25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the lion. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a statement that was made by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in New South Wales that the Commonwealth Government was placing itself in a position where the man in the street felt that the person who was dictating civil aviation policy in Australia was Mr. Reg Ansett? Can the Minister say whether Mr. Ansett was in Canberra in the days immediately preceding the gazetting of the amended air regulations for the purpose of having discussions with Ministers? Is the real reason the Senate could not proceed with the debate on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation that the Government wanted to avoid any debate taking place on the matter prior to the introduction of the regulations?
– Yes, I did see the statement to which the honorable senator referred. I disagree that the motive imputed by the honorable senator is correct. We did not proceed with the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation as arranged because I was called to Cabinet and was unable to be in the Senate at that time. The position in New South Wales in relation to air services is this: I am having conferences with both airlines affected which have received considerable assistance over the years in the conduct of intrastate air services. Technical talks are being held now between the staffs of the airlines and the Department of Civil Aviation. In due course, I hope to present to the Parliament information as to the re-allocation of these services which I believe will be satisfactory to all concerned.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that an Austraiian manufacturer sought protection under the anti-dumping legislation before manufacture of the goods F.12499/64.- 5.%W] in question had actually commenced in Australia? Did the application refer to ethylene oxide which is, 1 believe, a petro-chemical by-product?
– Yes, as the honorable senator has said, ethylene oxide is a petro-chemical by-product and it is used as a solvent for paints and as an emusifler. lt is correct that an Australian manufacturer lodged a complaint with the Department of Customs and Excise that imports of this oxide or its derivatives were being landed in Australia at dumping prices. At the time the complaint was made, the manufacture of the product had not been actually commenced in Australia so this was rather an unusual set of circumstances. However, on receipt of the complaint my Department initiated inquiries overseas. These substantiated the complaint. Prompt efforts by my Department have enabled interim anti-dumping action to be taken. This will immediately help the infant Australian industry. I might add that the overseas industry was given reasonable warning of the contemplated anti-dumping action. T propose to refer this matter to the Tariff Board later in the year.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a new drug craze which has reached Australia from New York and London? Is the Minister aware that the drug in question can be obtained from the seeds of a well known household plant which is grown in many homes in Australia and that the seeds can be purchased from any suburban florist at a cost of ls. a packet? Do the seeds contain poisonous alkaloids and proteins which, when broken down, can produce cyanide, and can they cause madness, sometimes death, and also acute nausea, colour hallucinations and sexual stimulation? Has the Department of Health been asked to make a searching inquiry into this terrible craze? If not, will the Minister institute an inquiry as soon as possible to see whether the appropriate authorities can take steps to have the sale of these seeds closely controlled?
– My attention has not been drawn to this matter. For that reason, I am loath to pass any comment upon it. I should like the honorable senator to place his question on the notice paper. If he docs so, I shall ask my officers to examine it.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry the following questions: Is it a fact that Dorset Horn sheep were sent recently as a gift to Japan for experiments in lifting Japan’s sheep meat output? Will the Minister assure the Senate that there is no likelihood that the export of sheep to Japan will lead to a modification of the existing ban on the exportation of merino rams?
– It is true that from time to time Australia exports Dorset Horn sheep, Corriedale sheep and strong wool sheep to many corners of the world. The honorable senator has asked me whether I am in a position to give an undertaking that there will be no modification of the present ban on the exportation of merino sheep. 1 have no authority to give such an undertaking on behalf of the Government. I remind the honorable senator - I am sure she is well aware of the position - that it is the practice of the Government to have discussions with primary industries before there is any change of policy relating to primary products. I have no hesitation in giving Senator Wedgwood an assurance that, if the Government were to contemplate modifying the ban on the export of merino sheep, the preliminary discussions would bc full and frank. I go further and suggest that any move in this direction would of necessity have to come from the merino sheep breeders themselves.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the imprisonment of a boy of 12 years of age at Alice Springs for two weeks as a result of a court direction? This lad has been imprisoned in an adult labour prison which is quite unsatisfactory for juveniles. Is it true, as stated by prison warders, that this is the first case in modern times of a boy so young being sent to prison? Has the Government taken any action consequent upon the remarks of Magistrate Hall, who said today that he was gravely concerned at the lack of institutions in the Northern Territory to which young people could be committed? Has the Government received a report on this matter? Does it propose to take action to correct the shocking situation that a boy of 12 years is required to serve a sentence beside hardened criminals?
– This matter comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Territories. Normally juvenile offenders in the Northern Territory are sent to interstate institutions - not to gaols - there being no institution for juveniles in the Northern Territory. On this occasion the boy was sent to a gaol in Alice Springs at the specific request of his father, no doubt because his father thought that he would be able more easily to visit his son.
– Does the Government support it?
– I could not tell you whether he was a supporter of the Government. I am answering the question you asked, Senator. On this occasion, instead of the boy being sent interstate, away from Alice Springs, he was sent to gaol in Alice Springs at the specific request of his father. The question of the building of a corrective institution for juveniles at Alice Springs is under consideration by the Department of Territories. ,
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I understand that tenders were to be called for construction of the new air terminal at Launceston early in October. I ask: Have tenders been called for this work? If not, could the Minister advise the Senate when tenders will be called and when they will close?
– In the Press in Launceston, Hobart and Melbourne on 16th and 19th September the Department of Works publicly called for the registration of tenderers wishing to tender for the building and civil engineering works at Launceston. Of the seven tenderers that have registered, two are Tasmanian firms. Tender documents will be issued to the tenderers on 21st October and tenders will close on 1st December 1964. The electrical and mechanical works associated with the project will be the subject of separate tenders. which will also be called on 21st October, the closing date for tenders being 1st December 1964. The successful tenderers for those works will be . sub-contractors to the main contractor.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation why the Government intervened on behalf of Ansett to prevent the re-allocation of air routes by the New South Wales Government, without prior Parliamentary debate and despite an indication by the Prime Minister that he would provide opportunity for such debate. How can the public be blamed for suspecting corruption when the Government constantly uses its powers to advance the interests of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd.?
– The Government has at no time intervened to help anybody. I find the comments of the honorable senator most objectionable. I advise the Senate that in the field of civil aviation, particularly in respect of intrastate airlines in New South Wales, we have assisted considerably EastWest Airlines Ltd. Perhaps it would not be out of place for me to advise the Senate of what the Government has done for this airline company. In 1958-59 it received a subsidy of £16,955 and made a net profit of £21,422 in that year. Without the subsidy its profit would have been about £4.000. In 1.959-60 it received a subsidy of £25,000 and made a profit of £14,333. Without the subsidy it would have lost a considerable sum. The pattern was continued in the following three years. In 1962-63 it received a subsidy of £26,000 and made a profit of £24,576. I do not have the figures for last year. The subsidies to which I have referred were paid to East-West Airlines each month, in order to take advantage of the liquidity provided by such a method of payment. At the end of the year the balance of the subsidy due was paid. In addition, to this assistance, a DC3 aircraft was obtained from Tra ns- Australia Airlines on hire purchase terms. Another DC3 aircraft was obtained from the Royal Australian Air Force on a very low rental basis and was finally purchased at a low price. A Fokker F27 aircraft was obtained from T.A.A. on a low rental basis and was then purchased on very favorable hire purchase terms. These are steps which the Government has taken to assist this airline, which is a very good airline operating from a country centre and maintaining a valuable decentralised industry in that country area. The home base of this airline is at Tamworth and the Commonwealth Government has spent £331,000 there. The capital expenditure by the Commonwealth Government on all airports and facilities used by the airline had reached the amount of £881,000 by 30th June 1964. The annual maintenance and operating costs of Tamworth are approximately £43,000 and of the other airports about £45,000. Compared with those figures, the contribution by East-West Airlines by way of air navigation charges is £15,000. So I think the Senate will realise that the Commonwealth Government has been of considerable assistance to this intrastate airline which is doing a good job in the country areas of New South Wales and maintaining a decentralised industry at Tamworth which, I consider, is most important.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether his attention has been drawn to a statement in today’s Press to the effect that an agreement for joint use by America and Australia of the £31 million radio communication base at North West Cape could be easily arranged. This statement is attributed to the commander of the United States naval forces in the Philippines, Rear-Admiral Monroe. My questions to the Minister are: Has he anything to report on the progress of the base at North West Cape in Western Australia and have any steps been taken towards joint use of this base by Australia with the United States forces?
– It appears that there are varying reports of the statement made by Rear-Admiral Monroe. The report I saw, and the report which I accepted as correct, was to the effect that joint control of the base would not be impossible but that it would be completely impracticable. This was the submission made by the Americans when the relevant legislation was before the Senate. I have been to the North West Cape base. I saw some of the progress that had been made up to two months ago. Things are going ahead very well indeed. There was some industrial trouble, but this has now been overcome.
Work has been resumed. I understand that it is anticipated that the establishment will be completed and opened on schedule. There was another question which the honorable senator asked, but I am afraid 1 have forgotten it.
– What steps have been taken towards joint use of the base?
– There has never been any conflict about joint use. The Americans have made it cleaT from the start that the station would be available to Australians for joint use. The question at issue always - and the political question here in this Parliament - was joint control, which is still described by RearAdmiral Monroe as impracticable. Incidentally, I met him some time ago and had the opportunity to discuss this project with him. But the attitude of the Americans, then and now, in respect of the use of this base by Australia has remained completely co-operative.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation and is prompted by the answer he gave to Senator Murphy. Am I right in drawing the inference from the Minister’s answer that the only reason why East-West Airlines Lid. was given a subsidy was in order to keep it afloat? I understand that subsidies are given, not to one particular airline only, but to a number of airlines for certain work that they perform. Is it fair for the Minister to imply in his answer that the Government has gone out of its way lo be good to East-West Airlines when in fact East-West Airlines receives subsidies under the same conditions as every other airline which receives a subsidy?
– Let me say to the honorable senator that it was this Government that introduced the system of providing subsidies for the purpose of developing air services to country areas which could not be served profitably without such assistance. My only purpose in describing the assistance that has been given to East-West Airlines Ltd. was to establish that the Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to help all intrastate airline companies which arc providing services to country areas. It will continue to do so.
– My question also is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Recognising that approval has been given for considerable work to be done at the Cairns aerodrome, involving the runways, I ask: Do officers of the Department of Civil Aviation regard the runways there as being presently suitable for regular use by the Electra aircraft now in service with the major airlines?
– The existing, pavements at the Cairns aerodrome would not be suitable for Electra aircraft. The purpose of the new work that is to be carried out is to bring the pavements up to a standard which will enable them to take the Electra aircraft that will be operating into and out of Cairns.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior: Is it a fact that 250,000 New South Wales electors voted informally at the last Senate election? Does the Government intend to engage in an educational programme before the coming Senate election with the purpose of reducing the huge informal vote, which affects all parties? If not, will it consider engaging in such a programme, in the interests of getting a full and true democratic vote in the coming Senate election?
– I assure the honorable senator that the Government’s great concern is to have a full and democratic vote cast at every election. I am aware that, comparatively speaking, large numbers of informal votes are cast in every State. They are not confined to New South Wales. The honorable senator ended his question by asking whether the Government would institute an educational campaign in this connection. I have heard this subject raised before. On a previous occasion I thought I had given an effective answer. I will repeat it now. I said I was certain that, regardless of the methods the Government used in such a campaign, our friends of the Opposition would accuse the Government forthwith of indulging in propaganda in an attempt to obtain support. I do not say that unkindly; this is one of the facts of life in politics. I should like the honorable senator to know that the Government would not adopt any tactics in an election campaign that could be questioned or challenged on any level. 1 would have thought that the Labour Party, with its almost unlimited financial resources, could well embark on an educational campaign for its people, but I say in all sincerity that our people are sufficiently well educated to know what we stand for and to give us their support.
– I have seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred. J am in a position to advise him that Radio Australia transmits to East and Central Africa. I think that the transmission is in the English language and not in the language to which the honorable senator has referred. I do know that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has a policy of making available to African countries recorded broadcasts that may be used in their domestic programmes. Of course, those recorded programmes place the Australian point of view and the Australian way of life before the African people, and we are hopeful that they have some attractiveness for them.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Has Trans-Australia Airlines made an application to participate in the intrastate air services in South Australia? Has the Premier of South Australia supported such an application? Has the Commonwealth refused the application? Are all intrastate air services in South Australia subsidised by the Commonwealth Government?
– I understand that some time ago Trans-Australia Airlines made an application to enter the intrastate trade in South Australia, and that the application was supported by the Premier. I understand that the application was refused. As to the last part of the honorable senator’s question, I am not in a position to give him an answer at the present time. I do not think there are any subsidised intrastate airlines in South Australia. I think they are all standing on their own feet. I believe I am correct in saying that, but if I am not, I shall take the first opportunity to advise the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As many Press political commentators are writing that the next Senate election will be held on Saturday, 5th December, can the Leader of the Government inform the Senate whether that forecast is correct, or when the Prime Minister will make an official announcement in respect of the date of the next Senate election?
– I generally expect a fishing expedition of this sort to start from in front of me rather than from behind me. I must tell the honorable senator, as I have had occasion in the past to tell honorable senators who sit in front of me, that it is not the practice of any government to announce an election date in a casual way at question time. There are, of course, formalities to be gone through before an election of this nature is decided upon. With a proper regard for those formalities, the Prime Minister will, at the appropriate time, make the necessary announcement.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that a block of land in Civic Centre, Canberra, was sold recently to Lend Lease Corporation for £350,000, although it was known that the Commonwealth Banking Corporation wanted this block as a site for its head-quarters? Docs this indicate that, despite the profits that have been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund annually by the Commonwealth Bank, the Menzies Government prefers the Lend Lease Corporation, the citadel of its financial system, to have this prestige position in Canberra rather than the people’s own bank, the Commonwealth Bank?
– The honorable senator has taken rather a circuitous route in trying to throw some doubt on the methods used by the Government in the sale of land in Canberra. Let me assure him at once - I am surprised that this assurance is necessary even for him - .that in the sale of this land all the proper forms and all the procedures required by established and long standing practice are adopted. He has suggested that a purchaser received an advantage over a probable purchaser of a block of land, the probable purchaser being a Commonwealth instrumentality, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. I know nothing of the transaction to which the honorable senator has referred. If he had been seeking information, he would . have done the right thing and would have addressed the question on notice to the Minister for the Interior. But he did not seek information; he sought an opportunity to smear the Government. I shall refer the question to the appropriate Minister, who will give an answer which will refute completely any insinuation that the honorable senator intended to incorporate in the question.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Did the Currie commission on higher education in Papua and New Guinea recommend in its report the establishment in the Territory of an institute of higher technical education as a matter of high priority, as well as the early establishment of a fully autonomous university? Did the commission, as expressly required under its terms of reference, recommend a time-table for the establishment of these institutions? In view of the fact that the Government has had this report since March, and as the proposed time-table calls for certain key appointments to be made and for certain preparatory work to be undertaken in 1964, is the Government taking any steps to adopt and act on the commission’s recommendations, or is it deferring vital decisions and thus throwing the whole time-table overboard from the outset?
– These questions relate to a matter of Government policy and cannot bs answered at question time.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation know that on many occasions during the year Fokker Friendship aircraft flights to Esperance, in Western Australia, have to be cancelled because the airstrip will not take this type of aircraft? Is it a fact that when the Esperance airport was handed over to the local authority that body was given to understand that the runways were fully suitable for use by Friendship aircraft? If this was so, will the Minister give consideration to the Commonwealth’s carrying out the necessary work to bring the airport up to the required standard, as the tremendous development which has taken place in the Esperance area now requires the continued use of this type of aircraft?
– The Esperance aerodrome was taken over from the Commonwealth by the Esperance Shire Council in 1962 and has been operated under the terms of what is known as the aerodrome local ownership plan. There were no special conditions at the time of the transfer. Prior to the take over, the Commonwealth carried out the maintenance necessary to put the aerodrome in good order and condition and agreed to erect a new terminal building. The cost of those works was approximately £5,000.
The operational area consists of two graded strips on a natural surface, ft is suitable for the operation of either a Fokker 27 or a Douglas DC3 in dry weather conditions and its suitability for use by these types of aircraft has not altered since the council took over the aerodrome. Each year some closures of the aerodrome occur due to rain, and the heavy rains this year have caused some interruptions to the regular airline services. A Fokker 27 has been operating a weekly service to Esperance since 16th July 1964. The service was interrupted last week when, due to the condition of the aerodrome after heavy rain MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd. substituted the lighter DC3 for the Fokker Friendship.
As I have stated, in dry weather conditions a Fokker 27 aircraft can operate from Esperance, and is doing so. For allweather operations a gravel runway with sealed ends would be required for this aircraft and it would, indeed, be desirable for the Douglas DC3. The aerodrome local ownership plan provides for assistance by the Commonwealth in the form of a 50 per cent, development grant for the construction of such a runway.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation provide without notice comparative figures of subsidies supplied to Ansett subsidiary airlines in New South Wales and/or other States of the Commonwealth, similar to those which he cited in respect of East-West Airlines Ltd.? If not, why not?
– I can supply the figures for New South Wales, which was one of the States about which the honorable senator inquired. In the last five years, the total amount of subsidy paid to Airlines of New South Wales Pty. Ltd. was £215,000. This airline serves 34 ports in New South Wales.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs been directed to a recent statement in a report from Cairo to the effect that Egypt is planning to approach Britain with a suggestion for the establishment of a museum near El Alamein, in Egypt, to commemorate the North African campaign of World War II? As many Australian troops and airmen took part in the campaign at El Alamein, will the Minister cause a polite and active interest to be taken in the suggestion by Australia’s Ambassador to the United Arab Republic and Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, so that a record of Australia’s glorious part in the North African campaign in World War II could be included in the museum?
– I shall bring the question to the notice of the Minister for External Affairs and of the Prime Minister.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by staling that in a series of questions which I directed to the former Minister for Civil Aviation I warned him that the mighty air combines being built up in Europe and the United States of America could seriously affect Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. The Minister then said that the strong traffic rights position which had been secured for the benefit of Qantas’ operations on its round the world services would be able to withstand competition. I now ask: Does that position still hold good today and, if so, why was Qantas denied access by the French Government to landing rights in the Pacific? What was the result of the recent discussions which took place in Melbourne because of the French embargo? Will the Minister say whether the contemplated new agreement will be advantageous to Australia and whether we are likely to lose any further traffic rights in the foreseeable future?
– At the close of questions, I shall be making a statement on the various matters that the honorable senator has mentioned. I think he will find that his questions will be answered in that statement.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral supplementary to my previous question on the imprisonment of a boy of 12 years of age at Alice Springs. When the Minister was answering my question he stated that the boy was sent to gaol at Alice Springs at the specific request of the boy’s father and I asked .by way of interjection whether the Government supported that action. I believe my interjection was not justified because I believe the Government is just as concerned as is the Opposition over the unsatisfactory features of this matter. I ask: Was it incumbent on the magistrate to put a juvenile aged 12 into a gaol merely on the request of an irate father? If this is not so, will the Government give directions to magistrates in the Northern Territory to observe the law and make decisions in accordance with the mind of the Bench and the evidence before the Court, and not commit juveniles to adult gaols?
– I shall talk to the Minister for Territories about this but I am not sure that what Senator Cooke has suggested is necessarily the correct solution of a problem of this kind. If a juvenile has committed an offence justifying his being sent away to a remand home, it may well be that the father could be correct in trying to have the juvenile kept in a gaol which would be nearer his home than a remand home. The solution to the whole problem would be the construction of a remand home at Alice Springs or somewhere else in the Northern Territory and, as I have said, this is being considered by the Department of Territories.
– Is the Minister for Health in a position to give the Senate some information about the proposed increase of 2s. a week in contributions to medical benefit funds?
– I would have been greatly helped in answering the question if the honorable senator had informed me who had made the announcement that medical benefit fund contributions were to be increased by 2s. a week.
– lt was a Press statement.
– Ah, a Press statement! The implication was that an official announcement has been made. No official announcement has been made by the benefit funds, the Government or the Department of Health.
– Does the Minister say that it will not happen?
– No, I have not said that. If the honorable senator would like a little detail, I shall be very happy to give it to him. Before it was announced in the Prime Minister’s policy speech prior to the last election that the Government would increase its medical benefit contributions by a third, the funds themselves had agreed, at the suggestion of the Government, not to raise the contributions that they required from their members until the effect of the increased Government contribution had been ascertained. That was agreed to some twelve months ago. It was also agreed at that time that within twelve months the matter would be reviewed, lt has been suggested rather cynically that something may well happen. Let me assure Senator McClelland that whatever is done will be done on an actuarial basis. If Senator Ormonde implies in his question that something will be done that will add unnecessarily to the reserves, or as some people quite erroneously call them, the profits of the funds, let me assure him that if any increase in contributions occurs it will have been studied and will have been proved to be absolutely necessary to ensure the stability of the funds.
– Because of the maladministration of this Government. .
– If the honorable senator had been in the chamber a week or so ago when we were discussing the estimates for the Department of Health he would have heard Opposition senators say that these funds were too numerous and that as a result overheads were high and administration was costly. One honorable senator said: “ Let us have three funds such as there are in Queensland “. When I invited him to nominate the funds in the other States, which he would eliminate, he remained silent. It is quite wrong for honorable senators opposite to suggest that there has been maladministration. These funds are administered by reputable citizens who, in the main, give their services free of charge and do a splendid job. I repeat the assurance that, if an actuarial examination reveals that increased contributions are necessary, before approval is granted the recommendations will have been scanned and the increases will have been regarded as being absolutely necessary for the stability of the funds and in the interests of the contributors.
– Can the
Minister for Civil Aviation now answer my earlier question as to whether Mr. Ansett was in Canberra some days prior to the amendment of the Commonwealth air navigation regulations, for the purpose of having discussions with the Minister and/or any of his colleagues? Further, is the Minister able to inform the Senate when the Government intends to table the amended regulations, which are designed to allow the Commonwealth to take control of all intrastate civil aviation? Does the
Government intend to shirk its responsibility and to use what might be called a back door method by waiting until the dying hours of the current session to table the regulations?
– Let me put the honorable senator’s mind at rest at once. The regulations will be tabled at the appropriate time today. As to the other part of the question, no doubt Mr. Ansett and many other people in the civil aviation industry visit Canberra from time to time when they have problems to discuss with the Department of Civil Aviation. I suggest that not only one but a number of civil aviation people have been inParliament House in the last few weeks.
– I address a further question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it not a fact that on the day on which Mr. R. M. Ansett visited Parliament House and discussions were proceeding in regard to licences for intrastate air services a top executive of Trans-Australia Airlines also was in Parliament House? I met him in King’s Hall, and I think he saw the Minister.
– I think the honorable senator has supplied his own answer.
– On the 27th August 1964 Senator Cavanagh, in addressing a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, asked that consideration be given to a review of any regulations that prohibit the employment, in the Commonwealth Public Service, of disabled persons who have the required qualifications, other than physical fitness, for the position sought. As promised, I have made inquiries of the Public Service Board and can now supplement my earlier answer with the following information -
On 16th May 1962 the Prime Minister announced that the Government had approved a recommendation of the Public Service Board that, subject to the maintenance of the requirements of efficiency for the duties to be performed, wider opportunities should be provided in the Commonwealth Service for the permanent appointment of physically handicapped persons. The full text of the Prime Minister’s statement appears in 1962 “ Hansard “ at pages 2367-2368.
As indicated at that time, the Board’s recommendation followed consideration of the results of an inter-departmental investigation and of recommendations by the Boyer Committee of Inquiry into Public Service recruitment. The recommendation was made in the light of experience in Australia and overseas which had shown that, subject to careful selection and placement, many persons who could not be certified as being in sound health, and likely to remain so until retiring age, were nevertheless able to compete in employment on their own merits. Such physically handicapped persons could, in fact, be afforded equal opportunity with persons in sound health, to perform work for which they were qualified.
Since the Prime Minister’s announcement, physically handicapped persons have been accepted by the Board for permanent appointment in circumstances where, previously, their disabilities would have resulted in rejection. Such appointees are not admitted to the Superannuation Fund but are required to contribute to the Provident Account.
In considering physically handicapped persons for permanent appointment the Board must keep in mind the over-riding requirement to maintain the efficiency of the Service.
– On 16th September, Senator Cooke asked whether the Government would consider appointing an officer to carry out liaison work for Australian representatives in Tokyo and other Australian visitors during the Olympic Games. I have made inquiries, and I am informed that the Australian Olympic Federation has appointed the Deputy Manager of Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. in Tokyo as its liaison officer for the Olympic Games. Arrangements have also been made to provide an additional officer at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo over the next month or two. This has made it possible to detach from other duties the Vice-Consul at the Embassy, who speaks Japanese, to devote his attention full time to consular activities arising out of the Games. Two additional local staff have been engaged to assist the Vice-Consul and he has established an office in the Qantas building in Tokyo for the convenience of Australians visiting Japan for the Games.
(Question No. 185.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
2, Of the 681,700 and 607,800 female permanent and long term arrivals in Australia in the last ten years, 441,500 males and 350,000 females of all ages were unmarried on arrival. These figures include children, and widowed and divorced adults.
These policies have assisted in redressing the unfavorable trends between 1947 and 1956 in masculinity rates - i.e.the number of males per 100 females - in Australia’s marriageable popula tion. Among males aged 18 to 35 years and females of 16 to 30 years, the masculinity rate in 1939 was 119.4 and. in 1947, . 119.7. By 1956 the rate had risen to 136.3, but by 1963 had fallen steadily to 122.1. Thus the masculinity rates have returned to pre-war levels and after 1965 will improve even more rapidly as very large numbers, born since 1945 here and overseas, enter Australia’s marriageable age groups.
(Question No. 249.)
asked the Minister repre senting the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 261.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
What was achieved during the financial year 1963-64 by the Trade Commissioner Service in investigating market prospects for specific commodities?
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
The achievements of the Australian Trade Commissioner Service in 1963-64 were considerable. As an organisation servicing Australian industry the Trade Commissioner Service docs not actually make sales but is instrumental in. making sales possible. Details of individual cases are confidential. However, the following statistics give some indication of the service given to Australian industry by Trade Commissioner posts by way of assistance in investigating market prospects for specific commodities -
In addition a large volume of individual reports on market possibilities for Australian products is prepared by Trade Commissioners. These reports cover not only those countries in which Trade Commissioner posts are located but also many other countries which are visited frequently by -Trade Commissioners. The reports are disseminated widely in Australia through the regional offices of the Department of Trade and Industry in all capital cities, either direct or through the Department’s fortnightly journal “ Overseas Trading “ and other publications.
In 1963-64, 41 Trade Commissioner posts assisted in the promotion of more than 1,000 statistically identifiable products in over 140 overseas countries.
Total exports of Australian primary and secondary industry reached record levels in this year and were valued at £1,383 million f.o.b.
(Question No. 269.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answers -
(Question No. 271.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions -
The honorable senator’s attention is invited to information furnished on this matter in the House of Representatives on 15th and 22nd September (“ Parliamentary Debates “, House of Representatives, . 15th September, pages 1037-38, and 22nd September, pages 1325 and 1328-29).
(Question No. 274.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 278.)
Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
(Question No. 279.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What becomes of the waste material from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s Research Establishment at Lucas Heights near Sydney, New South Wales?
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answers -
(Question No. 282.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions -
No. 2 and 3. As the Prime Minister has made clear in his statements in the House of Representatives on 26th August and 15th September, the report of the Naval Board was a confidential report to the Government.
(Question No. 286.)
Senator LILLICO (through Senator Dame
Annabelle Rankin) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
What quantity and value of peas, whether in tins or quick frozen, were imported by Australia during the year 1963-64?
From which countries were the peas imported?
Preliminary figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician show that imports of peas (fresh frozen, preserved in liquid or pulped) for the year 1963-64 were -
(Question No. 288.)
asked the Minister repre senting the Treasurer upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer -
(Question No. 293.)
asked the Minister repre senting the Treasurer upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer - 1 and 2. The Decimal Currency Board has only recently received the basic information on the numbers and locations of £ s. d. cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines eligible for Government assistance to convert them to decimal operation. Owners of these machines arc now aware generally of their entitlement to free conversion or cash compensation, and the Board has commenced the detailed planning necessary to bring the relevant forms of Government assistance into effect.
The Board has had preliminary discussions with representatives of the Australian Council of Retailers and has, for example, arranged for the retailers’ views on the zoning of the conversion operation to be submitted to the Board. These comments have not yet been received but, before final decisions are taken, the Board will discuss possible problems with interested bodies to reduce any inconvenience to the public and commercial interests to a minimum.
The amount of cash compensation to be paid by the Government for certain machines is linked to the conversion cost of newer machines of it similar type. It will be some time before conversion costs are settled precisely with the machine companies because, with so much public money- involved, the closest possible scrutiny must be made of proposed conversion methods, conversion kits, estimated labour costs, transport arrangements, profit margin, &c. The Board is examining possible methods for giving some indication of the possible amount of compensation which might be payable in each case, but there are obvious difficulties involved in doing this before exact conversion costs are negotiated with the machine companies.
It is realised that details of the zoning programme, and of amounts of compensation to be paid, could be of assistance to some people in preparing for the change-over, but there isno evidence at the moment that planning is being delayed by a lack of precise detail of this nature. In fact, many individuals and organisations have already made very good progress with their plans. For example, various retailers and other associations have arranged valuable displays and conferences, and have suggested staff training programmes, &c, to assist their members.
The process of conversion for the public generally will not commence until February 1966, and detailed plans will be announced well ahead of that date. The process is expected to take up to two years from that date, The prior requirements for the commencement of the change-over in February 1966, are an adequate supply of decimal coins and notes and the conversion of the banking system to operate only in the new currency from that date. Assurances on these points have been received by the Government from the Treasury, the Reserve Bank and the Decimal Currency Board.
(Question No. 296.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 302.)
Senator BRANSON (through Senator
What was the result of the conversion operation which was conducted simultaneously with the most recent Commonwealth loan?
Of the amount that was due for conversion -
what amount was subscribed to the new loan;
what amount was subscribed to special bonds;
what amount was redeemed by the Government; and
how does the conversion result compare with the Government’s expectation as applied to this particular loan and to the loan programme for the current year as a whole?
The most recent conversion offer made by the Commonwealth was to holders of £207.8 million of 31/8 per cent. securities which matured on 15th August. The results are shown in answer to question 2. 2. (a) and (b) Conversions to the new securities offered in the loan totalled £153.6 million, of which £13.6 million represented conversions to special bonds - Series K.
Redemptions notified to 30th September totalled £49.3 million, and holders of a further £4.9 million of the matured securities had not at that date taken steps to convert or redeem their investments.
As I said when announcing the result of the conversion loan on 30th September, it had been expected that redemptions of the maturing securities would be fairly heavy. The result is generally consistent with the estimate made in the Budget that total “ redemptions “ and other similar expenditure in 1964-65 would amount to £125 million. In addition to redemptions of matured securities in Australia and overseas, the heading “ redemptions “ in the Budget includes repayments due on International Bank loans, sinking fund purchases on the Australian and London markets, contractual sinking fund payments on public loans issued in New York and Canada, and miscellaneous repayments due on State Government securities.
– On 3rd September 1964, Senator Buttfield asked the following question -
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In view of the exceptionally heavy snowfalls in the Snowy Mountains this year, will the Minister give me an assurance that the present development of the water holding capacity of the Snowy Mountains Authority dams is such that there will be no fear of floods later in the year in the lower reaches of the River Murray, particularly in South Australia, as happened a few years ago?
The following reply has now been received from my colleague, the Minister for National Development -
The effect which the melting of heavy snow in the Snowy Mountains area might have* on flooding in the lower reaches of the River Murray depends on the magnitude and extent of general rains, such as occurred in 1956, as well as on snow conditions and reservoir capacity in other areas in the Murray catchment. Accordingly, it is not possible to give a simple answer to the question. However, whereas much of the melting snow in the Snowy Mountains area will be diverted to reservoirs associated with the already completed Tooma-Tumut, EucumbeneTumut and Murrumbidgee-Eucumbene diversions, the contributing catchments have a total area of only approximately 700 square miles compared with 400,000 square miles for the whole of the Murray system. During 1956, when flooding occurred in almost all tributaries of the River Murray, flow from the Snowy Mountains catchments represented only approximately 5 per cent. of the total flow experienced in the lower reaches of the Murray. It will be apparent from this fact and the above figures that although the effect of the Snowy Scheme will be to reduce the quantity of water in the Murray during flood periods, the reduction during circumstances such as those of 1956 would scarcely be noticed in South Australia.
The River Murray Commission is in constant touch with the Snowy Mountains Authority and with flood warning stations on the upper Murray. It is operating the Hume reservoir to reduce as far as practicable the intensity of floods downstream of the dam, consistent with its responsibility to ensure that the reservoir is filled before the end of the year. Although the rainfall in the next few months cannot be predicted it is considered that this year’s pattern of rainfall, despite the snow remaining on the catchment, does not indicate the occurrence of a flood of the order of that of 1956. The Commission issues and distributes widely periodic forecasts of the probable height of floods in the lower Murray based on the information collected from the upper reaches and the flow of the tributaries.
– We shall have to devise a better system of dealing with answers to questions on notice and deferred answers to questions without notice. The position is very difficult for me because at the moment I have no way of knowing to which questions replies are to be given. Tt would assist the Chair if a more convenient method were adopted.
– On 19 th August Senator Sir Walter Cooper asked a question without notice concerning the second international conference on water pollution held this year in Tokyo. At the time 1 said I would obtain for Sir Walter information on what is being done to control water pollution in the Australian Capital Territory and the other Commonwealth Territories.
Control of water pollution is almost entirely the responsibility of State Governments. However, the Commonwealth Government is responsible for this matter in respect of the Commonwealth Territories. The question of pollution of the Darwin water supply has been under examination for some time: An interim report on this matter by a consultant to the Commonwealth Department of Works was tabled in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory on 18th August 1964. Experiments and investigations into possible remedial measures are continuing.
To ensure the purity of the water in Canberra, the Cotter catchment area is kept free from human habitation. This restriction is policed by rangers who are employed full time in patrolling the area. The special programme of soil conservation which has been undertaken during recent years is a further safeguard against pollution of the catchment area. The Molonglo-Queanbeyan River system also directly affects Canberra.’ Although the headwaters of these rivers lie in New South Wales, the Commonwealth has the ability to restrict in these areas activities which might lead to the pollution of the Molonglo-Queanbeyan. The legislation that provides this power is included in The Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1963. It was pursuant to these legislative provisions that in recent years special steps were taken by the New South Wales Government to prevent any pollution of the Molonglo from mine workings at Captain’s Flat.
Other Commonwealth Territories generally rely for water supplies on domestic natural collection and bores. However, some town areas of Papua and New Guinea do depend on reticulated water. The water in these cases is subject to chlorination, filtration and regular bacterial tests by the Department of Health. The Australian Water Resources Council has not so far considered any action to deal with water pollution. This is a matter which the Council will probably take up in the future as a means of improving the availability of water.
– by leave - On 25th August I tabled in the Senate a letter dated 6th August from the Prime Minister to the State Premiers on the matter of civil aviation control. I now table for the information of honorable senators the replies which have been received from the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania.
– by leave - I have much pleasure in informing the Senate that on 5th October after negotiations in Melbourne the terms of a proposed Air Transport Agreement between Australia and France w:rc initialled by the Australian Director-General of Civil Aviation and the French Director of Air Transport.
Under the terms of the proposed Agreement Qantas is authorised to operate once weekly round the world services through Tahiti and either Mexico, Nassau and Bermuda - or San. Francisco and New York - to London and beyond to Australia. In return the French have been given rights to operate from Paris on a round world routing through Sydney to Noumea and Tahiti and beyond back to Paris. It is also a matter of considerable satisfaction to the Australian Government that jet services will be restored between Sydney and Noumea on the basis of a weekly service operated in alternate weeks by the Australian and French airlines. This arrangement will replace the Electra service operated by Qantas on behalf of the two airlines from last February.
It was agreed during the negotiations that these round world services, and the jet service to Noumea, could be introduced from 1 5 th November whether or not the Agreement has formally entered into force following its signature by representatives of each Government. It is not anticipated, in any case, that signature will be long delayed but, if the formalities do take a little time, the services can still begin from midNovember, lt is pleasing to the Government that agreement with France has been reached on this matter. A series of talks has been held between representatives of the two countries over the past four years in an effort to find a basis for agreement which would give mutual satisfaction. We welcome the proposed aviation agreement between Australia and France, a country wilh which we have bad long standing and greatly valued ties.
The major new factors enabling us to find a basis of agreement with the French Authorities was the recent conclusion of arrangements with the Mexican authorities under which Qantas is enabled to open up a third route to London via Tahiti, Mexico and points in the West Indies. The intrinsic interest for Australian travellers in such a unique routing should be demonstrated in the near future. Moreover this service will establish an air link with one of the great republics of Central and South America. lt will, in addition, provide easier and more direct communications with those countries. lt is, too, a matter of gratification to the Government that, under the arrangements agreed upon with France, there will be an extension of existing air links in the South Pacific and the provision of air services of a high standard of efficiency and comfort between Australia and the French Territories in the South Pacific. Such a development should certainly strengthen the goodwill and cordial relations that already exist between Australia and the countries and territories concerned.
Debate resumed from 1st October (vide page 854), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill bc now read a first time.
– My remarks will relate to a matter that is of. great importance to South Australia, namely, the congestion at Adelaide airport. On the first sitting day in this ses sional period I addressed a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) relating to this airport. He will remember that, prior to the resumption of the sittings in August, he made a rather thorough inspection of the airport. In his reply to my question on 11th August he explained that one of the reasons why he went to South Australia was to investigate the overcongestion which it was reported had existed at the Adelaide airport for some time. He admitted that he found the problem to bc greater than he had expected it to be. He explained, as an observant man would be able to explain, that at peak periods there is tremendous congestion but at other periods of the day, to put it in the Minister’s colourful language, one could fire a cannon across the airport without hitting anyone. He admitted also that at present the existing modern facilities are being used wrongly and he said that if we could arrange some staggering of the times of arrival and departure of aircraft we would get a better use of the facilities and less congestion. According to the “Hansard” report, Senator Cormack then made the following apposite interjection -
In other words, some rationalisation.
The report of the Minister’s reply to me then goes on -
Yes. At the moment, knowing what limes are best suited to picking up and putting down passengers, both the airlines concerned are anxious to have their aircraft there at those times. I want to see whether we can stagger the hours of arrival and departure so that the people who keep the airlines going - the people who pay as passengers - will have a wider variety of times of arrival and departure at the airport, thus making better use of the facilities. I admit that this is a problem which requires urgent attention.
I compliment the Minister on what he did last August, but I am somewhat concerned about whether he is achieving the success that he deserves to achieve in this matter of rationalisation. Recently I directed his attention to the fact that Boeing 727 aircraft will operate interstate from 2nd November next, and I asked him to state what progress had been made on this urgent question of rationalisation. He replied that he had made no progress in getting the the two major airlines to agree to a further staggering of flight departure times other than the short stagger that is required for safety purposes.
It is high time that this matter was examined very thoroughly by the Minister and bis Department. Jet aircraft services are about to begin. If there is the staggering congestion to which the Minister referred on his visit to Adelaide in August with piston-engined and turbo-prop aircraft, how -much greater could it be on the advent of jet aircraft, because the capacity of a jet aircraft could well be SO or 60 per cent, more than the capacity of older type aircraft. Without wearying the Senate, I think I should point out in a few words just how ridiculous from the passenger point of view the timetables are. I shall deal only with Adelaide airport, but the same thing occurs in practically every major airport in Australia. I recall my friend, Senator Lillico, directing attention to the simultaneous departure of aircraft of both operators from the little airport of Devonport and airports on the north-west coast of Tasmania.
An Ansett-A.N.A. aircraft leaves Melbourne daily at 7.50 a.m. and arrives in Adelaide at 9.10 a.m. A Trans- Australia Airlines aircraft leaves Melbourne and arrives in Adelaide at exactly the same times. An Ansett-A.N.A. aircraft leaves Melbourne at 1 p.m. and arrives in Adelaide at 2.10 p.m. A T.A.A. aircraft leaves Melbourne at 1.5 p.m. and arrives in Adelaide at 2.25 p.m. The aircraft, being of a different type, takes a little longer. The intention to leave and arrive at about the same time is there. A T.A.A. aircraft leaves Melbourne at 7.35 p.m. and arrives at Adelaide at 8.55 p.m. An Ansett-A.N.A. aircraft leaves Melbourne at 7.25 p.m. and arrives at 8.45 p.m.
Similar conditions apply on the route from Sydney to Adelaide. A T.A.A. aircraft leaves Sydney at 11.45 a.m. and arrives at Adelaide at 2 p.m. An Ansett-A.N.A. aircraft leaves Sydney and arrives in Adelaide at exactly the same times. Both airlines have aircraft leaving Sydney at 6.10 p.m. and arriving in Adelaide at 8.25 p.m. I do not want to weary the Senate with any more illustrations. The same thing occurs on the trip back from Adelaide to Melbourne or Sydney, and the times coincide to the minute on the flight from Adelaide to Western Australia each afternoon.
It is pretty clear from the illustrations that I have given that there is an enormous concentration at Adelaide Airport. It is what one would call an intermediate airport rather than an airport where nights terminate. Consequently, passengers move from one aircraft to another. That in itself makes for congestion, and one would think that the Department of Civil Aviation, when issuing approvals for these flights, would realise that there was already an inbuilt problem in Adelaide because of this situation and would insist on a far bigger staggering instead of having no staggering at all or the few minutes’ staggering that exists in some instances. The Department should insist on staggering of an hour or more. In addition, one has to realise that there are intrastate aircraft operating from Adelaide airport. I shall not mention them further at the moment because there are not two competing operators on intrastate nights.
There is a compelling reason for staggering of arrival and departure times at Adelaide airport. I am prepared to admit that there are problems of management, and that aircraft that come from other places have to be used on another flight within a matter of minutes, but the concentration in the Adelaide airport terminal building can only be described as fantastic. As a matter of fact, I think that the Director of Civil Aviation contravenes the normal health rules of South Australia in causing so many people to be concentrated in such a little space for so long a time. Between 300 and 400 people - passengers on the six aircraft and people who come to see them off or welcome them - are normally there during an afternoon between 2 and 3 o’clock, so one has to realise that there is a definite health hazard day by day at the terminal. The seats available would possibly accommodate only 20 per cent, of the people who are there as passengers or who are rightfully there to farewell or welcome passengers.
I present the view that this concentration makes for actual danger. Sometimes six, eight or ten aircraft are on the small tarmac area in front of the Adelaide airport terminal building. These are often stacked in two or three lines. The furthermost plane is sometimes 200 or 300 yards away from the terminal building. There is no covered way by which people may approach the aircraft. The passengers are exposed to weather and wind, but I am not concerned about that inconvenience so much as with the real hazard to which they are exposed from airport vehicles dashing to and fro to service the aircraft that are arriving, departing, or just standing. Also there is the draught coming from aircraft propellers. How much greater will the hazard be from the very hot draught emitted by jet aircraft?
As a result of all of these conditions a very real danger exists at Adelaide airport. The hazard is doubled because the two operators are operating aircraft on the very dot, as it were, as I have indicated from the schedules. Without the protection afforded by covered walks, the people of South Australia are really facing a great hazard. Thank goodness there has been no great accident that I know of, but one does live in fear that such an accident could happen. There is discomfort at all times, wilh the operations of turbo-prop aircraft and piston-engined aircraft. With aircraft arriving and leaving at the same moment, there is also a danger of collision between them both on the ground and in the air. I commend the Minister for regarding this as an urgent problem right back in August but I feel terribly disappointed with his statement that he is still pressing the matter and hoping that something will be done to stagger the schedules. He pinpoints exactly the matter that I am pinpointing at the moment.
I look at the problem also from the standpoint of the taxpayer, because after all he is pretty generous to the Minister’s Department. We were able to persuade the taxpayers that they must allot £21.744 million in J 963-64 compared with £18.958 million the previous year for the maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities such as aerodromes, air routes and airway facilities, search and rescue services, supervisory administrative and regulatory services and the development of civil aviation by way of subsidies, maintenance and development grants as well as certain modest capital expenditure for the acquisition of sites and for the construction of airport facilities. The grand total exceeds £21 million but this does not include the cost of providing aircraft or fuel for air services, the wages of pilots and air hostesses and similar expenditure. This amount is simply for airways facilities and departmental expenditure.
Each year about 3 million passengers are carried by our airlines and so every time a passenger is lifted off the ground and put down again the cost is approximately £7. In reaching this figure, I ignore the amount of freight which is carried which is small in comparison with that carried by the railways. If you include the revenue from freight, the cost of picking up and setting down a passenger is not £7 but approximately £5. That is the cost simply for the facilities I have mentioned and that is what the taxpayer contributes. For the sake of argument, let us say that the cost is £5 a passenger. What do the taxpayers get for this expenditure? Because of the failure of the Department of Civil Aviation to insist on the staggering of time-tables, the taxpayer gets only half a service because the six aircraft that travel between Adelaide and Melbourne each day, for example - three from each operator - actually provide only three services because they get off the ground virtually at the same time. So passengers have only three services a day between Adelaide and Melbourne although the facilities are provided for six aircraft. Although Canberra is the national capita:!, there are next to no services between Canberra and Adelaide. The quickest way to get from Adelaide to Canberra is to leave Adelaide at 7 o’clock in the morning and arrive in Canberra about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. That is the normal air link between Adelaide and Canberra. When one considers the virtual duplication of services, it is evident that there is no real rationalisation. I agree that the problem is to get the major airlines to agree to rationalisation and the appropriate staggering of timetables. It is tremendously important that the Minister for Civil Aviation should speak firmly to the operators. Quite obviously they cannot agree between themselves. They regard peak times as all important to their operations and they cannot agree to alternate services at those peak times. Recently it was reported that the Ansett-A.N.A. organisation and T.A.A. tossed a coin to decide which would enjoy the privilege of being first to land on Australian soil one of the new Boeing 727 jet aircraft. I believe Ansett-A.N.A. won the toss.
– Did they use a doubleheaded penny?
– I am not going to suggest that they tossed a double-headed penny as the honorable senator has suggested; the point is that they tossed to decide an issue. There is a precedent for the drawing of lots between these organisations in this tossing of a coin. This is of such importance that I think the Minister for Civil Aviation might seriously consider arriving at a decision on this question of rationalisation by a toss or by lot. I do not care what method is used but I emphasise that a determination must be made as to which airline takes certain times. I suggest that they might have to toss only once and then decide that one airline would take certain times for three months and the other airline take certain times for another three months.
Is it not time that the views of the travelling public on this matter were considered? I put it to the Minister most strongly that he ought to consider seriously using all his powers. He has the power of a landlord over aerodromes. The airline operators arc only licensees, as it were. I am absolutely certain that the Minister for Civil Aviation, through his Department, has control over the sale of pies, ice creams, and toy koala bears which are sold at the Melbourne airport. I am certain the people who have licences to sell these things have to conform with certain ‘ standards so that the travelling public get the benefit of the service so provided.
The Minister through his Department is the landlord of the airports just as he is the landlord of the concessions at the airports, and I submit most seriously that it is high time he asserted himself in that regard at this point of time before the new jet aircraft begin operations. The position at the airports is bad enough now when only 50 to 60 passengers are being unloaded from an aircraft but when 100 passengers are being unloaded there will be real chaos. I pin-point the problem in Adelaide because I am so aware the difficulties there. I suffer from these problems week after week as do hundreds of my constituents. So I put it to the Minister that this is a matter of high priority. Action should be taken before the airlines operate the jet services as there will be almost unlimited chaos as well as the element of danger from the exhausts of the jet aircraft.
.- I want to add a few words to those spoken by Senator Laught on this matter because I think it is important not only to the places he has mentioned but to other areas as well. Besides supporting Senator Laught, I want to commend the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) for what he is trying to do to bring about some rationalisation of certain airline schedules. I know the Minister is doing his best in this connection and I congratulate him. I hope that my few words will assist him in ironing out one or two problems.
I believe we are extraordinarily fortunate in Australia to have a department administered so well and so much to the advantage of the Australian people as is the Department of Civil Aviation. It is recognised everywhere that we have a wonderful air safety record in Australia and this is something we want to maintain. As Senator Laught has said, we have to eliminate anything which might operate against our retaining this wonderful reputation for safety in civil aviation. We have a fine reputation also for the actual service provided by the various airlines, both interstate and intrastate. I have had experience of airline services in other parts of the world and I do not think there is any comparison between the services given in Australia and those provided elsewhere. 1 want to refer particularly to Queensland and the air services between Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns. Townsville is some 850 miles north of Brisbane by rail and somewhat less by air. North of Townsville is Cairns which is some 1,000 miles from Brisbane by rail. They are quite long distances to travel by train or car. A high percentage of people travel by air. Two air services are operated each day from Brisbane to Townsville by each of the two major airlines. One leaves at approximately 10.30 a.m. and the other at about 4.30 p.m. The morning service is a slow one; the aircraft call at a lot of aerodromes on the way to Townsville. The 4.30 p.m. service is a faster one; the aircraft fly non-stop from Brisbane to Townsville in approximately 2i hours and after a short pause travel to Cairns, arriving there at about 8.15 p.m. Unfortunately, the same pattern exists for these two services as obtains in the case referred to by Senator Laught. The aircraft leave and arrive within minutes of each other. I suggest that the two morning and the two evening services should be staggered. 1 do not know whether it is best to do so on a daily basis, a weekly basis or a monthly basis. If some effort were made to stagger the times of departure, it would be of very great assistance to the people who travel by air.
There is another aspect of this matter which I can only describe as being very silly. Between Townsville and Cairns there are three stopping places - Ingham, Innisfail and Tully. One airline operates a Viscount aircraft which leaves Brisbane at 10.5 a.m. Passengers travelling by that aircraft may want to go to Innisfail, Ingham or Tully, but the service terminates at Townsville. However, an aircraft operated by the alternate airline leaves from Townsville and calls at Ingham, Innisfail and Tully on its way to Cairns. If those two aircraft were to connect, a person could leave Brisbane at 10.5 a.m., arrive at Townsville at 1.25 p.m. and then after a short pause travel to one of the three intermediate stopping places I have mentioned. But for some strange reason the aircraft operated by the alternate company does not wait to connect with the plane from Brisbane at 1.25 p.m. but leaves Townsville at 12.20 p.m. That means that passengers who come from Brisbane and who want to proceed to either Ingham, Innisfail or Tully must either stay in Townsville overnight or proceed to their destination by car or some other means of transport. Surely that does not make sense.
It seems to me that it should be quite a simple matter for some reason to be injected into the discussions held by the two airlines and for the aircraft which travels from Townsville to Cairns via these three intermediate airports to leave a quarter of an hour after the arrival of the Brisbane aircraft at 1.25 p.m. Many people in Ingham, Innifail and Tully, and even in Cairns, would very much welcome that slight change in the timetable so that not only rationalisation but also common sense may operate.
I know that the Minister is aware of this problem and is doing all he can to solve it. I have mentioned this strange situation in Queensland, first, in support of Senator Laught’s comments, and secondly, to strengthen the hand of the Minister so that he might be able to twist the arm of those who have the authority to arrange such awkward and uncomfortable services for people who need the kind of service I have advocated.
Sentaor COOKE (Western Australia) [4.57]. - I wish to bring to the attention of Ministers, preferably the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) who represents the Treasurer in this place, a most unsatisfactory state of affairs in Western Australia. I refer to the manner in which loan moneys advanced to Western Australia for certain projects are applied by the State. Extra expenditure is incurred by the State because loan moneys advanced with the approval of the Australian Loan Council are allowed to lie unused. As a case in point, I point out that for some years improvements to the port of Bunbury have been under consideration. Moneys for carrying out the work have been approved by the Loan Council, and after a lapse of several years one wharf has been built. A second wharf is necessary to complete the project. It is to be used for the shipment of ilmenite phosphate, sulphur and other commodities which come into Bunbury for use at the fertiliser plant of the Mount Lyell company which is situated at Picton.
– Is that where the Laporte organisation spent £4i million on beach sands?
– That is situated near Capel, which is out of Bunbury. Bunbury is the port through which that material will go. The State Minister for Railways said in the Western Australian Parliament that the expenditure of a total of £45,000 in loan moneys had been authorised to provide rail access to the land locked wharf at Bunbury. But with only £7,699 spent the work has been stopped and there has been no promise that it will be continued or, if so, when. I submit that the Government should not allocate additional loan moneys for developmental works while projects remain uncompleted. In other words, the State Government should be made to justify its action. It should regulate its request for loans instead of asking for money and then not proceeding with the work. Because the Western Australian Government has been dilatory, or has been unable to make up its mind to complete the development of Bunbury as a port, a State Government instrumentality - the railways - has been denied a source of revenue. 1 refer to the carriage of phosphatic rock and other materials both in and out of Bunbury for shipment. The employment of railway personnel has thus been affected. It has been necessary to use road transport, the costs of which inevitably are dearer than railway freight charges. The dearer transport costs are included in the prices paid by farmers and other users of superphosphate. In this respect the Commonwealth Government is again involved because of the payment of a subsidy on superphosphate.
It seems to me to be high time for coordination between the Commonwealth and State Governments in respect of the expenditure of loan moneys on important projects which can influence the national economy. Action should be taken by the Commonwealth Government to ensure that State Governments proceed with such important works. The citizens of Bunbury are irate because they have been placed in a developmental backwater. Their roads have been cut up by heavy road transports, which the local roads were never constructed to carry. People on properties in the area are subjected to dustand other inconveniences.
I concede that the ultimate decision to proceed with developmental works must be taken by a State Government, but where Loan Council money is to be used to complete a project, I believe that the Commonwealth Government should ensure that it is properly and honestly expended in a reasonable period of time. I believe it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to see that loan moneys, on which interest must be paid, are utilised expeditiously. If not, they should be channelled to some other avenue where they may be used to assist the national economy.
The rail connection to the wharf at Bunbury has an important effect on the manufacture of superphosphate in Western Australia, and indirectly on the national economy. Any extra cost incurred in the transport of phosphatic rock, or of mineral ores to be shipped from Bunbury, must add to the inflationary spiral. So often the Commonwealth Government refers to the inflationary influence of the wage structure, but never does it analyse the efficiency of the people whose responsibility it is to control costs which have no relation to the wage structure. The failure of the Western Australian Government toproceed with the development of the port of Bunbury, with moneys made available by the Commonwealth, increases the ultimate cost of materials to primary producers who are doing an excellent job in their struggle to keep the prices of their products below world parity.
Somebody is fiddling while Rome is burning. The Commonwealth Government should take action because of the factors I have named: The cost of superphosphate, a commodity which is subsidised by the Commonwealth; and the maintenance of main roads, which are being torn to pieces by heavy road transports, while money has been made available for the development of ports. The Commonwealth also has a responsibility in relation to ports and shipping, the use of which is being impeded because of the failure of the Western Australian Government vigorously to proceed with development and the efficient expenditure of loan moneys allotted to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to proposals outlined by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech that affect the rates of tax payable by companies and individuals for the current financial year 1964-65. As honorable senators know, it is proposed that the rebate of1s. in the £1 allowed to individuals for the last three financial years be not allowed for the current financial year. The general rates of tax on incomes of individuals will, however, be the same as those that applied for the 1963-64 financial year. The discontinuance of the rebate will necessitate increases in tax instalment deductions from salaries and wages. Arrangements accordingly were made for new instalment deduction scales to apply as from 1st October. Provisional tax payable on income other than salary and wages will also be varied as a result of the discontinuance of the rebate.
An increase in the income tax allowance for aged persons is proposed by the Bill. This increase follows the rise of 5s. weekly in the age pension. The age allowance is available to men and women who have attained the age of 65 and 60, respectively, and whose incomes are in the lower bracket. Under the age allowance for the J 963-64 year, no tax is payable by an aged person residing in Australia whose net income for the year does not exceed £481. By this Bill it is proposed to increase the exemption point for the 1964-65 year by an amount equal to the rise in the age pension on a full year basis; that is, £13. The exemption point will thus become £494. Where a married taxpayer qualified by agc and residence contributes to the maintenance of his spouse, exemption is at present provided without regard to the age of the spouse, if the combined net income of husband and wife does not exceed £9.10. lt is proposed to increase this exemption level by £26, so that it will become £936.
Following the practice of previous years it is proposed that some relief be also grunted to aged persons whose incomes are only marginally in excess of the new exemption levels. Where an aged person’s not income is more than £494 but not more than £574, the amount of tax payable will bc limited to nine-twentieths of the amount by which the income exceeds £494. A corresponding limitation will apply to the tax payable by a married aged taxpayer where the combined net income of the husband and wife is more than £936 but not more than £1,350. lt is also proposed to increase the rates of primary tax payable by all companies by 6d. in the £1. The maximum rate of primary tax payable will be 8s. 6d. in the £1 for a public company and 7s. 6d. in the £1 for a private company. The maximum rates apply to the amount of taxable income in excess of £5,000.
The rates of tax payable by superannuation funds will also be increased by 6d. in the £1. This means that these funds will continue to be taxed at the same rates as the mutual income of life assurance companies is taxed. With the exception of the points I have mentioned, the Bill follows the form of legislation declaring rates of tax for past years. A memorandum explaining the provisions of the Bill is available to honorable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) has stated, the Bill now before the
Senate imposes rates of taxation on individuals and companies. I thought that perhaps it would have been more convenient for the Minister to deal with the two related bills together. In past years, legislation’ has been before us to provide for a rebate of 5 per cent, of the tax payable by individuals. No such rebate has been allowed to companies. On previous occasions the Australian Labour Party has opposed the rebate of taxation on a flat rate basis. Whilst we realise that the imposition of a 5 per cent, flat rate of taxation will bare more heavily upon people in the higher income bracket than it will bear on people in the lower income bracket, we still oppose the principle of taxation on a flat rate basis. The Opposition believes, as it has always advocated in this chamber, that income tax should be applied on a progressive scale and that a progressive rate of income tax is the most fair and equitable way of distributing the wealth of a nation. For that reason, we on this side of the chamber are critical on this occasion of the application of the flat rate movement in taxation.
An illustration of the inequity that the flat rate principle of taxation causes within the community is to be found in the rebates that were previously granted by the Parliament. The latest figures available to honorable senators, those for 1961, show that the rebate of 5 per cent, deprived the Consolidated Revenue Fund of £35 million. There were 4.4 million recipients of this rebate, yet 3.6 million of them received only 40 per cent, of the £35 million, and the balance went to approximately 800,000 taxpayers. Of course, on this occasion thi: proposal will operate substantially in reverse. But the flat rate principle has no regard for the equity of a progressive scale of taxation. The Opposition believes that there should be a progressive scale of taxation and that such a scale should apply more heavily to those who are able to pay rather than have the present system where those who cannot afford to pay are called upon to pay.
I would like to refer to the position as outlined in the latest report of the Commissioner of Taxation that is available to honorable senators. One of the difficulties that arises when we start to discuss taxation is that the reports of the Commissioner of Taxation are generally some two or three years behind time. Therefore, when we discuss taxation matters and take our figures from the statistics available, we are talking about situations which belong to the past and which are not always relevant to what is being done at the time of the debate. However, 82 per cent, or 3.6 million of all taxpayers were in receipt of £29 per week or less. Their share of the £35 million rebate was £14 million that is, two-fifths or 40 per cent, of the total. The remaining 18 per cent, of taxpayers, or 800,000, who were in receipt of incomes over and above £29 per week, received rebates of £21 million or 60 per cent, of the total. Surely this fact calls for a recasting of the income tax structure. There are several other deductions on the bases of flat rates. For instance, a flat rate is applicable to children and spouse. Such a basis is to the detriment of taxpayers in the lower income bracket. Surely no-one in this chamber is prepared to say that any member of one man’s family is of more value than a member of another man’s family. Yet the fact that an amount of £143 is allowed as a deducation for the spouse irrespective of the income earned by the taxpayer can confer a greater financial benefit on one family than on another family.
The same thing applies to several other deductions. For example, £400 is allowed as a deduction in respect of contributions to a superannuation fund. The purpose of this deduction, we are told, is to encourage people to save so that, in later years, on retirement, they will not become dependent on social service benefits. However, as I see it, the great majority of people who are in the 82 per cent, group and who receive £29 per week or less are unable to take advantage of even half of that allowance for superannuation. The people who are able to take advantage of the full allowance for superannuation contributions, or even half of it, have sufficient means so that they would not qualify in any case for social service benefits. This position also illustrates the inequity of flat rate taxation. Even if people in the income group below £29 per week could pay substantial sums by way of contributions to superannuation funds their rebates would be much less than the rebates received by taxpayers with incomes of £5,000 or £10,000 per year.
Overall, the Opposition believes that our system of taxation as it operates today is not advantageous to those in the lower income groups and that it should be com pletely recast. First of all, the progressive scale of rates should be made very much steeper, and income tax should be calculated on gross income and not on net income after various deductions have been made. If the taxation were calculated on gross income and rebates based on family allowances or such other allowances as the Government might determine were deducted from the amount, the burden of the actual tax payable would fall evenly on every taxpayer. At the present time the burden falls unevenly on persons in the lower income groups. We believe that the method I have described is the proper way in which to apply taxation. We believe that, perhaps’, there should be no deductions other than deductions for members of the family. The Minister for Health (Senator Wade) tells us that we have a grand national health scheme, yet throughout the taxation schedules we allow as deductions for taxation purposes, payments to hospital and medical funds and medical expenses. If we had a proper national health scheme, these allowances would not be necessary. The same thing applies to child endowment. We are told that if child endowment were doubled it would cost the taxpayers an extra £75 million. But if we had an adequate child endowment scheme it would not be necessary to provide taxation allowances in respect of children. Our whole taxation scheme is not designed to assist those who are most in need of assistance within the community.
I want now to deal with the increase iri company tax. Broadly, this increase is 6d. in the £1. The specific rates are set out in the sixth Schedule to the Bill. Substantially, what is meant is that company tax will now be 7s. 6d. in the £1 on the first £5,000 and 8s, 6d. in the £1 on the balance of the taxable income. This is a flat rate of tax and, as I said earlier, we object to taxation being applied on a flat rate basis even to companies. In view of the number of research workers employed in the Department of the Treasury - the number is- disclosed in the Budget Papers - it should not be beyond the ingenuity of the Department to advise the Government on the ways and means by which to apply a progressive rate of taxation to companies. I shall illustrate what I mean as I proceed.
I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer to the fact that company taxation is a form of indirect taxation. This Government has been very fond of applying indirect taxes over the years. They apply equally to all people, whether they can afford to pay or not. Company tax is a transferable tax. It can be passed on to the consuming public as an item in costs of production.
– Are you advocating a reduction?.
– If the honorable senator wants to speak, let him get to his feet. I repeat that company tax is a tax which is passed on to the consuming public. In effect, they pay the tax for the company concerned. It can be regarded, therefore, as a form of indirect tax, not as a tax on income. As in the case of the payroll tax, the sales tax and many other indirect taxes, the burden falls equally upon all people, whether they can afford to pay or whether they cannot.
I wish to read from an article which deals with company taxation for the year 1961. The article states -
For the year ended 30th June 1961, the Commissioner of Taxation’s figures show details for some 88,000 companies, 54,000 of which were taxable, and 34,000 non-taxable, and the aggregate taxable incomes were over £900 million.
Some 3,000 or so of these taxable companies ure of a special kind, and comparatively small and need not concern us here.
Our concern is with come 42,000 private companies with total taxable incomes of £237 million, and 9,000 non-private (sometimes called public) with taxable incomes of £654 million.
There are nearly five times as many private companies as public companies, but the profits derived by the public companies are nearly three times that of the private . . .
The article contains two tables which, with the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate in “ Hansard “.
It will be seen that a comparatively small number of companies earns a great proportion of the total profits. The greater proportion of taxable income is in the hands of a comparatively few companies, yet the flat rate of tax applies equally to small and large companies.
The writer of the article in which this table occurs then makes the following comment -
Thus in terms of actual numbers, the majority of private companies are relatively small concerns, 72.4 per cent, earning less than £5,000 profits for the year, and another 26.4 per cent, profits between £5,000 and £50,000 for the year.
There are however nearly 500 companies (1.2 per cent, of total private companies) with profits over £50,000, and they derive aggregate profits of £52 millions, nearly 22 per cent, of the total profits made by private companies.
So far as public companies are concerned, again the majority in terms of actual numbers are relatively small, over four out of five (81.5 per cent.) have profits less than £50,000 a year, but they account for less than 11 per cent, of total profits received by public companies.
A further 14 per cent, of public companies, with incomes between £150,000 and £200,000, get 19 per cent, of total profits, and with the other two groups make up almost 95 per cent, of public companies, but their share of total profits is only 30 per cent.
We arc left wilh a select group of 500 or so companies (5.5 per cent.) with incomes in excess of £200,000 a year, which derive aggregate profits of £458 million, 70 per cent, of total public company profits, and over one half of the profits (£890 million) derived by more than 50,000 companies, public and private, which made profits in the year.
When you get this sort of development, surely it is unreal ‘to impose the same rate of taxation on smaller companies as on larger companies. It prevents the smaller companies from developing. Perhaps the correct thing would be to reduce the rate of tax on smaller companies - those with incomes up to, perhaps, £100,000 a year - and to increase progressively the rate of tax on companies earning more than £500,000 a year. This would be more equitable. If the Government wants to impose extra taxes for defence purposes - that is the reason it has given for the discontinuance of the 5 per cent, income tax rebate - it should impose a higher rate of company tax upon those companies which are able to pay, rather than slug the lower income companies. We believe that the Government should introduce a system of progressive taxation in respect of companies.
Another field of taxation that is open to the Government is taxation on company borrowing. It is well known to honorable senators that one intention of the 1960 credit squeeze was to apply a form of taxation on company borrowing. But the Government quickly ran away from the proposition and it used as the reason for its retreat the argument that the tax was too difficult to apply. I suggest the reason was not so much that the tax was difficult to apply, as that there were easier mediums of taxation. The people who do most of the inter-company borrowing are the people who provide the sinews of war for this Government, and it is true that there was continual lobbying of members of the Parliament with the object of preventing the taxation from being applied. However, again I say that it is not beyond the ability of the Government to apply a form of taxation on company borrowing so that the taxation, revenue required by the Government will be raised from people who can afford to pay rather than from those who cannot afford to do so.
There is another field of taxation that is open to the Government, and that is taxation on capital gains. This field has been left relatively untouched by the Government. We find that every day there ure people making large fortunes in capital gains from investments that are rather speculative and not investments in the true sense of the word. Such capital gains should be regarded as income and should be taxable. Large profits are being made every day by people investing profits in take-overs. There was the spectacle of a few days ago of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. and Blue Metal Industries Ltd. using £28.2 million to take over Ready Mixed Concrete Ltd. When we look at the position we find that C.S.R. is a company which is subsidised by the Government and thus by the taxpayers. Yet it is able to gather sufficient funds to be able to spend £28.2 million in taking over another company. This increases the capital assets of the company and allows for appreciation without taxation.
We find that there are large capital profits being made by the issue of bonus shares; This is going on all the time. It is a process of watering down the stock. The profits are not being paid to the shareholders so that they become taxable, but are being reserved as capital appreciation which does not attract taxation. There are many ways of avoiding taxation. I do not pick out any one company in this field because there are so many of them, and one would have to delve into the matter pretty thoroughly to be able to cite all of them. But it is estimated that the Myer group has had capital appreciation or capital gains of £22 million over the past ten years. This is a large sum of money and it is not taxable. This is another field of taxation that is open to the Government to investigate.
There is one more field of taxation - : a more difficult one, perhaps - which is open to the Government if it desires to apply taxation where it should be applied. I refer to excess profits. No doubt there are honorable senators in this chamber who remember that in the 1949 election campaign the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said that an excess profits tax would be applied, but after 15 years the Government has still found the tax too difficult to impose. Like many other things that would assist in the proper operation of the economy, the Government says it is too difficult. But there is no question that there are people within the community who are making excess profits. That is a term, of course, which requires precise definition as between industry and industry, and this is where the difficulty in the application of an excess profits tax arises. What is an excess profit in one industry is not necessarily an excess profit in another industry. Again I say that, with the large number of research workers employed within the Treasury Department - and if one studies the Budget Papers one sees that the number is increasing every year - it should not be beyond the ingenuity of the Government to apply these forms of taxation to people who are able to pay rather than to impose an inequitable system of individual taxation which falls comparatively heavily on people in the lower income bracket.
.- I cannot help but feel that the speech made by Senator Cant is a good example of the difficulty we experience when we so readily permit members to read from notes that obviously have been retailed to them. Very often the member who uses the notes in Parliament does not understand them. I asked three or four questions during Senator Cant’s speech and it was obvious that he had no understanding of the particular subject on which I sought information. He was ably assisted in obstructing my quest for information by the old ally humbug who came to his aid and protested.
Senator Cant spoke of an excess profits tax and said that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) had referred to this proposal back in the dim distant past. Surely he is sufficiently without cant to say at once that the Treasurer of the day, Sir Arthur Fadden, after a great deal of prompting to get on with the proposal by members on this side of the House, delivered a long statement showing the impracticability and the inequity of it. So far as I know, in the last eight or nine years the matter has not been raised as an active proposal by the members of the Australian Labour Party.
Then we had a reference to company tax. We heard Senator Cant say solemnly that this is a form of indirect taxation. Of course, there are those who theorise on this matter and accept that statement as true ] asked him whether he says that company tax is within the group of indirect taxes which the Labour Party demands should be reduced. Does he say that? No. In effect, he speaks with two voices to anyone who listens to him. Does he claim that because company tax is an indirect tax it should be reduced or kept to a minimum, as undoubtedly he claims that customs and excise duties, sales tax 2nd payroll tax should be reduced for the purpose of keeping down the direct cost of living? No. What, then, is the meaning of his statement that company tax is an indirect tax?
It would have been far more pertinent; to my mind, to direct attention to the fact that the proposal before us lifts the rate of company tax to a higher rate than ever was imposed in time of war or, in fact, at any time in the history of federation. The rate of 8s. 6d. in the £1 will be the highest rate of tax imposed on companies at any time in our history. This is not a case of a high rate of tax being imposed to stem a tendency to increase charges and prices, and so take the edge off inflation. This is a case of the Government, seeing company profits rising, wanting its Share to balance the Budget. This is another way of assisting inflation.
Senator Cant then said that there should be a graduated scale of company tax. You get the little pup company that starts an inflationary speculative business and earns a rate of profit that makes Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. look stupid and the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. look like a dunderhead. You cannot apply a graduated scale of company tax. The Broken Hill organisation has 8,000 shareholders, whereas another company might consist of only two people. It is not the amount of profit earned by a corporate entity that counts. What ranks first and foremost today, I would have thought, is employment giving potential. To tax out of existence the big companies that are really the nation’s arteries is to lessen the prospect of employing the people whom we have to keep employed to make the economy run. What nonsense we have been treated to in the suggestion that company tax should be levied on. a graduated scale.
It would have been far more pleasing to have heard some protest about this Bill not containing anything relating to the Government’s cogitations over the last three or four years on the report of the Committee of Taxation which was set up under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Ligertwood. The report made recommendations that were promptly espoused by the Government, which said that its proposals in relation to them would be made retrospective to the day on which the report was presented. I refer specifically to family trusts and partnerships - matters of ordinary family arrangements. As far as I am concerned. there will be a bitter fight in this Parliament before those arrangements are interfered with to the disadvantage of people who wish to manage their affairs through bona fide family trusts and partnerships so as to minimise the incidence of income tax, while there remain untouched Mr. Justice Ligertwood’s disclosures of outlandish rackets in land deals - the leasing of city properties, the construction of buildings and leasing back. I think we all will want to have a thorough scarifying of those.
Let me sound a note of warning. If the legislation touching these matters is introduced in the closing hours of this sessional period so as not to allow proper consideration of it, I will offer the utmost difficulty to its passage. I have been following the progress of this matter for many months now and have made inquiries of the Treasury. If the appropriate Bill, which must be complicated, is not presented in sufficient time to allow us to give it proper consideration, not merely preliminary to the debate but also during the debate, I think it would be proper to offer the utmost difficulty to its passage before the Parliament rises.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- We have operating in the Commonwealth a system of income taxation which is known widely as uniform taxation. The Commonwealth is the sole collector of income tax. The system has operated for a number of years and, speaking in a general way, I should say that it is giving satisfaction. There are occasions when some of the State Governments complain about the system and threaten to upset it, but I do not think any of them are ever speaking sincerely when they say that they want to assert their rights once again as sovereign States and to collect their own Income tax. The present system has been tried for some years and I think it is satisfactory.
There is also a process of tax reimbursement to the States. There is a very important formula, which has been amended at various times. If it is not satisfactory, the States have a right to ventilate their grievances. It is a good thing that on occasions we have amendments of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act, because honorable senators are then privileged to bring forward complaints that they have received in respect of taxation. I know that some concerns complain about certain features of company tax. I know that private companies complain about the payment of tax in certain ways, and there are many individuals in the community who are whingeing almost constantly about tha amounts of income tax that they have to pay. Therefore, it is a good thing that wo have an opportunity to discuss the provisions of the Act.
The other day I had a look al the reimbursements made to the States under the formula that exists- at the present time. The amounts to be paid per head of population to the States for the year 1964-65 are -
The average is £32 0s. 8d. a head. It so happens that Queensland is receiving approximately the average. Therefore, 1 have no complaints to make about the reimbursement scheme. It appears that, after the States have been reimbursed the amounts to which they ‘ are entitled, the Commonwealth Government still has within its control for its own purposes 14s. of each £1 collected in income tax, which means that 6s. of each £1 collected goes to the six States. I am not going to say that the distribution appears incorrect or that it is incorrect, because in order to be in a position to do so one would have to weigh the financial obligations of the Commonwealth against the financial obligations of the States and assess other things. I merely mention those matters in passing. “Income”1 under the Act has a very wide meaning. Almost anything received in the form of money or in the form of gifts can be classed as income and attract a rate of income tax. It is one of the things to which we have become accustomed. We accept it, knowing that if one lives in a country one must pay taxes. Someone in the Parliament said quite recently that in the modern world money is government. Examining that statement, one finds that it is very accurate indeed. Many public companies operate in the Commonwealth. They must pay tax at a certain rate, and the money has to come from income. If they make a net profit over trie course of the year they pay dividends to the shareholders, who in their turn have to pay income tax on the dividends. This is a thing to which we have become accustomed and although I have been here for many years listening to debates upon income tax I have not heard anyone- say that there is anything wrong with that procedure. We accept that it is correct.
There arc private companies operating in the Commonwealth. They pay tax but they do not pay as much as a public company pays. There is an increasing development of companies in the industrial world today.
We are dealing now with two amendments. My colleague, Senator Cant, dealt with some matters, and perhaps it is not necessary for me to cover the ground that he has covered. But there are companies which show losses and others that have considerable profits. One might form an idea of what the proposed increase in tax on public companies will amount to in the case of some trading concerns. I shall give the Senate some information which has come from a company the accounts of which were completed on 11th August when the Budget was introduced. The company found it necessary then to go back over the work that had been done and find out what tax it would have to pay in addition to what it had already paid. Its financial year ended on 31st May 1964. It is a parent company and it has many subsidiaries. It had to pay an additional £115,000 and its subsidiaries had to pay £720,000. Although we are dealing, with small increases in taxation, when these are applied to incomes they can be converted into huge amounts. The amount payable by this company and its subsidiaries, in addition to the income tax paid to May last, was £835,000. Of course, if a company is paying income tax of that magnitude, it is making profits. It is not doing badly in this country.
I now come to companies which suffer losses in their operations over the years. I have found that they can claim deductions in respect of the losses incurred. I have a copy of a report which was furnished to the Victorian Government quite recently. It is entitled “ Interim Report of an Investigation under Division 4 of Part VI. of the Com panies Act 1961 into the Affairs of Stanhill Development Finance Limited and Other Companies”. I quote this report to show that this practice of allowing considerable losses to be regarded as tax deductions could have a serious effect. The report by Mr. Peter Murphy states-
I have been informed that over the past years S.D.F. has incurred “ tax losses “ which normally would be available to the Company to set off against profits earned in the future, so as to reduce or eliminate income tax payments on such profits.
The submission was put to me that these tax losses have a value to the shareholders and noteholders, not only if the Company is reconstructed and continues in business; but also if the shares of the Company should be sold to some other Company anxious to avoid the payment of tax upon its profits, lt is said that if the Company was reconstructed and commenced somehow to make profits, the tax losses could be worth 8s. for every £1 of such losses, and if the shares were sold, the sale price would be calculated on the basis of approximately 3s. for every £1 of such losses.
That sounds a little bit skew-whiff to me but I am reading what is stated here for the benefit of honorable senators. The report continues -
It is interesting to remark that Sections 63 and 80 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-63 can be relied upon so as to give a notional sale value to the otherwise worthless shares of a company.
No doubt, when introduced, the purpose of Section 80 was to ameliorate the hardship which might otherwise have been thought to arise if a taxpayer’s allowable deductions from his assessable income in any one year, exceeded the sum of his assessable income and his net exempt income. In these circumstances, the section provided for the allowance of this excess (the “ tax loss “) as a deduction in any of the seven years subsequent to the loss in accordance with the provisions set out in the section.
Although it appears clear that at present the section may be relied upon so as to give value to shares in a company which has no tangible assets and no prospects of earning income, but which has accumulated “ tax losses “, still, according to the witnesses, it is a matter of some speculation as to how long the statute law will remain in this form.
On the 24th June 1964, Mr. Janover-
He was a solicitor appearing for a company- informed me that plans for the reconstruction of S.D.F. were being considered and that he would inform me of these plans “in a matter of days “. I have not heard from him since that date, but Mr. Hughes informed me on the 28th August, 1964, that a plan of reconstruction had been submitted by S.D.F. to him and to the trustee company, and that several amendments would have to be made before either he or the trustee company could approve of it.
Broadly, I understand that the plan envisages that a new company would bc formed with a capital of something like £400,000 subscribed from outside S.D.F. and an agreement reached willi the noteholders of S.D.F. whereby they would agree to accept a cash distribution of so much in the £1 for their notes, together with ordinary shares ranking as fully paid shares of 2s. in the new company. The details of the plan are not known by mc, and 1 have no inkling of the nature of .the business which such a company would conduct. lt appears that the purport of the scheme would be to avoid the liquidation of S.D.F. and to keep available the “ tax losses “ of that Company for use in the trading of the new company to be formed.
How practical such a scheme would be, is at this stage impossible to assess from the information available. lt was argued by Mr. Janover that the sale of “tax losses” by a company can only occur if the company is not in liquidation, and whilst this is usually the case, it may not necessarily follow that the shares of a company in liquidation could not bc sold by a liquidator.
Upon looking at the books of S.D.F. and endeavouring to assess the approximate amount of the “ tax losses “ which might be available for sale, the position is again not clear. Mr. Hughes, the receiver, assesses them to be in the region of £100,000, and believes that on sale at 3s. in the £1 they may realise £15,000.
Mr. Janover goes further and argues that as the only business of S.D.F. was “money lending”, all sums lost in carrying on this business, when written off, will be regarded by the Commissioner for Taxation as “ tax losses “. Thus, he says, the tax losses to be considered are in the region of £2,000,000, and if some purchaser could be found, they could be worth £300,000 or even more. Mr. Hughes believes that the Commissioner would not accept this position without a fight, and I agree with him. As the large debt of S.C.L. has not yet been written off as a bad debt by the Directors of S.D.F., it is not yet possible to obtain a ruling from the Commissioner in relation to it.
My view is that Mr. Janover, on behalf of his client S.D.F., adopts a very optimistic approach to the whole matter of “.tax losses”, and their sale.
Let us hope he was adopting a too optimistic approach to the problem.
– What are you reading from?
– You interrupt me, Senator Wright, by asking that question as if you had the right to enter this Senate at any hour and ask any honorable senator any question that comes to your mind.
– It is a reasonable question.
– I informed the Senate of the title of the paper while you were present. I am reading the interim report furnished to the Victorian Government by Mr. Peter Murphy. It is a report of an investigation under Division 4 of Part VI of the Companies Act 1961 into the affairs of the Stanhill Development Finance Limited and other companies.
– I only wanted to know what you were reading from.
– I heard you disparage the contribution that Senator Cant made to the debate this afternoon. You seem to assume the right to come here and interrupt any honorable senator at any stage. I listened to you, Senator Wright, before the sitting was suspended. You said you would make it hot for the Government should it attempt to introduce legislation amending the income tax laws in certain ways, particularly if the Government attempted to do so hurriedly. 1 suppose you were indicating as plainly as you could to the Government that you would vote against the Government’s amendment. You should recollect what one of your own colleagues said to you one night after you ‘had voted against the Government on three occasions. He looked you squarely in the eyes ;and said: “You aTe not a man; you arc a maggot “.
Hie PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator’s remarks are out of order.
– I did not say that, Mr. President. I was repeating what one pf Senator Wright’s colleagues said. If I were to amend those remarks I would say that he was acting like a witchety grub.
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to come back to the subject matter of the Bill.
– It seems odd to me that losses incurred by one company can be acquired in some way by another company which is able to gain a benefit in the payment of a lower rate of income tax. I know that the income tax legislation can be used for various purposes. If there is much reckless spending in the community, high rates of income tax can be introduced.’ I leave the matter there.
– It is not my intention to take up much time in this debate. As one who comes from Victoria, I suppose I am duty bound to say a few words about income tax. I am a very strong believer in the uniform system of taxation. I deprecate the thought of another income tax being imposed by a State. I think I am fair in saying that the present state of Victoria’s finances has been brought about by maladministration over a number of years. It seems to me that what has happened in Victoria is similar to what can happen in one’s own home if one overspends without any thought for the future. The States were allowed to absorb in their Budgets the special grants that were made last year to relieve unemployment. The grant paid to Victoria was absorbed in the State Budget, and it was commonly believed by some that another sum of £5 million would be made available this year.
The States’ representatives in this place must look at the financial position of the various States. It is not good enough for the Commonwealth to have a surplus of £27.6 million, as I think it had last year, and for the States other than the two whose finances are to a large extent governed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to be placed in economic difficulty. I am thinking particularly of my own State of Victoria, where it is claimed that at least 45 per cent, of the new arrivals in this country eventually establish their homes. I realise that it is not easy to find a ready solution of the problem of Commonwealth and State financial relations. I think my friend Senator Wright will agree with me when I say that. We spent many hours trying to .find a solution.
Whichever party governs Victoria at the present time, it is not much use crying over the past; we must look at the present.
Money must be found. If an extra sum of £5 million is needed to provide the normal services of the State - facilities such as schools and hospitals must be built whichever party is in office - we must look more closely at the distribution of the funds that arc made available annually by the Commonwealth to the States. Senator Benn mentioned that in the case of Victoria tax reimbursements amounted to £27 3s. lid. per head of the population. Seemingly that sum together with the amount that is raised within the State is not sufficient for the normal functions of government to be - carried out. I do not say for a moment that if one traces the history of Victoria’s finances one finds that they have been managed in a way that gives great pleasure. The fact is that year after year deficits were mounting up, and we knew the time must come when they would have to be met.
A certain amount of money must be found. I ask: How can the States find the money that they need? If anyone can tell the people of Victoria of a method of taxation that they have not thought about, I am sure they will readily consider it. I have never thought that certain people were in earnest in proposing the re-imposition of State income tax in Victoria. I might be wrong, but it was my belief that this proposal was a try-on. Be that as it may, it seems clear to me that a new basis will have to be adopted for the reimbursement of taxes, particularly to Victoria, where, as I said earlier, from 40 to 45 per cent, of our immigrants settle. Although I do not support the financial policy of the present Government of Victoria and do not condone the looseness of that Government’s administration of State finances, I believe that we must look at the present situation. It is of no use saying to people who are ill or to the parents of children that, because certain things were done three or four years ago, they now cannot enjoy the benefit of hospitals and schools or of the other public utilities which every State has a responsibility to provide for its citizens.
– In what respect is Victoria at a disadvantage relative to the other States?
– -The honorable senator comes from a State which, with great respect to him, does not need to worry very much over its finances because it can approach the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Commission examines the State’s finances and, in its wisdom, grants a certain amount of money to the State to enable it to carry on. I do not want to argue with the honorable senator. I cannot say that Victoria is in any worse position than New South Wales in respect of the application of the tax reimbursement formula. I am asking why the Victorian people should suffer today because of the maladministration of the last four or five years which has resulted in the Victorian Government producing deficit Budgets. Not for one moment do I want to see the re-introduction of State taxation. I do not want to see uniform taxation imperilled.. I believe that it is the only fair method of taxation. I have recollections of the years prior to the introduction of uniform taxation when the people of Victoria, paid in proportion the highest taxation in the nation. We have got rid of State income tax, and that is a good thing, but it does not seem fair to me that the Commonwealth Government can in one year show a surplus of about £27.6 million, while a ‘ State - possibly if could correctly be said, through mismanagement - today finds itself in an impossible position. 1 am hopeful that a financial genius will come upon the scene and produce a scheme to give to the States at least a fairer share of the taxation receipts than they are receiving at present. I understand that New South Wales this year will receive about £8 million in revenue from its tax on poker machines.
– Have you played them?
– No, I have not. I concede that Victoria receives annually £H million or more from the Tattersall sweep consultation that was brought over from Hobart.
– Why do you smile over that?
– I do not smile over that, because I did not want it brought over. 1 wanted Victoria to run its’ own lottery, because I did not see why Adams should get a rake-off from the Victorian people. I did not mind what you let him have in Tasmania. I wanted to run a lottery in Victoria as it is run in Queensland. Irrespective of who governs Victoria, we have to face the facts as they are today. It is not much good anyone saying, “This is what brought it about”, and leaving it at that. I do not think that Victorians should be deprived of sufficient schools, hospitals or other amenities that the State should provide, simply because the State Government now finds that it is in the position it cannot provide these things.
– But the reimbursement formula takes into account the population factor.
– I know it doe3. But does it catch up with the true position each year? The plain fact is that today Victoria is, shall I say, £5 million in the red. This position, is of vital concern to the Commonwealth. I do not wish to take away any of the responsibility from the people concerned. They have their own worries at the moment. However, the fact is that the State finances cannot provide the things that the Victorian people want.
Very seldom do I say that 1 am delighted by the actions of a Liberal Government, but I was delighted when I read of the decision of the Commonwealth Government to stick to uniform taxation and to tell the Premier of Victoria that if he wanted to proceed with the imposition of State income tax - and I have never believed he did want to impose it - he could collect his own tax in his own way. I am familiar with Senator Wright’s views which have been expressed in another place, and I agree with him. However, some one has to get Victoria out of its trouble.
– A Labour Government.
– With great respect to my colleague, I think that even a Labour Government would find itself in a very bad position in Victoria at the moment. I hope that in the financial discussions that take place when the Loan Council meets the Commonwealth will accept its share of the responsibility. The Commonwealth is not without blame for Victoria’s financial position. I think that the majority of Commonwealth public works are financed out of revenue, whereas the States finance all their public works out of loan moneys. The States’ debts are increasing out of all reason, whereas the Commonwealth debt decreases each year. I have not risen to suggest a way out for Victoria, but I believe that the position is such that it warrants even a very small voice suggesting that a solution to Victoria’s difficulties ought to be sought here.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I listened to Senator Kennelly take 25 minutes to say what Shakespeare said so beautifully in these few lines, about a deer weeping into a stream -
Poor deer . . . thou mak’st a testament
As worldings do, giving thy sum of more
To that which had too much.
Fancy Victoria, bulging with all its wealth, not being able to manage on its reimbursement. That statement, Mr. Chairman, I agree is just as irrelevant as the remarks that Senator Kennelly addressed to the Minister’s second reading speech, but according to the rules of Kelly I am not inhibited.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
By this Bill it is proposed to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act for a number of purposes. The first of these purposes to which I refer is the provision of an exemption from income tax on pay and allowances paid to members of the citizen forces in respect of their part-time training. This provision will give effect to a decision announced by my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), in June last when he made a statement concerning Government proposals in the field of Australia’s defence planning. The Government believes that the exemption will not only serve to emphasise the importance of citizen forces in the Australian defence structure but also will provide an incentive for young people to undertake this very important service. It is also proposed by the Bill to provide machinery for the granting of special tax concessions to civilian personnel contributed by Australia for service with an armed force of the United Nations overseas. It is proposed that the special concessions will apply in the first instance to the Australian police unit at present serving with forces of the United
Nations in Cyprus. They would also, however, be available for application in appropriate circumstances in relation to other civilian personnel that Australia may in future contribute to United Nations forces. I would mention that, broadly speaking, the concessions proposed for these people correspond with the concessions that are granted to members of the Australian defence forces serving overseas in troubled areas.
Another amendment proposed by the Bill relates to the secrecy provisions of the income tax law. As honorable senators know, taxation officials are bound to observe complete secrecy about the affairs of taxpayers. Provisions are made in the law, however, for this obligation of secrecy to be relaxed so that the Commissioner of Taxation may communicate to various Crown authorities information required for the satisfactory administration of other laws. By this Bill, the Commissioner will be authorised to convey specified information to the Commonwealth Statistician to assist in the collection of statistics on employment. The Commissioner will be authorised to supply to the Statistician only the names, addresses and industries of persons who are employers under the group certificate and tax instalment stamp systems. No other information in the returns or assessments of taxpayers will be disclosed to the Statistician.
The Bill also contains a provision affecting provisional tax for the income year 1964-65. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that provisional tax for that year is calculated without reference to the 5 per cent, rebate which, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) announced in his Budget Speech, is not to be continued in relation to that year. More detailed explanations of the various provisions of the Bill are set out in a memorandum circulated to honorable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The Labour Party does not oppose the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- There is a rather interesting passage in the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), who represents the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in this chamber. The Minister says -
The Bill also contains a provision affecting provisional tax for the income year 1964-65. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that provisional tax for that year is calculated without reference to the 5 per cent, rebate . . .
I wonder whether the words are open to the interpretation that I place upon them. The statement seems to me to apply to one section of people only, that is, to the people who are paying provisional tax. That provision does not apply to those who have their tax taken out of their wages or salaries each week, fortnight or month. May I ask the Minister why there is the difference? I hope that I understand the meaning of that provision correctly. It seems that in this matter the Parliament is asked to make one law for those who pay provisional tax and another law for those who have their tax taken out of their wages or salaries. I hope my reading of that section of the second reading speech is correct. If it is not, I am sorry for raising the matter. I ask: Is this just another case of having one law for those who pay provisional tax - in the main, those who have got it - and another law for those who have their tax taken out of their wages or salaries weekly, fortnightly or monthly?
.- I would like to elaborate on the point that my Deputy Leader, Senator Kennelly, has raised. That is the statement in the second reading speech of the Minister that the purpose of this provision is to ensure that provisional tax for the year 1964-65 is calculated without reference to the 5 per cent, rebate. As I understand it, and I agree with my Deputy Leader, there is a discrimination here between those who pay provisional tax and those who have tax deductions made from their wages and salaries.
– What is the discrimination?
– The discrimination is that the provisional tax here will be calculated, for those who are paying it, without reference to the 5 per cent, rebate. As I understand the situation to be, tax deductions from the workers’ salaries and wages - this is so of public servants at least - have been increased. In other words, the worker who is receiving wages or a salary is paying on a yearly basis the same amount as he would normally be paying in a year of income without the provi-sion that, at the end of the year, there will be a rebate of 5 per cent. The Minister clearly says in his second reading speech that the purpose of the provision to which I direct attention is to ensure that provisional tax for the year 1964-65 is to be calculated without reference to the 5 per cent, rebate. I agree with Senator Kennelly that there appears to be in this proposal a discrimination between those who pay provisional tax and those who are wage and salary earners. I should like the Minister to explain the points that have been raised by Senator Kennelly because, as I say, it appears to me on a superficial reading of the second reading speech that there is a discrimination between those who pay provisional tax and the wage and salary earners in the work force of our community.
.- I am advised that the same conditions will apply to both classes of taxpayer. The wage and salary earners will not have the 5 per cent, rebate calculated in their weekly tax contributions. The normal provisional taxpayers will be in the same position.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1st October (vide page 909).
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Proposed expenditure, £14,135,000.
– J hope that we shall not have a repetition today of what occurred last Thursday week, when I was in the process of making helpful suggestions to the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). I rose before he did. When he rose, I thought he intended to make an explanation or- to answer questions. I said that I would sit down, but then he moved that the question be put. I know that the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), who is in charge of the debate on the estimates we are discussing at present, is reasonable, as is the Minister for Health, but he is also tolerant, I expect to receive from him on this occasion tolerance as well as reasoned argument. 1 refer to Division No. 150. I suppose that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation would bc the most important scientific research body that we have in Australia. In examining the proposed expenditure by that body, we should consider the purposes of scientific investigation. It is the acknowledged responsibility of the Government not only to undertake research directly but also to keep under review the facilities for the training of scientists, to encourage fundamental research, to finance certain research projects and to see that adequate research is devoted to matters of national interest. I realise that the Minister, possessing the intelligence that he does, will agree that those should be the fundamental purposes, but I am not certain that the Government has these purposes in mind.
The comparatively higgledy-piggledy efforts in scientific investigation in Australia are evidence of a lack of a co-ordinated approach. A survey of the position shows that very many departments are involved. The National Health and Medical Research Council comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Health. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics is controlled by the Minister for Primary Industry, as are other associated bodies. The Minister for Supply is responsible for research into armaments and for the projects at Salisbury and Woomera. The Department of Defence has certain research responsibilities, as have the Service Departments. T pay a tribute to the C.S.l.R.O. It was founded many years ago and subsequently its functions were amplified and more definitely defined. The Organisation has been fortunate to have been under the people who have directed it from time to time. Each has been brilliant and has made a real contribution to the
Organisation, within the limits imposed by successive anti-Labour governments. However, I submit to the Minister that there should be a more co-ordinated approach to scientific research. The contribution that this country makes to research is paltry. We spend less of our gross national product on research than does any other so-called modern country. The proportion is only 7 per cent.
The C.S.l.R.O. is primarily interested in serving primary and secondary industry. I hope that the Minister will tell me to what extent the Organisation is interested in projects involving pure scientific research, as distinct from projects which merely serve the purposes of industry. No matter how neglectful business people and industrialists might be about pure science, they should not forget that in the ultimate pure science serves their purposes. When scientists say how important it is to embark on projects involving pure science, the business people and industrialists of the day are almost contemptuous, but if they are told that the scientists are endeavouring to solve their particular problems they are all attention. In case there is to be an attempt to gag this debate, I should like, early in the piece, to summarise the points I am trying to make to the Minister through you, Mr. Chairman. I have congratulated the C.S.l.R.O. on its general approach to scienitfic matters, but I cannot congratulate the Government on its parsimonious approach. Last year the Government provided a little more than £11 million for the C.S.l.R.O., which was augmented by another £3 million from outside sources. It is proposed to increase the expenditure this year.
I have repeatedly raised the question I am about to raise now. I ask the Minister what advice the Chairman of the Organisation has tendered to him on the preservation of records. Last Saturday morning, at Black Mountain in Canberra, a fire occurred which destroyed valuable research records. The physical damage caused by the fire was estimated at only £15,000, but valuable records were destroyed. I have repeatedly asked whether adequate precautions against fire are taken. I have been condemned for suggesting that adequate precautions should be taken to ensure that in the event of a fire records will be preserved. Much better brains than mine are available to work out the details of the system that would be required. Not many years ago a fire occurred in the C.S.I.R.Q. in Melbourne, resulting in substantial loss, not in terms of money, but in terms of valuable records. Many of the records of the C.S.I. R.O. are kept in laboratories, with no duplicates being kept in the record rooms. Even in the record rooms there is no adequate fire protection. This matter is very important. Why the suggestion I have made has not emanated from the C.S.l.R.O. itself passes my comprehension. A small country like Belgium has established a national science foundation. The particular purpose of that foundation is to train scientific personnel, brilliant undergraduates and graduates, in research. In the process, the Belgians do not care whether those scientific personnel go into private enterprise, into primary and secondary industries, or whether they are engaged by the Government. Belgium will have a number of scientific personnel trained in research available to it. We have no such foundation. I know that some graduates, after they have been employed in the C.S.l.R.O., are sent overseas in relation to particular projects, but there is not an overall approach to this training. Australia is a country aspiring to a place in the international sun, but nothing is being done in the direction of training scientific personnel.
I suggest that it is the responsibility of the C.S.l.R.O. as the major scientific research organisation, to make suitable recommendations to the Minister. Senator Murphy posed a question to the Minister regarding the recommendations that were submitted or could have been submitted but were not accepted. The Minister replied that these recommendations were “ proceedings “ taken by the organisation. I am not a lawyer, but “ proceedings “, as a term, seems to me to be all embracing. I think that the representatives or the controllers of the C.S.l.R.O., in their own interests and in the interests of the members of Parliament who are elected by the people of this country, have a responsibility to make recommendations to the Minister, and the Minister should see that they accept that responsibility and include in their reports the recommendations that were not accepted by the Government, lt would be a simple matter for the Minister to say why the recommendations were not accepted, and we would know just what the representatives of the C.S.l.R.O. had recommended.
We find certain other matters mentioned in the report of the C.S.l.R.O. There is the shortage of money for buildings. This has been a continual cry of the C.S.l.R.O. When one thinks in terms of an expanding economy, I suppose the shortage of money for buildings for the C.S.l.R.O. is no different from the ordinary pattern of planning associated with successive Commonwealth Governments since 10th December 1949. These Governments have had no real idea of planning for a particular period. They have planned from year to year, and sometimes they have had to plan for intervals of six months. Surely in an expanding economy the Government should bc able to provide people in the field of scientific endeavour with the mechanism by which they can plan for three, five or seven years.
We have heard the continuous cry that the C.S.l.R.O. is short of funds for buildings. As recently as this year the Public Works Committee saw fit to approve of a new regional research laboratory at Floreat Park in Western Australia. When one saw the conditions under which the scientific personnel were working at the university in Perth, one wondered why they stayed there. They must have been dedicated personnel. They aTe entitled to the greatest adulation. 1 personally pay the highest tribute to them. The conditions under which they worked were shocking. There was gross overcrowding. Valuable equipment was jammed, one piece against another, and some on shelves one above the other. When they wanted to weigh anything they had to stand on chairs and take the balances down. In the specifications, which were submitted to the Committee, it was estimated that the building would cost £400,000, and there was provision for air conditioning to be provided subsequently for the personnel. There was provision for air conditioning of the rooms in which the equipment was placed. The Committee decided that the air conditioning for the personnel would cost only an extra £70,000, making the total near enough to £500,000, which was not such a tremendous amount when one thought in terms of the capital expenditure. From this report it would appear that no provision has been made for the adoption of the recommendations of the Committee. The Minister is trying to interject. I will have an argument with him later because the matter is not mentioned in this report, and that is the only guide I have. If he gives an assurance later, I will be grateful to have it.
There is no mention in the estimates of marine biology research, other than a reference to fisheries. I suppose we can take it that fisheries include Crustacea, such as crayfish, but ordinarily they are not classified as fish.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have a few questions regarding Division No. 150, sub-division 4, Item 24, fuel research. An amount of nearly £400,000 is to be provided for fuel research. If we look down the list of items we see that various amounts of money axe to be spent. I dare say that honorable senators and other members of the Parliament should know the total of these amounts and that they should have used, as their source of information, the various reports that are distributed from time to time by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. If we had the time to read all the reports, of course, we probably would know the total. The amount spent on fuel research in 1963-64 was £375,338. Do I understand that “ fuel research “ means that the Organisation is investigating oil, coal, natural gas and petrol?
– It is all to be spent on coal investigation.
– All on coal? In the Senate recently I asked a question about how much coking coal was available in Australia. The reason I asked the question was that about 3i million tons was being exported to Japan. My information is that the supply of really first class coking coal is not as plentiful as it might appear to be. An amount of approximately 1,000 million tons has been mentioned, and that seems to be an astronomical figure, but when you consider-
– That question was replied to.
– I know, but I did not get any information from it. The point is this: A broad figure has been given, but as Senator Sir William Spooner, who is an authority on these matters, would agree, there are different types of coking coal for different types of use. I am interested to know whether we are taking a national risk in exporting coking coal when it might be in short supply. I am not certain that the C.S.l.R.O. knows exactly how much coking coal is available. Nor am I certain that it is the Minister’s job to know that, because the Joint Coal Board and the State Mines Departments have something to do with it.
I do not know how the work in this field is co-ordinated. I do not know whether the Joint Coal Board has any views on this matter; I do not know whether, if it has any views, they are different from those of the C.S.l.R.O., and I do not know whether the States have different views. Does the proposed allocation cover the co-ordination of these activities? Are the views which have been stated the views of all the organisations and part organisations which allegedly are engaged in the investigation of matters associated with fuel? In other countries the overall problem of fuel - the use of coal, oil, natural gas and other fuels - comes under the authority of a natural fuel board, which tries to arrange the distribution of all fuels in a proper economical way, having the national interests in mind and trying to ensure that coal will not clash with oil and that oil will not clash with natural gas.
Honorable senators will remember that Victoria, because of a great shortage of coal that occurred in 1949 and other years in the post war era - 1949 is Senator Scott’s favorite year - set out to make herself self-sufficient. The result was that New South Wales, which previously exported 1,500,000 tons of black coal annually to Victoria, does not now do so. Victoria established her own briquette works. However, that undertaking has proved to be almost uneconomic, and today New South Wales, which previously supplied Victoria with raw coal, now supplies Victoria with the cheapest electricity Victoria ever had. In fact, New South Wales can supply Victoria with enough electric power to permit Victoria to close down its uneconomic works at Yallourn,
– The honorable senator is wandering a little from the subject before the chair.
– I will return to the point. This Organisation ought to know all these things. It could be in the national interest for the New South Wales power industry to relay sufficient electric power to Victoria to meet all that State’s power needs, thus effecting a great saving for the Victorian community.
Has the C.S.l.R.O. all this information at its fingertips? Does it co-ordinate all these activities? Does it really know what is going on in relation to power generation in New South Wales, and does it know the fuel needs of that State as compared with the fuel needs of Victoria? Or are its activities completely in the scientific sphere? Does it deal with fuels only as substances, without having any views on their overall management, distribution and use?
– Let me deal first with the matter of fuel research that Senator Ormonde raised. As I indicated to him by way of interjection, the proposed allocation under Item No. 24 will be spent on coal research. It will not be spent on matters such as those he mentioned - ascertaining the extent of coal deposits and whether New South Wales can provide sufficient electricity for other States. It will be spent on work concerned with the better utilisation of coal and on work on matters raised with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation by industry, by the Joint Coal Board or by other bodies interested in the use of coal. I shall read from a document I have some of the details of the activities of the C.S.l.R.O. in this regard, but before doing so let me say that if Senator Ormonde or any other honorable senator is really interested in this matter the Organisation’s laboratories at Ryde are open for inspection. Honorable senators can see there the exact kind of work that is done on the utilisation of coal and on coal by-products. If they go across the way, they will see a similar organisation which is run by the mine owners, by the Joint Coal Board and by other interested people. This organisation carries on work that is more or less complementary to the work carried on by the C.S.l.R.O.
– Docs that fit in with the Australian Coal Research Laboratories of which Senator Sir William Spooner spoke?
– It has a relationship with it. They all discuss together the kind of work that has to be done. I cannot say in detail how the work is tied up, but it is tied up. It is all directed to the general purpose of making coal a fuel which can be used economically in the greatest possible variety of ways. This is the objective of the work being done on coal.
The Organisation has as one of its main immediate and continuing objectives the giving of assistance to industry to solve problems which arise in the processing and utilisation of coal and coal products. These problems are studied by means of technical scale plant investigations. At the laboratories you will see small scale coking furnaces, as it were - small scale installations on which test runs are made to see bow coal would operate if it were in a major industrial plant. You will see how attempts are made to get a type of coal which will produce less scale in a boiler, less dust, slag and so on to block up the draught. You will see how attempts are made to get a coal which, as T think I said the other night, will produce more British thermal units with a given amount. The installations for testing are in these laboratories.
The Organisation carries out investigations with a view to having closer correlation with conditions encountered in industrial practice than is possible on a laboratory scale alone. For this work various coking units, combustion furnaces, model foundry cupolas and gasification units are in operation, and others are being designed. The results are of direct use to a wide range of Australian industries. At the same time - I. shall not read all of the document which contains these statements, although it is available if honorable senators require it - work is carried out on by-products of coal and their utilisation. Mixing with paint to make a longer lasting substance is one thing that T have in my mind. There are others that. I do not have in my mind. The commercial uses of by-products are also the subject of tests by chemists of the C.S.l.R.O. This work is carried out on coals from various seams in New South Wales, Queensland and other places. This is the kind of work for which the allocation under discussion is utilised.
A number of points were raised by Senator Dittmer. It was suggested the other evening that the executive of the C.S.l.R.O. has a statutory requirement to report to the Parliament its views on what it should receive. I can only say that I do not agree with that. There is no requirement in the Act for this to be done by the C.S.T.R.O. The provision of funds for the Organization is a Government responsibility. It is a responsibility which the Government must accept in this Parliament.
– Some distinguished lawyers might say that the word “proceedings “ is almost all-embracing. I am not niggling in my opinion. I would not pose as a distinguished lawyer or even as a distinguished man.
– Therefore we have not to argue. A specific matter was raised by Senator Dittmer as to the need for coordinated research. This is not directly related to these estimates, and it is obviously a matter of opinion. For myself, I do not believe that if the concept is that all scientific research throughout Australia should be co-ordinated by some central body, this would be a good thing either for science or for Australia.
– We are different from the other modern nations. You know that.
– I do not think that it is done in that way elsewhere.
– It is in Great Britain and the United States of America.
– No, it is not. A good deal of research is done in the United States by independent foundations. Some is done by governments, some by private firms and some by universities. There is no overall co-ordinating authority there or, indeed, in England. I do not believe that it would be a good thing if there were such an authority. I think we are likely to get better results if the universities carry out research, if industry itself carries out research, if the C.S.l.R.O. carries out research, if the atomic energy people carry out research, and if the space development people under the Department of Supply carry out research. I believe that by the richness that can come from a number of people working in these fields, without one central directive organisation, we are likely to get in the ultimate a better scientific result. This is a matter of opinion, and that is my opinion. In the fire in the entomological section of the C.S.l.R.O., to which the honorable senator referred, no records at all were lost.
– I am sorry. The Press said that records were lost.
– I can assure the honorable senator that they were not. I think some cultures were lost, but no records at all were lost.
– It would be a good idea to have duplicate records.
– In some cases - I am not speaking of this particular laboratory - duplicate records are kept. Looking at the immense number of divisions and sections in the Organisation, and the daily work and the daily records, one sees that it would be an enormous undertaking to keep duplicates of all records. Duplicates are kept of a great number of significant records. Some consideration has been given to the general danger of fire which I think the honorable senator said he raised last year or the year before. In the past two years a safety officer has been appointed to look into fire hazards in various C.S.l.R.O. establishments, to train people in each division in what to do in the event of fire, and to see that fire trials are held periodically. Fireproof rooms, in which duplicate records are held, are provided.
A good deal of basic research is done. I cannot state the exact percentage. The honorable senator suggested that much research directed not to a particular problem but to what one might, I suppose, call pure research should.be done. A very great deal of that is done. The work of the Division of Radiophysics, which is responsible for the expenditure of quite a deal of the appropriation for the Organisation, could be described as virtually pure research. It is not directed to specific problems. That is the outstanding example, but in other fields a good deal of basic research is done. The honorable senator referred to the laboratory being constructed in Western Australia. I am happy to be able to tell him that air conditioning is being installed in that building in accordance with the recommendation of the Public Works Committee.
– I refer to Division No. 150, subdivision 4., item 11 - Fisheries. The proposed appropriation is £330,600. Will the Minister say what type of research is being carried out under this heading and whether any information is available from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in relation to the culture pearl industry conducted by seven or eight companies from Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia, to Thursday Island, north of Queensland? I understand that several years ago, when the industry first started in Australia, the Commonwealth Government gave permission for a company to start operations in the north of Western Australia, on the understanding that it could employ a number of Japanese specialists, if opportunities were made available for Australians to learn the secret of producing the round culture pearl. I should like to know whether this has been done. I believe that the industry is growing quite rapidly and that one section of the industry produces half pearls.
– You would like to know what has been done?
– 1 should like to know whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has had, as was guaranteed in the contract when this industry started, people taking notice of what was happening and learning how to develop a culture pearl industry with Australian labour. I believe that the industry is very remunerative, particularly if round pearls are developed. I refer the Minister also to item 36 under the same sub-division - Amounts to be received from other sources. Last year £96,300 was appropriated. This year the estimate is £100,000. I suppose this is by way of gift. I should like to know what that amount represents.
.- I refer to Division No. 150, sub-division 4, which relates to investigations carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. One deduces that the primary industries stand to gain much from the general work of the Organisation. The investigations for which provision is made relate to animal research laboratories, plant research soils and irrigation, food preservation, forest products, fisheries, fodder conservation, dairy research, and wool research laboratories.
I have no doubt that all branches of primary industry gain considerably from investigations carried out by the C.S.l.R.O. A year or two ago I had the interesting experience of visiting Katherine in the Northern Territory and saw an experimental plot there where peanuts, tobacco, cotton and various kinds of vegetables were grown. The tobacco and peanuts were growing well and there was a crop of cotton which would be equal, perhaps, to that grown in any of the eastern Slates. Later in the day 1 went to a grazier’s property and saw on it a citrus orchard. The fruit was falling off the trees and the cattle were eating the oranges and other fruit, f asked why the grazier did not have the fruit harvested and packed and sent to market. He said it would not pay him to do so and that, it would be a dead loss. There would be the cost of the case, transport and labour. He said: “ 1 find it belter to let the fruit fall from the trees so that the stock can eat it.”
I know this is a problem. 1 looked at the situation in this way: What was the earthly good of having an experimental plot in Katherine unless the district could produce the crops which it was proved could be grown there? I also had the interesting experience of examining the stock experiments at Katherine. I was shown some of the stock which had been hand fed during what is generally known there as a dry period. Then I was shown some of the stock which had been allowed to fend for themselves on the dry spear grass which grows in that area. In my own way, I thought of all the things I had seen. I could not see any use in growing peanuts in the Northern Territory north of Katherine, which is not so very far from Darwin, if the product could not bc transported successfully to market. That applies everywhere to every product of the land. Unless there is a market close by it is not much good producing anything.
Cattle are really the main product of the Northern Territory, but if you study statistics for stock raised in the Northern Territory and the turn off to markets, you will find that no progress whatever has been made in the past 20 or 30 years. The number of stock turned off from the Northern Territory may have gone up or down by a few head but, in fact, production is static. I spoke to an officer of the C.S.l.R.O. - he might not have been a scientist - and asked him why some effort had not been made to breed a type of grass that would be more nutritious than the natural spear grass which grows in that area. Anyone who has travelled Queensland knows that there are many broad acres in that State covered with spear grass. They know also that there is a natural grass in the Northern Territory which 1 think is a spear grass. I asked why they could not cross spear grass with Mitchell grass and so provide a good grazing crop. I wanted to know, also, whether any efforts had been made towards that end. I knew that a maize had been produced which was a mongrel breed but was more profitable to grow than the other type of maize. Similar results are obtained with sorghum and certainly with fruit trees. You can graft one tree on to another.
I am not a scientist but I know grass from hay. Here there is a whole territory to be conquered by the C.S.l.R.O. I know the Organisation has had some splendid victories in the past when it has set out to do something and here is a challenge to the whole Organisation. If they concentrated all the scientists of the C.S.l.R.O. upon that one problem and they were successful, the Northern Territory would bc one of the most bountiful places in the Commonwealth. As things are, it makes you sad to travel through the Northern Territory.
Just before 1 finish, there is one matter to which I wish to direct attention. I refer to Division No. 150, sub-division 5, item 03, “ Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux - Contributions, £78,500”. Only recently, we dealt with legislation to provide for a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I should like some information on these Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux. Are they conducted by State Governments? Are they set up by the Commonwealth Government to get agricultural information from the various States? Are the bureaux worth while? The cost is not very great. I notice that the proposed expenditure of £78,500 is less than the actual expenditure last year of £82,276.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 150, subdivision 4, item 02 - Plant Research. This is actually the sub-division covering the matter to which Senator Benn has referred. It is a fact that the whole of northern Australia has always had natural grasses which are not at all nutritious for cattle production. The fact that these natural grasses are not nutritious is the reason for such a very sparse cattle population in the whole of the tropical and sub tropical areas. But if there is one field in which the C.S.l.R.O. has done magnificently, it is this field.
I would commend to Senator Benn the recent annual report of the Division of Tropical Pastures of the C.S.l.R.O. This covers the activities of the Cunningham Laboratory in Queensland and the work has branched out into other places as far as Townsville where a new research station is in the process of being developed. The C.S.l.R.O. scientists in the Cunningham Laboratory have done magnificent work in this field. In the past five or six years they have introduced some 17 tropical legumes all of which flourish in different parts of northern Australia. One or the other will prosper there, depending on the rainfall pattern and the various climatic conditions. Of my own knowledge, there are thousands of acres in the northern parts of Australia today which will probably carry one beast to 20 or 50 acres. If they were planted with these new legumes that have been developed by the C.S.I.R.O., they would carry, not one beast to 20 or 50 acres, but one beast per acre.
This is happening. This is just not theory. It is happening throughout the whole of our north in various areas which unfortunately are isolated at present. Knowledge of the value of these legumes is spreading very rapidly. As graziers in the north see how wonderful they are and realise what a splendid task has been done by the C.S.l.R.O. in developing them, they are introducing them on their own land. I venture to say that there is almost no part of Queensland north of the Tropic of Capricorn where one or other of these recently developed legumes will not flourish.
In the report to which I referred earlier and which 1 received only a few days ago there is a lot of detail about these grasses and a record of the experiments that have been carried out with them in different areas. That record shows which ones flourish best under varying rainfall patterns. I was somewhat disappointed on Thursday, 1st October, to hear so much criticism of the C.S.l.R.O. From my own experience and having observed the work of the Organisation in this particular field, I should say that it has made a greater contribution to the economy and the prosperity of Australia than almost any other undertaking that I can think of. I should not like it to be thought by anybody that the improvement of cattle and sheep pastures is being neglected. It is not. I do not think any scientist elsewhere in the world would have a better record than have our own scientists in the Cunningham Laboratory. Indeed, I think I can go further and say that the seed of some of the plants which have been developed and are now in production is being exported to other countries and that those countries think that these particular legumes are among the very best in the world. The Cunningham Laboratory not only is developing new plants but is also conducting research in other parts of the world, is observing developments with various types of grasses and is introducing seeds and plants into Australia. So we are getting the benefit of all the investigation and research that is being undertaken overseas.
If tropical legumes are mixed with some of the natural grasses they tend, because of their capacity to fix nitrogen and their consequent effect on the soil, to build up the food value of the natural grasses to an almost unbelievable extent. Upon, the introduction of these tropical legumes, grasses which are quite useless become quite good cattle food. Let mc mention another feature of the work of the Cunningham Laboratory. One of the problems experienced in all grazing areas is that in the rainy season a great deal of food is available for cattle but in the dry season it falls away. Consequently, the grazier must regulate the carrying capacity of his land to accord not with the lush times but with the dry season, which causes a falling off of the nutritive value of the pastures. As a result of the work of the Cunningham Laboratory this very high peak of lush feed and the very low valley of the dry season are being ironed out and a much more uniform pattern is being set. So throughout the whole year it is now possible to carry very many more cattle than could be carried previously.
When these tropical legumes which have been developed by the C.S.l.R.O. are planted throughout the area of Queensland known as zone A for taxation purposes, the cattle population of that area could well rise from approximately two million head to as high as ten million head. That is, provided the pastures are developed thoroughly. I repeat that development is proceeding with greater rapidity as landholders realise the value of these pastures. I should not like to have missed this opportunity to say how greatly I admire the work of the C.S.l.R.O. in this field.
– I rise to refer to Division No. 150 - Administrative, and in particular to the provision for salaries. May I say that during this debate I have heard very few speakers criticise what the C.S.l.R.O. does. There has been a lot of criticism of what it does not do or is unable to do because of the limitations imposed on it and the difficulties under which it works. I agree with the statement by Senator Morris that possibly no other institution has made a greater contribution to the development of Australia in post-war years than has the C.S.I.R.O. Having listened to the various speakers, I should say that there is much yet to be done and that the Organization could well be expanded. It has assisted the building industry, with which I have been associated, tremendously in undertaking scientific research at the request of particular manufacturers and employers* organisations.
On the last occasion when the estimates for this undertaking were before us Senator Murphy expressed the fear that the Organisation was standing still and was not progressing to the extent that our future manufacturing and agricultural needs demanded. I should like to draw the attention of honorable senators to the explanatory notes which were distributed with the estimates of expenditure for 1964-65. At page 19 there is set out the number of staff employed in 1962-63, 1963-64 and 1964-65. It will be seen that the total number of research officers employed in 1962- 63 - I take it this relates to personnel throughout Australia - was 1,021. In 1963- 64 the number rose to 1,029, an increase of 8. For 1964-65 there is to be a drop to 997 research officers. In 1962-63, 658 experimental officers were employed. In 1963-64 their number was increased by eight to 666, but in 1964-65 there is provision for only 640. The two important categories of research officer and experimental officer are to be reduced from the 1962-63 numbers.
In 1962-63 technical, clerical and ancillary staff numbered 3,122. This figure was increased to 3,196 in 1963-64 and for 1964- 65 provision is made for a staff of 3,386. While that increase is to occur, the numbers of research officers and experimental officers are to be reduced not only below last year’s figure, but also below the figure of 1962-63. At first blush it appears that research and experimental work undertaken by this important organisation is declining. I would like to hear the Minister’s comments on the staffing position referred to in the explanatory notes.
. -The Minister has clarified a statement that I made. I am sorry that I may have been misled when I said that records had been lost. Records are efforts inscribed on paper. Yesterday the “ Canberra Times “ contained this report -
Years of research were lost in a fire which caused more than £15,000 worth of damage to the C.S.l.R.O. insect study building. . . . The chief of the Division of Entomology, Dr. D. F. Waterhouse, said yesterday some of the experiments had been going on for 10 years.
I am pleased to have the assurance of the Minister that the report which appeared in yesterday’s edition of the “ Canberra Times” is incorrect.
I wish now to refer to a statement by Senator Morris. At no stage did I condemn or attack the personnel of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. For them I have never had other than the greatest admiration.
– I did not refer to you.
– T just want to make my position quite clear.
– I was referring to Senator Benn.
– I want to make it clear that 1 have the greatest admiration for these officers who carry out such excellent work in the limited circumstances of their environment and available equipment, and the funds furnished by a miserable Government.
When speaking earlier I asked a question in relation to a marine biological research station. Nowhere in the Estimates is there mention of marine biological research. There is mention of fisheries. But the sea contains much more than fish. I take it that under the item “ Fisheries “ an amount has been included for research into crayfish. Crayfish are not truly fish, but are known as crustaceans. The sea contains many more forms of life than crayfish and fish. Surveys have been made of the surface of the world. On a round basis, it is calculated at about 190 million square miles. If allowance is made for mountainous areas the earth’s surface covers about 250 million square miles; three-quarters of this area is composed of oceans. Surely an island continent like Australia should have a serious approach to marine biological research, but we are doing practically nothing in this field. The world’s scientists and zoologists believe that the products of the sea have great potentiality.
Many years ago I addressed to the Minister of the day a question on the possibility of utilising the products of the sea, but it was cursorily dismissed and no information was provided. Subsequently Senator Murphy drew the attention of the Minister to this aspect, and was advised by the Minister that the Government had done nothing about it. The question involves the possibility of new eating habits and new forms of diet. It is all very well to say that today certain fish are not accepted by the people as food. I remind honorable senators that when potatoes were first brought from Peru to Europe this food was not acceptable to the people. Subsequently the quality of the potatoes was improved. When tomatoes were brought from South America to Europe, th»y also were not accepted as a food, but because of culture and scientific research they became an acceptable food and today are so accepted in most countries.
I am assuming that the subject of marine biological research can be related to the item “ Fisheries “ in the Estimates, and that it may be intended to include a measure of marine investigation. A comparatively small research station has been established on Heron Island, on the Great Barrier Reef, near Gladstone. After much cadging and pushing and shoving, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced that this year £5,000 would be granted to the station through the Australian Universities Commission. It was not granted through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which should be directly associated with a project engaged solely in research. The personnel of this station consists of a director, a maintenance officer, and a temporary maintenance officer because it happens that a small amount of building has to be done. It provides all the research we are doing today in the field of marine biology. Off the Australian coast is the unique structure of the Great Barrier Reef. We owe it to the scientific world to explore its possibilities and I ask the Minister what he proposes to do in this regard. There has been a minimum of investigation and we have not even classified the species of fish. Occasionally boats go out and shoals of fish are sighted, but the habits and movements of the fish have not been traced. They are not known. We have not investigated the currents, the salinity changes and the environmental circumstances of the sea. There has been no suggestion of investigation of the creatures which frequent the sea, of the plankton or the flora of the sea.
Eminent zoologists have said that the best site for investigations of the tropical flora and fauna of the sea is to be found on the Great Barrier Reef. Billions of tons of plankton and other plant life exist in the sea and provide food for fish and other marine life. Their possible utilisation has not been investigated. No attempt has been made to explore the possibility of using seaweeds. No tribute has been paid to our obligation to the scientific world because of our marine environment. The Government should be ashamed of its failure in this field. 1 agree with Senator Morris that the C.S.l.R.O. has done a lot o* work in the culture and development of plants suitable for the tropical areas of north Queensland and the Northern Territory. I shall not detail all the plants, such as bull rush millet and Townsville lucerne, which have been found to be eminently suitable for planting in the Northern Territory. Nor do I propose to traverse the story of the Kimberley Research Station which was founded in 1946 by a Commonwealth Labour Government in association with the Western Australian Government. The end result is a partly developed scheme known as the Ord River scheme for which the Government will not provide additional money, although the scheme appears to be a satisfactory economic proposition. Only 30,000 acres are to be developed there, whereas the development of 200,000 acres is a possibility. In the eyes of the world our claim to the land will have to be justified by occupation and use. What has been done is due to the ability and dedication of the personnel as regards research. Everybody knows what work they have done.
As all this information is available to be read, I do not propose to traverse the story of their plant culture or the tropical pastures that have been developed, and the contribution that they will make. But I do pose as another question to the Minister the matter of land research and regional surveys. Associated with that was the pastoral research project at Alice Springs, where there are extraordinarily difficult environmental circumstances with regard to the feeding of cattle. I know that over recent years a difficult period has been experienced there because of the absence of rainfall, but I understand that the research station has been placed on a caretaker basis because of the shortage of funds. This is after many years of intensive effort. I ask the Minister why, for the sake of a comparatively small sum of money, the Government is so miserly as to deny a continuation of this effort outside Alice Springs.
There are certain other aspects that I think might occur to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - I am mentioning this in a humble way - because I note that biochemistry is mentioned. I am thinking now in terms of occupational hazards in industry. Unfortunately, because the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) gagged me, I was not able to deal with occupational hygiene when the estimates of the Department of Health were under consideration. I think I will be in order in dealing with them in terms of biophysics and biochemistry from a scientific point of view and in doing so discuss the lay-out of foundries and factories. As many lives are lost, much disability caused and decreased production occasioned because of such factors as inefficient lay-out, survey, colour, light and so on, perhaps this is a field to which the staff of the C.S.l.R.O. could give attention.
I think the Organisation could make a real contribution in this regard. We have many modern factories, foundries and machine shops which are comparable with some of the best in the world. But there are still many old factories, foundries and machine shops which, while doing good work, place men in hazardous conditions. Those men are suffering disabilities which are occasioned by the environment in which they work. I think that this is a field where advice from the C.S.l.R.O. could be tendered and the modernisation of the plants effected. I know that other circumstances come into consideration. Assistance could be provided by the Commonwealth Development Bank for the purpose of modernising factories and to meet all requirements so as to obtain maximum production. It seems to me that nothing much is being done about this matter by the National Health and Medical Research Council or the C.S.l.R.O.
We should realise that the matters to which I have been referring are really scientific. Irrespective of whether or not we talk about medicine as a science, its real basis is wrapped in science. Here is a research organisation whose work is being limited by the Government largely through the lack of personnel but more particularly through the absence of funds. In neither case is the Government attempting to do very much to meet the requirements of the situation. The Government has made no provision for the training of personnel as regards research. It takes graduates after they leave a university, and in some cases sends them overseas, but they have to learn their research within the control of the Organisation. The Government certainly limits funds to this organisation but the nation aspires to a place in the international sun. I will be interested to have answers from the Minister with regard to those queries.
More particularly, I would appreciate an answer regarding the attitude of the C.S.l.R.O. to marine biological research. Australia is an island continent and tho potential of the sea around it is not known. Many other countries are actively engaged in marine biological research. There is a tremendous field to be covered in this sphere. We owe it to the scientific world, quite apart from the need to examine the possibilities of future development regarding the production of food, to investigate this matter. There are more than just fish in the sea. There are molluscs and mussels. In the Gulf of Taranto in Italy, from one acre of mussels on culture 109,000 lb. of flesh was obtained. We know that scallops are being worked off the coast of Tasmania and have been discovered off the coast of Queensland. Whether they exist elsewhere we do not know, because no research has been conducted into the matter. We know what the crayfish industry has meant to Australia in relation to export earnings. There are many other products of the sea that, through research, could be utilised. The mammals of the sea could be turned into sea flour to provide protein for the people of the undernourished countries of the world.
-(Senator Drake-Brockman). - Order I The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator Scott asked whether the C.S.l.R.O. was doing anything in regard to the cultured pearl industry. The answer is “No”. The Organisation is not engaged in any work in that industry; nor is it under any obligation to be so engaged at any time. The industry seems to be a commercial undertaking. It appears to me that the people running this commercial undertaking could arrange for details of necessary knowledge to be given. This is not a matter for the C.S.T.R.O. to go into. It is under no obligation to do so and, as far as I know, it has never been asked to do so.
Senator Scott also asked, a question in regard to amounts to be received from other sources to which reference has been made. This is income from the sale of various types of produce of experimental farms, such as lucerne, sheep and cattle, and sometimes obsolete equipment.
Senator Benn raised the question of an isolated citrus orchard near Katherine. He also referred to the growing of peanuts near Katherine. The objective of that sort of work is to find out what will grow and what will not grow in a particular area or district of Australia. I think the honorable senator is quite right when he says that there is no commercial work nearby. This is not a commercial undertaking, but it could be of some considerable value, at a time when the development of a particular area of Australia is under consideration, to know from experience what crops will grow there and what sort of parasites will attack any crops that one might endeavour to grow there. We have had experience of that situation with the cotton being grown in the Ord River scheme. The parasites which attacked the crop were unexpected but, because of some work which had been done on them before, some advantage was obtained.
I come now to the question of pastures. 1 think Senator Morris has indicated that a great deal of work indeed has gone into the provision of better pastures. I am sure that if the scientists who are engaged in that discipline could cross spear grass with Mitchell grass, get a better pasture plant, and thereby put more weight on cattle, they would do so. These scientists are always looking for something which will retain its nutritive value during the dry season, which will grow in that part of the world, which will be palatable to cattle, and which will increase the turn off of cattle. I think they have done a very good job in this direction. The Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau, about which Senator Benn asked, has nothing to do with the Commonwealth Government. It is a British Commonwealth Bureau. The C.S.l.R.O. is, as it were, the pipe-line through which the Commonwealth Government makes a contribution to the Bureau.
Senator Cavanagh raised the question of staffing. I think I indicated when this matter was under discussion previously in this chamber that there was a reclassification of officers between 1963-64 and 1964-65. In 1962-63 and 1963-64 a number of officers were classified as research officers although they were not in fact carrying out research work. They were qualified to be research officers but they were not doing research work. They were doing technical work or liaison work that could be encompassed in the classification “ Other staff, technical, clerical and ancillary “. The reason for the apparent drop in the number of research officers is that of reclassification.
Senator Dittmer raised the question of marine biological research. He has raised the question in past years. The only answer I can give him now is the one that I gave before, namely, that the C.S.l.R.O. is not engaged in this form of work and that the executive of the C.S.l.R.O. does not give it as high a priority as it gives to the other work in which the Organisation is engaged. A good deal of work goes on with fish. Some fish are tagged. Tuna, for instance, are caught, tagged and released in an endeavour to find out where they go and what their migratory habits are. On the tag it is requested that, if caught, the fish be sent back to the C.S.l.R.O. Other work with fish is being done. 1 think the last point the honorable senator raised had to do with land research and regional surveys, lt is true that there is no expansion of land research and regional survey work at Alice Springs. In view of the funds allocated to it by the executive, the particular division responsible regards other land research and regional survey work - particularly in Queensland, where a great deal of this work is being done - to have a higher priority than the work at Alice Springs.
– Is the Minister trying to placate me by mentioning Queensland?
– I am not seeking to placate the honorable senator. I am seeking to give an explanation of where the’ work is going on. Having seen the suggestions and the requests from the Premier of Queensland, I think it is a good thing that this work is going on in north Queensland.
– And in the Gulf country.
– The honorable senator would know precisely where the work is being conducted.
The C.S.l.R.O. is not engaged in industrial safety work, which is really a matter for the State Departments of Labour. However, there is some work going on in what might be regarded as health matters, as opposed to safety matters. There is research into the question of lighting in factories, acoustic levels and humidity. Those things are engaging the attention of the C.S.l.R.O.
– I should like to return to some of the matters that were raised by Senator Dittmer. One was marine biological research. I share the view that something ought to be done about this. The circumstance to which the honorable senator adverted was, to my mind, disturbing. The question of marine biological research was raised in this chamber during a debate on the Estimates, and later a question was asked by me. The answer to that question indicated that, notwithstanding that Senator Dittmer had raised the subject in the Senate, no attention had been paid to it. No attention at all was given to the subject in the interim, and the last time it was considered by the C.S.l.R.O. was an occasion earlier than when the request was made by Senator Dittmer. It is disturbing to honorable senators to think that suggestions they make are not even considered by the body whose estimates are being dealt with.
The field of marine biological research is one of major importance and the delays that are occurring will, I think, be deprecated by posterity. For the reasons indicated by Senator Dittmer, this is an extremely serious subject, and I respectfully request the Minister to ask those who make decisions Sn the C.S.l.R.O. to reconsider it. Senator Dittmer raised also the question of research in the centre of Australia. This, too, should be reconsidered in view of the fact that it is protective work. This is not so much a question of developing the centre of Australia as of protecting it. It is thought that unless steps are taken to prevent erosion and to stop the deterioration of land in this area, there could be disastrous results by reason of the loss of soil and of erosion spreading out. Some people have real fears about this problem and consider it to bc of real consequence. Perhaps the Organisation will give it some further consideration.
Another matter raised was the staffing of the C.S.l.R.O. I appreciate the explanation which the Minister gave. He said, in rather vague terms, that there has been a reclassification. It is generally thought that the work of the Organisation is at a standstill. To my mind, this fear was confirmed by the specific answers given to a question asked by me on 6th May 1964. I ask the Minister - at some stage, not necessarily during the course of the debate on these estimates - to give details of the actual reclassification which took place, so that we can bc assured that the scientific staff has not actually been reduced. It would be an extraordinary position if, as was suggested, persons who are qualified to be doing research work, and were labelled as research officers, were in fact not doing research, but were engaged on clerical, technical and ancillary work. That in itself requires an explanation. Why should highly skilled persons, capable not merely of being experimental officers but of engaging in high grade research work, spend their time doing work which is not research work but is merely technical, clerical or ancillary work?
I ask the Minister to reconsider the answer he gave about investigations. He suggested that investigational work should continue in the universities and other institutions. Everybody agrees with that, but where are the persons doing research work at universities and obtaining higher degrees to get jobs if the C.S.I.R.O. does not expand? We have the situation that private industry in this country is doing research work estimated to cost only some £4 million or £5 million a year. That is about onetenth of what ought to be done in view of what is being done in. comparable countries elsewhere. The question of the computer laboratory was mentioned earlier in the debate. How long is it since this computer laboratory was first suggested by the C.S.l.R.O.? If it is some years, can the Minister explain whether anything can be done to cut down this time lag?
Has provision been made in these estimates for a special fund for the executive of the Organisation to exercise its discretion to initiate research in fields likely to be of significance to the nation? If not, could provision be made for some, perhaps, small fund which might, at the discretion of the executive, be used on projects which, during the course of the year, appeared to it to necessitate commencement? Could the Minister tell me whether steps have been taken - and this relates to salaries and payments in the nature of salaries - to revise the superannuation scheme to allow free interchange between the universities and the C.S.l.R.O.? I do not ask for an answer to these questions at the moment, but when they are considered, would the Minister take into consideration a system of post doctoral fellowships, similar to those offered by the Canadian National Research Council, to bring talented young scientists to Australia, regular sabbatical leave for research officers, and provision for visits each year by eminent scientists from overseas?
– Dealing with the points as I took them down when Senator Murphy made them, I do not think it is at all fair to say that there is any indication that no attention has been paid by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to the previous suggestion made by Senator Dittmer that there should be murine biology research. I think that honorable senators should differentiate completely between the question of whether attention is paid to a suggestion and whether the suggestion is adopted.
– Your answer indicated that no consideration was given.
– I do not know the answer to which you are referring, but I do know that I spoke to the Chairman of the C.S.l.R.O, after last year’s debate on the estimates for the C.S.l.R.O., and that is how I was able to tell the Senate of his views and of the executive’s views on this matter. So it is not correct to say that no attention has been paid to the suggestion. It is correct to say that it has not been accepted.
– It was not last year.
– Then whenever it was. If you did not raise it last year, I did.
On the question of” staff, I can only repeat what 1 said before. The scientific staff is not running down. I shall endeavour to get for Senator Murphy an indication of the actual scientific research staff, which is what I thought he was seeking. The answer to the question he asked me may have led him to believe that there was a running down in scientific staff purely because the answer I gave him was at a stage when the reclassification had taken place. I think there would be a need for people with research officer qualifications to be doing other than strictly research work in an organisation such as the C.S.l.R.O. But I shall endeavour to get for him the actual number of people engaged on scientific research. He will see that it is not, in fact, running down.
As to the question whether people who receive good scientific degrees could obtain employment if the C.S.l.R.O. did not expand, I think that there should be plenty of other avenues available in Australia for such people to obtain employment which would be gainful to Australia. There are the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Supply, the universities, the Department of Defence, the various industries and the Department of Health, all of which in both Commonwealth and State spheres require people with these qualifications.
There is no special fund as such at the discretion of the C.S.l.R.O. executive. The members of the executive have consultations with me during the year. There is a fair amount of flexibility between the divisions, but there is no special fund which is not set down for a particular purpose, but just for the C.S.l.R.O. to use. I cannot tell the honorable senator exactly how long ago it’ was, but I think it was two or three years ago that the officers of the C.S.l.R.O. first spoke to me about buying and installing a computer. It took that length of time to look into the various types of computers available, to get the recommendations of Mr. Lanz, who is doing the work for the Organisation, on the bids put in by the various computer makers, to construct the building and to get the system operating.
The superannuation question, which is an important one, is under review. Nothing has been done about it yet. The last question which the honorable senator, raised, regarding possible post doctorate courses, is one that I shall discuss with the Chairman of the C.S.I.R.O. I move-
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed Expenditure, £3,523,000.
.- I would like the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) to give the Senate some indication of whether or not consideration has been given during the year to the enforcement of maintenance proceedings throughout the Commonwealth. I have a persisting interest in this matter. I believe that it is a disgrace to the Commonwealth that maintenance orders are so difficult to enforce. I read only this morning of a recent decision of a judge in the matrimonial jurisdiction who held that the enforcement of maintenance orders was a field which the Matrimonial Causes Act purported to deal with exclusively. Therefore, when it provided for the enforcement of orders, it precluded the possibility of enforcing maintenance orders from Great Britain.
It is to the disgrace of New South Wales that for about two years I have been endeavouring to have enforced for the benefit of a spastic child in Hobart, who was deserted by his father, an order made in the Hobart court for his maintenance. Not all of the delay is due to the deficiencies of State legislation; part of the delay is due to my own circumstances.
– Which Act was that?
– I would not hazard a guess at the nomadic laws of New South Wales, but I got an order against the husband some six months ago. It has been on appeal since then. There is a crying need for something to be done in this direction in the interests both of justice and social service economy for which we are responsible. At the present time we are paying about £3 million in the guise of widows’ pensions to women who have, in fact, been deserted by husbands and whose maintenance orders are not being enforced owing to the interstate chaos in this field.
It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to provide a proper system for the enforcement of these orders on a federal basis so that there will be speedy and prompt enforcement of the orders of courts which have considered individual cases. I would appreciate a full statement from the Minister snowing what consideration has been given to this matter since we last discussed it in the Senate, and whether or not we have advanced in any degree.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator McKellar).Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly)
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 October 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19641013_senate_25_s26/>.