25th Parliament · 1st Session
Iiic PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Will the Minister let me know what general effect the new J 5 per cent, charge placed on a large range of imports into the United Kingdom will have on Australian export industries? Will he also let me know precisely whether the new 15 per cent, charge will have any adverse effect on the export of lead being produced from the Broken Hill mines through the Port Pirie smelters in South Australia? Does the Minister consider that this activity of the new Labour Administration in the United Kingdom offends against either the terms or the spirit df the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to which both the United Kingdom and Australia are parties? Will the Government make every effort to present its views forcefully to the United Kingdom Government if it considers that any Australian export industries are disadvantaged by this sudden impost? ; Senator HENTY. - I do not think that, at this stage, any member of the Government could tell the honorable senator exactly what the measures mean. I do not think they have all been sorted out yet. The question is of such importance that I ask the honorable senator to put it on the notice paper in order to allow me to obtain an answer from the Minister for Trade and Industry when he is in a position to state the effects of these charges.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry: In view of the importance of such action in the eyes of the democratic world, will the Minister approach his Government to make sure that it heeds the plea of the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party which is asking this Government to give some wheat to India to help to relieve the present difficulties of the people of that country?
– I recall that two shipments of Australian wheat which were on their way to England were diverted to India. That is the last precise knowledge I have of the position. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice paper, I will ask the Minister for Trade and Industry to give him a fuller answer to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Would the Minister agree that the people most affected in any industrial strike or, in particular, in the strike at General MotorsHolden’s Pty. Ltd. at the moment, are the wives and families of the men out of work? As the unions concerned in the present strike think it a fair thing to give the same voting rights on the strike committee to any union which can claim to have even one or two of its members involved, as it does to a union which represents some 80 per cent, of the men forced to go out on strike against their will, has it ever been suggested to those unions that they should give equal representation to the wives of the strikers, from each union represented, so that the chief sufferers from the effects of strikes can be offered the chance to exercise their will in true democratic style? If not, why not? Is there one form of democracy for men and another for women? Will the Minister take the initiative immediately in this direction and endeavour to find out whether the majority of those on strike really want to continue the strike?
– If a breadwinner is adversely affected by a strike, then clearly those dependent on him will be adversely affected. I do not know of any occasion on which it has been suggested that the wives of people who are engaged in an industrial stoppage should be given an equal vote with the trade union members involved. I am afraid I do not know why any such suggestion has not been made. I do not think that either the Government or the Minister for Labour and National Service can answer for the way in which the trade unions believe that votes should be cast in these affairs. Perhaps the honorable senator could make the suggestion to those who ure in charge of trade unions and then see whether it is adopted.
– Is the Minister for Works aware that a minute has been issued by his Department to its regional officers stating that the amount of work authorised to date against bulk and specific maintenance is such that, when completed, it will result in the expenditure of all the available cash for the year, and that in these circumstances no further requisitions on the maintenance programme of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will be authorised unless the position changes? Have construction managers and regional officers of the Department in the Sydney metropolitan area been asked to make arrangements to dismiss before Christmas 137 tradesmen employed by the Department on a day labour basis? If so, why has the dismissal of tradesmen employed by the Department on a day labour basis been ordered while no restriction has been imposed on contract work?
– I have not the background to the question asked by Senator McClelland, but I shall certainly endeavour to obtain it. I should like to be a little clearer in my mind about what the honorable senator is asking. Did I understand him to say that the minute stated that maintenance work to be carried out by the Department of Works on behalf of all departments was so great that the money allocated had already been committed, or was he referring only to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department?
– I was referring to all maintenance work.
– For all departments?
– I shall get the answer for the honorable senator and read it out to him here in the Senate as soon as 1 get it. I doubt whether the position is as lt has been represented to the honorable senator and as he has represented it to me.
– I address the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: Did the last annual report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority show that the loss of man hours as a result of unauthorised stoppages on the part of waterside workers was equal to 1.6 per cent, of the man hours worked and that this was the third smallest annual loss on record, being only one half of the loss of the previous year? Does the report disclose that during the year delays in the performance of stevedoring operations due to the actions of the registered employers or to non-compliance by them with the Stevedoring Industry Act, with orders under the Act or with orders of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, were the highest recorded, with a total loss of 3,611 man hours? Does the report show an increase over the previous year of vessels attempting to work cargo with gear that does not conform to the Navigation (Safety Measures) Regulations? Does the report disclose that despite the action of employers in disregarding safety, and despite non-compliance with the law, 18 per cent, more cargo was handled than in the previous year, with an increase of only 11.7 per cent, in man hours worked? Will the Minister have inquiries made to ascertain whether some subversive influence is operating amongst the employers, resulting in lack of safety precautions for the waterside workers and in delaying the quick turn round of ships which is so essential for overseas trade?
– I understand the honorable senator to be asking me whether a report which has been issued publicly contains a number of statements. The report is no doubt in his possession, as it has been in everybody else’s possession. If it is not, I can give it to him. He then can see the matters which it covers and will be able to read about them in the words of the report itself.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that the people of Dubbo gave a warm welcome to the aircraft of Airlines of New South Wales Pty. Ltd. when it arrived from Canberra yesterday? Is it a fact that there was a civic reception? Is it correct to say that public opinion in Dubbo is such that if the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Renshaw, maintains his present attitude on airline services to Dubbo, the Labour Party holder of the seat in the New South Wales Parliament will lose his deposit at the next election?
– I know that there was a great deal of perturbation in Dubbo at the suggested loss of a service which has been operated very successfully by Airlines of New South Wales since 1946, to this important city of some 15,000 people. I know that the people were particularly perturbed that this service could cease. I understand - and now I rely on Press reports - that there was a reception given when the Fokker Friendship belonging to Airlines of New South Wales arrived in Dubbo.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On Thursday last I asked the Leader of the Government whether the Australian Government had made any approaches to the Government of China in respect of the recent nuclear explosion there and whether any representations had been made urging the Chinese Government to sign the nuclear test ban treaty. The Leader of the Government undertook to confer with the Acting Minister for External Affairs and obtain a reply for me. I ask whether either the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Acting Minister for External Affairs is in a position to answer the question.
– I am not yet in a position to make any statement.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that Australia has demonstrated its sincere desire for the establishment and the maintenance of peace by at all times being willing to pay its assessed contributions to the United Nations peacekeeping operations; by sending a contingent to join the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus; by being one of the first nations to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty; and by recognising our respon sibility to help solve the many problems of less developed nations? Does the Minister think it is in any way necessary, or that there is any sincerity on the part of Communist countries which do so, to organise and send delegates to a peace conference in a country which repeatedly demonstrates its desire for peace, which in no way performs acts of aggression against any other country, which is genuinely peace loving and which does not want peace only on its own terms?
– It is undoubtedly true that the Australian Government has by its actions in the United Nations done precisely what Senator Buttfield said it has done. It has paid its full assessments for all peacekeeping operations by the United Nations. It has supplied a police contingent and has recently extended its term, as a part of the peacekeeping force in Cyprus. Also, it was one of the initial signatories of the ban on the testing of atomic bombs. As far as the peace conference in Sydney is concerned, I do not myself believe that the organisers of this conference, the people who will be staffing it and the people who will be, I think, largely responsible for any resolutions it carries, are as interested in obtaining peace as in advancing Communist views. That is my own opinion. It applies to those organising and running the conference, not to all those who are attending it. On the whole, I would agree that as the conference is being held in a country which has taken the lead in international affairs in the way suggested by the honorable senator, nothing is likely to come out of the conference which will really advance the cause of peace in any way.
(Question No. 246.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 275.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answers -
(Question No. 297.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for
Trade and Industry has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 306.)
Senator MURPHY (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In which departments during 1964 has the Public Service Board ascertained that inefficiency ora lack of economy existed to a degree warranting the attention of the Board?
in each instance, what were the circumstances, and what has been done to rectify the situation?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions -
There has been no instance in 1964 in which the Board has had to take extraordinary measures to correct inefficiency or lack of economy in a department. In an organisation as large as the Service, work methods and forms of organisation do not, of course, remain static and considerable effort is directed, in a continuing way and by a variety of means, to maintaining the efficiency of the Service at a satisfactory level.
Appendices 2 and 3 attached to the Public Service Board’s annual report for 1963-64 contain many examples of review and developmental work undertaken by Board and Departmental Organisation and Method, Work Study and other Sections; the full time of officers of these Sections is spent in improving organisation, procedures and systems, including the use of modern mechanical and electronic equipment. In addition, special training courses conducted by the Board and departments, detailed in Appendix 6 of the Board’s report, constitute an important means of improving levels of efficiency, of preparing officers for new fields of work such as automatic data processing and of disseminating within the Service knowledge of new practices and management techniques
(Question No. 308.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following reply -
I invite the honorable senator’s attention to the section of the Prime Minister’s statement of 15th September in which he briefly referred to developments in the Navy over recent years, and concluded - “ I need not elaborate these matters . . The mere statement of them should be sufficient to show that we have a good Navy and that we ought not to underestimate its quality and performance”. (House of Representatives Parliamentary Debates, 15th September 1964, pages 1073-1080.)
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1964.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Henty) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9 being put in one motion, at each stage, and the consideration of all or several of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bills (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bills be now read a second time.
These Bills are designed to implement the proposal announced in the Budget speech that the rate of sales tax on motor cars shall be increased from 221/2 per cent, to 25 per cent, on and from the 12th August which is the day following that on which the Budget Speech was delivered. The higher rate applies to all those types of motor vehicles for the transport of persons which were previously taxed at the rate of 221/2 per cent. The Bills have no other purpose. The rate of tax on commercial motor vehicles, and on parts for motor vehicles, remains unchanged at121/2 per cent. The increase in the tax on motor cars is one of the steps taken to raise the additional revenue required in order that the Commonwealth may be in a position to meet its obligations as outlined in the Budget speech. It is estimated that this increase will produce additional revenue of approximately £6.25 million in a full year, or £5 million for 1964-65. I commend the Bills to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 22nd October (vide page 1242).
Department of Supply
Proposed expenditure £33,044,000.
.- 1 refer to Division No. 773- Defence Research and Development Laboratories - and in particular to sub-division 2, item 06, in relation to developmental and technical services. Under this heading I wish to deal with the type of ammunition that is being supplied by the Department of Supply to the Department of the Army. Honorable senators will recall that as recently as 16th September, after I had placed on the notice paper a question about the ammunition that had been supplied by the Department of Supply to the Department of the Army, a reply was given to me stating that in the last 18 months ammunition to a total value of £4,598,576 had been supplied by the Department of Supply to the Department of the Army, and that of that amount ammunition to the value of £557,626 was considered to be faulty.
It is serious from a public point of view that, of ammunition to a value of roughly £44 million, 124 per cent, should be regarded as faulty or not fit for issue to the Department of the Army.
– Could I interrupt the honorable senator to ask him which item he is referring to? He may be dealing with the wrong item.
– If I am dealing with the wrong item, I ask the Minister to correct me. I am referring to Defence Research and Development Laboratories, which come under Division No. 773, and I am relating my remarks to sub-division 2, item 06, which concerns developmental and technical services. I am using that item as a basis for my remarks because I understand that a sub-committee has been set up by the Department of Supply, in conjunction with the Department of the Army, to discuss this matter. I would assume that the vole for that sub-committee would come under this heading of the estimates. If I am wrong I hope that the Minister will correct me.
– The amount involved ls not £115,000, which is the amount provided under the item mentioned by the honorable sentor.
– I am not suggesting that that is the amount involved, but an inquiry was conducted into faulty ammunition provided by the Department of Supply for the Department of the Army.
I raised this matter in the early -part of this year, and on 5th May Senator Henty, representing the Minister for the Army, informed me that defects had occurred in respect of 105 mm. gun ammunition and 4.2-in. mortar bombs which required further investigation or examination. The Minister went on to say that a quantity of 105 mm. gun ammunition manufactured lo specification - I emphasise those words - produced a premature explosion at proof firing. He went on to say further that until the cause of the premature explosion had been established it was not possible to say how many of the stores would have to be rejected or reprocessed. He said that in the meantime the 105 mm. gun ammunition had been marked by the Army as not fit for issue, and that, although similar difficulties had not been experienced with 5.5-in. and 3.7-in. shells, because these shells were filled with the same type of explosive material as used in the 105 mm. gun ammunition, they also had been marked “ Not. for issue “, as a precautionary measure, pending the investigations that were to proceed as a result of complaints. The Minister then referred to 4.2-in. mortar bombs and said that the rejection of some of these bombs might also be necessary, if all risk was to be avoided.
In his reply on 5th May to a question I had placed on the notice paper, the Minister also said -
Due lo concessions given at the time of production or subsequent up-grading of specific.-ilion, further investigations are necessary to establish acceptability of these stores.
In the first instance the Minister had said that the 105 mm. gun ammunition had been manufactured according to specification but that it produced a premature explosion at proof firing. Later in his answer he said that concessions were given at the time of production or subsequent up-grading of specification.
This is a very important matter involving the expenditure of public funds. When Parliament resumed for the Budget sessional period, I placed another question on the notice paper, this time directed to Senator Henty, the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. As the subject matter relates to the Department of Supply, I take the opportunity to raise it now. I asked the Minister whether intensive investigations into faulty ammunition, referred to by him, had yet been completed arid, if so, what were the results. On 16th September 1964 the Minister informed me -
The Department of the Army and the Department of Supply conducted an intensive research programme into all related factors following a joint scientific technical mission which visited ammunition production centres in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. As the result of these efforts and the modification of specifications, the item in question, i.e., 105 mm. gun ammunition, has been cleared for continued production.
That answer was given on 16th September, after inquiries had been conducted overseas and after modification of the specifications.
– Where was the ammunition made?
– That is one of the things about which I shall ask questions. This is an important matter. In his reply of 16th September the Minister referred to 105 mm. gun ammunition but completely ignored 5.5 in. and 3.7 in. shells, as he also ignored 4.2 in. mortar bombs. On the same day, Senator Henty, again representing the Minister for the Army, replied to another question that I had asked. He said - . . the Military Board is satisfied that the Department of Supply factory and inspection processes are in no way responsible for the premature explosions which occurred in the 105 mm. gun ammunition.
If the ammunition was not made by the Department of Supply, by whom was it made? I am seeking information from the Minister as to who is considered by the Department of Supply to be responsible. It is a serious matter that of expenditure of £4,500,000 by the Army on the purchase of ammunition, nearly £600,000 - or almost 12J- per cent. - was spent on ammunition which was considered to be faulty and had to be marked “Not for Issue”.
– Where did the honorable senator obtain those figures?
– I obtained the figures on 16th September last when I asked the Minister -
What was the total value of all types of ammunition delivered by the Department of Supply to the Department of the Army in the period January 1963 to June 1964?
The answer was that the total value of the ammunition delivered was £4,598,576, and that the value of ammunition marked “ Not for issue “ was £557,626. That is to say, 12+ per cent, of the ammunition was regarded by the Army experts as being faulty and not for issue. Should a time of emergency suddenly arise for this country, such a matter would be very serious, as the lives of Australian servicemen and other personnel could be involved. The question that I pose is: If, in the opinion of the Military Board, the factories of the Department of Supply are in no way responsible for this type of ammunition, then who is really responsible? Was this ammunition produced by private manufacturers who, in the first instance, were given concessions and were the specifications subsequently upgraded? Was the ammunition produced in a factory of the Department of Supply or was it damaged at the time of receipt by the Department of the Army which caused it to be considered to be unsuitable for use by Australian military personnel?
– Senator McClelland, in the first place, explained that his remarks would be related to Division No. 773, sub-division 2, item 06, Development and technical services. That item has no relation to the matter that he discussed. I wish to clear that point up.
– I used that for the purposes of procedure.
– Very well. Item 06 relates to the increases necessary to accommodate higher charges of workshop services provided in the weapons research establishments following a review of costs and to permit the placement of a contract for investigation of aircraft fatigue problems. I realise that Senator McClelland was using this item in order to raise the matter that he wished to discuss but I emphasised that the subject has no relation to that item.
Perhaps lt could be considered more properly under Division No. 765. However, 1 have some information on the subject for the honorable senator. He quoted fairly extensively from “ Hansard “. I am inclined to suggest that he mixed up some of the answers which he obtained from “ Hansard “. I want to make the point that to my knowledge, and from the information supplied to me, all the ammunition came from the factories of the Department of Supply. There is no suggestion that it was coming from other sources.
In discussing this subject we are entering into a very technical field. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) has made a detailed statement in another place in regard to the matter of ammunition supplied to the Army by his Department. I ask the Committee ro note the words “ supplied to the Army by his Department “. I believe the Department of Supply has produced ammunition which has met the specifications set by the Army. All ammunition produced is subject to tests; and tests proved that three premature explosions occurred with one type of gun ammunition. Most intensive investigations took place in an endeavour to isolate the cause. Premature explosions in this field are not uncommon. Those of us who have any association with these matters know that that does happen. The Army and the Department of Supply sent a team of explosives experts abroad to consult with authorities in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United Stales of America on every aspect of the production of this ammunition. No single cause of premature explosions was discovered. The Department of Supply is now producing ammunition to a new Army specification which has upgraded the manufacture of the shell and its explosive filling. The Department is confident that no further trouble will occur in ammunition with this upgraded specification.
Some reference has been made to shells marked “ Not for Issue “. Such shells are not necessarily defective - I emphasise the word “ necessarily “ - but are set aside if there is any suspicion that an undisclosed fault could exist. I think everybody will agree that that is a fairly wise precaution to take and that it is normal precedure with any line testing. For example, where a series of shells use a common explosive which is not cleared as a possible cause of premature explosion in one shell, all the shells with that explosive will be marked “ Not for Issue “ pending completion of investigations. This is an obvious safety precaution for the benefit of men using the ammunition.
I am informed that the 105 mm. shell, which was made by the Department of Supply, has been cleared for production, that there have been no premature explosions with the 4.2-in. mortar bombs, and that no defectives have been found in the 5.5-in. and 3.7-in. shells. Whilst no defectives have been found, they have been marked “ Not for Issue “ pending clearance of the explosives. Of course, we are dealing with a highly technical problem, and quite clearly I cannot add anything to the information that has been supplied to me. I draw attention to the fact that in another place on 14th October the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), in answer to a question which was addressed to him by Mr. Haworth, made quite an extensive statement about gun ammunition. I do not want to read the answer now. It may be found at page 1887 of the “ Hansard “ report for the House of Representatives.
.- The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), for whom I have a great affection, seems to be in some trouble in dealing with a technical matter. He has been asked a question which relates to the safety and wellbeing of the field forces of the Australian Army. This matter is vital, because no soldier can be confident of his weapon if he is not sure that the ammunition he is using will do the right thing at the right time in the right place. Perhaps the Minister, in deference to honorable senators, could give us an epitome of the answer that was given in another place by the Minister for Supply.
– I refer to Division No. 763, subdivision 2, item 07, Advertising. I would like to know who does the advertising. Does the Commonwealth Government have ils own advertising department? Who allocates the advertising and what is its purpose? ls it advertising for employees or is it part of the recruiting campaign? I am still referring to the estimates for the Department of Supply under Defence Services. The previous matter I raised referred to a different division of the estimates for the Department. It also dealt with advertising under the recruiting campaign. That is why I thought there was a connection between the two items.
. « - In answer to Senator Ormonde, the item refers to advertising in connection with contracts and staff vacancies. It is the normal routine of departmental advertising procedure. In relation to the point raised by Senator Cormack, on 14th October the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) said -
I am afraid that a rundown on ammunition production would go well beyond the confines of question time, but I might be permitted to say that when you start to put together the most Intricate mechanical, chemical and electronic processes to make a projectile which is intended to be at once completely . . .
– Order! The Minister should refer only to the relevant page number of “ Hansard “. He is out of order in quoting the “ Hansard “ report of current debates in another place.
– I think I have already summarised the points raised by Senator Cormack.
.- Perhaps if the Minister is agreeable, it might be better if this item were postponed until a later hour of the day. That would give the Minister time to discover technical information that would satisfy the Committee. I have been disturbed, as I am sure other honorable senators have been, by the references to the categories of ammunition which are proving defective. I have no doubt (hat the trouble has been rectified by now, but I think that honour should be satisfied, as it were. I hope that the Minister will agree to postponement of consideration of this item.
.- I have listened to the information which Senator McClelland gave to the Committee. I think it would do less than credit to the Committee if any honorable senator were not anxious to see that the Minister was given an opportunity to provide a factual and detailed statement to relieve the anxiety that is felt about this matter. That is necessary, not only because of the weighty considerations mentioned by Senator Cormack, but also because anything to the contrary might undermine the confidence of our armed forces in the efficiency of the ammunition with which they are provided. The cost involved in any wasteful production of munitions must also be considered.
When a disclosure of this kind is made during discussions of departmental estimates, I would expect honorable senators to take the opportunity to pursue it further. The point that really concerns me is that about 12 per cent, of the ammunition was marked “ Not for Issue “. Even though defects have not been established in all of the ammunition, they have been established on some of it, so the Department apparently has decided that all of a batch should be put aside.
If the Minister had the substance of what was said in another place by the Minister for Supply and if that was sufficient to answer our questions, we might be satisfied. But I am in an anxious mood at this time and I support the suggestion that Senator Cormack has made, which would provide the Minister with the opportunity to make a statement on the matter later today if he thought fit.
– I do not accept the proposition that has been advanced. This matter has been given an emphasis which it does not deserve. I say that deliberately. Certain ammunition has been marked “ Not for Issue “, but this is the normal procedure in any undertaking in which safety precautions must be taken. Certain ammunition has been put to one side and marked “ Not for Issue “, but that is no cause for-
– Did not the Minister say that aa inquiry was pursued as far afield as Europe for the purpose of detecting the reason for the defects?
– There is a death bed anxiety about something which had been the subject of repeated questions in this place but had never caused a ripple. Now that Senator McClelland has raised the matter again, it becomes one of great national importance. The Minister in another place has given adequate replies to the questions that have been raised. Far from deferring this item, I suggest that some honorable senators should defer their criticisms and read what the Minister has said.
– If the Minister is addressing himself to me, we shall see what way we go.
– I am addressing myself to the honorable senator.
– The Minister will treat senators with due respect.
– I treat the honorable senator with respect, but I do not think he is treating the Minister and the Department with respect in his criticism. To suggest that there is some great degree of inefficiency or some great deficiency at that establishment is not fair either to the Australian workmen who are employed there or to the Department. I am not prepared to put to the Committee a proposition for deferment.
– Quite frankly, I am not satisfied with the Ministers reply. He referred the Senate to Page 1887 of “Hansard” of 14th October on which appears a reply given by the Minister for Supply in another place to a question that had been asked of him. The Minister told us that the Minister for Supply had said that a reply of the kind sought would have gone well beyond the limits of question time. Yet this matter is the subject of controversy and has been the subject of questions in the Parliament. Now when the estimates for the Department of Supply are under discussion and consideration by the Parliament, I suggest, is the very time for this matter to be raised. The Minister said that undue emphasis had been given to it, but so far as the Australian people are concerned and so far as Army personnel are concerned, there is obviously some grave deficiency somewhere. If this ammunition is manufactured by the Department of Supply, surely the deficiency must be in the Department of Supply itself. The Minister for the Army has admitted that a confidential report was made by the Director of Ordnance Services on ammunition supplied to and in production for the Department of the Army. Whilst the Minister for the Army stated that the Military Board did not agree with the confidential report that had been submitted, nevertheless concern must have been expressed by a senior military officer for such a report to have been made.
Of a total amount of £4,598,576 worth of ammunition delivered by the Department of Supply to the Department of the Army, £557,626 worth was defective, lt was necessary for the Department of Supply and the Department of the Army to join forces in an intensive research programme, following a joint scientific technical mission which visited ammunition production centres in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. This matter, therefore, was obviously not regarded lightly by either the Department of Supply or the Department of the Army. Quite frankly, I sympathise with the Minister, because he is not in charge of this Department and one cannot expect him to have expert knowledge immediately available at his fingertips, but 1 feel that the Senate and the people of Australia are entitled to a full explanation by the Department. Therefore, I move -
That consideration of Division No. 765 be postponed.
– I indicate to the Committee that 105 mm. ammunition is now being accepted by the Army and, therefore is being used by that Army, and any defects in the production of it have been solved. Perhaps with some heat, which was out of character for me, I tried to make the point that in the production and handling of ammunition there is great need to make tests in order to eliminate any doubt as to its condition. When some element of doubt exists, the ammunition has to be stood aside for proof testing or proof firing. I again say that all the difficulties that existed in this field have been overcome. The situation has been rectified. For that reason, I suggest there is no justification for postponing the consideration of the Division. The information that is available in the Committee is to the point that any problems that may have occurred during the period under review have been resolved. Many of us on both sides who have been associated with the handling of ammunition know that it is a highly technical matter. I do not feel that I shall be competent, at short notice in consideration of these estimates, to give any further information than that which I have been able to give up to the present.
.- Mr. Chairman–
– Does the honorable senator propose to speak to the motion for the postponement of the consideration of the Division?
– Yes. I am glad to hear the Minister say that, in this discussion, he is generating any heat which, on the part of either of us, especially when discussing explosives, would be most inappropriate. Speaking for myself, I admit a soft impeachment that suggests lack of attention if one has not assimilated the significance of and co-ordinated a series of questions that Senator McClelland has been persistent enough to ask over some months. I myself disclaim capacity to take such an interest In this matter. That being so, I look forward to the examination of the estimates of various departments in the hope that individual senators can produce for our collective consideration matters of this kind which, I think, are of concern. Since the debate began I have had the opportunity to read the report of the statement of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) on a previous occasion. He said, in effect, that defects appeared in ammunition and, therefore, certain ammunition was red carded. Senator Mcclelland^ statement that the defective ammunition was 12± per cent, of the total supply was not denied in the Minister’s statement, but we have no confirmation. The Minister for Supply, after referring to the fact that an expert committee on the subject went abroad and had the best advice from ammunition production experts in the United Kingdom, Canada and America, went on to say that apart from causing some concern among ammunition producers there, the results of that inquiry did not isolate the cause of our difficulty. The Minister went on to say that the entire batch would be red carded “ under suspicion “ until the cause of our difficulty had been isolated. He felt unable to give the Parliament any assurance that the matter had been solved. The best he could say was - 1 expect most of the difficulties to be cleared up shortly.
– When was that statement made?
– It was made on 14t.h October 1964. For those reasons, I should have thought that the appropriate course was to say to a departmental officer: “ Can you get me a two foolscap page factual explanation of this by 8 o’clock tonight? “ No-one could suggest that postponement of consideration of the Division for that purpose would be out of place. On the information that the Minister can get by that time, nobody will suggest incompetence on the part of experts, lt will allow a basis for legitimate consideration. Nobody should resent Senator Cormack’s suggestion or Senator McCIelland’s motion that consideration of the Division be postponed to enable officers who are so good as to come here pursuant to their duty and who are in attendance - I should have thought for that very purpose - to prepare a statement for our consideration on such an important matter. I suggest that they should have whatever time they require - one hour, five hours, or even till tomorrow afternoon.
– It would not distress me to defer the matter to a later hour in the day but I am not clear what the deferment motion means. Does it mean that the item mentioned by Senator McClelland should be deferred? If it is intended that this item be deferred while the Committee deals with other items, that might suit the situation but it will not give much time for officers to obtain the information that is sought by Senator Wright. It might be better if the Committee deferred the whole of the estimates for the Department of Supply while we deal with other estimates. I do not mind but with great respect I point out that already much of the information which would be obtained has been brought out in the course of the debate.
– Was it your intention, Senator McClelland, that the whole of these items be deferred?
– Might I suggest that Division No. 765 be postponed so that the Committee can deal with other items? The intention of the Committee was to defer consideration of this division so that we could get a factual explanation later today or tomorrow.
– I agree.
– That is acceptable to me. I merely wanted to allow other honorable senators to proceed with other items.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- When the debate was adjourned on Thursday, I was speaking to Division No. 777 - “ Central Transport and Storage Authority - Furniture Removals and Storage, £750,000 “. I had twice sought some information, admittedly at short notice, but now that officers of the Department of Supply have had an opportunity to make inquiries, perhaps I could be informed of the maximum and the minimum amounts of expenditure that are incurred for furniture removal so that we can see what individual expenditure is incurred and the range of it in respect of the removal of officers.
I do not wish to detain the Committee unduly but I remind honorable senators that it was suggested that I should be satisfied with the knowledge that wc had the Joint Committee of Public Accounts to go into matters of this sort. Through the consideration of my colleague, Senator Kendall, within a half an hour of that reference, I had put into my hands the Sixty-Eighth report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. I want to quote from this report because I want the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) to carry away with him an abiding impression that this sort of thing means passing the buck and causes great anxiety to those of us who assume the role of defenders of the Treasury and seek information on the expenditure of public money. In its report which was presented to the Senate last Thursday, the Public Accounts Committee stated -
This chapter relates to certain general observations that your Committee desire to make in respect of the evidence submitted by Departments in connection wilh this inquiry.
The initial examination of the explanatory statements submitted by Departments showed that in many cases the explanations were unsatisfactory. The statements submitted by some Departments appeared to display a lack of appreciation of the Committee’s requirements and a disinterest on the part of the Departments concerned. Generally, the documents showed a lack of uniformity in the presentation of figures and explanations. In many cases, the statements failed to disclose separately the amounts provided under the first and second Appropriations and the- amount provided from the Advance to the Treasurer.
I have quoted sufficient to show that the Public Accounts Committee has reported that to us. We will stamp the Public Accounts Committee with futility unless we show some concern at a statement indicating that departments, in the preparation of information, have shown a lack of interest in and a lack of appreciation of the Committee’s requirements. It is the generality of the item in the Estimates that should cause concern among honorable senators as to the interest that is taken in seeing that the Parliament gets adequate information on expenditure and satisfactory explanations of it. Therefore, I express again my concern that I should have factual information on the items upon which we propose to spend £750,000 under Division No. 777.
– Last Thursday I pointed out that the proposed expenditure under Division No. 777 related to all departments other than commercial undertakings. We had a fairly vigorous debate on this matter, and I am not in a position at this point of time to add much to the information I gave then. However, I want to repeat the assurance I gave previously in relation to other estimates. It is this: When an answer to a question relating to the Estimates is not forthcoming immediately, the obligation is on a Minister and his officers to see that honorable senators get replies to their questions. I have not the information now about the maximum and minimum amounts involved in expenditure of this proposed vote of £750,000. The Department of the Treasury directed the consolidation of all removal expenses into a single vote and the Department of the Treasury has endorsed the proposed vote of £750,000 as being iri line with the total expenditure previously voted through the various departments. The Department of Supply records the expenditure incurred on behalf of these departments and conveys this information back to the Treasury. That is the only information I have available to me at the moment. This amount represents a consolidation of the expenditure of the various other departments and the Treasury is fully appraised concerning this line in the Estimates. I am not in a position to give any further information now.
.- I interpret the statement of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) to be an indication that the Minister will give a direction to the departmental officers to prepare a factual statement and send the information sought by honorable senators to them by correspondence after the debate on the Estimates closes. If I am correct in that
Interpretation, I am quite prepared to accept it in this instance. I only add that I hope the Minister is alive to the possibility Df a loop-hole in an item such as that under discussion where the Department of Supply is paying for what it calls “ client departments “. lt is all on the lines of the same elusive abuse that you get in a group of company organisations as between bead office and subsidiaries. In such cases, if they arc not dealing at arm’s length with each other there are all sort of influences promoting unreality in the type of expenditure.
Wc have had recently a report on a group of organisations, the head figure of which came from Melbourne. That is an illustration of the unreality that can exist in figures as between various departments of a Government or the various subsidiaries of one group organisation. I only add that I hope it is understood that there is a sound business reason why honorable senators are concerned about this sort of accounting.
Proposed expenditure, with the exception of Division No. 765 - Government Factories - Maintenance of Production Capacity, £1,700,000, noted.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, £17,616,000.
.- 1 refer to Division No. 380, sub-division 4, item 02, “Tobacco research (for payment to the credit of the Tobacco Industry Trust Account), £130,000”. What I am about to say has some bearing also on item 09, which relates to payments to the States for the administration of re-establishment loans to the tobacco industry and to investigation and review committees. I remind the Committee that I raised the matter 1 am about to discuss during the consideration of the estimates of the Department of Health, but at the request of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) I deferred my remarks until the debate on the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. The Minister advised me to follow that course because the matter comes more appropriately under the items to which 1 have just referred.
Might I digress for a moment by referring to the 1963-64 annual report of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, which I have just received. It shows that during the past year 16,000,000 lb. of tobacco was produced, an increase of 12 per cent, on the production for the previous year. This is quite a large increase. Unfortunately, although there has been this increase in the quantity of tobacco produced, there has not been a commensurate increase in the incomes of those engaged in the industry. At the recent tobacco sales in north Queensland 654 tons of leaf, out of a total of 7,406 tons offered, remained unsold, not having attracted any bids. The unsold portion represented 8.8 per cent, of the total offerings. In the previous year, 3.5 per cent, of the total offerings remained unsold. The problem is that, although we are growing more tobacco, unfortunately the people engaged in the industry are not able to sell the whole of their production. That is not the fault of this Government. I make that point most emphatically. I recall that in about 1949 the percentage of Australian leaf which had to be included in tobacco manufactured in Australia was very low. I think it was about 10 per cent., or slightly less than that. The present Government has increased the percentage year by year, and today it is much higher. I cannot give the exact figure, but it is more than 40 per cent.
– It is 41.5 per cent.
– That represents a tremendous improvement and is of tremendous encouragement to the tobacco growers. However, the problem of unsold leaf is greater this year than in previous years.
I wish now to discuss the matter that I raised when the Committee was discussing the estimates for the Department of Health. I pointed out that Sir Ernest Marsden, a well known scientist, had devoted a lot of time to studying the problem of cancer, particularly the relation of tobacco smoking to lung cancer; that as a result of his research, and the research of a number of other people overseas, it had been discovered that certain properties in tobacco were responsible for the disease; and that when Sir Ernest Marsden returned from overseas he said that we could easily reduce the incidence of lung cancer by onethird, because it was known that certain tobaccos, to a greater degree than others, were responsible for this disease. The Minister, in reply, told me that certain tobaccos were much more harmful than others. The effects depend upon certain factors, namely the variety of the plant, the locality in which it is grown, the soil conditions in the particular locality, the mode of harvesting, the time of harvesting - I assume that means the age of the plant at the time of harvesting - the particular process of curing that is employed, and the method of ageing that is employed.
I think that this matter is pertinent to item 02, in sub-division 4 of Division No. 380, which has to do with tobacco research. There is probably no more important field of research than the field to which I am referring now in somewhat general terms. We know that there has been a great deal of propaganda and discussion about the dangerous effects of tobacco smoking. Great efforts have been made to induce people to reduce the quantity of tobacco that they use, but without much avail. The character of people, not only in Australia but also elsewhere, is such that, irrespective of the dangers involved, they persist in the use of tobacco. I suppose that those of us who have been smoking for a long time are not innocent in this regard.
– Senator Dittmer and I gave up smoking.
– Congratulations. Perhaps there are very few men as strong minded. 1 believe that there is no field of research which is more vital, and which is covered by this general vote, than research to establish even further the seven factors 1 have detailed. It might be possible (through research to produce an Australian tobacco which could earn world renown as a tobacco free, or almost free, of these injurious substances. Should the Department of Primary Industry through tobacco research achieve this result of a tobacco reasonably free from damaging substances, we would not have the situation I referred to earlier, where 8.8 per cent, of the tobacco offered for sale remained unsold at a time when the prices obtained for tobacco were lower than they had been in the past four years.
I commend this thought to the Minister and to the Department of Primary Industry. 1 appreciate that Senator Anderson represents the Minister for Primary Industry who is in another place. I offer the strong recommendation that, in the light of comments made by Sir Ernest Marsden, our research in this field should be directed toward dis covering how to eliminate the injurious properties of tobacco. By this means we could help considerably an industry which is worth many millions of pounds to Australia and, in particular, is of great value to Queensland.
.- I refer to Division No. 380 - Administrative - and to the item therein relating to financial assistance to the States in connection with the War Service Land Settlement Scheme. In 1963-64 the appropriation for this item was £967,000 and the expenditure was £710,972. The appropriation for 1964-65 is £771,000. Financial assistance to the States is a burning question in Tasmania where quite a number of settlers, after periods of from 12 to 15 years on their properties, are still uncertain whether they have any definite equity in them. At every level of administration of the War Service Land Settlement Scheme - from the State Premiers who discuss this matter at their annual meetings with the Prime Minister, to the departmental officers - there is an atmosphere of uncertainty and insecurity. I believe that more positive efforts should be made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to bring together all the people associated with the scheme so that final conclusions may be reached on the method to be adopted to grapple with the problem.
In Tasmania the writing down of the ultimate value of the properties is intended to be in the ratio of three fifths to be paid by the Commonwealth, and two fifths to be paid by the agent States. As a result the Tasmanian Government will have to find about £4 million. It wants to see the settlers obtain the title deeds and have the responsibility for their properties handed over to them, but Tasmania’s finances would be very seriously upset by the necessity to provide £4 million towards the settlement of the war service land settlement accounts. In Commonwealth finances £4 million is not a great amount, but if the Tasmanian Government has to find this amount, it could considerably affect expenditure in other fields. I refer particularly to other developmental projects that are very badly needed in. Tasmania. In the thirty-first report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission it is stated thai this matter was again discussed at tha
Canberra hearings this year. The report stales -
The Commonwealth Treasury stated that no satisfactory arrangement had yet been made between the Commonwealth and the claimant States for the proper treatment of losses in the claimant States. It stated that the amounts involved would not become of great significance until 1965-66 and, consequently, it would not be necessary to settle the issue this year. In these circumstances, the Commonwealth Treasury preferred to reserve its recommndations on this matter but contemplated including some more definite proposal in the submission to be made next year.
Accordingly, the situation remains as it was. The Commission has, for the purpose of calculating the special grants, allowed these capital losses to be charged to Consolidated Revenue Fund in the claimant States during 1962-63. The amounts involved in 1962-63 were- Western Australia £50,000 and Tasmania £100,000.
The uncertainty that exists at the level of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is reflected in consultations between the State Premiers and the Prime Minister at Premiers’ Conferences. It is related to the final objectives of the War Service Land Settlement Scheme which should fulfil the obligations of the Commonwealth to assist exservice men who, because of their war service and for other considerations, ought to be able to obtain land from which they and their families may gain a reasonable income and a reasonably secure standard of living.
Wherever I go amongst war service settlers in Tasmania I find a strong feeling pf frustration. They feel that despite their assiduous efforts - and they are now getting on in years - they are insecure. At their ages they have no alternative to a life of farming. They are suffering from the overall effects of hard work and the pressure of the terms and conditions of their obligations to the war service land settlement authorities. In addition, there is still an aura of uncertainty surrounding the ownership of their properties. In different areas of Tasmania I have met settlers who have reached the stage where they would quite willingly walk off their places in order to be rid of this uncertainty. It is not good enough that there should be so much passing the buck between the various levels of authority - from the Commonwealth Government and State Governments, and the Departmental administration in the States, all the way down to the settlers.
Recently a committee was set up in Tasmania to examine matters pertaining to the whole of the War Service Land Settlement Scheme. The committee was directed to have a look at direct farm operating costs on an annual basis, consider total farm incomes, make a conprehensive survey of finance for personal expenditure, obtain information on the rate of depreciation of capital items, and make suggestions on the basis of charges that a settler could be expected to meet in the period covered by the inquiry. Although the committee has made its investigation and submitted its report, there have been absolutely no signs from any direction that the document has even reached the Minister for Primary Industry, whether he intends to act on it, or whether he will table it in the Parliament in order to let honorable members and honorable senators consider it. All the way along the line this uncertainty persists.
– That is the tabling of the report in the Parliament of Tasmania?
– The committee was set up to consider all the matters which I have mentioned. The committee was appointed by the Tasmanian Government for the purposes of preparing a report for submission to the Minister for Primary Industry so that he could get down to tin tacks and find out how the Commonwealth Government could assist the States to solve this problem.
– When did the committee submit its report to the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture?
– I understand that the report was submitted to the Tasmanian Minister a number of months ago. He in turn submitted it to the Minister for Primary Industry some months ago.
– I thought it was submilted many months ago, too.
– I had a telegram a few days ago from a man who takes a close interest in this matter. He asked me whether I could obtain a copy of the report or use my offices here in the Senate to ascertain when the findings of the committee would be made known. When the Commonwealth Grants Commission speaks of deferring a matter for another year, it can do so objectively, because it is not involved in day to day, week to week or year to year responsibilities as are farmers. The Commission, unlike farmers, does not have the problem of meeting dates, does not work out of doors in all weathers, and does not have to contend with the never ending problem of regrowth of rushes, and the like. Farmers have high costs to meet for the various items that are used on their properties, such as superphosphate, and have to provide for repayment for stock, plant and equipment. The circumstances demand that more urgency be shown by those who are in the position to make a final decision on these matters. The personal welfare of the farmers themselves should always be in the forefront of the minds of those who are associated with the war service land settlement scheme.
Various modifications have been made over the years with regard to concessions. The idea of providing concessions is an excellent one, and extends to the agistment of stock while land is being redeveloped - the logical thing - credits for superphosphate, and the provision of areas for fodder conservation. Matters of that kind are of great importance to farmers. However, it has been found that, in many of the evaluations which are made, the man who really works the hardest on his property and increases his income by sheer hard work is told that he does not need any concessions. The odd man who does not bother about lifting the income of his farm, who probably spends more time in the local hotel than he should, and whose margin of debt is greater, receives larger concessions than docs the industrious man. Many settlers regard this as an unfair method of evaluation. They have put up ‘a proposition to me, which 1 thoroughly support, that the Minister for Primary Industry should set up an independent tribunal consisting of an accountant and a practical farmer to investigate each case as it is presented so that the personal element can be considered. After all, the scheme has reached the stage now where those concerned in it have become operating farmers. No two farmers are alike. Farmers are the most unalike people it is possible to find. Methods of farming vary tremendously. A farmer’s attitude to his work, his ideas on certain procedures in farming, his personality, and the multiplicity of things that he does, do not follow a pattern. The responsibility of one farmer towards his family is different from the attitude of another farmer towards his family. Some farmers have large families while others have small families. But they are all involved in this problem and will be involved in the future.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I refer to Division No. 380, subdivision 4, item 01, Wheat research (for payment to the credit of the Wheat Research Trust Account). I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: What organisation determines the disbursement of this fund of £250,000, and to what research organisation is the money paid?
– I agree completely with the remarks of Senator O’Byrne concerning the dissatisfaction and the frustrations that are felt by soldier settlers in Tasmania. This state has been brought about because they do not know what their commitments are and how long the present condition of uncertainty will continue. This is true of Flinders Island where, I believe, the trouble is that delays occur, even though the required number of years have elapsed, in putting many of the soldier settlers on to permanent leases. It is true also that because of the peculiar difficulties and hardships of soldier settlers on King Island, and because a deputation of settlers from that island, with the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture, waited upon the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), a committee was set up to inquire into the whole position. I thought at the time that it was a joint StateCommonwealth Government committee, but I was given to understand, in a reply to a question that I asked in this place, that it was a State committee. However, there was an officer of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics on that committee, which must have commenced its inquiry some 18 months or two years ago.
– It was two years ago.
– I thought it was at least that time. I know that the committee was completing its report months ago on the big difficulties that exist on King Island, and making recommendations on what could be done to keep the settlers on the land there. I referred the matter to members of the Tasmanian Parliament and to a State Minister. Indeed, I saw the Minister only a few days ago. I asked him when the report was to released. He said that it had not been tabled in the Tasmanian House of Assembly because it had been sent to the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry for his comments. He said that it had been sent to Canberra weeks ago but that since then nothing had been heard of it. Surely it is reasonable to expect that the report should be perused by the Commonwealth authorities and despatched back to the Tasmanian Minister as soon as practicable to be tabled in the Tasmanian Parliament.
I know, from contacts I have had with settlers on the island, that they have been pinning their hopes to some favorable concession being granted as a result of the preparation of that report. If it was sent to Canberra weeks ago for the information of the Minister for Primary Industry, surely consideration of it should be expedited so that it may be tabled as quickly as possible. Of course, after it is tabled it will become public property. There has been too much delay in the matter. The report should be available as soon as possible to those who are interested in the settlement of ex-servicemen on King Island.
– Senator Morris referred to the tobacco industry. He related his remarks, first, to the possibility of a relationship between tobacco smoking and lung cancer. I do not wish to make any comment on that subject. That is a matter for medical opinion, and I do not think we are competent to take it any further. Then the honorable senator made some general observations about the tobacco industry. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is in the process of negotiating with both sides of the industry about the drawing up of a stabilisation scheme. I think it is true to say that the industry is seeking some such scheme. I do not want to make any comments about the pros and cons of the matter. We all know that the negotiation of a stabilisation scheme is not an easy task; it is a formidable one. There must be taken into consideration the interests of the States, the fact that the States may have to pass legislation to establish the scheme, and the views of the manufacturers on the one hand and those of the primary producers on the other hand. The Minister for Primary Industry is, as it were, in the middle in this particularly difficult task. Problems such as overproduction and the existence of marginal areas have to be ironed out with the parties. I do not want to make any comment which would tend to create the impression that the matter will be decided one way or the other. It is sufficient to say that the Minister for Primary Industry is attempting to get the parties together and, with the aid of the State Governments, to evolve a stabilisation scheme.
Senator O’Byrne and Senator Lillico referred to the provision of financial assistance to the States in connection with war service land settlement. Senator O’Byrne said there was a need to look at this matter and that the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania had set up a committee to examine the economics of farming on King Island under this scheme. He suggested in his comments, to which I listened with great interest, that the Commonwealth should undertake the responsibility for setting up some organisation to examine the position. Because of the very nature of the grants that are made to the States in this field, in the case of King Island the responsibility clearly rests with the Tasmanian Government. The fact that the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture did appoint a committee to examine the problems on King Island is evidence of this sovereign State’s awareness of its responsibilities.
Senator Lillico said that he understood that the report of this committee had not been tabled in the Tasmanian Parliament and that a copy of it had been sent to the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry for his consideration and an expression of his views. The officers of the Department have informed me that the facts are substantially as have been mentioned. They say that the report is being discussed at the officer level but that so far no finality had been reached. It is suggested that a considerable amount of consultation with the State Minister may be necessary before Commonwealth officers are in a position to submit any conclusions to the Minister for Primary Industry.
Reference was made by Senator Lillico to alleged delay in the issuing of permanent leases on Flinders Island. I am told that the issuing of such leases hinges upon the degree of productivity achieved by the occupants of the land and that until a certain level of productivity is reached the drawing of leases is not proceeded with. That stage has been reached on some of the holdings and leases are about to be issued in those cases.
Senator Prowse referred to the provision this year of £250,000 for payment to the credit of the Wheat Research Trust Account. In this regard the Wheat Industry Research Council recommends research programmes to the Minister. Research grants are made to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, on the one hand, and to State Departments of Agriculture and universities on the other hand. Grants in relation to research are made through those agencies. The note I have on the matter states that to provide for the Commonwealth’s contribution to the Wheat Research Trust Account, being its share of wheat research projects carried out as a joint activity with the industry, the Commonwealth contributes to research projects recommended by the Wheat Industry Research Council and approved by the Minister. The amount included in the Estimates is required to meet estimated cash payments against the programme. The programme provision for 1964-65 totals £287,000.
.- The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) has said that what I said previously was substantially correct. The report of the State committee on war service land settlement that investigated King Island and other areas-
– I am sorry. I may have misled the honorable senator. This report did not refer to the whole of Tasmania. It referred to King Island only.
– I think that there have been submissions concerning other areas. I am not certain whether or not they have been incorporated in the report. The committee had power to investigate other war service settlement areas. I was under the impression that those submissions had been incorporated in the report. However, if they have not been, I shall raise the matter now.
The Minister said that consideration was being given to this matter at the officer level, that no finality had been reached, and that there would be a considerable amount of consultation. I appeal to him to prevail on the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to give the most expeditious consideration that is possible to this matter with a view to alleviating the circumstances in which war service settlers find themselves at the moment. I have already pointed out that these people are getting on in years. From the point of view of their health and of the atmosphere within the family and community groups the position of the settlers is most unsatisfactory. There is no doubt that the majority of the farmers are of the very best type. They are prepared to buck in and do a good job. They take pride in the fact that they have been able to produce certain results, such as improving their stock and ensuring that their fences are in good condition. But instead of being able to take pride in their achievements, the burden of the long drawn out process of finalising the financial arrangements is continually on their shoulders. The officers who administer the Department of Primary Industry are usually men who work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in their offices. The farmers work from daylight to dark, seven days a week.
There is one other matter that I wish to raise. It refers to a group of eight dairy farmers at Preolenna, which is another war service land settlement in Tasmania. These men have been granted leases and are doing fairly well except for one particular matter, which relates to the commitments that they are required to meet for stock, equipment and so on. They were advised that certain concessions in the repayment of commitments would be made available to them. The officers of the Department had more or less given them to understand when they were granted their leases that the first year’s commitments would be waived; that in the second year they would be required to pay 33 per cent, of their commitments; that in the next year they would have to pay 66 per cent, and that in the final year they would have to pay their full commitments. With that concession in mind, all of these men budgeted to meet 33 per cent, of their commitments this year. But official notification came that, after the commitments were waived for the first year, they would be required to pay 50 per cent, of their commitments in the second year, and that in the next year, the final year, they would have to pay their full commitment. There has been a conflict between the information that was given to settlers by the departmental officers, and the official view as a result of which their annual budgets are upset.
When I mentioned the need for a .type of tribunal I had in mind the investigation of matters such as this on behalf of individual farmers, so that the problems could be sorted out. Recommendations could be made on a State level for administrative purposes and on a Federal level for the purpose of meeting the costs of such a policy. As I said when 1 spoke previously, J believe that the farmers are individualists. Their problems vary. They cannot be solved by a rubber stamp method, nor can they be solved by taking the view that there are a group of men here and a group of men there and they all should go through the same drill.
The farmers are pursuing their own methods of farming. They have learned how to improvise and how to find short cuts to achieve the same objective. That is one of the great things about farming that should be maintained and respected. You cannot have a copybook for each farmer to follow. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary and highly desirable that an independent tribunal should be available to individual farmers when problems arise. Solution of the problems cannot be found by rote, with the same treatment being meted out at the various levels of the Public Service. The case for the settlers has been presented often and in many ways. Yet uncertainty and frustration persist.
I hope that the Minister will put to the Minister for Primary Industry the case that Senator Lillico and I have presented. I hope that the Minister will grasp the nettle and try to clear up this matter so that these men will reach the condition that they believe they should reach within a reasonable time after taking up the farms. Ry doing so, the Minister would render a tremendous service not only to the men concerned but also to the industry. Eventually the production of stock and the various other productive activities of the farmers would increase. Is there any message of hope that finality on these matters is likely to be reached at an early date?
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER (New South Wales) [4.41]. - I refer to Division No. 383 - Administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act. I assume that the section of the Department which is responsible for this work also has administrative control of the meat export trade. I should like to refresh the memory of honorable senators on the history of our meat trade with the United States of America. Following a very great expansion of this trade, a question mark was placed over our meat works and abattoirs. Were they of sufficiently high standard to meet the requirements of the American authorities? To preserve this very valuable trade, both the Commonwealth Government and private companies incurred substantial expense. Despite this, the possibility of the trade being reduced again arose. However, our minds were set at rest by the signing of agreements which it was thought would protect the level of trade. Then those agreements were varied.
Will the Minister state whether the cost in which we were involved is reflected in the estimates we are now discussing? The appropriation under this division is about £180,000 more than the expenditure last year. The schedule on page 187 of the Appropriation Bill indicates that the number of veterinary officers has been increased from 14 to 73. This item accounts for an increased expenditure of about £196,000. A further £10,000 was incurred in the employment of 12 additional meat inspectors and a further £30,000 in the engagement of private veterinarians. Those three items alone account for an additional £236,000. If I construe the position correctly, the whole of this increased expenditure is related to fulfilling America’s requirements so as to ensure a continuance of our meat export trade. Will the Minister comment on that aspect?
I suppose it is unfair to ask him the total private expenditure, as distinct from governmental expenditure, incurred in fulfilling these requirements. I suggest that it would amount to some millions of pounds. More importantly, are these progressive amounts? Will it be necessary for the establishment of the Department to be increased in later years, or do these estimates cover all the cost that is involved? I know that very great difficulty was experienced in obtaining the professional staff to do the necessary work. Have the Department’s staff requirements been ascertained? I assume that a charge is made for the staff’s services. If so, what does the Government obtain in increased revenue? If possible, I should like to get some picture, however imperfect it may be, of the cost of fulfilling these export requirements in terms of capital expenditure by the community as a whole and in terms of additional governmental expenditure, offset by increased governmental revenue.
I express no view on the merits of the requirements laid down by the United States. However, our system of administration has been altered to a substantial extent and it appears to me that there is an obligation on the purchaser - there would be in commercial circles - to maintain the level of transactions which the vendor had in view when incurring such heavy expenditure.
– I should like to refer to the appropriation for salaries shown in the schedule on page 187 of the Estimates. The schedule contains a long list of officers who are engaged in the expansion of trade. These officers range from a director, deputy directors and assistant directors down to assistant marketing officers but there is no mention of advertising officers. I have always wondered how it will be possible for the Government to extend our horizons of trade without advertising. This applies particularly in Asian countries, where the people do not know very much about advertising and where possibly the local living standards or incomes do not warrant a heavy expenditure on advertising, at least until the purchasing capacity of the people has been increased.
A very interesting address was given by Mr. T. R. Carruthers, president of the Australian Association of Advertising Agencies to the advertising agencies conference which was held recently at the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne. In relation to the problem of developing trade, he directed attention to the fact that the Government does very little in regard to this aspect of marketing. He suggested that it should, in co-operation with advertising agencies, establish in the major Asian countries some type of organisation which could not only advertise for Australia but also teach local agents the art and techniques of advertising, with which they are not familiar. In the period of their emergence, they will be starting only now to think of those things. He put up the proposition very seriously, and I think it is a good one. On the one hand, some people think that there is too much advertising. On the other hand, advertisers prove to the hilt that advertising develops consumer power, which creates demand, which in turn creates prosperity. A sound case is made also for extension of advertising. This is put as a serious proposition to the Government, and I ask the Minister whether a campaign of this sort has been considered. I suggest that he and his officers obtain a copy of the speech delivered by Mr. Carruthers and consider the advice that he gives. The officers will be well advised to study that speech.
– I ask the Minister whether a survey of the costs of the dairy industry is being made now. If it is, what is the purpose of it, and will it have any relation to the amount of subsidy paid to the industry in future?
– 1 am grateful to Senator Sir William Spooner for entering the debate on Division No. 383. He linked his remarks generally to the development of trade and he referred specifically to the meat export industry. To bring meat export establishments up to the standard required by the American meat regulations proprietors were required to make certain alterations at their own cost. I well recall that the Senate had a debate last session on the problems in one State. I am told that the capital cost to proprietors is not known. Some effort will be made to obtain this information. We have not made an assessment of the cost to the Commonwealth of meeting the requirements of the American regulations. We are all heartened at the impact that the development of this primary industry has made and we acknowledge its advantages to Australia. I recall hearing on the radio or reading in the Press in the past 48 hours that American interests had indicated that there was no reason to expect in the foreseeable future a falling away of these meat exports to the United States. The information that Senator Sir William Spooner sought was comprehensive. It is not readily available now but we shall obtain it.
In reply to Senator Ormonde, I say that advertising and publicity are matters for the Department of Trade and Industry as distinct from the Department of Primary Industry. Provision for these matters is made in the estimates of the former Department. Senator O’Byrne raised a question in relation to dairy farmers at Preolenna, Tasmania. He said that they were under the clear impression that there was an arrangement whereunder no repayments were to be made in the first year and a series of repayments was to be made in subsequent years. My information is that there were to be no repayments in the first year. Arrangements other than that are not within the knowledge of the officers who are with me. In view of the clear picture that Senator O’Byrne seems to have in relation to this proposition, 1 think a direct reply from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is warranted.
Replying to Senator Lillico, I mention that a survey of the dairy industry to determine production costs is being made at the moment. Whether the results of the survey will affect the subsidy of £13.5 million at present paid on butter and cheese production is a matter for the Government. When the survey is complete, the Government will decide what action it will take.
– A survey is being made at the moment?
– Yes, currently. I regret that in some instances my replies have been of a rather general nature. I repeat that specific matters will be referred to the Department for replies.
– In relation to Division No. 380, Administrative, I refer to recombined milk plants, which are mentioned in the AuditorGeneral’s supplementary report for the year ended 30th June 1964. The Australian Dairy Produce Board has taken a great interest in the development of reconstituted milk plants in South East Asia. On page 24 of the supplementary report, the AuditorGeneral sets out a summary of payments made by the Board in relation to the projects to 30th June 1964. The Committee will be interested to know that Asia Dairy Industries Ltd., Malaysia, has received £7,371; that Thai Dairy Industry Co. Ltd., Thailand, has received £142,926, in addition to a loan of £217,665 for the purchase of machinery; and that Milk Industries Incorporated, in the Philippines, has had loans totalling £437,157 for the purchase of machinery and raw materials and provision of working capital. An amount of £36,658 was spent on the purchase of shares in Malaysia Dairy industries Ltd. and £129,781 was lent to that company for the purchase of machinery. A loan of £27,857 was made to Cold Storage (Singapore) Ltd., Malaysia, for the purchase of machinery and there has been general expenditure on sundry establishment costs of £106,053. The total payments amounted to £1,105,468. This is Australian money that has been spent in these areas of South East Asia.
Last year I visited the plant of Milk Industries Incorporated in the Philippines as a member of a parliamentary delegation and observed the activity that was going on there. This factory was staffed at the executive level by Australians and at the production level by the local inhabitants. Will the Minister for Customs and Excise state what quantity of raw materials was sent from Australia to these areas in the 1 2 months ended 30th June 1 964 and what were the respective materials that were despatched there? Can the Minister also state from what parts of Australia the materials were sent? What were the results of this expenditure in Asia exceeding £1 million? What result was obtained from sending these raw materials from Australia to be reconstituted? Generally, what was the profit to Australia from our engagement in these activities?
On the face of it, I consider that we should look very carefully at this Australian money which is sent to South East Asia because there is a good deal of turmoil in that area. I can say from my own experience that Australia is held in very high regard by the Thais, the Malaysians and the people of the Philippines and I am not for one moment afraid that this money will be lost, but I should like the Minister to state positively what gain there is for Australia and to Australian primary industries from this expenditure of more than £1 million on foreign soil. My own information is that we should not be too critical of the results at this point of time because the whole exercise is in a very early stage but the Parliament should seek from the Minister precise information as to what is going on and the possible future value to Australia of the enterprise.
– The important point to remember is that this expenditure is not part of the Estimates as such, lt really comes under the Australian Dairy Produce Board, a statutory authority which presents a report to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General contains a reference to the expenditure of these funds for market development in South East Asia. A levy is struck on the dairy industry. It is collected by the Government and paid through the Board. Therefore strictly speaking the honorable senator was not referring to the expenditure of Commonwealth funds but to the expenditure of money obtained from a levy struck on the dairy industry. The information sought by Senator Laught is not readily available now but it can be obtained for him easily. It is available because a report covering this subject is made to the Minister for Primary Industry a copy of which will be supplied to the honorable senator.
The honorable senator has invited me to comment on the merits of this expenditure of more than £1 million in South East Asia. I agree that this expenditure should be looked at favorably because the money is being spent in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. I think that any activity of this kind sponsored by Australia will help relations with our Asian neighbours. In that sense, this is a good approach. I do not think anybody would disagree with that fundamental principle. I repeat that the money to which the honorable senator has referred is obtained by a levy on the dairy industry by a statutory authority and reference is made to it in the AuditorGeneral’s report because the Commonwealth Government acts as the medium for the transmission of the funds. The rest of the information sought by Senator Laught will be conveyed to him.
.- This expenditure in South East Asia has been exercising my mind also since I visited the Philippines and most of the other countries to which reference is made in the Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General. In the Philippines there is an organisation known as Milk Industries Incorporated. This receives dried milk powder from Australia and reconstitutes it. The product is distributed widely through a shopping chain in the Philippines. I think this distribution could be expanded, particularly of
Australian butter, cheese and other milk products, since Australian money is invested in the venture. Such an expansion would be of advantage to our exporters and to the company in which our capital is invested. Marketing in the Philippines seems to be rather a complicated business. I understand that Milk Industries Incorporated is the main supplier of the co-operative chain in the Philippines. It has, therefore, access to a rapid method of distribution of milk products. I should like to know whether anything has been done by the Department of Primary Industry to get our primary production exporting authorities to direct their attention to this method of distribution used In the Philippines. The Department of Trade and Industry can solicit business and organise the flow of business through various organisations. Could this method of trading be expanded and developed so that our primary products could flow through new avenues?
– I will refer the honorable senator’s comments to the Minister for Primary Industry.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Department of Primary Industry (Special Expenditure), £637,100- noted.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed expenditure, £11,108,000.
– Ever since I came into the Senate I have been talking about electoral matters, sometimes making friends and at other times making enemies. When you discuss electoral matters you are likely to be charged with being critical of the officers of the Department and with suggesting that they are not doing the right thing. That is not my reason for speaking on these estimates. I always try - I hope other honorable senators do the same - to make it easier for people to vote formally. Twelve months ago, when discussing the estimates for the Department of the Interior, I talked about some of my experiences out in the back blocks. I referred to Neville Selwood, the well known jockey, whose name was allowed to remain on the electoral roll for two years after he died. Neville Selwood should have been well enough known for his death to be noted and for his name to be taken off the roll. The party workers in that area were working on rolls which still had his name on them. The names of 20 or 30 teachers, who had lived in the area and had been gone for quite a while, were also included on the rolls. I am not saying that the Department is to blame; it could be understaffed. lt certainly is not to blame in the sense that it wants that sort of situation to develop. 1 have commented many times on the disparity between the numbers of votes cast in the “ out-by “ areas, if I may use that expression, for the Labour and Liberal Parlies. In the middle of the electorate of Calare, for example, Labour gets 50 per cent, or at least 45 per cent, of the votes in a booth where 5,000 voters cast a vote. However, in booths 200 miles from the centre of the electorate, where perhaps only 100 votes are cast, Labour is sometimes lucky to get one vote notwithstanding that there are plenty of people around digging holes and working hard with picks and shovels. It is remarkable how small the number of votes cast for Labour is in such areas. I am not casting aspersions on anybody, but the Liberal and Country Parties seem to have the power of heaven behind them in those areas. Labour finds it very difficult to obtain any votes there, although in other parts of the electorate it polls up to 50 per cent., or at least 40 to 45 per cent, of the votes cast. I am not accusing anybody; I am just stating a few facts that I have observed from studying election results.
I note that the Temporary Chairman is losing patience, so I shall get back to the estimates. The other day in the Senate I asked Senator Wade whether the Government would do something about instituting an educational campaign in an effort to reduce the colossal number of informal votes cast at Senate elections. Some quarter of a million people voted informally at the last Senate election. If another 10,000 informal votes had been cast, the informal votes would have topped the poll, as it were. This is a serious state of affairs. The Minister for the Interior must agree that it is, because he has announced that the Government is distributing a television newsreel film directing attention to how votes should be cast. The film shows pictures of polling booths and of the way votes should bc cast. In a very non-party way - for which I congratulate the Department - people arc told of their duly to vote and of their duty to vote formally. I think that the Government is doing the right thing here. On behalf of the Labour Party and, I think, on behalf of the other major parties, I offer congratulations.
We can be sure of one thing. Dedicated voters who support the Democratic Labour Party and the Communist Party never vote informally. It is the supporters of the mass parties who are responsible for the informal votes. It is in the interests of the mass parties, therefore, that something should be done about this problem. I believe that the solutions are very simple. One plebian solution is not to have blunt pencils in polling booths. An officer ought to be engaged all the time in sharpening the pencils in a booth. What I am saying might sound silly, but I believe that many informal votes are cast because pencils are blunt and people cannot write properly. Voters also ought to be saved from the risk of casting informal votes because of uneven tables in polling booths. Why cannot the Department supply absolutely new masonite tables and not make do with old tables that have been used for up to ten years? When you get out into the bush, half the time railway sleepers are used. Have honorable senators ever tried to write on railway sleepers or other rough timber?
I think also that there should be more co-operation between officials in the booths and party workers outside. This could help to cut down the number of informal votes. Outside the booths, party workers find people who are very nervous and concerned about what will happen when they get inside. After all, a Senate ballot paper is somewhat complicated because we ask people to vote for 29 or 30 candidates and to give each candidate a number between 1 and 29 or 30. Apparently we cannot get a saner method of voting than that. Honorable senators will agree that the Senate ballot paper is a frightening sort of document for a lot of people. This is outside the ambit of this discussion of course, but perhaps I can say that something ought to be done in a general way to alter the system. I cannot sec why it should not be good enough to vote for half the candidates plus one, or something of that kind. At any rate, that would simplify the voting.
– Did not the Labour Parly introduce the present system?
– The honorable senator is always living in the past. Why does she do that? She should not do it when I am speaking. A lot of people make mistakes. I was about to say: “ Wait until we become the Government and we will alter it.” But I think that is outside the purview of this debate.
I wish to refer to another matter to which the Department ought to attend. I am not saying that it will not be difficult to rectify. Why should people have to vote in booths - particularly in the country - where there is inadequate lighting? How can you vote in the dark? A lot of people go after 6 o’clock to vote and often the polling booth is very poorly lighted. Special attention should be paid to the lighting of polling booths.
Another matter to which we ought to pay some attention is the power of a returning officer to tell a person who comes to vote at his polling booth - even if the voter is in his correct subdivision - that he must go to another polling booth to vote. I understand that there is no provision in the Act to grant such a power to returning officers, but dozens of times - this is an Impersonal criticism - they tell people that they must go to another polling booth to vote, although this may involve great inconvenience for the voters. I understand that the Act provides that in such cases an absentee vote is permissible. I think absentee votes should be provided and that it should not be the prerogative of returning officers to judge whether voters have attended the wrong polling booth and to decide that they should vote at another polling booth; for example, at the booth nearest the voter’s residence. A person who is co-operative enough to attend a polling booth and ask for a ballot paper ought to be given one and not denied a vote. Often people rush into a booth after 7 o’clock and do not have time to travel to another booth to vote. In this way their votes are lost.
– They have been denied electoral justice.
– Yes. If I had my way voting would close at 6 o’clock. I believe that large signs should be displayed inside each polling booth to inform electors that if they think they have voted informally they may ask for another ballot paper. 1 am sure that many senators have been present in polling booths when ballot papers have been destroyed by persons who have left without asking for a replacement ballot paper. They do not like to admit that they have destroyed the ballot papers they were given. Such people should be shown that there is no shame in asking for a replacement ballot paper. The message should be conveyed to these people by notices displayed in each compartment at polling booths. If they see displayed in front of their eyes a notice stating that they may ask for another ballot paper, more formal votes will be obtained. We all should be interested in securing formal votes. I repeat that at the last general election a bout 250,000 informal votes were cast. No doubt the number will not be so large at the next general election because it will not be necessary to complete two ballot papers.
Members of all political parties should do what they can to ensure that people are not sent from polling booth to polling booth. They should be given plenty of time to vote and all facilities should be provided, including sharp pencils to mark the ballot papers. Lighting withing the booths is most important, particularly in country areas. In these days hurricane lamps are not good enough and there ought to be a way to improve the lighting of booths. Generally speaking, the Department has effected improvements over the years, but there is much more to be done. I emphasise particularly the responsibility of departmental officers to see that people who attend a polling booth are given a vote. I refer particularly to old people, and to people who get concerned and agitated over the problem of casting a vote. They ought to be assisted in all ways by officers of the Department at polling booths, to ensure that they vote formally.
– I have a few short questions to ask in relation to Division No. 318 - Electoral Branch - and the item in the Schedule which refers to allowances to officers performing duties for the State of South Australia. The appropriation for this item is £590. I would like some information as to the duties performed by these officers in South Australia. I should also like some information in connection with the next item in the Schedule - Allowances to officers in connection with maintenance of the joint roll in New South
Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Is the staff that compiles the joint roll in those States under the control of the Department of the Interior or of the State Governments? I have raised the question because I wish to address a few remarks in support of the claim by Senator Ormonde that not enough is done to keep the rolls up to date.
Senator Ormonde referred to the fact that the name of a person remained on the electoral roll for two years after his death. Quite a number of people who attend polling booths to vote find that their names are not on the rolls. In many cases their names appear on the rolls for the electorates in which they have previously lived. While it may be the responsibility of the individual voter and he is neglectful in this respect until election time, I think greater efforts should be made by the Department to keep the electoral rolls up to date. At one time I believe postmen performed the duly of notifying changes of address. Either postmen do not now perform that function or there is a lack of liaison between the Electoral Branch and the Postmaster-General’s Department. No action is taken nowadays to advise the Electoral Branch of changes of address unless it is taken by individual voters. In the majority of cases the notification is not given until an election is imminent or until election day when the voters attend the polling booths. People find that they are still registered on the rolls of electorates which they left up to three years previously.
I turn now to the subject of informal voting. In South Australia fewer informal votes are cast than in the other States. At the last Senate election the informal vote was only about 3 per cent, of the total vote. 1 do not know whether it is due to a greater interest in politics in South Australia. Federal election results in South Australia suggest that South Australians take their politics more intelligently. I must admit that possibly it is due to the fact that South Australia has an easier Senate bollot paper because there are fewer candidates than in the eastern States.
Frequently people seek assistance at the polling booths and the question arises whether assistance can be given readily so that formal votes may be cast. 1 suggest that the Department should take greater care in the selection of deputy returning officers to man polling booths. One returning officer we interviewed prior to the polling day of the last election was a man who had reached his 90th year. He had suffered a stroke, was partly paralysed, was deaf, and could only partially see. He agreed to carry out the work for the area concerned and he said he would be assisted by a young clerk. How that man could assist any voter or direct any voter to where he or she could receive assistance, I do not know. He was not in a fit state to do the job. Possibly the Electoral Office is unaware of the capabilities of all of its returning officers. While I think that in the main, returning officers are very good and are well fitted to carry out their work, there are these exceptions to be found in country areas. I think a more thorough look should be taken at the question.
At another polling booth, we saw that the how to vote cards of one particular parly were on a table inside the door. When the returning officer was challenged about the placement of the how to vote cards there, he said that the table was further than the prescribed distance from the actual ballot boxes - it was a long hall - and justified the state of affairs because of that fact. I ask that the Electoral Office and its officers select their returning officers more thoroughly and then try to advise them as to the requirements of the Electoral Act. While I agree with Senator Ormonde that there should be a reduction in voting hours in these days of modern transport, I think also that consideration should be given to the question of a reduction in the number of polling booths. We find in many country electorates in which there is a reasonably large community that, when voting is held on a Saturday, the electors vote in the nearest township to which they go also for sport and recreation. Polling booths are kept open in towns in South Australia, some of which are ghost towns, where on most occasions only 11, 12 or 15 people vote. Staff has to be employed for the purpose of carrying out the election in those districts and, to my mind, unnecessary expenditure is entailed in providing the polling booths. If the number of polling booths was reduced, the Electoral Office could be selective in its appointment of returning officers and booth attendants instead of considering every available local man in the small towns regardless of his qualifications to carry out the duties.
I mention Division No, 314, acquisition of sites and buildings for various departments. No information is available in the estimates about these sites and buildings. For the year 1964-65, an appropriation of £780,500 has been made. Therefore, some information should be supplied as to where the sites and buildings are so that those of us from a particular State could express a view about the suitability or otherwise of a site or the purpose of a building in that State. When we were considering the estimates of the Department of Social Services, 1 raised the question of the inadequacy of a building for that Department in Adelaide. Looking at the items in this Division, I see that none applies to the Department of Social Services. But no matter what department is concerned, the absence of information as to where these sites are and for what purpose the buildings arc to be used, does not enable a proper debate on the estimates for this Division.
– Senator Ormonde and Senator Cavanagh have raised questions in relation to the Commonwealth Electoral Act under Division No. 318. The Electoral Office is aware of the degree of informal voting that took place at the last Senate election. It was approximately 10.5 per cent, of the total number of votes cast. The Office is also aware that, as Senator Cavanagh indicated the degree of informal voting in some States was much lower than in other Slates. Without being informed of the actual reason for this result, I hazard a guess that the lower percentage of informal votes in South Australia was influenced by the fact that there were fewer candidates for that State.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act requires that a voter, when filling in his Senate ballot paper, shall indicate his order of preference of candidates. It is necessary for him to put a number against the name of every candidate on the ballot paper; in other words, he is required to complete the ballot paper. The purpose is considered to be served if he puts a number against every name but one. This creates the problem in relation to informal voting. I cannot agree with the reasons Senator Ormonde put forward for informal voting - ‘for instance. blunt pencils and uneven tables. The presiding officer of a polling booth has certain obligations. He is required to see that his clerk and other assistants ensure that all the cubicles are always cleared of the materials provided by the different political parties to assist the voters. He has the obligation to make certain that pencils are sharp and that no unauthorised person goes into a cubicle while another person is voting. In fact, the procedures to be followed are set out very clearly in the regulations made under the Electoral Act.
The divisional returning officer is a permanent officer of the Electoral Office. He has the obligation of making appointments to the various polling, booths. He has to make certain that the people he appoints to the various booths either as presiding officers, ballot clerks, or officers handling postal votes, are competent to do their job. If there is criticism of the work quite clearly it is a criticism of the human element involved. Divisional returning officers are senior, and very responsible, public servants. They go to a lot of trouble in bringing their teams together - I know this of my own knowledge - and in instructing their teams in their duties. I suppose, in view of all the circumstances, that some polling officials are incompetent, but I do not agree that informal voting is caused by blunt pencils or by bad cubicles. I must admit that some of the polling booths to which we have had to go to vote in the past have been fairly obsolete. However, I am informed that quite a considerable effort is being put into bringing up to date this side of electoral arrangements which is borne out by the fact that efforts are being made to keep sharp pencils and provide Iaminex tops for tables. We can be assured that if there is to be an informal vote in future it will not be associated with the factors I have mentioned.
Reference was made also to the lighting in polling booths. Despite the progress that has been made in the provision of electricity to rural areas, there must inevitably be an odd booth or two, perhaps in the country, where emergency lighting has to be introduced. We all recognise that happens in some small booths in Australia. I am informed that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) has set in train action to improve the lighting in polling booths. Divisional returning officers have been authorised to inspect them with the object of improving this facility. So, the Electoral Office is conscious of the need for some improvement in this regard. I am happy to say, in response to a query by Senator Ormonde, that the Minister recently stated that he was launching a publicity campaign, prior to the forthcoming Senate elections, to try to get across to the Australian voters the need for casting formal votes. That will be done through the medium of a short film that will be shown on television networks, by statements made over commercial and national radio stations, and by seeking the co-operation of the Press.
Reference was made by Senator Ormonde to the vexed question of people going to polling booths in their own electorates but not within their own sub-divisions and being told by the presiding officers that they must go to their own sub-divisions to vote. My understanding is that if an elector says that he will not be in his own sub-division during the hours of voting he may demand a vote at the booth at which he has presented himself. lt means, of course, that he will be casting an absentee vote. As we all know, absentee votes take a little longer to handle than do ordinary votes. I have some knowledge of this matter, because my experience of elections goes back many years, even to the lime when my father was in politics. 1 can recall handing out how to vote cards when i was a little boy of six or seven years.
As 1 said, an absentee vote takes a little longer to process, lt involves additional checking of the roll, signatures, declarations, the use of envelopes and so forth, lt is towards the end of the day that absentee voters lend to arrive. 1 repeat that if a person is able to say that he will not be in his own sub-division during the hours of voting he can get a vote at the booth at which he is attending.
– We can tell them they are entitled to a vole?
– These people usually seem to come to vote between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. I have had the experience myself of telling people to go back and tell the presiding officer that they could not get back to their own sub-division, and there has been no more trouble. Reference was made to closing hours. I have my personal views on the matter, but as it is a matter of Government policy I do not wish (o embark upon a discussion of it at this time.
Senator Cavanagh referred to Division No. 314 ; Acquisition of Sites and Buildings. Acquisitions affect all civil departments and divisions. Provision is made for acquisitions in all States. The detailed list includes acquisitions at Mascot in Sydney, in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia an Tasmania. As Senator Cavanagh comes from South Australia, I point out that provision is made for the small sum of ?250 for the Mount Hope site and a final claim of ?813 in relation to the Adelaide airport. The provision for South Australia amounts to only ?1,063. The proposed expenditure COVerS items throughout the Commonwealth. I do not think there is any point in my detailing the items. If any honorable senator wished to mention a specific item, 1 could deal with that.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- Prior to the suspension of the sitting the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) stated that it was the intention of the Commonwealth Electoral Office within the Department of the Interior to produce a film for the purpose of explaining the voting system that is used in Senate elections. Having had dealings with officers of the Electoral Office prior to my election to the Senate, I can only say that 1 could not have wished to deal with men who had a better understanding of their position. There was no thought of partiality. I can speak in the highest terms of their work and of their advice.
No-one could ever object to a system that achieved a larger percentage of formal votes in Senate elections. I have a vivid recollection of once moving a motion for the adjournment of the Senate in an attempt to have a committee established to look into this question. At the time, the Senate rejected my proposal. As we know, the names on Senate ballot papers are set out in groups. It would be a very good idea if the film could be shown to honorable senators either on Wednesday or Thursday evening, if it is possible, before the Senate rises for the week’s recess. I think that we are entitled to have a look at it because we are interested, not only as electors of the Commonwealth, but also as candidates in the election. We want to see what the Electoral Office intends to do to cure the great evil of informal voting. I can see no reason why the film should not be shown to honorable senators.
I understand also from speaking to the Minister and to some of his officers - he kindly allowed me to have a chat with them after the suspension of the sitting - that they intend to use an extensive advertising campaign in an attempt to reduce the percentage of informal votes. I am rather anxious about the matter. Anything that is done to reduce the percentage of informal votes must be worthwhile, but I think we are entitled to have a look at the film, if that is possible. In view of the fact that the Senate election ballot papers are made out in groups, A, B, C, D, E and so on, together with independent candidates, I want to know something of the nature of the film. If one gives a demonstration of voting on a film and starts in the middle of group C or in the middle of group A, it may be that an advantage is given to that particular group. I do not think that much would be gained by showing a film unless a facsimile of the ballot paper was used, without using the correct names. From my experience of the officers of the Electoral Office, I do not doubt their impartiality, but 1 think that the Senate is entitled to have a look at the film.
Without considering the matter in detail, if the officers are to commence with a particular group on the ballot paper, I believe that that group will have some advantage over the other gro’ups. If that does happen, I realise that it will be unintentional on the part of the officers, but we have to consider how people think. A couple of Senate elections ago something like 2i per cent, of the votes were informal. I am a little concerned about the matter. I believe that such a film could influence people’s minds because if it showed the actual method of voting, it would have to show the actual ballot paper with group A, group B, group C, and so on. I ask the Minister whether it would be possible even at this juncture to let honorable senators have a look at the film on either Wednesday or Thursday evening prior to the adjournment of the Senate for a week’s recess.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) ing that honorable senators should have a look at this film. I do not know whether I. noted a measure of suspicion in the mind of Senator Kennelly, but there is none in my mind. I do not think that the officers in the Electoral Office are partisan on the question of informal votes, but the matter could be cleared up if we had a look at the film in sufficient time to enable us to comment on it before the Senate adjourns for the week’s recess.
My main reason in rising to speak on the estimates for the Department of the Interior is to refer to Division No. 314 - Acquisition of Sites and Buildings. I referred to this matter before the suspension of the sitting and complained that the estimates do not show where the proposed sites are situated and for what purpose they will be used. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) in his reply read from a document, but it was not clear to me how the Department of Civil Aviation intends to spend £248,700 in 1964-65 on the acquisition of sites and buildings. He then mentioned that this included a strip at the Adelaide airport and a site at Mount Hope. This excites my curiosity. For what purpose is the site at Mount Hope to be used and for what department is it being acquired? It is reasonable to assume that the Department is seeking the site at the Adelaide airport for additions to the airport. My complaint is similar to that made by Senator Mattner and Senator Murphy earlier in the discussion, about the difference between ordinary expenditure and capital expenditure. If the amount involved were included in capital expenditure, details would be given and we would be able to discuss it. <
I believe that the Minister gave me the necessary information about the sites to bc acquired by the Department of Civil Aviation, but a number of other departments arc acquiring sites. If these sites are in South Australia I, as a South Australian senator, might be interested in them, but I do not know whether I am, owing to the vague references in the document. Will the Minister tell me either now or at some subsequent stage what proportion of the £780,500 is to be spent in South Australia and the purpose for which any sites purchased in South Australia will be used?
.- I refer to Division No. 315, which relates to an astonishing amount paid by various departments in the form of rent. To test the reason for the amounts shown in the document I shall take item 18, which relates to the Department of the Treasury. I seek an explanation for the increase of over £100,000 in the appropriation for rent paid by the Department of the Treasury. What circumstances justify a £100,000 increase in rent to be paid by the Department of the Treasury in the next financial year?
– Senator Kennelly and Senator Cavanagh referred to the fact that the Minister has indicated that it is proposed to give wide publicity to the need for formal voting in the coming Senate election. In a Press statement, and certainly in a statement in another place, he mentioned that a film will be shown. Senator Kennelly, while emphasising that he was not reflecting on anyone, nevertheless felt it was appropriate for honorable senators and members in another place to see the film, if possible. He suggested that it might be shown with our Wednesday and Thursday night films. I will refer this matter to the Minister in the spirit in which it was advanced by Senator Kennelly. This is a matter of interest to us all. We all have a proprietary interest in campaigning and it is natural that we would want to see the kind of film it is proposed to screen. I will certainly put the matter before the Minister for consideration.
asked about the expenditure involved in the acquisition of a site at Mount Hope. I understand the site will be used for the provision of navigational aids on the approach to the Adelaide airport. He also asked to what extent South Australia was involved in acquisitions by other departments and the relationship of the expenditure in South Austrafia to the total amount. I have not a computer to give me an instant answer. It will take a little time to extract the information but we will do so and supply it to the honorable senator.
Senator Wright used the Department of the Treasury as an example and asked why the amount appropriated for rent repre sents an increase of £100,000 over the appropriation last year. I have been informed that the increase is due to various additional leases, acquired mostly for the Taxation Branch, but details of the actual buildings involved are not available at present although they can be obtained. That is the only information I have at the moment.
– It is not nearly good enough.
– All I can say is that that is the only information I have on the matter. There is a reference to expenditure to meet known commitments, to an amount of £1,100 to meet increased rates, to expenditure in respect of the “ Advertiser “ building in Adelaide and the provision of additional accommodation for the statistical branch. This information is really nothing more than I have already given. The amounts are only small. I will get the information for the honorable senator.
– There has been some talk about a film to educate people in voting. Prior to the last election, a very good film was produced by the Department of the Interior. This film was taken by electoral officers into various areas. I am not sure of them all but I do know that one team went through the Kimberley area in Western Australia showing the film to Aborigines and part Aborigines to educate them in voting. I watched this film very carefully when it was shown on television. It was very well done. However, one thing that disturbed me was that in showing a facsimile ballot paper the film producers selected three names which suggested colours - Brown, Green and White. It was strange that the name of the Liberal candidate was Browne. It is true that they did not show the full name, Peter Browne, but they might as well have done so. The Liberal candidate Browne was the member for Kalgoorlie in another place and the world knew that the Liberal candidate in that forthcoming election was Browne. Why did the Electoral Branch - I am sure the Minister would have had nothing to do with it - suggest on a facsimile ballot paper that electors should vote 1 Brown and the other candidates 2 and 3? All I ask is that if such a film is to be produced again the producers should be a little more careful in the selection of names for the candidates.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Civil. Defence, £330,000- noted.
Australian Capital Territory.
Proposed expenditure, £27,826,300.
– Mr. Chairman, a vote of £27.8 million for the A.C.T.?
– That is right.
– But £27.8 million for the A.C.T.? What I seek to discover, Mr. Chairman, is whether or not any item of this £27.8 million is related in the slightest degree to the construction of the new Parliament House or its environs, or has anything to do with determining the site for the new Parliament House or the preparation of it. I hope that somebody else will see whether or not a vote of £27.8 million is justified for the Australian Capital Territory, and 1 ask the Minister whether any accounts are available to show what part of this sum is being allocated to capital development within the Territory. I note that £15 million is to go to the National Capital Development Commission. I suppose since we established that corporation we have voted for this Territory about £100 million, with perhaps £60 million for the Commission itself. 1 have heard it said that this expenditure is being carried out in such a way as to produce an economic return for the outlay from enhanced value of sites that are being sold and the enhanced rentals of leases. Has the Minister been furnished with any figure that indicates that thought has been given to whether we are just burying this £27.8 million? Is somebody keeping a check on it to see whether or not the money is being spent economically?
– My distinguished colleague from Tasmania, Senator Wright, asks whether anyone is keeping a check on the expenditure on the Australian Capital Territory. I am certain that he is and that if the figure is buried he will find it. He says these things in his own inimitable way. In my humble way, I follow in his trail. I refer particularly to Division No. 852, which relates to health services. I have heard it said, as my distinguished colleague from Tasmania has heard it said, that the Canberra Community Hospital is a private hospital for the doctors of Canberra and that there is no provision for poor people. I know that not many poor people, except the parliamentarians, live here, but there are pensioners who live within the precincts of Canberra. The Canberra Community Hospital happens to be a hospital in which private doctors serve. They serve the people who go there. Is Senator Anderson, who is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, prepared to tell me what is likely to be the position in five or ten years as people who are now middle aged grow old and receive pensions? What will be their position when they go to the Hospital? Will they have to demand the attention of a private practitioner? That appears to be the position there today.
What will be the position of the Canberra Community Hospital? It is provided by the nation at extraordinary expense for a limited population. An extraordinary amount of money is provided by the people of this country for a limited population, but many people are denied the legitimate medical services to which they arc entitled. I sometimes wonder what the responsibility of the Minister is. I just pose that question so simply and so innocently. I may follow it up. If I do not get a satisfactory answer, there is no doubt in the world that I will follow it up.
– I must confess that I am a bit confused. If Senator Dittmer cares to repeat some of the points he was making, I should be happy to hear them and to deal with them in reply. Senator Wright referred to capital works carried out by the National Capital Development Commission. I think it is proper to point out that the Commission reports annually to the Parliament in accordance with section 24 of the National Capital Development Commission Act, and its expenditure is then accounted for. Its report which was tabled in September of this year gives in substance the information that the honorable senator seeks. Last year, capital expenditure amounted to £13.9 million. Of the proposed vote of £27.8 million, capital expenditure will amount to about £15 million. The honorable senator asked a direct question about the provision of funds for the construction of the new Parliament House. I am informed that no amount of money for that purpose is involved in this proposed vote. I am sorry about the reference by Senator Dittmer to the hospitals aspect of the Estimates. I understood that he was referring to Division No. 852 - Health Services, and that he made the point that in fact there were no facilities in Canberra for certain types of indigent sick. As a matter of fact I understand that there is some provision for terminal and aged cases.
– What is provided for them?
– If I can get some information for the honorable senator I will do so but I am not able at present to give him details of the type that I thought he would require as a medical man. I thought that he would expect certain technical information.
– I am not seeking technical information. I just want simple facts.
– To my own knowledge, there is a section in the Canberra Community Hospital for cases which aTe not acute. This is a source of admiration and envy to those who are associated with hospitals throughout Australia.
– Would I be in order, Mr. Chairman, in referring to the site of the new Parliament House?
– The honorable senator would not be in order in dealing with that matter as it is not covered by the estimates before the Committee.
Senator DITTMER (Queensland) [8.331. - 1 have several questions to ask concerning the Canberra Community Hospital. I did not want to embarrass the Minister for Customs and Excise because I know that he is acting for the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) in this debate. He is closely concerned with health matters and has done very good work for the Ryde Hospital. When I asked a question concerning the services rendered in Canberra, I just wanted to know whether the Canberra Community
Hospital is regarded as a hospital to serve only the interests of private practitioners. The Minister need only have answered in simple terms that it does not supply the needs only of private practitioners. Are there any visiting specialists serving the Canberra Community Hospital on an honorary basis? If so, how many are there? In what fields of medical endeavour do they serve? What is the attendance at the hospital of outpatients who pay no fee or only a nominal fee? Surely it should be a simple matter to answer those questions. If the Minister cannot supply the information tonight, surely he could do so before 5th December.
.- I refer to Division No. 852 - Health Services, item 03, Abattoir services. Last year the appropriation was £40,705 and actual expenditure was £40,729. This year, (he proposed vote is £53,100, an increase of approximately £12,000. What are the abattoir services? What actual service is rendered to the people of the Australian Capital Territory. I assume that the abattoir was established by a statute and that certain provisions would apply to its operation. For instance, I imagine that all the cattle and and sheep consumed in the Australian Capital Territory necessarily would have to be slaughtered at the abattoir under the supervision of officers of the Department of Health. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) might inform me whether I am correct.
As the Commonwealth Government went to the expense of establishing the abattoir, I assume that there would be prohibitions in respect of beef and mutton entering the Territory. The Minister might inform me whether there are any wholesale butchers operating in the Territory and if so where they get their meat. I should like to know also what is done with the hides and the skins. Is there an industry at the abattoir? Is there a piggery where pigs are fed on the offal? As there is an expenditure of £50,000 involved, and this is not peanuts, perhaps the Minister would give me some information about it. I will not be upset if he cannot answer me tonight. I do not expect the Minister to have this information immediately at his disposal. It will do tomorrow or next week.
I turn now to Division No. 853 - Australian Capital Territory Services, sub-division 5, item 16, City Omnibus Service - Loss on operations, which has the notation “ for payment to the credit of the Australian Capital Territory Transport Trust Account “. Last year the vote was £92,000 and the actual expenditure was £87,300. This year the proposed vote is £79,000. I should like some information on this item because it appears that the Department of the Interior anticipates a loss on the omnibus services in the city of Canberra and suburbs. It is proposed to cover this loss by an appropriation of £79,000. I come from a city where buses are operated by a city council and if the buses show a loss-
– As they do.
– As they do anywhere. I think you will find it difficult to name a city or town where the buses run by the local authority do not show a loss. But how is the loss recovered in those places? The taxpayers have to make good the loss. In this case the loss will be made up from the Treasury.
– From the taxpayers.
– Yes, and from the Tasmanian taxpayers too, Senator Marriott. The honorable senator will be interested to know that the taxpayers of his State have to contribute to making good these losses, as I do. I will also have to pay my rates in Brisbane to make good the losses of the buses there. I am sure an argument will be produced in favour of the Government’s making up the losses in Canberra but there will be many against it also. There is such a thing as an economic charge to be made for bus services. I do not know what the fares are in Canberra but they cannot be economic fares; otherwise the expenditure and the revenue would balance. It may be that, because the Goverment functions in Canberra partly as a local authority and partly as the Commonwealth Government, what is being done is the correct thing to do, but it does not appear to me to be the correct thing. It appears to me to be wrong. That is why I am asking the Minister whether he would be kind enough to enlighten me upon the matter.
I wish to refer now to Lake Burley Griffin. An appropriation is sought for operation and maintenance. I do not object to Lake Burley Griffin. I think that the National Capital should be beautified as much as possible, and my honest opinion is that the lake has beautified it considerably. Last year the proposed vote was £30,000, of which £9,000 was spent. This year the Government is asking for £54,000. Surely the Minister must expect that somebody will ask a question about this £54,000. What I should like to know is how a lake is operated. The item is for operation and maintenance. I can understand that maintenance work would be required around the banks or borders of the lake. I would expect that during the first year or two there would be a settling down period. It would take some time for the ground or the walls in certain places to become accustomed to the beat of the waves. Finally, perhaps, maintenance will terminate altogether but for the time being it will be necessary to provide money for the maintenance of the lake. I do not know just what is involved in operating a lake, but it seems that £1,000 a week approximately is to be spent on operating and maintaining Lake Burley Griffin.
– Senator Dittmer asked a series of questions in relation to the Canberra Community Hospital.
– A series of serious questions.
– Yes, a series of serious questions. I have not yet been able to obtain the answers and therefore 1 must accept the honorable senator’s offer to answer him in a communication subsequent to this debate. That will be done. Senator Benn asked about the Canberra abattoir services, and I have some information for him. The estimate for 1964-65 is £53,100. This provides for salaries and the general expenses incurred in the day to day running of the abattoirs, and for repairs and maintenance undertaken on account of the abattoirs by the Department of Works. The estimated expenditure for 1964-65 and the cash receipts from the abattoirs operations during 1963-64 are shown. The revenue received is credited to the A.C.T. health revenue. I have a break up of the amounts. The cost of wages and salaries has risen from £18,001 to £20,250, which is a. significant increase..
The cost of coal for power has risen from £4,632 to £6,000. I am taking a few items at random to give the picture. The cost of repairs and maintenance was £5,994 in 1963-64 and the estimate for 1964-65 is £14,800. That is a significant figure, and 1 have a break up of the estimate for this year.
For urgent minor operational and recurring maintenance the estimated cost is £3,000. For minor repairs and maintenance - individual items between certain specified amounts - the total is £4,000. Reroofing of the cattle holding yards will cost £7,000 and reroofing of the by-products section will cost £800. Repairs and maintenance for this financial year will cost £14,800 compared with £5,994 last year. Revenue is obtained from blood and bone, killing charges and so on. lt is £61,950. The number of beasts slaughtered was 132,209. That is the general picture. There has been an increase in the cost of electricity and water, in the cost of repairs and maintenance, in salaries, in the cost of coal and so on.
The honorable senator also asked about the Canberra City Omnibus Service, which :has incurred a loss. That is not peculiar to this service. The loss in 1963-64 was £87,300. lt will be less in 1964-65 because of a fare increase which is allowed for. Fares cannot be increased to a level which will meet all the losses. A substantial fares increase would nullify the prospect of getting close to a balanced budget. The problem confronting the Canberra omnibus service is a problem which confronts all other omnibus services. If you increase fares, you gain something in revenue in that way, but you lose through a drop in patronage. This is a dfficult problem.
The honorable senator referred also to Lake Burley Griffin. There was an underexpenditure last year in this matter because of the delay in the filling of the lake. That there was a delay we all know to be a fact. The lake at the moment is a thing of sheer beauty. Even Senator Benn and I, who are very canny with our money, would reckon any money , spent on Lake Burley Griffin to be money well spent. If the honorable senator wants further information I have some here, but I think I have said enough.
.- I wish to follow up the reference that has been made to the Canberra City Omnibus service. If we can take these figures at their face value, we are being asked to provide this year for an expenditure of £79,000, as against an expenditure of £87,300 last year. That, of course, has to be taken in conjunction with the subsidy for the conveyance of school children, which is to be increased by £5,000. 1 am surprised that this matter comes as a novelty to any honorable senator who has been in this chamber for 12 or 14 hard years. Year by year the Parliament has voted money from the national Treasury for the transport of the citizens of Canberra. In the supplementary report of the Auditor-General reference is made to the Central Transport Services, which in some way has relationship to parliamentary and governmental transport facilities. As I understand it, this year the Central Transport Services produced a profit, but the city omnibus service, for which we are asked to vote £79,000, according to the Auditor-General’s Report, lost £87.297 in the financial year ended 7th June 1964.
I wish to direct attention to another matter, despite which this hardy annual has grown. I refer to the bland statement in the uninformative report of the AuditorGeneral, that earnings of £211,091 include a subsidy of £61,000. I think you will recall, Madam Temporary Chairman, that the Public Accounts Committee some years ago commented stringently upon the attitude of mind which, in any accountant’s office, could include a governmental subsidy under the term “ earnings “. Here we have the conundrum continued, despite what is said by the Public Accounts Committee. I say this with a full understanding of the hurt that such an expression must cause you, as a distinguished member of that Committee, Madam Temporary Chairman, but, of course, nothing that is said in this place is expected tq have any effect in the corridors where officials reign. These practices will continue, notwithstanding anything that is said here, until we get a much more determined attitude as to the opinion of Parliament prevailing. Leaving for lamentation that fact that the strictures of the Public Accounts Committee have been entirely ignored and a subsidy of £61,000 is still included in the term “ earnings “, I ask a question of the Minister. I have taken a little longer than I would have taken had it not been for my wish that the Minister should have an added opportunity to weave his way through the intricacies of the figures in the Estimates. I ask whether I am to understand the figures I have quoted to mean that the City Omnibus Service receives a subsidy of f 6 J, 000 and, with that credit, shows a loss of £87,297, so as to cost the taxpayers £148,297; or is it, as it appears to one of a simple turn of mind like myself, reading the Auditor-General’s figures for what they appear to represent, that it is a loss of merely £87,297?
I always like to indicate something of the nature of the tedium that will be involved in hearing me out. I said that I wished to raise two items, if my time would permit. The other item is couched so as to be wreathed in an odour of sanctity. It appears in Division No. 853 and relates to the reimbursement of interest on capital borrowed for construction and extension of private school buildings. I am interested to know whether the purpose of this expenditure has been expressed in any statute or regulation, which is the usual means of expressing Parliamentary will, or Ministerial will which is not disallowed by Parliament when it takes the form of a regulation. Last year an appropriation of £56,000 was made in respect of this item. This year the appropriation has been increased by £50,500 to £106,500. I should not say that the increment calls for explanation, but in an innocent atmosphere such as we are enabled to maintain in the Senate, at least we would like to hear the Minister say a few words in explanation of it. I would like to know who are the beneficiaries of the increase.
I am particularly interested to know whether this policy of a recurring expenditure of this nature for the benefit of private schools has expression in any legislative document such as an act of Parliament, or even a regulation. I also ask the Minister whether this item has any relationship to the payment that has been provided as a matter of Government policy since the last general election for the assistance of private schools generally, or is just a little special item for private schools in the Australian Capital Territory. I make that suggestion because in my youth I had a grand old adviser, one of whose precepts I have found very warming in my later life. It was, as he expressed it to me: “ Reg, if you want good bread, get near the bakehouse “.
– I would like the Minister to provide some information in connection with the item relating to Lake Burley Griffin in Division No. 853. I recall that not very long ago some damage occurred to the wall of the lake. It is my understanding that considerable sections of the wall collapsed quite soon after the lake had filled. Various reasons were advanced as to the cause. I think that this is a matter of some concern and I would like the Minister, if he has the information available, to inform the Senate how this damage occurred so soon after the lake had filled. A suggestion was made that the damage was caused by waves raised by the wind dashing against the lake wall, and it seems possible that these circumstances could recur and cause damage entailing considerable expense to repair. Will the Minister inform the Senate as to the cause of the damage to the lake wall, what steps have been taken to prevent an extension of such damage, and whether the Government’s advisers consider it a serious threat to the future development of the lake?
– I wish to direct the Committee’s attention, on a serious note, to Division No. 321, News and Information Bureau. I was on the outside looking in when this Government came into office in 1949. 1 was very pleased when I heard the announcement that the Government had abolished the Department of Information. When we examine the estimates for this year for the News and Information Bureau, it appears to me that Parkinson’s Law is really the rule of law in this Bureau. I do not want the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior-
– I rise on a point of order. This is also serious. I submit that my learned colleague is debating a division that has been passed more than half an hour ago. We are now considering the estimates of the Australian Capital Territory.
– Senator Wright referred to Division No. 853, sub-division 5, item 16, City Omnibus Service. He drew attention to a book-keeping device whereby a subsidy of £6.1,000 was shown on the side of income and he asked whether the loss of £87,000 on the running of the service, if you took into account the subsidy of £61,000, should have been shown as a loss of £148,000. That was the honorable senator’s question, as I understood it.
– No. The real question I asked was whether the actual cost to the taxpayer was the loss of £87,000 plus the subsidy of £61,000.
– That is putting it another way. The answer to the question is that the subsidy of £61,000 is a genuine entry because it is paid from another department in relation to a service that is provided for the transport of children. This amount is transferred from Division No. 856, subdivision 3, item 02 and is to meet the cost of transporting children to and from school. This is an appropriate charge to the education vote. The estimated loss of £79,000 for 1964-65 is attributable to the cost of transporting school children - a service which we subsidise. So, the situation is not quite as grim as appears on the surface.
Senator Toohey raised a question relating to Lake Burley Griffin, and the unfortunate movement that occurred in the retaining wall. With regard to the stone wall adjacent to the Canberra Yacht Club, there was plenty of evidence during the heavy wind storms that a very long stretch o!f the lake coincided with the direction of the major wind. Quite heavy wave actions were observed, and the waves broke heavily against the new stone wall with water flooding behind the wall where the settling of the filling was taking place. The combined effect of ponding behind the wall and erosion at the tail of the underwater filling led to about 100 feet of this wall collapsing into the lake. The National Capital Development Commission called for an immediate investigation by the designers, and remedial work was arranged for in two stages. The first stage was to protect, by loose stones, the soil behind the broken area of wall. The second stage was to rebuild the wall on a satisfactory extended stone base. In addition, the experience of the considerable wave action on this most exposed section of the lake foreshores indicated the desirability of having some stone rip-rap to break down wave action in front of the wall. This work is proceeding expeditiously also; the cost is estimated to be of the order of £5,000. The work will be completed in two or three weeks depending on weather conditions.
The only other matter with which I wish to deal was raised by Senator Wright under Division No. 853, subdivision 6, item 09, private schools - reimbursement of interest on capital borrowed for construction and extension of school buildings. The amount appropriated for 1964-65 is £106,500. Senator Wright asked under what statute or regulations this reimbursement operated. I am not in a position to answer that question at this stage. I am not aware of any statutory provision under which assistance is provided for private schools. Details of the scheme are not available but can be obtained. Broadly, the arrangement is that the Commonwealth Government reimburses private schools in respect of interest incurred on money borrowed for school construction and extensions. This reimbursement is subject to a certain maximum rate of interest, and a time limit is imposed.
– I would like to ask the Minister a question which, I think, comes under Division No. 853, Australian Capital Territory Services. What progress has been made towards revision of those laws of the Australian Capital Territory which are hopelessly out of date and utterly unfitted to our times and circumstances? Will the Minister bear in mind that, when laws of importance, such as the criminal laws of the Territory, are being made, these ought to be made by way of Act of Parliament and not by ordinance, so that Parliament itself may have the opportunity of debating them in detail and of directly legislating for them?
– I am interested in an item in these estimates which leads me to wonder whether there is a special privileged class being built up in Canberra that we have in no other part of Australia. I refer to Division No. 853, sub-division 5, item 03, Flats - caretaking and maintenance, £73,200. lt appears to me that the Government, which is the landlord, is paying for the caretaking and the maintenance of the flats. I live in the golden half-mile in Sydney where most people, although they pay big rents to their landlords, do not have landlords who clean their fiats out for them. They have to attend to the cleaning of their own flats. It appears that in Canberra, Daddy Christmas - the Commonwealth Government - pays for this work. I would like to know what types of flats these are, and who lives in them. Are they occupied by average citizens, special high salaried public servants or military personnel? If they expect this type of treatment, who are they? I am not referring to the charges for the maintenance of public flats and other flats. I understand those charges. But in this case, it seems to me that these are private individuals living in flats, and the Government pays for the maintenance and cleaning costs of those flats. This does not happen in any other part of Australia. Most landlords would think twice before they would help a tenant in any way at all.
I refer also to sub-division 6, item’ 05, school books, stationery and equipment. This appears under Division No. 853, in relation to education. The amount appropriated for 1964-65 is £25,000. Is that amount divided between all schools in Canberra? I mention next item 07 of that subdivision, Canberra Technical College, £167,000. It is a very good idea to have a technical college in Canberra, but I should like to know what kind of tradesmen are being trained. Can the Minister give me some idea of the degree of their success? In Division No. 853 provision is made for £800 for secondary school bursaries.
– That was the appropriation last year.
– That seems to me to be a very small amount for bursaries under an educational scheme in which provision is made for £21,000 for books. There seems to be some disparity, and I should like an explanation. Provision has been made for the cleaning of schools. Does that item include all schools, private and public?
– Senator Ormonde asked about the proposed expenditure of £73,200 on the caretaking and maintenance of flats. This item covers the operation and maintenance of boiler rooms, the cleaning of common areas and the employment of caretakers at the various blocks of flats. The details of the provision are as follows: - Northbourne
Flats - boiler room, fuel oil, boiler room attendants and mechanical maintenance, £23,600; Currong Flats - boiler room, fuel oil, boiler attendants and mechanical maintenance, £13,000; wages of caretaker at Currong Flats, £1,400; lift maintenance at Currong Flats, £1,300; caretaker of Northbourne and Condamine Flats, £1,400; contracts let for cleaning common areas of flats, including Northbourne, Currong, Griffith, Reid, Braddon, Ainslie, Bega and Allawah Flats, Lachlan Court, Gowrie and Stewart Flats, Condamine Court, and Red Hill, Owen, Dickson, Lyneham’ and O’Connor Flats, £11,950; maintenance of electrical equipment, £4,000; provision and maintenance of garbage tins, main entrance door mats and sundry items, £550; and lighting of public areas, £16,000. That makes a total of £73,200. I emphasise that the cost of these services is recovered in the rentals charged to tenants. The cost of lighting of public areas has in previous years been offset against revenue.
– Where does that sort of thing appear?
– It would appear in the revenue accounts.
– The use of the term “ Flats - Caretaking and maintenance “ is not a very good description.
– The honorable senator may have a point there. One tends to be led off the track if he is not able to refer to the departmental documents. Senator Murphy referred to the revision of the laws of the Australian Capital Territory. The ordinances that are administered by the Department of the Interior are under review. The final redrafting of the ordinances will be done by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, which is working in collaboration with the Department of the Interior.
asked for information about the provision of £11,000 for the caretaking and maintenance of public buildings, camps and tenements. This item covers the wages of caretakers and attendants at public halls and toilets, electricity charges, the purchase of materials in connection with cleaning, the provision of disinfecting services, fumigation of cottages, removal of trees from the grounds of Commonwealth houses, and tuning and repairing of pianos in halls. Electrical repairs and maintenance are chargeable, and an amount of £400 has been provided. The increase is to meet the following expenditure connected with the new Community Hall at Hughes: Caretaker, £1,400; cleaner, £500; electricity and sundries, £100.
Reference was made also to the proposed expenditure of £167,000 on the Canberra Technical College. This provision has been made to cover the salaries and wages of teachers and payments to part-time teachers, consumable materials and minor equipment. The increase is sought to cover the considerable expansion in college activities consequent upon the completion of further buildings at the new college.
.- 1 relate my remarks to Division No. 853 - Australian Capital Territory Services, and in particular to the proposed expenditure of £54,000 on the operation and maintenance of Lake Burley Griffin. Last year there was an appropriation of £30,000, of which £9,1 13 was expended. Lake Burley Griffin finally came into being this year. It is more or less unanimously agreed that the lake has surpassed the hopes and expectations of even those who were responsible for its contruction. The construction of the lake has had the effect of uniting both sides of the city of Canberra. In every respect it is a magnificent project.
Recently I read the report of the Department of Health that the water of the lake was unfit for swimming. The report should be placed before honorable senators so that they may look at it and if necessary seek other opinions. Some years ago when I was the Vice-Chairman of the Public Works Committee I saw a report from the Department of Health about the water in the Queanbeyan River, which was being considered as a possible source of supply of drinking water for Canberra. That report showed that dead drought stricken sheep were in the catchment area and that this was one of the causes of the pollution of the Canberra water supply.
When we went to the area we found that the farmers, in estimating the value of their properties, would not admit that it was a drought area. They said that their land was valuable and that droughts were practically unknown in the area. We followed up the report of the Department of Health. We found that the dead sheep, which were shown in a photograph that was given to us as evidence of the pollution of the water, had died in a stock train and had been left on the side of the railway line. Yet that was submitted to us as a reason for deciding against water from the Queanbeyan River being used for drinking purposes by the people of Canberra.
One of the reasons that was given for condemning Lake Burley Griffin for swimming was the discharge of drains into the lake. As an amount of £54,000 is to be spent this year on operation and maintenance work in connection with Lake Burley Griffin, I would ask whether it is not possible to find an alternative discharge for the drains. After all, over the years in Canberra we have been drinking water that has been discoloured. At times it has looked as though it contained enough livestock to populate a zoo. Some people, particularly in country areas that take their water from rivers and have not the elaborate filtration or other treatment plants that the more advanced municipalities have, drink water straight from the rivers and it has no effect on their health.
– They have done it throughout history.
– Yes. Man has thrived on it. The dill water that is served up has no flavour. A little bit of livestock adds flavour to it. After the expense of creating this wonderful lake it is a pity that a report from a section of the Department of Health should lead to a widespread belief that swimming in the lake would be deleterious to health. I have seen swimming pools that were a mecca for sun lovers and bathers, but after thousands of people had swum in them the water looked as thick as pea soup. It would be much more healthy for people to swim in Lake Burley Griffin, with its broad expanse of water, than it would be for them to swim in a pool used by thousands.
I want to raise an objection to the belief that Lake Burley Griffin is unfit for swimming. I would like an assurance from the Minister that we can have a look at the report that has condemned the lake for swimming. We should have other opinions based on a practical examination of the water, and the Minister should see that such opinions are obtained. Because people are allowed to row and to sail on the lake, there will be occasions when, through capsizes, there will be swimming in the lake, regardless of whether or not it is condemned for swimming. After the wonderful work that has been done to make the lake as perfect as man can make it, there is this stigma which I believe is unnecessary. I would go so far as to say that the water in Lake Burley Griffin would be just as good for drinking and for swimming as 95 per cent, of the water in the rivers and water holes of Australia. For that reason I think that the Minister should have another look at this matter.
– Did the honorable senator refer to all water holes in Australia?
– Yes. After all, most of the outback rivers do not flow continuously during the year. They become a series of water holes, or depressions in the river bed. Of course, between falls of rain the water holes are used to supply water for domestic purposes to many towns and to many stations. Over the years I have seen people thrive on water that was so discoloured that it resembled milk rather than water. I think we are becoming a little too sophisticated when we allow a report, such as the one which evidently has been submitted, to prevent people from swimming in the lake because of the belief that some harm could come to them. If the Minister were to express views on this matter, or if he could give the Senate an assurance that we can see this report, I would appreciate it very much.
– Senator Ormonde raised a matter with which I omitted to deal, and I hasten to do so now. It was in connection with the Canberra Technical College. He asked what type of tradesmen were being trained and what progress was being made. Most tradesmen are catered for in the Technical College, including bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, motor mechanics, fitters, radio technicians, electricians, hairdressers and so on. Details of progress are not available for student by student or section by section, but they could be obtained. However, many students are qualifying in trades and I think that is a good thing. There are, in fact, 3,200 students at the college.
Senator Ormonde also referred to Division No. 853, sub-division 6, item 06 - “ Payments to the Department of Education, New South Wales, £1,192,100”. The expenditure refers to public schools only and relates to the salaries of teachers in the Australian Capital Territory who are employed by the New South Wales State Government.
As to the point raised by Senator O’Byrne in relation to the efficacy or otherwise of Lake Burley Griffin for swimming purposes, I do not want to give undue emphasis to the matter, except to say that on 14th October the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) committed to writing some views concerning the lake for the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony). I think I should read that comment because it is self explanatory and puts the matter in perspective. It is in these terms -
I have received from my Department today - October 14th 1964 - an up to date assessment of the health considerations which arise because of the quality of the water in Lake Burley Griffin!
Expressed in briefest terms it is my Department’s opinion that people should be advised not to swim in the lake.
As you know, my Department has been carrying out regular tests of the water in the lake and the Molonglo River and these are continuing. Since the lake began to fill an increasing number of sampling stations have been used and samples are now being taken and tested from 17 points. The results of the tests show the amount of contamination from human and animal sources. The tests already made and observations on current methods of management of sewage reveal that the lake is contaminated by organisms from sewage effluent, from surface run off and from animal sources.
Because of the number of variable factors involved, the degree of risk to health involved in swimming in the lake cannot be denned in absolute terms, nor can it usefully be compared with other situations. The judgment in this situation must deal with this individual case and the assessment of the Department is that the degree of risk is such that it cannot be ignored.
My Department’s view is that responsible people, knowing that some risk is involved, will not want to swim in the lake and that children should be advised not to do. The opinion on accidental immersion in the lake, as might be expected in recreations such as yachting, boating and fishing, is that this would probably not involve any significant health, as distinct from physical, risk.
Because the lake is contaminated to some degree any person swimming in it, particularly for prolonged periods, faces a risk of infection. Exposure to contaminated water such as exists in Lake Burley Griffin might result in bacterial and viral infections, particularly of the gastro-intestinal ‘ and respiratory tracts. It is also possible, but much less likely, that the eyes, the ears and the skin may bc affected. It would not necessarily follow, however, that if anyone became ill after swimming, the lake was to blame.
Senator O’Byrne knows that these things can happen in thousands of other places. The statement continues -
It is considered that the contamination of the luke comes from two sources, die Harman and Queanbeyan sewage effluents. Additionally, there is the problem of surface run off after heavy rains, lt is hoped that the proposal to chlorinate the Harman sewage effluent will lead to an improvement in the present quality of the effluent. lt is also understood that works to eliminate the discharge of effluent into the lake from Duntroon school and Fairbairn areodrome are in progress. When completed these works will help improve the situation.
I pass this information on to you as the Minister holding executive responsibility for Lake Burley Griffin. Should you consider that any remedial works are necessary to eliminate the health risks outlined above, no doubt you will take this up with the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of Works.
I do not myself intend to make any public statement on this matter.
The comment then goes on -
Mr. Anthony said that the basis of the information in Senator Wade’s letter was made available to an inter-departmental committee comprising representatives of the Departments of Health, Works, Interior and the National Capital Development Commission.
That is a factual statement which does not need any embellishment from me.
.- J refer to Division No. 858- Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. - and the proposed appropriation of £389,000. Will the Minister outline the basis on which Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. operates? Is it a public company? The name certainly indicates that it is. Why does the Government propose to provide £389,000 for buildings, equipment, fittings and furniture for a public company? Is this amount being advanced in the form of a repayable loan? If so, it should not be included in the Appropriation Bill. What are the terms of repayment of this loan by the company?
– It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Government.
– Then why is it called Commonwealth Hostels Ltd.?
– Because it is a subsidiary company of the Government. This is one of the modern crazes. I do not justify it; 1 am merely commenting on it.
– Very well. I am interested in the reason for the appropriation of £389,000.
– I gather that Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. comes under the control of the Department of Labour and National Service, although this appropriation appears in the estimates for the Australian Capital Territory. Briefly, my information is that the proposed expenditure relates to a new hostel to be established in Northbourne Avenue. This involves all the embellishments associated with setting up a new hostel. Beyond that, I have no information. There has been a significant increase on last year’s appropriation of £20,000, so I shall obtain some formal information on this and supply the answers to Senator O’Byrne’s questions.
– How much of the amount represents buildings?
– I may have misled honorable senators. None of it represents buildings.
.- Will the Minister also obtain for me a short resume of the history of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd.? Why is it called a limited company when it is wholly owned and operated by the Commonwealth? Is there any advantage in it being called a limited company? I was under the impression that it had been removed completely from Commonwealth control and was being conducted by a board of directors. What is the necessity for it having what is a rather unusual name for a Commonwealth instrumentality?
– I have only one piece of information. In the supplementary report of the AuditorGeneral for the year ended 30th June 1964 the following statement appears on page 86 under the heading “ Commonwealth Hostels Ltd.”-
The Company is responsible for the control, operation and management of Commonwealth owned hostels, guest houses and other forms of . accommodation as may be specified by the Minister. lt was incorporated in September 1951 in Victoria as a company limited by guarantee without share capital.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of Air.
Proposed expenditure, £90,015,000.
– I ask Senator Anderson, who represents the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) to tell us what provision is made in the estimates now under consideration for a replacement of the Canberra bomber. I am aware of the ministerial statements that have been made to the effect that it is not intended to replace the Canberra bomber pending the acquisition by Australia of the FI IIA. Twelve months ago a B47 bomber flew over every capital city in Australia. Obviously, there was an election campaign proceeding. We generally hear defence statements at such times. They are made to try to create a measure of tranquility in the minds of the people. If I am correctly informed by the Press and by ministerial statements, it is likely to be 1970 before the Fill A will be fully operational in Australia. In 1955 the Canberra bomber was deemed by departmental chiefs to be an obsolete weapon, yet it will be approximately 15 years after that before we have a replacement.
The Australian people are entitled to some information from the Government as to what it intends to do to carry out its commitment to replace the Canberra bomber. We look to the estimates for the provision of the finance necessary to equip the air arm with the means to protect the country. We know that over a period we shall get Mirage fighters. At present we have Sabre fighters in Darwin to try to protect that city. These are subsonic fighters which are not capable of fighting in the type of war that may be expected. If that is all we have at a time when, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) says, we are facing our greatest danger, we are putting ourselves in a position similar to that of 1940-41. In the modern context Sabres are no better than Wirraways were then. It is some 18 months since we contracted with the French people to buy Mirage fighters. At this point of time we have eight. We have a bomber that was declared obsolete nine years ago. So far as I can follow the estimates, there is no intention to provide for a replacement of it.
– It will be phased out in 1967.
– The Minister contradicts that; he says 1968. Public reaction is that it will be 1970 before we have squadrons of bombers and trained personnel to make them operative. I shall give the Minister the benefit of his estimate of 1968. That is four years away. We have entered into certain commitments with other countries - our so-called powerful friends. We are expected to provide for them the support of which we are capable, with our small population and our national income which is small by comparison with the populations and incomes of other countries. The Prime Minister has said that we are in the most dangerous period since the last war. In this contest, I want to know what the Government’s plans are. The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) has said that he will make a statement on defence before the Parliament rises. I take that as an election gimmick, like the one that was put over last year, when a deal was made to purchase the FI IIA and to have the B47 without cost. The Minister has now repudiated any agreement in respect of the B47, and at the earliest the FI IIA will not be available until 1968. Now, when these estimates are before us, is the time for us to know exactly what the Government’s intentions are.
– The FI IIA is the proposed replacement for the Canberra bomber. The first of these aircraft is due in Australia in July 1968. Twenty-four are on order at a total price of £56 million ex manufacturer in the United States of America. A deposit of £8.9 million has already been paid. I emphasise that the Canberra will not be phased out before the FI IIA arrives. The document “Defence Report 1964” states -
Delivery of the R.A.A.F.’s new bomber - the American FI IIA strike reconnaissance aircraft - is expected to commence in 1968. On counter air and interdiction missions, the FI IIA can be flown at supersonic speeds with its wings folded back. For ground support, the bomber can fly with its wings fully extended. It will be able to use many of the less-developed or limited runways and airstrips in possible areas of operation. The decision to accept the 1968 delivery schedule in preference to the originally announced date of 1967 was made to enable the latest modifications developed in flight tests to be incorporated in the R.A.A.F. aircraft.
– 1 am not satisfied with the answer given by the Minister. I knew that the Canberra bomber would not be phased out until the FI IIA came into operation. That is well known and I think I intimated that when I spoke earlier. Although the Canberra was declared obsolete in 1955 it is not to be phased out until 1968 or until the F111A comes into operation. That is what the Minister tells us, but it seems from’ statements by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) that the need for a replacement is more urgent. It is so urgent that the Prime Minister even brought a B47 to this country and had it on exhibition during an election campaign. Since that election any agreement to take delivery of the B47 has been repudiated.
We are told that the Australian armed forces are designed as mobile forces, that is, they are stationed in particular areas and are able to move quickly to any part of Australia. In an exercise only a few weeks ago, which the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) claimed was satisfactory, it was revealed that the movement of troops by air was quite unsatisfactory. I take honorable senators back about six or seven months when there was an exercise of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation in which the Special Air Service was to take part. A section of that Service that was to participate was to come from Western Australia. Two Hercules transport aircraft were sent to Western Australia to pick up the S.A.S. unit. The first failed to pick up any troops because it broke down and there were no replacement parts in Western Australia. The other aircraft was then sent to Western Australia to pick up the troops but an oil pump broke down and it had to wait 24 hours for a pump to be flown from eastern Australia to be installed.
If this is an example of the mobility of the Australian forces, it is time the Government did something better. If the Government cannot see its way clear to establish some of our forces on the Western Australian seaboard it should see that there are parts there for aircraft so that they can be put into service again in the case of a breakdown. The present situation is not good enough. The Government talks about mobility of the armed forces but at the same time it limits everything associated with the forces to one particular point. If the Government plans to have mobile armed forces, it must be able to keep its forces mobile from point to point. The units should not have to return to base every time something goes wrong. These are things about which the Australian people are asking questions. It is time the Government made provision for these requirements. If there are insufficient transport aircraft and if the transport planes are not capable of carrying out the work they are designed to do, it is time the Government got more transport planes and made sure that our so-called mobile forces are in fact really mobile.
– The observations of Senator Cant would be directed more properly to a debate on defence. They are not linked with the estimates before the Committee and for that reason I am not prepared to comment on them. However, I shall bring his remarks to the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson).
– I refer to Division No. 740 - Aircraft and other equipment - Repair and overhaul. The proposed vote is £2,600,000. This is an important matter because it concerns the defence of Australia. During this sessional period, I placed a question on the notice paper asking the Minister for Air for certain details concerning the repair and servicing of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. On 17th September I received a reply which dealt first with thousand hour servicing or what is known as “ E “ servicing of Sabre jet aircraft of the R.A.A.F. The Minister replied -
The R.A.A.F. carries out this type of servicing wilh its own facilities, but sends major repair work to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.
I am sure that the Minister and all honorable senators will appreciate that the servicing of Sabre jet aircraft is a matter of paramount importance to the defence of Australia. I asked the Minister also what was done about the servicing of V.I. P. Convair aircraft in the service of the R.A.A.F. and I received this reply to that question -
Major servicing of V.I.P. Convair aircraft is usually allotted to private industry. In the past, servicing has been carried out by Trans-Australia Airlines and Hawker De Havilland, Australia. 1 also asked the Minister whether DC3 aircraft, operated by the R.A.A.F. were serviced by a private firm in South Australia. The reply was -
Dakota aircraft of the R.A.A.F. arc serviced by the Department of Supply factory in South Australia. 1 then asked the Minister two other questions which he said he was not in a position to answer because they related to aircraft of the Royal Australian Navy. My next question was -
What servicing of Australian defence aircraft is carried out by either the R.A.A.F. or the R.A.N.?
The reply was this -
In so far as R.A.A.F. aircraft are concerned, the R.A.A.F. carries out all maintenance of its aircraft on its own bases directly supporting- 1 emphasise those words “ directly supporting “- the flying operations. The overhaul and major repair type of maintenance support described as fourth line servicing, is allotted either to civilian contractors, through arrangements with the Department of Supply, or to R.A.A.F. aircraft depots, depending upon the nature and magnitude of the workload and the available capacities.
It is obvious from the Minister’s answer that a great proportion of the servicing of R.A.A.F. aircraft is carried out by private concerns spread throughout the length and breadth of Australia. In other words, it is fair to say that this work is carried out by private concerns operating throughout Australia either because there are insufficient trained personnel in the R.A.A.F. to do this work or because there is insufficient equipment in the R.A.A.F. for trained personnel to effect repairs. If, in time of emergency, Sabre jet aircraft were required to engage in operational activities, it would be no excuse for the Minister for Air or the R.A.A.F. to say that, because of insufficient personnel or insufficient equipment, these aircraft would have to be transported to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation factory, whether they were flown there or transported by rail or some other means. That applies to all other types of aircraft in the service of the R.A.A.F.
The proposed vote of £2,600,000 involves a substantial sum of public money. I should like to know what proportion of the £2,600,000 will be spent with private contractors. I use that term loosely because I regard the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Trans-Australia Airlines and
Hawker De Havilland, Australia as coming within that category. This work should be carried out by R.A.A.F. personnel in R.A.A.F. workshops. Apparently, it cannot be carried out by them, cither because of a shortage of trained personnel or because of a shortage of necessary equipment.
I turn now to Division No. 742 - Equipment and Stores, and I relate my remarks to item 04, Communications, electronic and general electrical equipment. I refer in this regard to the lack of radar available for R.A.A.F. operations in the defence of Australia and Australian territories. On 19th August I directed a question to the Minister for Air concerning a number of reports that had been received this year about unidentified aircraft flying in Australian air space. The Minister told me in his reply that six reports had been received, one from Mana.goora in the Northern Territory, two from Cocos Island, two from Longreach in Queensland and one from Barrow Island off Western Australia. I am sure the Minister and all other senators, will appreciate that these reports came from widely separated parts of Australia or Australian territories.. I understand that Australia has a substantial Air Force base at Cocos Island. In reply to my question as to whether radar equipment had been available in the areas concerned, 1 was amazed to receive from the Minister a simple: “ No “. One would have thought that at Cocos Island, in view of the area in which it is situated and having regard to the importance of the base, there would have been radar operating to identify any aircraft flying over the spot. 1 could understand radar not being available at Longreach in Queensland or at Barrow Island off the coast of Western Australia, but as there is a Royal Australian Air Force base at Cocos Island one would naturally have thought that radar would be available there to enable R.A.A.F. personnel to investigate reports that unidentified aircraft had been flying over Australian air space. It has been said that in the places where radar is available it operates only during public service hours, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday and not at week-ends. I heard it said only the other day that were a flock of geese or a number of Indonesian aircraft to fly over any portion of Australia, it would be impossible to
Identify them because of the lack of radar equipment available to R.A.A.F. personnel.
I do not know whether an increase of expenditure from £3,731,000 last year to £4,715,000 this year will be sufficient to enable adequate, suitable and efficient radar equipment to be made available to protect what might be regarded as the danger areas of this country. I think the Minister should look at this matter, especially so far as Cocos Island is concerned. If no radar is yet available there, he should take steps as early as possible to see that it is made available in the near future.
– Senator McClelland has taken advantage of a debate on the Estimates to launch an attack on the Department of Air - an attack based on letters or replies to questions that he has received from the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson). As I see it, the substance of his speech was concerned with matters of policy or strategy - matters of great significance which quite clearly do not have any relation to a debate on the Estimates. For instance, the honorable senator asked about the desirability of having radar equipment at Cocos Island. Surely he would not expect that, in a debate on the Estimates, a Minister representing another Minister could discuss the merits or the desirability of having such equipment at Cocos Island?
I suggest to the honorable senator, with great respect, that if he requires information on such matters he should direct questions or make personal representations to the appropriate Minister, or raise the matters in a debate on defence. Obviously it cannot be expected that in a debate on the Estimates a Minister representing another Minister could embark upon a discussion of matters such as those that the honorable senator has brought to my notice today.
– The Minister has departmental advisers available to him. Surely he is competent to comment.
– The honorable senator had the right to make representations to the Minister for the Air if he believed that radar equipment should be provided at Cocos Island. Why did he wait until tonight to raise the matter?
– Surely it is my duty to raise these matters.
– It is the honorable senator’s duty to direct his representations to the Minister for Air. I suggest that he is trying, as Senator Cant tried to some degree, to initiate a full fledged debate on defence. If there is some specific information that the honorable senator wants about expenditure, I will be happy to accommodate him and give him the information he requires. However, if he wants me to debate matters of policy, I tell him first, that I am not competent to do so, and secondly, that I should not be expected to do so. Matters of policy should not be debated during a discussion of the Estimates.
Speaking of the appropriation of £2,600,000 sought under Division No. 740, the honorable senator asked what relationship it had to industry. My answer is that all of the work envisaged will be allotted to industry. The work to be done by the R.A.A.F. is not covered by this item. As to the other matters, I cannot comment on what is needed in particular areas. 1 do not appreciate, and I am certain that honorable senators generally do not appreciate, this attempt to decry the accomplishments of the R.A.A.F. by suggesting that enemy bombers could fly over Australia at will. I do not think Senator McClelland does credit to himself. The airfield at Cocos Island is operated by the Department of Civil Aviation. That is a matter which should be noted. The question whether radar equipment should be installed at certain places is one that the honorable senator should take up specifically with the Department of Air.
.-I rise only to register my very firm disagreement with the observations that I have heard fall from the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) as to the scope of a debate on the Estimates. I realise that Senator Anderson is at a great disadvantage. He has been overworked today, and we would not expect him to be equipped with the material to answer all the questions that have been asked or to justify all the policies that have been mentioned. However, when the Government is asking the Parliament to vote an appropriation for the year, we, as parliamentary representatives, have the right to require the Ministry to justify the policy behind the proposed expenditure and to establish the integrity and the sufficiency of the expenditure. If any honorable senator feels that a defence agency, such as radar, and the instruments operating that agency are misplaced or obsolete, I suggest that the debate on the Estimates is the occasion par excellence for the Ministry to be called upon to justify the relevant item on those heads. I regret that statements are made to us that the debate on the Estimates is more limited than 1 have indicated. I would say more except that the matter has been, by consensus of the Senate, shelved until another occasion; the next appropriate occasion.
If the item referred to by Senator McClelland were included in the capital expenditure of an Appropriation Bill, a procedure to which we have been accustomed in past years, the appropriate method by which Senator McClelland’s submission would be followed up would be to move that the amount be reduced by £1 as an indication to the Minister that the expenditure on radar should be disposed differently or more efficiently. But we are dealing with a measure which, for the moment, we are to treat as a bill involving only an appropriation for the ordinary annual expenditure of the Government. As that is a bill which is beyond our power to amend, no honorable senator will suggest that the item should be rejected. However, I call attention to our constitutional rights, to be registered hereafter, which will very definitely give us procedures by which to guarantee that the policy of the Government on all of these items will be questioned and, I hope, justified.
.- I wish to bc heard in support of the view put to the Committee by Senator Wright. I regard as untenable the view taken by the Minister about the method of handling criticisms of matters raised in the course of a debate on the Estimates. I find his attitude defensive and largely irrelevant. Senator McClelland has raised very important questions, but apparently he is to be satisfied by a lengthy statement from the Minister, not dealing with the matters raised, and questioning any senator’s rights to raise them during a debate on the Estimates. The Minister takes the ground that these are policy matters and not proper to be discussed in a debate on the Estimates. If honorable senators think that queries ought to be raised in connection with the administration of a department or its expenditure, where else can they raise such queries except in a debate on the Estimates?
We all appreciate that Senator Anderson, as the Minister in charge of the Departments concerned, or representing the appropriate Minister, has had a long and tiring day. He has had to deal with matters appertaining to a number of Departments and one does not expect him to have all these matters of detail at his fingertips. However, he should not take this negative and unhelpful view of what is relevant in this debate. The matters have been raised squarely for his attention and he should deal with them. We should not be told: “ Important though the matters are that have been raised, they are not proper to be raised in this debate. Ask the Minister about them at some other time, but do not worry us now “. That is an inadequate response to the importance of the occasion.
I join with Senator Wright in drawing attention to the importance of the principle that is involved. Without debating the particular matter raised by Senator Mcclelland, surely he is entitled to something better than has fallen from the Minister tonight.
– Any query raised by Senator. McClelland or by any other honorable senator in relation to an item in the estimates of the Department will be referred to the Minister. In the circumstances, 1 can say no more than that.
– I think my remarks may best be related to Division No. 740 - Aircraft and Other Equipment - Repair and Overhaul. I am a layman speaking on a matter that has been raised with me by two experienced airmen who are now about 40 years of age. They are anxious to lend their services to the Government in its defence activities, if they are allowed. They are commercial pilots of long experience and they cannot understand why, although the Army is supported by the Citizen Military Forces and the Navy has a citizen force in its support, the Air
Force does not have a citizen force to support it. They argue, for example, that when the Sabre aircraft become obsolete, instead of being sold, destroyed or stored, when a replacement aircraft becomes available, they should be used to train pilots for a citizen air force. Many people engaged in the aircraft industry would be prepared to join such a force.
Another person with whom I have an association served as an Air Vice-Marshal during the 1939-45 war. He is now retired. He is firmly of the opinion that aircraft which allegedly are obsolete and eventually will come into the hands of the Department of Air, should be kept in reserve for use by a citizen air force. He expresses the same view as the two air pilots to whom 1 have referred. He has reminded me that if it had not been for the second class aircraft available when the last war broke out in 1939, the Japanese might not have been defeated at the Coral Sea Battle. In those days he was one of the top men in the Air Force and he was very glad to have second class aircraft available to be used from the Australian coast to fight the Japanese in the Coral Sea. He supports the case made out by my two pilot associates. I ask the Minister: Why does not the Department agree that there should be established a civil air force, if you could give it such a title, to support the Royal Australian Air Force? I have quoted the points of view expressed to me and I seek information on them.
– I think in fairness to Senator Ormonde I should draw attention to the booklet “Defence Report 1964” and the section relating to the Citizen Air Force which reads -
Training now available to members of the permanent Air Force is also given lo members of the Citizen Air Force which continues to provide a percentage of the reserves required for any emergency involving the R.A.A.F.
C.A.F. members take part in exercises with operational units of the R.A.A.F. The University squadrons provide Service training also for university students seeking commissions in the reserve as medical, supply, technical, works, accountant or special duties officers.
– Do they have their own division?
– No. As I have read, Citizen Air Force members take part in exercises with operational units of the R.A.A.F.
– Do they have any organisation of their own?
– I do not know what you mean by that question. They are formed into a Citizen Air Force which continues to provide a percentage of the reserves required for an emergency involving the R.A.A.F.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of Supply: Government Factories - Maintenance of Production Capacity.
Proposed expenditure, £1,700,000.
– Senator McClelland recently asked questions about red-carded ammunition, and was given the information that out of £4 million worth of ammunition produced by the Department of Supply, some £500,000 of it was red-carded or marked “ not for use “. Senator McClelland has referred to this ammunition as “ defective “. I should point out and underline that redcarded does not necessarily mean that ammunition is defective; indeed, the procedure of red-carding ammunition in Army store is first and foremost a safety precaution for the men using it. If there is to be a proper understanding of the matters under debate, there must first of all be some appreciation of the nature and routine of ammunition production and testing.
In any kind of . mechanical production, some defects will appear and, perhaps, pass inspection. In mechanical production, it is possible to adjust these defects and put the item into service. But ammunition is a vastly different matter. I think all honorable senators agree with that statement. High explosive is necessarily an intricate chemical formula of great sensitivity and therefore, difficult to handle. When it is combined in the military store with intricate mechanical and electronic fuses and other items used in production, it is designed to be lethal to the enemy, but completely safe to the users and, therefore, the safety factor in testing must be enormously increased. Ammunition cannot be totally tested for obvious reasons. Resort is had therefore to proof firing of a small percentage of production, under conditions considerably more stringent than would be met with in actual service. In the case of 105 ammunition, two premature explosions occur, calling for the immediate marking as “ not for issue “ of earlier stocks which had passed inspection.
Honorable senators will appreciate that if a shell explodes on test, there is nothing left to investigate, and every minute process that goes into the production of shell must be rigidly examined in a search for a possible circumstance or set of circumstances which could produce premature explosion. In the case of the 105 ammunition, shell fillings were radiologically examined against the possibility that minor cracks and voids in filling were the cause of the explosion. This proved inconclusive when a third premature explosion occurred in a shell which had been X-rayed. The Department of Supply then selected a number of shells in every way comparable, but none could be induced to explode prematurely.
The Department of the Army and the Department of Supply then sent a top level technical mission to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America to submit the problem of prematures to experts in those countries. The mission produced a lengthy report with a considerable number of suggestions for upgrading the specification of the shell. But it singularly failed to produce an identifiable reason for premature explosion. The mission established that the Australian shell was, in respect to its engineering and filling, equal in every way to those produced overseas. Without an identifiable cause for the difficulty, the Department of Supply has been obliged to conduct a long and painstaking examination of every facet of explosive production and shell filling, and to improve vastly every section of the process, even where that process is highly unlikely to be a contributor to the cause of premature explosion. As a consequence of this painstaking effort, the Department of the Army has rewritten an upgraded specification. Shells are now being produced to meet it, and production is continuing with deliveries to the Army. This leaves the question of red-carded ammunition.
If a defect from an unidentified cause arises in one shell, it is a matter of elementary prudence and safety that other shells using the same kind of explosives should also be taken out of service until the cause of the difficulty has been identified. This is what happened in the case of the 3.7-in. and 5.5-in. shells filled with the same explosive. As no cause of premature explosion has yet been established, it is impossible to say that these shells are defective. But, clearly in the interests of safety, they should be withheld from service until further technical investigation finally establishes the identifiable cause of premature explosions, or Army inspection is satisfied that they can be accepted. In the case of the 5.5-in. shell, which was produced to meet Army specifications at the time, these have been sample radiographed and are still under examination by Army experts, who, in the interest of safety, are understandably conservative. Until their examination is concluded, it is not possible to say what percentage if any will be rejected. Much the same applies to the 3.7-in. shell which has also been sample radiographed. This has indicated that they are considerably better than the 5.5-in. shell and, therefore, probably assured of a very high rate of acceptance when the investigation of the Army has been concluded. I should add that this information is supplied to me by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall).
Something has been said about these difficulties affecting the confidence of the armed services in their ammunition. But it must surely be clear to the Committee that the withdrawal from issue of stores, about which there is only a minor doubt, and the intensity of the effort which has gone into the search for the cause of the difficulty and into the production of a vastly improved shell, is the best evidence to the men of the Services that their complete safety in the use of these stores is the prime consideration of the Department of the Army, as the ordering authority, and the Department of Supply as the producing authority. To take the matter of so called defective ammunition further, i should point out that even after ammunition goes into Army store it is subject to periodic checks, some of it through proof firing. If there should be any deterioration through storage, this ammunition will be marked “ defective “ and returned for rectification.
Again, the techniques and the materials of munitions production do not stand still. When new techniques are available, the Army will write new specifications and ammunition, properly produced to an earlier specification and approved for acceptance, may well be marked “ defective “ and returned for re-processing for such rectification as is necessary to bring it up to the new specification. These processes and the cost of so called rectification are inseparable from ammunition production. Australia’s experience in this regard is identical with that of overseas producing authorities even, it may be said, to the occurrence of occasional premature explosions.
The ammunition about which we have been talking is being produced in modern plant by experts whose competence is acknowledged around the world. The Department of Supply has approved such effort and provided such equipment as is necessary scientifically to investigate what is acknowledged by munitions production experts as a situation of extraordinary difficulty, and the costs of this inquiry and of re-processing if that should be necessary, must be accepted as the cost of providing advanced ammunition under conditions which completely safeguard the troops to whom the stores are issued.
.– Mr. Chairman, I wish to express my very great appreciation of the statement that the Minister has submitted to us. I trust it is realised how satisfying it is to honorable senators to hear a statement so responsibly and carefully prepared. I hope we will be given any information about any further checks which are made under this heading when we consider the relevant estimates next year.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure, £203,976,000.
and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) suggesting that this reduction be made. I was informed on 21st October, only six days ago, that it could not be done but that the matter would be reviewed on the next occasion on which pension rates were being examined. 1 was informed that the proposal had been carefully considered when the Budget was being prepared and that it was impossible to grant a reduction at this stage. The Postmaster-General’s reply was delivered into my box only within the last three hours, but it was dated 22nd October.
I am wondering what change has come over the Government within the last six days to lead it to make this very welcome contribution to the welfare of the people I have mentioned. Can the Minister for Customs and Excise tell me what the new rate will be? As I indicated earlier, I am most interested to know why in a reply given to a member of the Opposition six days ago this reduction was said to be impossible but now on the eve of a Senate election it has become possible.
– I understand that a statement on this matter was made in another place today by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). Unfortunately, I have been engaged in this place since half past ten this morning and I have not had an opportunity to acquaint myself with the precise details of that statement. If the discussion of the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department continues for any length of time, I shall obtain the details and make them known to Senator Willesee. Meanwhile, I have been informed by the departmental officers that the proposal covers a reduction of 33i per cent, of rentals for all persons who are entitled to a concession rate for broadcast and television receiver licences, and for widows.
– How will that work out in actual money terms? Will they be paying a little more than they paid before the Budget was introduced?
– I am not aware of the details. As I said, if the opportunity presents itself a little later, I shall make them known to the honorable senator.
.- 1 rise to direct attention to an item which from a financial and Treasury viewpoint is quite insignificant. I refer to Division No. 831 - Restoration of Sydney G.P.O. Clock Tower. 1 take it that the total expenditure on this project before the current year was £82,538. I should like to be informed whether that is so. I recall the pleasure with which we heard of the proposal to restore this unique clock, as it was described by a former colleague, Senator Robertson of Western Australia. I should like to place on record our extreme pleasure that this work of beauty has been restored. 1 believe that, even though the cost seems somewhat large, as the years go by all those who look upon the structure with pleasure will regard the money as having been well spent.
– 1 think we all agree with the general observations made by Senator Wright. I had the great pleasure of being able to see from my parliamentary office in Sydney the restoration of the clock tower almost from day to day. The time of the completion of this work of restoration was one of the great moments in the lives of those who were interested in it. My officers are obtaining the information that Senator Wright sought.
– I relate my remarks to Division No. 824 - Acquisition of sites and buildings. Can the Minister supply me with any information about the latest developments in regard to the General Post Office in Perth? Can he tell me how many branches of the Post Office are situated in coffee shops, auction marts and similar places outside the General Post Office building? Can he tell me how many more branches will have to move out from that building within the next 12 months or two years? It seems that two acquisitions have been made in Perth for government departments - one for the Taxation Branch, which is overcrowded, and one by the State Government for its departments. I am wondering whether either of those two buildings will be used to house branches of the General Post Office in that city.
The Minister may not agree with me, but I take it for granted that a G.P.O. building should house all branches of the General Post Office. Although it was denied for many years, the point was reached iri Melbourne where more branches of the General Post Office were outside the G.P.O. building than were inside it. Does the Minister agree that it is desirable that all branches of a G.P.O. should be housed within the one building? Has any move been made, or ‘is any contemplated, to house all outside branches of the Perth G.P.O. in one building, whether it be a rented or leased building or one owned by the Department? The Taxation Branch is facing up to the situation by erecting a building which will house not only its own officers but also other government offices. Likewise, the State Government, realising that its departments are being scattered, wants to bring them back into the fold. I again ask: Has the Minister any information on this matter?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [10.38]. - I wish to address a question to the Minister about the proposed expenditure on research projects under Division No. 820 - Administrative. Last year the appropriation was £15,000, and that sum was expended. The allocation for this year is £17,000. I ask the Minister for some details of these research projects.
– Senator Willesee referred to the proposed expenditure of £490,000 on the acquisition of sites and buildings. I understand that it is the policy of the Postmaster-General’s Department to bring together as many of its branches as possible but that very often expansion programmes and the demands on its service are such that it has to make short, term arrangements to house its staff. Therefore, they cannot do what they want to do in the consolidation of staff.
No information is available to me as to the precise position in the West. This amount of £490,000 shows that the estimated expenditure is based on revoted work amounting to £169,000, new sites and property required for the expansion of departmental facilities, £320,000, and the transfer to the Post Office of a number of Commonwealth owned properties for a nominal amount of £505, making a total of £490,000. In general, the programme provides for the acquisition of sites required for buildings on which construction is planned in the immediate years ahead. In accordance with established practice, provision has also been made for sites for improved properties in certain rapidly developing areas to be acquired ahead of the immediate needs. At this point of time that is all the information I have.
As to the matter raised by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin regarding Division No. 820, sub-division 7, item 02 - Research projects - there has been an increase of £2.000. The Department’s contribution towards the expenditure of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been £15,000 annually since 1958-59. The higher contribution is to cover increased costs and to enable the Radio Research Board to carry out urgent radio development studies.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 825 - Real estate management. The expenditure on rent last year was £762,620, and an appropriation of £941,000 is sought for this year. In round figures this represents an increase of £200,000 in rent for premises occupied by the Postal Department. In the building in which the Commonwealth offices are situated in Perth, a sec-tion of the Postal Department is occupying rooms that were previously occupied by the Department of Trade and Industry and by the Department of Primary Industry. [ understand that those Departments moved out of the building because they considered that the rent was too high. Now we find that the Postal Department which operates under business practices, has moved into these premises and, if my information :s correct, is prepared to pay the higher rental.
The Government told the people that in this financial year it would spend an extra £77 million on Post Office services, and it has also said that the amount of capital invested in the Postal Department is £556 million. Yet this year the Department is paying in round figures an additional £1 million in rent. There is no reason to suggest that this amount will not be equalled or exceeded in forthcoming years.
I am particularly concerned with the accommodation in Perth that I have mentioned. It the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Primary Industry considered that the rent was too high, and if they were able to rent cheaper premises elsewhere, why is the Postal Department, which operates on revenue on which interest is charged, paying the high rental? Increased charges have been made for the facilities provided by the Postal Department, with the exception of the ordinary postage services which will be increased as soon as decimal currency is introduced. I am concerned that the rent has increased by approximately £200,000 this year, and I would like to know the reason for the increase.
– Senator Cant referred to Division No. 825 - Real estate management. The increase will be £180,880 and it is attributed to two factors. First, higher rentals on existing leased premises-
– Does this apply to the building in Perth?
– This applies to the whole of the Commonwealth. The second factor is the payment of rental for a full year on property leased for part only of 1963-64. In other words, in 1963-64 some premises were leased during the year, and an estimate for the full year was not shown. That accounts for the increase in the expenditure from £803,120 to £984,000.
.- I refer to Division No. 820, sub-division 5, item 03, Coastwise mail services. I hope that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) will not think me facetious if I ask: What genius is responsible for this curious linguistic expression “ coastwise mail services “? I am curious to knew what is comprehended under that expression. Is it limited to mail carried by sea, or does it extend to mail carried by air, from one point to another point on the coast? It is not clear to my mind whether there is some laudable initiative in the expression, or whether it is a tawdry imitation. “ Coastwise “ is the type of expression that I would like to see avoided because once we begin to put “ wise “ on to the end of a noun we get to the stage where we read estimates Senatewise, representativewise, and so on.
– Coastwise is a well recognised term.
– It may be, but it is not one with which I am familiar. I am interested to know what is meant by it.
, - I suggest that Senator Cohen take Senator Kendall’s word that coastwise is a well known nautical term. Division No. 820, sub-division 5, item 03 - Coastwise mail services - shows an increase in the estimates of £4,249. The expenditure under this item comprises payments to shipping companies for the conveyance of mail by sea between various Australian ports. That is what makes it coastwise. The increase is due to the cost of conveying mail to and from Tasmania by the “Princess of Tasmania” and the “Bass Trader”.
– I have a couple of queries for the Minister under Division No. 820 - Administrative. I refer to the shortage of staff in the mail branch of the Postal Department. Members of the Postal Workers Union have told me that the Mail Branch is desperately short of staff. I do not suppose there would be one honorable senator who has not received complaints, in the last twelve months about delays in mail delivery. I received a complaint last week about a letter which was posted in one part of Parramatta and which took three days to get to another part of Parramatta about a mile away. I do not want to be critical of the Post Office, because its employees work hard. You do not blame anyone for not giving a service which he is not capable of giving. Most of the letters that I receive from the Department carry assurances that it is attending to the matters that I have raised. There is even agreement that there are shortages - that there is only one mail delivery in areas where the Post Office would like to have two. Only the other day, following a letter to the Department about post box facilities in certain areas, the Department advised me that if people had to walk too far to a post box they could give the letter to the mailman and it would be his responsibility to carry it to the nearest box and post it. I regard all these things as being the result of a failure by the Post Office to get at the real problem - the shortage of staff in the Mail Branch. Is anything being done to recruit staff for the Mail Branch to help relieve the pressure? If anything is being done, what is it?
A matter in which I have had an interest for some time is the move by the Postmaster-General to allow private companies to supply the public with telephone services. I refer particularly to the red Victa telephones which have been appearing all over the Sydney area. Probably the same applies in other States. I do not want to go so far as to say that the Post Office will sell out. I do not think anything is further from its mind, but I do not understand why a private organisation should be allowed to join with a great institution like the Post Office and supply the people with telephone services. The Post Office claims that the equipment, the cables or the telephones are not available. I know that the demands on the Post Office are very heavy but I find it difficult to understand how a private company can supply telephones in an area where the Post Office cannot.
– Private enterprise can always do things more efficiently than can public instrumentalities.
– I do not think that can be said of the Post Office. I think it is very bad and unwise for the Government to allow a private interest to run a section of the Post Office. I have never had explained to me satisfactorily why the Government has found it necessary to do this. Surely to goodness, the Government should be trying to make it easy for the people to have telephones in their homes and flats rather than allowing the Victa company to establish its all-purpose telephones under awnings in the streets. In the Kings Cross area two of these telephones are only 30 or 40 yards away from the line of telephones in the Kings Cross Post Office. I can see no good reason for those Victa telephones being in their present location. Surely the people who would use the Victa telephones at that corner could use the latest type telephones on the Post Office verandah.
Can the Minister give any explanation why the Victa company receives this very special privilege? I cannot see that it has earned the privilege. If the company were placing telephones in an area where it was too expensive for the Post Office to put them, there might be something in the arrangement, but that is not where the company wants to install them. It is installing telephones almost side by side with the Government’s instruments. How can the Government justify supplying Kings Cross with all these privately owned telephones? Surely by doing this it is eating into the revenue of its own instrumentality. I do not want to be critical of the Victa company. It manufactures aeroplanes and lawn mowers, and is engaged in many other activities. Now it is in the telephone business. Perhaps the Government has the idea that one day we may have an Australian type Bell Telephone Company. If the plan is to erode the profits of the Post Office in this way, that is very wrong. I rise to voice a warning about this very dangerous practice. Will the Minister tell me the advantages of allowing the Victa company to operate the red telephones?
– Before replying to Senator Ormonde, I have a little more information to give Senator Willesee. The Government has agreed lo grant a telephone rental concession of 33i per cent, to all pensioners who already are entitled, under the Broadcasting and Television Act, to concessional broadcast and television licences, and also to war widows generally. In capital cities, including Canberra and Newcastle, the rate wilt be £13 6s. 8d. instead of £20; in country areas where the rental is now £12 the concessional rate will be £8; and in country areas where the rental is now £8 the concessional rate will be £5 6s. 8d.
– What were the rates prior to the increase? Will these people receive a reduction even now? I think they will still be paying more than they did before the Budget.
– If the honorable senator will raise this matter later I will endeavour to have more precise information for him.
Senator Ormonde mentioned the red Victa telephones. I remind him that during the debate a few days ago on the motion for the disallowance of certain telephone regulations the point was made that £70 million out of a total capital expenditure of £77 million was devoted to telephone services. Despite that huge expenditure, there is a tremendous demand on the Post Office for more telephones. That is a natural consequence of the prosperous times in which the people now find themselves. There is a tremendous demand for telephones and the Post Office believes that by entering into an arrangement with the Victa company it has been able to conserve capital, which can be used in other directions in the expansion of telephone services. The agreement with the Victa company is subject to a financial arrangement. Obviously this suits the Postal Department because telephones are being provided for the people while it conserves its own capital for use in other avenues in the interests of the people at large.
The question of staff was raised. It is true that staff is difficult to recruit in most capital cities but the position generally is not regarded as acute. As to the general observation about the service given by the Postal Department, I should think that all of us would support it. The service that we get from officers of the Post Office is admirable and worthy of commendation.
.- I wish to refer to three items which arise out of the report of the Auditor-General on the operations of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The first relates to outstanding accounts or, as he describes them, terminated accounts. The amount of these has grown from £651,000 in 1961 to £1,100,000 in 1964. Can the Minister say how much of those recurring accounts have had to be written off? On occasion the Post Office has stupidly gone to the great expense of assembling a gang of men around the house of an old and valued subscriber, who inadvertently has not paid an account by the due date, with a view to disconnecting his service. If we are allowing any considerable amounts to slip out of our clutches, we should know of it.
The second matter relates to a reference by the Auditor-General to failure to instal a sufficient internal audit system. I find his language most insipid, uninspiring and unprovocative. What are the real, pregnant facts behind the statement on page 149 of his report, which reads -
In the meantime, internal audit work remained substantially in arrears in all States.
I do not know what our colleague, Senator Sir William Spooner, would say as to the value of an internal audit that is in arrears. I should think it would be worse than none.
On the same page there is reference to an amount of £60,811,173, which includes an amount of £792,393 in respect of credits incorrectly built up in section B - workshops suspense - of the Trust Account from Parliamentary appropriations. I should like to have that ambiguous reference interpreted to me in accordance with the plain facts of accountancy.
– The plain facts of accountancy might be anybody’s guess. I make that statement having seen much and varied accountancy in my time. Senator Wright asked earlier about (he Sydney General Post Office clock. In 1962-63 expenditure was £8,802. In 1963-64 it was £82,538. It is estimated to be £3,000 in 1964-65. This is expected to provide for completion of the job. It is interesting to look at these figures in the light of the discussions that preceded the decision to restore the clock. Varying estimates of the cost were made by many people.
In relation to the Post Office Stores and Services Trust Account, the AuditorGeneral mentioned that expenditure through the account in 1963-64 included an amount of £792,393 in respect of credits incorrectly built up in section Bworkshops suspense - of the Trust Account from Parliamentary appropriations. The credits arose through incorrect accounting treatment of adjustments between the Treasury and commercial accounting systems in the Post Office. The costing of completed jobs was at all times correct, and correct entries were incorporated in the commercial accounts. The nature of the incorrect adjustments was brought to notice progressively in the process of reconciling the balance of the Trust Account and corresponding accounts in the Department’s commercial accounts.
The question of adjustment of these items and other issues affecting the Trust Account had been under discussion with the Audit Office and the Department of the Treasury for some time. In September 1959 a committee of inquiry was appointed to study and report on a number of issues connected with the commercial accounts of the Post Office. In view of the terms of reference of the committee, action on the Trust Account was held in abeyance pending the review of the accounting system. The full effects of this review were shown for the first time in the accounts of 1962-63. Concurrently, action was initiated to make the financial adjustments in the Trust Account necessary to avoid the annual reconciliations referred to above. These adjustments, which involved the repayment of an amount of ‘ £792,000 from the Trust Account advance and a corresponding credit to Post Office revenue, were made in 1963-64.
The honorable senator also referred to internal audit. The cash and accounting transactions of the Post Office are subject to three interlocking audits. One is performed by an outside authority, the Commonwealth Auditor-General. The other two are within the Department and consist of the normal systems of internal check with the addition of a formal internal audit process. The audit by the Auditor-General covers those aspects of the operations of the Post Office which are the subject of report to Parliament in his annual and supplementary reports and in the certificate attached to the commercial balance sheet contained in the Post Office annual report. In the normal operations of the Department, internal checks are provided in all procedures relating to cash and accounting transactions. Between these internal checks and the audit performed by the staff of the Auditor-General, an independent internal audit programme is operated by the Department.
Internal audit was introduced into the Department in 1961 with a staff of 25 for the Commonwealth. Prior to the establishment of the system, a comprehensive study was made of the scope and extent of the audits required and a manual was prepared setting this out in detail and establishing areas to be covered and the frequency of examinations to be made. The initial staff was assessed on the basis of the time estimated to be required to perform the various audits. By early 1963 it was evident that the staff provided was inadequate to carry out the programme as set down. As an interim step, whilst the staff problem was being tackled emphasis was placed on fully carrying out those parts of the programme which were considered most critical - for example, the audit of all cash transactions and those areas where values were dealt with such as stamp issuing. Records show that about two-thirds of prescribed audits were fully completed. The remaining audits were not omitted but were carried out at less frequent intervals than provided for in the manual.
The staffing position was reviewed urgently in the light of operating experience and a submission was made to the Public Service Board in late 1963 for an additional 13 positions; these were granted by the Board in July 1964. The filling of these new jobs is being vigorously pursued and it is expected that all vacancies will be filled shortly.
– I rise to ask the Minister his intentions regarding the continuance of this sitting. I should like him to note that the concurrence of the Opposition to the suspension of Standing Orders and Sessional Orders, and the proceedings on adjournment, was given on the basis of a document submitted to me by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge), which indicated that the sitting today would be to 11 p.m. On Tuesday normally we have the motion for the adjournment at 10.30 p.m. I raised no question about it, of course, because I was working on the document I had from the Leader of the Government. I should like to know from the Minister for Customs and Excise whether he is aware of the arrangement made by the Leader of the Government and whether he would find it convenient to adjourn at this time.
, - My understanding of the position is that it is desirable to conclude these estimates tonight. With the concurrence of the Senate I would like to do that because it would facilitate the conduct of affairs in the Senate for the remainder of the week.
Proposed expenditure noted. j
Broadcasting and Television Services.
Proposed expenditure, £22,338,000.
– Is it the intention to proceed to complete these estimates tonight?
– I point out that the discussion on Broadcasting and Television Services will take a long time.
– I am prepared to move that the Committee report progress.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I apologise to the Senate for taking up its time but 1 believe the matter I rise to discuss is of some public importance. It is known in this Parliament that there are several media of information in Australia - the Press, radio and television. 1 want to speak about the medium of television and in particular about the programme entitled “Four Corners “. This programme is used to inform the people of Australia - and I believe it captures quite an audience - on controversial issues that are in the public mind. In particular it deals with topical issues that the Australian Broadcasting Commission considers should be brought to public attention. Over the years it has performed this task reasonably well. I look at “ Four Corners “ as often as I can. I appreciate some of the programmes; others I do not appreciate. Possibly some people may have just the reverse reaction.
Over a considerable period, we have found that “ Four Corners “ has been subjected to political pressures. Political pressure has been brought to bear perhaps to have the programme modified or, in other words, to make it rather innocuous. On several occasions, the officers who prepare the programme have been intimidated.
Some have thought fit to resign because they were not prepared to accept the intimidation. Others have been promoted away from that programme. Others have been sent overseas to get them out of the way for a period of time. I mention in this particular context Michael Charlton who was sent overseas on a study tour some 18 months ago. lt was supposed to be for 12 months. We have even been told in this Parliament that political pressure has been brought on the Australian Broadcasting Commission either to suppress a programme or to put a particular programme on at different times. Even the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has been involved in some of this political pressure. In particular, the previous Postmaster-General, Mr. Davidson, was taken to task in another place for using political pressures in respect of the A.B.C. lt has been said on several occasions by people in the street that this interference with the independence of the A.B.C. to put on programmes has in some cases amounted to a public scandal. The programme “ Four Corners “ was first sponsored to bring controversial issues before the public mind and that has been done. But because of ministerial interference, the people who are preparing these programmes have to be most careful about the type of programme they bring forward. At the back of their minds in producing this programme is the underlying thought: “Will this programme be acceptable to certain political opinions?” This, of course, tends to prevent them presenting the programme as they would perhaps present it in the spirit of true journalism.
– Or as the Communists directed.
– If Senator Maher thinks there are Communists in the A.B.C, he should stand up and say so. That is all he has to do. The Broadcasting and Television Act gives the A.B.C. a pretty fair amount of independence. It is known that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has not exercised this independence. When the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television was taking evidence, it was revealed that there were occasions when the Minister took over the functions of the A.B.C. and did certain things by writing letters that were not his responsibility but the responsibility of the A.B.C.
This is an indication of the intrusion of the Minister into the field of control of the A.B.C. If this independent action of the A.B.C. is to be inhibited by political pressures, when can we expect to get a properly informed public? When can the public be expected to see things that are factually and constructively presented to them to create interest and inquiry in their minds? We are constantly reminded of the freedom of the Press in Australia. The free-, dom of the Press, of course, extends somewhat further than the Press itself. It extends to . broadcasting and television. But what freedom can we expect to get when the A.B.C, in respect of its television programme, is constantly . being influenced by political interests? What feeedom have we got when workmen are injured in their employment unless they conform to the policies that are laid down, not by the A.B.C, but by someone outside the A.B.C.? Of course, the A.B.C. will continue to be subject to this political pressure unless it receives some protection. The only protection the A.B.C. can receive is from this Parliament. It is the instrument, not of the Minister, but of this Parliament. If the Commission wants to act independently, it is up to this Parliament to give it the protection that was envisaged when the Broadcasting and Television Act was passed.
The issue that I want to raise concerns a programme that should have been shown last weekend, based on the controversial subject of capital punishment. I express no views now on the merits of capital punishment, because I have forcibly expressed my views on previous occasions. I am opposed to capital punishment, but I am not raising that matter tonight. The only issue is interference with the A.B.C. in the presentation of the programme I have mentioned. The programme was prepared at about the time when a hanging was to take place in Western Australia. The “ Four Corners “ programme was to be presented in Western Australia on Saturday and Sunday of last weekend and the Government of Western Australia intended to carry out the hanging on Monday morning. The “ Four Corners “ reporters went to Western Australia and prepared the programme.
– A grisly programme, loo.
– That may be so. Questions were raised in the State Parliament and the Premier of Western Australia said he would have inquiries made about the programme. I have only Press reports to go on, but it was stated that he said he would make inquiries. In any event, the programme that was prepared was not shown to the public.
This is something more than a Federal Minister in charge of the Australian Broadcasting Commission using pressure to suppress a programme. We find a State Premier using pressure, either himself or through someone else, to have a programme suppressed. I am wondering just how far this matter really goes. Was the Conservative Premier of Western Australia so ashamed of the policy his Government was carrying out that he was afraid to have the spotlight of public opinion focused upon that policy by independent reporters? That is the type of thing that this Parliament should be examining. I want to know when this Government will realise - it has not realised it during the 15 years it has been in office - that a well informed public creates a well informed democracy. If the Government keeps on suppressing information, very shortly we will have a dictatorship.
.- I do not feel that I can allow Senator Cant’s wide generalisations to pass without some sort of comment or some observations from me. On occasions I have looked at the “ Four Corners “ programmes, and I may as well confess right at the beginning that they do riot impress me. I have two reasons for saying that. One is that the original “Four Corners” programmes brought to the television screens of Australia had the obnoxious habit - it has been developing substantially in the British Press, and is creeping into the Australian Press - of invading the privacy of individuals, invading the privacy of their homes, and of bullying and hectoring in order to obtain a desired effect or to elicit statements which were alleged to be factual statements.
Secondly, Senator Cant says, by inference, that the existing “ Four Corners “ programme is a balanced programme. That is a matter of opinion. In my view by no stretch of imagination can it be said to be balanced. Let me illustrate to the Senate exactly what I mean by that. Some 12 months ago the “ Four Corners “ people decided to feature a programme relating to pensioners. There was an invasion of King’s Hall, which was used as a sort of backdrop. King’s Hall is the very heart of the Parliament. I happened to be here that day and I watched with some interest - with a rather technical eye, as it were - to see how the programme was to be put together. I remember that it was a bright sunny day - one of those bright spring days that you get in Canberra. The young gentleman who was one of the comperes of the programme, having told a piteous story - not, I think, substantially true - about the pensioners, provided himself with drapes to illustrate to the cowering viewers the unfortunate situation of pensioners. He did this by donning a heavy overcoat, which he held up under his ears, and then put his hands in the cuffs. Then he shook and shivered, supposedly from the icy blasts which sweep down from the Canberra mountains, in order to evoke the sympathy of viewers. If anyone can describe that as straight reporting, I have something to learn about the straight reporting of television programmes.
I wish to comment on Senator Cant’s remark that political pressure is constantly being exerted. He said that Ministers are exerting pressure on the Australian Broadcasting Commission or that pressure is being exerted on the “Four Corners” programmers. The truth is that the Australian
Broadcasting Commission is charged with a responsibility to carry out the obligations plainly set out in the Act. If the Commissioners believe that pressure is being exerted upon them which they cannot resist, then, if they are men of character and quality, it is their duty to resign and to state that their reason for resigning is that they are not allowed to carry on but are being subjected to political pressure. I have never heard Dr. Darling, the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, say that he has been subjected to political pressure.
There is another aspect, and it is one that Senator Cant will not recognise. The “ Four Corners “ programme is similar to a newspaper in that it is produced by reporters. Senator Cant mentioned them. He must acknowledge that journalists on a newspaper are subject to the scrutiny and discipline of the editor. The editor in this case happens to be the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If he instructs that a programme be withdrawn, he is acting in the proper role of an editor in relation to what he considers to be the public need. On that basis alone I think there can be no complaint about the “ Four Corners “ programme. I heard Senator Maher interject that it was a grisly performance. In truth television is easily the most intimate medium of communication. The Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is the only man who can order the withdrawal of a programme, or its deferment. Therefore in the view of the Chairman or the Acting General Manager of the Commission it must have been an inappropriate programme to display at the time it was intended to display it. I am on the side of the Chairman or the Acting General Manager of the Commission.
.- I cannot forbear on this occasion from dissociating myself from the criticism levelled at those who are responsible for the production of the “ Four Corners “ programmes. I have directed criticism at some programmes, but generally they are most stimulating to Australian public opinion on affairs on which most of us are grateful to be informed. I instance as one such programme the film of the excursion into Indonesia shown on Saturday week last. I hope that programmes of that stan dard will be repeated often. Their advantages outweigh any possible indiscretion that may appear on an individual programme.
I believe that we have heard from Senator Cant tonight a long tissue of expertise in innuendo and smear unsubstantiated by fact. 1 believe that the honorable senator has no facts to support a claim that duties have unjustly been allocated to staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have no information on the subject, but I have watched the administration of the Commission and I know something of its staff. I believe that Senator Cant has no facts to substantiate that suggestion. Mr. Brand, the Premier of Western Australia, made a statement drawing attention to the inappropriateness of presenting on Saturday night a television programme on the subject of capital punishment, when capital punishment was to be visited on the following Monday upon a victim who had been judged to be guilty of murder in Western Australia. Surely it would need no more than the discreet statement of Mr. Brand to be published for any reasonable officer or executive of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be made cognisant of how revolting such an idea would be to the Australian public. To suggest that that is a basis for an inference of undue political interference is to me anything but reasonable. I think that credit is due to the A.B.C, if it ever had the intention of exhibiting that programme in those circumstances, for reconsidering its decision. I do not believe that anybody in this chamber has any facts to support a suggestion that the reconsideration of the programme was due to political pressure.
– Senator Cant has been singularly unfortunate in choosing this incident to attempt to establish by innuendo that political pressure had been applied by Mr. Brand. I would like the Senate to know that the matter was raised in the Western Australian Parliament by Mr. Harry May, the Labour Party member for Collie. It is to his credit that that gentleman expressed abhorrence of the intention at that time of the “ Four Corners “ organisation to give news coverage to the hanging of the unfortunate wretch who was to suffer that fate. I think Mr. May’s good judgment was supported not only by Mr. Brand, but by the vast majority of fair-minded and sensible people in Western Australia. I believe it was also supported by the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I think it completely unworthy of Senator Cant, who is to lead the Labour Senate team at the forthcoming election, to attempt to gain some political advantage out of this terrible circumstance. It is regrettable that he has chosen to use this incident - although his attempt has fallen completely flat - to pursue his political objectives.
– It is my opinion that Senator Cant has done a service in raising the matter of the pressure that has been exercised on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, particularly in relation to the “ Four Corners “ programme.
– Who is exercising pressure?
– In the particular case to which we are referring, it has been exercised by the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Brand, and perhaps by the other man to whom Senator Prowse referred. Any political pressure on the A.B.C. should be strongly resented by the Commission. There is no doubt that the incident referred to is one of a series of cases in which the programme has been attacked. I remember very strong criticism of the “ Four Corners “ programme on the Returned Servicemen’s League clubs. Some honorable senators requested an opportunity to see that programme. Some aspects of it perhaps did not show the best side of club life, but they could be seen in any club.
– The Returned Servicemen’s League was entitled to criticise it.
– Yes, but the point is that there was nothing untrue about the programme. It has not done the R.S.L. or the Australian public any harm. As a matter of fact, membership of the R.S.L. has increased because the programme showed the Australian public the good fellowship that exists in R.S.L. clubs. Pressure was exerted on the A.B.C. following this programme. Then we had the example of the programme dealing with the pensioners, to which Senator Cormack referred. I should like to know how any man can truthfully say that there are beautiful, warm spring days in August in Canberra. He must have a very vivid imagination.
– I was here. It was a warm spring day.
– The honorable senator probably looks through brighter tinted glasses than do most people. If the commentator was wearing an overcoat in Canberra in August, he was quite entitled to do so. He may be the type of man who needs an overcoat. The honorable senator is casting an aspersion that the commentator was specially dressed for the occasion to interview pensioners.
Currently the “ Four Corners “ programme on the subject of hanging has been withdrawn. I believe that it is a topical subject. The majority of people in Australia are opposed to hanging. Whether an unfortunate specimen of humanity moulders in a prison cell in Western Australia or dies on the end of a rope does not matter a scrap to anyone. The man is removed from the community. I believe that people who want to destroy life exhibit the lowest form of sadism. If they get any pleasure out of that kind of action, or if they want to perpetuate the system of capital punishment, they ought to be in the Congo where white men who went there to try to do good are being hacked to death. The action of hanging a man is similar to hacking a man to death in the jungle fashion. What right has the community to take any man’s life? A man has taken life and we want to punish him. But the community should be punished for taking another life.
The point that arises in this discussion is the great interest of the community in this matter of hanging. When Senator Henty was the Minister in charge of censorship, he said, in effect: “A lot of this nonsense needs to be opened up. I will release a lot of books from censorship. I am not frightened to allow people to know about subjects on which they are entitled to be informed. I will remove a lot of this fustian crust from the old custom which denies people the right to read certain books.” The same principle applies in respect of the present issue. Conservative people are wanting to protect the mass of Australians from information that they are entitled to receive. Therefore, it is my view that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should resolve to ignore political pressures. It seems, too, that because the Commission is trying to seek truth so as to inform the public-
– There has been no political pressure, and the honorable senator knows it.
– There is political pressure. The criticism of the telecast dealing with social services came from one political side. It is interesting, too, that the criticism of such a programme always seems to come from Government senators or people of their political persuasion for the simple reason that they have a vested interest in the perpetuation of ignorance, and lack of information. When you can keep people in the dark, you can get away with your old traditional lurks and rackets. An intelligent community is an informed community. The more information people can get, the more their minds are brightened, and the better citizens they are.
I want to support Senator Cant in raising this matter. I hope we have seen the last of interference in this organisation. If the editors of the “ Daily Telegraph “, the “ Daily Mirror “ or some of the pictorials in Victoria were asked to withdraw some of the sensational material they publish there would be nothing left in the papers. There would be about as much as there is in the Country Party’s political policy - a blank page. The Government does not interfere with them because the slant is always in its favour. That is how they have existed over the years, obtaining big advertising contracts and indirect favours, such as knighthoods and the like, from governments. Their sensationalism is always slanted in favour of the Government. Yet, when an objective organisation seeks ways in which it can lift the lid off the old traditional darkness, we find this opposition to it from powerful places.
I think that, in future, the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be regarded as entitled to enter fields which it believes are of public interest, and should have full authority from the Parliament to do so, provided the programmes are within the accepted bounds of ethics and observe limits with regard to sex and that kind of thing. We do not want sex programmes, for instance, on “ Four Corners “. But the other activities of human beings should be open for public criticism and exposure. As a matter of fact, I think that the people who do wish to censor the realities of life are closing their eyes to the facts.
– Is not sex a reality of life?
– It is a fact of life.
– Yes. It is a fact of life.
– Yet the honorable senator wants the censor to take it off.
– I notice that Senator Henty is in the same position with regard to the censorship of books. He drew the line at a certain place beyond which he would not proceed. I think the same applies with the A.B.C. in these delicate situations. But in all other fields I believe that the public is not only able to absorb this educational and informative information but is seeking it. The public is sick and tired of being dished up the old onetrack minded stuff with blinkers so that people can see only what is good for them. It is time it was stopped and I think that Senator Cant has raised a matter that should quite rightly be aired in this Senate.
– in reply - I simply rise to reject out of hand the suggestion that any political pressure has been placed upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the PostmasterGeneral or any member of the Government. The suggestion is just sheer political nonsense. I think we should regard it in this way, and adjourn and forget it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 October 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19641027_senate_25_s27/>.