25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. As a consequence of the complicated legal dispute between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Government over the allocation of air routes, will the Minister give authority to Trans-Australia Airlines to apply for Federal and State licences to enable the airline to provide a reliable air service for the people of Dubbo and district to connect them with other parts of New South Wales and of the Commonwealth?
– I should have thought that the honorable senator would understand the situation as a result of the debate held in this chamber last week. Under the Commonwealth legislation, the status quo is maintained in New South Wales for a period of three months for the two intrastate airlines operating in New South Wales while an examination is made of the situation on a technical basis. The Department of Civil Aviation has received the relevant figures from both affected airlines now. Last week I informed the Senate that I had received then only one set of figures. The examination is continuing and I hope that, as soon as possible, a proper re-allocation of routes will be made on a sound technical basis. That is the present position.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate whether T.A.A. flight No. 245 which was due to leave Sydney for Canberra at 4.15 p.m. yesterday, 19th October, was delayed at Sydney for two and a half hours because a crew was not available? If so, was the unavailability of a crew the result of executive mismanagement? If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, would such disorganisation, which caused great inconvenience to passengers, be a matter for action by the Department of Civil Aviation?
– I am not aware of the incident to which the honorable senator-has referred but whatever the position was, 1 am convinced in my own mind that it would not be the result of executive mismanagement within T.A.A. I think the airline has management of the highest quality. If the honorable senator will put his question on notice, 1 will ascertain the facts for him.
-Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate state whether the recent call-up or squeeze of credit was prompted or affected by the adverse trade balance which was announced by the Department of Trade and Industry in the figures for the last quarter? Will the Minister give an assurance that no supplementary Budget will be introduced when the Parliament reassembles in February next year which will adversely affect in any way whatever the economy or the people of Australia? Will the Minister allay all fears by giving an assurance that no credit restrictions are contemplated next year?
– In line with the action usually taken by his Leader, the honorable senator is at pains to create a fear that something awful is just around the corner. Those of us who have listened to this sort of thing for many years dismiss it, just as I believe the Australian public dismisses it. Senator Fitzgerald referred to to what he called the recent credit squeeze. What I believed him to be referring to was the action taken by the central bank in respect of funds held by the various Australian trading banks.
– It was a sort of Huggy Bear hug.
– I do not understand that comment. It is a little too juvenile for me. No doubt it is in line with the honoable senator’s mentality. Let me make it quite clear that this Government, with the acquiescence and support of the Australian Parliament, established a central bank and gave it authority to operate certain controls. The bank exercises its functions by making variations from time to time in the amount of liquidity which it permits .the various trading banks to have. What was done recently was in line with that policy. The central bank did no more than prudently apply the most gentle restraint to the economy when it needed that gentle restraint. That is how the central bank’s action has been accepted by all intelligent people in Australia. I am surprised and sorry to think that the honorable senator should see it in any different way.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. As there has been a great number of Press reports about the performance and speed of the new Boeing 727 fan jet aircraft, will the Minister make an authoritative statement to the Senate about their speed, performance and maximum distance of flight with an allup load? Can the Minister say over what routes Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines intend to operate the Boeing 727 aircraft, and what will be their arrival and departure times?
– If the honorable senator places his question on the notice paper, I shall be happy to get a statement for him. I have noticed Press reports that the loading of aircraft operating out of Essendon is limited. I took care to check the figures. I have found that the normal load that has been lifted by aircraft flying from Essendon to Perth has been 138,000 lb. With the arrival of the new Boeing 727’s, application was made for a weight of 141,000 lb. The Department of Civil Aviation has limited the load on flights from Melbourne to Perth to 140,000 lb. that being about 2,000 lb. more than the existing maximum load.
– Has the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research seen a report in today’s “ Australian “ of a statement by Professor John Passmore of the Australian National University that the shortage of senior staff at Australian universities will not improve until the universities provide longer leave for overseas study, discussions and research, better library facilities and higher salaries? Does the Minister agree that the so called brain drain presents a serious challenge to the universities and the Commonwealth Government? Has the Government or the Australian Universities Commission reached any conclusions as to what measures can be taken to arrest this dangerous trend?
– I saw the statement referred to by the honorable senator. I believe that it is quite exaggerated. Indeed, I understand that the authorities in England are complaining about the brain drain from England to Canada, Australia and other places. So I think the statement is not to be taken completely at its face value. As to what is being done about the conditions of academics, I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that the Government appointed the Eggleston Commission to review the whole question of academic salaries and that that Commission is at present carrying out its task. We did this at the request of the university staff associations, I have no doubt that the Commission will present a report which will do full justice to all members of academic life.
– -By way of brief preface to my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate I state that it is well known that 25th April 1965 will be the fiftieth anniversary of Anzac Day, and a pilgrimage to Gallipoli is to be made. Is it not a fact that that day will also be remembered as the twenty-fifth anniversary of the arrival of members of the second Australian Imperial Force in Palestine to take part in the Second World War? Will the Minister discuss with the Prime Minister the possibility of a suitable delegation visiting Palestine in commemoration of that day? I am assured that the Government of Israel would welcome the Australian visitors.
– I understand that the position is as stated by the honorable senator, that 25th April 1965, as well as being the fiftieth anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of the arrival of Australian troops in Palestine. I shall accede to the honorable senator’s request that the matter be brought to the notice of the Prime Minister. However, without in any way derogating from the importance of the twenty-fifth anniversary to which he referred, I think it is only proper that I should point out to him that the fiftieth anniversary of Anzac Day has a deep and profound significance for Australia which probably is not matched by any other anniversary of a military event in our history. Nonetheless, I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Mini ster representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: In view of the fact that the imposition this morning by the Commonwealth Industrial Court of penalties of an extra £1,000 on motor body building unions coincided with the decision of employees of General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. in Melbourne to continue their dispute, will the Minister accept the fact that penalties are not a solution to peace in industry? Will he use his good offices in an endeavour to arrange a conference of the parties so that the possibility of settlement of the dispute may be explored?
– I am at a loss to understand what penalties imposed on industrial unions have to do with the latest developments in the General Motors dispute. As I understand it, the latest developments were that recently the management of General Motors-Holden’s saw Mr. Monk, who has taken charge of the dispute from the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ point of view, and made to him an offer for settlement. The offer was not considered by Mr. Monk to be sufficient and discussions arc continuing. Consequently, I cannot see what that has to do with the point raised by the honorable senator.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Following the honorable gentleman’s Press statement of 15th October in which he referred to night landing facilities on country aerodromes and to the new compact equipment which reduces the cost of installation, will he consider installing such equipment for use by aircraft flying schedules out of Cairns to Thursday Island and intermediate aerodromes, especially as climatic conditions at Thursday Island - and at Horn Island where the air strip is located - are regarded by air crews as being quite hazardous on occasions?
– In the statement referred to by the honorable senator I advised that the Department of Civil Aviation hoped to add each year from seven to ten night landing facilities at new aerodromes. The new transistorised systems are a great success and have reduced installation costs considerably. In future, each financial year eight or ten aerodromes will be selected for installation of the new night landing facilities. I shall examine the programme for next year to find out the position allotted to aerodromes located on the Cairns to Thursday Island route.
-I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate several questions dealing with a matter in which my Party is not keenly interested-
– In which your Party is not interested?
– My Party is not interested in the giving out of honours and awards because we do not believe in them. But the people of Australia are interested in this matter and, having lived here now for 50 years, I ask, as a good Australian, the following questions - Is it true that the Prime Minister has the sole prerogative of recommending persons to be honoured by the Queen? Is it not time that this archaic system was ended? Should there not be an Australian honour? This, for instance, could be called the Southern Cross award, or something like that. Should not a committee of prominent Australian people be set up to deal with this matter of honours?
– I understand from the honorable senator’s question that while his Party is not interested in the conferring of royal honours and awards, it may be interested in the making of what may be described as an Australian award by a Prime Minister.
– On real merit.
– The practice which has been adhered to over the years is the practice which I believe commends itself to the vast majority of the Australian people who regard highly the Queen of England as the Queen of Australia by enactment of this Parliament and by affection. Respecting Her Majesty in this way, the people regard the awards which are granted as being made by Her Majesty.
– That is not my point. My point is that the Prime Minister has the sole right to recommend persons for honours and awards.
– I shall endeavour to answer that point to the best of my ability if 1 am permitted to do so. I have a note of your question.
– I apologise.
– I understand that the practice in the past has been for the Prime Ministers of all Commonwealth countries to make recommendations for awards. In Australia Prime Ministers have acted on the advice of the Premiers of the States in some cases or have taken the initiative themselves on the advice of other people when it has been appropriate that such advice should be sought.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether his attention has been directed to the following report in this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “-
The Federal Treasurer, Mr. H. E. Holt, said today there was no question at the moment of another “ great “ credit squeeze like that of November 1960.
Can the Minister define the meaning of the expression “ at the moment “?
– The honorable senator puts great faith in newspaper reports, but matters of policy are never really disclosed in newspaper reports. If there were no newspapers, I do not think the honorable senator would have a question to ask.
(Question No. 287.)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows-
(Question No. 294.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answers - 1 and 2. No. Gas Supply Ltd., Brisbane, is now arranging to install bulk liquid petroleum gas tanks at Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul to service local consumers. This is a normal business undertaking and does not prevent other companies, who so desire, from setting up similar facilities.
– On the 24th September, Senator Prowse asked me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, a question without notice regarding the marketing of Australian foodstuffs in the United Kingdom and referred in particular to certain allegations contained in a letter entitled “ Marketing methods for our produce abroad” which was published in the “West Australian “ on the 23rd September. I advised Senator Prowse that I would refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Industry for investigation and he has now provided the following information -
All butter sold in Britain under the Kangaroo label is entirely of Australian origin. Kangaroo brand butter is shipped to Britain in bulk by the Australian Dairy Produce Board whose London representative arranges retail packing by a limited number of packers who have been approved by the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry. The operations of these packers are closely supervised by inspectors and there is no possibility of Polish butter, or any other butter for that matter being blended with Australian butter and sold under the Kangaroo brand.
Australian honey is shipped in bulk to the United Kingdom: blended there by packers with honey from other countries and sold retail in packs which, by United Kingdom law, cannot carry a label indicating that they contain honey of Australian origin.
Wines bottled in the United Kingdom by the Emu Wine Company Pty. Ltd. and sold under the Emu label are entirely Australian in origin. The Emu Wine Company Pty. Ltd. is the largest single shipper of Australian Wines to the United Kingdom and, as in the case of butter, it is contrary to United Kingdom law to label wines as being of Australian origin if they are blended with other wines. According to the Australian Wine Board, there is no evidence to suggest that any Australian wines are blended with wines from other countries.
Australian fresh fruit is sold in the United Kingdom under a variety of labels because the export of Australian fruit is carried out by a number of individual exporters. In the case of South Africa and Israel however, the governments of those countries channel their orange exports through one central export organisation which is therefore in a position to supply against a limited number of specific brands. Australia, however, is only a small exporter of oranges to the United Kingdom, shipments amounting to only 2,306 bushels during 1963-64, but Australia’s oranges are exported in individual wrappers which indicate both brand and quality, whilst the fruit itself is usually stamped with the exporter’s brand.
Apples and pears are the main fruits which Australia exports to Britain, and the 1963-64 shipping season was a record one with four million cases of apples and one million cases of pears being sold to that country. Australia has a 20 per cent, share of the British import market for pears and a 31 per cent, shane of the import market for apples. The quality of our export packs is considered by importers to bc of a very high standard.
As is also the case with New Zealand, Australian beef shipments to the United Kingdom in recent years have been mainly in the form of frozen beef because the price margin between chilled and frozen beef has not been sufficient to encourage exporters to undertake the additional handling and shipping costs involved in exporting chilled beef.
Senator CANT (Western Australia) [3.27J. - 1 move -
That Regulations Nos. 2, 3, 5, 8, 11, 21 and 25 of the Amendments of the Telephone Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1964, No. 123, and made under the PoSt and Telegraph Act 1901- 1961, be disallowed.
Mr. President, at the outset I must protest at the state of the regulations. When one examines them in order to find out what they are all about, it is an almost impossible task. They have not been consolidated since 1956. Many of the regulations have been amended, and many of them have been amended on more than one occasion. This makes it very difficult for the postal clerks and the people in country post offices who have to apply these regulations, to do so. It is time that the authority which is responsible for the consolidation of the regulations took action to have them brought to an orderly state so that they can be understood. Whilst no-one questions the honesty of the people who work in post offices and who have to apply these regulations, it is conceivable that wrong charges could be made because of difficulty in understanding the regulations.
The reason for moving for the disallowance of regulation 2 is that it deletes the definition of “ residence service “. If the Senate agrees to the disallowance of the regulations under which increased rentals and service connection fees are imposed, it will be necessary to retain the definition of “ residence service “ in the regulations. Regulation 3, in the first instance, repeals regulations 29 and 29a. These are the regulations under which the annual rental charges and the service connection fees are imposed. The existing regulation 29 provides for four different types of telephone, each of which attracts a different rental fee. Telephone rentals were grouped into five categories, which attracted different fees, but these five categories now will be reduced to three and the lower rentals that previously applied will be increased. The rental for a residence service in Canberra will be increased by £1.1 15s. a year and that for a business service in Sydney by £2 2s. 6d. a year. The smallest increase in rental will be 7s. 6d.
In addition, the increased rentals will apply not only to the charging zones specified but also to other and adjoining charging zones. Further, under the old arrangement, by which there were five categories of rentals, when the number of exchange lines in an area was increased subscribers in that area could not be transferred from one category to another until 12 months after the increase in exchange lines had taken place. Under the new regulations the DirectorGeneral has the discretion to transfer subscribers, immediately if necessary, to a higher category.
Regulation 29a, as amended, increases the service connection fee from £10 to f 15. This increased fee is also levied for moving the service from one room to another or from one floor to another on the same premises if any new lines, equipment or apparatus are required. I point out that if a telephone has to be removed and reconnected, all that is involved is a matter of four of five minutes work for a technician, plus his travelling time to and from the location. The regulation provides also for what is known as the intact service connection fee to be increased from 10s. to £1. This applies to cases in which the occupancy of premises changes and the Department has nothing more to do than to list the telephone number under the name of the new occupant. There is to be an increase of J 00 per cent, in the fee to be paid for that service.
Amendment 5 provides for an additional charge where a service is not connected to the nearest exchange. This additional charge may be made at the Department’s discretion, and the discretion is exercisable if, by the use of the formula, which is based on every one-quarter of a mile of the length of the circuit, the charge would be greater than that provided by regulation 29. If the use of the formula results in a lower charge, no discretion the other way may be exercised. The regulation provides also for the £1 fee which previously applied to party line connections to be increased to £3 ]0s. when the telephone is not connected to the nearest exchange.
Amendment 8 relates to charges in respect of a service which has been disconnected because of non-payment of rental or other charges. The new regulation provides for the service to be reconnected on payment of the increased charge. In the first instance, the moneys owing must be paid. Then, the service may be recon nected for £1, if the reconnection can be effected by making use of the service previously provided by the Department without the addition, substitution or removal of any lines, equipment or apparatus, including telephones. If lines or other equipment are required to enable the telephone to be reconnected, it is to be treated as a new service, and the full service connection fee of £15 is to be paid. Amendment 11 provides for an increase from £10 to £15 in the service connection fee in respect of extension telephones. Amendment 21 is concerned with the charges and rentals on services not wholly provided by the Department. Paragraph (a) applies the rental and charges prescribed by Division 1, Part III - this is mainly regulation 29A - of the regulations, which will therefore attract the increased rental and other increased charges. Paragraphs (f) and (fa) prescribe charges of 7s. 6d. and 17s. 6d. for extension services on the same premises. These charges are increased to £3 10s. for each additional point. The service connection fee is increased from £10 to £J5. Amendment 25 prescribes that the service connection fee of £10 for a private line, provided either in whole or in part by the Department, will now be increased to £15.
All of those amendments are concerned with increased annual rentals and increased service connection fees. There are other regulations, of course, that could be disallowed, but on this occasion 1 am moving to disallow only those regulations in relation to increased rentals and increased service connection fees. If we study the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) on the Post and Telegraph Rales Hill we immediately come to the conclusion that increased departmental costs are the reason for the increased charges. However, the financial report issued by the Department for the year 1962-63 - the report for the year 1963-64 is not yet available - shows in 1962-63 the Post Office made a profit on its year’s transactions of £17,969,981, and that in 1961-62 it made a profit of £17,389,66.1. This result gives a total profit for the two years of £35,359,642. But the Minister advises us that the Telephone Branch over the past three years has shown a loss of approximately £5 million. One must look around to find out just how this loss is brought about.
We find that the loss is brought about by charging to the working services of the Post Office an interest component calculated on the capital said to be employed in the Post Office. This changed accounting system - that is, the charging of interest on capital employed - has operated since 1960. The accounts show that in 1961-62 interest charged amounted to £18,912,744. This converted the profit of £17,389,661 into a loss of approximately £1,523,000. In 1962 the interest charged amounted to £.19,911,000, which brought about a loss of about £1,941,000. The point I want to make is this: Interest that is being charged on the capital employed in the Postal Department is constantly increasing. If it is correct that higher costs are causing increased charges for telephones, this increase must eventually become almost an annual event.
– This is a public service. Much of the high investment in the Postal Department is brought about by the construction of developmental lines. Surely developmental lines should not be a charge upon the users of the service. The development of Australia should be a charge on the community as a whole and not upon a section of it. I do not know any reason why the interest rate should be fixed at approximately 41 per cent, on money which was put into the Post Office at the turn of the century. This money was extracted from the people by way of taxation. It was money that the Government got for nothing except for the service charge for collecting it. When it was put into a public utility, however, interest was charged on it. Surely if an interest component is to be charged, it should be only the interest component necessary to take care of the servicing costs and not the interest component one would expect private enterprise to charge on money invested so as to produce a profit.
– What did the Public Accounts Committee think of this?
– The Public Accounts Committee heard evidence the other day from representatives of the Postmaster General’s Department that because of the impost on the people caused by increased charges, the Department was considering issuing quarterly accounts. It was realised that the increased charges would be a heavy impost, and it was considered that if accounts were issued quarterly, the people could pay them more easily. Senator Scott will have an opportunity to speak later and I suggest that he reserve his comments until then.
It was estimated that aggregate expenditure by the Post Office since Federation amounted to £340 million at the time of the inquiry. By 1962-63, this aggregate had increased to £556,534,000. That gives an idea of the rate of increase. It must be realised that the Telephone branch is highly plant intensive rather than a high labour intensive in relation to other operations of the Postal Department. Therefore, its equipment is very costly. In a document entitled “ Post Office Tariff Adjustments “ distributed to honorable senators by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) the Minister stated -
Although the Post Office was a public facility, it must also be run on business principles and it was more desirable that the users of the service - 1 emphasise those words - bear any increased charges than the community as a whole . . . Chiefly affected would be residence services, which would be brought into line with business rentals.
The Minister was saying, in effect, that if you use the telephone you must pay for it. You must meet the cost of this service. He has openly admitted that the impost will fall heaviest on those with residence services. 1 would add that, while the cost falls heaviest on residence services, there will be no increase in respect of business services. That is because telephone charges are part of the cost of running a business and are allowed for taxation purposes. Then again, the cost of operating a telephone is loaded into the cost of the commodity sold by the business and is passed on to the community. In spite of that, the Minister says that the increased charges should not be paid by the community as a whole but only by those who use the telephone service. I repeat that in respect of the greatest users of telephone services the cost will be paid by the consumers or by the community as a whole. For the Minister to say that those who use a telephone must pay the cost of the service is to mislead the community.
The increases were listed in a document that was circulated by the Minister. We note that the Department is not able to satisfy the needs of all applicants for telephone services. The Department installs what are known as party lines, but a party line is available for use only if somebody else who is linked to the line is not using it. The result is that one is not always free to use the line. However, the charges for those lines are to be increased. Some of the charges for this type of service are fairly steep, particularly in what are known as the capital cities, which now include Canberra and Newcastle. Because Canberra has been moved into the capital city class, the rental charge for a residence service has been increased by fi I 15s. per annum, from £8 5s. to £20. The rental for a duplex or two party system, and for a three or more party system, has been increased by £6 2s. 6d. in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Newcastle. In Sydney and Melbourne the increase for a two party line or a three or more party line will be only £5 7s. 6d. There will be an evening up, but it will be no more than an evening up. There is no suggestion of any overall reduction. I believe that the Government would have been more successful in achieving the desired results if it had decreased charges instead of increasing them. The Minister has said that those who use the service must pay the cost of the service. I suggest that had the Minister considered reducing or leaving untouched the rental charges and service connection fees, and instead had increased the call charges, those who use the telephone would then pay for the cost of the service. Because service connection fees, and particularly rental charges, have been increased, people who make very little use of the telephone will pay the increased charges irrespective of whether they use the telephone, simply because it is installed. That state of affairs does not accord with the Minister’s statement that those people who use the service must pay the cost of the service.
The Post Office estimates in figures published in a financial and statistical bulletin - and there is no reason to disagree with the figures - that the average number of local calls per service in 1962-63 was 998. The figure includes both business and residence services. There is no doubt that the majority of the calls would be made by business houses, just as the trunk line facilities are used more by business people. It has been estimated that the average number of local calls made by residence service subscribers each year is about 360. The annual rental charge is £20. On the basis of a charge of 4d. per call, the real cost of each local call made by a subscriber therefore is Is. 6d. This charge might almost be called exorbitant. It is true that the time for each local call by a private subscriber is not limited. Nevertheless, most people do not abuse this privilege and use the telephone in a proper and sensible manner. The charge of ls. 6d. for each local call appears to bc pretty heavy, and is especially so for blind pensioners and other pensioners. There has been considerable agitation in this Parliament for the granting of concessions to pensioners in respect of telephone, rental and call charges. The agitation has been unavailing. In fact, the position now is that instead of receiving concessions, pensioners must pay increased rental charges for telephones, which are so essential to their way of life.
The burden must also be borne by people who have fixed incomes and cannot obtain additional income to help pay the increased charges. If they cannot meet the increased charges, the service will be discontinued. In our community many people live alone and the telephone is of great value to them. I refer particularly to women who may be left alone while their husbands arc required to travel because of their occupations, and to unmarried women who have the telephone installed partly as protection. In every capital city special numbers are provided so that the police, ambulances and other urgently required services may be obtained quickly. To women living alone the telephone is of great value, but they will be forced to pay the increased charges. Then, there are many married women wilh young families who are not able to go out to do their shopping. They use the telephone to ring their orders through to their butcher, baker and grocer. If these people could take their families with them when they went shopping, the costs of bus fares or of running a car would be added to the cost of the commodities that they wanted to buy. Therefore, they use the telephone for the purpose I have mentioned. Now, they will have to absorb the increased telephone charges.
Other people will be affected by the increases. There are lonely people who have the telephone installed for the purpose of companionship. They ring their friends. This is probably the only means of communication with them that they have. People who are not able to get about by public or other forms of transport use the telephone in order to relieve their loneliness. The telephone is an essential part of the way of life of the people in all the categories 1 have mentioned. They cannot pay the continually increasing cost of the service. Even to those people who are able to get about and who do not require the service for any of the reasons I have mentioned, the telephone has become a part of their way of life, lt is part of the high standard of living of which we in Australia are so proud. Yet, although we are encouraged to have this high standard of living, we find that increased taxes arc levied upon us to maintain such services as that provided by the telephone.
It is also stated in the document entitled “ Post Office Tariff Adjustments “
The Minister pointed out that lower rentals for residence telephones was a concession granted in the early 1930’s to stimulate the connection of telephone services and to make use of equipment that was then readily available. The equipment position has since changed.
Honorable senators know that this is so because we are constantly asking the Postal Department on behalf of constituents to install telephones for them. The general answer that we receive is that equipment is not available for the installations. Because this system of lower rentals has been so successful in increasing the demand for telephone services, the Department now finds (hat it has to take measures to dampen down this demand. I know that it will be said that comparatively few people have applied to have their telephones disconnected since these increases were announced, I think that it is too early to take that matter into consideration. Generally, people do not find that these charges are beyond their capacity to pay until the accounts come In. After these Increased charges have been operating for a sufficient length of time and the accounts start to come in, people who then find they are unable to continue to meet the charges will be applying for their telephone service to be disconnected. In this way, the action of the Government could rebound on it. Some people will use telephones less because they will not be able to afford the cost of the service. Other people will have their services disconnected, or will cancel their applications for services. So there could be a falling off in revenue in respect of this particular section in the Department.
The Department shows that it appreciates the problem of the payment of the higher accounts. It is to render accounts quarterly to telephone users in an effort to assist subscribers to pay those accounts when they fall due. The Department realises that it has no right to demand that a subscriber pay his account each quarter, because the regulations fix an annual rental. Any one who does not want to pay in a lesser time than a year cannot be forced to do so. The Department would have no right to cut off a subscriber’s telephone because his account was outstanding on a quarterly basis. No doubt the system of quarterly accounts is being considered by the Department because it realises that the increased charges will fall heavily upon telephone users and that many will not be able to pay their telephone bills if they are issued on a yearly basis. The Department intends to assist subscribers in this way. The issuing of accounts on a quarterly basis will also, of course, alert the Department to those people who are getting into difficulties and are not able to pay their telephone bills. The Department can keep an eye on those persons and cut off their telephones when it becomes necessary to do so.
The Minister stated that the increase in rentals and in the service connection fee was necessary because the average cost of providing a new telephone is £570 and the Post Office loses, on an average, £7 a year on each new service added to the network. This is a matter that needs to be considered in the light of the Minister’s statement that the Post Office is a business concern and must be run as a business concern. I do not know of any other business concern operating in Australia that would make provision for a loss on each service that it provided, but the Minister said that in the case of the Post Office there is a loss of £7 on each service provided. As I have mentioned, he said also that the average cost of installing a service is £570. Surely it is not fair to take the total cost of telephone connections, arrive at a average and say that that is the cost of each connection.
This is a developing country, but unfortunately it is developing very badly from the point of view of communications. The development is taking place right around our coastline, which means that a very long system of communications has to be provided. Some time ago the Weapons Research Establishment at Woomera decided to set up a station at a place in Western Australia known as Talgarno. The station was to be established for the purpose of observing missiles launched from Woomera, and it had to be connected with the Australian communications system. This meant that lines had to be taken over some 1200 miles and new exchanges established. As this had to be done in the back country of Western Australia, it was very costly. Eventually Talgarno was abandoned. I should like the Minister, when he replies, to tell me, if he can, what part of the cost of providing that service was loaded on to the ordinary costs of the Post Office and what part was borne by the Weapons Research Establishment or the Department of Defence. Every Government department makes extensive use of telephone services, But the whole cost of providing such services is loaded on to the costs of the Post Office.
The case of Talgarno is not an isolated case. This sort of thing is happening right around Australia. Small communities many miles from large centres of population have to be served by telephones. Telephone subscribers generally are expected to pay for the cost of lines that extend across country that is not in use. By averaging the cost of a service at £570, the Department is inflating the real costs. Most of the telephones in Australia are to be found in the capital cities and in the suburbs of those cities. As suburbs expand, it is found that insufficient lines are available, and there is a constant necessity to provide new lines. When an area develops quickly, the number of lines put down originally very soon proves to be insufficient to cope with the demand, and there is a need to duplicate the work by providing more lines. This adds to the cost of connecting telephones.
In some instances it takes only a few minutes to connect a telephone and the cost would not be more than, perhaps, £5. It is completely unrealistic to average out the cost, particularly in view of the need to develop communications throughout Australia. The provision of these communications should be regarded as a part of the development of Australia and the cost should be borne by the community as a whole. The money should come out of revenue that is provided by all of the people. If the cost of providing communications services to develop Australia were charged under that head, it would be found that the telephone service connection fee could be reduced because the cost of installing a telephone for the normal subscriber would average out at less than the £570 that has been mentioned by the Minister.
Whichever way we consider this problem, it is evident that, because of an increase in population, the cost of operating the Post Office will continue to increase. If the Government were to implement the decentralisation policy put forward by the Australian Labour Party, that would further increase the costs. The replacing of obsolete equipment and the providing of new and improved equipment will continue to cause an increase in the capital invested in the Post Office and in the interest payable on the capital investment. I was interested to see whether the Prime Minister had given any indication in his policy speech that this increased tax, as it is in reality, would be imposed upon the people. I have searched through the policy speech of the Prime Minister and I cannot find any reference to increased charges. It is another one of the Government’s gimmicks. Once having been returned to power, it imposed the charges. No doubt the Government said: “ We cannot be put out of office for another three years, and by that time the people will have forgotten about the charges “. Surely if you intend to impose increased charges upon the people, it is honest government to warn them about the charges at the time when you come before them. Throughout the policy speech of the Prime Minister, there is no reference whatever to increased charges in connection with the Postal Department.
Another complaint that we make in moving for the disallowances of the regulations which impose these increased charges upon the community is that they have been applied without reference to Parliament. Taxes are being imposed upon the people without reference to the representatives of the people. No attempt has been made to introduce a bill into the Parliament and to allow its merits or demerits to be debated. The Executive has proposed that increased taxes be applied to the people. The necessary formalities have been carried out, and the increased taxes have been imposed. 1 say to the Executive that this is treating Parliament with contempt. The representatives of the people are here to express an opinion of behalf of the people and to protect their interests in the development of Australia for the Australian people. Surely when taxes are to be levied on the people’s purse, it should be done openly in the Parliament and not by the backdoor methods of executive government. The same position applied to the Air Navigation Regulations which we debated recently. The powers of the Parliament are being usurped by the Executive. This is a matter about which all honorable senators should protest.
I think that the increased rentals and service connection fees are beyond the capacity of the community to pay. They are rather savage increases. They should not be applied, as they have been applied, to residence service subscribers. They have to bear the brunt of the increases and are not able to pass them on. Smaller increases nave been applied to the business community, which gains taxation advantages and is able to pass on the increased costs to the community. Therefore, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I have much pleasure in moving this resolution and in asking that honorable senators support it.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, it is obvious that we are in a climate of election campaigning and that this motion for disallowance of the regulations indicates an attitude of mind in relation to future election campaigning. 1 hope to demonstrate very briefly in a moment that there is not a shadow of doubt that the motion for the disallowance and the speech made by Senator Cant, who moved the motion and spoke to it, reflect the fact that we are to have a Senate election in the near future.
I invite honorable senators to reflect upon the circumstances regarding the increased telephone charges. They were foreshadowed in the Budget Speech. Certain honorable senators made passing reference to the proposals during the Budget debate. Senator Cant was not one of them. Perhaps at that time it was not certain that we were going to have a Senate election in the near future. Then, of course, we come to the traditional circumstances relating to these charges. We find that on 24th September in this place the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), who represents the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme), introduced the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1964 and spoke to it in his second-reading speech. Although the increased charges were being dealt with by regulation, the Minister, by tradition, referred to them in his second-reading speech.
– In what part of the bill were they mentioned?
– The honorable senator should let me make my speech. I listened to him and had to restrain myself from interjecting. I suggest that he do the same. In his second reading speech the Minister quite extensively referred to the proposed increases. That was done for the purpose of enabling discussion and debate at the second reading stage. It is interesting to refer to the contributions, to the debate which were made by honorable senators opposite. We find that on Tuesday, 29th September, Senator Ormonde spoke to the motion that the Bill be read a second time and moved an amendment. He was supported by one honorable senator opposite. It was not Senator Cant but Senator Benn, and he did not once refer specifically to telephone charges. He spoke for eleven minutes. To quote his words as reported in “Hansard”, he spoke of “the Government’s financial philosophy in respect of the Post Office”. Now, almost a month later, the matter becomes of great moment. It suddenly strikes the Opposition and it is decided that Senator Cant should move a motion for the disallowance of the regulations.
We have yet to come to the classical part of this matter. When one looks at “ Hansard “ one sees that Senator Cant spoke for one minute at the Committee stage of the Bill. His remarks did not relate to this issue at all. Senator Murphy did even better. He spoke 68 words. That is a measure of the sincerity of the Opposition in its criticism of these telephone charges.
– I spoke for 35 minutes on the Bill.
– I did not refer to the honorable senator. I am speaking of the mover of the motion. He did not bother to speak about the charges in the second reading debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. He did not even bother to refer to them in the Budget debate. I wonder whether he will do a little better during the debate on the estimates. I remind the honorable senator that this matter is still current and that he can speak about it in the debate on the estimates if he desires.
I make the point that the processes of the Parliament are being used for nothing more than purely political purposes. The arguments that are being advanced are, in the main, spurious. I suggest that if this is the best that the Opposition can do in the climate of a forthcoming Senate election, it augurs well for the future of the Government. I want to make the point that this motion for the disallowance of the regulations clearly is an exercise in political campaigning. We are still dealing with the Estimates. All the points that Senator Cant chose to make, with perhaps two exceptions to which I shall refer, are points which could be raised quite properly during the debate on the Estimates. The test of the Opposition’s sincerity in this exercise is that Senator Wade, when he introduced the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, deliberately included in his second reading speech all the details of this aspect of the proposed increased charges, to give the Opposition an opportunity to debate them but, with the exception of Senator Ormonde, not one Opposition senator made any real attempt to debate them. During the Committee stage Senator Cant spoke for one minute and Senator Benn gave a very fine dissertation on the financial structure of the Post Office.
– These regulations still would have had effect even if the bill had been defeated.
– Senator Willesee has only recently come into the chamber and he has not grasped the broad purport of my argument.
– The argument is that Senator Cant should not move to disallow these regulations.
– I do not deny him that right, but I claim that his proposal has no substance in sincerity in the sense that there were ample opportunities for the charges to be debated previously and now, one month after he had the opportunity to debate them, he has suddenly decided to move for a disallowance of the regulations.
I want to refer now to some of his arguments. I understand that Senator Willesee is a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
– That has nothing to do with this.
– It has something to do with the things that Senator Cant said, because almost his first statement in this debate was a criticism of the regulations. If he has a criticism to offer about the form or the drafting of the regulations - I think he said that they had not been looked at since 1956 - the proper approach would be for him to discuss the matter with his party colleagues, Senator Arnold and Senator Willessee, who are members of the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee, on which all parties are represented. His colleagues could obtain from the Department the information which is necessary to enable them to direct their minds to this problem.
– You do not have the faintest idea of the Committee’s duties.
– I have a very good recollection of what the Committee has done in the past. Senator Cant’s first statement was, in effect, a criticism of the activities of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
To support his argument he cited certain figures relating to operations in the financial year 1962-63. He would have been far better off, in terms of debating points, if he had referred to the financial report for the year ended 30th June 1964, which has been circulated.
– I have not seen that.
– It is available to the honorable senator. If he looks at it, he will see that the telephone services section lost £1,666,984 and that in all services there was an overall loss of £296,823. I should have thought that that report would have been the one to which the honorable senator would have referred but he did not do so. Therefore, the argument that he based on the previous year’s operations lost a good deal of its strength.
Before making a direct contribution to the debate let me refer to Senator Cant’s statement about Talgarno. The Senate will recall that he mentioned what he regarded as the prohibitive cost of £570 for the installation of a telephone service and that he asked whether, in calculating this cost, the cost of the installation at Talgarno had been included.
– I used that as an instance.
– It was a very bad instance to use because in fact the responsibility for the cost of the installation was shared by the Governments of Australia and the United Kingdom. Departmentally, Australia’s share was provided by the Department of Supply. If the honorable senator reads tomorrow’s “ Hansard “ report of his speech he will find that he built quite an extensive argument upon the cost of that installation. As I have said, it was a singularly unfortunate example to choose because the costs were paid by the partner Governments in the project.
Let me deal now with some of the more specific aspects of this issue, having made the point that the matter was available for debate previously and that the Opposition did not avail itself of that opportunity. It now proposes that the regulations be disallowed. No new matter has been raised today which was not available to the Opposition from the time the Treasurer introduced his Budget in another place. In the final part of his speech Senator Cant criticised the technique of using regulations in this way. Here again he was on perilous ground. This is being done under an act which was passed shortly after Federation. This technique was actually written into the act by the Parliament. Over the years it has been used by successive governments, including governments of the honorable senator’s own political persuasion. The argument that he used against the fixing of charges by regulation is an argument against an act of Parliament which has stood the test of time and against a set of procedures within the framework of that act which have been used by successive governments. The Parliament itself - this is adverting to the point that Senator Willesee made - provides a safequard in these matters by the availability of motions for the disallowance of regulations. Surely this is an acknowledgment of the kind of procedure which is envisaged in the legislation.
I want to make some of the points that Senator Wade made when he dealt with the matter in the broad in his second reading speech in September. It is true that there has been a substantial increase in costs. It is true that you can never expect the costs of running an undertaking like the Post Office to remain static when you have an economic situation in which wage increases are granted. In view of the wage increases that have been granted over the years since 1959 and having regard to the increased cost of basic raw materials in that period, surely Senator Cant does not suggest that Post Office costs can remain static. The last basic wage increase alone will add £7 million to the costs of the Post Office. By increased efficiency it has managed to ride out the effects of many of these increased costs, but it is unreal and infantile to suggest that charges by one Department of the Government which is giving service to the community can remain static while charges in other sections of the community move away. In the past five years the business of the Post Office has increased by about 40 per cent, while the staff has increased by only 4 per cent., so a real effort has been made in the Department to try to accommodate increases in costs.
It cannot be argued that the Department has not made any effort to get increased efficiency. It has, and the proof of this is in the record. At the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to increases in the cost of staffing and materials. An argument has been put - I think it is sound - that although there obviously must be some exceptions, broadly speaking users of a service should substantially meet the costs of the operations. I agree with Senator Cant that Australia’s progress in terms of development and movement of population has been around the perimeter. This is a vast country. Our costs are very high. We must recognise and live with that fact. An attempt has been made down the years to give a service and we must recognise that in giving a service costs become very important. Of a capital provision of £77 million this year for the Post Office, about £70 million is for telephone services. That figure gives some idea of the effort being made to meet the demand. As Senator Cant knows, I do not wish to bring politics into this debate but the facts of life are that with this Government in power there is much prosperity and tremendous demand for the provision of services. Naturally, the Post Office as a business undertaking of the Government tries to accommodate itself to the demand, but it is not physically able to do all the things that are wanted immediately.
There can be no doubt that expanding telephone services are costly. The figure of £570, as the cost of providing a service, was mentioned by the Postmaster-General in, the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, and it was mentioned again by Senator Cant today. He suggested that that figure was loaded with the cost of services which should not be provided. To this I reply that if any of us tried to find an isolated case to take out of context in relation to this equation, no doubt he could find it. But this figure of £570 has been calculated in broad terms. As it happens, the particular case of Talgarno, which was cited by Senator Cant, is not analogous, because this service was provided by the Australian Government and’ the United Kingdom Government under an arrangement.
It must be appreciated that the provision of a. telephone service is not merely the connection of a few wires or a telephone. All sorts of complexities are involved. Our charges and the services we give are comparable with any in the world. During the past three years the telephone service incurred a financial loss of £5 million. Under the old rates the service would incur a further loss during 1964-65. If we just threw up our hands and said, “ Oh well, that is another loss that the Government will have to meet “, that would be a hopeless attitude, with which no government that hoped to continue in office could live. In all undertakings where a service is being given, a very real effort must be made to equate charges to costs. One could simply adopt the old Socialist approach of charging it up to the community. If that attitude prevailed in this field it would be sought in every other field, and we would reach a disastrous situation which would have a deleterious effect on the whole of the economic structure.
As Senator Cant indicated, the cost of local calls remains unchanged at 4d. The main proposals are to increase connection fees, rentals for telephones, and charges for other services. Cheaper rentals for services to residences were introduced in 1930 to stimulate demand for telephones. That is an historical truth, but that situation does not apply at present. The average cost of providing a business service and the average cost of providing a residence service are the same. It is not possible to separate them in relation to calls. The £10 connecting fee was introduced in 1956 as a contribution towards the high capital cost of installing services. It is now increased to £15.
I want to make two other points in relation to this matter. The essence of this particular proposition is that some attempt should be made to get the various Departments to stand on their own feet. Telephone services, as the balance sheet reveals, attract tremendous capital outlays. Of £77 million of capital expenditure, telephone services will attract £70 million.
– These are heavy charges in the current situation.
– By comparison with other countries, our charges are not unreasonable. Senator Wade, who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber, tabled a document some weeks ago in answer to a question by Senator Brown. It shows that our installation and other charges are probably better than those of most countries. We run about fourth in the world. Taking a broad national outlook, one comes up with the answer that the Post Office is providing an efficient service to the community. Because of the nature of the economy and the demand for the service, in certain circumstances there is some slight delay in providing it. Taking a wide view, one unquestionably comes up with the conclusion that in Australia we have provided a vast, efficient telephone service at reasonable cost.
I do not want to go into any further detail. I return to the point from which I started. This motion for the disallowance of certain regulations is bora in an atmosphere of politics. The debate has been promoted by Senator Cant who did not take the opportunity to speak on these charges during the Budget debate when he had every opportunity to do so. The honorable senator spoke for one minute in the committee stage of the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill which was introduced by the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) representing the Postmaster-General. In that minute, Senator Cant did not have one word to say about telephone charges. Now he has come into the chamber bearing a fiery cross to speak on behalf of the people who are burning over the telephone charges.
– Senator Cant was simply rectifying a wrong.
– That is rather a hazardous comment also. It acknowledges the fact that the Opposition has been wrong. It is amazing how an impending election straightens up the Opposition. They feel they must strike a blow for freedom. I do not believe it. I believe it is humbug. I believe lt is cant.
– Do not pick up what was said by another senator when he was half drunk the other night.
– I did not mean that remark to be personal. It is not in my nature to be personal and if that remark is offensive to you, Senator Cant, I withdraw lt. I would not dream of saying anything offensive to you. But I do say that it is humbug for the Opposition in these circumstances to present a motion for the disallowance of the regulations. The Government has a responsibility to make al! government undertakings financially sound. In this case, the Government has acted towards that end to meet a situation. I am quite certain that honorable senators opposite recognise that in the Post Office we have a government undertaking which is providing an efficient service to the community.
.- The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) has indulged in some rather frothy rhetoric in trying to divert attention from the main purpose of the Opposition and the Opposition’s attitude to the amending regulations affecting post and telegraph charges. The Opposition has directed attention to seven amendments of the regulations which imposed excessive charges on a section of the community. The Minister has referred to a particular attitude of mind during an election campaign. I remind the Minister that all over Australia the people have noted these new charges in their little black books and they will show how strongly they feel about them at the first opportunity. This has been mainly responsible for the striking reverse and the political lesson that was administered to the Government of Victoria recently.
– There will be further repercussions from this atmosphere later but for the purposes of this debate, the Opposition is seeking to show that these amendments to the regulations are bad. I assure the Minister that the Opposition is not attacking the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. This has always been an efficient and conscientious section of the Public Service with an unequalled record. The Postal Department is merely implementing Government policy. So the Opposition’s attack in this debate is directed at Government policy and at the policy of the Treasury. The Minister for Customs and Excise has said that the case put by Senator Cant for the Opposition was not convincing but the fact is that the Government, by regulation, is imposing charges which will have a tremendous impact on the whole of the business of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as I shall prove later. These charges are affecting immediately the taxpayer who is also a consumer of these departmental services.
– Not all of them.
– Every consumer of the services of the Postmaster-General’s Department is also a taxpayer. This means that the taxpayer who provided the funds in the first place to set up the Postal Department is now being asked to pay the increased charges that have been brought about as a result of the enormous increase in interest charges that have been imposed on the Department. I remind Senator Scott who has been continually interjecting that he will have an opportunity to discuss this matter later. Let us have a formal debate rather than a disjointed approach to the subject.
I propose to cite the words of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to illustrate a point concerning Government policy but before I do so, I propose to refer to the report of the Ad Hoc Committee of Inquiry into the Commercial Accounts of the Post Office. This report was brought down in 1960. The Ad Hoc Committee was set up by the Treasurer and consisted of five members. They were Sir Alexander Fitzgerald who was Chairman, Mr. L. B. Evans, Mr. G. Packer, C.B.E., Mr. E. W. Easton representing the Post Office and Mr. J. F. Nimmo representing the Treasury. As a result of the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee, the Government imposed the tremendous interest burden which is the reason given by the Government now for increases in Post Office charges. The Government acted on a majority report of the Ad Hoc Committee but this was a majority only of one. Two members of the Ad Hoc Committee, Messrs. Packer and Easton, brought down a minority report which was much different from that accepted by the Government for the purposes of assessing the capital value and overall investment down the years in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. At this point, I wish to refer to the report of a conference between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers held in Canberra in March 1959 to consider Commonwealth-State relations. The Prime Minister was questioned about relations between the States and the Commonwealth and the right honorable gentleman said in reply to the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte -
Really, the idea of us paying ourselves interest on the money that we lay out for public works is a bit humorous is it not?
Mr. Bolte replied ;
You do it in the case of the Snowy Mountains scheme, because there the States or the consumers will pay for it.
I might interpolate here that these charges have gone back over the years. If the Government wanted to attack a problem such as this, there are post offices in central areas in various cities of the Commonwealth which would bring in hundreds of millions of pounds if sold today. None of these matters have been considered. The Government has thought up a figure in the vicinity of ?400 million which it has imposed on the Post Office to make it appear to be a bigger interest producing organisation. The financial report of the Australian Post Office for the year ended on 30th June 1964 shows that interest on all services amounted to ?23,663,767. I want to examine this charge which has been imposed on the Postmaster-General’s Department by the Department of the Treasury. Before I do so, let me return to the conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers held in March 1959. Referring to the payment of interest on funds advanced for Government works Mr. Bolte said -
You do it in the case of the Snowy Mountains scheme, because there the States or the consumers will pay it.
Mr. Menzies, as he then was, replied ;
Then Mr. Bolte said -
But, in relation to non-productive works, you do not charge yourselves interest, it does not come into your Budget. You do not have in your Budget an item of interest on the capital revenue moneys that you have raised. We have an item of interest.
Mr. Menzies replied ;
I wonder what the effect would be if we had.
Further on, Mr. Menzies said -
I understand that argument, but I do not understand the argument about what the Commonwealth ought to do. The proposition is that we charge ourselves interest, we throw into deficit a couple of great undertakings. . .
He referred to the Post Office and the Commonwealth Railways.
– That is the big issue.
– The issue is as stated in the report of the Ad Hoc Committee which inquired into the commercial accounts of the Post Office. Under the heading “ Concept of the Post Office as a Business Undertaking “ this passage appears -
The aims of most Government businesses differ in some ways from those of most private businesses. Whereas private businesses are primarily concerned with the achievement of a satisfactory level of profit, Government businesses usually have to take wider considerations of national interest into account. For example, the Post Office has been required to render some services at uneconomic rates in accordance with Government direction.
At page 5 of the minority report under the heading “Part II. - Interpretation and Dissent”, this paragraph appears -
The Post Office is the largest business undertaking in Australia and its fundamental purpose, taking one year with another, is to maintain an efficient standard of service without profit or loss. It must plan its facilities to meet the national interest. It must operate some of its services at uneconomic rates for reasons of Government policy and under conditions that no private business concern would entertain . . . Above all, we do not believe it possible to disregard the national and essential character of the Post Office.
That part of the minority report reflects my views on the function of the Post Office.
The regulations we are considering provide for very severe increases in the charges made to consumers. The financial report for the year ended 30th June 1964, to which I referred earlier, reveals that for the year in question the sum of £6,474,251 was debited for superannuation liability. It is interesting to note that that is an actuarial entry; it is not factual. What happens is that all revenue goes into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and all the money that is required for administration and to pay debts comes out of Consolidated Revenue. I repeat that the debiting of £23,663,767 for interest and £6,474,251 for superannuation payments are actuarial entries. The Post Office has no reserve fund of its own, because it is deemed that the Commonwealth will be able to care for such matters as reserves and superannuation funds.
We regret that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) is indisposed. We hope that he will be back with us very soon. It is unfortunate that, having opened the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill as Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in this place, he is not here now. He said on that occasion that people who use the service should pay for it. That is the nub of the whole matter. The people who are using the service have already paid for it in the form of taxation. If they have not, then their fathers and mothers have paid for it. The assets of the Post Office have been built up over the years from Consolidated Revenue. Of course, the argument advanced now is that the activities of the Post Office must be put on a sound business footing.
Let us see what is happening in the Post Office as a result of Government policy. The “Financial and Statistical Bulletin” issued by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the year ended 30th June 1963 shows that in 1950 a total of 17,465,900 registered articles were posted for delivery within the Commonwealth. Then the Department, as a result of Government policy, reduced the value of its service and would not guarantee that a registered article would be delivered into the hands of the person to whom it was consigned. The public showed its opposition by declining to use ibc service. Consequently, in 1963. only 9,675,800 registered articles were posted for delivery within Australia. Those figures illustrate that the public is rather sensitive about what the Government does through the Postmaster-General’s Department. Very little alteration was made to the charges for registered parcels and cash on delivery parcels. Nevertheless, the population has grown.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Benn). - Order! The time allowed under Standing Order No. 127 for discussion of the Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1, has expired. The orders of the day will be called on.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to-
That the consideration of the Orders of the Day be postponed until after the disposal of Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1.
– I have demon.trated to the Senate that increase in Post Office charges induce a severe reaction by the public and substantially affect the activities of the Post Office. It is a great pity that the old system of handling registered letters and registered parcels has been changed, because it seemed to me to be as safe as placing a letter in a. courier’s hands. The reputation of the Postal Department promoted a feeling of security that it would reach its objective. Because the service has been changed there has been a tremendous reduction in the volume of business handled by the Post Office.
Undoubtedly telephone services have become part of our way of life. They are essential today. We cannot do business or satisfactorily make personal contact unless we have a telephone. In 1950 there were 1,109,984 telephone services installed and the proportion per hundred of the population was 1 to 13.57 at that time. In 1963, 2,522,522 telephone services were installed and the proportion per hundred of population was 1 to 4 in that year. Although technical advances have enhanced the efficiency of this section of the Department, the increased charges will be felt most heavily by the people who avail themselves of the telephone services.
I wish now to illustrate how increased charges in the past quite easily could be reflected in the future activities of the Post Office. In 1950, 28,704,257 ordinary telegrams were sent. The Government greatly increased the charge for each word in a telegram and last year the number of ordinary telegrams sent fell to about 16 million, a reduction of about 45 per cent. For urgent telegrams the charges are higher. In 1950, 1,988,987 urgent telegrams were sent. In 1963 this figure was reduced to 492,160.
– In spite of the great increase in population.
– Yes. Because of Government policy people are reducing their use of the wonderful services provided by the Post Office. They resent the sectional taxation imposed by the Government. The number of Press telegrams sent has been reduced from 287,410 to 148,091. The Press has switched to another form of communication - teleprinter services. The Post Office’s investment in teleprinter services is a very important matter. The teleprinter services have an infinity of uses, not the least of which is in our defence in a time of national emergency. Yet the present users of the telephone services must pay interest on the capital invested in their establishment.
I turn now to the differential rates charged to business organisations and to private citizens. The first regulation we seek to disallow is regulation 2. Extra charges imposed on a business organisation may be claimed as a taxation deduction and may bc added to the selling prices of the commodities of the business. Thus the consumer has to pay the increased charges. The private citizen has no way of passing on increased charges imposed on him, so that he suffers in two ways. He is forced to pay increased prices for ordinary commodities, in the selling prices of which the increased charges are included, and he must pay the increased charges imposed on private citizens. It is considered that the Government is adopting a concealed form of taxation. The Government does not have the political courage to say to those people who are best able to pay increased taxation: “ The people who are making the most profit should pay the most taxation, because all the facilities available in this country are provided for you “. The vested interests are defended by our Army, Navy and Air Force. Overseas investors have all these benefits free and they are skimming the profits from our industries. In order to avoid making those people pay their full share of taxation, the ordinary citizen is asked to pay concealed taxes. They are no more and no less than concealed taxes.
I have already pointed out that the accounts of the Post Office are falsely presented so that Government policy can be implemented, first by the fixing of the amount of capital invested in the Postal Department; secondly by the amount of interest charged on sums which have been invested over the years; and thirdly, in the actuarial entries, which are not proper entries at all. They are not factual entries, and they have the effect of showing a total loss of £296,823. If the matter were closely examined it would be found that the Post Office is making a substantial profit and that it could continue to make a substantia] profit without the aid of this indirect, concealed tax with which the Government is socking telephone subscribers.
I have pointed out already that increased charges have led to a reduction in the use of many of the revenue producing services of the Post Office. I have pointed to the reduction in the number of registered postal articles and the reduction in the number of parcels and telegrams. However, telephone users are increasing in number, and the Government is imposing extra charges on them. Irrespective of Senator Anderson’s charge that politics are being introduced into this debate, I still say that I believe that the Post Office essentially is providing public services, that it should operate for the benefit of the public and that the public should be able to obtain the services that it provides at cost. The imposition of fictitious interest charges on the various sections of the Post Office is a political or Treasury trick to obtain revenue easily instead of risking the odium that normally has to be faced when taxes are imposed by the Taxation Branch. In this instance the Government is using the facilities of the Post Office virtually to increase taxation.
The increased cost of collecting these extra charges should be considered. What is this going to cost the Department and, eventually, the users of telephones? Extra staff will have to be employed to issue accounts quarterly. The cost of a telephone call is 4d., and in some cases 6d. Possibly the cost of an ordinary call will be the equivalent of 6d. when decimal currency is introduced. As the inflationary process continues, instead of a private person getting a telephone bill for £15, £20 or £25 for a half year, his bill will rise to £50 or even £60i
He will need to receive his bills on a quarterly basis, so as not to disturb his budget for the year.
– The charges look smaller on a quarterly basis.
– That is so. In view of the budgeting system that has to be used today in most homes, it is necessary for people to have an idea of their accounts from week to week. Imagine the shock some people will get when they receive their telephone accounts. I heard the other day of a person who leased his home for a short period and on his return found that he had a telephone bill for £1,000. This was normal business procedure on the part of the Department, but apparently the unscrupulous people to whom he had leased his house had taken advantage of a weakness in their agreement. Imagine the shock of a person faced with a telephone bill for £ 1 ,000. The increased charges are such that telephone subscribers will have a shock when they receive their bills even though the Department is to send them out every three months instead of every six months.
I think I have shown that the policy of the Government, and of the Treasury, in increasing charges to telephone subscribers is a policy of increasing taxation in a way which, to honorable senators on this side of the Senate, is intolerable. To impose the increased charges by regulation is, as it were, to bring them in by the back door. It has been contended tim’e and time again that changes of this importance should be proposed in legislative measures which can be fully debated and which are brought to the notice of the public generally. My view is that these regulations should be disallowed and that other ways should be found to raise the money that the Government needs. The Government should have an urgent look at the Ligertwood report on tax evasion. The burden of paying taxes should not be placed on only a small section of the community. I support the motion moved by Senator Cant on behalf of the Opposition that the regulations be disallowed.
– I rise to speak to the motion for the disallowance of certain regulations relating to Post Office charges. The motion was moved by Senator Cant and supported by Senator O’Byrne. No doubt it will be sup ported by other Labour speakers. It struck me as rather funny that the Labour Party should move this motion, because we had an opportunity to state our views when the representative of the Postmaster-General in the Senate introduced a bill on the subject a few weeks ago. A very quiet debate took place on that bill. Senator Cant had only a few words to say on it. Now somebody has realised, 1 suppose, that there is going to be a Senate election.
I wish to reply to a few of the assertions that have been made by the two speakers on the opposition side. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) said that he thought that Senator Cant was being rather political. I did not go along with him in that at first, but having heard Senator O’Byrne I am convinved that the approach of the Opposition to this matter is political. Senator O’Byrne said, for instance, that the Post Office should not meet its interest commitments. Most of his argument was based on that assumption.
– It should meet interest on loans but not on fictitious charges.
– In relation to the fictitious charges that the honorable senator has mentioned, I remind him that a committee was set up by the Government, called the Ad Hoc Committee of Inquiry into the Commercial Accounts of the Post Office, consisting of the five gentlemen that he mentioned. The Committee brought down a majority report to the effect that interest should be charged. A minority report was also brought down by two members of that committee to the effect that they were not in complete agreement with the view that interest should be charged. A little earlier the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in its twelfth report dealt with the Postmaster-General’s Department. The recommendation of the Committee on capital, interest and exchange charges was -
If honorable senators look at the composition of that Committee, they will find that there were both Labour and Government members on it. There was no minority report. A careful study of the whole of the report shows that the members recommended that interest should be charged.
Senator O’Byrne says that the charges arc iniquitous, and that the interest rates are too high. The facts are that the interest rates that are charged to the Post Office by the Treasury are the rates applicable to the largest loan raised at or near the time when the money was advanced by the Treasury to the Post Office. It is interesting to note also that the payment of interest on Post Office advances from the Treasury follows logically on the basic principle that the user of Post Office services should pay for those services rather than having the burden fall on the genera] taxpayer. The great bulk of capital required by the Post Office is for telephone services. Some £70 million of the £77 million made available to the Post Office this year is allocated for that purpose. Nobody argues that every taxpayer in the community makes equal use of the telephone service. It is only proper that the major users should meet their just share of the capital cost involved. All who have or desire to have a telephone service, in our view, should make a fair contribution to the financing of the development of the system. Those who benefit should be the ones to pay. If the £23.6 million payable as interest in 1963-64, as shown in the Post Office commercial account, were not obtained from its customers, the money would have to be obtained from the total taxation revenue which comes from all the taxpayers in the community. What the Government is doing is making the customers who use the Post Office pay for their use of it. If no charge were made to cover interest and costs, as recommended by the Public Accounts Committee and by a majority of members of this Ad Hoc Committee, the money would have to be found by another method. If the method of income tax were used, probably we would have to raise income tax rates by almost an additional 5 per cent.
– That is the way lt was.
– I do not know that it was. In I960 it was decided to bring into the Post Office charges the interest component. I think that the capital figure arrived at was £340 million. At the present time the amount stands at £581 million. The return has increased from £1 million in 1958-59 to £25 million in 1963-64. It is rising now at the rate of £2.6 million a year. At no other time in the history of this country have Post Office facilities advanced at such a rapid rate as they have over the last five years. When I first came into this Parliament as a senator from Western Australia, I could not telephone anybody who lived north of Carnarvon on the coast of that State and north of Meekatharra inland. The area of Western Australia north of those two places is two-thirds of the total area of the State. As a matter of policy this Government has always endeavoured to provide the maximum facilities for country people and those living in distant areas. The result of that policy is that today any member of this Parliament can ring people living on stations, some 1,000 to 1,500 miles north of Perth - at Broome, Derby, Port Hedland, and all the towns that are in the north of Western Australia.
– The people at Kings Cross have to pay for it.
– The people of Kings Cross pay their share of that service, but the people who use the lines and make the calls pay the cost which I point out, for the honorable senator’s information, is 15s. for three minutes’ conversation during business hours. Outside those hours, I believe, the cost is 12s. for three minutes. This Government actually has reduced the charges. Some years ago the maximum rate, if I remember correctly, was £1 for three minutes for distances exceeding some 700 or 800 miles. I cannot remember the exact mileage. The costs have been reduced by 25 per cent, over the last five or six years. The Government, through the Post Office, is providing a telephone service throughout Australia that would not have been dreamt of in the past. We, as a Government, have to find the money to provide this service, and one of the ways in which we are able to find the money is by increasing some of the charges. But the main reason for the present increase in charges is that since 1959 the Post Office has not increased telephone charges, although a number of wage increases have been granted by the various courts and costs have increased.
Despite the large increase in costs, if we look carefully into the position we find that the telephone traffic, for instance, has risen by 40 per cent., the telephone network has grown by 30 per cent., and the salary and wages bill has risen by 30 per cent, over the last five years. But the number of staff employed in the Post office to provide the increased facilities has risen by only 4 per cent. We, as a government, have also to take into consideration the recent basic wage increase of £1 a week, which will add £7 million to the costs of the Post Office.
– Not to the cost of the Telephone Branch.
– I did not say that. The increase in the basic wage will add £7 million to the costs of the Post Office and over £5 million to telephone costs. If we look at this giant enterprise that is operating throughout the length and breadth of Australia we find that some 90,000 people are employed in it and that it provides work in Australian factories for an additional 11,000 people. It is also interesting to note that of the £40 million that is to be spent this year on the provision and maintenance of telephone facilities, a large proportion of the equipment to be purchased will be purchased in Australia. Ten years ago 90 per cent, of the equipment that was purchased by the Department came from outside Australia.
Another cost that we have to consider, if we are to be factual, is the price of the commodities, such as copper, lead and tin, that the Department uses throughout Australia. The cost of these commodities has risen considerably in the last few years. I suppose it is true to say that the price of tin is at a record level. It is higher than it was during the Korean War. The Post Office has to meet these increased costs. I ask: How are we, as a government, going to meet them, or how would the Labour Party meet them if it was left to decide how to finance the Post Office and at the same lime abide1 by the recommendations of the various committees that have sat and discussed this question?
I would like here to mention one or two matters that should be of great interest to honorable senators opposite. 1 want to refer to some figures which show how the basic wage compares with telephone rentals over various years. If we take a person on the basic wage, in 1939 out of one week’s pay he was able to pay rental on his telephone for 34 weeks. In 1949, one week’s pay was sufficient to pay the rental for 45 weeks; and in 1964, despite all the increased costs, it would pay the rental for 40 weeks. In 1939, out of one week’s pay a person on the basic wage was able to make 738 local calls; in 1949, the last year of Labour government, he was able to make 774 local calls; and in 1964, he is able to make 924 local calls. So the position is getting better as we go along under this Government. If we look at the postage rates, we see that in 1939 a person on the basic wage, out of a week’s pay, could post 474 letters; in 1959 he could post 662 letters; and in 1964, the election year for the Senate, he can post 739 letters. Actually, taking the basic wage into consideration, a person can post more letters today out of a week’s pay than he could under the Labour Government in 1949. Do not forget that the Post Office is providing very many people with a modern telephone service. At 30th June 1964 some 65,000 subscribers were connected to 26 Australian exchanges using the subscriber trunk dialling system. In this financial year we propose to extend the S.T.D. system so that people on certain exchanges in Sydney will be able to ring direct to people on certain exchanges in Melbourne, and that people on certain exchanges in Melbourne will be able to ring direct to subscribers in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Bacchus Marsh, Benalla, Mornington, Morwell and Wangaratta.
In addition, by using the S.T.D. system a subscriber in Port Kembla will be able to ring a subscriber in Sydney, and a subscriber in Wyong, Maitland and other areas in the district will be able to ring a subscriber in Sydney. In Western Australia people living as far out as Bullsbrook will be able to dial direct to subscribers in Perth. In Tasmania, people living in Launceston will be able to dial direct to subscribers in Hobart, Devonport and Deloraine. The subscriber trunk dialling system is only in its second year of operation and you can see how far we have progressed. I presume that it will be only a matter of a few years before people living in Perth will be able to dial a subscriber in any other capital city in the Commonwealth. That is not very far distant.
These moves are being made in an endeavour to reduce the costs involved in employing operators in telephone exchanges. In the Canberra exchange some 30 or 40 girls are employed on the day shift. With the further extension of the subscriber trunk dialling system these girls will become available for other jobs. Jobs are not hard to get these days. We have reached almost a record level of employment, a level that has never before been achieved in Australia. But we do not hear of this from members of the Labour Party. They talk about other things but never about full employment. I have been in this place for a long time and have heard Opposition senators come up with the parrot cry of inflation one year and unemployment another year. This year they seem to be leaving unemployment well and truly alone.
As well as providing these services to our telephone subscribers, the Government through the Post Office provides facilities for privately operated news services and for recorded news services in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. About 2,935,000 calls were made through these services.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension, I was endeavouring to demonstrate to the Opposition the weak case that it had presented for the disallowance of these regulations. It is my belief that not sufficient senators will approve the motion proposed by my colleague from Western Australia, and supported by one other speaker, to enable the motion to be carried. I should like to mention one or two items before I close. One of the accusations made by Senator O’Byrne was to the effect that because of some increases in charges tele- pr:im business in Australia had dropped considerably. 1 should like to reply to that accusation by stating that a lot of business has been transferred to Telex and private wire services, which are continually growing. The profit and loss account of the Post Office showed a profit of £892,000 on telegrams in 1962-63, whereas four years ago ibis class of business showed a loss. This position is quite understandable, when one looks at the facts of the situation and realises that through the telegram system the Post Office has allowed such organisations as newspapers throughout Australia to install teleprinters. Other systems, including the Telex system, are taken advantage of by many persons and businesses. This trend accounts for some of the losses in the telegram business, but this other type of business is far more remunerative than the telegram business.
Under new privately operated services, recorded news services are operated in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Last year, some 2,935,000 calls were made for these services. Other privately operated information services relate to wool prices, shipping information and show reports. In various States, one can even get Totallisator Agency Board reports. I conclude by informing some Opposition senators that they can use the telephone service to dial for a prayer. This service could well be noted by members of the Opposition, particularly the honorable senator who proposed the motion and the one who supported him.
– in reply - I shall be quite brief in my answer to speakers in opposition to the motion. Both the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) and Senator Scott were critical of the Australian Labour Party and myself in particular for postponing this debate. They accused us of trying to make political capital because of the is in the same stage of development as is doubt that when an election is pending, anyone in this place endeavours to make political capital, but that was not my main purpose in moving for the disallowance of certain amendments of the telephone regulations. I did prepare some material on increased Post Office charges for my speech on the Budget, but because of the limitation of half an hour on speeches on Wednesdays, I was not able to use it. Had I used it, it would have been only a mass of words in “ Hansard “, which would not have had any purpose. It would have done nothing to prevent the implementation of the increased charges.
Then the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill to increase charges on telegrams and to give a concession to the Home Delivery Service came before us. That Bill in no way dealt with increased telephone charges, although the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), who was in charge of the legislation in this place, referred to them and they were referred to elsewhere in the debate. Those references were out of order in view of the ambit of the Bill. This is the first time that any positive action has been taken to increase telephone charges and this is the correct time - whether or not it gives a political advantage - for the Opposition to express its displeasure with the action taken by the Government. I do not accept as valid the reasons stated by Senator Anderson and Senator Scott for our proposing the disallowance of the regulations. Senator Anderson was critical of the fact that I used the 1962-63 financial report of the Post Office in preparing my speech. I remind him that although the 1963-64 report is now out it has not yet been tabled in this chamber, and it was not available to me when I was preparing my notes for the speech., This is one of the matters in which the Government is lacking. Constantly it brings down legislation when up to date information is not available to honorable senators to enable them to speak to the Bills.
It is said that the matter of post and telegraph rates was available for debate earlier. It is all very well to debate matters and fill “Hansard” with words. That does not get you anywhere. In reply to my criticism of the Government for taking this action by regulation rather than by legislation which could have been debated in this place, it was said that a government had decided that regulations should be used for this purpose. No one doubts that a government did provide in the parent Act a right for regulations to be made to increase charges, but the Minister did not say which government did that. I suspect that it was a government of the same colour as the Government which is in office today. If that is a fact, obviously we on this side of the chamber do not accept any responsibility for the situation.
Senator Anderson also said that I built criticism of the service connection cost of £570 on the Talgarno installation. That is not quite right. I used Talgarno as an instance and I asked a question about it which, in any case, the Minister did not answer. Nevertheless, this is the type of developmental line, the cost of which is loaded onto service connection costs and which builds the average to £570, to which I referred. My criticism is that these are developmental works and should be charged to the development of Australia and not simply to the users of telephones.
The Minister for Customs and Excise also said that the charges were not severe in comparison with those imposed in other countries. I do not think one can properly compare Australia with any other country unless, perhaps, it is New Zealand which is in the same stage of development as is Australia. If you compare postal charges in Australia with those in New Zealand, you find that the charges in New Zealand are much more favorable to telephone subscribers than are those imposed in Australia.
The only matter I want to raise with Senator Scott is in relation to his statement that an increase of £1 in the basic wage would raise the wages bill of the Postal Department by £7 million. I do not doubt that, but I remind Senator Scott that we are dealing with increased telephone charges. The Telephone Branch of the Postal Department is not a labour intensive part of the organisation. The bill for the whole of the Postal Department might amount to £7 million if the basic wage were increased by £1 but a very small percentage of that £7 million would be spent in respect of increased costs connected with the Telephone Branch.
Question put -
That the motion (Senator Cant’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave - I wish to inform the Senate that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) yesterday left Australia on an overseas visit. He will be away until 13th December. While absent, he will attend meetings of the United Nations General Assembly and the Colombo Plan Consultative Committee. He will also pay brief visits to a number of European and Asian capitals for discussions with government leaders. During Mr. Hasluck’s absence, the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) will act as Minister for External Affairs.
Consideration resumed from 14th October (vide page 1012).
Department of Labour and National Service
Proposed expenditure, £3,423,000.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 330 - Administrative, sub-division 4, item 01, Apprenticeship training - Financal Assistance. Last year the appropriation was £50,000 and actual expenditure was £59,730. Evidently something has happened because the proposed vote is £140,000. Probably the Government has some apprenticeship scheme in mind and it will absorb all the money that is requested. My mind goes back to 1954 when a special committee was appointed to make a complete investigation of apprenticeship training in Australia. The committee was appointed because of action taken by some of the States and I shall mention the details. In 1937, representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments met in Melbourne and discussed problems of youth employment. I shall skate over the history of this matter but I propose to give dates on which the matter was brought before some government authority. The Western Australian Government appointed a Royal Commission, Mr. A. A. Wolff, K.C., who is now Sir Albert Wolff, the Chief Justice of Western Australia, to inquire into youth employment and the apprenticeship system in that State. I shall not quote his findings. In 1939 a select committee of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales inquired into the problems of youth employment in that State and in the following year it issued a report which covered apprenticeship and related matters. In Queensland in 1944 a Government sponsored committee investigated employment and the training of apprentices and minors in that State. It made a number of recommendations regarding apprenticeships. In 1949 a sub-committee of the Labour Council of New South Wales privately investigated and reported on the problems arising from the serious lack of balance in the intake of apprentices. It was at that stage that the Commonwealth was approached to sponsor a national inquiry.
There is now an Australia-wide shortage of skilled tradesmen. I need not particularise the categories in which there is an acute shortage. However, in a moment or two I propose to point out that the Commonwealth Government was fully aware that in this year there would be an acute shortage of skilled tradesmen and that it failed to do anything about the matter. I intend to charge the Government with neglect of duly in relation to the training of apprentices as tradesmen. To show how serious the matter was at that time, I point out that in September 1950 the Premiers’ Conference, at which were represented the Governments of the Commonwealth of Australia and all the six States, approved a resolution which was sponsored by the Commonwealth Government for a joint CommonwealthState examination of apprenticeship matters under the following terms of reference -
The personnel of the Committee subsequently appointed included, as the Chairman, the Honorable Sydney Charles Grenville Wright, a Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The following gentlemen represented the State apprenticeship and technical educational authorities: John Tainsh, Esq., Deputy Director of Technical Education, New South Wales; Oliver Emanuel Nilsson, Esq., President of the Apprenticeship Commission and Chief Inspector of Technical Schools, Victoria; Clive Kerslake Evans, Esq., Government representative on the Apprenticeship Executive and Director of Technical Education, Queensland; and Gilbert Sherman McDonald, Esq., at that time Superintendent of Technical Schools and Chairman of the Apprenticeship Board, South Australia, and later Deputy Director of Education in that State. The employers were represented on the Committee by Daniel Scott, Esq., Chairman of the Engineering and Allied Trades Division of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and member of the Apprenticeship Commission, Victoria, and Thomas A. Dixon, Esq., a member of the Executive of the Queensland Employers Federation and a member of the Apprenticeship Executive, Queensland. The trade unions were represented by Harold J. Souter, Esq., arbitration agent of the Amalgamated Engineering Union (Australian Division), and William Hargreaves, Esq., Federal Secretary of the Federated Moulders (Metals) Union of Australia.
Their terms of reference were clear. I have outlined what their duties were. Now wc come to the matters that were considered. The report of the Committee states -
As a guide to the kind of information which would interest the Committee, some questions were formulated and widely circulated, their substance being as follows: -
Can the apprenticeship system, functioning as it docs today, provide Australia’s present and future requirements of skilled tradesmen, assuming the present rate of industrial expansion?
Can the present apprenticeship system provide Australia’s present and future requirements of skilled tradesmen, assuming an expanding defence programme?
If the present apprenticeship system cannot provide Australia’s present and future requirements in the above situations, does this apply to industry in general or to particular industries only? What reasons can be suggested for this inability to provide an adequate supply of skilled tradesmen?
If particular industries only are affected, are those industries vital? What are the special problem’s in the supply of skilled workers in those particular industries?
What improvements or modifications of the present indenture system are desirable?
What supplements, if any, are necessary to the apprenticeship system to assure an adequate supply of skilled tradesmen?
If it is considered that the present system should be replaced, what alternatives are suggested?
The Committee met for nearly 12 months on and off and finally reached ils conclusions. Looked nl retrospectively, they are very interesting indeed. The Committee was able to say thai there would be a shortage of skilled tradesmen in Australia in this year 1964. It was able to tell the Commonwealth Government .10 years ago that Australia would experience the shortage of skilled tradesmen from which it is suffering at the present time. lt was submitted in evidence that the training of youths to be all-round skilled craftsmen is of vital importance to the nation and that the system of apprenticeship and apprenticeship training determines to a considerable degree the strength of the nation in tune of peace and in time of war, the status of the nation in the international sphere, and the standard of living of the Australian people. I wholeheartedly endorse those sentiments. I propose to deal now with the questions which the Committee posed for investigation and in respect of which it submitted conclusions. One was the position at the time of its inquiry. There is no need for me to deal wilh the matter in full. Suffice it to say that the Committee said, inter alia -
In addition, efforts to obtain extra apprentices were failing for two principal reasons, first, the number of youths reaching apprenticeable age was at its lowest point for many years due to the low birthrate of the depression years, and secondly, many youths who were reaching apprenticeable age were being attracted away from apprenticeship into unskilled and semi-skilled jobs because of the abnormally high wages obtainable by them in those jobs.
The Committee had before it several factors which it fully considered. It reached the following conclusion -
Taking these factors into consideration we believe that the supply of new tradesmen coming forward from all sources is now barely sufficient to meet the demand of industry in Australia for tradesmen at present, while in some trades which are either unattractive or have particular problems, there are still marked deficiencies.
That statement was made in 1954 when there was a shortage of tradesmen. The Committee next considered the immediate future and reached this conclusion -
Accepting the assumption of expanding economic activity during the next three to five years, the supply of new tradesmen coming forward from apprenticeship will not be sufficient for our industrial requirements.
This information went to the Government in the form in which I have read it. A copy of the book from which 1 am quoting was submitted to me by Sir John Spicer when he was a member of the Senate. I wrote to obtain this copy I have before me now. The Committee also dealt with the long term future and reached this conclusion -
We are unable to estimate with any accuracy the demand by industry for tradesmen in the long term future, but our opinion is that demand will tend to exceed supply until 1960, although the position should improve progressively from 1965 onwards. In the light of available statistics it appears that the number of youths eligible for apprenticeship three to five years hence will be sufficient to provide enough skilled tradesmen in due course of time. Apprenticeship planning should, we consider, proceed on the basis of continued industrial expansion at least commensurate with growth of population.
If Australia had a more imaginative Government that would get down to tin tacks and tackle the job that confronts it. this nation would have sufficient trained apprentices of Its own today instead of being forced to send missions overseas to search for journeymen migrants; as it were, to rob the European countries.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I have listened to Senator Benn with interest, because I know that prior to his entry into this House he was associated with the Queensland Department of Labour and Industry, where he gained a great deal of experience. Naturally one listens to him with interest and anticipates hearing things of moment. I agree thoroughly that the report from which Senator Benn quoted is a very important document. I doubt that any of- us would disagree with the major findings it contains and with the expression of the need in Australia for a continuous increase in the number of apprentices being trained for skilled occupations. However, I do not think we can stop there. After all, we must realise that whilst all efforts can be made and are being made to persuade the youth of our community to become apprenticed to trades, there surely would not be any suggestion that we should go beyond that encouragement and should try to force young men into the types of training which we, in our wisdom or otherwise, might select for them.
This is a free country and our youth has the right to make its own choice. We all deplore the present lack of tradesmen, but goodness me, no government can, from within the nation’s population, increase the number of young men who are ready to become apprentices. But the present Federal Government has, over the last 10 years, very effectively examined this problem. It realises that Australia needs more and more skilled tradesmen. Because it was not possible for us to produce enough tradesmen, the Government has been active in implementing very attractive proposals to bring to Australia the numbers of people needed to supplement our native-born Australians. I believe the Government’s efforts have been outstanding in this field.
It is all very well for us to take a report written 1 0 years ago and select certain parts of it. In the light of our present knowledge we can say: “Yes, over this 10 years events have borne out the statements in the report”. It was an altogether different situation at the beginning of the period, at the time when the report was being made.
– To which Division is the honorable senator speaking?
– Division No. 330, sub-division 4, item 01. The crux of the matter is that we are short of skilled tradesmen because the economy of this country is growing so rapidly under the present Government. We are running out of bodies. The problem boils down to that. The gap is being closed effectively by the Government’s immigration programme through which we are bringing in not only tradesmen, but also families which include young men - perhaps school children - who, in a year or two, will become apprentices.
Instead of condemning the Government, we should commend it for the excellent work it has done, which has been responsible for the booming economy and the shortage of apprentices. 1 believe that in the community there are many people who may be unskilled but basically are extremely capable. I am referring not to our young men, but to those men who have advanced to maturity. Many of these people want to increase their earning capacity, and for this reason I am an extremely strong supporter of the proposed supplementary training scheme which, unfortunately, is so strongly opposed by the Opposition. I think this is quite a tragedy.
– What about the cooperation of the employers?
– The adult supplementary training scheme which has been proposed by this Government is not being received at all happily by the trade unions. They are not co-operating at all in this scheme. Surely that fact is known by everybody who reads the Press.
– Some employers have criticised it.
– Maybe there are some who have done that, but the employers as a group are not opposing this scheme although the unions are.
– Have not the employers set their heads against the apprenticeship scheme?
– It is prefectly obvious that this scheme would now be in operation had there been stronger support, or even any support, from the trade unions within Australia. Going back some years, I myself remember proposing this very line of action in Queensland. 1 had a meeting with the unions and employers’ organisations in the State. Every representative from every employers’ organisation was 100 per cent, in favour of a supplementary adult training scheme to convert our unskilled workers into skilled workers. The largest union in Queensland was also in favour of it. But it was the craft unions themselves which in 1958 torpedoed the scheme which I had hoped 1 would be able to introduce in Queensland at that time. I do appeal to the honorable senator, because of the influence he undoubtedly has within his union associations, to try to convert them to a better way of thinking and to a realisation of the necessity, in these times of booming prosperity, for getting more of our unskilled people into skilled occupations to help themselves and the economy of the country.
Having made those comments, I would like to make brief passing reference to the last issue of the review of the employment situation and remind myself, as I hope to remind everybody else, that the figures which are shown on the first page of this review really tell a very remarkable story. The fact is that, even if we are going to take note of the numbers of people who are registered for employment, the figure is lower than it has been at almost any stage in our history. But we must go further than that. I have always argued that the figure which is presented to us showing the number of persons registered for employment gives, in fact, a false picture. An honorable senator on the Opposition side agreed with mc some days ago when I made this comment. A false picture is presented because there is quite a large group of people who in fact are not looking for employment at all. I have argued, and I still argue, that if we really study the employment and unemployment problem within this country, the reliable figure that we must select is not the number of persons registered for employment but the number of recipients of the unemployment benefit. I have, on quite a number of occasions, known of people who were registered for employment and who, believe me, were very selective in the employment that they accepted. They were offered employment in- quite a number of fields, but, because the employment offered did not suit them, they would not take it. Even in the period 1960-61 when we were troubled with the problem of unemployment, I could, and anybody else could, have placed hundreds of people in work if they had been willing to accept it. I can vouch for this fact.
I come back to this review, because to me it is very important. I hope some day to have the opportunity to develop my argument much more fully than I will be able to tonight in the time that is available to me. Accepting my contention that the true guide to the unemployment figure is represented by the number of recipients of the unemployment benefit, we find that throughout Australia there is less than .2 per cent, of the working population which is unemployed. There are vacancies to take four persons for every one person who is unemployed at the present time. It is truly impossible in this country, or in any other country, to get to the stage where there is not recorded a certain number of people from one point to another who are not in employment. Honorable senators know that this is a fact. They all know that there are a number of factors which cause people deliberately, and for proper motives and reasons - I would not suggest otherwise - to remain temporarily unemployed. It is a fallacy for any of us to think that because we see a figure representing the number of people drawing the unemployment benefit this is a continuing problem with particular individuals. It is not. I would very much like to have a thorough coverage of the number of people who have been drawing the unemployment benefit for two months or more. I venture to suggest that the figure would be almost nil.
I want to say that, in my own State, we have been exceedingly happy with the work of the officers of the Department of Labour and National Service. Throughout the years that I have known of their work, they have done a splendid job in Queensland. They have been deeply interested in the problem of unemployment and they have done all within their power to solve it particularly when it was a very much greater problem than it is at the present time. I do want to place on record those comments regarding the officers of the Department in Queensland.
There is one further point to which I wish to refer. I have seen in the Press at various times, as no doubt all of us have seen, comments by leading citizens who are deeply troubled about the lack of industrial harmony today. 1 repeat teat we all know that we are passing through times of great prosperity-
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Mr. Chairman, I desire at the outset to speak on Division No. 330, Administrative. I wish briefly to follow up the remarks that Senator Morris has made to the effect that during a period of great unemployment in Australia he could have placed in work hundreds of people who were unwilling to accept the employment offered. With all due respect to the honorable senator, 1 think his statement is a gross exaggeration and represents a libel of the willing working force in Australia. They have accepted employment when employment has been available. It is true that from time to time there is an exceptional person who will not take a particular job because he is desirous of something better, or because he has prospects of better employment. Such an odd case does arise from time to time. But for the honorable senator to say that, during a period of acute unemployment in Australia, there were hundreds of people who would not accept employment which did not suit them is unfair to the working force of Australia whose members are as keenly aware of their family responsibilities as is any honorable senator in this chamber. I say that the occasion has never arisen where work that has been available has not been accepted by a member of the Australian working force.
I accept the proposition that the figures relating to unemployment in Australia today show that the problem is insignificant compared with what it has been in the past. But the review to which Senator Morris referred indicates that there are pockets of unemployment in the country areas where work is not available. This problem is increasing. The last report established that, in South Australia, women in particular cannot find employment. The proportion of women unemployed to women in jobs in Australia is much higher than the proportion of males unemployed to the number of men h* «jobs. This problem needs special consideration by the Department of Labour and National Service so that employment can bc found for these individuals whose circumstances of residence will not permit diem to accept certain employment. It is because of this that their numbers are added to the list of persons unemployed.
I wish to make a few remarks in relation to Division No. 330, sub-division 4, item 6l, apprenticeship training, which was commented on by Senator Benn and Senator Morris. It is obvious from the remarks of Senator Benn that he has some experience of apprenticeship committees, but the same is not obvious of Senator Morris. His reference to hundreds of people who would not accept work showed the bias that will not let him approach this subject in a fair manner and a manner that would enable him to arrive at proper conclusions.
I spent 16 years on an apprenticeship advisory committee. I spent five years as a member of a post-war reconstruction committee which was attempting to train exservicemen to enable them to take their places again in civilian employment. I spent three years on a committee associated with adult training, outside the orbit of either Federal or State Governments. The union to which I belong has an agreement registered in the Industrial Court of South Australia for the training of adult personnel. lt suits an industry to train men from time to time, but no attempt is made to negotitiate agreements between employers and employees to enable this to be done on a permanent basis.
No attempt is being made to attract youth into industry in Australia. The falling off in the number of tradesmen is due to the uncertainty of continuity of employment as a tradesman and the lack of incentive to youths to become apprenticed when they leave school. Many youths eligible for training will not become apprentices because the rates and conditions of employment of apprentices are inferior to those obtaining in dead-end occupations in which young people can remain until they reach the age of 21 years. If we want to increase the number of tradesmen in Australian industry we must first find out why eligible youths are not being attracted to apprenticeship trades. If we find that those trades are not sufficiently attractive to youths, we must try to do something about that.
The Federal Government is prepared to intervene before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to put a case for the nation when an increase in the basic wage, or an improvement in hours and conditions, would be detrimental to the economy of the country. It should rise high enough to intervene on behalf of juveniles in order to see that wages and conditions are such as to attract them into industry. Has it ever done this? The only appearances of the Government before the Commission, apart from appearances for the purpose of giving statistical information, are in opposition to applications made by the unions. Let the Government face up to the reality of the position and help to find some method to attract eligible youths into industry.
The particular industry in which I spent ray working life is unable to take juveniles because of the system of sub-contracting that operates in the industry as a means of defeating arbitration awards. Because of this system, the builders, who have continuity of work, are not employing apprentices. The sub-contractors cannot employ apprentices because they do not have continuity of work and cannot guarantee to complete the apprenticeships of youths who may desire to work in the industry. The apprenticeship schools in the various States have only a handful of building trade apprentices, and this is happening at the very time when the country is crying out for more apprentices. Is the Government doing anything about this problem? Even in jobs which are the subject of Federal Government contracts breaches of awards are occurring and various methods are being used to avoid employers having to comply with the provisions of awards.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) met the building trades unions in conference in Melbourne to see whether they would agree to a dilutee scheme. Senator Morris said that we were running out of workers. If that is so, where does the Government expect to find persons to train as adult apprentices? After the conference in Melbourne the Minister for Labour and National Service went to Brisbane and made an announcement, as reported in the Press, that the unions had agreed to his adult training scheme. I asked a question in this chamber about the matter, because the truth is that the unions had rejected the proposal. I think that the building trades unions are as interested as any other unions in providing sufficient manpower for their industry, but it is only two years since there was unemployment in their industry. How can the unions agree to develop a labour force sufficient to meet the immediate requirements of the industry if no guarantee can be given that within a year or two there will not again be unemployment and that unionists will not find that they cannot get employment? If an adult training system is to be put into operation the building industry will have to be planned so as to ensure security and continuity of employment. That is the type of scheme that the Government should be working on at the present time.
At the end of November and the beginning of December youths leaving school are looking for apprenticeships. When they cannot obtain them at that time, they go into dead-end occupations. They settle in these occupations and will not leave them in the new year. Throughout Australia there are few employers who take the full ratio of apprentices provided for by awards. Some employers are simply not taking apprentices at all. There is a responsibility on employers to train apprentices, but because many of them want only quick profits they are not prepared to shoulder their responsibility. They will not accept their full quota of apprentices. They would prefer to employ adult trainees because these are physically strong men who could be used in a more profitable way.
The employment of adult apprentices not only places a responsibility on employers but it also creates hardship for the tradesmen who have to train the unskilled men. In my own industry, in order to provide for the training of adult personnel an agreement was registered in the Industrial Court of South Australia under which supplementary payments were made to the men who had to do the actual training. However, this provision was finally taken out of the award as a result of representations by counsel representing the Chamber of Manufactures in South Australia. Because of the circumstances of particular times employers are prepared to make over-award payments, but they are not prepared to make them for the duration of the time necessary for training unskilled men. The Government says that the employers are concerned about this matter. If anything can be done, the trade union movement will not be found lacking. It is in its own interests to meet the requirements of any planned industry. Let us have a plan. Let us see how we can attract juveniles to industry. If we cannot attract juveniles, let us see how far the employers are prepared to go in the training of adults. A committee was set up which travelled throughout all the States - incidentally, I gave evidence before it - but nothing has been done to implement its report. If there is a matter crying out for investigation and some action it is the apprenticeship system of the various States. Not only is the method of training obsolete, but lads will not devote their spare time to technical training. They will not accept the wages that arc offered under apprenticeships today because the amount is not sufficient to enable them to pay for the purchase of a car and so on. These are problems that the Government must face. If it is desirous of assisting to supply the skilled manpower necessary for industry today it should look into this question and develop a scheme whereby it can co-operate with industry for the purpose of improving the apprenticeship system.
.- Senator Morris said that there is no way in which you can compel youths to take on apprenticeships. That is admitted. You cannot get them by the scruff of the neck and place them in apprenticeship vacancies. But there is economic compulsion in the community. Why are members of the Public Service sitting in the Senate tonight? Why are we sitting here? There is a force behind us all that compels us to do things. In 1960 there was such a excess of lads seeking employment in the Commonwealth that they constituted a serious problem to every branch of the Department of Labour and National Service. Now that I have mentioned the Department, I say that it has many clever officers who are quite capable of carrying out the work that is required at the present time and also to undertake new projects, such as I outlined a while ago.
If the report of the Commonwealth-State Apprenticeship Inquiry had been passed over to two or three officers of the Department back in 1954; if a quiet word had been spoken to them about the future requirements of the Commonwealth, and if it had been pointed out to them that probably in 1964 there would be a serious shortage of journeymen to carry out essential work, and that the shortage would impede the development of the Commonwealth, those officers would have done their utmost to overcome the difficulties. They would have furnished weekly or monthly reports as required showing the progress they were making. They would have kept this matter under their notice and would have found a way in which all the problems could have been solved progressively. There would not be the sad situation which confronts us today.
There has to be a percentage of skilled journeymen in the community to create employment for other workers. There is no constitutional power that the Commonwealth can use in respect of apprenticeship matters. Such matters are left to the States. But in Commonwealth awards reference is made to apprentices and we find that apprentices, whose employment is covered by Commonwealth awards, are attending technical colleges provided by the States. This matter has to be ironed out and, of course, the Commonwealth Government is, shall I say, the major governmental unit in the Commonwealth today. The six State Governments should be able to get together as a body and say: “ We will build up a perfect apprenticeship scheme. We will not have the higgledy-piggledy set of arrangements that exists at the present time.”
I know that all the States have not provided for a fair measure of apprenticeship. South Australia did almost nothing for years, lt did not even make it compulsory for juniors employed in skilled trades to be made apprentices. In Queensland it is compulsory for every employer who has juniors employed in a skilled calling to indenture them for a period of four or five yeaTs, or for whatever period is prescribed by the Apprentices and Minors Act, by regulation or by an award. ] am not dealing with this matter on a party basis at all. 1 am dealing with it because it is a serious matter, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. From where do we get our apprentices? How are they to be trained? First, there is the orthodox apprenticeship schemes; secondly, there are schemes which provide for some form of adult entry, such as the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Scheme, adult apprenticeship or upgrading, and thirdly, there is migration. I think that migration has been tested fairly well, but at the present time the resources of migration in this respect are strained, ft has not produced nearly the number of journeymen required in the Commonwealth at the present time. The orthodox apprenticeship scheme, which is operating in the various States, could be improved considerably if there were closer co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States.
I know that some State instrumentalities, which are capable of employing apprentices, are not employing their full quota. I should say that some railway departments in the States do not employ their full quota of apprentices at the present time. They are not employing the number of fitters and turners, boilermakers and coachbuilders that they could employ. If they do not train them, to whom are they to look for their journeymen in the future? I have passed some of the railway workshops in New South Wales and have seen the notices posted up outside saying that tradesmen, such as coachbuilders and others, were required. They may have done their duty in the past and trained their own apprentices but that is what 1 have seen.
The same thing happens in Queensland. The railway authorities say: “ We do not require so many boilermakers and fitters’ and turners in the loco shops now. We do not require so many electricians. So we will take on only sufficient apprentices for our own requirements.” That is a selfish attitude to adopt in respect of apprentices.
Every workshop, whether it is owned by the State Governments, by the Commonwealth, or by private individuals, should be used as a training establishment for apprentices. Speaking generally, the requirement is one apprentice for every two journeymen. Employers should take their full quota of apprentices. The Commonwealth Government has an inglorious record, so far as apprentices are concerned. I remember when it sacked apprentices engaged in the building trade in the year when the system of day labour was changed to one of contract labour.
A general review of the apprenticeship scheme should be made at the present time. It should be launched immediately, not in 1965 or 1966. These are matters that do not solve themselves. Someone with the requisite power has to say. “This must be done. You can use propaganda if you like, but it is much better if you use the law.” I have used the law in the past and have had many people prosecuted and fined, because in Queensland it was compulsory for employers to indenture apprentices in trades. Many employers did not believe in the apprenticeship scheme, but many others did. I had the experience that some of the employers who opposed the scheme became its greatest supporters after they saw the benefits of it. They made their workshops available for the training of apprentices. The engineering shops were made available to the boilermakers for setting out and other classes of work, and also to the fitters and turners. These problems can be overcome, and I am saying now that they should have been overcome three or four years ago by someone in the Commonwealth Government with a little drive and a little force. Most of us here back in 1954 saw that these conditions would develop. We expected the Government to face up to the problems and to say: “ Here is a national duty to be performed. It must be performed efficiently.”
How can industry expand without a full quota of journeymen? lt is almost impossible. We cannot expand without tradesmen, and we cannot have tradesmen unless we are prepared to train our own. We must face up to training apprentices. We must give the youth of the Commonwealth the opportunity to learn trades. Boys went to school last year, they are going to school this year and they will be going to school next year. Surely the Education Departments could do some propaganda work with the boys. If boys see on the national television stations trade work being done, we will not be able to cope with all of them who will be applying for apprenticeships. I know from my own experience that trade work fascinates most boys. We get the boy who wants to be a clerk all his life, but he is the odd individual.
I will return to what I said a moment ago. The Commonwealth Government has failed in its task. It has failed the people of Australia. I will admit that so far as Queensland is concerned - I have some knowledge of Queensland - the development that has taken place there in. the past 12 or 18 months has never been exceeded at any time in its history. Never in the past has so much developmental work been done in Queensland as has been done in the past 12 or 18 months in the sugar industry and in other industries. Many of the big under takings have found it necessary to expand, but when they require additional tradesmen, as they do at present, they cannot find even one tradesman anywhere. The buildings that are being erected are being erected despite a shortage of labour.
Senator Morris spoke about the present disquiet in industry. This is one of the causes of the disquiet. You cannot solve one problem until you solve the other. I suggest seriously to the Minister that he speak to someone in the Ministry, even to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). If he likes to make an appointment with the Prime Minister for me, 1 shall tell the Prime Minister what is wrong. I. do not mind meeting him and telling him what he should do, but I draw the the line at meeting the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). I do not think we could persuade him to do anything. I conclude on that note.
.- I want to repeat a statement I made that apparently Senator Benn misunderstood. I hope he will listen to me. I said that you cannot force employees to become apprentices. I did not use the word “ employers “; I used the word “ employees “. You cannot force employees to become apprentices if they do not want to become apprentices.
Listening to Senator Benn, one would assume that nothing is being done to train apprentices in Australia. That is nonsense. The honorable senator knows it. Goodness me, throughout the whole of Australia the overwhelming majority of employers are taking their quotas of apprentices year by year. Many employers came to me, pointing out that by law they could take only one apprentice for two or three journeymen, as the case may be. They asked: “ Will you change that quota to permit us to take more apprentices than we can take at present?”
– What did you do about it?
– I will tell the honorable senator what I did about it. I introduced an entirely new industrial conciliation and arbitration bill in Queensland to cover all the problems that had arisen during the period of the discussions that had taken place. I believe that as a result of the actions of the Administration in Queensland wc were able to absorb an increasing number of apprentices. We must remember that a great deal is being done all the time. The situation is not, as Senator Benn has suggested, that nothing is being done to train apprentices in the industrial life of Australia. 1 should like to remind honorable senators df a speech that was made by Senator Ormonde, I think about a month ago, on this subject. I had been speaking about apprentices and how we needed skilled tradesmen, not unskilled workers. Senator Ormonde agreed with me but he went on to ask: “ What can you do when there arc young men, highly trained - some of them university students who have obtained degrees, some of them having completed their apprenticeships and become skilled and qualified tradesmen - who will throw everything away and take on casual work for three weeks and then have three weeks holiday?” I agree with Senator Ormonde. 1 think he put his finger on one of the big problems. In the young man’s mind today there frequently is not the personal incentive to undertake an apprenticeship. The young man today is too attracted by glittering opportunities for enjoyment and casual high pay to bother about commencing an apprenticeship course. Make no mistake about it; that is the greatest problem of all. But I strongly assert that it is most, unfair to suggest that neither Governments, employers nor many employees are doing their share. That is grossly wrong.
I should like to refer now to a matter on which Senator Cavanagh took me up. He said that he doubted very much my statement - he thought I was exaggerating -that some hundred of jobs are available. 1- shall explain my statement and give him the opportunity to check it for himself. For the last six years I have made it a practice to travel through the western towns of Queensland. I have talked to all kinds of people in each town. I have always been troubled about the problem of employment. In fact, I have done a great deal of work on it. Although Senator Cavanagh suggests that I do not know very much about it, I probably would surprise him with my knowledge of the subject. Because of my interest in it, I inquired at each of the towns I” visited, many of which were very small, about the employment prospects. Without exception, I was told that there were many Vacant jobs in all of these towns. I asked: “ Why have you such a problem in getting things done?” On every occasion I received almost the same reply: “We cannot get men to come out here to the west. They will not come this far away from their comforts and pleasures.” That is another side of the problem. If any honorable senator cares to make such an examination, he will find how very true that is.
I was starting to say something with reference to Division No. 330 and the problem of industrial disharmony at the present time. I give a brief quotation from the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of one day last week in relation to industrial lawlessness -
With a few exceptions these disputes show a common pattern. Ignoring the accepted machinery of conciliation and arbitration unions - frequently under Communist influence - are trying to exploit today’s conditions of booming economy and full employment. . . . Our arbitration system confers rights and imposes responsibilities on both industry and labour. Employees cannot expect to enjoy the protection and privileges of awards without honouring their obligations of continuity of work and the reference of disputes to the Court. If there is a case for higher .wages to offset rising living costs - the excuse for most recent strikes - it should be decided by the proper authority on a regional or industrial basis.
Australia would be very much better off today if more notice were taken of those words. An arbitration system which is as good as anything in the world has been established in Australia. I know it best in Queensland and I know that it varies from Slate to State. Today we find constantly that efforts are being made to break’ down this arbitration system and to break away from the arbitration court. This is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. Here is an instrument which is impartial. The Queensland Industrial Court consists of several judges; all except one of them were appointed by our opponents - the Labour Party - and have been carried on by us. They are men who are giving their time and their efforts to arrive at a sound basis of payment and conditions, and they have done a mighty good job, yet the unions are just throwing them aside and trying to break down the Industrial Court and the industrial system. If this happens, it will be a very great tragedy for Australia. Even the Leader of the Australian Labour Party in Queensland subscribes to the same view.
It is interesting to note that there is a big strike at present at Mount Isa. The employees there are mostly members of the Australian Workers Union. This industrial trouble - perhaps that is a better way to describe it - continues because of the efforts by a. small group of that union to ensure that the trouble does continue. Mr. Williams, the State Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, is taking action against some of those people within the union who misled the unionists and caused them to continue a strike which, as the Secretary said, was against the best interests of the unionists themselves. We get this constant fighting against an establishment which has proved itself and which is better than anything else of its type in the world. That statement might be challenged, but it cannot be successfully challenged.
The only fault apparently seems to be that the Industrial Court has authority to impose penalties. Heavens above, in this world if we have privileges we have responsibilities, and if we do not abide by those responsibilities we have to be prepared to face discipline. Whether it is in industrial matters, road traffic matters, or anything else,, properly applied discipline is an essential in our mode of life. When we have a court with a reputation so high - surely we must agree that it is a reputable court - all Australians, and particularly unionists, would be infinitely better off to take more notice of the court than they are doing. They did for many years and I hope that the time is not far distant when they will see reason and not be misled by some of those harebrained people whose real interest is building up industrial strife, because that is what keeps a lot of them in their jobs. I hope the time is coming quickly when those people who foment industrial trouble unnecessarily - mark that word - will not be permitted to do it.
.- I shall try to be out of character and bring the debate back to the subject matter. I refer to Division No. 330. On Labour Day in Sydney we had a march of apprentices which took about three-quarters of an hour to pass a given point. When ] saw that procession I thought the apprenticeship position was completely healthy. It was interesting to note the employers to whom they were apprenticed. Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. had a group, Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. had a group, civil aviation had a group, the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. had a group, and the New South Wales Railways Department had a group. I think it is generally true to say that most of the apprentices were in big organisations. The Broken Hill Co. has no apprenticeship problem at all. A boy who is apprenticed there sees security for himself. There is a superannuation scheme and he is built into the organisation, lt has its own technical colleges. If the Broken Hill Co. has an apprenticeship problem, it is nothing like the problem that exists outside.
This brings me to the point that boys living in certain areas are more interested in being apprentices than are boys in other areas. For instance, if industry were decentralised all over New South Wales or all over Australia, I think there would be plenty of apprentices in the various towns. But there is no industry in towns throughout Australia and therefore there is no apprenticeship and no trained men are coming on, as Senator Morris said. Senator Cavanagh, I think, was speaking of the building industry and other similar types of scattered industries. He gave us his expert views. We are very fortunate to have here a man such as he, who is trained in these problems, and we are very fortunate to have Senator Benn put the case as he sees it from the public service point of view. These honorable senators made very well informed speeches. Generally speaking, big and established interests such as B.H.P., Qantas and Commonwealth Engineering (N.S.W.) Pty. Ltd., which can offer a boy some prestige, have no problem, but the whole scheme has collapsed in the building trade. Only the other day the Director of Labour and Industry in Sydney, Mr. Kearney, directed attention to the thieving of apprentices by one employer from another. That sort of thing is going on in the building industry. Building contractors need not have apprentices and it is a catch as catch can type of industry. That is where the real trouble is occurring. Apprentices are not coming on in that industry.
I want to conclude on this note: We cannot have organisations like B.H.P. and Qantas everywhere in which boys have a pride in their work and are looking to » future for themselves. We cannot have only big organisations where boys are prepared temporarily to make sacrifices to get into the big money jobs later and qualify as engineers. So some attempt has to be made to interest the smaller sections of industry in their apprenticeship obligations. I do not know whether the Government has considered a scheme which I have thought about and have read about as something in operation in other parts of the world. It raises this question: Could some provision be made for a tax concession for employers who are prepared to accept their obligations with apprenticeships?
With the development of automation and mass production even in building construction, there is a tendency for employers to run away from their responsibilities in this regard. That has been proved tonight as I think most honorable senators will agree. 1 suggest that the Government consider giving some financial compensation to smaller industries where employers might find the employment of apprentices an expense that they cannot bear. If they had a tax incentive to employ their quota of apprentices, the Government might have more success than it is having in solving this problem.
.- My remarks are directed to Division No. 330 - Administrative, sub-division 4, item 01, Apprenticeship training - Financial assistance. While listening to Senator Morris, the distinguished senator from Queensland, I was reminded . of a work which would be familiar to Senator Ormonde. I refer to a fairly recent publication on the Press in Australia. The author said that his vision of a private hell, was one in which a person was forced to read the editorials of the Australian Press from 1900 to the present day dealing with industrial disputes in Australia. He suggested that nothing could be more monotonous and soul destroying than to read this series of statements, all of which condemned the trade unions and their members for engaging in so called irresponsible and unjustified strikes. These asserted that everything the trade unionists asked for either was wrong or should not be granted just yet. Never, over the whole series of events, were the trade unions or their members ever in the right or ever justified. This kind of thing goes on, of course, today.
In the quiet hours of this evening, some commonsense has been talked on the matter of apprenticeships and industrial training in Australia and these matters are very important. I suppose that, as usual, they will fall on deaf ears so far as’ this Govern1ment is concerned until the situation becomes so drastic that action must bc taken. Senator Benn has given some very good advice. He also informed the Government that some years ago, the Australian Labour Party drew the attention of the Government to the serious state of affairs that was developing in this community as a result of a number of factors born of the contract system which was breaking down ordinary employment and the apprenticeships which were incidental to it.
The fact is that many large employers, including some of the largest organisations in the community, one of which was mentioned by Senator Ormonde, have set their faces against the apprenticeship system. Far from being in favour of it and encouraging it, they do not believe in it and are against it. We have developing in this community a tendency which goes beyond apprentices and the trades and extends into other spheres of the community. This represents a new philosophy and it is this: Where some part of a profession or trade can be done by unskilled or unprofessional persons, it is said: “ Why not let it be done? If unskilled persons can take over some portion of a trade, it will be cheaper and better. We can train these persons in a few months to do this work. Let them dc it. If unskilled persons can do this portion of the trade, let it be done that way.”
This is an offence against a number of tenets of this community. The wise judges who sat in the arbitration courts some years ago realised the weakness in this approach. They realised that if you are going to take away from a tradesman the relatively unskilled portion of his work, you will destroy the trade. A trade consists not only of extremely highly skilled work but also of relatively skilled and sometimes quite unskilled work. Ali this makes up a trade. You cannot have a man working only on the extremely skilled operations of his trade for the whole of his time, ft cannot be done. This applies not only in the trades but alr in the professions. We find many instances of this far removed from the cases mentioned in the debate tonight.
What has been done by many large em-, ployers is to attempt to break down not only the apprenticeship system, but really, the system of tradesmen. This has an effectnot only on industry but also on the tradesmen themselves. In an enlightened and happy community, people want to have some profession, career or trade. They want to bc well rounded out. They want to feel that: they can move from one aspect of a trade to another. They do not want to feel they can only operate one machine or do some small section of work. This is’ of importance, not only to the individual, but also to the community when we -are facing a period in which we will have more mechanisation, more automation, rapid changes in the types of machines which will be used and in the types of sub-skills which will be required. We will need more and more thoroughly rounded tradesmen and we are not getting them. The opposition which the trade union movement has to the present proposals is based on the fear that there is an attempt to break down the system of trades.
– By adult training.
– Yes. They see the same employers who have . resolutely set their faces against the apprenticeship system now advocating a system which the trade unions fear is directed to breaking down the trades. They see half trained tradesmen and workers stuck to the one machine or one little section of a trade. This means that they are like the serfs of old - stuck in an industry and bound to it or a particular machine or employer so that they cannot move about and use their skills as they would want to use them. If something were done to ensure that this was not going to happen to the persons and the trades, some of the opposition to the training of adult persons would probably disappear. I should like to know from the Minister what is being done by the Department of Labour and National Service about scholarships for apprentices. Bearing in mind especially the matters that Senator Benn raised, I should like to know whether the Commonwealth has contemplated using its powers to provide benefits for students and in particular using the incidental power in relation to conciliation and arbitration to provide proper incentives for the training of apprentices and tradesmen.
It has been suggested by Senator Morris, and a number of persons in the House of Representatives that the arbitration system is more or less a voluntary system and that the trade unions are at fault in not availing themselves of it. That is a misconception. The arbitration system is applied compulsorily; it is invoked willy nilly. It is not a question of the trade unions desiring to invoke the arbitration system. It can be invoked against them whether they wish to avail themselves of it or not.
I ask the Minister whether the Government has seriously considered the effect on the Commonwealth Industrial Court of the constant invocation of the contempt power. That power exists to protect the Court from being brought into contempt. If the injunction powers and the fining powers are to be used to the degree that they have been used in recent times, inevitably the Court will be brought into contempt in the community. The contempt power has always been regarded as being one which should be used sparingly. The existence of a set of. legislative provisions which so operate, that constantly unions are fined not merely for. breaching some award but for bringing the Court into contempt is very serious. The constant use of this power is bringing the judicial organs into contempt. That being so, one must conclude that this method of dealing with unions is extremely undesirable. Surely some means can be found to resolve industrial disputes other than one which inevitably leads to a union being fined not merely for what it has done in the course of its negotiations or struggles with an employer but for having come into collision with the judicial apparatus itself.
Whatever thoughts may have prompted the adoption of the system originally and whatever prestige may have attached to the Court as an instrument for bringing peace into the industrial sphere, it is apparent that we have reached the stage where the system is no longer effective. Instead, the whole of our judicial system, and certainly this section of it, is suffering as a result of the hearing of contempt proceedings almost daily. It is difficult to see how anybody could regard this as being a desirable state of affairs. I should be obliged if the
Minister would indicate whether consideration has been given to finding a more rational way of solving industrial disputes without making this procedure almost inevitable. What steps have been taken to discourage what are generally described as almost frivolous applications by employers for injunctions and the invoking of the contempt power?
– I should like to address myself further to Division No. 330. I am prompted to speak again by the comments of Senator Morris. I suppose the honorable senator and I are biased in approaching labour matters. We represent opposite sides, and possibly we both have a vested interest in the side that we represent. Therefore, I do not blame any honorable senator for being cautious about anything either of us may say. What we say should be received with due consideration and not simply with the thought that honorable senators have another supporter or another opponent, as the case may be. Because of that biased approach, possibly from time to time we grasp at reports or statements which support our case. Rather should we try to analyse the situation and determine whether we have any knowledge of the matter under discussion. Having determined that, we should decide whether to accept those reports.
It is stated repeatedly that strikes are held against the wishes and the welfare of members of Communist dominated unions. Let me say after a long experience in the trade union movement that, in view of the propaganda that is put out today against members of the Communist Party, no Communist could win or retain a position in the trade union movement following the holding of a properly conducted ballot unless he were more capable and more sincere than those who opposed him. No matter what his powers of oratory might be or what methods of deceit he might employ, no Communist who was elected to office could pull out on strike 5,000 employees at the Holden works in Victoria unless those employees believed that there was some justice in their case. Men do not like giving up their incomes.
-(Senator Drake-Brockman). - Order! To what part of the estimates is the honorable senator relating his remarks?
– I am linking them up with Division No. 330 which covers proposed expenditure on salaries and allowances. At page 184 in the schedule of salaries and allowances reference is made to senior industrial relations officers and industrial relations officers. I am trying to show that there is some need for the industrial relations officers of the Department of Labour and National Service to make some other approach to the settling of industrial disputes than is at present made. I think it was Senator Murphy who said that there is need for a new approach to this matter. I was about to say that no working man with a sense of responsibility - the Australian working man has a sense of responsibility - would be so unmindful of his responsibility to his family that he would put himself in the position of having no income for a period of time and of being faced with the threat of having some of his property repossessed by the hire purchase companies to which he is heavily indebted unless he believed that he was suffering from an injustice. One of the principles of British law is that not only must justice be done, but it must also appear to be done. Irrespective of whether justice is being done today, it does not appear to the working man that justice is being done by arbitration. Senator Morris says that we have one of the best arbitration systems in the world. I say that we have one of the most severe arbitration systems in the world. We do not have a system of conciliation operating in Australia today. Although the Act is entitled the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it is loaded with penalties for those who will not accept decisions taken after conferences with employers.
It has been stated that conciliation went ‘ out of the Act when penalties were incorporated in it. The Act now threatens: “ Unless you are good boys you will have to pay penalties”. The more penalties that are provided for in the Act, the greater the number of strikes that occur. We have only to read the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority this year to see the frequency with which strikes are occurring in that industry, despite the penalties that are imposed.- The men are not getting justice because the arbitration system is not giving to them today the wages that industry is prepared to pay. The working men are not receiving an equal distribution of the wealth of (he community, or a share of the wealth in proportion to the contribution they make to the welfare of society. Even the Victorian Liberal Government has found it necessary to raise the wages of its employees above the amounts awarded by arbitration. The South Australian Liberal Government - a government with a record of never paying wages above an arbitration award - is not satisfied that arbitration is doing justice to State Government employees. It has decided to pay a service bonus to employees pf State Government Departments. The payment will not be provided for in an award, but is the result of an agreement between the South Australian Government and the Trades and Labour Council of South Australia.
Over award payments are made everywhere today, including in the plants of General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. Wages determined by the arbitration system do not truly reflect what industry is prepared to pay the workers, or what is the capacity of industry to pay. The arbitration system is falling down on the job and the workers are incensed that one section of industry should be awarded an increase instead of the industry being examined as a whole and increases granted to all workers in the industry. The management of General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. has said that it is prepared to meet the unions to discuss anomalies in the wages of foundry workers, but it is not prepared to discuss with the unions the question of wages generally in the industry. That is the basis of the dispute. General Motors is relying for its strength on the penalties provided for in the arbitration system. The company believes in arbitration but not rn conciliation.
Some Government supporters are proud of the fact that because of the penalty provisions of the Act, fines totalling £2,500 were imposed last week on the unions and today, I believe, further fines totalling £1,000 were imposed. It is hoped that by this means the unions will be broken. Of course you will break the unions. Of course if management sticks out it will make the workers submit, but it will never get back the contented unionists it had before the dispute occurred. It will never regain the production it had achieved and it will never restore the good relations that previously existed between employers and employees. Unionists are embittered because of the desire of one side to impose penalties to the detriment of the other side.
I do not appeal to the Government to decide who is right in the dispute, but to use its good offices to get the parties around the - conference table to discuss wages. Can we not arrange for a discussion on this matter? Has there been any approach by the Government? ls there any desire to settle this dispute? Or is it once again a case of determination to show the unions that the Government is going to abide by a system of arbitration that is heeded by no-one at present, not even by the State Liberal Governments. I appeal to the Government to employ its experienced officers of the Department of Labour and National Service in an attempt to settle this dispute. 1 do not ask anyone to accept what I say or what Senator Morris has said, but a lot of unexpected and surprising results are achieved from time to time at conferences attended by parties who wish to settle a dispute and to see justice done. A tolerant chairman who will permit a free discussion around the table can achieve wonderful results. We have seen it time and time again. As the dispute stands at present, the men in Victoria have decided to meet again next Monday, which means that another week will pass without income for the employees of General Motors. There will be another week without production of Holden cars for sale on a competitive market.
Senator Morris and I are able to present the points of view of both sides of the dispute. The Government’s neutral attitude will not achieve a solution to the problem. The Government should not be bound by hard and fast rules, nor should it say: “ Here is the arbitration machinery. Let us see how long it takes for this machinery to settle the dispute “. On many occasions the Government has made approaches to disputes and parties have backed down. I am not intending to suggest that General Motors should back down. I am saying that an effort should be made to get the parties to confer.
It was suggested to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) in another place that he should consider the appointment of a royal commission to examine the system of wage fixation in Australia to see whether it is adequate for our requirements and for the solution of problems it was intended to solve. I believe that the Minister stated that he was prepared to give the suggestion his consideration. I again appeal to the Government to approach the parties to the dispute, and not to adopt the attitude of saying: “ We are going to bludgeon the men back to work without giving them an opportunity to explain the justice behind their application “. lt is useless to say that the arbitration machinery has been established to determine the justice of applications for increased wages. As 1 have pointed out, the arbitration system today is not awarding the wages that industry is prepared to pay or that the economy can afford to pay.
.- We have had tonight a discussion that has been almost philosophical, hanging largely on one item in the Estimates - assistance to apprentices. There seems to be considerable difference of opinion as to what is the situation in the apprenticeship world. The first point I think I should make - indeed, Senator Benn made this point for me - is that apprenticeship training is primarily a matter for the States, except insofar as the Commonwealth is concerned in the Territories or in its own instrumentalities. Apprenticeship training is primarily in the field of State responsibility. Senator Cavanagh told us that the employers were not doing the job they should have done, and were not training people. Senator Ormonde told us that, in Sydney, it took three-quarters of an hour for apprentices in a procession to march past a given point. He had the impression that there were quite a number of apprentices but thought that they were largely apprentices in big firms such as Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., and Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. and such Government undertakings as the New South Wales Railways Department. Senator Murphy told us that big firms, particularly one of the number that Senator Ormonde mentioned, did not train apprentices, so there seems to be quite a considerable difference of opinion as to which firms do or do not train apprentices.
– One of the other firms he mentioned.
– The New South Wales Railways Department perhaps?
– No, one of the other firms.
– Whichever firm it was, I am not specifically interested in the argument between the two honorable senators. At least, there is a difference of opinion between them. Senator Ormonde mentioned one big firm that he said trained a lot of apprentices and Senator Murphy said that it did not. I will leave it to the honorable senators to argue with one another on the matter. The point is that under Division No. 330, which has given rise this discussion, and the appropriation for which is increased this year as Senator Benn pointed out to us, some action is being taken to assist the training of apprentices. The reason for the increase this year over last year in this portion of the estimates is, among other things, the payment of £3 a week to help and reimburse employers in relation to every apprentice they take on over and above their normal intake between the years J 958 to 1962. This intake has now reached the stage where there are some 500 apprentices for whom that sum of money is being paid each week as a subvention to the employers. This is something along similar lines, but not the same lines, to the suggestion made by Senator Ormonde that the Commonwealth Government should give a taxation concession to employers who take on apprentices in this way. A great number of the firms - I cannot tell the Committee how many - are small employers with, perhaps two, three or four apprentices working for them. Another reason for the increase in the expenditure in this provision relating to apprentices is the increased percentage in the living away from home allowance which is paid to apprentices attending special courses such as electrical and engineering courses. This living away from home allowance is paid to country apprentices who are engaged in another country area, not a city area. The payment is made in an endeavour to persuade apprentices to stay in the country while they receive their training. If they had to go to a city for their training they would be unlikely to return to the country. Their services are needed in the country.
I do not propose in this debate on the estimates of the Department of Labour and National Service to go into the general matters raised by Senator Cavanagh; nor do I intend to go into the general matters raised in regard to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court and the questions of whether it is acting properly and it is being approached properly. These matters were raised by Senator Murphy.
– I did not suggest that the Court was not acting properly.
– The honorable senator’s remarks indicated to me that he had great objections to the imposition of fines for contempt of court or alleged contempt of court.
– No, to the legislative system which leads to the fines.
– I understand that these fines are imposed by .the Court.
– I referred to the legislative system which leads to these fines.
– Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that these fines are imposed by the Court?
– Of course.
– The Court decides, before it imposes any fine, whether the person or persons on whom it imposes the fine are in contempt of it?
– Of course.
– The honorable senator objected to that. Therefore, I suggested that he did object to the action of the Court.
– No, the system, not the Court.
– The honorable senator objects to both? He objects to the system and he also objects to the Court?
– No, the legislative system.
– He thinks the legislative system is bad, but it is all right for the Court to impose the fine. Is that what 1 am led to believe?
– You know as well as 1 do that I would not criticise the Court here; nor would I be permitted to do so.
– I am afraid I do not know what you know. So, it is no good you saying that I know as well as you do. But if you tell me that you do not like the legislative system but that you do not object to the Court imposing the fines, I understand what you say. I do not propose to go into the matters on these estimates which have been discussed in general during the evening. I move -
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Post Discharge Re-Settlement Training, £1,000 - noted.
Department of Territories
Proposed expenditure, £827,000.
– I desire to speak on Division No. 480, sub-division 2, item 05, and relate my remarks to publicity. I assume that this item relates to publicity for the Department of Territories generally. I notice that, for the last financial year, a sum of £95,000 was appropriated for this purpose but only the amount of £69,138 was actually expended. Nevertheless, in this financial year, an amount of £80,000 is set aside for that purpose. I should like Senator Gorton, who represents the Minister for Territories in this chamber, to give the Committee some indication as to the type of publicity that is involved in connection with the administration of this Department.
I notice, dealing with Division No. 480, Administration, an increase of some 42 officers in this section of the Department. It seems to me rather strange that whilst last year a sum of £95,000 was set aside for publicity purposes and only £69,138 was actually expended, an amount of £80,000 is set aside for this purpose in this financial year.
I now wish to ask the Minister a question in relation to Division No. 484, item 01, Rent set aside for the Department of Civil Aviation. The appropriation last year was £2,000, of which only £1,105 was expended. The sum appropriated for this financial year is £2,000. Perhaps the Minister is able to explain the purpose of this item.
.- Senator McClelland referred to Division No. 483, item 02, in relation to the Department of Civil Aviation. The estimate this year is £4,600, whereas expenditure last year was £36,885. He asked the reason for the decrease. According to the information I am given, the item this year makes provision for the acquisition of land in Papua and New Guinea and in the Northern Territory. Provision is made for the expenditure of £220 on land for building and area development at Lae, £1,000 for Madang, £100 for Port Moresby, £3,135 for Madang again, and £200 for Alice Springs. That makes a total of £4,655. That appears to be more than the estimate, but 1 do not know the reason for that. Last year a large part of the £36,885 provided was expended on the acquisition of land for the extension of aerodromes in Papua and New Guinea. I think the short answer to the honorable senator’s question is that a lot of land was acquired for aerodromes last year, and that not so much will be required this year.
The honorable senator asked also about rents. Under this item, funds arc provided for rent payable in respect of land and buildings leased for use by the Department of Civil Aviation in Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea. An amount was provided last year in the expectation that the lease of premises in Darwin would be reviewed from 22nd May 1964. Negotiations and formalities regarding the renewal were not, however, completed before the end of the financial year and the funds provided were not therefore required, with the result that there was an under expenditure.
The honorable senator also asked about the sort of publicity that is undertaken by the Department. The objectives of the publicity are to try to create an awareness in Australia among the public of the tasks and interests that we have in the Territories, and, both in Australia and overseas, to try to give a balanced view of what is happening as a result of Government action and Government policy in the Territories. A film programme is in hand which will cost £20,000. There are films on the economic aspects of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and the Department is sharing the cost of the film on the recent elections there. Money is required for the production of a film to try to publicise the tourist attractions of the Northern Territory and to meet the cost of publicity for Northern Territory exhibits at annual shows in the capital cities of Australia. Another item is the cost of the “ Australian Territories Journal “, which is a bi-monthly publication to provide a medium for the expression of a comparative approach to problems in all of the Australian Territories. The journal seeks also to provide a medium for sustaining interest in the Territories and to inform the public of the work being done by various branches of the Australian Government.
Trade fair booklets are published and also statements of Government policy. Provision is made, too, for photographs and exhibitions. The appropriation also covers travelling allowances for people engaged in this work. That is the general type of publicity for which this money is required during the present financial year.
There is this year, as the honorable senator pointed out, a reduction of £15,000 on the amount appropriated last year, but the appropriation this year is £10,000 more than was expended last year. The increase above the expenditure last year is because money is required to meet the cost of some work which began in 1963-64 but which was not finished at the end of that financial year, and for which money will therefore be required this year in addition to the general run of expenditure.
– There is one other item to which I omitted to refer when I spoke previously. I refer to Division No. 480, subdivision 2, item 04. An amount of £15,000 is appropriated for special purpose visits to Australian Territories. Last year the amount appropriated under this item was £2,608. There has been a substantial increase in the amount appropriated this financial year over the actual amount expended last year. Perhaps the Minister could enlighten me and my colleagues on the reason for the increase.
.- The £15,000 will include £1,000 for a parliamentary delegation to Papua and New Guinea for the Anzac Day observance this year.
– There was a parliamentary delegation last year.
– I am giving information on how this £15,000 is to be spent. An amount of £12,000 is to provide for visits to Papua and New Guinea by United Nations representatives. As the honorable senator knows, selected persons visit the Territory from time to time, lt is proposed that eight such persons will visit the Territory in 1964-65. That is estimated to cost £12,000. There was the cost of the parliamentary delegation to Papua and New Guinea in June 1964 for the opening for the House of Assembly. Only part of the cost of that delegation was brought to account in the financial year 1963-64. The part that was not brought to account then comes into the present financial year and accounts for the other £2,000 of the £15,000. The amount of £1:5,000 is made up of £2,000 for the item to which I have just referred, £12,000 for the United Nations visit and £1,000 for the visit of the parliamentary delegation on Anzac Day.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditures - Christmas Island, £100; Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £63,500; Norfolk Island, £38,400- noted.
Proposed expenditure, £18,888,700.
– I wish to refer to an item in the report of the Auditor-General which relates to goldmining in the Northern Territory, and in particular to the operations of an ore milling battery at Tennant .Creek. During the year 1962-63 only 495 tons of : ore were crushed at a cost of £1 per ton. There were 106 ounces of gold returned. The net loss on milling operations was £13,717 and the net loss per ounce of gold returned was £129 8s. Id. Perhaps the Minister would ascertain from the departmental officers why these operations have suddenly become so uneconomic. In one year production has dropped from 4,119 tons to 495 tons. There has been a reduction in the production of gold from 963 ounces to 106 ounces. There has been an increase in the net loss per ounce of gold returned from £24 9s. lOd. to £129 8s. Id. It would appear that for some reason or other very poor quality ore has been milled through this battery at Tennant Creek. Reports from other areas of the Territory indicate that a substantial return is being obtained from those areas. Yet the activities of the Government in the Tennant Creek area are showing such poor returns. I would be most interested to know whether the Minister has any information that he could give concerning such poor returns.
I am particularly struck by the falling off in the activities of this Commonwealth instrumentality in the Northern Territory and the great loss that is accruing from’ the ordinary milling batteries. Cyanidatior ‘ has been in the past a relatively profitable activity, from the point of view of the national revenue and also from the point of view of a business undertaking of the Government in the Northern Territory. On the No. .1 tailings dump, which is referred to in the Auditor-General’s report, there has been an increase in the amount of tailings cyanided from 1,439 to .1,604 tons. There has been an increase in the production of gold from 206 ounces in 1961-62 to 390 ounces. The net loss per ounce of gold returned has been reduced . from £14,470 to £6,470, but there is still a net loss per ounce of gold returned of £16 Ils. 9d. From the net loss per ounce .of gold returned of £129 8s. Id. on the milling, the net loss per ounce of gold returned of £16 lis. 9d. on the cyanidation, and the net loss per ton of ore crushed at Mount Wells of £6 16s. 3d., it would appear that these activities require rather close examination by the Administration to see that the facilities that are being offered by the Administration arc being properly organised and properly used by people who are engaged in the small time mining operations there.
Obviously, these people are the smaller operators who are using these batteries and cyanidation processes. I think that a warning should be issued to them that, unless they are prepared to make better use of the facilities that are being provided for them at considerable expense, they run the risk of losing the facilities. It is hardly fair to expect such a large amount of money to be spent on providing these facilities when it is obvious from the small amount of ore that is being put through the various batteries that they are not being run to their best advantage. I would like an assurance from the Minister either that the Government is satisfied, or that it is taking action to see that the whole of this project is put on a sounder basis than the report of the Auditor-General indicates.
– We cannot put gold into the ore and we cannot prevail upon the people to mine the ore and bring it into the batteries. I think that the richness of the ore has declined, and also many of the people who, perhaps, previously made their full living from fossicking now make their living from something else and do not bring in as much gold as they did before. The Auditor-General’s report indicates that the future of the battery is under discussion.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Papua and New Guinea
Proposed Expenditure, £28,496,000.
.- I ask the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) - under Division No. 896, item 01, “ Grant to Administration towards expenses, £28,000,000” - whether any provision is made for money to be spent on work in connection with the Institute of Higher Technical Education and the establishment of a university in Papua and New Guinea that were proposed in the report of the Currie Commission on Higher Education in Papua and New Guinea?
– The answer is “ No “.
– It is remarkable, indeed, that when we look at the estimates for Papua and New Guinea for the whole of the coming year we find that no provision whatever is made to carry out any of the recommendations of one of the most important reports ever to be presented to this Government, certainly in connection with the development of Papua and New Guinea. I think that all honorable senators who have had the opportunity of reading this report will recognise in it a mature document directed to the long term needs of the people of Papua and New Guinea and one calling for a measure of initiative.
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, 20 October 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19641020_senate_25_s27/>.