24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Did the Minister for Civil Aviation have prior knowledge of, authorize or approve, written submissions by the Director-General of Civil Aviation to the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which were used in connexion with the application of Austarama Television Proprietary Limited for a commercial television licence in Melbourne?
– The circumstances surrounding the matter about which the Leader of the Opposition inquires are as follows: The approach was made to the Director-General of Civil Aviation after counsel assisting the board at the inquiry into applications for a television licence in Melbourne had asked whether the Ansett organization was an organization which could co-operate with Government departments. When that approach was made to the Director-General of Civil Aviation he informed me of it. At that time I told him that I would much prefer that no submission be made, if that were possible. The next day, or a day or two later, the Director-General spoke to me on the telephone from Melbourne, I being in Canberra. He told me that there was a circumstance about which he had not known when he originally spoke to me and of which he naturally had not informed me then. The circumstance was that the approach had not been made, as he had understood, exclusively to himself, but had been made also to the Victorian Transport Regulation Board. The Director-General informed me that the Victorian Transport Regulation Board had at that time, in fact, submitted its letter in compliance with the request made to it. Counsel for Ansett Transport Industries Limited represented to the Director-General that silence could well be interpreted as meaning that there was criticism of Ansett’s relationship with the department which, in fact, was not the case. In the light of this new development I then told the Director-General that I concurred in the view that a factual statement of the situation as between the department and the Ansett organization might be furnished to the board. The Director-General told me in fairly specific terms - if not in the precise terms of the letter which went to the board - of the three or four matters to which he proposed to refer in advising the board in compliance with the request that had been made. The letter went forward either one day or two days after the Victorian transport authority had submitted its letter to the board.
– Can the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether the preparation Amphojel is prescribed freely under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme? What is the cost of this mixture if sold direct to the patient? What is the cost to the Government if it is prescribed by a doctor?
– Senator Wedgwood sought information on this matter and because of the detail involved I asked my department for a note on it. The note reads -
The preparation Amphojel is available as a pharmaceutical benefit under the name of a mixture of Aluminium Hydroxide Gel. As with other mixtures, for the sake of uniformity and convenience the maximum quantity which may be dispensed as a pharmaceutical benefit is 8 fluid ounces.
By agreement with the Pharmaceutical Guild this mixture, if prescribed without specific directions, costs 5s. lid.; however, if it is prescribed with specific directions as to use, the Commonwealth is required to pay the chemist a professional fee plus normal mark-up which would amount to a total of 8s. 3d. The patient, not being a pensioner, would be required to pay Ss. towards the cost. If the quantity allowed were increased to 12 ounces the cost would be 7s. 6d. if no directions were specified, and 9s. 8d. if directions were specified.
There has always existed in pharmacy a price difference between those preparations which are actually dispensed and the same preparations which are simply handed over the counter.
– I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question which is more or less supplementary to Senator McKenna’s question. The Minister stated yesterday in debate that the letter submitted by his Director-General to the Australian
Broadcasting Control Board was not substantially different from that which was submitted by the Victorian Transport Regulation Board. Having had the opportunity to peruse the transcript, I say that that is not so. I ask the Minister whether he will arrange for copies of both letters to be made available to honorable senators so that they can judge for themselves just how accurate his remarks are.
– The letters concerned are in the transcript of evidence, which is available to honorable senators, as far as I understand the position; but if it would meet the convenience of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I shall certainly see to it that he has a copy of the two letters referred to.
– I have asked that other senators be supplied with copies.
– If anybody wants copies of the letters he can have them. They are public documents; they are in the transcript of evidence.
– I must confess that I cannot do justice to this subject in an answer to a question without notice. I can tell the honorable senator that the Government is well aware of the forecast that the population of the world will double by the end of the present century, and that this Government is constantly gearing the national economy to enable Australia to produce more foodstuffs. Almost 4,000 scholarships are made available annually throughout the Commonwealth to suitably qualified students in all faculties. Speaking more specifically, I point out that two Australian Agricultural Council scholarships are provided annually for each State for tenure in all agricultural faculties. Up to date more than 90 of these scholarships have been made available. The policy which has been adopted in this field is starting to bear fruit, because increasing numbers of qualified persons are in a position to assist in agricultural pursuits.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether he will favorably consider the complete abolition of the pensions means test for persons who are 75 years of age or older. Is the Minister aware that many aged and disabled persons are faced with the added expense of purchasing artificial limbs, the cost of which is often prohibitive? Will he explore the possibility of setting up a factory to make artificial limbs and supplying those appliances to pensioners at cost price? Would it be possible to employ a percentage of physically handicapped persons in such a factory?
– The honorable senator has asked a question about matters of basic policy. In accordance with the usual Senate procedure, it is not customary to deal with such proposals in answer to questions without notice. I can only give the general reply that the Government will continue to pursue the satisfactory, progressive and humane social services policy that it has followed during the time it has been in office.
– Did you say “satisfactory “?
– I did say “ satisfactory “. I go further and say “ very satisfactory “.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs tell me why the Government has closed down its diplomatic post at Hollandia in West New Guinea?
– A similar question was asked in the Senate a day or two ago by Senator Wright. I can only traverse the ground I covered on that occasion. An Australian post was established at Hollandia when the Australian and Dutch administrations had matters of overall administration in that area to discuss. The post was to have been closed down when the Dutch relinquished sovereignty and the United Nations moved in. However, at the special request of the United Nations the post was retained during the period of administration by the United Nations. The period of United Nations responsibility having ended and the Indonesians having taken over, the post has now been closed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether the Commonwealth Government will cease to conduct its railway business in Canberra at the end of this financial year. If so, will the Goverment take proper action to ensure that the present employees will have their superannuation and leave entitlements fully preserved when their transfer to the New South Wales railway service is effected?
– -If the railway operation is suspended the superannuation and other rights of the employees will no doubt be safeguarded. As to the rest of the question concerning timing and other details, I shall refer those matters to the Minister. I ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation following the questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Kennelly regarding the views expressed by the Director-General of Civil Aviation about the relationship between the Department of Civil Aviation and Ansett Transport Industries Limited. Is it not correct that if the Director-General had refused to comply with the request of counsel to submit his views he could have been forced by subpoena to give evidence and, having regard to the nature of the questions to be asked, could not have pleaded a privileged occasion as a bar to his appearance before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board?
– The question is one that could have been more appropriately directed to the Attorney-General than to me, but my understanding of the situation is as Senator Vincent has described it. The Director-General of Civil Aviation could have been subpoenaed and could not have avoided answering questions put to him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In the light of the, to say the least, peculiarly inconsistent decisions of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in its recommendations for the granting of commercial television licences to two entirely different types of companies in Sydney and Melbourne, and in the light of national needs, will the Minister give immediate consideration to establishing further national television stations in at least the larger capital cities?
– The honorable senator suggests that there is an urgent need for additional television stations, at least in the larger capital cities. I am intrigued with the motives that have prompted that question. I should have thought that the national television stations in the capital cities to-day provide a very adequate coverage for the whole population. I think also that it is proper to remind the Senate that the national stations are set up with the; taxpayers’ money and are dependent for their existence upon revenue raised from licence-fees. To superimpose on the existing structure another such costly establishment in each of the larger capital cities would, I believe, be far from acceptable to the people of Australia. I remind the honorable senator that the Government’s policy in this field is well known. It is the intention of the Government to persevere with providing as complete a coverage as possible in the rural areas by means of national stations before any further extensions are contemplated.
– I preface a question to the Minister for National Development by acknowledging with appreciation the booklet the Minister had prepared recently setting out the projects of a national development nature that are currently being carried out in Australia, some solely by the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities and others virtually by the Commonwealth and States or their instrumentalities jointly. I notice that there is no reference in the booklet to the following projects in South Australia which are, from my own knowledge, most worthy and important and should be undertaken urgently: - The making and sealing of an all-weather road through Eyre Peninsula to Western Australia; the linking of the northern end of the sealed road system of South Australia to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory; and the preparation and maintenance of adequate beef roads in the far north of South Australia in the manner suggested in a recent survey made by the Department of Primary Industry. Will the Minister consider the practicability of having the South Australian propositions listed by his department for examination and treatment in the same manner as the projects listed in the booklet?
– The booklet to which the honorable senator has referred is an exercise carried out by my department to record the major developmental works that are in course of construction. That is done at two-year intervals, this particular survey having been made as at 30th June, 1962. The publication does not include even projected public works; it records only works which have been actually commenced. Therefore, Senator Laught’s request concerns an activity different from that which is covered by the publication. 1 do not think it would be fitting to list in the publication, and I doubt the practicability of doing so, all the developmental works which have been mentioned by him, because the scene is constantly changing. We have various proposals from South Australia, and we have proposals also from other States. We find from experience that a State may propose a work at one time and at a later stage alter the priority of the work as circumstances change. However, I shall consider Senator Laught’s suggestions and see whether they are practical._____
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport in a position to answer the question I asked him in the Senate on Tuesday last concerning reports that Silverton Transport and General Industries Limited had not been advised by any government about the plans to standardize the railway line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie?
– No, Mr. President, I have not yet received advice from the Minister for Shipping and Transport. If the honorable senator regards the matter as one of urgency, I shall approach my colleague again to-day.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I refer to the important announcement made by Sir Robert Menzies last week to the effect that a standard gauge railway is to be constructed between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. Can the Minister say whether that line will be completed about the same time as the standard gauge railway link between Kwinana and Kalgoorlie? Can he state alsothe estimated time that it will take a passenger to travel from the eastern seaboard to the western seaboard after the standardization work has been completed?
– The most satisfactory way to answer the honorable senator’s question is to obtain the information he seeks from my colleague. I am not sure of the time of construction, but I think that the general approach to the work is that the Kalgoorlie to Kwinana line and the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line will be finished about the same time. I am not aware of the time that it will take to convey a passenger from Sydney to Fremantle over the completed standard gauge line.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Recently, in reply to a question asked by me regarding the Petrov royal commission of 1954, it was stated that the total cost of the royal commission was £135,500, and that Petrov had not received any payment in addition to the £5,000 which had been paid to him at the time of his defection. How does the Minister reconcile that statement with the reply given by the Prime Minister to a question in another place, in which he admitted that Petrov had received further payments from the Commonwealth Government? Further, in reply to the third portion of my question it was stated that the royal commission, in addition to its value to the free world as a whole, disclosed the extent of the activities of the M.V.D. in Australia, its methods and techniques, and identified Australian Communists and Communist sympathizers who were assisting it. 1 now ask the Minister: Who were the Australian Communists and Communist sympathizers who were identified? What positions did these persons occupy? Are they still occupying the same positions? Was any action taken against these alleged Communists and Communist sympathizers?
President, I find it very difficult to understand the motive underlying the question from Senator Sandford.
– I am showing how futile the whole thing was.
– I should think that if Senator Sandford believes the Petrov royal commission inquiries and disclosures were a futile exercise he must be very much out of step with the vast majority of Australian people who appreciate the dangers to the security of the Australian nation that were revealed. If he does not realize the seriousness of that matter and of the more recent incident of the same kind, or if he does not believe that there is a need for us to be continually on watch for that sort of activity, then I completely fail to understand his mentality. As to what was disclosed by the commission, that is a published book. It is a public document which is of interest not only to Australian security but to security throughout the whole of the world. I do not understand how Senator Sandford, particularly in view of his record as an ex-serviceman, can ask a question such as this in this chamber. I think he is just playing with words. All the information that Senator Sandford seeks is in a book which he can obtain from the Library in this Parliament at five minutes’ notice - a book which, I suggest, most people holding responsible positions in Australia should keep in their own libraries so that they can refer to it when difficulty or trouble occurs.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Can he inform the Senate of the proportion of last season’s wheat crop still remaining to be sold?
– I am sorry to say that I cannot give that information offhand, but I will obtain it from my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, and advise the honorable senator.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral a number of questions that are of great importance to certain sportsmen throughout Australia at this time of the year. Is it not a fact that every year the excellent advertisement-free Australian Broadcasting Commission television programmes include the final of the English soccer cup? Is it unfortunately true that the final of the Scottish cup has never been shown in Australia? Is this not a grave injustice to thousands of splendid citizens whose birthplace was in bonnie Scotland? Is the Minister aware that on Saturday next two great soccer teams, Celtic and Rangers, will be the rivals in the final of the Scottish cup? Because of the keenness of thousands of Scots and other intelligent citizens, will the Minister kindly direct the attention of the A.B.C. to these matters with a view to giving Scottish Australians a soccer treat?
– Mr. President, I promptly concede that Scotsmen are the salt of the earth. The distinguished Prime Minister of this country is of Scottish descent. However, the honorable senator strains my credulity to the limit when he suggests that I should become enthusiastic about soccer. I would have him know that I come from Victoria, the home of the great Australian Rules code of football. Having declared my views in respect of football codes, let me say that I believe the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in its wisdom, chooses programmes that have a public appeal in this country. I am not suggesting that Scotsmen do not play football of as high a standard as that played by English teams; they may or may not do so. But at this point of time I am not in a position to say whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission considers that the Scottish cup final has the same public appeal as the English match which is telecast.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission has presented splendid sports telecasts, and I publicly thank it for so doing.
– In view of that interjection, Senator Brown, I am happy to say that I shall bring your representations before the Postmaster-General. However, I would be a super-optimist if I thought that the commission could make arrangements before Saturday to telecast the Scottish cup final.
– Is the Leader of the Government aware that the federal executive of the Australian Journalists Association has protested to the Prime Minister against the ban that was temporarily imposed by the Government on the Bidault television interview on the ground that the reason given for the ban - that the subject-matter was offensive to a friendly power - would open the way to the suppression of much news and comment of significance on radio and television, and also on the ground that the interview was one of legitimate interest which the public was entitled to see and hear? Does the Minister recall that when answering a question asked by me in the Senate in November of last year he stated that he always found that in the final analysis control of freedom turned out to be something close to tyranny? Does the Minister now view the Government’s ban on the Bidault film in that light or does he agree with the Treasurer who, at the time, stated that he regarded the ban as a normal democratic process?
– I was not aware of the representations made by the Australian Journalists Association to the Prime Minister. I had not heard of them. I do not for a minute doubt that they have been made. I think that the decision to ban the film was actuated, at the time, by a national desire not to give offence to a nation with which we are friendly. I do not think that any great question concerning the suppression of rights or of censorship was involved. The incident has been very much magnified.
– In view of the many requests and petitions received by parliamentarians, including Ministers, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether the Government has any intention of improving the unfortunate plight of pensioners, particularly civilian widows with dependent children who are pleading for help in the form of a domestic allowance. Has the Government any intention of increasing child endowment rates which, for second and subsequent children, have not risen since the Menzies Government came to power, although the first child has been endowed since 1950? Since then, prices have risen by more than 100 per cent. Can the Minister give any ray of hope to these people, many of whom are in very difficult circumstances?
– I think I have to reply to Senator Fitzgerald in the same way as I replied to Senator Poke. These social service matters are policy issues on which opinions are not expressed in answer to questions without notice. Such matters are considered by the Government in the preparation of each Budget. Senator Fitzgerald spoke about giving a ray of hope. I saw a television programme some months ago in which an interviewer questioned a number of pensioners. He put direct questions to them such as, “ What complaints do you have? “ and “ What do you think the Government should do? “ I was most interested to nots that the replies of the majority of those pensioners were to the effect that they thought that the Government was giving them fair treatment in the present pension payments. I did not expect to hear replies such as that. It was one of those “ Four Corners “ programmes that were shown some months ago. Direct questions were put by the interviewer to the pensioners, and I had great satisfaction hearing answers that were contrary to the views so frequently put by the Opposition. There was an appreciation on the part of the pensioners who were interviewed that the Government’s approach to this matter was equitable and fair.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Does the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s decision to censor a previously uncensored programme, “ Any Questions “, conform with Government policy? If so, what standards and principles are being followed by the selfappointed A.B.C. censors of Australian entertainment?
– I have heard a great deal of comment on this matter, some that might be factual and some that might be just common talk. I should think that the best process for gaining an answer to this question would be through the notice-paper.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that following instructions from the federal secretary of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, honorable members and honorable senators are having considerable pressure brought to bear upon them - at any rate in South Australia - from all wheat-growing areas to support a case for an increase from 100,000,000 bushels to 150,000,000 bushels in the amount of export wheat to be guaranteed by the Government? Has the Minister received a deputation from the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation? If so, was he given facts and figures, to substantiate the case by the federation? As honorable senators have not been given those facts and figures will the Minister be good enough, when he does receive such facts and figures - if he has not already received them - to allow honorable senators to have them so that we can at least know what we are being pressed to support?
– I am aware that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation is at present negotiating through various channels, to wit, the Australian Agricultural Council and the Minister for Primary Industry, for a renewal of the wheat stabilization agreement. I think that all I can say to the honorable senator is that until the findings and recommendations of the Australian Agricultural Council on the cost of production are made available, and those conclusions placed before the federation - which will in its turn confer with the Government - it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment. Having said that, I will go further and say that I will ask my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, to make available to honorable senators all the information that he can as soon as conclusions have been reached as a result of the negotiations.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade relates to a publication of the manufacturing industries branch of the Department of Trade titled “Directory of the United States investment in Australian Manufacturing Industry “, copies of which were recently distributed to. honorable senators. By way of preface I mention that the publication sets out the names of United States firms, their Australian associates and the relevant industry, but apart from a general statement that about 820,000,000 dollars, or almost one-third of the total inflow of private overseas capital into Australia in the decade to 1960-61, came from the United States and Canada, the publication gives no other information as to the amount of capital invested in the various segments of the economy. Has the Government any statistical information available about United States capital investment in Australia, firm by firm and/ or industry by industry? If so, will the Minister arrange, when the next issue of this directory is published, for the inclusion of such information in it?
– I think it would be appropriate for Senator Cohen to put his question on the noticepaper because it relates to the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Trade. However, I give him the preliminary answer that to disclose the interests of particular businesses and companies would be a departure from usual procedures. Governments receive a lot of information - I know that my own department does - from firms in a voluntary way, but if those firms thought that their transactions were going to be made public the source of information would dry up. I think personally that it would be a bad thing to put on record details of the operations and transactions of particular companies. What causes me to ask that the question be put on the notice-paper is the thought that there could be a middle course. It may be possible to show the position that exists in relation to a particular industry without disclosing the business interests of a particular company.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior relates to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I ask the Minister whether he has seen a report in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ which states that Miss Russell, when confronted by leading Labour men in Port Pirie, said, “ I want to make it clear that I will not give into any pressure “. Can the Minister inform me of the nature of the pressure referred to by Miss Russell? If pressure has been applied, does not this conflict with section 158 of the Electoral Act which covers the electoral offence of using undue influence?
– I rise to a point of order. Is it within the power of the Minister to answer such a question from his own knowledge?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I have seen the report referred to and I am of the opinion that this is not a matter of Government administration which should be dealt with by question and answer at question time. Having said that, I think I am entitled to say that I have seen the report that the lady will not yield to any pressure. That attracts the admiration of every Australian. I repeat that I believe that this is not a matter for the Minister for the Interior. If honorable senators opposite will cease interjecting I will tell them what they want to hear, but I am not going to buy into their party squabbles. I am of the opinion that as this incident arose prior to the closing of nominations it is not a matter in which the Government has any jurisdiction.
– My ^question is directed to the Minister for* ‘ National Development. B/ way of preface I should like to say. that the people of Australia hold the Snowy Mountains project, and those associated with it, in the highest esteem, and take a pride in that great national undertaking. At the same time, national park trusts have over the years been composed of dedicated men who protect and preserve our national parks and reserves for the present generation and for posterity. In view of the different viewpoints of the Kosciusko State Park Trust and the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, will the Minister give the Senate the basic reasons for the present conflict between these two important instrumentalities and offer a possible solution to the quandry in which both bodies appear to be?
– It would take the whole of question time if I were to cover all the ground on this subject. I suggest that Senator O’Byrne read a letter that I have written, which is published in this morning’s edition of the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “, and which puts the point of view of the Snowy Mountains authority. The authority’s view is that claims that the primitive area will be damaged are grossly exaggerated. It quite firmly holds the view that it can carry out the two proposed works in the primitive area without damaging the native flora.
In my letter to the newspaper I quoted an extract from a report of the Academy of Science which confirms that view. The academy went on record in 1959 as saying -
It must be admitted that such an aqueduct if very carefully constructed would not interfere to any great extent with the natural vegetation. Objections to this scheme are, therefore scenic.
We believe that no objection can be sustained on the ground that the work will affect the native flora. The Academy of Science stated that the work would affect the scenic possibilities of the area, to which we reply that no one could have promoted the scenic beauties, and tourist possibilities of the region more than have the Snowy Mountains authority and the Snowy Mountains scheme. The 300 miles of roads that we have built in that area have made it one of the world’s great tourist spots. It seems to me unfair that the trust accepts all of the advantages of having that area opened up by the authority’s work and then takes an objection on a ground that cannot be sustained, namely, that the work will affect the native flora.
Great care will be taken by the authority to avoid any possibility of that. I know of my own knowledge the thought and care that have been given by the authority to avoiding, as far as possible, disturbing the native flora. I repeat that it seems to me to be unfair for the trust to accept all of the advantages of this area being made a tourist area and then take objection, on grounds that are not justified, to these comparatively minor works. They are minor works. They are two aqueducts, one of six miles, I think, and the other of twelve miles, which will be laid and covered. They are minor works so far as the look of the place is concerned, but they are of profound importance to the economics of the scheme itself.
– 1 seek from the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a little more information than that which he gave to Senator Wright a few days ago regarding the withdrawal of our consulate from what was Hollandia. Is the Minister aware that the press gave very wide publicity to this matter and gave quite a different reason from that supplied by the Minister, namely, that we withdrew the consulate only when the Indonesians insisted on having a consulate in Port Moresby? Does the Minister agree that this was a damaging report and can he tell me whether there was an atom of truth in the reports given by the press which differ so vastly from his explanation to Senator Wright?
– I can only tell the honorable senator that the information given to Senator Wright and Senator Branson was supplied to me by the Department of External Affairs in case this matter should be raised. This is, in fact, the only information that I have on the subject. If there is any point on which the honorable senator desires a more specific answer, he might put a question on the notice-paper.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. If he is not the appropriate Minister, the question is asked of the appropriate authority of the Parliament. Is it a fact that questions addressed to a
Minister should relate to the public affairs with which he is officially connected, to proceedings pending in the Parliament or to any matter of administration for which the Minister is responsible? Is it a fact that questions should not ask for an expression of opinion? Did the question asked by Senator Branson a few minutes ago comply with these rules? Is it a fact that a question based on a newspaper article is permissible if the questioner makes himself responsible for the accuracy of the press statement? Does Senator Branson make himself responsible for the accuracy of the press statement to which he referred?
– I take a point of order. The question relates to the administration of the Senate. It is not one that should be properly addressed to a Minister.
– The point of order is upheld.
– The answer given by the Leader of the Government on the Snowy Mountains scheme, with which I agree wholeheartedly, prompts me to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Nobody doubts that, in view of the ever-increasing population of the world, in the not distant future there will be a great shortage of foodstuffs. Has the Government in contemplation any plan of major consequence for th”. development of northern Australia, where there are hundreds of thousands of square miles of fertile country, in order to bring the available land to a more highly productive state and so enable it in time to help meet the food shortages that threaten the world?
– The Government has not only plans but also monuments to its work in the Northern Territory. In fact, if I were to attempt to give details of the progress being made there, I would present a very favourable picture of government administration. So that no details may be omitted, I ask the honorable senator to put the question on the notice-paper. I shall then get him the fullest reply possible.
– Would it be possible for the Minister representing the
Minister for External Affairs to supply a list of nations which are classed as belonging to the free world?
– It would be perfectly possible for me to supply a list of the nations which I regard as belonging to the free world. Whether that would jive with a list to which Senator Hendrickson would agree, I do not know. I think that a question of this sort, asking for expressions of opinion, is not one to which an answer can be given.
– It is for guidance.
– If Senator Hendrickson seeks guidance, he might start from the point that the nations which do not belong to the free world are nations which have Communist governments.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a report that a Canadian jet aircraft had to return to London Airport yesterday because a seagull had been sucked into one of its engines? Does the Minister know that a colony of 10,000 seagulls is permanently domiciled on the Kingsford-Smith airport and that the population is increasing at the rate of approximately 1,000 a year? Does he know that this colony of seagulls feeds and breeds on the rubbish tips which surround the southern end of the airport? Does he think that these birds are a menace to safety? Will he consider doing something to eliminate the danger that is created by the presence of the rubbish tips near the aerodrome?
– This problem has engaged the attention of my department for some time. Similar problems have attracted the attention of aeronautical authorities in other parts of the world. It is rather over-stating the position to refer to the presence of these birds as a danger to safety, but they do constitute a quite undesirable hazard which should, if possible, be removed or reduced. For some time my department has been in consultation with specialist bodies, including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which might be of assistance. If the honorable senator is interested, I shall get from my department any information I can about what has been done in relation to this quite important matter and let him have it.
– Did the Minister for Civil Aviation confer with his colleague, the Postmaster-General, before authorizing the Director-General of Civil Aviation to intervene in a matter that came within the jurisdiction of the PostmasterGeneral, namely, a hearing which was conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board? If he did, did the PostmasterGeneral agree with his action?
– No, I had no conference with the Postmaster-General.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the “ Four Corners “ television production unit has been instructed not to proceed with plans to produce a film on Malaya? If so, what are the reasons for this ban? Who issued the instructions? Is it a fact that a British television unit will make a film on Malaya? Will the British film be released in Australia for exhibition over the television network?
– I have sought some information on this matter. The note which I have is couched in very few words and deals with policy. It states that as a matter of international policy, the A. B.C. always approaches the Department of External Affairs concerning the making of a film of this type. I suggest that there has been a lot of loose talk about this project. It has been alleged that censorship has been applied, but the Postmaster-General and the Minister for External Affairs have denied that that is so. Any action that has been taken in this matter by the Government is in conformity with the policy to which I have referred.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished this information -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The following answers have been furnished by the Treasurer: - 1 and 2. Under section 91 of the Bankruptcy Act, the property of a bankrupt divisible amongst his creditors does not include - “ (d) the ordinary hand tools, hand implements and hand instruments (not including conveyances or machinery propelled or worked by horse or motor power) of the bankrupt not exceeding in the whole Fifty pounds in value, . . .” It will be noted that a motor truck is excluded from the category of tools of trade. 3 and 4. The Treasurer is unaware of this case. However, if the taxpayer so desires, I would be prepared to have the matter taken up with the Commissioner of Taxation. For this purpose the full name and address of the taxpayer would be required.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
The last survey made by the War Service Homes Division of the rates of interest paid by applicants purchasing second-hand homes was in respect of applications dealt with in October, 1962. The survey showed that - (a) 61 per cent, of applicants obtained temporary finance at 7 per cent, per annum or lower; (b) 81 per cent, of applicants were able to secure finance at interest rates not exceeding 8 per cent, per annum;
The trading banks provided the temporary finance in 56 per cent, of the cases reviewed. Of the balance, 11 per cent, of the applicants obtained their temporary finance from solicitors’ trust funds, 3 per cent, from building societies, 26 per cent, from private mortgagees, and 4 per cent, from finance companies, insurance companies and other miscellaneous sources. It seems from the survey made by the division that temporary finance is readily available at reasonable rates of interest to applicants waiting for war service homes finance to purchase second-hand homes. There is no waiting period for finance to build or purchase new homes.
Report of the Public Accounts Committee.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, 1 present the following report: -
Sixty-first Report - The Reports of the AuditorGeneral - Financial Year, 1961-62.
Mr. President, in pursuance of our statutory obligation your committee examined in detail the comments of the Auditor-General in his reports for the financial year 1961-62. Following that examination a series of public inquiries were held relating to certain of the comments made by the Auditor-General, and the results of those inquiries are recorded in this sixtyfirst report of the committee. We were pleased to note that the incidence of critical comment by the Auditor-General was less than in previous years. This situation indicates the value of the annual investigations that the committee has been conducting, and it is gratifying that the AuditorGeneral’s adverse comments have become less numerous.
In this report we refer to the delay by the Department of Customs and Excise in furnishing covering instructions to the Attorney-General’s Department for the amendment of certain regulations. However, when investigating this matter, the committee was pleased to note that the necessity to amend those regulations had arisen from commendable action by the department to improve its administrative procedures, and we would like to think that all departments maintain continuous reviews of this nature.
We have commented also in this report on the somewhat disturbing situation which exists in the office of the parliamentary draftsman through the shortage of specialized legal officers. As the functions of that office are vital to the efficiency of government administration as well as to the adherence to essential legal forms we trust that the staffing problem involved will receive urgentattention, although we appreciate that there is no immediate solution. This report includes the two Treasury minutes on our forty-eighth and fifty-sixth reports.
– I lay on the table of the Senate a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Printing of cotton piece goods.
The report does not call for any legislative action.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 216), on motion by Senator Sir William Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The debate has been a long one and of benefit to the Senate. It has produced many suggestions on a subject that is vital to the whole Australian community, and the Government could note, to advantage, these suggestions for future assistance. I rise as one of the minor speakers in the debate, first, to support the claim of the Australian Labour Party that more money should be allocated to housing. I support the appeal for the establishment of an authority to survey the future building needs and housing requirements in Australia. I place more emphasis on the urgency of that survey than did Senator Willesee last night.
I enter the debate also to appeal to the Government to give the building industry a planned programme for the future in place of the present system of stops and starts with consequent fluctuations in’ building opportunities and in the number of skilled workers available. I want to direct attention also to some of the injustices in the building industry in South Australia that the money provided through this bill may assist to perpetuate.
As I have said, this has been a long debate. All speakers have agreed that a family needs a home and, with the possible exception of Senator Cole, all have agreed that the Government has a responsibility to assist in the provision of housing. If private industry does not provide homes the Government has some responsibility to assist. It is the right as well as the need of every family to have a home.
Supporters of the Government have taken the stand that the Government has done its job in this regard. They claim that it has accepted its responsibility insofar as the rate of home-build’ing is increasing from year to year and more money is being allocated to housing. Senator Anderson suggested that the Commonwealth Government had no power to deal’ with housing, but was making grants of money for housing under section 96 of the Constitution. The Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) said in his secondreading speech that the amount being allocated was more than was requested by the Premiers.
If we take a comparison from year to year of the expenditure on housing as the criterion of whether the Government is carrying out its duties; if we agree that there are limitations on the Government’s powers under section 96 of the Constitution, and accept the statement that the Government is giving more than was requested by the State Premiers, we must concede that the Government is in a favorable position and that nobody can properly criticize its activities in this field during its period of office. But let us examine the true situation. Statistics showing the number of houses completed each year, and the rate of building, do not show accurately the number of additional houses that are ready for occupation. In that connexion we must take into account also the demolitions that have occurred. I refer not only to houses demolished under slum clearance projects but also to well-constructed houses which have been taken over by British and American oil interests to make way for service stations. Over a period of time the relevant figures are substantial.
To test the argument from the other side that has been based on some questionable statistics I relate my remarks to the South Australian figures as revealed by the censuses taken in 1954 and 1961. The Opposition has been criticized for relying somewhat upon a survey of the building industry and future requirements made by Dr. A. R. Hall of the Australian National University. Senator Anderson said that even Dr. Hall had taken two bites at the cherry and had made two separate forecasts over a period. Senator Scott said he accepted Dr. Hall’s survey and that we were building houses at about the rate suggested by Dr. Hall this year. The figures for South Australia for 1954 to 1961 show that homes completed in the period between those few years totalled 60,520, but in fact the increase in the number of dwellings fit for occupation was only 47,249. In 1954 we had 212,095 dwellings and in 1961 we had 259,344, so that there was an increase between those years of 47,249 dwellings, or 14.7 per cent. The census figures also show that in 1954 we had a population in South Australia of 797,049. In 1961, the population was 969,340, an increase of 172,291, or 21.61 per cent. So, whilst the population increased by 21.61 per cent, during those years, the number of houses increased by only 14.7 per cent. I think that a similar trend will be found throughout Australia. It is apparent, therefore, that the housing needs of the increasing population of South Australia have not been met. In 1954, 2,345 dwellings were classified as sheds, huts and other such constructions. In 1961, there were 2,887 dwellings so .classified, or an increase of 23.1 per cent. At the same time as a reduction was occurring in the number of dwellings provided, there was an increase in the number of dwellings classified as sheds, huts and so on.
If we are to judge, whether the Government has fulfilled its obligation m the housing field solely on the basis of the money expended, we must take into account the changing value of money, as Senator Dittmer stated last evening. Senator Wedgwood compared the record of expenditure on housing by the Labour Government with that of the present Government. She pointed out that in five years the Labour Government had spent only £63,000,000, whereas the present Government will spend more than £48,000,000 in this year alone. The Government may be able to claim that the number of units constructed has increased this year, although it may be lower than that for other years, but even if the increase in the number of units were being steadily maintained, that fact would not be a criterion on which to judge whether the Government was fulfilling its obligations. If we were to judge on that basis we could say that the Labour Government’s preparations for defence were better than those of the Liberal-Country Party Government, because obviously expenditure was greatest when the need was greatest. The Government must be judged from time to time on its efforts to meet the housing needs of the people. We on this side of the chamber believe that the Government has a responsibility to see that the community is housed. If we look at the matter from that aspect, we see that the Government has not fulfilled its responsibility in housing the people, because it has not taken into account the increasing demand for housing as the population has increased. The result is that the community has had to make greater use of sheds, huts and other such buildings for accommodation purposes. The census figures that I have mentioned cannot be disputed. They show that the Government has lamentably neglected its obligation to provide homes for the people of Australia.
As Senator Benn has mentioned, it is not suggested that the Government should provide homes in excess of the demand. At the present time, the Government is not nearly meeting the demand for homes. It is readily accepted that there, is a waiting list throughout Australia of approximately 75,000 applicants for homes.
– The Government has in fact deliberately set a target below the demand.
– Whether it has deliberately set a target below the demand or not, it is obvious that the Government has not met its obligation to provide homes for the people. The need for homes becomes greater each year, a matter that was more or less passed over by Senator Anderson. Before discussing his contribution to the debate, let me say that the Government has had plenty of opportunity to display its attitude to housing, and even to the provision of residences for its own employees, such as those working at Woomera. In the Adelaide press of Monday last there was condemnation by Councillor White, of the Norwood Municipal Council, of a reply received from the appropriate Minister regarding the refusal of the Federal Government to subsidize homes for the aged under a plan initiated by the council. We know that, under the administration of this Government, in all States there is a continuing shortage of hospitals, gaols and mental asylums.
I wish to deal with the suggestion by Senator Anderson that the Federal Government has no authority over housing. Surely, if a State does not meet its obligations in this respect, there is some responsibility on the Federal Government. Senator Anderson sought protection under section 96 of the Constitution, but if we look at the section we find that it provides no such protection at all. It states -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
The fact that the Federal Parliament has power to grant moneys to the States on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit means that it has authority to say how the money shall be used and, if necessary, to stipulate the types of construction and other conditions. The power is sufficiently wide to enable this Government to assume full responsibility in the housing field. If there is some limitation on the ability of the Government to provide houses either for rental or for purchase, there is no limitation on its ability to provide homes for its own employees, and it is continually doing so for certain departmental employees. Employees of the Commonwealth Government are by no means housed only by Commonwealth Government instrumentalities. As we have heard in regard to tha transfer of Commonwealth employees from Woomera to Adelaide, the Commonwealth Government is seeking an allocation of houses from the South Australian Housing Trust. If a State does not meet its housing obligations, there is power in the Constitution for the Commonwealth Government to fulfil that obligation and to over-ride tha
State. It was alarming, 1 think, to find that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to grant for housing purposes an allocation in excess of what was requested by the State Premiers, but this is understandable because the construction of more houses involves the supply of all those essential materials used in their construction.
In South Australia at present there is repeated agitation about an area known as Fulham Gardens. Despite repeated promises, there is no sewerage in that area, and there is some doubt about whether sewerage can be provided. It has been reported that at Taperoo, where an attempt is being made to use seepage wells for the disposal of sewage, there is a 4-inch water basin and the effluent from the toilets is flowing into the streets. The State Government cannot provide more homes unless it has the wherewithal to provide also the essential services. At Para Estate in South Australia, where some hundreds of new homes rely on pumped bore water for their household supply, the electric pump broke down during a comparatively recent hot spell and the residents were without water for 36 hours. Every time it rains we have an agitation in the press about the quagmire in some street. It is understandable that the State Government cannot accept money to be used only for building houses if it has not funds to provide the services that are also needed.
There should be a survey, not only of housing needs, but also of all those requirements that go with the development of residential areas. I believe that the Commonwealth Government particularly has a responsibility to provide proper housing for the people. Some reference has been made to a survey conducted by Dr. A. R. Hall, and the reliability of his estimates has been queried. I believe that he has underestimated our housing requirements. I advocate a survey by some authoritative body so that we can have some plan for the future. I am supported in this view by a report in the Adelaide “Advertiser” of 18th March of a statement by Mr. Warren D. McDonald, the chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. The article states -
An importial, authoritative survey on an Australiawide basis should be made to establish an accurate picture of the country’s , real housing _ situation, the chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation (Mr. Warren D. McDonald) said yesterday.
“Estimates vary, but according to the general feeling in the building industry and the community, building in Australia is getting further behind her housing demand in what will probably prove to be one of the most significant decades in her history “, he said.
Apart from a study on housing trends, prepared by Dr. A. R. Hall last October, there appeared to have been no up-to-date authoritative research undertaken to determine just how big or how small the lag was, or what the housing position was likely to be in the next few years.
The report continues -
Mr. McDonald said that he considered a national survey of the position was necessary fully to examine the findings of Dr. A. R. Hall, Senior Fellow in Economics, Australian National University.
There was an appeal by the Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation for such a survey. That was followed by a statement by Mr. J. P. Cartledge, Chairman of the South Australian Housing Trust, which appeared in the “Advertiser” of 20th March. Mr. Cartledge was reported as follows: -
The demand for housing was expected to accelerate after 196S, the chairman of the Housing Trust (Mr. J. P. Cartledge) said yesterday. Mr. Cartledge said he agreed with a statement by Mr. McDonald, chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, that a greater housing effort would be needed.
The high birthrate during the war would result in a big upsurge in the demand for houses within a few years.
So the request for a survey by the Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation was supported by the Chairman of the South Australian Housing Trust. It is clear that the Commonwealth has not planned to meet the housing requirements of the increased population. If we look at the census figures, we find that in 1961 the male population of South Australia between the ages of 20 and 24 years was 31,537. That is the group that we should be aiming to house at present. Incidentally there was a report in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ that last year three girls married at the age of thirteen years, and that 40 per cent, of marriages were of minors. So I may be wrong in saying that we should now be concerning ourselves with the housing of those in the 20 to 24 years _ age group. If we should now be housing people of a younger age, the position becomes even worse. But let us assume that approximately 90 per cent, of the male population will marry and try to establish a home. From the census figures we learn that in South Australia in 1961 there were 31,537 males in the 20 to 24 years age group. Those between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, whom we would expect to be housing in five years’ time, numbered 38,277 - a jump of about 7,000. Those who in 1961 were in the ten years to fourteen years age group, and whom we could expect to be housing in ten years’ time, numbered 50,881. In the age group from five to nine years - those whom we could expect to be housing in fifteen years’ time - the number was very much the same - 50,926. However, in the four years or younger group there was again an increase to 52,311. So the housing requirement for those of marriageable age in South Australia jumps by 20,000 over a period of twenty years. This does not take the effects of migration into consideration. The Government should know its migration possibilities and the housing requirements of those whom it is bringing into Australia. The Government needs to have a survey made, scaled as I have suggested, for the purpose of discovering the housing needs of Australia in future years.
This brings me to my more important point. Having discovered our requirements, we must try to formulate some plan for a steady building programme which will provide continuity of employment. The only time that we have had any semblance of a building programme was during the Labour Government’s post-war reconstruction period. In this period statistics concerning previous housing construction were considered, as was the number of building workers employed on renovations, repairs and maintenance as well as on the construction of new buildings. The Labour Government’s programme for the post-war years took into consideration the requirements of each section of the building industry. As the supply of labour fell far short of the number of men that would be needed for planned industrial requirements, trade committees were set up in every large city for the purpose of training ex-service personnel to meet the planned building requirements of the future. The training was placed on a permanent basis and the Government had a planned programme.
No matter how much that government spent on housing, the fact remains that it had a programme to meet the requirements of the people at the time and to provide workmen for the purpose of putting the programme into operation. Applicants for training were readily available in that period because they had the prospect of some continuity of employment. Normally, and more so to-day, the industry has no assurance of continuity of employment because of the fluctuations of the Government’s policy from time to time. When, in the Government’s opinion, it became necessary to impose a credit squeeze - mostly because the inflationary period was inducing people to buy imported goods and we had a big adverse trade balance - action was taken to rectify this matter. The first person to suffer, as a result, was the building worker who was doing no harm to the economy and who was not using imported materials. Building had to stop because immediately there is any semblance of a recession there is hesitancy about building. It is truthfully said that the building industry is the barometer of prosperity. It is the first industry to feel any slump; it is the last to recover from a slump.
Senator Benn cited the wage rates paid in various industries. He mentioned that a carpenter received about £1 over a certain allowance. I know something about the building trade. The carpenter and other tradesmen are on a par with the fitter and turner under the metal trades award which has been established as a standard wage scale. The building industry award has some loading because of disabilities associated with that industry. The standard wage for the building industry is multiplied by 52 to get an annual amount and that amount is divided by 48. This yields a weekly wage which provides payment for four weeks of the year in which the tradesman does not work. These four weeks include two weeks for public holidays, a week’s sick leave and an allowance for one week for intermittence of employment. Because of the unemployment that existed in the building industry, particularly last year, application was made to Commissioner Webb of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners of Australia for an alteration of the method of calculating the weekly wage by dividing the annual amount, not by 48 but by 47. This application was made because the unemployment position had become worse. The union contended that the men should be paid not for one week but for two weeks as a loading. Evidence was presented to Commissioner Webb concerning fluctuations in building construction, the number of men in the industry, and the necessity for a change. Commissioner Webb rejected the claim, saying that the evidence was insufficient but that there was some evidence of a need for an alteration to the loading. It is a loading that would be unnecessary in an established industry, but it is necessary in this industry in which there is no stability whatsoever. The person who employs labour to build a house pays the tradesmen a loading for the period when they will have no association with that house. This raises the price of a home.
In other than the immediate post-war years the building industry has always experienced intermittence of employment because there has never been planning in that industry. As a result of fluctuations in building construction, there is no proper training scheme for the industry and the standard of workmanship is deteriorating to a certain extent. Many of our superior tradesmen are in a state of uncertainty and many of them are leaving the industry in order to obtain security that is available in other industries. The size of this industry justifies some consideration and planning for the future.
I shall conclude by pointing out that in South Australia we have had a very unhappy experience in building construction due to the actions of the Premier of that State, who monopolizes the press and radio. As a result of his publicity stunts, Australians consider that South Australia is one of the leaders in building construction.
– So it is.
– The people should know the price that we are paying. The conditions under which building workers in South Australia are employed would not be tolerated for a moment if they had the right to alter them. I appeal to the Commonwealth Government to stipulate conditions in respect of the expenditure of any money it makes available to South Australia for building purposes, because if we disagree with the activities of the South Australian Government we still have to put up with it. Unlike the citizens of other States, we cannot reject the State Government at an election. At the last election in South Australia the Opposition party obtained 56 per cent, of the total votes, but it is still the Opposition party. In the absence of democracy in that State, we need some special consideration. The South Australian housing industry, which Senator Hannaford says leads the Commonwealth, is based on low wages. South Australia is a low-wage State. The State Government believes that South Australia must remain a low-wage State. Even the wage-fixing tribunals in South Australia will never give the justice to workers which such tribunals give in Federal or other State jurisdictions.
In the recent carpenters’ case the federal court gave an industry allowance of ?1 but the South Australian tribunal gave only 15s. South Australia has the least favorable awards of any State in Australia but wages in that State in the building trades are still too high in relation to the prices which the Government is prepared to pay for house construction. As a result, we have sub-contracting for the purpose of defeating awards. Legitimate employees seeking employment in their particular trade go to a contractor, but they are told, “No, I cannot employ you, but I will let you build so many houses at so much “. The employee is compelled to accept those terms or be unemployed. Because of this state of affairs skilled men are leaving the industry and unskilled men are coming into it. Contractors are trying by all means to keep out of the bankruptcy court.
Mr. Pietrafesa, who had a plastering subcontract with the Adelaide Building Company which is engaged by the South Australian Housing Trust, was approached by a union organizer and told that as there was only himself on the job he had no right to employ two juveniles; it was contrary to the law. Mr. Pietrafesa immediately put the two juveniles on to another house. When the organizer went to see him Mr. Pietrafesa told him that the two juveniles were two sub-contractors who were doing sub-contract work for him. The union that I was associated with in South Australia insisted that members had certain qualifications before they were admitted. For the purpose of ascertaining whether applicants for membership had these qualifications they were examined by the South Australian Department of Education and their capabilities were judged by a board consisting of an instructor in the department, a representative of the master builders and a representative of the union. Those who did not meet the normal requirements were not acceptable to the union, and they immediately took sub-contracts with the South Australian Housing Trust. I think it is important to point out that there is a necessity for some relief.
As I pointed out last year, South Australia has a higher proportion of bankruptcies than any other State. The biggest proportion of those bankrupts in South Australia are persons connected with the building industry - building contractors and suppliers of building materials. In many cases it is the workers who eventually have to pay. Firms put in tender prices that are far too low. On many occasions the subcontractor walks off the job leaving his employees without their wages. It is shameful that a man who has to provide for a family, and who could be an applicant for a future home, is not paid after toiling for a week. There should be a stipulation on government contracts that at least award wages should be paid on all jobs. One of the biggest offenders is the firm of A. V. Jennings Construction Company Proprietary Limited, which is doing a lot of contracting work in Canberra. It is an Australia-wide firm. We are not suggesting that it is broke. In South Australia the firm has employed questionable sub-contractors who are lacking in financial backing, business acumen and, in many cases, in capability as tradesmen.
At the time when a firm of plastering contractors, Laney and Lindberg, went broke we brought the matter up with the Minister and obtained an assurance from him that on Commonwealth Government work employees would be paid. On the repatriation hospital job in South Australia our men were paid. The firm of Laney and Lindberg went bankrupt because it could not pay its way, but the person who started another firm to do this firm’s plastering work was Mrs. Lindberg, the wife of one of the members of the bankrupt firm. Then there was Mr. Keyser who left without paying his men, and a Mr. Balzone, who cleared out to Tasmania owing bricklayers £600. The South Australian Housing Trust, about which Senator Hannaford is so proud, has been built up upon the sweat, toil and non-payment of building trade employees. If the South Australian Government, which is immune from any repercussions because of the gerrymandered electorates in that State, is prepared to allow these conditions to continue, the Commonwealth Government should not allow them to continue. When the Commonwealth Government grants money to the State it should stipulate that award wages shall be paid to the employees who are constructing the homes.
The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures for South Australia show that the number of persons engaged in the building industry in 1957 - the earliest figures that are available - was 711 contractors, or 6.6 per cent, of the building force in South Australia; 1,887 sub-contractors, or 17.5 per cent, of the building force; and 8,145 wage-earners, or 75.8 per cent, of the building force. In 1961, there were 584 contractors, representing 4.9 per cent, of the building force; 2,202 sub-contractors, representing 18.4 per cent.; and 9,158 wage-earners, representing 76.7 per cent, of the building force in South Australia. These figures show that over the period the legitimate contractors became fewer in number, there were more sub-contractors, and approximately the same number of employees. Is this state of affairs designed to provide cheap labour? Is the benefit passed on to the community? Is it resulting in cheaper homes?
One of the things that a section of our community in South Australia is proud of is that we are building cheaper homes than are built in any other State. Representatives from Victoria came over to see our homes with a view to constructing similar houses in that State. They pointed out that although we were building cheaper homes in South Australia, we were not providing the same facilities or as good fittings as they do in Victoria, and that we do not put down foundations below the ground. In the early days of the South Australian Housing Trust it was not necessary to put foundations below the ground because of the nature of the soil on which the houses were being built. To-day, although the houses are being built out in the farming areas, foundations are not put below the ground because the trust is selling the houses and is not liable for their future maintenance.
In 1945, at the end of hostilities, the basic wage in South Australia was £4 13s., and at that time a home could be built for £850. If you multiply £4 13s. by 172 you get approximately £850.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension I was seeking to show that in the immediate post-war years, when the approximate cost of a home was £850 and the basic wage was £4 13s., a home could be paid for in 172 weeks, if the whole of the basic wage were applied in payment. In 1961, when the cost of a home had risen to between £3,000 and £4,000 and the basic wage was £14 3s., it would have been necessary to apply the whole of the basic wage for 280 weeks to purchase- a home. The increase in the cost of a home is much more than commensurate with the increase in wages, so nothing has been gained by the system in operation. The effect of this, together with other things, in South Australia is to deprive the worker of his just wages.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) is, I believe, to go to Whyalla next week on an election campaign. He will see there miles of new homes, on the construction of which not half a dozen day workers were employed. Construction was by subcontract. Although sub-contractors have been prosecuted for the exploitation of juvenile labour, the practice still continues. A carrier in the town has a contract to install septic tanks. He never goes on the job but sub-lets the work to some one else. An employee of the Postmaster-General’s Department has a sub-contract for the fencing of a number of homes. He never goes on the job. Work is sub-let to men outside the building industry, who employ labour for the purpose of completing the job. If they find that they are unable to pay for the labour, the workmen suffer as a result. The Commonwealth should not permit this system to continue. Although it can easily pass the buck to the States, Commonwealth money is being used and we should stipulate conditions and insist on their being carried out.
For many years the South Australian Housing Trust engaged the firms of E. F. Marshall and Sons Limited and A. H. May Limited for the maintenance of rental homes. Day labour had been employed on the building of the homes and the standard of construction was reasonable. But for some reason or other a contract for a group of rental homes was let to Orlit Limited, a firm established in recent years which would appear to have a big influence with the trust. It employs labour entirely on a piece-work basis. The maintenance required on the homes that it built was such that the trust decided to go right out of the field of rental homes. In South Australia to-day not a home is being built for rental. The system adopted by the Premier permits the purchase of homes on a deposit of £50. In effect, construction for the housing trust has passed from the field of day labour and is performed by cheap labour on a subcontract basis. Maintenance costs are too high for the trust and responsibility for maintenance is being thrown onto the occupants of houses. A person who has £50 key money and continues payments for 40 years will own a house, but the state in which the house will be at that stage is hard to envisage now. The purchaser must make payments on first and second mortgages and meet rates and taxes. A lowwage worker with a family to support is unable to meet these charges and to keep up the maintenance, so virtually we are building a group of potential slums in South Australia.
The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement had been inaugurated under the Chifley Government legislation to assist persons in the lower and medium wage groups to get homes. I suggest that this has not been done in South Australia. Not a home is built for persons in the low income group who have not £50 to deposit. One of the results is an increase in the use of huts and sheds as dwellings. In the immediate post-war years, under the Labour Government’s system of planned construction, there was a trained, efficient labour force for the construction of dwellings. The sub-contract or slave labour system to-day has completely ruined the apprenticeship system in South Australia. Builders do not employ apprentices. Sub-contractors have not the continuity of work that provides an opportunity for the employment of apprentices. Instead of ensuring a labour supply for the future of the industry, the subcontractors operate by the exploitation of juveniles as improvers or unskilled manpower which has to be trained on the job. It may be that at some time these employees will become proficient in the work, but the whole point is that to-day we are getting inferior construction. Rectification of the mistakes made by employees in one trade delays the operations of men in succeeding trades, resulting in higher cost of construction. Homes are costing more, relatively, than they did under the Chifley regime When we make a comparison on the basis of wages, we find that we are saving nothing. Construction is of a poorer type. Whereas formerly we were building bungalow and tudor-type houses, to-day we are going in for flat-roofed houses, which are cheaper to build, but there is no saving to the purchaser.
Labour has stated for many years that solution of the housing problem, as Senator McClelland said, lies in lower interest rates. While I support that policy, I do not now go to the extent of asking the Government to do something of a revolutionary nature which I know is against its principles. I ask that common sense apply and that a survey be made of the industry’s future needs. We should then adopt a planned building programme to give continuity of work to building operatives. We must provide security of employment in order to attract back to the industry the skilled tradesmen who left it because of lack of security or, in some instances, because they refused to work with the incompetent persons who, of necessity, are employed today. We should train a competent labour force and give value for the money invested by those persons buying homes.
Where a State Government has not met the requirement to provide homes for the low income groups and is not providing rental homes of any description, the Commonwealth Government should, under the power conferred by section 96 of the Constitution, stipulate that such homes be built with the loan money provided. My whole advocacy to-day is not only out of consideration for the building trade. We must have a plan for increasing loan expenditure on building construction and we should have a programme that will meet future requirements.
[2.25]. - in reply - As happens with the debates on many simple bills that come before the Senate, this debate has ranged over a wide field. I propose to conclude the debate by replying briefly, first of all, to criticism that has been levelled against the Government by the Opposition and then dealing with some general propositions in relation to home building. In the course of doing so I may not specify the honorable senators who made the comments with which I shall deal.
As could be expected, the Opposition has tried to prove that the Government has been found wanting in the provision of homes for the people of Australia. Honorable senators opposite have painted a picture of great problems and difficulties. I propose to reply in general terms by pointing out that over the years during which this Government has been in office more than 1,000,000 homes have been built in Australia. That is a substantial proportion of the total number of homes in this country. Accompanying that very great expansion has been a remarkable increase in home ownership. The proportion of persons who own or are in the course of purchasing their own homes has increased over the last decade from 54 per cent, to 70 per cent.
I make this further general point, Mr. President: Those persons who criticize the homes we see in Australia must do so to a large degree with their tongues in their cheeks. I submit that the beauty and the individuality of so many Australian homes are among the most distinctive features of our capital cities and the larger country towns. Pride in home ownership is being reflected in, and is making a marked impact upon, the appearance of Australia as a whole. Simply to say that there is a great dearth of homes is to ignore the extensive work that is being carried out by municipal councils and other authorities in the provision of roads, lighting, gas and sewerage. These activities are among the great developments that have occurred in the post-war years. Speaking again in general terms, I say it is idle to state that the Commonwealth Government has not made a major contribution to this change in the look of Australia. Let me again cite some figures that were used by Senator Wedgwood. During its term of office, the Menzies Government has provided £411,000,000 for war service homes, £460,000,000 under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements, and £51,000,000 for housing in Commonwealth Territories. The total is very close to £1,000,000,000.
Speakers on both sides of the chamber have asked for a survey of housing requirements. I should like to deal with this subject from a statistical point of view, because an increasing number of people are taking an interest in housing statistics. ] am always hesitant about referring to housing in terms of statistics because, when all is said and done, housing consists in the provision of homes rather than in the production of figures. But from whatever standpoint one approaches the subject, it is necessary to make some mathematical calculations. In accepting the calculations there are many dangers which, in my view, are not sufficiently well known and which I thought I should place on record in “ Hansard “ so that anybody who is interested may refer to them from time to time. Housing statistics are issued by the Government Statistician in two parts. First, each month a record is prepared of home approvals, and each quarter information is supplied which shows the number of commencements, the number of completions and the work still in progress. Each month in the newspapers there are published, for the benefit of the public and politicians, comments about the approvals. It is not generally realized that the figures which are designed to show the number of approvals can be misleading. The published number of approvals varies quite considerably from the number of houses that are commenced.
I asked my department to take out certain figures. Those figures show that in 1957 the number of approvals exceeded the actual number of commencements by 9,000. In the next year the difference was 12,000, and in the following year it was 1 1,800. Last year, the number of approvals exceeded the number of commencements by 3,255. Those of us who deal with the provision of homes understand that situation, but I doubt whether the public and most commentators do. According to our calculations, 40 per cent, of the people who apply for war service homes fail to proceed further. For one reason or another they change their minds. Apparently the same comment could be applied to statistics in relation to approvals. With the concurrence of honorable senators I incorporate in “ Hansard “ the following table which should be of interest not only to honorable senators but also to press commentators, and which sets out the marked difference between the number of approvals and the number of commencements: -
The next point I wish to make is that it is now becoming increasingly accepted that the Statistician’s quarterly figures which show the number of commencements and completions and the work in progress, when contrasted with the sevenyear census figures, understate the number of homes provided. It is believed that they do so by as much as 7i per cent. Therefore, to interpret the quarterly figures correctly, it is necessary to increase them by approximately Ti per cent.
The same thing applies to the oft quoted figures which show the number of people on waiting lists. I have taken out figures which show the number of people on the waiting lists of the various State housing commissions. In all States except New South Wales and South Australia the numbers of people waiting for homes under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement have fallen during the last two years.
Some honorable senators have referred to a waiting list of 75,000 people. I do not think that that is any proper estimate of the situation, because we have, according to our statistics, 71,000 on the waiting list of the State housing commissions; we have an equally large number on the waiting list of the War Service Homes Division; there is an equally large number waiting for building society homes and also for homes built through savings banks. These figures of persons applying for homes are not, in my judgment, a measure of the housing shortage so much as a measure of the market for homes. They are a measure of the number of persons who are living in one set of circumstances and want to change to another. So I think we do wrong when we talk in terms of the waiting lists disclosing the measure of the number of houses needed.
The next point is more difficult to explain in simple terms. I refer to the request by the State Ministers for a survey of the number of homes wanted. This proposal has been supported by various speakers in this debate, but in this connexion one has to make the point first that all these estimates have to be based on assumptions. You have to start off on the basis of the number of persons living in a home. Then you have to make estimates of the proportion of married couples, widows, widowers, spinsters and bachelors who need a separate home of their own. Then you have to make a judgment of the economic climate at the time the estimate was being made. Then you reach a situation where these estimates are really expressions of opinion from people rather than facts.
– They are based on facts.
– I am stating the position as I see it. They are not based on facts. Senator Cavanagh and I would have very different ideas about the number of people in a house and about proportions. We would have these different ideas, but not because we have opposing political views. If you study the proportion of widows and widowers looking for homes, and all these other factors, you reach a situation where all the probabilities are that two separate independent investigators would get different answers. Whatever the figures may be, they always have to be amended at frequent intervals. Just as my own department makes these estimates so also do the housing commissions. These estimates, with all their shortcomings, virtues and strengths are the subject of constant discussion between housing officials, whether Commonwealth or State, and between people who prepare them for banks and insurance companies. What the States are asking is that the Commonwealth should take responsibility for these estimates with all their deficiencies and the great element of personal opinion that come into the proposition.
Let me illustrate my point this way: There has been a good deal of discussion during the course of this debate on the estimates made by Dr. A. R. Hall. In my judgment, Dr. Hall is doing outstanding work in this field. But I wonder whether all honorable senators know the basis of the figures Dr. Hall has produced. Some of the things that have been said in this debate cause me to think that what Dr. Hall is doing is rarely understood.
Dr. Hall is not attempting to estimate the need for houses in Australia. He is not attempting to estimate what in his opinion is the number of houses that should be built in Australia. What he has been attempting to do is forecast the demand for houses which usually decides how many houses will be built. He is attempting to make his judgment upon the various classifications of prospective home owners and what he thinks the growth of population will be. He is attempting to assess the economic climate now and in the future, and he finishes up with a figure which in his opinion will reveal the number of houses built in a particular time. That is very different from trying to estimate how many houses should be built.
As I have said, Dr. Hall is doing very valuable work in this field. If he were 100 per cent, accurate in the figures he publishes those figures would co-incide exactly with the number of houses that are being built. I repeat that he is attempting to forecast not how many houses are needed but how many will be built. The fact is that over the past two and a half years Dr. Hall has made four of these forecasts, and I think he has had a variation in the four estimates of as much as 20 per cent, between his highest level and his lowest level.
Just pause to consider what would be the position if the Commonwealth Government undertook the responsibility of making estimates of some kind or other, with all their limitations, and it produced four estimates in two and a half years with a variation of 20 per cent. That is one of the reasons why the States are saying, in effect: “We are doing this work. We know how very difficult it is to do it accurately. We would like to put this in the plate of the Commonwealth Government.”
The Department of National Development, which I administer, has made its estimates and I propose to give some of them. You start off with a contrast between two censal years, taking the 1954- 1961 census period as a basis. The whole foundation of these housing estimates rests on the varying types of family groups it is estimated will need a home. You start off on the basis that between 1954 and 1961 the figures show an improvement of 34- per cent, in the percentage of family groups that have homes. You ally that with two other figures of significance. The first shows that the number of families living in shared accommodation fell from 107,216 to 79,547. Those living in what are classified as sheds and huts fell from 49,148 to 42,012.
There is the situation. There has been a substantial improvement in regard to the numbers of families sharing homes and living in what are classified as huts and sheds. That means a substantial improvement in regard to the number of family groups not in their own homes.
I shall discuss this matter rather slowly, because it is a little difficult to follow. First, let me state the basis of my department’s estimate. We assume that the proportion of the various family groups who have their own homes remains constant. In other words, if 50 per cent, of widows and 40 per cent, of widowers have their own homes, which was the position in 1961, we say that we accept those percentages and do not make any variation in that regard. They remain constant. If you do that, Mr. Deputy President, and proceed upon the basis of a net migration programme of 80,000 migrants, then you say that the rate at which dwellings should be added in Australia is between 80,000 and 88,000 a year. That is my departmental estimate of the number of new dwellings needed in Australia before any allowance is made for improvement in housing standards. The estimate is made on the standards that existed in 1961.
The margin between 80,000 and 88,000 will be narrowed as further statistical information becomes available. Complete results of the 1961 census have not yet been published.
– What about the increase in the numbers reaching marriageable age?
That is taken into account. As I have said, we have taken as a basis the figures provided by the last census. We have accepted them and worked on them. The figures will change next year, with variation of the migration programme. They will change materially three or five years hence, when there is the anticipated big increase in the marriage rate; but I am discussing the figures as they are at the present time.
I ask honorable senators to remember that, as I stated previously, the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures understated the actual rate of contruction by approximately 7i per cent., so that if we start with 80,000 to 88,000, it means that, on the basis of the housing statistics which are issued each quarter, we need from 75,000 to 82,000 houses to be built each year in order to meet requirements at the present standard of housing. That is the basis of the various press statements which have been made on the subject. According to the figures for the March quarter, completions were equivalent’ to 89,000 per annum. The net result is that the present building programme in Australia is from 7,000 to 14,000 houses a year more than the number required to meet the increase in the population, at the standard of housing that applied in 1961.
– What a manipulation of figures.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER__
It is unfair to speak of manipulation. I could make a rude reply and say that it isobviously beyond your intelligence to understand the position. The figures will be recorded in “ Hansard “. They are not my figures.
– Do they provide for slum clearance and the replacement of obsolete houses?
– To the degree that those things were done between 1954 and 1961; and the same comment applies to every other category.
The net result is that houses are being built in sufficient number to meet the needs of the increased population and to meet the demand, leaving a margin of from 7,000 to 14,000 houses to give us better housing standards, to provide for the removal to houses of people who are living in huts and sheds, and to do all the things that people want to see done in order to provide better housing in Australia.
– There are some authorities who say the figure should be 100,000.
Yes, but it is necessary to understand the basis on which those authorities made their estimate. Dr. Hall has referred to a figure of 102,000 dwellings, and I have heard honorable senators say during this debate that that was his estimate of the need. That is not right. It is his estimate of demand, or of the number of houses that will be built. I have given my department’s estimate of the need. That has its limitations because such estimates are expressions of opinion of the number of houses needed over and above the present rate of housing construction in Australia, and to provide all the benefits that we wish to have.
In the few minutes that are left to me, I want to touch briefly on a few points. There has been a good deal of discussion about what is called the deposit gap, or the difference between the cost of a house and the amount of deposit required. I make the point that that is a gradually reducing figure. In 1961, the difference between the cost of building a house and the average loan available was £844. In the next year it fell to £787. Since then, there has been a substantial increase in the maximum loan made available by the War Service Homes Division, the savings banks and other organizations, and we have no doubt that the gap will be further reduced next year.
I wanted to cover some of the other factors in the housing situation, but time is running out for me.
– I do not think anybody will object to the Minister being granted an extension of time, if he wants it.
There is a reason why I should not ask for an extension of time this afternoon. Perhaps I shall be able to deal with three points in about three minutes. First, I wish to pay a tribute to the work which the building society movement is doing in Australia. Building societies are providing 17 per cent, of the houses being constructed. I believe that it is doing so in the best circumstances for young Australians. There are two developments in the housing field in the States to which I think attention might be directed. I personally support them because I think they are well worth while. The first is the movement by the State governments towards developing land and selling vacant land as a part of their housing activities. I have no doubt at all that one of the big obstacles in the way of the prospective home owner in Australia is the high cost of home sites. I understand that three of the States are now selling some of the land which they had bought for home-building purposes, and are also buying areas of land, subdividing them and selling them to people who want to erect homes. That is a desirable extension of governmental housing activities. It means that home sites are being provided at reasonable prices.
The second development in the States to which I want to refer is the provision of money on second mortgage in order to help young couples bridge the gap between the amount of mortgage money available and the total purchase price. One of the. basic problems associated with housing is that the circumstances differ so much from State to State. For instance, there are different circumstances and a difference in the demand for housing in Queensland and Western Australia. There are even different conditions as between New South Wales and Victoria. That is why the development of home sites and the lending of money on second mortgage are so much matters for the State housing authorities concerned. Nevertheless, I think that the two developments I have just mentioned are worth while.
The third important point I wish to make, and which was mentioned in my secondreading speech, really goes to the heart of the criticism that has been made of the Australian housing programme. I refer to the fact that, although the States have taken more loan moneys this year than last year, they have of their own volition reduced the amount which they have taken for governmental housing activities. That, to my mind, supports our contention that we are making rapid progress in our housing programmes.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar).- Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– There is one point on which I should like the Minister to comment. I refer to the number of houses that we expect will have to be built, not only to meet the expanding population but to carry out slum clearance and eliminate sub-standard housing. I am wondering whether, in the field of actual practice, that will happen. The Minister will recall that I offered some criticism on this matter and spoke of the Government hiding behind the Constitution. I used the words objectively. The Government obviously would have a certain figure of housing needs in mind in fixing its loan allocations. The States have a right to, and in fact do, allocate the moneys that are made available to them out of loan funds. I pose a theoretical situation in which the Commonwealth says to the States, “ Here is an amount of loan money that we think will be adequate for your works programmes. We will allow you to make an allocation for housing.” There is no guarantee that the States will do that. Or we could take the extreme view that the States might underestimate the amount of money that can be spent on housing. This is a very interesting point on which I should like an answer from the Minister.
Does the Minister think that in view of Commonwealth-State relations or the liaison which exists between his department and State housing commissions and the Treasurers of the States, who also look after private lendings, there is a possibility that the situation could get out of balance? Further, can the Minister explain the reason for the tremendous variation in the demand between South Australia and other States? Why is it that South Australia is making a much greater allocation from its loan funds for housing than the other States?
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER (New South Wales - Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for National Development) [2.58]. - This is a very dangerous field on which to embark, because not only are the conditions different in the various States but the housing policies differ in the various States. Senator McClelland, as a good, loyal New South Wales senator, gave great praise to the New South Wales Housing Minister. That Minister is a nice bloke - I know him - but the New South Wales housing policy has been so bad that that State is in the worse position of all States. One cannot override the policy of a State government. We have gone, I think, as far as it is practical to go in this housing agreement by saying that 30 per cent. of the money allocated shall be given to building societies and other approved institutions. I think that answers Senator Willesee’s question.
– You are quite happy about that answer?
– Yes.I think that answers your question. There are ways and means of doing things, but to the law or logic of the situation you must add the practicalities. I criticize the New South Wales Government. In my judgment, its housing policy has been basically bad because it has attempted to do the work with government moneys without giving sufficient encouragement to the investment of private capital. That, in my view, is why New South Wales is so far behind. The South Australian housing policy is different. South Australia adds a good deal of private money to its housing moneys and it embarks on a different course. So I say to Senator Willesee that although all things are possible, it is the wisdom of doing them that I would very much doubt.
– I should like to ask the Minister for National Development a question to ascertain his views. He suggested that governments should interest themselves in land development for housing.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I take a point of order. This is a committee debate. Neither the last question nor this has any relevance to any clause of the bill.
– I suggest that the honorable senator should relate his question to some clause in the bill.
– I relate my question to the clause of the bill to which the Minister related his remarks.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The title of the bill.
– I ask the Minister whether the Commonwealth Government has power in regard to land development.
– I would not think so for one minute; I should think that that is entirely a matter for the States.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10th April (vide page 86), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy President, I trembled when I read the title of the bill, but I was pleased to see when I read the measure that it relates to something outside Australia. Had it related to matters inside Australia I would have been looking for the hand-out to the private airlines. However, I can come to this bill without any fear at all.
– The airlines will have the benefit, perhaps, and you might like to base an objection on that.
– I do not think they will benefit from this bill; it is quite innocuous and will not affect them. It will not give Ansett any more perks because he already has enough. Now let us get down to a discussion of the bill. Of course, if Senator Wright wants to continue on that strain I do not mind - in fact I like it.
– Withdraw the word “ perks “ and get onwith it.
– They are perks. The bill has for its purpose the ratification of a decision adopted by the fourteenth assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization at a meeting held in Rome in September, 1962. If the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) replies to this debate I hope that he will tell the Senate who represented Australia at that meeting, how many officers were sent and what the costs were. Of course, Australia is a member state. The International Civil Aviation Organization was formed in 1947 and, as the Minister said, it has for its purpose the development of the principles and techniques of civil aviation and the fostering of air transport. The organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations. This bill is designed to ratify a decision of the assembly of the organization which amended article 48 (a) which states that the assembly must meet once in every three years and may be called together by the council of the organization or by a number of states.
When the organization was formed in 1947 there were only 27 member states. It was then decided that if any ten of those member states petitioned for a meeting of the assembly such meeting would be held. The number of member states has now increased to 98. It is now desired that if an extraordinary meeting is to be called it can be called on a petition by at least 20 member states. I think all honorable senators will agree that that is a reasonable proposition in view of the fact that a third of the member states were required to call such a meeting when there were only 27 member states. Under the present proposal only about one-fifth of the member states will be needed to call an extraordinary meeting.
I am pleased that Australia is a member state of the organization. The Minister stated some time last year that our representatives brought credit to Australia at the last meeting of the organization. I am speaking from my recollection of what the Minister said at the time. I believe that no one in the Senate could raise objection to what the bill proposes. I believe that the more Australia mixes in international affairs such as these the more we must learn. This must mean that our international airline, Qantas Empire Airways Limited, will carry out the decisions of the international body and that its practices will be in keeping with those of other airlines of the world. The Opposition supports the bill.
– in reply - I think that the only point raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) which requires an answer concerned Australia’s representation at the convention which was held in Rome. It was attended by two officers of the Department of Civil Aviation of whom, I think, Mr. Edwards, a legal officer, was senior. I have not particulars of the cost of the delegation. I shall obtain that information and let the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Sixth Schedule to the bill refers to meetings of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization. “ Assembly “ is a term which is used in the United Nations sphere. Provision is made for the holding of a convention to be representative of the countries that are engaged in flying operations. Certain countries are so situated geographically that they are not engaged in flying operations, but occasionally the question must arise of the rights of other countries to fly over such countries. I think I read the other day that since there has been a change in the control of a certain part of New Guinea our own flights over that territory have been somewhat disturbed. Aircraft now have to make a journey 100 miles longer in order to avoid flying over West New Guinea.
Perhaps the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) may be so good as to inform me of the kind of things that are dealt with at the assembly. We have sent overseas representatives who would have been briefed by the companies engaged in international as well as interstate flights. I should think that the main subject considered by such an assembly would be the safety of aircraft and passengers. I know that landing difficulties arise in nearly all countries and that the accident rate is much higher in some countries than it is in others. Some countries have a very bad record so far as accidents are concerned. We in Australia are in a very fortunate position in this respect. He would be a very odd person, indeed, who would have any fear about travelling by air in Australia. It is my experience that in Australia we have confidence in the aircraft that are used for the transport of passengers. Such confidence is not so wide-spread in other countries.
I know that conventions of the kind that we are discussing have been held in Australia. I regard this bill as being of great importance because of the trend towards air travel. One has only to visit an airport to observe the increased numbers of passengers using air services in the Commonwealth. I should like the Minister to inform me why there is a difference between the method of landing in Australia and the method of landing in some other countries when terminals are heavily covered by fog. If I am coming to Canberra and there is a heavy fog over the airport I will probably be carried on to Melbourne or some other place, or the aircraft will circle the airport until the fog lifts. In other countries, when there is a similar fog, the aircraft just go in and land although it is impossible for passengers looking out the window to see the runway. You do not know that you are down until you feel the jolt. There must be a difference in the landing method. I should be very happy if the Minister could give me some information.
– The assembly referred to is, of course, the assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Senator Benn poses the question: What are the functions of this organization? Its functions are many and varied. They were laid down in detail in the original International Air Transport Agreement which was formulated at Chicago in 1944. As Senator Benn rightly predicted, I am going to say that one of the important functions of the organization is to lay down international standards for operation and safety. In addition, it covers such things as the standards to be observed both in the air and on the ground, and it lays down minimum standards for the length and strength of runways required by the varying types of aircraft that operate internationally.
As the honorable senator suggested, standards in some countries vary from standards in others. I make the point that this organization lays down what might be regarded as minimum standards. In Australia we apply, in some respects, standards which are above the minimum standards, just as some other countries also apply varying standards. The standards in the United Kingdom and, I think, the United States are, on certain points, above the minimum standards laid down by the international body. Probably that accounts for the difference in landing techniques - if I may so describe them - that Senator Benn has observed as between one country and another.
This organization has been the vehicle through which the technically more advanced countries have been able to aid the cause of international aviation by making available the technical know-how at their disposal to other countries not so well informed. This is one of the United Nations agencies which, I believe, has done, and is continuing to do, a first-class job for international air travel.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 3.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 May 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1963/19630502_senate_24_s23/>.