25th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it true that Australian banks are to increase their charges for the handling of cheque accounts by up to 15 per cent, and that an estimated extra amount of $18 million will flow thereby .to the Commonwealth Trading Bank and private trading banks? Did the Government give authority for this increase? Does it not consider that banking institutions are making enough profit today without increasing their charges for handling cheque accounts?
– Under the Banking Act the only charges made by banks which are subject to the direct jurisdiction of the Reserve Bank are rates of interest and rates of discount. Within these limits, the trading banks conduct their own business. Specific bank charges, other than interest rates and discount rates, are matters for the banks themselves to decide. Before announcing these new charges, the banks informed the Reserve Bank of their proposals. The Government’s view is that as this is a matter for the banks and not a matter of Government policy, the Government does not enter into it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Where is the Loder report? Will the report be made available to the Parliament before the end of this session?
– I understand that the Loder report is at present under consideration by the Government. That is the only information I have on the matter at the moment. T will make inquiries and see whether I can get any further information for the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: Oan he ascertain from his colleague whether a standard size of freight container for overseas or interstate traffic has yet been determined? If this has not yet been determined, can the Minister ensure that it will be determined urgently?
– I do not have the information which the honorable senator requires. I do not know whether the overseas shipping companies have arrived at a standard size for freight containers or whether such a standard, if arrived at, would be of world wide application, applying to British, European, American and Japanese shipping, and so on. I have no information about what we have done in this regard in Australia. I suggest that the honorable senator put his question on the notice paper. It is important that, if we are to have standard sized containers, ships should be built in such a way as to be able to handle them. Uniformity in this matter would make for reductions in freight charges.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Housing. Why have members of co-operative credit unions been excluded from housing loan benefits under the homes savings grant scheme? Will the Minister examine this matter with a view to making homes savings benefits available to credit union members and so stimulate home building?
– The questions that have been raised by the honorable senator were answered by my predecessor during the debate on the Homes Savings Grants Bill. Recently, I received a deputation from the credit unions and I have since received from them a complete report of their activities. J shall consider this report. The matter raised by the honorable senator will be considered but it was fully discussed when the legislation was before the Senate and I think the replies given then to the questions were very clear.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer with reference to reports that a private bank intends to offer unsecured loans of amounts up to Si, 000 to customers and persons who are not customers at interest rates which appear to be more acceptable to the borrower than those charged normally by trading houses. In view of the earlier comment by the Minister I ask whether this is an arrangement on interest rates which has the approval of the Government.
– This is a matter of policy for the bank concerned and nobody else. I take it that the honorable senator is referring to the announcement concerning personal loans up to $1,000 at a flat rate of interest of 6 per cent. In practice, a flat rate of 6 per cent, becomes 10 or 11 per cent, or perhaps a little higher whereas normal overdraft rates are 7 per cent, or 7£ per cent, on the day to day balance of the account concerned.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. With reference to decisions made from time to time to increase overseas shipping freight rates, does the Government reserve the right to reject or uphold the findings reached by joint consultation between the Oversea Shipping Representatives Association and the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee, or are such decisions accepted without question? Can we take it that the Government’s decision to examine the possibilities of establishing a national overseas shipping line indicates dissatisfaction with present arrangements and a growing consciousness that Australian interests are not being adequately considered? Can arrangements be made to set a formula for industries such as the apple and pear industry similar to that now applying to foreign based shipping organisations so that a very valuable Australian export industry can be afforded a reasonable chance of surviving?
– I shall answer the second part of the honorable senator’s question first by saying that the growing interest in the establishment of an Australian shipping line, or an Australian interest in some shipping lines, is in line with the natural desire of the Government to have some such arrangement in view of the growing importance of Australia as a trading nation. The organisations which discuss freights comprise bodies outside the Government intimately engaged in shipping activities or acting as agents for shipping interests. They get together and make recommendations on freights. The other matters raised by the honorable senator should be put on notice as this is an important matter coming directly under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade and Industry and I should like him to reply directly to the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate with reference to the tragic incidence of famine and disease on Lombok Island which is not very far from Australia. Has the Government taken any steps to assist the unfortunate people on that island with food and other supplies which would help to alleviate their distress?
– With the honorable senator’s permission, I will reply to this question as this is a matter relating to the Department of External Affairs. The situation referred to by the honorable senator is not as is sometimes the case due to a sudden act of God, a typhoon, a hurricane or some sudden destruction of an area which causes immediate and widespread damage and distress. It is a situation that has developed owing to drought conditions prevailing in one portion of one island of Indonesia. The Government, through the Department of External Affairs, has been securing reports on the level of distress in the area and, indeed, reports on what the Indonesian Government, which is responsible for this area, is doing, and whether it requires any assistance or has asked for any assistance. In other words, the Department of External Affairs has been in contact with the Indonesian Government which is itself, according to our latest report, sending a delegation to inspect the area. The Indonesian Government will decide then just what it can do and whether in fact it will need any assistance. That is where the matter rests at the moment.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Housing, refers to the homes savings grant scheme. Is lt a fact that 10 per cent, of applications made under the homes sav’ings grant scheme have been rejected, that most of these rejections were borderline cases, and that the Minister has received representations in connection with many of these applications? Will the Minister call for reports from the departments operating the scheme in each of the States in connection with these rejections, including particulars as to borderline cases? If this is done, will the Minister on receipt of these reports examine the impact of the scheme with the object of simplifying the provisions of the Act and deleting some of the restrictive sections?
– I think the honorable senator would infer that a large percentage of couples were not receiving the maximum grant. I should like to inform him that over 71 per cent of couples are receiving the maximum grant. This is a good thing. We are very pleased about it. Unfortunately, a percentage of people do not receive the grant at all because they have not fulfilled all the conditions. This is something that we regret very much. But I think it is good to know that the latest figures show that the number of people who have received grants since the inception of the scheme is 59.852. That is the number of people to whom grants have been paid. The amount paid from the inception of the scheme until 9th September was $27,094,498. That is a very large amount of money. I think the honorable senator asked whether I would obtain reports from the various States and inform him of the main reasons why applicants do not receive the full grant. These matters will probably be put before the Senate in due course, when the annual report of the Department comes to hand.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Government had prepared thousands of copies of a publication entitled “ Vietnam - Questions and Answers “, setting out the Government’s case on Vietnam, for distribution to schools and influential people throughout the Australian community? Can the Minister explain why hundreds of copies of this document were being freely distributed outside a public meeting at Bondi in New South Wales last Friday night, which meeting was addressed by the Leader of the
Federal Opposition? Was any public servant employed to distribute the document or was it made available by the Government to any political organisation for distribution there? If not, will the Government make inquiries to find out how so many copies became available for distribution in the manner referred to and who are the people who were responsible for such distribution? Will the Government take steps to see that documents produced at the expense of the Australian taxpayers are not circulated for party political purposes?
– The Acting Minister for External Affairs will answer the question.
– I cannot give the honorable senator an answer to the part of his question concerning the production of the paper to which he referred, but I will certainly obtain an answer for him. 1 am quite unable to understand why any such paper should not be allowed to be distributed publicly, at a public meeting. It seems to mc an odd essay into censorship on the part of the honorable senator for him to suggest otherwise. It seems a little peculiar for documents produced to express feelings and arguments on a subject to be kept secret, as the honorable senator suggests they might be. However, I will obtain for him an answer to his question about the production of the paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Government concerned about the proposed increases L. hospital charges in New South Wales and other States? Has the Government any plans to avert such increases in already excessive hospital charges?
– On behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health, I say to the honorable senator that this Government, since it came to office, has shown its very grave concern for the health of the people. This is most noticeable in the variety of ways in which it has assisted people in the field of health. However, I will bring to the notice of the Minister the point that the honorable senator has made today and obtain an answer for him.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development observed a Press report of this week to the effect that a map described as a “ fishing map “ has been published by the Department of National Development and that it shows the principal fishing areas in Australian waters? As this map may be of interest to professional fishermen, will the Minister cause a copy of it to be posted to each honorable senator for examination by him?
– I have noticed this map. As a matter of fact, I examined it with great interest only this morning. I looked at the area around the coast of Tasmania to see where I might catch a few fish if I ever have a chance to go fishing.
– The Minister is an amateur.
– I am only an amateur; I understand that. I believe that the honorable senator’s suggestion is a very good one. I certainly would like to put to the Minister for National Development that at least the professional fishermen’s associations and like bodies should have copies of this map so that their members will be able to study them and gain whatever information they can from them. I shall certainly pass the suggestion on to the Minister for National Development.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise advise the Senate whether he has made arrangements for a conference with the North Sydney Council on an alternative site for the new customs administrative building in Sydney? Does not he consider that Commonwealth building expansion should blend with that of the local council town planning authority, particularly if the appropriate State planning authority has approved such plans?
– Recently Senator Mulvihill asked me whether I would be willing to consult with the North Sydney Council regarding the boat shed, marina and offices that are being erected at Neutral Bay, Sydney. I said that I would be quite willing to do so. The Senate will recall that I made a statement giving all the facts in relation to the building. In the statement I indicated that a contract had, in fact, been let for the building. I want to say in relation to the North Sydney Council that the first communication I received from it was a letter dated 1st September 1966 from the Town Clerk. I replied to ‘the letter on 2nd September. I had a conference with the Mayor, the Town Clerk, a ward alderman, the Council’s town planner and another officer of the Council on Thursday last.
I indicated to them that a contract had been let for the building. I reminded them that the Council had been supplied with a copy of the plans under letter dated 6th July from the Department of Works, and that it was 1st September before the Council communicated with me. I said that a contract had been let on 8th August. I told them that I was not prepared to take any action to stop the project, because really it is not my prerogative to stop the building of the marina and customs establishment. 1 also pointed out to the Mayor that as far as it was possible I, together with my officers, would co-operate with the Council in any act of further beautification of the new building that is being erected.
Finally, I want to say to the Senate and particularly to Senator Mulvihill that it is not proper to include a customs establishment in a broad, sweeping argument in relation to Commonwealth property on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour. Customs establishments are an integral part of the administration of the customs laws at our ports. A customs establishment on the foreshores is just as much a part of the foreshores as a bus is a part of a roadway. The broad argument about Commonwealth buildings and harbour installations is one thing, but we cannot tie that argument to a proposal to erect a customs establishment. For 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, customs officers in their launches must, have access to the shipping lanes so that they can board the ships that come into port.
In this case we are on the site and we will improve the site. We do not intend to build above the skyline. We are going to build below the bank. We will beautify the area by constructing a modern building which is essential to our work of customs administration. When the building is completed it will be a credit to the area and a vast improvement in Neutral Bay itself.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Minister advise how many troops the South Vietnamese Government has under arms for use against the Vietcong and/or North Vietnam, and how many troops South Vietnam uses to keep order in areas already controlled by the South Vietnam Government?
– Obviously, that is a question for the notice paper. J should have thought the honorable senator would have known that.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether he is in a position to say what is to happen to the old Customs House at Circular Quay. Does it have a future?
– The manner in which the honorable senator has asked his question suggests to me that he is under the impression that we are to shift the Customs House to Neutral Bay. This is not so. As there may be a misunderstanding, I am grateful for the opportunity to say what is going into Neutral Bay. The Department is there already in a derelict building andwe will erect a modern building. We will improve the area. The old Customs House in Sydney is inadequate for our needs. We have offices all over Sydney. Eventually we will need a new Customs House. The existing Customs House is a fine building and when the Department of Customs and Excise leaves that building, it will become the responsibility of the Department of the Interior to make a recommendation to the Government on what is to happen to it.
– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation been drawn to current publicity in the Press and on television in connection with the shut down in production of Australian aircraft manufacturing capacity, including the production of proven types such as the Victa Air Cruiser, Transavia Aintruk and some crop dusting machines? Does the Government desire that Australia should further develop an aircraft manufacturing capacity? If so, will the Minister examine these reports with a view to providing Government assistance where markets for such aircraft are assured?
– A proper procedure exists to determine whether assistance should be given to an Australian industry. It requires reference to the Tariff Board. The matter raised by the honorable senator is actively before the Tariff Board at the moment. The honorable senator may know that the Victa Aviation Division and Cropmaster Aircraft Pty. Ltd. have made applications to the Department of Trade and Industry and the Minister for Trade and Industry has made a reference to the Tariff Board. The inquiry to determine whether assistance should be given to the Australian companies in the manufacture of these aircraft in Australia is part heard at the moment.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Commonwealth Government made any complaints to the Formosan Government about recent territorial infringements by Formosan fishermen in New Guinea waters?
– I know of no complaints that have been made. Speaking subject to correction, I am not aware of any legal proof that there has been an infringement in New Guinea waters, although I understand that a claim has been made that such infringements have occurred. Whether the claim has yet been proved to be correct, I do not know.
(Question No. 9.17.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 920.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the fact that, for about fifteen years, Senator Tangney has repeatedly placed before the Minister or his predecessors the necessity for adequate naval base protection for the Indian Ocean and South East Asian areas and the possibility of such a base being situated on the Western Australian coast, will the Minister inform the Senate of the present situation in this matter considering the doubt concerning the future of Singapore as a naval base?
– The Minister for Defence has furnished the following reply -
The honorable senator is referred to the Prime Minister’s statement on pages 342 and 343 of “ Hansard “ of 24th August 1966, which details the present position in regard to naval support facilities on the coast of Western Australia.
(Question No. 946.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers -
With regard to Chowilla Dam, since the proposed full supply level of the storage is below the crest level of Weir and Lock No. 10 at Wentworth, the new storage can have very little effect on the water supply to irrigation areas in Victoria. The likely effect on quality of supplies to irrigation areas in South Australia has been studied by the authority responsible for development and operation of irrigation areas in that State, and it was concluded that the position in this regard can be expected to improve rather than deteriorate when the storage at Chowilla is operating. As regards the adequacy of river flow, under conditions when salinity might be expected to be highest, during periods of restriction on the River Murray, the supply available to South Australia will be greater than under present conditions.
The handling of drainage waters in the irrigation areas is a matter for the various authorities controlling irrigation operations in these areas.
(Question No. 961.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers -
The nationality of the aliens against whom convictions have been recorded are -
The limited number of prosecutions launched was due essentially to the fact that 1965 was the first year of the annual notification system. As a result, many of those who failed to give notice in 1 965 claimed not to have known of the new system, and prosecutions were not launched against such persons if they were then prompt in complying with the Department’s requirements. It will be necessary for the law to be enforced more strictly in the future, when aliens are well aware of what is required.
(Question No. 969.)
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- In reply to a question asked by Senator Branson on Tuesday, 30th August, concerning the effectiveness of the sound reinforcement system in the Senate chamber, I desire to inform the Senate that following complaints by senators during the autumn sittings, senior technical experts from the Australian Broadcasting Commission investigated the sound reinforcement system and recommended certain modifications. The task of carrying out this work has been placed in the hands of the Department of Works, which has been asked to arrange for the modifications to be made at an early date.
– by leave - In accordance with the policy announced when tabling the report of the Committee on Tertiary Education the Government has reviewed the number of Commonwealth university scholarships available to applicants and the benefits payable to holders of such scholarships. As a result the Government has decided that -
It will increase the number of later year scholarships to be awarded in 1967 from the present 1,530 to 2,000. This will raise the present number of 7,530 scholarships annually available for open entrance, later year, and mature age awards to a total of 8,000.
In addition we will increase the number of post-graduate scholarships to be awarded in 1967 from the present 400 to 500.
We will, beginning in 1967, increase the maximum living allowance payable to holders of Commonwealth scholarships, in both universities and colleges of advanced education, from $520 to $559 a year in the case of students living at home, and from $793 to $852 a year in the case of students living away from home.
We will, beginning in 1967, in the case of a dependent scholar increase from the present $260 a year to $312 a year the amount of income a scholarship holder is able to receive without having his living allowance reduced, and in the case of a self-supporting scholar from $312 a year to $364 a year.
We will provide for an easing of the means test as applied to living allowances by increasing the level of adjusted family income, at which the maximum allowances begin to be reduced, from $2,000 a year to $2,200 a year.
We will alter the basis of calculating the adjusted family income by permitting the $300 deduction now allowed in the case of all dependent children under 16 to be deducted in future for all dependent children under 21 in full-time education.
The cost of these measures is expected to be $1,283,000 in the first full year of operation. In this financial year it will be $708,000 and provision has been made in the Budget for this amount for these purposes. In addition the Government has noted that because of special and unusual circumstances flowing from a change in the educational systems in those States the number of open entrance university scholarships available in 1967 in New South Wales and South Australia will not all be able to be awarded. The Government will therefore provide for any such scholarships not awarded to be available as additional later year awards in those, and the other, States. This will happen in 1967 only and has no connection with the increase of such awards from 1,530 to 2,000 which I earlier announced.
– by leave - Honorable senators are aware that Regulation 4a of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations prohibits, except with the consent of the Minister, the importation of blasphemous, indecent or obscene works or articles. Honorable senators also know that the regulation provides that the Minister’s approval of any application to import such works is subject to a report from the Chairman of the Literature Censorship Board or the Director-General of Health.
When Regulation 4a was introduced in 1963 the then Minister undertook to report annually to the Senate in respect of books released in accordance with the provisions of the regulation. This report, the third to be presented, covers the period 1st July 1965 to 30th June 1966. During this 12 months a total of 40 applications was received. Of these, three were withdrawn and five were refused. The remaining 32 applications were approved. Details of these releases are as follows -
Medical, psychiatric and sociological works - 13 to university researchers. 10 to medical practitioners. 1 to a clinical psychologist. 1 to a police college.
Fictional works - 5 to university researchers. 2 to a post-graduate researcher.
– by leave - I propose to make a statement on satellite communications in the terms in which it was made in the House of Representatives by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme). Therefore, where I use the personal pronoun it refers to the PostmasterGeneral. The statement is as follows -
I intimated in reply to a question without notice before the recess period that I would have a statement on satellite communications prepared for the information of honorable members.
With the imminent launching of two satellites of the Early Bird type - one over the Pacific and one over the Atlantic - I feel it is timely that I inform the House of the progress that has been made in the use of the new medium. But first, perhaps I should outline briefly the background to the present satellite programme - of which Australia is a very active participant.
A conference in 1962 of British Commonwealth Governments interested in satellite communications revealed that Britain, Canada, Australia and India were likely to be the Commonwealth countries with the earliest need to supplement their existing international communication facilities. This conference was followed by negotiating meetings between Commonwealth communications authorities and interested countries in Europe, and consultations with the United States and Japan. By this time the United States Congress had established the Communications Satellite Corporation - known as COMSAT - which would have the responsibility for the provision and operation of a global communications satellite system. Subsequently, agreements were signed in Washington by member nations with the objective of co-ordinating and developing a satellite communications programme on an international co-operative basis. I tabled these agreements in the House of Representatives on 20th October 1 964.
Membership of COMSAT now comprises 53 nations, including many Commonwealth countries.
Australia, with 2.48 per cent, of the capital contribution to the space segment of the satellite system, ranks sixth after the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Canada. The total cost of the world system was estimated initially to be SUS200 million but is believed now to cost somewhat less than this. A management board, called the Interim Communications Satellite Committee - known as INTELSAT - was established with countries with a 1.5 per cent, liability or greater. Australia was one of the foundation members of this committee, which has a membership of 16.
By April 1965, the partnership had launched what was known officially as INTELSAT I, or Early Bird. Early Bird is an active satellite, in that it receives, converts and retransmits signals between ground stations which, in turn, have interconnection with telephone and other communications networks. It is in synchronous orbit with the earth 22,300 miles above the southern Atlantic at a point between the north east tip of South America and the mid-western section of the African continent. It is in regular use for commercial communications between North America and western Europe. It provides 240 two-way speech channels or one one-way television channel. From the speech channels can be derived telegraph and telex circuits.
It is planned now to launch two more satellites of the Early Bird type, one over the Pacific and the other over the Atlantic, both to be known officially as INTELSAT
At present also, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission is examining a set of world tenders for the establishment of a larger capacity station in northern New South Wales, probably at Moree. It will cost $4.5 million and should be completed by the end of next year. This station will have a capacity for several hundred speech and other channels or an international television link.
The third stage of the programme will be the launching in mid-1968 of INTELSAT
III, a large capacity satellite providing about 1,800 channels, which will enable telephone and other services, plus a television relay, to be provided simultaneously. I should explain here that, while television certainly is practicable over Early Bird and will be over the two satellites to be launched this year, it is such an extravagant medium in bandwidth that one television relay would require the use of the entire 240 speech channels that these satellites provide. For practical purposes, therefore, it is not expected that INTELSAT I or II will be able to provide television facilities. Effective and economic use of satellite communications in Australia will depend on a close accord between the Post Office and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. This, of course, exists. Already the Post Office is planning the provision of large capacity microwave links to the earth stations at Carnarvon and Moree to feed into the communications network generally.
Let me make it clear that satellites in the foreseeable future will not replace existing communication systems. The keynote in communications is flexibility and thus the satellites will take their place beside the other techniques - submarine telephone cables, underground coaxial cables, microwave systems, and so on - each complementing the other and providing the alternatives that make for flexibility. There appears to be no doubt that the use of satellite communications will not be confined to the international sphere. It is expected that, in a country the size of Australia, they could appear on the domestic scene in five years or so. The Government, in fact, sees many applications for their use in our internal telecommunications system, provided that the present rate of technological progress continues and that the cost factor is not unreasonable.
– by leave - I point out to honorable senators that this statement was delivered earlier today in another place by the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes). Therefore, when T use the personal pronoun, it refers to the Minister for Health. The statement is as follows -
I am taking this opportunity of informing honorable senators of certain important developments that are taking place in connection with the immunisation campaign to safeguard the Australian community against poliomyelitis. The Epidemiology Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council has made recommendations on dosages of Sabin anti-poliomyelitis vaccine and on its use in conjunction with Salk vaccine. These recommendations are being passed on to State health authorities. The Commonwealth Department of Health, which will begin a Sabin vaccination campaign in the Australian Capital Territory on 22nd September, has adopted the Committee’s recommendations.
The Committee recommended that for primary vaccination for children three doses of Sabin vaccine should be given at eight week intervals. It also recommended that a full course of three doses of Sabin vaccine should be given whether or not a person had had a full or partial course of Salk vaccine. The earliest age recommended for vaccinating infants is from three to four months. The Committee also recommended that Sabin vaccine should be the vaccine of choice for adults, including pregnant women, who had previously had Salk vaccine -but that Salk should continue to be the vaccine of choice for adults who had had no previous vaccination.
In May this year the National Health and Medical Research Council had advised Commonwealth and State health authorities that oral Sabin vaccine is as safe and effective as Salk vaccine, which is given by injection. The Commonwealth subsequently offered to supply the States with either vaccine, and all States except Victoria indicated that they would change over to the use of Sabin vaccine in their immunisation campaigns.
The impending changes in the use of anti-poliomyelitis vaccines raises the question of assured supplies of both Sabin and Salk vaccines. Following an investigation of the supply position it has been decided that future requirements of both Salk and Sabin vaccines will be imported. The decision to stop making Salk vaccine at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is a consequence of the decision to make Sabin vaccine available to those States that want it. Because most of the State health authorities have decided to change to Sabin vaccine there will be a diminishing requirement for Salk vaccine and it would not be economic to continue to produce at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories batches of Salk vaccine in the smaller quantities required.
Production facilities suitable for manufacturing poliomyelitis vaccine will be available at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in case they are needed. The staff formerly employed on Salk vaccine production will be transferred to work on other Commonwealth Serum Laboratories products for which demand is increasing. It would be neither practicable nor economic for Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to begin manufacturing Sabin vaccine at this stage.
At present 115,000 doses of Salk vaccine are available in Australia and a further 760,000 doses are on order for delivery within the next few weeks. A total of 1,700,000 doses of Sabin vaccine is already in storage at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to be made available when required by health authorities in the States and in the Territories. This includes one million doses of Sabin vaccine that recently arrived from Connaught Medical Research Laboratories, of. the University of Toronto, Canada. It is envisaged that future supplies of poliomyelitis vaccine will be obtained primarily from the Connaught Laboratories.
Co-ordinated planning for the supply of poliomyelitis vaccines will be carried out by the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in association with State Health Departments. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will import the vaccines and store and distribute them as required.
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories began manufacturing Salk vaccine in 1956 when the Government offered to supply the vaccine to State health authorities for a national vaccination campaign. Since then some 25 million doses manufactured by the Laboratories have been used in Australia in a campaign which has virtually eliminated poliomyelitis as a cause of death and crippling in the community. The very success of the campaign, however, has led to some complacency among the public about the dangers of poliomyelitis and stress must now be laid on the need to maintain the immunity built up in the Australian population.
I present the following paper -
Poliomyelitis Vaccine - Ministerial Statement, 13th September 1966.
– I move -
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Notice of Motion No. 1, standing in my name, reads -
That the Air Navigation (Buildings Control) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1966, No. 6, and made under the Air Navigation Act 1920-1963, be disallowed.
You will recall, Mr. Deputy President, that on the last occasion on which this motion came up for debate I asked the Senate to postpone the debate until a later date. My request was agreed to. The time was needed for the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and the Minister for Civil Avia tion (Mr. Swartz) to discuss the matters arising out of the objections which the Committee had and on the basis of which it was prepared to move for the disallowance of the Regulation concerned.
Since that time the Committee has discussed the matter with the Minister and officers of his Department. The Minister has agreed to withdraw the Regulation, to draft another one and to table it in due course. He has agreed with the Committee’s objections. When the new Regulation is drafted it will meet the objections of the Committee. I believe that once again the Senate can be grateful to the Committee. It can be grateful also to the Minister and his Department for entering into negotiations with the Committee and reaching an amicable agreement on what should be done. Once more legislation has been strengthened. When the Minister tables the new Regulation, it will go through the gamut of the Committee again, but on that occasion there should be no objection to it because agreement has been reached. Consequently, I ask for leave to withdraw the notice of motion standing in my name.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - There being no objection, leave is granted.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1966.
Loan (Housing) Bill (No. 2) 1966.
International Finance Corporation Bill 1966.
International Monetary Agreements Bill 1966.
Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement Bill 1966.
Debate resumed from 24th August (vide page 67), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill seeks to enable the Government to control part of the operations of the overseas shipping conferences. These are organisations of foreign shipping companies which dominate and control the overseas shipping of Australia. Shipping conferences originated in the second half of the 19th century. They were devised to overcome ruinous competition between shipping companies. They now control most shipping on most routes throughout the world.
In general, conferences are associations of shipping companies with a written agreement that all members shall charge the same freight rates to shippers. The schedules and tariffs of charges generally make provision for exclusive patronage and deferred rebates. Under exclusive patronage contracts a shipper who binds himself to use only the conference lines enjoys a lower set of freight rates than a shipper who does not. Under the deferred rebate provisions a shipper receives a rebate at the end of a specified period if he ships the whole of his goods, or such other part of his traffic as has been agreed, through the conference lines. The advantage to the conference lines is that they have a guaranteed share of the traffic. The advantage to the shipper is that he enjoys a lower set of rates. The disadvantage to the shipper is that he is confined wholly or partly to using the conference lines. This is somewhat mitigated because he has a choice among the members of the lines. The restriction therefore is not as complete as it might be if he had an agreement with the one shipowner solely.
The member lines can compete amongst themselves in services but they are not permitted to compete in freight rates. Shipping conferences therefore are classical examples of restrictive agreements and practices which are not limited to those I have described. The operation of these restrictions has such an impact, not only actual but also potential, on the commerce and economy of the trading nations of the world, that many governments have exerted control over these companies in order to protect both the commerce of the nations and the interests of their individual citizens. The degree of regulation varies from country to country. Some countries have a high degree of regulation. Other countries merely supervise the conferences, analyse their charges and make them public as a means of exercising some political pressure. Others exercise economic pressure upon the conferences.
For example, in the United States of America conferences are closely regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission Which may disapprove, cancel or modify any agreement which is unfair as between carriers, shippers, exporters or importers, or between persons sending out goods from the United States and foreign competitors. It may do likewise with agreements which, in any event it finds to be detrimental to United States commerce or to the public interest. Agreements filed with the Commissioner are not subject to the normal anti-trust laws.
The problem is especially important for Australia because we are one of the great trading nations of the world; normally we are one of the first 1.0 such nations. For us the problem is not merely one of conference lines but of foreign conference lines. The lifeline of Australia’s overseas trade and commerce is entirely in the control of foreigners, who are organised through the conference lines to determine by themselves the charges for our cargoes coming and going. They also determine the conditions of carriage. It is reasonable to suppose that in these circumstances they will charge what the traffic will bear. That supposition is supported by the statement of the committee of inquiry into the stevedoring industry, which said of the Australia-United Kingdom-Continental conference -
Shipowners engaged in this trade, reviewed as a group, have had, in effect, a monopoly of the trade and the conditions are conducive to basing the freight on what the traffic will bear.
The conference and the inept Australian Oversea Transport Association have been severely criticised from time to time by representatives at the United Graziers Association and also by representatives of the Associated Chamber of Manufactures.
– When the honorable senator used the word “ inept “ to describe the Oversea Transport Association, was it his own word?
– It was my word, but it is a fair summary of the criticisms which have been expressed from time to time by those exporters who have been affected by the high and increasing freight rates which have been levied by the conference lines and by persons who felt that this Association has not been sufficiently active on behalf of those affected. In answer to Senator Wright, I might say that perhaps some of the trouble arises because the Association is not sufficiently distinguished from the conference lines. Criticisms have been expressed - and I have no doubt with justification - that the conference lines, through their subsidiaries and associations, are able greatly to influence the operations of the Oversea Transport Association in their own interests.
The Bill now before us provides a code for controlling the operations of the conferences and individual shipowners. That code in Part XIA provides for the filing of conference agreements and for powers over such agreements and over individual shipowners. The preliminary provisions of the Bill should not go unnoticed. These illustrate the leisurely approach of this Government to the problem of trade practices. The requirements of the Bill for registration of agreements and examination of agreements and practices by the Trade Practices Tribunal are not yet in operation. They will come into operation only at some future date to be fixed by proclamation. The new Part Xa is also not to come into operation until some future date fixed in a like manner. The Government knows and has proclaimed the evils attendant on restrictive practices, yet many years have passed while the practices continue to the public detriment. There is still no law in operation against them and no certainty as to when the new law will begin to operate. However, when Part Xa begins to operate, the Australian Industries Preservation Act is to be repealed automatically.
What is the area of control aimed at by this new Bill. It appears in proposed new sections 90b and 90c. Proposed new section 90b frees from the operations of the 1965 Act all overseas cargo shipping restrictions accepted under a conference agreement; that is, whether such shipping is inwards or outwards. The agreements are not treated as examinable agreements under section 35 of the main Act which, honorable senators will recall, was discussed in detail last year. Logically, also, restrictive practices of shipowners or combinations of shipowners are not to be treated as examinable practices under section 36 of the main Act. Thus restrictions arising out of shipping conferences are dealt with exclusively and specially in the new code; that is, so far as they are dealt with at all. I say, “so far as they are dealt with at all “ because, having excluded all overseas cargo shipping from the general trade practices laws, the
Bill then confines the new Part to outwards cargo shipping. This means that the Act provides no protection against harmful restrictive agreements in respect of inwards shipping.
Government control of conference operations is largely to be by supervision under this enactment. Conference agreements - that is, only the outwards cargo shipping agreements - must be filed with the Clerk of Shipping Agreements, who is a public officer. Failure to file is an offence except where one of the defined excuses is proved. The documents filed are secret and may not be required to be produced even in court, except on a prosecution for offences under this Bill.
What are the powers over conference agreements? The Minister may request any party to a conference agreement to undertake in writing that if reasonably requested by a shipper to take part in negotiations of terms and conditions to apply to outwards cargo shipping - shipping covered by a conference agreement - the party so requested will do so. The undertaking to be given extends also to a number of collateral matters. These are, first, to have due regard to what is put forward by the relevant shipping body in the negotiations; secondly, to furnish an officer designated by the Minister with information required by him as to the progress of the negotiations and to permit him to be present and to consider his suggestions; thirdly, to furnish information reasonably necessary for the purpose of the negotiation if the shipping body requests it and does likewise. This seems to be a very tortuous approach to what ought to be a relatively simple matter. Surely the obligation ought to be to enter into negotiations and to furnish the information, not to be asked to give an undertaking to do so.
Where are the teeth in this enactment? They are to be found in clause 90n which provides that the Governor-General - that is, in effect, the Government - may disapprove a conference agreement, whether or not it was filed with the Clerk, and then it becomes unenforceable. He may so disapprove where the requirements of the Bill as to appointment by a shipowner of a resident local agent of a foreign company are not observed. He may also disapprove if a shipowner fails to give an undertaking to negotiate on terms and conditions of outwards shipping. The Government may also disapprove an agreement after consideration by the Trade Practices Tribunal, and only then on three grounds. The grounds are: If a shipowner failed to comply with an undertaking to negotiate; secondly, if the parties to the agreement were acting without due regard to the need for Australian overseas cargo services to be efficient, economical and adequate. In considering the latter ground, regard is to be had to the need to ensure the continuing provision of services, including the conditions under which, on a long term view, shipowners may reasonably be expected to provide those services. The third ground is, if the parties were preventing or hindering an Australian flag shipping operator from engaging efficiently in the trade to a reasonable extent.
I pause here to state that one of the curiosities of this Bill is the reference to Australian flag shipping operators, lt is confined to operators who use or normally use ships registered in Australia and are Australian citizens or companies incorporated under Australian law. The curiosity is that there are no ships known to the law as Australian ships. All ships on Australian registries are described as British ships. In Australia, ships are registered under the United Kingdom Merchant. Shipping Act 1894, which is expressed to apply to the dominions. Registration facilities are maintained at a number of Australian ports. By the adoption in 1942 of the Statute of Westminster, Australia was empowered to make laws inconsistent wilh those of the United Kingdom which apply here, including the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act 1894. This Parliament is now able to provide for registration of ships in Australia as Australian ships. Such registration would extend without difficulty to all ships engaged in interstate and overseas trade and commerce, and with a little ingenuity ships engaged in intrastate trade and commerce could also be embraced. The importance of such registration was stressed by the Constitutional Review Committee. The report of the Committee stated at paragraph 437 -
The national identification of ships through systems of registration underlies the entire structure of the shipping industry of the maritime countries for purposes both of public and private law.
The Committee’s view was that it may well be appropriate and advantageous to provide for the registration of ships as Australian ships. This course of action would not involve any major administrative departure from previous practice now observed in connection with the registration of British ships in Australia. The Committee stated in its report that it would be regarded as a manifestation of the maturity which the nation has now attained.
I return to the provisions for the supervision of agreements. What is the effect of disapproval of a conference agreement? Under clause 90h an agreement, but not any transaction entered into, becomes unenforceable so far as it relates to outwards . cargo shipping. A party to a disapproved agreement commits an offence if he gives effect to the agreement or enters into a similar agreement. Injunctions may be granted by the Commonwealth Industrial Court at the instance of the Minister to restrain a person convicted of such an offence from offending again.
So far as the Bill deals with conferences - that is organisations of numbers of shipping lines - Division 4 applies with necessary modifications to single shipping lines. Power is vested in the GovernorGeneral to declare individual shipowners on grounds similar to those for disapproving an agreement. After declaration a shipowner may not enter into agreements or indulge in practices that are calculated to reduce competition. Agreements and practices that are prohibited include dual rate contracts, deferred rebates, freight cutting to injure or exclude another shipowner, the use of a fighting ship, and retaliation or threat of retaliation against shipowners who do not give exclusive patronage.
The Bill contains an undue limitation on the Minister’s power to refer matters to the Trade Practices Tribunal. He is not to refer a matter to the Tribunal for inquiry unless he has first endeavoured to carry on consultations with the parties with a view to securing such undertaking or action as will render the proposed reference unnecessary. We welcome the provision that reports of the Tribunal shall be made public. We would like the searchlight to be turned on the activities of the conferences, but at least the reports of the Tribunal are to see the light of day. The provision for the civil remedy of action for damages for loss is a further departure from the treble damages provision which has been found so salutary elsewhere. In my view, it will prove to be no real deterrent, because at the worst those who have engaged in action contrary to the statute will have to pay what damage is proven to have been suffered by the individual who seeks redress. Many times this will mean that those who indulge in illegal action will be able to do so at great profit to themselves
This Bill is only a palliative. It seeks to ensure that foreign shippers who have the exclusive conduct of our inwards and outwards shipping will not enter restrictive combinations, impose undue charges, or impose unfair conditions on the carriage of our outwards cargo. It does nothing for inwards cargo. The Australian price structure is influenced intimately by the costs of inward shipping. This Bill has been introduced because it is known that the foreign operators in practice subject us to undue charges and unfair conditions. Yet the Government proposes to leave the Australian economy exposed to whatever charges the shipping combinations wish to impose on our imports.
What is the answer to this problem? The Opposition does not oppose the Government’s attemt to supervise the operations of the shipping conferences in relation to outwards cargo. The method which the Government seeks to use is not the method which we would have chosen. It is overgentle in its approach at every stage and fails to meet the problem for Australia. The shipping conferences not only are combinations which seek to obtain the highest result that the traffic will bear but also are combinations of foreign shipowners. Part of the solution that we suggest is the establishment of an overseas fleet, either by extending the Australian National Line to carry all types of overseas cargo or by subsidising a purely Australian shipping company.
What is the approach of other countries? The United States of America subsidises United States owned vessels by paying the difference between the cost of operating the American vessel and that of operating under competitive foreign flags. The subsidy is paid where the route is essential to United States commerce. It extends to the difference in the cost not only of wages but also of keep, maintenance, repair and insurance. To qualify for the subsidy an operator must comply with a number of conditions, all of which tend to promote United States industry and the United States economy. The operator must provide a regular service. He must man the ships with United States citizens and must operate efficiently. Any replacements must be with ships that have been built in United States shipyards. The operator must repair his vessels in United States shipyards and must outfit and supply ships with materials that have been manufactured in the United States. The payment of dividends must not exceed 10 per cent, of capital necessarily employed. Profits in excess of 10 per cent, must be retained for 10 years and then one half of that excess must be repaid to the Government, up to the amount of the subsidy.
The cost of the subsidy is about one quarter of the cost of operating a United States vessel. I am afraid I cannot give the Senate later figures than those for 1960. In that year about 526 United States ships were active in overseas trade. Of these, 300 were subsidised at an annual cost of approximately SUS78 million. Moreover a differential subsidy is paid to United States operators who build ships in United States yards for use in overseas trade. The subsidy meets the difference between the actual cost of construction and the cost of construction in a foreign shipyard, with a limit of 50 per cent, of the cost.
– Do any of those subsidised ships trade with Australia?
– My understanding is that from time to time they do. It is interesting to observe that they are able to do so although the seamen’s wages are very much in excess of those paid to Australian seamen. I have the relevant figures, if Senator Wright is interested in looking at them. The subsidy on construction covers also the cost of any national defence features which might be incorporated in vessels at the request of the Government.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that it was not simply a subsidy on construction but was also a subsidy on operation.
– There is a subsidy on operation and there is also a subsidy on ship construction. The view that is taken, not only by the United Stales but also by other maritime countries, is that the operation and construction of ships and stevedoring operations are inter-related and form interdependent parts of the shipping industry. Other methods of promoting the United States shipping industry are aimed at bringing down the control of the foreign shipping conferences. Government guarantees may be provided for the construction or reconstruction of vessels. Operators are allowed to trade in vessels to the Government in order to purchase new vessels. They are permitted to retain the old vessel until the new one is ready, the old one then being added to the Government’s reserve fleet. Special tax benefits encourage provision by operators against future losses and to finance new construction. Preference to United States flag ships is mandatory for certain cargoes. At least one half of United State’s Government financed cargoes must be transported in United States flag ships. All exports purchased with Government loans must be carried in United Stales flag ships. Waivers are permitted only in special circumstances. These measures illustrate the importance of the shipping industry to the United States of America. They show that it attaches to its shipping industry an importance which we do not attach to ours. They show that the United States shipping industry is under great encouragement, not only moral but also financial, to participate in the overseas trade of the United States. These measures are aimed directly at the foreign Shippers, not simply by way of supervising their charges, which is also done, but by providing and maintaining effective competition from United States sources.
In France, ship construction and operating subsidies are paid and interest on construction loans is subsidised. Special depreciation is allowed. French vessels have certain monopoly rights. Except where the provision is waived, two-thirds of all crude oil imports must be carried in French ships, or ships approved by the ministry. This is an example of such rights. In Italy, ship construction and operation are subsidised and there is a scrapping subsidy. There is a government subsidy on interest on bank loans for ship construction. Provisions used on Italian ships receive exemption from customs duty and taxation. Japan provides operating subsidies and subsidies up to 60 per cent, of construction costs. Special taxation concessions are granted to encourage import and export sales through Japanese shipping services. Special depreciation is allowed on new ships. The Government promotes research on high speed merchant ships. Honorable senators will be aware from reading newspapers of the tremendous advances by the Japanese shipping industry, which is outstripping the rest of the world.
Many other countries encourage growth of their own overseas shipping industry in order to avoid foreign domination. The question is not merely one of foreign domination of shipping. It is one of foreign domination of our overseas trade and commerce. We should emulate the experience of countries such as Portugal, then Spain, then Great Britain, then the United States, and now Japan, which successively became great because of the .promotion of their own mercantile marine, their own shipping industry.
I have studied the history of the growth of the mercantile marine in Great Britain. It is interesting to notice that the same arguments about the undue cost of ship building and the same arguments about the laziness of mariners, or their incompetence, or their difficulties, or industrial troubles, were advanced in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Great Britain. It is quite extraordinary to see how the same kinds of contentions were put forward then as are still being put forward inside and outside this chamber as reasons why we should not have an Australian merchant marine and why we cannot afford to have Australian seamen manning our ships, whether in the coastal trade or in overseas trade. All these arguments were advanced and rejected in Great Britain. It took some time. It was a matter of centuries. As Great Britain devised ways in which it could encourage its own mercantile marine, it was able to insist upon a certain proportion of cargoes going out being borne on British ships, manned by English seamen. All sorts of provisions were inserted in the law to deal with cargoes coming in. There was the most detailed provision as to what was deemed to be manning by British seamen, as to what proportion of a crew must actually be British subjects and so on. All of this was found to be necessary in order to encourage the growth of what became the greatest merchant navy in the world.
– Was the British merchant navy subsidised?
– The British merchant navy was subsidised from time to time and in many ways, by many methods. There was a great struggle between those who conceived what was necessary to make a country great and those who were shortsightedly looking at the immediate effects upon the trade. The exporters said: “ If we have to pay these high wages to seamen we will never be able to compete with other countries.” Yet those who had a sense of what was necessary prevailed in Great Britain, lt is our view that we should do likewise. We cannot afford to go on with our trade and commerce entirely in the hands of foreign ship owners. This is our life line.
We are now in the throes of a great maritime revolution. Changes such as containerisation and unitisation will produce dramatic results on the Australian waterfront. lt has been predicted that many of the services will have to go out of operation. There is no doubt that a great transformation of our ports is required. It is clear that the regulation of the shipping industry in Australia is completely unsatisfactory. We have a multiplicity of authorities which are in themselves - I do not ascribe any fault to them - quite incapable of providing what is necessary for modern shipping facilities. To take one example, I should say it is evident that the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales is quite incapable - I do not suggest any fault on its part - of providing what is necessary for the major port in Australia. The stevedoring facilities of our great ports are hopelessly inefficient. All of this is the legacy of two things. One is a tremendous division of government control, the Federal Government having some degree of control, State governments having another degree of control, and all sorts of other instrumentalities also being concerned with the matter - none with proper supervision over the whole field. Along with that, we have had the domination by foreign ship owners not only of the actual carriage of cargoes but also of the port facilities and stevedoring operations.
If we become a great nation in the trading sense - we are one already in terms of what passes between us and other countries - and if we are to become great in the sense that we are to reap the benefits of this trade, we will have to reform this situation. Part of that reform lies in the proper regulation and control of the shipping conferences, because it is obvious that even if we have an Australian shipping line it will not carry all of our overseas cargoes in the immediate future. It is most unlikely that it could do so at any stage, because trade is a two way process and other countries are insistent that they will develop and maintain their own mercantile marines. So we will have to face the problem of dealing wilh a continuance of the shipping lines of other countries or of the citizens or corporations of other countries. That involves a degree of control in order that we will not have to suffer unjust impositions, whether they be on our inward or our outward traffic.
The Government has asked, in this measure, for certain powers in order to control the overseas shipowners. We have offered no opposition to what the Government seeks to do. That is its own remedy, its own choice. What we do ask is that the Government make this legislation work. For many years we have been told that certain trade practices constitute an evil which is injuring this community. For many years the Government talked about bringing down legislation to control those practices but it failed to do so. lt brought in some legislation in 1965, but that is not yet working and we do not know when it will work. We do ask the Government to carry out its obligations to the Australian people and make this legislation work. We ask that the legislation be brought into operation as soon as possible, and that the Government also do what is manifestly necessary - allow the Australian National Line to operate overseas.
We can deal with the operations of the overseas shipowners, although not so much by way of supervising their charges or entering into negotiations conducted between shipowners and shippers. It is better that we provide our own competition. If that competition cannot be provided by Australian citizens or Australian corporations - and so far they have significantly failed to provide it - then the Australian National Line ought to be allowed to provide the competition. Once before, a Labour government entered this field and, in 1917, established a national shipping line, which was an immediate success. Until 1927 that line operated to reduce substantially the freights which had been imposed on imports and exports, but by the action of a conservative government the line was disposed of to a combination under Lord Inchcape. It was disposed of at an under-value, and not even that under-value was finally paid. The Australian public, through the importers and exporters, have since then had to pay in increasing freights for the failure of that conservative government to do what has been done by many other governments in the world which describe themselves as private enterprise governments.
Mr. Deputy President, I would like to thank Mr. Charles Fitzgibbon, the General Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. I wish to thank him personally for the information which he has supplied to me concerning much of the practice of overseas countries in relation to the encouragement of shipping, and also for the use which he has allowed me to make of his researches in the whole of this field. I wish also to thank him for his public services to this nation in his unrelenting efforts towards the establishment of a national shipping line. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) indicated earlier today, during question time, that the Government was not averse to the establishment of overseas cargo shipping by an Australian line. We welcome this indication that the Government joins the Opposition in the belief that an Australian shipping line would serve to reduce the dominance of the shipping conferences and is vital to our national wellbeing. We do not oppose the Bill. We trust that the Government will make this Bill work. But we say that we must have an overseas national shipping line and that, if the Government does not provide it, we will.
.- I think the Senate will agree that we have listened to a speech of very great interest by Senator Murphy, and that is as it should be. I hope the Senate will provide further interesting discussion as the debate on the Bill proceeds. It is recognised on both sides that the subject matter is of vital national importance. The shipping arrangements that we, as inhabitants of an island continent, depend on so much for the freighting of our exports and, to a lesser extent, of our imports, have only to be mentioned for us to realise the importance of the subject. I believe that the nation is in great debt to those people who have devoted their talents to the development of our trading arrangements over the last century or more, and particularly to those who pioneered the refrigeration of cargoes and those who are now undertaking improvements in various methods of shipping. I need not remind you, Sir, that during the Budget debate in recent weeks we heard two most interesting speeches, one from Senator Laught and the other from Senator Marriott, on the processes now being developed for the improvement of efficiency in snipping.
It is well that we should recognise that this subject, in relation to the general subject of restrictive trade practices, is entitled to special treatment. This Bill, as Senator Murphy noticed, deals exclusively with the provisions which are applicable to shipping services for outgoing cargoes from Australia, in relation to what we have called in modern parlance, restrictive trade practices. The general provisions of the legislation which we passed last year will have no application to the shipping services to which this Bill applies, so we have these special and exclusive provisions before us in a Bill devoted to the one topic. I wish to thank the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) for the manner in which the Bill has been introduced. It will be remembered that it was introduced into the House of Representatives before the end of the last sessional period. We have, therefore, been afforded ample opportunity of considering both the Minister’s second reading speech and the provisions of the Bill.
There were some things in Senator Murphy’s speech that interested me and raised in my mind queries, not only in regard to opinion but also as to basic facts. I say that with great respect. I am searching for information. I do not dispute some of the things that the honorable senator mentioned, but I am at a loss to understand just what final view he was putting before the chamber in criticism of this Bill. When 1 speak in that sense, I have in mind the closing passages of the honorable senator’s speech relating to Australian shipping between 1917 and 1927. He would have us believe that in that period there was a stimulus to trade by an Australian shipping line, lt is my view that chaos developed in the transport of Australian outward cargo by ships in the turbulent trading period of the I920*s that followed the First World War. By 1928, the Government of the day realised that urgent remedial measures were necessary. That was the Government led by Mr. Stanley Bruce who later became Lord Bruce.
The significance of my reference to this period is first, if I may be permitted, to suggest a correction of the general impression conveyed by Senator Murphy; but more importantly I want to point out that when there was a change of government in 1929-30 and the Scullin Government came to power, one of the first measures introduced into the Parliament by Mr. Scullin was a measure which Mr. Bruce had prepared. It was designed to give special exemption to the conference line of ships. Our trade then was predominantly with Europe and the European conference was the only one that really catered for outgoing Australian trade. Mr. Scullin’s legislation was designed to give special exemption to that conference line of ships from any complications arising from contravention of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. This Act was designed to prevent monopolies and to destroy restrictive trade practices, lt is to be repealed as soon as the Trade Practices Act 1 965 is proclaimed and begins to operate. It is interesting to me to go through the events of the time as recorded in “ Hansard “ of April 1930 and to read some of the statements made by Mr. Scullin in introducing that measure because they provide some basis for our consideration of the measure appropriate to today. Mr. Scullin said, as reported at page 1129 of “Hansard” of 10th April 1930-
The object of this bill is to remove a doubt as to the legality of agreements that have been entered into between the overseas shipping companies and Australian producers, lt will be remembered that at the end of 1928 an announcement was made that a substantial increase was to take place in the freights of overseas ships coming from London to Australia, and the general belief was that it would be almost immediately followed by an increase of freights from Australia overseas.
Mr. Scullin went on to say that there had been a recent announcement of an increase in overseas freights of about 10 per cent, from London to Australia and this had caused some degree of alarm. He went on to say that the belief was general that there would be an increase of freights from Australia to London and he said -
Acting on that belief, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) communicated with the oversea shipping companies and asked them to suspend any increase in freights until the whole subject had been discussed with the producers and the shippers in Australia. In response the shipping companies sent representatives from overseas, mostly from London, to this country. They met in conference with the producers who are our most important shippers. That conference was held in April, 1929, and as a result an association was formed known as the Australian Oversea Transport Association, lt consisted of overseas shipping companies representing 22 British and foreign lines and also the shippers’ organisations, principally producers’ organisations.
This shows that the mechanism or the organisation that the Bruce Government had formulated commended itself to the Scullin Government. It was based on the simple idea that when you are serviced by a combination of shippers and you are vitally dependent upon shipping services, then you do your best to work with them. You cannot destroy them because they have other seas on which to sail and other ports that they might enter. So the idea that was formulated then was, in effect: “ We will create an Australian Oversea Transport Association within this country which will be backed by all the big producer organisations and all the big commercial exporting organisations. They will combine their strength in a combination called the Australian Oversea Transport Association. This will be the negotiating body matched against the shipowners body each year”. The provision to allow this organisation to function and to make a special exception of it in relation to the Australian Industries Preservation Act was section 7c of that Act. This was introduced by Mr. Scullin in the speech to which I have referred.
Section 7c of the Act introduced in 1930 stated -
An agreement in relation to the carriage of goods to other countries, made and entered into between shippers of the one part and ship-owners or their representatives of the other part, and approved by the Australian Oversea Transport Association . . . shall not, by reason of such provisions, be deemed to be made or entered into in contravention of this Part of this Act. . . . lt was exempt from the Act. I have broken the reading of this section because long reading becomes even more tedious than lengthy statement. Provision was made that these agreements were to provide for periodical sailings by the shipowners. The carriage of goods was to be performed by the shippers at rates agreed upon annually and the shippers agreed to ship exclusively by the shipowners. That is to say, the shipowners were given an exclusive monopoly of the trade. As the records of the time show, the purpose of this arrangement was to get rid of the chaos that had been engendered in the Australian shipping services by chartering this ship and that ship according to the violently fluctuating freight rates in the shipping world. Somebody who had just delivered a cargo to China would offer to take Australian cargo to Europe at detrimental rates. So there was casual chartering of a multiplicity of lines, unreliability in shipping programmes and soaring, vacillating freight rates. Then when the crash came in the thirties, our producers were apt to be crushed.
The degree to which freight rates can vary is illustrated in some notes that were prepared and supplied to me by Mr. John Cockle, the former honorable member for Warringah, whose recent death I lament. From this document it appears that -
Charter rates reached the highest peak ever recorded between November 1956 and March 1957. Ships were being chartered for full cargoes of Sugar at a rate of approximately 290/- Stg. per ton-
– When was this?
– This was between November 1956 and March 1957. I am using this as a modern experience to illustrate the degree to which shipping freights can soar, and in fact historically have soared in the decade before 1930. The reference reads -
Charter rates reached the highest peak ever recorded between November 1956 and March 1957. Ships were being chartered for full cargoes of Sugar at a rate of approximately 290/- Stg. per ton. and of Wheat at approximately 220/- Stg. per ton, until March when rates started to fall. Tramp ships were recently being offered for full cargoes of Sugar at approximately 130/- Stg. per ton, and of Wheat at approximately 105/- Stg. per ton.
So, in order to relieve Australian commerce of that risk in the 1930’s when export prices had reached such a low point, the remedy provided was not to endeavour to take control of external shipping services and have somebody who would say. “ We will impose penalties on you “. The remedy provided by Mr. Bruce and concurred in by Mr. Scullin was to give a selected conference the monopoly of that service in return for regular sailings, agreed rates and an adequate service throughout the period. The Australian Oversea Transport Association, meeting year by year with the Oversea Shipping Representative Association, agreed on the rates for the various lines of commerce going from Australia. That position has applied up to the time of the presentation of this Bill to us.
I am not indifferent to the concern that the ever increasing freight rates have caused Australian exporters. Indeed, I have the privilege of living in a port where we have direct concern with overseas shipping not only in relation to wool and to a minor extent with meat but also in relation particularly to fresh fruit. From this port is sent quite a major share of the fresh fruit exports from Australia. This is due to the pioneering by Hobart merchants at the beginning of the century when they developed special arrangements on a commercial basis that ensured the provision of shipping whereby the fruit export trade was built up. All these special arrangements were based upon a practice that is peculiar there. The fruit grower himself is the contractor for space. This system does not exist in any other trade that I know of; nor does it apply, to my knowledge, in any other port. Notwithstanding this practice, due to the difficulties of the trade and the difficulties of the people working in the ports, whether they be waterside workers, mariners or others, and due also to the vagaries of the season, waste of shipping services has occurred at times.
In one instance during last season, a ship brought from South Africa lay in our harbour over 30 days before it could pull in for cargo because of a combination of unpredictable circumstances. It is only an innocent who believes that a ship which has been put to that cost this year will not recoup that cost next year. Although the ship does not directly charge dead freight, the costs go into the general formula by which freights are fixed for next year. All these things become an expense to the producer and the shipper. The increase of 10 per cent, that has been announced with respect to the carrying of fresh fruit from Australia and the increase of 6i per cent, with respect to other refrigerated cargoes are causing concern to the people whom I have the honour with others directly to represent. So, I speak with a feeling of great concern regarding increasing freights. if I thought that the shattering of the conference arrangement of the 1930s and the exposure of the Australian exporter to the vagaries of the general world trading market were the remedy, I would vote immediately for the repeal of the special arrangements available to the conference line. But I hold the view, having followed this matter year by year with fairly close interest, that we have yet to develop an improvement of the situation whereby arrangements are made between the combined forces of Australian exporters on the one hand and the combined shippers on the other hand to provide adequate and regular services at rates agreed to from year to year.
Having searched for an improvement in that direction, and having mentioned the matter several times in this chamber, I have noticed with particular appreciation, first, the creation in 1956 of the Department of Trade with special functions. The way in. which these functions have to a large measure been fulfilled and are being increasingly fulfilled as the years go by is a great credit to the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen). In this respect, in dealing with our shipping arrangements, I record here with appreciation, secondly, the improvement that I think this Bill introduces into those arrangements. The Bill completely recasts the format of the old 1930 legislation. Nevertheless, the principle upon which this Bill is based is largely that principle with a very pronounced improvement. The improvement is that the Government of this country, with all its resources and all the impetus from its export trading policy that it has made evident, has now been given a status in the annual bargaining conference as to shipping arrangements. Previously, the shipping arrangements were to be approved by the Australian Oversea Transport Association and there was bargaining between two private enterprise combines solely. The Government or the Department of Trade and Industry had no status. Now, under this arrangement, undertakings are to be given by the shipowners that representatives of the Minister for Trade and Industry will be at the conference and that the shipowners will afford information and genuinely enter into negotiations in his presence. That means in the presence of the Department of Trade and Industry, its advisers and the Minister himself. So, to the strength, of the Australian exporters in these annual arrangements is added the terrific force and influence that the Government can bring to bear for the benefit of the exporters. If I have misapprehended the general principle of the Bill, I hope that as the debate proceeds I will receive further enlightenment. Although I have given quite some study to the Bill, I confess that I am baffled by some of the complexities of it, in trying to integrate it into such a complex matter as the main Bill - the Trade Practices Bill - and then inter-relating it to the previous legislation. I confess that I am in need of clarification. However, in that general principle is where I see the advantage of this Bill. Were it not for that advantage, I would be quite dismayed at the general structure of the Bill.
The important thing to notice when considering this Bill in the context of restrictive trade practices is that the old Australian Industries Preservation Act was administered by the judicial courts. Last year we made a departure from that and put this subject matter under the direct initiative of a Commissioner but under the practical, day to day administration of a Trade Practices Tribunal predominantly influenced by a President. A most notable President has been appointed. I think the whole Parliament will rejoice in the appointment of Mr. Justice Eggleston as President. The President is to be assisted by other judges and other members appointed from trade and commerce and administration. Last year’s legislation set up a Tribunal.
People affected had the right to present their case, to be heard, to argue and to hear their opponents present their case. Let me recall to the Senate my outlook as I debated the Trade Practices Bill. They were the features that lead to my acceptance of that mixed administration-tribunal affecting important rights.
But now, in relation to shipping, the Tribunal is only a consultative body in certain circumstances. It has not the power to order and direct, except in one or two respects. I think it has power to issue an injunction.
– No; the Commonwealth Industrial Court has that power.
– I thank the honorable senator. Under proposed section 90r the Commonwealth Industrial Court has that power. Under this Bill the Trade Practices Tribunal is not the tribunal that exercises jurisdiction in relation to restrictive trade practices affecting shipping. That jurisdiction is vested in the Governor-General. I am asserting that proposition for consideration. So we have these stages in relation to this special field of restrictive trade practices: We moved completely out of the field of judicial courts, where we were under the Australian Industries Preservation Act; and now we move out of the field of a restrictive trade practices tribunal, where we were in respect of restrictive trade practices generally. In the special field of monopoly and combines vis a vis outwards cargo shipping services, the agency that imposes the material disqualification of disapproving a conference agreement under proposed section 90n and the agency that declares a shipowner under proposed section 90u is the GovernorGeneral.
Proposed section 90s provides that the Governor-General may, by order, disapprove a conference agreement on one of the grounds specified. The first is that there is no registered owner. The second is that there has been a failure to take part in negotiations. The third - this is the one that I hope will excite debate - is that the GovernorGeneral is satisfied, after consideration of a report to the Minister by the Tribunal - he is not bound by the report; he has only to consider it; he may overrule it - that (i) there has been a failure to comply with an undertaking to negotiate; (ii) the agreement, or the manner in which it is being interpreted or applied by the parties, or the conduct of the parties in relation to cargo shipping, does not have due regard to the need for services by way of overseas cargo shipping to be efficient, economical and adequate; or (iii) the agreement, in effect, interferes with the overseas cargo shipping of an Australian flag shipping operator. If the GovernorGeneral is satisfied on any one of those three grounds, he may, by order, disapprove a conference agreement.
If he does that, the consequences set out in the next section follow. Sub-clause (1.) of that section says that where an agreement is disapproved it becomes unenforceable. Sub-clause (2.) states -
A party to a disapproved agreement shall not -
do any act or thing in pursuance of, or enforce or purport to enforce, the agreement … so far as it relates to outwards cargo shipping;
enter into any other conference agreement . . . that relates, in whole or in part, to the carriage of goods from Australia to a place outside Australia that is a place to the carriage of goods to which the disapproved agreement related; or
do any act or thing in pursuance of, or enforce or purport to enforce, an agreement referred to in the last preceding paragraph.
So, under this Bill, if the Governor-General, after considering a report by the Tribunal - he need not necessarily act in accordance with that report; if need be he may overrule it - is satisfied that there has been a failure to negotiate, or that the agreement is operating contrary to the efficiency, economy or adequacy operating so as to hinder the overseas cargo shipping of an Australian flag shipping operator, the agreement becomes unenforceable and any party to that agreement is prohibited from doing any act in the performance of it or from entering into any alternative arrangement of a similar nature. If he does such an act, of which he has to be found guilty by a court, he is subject to a penalty of $50,000. I interposed there the words “ of which he has to be found guilty by a court”. That is camouflage. There is no substance in that. The real imposition of prohibition here comes from the Governor-General’s order disapproving the conference agreement. The act which follows and which is justiciable in the court occurs if a party does any act in pursuance of an agreement, once that agreement has been disapproved, or enters into any alternative conference agreement for the same service, or does any act or thing in pursuance of or to enforce that latter agreement. If the court finds him guilty, he is subject to a penalty of $50,000. It can be seen that the matter upon which the court has to adjudicate and which is within the ambit of the court, after the Governor-General declares himself to be in disapproval of the agreement, is simply adherence to the agreement. So that in effect the Governor-General is enabled to say by order: “ That agreement is unenforceable, invalid and illegal. If you do any act in performance of it after I say that you shall not, you are liable to a possible penalty of $50,000.”
– If the person is proved in a court to have done something.
– Yes. I trust that I have made that very clear. I do not think that after what I have said three times in emphasis 1 need to be reminded by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) to that effect. My thesis is simply to draw the Senate’s attention to the high authority that is being given to the Governor-General by this Bill. He has to be satisfied that there has been a failure to comply with negotiations, or that an agreement is being operated against the efficiency, economy or adequacy of services, or that an agreement is being operated to hinder an Australianflag shipping operator. So the substantial area of judgment is arrogated to the GovernorGeneral. The point I am making about the Governor-General, as 1 will show shortly by reminding the Senate of recent history of great importance in this country, is that the Governor-General’s order is incapable of being questioned in any court of law. I am simply raising this matter because I wish to have an opportunity to indicate my view after hearing other speakers in the debate.
The next provision that gives the Governor-General a very high degree of authority is in relation not to conference agreements but to individual ship owners. That comes in under proposed section 90u, the side note of which reads “ Declaration of ship owners “. The proposed section provides - (1.) Subject to this section, the GovernorGeneral may, by order, declare a ship owner to be, in relation to outwards cargo shipping to any port or ports specified in the order . . . a ship owner to whom the next succeeding section applies.
Then it provides that the Governor-General shall not make such an order except on the grounds specified, that is, that the ship owner has failed to provide an agent or that he has not given an undertaking to negotiate, or, as is set out in paragraph (c), which is the material one - that the Governor-General is satisfied, after consideration of a report to the Minister by the Tribunal, that -
Proposed section 90v provides -
A declared ship owner shall not, in respect of outwards cargo shipping . . .
enter into a contract, or follow a practice, under which a shipper -
is subject to restrictions with respect to . . . giving patronage to another ship owner; or
obtains or may obtain advantageous freight rates on condition that, or by reason that, he gives all or a part of his patronage to the ship owner
pay or allow … to a shipper a deferred rebate . . .
. . . engage in freight cutting
retaliate . . . against a shipper for giving patronage to another ship owner by refusing … to carry goods of the shipper … or by resorting to other discriminatory measures.
If he is convicted by a court of having done those things, being a ship owner, against whom the mark of declaration has been put by the Governor-General - and the Governor-General has the unexaminable right so to declare him - he is liable to a penalty of $50,000.
I bring this matter to the attention of the Senate because of the history of this country. In 1952 the power of the Governor-General to declare organisations or persons reached, I think, a high place in the consideration of our political history. I refer to the Communist Party Dissolution Act. It will be remembered that, consequent on declaration of organisations and persons, certain disqualifications followed. That Act did not give anybody the right to impose on a declared Communist organisation or a declared Communist a pecuniary penalty or imprisonment. That could only be done by a court of law. But following a declaration by the Governor-General, disqualifications were visited upon people. I mention these matters only because I seek guidance which will influence my judgment after reading and re-reading the decision that was given by the High Court of Australia on that occasion. At page 179 Mr. Justice Dixon, as he then was, said -
The prerogative writs do not lie to the Governor-General. The good faith of any of his acts as representative of the Crown cannot be questioned in a court of law. An order, proclamation or declaration of the Governor-General in Council is the formal legal act which gives effect to the advice tendered to the Crown by the Ministers of the Crown. The Councils of the Crown are secret and an inquiry into the grounds upon which the advice tendered proceeds may not be made for the purpose of invalidating the act formally done in the name of the Crown by the Governor-General in Council. It matters not whether the attempt to invalidate an order, proclamation or other executive act is made collaterally or directly. One purpose of vesting the discretionary power in the Governor-General is to ensure that ils exercise is not open to attack. . .
I will content myself with the briefest reference to another passage which seems to me to be important, lt is not directly applicable to this legislation, but it is so pregnant with meaning that it deserves to be read in the context of this legislation. His Honour said -
In the one case there is the judgment of the legislature itself that the body is to be dissolved as unlawful and in the other cases there is the judgment of the Executive that the affiliated bodies are to be similarly dissolved as unlawful or that a declaration shall be made against the persons who are to be thereby disqualified for certain classes of post. The consequences ensue automatically, the dissolution of the bodies, the forfeiture of their property and the unlawfulness of conduct tending to keep them or their activities alive, the loss of office by the individuals, their disqualification and their incapacity to contract with the Commonwealth for services.
I wish to say again that passage is not applicable to a consideration of the provisions of this legislation, because disqualifications do not automatically accrue under this measure. There is a requirement that something else happens which is justiciable by a court of law. However, my contention is that those subsequent matters are subsidiary and formal; that in substance, the thing that does visit the declared shipowner or the disapproved conference with future illegality is the declaration of the GovernorGeneral.
If the passage I wish now to quote were to be recited every day in the Senate, we should still have patience to hear it. This is the first lime I have had the temerity to recite this passage, which is a further excerpt from a judgment of Mr. Justice Dixon, as he then was. It states -
History and not only ancient history, shows that in countries where democratic institutions have been unconstitutionally superseded, it has been done not seldom by those holding the executive power. Forms of government may need protection from dangers likely to arise from within the institutions to bc protected.
I am reminded of a saying I have read somewhere, to the effect that of we who are about to go and we who are about to remain, God only knows who is going to the happier fate. Honorable senators appreciate, I am sure, the reference I make and to what I apply it. While I am in this place I shall continue to endeavour to persuade the Parliament to preserve the proper balance of constitutional tensions: To the judiciary, that which is proper to the judicial field; to Parliament, the role of law-making; and confine the Executive to executive acts alone.
This Bill contains provision for a judicial act in reality vested in the GovernorGeneral, and the Governor-General’s disapproval of an agreement or declaration of a shipowner is unexaminable in any court, and yet it is the substantial basis of the disqualification of conference agreements and the declaration of shipowners.
Before I turned aside to consider the executive authority vested in the legislation, I had developed the theme that arrangements for our vital overseas shipping services pertaining in this country from 1930 to the present time were to be improved by the Intervention of the Government in annual re-arrangements for freighting of our overseas cargo. I felt that the adjunct of the Government’s influence to the force of the overseas exporters in these arrangements would do much to promote advantage to our overseas shipping. I also noted that with regard to overseas shipping this Bill has taken the course of selecting that area of restrictive trade practices for special and individual attention. The individual attention is that instead of being subject to the administration of a tribunal, it is in effect subject to the authority of the Governor-General. Qualifications need to be made to that statement, L know, but I think I state the position with a proper sense of responsibility.
One has to make a judgment as to whether the Bill in its present form should command acceptance, notwithstanding what I think was most unfortunate and regrettable legislation in the form of the Communist Party Dissolution Act, the High Court, decision in respect of which I have referred to. I am indebted to the High Court for elucidation of that legislation, because I did not perceive it before the High Court gave its interpretation. However, notwithstanding that and in view of the fact that judicial proceedings must follow the declaration of a shipowner by the Governor-General, as provided for in the measure before us, and must follow the disapproval of an agreement, and even though the area that is confined to a court in my view is very limited, 1 would be prepared to go along with the proposed provision in very special circumstances.
I refer, for example, to a trade the whole of which is not subject to the authority of this Parliament. Only one terminal point brings those persons who service our outward going cargo within our authority. The argument to me is very persuasive and cogent that, in setting up a tribunal such as the Trade Practices Tribunal whose order and decree of itself could dislocate a vital overseas service - -say a United States or British service - people at the other end of which are just as interested in the service as ourselves, a sound case can be made for the Government to be the declaring authority for the purposes of the legislation. I would like honorable senators to debate that point further. If I am wrong, I would like it to be shown. I have tried to exhibit my approach to the matter.
With all my dislike and lack of relish of having been misled into supporting the Communist Party Dissolution Act, I have searched my judgment very carefully to see whether it is appropriate in this case that the authority to make a declaration should be vested in the Governor-General. I sanction it, but I would ask that it be subject to one condition: That the legislation should include a provision such as was introduced in the main Act. I would not seek an entirely parallel provision, but honorable senators will remember that when the main legislation came before Parliament it contained no provision requiring an annual report as to its administration to be made to Parliament. According to my recollection, that provision was introduced as an amendment. I have not had sufficient time to verify whether that is correct.
I think it would be appropriate that an order by the Governor-General disapproving of any conference or declaring a ship owner should be laid on the tables of both Houses of Parliament. I say that, reminding myself for a moment of the great efforts that were made in the Senate and elsewhere in the Parliament to preserve the proper supervision of the Executive by Parliament in our emergency tariff legislation. There we gave the Minister power, after an emergency reference to the Special Advisory Authority, to make an order varying the customs duty. But that Bill carefully provided that within three months any order made by the Minister should be laid before the Parliament and should cease to be operative unless the Parliament approved it as part of an amending Bill later. My only point is that, if we provide the Governor-General with such high authority, some deliberate procedure should be followed whereby his act is brought before the Parliament to enable the Parliament to have a definite opportunity to pass judgment.
At the risk of being tedious, may I mention Senator Murphy’s reference to the possibility of establishing an overseas shipping line, perhaps as an extension of the Australian National Line. Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) have made statements on this subject. I shall make only passing reference to those statements now, because I hope to make further reference to them at the Committee stage. These statements were made in May 1966 and in September 1955. The Prime Minister is reported as having said that the cost of establishing an Australian overseas shipping line would be prohibitive. The Deputy Prime Minister is reported as having said that he invited the submission of applications for the provision of bulk cargo carriers for use in what he referred to as an integrated coastal and overseas operation. On the next day the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) invited applications for the use of foreign owned vessels on the Australian coast. I would not oppose any suggestion that as we already have a national line its operations should be extended overseas. Once we establish a national line on the coast, any objection to the socialisation or nationalisation of overseas shipping as a principle disappears. 1 was interested to hear Senator Murphy say that the United States of America subsidises its shipping operations to the extent of approximately $US70 million a year. In spite of that, he suggests that we should prohibit, by means much more violent than those contained in the Bill, these evil foreign services from coming to Australia. I rather gathered from a later statement that the earlier statement was prompted by Mr. Fitzgibbon, whose interest in this matter we all acknowledge with appreciation. But 1 rather think that Senator Murphy’s argument, if given effect, would produce a result quite the reverse of that desired. If we had the energy, we could set up a select committee of the Senate to peruse the papers that Mr. Fitzgibbon and anybody else might put before us. Then after 12 months we might bring back some co-ordinated information which was fit for consideration. However, the matter does not arise under this Bill. I shall be seeking from the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) some clarification of what is meant by the reference in the Bill to an Australian flag shipping operator. Although prima facie it would seem to indicate something analogous, I do not think that it means an actual government shipping organisation which is trading overseas. Subject to those comments, I support the Bill.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– in reply - I think I should start by expressing appreciation to Senator Murphy, as the spokesman for the Opposition, for indicating that the Opposition has no objection to the objectives of the Bill which is before the Senate. While he, perhaps, has some doubt as to whether it is going to work as we on both sides of the Senate would like it to work, he hopes that it will work in the way in which it is designed to work. I, too, hope that it will. If, in the light of experience, the legislation is not able to have the effect we hope it will have, 1 have no doubt it will be brought back to the Parliament to be amended in order to enable it to work to obtain its objectives. Those objectives are that the produce of Australia which has to be shipped abroad should be shipped in the most economical way, in the most effective way, and in the way which will give a proper return to those who carry out the job of shipping it, reserving for those who produce the goods to be shipped the greatest amount of benefit that can be obtained from their work.
The question of an Australian shipping line to which Senator Murphy adverted at some length is, I think, quite extraneous to this Bill, although it is related to the objectives of the Bill. Senator Murphy, on behalf of the Opposition, suggested, if 1 heard him correctly, that whatever we do in the way of preventing too restrictive agreements amongst overseas shippers for the shipping of Australian produce, in the long run it might be necessary to have an Australian shipping line to ensure that some proper competition does take place. This may or may not be true - I venture no opinion on that - but it is extraneous to the objectives of this Bill. It would come in under some other legislation, were it to be introduced. This is merely a Bill which endeavours to ensure that conference line agreements, which are in their essence restrictive agreements, will be subject to some control by the Australian Government. As I say, I hope that it will work just as much as Senator Murphy, for his part, hopes it will work.
I do not think that inward cargo can properly be affected much by Australian legislation. There have been attempts by the American Maritime Services Commission, as I think it is called - at any rate, by some American authority - to make its writ run in relation to inward cargoes to the United States, and that has led to great international complications, with the United Kingdom Parliament passing an act to make it an offence for any British shipper to agree to, or to be governed by, some American law. Indeed, this might happen to us should we attempt to do the same here. At least, this Bill is concerned with outward shipping, as Senator Murphy pointed out, and it is an endeavour to see that outward shipping rates are high enough to return a reasonable profit to those who carry on the business but nol so high that the producers of the goods shipped are exploited. That is the objective of the Bill. That is the objective that is approved by all sides of the Senate.
What was properly pointed out to us by Senator Murphy is that this Bill is, in a sense, complementary to but separate from the principal Trade Practices Act. The reason why it is complementary to but separate from the principal Act is that in this particular field restrictive trade practices should not automatically be regarded as wrong and illegal and be outlawed. Even if a trade tribunal set up under the principal Act should discover that there were grounds for saying that something contravened, it should not necessarily follow that the agreements that contravened something or other should, in this field of overseas shipping, automatically be disallowed.
The reasons for this were put before us by Senator Wright with some force. It is essential for producers to know that there are to be regular shipping services arriving at designated times, which will lift the cargo that is at the ports to be lifted, and will lift it at agreed rates that are operative for the whole of the year in which they are to be lifted, as distinct from an anarchic situation in which freights can go frantically up and frantically down according to requirements in other parts of the world, in which certain charter ships are brought in and then cannot be brought in for the next voyage. There are great advantages in ensuring that, instead of the latter situation, there should be a regular shipping service operating at regular times on known prices, and this is liable to come about as a result of agreements which are in some sense restrictive agreements. This is undoubtedly true. That is why agreements of this sort are in this Bill exempted from being disallowed as they would be under the principal Act were they domestic agreements.
Senator Wright had some worries about some clauses of the Bill. These were not as regards the requirements that the Government should be a party to negotiations between shippers and those who carried the freight. Indeed, it obviously must be of assistance to the Australian people that the negotiations carried on between producers and shippers should also have as a party to them, knowing what is to go on and able to exert an influence, a representative of the government of the day. This is not contested by anybody and it is a great advantage to be provided by the Bill. Senator Wright had some doubts as to whether it was proper for the Governor-General - and let us be quite clear that by “the GovernorGeneral “ what we mean is the government of the day - to have the authority, which under this Bill we are asking the Parliament to give to the government of the day, to disallow an agreement made between various shipping lines which could give rebates to people who ship with them alone, and could put penalties on people who ship with anyone but those members of the conference; in other words, an agreement which could affect the interests of shippers themselves. The suggestion, as I understood it, was that whereas in cases of domestic agreements to restrict trade it was a tribunal which said not only that trade had been restricted but also that penalties must be imposed and that this sort of restriction must be outlawed, in the case with which we are dealing this is not so. It is the responsibility of the Tribunal to report only on whether grounds exist for disallowing agreements. It is the responsibility of the government of the day to decide whether or not agreements will be disallowed. The fact that it was a Government decision and not a decision of the Tribunal caused some doubt in the mind of the honorable senator. I think this is significant enought to warrant some examination by this House.
The legislation places three requirements on overseas shipowners who are members of a conference or who are themselves a conference because they are monopolistic and have no competition. The first of the three requirements is that those overseas shipping lines shall, when requested by the Minister, notify him of the appointment of a person as their representative. This is obviously reasonable. Somebody must be known and designated as the representative of a shipowner who is a party to a conference agreement. The second requirement is that a shipowner who is a party to a conference agreement shall give the Minister an undertaking to negotiate with the shippers - the primary producers of this country - to furnish information to the Government or to the departmental officers concerning the progress of the negotiations and to make information available for the purposes of the negotiations. The third requirement is to register the conference agreement.
Let me consider those three requirements. I think we all agree that they are essential if this legislation is to have a chance to work and that, if they are contravened, it is reasonable that the agreement to which the shipowner or shipowners are parties should be disallowed. But an agreement can be disallowed on other grounds, lt must be remembered, Mr. Deputy President, that it is not the right of a shipping line to carry on business that is disallowed; it is only the agreement which has been entered into that is disapproved or disallowed.
There are three other grounds on which disapproval or disallowance can take place. One is if the shipowner fails to notify the Minister of the appointment of his representative, as required. The second is if he fails to give the undertaking that is required. Thirdly - this is the one to which Senator Wright referred - if the GovernorGeneral - that is the Government of the day - is satisfied, after consideration of a report by the Tribunal, that the shipowner has failed to comply with an undertaking or has not carried out the agreement with due regard to efficient, adequate or economical service and has entered into an agreement which prevents an Australian flag shipping operator from engaging in overseas cargo shipping, the GovernorGeneral can disallow the agreement.
It is perfectly true that this is an executive act. The Government is asking the Parliament to give authority to the Government of the day to take executive action in disapproving a monopolistic or restrictive agreement concerning overseas shipping. Who else could take that decision? 1 suggest that it could not and should not be a court which would take the decision that an agreement would or would not be allowed. This is a matter of policy. I speak subject to correction by my legal friends, but I think it is the function of a court to establish facts. Having established the facts, a penalty automatically flows if there has been a breach of the law. But we are saying that a penalty need not automatically flow if there has been a breach of the law. We are also saying - let us be clear on this, because the Parliament should know it - that a penalty can flow, to the extent of disallowing the agreement, even if there has not been a breach of the law in a technical sense. We are asking the Parliament to give the Government some flexibility in its relations with overseas countries or shipping lines registered in those countries. We believe the Government, as a background to negotiations, should have power to disallow an agreement, while not being forced to disallow it if some elements justifying disallowance, in the terms of the Act, are proved. We believe the Government should not be prevented from disallowing an agreement even though, in the terms of the Act, according to the report of the Tribunal, there is no technical breach.
We must differentiate between restrictive trade practices inside Australia and restrictive trade practices carried out by conference lines, which could be entirely outside or partly outside and partly inside Australia. A Government here could well want to negotiate with the government of an overseas country in which certain shipping lines were registered. It would need to have the ability to disallow an agreement in the course of those negotiations. It is a matter for the judgment of each member of this House whether that power should be entrusted to the Government. It certainly could not be entrusted to a court operating in the normal way, nor, I think, could it be entrusted to the Parliament, because it is not a basic law. It is executive action flowing from a general law which the Parliament was asked to pass. That is the genesis of the worry which Senator Wright has expressed. Do we give the Government, in its relations with overseas countries and in its exercise of such control as it has over the shipping of Australian produce, the flexibility and negotiating power which I think it needs as a negotiator in this field? I do not know where that power could be placed other than with the Government of the day. The disallowance of an agreement, and no other penalty whatever, flows from the exercise of this power. Certainly, if an agreement has been disallowed and somebody acts in defiance of that disallowance and is convicted under due process of law of acting in defiance, then a penalty falls upon him. But that is not a penalty that the Government can impose. It is a penalty that can be imposed only by a court of law after due process of law and then only if the man or the shipping line concerned has acted in defiance of an instruction.
These seem to me to be the major points at issue in this Bill. It is necessary that there should be control. It is necessary also that the exercise of control in this field should be entrusted to the Government. If it is not, I do not believe the hope expressed by Senator Murphy that the legislation would work would be properly fulfilled. The major aim throughout this Bill is that there should be an ability to control and flexibility in control; that as well as flexibility in control there should be flexibility in disallowance or partial disallowance that must be left to the executive government. But it is not left there without question because it is required that before any action for disallowance takes place, the Tribunal is required to report on whether there are grounds for disallowance in accordance with the terms of the Bill. That report has to be made public and it must be made public in the terms of the Bill.
The action of disallowance itself by the Government through the Governor-General again must be made public under proposed section 90s. So any question of disallowance of the agreement must be made known by publication. First, there will be the report of the Tribunal as to whether there are grounds for that disallowance and secondly it will be made public by action of the Government. I do not believe that any government would take action opposed to, or not supported by, a report of a tribunal unless it was able to justify its action - as it well may have to justify it - if it were to be questioned in either House of the Parliament. Such action undoubtedly would be questioned. There is to be nothing secret about this and nothing underhand. It is all out in the open light of day.
The question is whether in this sort of situation or circumstance it is reasonable to entrust the executive government with the protection of the producers of this country insofar as it is the duty of the Government to try to keep freight rates down as low as possible without driving out of business the shippers who provide the service, and to keep freights as low as possible for the benefit of Australia generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Definitions).
.- I wish to refer to proposed new section 90a to be inserted under the terms of clause 8, and that part of it which defines the expression “Australian flag shipping operator “. It is stated in clause 8, proposed new section 90a -
In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Australian flag shipping operator “ means -
for the purposes of the making of an order under section 90s of this Act - a person who carries on, or proposes to carry on, operations by way of overseas cargo shipping between any ports between which any of the outwards cargo shipping to which the relevant conference agreement relates is carried on;
Then one has to read the second part of the proposed new section, but it stops there. I find difficulty in comprehending what is meant by this portion of the proposed new section -
It seems to be the kernel of this definition that there has to be use of a ship registered in Australia. The person who uses the ship registered in Australia for the purpose of any cargo carrying that might be included in the conference agreement or might be carried on a route on which the ship owner under section 90u would carry cargo, is the person who is described as “ an Australian flag shipping operator “. If the Committee will bear with me I want to indicate my concern at this provision by reference to proposed new section 90n (c) (iii). It provides that one of the grounds upon which the Governor-General may disapprove a conference agreement is this -
So the mere use of one ship registered in Australia puts him up as a person who might come under the consideration of the Governor-General. If in the opinion of the Governor-General the conference is so conducting its operations that it is hindering this one registered Australian ship, then the conference agreement should be disapproved.
I have just listened with respect to what the Minister has said in reply. He said that he did not conceive of any government, regardless of its political colour, putting forward a disapproval of an agreement that would dislocate national shipping. My point is thai the Minister has power to dislocate a conference that is in competition with one Australian ship. That is the position, if I understand this expression correctly. Therefore, the position may arise that a Socialist entrepreneur, merely in pursuing his theory or by over zealousness, might wish to have a go at some South American trade and by this provision disrupt long subsidised conference lines that had been trying to develop the trade there.
It is not for me to illustrate the practical applications of this provision. This legislation is likely to remain for 15 years or 20 years at least. It seems to me, if I properly understand the definition of Australian flag shipping operator, to take the thing to such a narrow point that there is a danger in the misapplication of the section to which I have referred where the Governor-General, just to protect a small incipient line, might do disservice to the country not by dislocat ing the main conference service serving the country but by dislocating one of the important conference services. That is the first point that I wish to raise under the heading of the definition of Australian flag shipping operator. Perhaps it would be less tedious to all concerned if I rose after the Minister has replied to my remarks in order to pursue my search for information as to the intention of the Government in this provision.
– The position is roughly as the honorable senator has stated it. But I do not have the same worries that he has. I trust that the Committee does not have those worries either. It is quite true that the definition of an Australian flag shipping operator is the definition as given in proposed new section 90a. An Australian flag shipping operator is defined in part as -
So, an Australian flag shipping operator is somebody who is generally carrying on or endeavouring to carry on an Australian shipping service. This is what Senator Murphy said he wished so much to see. I think we would all support this.
– Overseas and here?
– Yes. It is an Australian shipping service travelling abroad from Australia. The Bill gives protection to a person or company with a ship operating from Australia, but the protection does not apply to an overseas shipowner who just owns one Australian ship. The intention of the legislation is to see that such a person or company has a chance to operate and to grow and is not frozen out by the operations of an overseas conference which could put in a fighting ship which could take cargoes before the ship of the person or company could arrive at the port, which could give good special rebates that the person or company could not provide, and which cut freights also. An overseas shipping conference could do a number of things to ensure that a person or company operating an Australian ship was driven out of business.
It is perfectly true that this could operate in the case of one ship. Senator Wright pointed that out. But how many ships would the honorable senator suggest that an Australian shipowner should have before he receives this sort of protection? Let it be remembered that the protection that is afforded is set out fairly carefully in the section to which the honorable senator has referred. It is provided that the agreement - a conference lines agreement - which is a restrictive trade practice is not applied so as to prevent a person - that is an Australian shipping line - ‘from engaging efficiently in overseas trade to an extent that is reasonable. Should the operator have two ships or three ships before he receives protection? How many ships should it be? 1 think that it is fairly reasonable to say that if there is an Australian or an Australian corporation trying to commence and build up an overseas shipping line, then that person or corporation should have protection to the extent that a reasonable share of the trade is received. The trade is not handed to the person or corporation but the protection applies if the person or corporation is prevented from obtaining that trade because of the restrictive trade practices of overseas shipping companies. That is all that I can say to the honorable senator.
– I agree with the Minister that this is a beneficial provision. It is aimed at the promotion of the Australian shipping industry in carrying overseas outwards cargo. It is clear that the provision cannot be invoked until the machinery involving various procedures has been invoked. An agreement may not be disallowed unless the GovernorGeneral is satisfied as to the matters set forth in proposed new section 90b and 90c (3). There must be first a report by the Tribunal to the Minister and that report must be considered as the basis of the decision by the Governor-General. Before that can happen, there must be under proposed new section 90y a reference to the Tribunal. That is not to take place until the Minister has carried on or endeavoured to carry on, either personally or through officers acting on his behalf and with his authority, consultations with the parties to the conference agreement concerned to carry on overseas cargo shipping, or with the shipowner concerned, with a view to securing such undertaking or action by those parties or shipowner as will render the proposed reference unnecessary.
First, there must be some difficulty. Next, there must be consultations between the Minister and the parties concerned. Only after they fail can there be a reference to the Tribunal because the Minister is debarred from referring the matter to the Tribunal before he has gone through this preliminary procedure. Then the Tribunal considers the matter and makes its report. Whilst it is true that an adverse report is not required before action can be taken, one can be virtually certain that no adverse action would be taken unless a basis was provided for such action by the report of the Tribunal, because that is the intent of the legislation. Then, if an adverse report is made by the Tribunal or even assuming that it were not adverse in the rare case, if the Governor-General is satisfied the disapproval of the agreement would take place. But the grounds of satisfaction of the Governor-General are that the agreement, or the matter In which it is being interpreted, or applied by the parties, or the conduct of the parties is preventing the person from or hindering a person in engaging efficiently to an extent that is reasonable in overseas cargo shipping in relation to which he is an Australian flag shipping operator.
That involves a great number of considerations, as Senator Wright would realise. It is not a matter of the operator not being able to engage in the shipping because of some deficiency in himself, whether in his finance or his facilities or something else. There must be something arising out of the agreement or the conduct of the parties to the agreement which prevents him engaging in the trade or hinders him from engaging in it. That is the kind of thing that is envisaged in relation to an individual shipowner in the latter provisions of proposed section 90v. They refer to such action as engaging in freight cutting or using a ship with the object of damaging substantially the business of another shipowner, or preventing another shipowner from entering into competition, or retaliating or threatening to retaliate. So it has to arise out of the agreement or the conduct of the parties. Then it has to be such as not simply to prevent the shipowner from engaging in shipping at all but to prevent him from or hinder him in engaging efficiently, to an extent that is reasonable, in such shipping.
When those factors are taken into account, the suggestion that the owner of a single ship could disrupt the operations of a great shipping line would seem to fall entirely outside the concept of this proposed section. We believe that, even if the Government is not prepared to go further and actively promote the establishment of an Australian shipping line, at least this proposed section serves to prevent the choking off of the possible establishment of even a private overseas shipping line by the operation of a conference agreement or the conduct of the parties to such a conference agreement. We believe that it should be welcomed by all Australians.
– I am reluctant to intrude into the legal struggle that is proceeding in this chamber tonight, but my mind goes back to the case of the R. W. Miller company. To enable me to vote more sensibly on this Bill. 1 ask the Minister whether it would have the effect of protecting a firm such as the R. W. Miller company in its troubles with the oil shipping monopoly. I would have a better understanding of the Bill if the Minister could indicate to me whether, in a situation such as that, the Government would back-
– The R. W. Miller company was concerned with the coastal trade.
– This Bill relates to the overseas trade. If the R. W. Miller company wanted to extend its trade from around the Australian coast into the oil fields areas, would the Government or the Governor-General consider its case on ils merits? Is that the sort of thing that the Government has in mind?
– This Bill is concerned primarily with cargo shipping lines as opposed to bulk shipping lines. However, I think it is true to say that the Bill does not specifically exclude bulk shipping lines from its operation. If a firm, such as the R. W. Miller company, had bulk ships which were on the point of being forced out of business by the operation of some conference agreement, I believe - 1 hope to have my belief reinforced by my advisers after I have finished this speech - that this provision could be used to protect its ships.
.- I was not surprised that Senator Murphy came to the aid of this provision. He having given us the pleasure of hearing him act as advocate for the Minister, I must take the only consolation that comes by continuing in my role as the devil’s advocate. We have elicited the fact that one shipping entrepreneur, simply by registering a ship in Tasmania, can invoke the Governor-General’s favour. I have in mind all the procedural provisions and the ambit of discretion to which Senator Murphy referred. In that forest the Governor-General could by some means, Socialist, pseudo-Socialist, monopolistic, combinistic or anything you like, make an inroad into real services to promote an embryo single ship registered in Australia. We should not allow ourselves to go into the scrub or the mists. We are expected to debate this Bill with a poverty of information on what are the Government’s proposals with regard to Australian flag shipping operators. Before the passage of this definition provision, I believe it is proper that we should be informed responsibly of what consideration the Government has given to Australian flag shipping operators.
I could start by referring to news that appeared in the Press in September last; but I will not trouble the Committee with that. It was followed by a question in the House of Representatives directed to the Treasurer, as he then was, the Right Honorable Harold Holt. The question concerned the possibility of establishing an Australian overseas shipping line. He was asked whether he had advocated a government subsidised or nationalised line.
– Who asked the question?
- Mr. E. G. Whitlam, the Deputy Leader of the official Opposition in another place. Mr. Holt obligingly said that he had not stated Government policy on the question, but had merely expressed an aspiration which would be the objective of every member of the Parliament. He was quoted as saying: “ I would not myself imagine that the development of such a shipping line could proceed under current provisions without some government aid. I would hope that it would be provided by government enterprise.” Mr. Holt was reported as saying that a comparison with overseas shipping indicated that the costs of an Australian manned line would be prohibitive. That is the basis on which we have been proceeding up to date.
In May J966 an official statement was issued by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) to the effect that on the 18th of that month he outlined the steps that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to take to facilitate the entry of Australian flag ships into the overseas trade in bulk commodities. Mr. McEwen said that the Government envisaged .a purely commercial operation based on the carriage of overseas bulk cargoes to overseas markets and limited tonnages of bulk cargoes around the Austraiian coast. He went on to say that for the present the best chance for an Australian flag shipping operation overseas appears to be in the carriage of some of our bulk commodities to Japan and that the relatively new developments in this trade offer scope for Australian participation in the carriage of these commodities if the existing cost disadvantages associated with the operation of Australian flag vessels can be overcome. Then he referred to integrated coastal-overseas operations. I will not repeat the reference that 1 made in my speech in the second reading debate to the fact that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) followed up that statement by inviting applications, lt can be seen that Australian flag shipping operators are referred to in reference to bulk cargoes. I would like the Minister to explain why bulk cargoes cannot take their place in the operations of conference lines or people who come within the definition of a conference.
In the second reading speech the Minister stated that the Australian Oversea Transport Association is no longer the appropriate body because it was formed when the only conference, in effect, that we relied on was the European conference, but our trade has now become so diversified that there are other conference arrangements, lt does seem to me that we ought to know which Australian flag shipping operators are invisaged in the Government’s statements and come within the protective provisions of the Bill.
– Following the points which I endeavoured to note as Senator Wright spoke, it is not a proper presentation of the facts to say that some shipping entrepreneur simply by registering a ship in Tasmania can invoke the GovernorGeneral’s protection.
– I hope that I did not say Tasmania.
– The honorable senator referred to Tasmania. 1 think that Senator Murphy covered that point. I direct Senator Wright’s attention to the steps which Senator Murphy set out as having to be followed be/ore an Australian flag ship, which must be owned by an Australian citizen or a corporation in Australia., gets protection to the extent of being protected from being frozen out of business by the great forces which a shipping conference could bring to bear, by applying rebates or by imposing penalties on people who used a ship owned by an Australian citizen or a corporation in Australia. There is more to it than merely saying that some entrepreneur could register a ship in Tasmania.
The next question which Senator Wright raised was: What consideration has the Government given to Australian flag shipping operators? In this Bill, and in particular in the clause with which we are now concerned, the Government seeks - and this I thought was questioned by the honorable senator - to give consideration to Australian flag shipping operators by giving them protection against being frozen out of any share of Australian freight going overseas from this country. This is what the clause, when it is in operation, will do.
On the question of bulk cargoes, 1 am informed the situation is that these agreements between the great shipping combines of the world are, in fact, confined to general cargo liner shipping. There are not, and there have not been, agreements of this sort relating to bulk shipping. If there were, then the situation which was raised by Senator Wright would operate and there would be protection for Australian flag shipping operators. But, in fact, the situation does not arise because these agreements arc not extant in relation to bulk shipping. That is why bulk cargoes are not at the moment in the same situation as are general cargoes, which are the ones covered by the conference agreements.
.- 1 wish to detain the Senate for one further minute on this clause to seek information from the Minister. I have not had time to go into the statutes in relation to this matter. I would like to be informed of the qualifications that apply to the registration of a ship in Australia. For instance, if Lord Inchchape were to establish a company in Sydney, transferred £100 million here, appointed a directorate and management and built ships here, undoubtedly the ships could be registered here. But what would be the position of the combine in Japan which, according to reports I have seen, is to join forces with the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. and establish a shipping line between Japan and Australia? Suppose that it contributed 40 per cent, and B.H.P. 60 per cent, of the capital of a corporation in Sydney which registered a ship that had been imported to Australia from Japan. What are the conditions upon which such a ship could be registered in Australia?
– I am informed that a ship could be registered in Australia by any British subject. It could be registered by somebody from Britain or somebody from Hong Kong. But that would not be an Australian flag ship. An Australian flag ship is one that is owned by an Australian citizen or a corporation registered in Australia.
– Where does that appear in the definitions?
– Proposed section 90a in Part XA., Division I, states -
In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Australian flag shipping operator “ means -
. a person who normally uses, or proposes normally to use, for the purposes of those operations, a ship or ships registered in Australia and no other ship, and being an Australian citizen or a body corporate incorporated by or under a law of the Commonwealth or of & State or Territory.
– That does not appear in our prin t of the Bill.
– The honorable senator says that is not in his print of the Bill. I would be glad to know whether it appears in the copies which other honorable senators have. It should do so.
– It is not in the copy that I have.
– Perhaps the Bill has been distributed incorrectly. That was an amendment inserted in another place.
– There are two different copies of the Bill
– The words I have read out are in fact in the Bill.
– One requirement relating to an Australian flag snipping operator is that he be an Australian citizen or a body corporate incorporated by or under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory. That is one of the essentials. Other requirements have been referred to earlier. As Senator Wright seemed to imply, persons outside this country might be able to avail themselves of the provisions of this definition so as to become Australian flag shipping operators. But this would be of no avail to foreign companies or persons who desired to use a dummy person or corporation in order to come within the provisions of the clause, because it is clear that they probably could do whatever they wanted to do, anyway. The clause is intended to be a protection to the genuine Australian citizen or genuine Australian corporation. If, in its operation, it extends somewhat further to cover others who might use it as some kind of a device, it does not follow that there could be injury to Australian shipping or commerce because of that fact.
.- I have now been provided with the authorised version of the Bill. I am not the only honorable senator who had not received the Bill as amended in the House of Representatives. I rise now to acknowledge the fact that the deficiency I sought to raise as to the registration of a ship seems to have been corrected in another place. It is necessary, not only to have a ship registered in Australia, but for a person who is an operator to be an Australian citizen or a body corporate incorporated by or under a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory.
With due respect, and despite Senator Murphy’s enthusiasm for the proposed new section, it would seem to me to be the easiest thing in the world for a foreign shipowner to register a corporation in Australia and so take the benefit of an Australian flag shipping operator. On hearing the expression “ Australian flag shipping operator “, I immediately want to get my Union Jack and say: “ We have ruled the seas for centuries. We are Australians. We are patriots. We will support Senator Murphy’s national line.” However, as legislators the Opposition seeks to do nothing of the sort. Provision is to be made only for a body corporate, incorporated in Australia. It does not matter with what capital. It does not matter who is the shipowner or of what nationality he is. Once a body corporate registers a ship in Australia, it becomes an Australian flag shipping operator for the purposes of this legislation.
– As I understand it, the trouble about the Bill was that initially, as is usual, it was distributed subsequent to its introduction in the House of Representatives - subsequently distributed, and not just now distributed.
– The customary Commonwealth confusion.
– The honorable senator just uses three C’s. I do not know what he is talking about.
– Was it just a printer’s error?
– No. Initially, we received the Bill in our folders when it was brought into the House of Representatives. Thai is the Bill on which Senator Wright was working. When it was amended, the amended Bill was distributed.
– Can we get a copy of the Bill we are considering now?
– The honorable senator has it.
– I cannot tell the honorable senator where it is, but it has been given to him. What he has done with it, I do not know.
– I have just now received my copy.
– Order! All honorable senators should have had placed in their files a copy of the Bill as amended in the House of Representatives.
Senator GORTON__ I wish to refer to one other point which was raised by Senator Wright. He said that it was possible for overseas corporations to be registered in Australia. I think that this is probably true but, of course, it then devolves upon the government of the day, through the Governor-General, to say whether that corporation would be protected to the extent of getting a reasonable amount of trade. I believe that any government of the day would protect a genuine Australian corporation and not bother about a phoney corporation which pretended to be Australian.
.- May I draw your attention, Madam Chairman, to the fact that you are calling one clause which incorporates practically the whole of the substance of the Bill. May I suggest that clause 8 not be put as a whole, and that each of the substantive new sections that are to be incorporated now be put seriatim?
– Does the honorable senator want every one of them?
– No. I wish to speak next to proposed new sections 90g and 90h.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that the clause be taken proposed new section by proposed new section?
– Could proposed new sections 90a to 90f be taken together?
– Is it the wish of the Committee that the proposed new sections 90a to 90f be taken together? There being no objection, this course will be followed.
Proposed new sections agreed to.
Proposed new sections 90g and 90h.
– I will be obliged if the Minister will call my attention to any amendment that has been introduced in another place, because when one works intensively on a copy of a Bill and marks it, it is quite impossible to act with any satisfaction on an amended Bill such as that which has just now been circulated. So that the record will be put straight, I say that when the attendant brought me the printed copy just now I was told that the copy I had was the only one in the possession of the Senate attendants. So there has been some confusion. I apologise for any confusion I have caused. Proposed new section 90g provides that particulars are to be furnished of certain agreements, variations and determinations. Sub-section (5.) provides -
Subject to the regulations, the particulars to be furnished of an agreement are -
the names of the parties to the agreement and the date of the agreement; and
the whole of the terms of the agreement, whether or not relating to overseas cargo shipping.
The expression “ subject to the regulations “ indicates an intention to reduce in some way the particulars that will be required. Sub-section (7.) states -
The regulations may provide for excluding any particulars from the particulars required to be furnished under this Division.
I gather that it is the intention of the section to refer to agreements in writing. Some of the language used is very incongruous if it refers to understandings or oral agreements as distinct from written agreements. I should like to know what particulars the regulations are envisaged as excluding.
So as to save the Committee having to listen to me a second time, I wish to refer to proposed new section 90h because, combined with section 90g, it creates the offence. Section 90h states - (1.) If the requirements of the last preceding section are not complied with in respect of an agreement, every person who was a party to the agreement when it became subject to filing is guilty of an offence. (2.) If the requirements of the last preceding section are not complied with in respect of a variation or determination of an agreement, every person who was a party to the agreement immediately before, or immediately after, the variation or determination is guilty of an offence.
It seems to me to be a question upon which we want at least an assurance - if there is no detailed information. - that it is reasonable to make every party subject to the penalty if the agreement is not complied with. The proposed section states that every person who was a party to an agreement when the obligation to file arose shall be guilty of an offence if it is not filed. I would think it to be an open question. I cannot instance any case in which it would be improper, but it seems to me to be a question on which I would like an assurance that it is proper to make every party to an agreement punishable if the agreement is not filed.
.- The provision now before us is modelled on a similar provision in the principal Act which deals with action taken in relation to trade restrictions inside Australia. The agreements can be written or oral, but they must be filed. So an oral agreement must be enshrined in a written memorandum. Senator Wright asked also what could be excluded. A schedule of rates issued from time to time or things of that nature could be excluded. Lastly, the honorable senator asked whether all the parties to an agreement would be equally culpable for any offence committed. I am informed that that is so.
– In further answer to the requests for information which were made by Senator Wright, I draw attention in particular to proposed new section 90g (6.) (b). Proposed new section 90g (6.) provides -
The particulars to be furnished of an agreement, or of a variation or determination of an agreement, shall be furnished -
in so far as the particulars are contained in an instrument in writing . . .; and
in so far as the particulars are not contained in such an instrument (whether or not there is such an instrument)
It is quite clear that the provision refers not only to written instruments but also to instruments which are other than in writing as the result of either a direct verbal agreement or some kind of telephonic communication or of such esoteric methods as were used in the General Electric and Westinghouse cases where those concerned communicated by all sorts of codes based on the phases of the moon and so forth. It is necessary that there be a coverage not only of written agreements but of agreements in any other form. Experience has shown that so much is involved in these agreements on restrictive trade practices that those who profit by them, or even the servants of those who profit by them, arc prepared to go to great lengths to arrive at agreements in ways which are difficult to pursue and sometimes difficult to find. When we find that in recent times one of the greatest corporations in the world entered into illegal trade agreements through its highest officers, it is apparent that the requirements have to extend to agreements other than in writing and should not be restricted to what even might be described as verbal agreements.
The next point raised by Senator Wright was whether all the parties to ari agreement ought to be subject to the obligation to file and whether they ought to be guilty of an offence if they do not. Adequate provision is made in proposed new section 90h (2.). If any of the parties to an agreement which has not been filed is charged, it is a defence if he satisfies the court that he did not advert to the question of filing within the time limit and his inadvertence was not attributable to a desire to avoid, or to indifference to, his obligations, that he reasonably relied on another party to ensure that the required particulars were duly furnished, or that he believed in good faith that particulars of the agreement had been furnished within the time allowed, and that either the particulars or the necessary further or amended particulars were duly furnished, except as regards lime, by himself or another party before the institution of the prosecution or he did not know or suspect that there had been default in so furnishing. These provisions, we believe, supply an adequate defence to any person who innocently breaches his obligation to furnish particulars.
Proposed new sections agreed to.
Proposed new sections 90.r to 90m - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new section 90n (Disapproval of agreements).
– It will be remembered from our discussion this afternoon that this proposed new section seeks to give the Governor-General power in regard to certain matters if he is satisfied after consideration of a report to the Minister by the Tribunal. These are matters of very grave import. This afternoon I raised an argument as to the propriety of the Governor-General being the person who ought to be satisfied as to these matters. In reply, the Minister said that one of the reasons for so providing was that the only party that could deal effectively with an overseas shipping company and overseas shipping operations was the Government. I frequently raise at the Committee stage of bills such as this matters upon which I seek information and which 1 desire other honorable senators to elucidate. It is clear that the scope of the principal Act which we passed last year extends to matters affecting foreign commerce. It will be noted that the restrictions referred to in section 7 of that Act relate to transactions or operations in the course of trade or commerce with other countries. Sub-section (2.) expressly states that restrictions referred to in section 35 of the Act, and sub-section (3.) states that practices referred to in section 36, relate to foreign corporations. In section 49 of that Act it is made quite clear that the administrative tribunal that is set up in relation to these matters has to determine whether restrictive trade practices or agreements operated by those foreign corporations in the course of trade with overseas countries are in the public interest. I know that different language is used in proposed new section 90n. There, what has to be considered is whether or not the agreement has due regard to the need for services by way of overseas cargo shipping to be efficient, economical and adequate. That is only another way of saying whether or not those services are in the public interest.
AH I am pointing out is that in the principal Act in relation to foreign commerce - not actually foreign cargo shipping but foreign commerce dealing with manufacture or importation other than in terms of shipping - it has been left to a tribunal to determine what is in the public interest of the country. I just put that on record because it does not seem to me that anything but the size or combination of shipping justifies the selection of the GovernorGeneral as the agency to impose disqualification upon the shipping operators.
– It seems to me that these provisions fall fairly within the administrative arm of government. The considerations which are to be taken into account by the GovernorGeneral are such as would not fall within the judicial arm of government. One could not conceive that the judicial power would extend to some of these matters referred to in proposed new sub-section (1.) (c). For instance, paragraph (ii) provides - . . the agreement, or the manner in which it is being interpreted or applied by the parties, or the conduct of, or the provision of facilities by, the parties in relation to outwards cargo shipping to which the agreement relates does not have due regard to the need for services by way of overseas cargo shipping to be efficient, economical and adequate.
Never would the judicial power extend to a determination of that kind of matter, whether there was due regard to the need for services by way of overseas cargo shipping to be efficient, economical and adequate; or whether, under paragraph (iii), a person has been prevented from or hindered in engaging efficiently to an extent that is reasonable in overseas cargo shipping. These matters are not traditionally part of the judicial power and they are ones with which no court would have the means to deal. They would clearly be held to fall outside the judicial power.
There are other considerations in the same provisions which might be capable of being determined by the judicial process. For instance, in proposed sub-section (1.) (a) there is the ground that a party to the agreement has, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with section 90d. That would be susceptible of judicial determination. Paragraph (b) refers to a failure to comply with a request for the giving of an undertaking. That would clearly be a matter for determination by judicial process. Perhaps the ground in paragraph (c) (i), that there has been a failure to comply with an undertaking given under the last preceding section in relation to the agreement, that is, that there has been a failure to carry out the terms of the undertaking, would also be susceptible of judicial determination. This is a borderline matter because of the wide scope of the undertaking that is required to be given.
Senator Wright is to be commended for having raised this matter, because there is a growing tendency to place in the hands of the administrative arm decisions which should properly fall within the scope of the judicial arm, as there is a tendency to place within the scope of that arm the making of delegated legislation or other matters of a legislative nature which should properly remain in the sphere of this Parliament. But in this instance I feel that there is no doubt that these matters are properly within the scope of the administrative arm. That being so, it is proper that the paragraphs be expressed in the way in which they are expressed, that is, that there has to be satisfaction by the Governor-General, after consideration of a report about these various matters,- because it ought not to be expressed in the way that these grounds actually exist. If the criterion were to be the actual existence of certain grounds, the matter should fall within the judicial sphere, if that were possible. If trie grounds are of such a wide and indefinite character as to be unsusceptible of the judicial process, it is fairer to the individuals concerned that these be matters not of definite determination or that they be expressed to be matters of definite ascertainment, but that they be mere expressions of the opinion or satisfaction of the Governor-General. Senator Wright did refer to similar kinds of consideration which had to be taken into account by the Trade Practices Tribunal under the main Act. It is true that the Tribunal has to determine matters which are also of a vague and general nature, but it is important to observe, as I remind Senator Wright, that the Tribunal which is set up under the 196S Act is not a judicial tribunal; it is an administrative tribunal.
– But it is a tribunal to which one has a right of access.
– It is a tribunal, and this brings up another factor. Once it is conceived, as I understand it to be, by Senator Wright, that these matters fall fairly within the scope of the administrative arm of government, it is another question as to what part of the administrative arm should be exercising the discretion. The reality is not whether there should be the Governor-General or some other body, but what is to be done, and everyone would agree that bodies which are to be subjected to some disability, whether it is called a penalty or not - such as disapproval of their agreements with attendant penal consequence5, if they purport to carry out the agreements - ought to have some kind of hearing, and it would be a very bad statute if they were deprived of a hearing.
Whether perfect or not, the enactment provides for a hearing before the Tribunal. That is inherent in the nature of the Tribunal and 1 have no doubt that even after an adverse report by the Tribunal the Governor-General would entertain representations which might be made by any party affected by the report of the Tribunal whose agreement might be in jeopardy. It is not so much a question of who ought to do it as of how it is to be done. It might have been done, as in the United Slates of America, by a commission such as the Federal Maritime Commission, which could take the action which under this measure is to be taken by the GovernorGeneral. It is no doubt the calculated purpose of the Government that, the Governor-General being vested with the power, it would be very difficult for anyone to approach any court and ask it to do anything against an order of the GovernorGeneral.
One can conceive of ways in which an approach might be made prior to some decision by the Governor-General, but every possible protection is being placed around the order by the Executive Government. As Senator Wright says, this is the kind of provision that ought not lightly to be placed in a statute. The Opposition agrees to the proposal because, for a start, this is the Government’s approach to the matter and we do not wish to give any excuse for further delay in dealing with the evils that exist in this department of commerce. Also, because of the general nature of the industry, we do not oppose the proposal, but it ought not to be thought that we would not oppose in other fields, any repetition of this device of entrustment to the Executive Government of such wide powers - powers that are virtually unexaminable. This should be done only for very special reasons. It is a departure from the ordinary rule of law. If it became the regular procedure under the law. the rights not only of great corporalions but also of ordinary citizens could easily be whittled away.
– There is one point I would like to make in relation to this matter for the information of the Senate, lt is that the legislation does not deny people a chance to put their cases. If some shipping corporation feels that it is badly done by, when the Minister refers to the Tribunal the agreement to which it is a party it has a full opportunity to go before the Tribunal and put its case. This right is given by subsection (4) of proposed new section 90z. There the corporations are given an opportunity to influence the report of the Tribunal. They can put their case and advance any arguments they like. The report of the Tribunal is not an insignificant element in this matter because the Government of the day - of whatever political colour it may be - is going to have good reason before it will reject a published report of the Tribunal. There is that protection, just as there is projection in the case of internal inquiries by the Tribunal as to whether something is or is not in the public interest. The only difference is that, in the case of a matter entirely within Australia, the people concerned having put their cases the decision of the Tribunal is final, and from that flows some action. In the other case, all that flows from the Tribunal is a report. But because of the most unusual circumstances which prevail in relation to overseas shipping and relations with foreign countries, the decision of the Tribunal in such a case is not necessarily final. I agree with Senator Murphy that powers of this sort should be given to governments only in unusual circumstances, and I think they would be given in parallel unusual circumstances in some similar field, but not otherwise.
.- I just want to acknowledge the contributions made to the debate and to make the record plain. What has been said as to the representation of parties is correct, subject to a slight qualification. Whereas section 76 of the principal Act gives a party an absolute right to appear and argue his cause, proposed new section 90x (2.) (c) repeals section 76 and substitutes for it proposed new section 90z, which, not in sub-section (4.), to which the Minister referred, but in sub-section (3.), makes it clear that the only person who is entitled to be represented before the Tribunal on this occasion is the Minister. Paragraph (b) of that sub-section states that if a shipper body has a sufficient interest, and satisfied the Tribunal to that effect, the Tribunal shall grant to the shipper body leave to be represented. Paragraph (c) provides that the Tribunal may grant to any person appearing to it to have a sufficient interest in the inquiry leave to be represented.
The Tribunal has a discretionary right to grant that leave. I do not complain about the provision and do not suggest that the discretion would be misapplied, but I wish to put on record the fact that the point has been noted and that the right of representation has been modified in this particular instance.
– I am indebted to Senator Wright, but the shipowners, the people whose agreements are going to be disallowed, have, under proposed new section 90z, an absolute right to be represented.
– Where does that appear?
-In sub-section (1.), which states -
In an inquiry under this Division in respect of a matter arising under section 90n of this Act, any party to the conference agreement concerned is entitled to be represented.
Sub-section (2.) of the proposed new section states -
In an inquiry under this Division in respect of a matter arising under section 90u of this Act, the ship owner concerned is entitled to be represented.
They have that entitlement.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Proposed new sections 90p to 90r - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new section 90s (Publication and commencement of orders).
.- I move as an amendment -
At the end of proposed new section 90s add “ (c) shall be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament within fifteen sitting days after the order.”
If the amendment is agreed to the law will provide that this provision shall (a) be published in the Government “ Gazette “, (b) take effect on the date of publication or upon such later date as is fixed by the order, and (c) shall be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament within 15 days after the order. I will not take long in dealing with this matter. It seems to me that because of the special authority given to the Governor-General in cases of this sort to make an order disapproving of a conference agreement, the GovernorGeneral should specifically place the matter on the table of the House in the form of a report to Parliament. In the piping days when we were in Opposition and another Government was in control in Australia, great commotion was caused in commercial circles when it was proposed to disestablish the Commonwealth Bank Board and to establish one Commonwealth Bank, incorporating all the trading banks and nationalising them in the one body. Provision was made at that time for differences of opinion between the Treasurer of the day and the banking system. My recollection is that there was specific provision that any difference of opinion should be revealed in a document to be laid on the table of the House. I have before me a copy of the Commonwealth Banks Act of 1959-1961 and in one respect, which I intend to quote, that legislation stems from a measure introduced by the Chifley Labour Government. In the Commonwealth Banks Act it is specifically provided that if the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board has a difference of opinion with the Treasurer -
The Treasurer shall cause to be laid before each House of the Parliament, within fifteen sitting days of that House after the Treasurer has informed the Board of the policy determined under sub-section (4.)of this section -
a copy of the order determining the policy;
a statement by the Government in relation to the matter in respect of which the difference of opinion arose; and
a copy of the statement furnished to the Treasurer by the Board under subsection (3.) of this section.
I refer to that because it seems to me a proper recognition of the obligation of the executive, if it discharges high authority entrusted to it by the Parliament, that it should report in a specific manner how it exercised the authority. Any order made under this provision to disapprove a conference agreement or to declare a ship owner, should be laid on the table of the House within 15 sitting days. I merely want to add that I submit that the provision in the Bill requiring an order to be published in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “ is not sufficient. Most people would die rather than read the “Gazette”. Certainly, it is an official record and no doubt people interested would bring such, a notice in the “Gazette” to the attention of any proper parliamentary authority; but I submit we should follow the principle that was laid down in the banking field in this connection.
– The Government hopes that the Committee will not accept the amendment for reasons that I shall submit to honorable senators. First let me deal with the precedent mentioned by Senator Wright and the question of laying on the table of the House facts concerning some disagreement between the Treasurer and an organisation such as the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board. Clearly this provision has been made because unless the facts were presented to the House, they would not be known. Nobody would know there had been disagreement and that the Government had overridden the advice of the Bank Board or some other authority. This provision was made so that people would know what bad been done and if they were interested they would be able to advert to such a disagreement.
But that does not arise in the case of the measure before the Committee. In this case the Bill provides that an order of the court and of the Governor-General must be made public. I agree that it has to be made public only by being published in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “. But even though the “ Gazette “ is not read at every breakfast table, it is read by everybody who has an interest in some particular business which is affected by its publication.
– It is also read by the Press.
– Undoubtedly, it is read in the Press Gallery. Quite clearly, its contents are public. Therefore what is in the “ Gazette “ is within the knowledge of any member of Parliament or will be brought to the knowledge of any member of Parliament by interested parties. So a safeguard is not required.
I ask honorable senators to take this into consideration: What we are trying to do in this Bill is to give the Government some authority in negotiations with foreign governments or with foreign shipping com bines which can call foreign governments to their support, and to see that the Australian producer is not exploited. If the Minister for Trade and Industry believes exploitation of the Australian producers is going on, he must first seek to persuade the conference shipping lines to stop that exploitation and to lower their freights. Again, I emphasise that they would be asked to lower their freights not to a point where they would be driven out of business but to a point where they were not exploiting the Australian producer. If the Minister fails in that approach, he must refer the matter to a tribunal and the tribunal will make a report. At that stage - and indeed from the beginnings of that stage - the Minister and the Australian Government negotiating with foreign governments or foreign shipping combines which can call foreign governments to their support, must have authority or at least the reserve authority to be able to say: “ Unless you are reasonable about this, it will be necessary to disallow the agreement which you have entered into and under which you are exploiting the Australian shippers “. Nothing should detract from the authority of the Minister or should seem to detract from his authority to do that because in this game, we are dealing with pretty tough characters. They are likely to say: “ You have not the power to disallow the agreement”. But the Government is giving the Minister power to disallow an agreement.
If there was any impression or belief that a disallowance by the Government could be rescinded within 15 sitting days by some majority in one or other of the Houses of Parliament, the negotiating capacity of a Minister or any Australian Government seeking to protect the producers, would be vitiated. I do not know whether this is in the mind of the honorable senator who proposed the amendment, but there is inherent in it the idea that a disallowance of regulations laid on the table of the House within 15 sitting days, could be set aside. This would detract from the force of the legislation and from the capacity of the Minister, no matter what government was in power, to protect Australian producers in negotiations. I can see no reason why there should not be presented to the Parliament once every year, as is provided in the principal Act, a list of occasions on which any order has been disallowed although even that would be stale news by the time it reached the House.
I return to my .starting point, that both the report and the action of the GovernorGeneral are to be made public. If there is no suggestion of disallowing what the Government has done, the provision in the amendment in unnecessary. If there is a suggestion of disallowing what the Government has done, such a provision would detract from the measure and would hurt the interests of Australian shippers.
– If there were involved in this proposal of Senator Wright some notion of disallowance of the order by the GovernorGeneral, it would be extremely objectionable because it is not the function of this legislature to deal with executive actions. When we talk about the separation of the administration from the legislature and keeping to their proper spheres, this works in both ways.
– No power for disallowance is asked for in this amendment.
– I appreciate that fact. I am answering the argument that the Minister was putting. If there were involved in it any notion of disallowance or any atmosphere of possible disallowance, this would be extremely objectionable, lt is not the function of this legislature to indulge in executive action or revocation of executive action itself. It is for us perhaps to disapprove or approve of what has been done by the Government in its administration but not to enter into the sphere of administration ourselves. Any notion of disallowing an executive order would be an entry into the field of administration. No legislature can do that.
If a legislature begins to interfere in the acts of administration and to administer these acts, it becomes enmeshed in hopeless contusion. We would never want to include any such provision in our enactments. Such a provision would be quite distinct from the disallowance of regulations or ordinances which is the supervision of our own delegated legislation. However, I agree that it does not purport to provide for disallowance. All it provides for is the tabling of the order in the Parliament. It does seem to us that its only purpose can be to publicise the order. That has been done already. The Government in this case, unlike what it has done in other measures, has provided for publication in the “ Gazette “. The order is not to take effect until such publication or some later date fixed by the order.
When we consider the background of the industry, it is inconceivable that those affected by such an order would not have sufficient publicity of the order and would not be able to bring to the notice of any member of this Parliament any matter he desired concerning the order. To the Opposition it does not seem necessary to go further and have the paper or the order tabled in the Parliament. The matter does not require to be raised. It does not serve any useful purpose. For that reason, the Opposition can give no support to the amendment moved by Senator Wright as it remains unconvinced by his reasons.
.- I content myself by just making the observation that I protest against the implications of absolutism that the Minister seeks. The idea is that the Governor-General or the Minister is weakened with respect to - what was the expression - tough guys, strong characters or something, with whom he has to deal. In a democracy any Minister will have to answer to his Parliament and justify his action. To the United States of America we say: “ Of course we will accept the S.E.A.T.O. Agreement with you, couched in terms that you will honour the obligations after due constitutional processes.” Here we have a situation where the Minister of the day in a Liberal Government says: “ I would be weakened in dealing with shipping magnates if the implication should arise from my obligation to lay on the Table any order I make disapproving a conference that the Parliament, elected in accordance with democratic principles, might be there to overrule me.” I protest, if in vain.
– As protesting seems to be in the air, I would like to protest at what I regard as my being completely misrepresented by the senator who has just sat down. I do not believe any sensible person could claim that there was some request for absolutism in what I have said. I believe that the suggestion made by the honorable senator that there was some request for absolutism is meretricious and misleading. There is a complete difference between disallowing a regulation and disallowing some particular executive act. I do not think that even Senator Wright would claim that the Minister would not be put in an awkward position and that his power of negotiation would not be vitiated if he were in the position where the actions he took were subject to disallowance soon after any parliament met. A Minister could not negotiate on those terms. That is not a claim of absolutism.
The Government has to answer to Parliament for its general course of action. The Government has made it necessary that there should be made public the report of the Tribunal and what the Government does. The Government can be subject to a vote of censure or a vote of no confidence for its general course of action. To claim that, because I say this is not necessary if there is no intention to disallow and objectionable if there is intention to disallow, this is a request for absolutism is, in my opinion, without any foundation whatever.
Proposed new section agreed to.
– I have no further interest in the Bill. Others might have; I doubt it. I simply indicate my point of view.
Remainder of proposed new sections - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 31st August (vide page 249), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Senate take note of the following papers -
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1966-67.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the Year Ending 30th June 1967.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the Year Ending 30th June 1967.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the Year Ending 30th June 1967.
Government Securities on Issue at 30th June 1966.
Upon which Senator Willesee had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “the Senate condemns the Budget because: -
It fails to recognise the injustices wrought upon wage earners because real wages have fallen as prices have risen faster than wages.
It makes inadequate adjustments to Social Service payments.
It fails to recognise the serious crisis in education.
It does not acknowledge the lack of con fidence on the part of the business community in the future growth of the economy.
It does not recognise the need of further basic development, public and private, in addition to the need for adequate defence, and that, balanced development can only take place by active encouragement to Australian industry and cooperation with the States.
It does nothing to relieve our dependence on a high rate of foreign investment to finance the deficit in our balance of payments.”
– Before this debate was adjourned almost a fortnight ago I referred to a number of matters that indicate the lethargic maladministration of the affairs of this nation by the present Government. I dealt with Vietnam and the Government’s policy on that important international matter. I also dealt with national problems, including the failure of the Government to face up to the problems associated with the drought and the Government’s abject failure in respect of the development of this great nation’s resources. When the debate was interrupted I was referring again to the failure of the Government to face up to its responsibilities in respect of the establishment of a television industry in Australia, which is of paramount importance today.
Since that time the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, Mr. Wright, has made a statement to the effect that as from 1st July 1967 commercial television stations that have been operating for a period of more than three years must transmit 12 hours of Australian material each month between the hours of 7 and 9.30 p.m. and that two hours of that time must be devoted to indigenous dramatic material. So, after a fight that has been waged in this Parliament for a number of years, it would appear that at long last the slow march up hill has begun. 1 agree with the statement that Mr. Wright made, in giving the commercial stations this order, that there is still a long way to go. But if this new provision is enforced by the Board - 1 hope that it will be rigidly adhered to - it could mean the beginning of a new, strong, vital and effective industry for this nation. This is something for which I, as well as many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber and some honorable senators on the Government side, have striven ever since we entered this Parliament.
I commend the Board for giving recognition, in the slight measure to which it has agreed up to this stage, to the necessity to propagate Australia’s talents. There is no doubt that in Australia we have great artists. We certainly have great writers. We have producers. We also have technicians available to us. These people, if given a go, can produce efforts equal to the best in the world. There is no doubt that our variety artists are second to none in the world of entertainment. Our documentary producers are as good as any in the world. I believe that that has been proved by men such as Michael Charlton, who formerly was in the employ of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and is now with the British Broadcasting Corporation. It has been epitomised by documentaries such as “ If these walls could speak “, which depicts in documentary form various places throughout the world. It was photographed by Australian cameramen and produced by Australian producers and technicians. It has now been sold on the American market. I believe that if our dramatists can get the breakthrough that they certainly deserve they will do much to publicise Austral ‘a overseas and, in ad dition, will give us as Australians a real and appreciative understanding of our own heritage and culture.
Whilst speaking on this subject, I mention that I am particularly pleased to know that Australian talent will be going to Canada to take part in the promotion of Australia at the trade fair that is to be held in Montreal in the near future.
– Does the honorable senator know which artists are going?
– A number of Australian artists are going, but I will not mention any particular ones. I am sure that this will be a great fillip to Australian talent. I believe that this nation should be indebted to the people who are primarily responsible for this taking place. One man who should be mentioned in this respect and whom I regard as Australia’s leading television entrepreneur is Mr. Jack Neary. He has done much, in co-operation with the Government, to ensure that Australians will be available for this enterprise. I believe that because of this venture Australia and Australian artists will live up to the standards that 1 am sure will be achieved in the promotion at this world fair.
I now wish to raise two matters concerning the Australian Broadcasting Commission - one of condonation and another of condemnation. The first is that the World Cup Soccer Series was shown on television at a very late hour at night. However, as a result of my making representations to the General Manager of the A.B.C. on behalf of a number of people in New South Wales who are interested in this sport, the Commission has agreed to replay the series. I think it was shown previously at 11.40 p.m. It will be replayed on four Saturday afternoons in September. This will give many thousands of the younger Australians who are interested in this sport an opportunity to see this game played at the international level. I believe that this is a splendid thing. I congratulate the A.B.C. on the initiative that it has displayed in this regard.
I now come to the condemnation. I am given to understand that the Commission has been caught up in the rat race - I use that term advisedly - of the system of ratings that is practised and relied upon by the commercial television stations. I do not accept the ratings on which the commercial stations rely as a true guide to the popularity or otherwise of the programmes that are shown. But, apparently, because this seems to be the rage in the industry at the present time, the A.B.C. places some reliance on it. Unfortunately, in recent times a statement has been made to the effect that all the children’s programmes, which at present are shown on A.B.C. television stations at about 5 o’clock and which are Australian in origin, are to be taken off the air in the first week in October and replaced by overseas programmes. I refer to programmes such as “ Roundabout “, which is shown on Monday, “ Storybook “, which is shown on Tuesday, “ Wonderbox “, which is shown on Wednesday, “ Partyland “, which is shown on Thursday, and “ Friday Fare “, which is shown on Friday. Suddenly, as from the first week in October, all of these programmes which are Australian productions are to be taken off the national television stations and are to be replaced by overseas productions. All of the programmes that I have mentioned, with the exception of “ Partyland “, which is a New South Wales programme only, are national in character. All of them are of 30 minutes duration and, as I have said, are Australian in origin. They cater for all classes of children from 2 to 12 years of age.
At the present time these programmes open the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s evening viewing. Immediately after the test card pattern is shown on the A.B.C. stations, these programmes appear on the screen. I could not say what their respective ratings are at the present time, but as far as entertainment for children is concerned, I think it is wrong for the A.B.C. to base its idea of programming on the standards adopted by commercial television stations. The programmes that I have mentioned are to be replaced by overseas films, and they are to be followed at half past five by variety programmes aimed at capturing the imagination of teenage viewers. I understand that the budget of one of these programmes, which is known as “ Crackerjack “ and which is obtained from the British Broadcasting Corporation, is about seven times the amount spent on the Australian programme “ Wonderbox “, which has a budget of about $270.
Of course, if this policy is carried out by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, it will mean that the only A.B.C. programmes which cater for children 10 years of age and under will be overseas productions. A programme known as “ Play School “, which is a British Broadcasting Corporation production, is scheduled for viewing at five minutes past ten of a morning. It is designed principally for children in the two to five years age bracket who are not attending school. If the Australian Broadcasting Commission goes ahead with its plan, obviously it will mean further diminution of the opportunity that is given to Australians to present their talents and less opportunity for Australian programmes to be shown on the national stations.
I understand that the fan mail received from children throughout Australia about programmes which are shown at the present time and which are to be discontinued by the national stations from the first week in October, is quite sizeable. Many mothers who have seen press reports on this matter have spoken to me. They have expressed concern that these clean and decent Australian productions are to be removed from the A.B.C. ‘s programmes so that the A.B.C. might be able to compete on a commercial basis with commercial stations. I was pleased to hear Senator Wood, approximately a fortnight ago, submit to this Senate a petition complaining about the generally poor quality of programmes. I was also pleased to learn subsequently that the Austraiian Broadcasting Control Board, as a result of the efforts of many people in this Parliament to promote Australian television programmes, had at long last decided to do something about the matter. I trust that common sense in this regard will prevail with the authorities in the Australian Broadcasting Commission and that they will ensure that these programmes which entertain and educate very young Australians, particularly those from 2 to 10 years of age, will remain on the screen. If the Commission believes that it has to compete in some way on a commercial basis with the commercial television stations, I hope that it will search for and eventually find other means of building up its ratings than by removing Australian programmes from the national stations.
I have referred to a number of matters during the course of my speech in the
Budget debate. 1 have criticised at considerable length the budgetary provisions contained in the Budget Papers. I believe that because of the Government’s failure on many aspects - not only international affairs but also economic policies - in the present Budget Papers it has not catered for the demands or the requirements of the Australian people. Senator Wright, when speaking to the Superannuation Bill which was introduced into the Senate on 30th November 1965, stated that we were discussing a bill which was motivated by the weakest of Treasurers. Of course, the person to whom he referred is now the Prime Minister of Australia. But I believe that Australians generally feel that, having regard to the Budget Papers that have been presented to t’his Parliament recently, there is a weaker Treasurer than the one to whom the honorable senator previously referred. I refer to the present Treasurer (Mr. McMahon). Because of the matters I have mentioned, not only this evening but also approximately a fortnight ago, because of the international policies and the economic policies pursued by this Government; because of the failure of the Government to cater for the national development of Australia and to assist substantially Australian industries which deserve assistance, I support the amendment that has been moved by my leader. Senator Willesee.
– Unlike Senator McClelland, I subscribe to the opinion that was expressed approximately a fortnight ago by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson). He summarised the task of the Treasurer and the Government in relation to the presentation of the Budget. As Senator Anderson summarised the position so adequately, I think I can do no better than to quote his words. They were as follows -
The Budget has two purposes. The first is to sustain and expand our defence effort so as to preserve our national security. Fundamentally, the Budget must be shaped around and based on Australia’s national security. The second purpose of the Budget is to preserve and stimulate the domestic economy because the first purpose cannot be properly sustained unless the second is achieved in full measure.
Not only do I believe that this is the basis on which a Budget should be presented, I believe it is the basis on which, in fact, this Budget was presented. I find myself completely in disagreement with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Willesee). I will refer in some detail to at least one of the points of his amendment in due course.
I believe that probably there has been no occasion in the life of a parliament when one has been more entitled to expect from the Opposition - and indeed from Government supporters - a broad general outline of their approach insofar as it is contrary to the approach of the Government. This is the prime responsibility of the Opposition. If one accepts that, it is clear that on this occasion Opposition senators have failed more utterly and more completely to present any alternative to the Government’s policy than I have ever known them to fail. I will go further and say that, on most of the matters of gravest importance to Australia, members of the Opposition do not even know what is their policy. This is particularly true of the Opposition’s approach to our external problems.
It is perfectly natural that supporters of the Australian Labour Party throughout Australia have been devastated by the comments that have been made by the Leader of the Australian Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) who, week by week, with gay abandon makes a proposal in relation to our external policy contrary to the proposal that he had made in the preceding week. I think all the failures of the Leader of the Labour Party have clearly demonstrated the bewilderment of the Opposition in respect of the Government’s responsibility for our external affairs. Perhaps this could best be illustrated by some of the comments about defence made by members of the Opposition. I cannot imagine how anyone can speak of the relative needs of the defence of this country in the manner adopted by some honorable senators opposite from a background of experience gained about 20 years ago.
About three or four weeks ago I took advantage of an opportunity presented to all members of the Federal Parliament to inspect a demonstration of firepower. I learned of the tremendous changes that have taken place in the firepower available to our defence forces today compared to that available 15 or 20 years ago. From my own observations I concluded - and I think quite rightly because many other people with more experience than I have agreed with me - that the responsibility of a company officer today is almost as great as the responsibility of a brigade commander in World War II. The firepower demonstration was of profound importance to any person interested in the defence of this country and I was very pleased to see a large number of Government supporters there. But I was amazed that to the best of my knowledge - and I stand ready to be corrected - not one member of the Opposition in the Senate attended that informative demonstration.
– Senator Devitt and I attended an exercise in Melbourne some weeks ago.
– I am delighted to hear that. I do not think it is possible for anyone to appreciate thoroughly the changes that have taken place in our defence problems without seeing demonstrations such as the one to which I have referred. I am very happy to accept what Senator Mulvihill has said. I am sure he will agree with me that it would be impossible for words to describe the changes which have taken place. I believe that members of the Opposition have failed to face up to one of the most important problems concerning members of the Federal Parliament: Today we are marching from a state of existence as a small nation to a situation in which we are an acknowledged leader in the South East Asian region. It should be a matter of great pride that our leaders are recognising that we are not just a nation in isolation, but a true leader in the South East Asian zone. Consequently, our responsibilities have become very much greater. They are not merely domestic. We have great responsibilities not only in respect of this country but also in respect of aid to other countries. It is in this sphere that I believe opponents of the Government, both in the Senate and in another place, are falling down seriously on a recognition of our responsibilities.
I move on to a point which to me is of outstanding domestic importance. I am trying now to avoid developing the point I wished to make at this stage because I have only a minute and a half before the time allowed to me tonight expires. It is not desirable to start to develop an argument which must be broken off and proceeded with on another occasion. In the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, he has raised six points on which he maintained that the Opposition in the Senate is in contradistinction to the Government. The first point I wish to consider when I resume my speech in this debate is that which states that the Government fails to recognise the injustices brought upon wage earners because real wages have fallen.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to refer to the lack of television facilities in some areas of Queensland. I propose to make a plea to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) for additional facilities, and to offer criticism of some of the activities of the Government. I refer, first, to the 34th annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended on 30th June 1966. At page 4 this paragraph appears -
Ten additional regional television stations were opened under Stage IV of the Government’s plan. All were connected by microwave links from existing AB.C. studios. At this stage it is calculated that 94 per cent, of the Australian community now have television available in a primary service area.
That statement is in conflict with a statement that was made quite recently by a member of the Government.
I make a plea to the Postmaster-General on behalf of the outback areas of Queensland and some of the central, northern and far northern areas. For a long time we have heard about the establishment of a television station at Mackay. The latest story is that the station will be established some time towards the end of next year. The story is getting a little bit old. This station was to have been built by the end of each of the last three years. The same sort of problem exists in regard to Cairns, which is in the far north. There a sop has been given in the form of a minitelevision station, which is virtually useless. Programmes telecast from that station are not received even in Babinda, which is just south of Cairns, at Atherton on the tableland, or at Herberton and many other centres. Residents and organised bodies in the Mulgrave Shire and adjacent shires, and in the South Johnstone Shire and adjacent areas, are heartily fed up with the treatment they have received. I appeal to the Postmaster-General to have another serious look at the needs of these areas.
At the moment the only reception that people in these areas are able to enjoy is from the Townsville television stations, lt must be admitted that that reception can only be described as second rate. Apparently some of the delay in building a permanent transmitter at Cairns has been occasioned by disputes over the cost of constructing a road. I again appeal for an early decision on the building of a permanent transmitter on either Mount Bartle Frere or Mount Bellenden Ker.
People in places like Longreach, Charleville and Quilpie in the south-west, at Mount lsa in the north-west and at Camooweal which is only 100 miles away, and at Cooktown which is less than 100 miles north of Cairns, are entitled to modern facilities. Such facilities cannot any longer be described as luxuries. Surely with the provision of modern translating stations and other devices something can be done for these people. We have heard that such equipment is extremely expensive from the viewpoints of capital cost and upkeep. 1 shall refer shortly to what seem to be the very good profits that are derived by commercial stations.
On 17th March last 1 asked a question about the establishment of educational television in New Guinea. I refer to this matter, too, because I believe that all these things are related. The establishment of educational television was recommended by a committee of inquiry whose report was tabled in the House of Assembly in Papua and New Guinea on 7th March last. The Committee’s proposal was rejected, because it was said that the capital cost would be $8 million, or £4 million in the old currency, and the operating costs would be $2 million a year, or £1 million in the old currency.
With the conversion of our currency to the decimal form, these sums seem to be colossal; but in relation to the total budget for the Territory they are very small indeed. The Advisory Committee on Educational Television Services, commonly known as the Weeden Committee, was appointed in January 1964 and was given wide terms of reference. The Committee completed its report on 1 2th October 1964, but the report was sneaked into the Parliament on 11th May 1966 in the dying hours of the last sessional period. I criticise the PostmasterGeneral in this respect. The report was disposed of very easily indeed. The Minister said that education was the responsibility of the sovereign States. So another expensive report has been pigeonholed. If we do this with reports such as the Weeden report and the report of the Vincent Committee, which heard volumes of evidence, why on earth do we appoint committees of inquiry?
My final criticism, which I think is justified, relates to the Australian content of television programmes, which has been set at certain levels. This requirement is ignored, particularly by the commercial stations, in favour of cheap outdated overseas material which in many cases can be charitably described only as trash. In their efforts to obtain the Australian content required, some stations will go to almost any length. 1 should say that, if we were to play a game of marbles in King’s Hall, the television stations would rush it because it would bc looked upon as providing a programme of Australian content. Australian actors, artists, musicians and writers who depend upon selling their productions would starve if they had to rely on Australian television programmes. Obviously, the only thing left for them to do is to go overseas. I refer honorable senators to some of the criticisms that were offered by the Vincent Committee in relation to Australian television and which are set out at pages 1 and 2 of the Committee’s report, and in detail in paragraph 3 of Part I.
As I said earlier, T make my plea on behalf of Queensland; but I know that similar problems are being experienced in one or two other States. The people on the coastal strip of Queensland and in inland areas such as Mount Isa, which has a population of about 17,000 people, are entitled to early consideration. Obviously television is profitable. If the Government saw fit to initiate the establishment of A.B.C. regional stations in these areas, it would be only a matter of time before the commercial people moved in too. The latest reports that are available show that 75 per cent, of all commercial stations in Australia made a profit for the financial year under review. I hope that something concrete will be done in this regard and that immediate steps will be taken for the establishment of a permanent television station, in particular in the Cairns area, so that the transmitter or transmitters will cover a wider area.
– 1 want to say just a few words in regard to the matter of questions on the notice paper and to refer to the rather arrogant attitude of certain Ministers in respect of their failure to answer questions. This is getting really over the fence. 1 admit that perhaps 1 really should not complain. After all, my question has been on the notice paper only since 17th March, whereas Senator Branson had one on the notice paper for 12 months. The staffs of Ministers are either hopelessly inefficient or they are just plain stupid.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator will moderate his language.
– But, Sir, I am not being obscene or crude about it. They are kicking in mental efficiency, if you prefer it that way. Anyone who has had anything to do with State Parliaments knows that all questions in State Parliaments are answered at least within seven days. Admittedly, the Commonwealth has a bigger field and some questions might affect far flung parts of the country but it should not take more than a fortnight for any staff to get the answer to any question. If honorable senators will just look at some of these questions, they will see that they could really be answered the next day if the Ministers bothered to do this.
– Look at how hard your question is. No. 828 is a terribly hard question.
– The whole matter of questions is what I am concerned about, not just my own. It seems to me that Ministers are putting their thumbs to their noses to this Parliament when they refuse to answer questions. Answering questions does not take much work in departments. Admittedly, the answers to some questions require the collation of a lot of statistics but these can be obtained quite easily, usually from the Commonwealth Statistician. If questions are political, they deserve the fate that they get.
But a man wrote to me and he has been waiting since 17th March for a reply to his question. His boy is in one of the Services. I suppose he is now a fully trained infantryman, because no one has given me an answer. There was confusion as between the Ministers and their promises to answer the questions. I have a letter which is dated, I think, some time in May, stating that they were not quite sure which Minister should answer the question, but they had now sorted it out amongst themselves - I think this letter was signed by Mr. Bury - and another Minister would answer the question. Then I got a letter from the other Minister, I think on 17th July, stating that there had been a lot of confusion - they have a lot of time to talk about confusion - and he would answer it in due course. That was signed some time in July; unfortunately I have not the letter with me today. It is now September. Surely the staff of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) cannot be that busy. I know that he is busy with ballots and things like that, and he has on his hands a war that is not a war, but surely someone in his department could give him the answer to the question. Surely it would not take him more than two minutes to sit down and work out an answer, if he is capable of working out an answer for himself, without his staff. Either way, it is wrong, and it is insolent that Ministers do not reply to questions.
– It is treating the Parliament with contempt.
– Exactly. It is time that it was stopped. I do not know what way there is of getting around this. There should be something in the Standing Orders to compel Ministers to give an answer within a reasonable time, and they should have to give a reason if they have not answered a question on the notice paper.
.- I desire to refer briefly to a matter which comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) and which I have been asked to raise on behalf of a rank and file member of the Waterside Workers Federation. Honorable senators will remember that there has been a good deal of unemployment and short time among waterside workers in recent months. That position has been very gravely accentuated by the effects of the strike in Great Britain. Overtures were made to the Government to commute the fines of attendance - or appearance - money which were imposed on waterside workers last year and early this year. It was put to the Government that it would be a gracious gesture in view of the present unemployment and the fact that the pay packets were very light; that it would assist the wives and families of the men concerned; that it would be a good thing to do at a time when negotiations were going on with a view to bringing industrial peace to the wharves; and that it would also be a recognition of the fact that the loss of man hours on the wharves has shown a considerable diminution in recent months.
I for one and, I have no doubt, many other senators were very pleased to read a statement that the Government had decided to remit these fines of attendance money wilh a view to promoting the cause of industrial peace, but it seems that the commutation was not as complete as we would have liked it to be. I should like to put in this waterside worker’s own words his case regarding himself. He writes -
Following recent negotiations between the Waterside Workers Federation, the A.C.T.U. and the Government, publicity was given to the fact that in future waterside workers would be paid appearance money for days on which they did not work, and that appearance money suspensions listed against watersiders at that time would be wiped out. Along with many other watersiders I was disappointed with this decision because I felt it was not enough and that we might in fact have received some payments that had already been stopped as a token of Government appreciation of the efforts of watersiders in creating a record reduction in the loss of man-hours.
To my surprise I find that in fact appearance money payments suspended since October last year are still being omitted from the pay packets of watersiders, and that the above negotiations only referred to suspended appearances money payments prior to October last year. To me this is just too ridiculous, because though the publicity said the Government was handing back to watersiders some $160,000 through the lifting of some 39,000 appearance money payments, I would be surprised if all the payments alleged to have been lifted were not in fact “ worked out “ at the time of the negotiations.
At all events, I was entitled to appearance money for Friday, 2nd September, some ten days ago. However, it was not in my pay for the 8th, when it should have been, and on making inquiries from the A.S.I.A. today, Monday the 12th, I was given the above explanation, that the wiping out of appearance money debits only applied to those suspensions prior to last October, and because I had been suspended from appearance money for several days during January of this year and had not yet “ worked “ them out, I not only was deprived of appearance money for the 2nd but because I still had one day to go, I would also lose the next day on which 1 would have been paid appearance money.
I suppose the Government had to set some date. It could not merely wipe out the suspensions altogether. I am a little surprised and sorry that it appears that there are still to be fines of appearance money for suspensions as late as last January. If some honorable senators ask: “ Why do these men become involved in unauthorised stopages and earn suspensions?”, I can say only that the men I am referring to are not trouble makers and that they got into this trouble because they had to do what their union instructed them to do. Perhaps the question may be asked: “ Why do they elect these officials?” The men I am talking about do not elect them. They try to elect sensible officials, non-Communist officials.
– There is nothing wrong with the present Melbourne branch officials.
– No, and these men assisted to make the situation what it is today - a better situation. In these circumstances, I suggest that the Government have another look at this matter and temper justice with mercy by going as far back as October 1965. In view of the substantial unemployment on the wharves and of the effort that is being made to bring about a better spirit there, and in the interests of the wives and children of the men concerned, I urge the Government to consider the fact that it is pretty hard for a man, when he is not getting much work, to find that he has had taken out of his pay packet a fine for something that happened many months before. I repeat that I hope the Government will have another look at the matter and bring forward to a considerable degree the date from which the suspensions are remitted.
– I agree with what Senator Turnbull has said in condemnation of the refusal by Ministers to answer questions, or of their delay in answering them. This is not a matter only of questions on notice not being answered. In March or April of this year I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army a question about entry into national service training. The Minister in this chamber replied that he would refer the mat er to the Minister for the Army and pass his reply on to me, but as yet no reply hus been received. 1 have ascertained that it is possible to reply to the question, but apparently it has gone into the lost file department. It has been forgotten simply because it was not placed on the notice paper.
I have looked up “ Hansard “ and have found that many questions were asked, in reply to which Ministers here stated that they would endeavour to get from their colleagues answers for the senators concerned. However, I cannot recall any answers being given to those questions. I urge that when a Minister in this chamber undertakes to refer a question to the appropriate Minister in another place and obtain a reply, he should follow the matter up and ensure that the reply is in fact given.
– I also wish to refer to the matters raised by Senator Turnbull and Senator Cavanagh this evening. My remarks concern not only the time taken to give replies to questions placed on the notice paper but also the manner in which some of the replies to such questions are provided. I refer to a question which I placed on the notice paper on 11th May, asking the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service for certain information. It was answered only today, 13th September, so there was a delay of four months there. However, I would not be so much concerned with the time taken in furnishing replies if the replies given were genuine replies to the questions asked. When one receives a reply which appears to be, to say the least, of a hedgy nature, one is entitled to criticise it in this Parliament.
On 11th May I asked whether people who are required to register for national service are obliged to state any details of their civilian records and, if not, what inquiries, if any, are subsequently made as to the civilian records of such persons. The answer provided by the Minister was that people are required to state details of their civilian records in regard to education, training and employment.
– I thought the answer also stated “ and matters of that kind “.
– No. It said-
Yes, the registration form provides for details of various aspects for example, education, training and employment.
– I had in mind the re.ference to “ various aspects “.
– It referred, by way of example, to education, training and employment. The second question I asked was -
Have any registrants under the National Service Act been rejected for call up on the ground that their civilian records have been unsatisfactory?
The Minister’s reply was -
No registrant would be rejected simply on the basis of information given on the registration form. He would only be rejected if it is established that he docs not meet the standards required by the Army.
In reply to previous questions asked of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence by myself and other honorable senators the Minister, quite fairly, set out the numbers of people who had volunteered for service, the numbers who had been accepted for service, the numbers who had been rejected as medically unfit, the numbers who had been rejected as educationally unsuitable and the numbers who had been rejected as having unsuitable civil records. If the Minister for Defence can give statistics of that kind, surely it is within the competence of the Minister for Labour and National Service to give a simple reply to a simple question, rather than, with respect to him, to beat about the bush.
Senator Turnbull and Senator Cavanagh have referred to the long delays in answering questions on notice. In some cases it may perhaps be felt that there is a political content in the question or in the answer and consequently there is deliberate hedging in the supply of the information requested. I suggest, with respect, that this should be brought to the notice not only of Ministers in this chamber but also of Ministers in the other place. It should be pointed out that if we seek information of a parliamentary nature - information to which we are entitled - there should be no attempt to conceal that information from the Parliament and from the public.
– I will refer the points that Senator Keeffe and Senator McManus have raised to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) and to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury). Perhaps I may make the comment that we are now in the midst of a Budget debate and are about to proceed to the. Estimates debate. I do not for one moment challenge the right of honorable senators to raise any matters that they wish to raise in debates on the motion for the adjournment, but it would seem to me to be logical that such debates should be confined to more urgent matters. Senator Keeffe went into a somewhat wide debate on the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but I suggest that the points that he raised just now could easily be raised during the Estimates debate.
Turning to Senator McClelland’s remarks, it seems that he not only asks questions but also wants to write the answers to them. I do not think that his approach showed any reality at all. If he seeks information from a Minister and does not get an answer which suits him, he is perfectly free to reframe the question or make representations to the Minister. The honorable senator rounded off a good performance by saying that Ministers in the Senate should also take note of his remarks. Obviously he wants us also to answer questions in the way he wants them answered. It is an accepted parliamentary procedure for a Minister to answer a question in the way he wants to answer it. As well as answering questions, Ministers in the Senate have a responsibility to refer questions raised by honorable senators to Ministers in another place for answers. That is always faithfully done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 September 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19660913_senate_25_s32/>.