Airlines recognized that it would soon be faced with a very large re-equipment programme. In this modern world of change, it faced the replacement of obsolete aircraft. As we are moving into the jet era, even on the domestic airlines, this company would not be able to meet the colossal call on capital that this would demand. It decided -=-goodness me, in a free country it is allowed to make a decision - that this was beyond its resources and that it should get out. It is interesting to note that in relation to this sale Mr. Robertson had this to say -
The progress of civil aviation and the development of modern aircraft had produced a situation where his company considered it would be in thi best interests’ of M.NJ.A. to be closely associated with one of the major airlines. M.M.A. would benefit from this new association and it would give a better service to the people of the north.
Surely that is important. The Opposition is pulling these fiddling little political stunts in respect of an airline that is going to give better service to the people of the north.
The replacement programme that faces small operators is not unique to Australia. This is happening all over the world. Keeping up with modern trends in replacement of aircraft costs a colossal amount of money. Western Australian people will definitely benefit from the fact that Ansett-A.N.A. is associated with MacRobertson Miller Airlines. For many reasons, this move must be successful. Supplies of equipment, spare engines and new techniques will be brought to the industry in Western Australia. These new skills will be invaluable to M.M.A. The Opposition claimed that Ansett-A.N.A. would get an advantage in relation to ontraffic from this sale. It is obvious that honorable senators opposite have not done their homework. On-traffic from M.M.A. represents 2 per cent, of the traffic, or two passengers out of every 100. Any one who is aware of conditions in the State would know that the average traveller by M.M.A. breaks his journey in Perth for a number of days before continuing on, and he has the right, in a democratic country, of choosing the airline by which he wants to continue.
Even in the hurly-burly of politics, one must have some compassion and charity. I felt very sorry that a Western Australian senator had to stand and defend the grounds on which this matter of urgency is based. I am quite sure he knows that 98 per cent, of electors in Western Australia regard this sale proposal as an excellent one. They believe that it will provide a better service to the north, and it was unfortunate to have to stand to defend a move that is critical of the sale.
– That is what you think.
– I am sure of it. Opposition senators have said that the Minister should have stopped this sale. Is it the policy of a Labour government to interfere in sales of shares between private individuals? If it is, I am quite sure that the Australian electors will be interested, and a number of us will be acquainting them of this policy at the next election. It was said not only that the Minister should have stopped the sale but also that he should have disclosed the price of the shares in the sale. I do not subscribe to that suggestion.
I strongly oppose the Opposition’s submissions in this debate. Only three minutes remain before the debate concludes, and I know that one other speaker would like to say something. On behalf of the sensible, thinking people of Australia, I say that Senator Paltridge, in his administration of the Department of Civil Aviation, has handled the portfolio with wisdom, foresight and courage.
– And favoritism.
– I do not have to seek favoritism, I am not dependent on anybody, as you are. The Minister has brought to his administration a business knowledge which has changed the whole situation with respect to domestic airlines.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to enter a protest about the time that has been wasted in debating this subject which has been brought before us as a matter of urgency. We meet here very seldom, but we have wasted our own time and that of the people who have been listening to the broadcast of the proceedings. If the subject which we have been discussing is regarded as being one of urgency, I think we are getting away from the real idea behind raising matters that are of urgent public importance. Plenty of other matters such as the defence of this country could have been discussed as matters of urgency.
The debate has developed into a discussion about whether air traffic in Australia should be nationalized or should be left to private enterprise. I come down very solidly in support of the attitude that private enterprise must play its part in Australia’s airline services. My party does not support the nationalization of our airlines. We have taken that stand very solidly for many years. Reference has been made to Mr. Ansett and what he has done. He seems to have been a bugbear to the Australian Labour Party for quite a long time, but I cannot understand why. Why should he not have the same opportunity as anybody else to enter the television field?
– Order! The time allotted for this discussion has expired.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner) read a first time.
[9.13]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. This is a short measure with a simple purpose. It gives to the Australian National University power to make astronomical .and meteorological observations in any part of the Commonwealth.
The Australian National University Act 1946-1960 is, as its long title says, “ An Act to establish and incorporate a University in the Australian Capital Territory “. The words “ in the Australian Capital Territory “ are, for the present purpose, the significant ones. It is, of course, evident that the Australian National University cannot, and is not expected to, confine all its activities to the Australian Capital Territory. In particular, it has been obvious for some time that the astronomical functions transferred to it by the Commonwealth in 1956 could involve it in activities anywhere in Australia. Though the head-quarters of the Department of Astronomy remain at Mount Stromlo Observatory in the Australian Capital Territory, it has been necessary to set up for that observatory a field station at some point where clearer viewing is available. After the most careful sitetesting programme, extending over some years and bringing into consideration at various times ten different sites, it has been decided to establish a field station on Siding Spring Mountain near Coonabarabran, New South Wales.
In addition to this undertaking connected with the Mount Stromlo observatory, the -university has made clear in its annual reports its long range and possibly more important search for another observatory site for major instrumental development. This search has led it to examine sites over a much wider territory including some in
South Australia and Western Australia. No quick decision can be expected here, however.
The Commonwealth has full power to make laws for the government of one of its territories but no constitutional powers with respect to universities as such throughout Australia. Since the present functions of the university are defined in the act with reference to the Australian Capital Territory, it seemed wise to vest the university with a specific power, not limited to the Australian Capital Territory, to undertake astronomical observations.
The Commonwealth, of course, has itself a power under section 51 (1) (viii) of the Constitution Act which is most apt, for it concerns “ astronomical and meteorological observations “. We have accordingly proposed to vest the Australian National University in the terms of the Commonwealth power. “ Astronomical “ is for the moment the particular aspect of concern at the university, but we have considered with the University Council the question whether or not “ meteorological observations “ should specifically be provided for at the same time and we are convinced that they should be.
I believe that we will all be happy to see the university pressing on so energetically in this field of inquiry and I am pleased to be able to commend this bill to the Senate and to move that it be read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30th April (vide page 160), on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I should like to come down from the air to ground level to talk about housing. This bill is a simple measure which is designed to authorize the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to raise £2,711,000, or to issue treasury-bills for that amount, for financial assistance to the States for housing, This will not be the only amount to be made available in this financial year for housing purposes. The bill is a supplementary measure.
Before I move to the subject-matter of the bill, I should like to refer to the question of constitutional power, which Senator Anderson raised yesterday. There is a tendency for the honorable senator and his colleagues on the government side to say that after all the responsibility for housing rests with the States and that the Commonwealth cannot do much about the matter beyond making money available to them. Technically speaking, that is so. However, we must realize that the Constitution has withstood the stresses and strains of the last 63 years. It has withstood the stress caused by the States having had their taxing powers taken from them. In spite of the technicalities, a moral obligation rests upon the Commonwealth Parliament to disburse moneys to the States and to give them a lead. I wish that we in this place had not fallen into the habit pf saying that constitutional power rests with the States and that the Commonweath can do nothing about various matters, including housing. When all is said and done, the Commonwealth is doing something. Housing agreements have been entered into between the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth has its housing advisers, and Ministers spend a lot of time dealing with housing. Obviously, the housing of people becomes the responsibility of legislators, irrespective of the parliament to which they belong.
An interesting aspect of this debate is that the bill will be agreed to unanimously. The Opposition does not oppose it. In spite of the fact that the measure will be agreed to unanimously, on both sides of the chamber there has been mild and sometimes rather trenchant criticism about what the provision of this money will eventually achieve. I believe that responsible people on both sides of the Parliament are not particularly happy about the fact that nearly 75,000 people are looking for homes. The second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) did not do anything to alleviate that unhappiness. I do not wish to be disrespectful, but I suggest that he should again have a good look at the speech himself. I do not think he put into the preparation of his speech the time that he has put into the preparation of other speeches he has delivered. There was a certain amount of hesitancy when he delivered it and a certain amount of hearsay in it. He frequently used such phrases as “ It is believed “. A second-reading speech should be more factual, because it is the base upon which the debate rests.
As I said earlier, this measure is supplementary to legislation passed earlier in this financial year. The Minister tumbled over himself to point out that the amounts to be allocated to the various States were nominated by the various Premiers. He said further that the amounts to be provided this year are lower than those which were provided last year in spite of the fact that loan funds generally have been higher this year. Of course, the sums mentioned have been allocated by the Premiers out of general loan funds. There may be very good reasons for the inference that things are going fairly well in the housing field and that the Premiers are happy about the situation. However, I do not believe we can accept that as being the position unless we know all the arguments that have been put forward. If insufficient loan moneys are made available by the central government to the States either now or at any other time, it is left to the Premiers to rob Peter to pay Paul. Therefore, I think we must have a proper balance between loan moneys and the spending by the States from year to year. Of course we have statistics from the economists. It seems that when they think of some statistics they put them in a speech for the Minister and they are very interesting academically; but when you come to a basic thing like housing, statistics are not of much interest to an individual waiting for a house.
There has been general agreement that more houses should be built with the money available, or that we should envisage the construction of more houses in the next few years. The possibility of surveys has been canvassed. Statistics have been quoted and I have studied some which seem to be fairly reliable, coming as they do from Dr. A. R. Hall of the Australian National University. He disagrees with the Government quite violently and indications are, on his statistics, that more houses should be built over the next few years than are envisaged in this bill. The interesting point is that whenever there is a re-survey and the housing situation in Australia - and obviously the situation must be re-surveyed frequently - the trend is never downwards but always upwards. That must be expected in an expanding country with a heavy immigration scheme.
I should like the Minister for National Development to comment on the question of a survey. The Minister had an excellent survey done in 1957, based on the censuses that preceded it, but the figures have not been brought up to date. Although I am not greatly alarmed about this, because I do not think the need is immediate, I think a survey must have great value. Certainly it would delight the statisticians and would be of tremendous value to big building companies which will devote all their time to the construction of homes. It would be of interest also to the State Premiers who are faced with the problem of allocating money from loan funds towards the alleviation of this urgent problem. They would be interested in the problem, as it is related to public works and other avenues of expenditure. I think such a survey should be made on a long-term basis. A short-term survey is not necessary.
It has been said - and I think the figure is fairly accurate - that about 75,000 people are looking for homes. We have a building industry which is ready, willing and able to build those homes. We have overcome wartime shortages. We have a situation where there is a demand among people who are not in a financial position to make calls on the building industry. I shall not attempt to argue this matter with the Minister nor shall I try to convince him of the human side of the housing problem. I do not accuse him of being callous, nor will I try to say that he does not realize the tremendous advantages that would accrue to the economy if we could give a fillip to the building trade. But obviously if we could make it possible for these people to fulfil their need for housing those two advantages would flow from that demand.
One of the problems for these people is the deposit on a home. We ask them to find a substantial deposit to enable them to invest in bricks and mortar which will be as valuable in 50 years as they are to-day, or even more valuable because of the effects of inflation; but we do not make such demands on them when they want to buy refrigerators or similar consumer goods. It has always been a source of wonderment to me that the deposits required for houses are not smaller.
Interest rates at present are being subjected to certain pressures and I hope they will take a further trend downward so that people who want a loan will not have the daylight frightened out of them when they see how much they will have to repay. Finally, we should see that these people in their economic, industrial and working life have a reasonable amount of comfort. They will have to make some sacrifices, but they should not have to sacrifice too much to pay for what they get.
I do not think that the Australian people demand a lot in housing. Australians generally are sensible and build houses within their means. All that they put into their houses is necessary. Very often there is a need for an injection of money into this side of the economy, and when we think of an injection of money we think of the Commonwealth Government. It has been estimated that about £60,000,000 is required to bridge the gap and enable those who want homes to call upon the building industry. The immediate problem is to provide the £60,000,000 required to overcome the main problems confronting 70,000 to 80,000 people who are looking for homes.
It is heart-breaking when you talk to young people about the housing problem. As they discuss the prospect of marriage they agree with you that they will need £1,000 or more for a block of land. Then you discuss the deposit on a house and instead of creating a desire for a home of their own you find you create a despair complex. The young couple say: “ This is completely beyond our means. What is the good of trying? “ It is a very serious situation, and I believe there is something basically wrong with a community that will allow this situation to continue. It has continued for a long time. I am not pointing the finger at any particular group of people or set of ideas; I am merely saying that I think it is basically wrong to allow people who are about to be married to be exploited by finance companies and land grabbers as they are to-day. If Senator Sir William Spooner were to heed my words to-night, and if the Government were to inject into the economy an additional £60,000,000 for housing, what effect would that have on the housing situation? It would be futile if it meant that people who have land in the suburban areas were to find that the value of their blocks went from, say, £1,000 to £1,250. That would merely be placing the people we are trying to help in comparatively the same situation.
Perhaps we are taking too narrow a view of the question of a survey of our housing needs. The idea of a survey ought to be very attractive to the Government, because obviously, if there could be a marriage between the people who are ready to build homes and those who want homes, there would be a big impact on unemployment. I know that this is a touchy subject with the Government. Nevertheless, unemployment has become a permanent feature of its administration. Unemployment has been at a high level for far too long. The fact that unemployment exists on such a scale should induce the Government to rid itself of the problem, at the same time as it is ridding itself of the housing problem. However, in this regard I want to issue a warning, and I think that Senator Sir William Spooner will agree with what I have to say. The position needs to be watched carefully. Recently, the Government introduced legislation to require insurance companies to invest a proportion of their holdings in government loans. This means that the insurance companies are obliged to put into the Government’s coffers money, some of which would have been used for housing loans. In effect, therefore, the Government has taken over that portion of the money of the insurance companies which previously had been used for housing. At long last, government loans are being over filled. I mention the combination of these circumstances in order to remind the Government that its path is clear. It should take a greater interest in housing in the future. After all, a house is a great investment. In fact, I do not suppose there is a better investment for young people.
It seems that many people are still indulging in war-time thinking. They are saying, “ Well, you have to put up with these shortages “. What we need is the will to overcome the housing shortage. In our government planning we must give housing a higher degree of priority. Let me mention an incident that occurred in Western Australia on the eve of an election, I think in 1957, in order to illustrate my point. The Labour Party said to the electors, “ If we are elected to office we will give housing number one priority, and within three years we shall largely solve the housing problem in Western Australia “. The Labour Party was in fact returned to office, and it did exactly as it said it would. Towards the end of three years there was a marked reduction in the rate of building, because saturation point had been almost reached. At the present time, under a LiberalCountry Party Government in Western Australia, the housing position is almost as bad as it was at any time since the war. Yet, nothing has changed except the government. There is still an efficient building industry. There is still plenty of hardwood. In fact, some of the best hardwood in the world is to be found in the forests in the south-west of the State. There are plenty of bricks, and clay and lime also are available. The present Government of Western Australia has decided that it will not give to housing the degree of priority which the previous Labour Government gave it. So, there has been a decline.
If we have the will to overtake the housing shortage and go full out to do so, we can overtake it, subject to the proviso that too much money should not be handed to people who will exploit the situation. However, I think that even that disability could be cured. The Labour Party believes that employment could be created by a greater effort in the field of housing, and at the same time young couples could be given a stake in the country and a purpose in life. If we of the Labour Party were returned to office we would certainly give a higher priority to housing than the Government gives it at present. We believe that 75,000 people seeking homes is far too many.
I am of the opinion that a survey of the housing position, about which the Minister for National Development has heard so much, should do more than merely provide information to the effect that by 1970 we ought to be building so many houses. The types of houses to be found in a city determine its character. With due modesty, I think that the nature of the houses in Perth is largely responsible for the fact that it is such a beautiful city. There has been a high standard of building in Perth for many years. I may say that before the war a person could go into his own home for as little as £6 10s. That was all the money he needed. The standard of housing has been maintained, with varying degrees of success, over the years. We should be able not only to house the people, but also provide them with houses which have character. Perhaps if things are rushed and an attempt is made to bridge the gap suddenly there may be a tendency to build drab and uninspiring houses which will become the slum housing of the future.
The question of land prices must be tackled. To-day, our cities are rapidly expanding. The position which I am about to describe will be known to the Minister, because it has occurred in Sydney to a greater degree than it has in Perth. On the fringe of the urban areas of cities, where the market gardens are to be found, we have seen people take over large areas of land which they have acquired cheaply. Suddenly, there has been a proposal to subdivide the land, and those people have found themselves sitting pretty, almost like the money-changers of old. They have been able to say, “ Progress cannot come here unless you pay the price “. That kind of thing is not confined to individuals. Some of our municipal authorities are perhaps the worst offenders, because they take a few hundred acres of land, cut it up into blocks and keep the supply of building blocks just short of the demand. If we study land sales closely we find a fantastic situation. I have noticed that land in Perth is bringing at the moment about £1,000 a block, without regard to the actual value of the block. That amount is being paid for blocks of land in swampy country. It seems to be the price that people are prepared to pay for land.
Any survey that is undertaken of the housing position should take those circumstances into consideration. I know that the Minister, because of his political creed, does not like to see governments moving in on private enterprise, but when people are being prevented from acquiring homes I believe it is high time for a government of any political persuasion to do something about it. I think that people would be found with sufficient ingenuity to overcome the problem. I do not know whether the correct way to go about it would be to move in, select an area of land, subdivide it and say that houses were to be built on the blocks within a certain period of time, but perhaps that is something which could be considered during the survey.
I have noticed that, as cities develop, the size of building blocks tends to become smaller and smaller. In a country such as Australia, that is the last thing which should happen. It is true that only God can make a tree. The legislators of this country have been preventing people from planting trees by making building blocks too small. In certain areas half-acre blocks should be provided, and in others quarteracre blocks, in order to encourage the growing of trees. If we create the situation in which too many people are demanding homes they will be prepared to accept any kind of shelter. They will not worry about what they get, so long as it is shelter. The shelter sheds at bus stops are merely structures to keep the elements off people while they are waiting for transport. People will be forced to take any kind of shelter if the Government does not look into these things that I am mentioning to-night.
The Government must take a serious look at the inner suburbs where flats are being built. The Minister will recall that he opposed the building of the Wandana flats in Perth, and I believe that his opposition was on the ground that the money provided under the Commonwealth and State housing agreement should not be used for the construction of flats. There was quite a controversy at the time, quite apart from the Minister’s contribution, as some people thought that the money should not be used in that way, but those flats have fitted into the suburbs of Perth remarkably well.
The important matter of building flats to provide housing for a couple of hundred people should not be left to chance. With the advice of town planners and other experts we should be able to foretell pretty accurately how our cities will develop. So that is another matter that a survey could examine. A survey should not merely tell us how many houses should be built in a certain area, but it should reveal also the arrangement of the houses, flats, duplex constructions or other types of housing. This whole question is tremendously important and has an impact on many things. 1 have one worry which I now wish to mention. I experience it frequently in considering bills before this Senate, and I am always critical of the Government in relation to it. We waste time by waiting for years to get on with a job. If we had the power to see into the future, and if the Minister could say that peace would endure and good seasons would continue for the next 50 years, I would not worry about this aspect of it, but only yesterday the Government intimated that it proposes to increase its expenditure on defence by 50 per cent., which will raise the expenditure on defence by about £100,000,000 a year. Obviously if expenditure on defence is to be increased there must be a corresponding reduction in the amount available for other government spending. I am not debating the desirability of that at the moment; I am merely saying that while there is an opportunity to spend money on vital matters such as housing we should grasp the opportunity. If more and more money is to be spent on defence, and if - God forbid - we are forced into a war in the next few years, the housing programme will come to a stop, and we shall bc in more trouble than ever. It is wasteful to put off for years jobs that can be done now. After all, we cannot build too many houses. If we get ahead of demand the position can be met by slackening the rate of construction slightly for a short time, of taking care not to injure the building industry. Very quickly there would be a demand again for housing.
I think our problem is to convince the Government that the priority given to housing expenditure ought to be higher. That would have an effect on the States, which finally have to do the job. The Government is acting too complacently regarding unemployment, which has been with us so long that it seems to have become a normal part of the community. Similarly, the problem of insufficient houses has been with us so long that it is a normal part of our lives. They are two bad economic facts and, quite apart from their social implications, our task is to get the Government to face up to the two problems in an endeavour to cure them immediately.
I should like the Government to come out with the forthright declaration that there is nothing wrong with placing the resources of this nation behind the people to give them the basic right to be housed. Proper surveys should be made to determine what is needed. Is there anything better in which the Government could invest? All that we are asking it to do is to take the opportunity of investing and having the investment backed by eager young Australians in an expanding young Australia.
– Senator Willesee has advised us that the Opposition will not oppose this measure. I should like to congraulate him on his very interesting and moderate speech. The purpose of this bill is to grant loan moneys totalling £2,711,000 for financial assistance to the States for housing. This is in addition to the £45,900,000 authorized to be raised under the Loan Housing Act (No. 2) 1962, thus making the total amount of £48,611,000 available for this financial year. The whole idea is to help, as Senator Willesee has said, to create a little additional employment between now and the end of this financial year.
It is interesting to note that, the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) says, in his secondreading speech, that notwithstanding the fact that the Australian Loan Council had approved an overall borrowing programme of £255,000,000 this year for State works and housing, as against £247,500,000 last year, the States are spending less on housing this year than in the previous year. That may be because the States think they have sufficient money for housing or because they have more urgent work to do. It is also interesting to note that a considerable amount of money is being made available now from sources other than government lending. The banks and major life insurance companies have advanced £20,700,000 during the October-December quarter of this year, compared with £15,400,000 in the corresponding quarter of 1961 and £16,700,000 in the coresponding quarter of 1960. It is also interesting to note that the building rate in Australia at the moment is somewhat in excess of 90,000 homes a year, which is an all-time high.
Labour Party senators have mentioned that according to an authority on housing, Dr. A. R. Hall, a senior fellow in economics of the Australian National University, the rate of housing construction should be increased greatly beyond the figure of 90,000. In an appendix to a publication on the housing demand, a “ Second Look “, Dr. Hall stated in October, 1962, that he believed we should be building in 1963 somewhere in the vicinity of 94,000 homes a year; in 1964, 97,000; in 1965, 98,000; in 1966, 103,000; and by 1970 the figure should rise to 121,000 homes a year. So we are actually building about the number of homes-
– It is lower than the number he suggested, if you are going to quote him.
– I have just quoted 90,000.
– But we are building fewer than that number.
– I said to-day the Commonwealth was building in excess of 90,000 homes a year. That was mentioned by the Minister in his second-reading speech, which I think can be taken as an authoritative source. I am saying that Dr. Hall, in his “ Second Look “, at the housing demand, at page 14 said be believed the output should be somewhere between 90,000 and 94,000 in 1963. I have given the graduated scale as he stated it, up to the year 1970.
Last night, in this debate, we heard Opposition senators say that there is a lag of some 75,000 homes at the moment. With the 90,000 homes that are being built this year, there is a lag of between eight and ten months in the building industry. So it is not as easy to remedy the situation as Senator Willesee suggested. He said that the Government should step up the rate of building. He said that it did not matter if we got an excess of demand.
– That is not right.
-I believe that this is what Senator Willesee said. He said it in all sincerity. It was a reasonable statement to say that the Government should go ahead and increase the number of houses being built so that the lag of 75,000 homes could be overcome. He said that it would not matter if we more than overcame the shortage because we could stop building and the people coming in as migrants and the young people growing up could fill the empty houses within the next few months. That is a reasonable statement. I only want to answer it by saying that if you got to a stage at which you had to stop building you would create an enormous amount of unemployment. The Government wants to overcome unemployment and I believe that we are overcoming it. That is the whole reason for bringing in this bill at this time. We wish to inject into the building industry, through the States, additional finance to the extent of £2,711,000 up to the end of this financial year. That is a considerable amount to spend over the next couple of months and it will create a certain amount of employment in the building industry. I think honorable senators opposite will agree with me when I state that the unemployment figures are not at a really dangerous level at the moment having regard to the fact that they have dropped by over 10,000 in the last month.
– They are at an undesirable level.
– They will always be at an undesirable level while we have any unemployment. But unfortunately, according to Labour senators, Mr. Monk and a lot of other people, there will always be some people registered for employment.
– That is not so.
– That is so. That is what we shall have to put up with. But when we look at the record achieved in some of the States where unemployment figures are down to almost 1.2 per cent., we have not a lot to cry about. This is particularly so when we look at the rural industries in Western Australia which at this moment cannot obtain labour.
Labour criticism of this bill has been quite mild, in my opinion, and reasonable. I think Senator Willesee said that there had been mild criticism of the policies of the Government from both sides of the chamber. I think the Government has a marvellous record with regard to housing. Last night
Senator Wedgwood stated that Labour, in the last five years of its administration, spent only £68,000,000 on housing.
– There happened to be a war on.
– This was not during the war.
– There was the aftermath of the war.
– Yes. I want to be fair about that. I think it was a reasonable effort under the conditions which existed but it was not as good as ours would have been if we had been in government. 1 do not want to criticize Labour for what it did during those years. I cite the figures only to let the Senate know that the amount spent in those five years was pretty small. During the thirteen years that the present Government has been in office, expenditure on housing has far exceeded the rate of £68,000,000 in five years. It has been in the vicinity of £782,000,000 for the thirteen years if we take war service homes expenditure into consideration. I believe that is a terrific figure.
– The basic wage was £6 9s. a week when your government came to office.
– Yes. But if you take the increase in the basic wage into consideration the rate of expenditure by the Labour Government still does not represent 50 per cent, of the rate of expenditure by the present Government. All I say is that an anti-Labour government, a Liberal government or a coalition government has always been able to do better than a Labour government, in my opinion. I simply cite the figures. I believe that, at the moment, we are reaching a rate of building which is more than keeping up with the demand. I read to-day that Dr. Hall said that applications for homes were not running at the rate of 90,000 a year.
I believe that the Government should give considerable attention to home finance. As Senator Willesee has stated, young people from 21 to 25 years of age who decide to marry, are finding great difficulty in financing the purchase or building of homes. Legislation which might help to solve the problem has been introduced in the Victorian Parliament. It provides for second mortgage loans to be obtained at 61 per cent. I believe that young couples who are getting married to-day and who wish to purchase homes can go to a bank and obtain a loan of £3,500. In addition to that, they would need to have a block of land which would cost in the vicinity of £1,000. If they can obtain £500 on second mortgage, or by some other method, at a reasonable rate of interest, it would not be too much to expect them to find about £300 or £400. That is a reasonable amount for them to provide.
– They would still pay a lot in interest.
– They must have something, senator. In order to overcome this problem, the United States of America sst up the Federal Housing Administration in June, 1934. This is a government instrumentality constituted along the lines of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation which this Government established a few years ago to guarantee the payment of moneys to exporters of goods to countries in which a certain amount of risk attached to the transaction. Under the American scheme, the Federal Housing Administration guarantees the repayment in full of housing loans made to approved customers. It has some 72 agencies throughout the United States. There are some 17,000 lending agencies throughout the United States. If the Government approves of a lending agency that agency can lend money to the customer and a guarantee is given that the customer will be able to repay the lending agency.
– What is the average interest rate?
– The average interest rate at the moment, according to my information, is about 5i per cent.
– Is that with the insurance?
– That is with the insurance and all. It is not a very cheap rate. The Federal Housing Administration insurance rate is one-half of 1 per cent. As I have said, the interest rate being charged by the lending companies under the guarantee by the Federal Housing Administration is somewhere in the vicinity of 5 to 5i per cent. The rate varies with the volume of money made available from time to time by private enterprise in America. A few years ago the rate was 6 per cent, and I understand it is on the way down and that it will probably get down to 4 per cent, within the next few years or even the next few months. It is interesting to note that the Federal Housing Administration of America has been responsible for the building, and has accepted insurance on, some 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 homes. It has, in fact, covered the mortgage on 3,612,000 home units. Of the acquired units, 20,030 have been sold and 9,463 remained on hand at the end of 1951. The losses on the total amount of mortgage and insurance money from 1934 to 1951, including mortgage on war housing, amounted to two-hundredths of 1 per cent. It is a very small amount, which indicates that the agencies are not taking a great risk.
The point about this is that if an organization - a bank, insurance company or lending corporation - in America can get the Federal Housing Administration to guarantee repayment of the money it is lending for the building of homes, it knows that in the long term it will get repaid. Because of this security it does not need to charge an extremely high rate of interest. These institutions advance proportionately more money than is advanced in Australia under similar circumstances. That is because we do not have the insurance scheme in Australia.
I understand that in America, provided a person has a job and is earning an amount equal to £1,500 a year - to put it into Australian terms - he can buy a house for two and a half times that figure, or in the vicinity of £4,750. He does not have to pay any more than £200 or £300 deposit provided the Federal Housing Administration guarantees the mortgage. I think the Government should look at what is happening in other countries. Maybe it has already done so and has found that there are weaknesses in the scheme. I do not know. What I am saying is that if ait all possible the Government should do everything it can to see that adequate finance is made available to people seeking homes in Australia.
I believe that we in Australia are enjoying conditions unequalled in any other part of the world. When we drive around the capital cities we find that there is a pride of ownership. People like to own their homes. That is a different outlook from what was expressed by the Labour Party up to 1949.
– That is not correct.
– The Labour Party did not want home ownership at all at one stage. I could refer in “ Hansard “ - I am not producing it to-night - to speeches made in this and another place in which it was said that the policy of the Labour Party was not to permit people to own their homes because it might make them into little capitalists. That, I believe, was the feeling of the Labour Party many years ago. I do not know whether it has changed since. I do not know whether the party has got away from its nationalistic or socialistic programme, but it did not give any indication of that in the debate this afternoon.
However, the Australian people are anxious to own their homes, and those who do so are proud of the fact. One can travel throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth - in rural areas as well as the capital cities - and notice that people do take a pride in home ownership. Perth in Western Australia is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I believe it is beautiful because of the pride of the people whom this Government has helped to own their homes.
I commenced by saying that the money to be provided under this bill is designed to increase the number of homes in Australia and also to increase employment. I believe that it is having that effect. I congratulate the Government on its attitude towards home building. I am convinced that it has done far better than the Opposition could have done. I hope sincerely that it will press on and try to improve the housing position for our young people who are growing up.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, the subject of housing is of vital interest to the Australian people. The provision of housing is a sign that we are really becoming a civilized country, but unfortunately we do hear great outcries about the lack of housing in Australia at the present time. I believe we have reached the stage where the blame for a lack of housing must be placed on the government of the day. We have got away from the idea that it was the responsibility of a person to find the money to build his own home. We take it for granted now that it is the Government’s responsibility to provide homes for the people. I think that is a wrong concept of the housing position in Australia.
Senator Scott said that certain cities are beautiful because the people in them own their homes. That is correct, but I believe that people are relying too much on the government to provide them with homes. If people continue to depend on housing authorities to provide them with homes, as they are doing at the present time, I do not believe that the cities will be as beautiful in the future as they are said to be to-day. They are mass produced and not very solidly built, and could quite easily deteriorate into the slums of the future. The one objective of the people who, through necessity, are forced to live in these places is to move out and build their homes in other areas. I know that people need to be housed and that something must be done about it, but we should help those who have a little initiative. When a person is paying off a house over 53 years, as is the case in most States, he has no incentive to look after what is provided, because in his lifetime he will not own the home.
I congratulate the Government on its effort to get away from the idea that it must provide everything in the way of homes. By legislation, it has set aside for co-operative housing societies a percentage of the money granted to the States for housing. People who receive loans from those co-operative societies are building the homes that they desire. They do some of the construction and the designs are not stereotyped. Although at first their equity is small, under the co-operative system the homes will become their own in a much shorter period. There is at least a possibility of their owning homes within their lifetime.
I congratulate the Minister upon his forethought in fostering the concept of assistance to co-operative building societies, against much opposition from State housing ministers. I should like to see those societies increase and a higher percentage of housing moneys allocated to them. At present, 30 per cent, of the housing moneys allocated to the States go to co-operative societies. The other 70 per cent, is used for ordinary State housing activities, which I know are necessary, but many people who occupy State houses could quite easily be in co-operative building societies. Fifty per cent, of the money allocated to the States would be more than sufficient to cover needy cases, that is, people who cannot find deposits and have to rely upon the Government to find all the money for their homes. I should like the percentage allocated to co-operative societies to be increased substantially when this matter is further studied by the Commonwealth and States.
Co-operative housing societies in Tasmania have had a rather late start. I had the honour of bringing them into being. They are being established against much opposition from State officials, more for political reasons than for other reasons. Even the Trades and Labour Council in Tasmania is forming a housing co-operative. I should like the Minister to ask the Tasmanian Minister for Housing to introduce an act under which housing societies can work. At present they work under an adjunct to another act. When we began the societies, we had to go back to 1928 to find an act relating to co-operative societies under which we could work. The Tasmanian Government was forced to introduce an adjunct to that act in relation to housing, but we still have not a housing act.
The Government lends this money to the States at 4 per cent. Anybody who got a housing loan at 4 per cent, would think himself very lucky. The housing societies are lending the money at a little under 5i per cent, which, in the circumstances, is very good. However, I want to make one protest. When this money is lent by the Commonwealth to Tasmania, it is handed over to the Agricultural Bank, a State instrumentality, which lends the money to cooperative societies, or holds it. It charges one-half of 1 per cent, interest which, as far as I know, goes into the State Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– What would be the administrative cost?
– Nothing at all”. The administrative costs are passed over from the Agricultural Bank to the co-operative societies, and they charge an additional percentage. Of course, that is quite legitimate. The Department of the .Treasury charges one-half of 1 per cent, for handing the money over to another State instrumentality to disburse. In other words, it is making a very sweet cop from the disbursement of housing moneys. If that procedure were not followed in Tasmania, the loans for the co-operative societies could be made available at approximately 4£ per cent., and there would be plenty of takers.
Because originally there were no cooperative societies in Tasmania, the Agricultural Bank was accepted by the Commonwealth as an approved society. It did the work of the co-operative housing societies until such societies were formed in that State. But even now the Agricultural Bank is still an approved society and takes two-thirds of the money that is supposed to be allotted to co-operative societies for disbursement to individual home seekers. The housing division of the Agricultural Bank is a government instrumentality and therefore it should not be taken into consideration when moneys are made available to the co-operative societies. If, for example, a sum of £600,000 were to be allotted to co-operative societies in Tasmania, one-third of that sum would go to the approved societies and the remaining £400,000 would go to the government instrumentality. The time has been reached when all the money that is set aside by this Government for Tasmanian housing societies should be given to the approved co-operative societies.
– How would the State react?
– The Agricultural Bank, which is an approved society, would react very violently. I presume the Tasmanian Government has had talks with the Minister for National Development and has advanced very forceful arguments against that being allowed to happen. But it is time it did happen, because the cooperative societies can house a greater number of people than can the approved government society.
– Are the cooperative societies well developed in Tasmania.
– They are now well developed and are still developing. If they had more money, they would be developing more rapidly. There is one other point I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister for National Development. Certain private institutions, including insurance companies, will lend money for housing. Even the Commonwealth Bank and other banks will lend money to form co-operative societies. They find it to be a quite remunerative business. But at the present time the co-operative societies in Tasmania cannot get money from these private sources because the Tasmanian Government will not give them a guarantee. In all other States the governments guarantee such loans. Because the Tasmanian Government has withdrawn its guarantee, a great source of home-building finance cannot be tapped.
– At what rate of interest do they lend the money?
– They lend it at 5i per cent.
– Do the insurance companies lend it at 5£ per cent.?
– Yes, because they have no administrative costs. The administrative costs are borne by the society.
– The M.L.C. organization said a couple of days ago that it earned 6 per cent, on its funds.
– Perhaps it does. The Commonwealth Bank earns quite a lot, too, but it lends the money at 4i per cent, or 5 per cent.
– But the Government over-taxes the people.
– What do you mean by “ overtaxing the people “?
– That is how it gets its funds.
– I presume you are doubting my word when I say that the bank lends the money at that rate of interest. If you make inquiries, you will find that it does. The Commonwealth Government, in its wisdom, is letting this money out for housing at an interest rate of 4 per cent. There is only one scheme in Australia in which a better rate of interest is charged, and that is the scheme operated by the War Service Homes Division. The co-operative housing societies offer the next most favorable rates.
– What rate of interest is charged by the War Service Homes Division?
– It is about 3i per cent.
– The rate is 3i per cent.
– Well, that is not very much different. I have pointed out that a wonderful means of providing private money for home-building cannot be exploited because of the attitude of the present Tasmanian Government. I am hoping, however, that legislation will be introduced to cover that situation.
– Is that because of the lack of a guarantee?
– The lack of a guarantee is stopping co-operative societies from getting this money. I know of several societies that could go ahead to-morrow on that basis. They include a bank and an insurance company which would be quite willing to allow the money to be given to a co-operative. As the Senate knows, they are only terminating societies. When a society is formed it operates for a period and then a new society is formed. I know of two societies that could be formed at once if the Government would give a guarantee.
We do not know why the guarantee was taken away. When the former State Minister for Housing was in office we had a guarantee and two societies were formed in Tasmania from this source. They were formed not from Commonwealth money but with money from a private source when the previous Minister for Housing permitted the guarantee. At present there is no guarantee and so this source of homebuilding is denied. This is a very sad state of affairs. In Tasmania the societies are doing very good work. They can build according to individual likes and in areas that are not set aside for housing. They are helping the people to live in much better conditions than are provided by hous ing commission homes. I know that housing commission homes and flats are necessary, but most of the people I know in country towns of Tasmania take them only as a half-way measure. They will stay in them until they can build up sufficient equity to get out and build a house.
– Is not the housing authority selling the homes?
– Yes, but the prices are too high. Tenants are paying £5 16s. to £5 18s. a week rent for housing commission homes of nine to 10+ squares. When they are buying them, they are paying £5 or £6 a week. Under a co-operative housing scheme they can buy a home for about £4 a week.
– What interest do they pay?
– The co-operative societies charge 4d. a share for every £50 share. So far as the societies are concerned the interest rate on money from the Commonwealth Government costs a shade under 5i per cent. The money is received from the Commonwealth Government at 4 per cent. The Tasmanian Government adds one-half per cent. The Agricultural Bank lends the money out at another one-quarter per cent., which is a legitimate charge, and the societies finally get a shade under 5) per cent.
Housing is important to Australia, and one way in which the situation can be improved is through the co-operatives. AH I am asking the Government to do is to ensure that the co-operative system is strengthened and that the governments to which the money is paid fulfil their obligation in respect of co-operative housing schemes. 1 congratulate the Minister on the co-operative housing effort. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent through co-operative societies on housing and this has made a valuable contribution to a solution of the housing problem.
– I regret that on this occasion I must adopt the most unusual course for me of speaking on a contentious and parochial note. Frankly, I cannot see the justification politically, or the fairness, in allowing an honorable senator - the only one representing his party - to intrude into the sequence of speakers, irrespective of the percentage of the population he claims to represent. I do not say that bitterly, because we also have in this chamber a sole representative of an independent party. If in the passage of time he is able to get the support of candidates in the various States I do not know what percentage of the vote he would command. Are we to expect that in the passage of time he will be able to intrude also into the ordinary sequence of speakers?
– What is the ordinary sequence? Who sets down what the ordinary sequence will be? Is there any standing order covering it?
– Give me a go. I do not mind the hurly-burly of politics. I have addressed my question to the Acting Deputy President.
– I rise to order. Has this anything to do with the bill before the Senate?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! I ask Senator Dittmer to direct his remarks to the bill before the House.
– I have made my point, Sir, as a preface to my remarks, and have registered my protest. I pay a tribute to the Government for its fairness in permitting me to follow Senator Cole. Ordinarily he is followed by a supporter of the Government. The bill relates to housing, and I wish to deal particularly with the position in Queensland. Now that the President has resumed the Chair, I repeat that it is not customary for me to be parochial, but because of a certain meanness in the approach to this matter I blame not only the Commonwealth Government but more particularly the Nicklin-Munro Government, for its parsimonious approach to the housing needs of the Queensland people. An amount of ?48,611,000 is to be provided, and of that amount only ?3,900,000 is to go to Queensland to meet two requests from the Queensland Government. More than 1,500,000 of Australia’s total population of 11,000,000 live in Queensland and the meagre proportion of funds for housing allotted to Queensland indicates the lack of social responsibility in the Liberal-Country Party Administration.
Senator Cole referred to the cooperative societies. I do not favour them, but prefer the housing commissions. I have seen many homes built by the Queensland Housing Commission and they compare more than favorably with those built by co-operative societies and private contractors. I refer particularly to those built under the daylabour system. The maintenance costs for those homes is much less than for homes built under the old system. ;
The Commonwealth Government and its predecessors - other Menzies Governments - stand condemned when we consider housing statistics. Two years ago the rate of home building was approaching 100,000 homes a year. What happened? The Government and the Minister in charge of home building panicked. They said the rate of construction was too rapid. Since 1957 they have not been game enough to investigate the housing needs of the Australian people. Why not have an investigation in 1963? I have heard statements made concerning Dr. Hall’s assertion. He said originally that 97,000 houses a year would be needed. He subsequently corrected that statement and said that by 1970 we would need from 124,000 to 131,000 homes a year.
This Government, in relation to unemployment and to demands for services of various types, has always under-estimated the needs, perhaps for party political advantage. I should hate to level such a charge against any government, and that may or may not have been the purpose of the Government. Perhaps the under-estimation has been due to ignorance and incompetence. Why does not the Government face up to the housing position? We realize that there are people who are entitled to homes and that homes are being broken up and marriages wrecked because of the housing shortage. An approach may be made to this problem on the basis of the estimated needs, but the rights of the people must be considered. That is something which the Government seems to forget. It does not think in terms of the slum dwellings which have to be torn down, the substandard homes which have to be replaced and the homes that are becoming useless from a utilitarian point of view.
The Chifley Government recognized its responsibility to house the people in the difficult post-war years. Senator Scott, for a change, was fair enough to pay a measure of tribute to that Government, and he referred to the money that had been spent on housing during its term of office. However, he did not explain how the value of money has deteriorated since 10th December, 1949, and the difference that has made to the economic picture.
– I agreed with that.
– You agree with it now.
– 1 did so before. Do not apologize.
– I shall not apologize. I know that if you said it, it would be true - on occasions. I ask honorable senators opposite: Which government initiated the housing agreement with the States, thereby inaugurating a worthwhile housing scheme? Important features of the Labour Party’s scheme have been wrenched away by the Menzies Government. To-day, there is no rental rebate system. The moment that the ten years’ agreement expired, you people on the Government side could not get your wretched hands on it quickly enough to tear it apart. The rental rebate scheme resulted from a sense of social responsibility and from Christian charity. Under it, people who were not earning a lot of money, or who were age pensioners, could rent a home at a rental which they could afford. As honorable senators know, the scheme provided that not more than one-fifth of a person’s earnings were to be collected as rent. Of course, there were exceptions. If children in the family were working an addition was made and a new rental was determined.
As soon as the present Government had the chance to tear that agreement asunder it did so. The person on the basic wage was not considered. The Government came in cold-bloodedly and callously, in accordance with its usual approach to the rights of the people, and said that there must be an economic rental, to be determined according to the cost of the structure. Yet, because of the Government’s inefficiency and incompetence, costs were increasing all the time. It permitted land prices to rise inordinately. Building costs went up. For those reasons I say the
Government stands charged at the bar of public opinion in relation to housing.
I do not need to use only my own words in attacking the Government on the housing position, although I think that the comments I have made will appeal to honorable senators opposite when, in the quietness of their rooms, they think of the rights of the people and of their own responsibilities as public men. Let me refer to a statement made by the chairman of one of the organizations which are so beloved of this Government. I refer to a statement by Mr. Partridge, the chairman of the Australian Hire Purchase and Finance Conference, which was reported in yesterday’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “. The newspaper article stated -
Mr. Partridge said Australia risked being labelled a country without a conscience-
That is, under the Menzies Government - if it did nol make an immediate and revolutionary approach 40 the crucial problem of house finance. “ There is a pressing need for a much wider source of housing finance at reasonable rates,” he said. “ Our (the finance companies’) borrowing costs are such that we cannot provide sufficiently !ov lending rates to make a substantial contribution 10 the overall problem.”
Yet, Mr. President, supporters of both Government parties stand up and praise the Government for what it has done in endeavouring to solve the housing problem. I have cited the words of a key man in one of the organizations which we of the Opposition, who are wedded to the rights of the people, attack repeatedly.
Why did the Minister in charge of housing panic when, some two years ago, it seemed that we were going to build 100,000 homes a year? Apparently, he was not concerned about the rights of the people who were seeking homes. It did not worry him that young married people were living with in-laws, or that in the process of time it was inevitable that many marriages would break up. I speak with real feeling on this matter, Sir, because I represented in the Queensland Parliament an electorate in which I saw such cases. Under a sympathetic Labour Government, a large number of homes was built by the State Housing Commission. Because homes were provided, marriages were saved. I saw that in such instances parents were able to remain friends with sons and sons-in-law and daughters and daughters-in-law. This Government was not concerned about the evils which a shortage of housing could cause. It simply thought that we were building at too great a rate. It might be suggested that unemployment would follow from a greatly increased rate of home building, but that has not always been the case and I do not think it is likely to happen in the future. If Dr. Hall’s estimate is at all near the mark, the rate of home building is so far below the target which he suggests should be our aim, that we are not likely to approach it, unless in 1964, through the goodwill of the people and their sense of collective responsibility, the Labour Party is returned to office - without the help of the Communists such as the Government parties’ candidates received in 1961.
I propose to deal with the position in my State. Other honorable senators are capable of dealing with the position in their States. The building industry can do much to relieve unemployment. People associated with the building industry have told me that for every person engaged in the building industry, opportunities are provided for the employment of seven others in the provision of materials, transport and so on. We should keep in mind the wretched position in Queensland. The Government is not honest and does not give the true picture of unemployment. In 1960, the Commonwealth Statistician -made a sample survey of unemployment. He inquired into such matters as the hours of work, the reasons for unemployment and so on. Further surveys were conducted in 1961 and 1962. Following these sample surveys, a full survey was conducted and it was intended that the figures on unemployment revealed by the survey would be published. But they have not been published. The Government has no intention of publishing them, because the number of unemployed revealed by the survey is much higher than the figure given by the Department of Labour and National Service. The Minister will have an opportunity to contradict me, if he wants to tell the truth and recognize the facts. I have given the facts.
– Do you query the number drawing unemployment benefit?
– No, because of necessity people must obtain unemployment benefit. But I query the figures released by the Department of Labour and National Service. Even if they were accepted, they do not give the total number of unemployed. Many people, confident of their ability to find a job, do not register. Married women are not entitled to register. Parents, who love their children and do not want them to be frustrated or to face the bleakness of unemployment, send them back to school for an extra year of two years. This is the result of the unfortunate set of political circumstances that has returned successive Menzies Governments to power. I have no doubt that if honorable senators opposite ask the appropriate Minister, he will give them the correct figures as to the number of unemployed, on an assurance that the figures will not be released to the press or to the Labour Opposition.
– Are you implying that the Commonwealth Statistician does not give the figures that he thinks are right?
– 1 am saying that the Commonwealth Statistician has the correct figures. I am also saying vehemently that the Department of Labour and National Service does not have the correct figures. I am not saying that the Minister is dishonest or that his departmental officers are dishonest. They just do not know what the correct figures are.
– Or what their methods are.
– That is so.
– How many houses are you going to build next year?
– How many houses? Although some honorable senators are interjecting, I notice that Senator Sherrington is not. He has a sense of disappointment; he is interested in the welfare of the people. The Nicklin-Munro Government in Queensland is building approximately 400 houses a year fewer than the previous State Labour government built. Are honorable senators opposite interested in that?
– You will never convert them.
– That may be so, but I think a measure of tolerance and christian charity must come to them and in time they will realize what the facts are. The rights of the younger people should not be forgotten. Only a paltry amount of money is being made available for housing now. Let me refer to war service homes. Speaking in Adelaide on Monday, Mr. Partridge said that if there had not been a war, the housing position of the people would have been dreadful. Let us consider the position of these people who are entitled to some consideration because of the service they rendered during the war. Although their applications to the War Service Homes Division for a loan are approved, they have to obtain temporary finance. 1 will give details of one case. The man is aged 34 years and his wife is 27. They have five children, ranging in age from seven years to six months. The husband is earning what Government supporters would consider to be the comparatively high wage of £18, £19 or £20 a week. On the assurance that the War Service Homes Divison would give him an advance, he obtained temporary finance. Subsequently his wages fell. Because of the policy of the successive Menzies Governments, there is no confidence throughout industry or the nation. There is no overtime for the workers. This man’s wage to-day is £16. His payments on the temporary finance he obtained, on which he pays 12i per cent, interest, amount to £33 14s. a month. In an effort to hold the home together, his wife, although they have five children, has had to go out to work. After allowing for what she pays to another person to look after her children while she is working, the amount available to the family is increased by £4 a week. The mother, of course, would be at home looking after her children if the Government had any sense of social responsibility.
Honorable senators on the Government side claim vociferously that a marvellous job is being done in housing. One honorable senator opposite has said that we are just a few thousand homes short. Does he not realize how many people can be accommodated in a few thousand homes? Labour would never have tolerated this position.
Everywhere we hear criticism of the Government’s handling of the housing situation and of the War Service Homes Division. If honorable members talk to former soldiers, sailors or airmen, they will learn what is happening. Nobody has done a thing about it. No one will face it. Some people are terrified that there might be a surplus of homes. What does it matter if in any one year there are 5,000 homes—
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Si: Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
Thai the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– If Government senators are tigers for punishment, I can mete it out.
– We are going to bed when you finish.
– At least 1 am not a soporific; I am a stimulant. In the few minutes available to me I want to sum up my views on the housing problem. The Government takes pride in a job meanly and poorly done. The Queensland Government stands condemned by the admission of Government supporters. They have told us that the Queensland Government, led by Mr. Nicklin as Premier and Mr. Munro as Deputy Premier, asked for this allocation of £3,900,000 for the year, in two bites, so it can be seen that this is a government of bits and pieces. It wrecks the country, breaks it into pieces, tries to pick up the pieces, but it is so. inefficient that it cannot do so.
Of a total appropriation of £48,611,000 for housing for the year, £3,900,000 goes to Queensland. If there is one particular reason, apart from all the others, why on 1st June, 1963, the Nicklin-Munro Government should be defeated it is because of its parsimonious, paltry, mean approach to the housing problems of the people. When the Menzies Government elects to go to the people it should follow the Queensland Government into political oblivion. Unemployment is serious in Queensland and building can make a tremendous contribution to solving that problem, not only for adults but also with the placing of apprentices. Now that tax revenues are so high surely something can be done! Confidence in outside industry has been destroyed by the maladministration of the Menzies Government, and consequently loans are over-subscribed to the extent that when £60,000,000 is asked for, £126,000,000 is obtained. 1 suggest in all sincerity that as a matter of decency this chamber should recognize its responsibility to the people. There should be an investigation of housing needs and an assessment of the likely requirements over the next decade. Consideration should be given to the removal of slum dwellings which, in a place with such excellent climatic conditions, should not exist. Sub-standard dwellings should be eliminated, and those that, with the passing of time are deteriorating, should be replaced. I urge the Government to have a sense of responsibility in these matters.
Let me say in conclusion that I have been remiss. I did not congratulate the Minister for National Development earlier on the knighthood that was conferred on him in my absence - not that it would not have been conferred on him, anyway. I know how much he appreciates the honour. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was awarded the Order of the Thistle, and 1 did not get the Order of the Red Rose when I was in the Soviet Union. However, speaking seriously, f think the Minister should have another look at this housing problem. Disregarding the nastiness that he occasionally shows to me, I say that he is a very able man. I urge him to do the right thing by the people of Australia and, more particularly, the young people.
– Mr. President, 1 wish to support the proposals of the Labour Party for a greater allocation of moneys to the States for housing purposes. As the hour is late I nsk for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion ( by Senator Sir William Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate ilo now adjourn.
– Mr. President, this afternoon while the proceedings of the ‘ Parliament were being broadcast, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), diverging from matters in issue to national health, claimed that I had said many years ago of the medical profession, “They will need the Almighty on their side to get anywhere with me “. I have never in my life invoked the Almighty in the sense or context that has been attributed to me. In the heat of debate Senator Paltridge, on more than one occasion, accused me of telling a deliberate untruth. He is the first in my nineteen years in this Parliament to do that. 1 repudiate and resent his accusation. I believe I would misjudge him if I did not think that in calmer mood he would regret what happened and act appropriately.
– Mr. President, it is a fact, as stated by Senator McKenna, that this afternoon during the course of the debate I made the remark which he has attributed to me in respect of a statement which I alleged that he made to a group of doctors while Minister for Health. I should like to explain that this incident which occurred, as it was reported to me. in Adelaide in 1948, was on the occasion of a conference which the Leader of the Opposition, then Minister for Health, had with doctors in that city. It was reported to me, and indeed, if T may say so. reported widely, particularly through the medical profession, that he had said this to a group of doctors. One of my informants. I have always understood, was a doctor who attended as a member of the delegation which waited upon the Leader of the Opposition. Senator McKenna rises in this public place and says that he did not make the remark which I attributed to him. I want to say in this public place that 1 accept his statement that he did not say it, and I withdraw the remark and tender my apology.
– There is not need.
– There is, however, one further aspect of the statement made by Senator McKenna on the adjournment to which I wish to refer, because the honorable senator went on and said -
In the heat of debate Senator Paltridge, on more than one occasion, accused me of telling a deliberate untruth.
I refer to the reference made by the Leader of the Opposition to the circumstances surrounding the signing of the cross-charter deal with Trans-Australia Airlines in which he made the comment that I had compelled T.A.A. to sign the cross-charter agreement. In this connexion I point out only this: I have lived with the circumstances surrounding the cross-charter for many years - in fact for three and a half years. I was aware of all the circumstances that led to the signing of the cross-charter agreement, but as to compelling T.A.A. to sign it, I repeat what I have said frequently, namely that I brought no pressure and no influence to bear on T.A.A. to sign that document. It may help Senator McKenna to a conclusion on how he should treat this matter if I tell him that when the cross-charter agreement was signed by T.A.A. I was in London on ministerial business; I was not in Australia.
. Mr. President, now that we are clear on that point, I hope that I can be given some similar sympathy in my plight as an independent member of this Parliament. Of course, this chamber is not used to having an independent in it. I find that I am debarred from taking part in debates on matters of urgency.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– If the honorable senator will wait until I am finished he will see that it is not a reflection on the Chair. You, Mr. President, have been trying to help me in this matter. I see your point of view, but it is not one to which I can subscribe. What happened was that when a matter of urgency was raised for the first time on a medical subject, although it might have been presumed that I, having same little medical knowledge, might have been interested in the subject, neither Whip asked me whether I wished to enter the debate. I was unaware that I had to go and ask the Whip of either side whether I could enter the debate.
– You do not have to.
– I do not have to, as Senator Cole points out. When I asked you, Mr. President, whether I could speak, I was informed that the list of speakers had already been made out and that it would carry the debate through the three hours allotted for it.
– I was excluded, too.
– All right; there is still more to come. Having learnt my lesson on that occasion, when I found out to-day that another matter of urgency was to be raised I left a message with you, Mr. President. I will come back to this point later. Of course, I am not informed of such matters until I enter this chamber. At about five minutes to three I learned that a matter of urgency was to be raised. Therefore, I left a message with you, Mr. President, saying that I wished to speak on this matter of urgency. I understand that you had me sixth or seventh on the list of speakers. However, apparently that was not suitable to the Australian Labour Party. Whether or not the Opposition had heard that I was opposing itI do not know. I give it the benefit of the doubt on that point. The Labour Party spoke to you, Mr. President, and said that it objected to my taking the place of one of the Opposition speakers. I suppose the Opposition has some rights in this matter. I am not disputing that, although I do not think it has a right to exclude me from the debate. I believe that this is a matter for you, Mr. President, to decide.
In order to try to help everybody, we tried to work out a way that would enable me to speak. I could1 not very well ask the Opposition to give me one of its calls when I intended to oppose the attitude taken by the Opposition, which I thought was hypocritical. You suggested, Mr. President, that we should discuss the matter with the Government Whip and see whether we could get one of the Government speakers to stand down. The Minister in charge of the debate said that he had arranged his team, that Government spokesmen had spent considerable time on the subjectmatter, and that he did not feel that he should ask one of them to stand down.
Realizing your predicament, Mr. President, and not knowing completely my rights in this matter, I did not press the point any further. I have since been advised that I should have stood up and demanded that 1 be heard as my name was already on your list of speakers.
In trying to arrange this matter amicably, I was informed that I should approach the Whip of the side that I intend to support on a matter of urgency, and that the Whip might give me a chance to speak. Of course, that would mean that I could not listen to the debate before I made up my mind. Also, the teams of speakers would have already been arranged by both sides. The parties receive information much earlier than 1 do. In fact, I receive no information.
I hope that the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir William Spooner) will fry to evolve a method by which we can overcome this difficulty and under which I will not be debarred completely from debating matters of urgency. Whichever way I try to get in, there is some excuse for excluding me. I know that these excuses are not personal. The Opposition wants its speakers to be heard, and the Government wants its speakers to be heard. But, since the wish of the electorate is that there should1 be an independent member in this chamber, I do not think I should be so debarred.
This matter goes even further than that. Although the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour Party is notified of what is going on, I am not.
– What party do you represent?
– No matter to what party I belong, I have the same rights as every other senator, and you, Mr. President, should take cognizance only of the members of this chamber and not of the parties.
– You should have the same privileges, too, as a leader.
– I could not agree with you more, but I am not debating that matter. As a matter of courtesy, after our discussion to-day I was told about the Coral Sea celebrations episode. I would not have been told about it if I had not raised the matter to-day. Recently I told an officer of this chamber that I was going to New Guinea. I also told the Department of Territories that I was going to New Guinea. I understand that a delegation of exservicemen - I am an ex-serviceman - is going to New Guinea, but I was not even told about that. The result of that will be that the Government will have to pay for one extra passage to and from New Guinea. I could easily have gone in that delegation. In fairness to the officers, I must say that I cannot remember whether it was an officer of the Senate or of the Department of Territories to whom I spoke. He said, “Are you on the delegation? “ I did not know that there was a delegation. I said, “ No, I am a private member “. Had he said, “ Do you wish to go on the delegation? “ we might have got somewhere.
The position is that I am not informed about these matters. It appears that I have to learn at a later date about everything that goes on in this chamber. I hope that we can achieve far more co-operation and that I can have a chance to speak on matters of urgency. You, Mr. President, have tried to help me in this matter. I hope that you and the Leader of the Government between you will solve this problem.
.- I believe that in order to keep the record straight we should focus our attention for a moment on the actual position in regard to matters of urgency and the practice that has developed in this chamber not only in debates on those matters but in all debates. Honorable senators on the cross benches are treated as Opposition speakers, although invariably, over a considerable period of time, those honorable senators have sided with the Government. The position can be summarized by saying that in a three-hour debate on a matter of urgency, the mover of the motion speaks for half an hour and a Minister speaks for half an hour. That accounts for one hour of the time. Then a senator from this side of the chamber speaks for one-quarter of an hour; then one from the cross benches speaks for onequarter of an hour; then one of the Government supporters speaks for one-quarter of an hour; then another senator from the cross benches speaks for one-quarter of an hour; then another Government supporter speaks for one-quarter of an hour; and then a senator from this side speaks for onequarter of an hour. That means that in a debate on a matter of urgency we have three speakers and there are five speakers from the other side of the chamber.
– That is fair enough.
– It is not fair enough if we take the initiative. I sympathize with Senator Turnbull when he is being excluded from debates; but I believe that in order to solve this problem senators on the cross benches should go to you, Mr. President, and declare for which side they want to speak, if they expect to speak on an urgency matter. When we initiate a debate on a matter of urgency, I think we should have at least the same number of speakers as the Government has. I believe that we should press for that.
.- I have listened very attentively to Senator Turnbull and Senator O’Byrne. I would regret very much if the Standing Orders of the Senate were changed to suit some individual who happened to come into the Senate as a private member. I think we are all sitting here as private members and I think I can speak honestly if I say that a number of Government supporters, as well as a number of Opposition senators, would like to come in on the debate on the urgency motion. We are all here on an equal footing. If some individual who pops in here and calls himself an independent is to be privileged over and above other private members I claim that it would involve a change of Standing Orders.
If a private member, whether a member of the Democratic Labour Party or any other individual who comes here and calls himself a party, wishes to move a motion of urgency there is nothing in the world to stop him from doing so. If such an individual wants to sit back and hear both sides of the debate before he knows which way he will jump I do not think he should be entitled to any privilege over and above the other private members of the Senate.
– What I would like to know is what privilege the Opposition or the Government has insofar as the Standing Orders of the Senate are concerned. The practice has been for the Whips to arrange the list of speakers, but everybody here has an equal right so far as the Standing Orders are concerned. The Standing Orders say nothing about the call going to each side of the Senate alternatively. The call is supposed to go to the first person on his feet who can catch the eye of the occupant of the chair. Neither the Government nor the Opposition has the right, under the Standing Orders, to decide who is to speak. Anybody in this chamber who can catch the eye of the occupant of the chair has the right to speak. The present system is only the result of an arrangement between the two Whips. As far as I can see, Senator Turnbull, at least, is being deprived of any chance of catching your eye, Mr. President, because you are following the practice that has been established. But that practice is not provided for in Standing Orders. We should have the right to speak if we so desire and can catch the eye of the chair. One honorable senator asked why I did not bring in my own urgency motion. I should like to do so, but how could I proceed with an urgency motion?
– I would back you.
– You are a rotten stick to pick, I must say. There could be an urgency motion moved against the Government or the Opposition, but we do not have the support to bring such an urgency motion on because it is necessary for at least ten honorable senators to stand and signify their support of the motion. It seems that most honorable senators are not aware of that fact.
– You have never tried it.
– Of course we have. We are liable to try it again, and we might try you out one of these days to see whether you would stand up in support of a good urgency motion.
[11.24]. - in reply - I can see the position from both points of view. I made a facetious interjection when Senator O’Byrne pointed out that the Opposition had moved on urgency motion but had been able to present only a limited number of speakers. If the Opposition moves an urgency motion it is hardly likely to be willing to give some of its time to some one on the cross benches to speak to the motion; and the Government, which is defending itself, is hardly likely to give some of its time away. Yet I think that those who sit on the cross benches are entitled to take part in the debate.
– In every debate? I suggest that you cannot apply that to every case.
– I do not know. I hesitate to try to provide a solution late at night and standing on my feet. But I feel, as a general principle, that those who are in the chamber should not be debarred from taking part in the debate. I think we must go to bed on the thought that this is something that we have a responsibility to think about and try to solve.
– I have just one thing to say: I can assure Senator Cole and Senator Turnbull that, within reasonable bounds, I shall see that justice is done to them and that they get their fair share of speaking time in the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 May 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630501_senate_24_s23/>.