26th Parliament · 1st Session
Iiic PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Sena’.or MCCLELLAND- Is the Minister representing the Minister for Works aware that the citizens of Sydney, Australia’s largest and most populous capital city, are irate over the continual delays that are taking place in the provision of a satisfactory and suitable airport comparable with the city’s international status? What action, if any, does the Government intend to take to ensure that the bureaucratic bungling that seems to have been evidenced by the failure of the Government to keep the Mascot airport in the running for retention of its original title as Australia’s international air terminal is done away with? Will the Minister see that all steps are taken to overtake the lag that the Minister for Works now admits is taking place in the development of the Mascot airport, so that Sydney can rightfully retain at all times its reputation us the main commercial city and principal international air terminal of Australia?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has said repeatedly - and I, as his representative in this chamber, have repeated this - that the Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport is and will continue to be the main international airport of Australia. I cannot add anything to that statement. The part of the question relating to the work proceeding there is clearly a matter for the Minister for Works. I will draw to his attention the substance of the question, excluding the comment that the honourable senator made.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to a matter that is rather more important than the Sydney airport or the Melbourne airport - the statement issued by U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, carrying overtones of warning of a phase of a third world war. I ask the Minister whether he will request the Minister for External Affairs to make a brief statement in the Parliament before it rises, for the information of the Parliament and consideration by the people, on his assessment of the risks referred to in the statement made by U Thant.
– I will convey the honourable senator’s suggestion to the Minister for External Affairs.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Territories cause me to be issued with a copy of the decision of the arbitrator who decided a claim for increased wages and salaries in Papua and New Guinea last week?
– I wil 1 ask the Minister for Territories to issue such a copy to the honourable senator if such copies are available for issue.
– I ask the Minister for Education and Science whether he read the reported statement by Dr G. lt. Meyer in Hobart warning Australian school authorities not to import potentially dangerous curricula - as he described them - from the United States. Would the Minister agree that millions of dollars have been spent on these courses? If so, and in view of the Commonwealth’s involvement in Australian education, would the Minister initiate inquiries to ascertain if the facts stated by Dr Meyer are correct and, further, will he confer with State education authorities on the matter?
– 1 saw the statement issued by the professor but took it to be a warning against importing particular curricula without prior critical evaluation of them. He referred to curricula from the United States, but no doubt would apply the same criteria to those from the United Kingdom or any other source. In other words, these curricula should be evaluated by the education authorities in this country before they are brought into the Australian schools. Dr Meyer mentioned millions of dollars being spent but, again from the context, I took him to mean that millions of dollars had been spent in the United States of America. I would have no knowledge whether that is true or not, but it is the function of the Department of Education in each State to decide on the curricula it will introduce. All I can say is that I believe that the State education authorities would evaluate critically any material before it was introduced into their schools.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether to his knowledge the South Australian Premier made a request to the Minister for Civil Aviation that the proposed extensions to the Adelaide airport should be commenced as soon as possible. Is the Minister aware that congestion at the terminal building continues to increase during peak hours and that the recently completed extended parking areas will attract more visitors to the terminal? Will the Minister advise the Senate when the work might be commenced? I ask the Minister also why tenders are being called for a private concession to operate the new airport parking areas rather than appointing departmental staff to do the work.
– The honourable senator asked about six questions, which I believe need to be referred to the Minister for Civil Aviation in order that the answers will be completely accurate. However, in relation to the first question, my answer would be: not within my knowledge. At the same time, in the context in which the questions have been asked, I believe the whole matter should be referred to the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation a question without notice. In view of the announcement that feeder services will operate in country areas, will the Minister assure the Senate that full safety regulations will be enforced and all Department of Civil Aviation standards will be fully complied with in connection with these new air services?
– I can give a categorical yes to that question. The condition under which any feeder service would be permitted would be that it will be under the direct and absolute control of the Department of Civil Aviation. I give a complete assurance that there will be no suggestion at any stage of any weakening of the very rigid safety requirements imposed by the Department.
– My question refers to possible amendment of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund Act, and I address it to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the Minister aware that in May 1965 the present Minister for Health, who was then Minister for the Army, stated that Bills amending the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund Act would be introduced in the Budget session of that year? The Minister will recall that on 6th April this year I again asked a question regarding this matter, and that he indicated that a statement was to be made soon to Cabinet. Is any proposed amendment to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund Act expected prior to the completion of this session of Parliament?
– Senator Gorton will answer the question.
– I believe that question should be submitted to the Minister for Defence, whom I represent in this chamber. All I can do is to ask the Minister for Defence what the present situation is and to let the honourable senator know the stage that has been reached in the matter.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Does he recall that on an occasion when he met a deputation of New South Wales Labor senators when he was Minister for Civil Aviation he undertook on behalf of the Government that the airports at Mascot and Tullamarine would be finished simultaneously to the very day? Will he endeavor on behalf of the Government to have presented for the information of the Senate a full statement about the delays at Mascot and their causes and about what is being done to ensure that his undertaking is carried out?
– I remember the deputation well, but what the Leader of the Opposition has said is not quite correct. The Department of Civil Aviation is not the constructing authority. The Department of Works is the constructing authority and the Department of Civil Aviation is the client Department. At the time when the representations were made to me my knowledge of the plans then projected for the airports at both Mascot and Tullamarine suggested that the finishing times of the works at both would have been very close. 1 can give the honourable senator no further information. However. I may add that the Department of Civil Aviation was at that time criticised and has since been criticised in the Press a number of times because (he now runway extending into Botany Bay was taken to a total length of 9.100 feet, giving an operative length of 8.5(H) feel. I read in the Press a comment, which. 1 think, was attributed to a State Minister and which was to the effect that this represented a complete waste of money as the dredge that had been engaged was taken overseas when the runway was finished. lt was suggested at the lime that the runway should have been taken to an operative length of 10.000 feet. The clear answer always given to this proposal was: ‘When wc know what length of runway is required the job will be done.’ It now appears that when jumbo jets come into service a runway with an operative length of 12,000 ket or 13.000 feet will be needed. I am not associated with the Department of Civil Aviation now and I do not know whether this is correct. I say only that what I have read makes it appear that a runway of Ibis length could be needed. If we had already constructed the runway to an operative length of 10,000 feet, as we were so strongly pressed to do earlier, and the dredge engaged on the job had then departed, we would perhaps have to bring it back so that the runway could be extended to 13.000 feet. Another comment made earlier when the runway was constructed to an operative length of 8,500 feet was that the rock face on the end of it would be wasted: this would apply if it had been extended to 10,000 feet. As well as the dredge having to be brought back, another rock face would have to be built at 12,000 or 13,000 feet. This would apply to the extension of the runway to any required length.
No one yet knows what the ultimate requirements at Mascot will be. I say to Senator McClelland who is trying to interject that [ am dealing with the question of the runway at the moment. 1 have here a note of the point raised by the honourable senator. No-one knows yet - no-one can teH us - what length of runway these aircraft will require at Sydney. The matter to which the honourable senator refers will be dealt with when the length of the runway is known. The Leader of the Opposition reminds me that 1 did not remark on the statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation. If there is a statement by the Minister who is charged with all the responsibilities to which I have been blithely referring, I am sure that he will be prepared to make it available to the Senate.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. It refers to the question by Senator Wright in which he asked the Minister to invite his colleague to consider making a statement on the fears expressed by U Thant as to the possibility of a third world war. If the Minister makes such a statement, will he consider making a statement also on the fears expressed in the past few days by Pope Paul on the imminent danger of the third world war?
– I am sure that if the Minister for External Affairs, having had brought to his notice a suggestion that he might make a statement, makes a statement, he will cover all the mailers that he considers appropriate to be covered at that time.
– 1 ask the
Minister representing the Treasurer whether he is aware that trainee nurses cannot claim income tax rebates for money spent on the purchase of text books, but that fully trained nursing sisters can do so. Will the Minister take this matter up with the Treasurer with a view to having this obvious anomaly rectified in the forthcoming Budget or by instructions to the Taxation Branch?
– 1 take it that the honourable member is saying that the cost of text books purchased by trainee nurses is not an allowable deduction for taxation purposes whereas the cost of text books purchased by nursing sisters is an allowable deduction. I will pose this question to the Treasurer to see whether I can obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has seen in nearly all newspapers this morning a statement attributed to the Prime Minister when speaking in support of the referendum. Dealing with the No case the Prime Minister said:
The case they put to you is the basest suggestion that your National Parliament has conspired in some way to undermine the Senate and they add the sneering imputation that the members elected by you are lazy and inefficient.
If the Leader of the Government in the Senate has read the No case, I ask him whether he can find any imputation to that effect in it.
– I have read the No case and I have seen a reference by those who are advocating it to the effect that no more members of Parliament are wanted but that belter members are required. Similar slurs have been made on members of Parliament. I have read also some comments made that various persons are only part-time members of Parliament. Speaking for myself, I deprecate that part of the No case which is an appeal merely to the prejudice of the people when it says: ‘You do not want more politicians’. This, I think, is an appeal to pure prejudice and I regret that it has been brought into the matter. If the honourable senator wants any more information from the Prime Minister, I will send him a copy of the statement that the right honourable gentleman has made on the Yes case. Perhaps if the honourable senator read it he would be interested and learn some facts regarding the Yes case. I suggest that he study the Yes case because I believe that it is in the interests of Australia that the electors vote Yes in the referendum.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for
Shipping and Transport. In connection with the standard gauge railway between Western Australia and the eastern States, is the decision final and irrevocable to have the western terminal at Midland Junction, 11 miles from Perth? Has consideration been given to having die terminal situated nearer to Perth or, perhaps better still, at Fremantle which would be much more convenient for overseas passengers disembarking at, and embarking from, that excellent port?
– Quite clearly I am not competent to give final decisions for the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I do know, of course, that the matter of the terminal has been under current examination. In fact we have had questions in this place in relation to it over the last few weeks. I will attempt to obtain a reply from the Minister and will communicate same to the honourable senator.
(Question No. 30)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
Were some national service trainees, who had been on leave in Western Australia prior to their being posted to Vietnam and who left Perth by train to return to their camp at Enoggera, Queensland, on 13th or 14th January last, provided with sleeper accommodation as far as Kalgoorlie but from there on had to sit up all the way to Queensland? If so, will the Minister take steps to prevent a repetition of this treatment of these young conscripts?
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
National servicemen are entitled to the same class of travel provided for other members of the Regular Army according to rank and, for that matter, for similar ranks of other armed Services. This entitles members up to the rank of staff sergeant to second class rail travel. The type of accommodation provided for second class travel by the various railway systems is a matter for the railway authorities concerned.
Sleeping berths are provided by the railways for all passengers travelling from Perth to Kalgoorlie at no extra cost. From Kalgoorlie to Port Pirie, however, second class accommodation consists of a combination of sleeping berths or reclining seats also at no extra cost, which are allotted to passengers according to availability and individual choice. From Port Pirie onwards to Brisbane sleepping berths are not available to second class passengers.
In the case in question, rail bookings were made by the Army for nine national servicemen to travel from Perth to Brisbane on 13th-14th January 1967. All these soldiers were returning to their units after recreation leave and not following preembarkation leave, as suggested. As the members travelled at a time when rail bookings were particularly heavy because of the post Christmas/New Year holiday traffic, only three sleeping berths were available from Kalgoorlie to Port Pirie.
(Question No. 147)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation has supplied the following answers: 1 and 2. Loans insured at 21st April 1967:
Senator CAVANAGH (through Senator
Poke) asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 170)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers:
– by leave - The statement I propose to make was made a short while ago in another place by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). Honourable senators will understand that when I use the first person personal pronoun it refers to the Prime Minister. The statement is as follows:
I wish to remind honourable members that 1967 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission which originally was known as the Imperial War Graves Commission. In a few days time, Australia will be represented by our High Commissioner in London at a special fiftieth anniversary meeting of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission presided over by
His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester. In more than 23,700 burial places throughout the world are the graves of nearly one and three quarter million men and women of the former Imperial Forces who died in two World Wars. Of these, more than 100,000 were Australians.
All who have visited any of the war cemeteries must have been moved by their beauty and by the care with which they are tended. The efforts of many are involved, and to them I extend our thanks - to the architects, engineers, builders and horticulturalists who have created these places and to the researchers who so far as is humanly practicable, have made sure that each man and woman who died in the cause of freedom in either of the two World Wars has been honoured by name. I am sure it is a matter of pride to us all that our honoured dead are cared for in this way. The Commission itself is a Commonwealth body formed by the member countries of the Commonwealth to honour their dead of the two World Wars. Each war cemetery, each memorial, each individual grave is a tribute paid jointly by a united Commonwealth of Nations. We take pride in the fact that Australia is an active partner in this organisation.
Tn this year of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Commission, we place on record our very sincere appreciation of the work that has been carried out, and still continues. I have no doubt that this statement carries the support of all members of the House. I propose to send the President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission a message in the following terms:
On behalf of the Parliament and people of Australia 1 would like to express to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission our sincere appreciation for the manner in which it is carrying out the task of commemorating and honouring the dead of the two World Wars and to assure you of our continuing support and confidence in the future. On this Fiftieth Anniversary, the Commission can look buck with a true sense of pride at its achievements over the years.
– by leave - The statement 1 propose to make is being made in another place by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold
Holt). Honourable senators will understand that when I use the first person personal pronoun it refers to the Prime Minister. The statement is a follows: ) can tell the House that I have just this morning been informed by Mr McEwen from Geneva that the DirectorGeneral of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade has announced that agreement has been reached on the elements of a successful Kennedy Round. This is the outcome as at present seen of negotiations over some four years and. even on the limited information as yet available, can be said to represent a major success in reducing barriers to world trade.
As honourable members will know, this important series of negotiations was initialed by the late President John F. Kennedy with the objective of achieving a significant liberalisation of world trade covering all classes of products, both industrial and agricultural. It is in relation to agricultural products, of course, that Australia has been most concerned to achieve better trading conditions.
After the difficult negotiations of the past few weeks in Geneva, it is gratifying that the major traders of the world have been able to reconcile their conflicting interests and to reach agreement on arrangements which offer benefits not only as between themselves but also to the less developed countries of the world. I understand that the net effect of the Kennedy Round could be a reduction in tariffs in the industrialised countries of the order of 30% covering trade to the value of some SUS40 billion.
It is not yet possible to provide members with full details of the overall settlement reached in Geneva. In fact, discussions on some items of importance to Australia are continuing. I can, however, say that with respect to one of our major export commodities - wheat - we have achieved more satisfactory arrangements than at various stages of negotiations seemed attainable. Agreement has been reached which will ensure that world wheat marketing will continue on an orderly basis and within the framework of internationally agreed rules of trading.
A new minimum price has been established some 20c per bushel above the minimum in the present International
Wheat Agreement. This in itself is a worthwhile gain. It establishes a new floor for world wheat prices. At present we are, of course, selling our wheat above this level in world markets and we hope that wc shall continue to do so. But it is reassuring to know that if a situation of world surpluses were to emerge, we have the protection of a higher and firmer floor price than we have had up to the present. Furthermore, the price arrangements are such as to retain Australia’s competitive position in world markets.
Another important element of the agreement on wheat is the acceptance by the developed countries including the European Economic Community, the United Kingdom and J’apan, that they should share equitably wilh the wheat exporting countries the burden of providing food aid. This is a principle which Australia has been pressing ever since the commencement of the Kennedy Round negotiations. The new arrangement will mean that the food producing countries of the world will no longer be looked to alone in providing this food aid.
At this stage. I am nol in a position to inform honourable members of the details of the negotiations on meat. Detailed discussions arc in fact still proceeding in Geneva but our delegation is confident thai valuable gains will bc achieved in our meal trading arrangements. Moreover, in the totality of the Kennedy Round there will be other benefits which will assist a number of other Australian industries. Details of these benefits will be made available when the negotiations have been concluded.
It is the nature of international negotiations in which conflicting interests must be reconciled and a balance of advantage struck, that governments cannot achieve all their negotiating objectives. Nevertheless, what has been achieved in the Kennedy Round represents a real move forward in the whole area of international trade, and one from which Australia can expect lo derive important trading benefits.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to:
Tiwi standing order 68 be suspended up to and including Friday, 19 May 1967, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
National Debt Sinking Fund Bill 1967. Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Bill 1967. Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1967. Excise Tariff Bill 1967. Income Tax Assessment Bill 1967. Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1967. Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1967.
Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Bill 1967.
Debate resumed from 11 May (vide page 1376), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Bill hu now read a second time.
Senator DEVITT (Tasmania) [3.35J - The Tasmania Grant (Fire Relief) Bill which is now before the Senate has for its purpose the authorisation of the payment of the sum of $ 14.5m to assist the State of Tasmania in financing the cost of measures designed to alleviate the effect of the disastrous fires which occurred in Tasmania on 7th February of this year. I. do not think that it would be proper for me at this stage to attempt to recount to the Senate the details, chapter and verse, of that happening, because I believe that honourable senators have learned a great deal about the problem which arose out of that event. Suffice it for me to ay that on Tuesday, 7th February 1967 from the fires that came up quite suddenly there resulted loss of homes, loss of business premises, loss of schools, loss of farm stock, implements, sheds, equipment and even paslures, loss of apples and small fruit crops, loss of churches, cars, personal possessions, and treasured and irreplacable items of deep sentimental value - virtually, in fact, the loss of everything but hope so far as the people were concerned in an area of approximately 400 square miles in the State of Tasmania which was ravaged by the fires on that day.
As 1 have said, I do not want to deal with the intimate details of that occasion because I do not believe that it is necessary for me to do so in a debate of this kind. What I think I ought to do is to acknowledge the speed with which the Governments of Tasmania :nd the Commonwealth came together in an endeavour to resolve many of the problems that resulted from that happening. I believe it would be proper for me at this stage to acknowledge, firstly, the tremendous work undertaken by the Premier of Tasmania and his Government, and the high level of assistance and cooperation that was given to the Government of Tasmania by the Federal Government. It will be recalled that immediately upon this happening the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) dispatched to Tasmania the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) to look after the Commonwealth’s interests in the matter and to liaise to the maximum extent possible with the Tasmanian Premier and his Government on measures designed to alleviate the distress and suffering that resulted from the fires. So it is proper for me to acknowledge that possibly the greatest occasion of co-operation of this kind in the history of governments in Australia arose from that event.
As a result of the damage and destruction that took place on that day, measures were designed for the alleviation of distress. One of the first actions taken was that of the Premier of Tasmania in making an announcement to the effect that those people who had lost their homes would be rehoused. I think the knowledge that their homes at least would be replaced did a great deal towards relieving some of the distress and worry of the people affected. The Premier also indicated that further steps would be taken as time went on to assess the degree of damage overall so that by a co-operative effort of the State and Federal Governments as much of the damage would be met and as much replacement of buildings and things of that kind would be undertaken as was possible in the circumstances. The value of the damage has been estimated at a total of S35m.
– The total damage was estimated at $35m but I believe that it is completely impossible to estimate in money the extent of the damage as it will not be fully realised for a number of years. There was joint consultation between the Premier of Tasmania and Mr Howson, and later between the Premier and the Prime Minister who immediately upon his return to Australia visited the fire areas. As a result of discussions the Commonwealth Government ultimately presented to the Parliament a Bill to authorise the expenditure of Si 4.5m, of which amount $6.8m is to be a grant and §7. 7m is to be a loan to Tasmania. Beyond that Commonwealth aid, the wonderful and spontaneous generosity of people throughout Australia - and in fact overseas - has raised an amount of $4m for the Tasmanian Governor’s Fire Relief Fund. The Fund is being used lo provide furniture and household necessities and also to assist people who as a result of the fires have lost their income and have need to be sustained until their properties can be returned to production.
The first problem was to undertake the reconstruction of about 1,400 homes which were destroyed in the fires. In addition a tremendous amount of damage was done in the rural communities, lt is therefore difficult to calculate the full extent of the damage. Since 7th February last the position has been very much aggravated by a sustained drought, mainly in the area affected by the fires. Since the loss of pastures, sheds and farm equipment of different types there has been no growth of pasture to enable the people in the rural community to carry on their normal farming activities. So they are in a bad way.
One of the side effects is that in the rural communities the homes of farm workers were destroyed on the properties and the only assistance available to primary producers there is through loans. Difficulties arise because the loans bear interest charges, notwithstanding the fact that it has been decided to defer commencement of repayments for five years. I suggest to the Senate that as these primary producers are now encumbered with financial obligations far in excess of what would normally have been the case, in many instances it is completely impossible for them to accept a further debt obligation, the repayment of which - at least in the foreseeable future - seems to be hopeless. Honourable senators should bear in mind that some of the areas ravaged by fires were covered by orchards. It has been estimated that it takes from five to seven years for new trees to produce fruit. I have given a small indication of the great problems which face the people in the rural areas.
I understand that over 2,100 applications for assistance have been presented to the Tasmanian Government authorities. Three or four days ago, approximately 200 applications for assistance had yet to be processed.
– The honourable senator does not mean from farmers only, does he?
– No. I understood from a news item two or three days ago that a total of 2,124 applications had been received and about 200 remained to be processed. Those applications would cover losses of homes, losses of business premises and also losses sustained by people in the rural community. Up to the present, 87% of the applications for new homes have been covered. The balance of 13% would include the homes to which I have referred - homes in which farm workers are normally housed in orcharding, grazing and other farming areas.
One of the problems that have arisen out of this matter is the measure of assistance that it is possible for the State Government to provide. At the present time it is set on the basis of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the arrangement that exists with the homes division of the Agricultural Bank in Tasmania, under which the maximum figure is $8,000. Homes valued at substantially more than that figure have been destroyed and the insurance cover on them has been equal only to the amount of mortgage on them. So, in fact, the amount of assistance that is forthcoming under the present arrangement will do no more than discharge the mortgage liability that now exists, and the people concerned will be left with absolutely nothing. I understand that, as a result of representations that were made in the course of the debate on this matter in the other place last week, and no doubt because of the keen observations that the Minister for Air made at the very time of this happening, sympathetic consideration may well be given to meeting the situation to which I have just referred, bearing in mind that the State is restricted to a payment of $8,000 in respect of each property and that in many instances there has been a complete loss of equity. I put it to the Senate as strongly as I can that additional assistance should be forthcoming in such cases.
I now refer specifically to the ability of a government to finance this assistance. I put it to the Senate that Tasmania - as the smallest State, the weakest State economically and a claimant State under the present Commonwealth financial arrangements - has a complete financial inability to meet any applications other than those that it has already undertaken to meet. It has been necessary for the Premier of Tasmania to seek the assistance of the Commonwealth Government. As I said earlier, I acknowledge the wonderful understanding and co-operation that the Commonwealth Government has shown in this matter. I believe that we all can acknowledge that and laud it as something very well worth while. This disaster struck the smallest and weakest State of the Commonwealth, and without the assistance of the Commonwealth Government there would have been no hope of rehabilitating the areas of destruction. Before I leave the question of the loss of equity in homes with a value of more than $8,000, I point out that figures of $12,000 and even $17,000 have been suggested in this connection. I sincerely hope that, in view of the statement that was made by the Minister for Air when he was dealing with this matter in another place last week, in the course of this debate we will hear something from the Government on the level of additional assistance that it will provide in connection with this aspect of the matter.
The second aspect relates to the replacement of farm cottages; this is quite an urgent matter, because if things continue as they are at present there will be a drift away from the rural areas of skilled farm and rural workers. When the day comes - we hope it is not too far distant - when these farms are able to get back into production, we hope that the farmers will have regularly available to them the type of labour that has existed in their areas over the years; without this they will be faced with additional difficulties in future.
– Does the honourable senator know how many farm cottages are involved?
– I do not know the exact number but I understand it is between 130 and 200.
– Farm cottages?
– I am speaking of workers’ cottages in the rural community.
– That were destroyed?
– Yes, destroyed by fire. Many of them were for pickers in the fruit-growing areas; then there were shepherds cottages in areas where grazing on broad acres is carried out. I believe the number is in excess of 130. Serious consideration will have to be given to replacing those cottages. My own estimate of the cost of replacing a cottage of this kind would bc in the vicinity of 55,000. A substantial amount of money is involved, for it has been put to me that there are more than 130 properties of this kind involved. However. I mention in passing that some of them would have bren covered by insurance, although some were not so covered. I should say that a thorough assessment of the whole matter is called for so that it can be determined just how many cottage* will have to he financed from Government assistance, apart from insurance claims. I her/ve thu! this assessment should he made so thai these cottages can be completely replaced
I submit, further, that loans to farmers to replace these cottages would be. in pr strut circumstances, completely out of the question. In the areas where there has been no insurance cover on the houses it is safe to say that the farmer himself would be totally unable to undertake the additional cost, on top of his existing losses, of replacing these rural cottages. 1 earnestly ask the Government to consider bringing the replacement of these houses into the range of assistance being given, and I earnestly hope that it will be given hy way of grant rather than loan. It would be most difficult for the farmers to repay a loan, having in mind their present difficulties. While there has been a commendably high level of co-operation between the State Government anil the Federal Government on this matter, we still have to bear in mind that, despite all its efforts towards rehabilitating these areas, the Government of Tasmania is unable to undertake this expenditure, and the only place to which wc can turn for assistance through grants is the Federal Government. J am encouraged to think that the Federal Government is sympathetically viewing this matter, and I am drawn to the comments of the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) reported in the ‘Mercury’ of Wednesday 10th May as follows:
The Federal Government will consider liberalism;.: housing grants and loans to Tasmania’s bush fire victims. This undertaking was given last night by the Minister for Air, Mr Howson, who is in charge of Commonwealth assistance to Tasmania.
The Minister, having listened attentively to the pleas of Tasmanian members of the Parliament, made that comment. I cannot pass from that without a reference to statements made by the Minister for Air, which are reported in House of Representatives Hansard of 9th May at page 1898. He said:
There will be opportunity while the Bill is dealt with in the other place for consideration to be given once again to some of the points raised.
I think I should conclude by reminding the House of the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr McMohan) in his second reading speech. He said: the assistance being afforded to individuals, businesses and primary producers on this occasion (joes far beyond that provided in any similar instance in the past. In particular, there is no precedent to the assistance being provided for what can be described as insurable risks.
I regret (hat the Minister had to mak..those comments. He went on to rebuke the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) in these terms:
The honourable member for Franklin . . . made some castigations tonight but I believe that when he considers the matter in the whole and realises Iiic task thai has been undertaken by the Government he will he a little less stringent. I do not believe that honourable members on either side of I lie Mouse thought that his criticisms were completely justified.
Wilh that. Mr Deputy President, 1 completely agree. I believe that since 7th February of this year the actions jointly taken by the State and Federal Governments have been highly commendable. An excellent measure of co-operation on both sides has been shown in giving to those who suffered in the fires the benefit of the assistance provided by the Federal Government. lt is completely out of place for a member of the Parliament to endeavour lo make political capital out of a matter such as this. Immediately the fires occurred, the Premier of Tasmania did everything possible to get relief measures under way and to give assistance to the people affected. He worked tirelessly and energetically to achieve the complete rehabilitation of the areas that were so severely ravaged by fire. He was ably assisted by members on both the Government and the Opposition sides of the Tasmanian Parliament. I recall with gratification the tremendous amount of work done by Mr Frost, who represents Franklin in the Tasmanian Parliament, and by Mr Chisholm, who represents Braddon, as well as by the Minister for Education in the Tasmanian Government, Mr Neilson, the Minister for Health and others on both sides of the State Parliament, who went immediately to the fire devastated areas and instituted the maximum possible degree of relief measures.
The Tasmanian bush fires were a very sad happening, Mr Deputy President. I hope that in the course of time there will be established a national relief scheme capable of meeting situations of this kind in the future. 1 believe that in the circumstances of 7th February all that could have been done was done. The fires were of a most unusual kind. They have been described as a fire storm. 1 believe that nothing in existence could have done more than was done, once the fires got going, to minimise the extent of the damage. Other speakers who will follow me will allude to various matters that I have mentioned. I sincerely hope that as a matter of policy the Federal Government will agree to extend the limit for grants for individual homes, which has been set at $8,000 and which in some instances should be substantially greater to give a proper measure of equity to those who have lost their homes. I believe that funds should be provided in the form of grants for the restoration of farm cottages in rural areas. So far as is possible we should also make a complete and thorough assessment of the extent of the damage done to farm buildings, machinery, stock and implements so that necessary items may be replaced to allow farmers to get back into production as quickly as possible. Not only are farmers at present suffering from the ravages of fire. They have also had to carry the additional burden of a drought that has completely inhibited the growth of pasture in the region. Whilst believing that the Federal Government has been most sympathetic throughout this tragedy in recognising the plight of the people in the areas involved, I make a further plea. It is that the suggestion in the closing remarks of the Minister for Air in the debate on this Bill in another place - that consideration will be given to these measures - be implemented. I earnestly hope that in the course of this debate we will hear from the Government that it is prepared to provide additional funds to meet the situations to which I have referred.
- Mr Deputy President, the Senate is considering a Bill to authorise the Government of the Commonwealth to provide $ 14.5m to the State of Tasmania by way of assistance on the special occasion of the bush fire crisis that occurred in southern Tasmania in February. The first thing I wish to say is that the money which will be payable under this Bill is to be completely distinguished from the magnificent fund that individual members of the Australian community provided at the request of the Governor of Tasmania. The subscriptions of the Australian public, aided by not insignificant amounts contributed most generously by people in the United Kingdom and the United States of America created a fund of well nigh $4. 5m.
I remind honourable senators that little, remote communities in Western Australia contributed to the fund at the rate of $3 per head. 1 remind honourable senators that children attending schools in the interior of New South Wales made contributions. I remind the Senate, too. that school children in Victoria raised funds for the specific purpose of aiding their opposite numbers, pupils, and some thirty or forty school teachers who were victims of the fire. These are the emblems of humanity that make me speak on behalf of the Tasmanians with earnest, deep felt gratitude. The spirit expressed in the organisation of relief measures and decision of so many individuals to subscribe to that magnificent fund encouraged the heart of Tasmania to stand with fortitude against the terrific disaster. Southern Tasmania will rebuild and redevelop although, as Senator Devitt has said, progress has been greatly impeded in the last three or four months by one of the worst droughts on record.
The next thing I want to do is to pay the warmest tribute to the Government of the Commonwealth for its part in alleviating the effects of the disaster. Firstly, there was the visit of the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), which was followed almost immediately by that of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), who wished to indicate by his presence the sympathy and understanding that ir foi: throughout Australia Ibr the people of my Stale. The visit of Ilk Prime Minister was followed immediately by the decision of the Commonwealth Government to devote Commonwealth finances to relief action in a measure unprecedented in such a crisis as this. As Senator Devitt has mentioned, the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) on this Bill places on record that the amount of Commonwealth funds devoted to the relief of Tasmania is 36.8m in grants and $7.7ni in loans making a total of Si 4.5m. Wc recognise that this Government stands responsible to the taxpayers of the whole of the Commonwealth for the expenditure of this amount. As a Tasmanian member of this Parliament. I pay the warmest tribute to the Government for having made the decision to provide those funds. The Commonwealth Government made those moneys available in ready agreement with the Stale Government of Tasmania which was unable to provide more than $700,000. For my part, 1 recognise the earnest endeavour that was made by members of the Tasmanian Government but I also place on record the fact that the Tasmanian Premier has been the first to acknowledge that it was the munificence of Commonwealth assistance that made succour of the fire victims possible.
Mr Deputy President, I ask you to picture some thirty or forty fires being fanned into a raging inferno and travelling at immense speed before a wind developing a velocity of 70 miles per hour or more. The atmosphere became terrifically dry and the temperature in some places in the shade reached 93 degrees and in other places over 100 degrees in the critical hours of 6th February, Mr Deputy President, an area of 30 miles to 40 miles in width and some 70 miles to 80 miles in length was swept by the fires. Homedwellers threatened with that crisis displayed great courage and fortitude. While some houses are in ashes - numbers of them in one street - there are others that stand today as monuments to the fight that their owners put up despite the approach of the raging flames. That afternoon, those who were engaged in the actual smoke and flame saw human nature at ils best and the degree of unity of strength that such challenges beget, lt was proper, therefore, that one should do what was necessary that day and the two or three succeeding days when the embers of the fires still threatened in a torturing way to blaze up again and destroy the surviving homesteads and farms. On the following Sunday, 1 made myself familiar with the whole scene by flying over it. Therefore 1 speak with an understanding of the degree to which individual people were battered by this disaster.
Having paid tribute to the two governments. I want to pay a special tribute to the work done by Mr Pearsall, the honourable member for Franklin in another place, the Honourable Michael Hodgman, M.L.C., an independent member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council, and the Honourable Cliff Isles, M.H.A., and the Honourable Doug Chirk, M.H.A., who have particular interests in that farming community. I am sure the mention of these names will evoke nothing but confirmation of what I have said because all four people have worked unceasingly in whatever field they could get an organisation and administration going to help the victims of the fire.
The Bill before us indicates that the Commonwealth grant of $ 1 4.5m has been divided into certain categories. Firstly, there are the relief fund grants of $750,000; there are housing grants of $4m and loans of $1,700,000 making a total of $5,700,000; there are loans for businesses and industries of Sim; there are loans for primary producers of $5m; there are public assets grants of $1,250,000 and Ibr other emergency expenditure there are grants of $800,000.
After discussion with Tasmanian members of Parliament the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in introducing the Bill decided that it was proper to make that dissection of Commonwealth funds so that all who were interested would understand what was proposed. I am sure that it has given a measure of satisfaction to people to know what sections will benefit from the grants.
As Senator Devitt said, the Premier of Tasmania, seeing the homeless in the agony of this disaster - I think something like 1,300 homes were destroyed - was prompted by a very natural reaction to say that those who had lost homes valued at $8,000 and under would have them replaced without any strings by way of free grant. That was a very understandable human reaction. I have not gone on record with any public utterance in regard to this matter although I have attended meetings and waited upon Ministers with a view to obtaining the most benefit for the people out of the money that was so generously made available. However, in rising in my place in the Parliament now I must be permitted to state without any heat, that the administration of this fund must be just and complete. Giving initial emphasis to housing to the degree mentioned, without regard to the extent of housing and other damage which had a claim on any Treasury funds that were forthcoming, the Premier perhaps made a mistaken judgment of the degree to which homes should be rebuilt. If ample funds were available it would be most laudable to rebuild completely without strings, but it is inequitable to rebuild completely without strings if that denies relief to owners of other homes partially damaged or of a higher value than $8,000.
Let me illustrate the point by putting certain propositions to the Senate, not by way of criticism but to provide a basis for the consideration which I hope the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), who is in charge of the Bill and to whom I appeal, will give to this measure. Let us consider a home valued at $8,000 in respect of which the owner has no insurance and no mortgage. That home will be replaced completely to that extent. Now let us consider a home valued at $16,000 in respect of which the owner had a mortgage of $8,000 and insurance of $8,000. The insurance merely pays off the mortgage and leaves that home owner to bear a loss of $8,000 which is the same amount of loss as that suffered by the first home owner who had no mortgage and no insurance but whose home is replaced. I put that simple illustration to the Senate to indicate that there is an inequality of consideration. I hope the position will be reassessed so that there will be some levelling out of the scale and so that the injustice suffered by the home owner who was partially insured compared with the home owner who was completely uninsured will be avoided.
When I tell the Senate that complete replacement has been promised of uninsured homes to a value of $8,000 I want to make quite clear that that undertaking applies both to the urban home and the principal home on a farm. That immediately prompts me to raise the next question upon which there has been, I think, a unanimity of reference irrespective of party by those members in another place who addressed themselves to this Bill, and also by Senator Devitt. I refer to subsidiary cottages on farms which were the homes of farm employees. As I understand it, the view has been taken that the replacement of such homes should be done by the farmer by way of a loan. Let us take the point of view that a farm is a business proposition, and let us have some regard to the Treasurer’s statement that many of these cottages made available for employees have been the subject of a special depreciation rate in respect of a farmer’s income tax. That proposition deserves the immediate retort that the farmer’s depreciation allowance - it may be 2s 6d, 5s or even 10s in the £1 - does not save in income tax anything like the cost of the cottages. But I do not wish to get involved in a detailed issue of that sort at the moment.
The point I wish to put before the Senate is this: although the home is not owned by the employee on the farm it is in fact his home. If he has any degree of permanence, as many of them have, in his occupation of the cottage on the farm as an employee of the farmer or orchardist whom he has served for many years, the destruction of the home leaves him, if he has no place of residence near his place of work, not merely deprived of the roof over his head but deprived of the shelter he has enjoyed. He is then compelled to leave the district to obtain work elsewhere.
For my part, in this respect, I do not join in the claim that if a workman’s home built on a freehold farm has been destroyed the farmer should have that home replaced at the cost of the Treasury. But I do join in the claim that special consideration should be given in cases like that to giving the farmer a grant of part of the cost - say, 50% of the cost of the employee’s cottage - so that he will have the means, without mortgage Liability, to rebuild the structure and restore the livelihood of the employee and his family. Together, they can then rebuild the burnt out farm that is sadly lacking the benefit of their work and cultivation.
– What if the farmer has limited resources?
– I should think that 50% of the cost of rebuilding the cottage could be provided by way of grant and the other 50% by way of concessional loan out of these moneys provided by the Government, at whatever rate of interest is fixed. I would think it proper that the freeholder should carry some loan liability with respect to the cost of replacement. But there again, I put my viewpoint only as 1 judge the situation in the hope that as many as possible will share in the money available and that whatever money is made available will be devoted to the people concerned as equitably and fairly as possible. 1 have given my views with regard to that problem.
I come now to the question of farms as distinct from homes. I doubt whether I can think of any one very large property in this entire stricken area. I can bring to mind two or three quite affluent owners who, perhaps not in one property, but in two or three, have assets of a quite considerable amount. But, for the most part, the people affected are little farmers making an income of, I should think, about $2,000 a year net. Some might make more, but unfortunately quite a significant number of them perhaps would not make that amount. I remind honourable senators that these men have burnt out fences, a certain number of their stock have been burnt and their pastures and hay reserves have been damaged so much that slock have had to be agisted. This agistment was made possible only by the splendid co-operation of farmers in other districts who agisted the stock free of charge until the drought following the fires dried up their pastures. The farmers in the burnt out area are left in a perilous oredic.,ment from the point of view of replacing fences, replacing stock, replacing farm equipment and generally rehabilitating their farms. lt will bc noticed that the whole of the money devoted under this Bill for farm rehabilitation is to bc made available by way of loan. The farmers convened a meeting in the Channel district some six or seven weeks ago for the purpose of directing interest to this particular problem. That meeting, at which some 500 or 600 people were present, passed a resolution. I think they passed it in a responsible manner, although, of course, those who promoted the meeting were interested in the proposition. The resolution which they passed asked that part of these moneys should be made available to the farmers by way of cash grant instead of the whole of it being made available to them only as loans. The incidence of the drought that has followed the fires has made more urgent the need to give the farmers money that will enable them to stay on their properties and rehabilitate themselves. Many of them are small farmers and in a number of cases, it is too much to expect them to take up loans and rebuild, loaded with debt. It seems to me reasonable that urgent consideration should be given to making available immediately by way of cash grant, without indebtedness involving repayment, a proportion of the $5m that is earmarked for farmers relief because the crisis is growing.
I wish to make another point with regard to so much of the S5m as remains to be made available by way of loans. There is one aspect of its administration that I cannot accept at all. We are told that although this loan money is made available to the State by the Commonwealth free of interest, the State is to charge the individual farmer borrower such interest as the. Department of Agriculture in that State thinks the borrower has a capacity to pay. The purpose, we are told, is to build up a fund to offset bad debts incurred under this heading over the period and anything surplus to that requirement is to be used to lessen the dependency of the State upon the Commonwealth. I would hope that the last aspect would be ignored. For myself, I would much prefer to see substituted for a varying rate of interest a fixed rate of, say, 3%, or a graduated rate, according to the amount of the loan, of, say, 3% on the first $2,000 and 4% on the balance, or something of that sort. I do not think that the rate should be varied according to an officer’s viewpoint of an individual’s capacity to pay or according to an officer’s idea of a farmer’s capability to rehabilitate a farm. I think that that is a very unwise basis upon which to have a relief scheme of this sort. I, in common with Senator
Devitt, was mindful of what was said in the debate in another place. Indeed, in order to catch its true meaning I went into that place to listen to practically the whole of the debate. I hope that I caught the true significance of the speech of the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), that the representations that have been made by my colleagues in another place, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) and the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall), would be taken into account and that before the Bill passed through the Senate perhaps some consideration could be given to those representations. I gathered the impression that we might be able to have a revision of the proposal in relation to insured homes and mortgaged homes so that payments would not stop abruptly at $8,000, but there would be some tapering off so as to bring a greater number of people into the scope of the scheme. Also, I hope that some consideration may be given to the way in which farmers, particularly in relation to employees’ cottages, may be helped to a greater degree than has been envisaged.
Having stated so much of what I think is relevant to this Bill; I have expressed my sense of gratitude to the public and to the Government for all that has been done. But I cannot conclude without referring to a matter that created a vivid impression in the community which Tasmanian senators especially represent. Within two days of this disaster, those people who had had the forethought to insure their homes and their assets were not waiting for the insurance companies but were being waited upon by special officers who had been deputed to seek out the insured so as to overcome the irritating process that is usually involved in insurance assessment and detailed valuation. Ready, prompt and practical evaluation was made and, in many cases, within a matter of days a cheque was paid to the insured. As I have had forty years experience in legal business and therefore necessarily have some intimate knowledge of the way in which insurance claims are paid ordinarily, I cannot forebear but to pay a tribute to the insurance underwriters who honoured not only the letter but the spirit of insurance, and, I am confident, gave a terrific feeling of reassurance to those people who were recipients of insurance cheques.
I have abstained purposefully from criticism. I have muffled any feelings of discontent that I have had by making private representations. I do not wish to exacerbate thoughts of the disaster by public criticism. I have paid a tribute to the warm hearted people who have helped southern Tasmania in this disaster. This Bill, of course, is an outstanding contribution, resulting in the feeling of gratitude that southern Tasmania undoubtedly has for the Commonwealth Government’s grant and non-interest bearing loan. This is not the occasion on which to consider the whys and wherefores of this disaster. All that I wish to say here and now is that too many fires were allowed to remain unextinguished, despite the public warning that in two or three days we would have an extreme fire danger. Once the conditions of that day developed, the heat, wind and dryness of the atmosphere were such that nothing within human capacity would have lessened or reduced the damage that was done by the fire. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s investigation has confirmed this fact. It is in a very unusual spirit of gratitude that one supports this Bill.
– I was very pleased to hear Senator Wright’s speech in which he gave a very true picture of the great tragedy that befell Tasmania on 7th February last. As an eye-witness, he was able to explain graphically to the Senate the magnitude of this disaster. Most of the people of Tasmania immediately set their shoulders to the big task of helping the unfortunate victims of the fire to rehabilitate themselves. In this tragedy some people had the great misfortune to lose not only their loved ones but everything that they owned in life. The relatives of those who lost their lives and those who were injured are the people who should have our deepest sympathy. When we come to assess that loss it is beyond us all; it is beyond legislation. The people who lost those near and dear to them have my very deep sympathy.
I was very pleased to hear Senator Wright adopt a policy of moderation in his speech. I was also pleased to hear the mature consideration which he gave to some details of this legislation. In contrast with some of the far less responsible statements that have been made by some of his colleagues in another place who represent electorates in his home State of Tasmania, it was refreshing indeed to note the objectivity of Senator Wright’s remarks.
The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), who represents the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in this chamber, when giving his second reading speech outlined the various aspects of this measure. He divided the Commonwealth’s assistance into various categories. He pointed out that assistance would be given partly by way of interest free loans and partly by way of grants. Payments from the relief fund are to be made to primary producers, commerce and industry to meet debts. Assistance is to be given to primary producers left without income; to fire affected primary producers to purchase fodder for livestock; to nonprofit organisations; and to persons who, in certain circumstances, lost motor vehicles.
Grants will be made to enable the State Government to provide minimum standard housing and to meet the cost in excess of insurance recoveries. Loans will be made to finance loans by the State for re-mortgaging, where mortgages have been paid off from insurance and funds are no longer available, and to enable the State Agricultural Bank to provide loans for those wishing to build houses of a slightly higher standard. For housing purposes grants amounting to $4m and loans amounting to $l.7m, or a total’ of $5. 7m, will be provided. I failed to mention that the relief fund makes provision for grants amounting to $750,000 but not for loans. Provision is also made for loans amounting to Sim for businesses and industry destroyed or affected by fire. Loans amounting to S5m have been provided to enable the State to make advances to primary producers for the rehabilitation of fire damaged farms. Assistance in the form of giants amounting to $1,250,000 is being provided for the restoration of public assets.
Criticism has been levelled in another place at the administration of these funds, but I should like to make it quite clear that the whole of this scheme depended on the generosity of the Federal Government. Glowing tributes have been paid to the extent of the grants and the consequences of the early announcement that money would be readily available to meet the critical situation that developed as a result of this bush fire tragedy. Since the fires and the allocation of funds we have had a debate in Tasmania on details of the allocation of the money, who was to get more and who was to get less. Unfortunately, it would appear to an independent observer that some persons who should have been more responsible - some members of the State Parliament and members of the Federal Parliament - were taking the position of vultures or jackals, scavenging around the ashes of this great tragedy, trying to make political capital of it. It did no credit to them whatever.
– Does the honourable senator mean Mr Neilson’s boiler suit?
– I will not enter into any controversy. The honourable senator will have an opportunity to make his speech in his own way. I should like to say that I did not hear his voice raised. It does him and Senator Wright credit that they were able to keep above this. I realise that their outlook is much wider and much loftier.
– It is a great national outlook.
– Yes, it is a great national outlook compared with the piddling, parsimonious attitude that has been taken by so many people in Tasmania, not for the purpose of helping people who are the victims of the fire but for the purpose of trying to score some lousy little political point against the Premier and members of the Tasmanian Government. As I said before, it does such persons no credit and I am sure that the people of Tasmania have not been taken in by this political exercise in which these persons have been indulging over the past months.
The Treasurer put it right on the line when he said that $ 14.5m would be made available, and he carefully delineated the distribution of the $ 14.5m. That was the first announcement that had been made officially. I do not know whether the Premier of Tasmania had an arrangement with the Treasurer as he was the one who was honouring the promises made by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) when he came down and gave great hope and confidence to the people of Tasmania that help would be forthcoming, or whether the Treasurer was acting on the instructions of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) who came down and was of great help to the people in their hour of agony. But the
Treasurer was the first one officially to announce the allocation of these funds. As I mid, the Premier may have had an arrangement with the Treasurer that he - rightly - should say how the money was to be allocated. But if credit is needed at a time of great crisis and adversity and the Commonwealth Government is paying the piper, it should have the right to make any announcement. I think it is quite right that the Commonwealth Government should have the final say. In the meantime we have had critics who have been paying such glowing tributes as the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) in another place paid. He said:
Firstly, I must congratulate the Commonwealth Government for its superlative generosity in this case and thank, it most sincerely for the prompt manner in which assistance was given in Tasmania’s hour of plight.
Then he went on to list a number of objections. He asked how many houses were destroyed. The figures have been published. I have cuttings from the local newspapers which state that the number was approximately 1,400 houses. So why does the honourable member for Franklin ask for such details as the number of houses? The number might have been 1,400 plus or minus a few. The main thing is that it was a tremendous number of houses and that it takes a lot of money to replace them. He asked: l-low many of these houses were owner occupied? How many were tenanted? How many were weekend cottages? How many were cottages for rural employees?
The honourable member said, in effect: Unless we have these details we cannot have an intelligent debate on the subject’. What utter rot. If the honourable member for Franklin cannot have an intelligent debate on a level much higher than that he should not be in the Parliament. That is my view. He is just niggling away, trying to use the platform of the Federal Parliament to get back into the rut in which he was in the State Parliament, where his remarks were not recorded, and where one could not stand and quote his words faithfully taken down in a Hansard report. When one looks back over the statements one finds the level and the measure of this person in some of his needling, in some of his attacks made in very bad taste for the purpose of political gain.
The problem of rehabilitation covers practically every field - personal losses, loss of housing, loss of government assets that supply services to houses, loss by primary producers of homes, stock, fencing and equipment, and loss of such items as motor cars and tractors in fighting the fire. Overall, we can estimate that the losses that were sustained were far greater than were covered by the grant of Si 4.5m. Reference was made to the magnificent response throughout Australia of the appeal by His Excellency the Governor of Tasmania, and for that matter throughout the world. An amount of about $4±m was contributed. Thus the total amount for distribution to the Tasmanian people affected by the fires is about $19m. However, the total damage has been estimated at between $35m and $40m. If that estimate is correct, perhaps some of the criticisms about the inadequacy of the assistance may bc justified. The fact is that $35m or $40m is not available. The Federal Government has made available an amount equal to the estimate made at the time of the amount necessary to relieve immediate needs. Any adjustment to be made between the available funds and the total amount required including future claims will have to be a matter for further negotiation. Blood cannot be got from a stone and it is unfair to criticise the Tasmanian Government for not having more funds available to meet a wider field of claims. That is just a lost cause, because the Tasmanian Government does not have the funds available.
In another place the Minister for Air has said that during the debate in the Senate further consideration may be given by the Government to making an announcement of a further field of assistance. I sincerely hope that the Government makes such an announcement. I hope that the Minister for Air will later advise of further negotiations with the Tasmanian Government and of the Commonwealth Government’s intention to increase its support. I do not wish to take away from the Commonwealth Government any credit for the action it look immediately after the fires. The full extent of the damage is difficult to estimate. I think a splendid job was done to obtain any idea of the extent of the damage at the time that it occurred because the blackened countryside extended for about 90 miles and a feeling of desolation and despair prevailed. 1 think it is wise to remind ourselves of the circumstances in which the estimate was made on which was based the assistance offered by the Federal Government. At that time the assistance was considered to be very generous. The Tasmanian Premier said that he was very pleased with the result of the Premiers’ Conference at which the decision was made to make a grant to Tasmania.
Three months have elapsed since the fires. The Tasmanian people have responded with a will to rehabilitate themselves. Senator Wright referred to a survey he made of the area. At the same time people from all over Tasmania were travelling by cars, trucks and trains to Hobart to lend physical assistance in clearing up the rubble and restoring a little order out of chaos. These people contributed their assistance in the belief that they were doing something tangible to help out. The Premier of Tasmania .offered encouragement and lifted the morale of the people by referring to the generosity of Commonwealth assistance and the rehabilitation work that would be undertaken through the provision of homes to replace those lost in the fires. At a later stage spokesmen for the people who had insured homes lost in the fires said that in addition to collecting the insurance they should be able to collect the maximum amount to be made available for housing by the Tasmanian Government.
Critics of people who did not insure homes lost in the fires have said that they were imprudent in not carrying full insurance on their homes. People who partly insured their homes probably would be classified by those critics as partly imprudent. The people who insured for maximum amounts are supposed to be the models in the society and beyond blame. I suppose that honourable senators are equally open to criticism if they are not carrying full insurance on their assets. Are we to be judged in those circumstances as being imprudent? Very high premiums have to be paid. A lot of people were prepared to take a certain risk in only partly insuring their properties. The argument has been advanced that people who had not insured their properties should be eligible for only a limited form of rehabilitation through finance for housing to be made available by the Tasmanian Government.
– I think the honourable senator would be a prudent man.
– I am prudent to the extent that 1 have my home and my life insured. If my home were burnt down my insurance would probably be sufficient to erect a similar home. In that circumstance I suppose that I would not be able to expect assistance from anyone else, even though the fire may have occurred on a very hot day and through circumstances beyond my control. Insurance has never been meant to be a profit making exercise. Its purpose is basically to replace losses, as far as is possible. A tribute was paid earlier in this debate to the insurance companies who paid up so promptly. They put the money on the table and told the people to carry on and rebuild. The amount paid by insurance companies should be added to the amount of Commonwealth aid and the amount raised through the appeal by the Tasmanian Government. I understand that it has been one of the largest pay-outs that insurance organisations have ever been called on to make in our history. The people who insured their properties were promptly paid by their insurance companies. The people who did not insure were given an assurance by the Tasmanian Government that they would have homes to live in to replace the homes lost in the fires.
The criticism has been made that more detailed information should be available to the Federal Government; that we should know how many primary producers have so far applied for loans; and whether $5m will be sufficient to re-fence, re-stock and re-equip the farms. What of the public assets that have been destroyed? It is a matter of priorities. Senator Devitt said earlier that about 2,100 applications have been received, of which 200 have not yet been processed. These problems cannot be solved immediately. The estimation of losses and the completion of applications take time. In a matter such as this everyone should make his claim to cover all of his losses and should give a lot of time and thought to his claim. In the distribution of the funds it is no good over-distributing to one section when another section is entitled to some of the funds.
The critics who say that a period of three months has passed and nothing has been done should, in all fairness, give credit for the work that has been done by the various committees. One person in Tasmania went to the trouble of getting signatures on a petition for the removal of the people who were selected to serve on the relief committees. These people are first class citizens of the Slate. They are men of great integrity and great purpose. They are prepared to devote their time to serving their fellow men in this manner. The person who obtained signatures on a petition would have performed a proper act of mercy if she had tried to raise more funds or helped people in th; burnt out areas who had problems in respect of children, housing and so on. She had little to do if she had to spend her time actively campaigning against honourable citizens who had been selected for the relief committees.
Looking back on the whole matter, perhaps we can say that the committees had the necessary information, but it was not available to the general public, i notice that the Premier of Tasmania and the other members of his Government carefully refrained from referring to the allocation before it was announced by the Commonwealth Treasurer. As I said earlier in my speech, this was his prerogative. He was providing the funds on behalf of the Commonwealth and he was quite entitled to make the announcement about their distribution. These are unpleasant aspects of the situation which time will heal.
The Minister for Air has suggested that there could be further proposals in relation to payments for houses, particularly houses of rural workers, I wish to refer to a letter on the subject of rural housing which was written by Michael Hodgman, MLC. Earlier Senator Wright paid a tribute to him. He wrote:
The declaration by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) that he intends to have another look at the Commonwealth role in fire relief, and my firsthand knowledge of scores of farmers being forced to walk off their properties, prompts me to make a new stand in the case of the man on the land.
Today, the farmer, without any delay, must have Commonwealth money to replace packing sheds, dairies, farm buildings, and essential equipment. The emergency is so dire that no longer can we bc hedged about by the offer of loans. Grants aic needed.
At no stage have I been anything but consistent in my approach to the problems of the rural community in the wake of our great disaster. Fortunately, even if belatedly, there has been a general response at all levels to my pleadings on behalf of the farmer. Now. at Federal level, at least two members of Parliament have with sincerity and dedication taken up the cry. They have urged immediate practical assistance to farmers, including re-housing, replacement of employees” cottages, and a lifting of the means test.
Mr Howson is rethinking the Commonwealth approach to the plight of the fire victims and what our senators say cannot fail to produce a new sense of urgency in taking a fresh look at tha problem of Tasmania’s farmers.
The Commonwealth Government has recognised a state of emergency by making cash grants for fodder. But fodder is only one aspect of a whole complex of desperate needs.
That letter indicates the hope that is welling up in the minds and hearts of the farmers in the Huon area who have sustained damaging losses. Mention has been made of the present very severe drought, which is the worst to affect Tasmania for at least eighty years. Only a few points of rain has fallen since February. There has been no revival at all in the grazing lands. The farmers are in a desperate plight. There is no doubt that in normal circumstances they could quite rightly be applying for drought relief as well as fire relief.
Mr Hodgman, in his letter, drew attention to the need for the provision of more funds in the form of grants to these people. He referred specifically to the plight of the farm workers. There is no doubt that they have stuck loyally to their employers. They have been living in tents and caravans, trying to make the best of the existing circumstances, in the belief that from the more or less generous contributions that have been made by the Federal and State governments and people throughout Australia as well as from overseas they will be able to get back their accommodation on the farms. There is no guarantee that that will happen. I believe that that was what Mr Hodgman was driving at when he said that we in the Senate would need to re-think our attitude to this problem.
Unfortunately up to eighty people have lost confidence in their ability to start again right back at rock bottom and to build up their farms; they have actually walked off their farms. I do not know whether that figure is correct. I cannot vouch for it. It seems a great pity that at a time when we need people to remain in decentralised areas these people, who were born and bred to the land, should be forced to leave it in these circumstances. I hope that the Government will have another look at expanding the extent of its assistance to Tasmania to cover these people.
Another matter that has been under scrutiny and perhaps criticism is the maximum amount of money available for rebuilding; namely, $8,000. An arbitrary line is drawn at that figure. Some provision should be made for people who previously had a house whose replacement would cost $9,000 or $10,000. They should be able to obtain a loan at a low rate of interest or on a reducing scale of repayments over a long period. Such a loan should be available even to people who want to replace a home up to a value of $16,000. After all, the value of the average house in the community today would be much more than $8,000. In order to maintain the standard that existed before the disaster, provision should be made for people to have access to funds at a low rate of interest and over a long period. That matter could quite easily receive attention.
I ask the Government to give special attention to this double trial that the people are facing in the Huon and Channel areas near Hobart; I speak of the drought following the bush fires. We realise that the charges have to be borne by the taxpayer, through the Treasury, but it is still terrible that after experiencing the hammer blow of bush fires these people in Tasmania are now feeling the weight of the second blow, caused by drought. I hope that the Government will be able to find some way of offering relief to these people and to help them keep their stock alive; this is the key to their complete rehabilitation, for if they lose their stock and are unable to breed up when the rains come they will have a much more difficult task. We appreciate the action of the Government, which has helped in quite a number of ways. Indeed, we appreciate its prompt action in sending a Minister to visit Tasmania immediately after the tragedy caused by the bush fires; of course, we appreciate also the Prime Minister’s visit to Tasmania at the same time. We are grateful for the Government’s action in building up the morale of the people and in offering the assistance that is the subject of this legislation.
The great work done by the Premier of Tasmania has not been properly recognised. This great Tasmanian, seeing that the people were absolutely stunned by the overwhelming nature of this tragedy, spent day and night speaking to them, giving them all the information he could. He encouraged them to hold on and stayed with them as a really first class citizen should. I pay a tribute to the Premier, Eric Reece, who is a good man and deserves much more than has been meted out to him by much lesser men. I commend the Commonwealth Government for the aid that has been given at a time when we really need it, and I hope that the point I have made regarding further assistance will be given the fullest consideration.
– I rise to support this measure, with some small reservations as to the earliness of the action taken, I agree with many of the sentiments expressed by Senator O’Byrne. If time permits, I shall to a certain extent pay a tribute to the Premier of Tasmania and his Cabinet for their activities in the disaster that befell Tasmania, but as I am the first senator to speak after Senator O’Byrne I shall digress for a moment to remind him that those of us who live in the area of this disaster know that there has been a lot of dissatisfaction, uncertainty and fear. There has been belief that there were favourites, belief that some deserving people were going to be forgotten, belief that too much of a political philosophy was being put into operation. Further, there has been literally anger and concern on the part of people who donated money to the Governor’s Relief Fire Committee. Senator O’Byrne claimed no public recognition or public feeling had been expressed concerning the Premier and his Government, but I remind him that on Saturday last, in an area that was hurt and damaged by the fires, the people of Tasmania, in one of the few opportunities they get under their peculiar system of voting for the Legislative Council were able, in a type of by-election, to say whether or not they supported the Government. The result of their judgment, in a free and open vote, was that they rejected the Labor candidate - a good man with a good name - who had done his best in the past six years in the Legislative Council. On that occasion a Mr Marriott was defeated by a man who took up the plea of those who were angered, worried and disappointed. In one respect the Premier and the Government has had the feeling of the public, evinced through the ballot box in which it rightly cast its judgment.
Let us get the record straight about the bush fire disaster. The Premier, as was his duty, made a direct request to the Commonwealth Government. Under the peculiar system of uniform taxation, because Tasmania is a claimant State the Commonwealth Government had to find the money, either by loan or grant to the Stale, to meet the cost of the disaster and to rehabilitate the economy, the homes and the livelihood of the people. Under the Grants Commission setup Tasmania, as a claimant State, just cannot have surplus finance available to meet a disaster. Up to the stage of the request for, and the granting of, help each Government acted with speed and ability; but then came the problems to which we m the national Parliament must address ourselves. We have established in this Parliament a tradition that, when the Commonwealth grants money to the sovereign States, the sovereign States spend the money - and demand the right to spend it as they think fit. We have instances of unemployment relief funds, made available to the Tasmanian Government several years ago, being shamefully wasted and not spent properly or for the purposes for which they were granted. I shall not digress on that, but that is one living, memorable example of the inadvisability of the national Government’s making special grants without saying how the money is to bc spent and watching how it is spent. But a tradition has been built up. The Commonwealth, in its desire for speed, in my view decided too hastily to fashion its plan on drought relief, which was the nearest and most recent disaster in respect of which it had been called upon to help the people of the States. There is no doubt that the drought relief plan was put on the drawing board and it was decided that Tasmania would be helped accordingly.
A little hindsight is very valuable. What are the facts? This relief dealt with a completely different type of disaster. During a period of drought the stock dies, crops wither, do not grow or fail; accordingly, the income of the primary producer is wiped out or severely decreased. But how different are the results of a fire? The stock is killed, the crops are burned, the fences, machinery, motor cars, equipment and farm buildings all go. This does not happen in time of drought. In times of fire the things that go are the homes of the people, the shelter provided by the bushland and the timber country. These things do not go in time of drought. The Tasmanian bush fires were a peculiarly different disaster. A total of 1,113 permanent homes and 200 nonpermanent dwellings or weekend cottages was destroyed. On the average, one life was lost for every eighteen families involved. This is greatly different from what happens in a drought. Therefore a plan very rauch different from that required for a drought should have been on the drawing board. There should have been a completely different approach from that adopted in a drought.
The value of parliamentarians who represent Tasmania in the National Parliament and of dedicated people was proved. They came to the rescue, I believe, of both State and Federal Governments. Earnest representations and pleadings - I emphasise the word ‘pleadings’ - were directed at both Governments and important discussions were held. These came about through the efforts of members in both State and Commonwealth Parliaments who appealed for a different outlook. So plans were gradually amended and fashioned into such as would result in the kind of action required to meet this disaster of a totally different and comparatively new kind. In this way, as the weeks went on, progress was made.
I do not propose to repeat, what has been said by my colleague, Senator Wright, and other speakers about the restoration of damaged houses or the construction of new ones to replace those that were destroyed. I just want to say that I agree with the sentiments expressed by my colleague, Mr Gibson, who represents the electorate of Denison in another place. As reported at page 1881 of House of Representatives Hansard, he said: . . those who have insured have been penalised.
In many instances, the insurance covers only the mortgages. So the lenders of the money will be repaid and the borrowers now have no hope of replacing their homes since they have no chance of getting government relief. In all seriousness I ask: What sort of example is set for the people of Australia if the governmental attitude is that those who do not insure will have their homes replaced free up to Housing Commission standard and those who insure will get no relief? Surely we in the National Parliament should give all possible encouragement to home owners to take the fullest possible coverage available under insurance in its many, varied and excellent forms. Encouragement to insure in another way is given by allowing concessional tax deductions in respect of life insurance premiums. What a bad example we shall set the people of Australia if we say that the thriftless and uninsured shall be provided not only with a better home in which to live but also with a capital increment because of their lack of thrift.
I hope that something can be done about this aspect of relief. As the funds allocated for relief of those who have suffered in this tragedy come from a private enterprise government with a Liberal philosophy, I believe that a sliding scale should be adopted so that everybody who has suffered will get relief up to the point at which any fair minded person would say that the person concerned has enough of this world’s goods not to need help. 1 do not believe that there should be a levelling down of all in the community in the manner that a Communist or a Socialist state would impose. This brings me to the kernel of the question that we in the Senate - the House of review - should consider: Should the National Government grant money to be spent in furtherance of the particular political philosophy in which it believes or should it merely hand over money for the raising of which it has borne the burden and the criticism and tell the Socialist Tasmanian Government that it may spend the money in its own Socialist fashion?
The Commonwealth Government should do one of two things. If it makes grants for a specific purpose, at the time of announcing them it should spell out, for public criticism or agreement, the conditions under which the funds, whether provided by means of loan or grant, shall be allocated to those who have suffered and who are in need of relief. If it will not do that, it certainly should not announce that it will provide a certain sum and, in effect, say: ‘We cannot tell you any more about the matter. The State Government will spend the money as it likes.’ I do not think that the Government will ever do this again, because it realises what has happened. Not so much in the public Press, but around the streets of Hobart, the people were told that certain things are happening because the Commonwealth Government had imposed certain conditions or had refused to provide certain assistance. So I say that the National Government should spell out publicly every detail of arrangements for the allocation of funds to a State Government. In these matters, the taxpayers’ money is involved. If the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to do this it should announce that responsibility for the manner in which money is to be spent rests with the Tasmanian Government and that the matter rests with it and the State Auditor-General. In effect, the Commonwealth on this occasion should have said: ‘We propose to provide for the Tasmanian Government by way of loans and grants $ 14.5 m. We wipe our hands of further responsibility.’ The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), when he announced that the Commonwealth would provide $ 14.5m, added: ‘If the Premier of the States wishes to ask for additional money his request will be considered.’
I hope that we have learned our lesson and that this sort of situation will not arise in future. We shall have more disasters, unfortunately. I believe that we should pay more attention to means of dealing with such disasters in the future. We should not have to rely on hasty announcements that lead to uncertainty. I know from talking with people who suffered in the recent disaster that statements were made, withdrawn and clarified, and this caused uncertainty. It gave rise to rumours that some people were receiving assistance that was not being extended to others. This was the sort of thing that caused heartburning and dissension, but it is difficult to lay the blame at the right door.
Senator O’Byrne criticised my colleague, Mr Pearsall, who represents the electorate of Franklin in another place. Mr Pearsall has virtually lived among the ashes of his electorate. His own front door mat was burnt, as were some of his farm buildings and some of his grasslands. He has lived among those who suffered on 7th February. He is a man who knows not fear and who has proved that he knows it not. He has expressed the views of his electors. He could get hundreds of people to support everything that he said and to vouch for its truth. He did not deserve the implied reprimand or rap on the knuckles that the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) administered to him in closing the second reading debate on this measure in another place. Senator O’Byrne did not directly name Mr Pearsall. He referred loosely to Federal members, or something of the sort. Let me assure the honourable senators that Mr Pearsall is not a cheapjack politician seeking to make capital out of the disaster that hit him, his friends and his electors. I just want to make that clear.
I turn now to the point that was raised by Senator O’Byrne. He did not mention any names and I do not propose to do so. But the lady to whom he referred and who presented the petition worked tirelessly hour after hour, day after day, in many forms of help given to families that were hit by the disaster. She. with many Red Cross and other women helpers, knows f;ti more about these matters than any politician living 120 miles away and spending, as politicians have to do in the performance of their duties, much of his time here. Because of the uncertainty, dissatisfaction and heartbreak that she saw, she had to do something to make a public protest. The means by which she did this were a matter of her decision. They were open, they were honourable and they were needed. The Parliament of Tasmania adjourned after a two day sitting. It was the only way for a person, in public, imbued with the knowledge of the need and with the spirit to do something to help these people. That is what she had to do. She chose that path. She did not have the floor of Parliament on which to take her action. I believe that the lady in question did a fine job, and did a lot of good in helping people become busier, clarify some of the problems, answer some of the unanswered questions and - this was more important for those who suffered - get the money that was given freely and generously sent on its way in cheque form to the homes of the people by whom it was required.
– ls the honourable senator implying that the Committee was purposely withholding the money?
– No, 1 am not. I am implying that there was much uncertainty, lack of decision and lack: of a quick positive approach. These are the types of thing that lose battles in war time.
Sena’.or O’Byrne - Who is the honourable senator kidding?
– I am not kidding anyone. I am speaking the truth. This woman did a great deal to straighten out that worrying angle of the matter.
I desire to make one final plea. I take this opportunity during the second reading debate to present to the Senate an idea that was given to me over the telephone today in a call from Hobart. I have not had time to talk about it to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) who would be concerned; nor have I even discussed it with my colleagues. The matter refers particularly to this disaster or any future disasters. If I can put it on record in Hansard and if some speaker expresses opinion on it, something might be done about it. There are rural people in Tasmania in the sixty to sixty-five year age group who have Jost practically all. They have some savings in the bank. From what I can gather, they are in this situation: because of the means test they are not eligible for pensions. If they wish to rehabilitate themselves, they wilt need to obtain loans. If an amendment cat) be introduced and carried in Committee to cover the point I will mention, so much the better. As far as I can see this situation at the moment, these people will have to go to private enterprise for loans. If they do so and set about rehabilitating their properties, they will not have any income from them for several years. They will not be able to meet interest charges, let alone pay off any part of the loan they receive. What I have been asked to put to the Parliament and through the Parliament to the Government is that the Minister for Social Services and his Department should consider whether the means test could be lifted to a very big extent in respect of these people for a period of five years so that they will have pension payments and therefore be provided with an income on which they can live until they are eligible by age and general conditions to receive the age pension.
I will not keep the Senate any longer. 1 have expressed my views on the Bill. I believe that the Government has been generous. This generosity has been acknowledged by the Premier of Tasmania. I wish to finish by saying of the Tasmanian Government that I believe that the Premier has been most sincere in his efforts. Some criticism of him has been unfounded. Many of the difficulties that were raised could not be dealt with by htm. It is hard when two governments are trying to control the one operation. I hope that we have learnt our lesson from this experience. The personal burden on the Premier in the last few months has been very heavy. I believe that we should learn for the future from this tragedy and be grateful that the Commonwealth Government has legislated three months after the disaster to grant this money under certain conditions to the sufferers.
– Mr President, at the outset I wish to say, in reply to Senator Marriott, that if he can bring any influence to bear on this Government to have pensions paid to the persons who are in need of ready money at this stage and who may not qualify normally under the Social Services Act, and if he moves in that direction I am quite certain that honourable senators on this side of the Senate will lend him every support. I wish to deal with another statement made by Senator Marriott in reply to Senator O’Byrne who criticised a certain lady for taking up a petition with a view to asking the Governor of Tasmania to remove certain persons from the State Relief Committee which was appointed by the Tasmanian Government. I could not imagine that the persons who were appointed to that Committee lacked sympathy, particularly in the crisis that we experienced after the bush fires on 7th February.
The Chairman of that Committee is Mr F. J. Carter who had been in the service of the State Government for many, many years. He retired from the service of the State after a long and honourable career. Other members of the Committee are Mr W. I. Delderfield, who is a former Commissioner of Police, Mr V. R. Long, former Director of Education, Mr A. I. Imlach,
Mr Graham Hall who is the manager of the EZ Company, Mr G. B. Edgell who is a well known food processor-
– No, he is not. He is a grazier.
– Yes, I know he is in that field. The remaining member of (he Committee is Mr A. K. Wertheimer who is a businessman in Hobart.
– And an ex-president of the Returned Services League.
– Yes. I could not imagine that those people would lack sympathy with the cause that they were appointed to serve, which was to administer the fund to provide relief to the victims of the bush fires. The lady who took up the petition worked for many, many days - probably weeks - in the office of the Red Cross. She did an admirable job. My wife worked side by side with her and had nothing but praise for her and all the other ladies who spent long hours there looking after the victims of the bush fires. But I cannot forgive this lady for trying to make political capital out of the situation by taking up a petition that was designed to bring the State Government into disrepute. I am quite sure in my own mind that it was a political move. Credit cannot be given to people who move in such directions under such circumstances. So, I say in reply to Senator Marriott that he himself in trying to defend this lady also went on to endeavour to make political capital out of a situation that did not lend itself to that purpose. Senator Marriott mentioned last Saturday’s Legislative Council election. Until last Saturday his namesake, Don Marriott, was the sitting member for the Division of Derwent. If Mr Dixon, his opponent, used an alleged lack of effort by Mr Marriott in relation to the bush fires as an election weapon, that was cowardly to say the least.
– He did not.
– The honourable senator indicated that he did.
– I did not. I said that the people judged the inefficiency of the State Labor Government and gave their verdict. I did not mention Dixon or Marriott.
– The honourable senator implied that that was the cause of Marriott’s defeat.
– I did not.
– In any case, I heard the honourable senator in silence so 1 crave his indulgence for the few minutes at my disposal. Now let me explain how some of the heartburning was caused. In addition to the main committee the State Government set up five other committees. There was the housing committee under Mr H. L. Duke, Director of Housing; the housing finance committee under Mr P. A. Rowland, Manager of the Agricultural Bank; the primary producers relief committee under Mr A. R. Mead, Director of Agriculture; the business and industries committee under Mr L. V. Bellis, Assistant Under Treasurer md the motor vehicles committee under Mr R. Barnes, Administrator of Road Transport. There were many complaints in the early stages that too many forms had to be filled in by the victims of the fire, but it was pointed out that it was better to have five forms being processed at the same time than to have each form processed separately by the various departments because the latter procedure would cause delay.
We received many inquiries as to the reason for five committees instead of one, but as the claims were being processed and released quickly for payment to the victims they readily saw the benefits of the procedure, so the criticism and complaints decreased. From my own knowledge, several people received pleasant surprises. Their claims looked like being delayed for three or four months but very satisfactory results were obtained in a matter of weeks due to the co-operation of the members of the committees and the Ministers in charge of the various aspects of relief. I am happy to say that the position is levelling off now and the people are less worried than they were. Of course, a great number of anomalies remain to be ironed out. 1 suppose some of them will be ironed out lest by good hard cash. Hence the plea by all previous speakers in the debate for more finance from the Commonwealth Government.
I pay a tribute to the Commonwealth Government for its quick reaction to the disaster in Tasmania. 1 think the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) was in Tasmania either on the Tuesday afternoon or the Wednesday morning following the fire. He immediately visited the devastated areas and co-operated to the fullest extent with the State Government. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) to his eternal credit, went straight to Tasmania after his return from New Zealand. He was shocked by what he saw and his deepest sympathy went out immediately to all concerned. That sympathy was exhibited later in the negotiations which took place between the Federal and State Governments. Treasury officers from Tasmania were here for the best part of a fortnight, and as a result of their negotiations the Commonwealth Government made a grant of $ 14.5m to be distributed on a formula agreed upon by the two Governments.
I can see no reason for criticism of the State Government for its attitude towards the victims of the fire who became claimants for aid. There can be no criticism of the State Government unless there is criticism of the Federal Government. Anyone who criticises either Government in this regard is just a carping critic who wants something to criticise. I am full of praise for both the Commonwealth Government and the State Government.
Senator Wright said that some thirty or forty fires combined to make Black Tuesday such a horrible day. The committee of investigation found that there were sixtyseven fires which caused the holocaust in and around Hobart. It was impossible to stay the fires. I missed the uncomfortable atmosphere of that Tuesday because I was in Canberra. My own home would have been in danger had there not been a change in the direction of the wind. Block after block of houses could have been razed in Hobart and suburbs. Goodness knows where it would have ended.
The accumulation of fires was not attributable to any one fire. Let me instance that. Some of my friends tried to save what they could on the block of a mutual friend. At the time the fire was not within half a mile of them. They got the hoses going and started to spill some water on to the fairly high grass on the block. Suddenly a roiling fire appeared 3 feet above the ground - about 18 inches above the top of the grass. It immediately set the grass on fire and my friends had a job to get away with their lives. They got to the bitumen road, and the whole place went up in flames behind them. At that time the main fire was not within half a mile of that area. On another occasion the fire jumped the Huon River, which is about a quarter of a mile wide. That could be attributed to leaves or bark being blown across the river, but I do not know. All I do know is that that is what happened.
I heard a Government senator criticise the Tasmanian Government for not being prepared for such an eventuality as occurred on 7th February. Although the honourable senator is not in the chamber at the moment, I must name him. It was Senator Cormack. He said that that kind of thing could not happen in Victoria because the authorities in that State were always prepared for such a disaster. The very next day 10,000 sheep were burned and about $20,000 worth of damage was done in a confined area in Victoria. Other fires broke out as well. I think it was unbecoming for the honourable senator to criticise the Tasmanian Government for being unprepared when any degree of preparedness would have gone for naught in the circumstances which prevailed.
Although the Commonwealth Government has made a grant of $ 1 4.5m and some $4. 5m was contributed by humane people throughout the world, it would seem that some SI 6m still must be found. I have not followed it through to the point where I can quote what might be needed but. together with the other honourable senators who have spoken, I do appeal for an immediate assessment by the Government. According to what has been said already by Mr Howson, the Minister for Air, in another place it would seem that an assessment is being made. I feel quite certain that within the next week or two more funds will be made available. They might be provided by way of grant, or they might be made available by way of loans. I hope they will help these people who look like having to abandon their properties, especially in the fruit growing areas where the holdings are not large enough to bc converted to any other form of primary production. 1 hope that it will be made possible for them to slay on their orchards and on the smaller farms and to rehabilitate themselves. I hope they will not be so disheartened that they will be caused to leave their properties to seek other employment because the loss of primary production through people having to leave probably the only calling they have known would be a serious one for Tasmania and indeed for Australia in general.
I know that other honourable senators wish to speak after me so I shall conclude on the note that all thanks are due to both the Commonwealth and the State Governments and to those people who have donated so generously towards the bushfire relief funds in Tasmania. As 1 said a moment ago, I trust that within the next week or two some formula will be drawn up under which still more money will be made available by the Commonwealth Government for the relief of those people who have really suffered.
– At the outset 1 would like to pay a tribute to the immediate sympathy shown by the Commonwealth Government and the action it took in connection with this disaster. In those remarks I should like to include the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. The way they reacted so spontaneously in raising money and furnishing other forms of relief, and the way in which this Government provided money for immediate relief stands to the credit of all concerned.
I rise to speak fairly briefly about the position of the primary producer in Tasmania. In saying that. I do not for one moment detract from the awful tragedy that befell those people who lost their homes, and especially those people who lost their lives in the disaster that took place there about three months ago. But their crisis is past. For the moment, nothing can be done about it. Those who lost their homes have been found temporary accommodation and, in time, through human agencies, their position will be remedied. I repeat that 1 do not detract at all from the awful tragedy that befell them.
But the position of the primary producer is different. His crisis is not past. According to Mr Kiar of the Department of Agriculture in Tasmania, 125,000 acres of pasture land was burnt off in that disaster. In a State like Tasmania, where the holdings are comparatively small, that is a very large gap in the southern part of the island. What has added to the tragedy is the fact that since those fires occurred the Slate has been in the grip of what is claimed to be the severest drought that has overtaken the island since meteorological records were first kept in Tasmania and there is little or no possibility of the position being remedied before next spring.
This same officer quite rightly said that had there been substantial rains in March the grass would have shot up and, if this had been followed by some good weather, the position would have been restored to some extent, and the primary producer might have had some chance of getting on the road again. But as the position stands, there is no chance of that happening before next spring because the likelihood is that if immediate rains fell they would bring in their train weather so cold that it would not promote growth at all. So I believe that the tragedy of the primary producer in the southern part of Tasmania is a continuing one.
The main concern, I think, of both the Commonwealth and State Governments is to keep him solvent and to do whatever is necessary to see that he has a reasonable chance of rehabilitating himself. It’ is true, as has been pointed out before, that the other farmers in Tasmania responded magnificently to appeals for help after the recent disaster. At the meeting at which the position was discussed last week, it was stated that 250,000 bales of feed had been sent from the northern part of the State to the south. The major part of that feed was a free gift. But that source of help is disappearing. If cannot continue for the reason that the whole of Tasmania is in the grip of the severest drought in its history. Only last week it was reported in the Press that farmers from all over the State were putting their fat sheep and cattle into the abattoirs because of drought conditions.
We are now in the position where we must depend entirely for what other assistance we get on sea transport. We are nol like other areas of the Commonwealth that are connected by rail services with other productive areas and which can be relieved somewhat in that way. Everything that comes to Tasmania must come by sea, and that is a very substantial handicap. It seems to me that the immediate problem is to enable the farmers in the southern part of Tasmania to keep their stock alive until the spring comes. They have just about exhausted every means of sustaining their stock, even the lawn clippings which have been supplied from the city of Hobart and taken out to the farms for use as fodder to keep sheep, lambs and other stock alive. Such is the desperate plight in which the farmers of the southern part of Tasmania find themselves at the moment.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I want to say before I conclude that I believe that the position of the primary producer in the southern part of Tasmania should be watched closely. Every avenue should be exhausted in order to give him the chance to restore his position and to keep his stock alive until the spring arrives. In that connection I would like to pay a tribute to the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) who. has been most active in this regard. He has done a lot of work in this direction. He says that he has discussed this matter of supplying fodder for starving stock with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann). He has also discussed it with the Wheat Board in Victoria and has ascertained the quantity of wheat which the ‘South Esk’ will carry. He believes that the matter should be discussed, if necessary, on a government to government level because wheat is the best substitute food for the purpose of keeping stock alive. Arrangements should be made in that direction until the spring arrives.
The only other point I want to make is that I agree with the contention that the $8,000 limit is too low. The man who has lost a house worth $8,000 and who has that house replaced has lost nothing. On the other hand, a man who owns a house worth $16,000, on which there is a mortgage of $8,000 and which is insured for $8,000, incurs a total loss of $8,000 and receives no assistance whatsoever. Of course, that figure varies but the principle is the same. I believe that we should meet the position in which a man in that situation receives no assistance whatsoever. Because of the shortage of time, I feel that I must conclude what I have to say. Of course, I support the Bill. I hope that every avenue will be exhausted and that every consideration will be given to try to tide the primary producer in the southern part of Tasmania over the awful disaster which has befallen him and which is still continuing.
– I think it is true to say that all Tasmanians, whether they be members of this Parliament or of the Tasmanian Parliament or simply residents of Tasmania, particularly in the southern part of Tasmania, welcome this particular Bill and the amount of grant that it will provide to the Tasmanian people. As one travels round the countryside of southern Tasmania and sees the result of the fires, one must express some doubts as to whether the money that is being made available under this particular Bill and the money that has been subscribed to the Governor’s Relief Fund by the various organisations will be sufficient to meet the needs of the Tasmanian people. I do not single out any one line of activity. Whether the person bc a primary producer or someone employed in secondary industry or in some other type of work, we should look at the overall position of these people who have suffered as a result of the fires in Tasmania on 7th February.
I realise that the farmers are facing a particularly bad time. But there is also the position of families who lived in rented houses which were burned down and which the owner has decided not to rebuild. A person who was burnt out in those circumstances cannot get any financial assistance from any source whatsoever. Certainly the Tasmanian Government will house these people, but that is as far as it goes. A number of people are in this position. Irrespective of the amount of money which will be made available - and as I said earlier, the Tasmanian people appreciate the amount of money that is to be made available - it will not compensate those people for the loss that they have sustained in the fire, lt will not compensate them for the loss of many of their personal effects and family treasures. These are things that can never be replaced. No amount of money can ever replace them. My sympathy goes to these people in particular. The financial assistance which is to be made available to Tasmania by the Commonwealth Government and by those who have subscribed to the Relief Fund will no doubt assist to overcome many of the problems, but it is not the full answer. I myself cannot suggest what the full answer might be.
Although I do not want to develop this theme, one wonders why a national disaster fund has not been established in order to assist in periods of disasters, such as the recent Tasmanian bush fires. Tasmania is nol the only State that suffers as a result of disasters. Floods, fires and storms have raged in other parts of the Commonwealth. No fund has been established which could assist people who are confronted with these disasters. I think that one could not allow an opportunity such as this to pass without paying a tribute to the fortitude of the people who have suffered so much from 7th February onwards. I feel that I would be lacking in my duty if I, as a member of this chamber from Tasmania, did not express my appreciation to all the organisations and people who have contributed towards the relief of the sufferers from this disaster. It is true to say that every State of the Commonwealth has contributed magnificently. In addition, donations have come from overseas. I think that this very clearly demonstrates the great humanitarian spirit which still exists throughout the Commonwealth and the world today. If I remember correctly - and I speak only from memory - the amount of money which was contributed to the Governor’s Relief Fund was in excess of $4m. lt is slightly more than three months since the fires went through southern Tasmania. When one travels round the countryside even now one finds evidence of this disaster. It will exist for a considerable time. In fact in some instances it will take perhaps a decade to wipe out the scars of these fires. I should also like to pay a tribute to the State Government and particularly to the Premier. I know perfectly well that he went without sleep, worked untiringly for many, many hours, and did all that he could to relieve the situation in which these people found themselves. I pay tribute also to the whole of the Ministry and to supporters of the Government in Tasmania. Of course, one cannot leave out members of the Opposition. Many of them and also members of the Legislative Council did a particularly good job during this period and they are still doing a good job to assist in the relief of people who have suffered. They are assisting in getting fodder for stock and in many other ways.
It does not stop there. One could go on to relate many things which have been a clear indication of the wonderful spirit of the Tasmanian people throughout this disaster. For instance, a large number of farmers in the Smithton district considered travelling from Smithton to Hobart and back, some 500 to 540 miles, to assist in fencing and general rehabilitation in the area. They decided not to do so because they felt they would serve a more useful purpose by making fencing material available to farmers who had lost boundary and internal fences. That is what they did. The Jaycees, Lions Club and many other such organisations did a magnificent job to assist farmers and others who had suffered as a result of the fire.
Senator Marriott stated that the Government had worked untiringly through the past three months or so. I was very pleased to hear him make such a statement, because this is the kind of statement that we want in Tasmania at the present time. We do not want to have so much of the criticism that has been made. There has been a lot of criticism of the Tasmanian Government, often merely for political purposes. I do not think that anybody can deny that a lot of the criticism has been offered in an attempt to gain some political advantage, and it is rather refreshing when one hears a Government supporter in the Senate pay tribute to the Tasmanian Government for the job that it has done.
What we want as much as anything else in Tasmania al present is the co-operation of all organisations and of the Commonwealth and State Governments, irrespective of their political colour. This will assist the people greatly in their efforts to rehabilitate themselves. We realise that sympathy will not do the people much good without the sinews of war with which to fight the hazards that they are up against. The situation will not be cured for quite a number of years.
The damage that has been done to the farming community, to secondary industry and to the workers will be with us for a long, long time, because farms and orchards will not be back to full production for many years. Naturally this must affect the economy of that part of the State. I do not wish to give the impression that Tasmania is affected economically throughout its length and breadth. That would be a wrong impression altogether. I refer only to that section of Tasmania which has been hit so badly by the fires. For an indication that the Premier of Tasmania has endeavoured to assist the people who have suffered as a result of this fire, one has only to look at the ‘Mercury’ on 16th February last, which refers to a statement by die Premier in these terms:
In the meantime authority had been given for immediate cash refunds of the unexpired part of motor tax and registration fees to be made by the Administrator. Where practicable, owners were asked to return the number plates of their vehicles when making application for the refund. Refunds of motor tax and registration fees would apply to all types of motor vehicles, including caravans and trailers.
That clearly indicates that in every small detail the Premier has endeavoured to assist the people who suffered as a result of the fire. Senator Lacey mentioned a petition signed by a number of people, asking that the Governor remove certain persons from their positions on the committee of the Fire Relief Fund. As I understand the situation, this was done merely for political purposes. It is rather pitiful that some of the people who are opposed to the Labor Government in Tasmania should employ these tactics. They have endeavoured right from the outset to cloud the issue for their own political gain.
Senator Devitt appealed for assistance to enable farmers to rebuild their farm cottages. Quite an amount of unnecessary publicity has been given to this angle. I know perfectly well that the Government is doing everything that it possibly can to assist the farmers who are unable to finance the rebuilding of these houses. I know perfectly well from conversations that I have had with the Premier that every endeavour is being made to assist them in this type of rebuilding. Only yesterday 1 discussed the situation with the Premier. He told me that he was very, very worried about the whole situation. It is true to say that this disaster has aged the Premier more than anything else since he took office. In view of the burden that has been placed on his shoulders it is not surprising that he has aged so much over the past three months.
It is not my intention to delay the passage of this legislation. I appreciate that the Government is anxious for this Bill to be passed so that the necessary assistance may be extended to the Tasmanian Government. I am also conscious of the desire of the Tasmanian Government that this measure be passed as soon as possible so that all efforts may be made to rehabilitate the people affected by the fires. I am pleased that the Bill has come before Parliament but I express again now the doubt that I expressed at the beginning of my speech, I am doubtful that the money provided under this legislation will be sufficient to rehabilitate the people affected by the fires in southern Tasmania.
– in reply- The indigenous people of the island of Tasmania have had a wonderful afternoon. As I am one of them, I have appreciated the opportunity to debate this legislation, which is to authorise grants and loans totalling $ 1 4.5m to Tasmania for the rehabilitation of the areas devastated by bush fires in February last. I have listened closely to the debate in this chamber and 1 have studied closely what was said in another place on this matter. I thank honourable senators and members of the other place for their remarks about the generosity of this assistance to Tasmania. There is no question that the grant authorised by this measure is the most generous made in any cause under these circumstances. This Bill makes possible well deserved help for the Tasmanian people who have suffered great losses.
Some complaints and criticisms of the measure have been expressed. In this instance the Commonwealth Government adopted the attitude - I think it is the right attitude in respect of such disasters - of asking the Tasmanian Government to examine the damage and assess the amount of money it thought necessary to rehabilitate the affected areas, and thereafter report to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government examined the claims made by the Tasmanian Government and has decided to make funds available under headings determined by the two Governments. In disasters such as the Tasmanian bush fires the State Government concerned is best able to assess what is necessary for rehabilitation. I applaud the Commonwealth Government for keeping out of that field. Having made the necessary money available, the Commonwealth Government places full reliance upon a Slate government to do the necessary job. Assessing the requirements for rehabilitation in southern Tasmania was a big task. The one error that was made has been commented on by every honourable senator who has spoken in this debate. Under great stress! - and understandable in these circumstances - the Premier of Tasmania erred when he said that everybody who had lost a house to the value of $8,000 would have it replaced. That was the position in respect of free grants. However, it raised a number of anomalies which have been referred to by honourable senators during their speeches in this debate. The principal anomaly is, of course, that the proposal completely overlooks the question of the amount of equity held by persons in homes that were destroyed. In some cases homes were insured only to the extent of covering mortgages. The owners collected from insurance companies only sufficient money to discharge the mortgages, and were to receive no further recompense in respect of their equity in the homes.
I consider it is the acme of Socialism to suggest that the only people who should get assistance are those who have lost houses to the value of $8,000. Every Tasmanian member of this Parliament has commented on that aspect. The Government has given it close consideration and has noted representations made by members of the Parliament to the effect that additional assistance by way of grants should be provided to owners of homes destroyed in the fires and valued in excess of $8,000. The Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments have now agreed on arrangements for the payment of grants in respect of a proportion of the loss of equity suffered by some owners of houses valued at between $8,000 and $17,000 which were destroyed in the fires. These grants will in no case exceed $8,000 and they will be shaded so that benefits cease to be available in respect of houses with a value over $17,000. It is estimated that the adoption of the proposal will involve the transfer from loans to grants of $250,000 of the amount allocated to housing.
This new approach will overcome the problems referred to by honourable senators in respect of unfairness to people who had equity in homes valued at above $8,000 and were to receive nothing und:r the proposal by the Premier in the initial stages. Senator Poke referred to the need for additional funds. In addition to the Commonwealth assistance of $ 14.5m, over $4m has been subscribed by people all over Australia in a most generous fashion. 1 think those contributions will play a great part in assisting rehabilitation.
Losses which have occurred since the fires may have to be examined. Since the fires southern Tasmania has entered a period of drought. Hardly any rain has fallen in the affected areas. There has been no pasture growth and the position is desperate. Relief entirely separate from the bush fire relief may be necessary. The primary producers in the area are in dire straits. They are feeding stock on wheat and doing everything possible. Tasmania is so dry that many farmers who voluntarily took stock on agistment have had to send it back to the owners because they are running short of feed for their own stock. The owners of the stock which was sent on agistment have now to handfeed most of it. lt is a very difficult position.
Reference has been made to the houses of employees on farms. 1 fully understand the difficulties of a rural producer who has lost his own home and one or two small homes on his property which were rented to his employees. It is fair to say that each farmer should get a new home to the value of $8,000 and the additional treatment to which I have just referred before any further consideration is given to these rural homes. I do not think these small homes on rural properties can be regarded as anything other than the assets of the business.
– What about the drift from the country areas? The Government says that it is very concerned about decentralisation and the building up and sustaining of our rural industries.
– I point out that a certain amount of money is made available to Tasmania in the form of grants and that the State Government, through the Agricultural Bank, is able to make loans in cases such as this. The rate of interest that the Tasmanian Government charges is entirely a matter for it to decide. It receives the money for nothing. If it finds an urgent, necessitous case, it can fix a rate of interest accordingly. It can fix a fair rate of interest - 1%, 2% or whatever it believes is fair. That is widely known and accepted by everybody.
One matter on which I have not heard any comment is the fact that donations made to the Governor’s Fund are deductible for taxation purposes. On the total of $4m, at the average rate of taxation, that represents a contribution by the Commonwealth Government of close to Sim.
– Has any consideration been given to the importation of fodder, such as wheat, for stock in Tasmania?
– I understand that the man who has interested himself very much in this matter is the honourable member for Franklin, Mr Pearsall. He has done an excellent job. Being a practical farmer and being keenly interested in the area that he represents, he saw at once that one of the best feeds that could be given to the stock was wheat. He has done a great job in getting fodder to the area. I believe thai the people of the electorate of Franklin will realise what a great part he has played in this respect.
– The Minister is wringing the last drop of political capital out of this matter.
– The interesting point about these matters is that if somebody starts this sort of thing he must expect to get some of it back.
– All I did was praise the Minister. I am sorry I did that now.
– If a person quacks like a duck he cannot complain if he is taken for a duck. 1 was only stating facts. The honourable member for Franklin, Mr Pearsall, did a magnificent job in this matter, but he is not the only one by any means. 1 intend to mention other people as 1 go along, if Senator O’Byrne will not be so touchy. 1 could mention people on both sides of this Parliament, both in this chamber and in another place, and in the State Parliament, all of whom have been immensely interested and have played their part in the relief of the effects of this great disaster. I would not like anybody to think that there was one Tasmanian who did not play his part. I am mentioning special features that have been mentioned in the course of this debate.
I was interested in the references to the way the insurance companies immediately, without waiting for claims to be made, sent officers into the affected areas and brought great heart to the people. They realised that the insurance companies were behind them and that they would not only receive their insurance money but receive it straightaway. This was an excellent public relations performance by the insurance companies. It reminded me of the great San Francisco disaster in which the British insurance companies made their name throughout the world because of their excellent public relations performance and the way in which they met claims as a result of that great disaster. I give the insurance companies in southern Tasmania credit for what they have done.
I have referred to the matter of housing. The one big problem that exercised all our minds - the losses by people who had an equity in their homes - has now been overcome. Both the Tasmanian Government and the Commonwealth Government have agreed that this new approach should be made. When this Bill is passed the way will be clear for the Tasmanian Government to go ahead and make a full distribution of the funds that it now has amounting to $14. 5m. Nearly $7m of that is in the form of a Commonwealth grant - the most generous assistance given to any State in any disaster in the history of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 12 May (vide page 1459), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not propose to speak for very long on this Bill. I wish to refer to three matters. The first relates to the allocation of $1,970,000 for expenditure by the Department of Immigration in connection with Commonwealth hostels. I have spoken before in the Senate on the problems that migrants face in Commonwealth hostels. I believe that my views are well known. One point that alarms me is the health hazard, particularly in the Broadmeadows hostel in Melbourne. The latest report that I have obtained from the medical officer of the Broadmeadows City Council shows that in March fourteen residents of the hostel had infectious hepatitis.
The warning that I gave in February of this year has not been heeded. No real action has been taken by the Government to see that the hepatitis, which is now described as being in an epidemic form, is eliminated. The report by the medical officer indicates that the hepatitis infection is high. A report by the superintendent of the Fairfield hospital states that hepatitis remains widespread in Melbourne and is still occurring in a major epidemic form. At the time this report was issued to the Broadmeadows Council fourteen out of twenty-five people suffering from infectious hepatitis were hostel residents from Broadmeadows; that means that fourteen out of about 900 persons at the hostel were in the Fairfield Hospital, and the eleven came from the 190,000 people who live within the Broadmeadows municipal area. This is a sharp jump compared with the February figures. The percentage per head of population was very high then, there being three hostel residents in the Fairfield Hospital suffering from this disease. I have taken the trouble to look at some reports that have been received by the city of Broadmeadows from the health authorities. The portion of a report submitted to the Council in February 1967, that dealt with washing facilities for utensils used for food - which are one of the major sources of infection, stated:
My purpose in reading that extract is to lead on to a report to the Commonwealth Director of Health by Mr Walsh, the Commonwealth Health Inspector, who stated under the heading of cutlery:
Residents wash their own at ‘spray taps’ of hot water. This could be unsatisfactory as:
The recommendation in 1965 was that consideration be given to the supply of some form of detergent for use in hot water for washing cutlery, and that a modified version of a brush-type of dishwashing machine with rinse bowl, with which system tea towels were not necessary, be used.
Now. almost two years to the day after receiving these recommendations from the Commonwealth Health Inspector to provide proper facilities for these people obviously nothing has been done. A similar report in February 1967 indicates that the same things that were asked for in 1965 were still required. Hepatitis is now considered to be in epidemic proportions, and it is obvious that the incidence of this disease has increased. I suggest that something be done immediately to implement the recommendations submitted to the Government, by ensuring that the disease is eradicated at this migrant hostel. This is something that can be done with little expense to the Commonwealth. I am quite certain that the people of Melbourne, and the migrants in particular, will bc delighted if there is a reduction in the incidence of infectious hepatitis, which is obviously raging in this particular municipality. 1 now wish to refer to a matter that comes within the purview of the Department of Labour and National Service, and relates to the city of Geelong, where I live. We have been trying for over 20 years to have a proper and adequate inspection by the departmental inspectors who are concerned with policing federal awards. I believe that the money that is being spent on this aspect of the Department’s activities has nol been expended properly or wisely. The system operating at Geelong, which has a population of about 110.000 people, is exactly the same type of inspection that was made when the population was 35,000. The Department sends an inspector on one day a week - Wednesday; it sends him by train, and upon arrival of the train at Geelong he commences to carry out the necessary inspections in the hotels and industrial premises that come under federal awards. He has either to bot rides in cars from union officials or from people who have the time or he must use the public bus service. I recall when I was Secretary of the Geelong Trades Hall Council seeing inspectors holding their little tram tickets in their fingers so that they could claim the 4d back from the Department after they had taken a tram ride to carry out an inspection.
The inspections necessary in the city of Geelong and in the western district of Victoria are sufficient in number to justify the employment of a full-time inspector stationed at Geelong. The situation is becoming chaotic. For u start, we have forty-eight hotels that operate under a federal award: they alone would occupy the time of an inspector on one day a week for twelve months of the year. In addition, we have many large and small industries that require this type of inspection. We have asked over twenty years for consideration to be given to the appointment of a full-time arbitration inspector in the city of Geelong so that the wages and conditions granted to workers under federal awards can be properly policed. If that is impossible, perhaps there could bc the same kind of co-operation wilh the State department, which has a full-lime office operating in Geelong, as the cooperation between the State and the Commonwealth that obtains with the apprenticeship administration. Surely this could be done when it comes to policing award conditions in industry generally. I suggest this is a way whereby some kind of adequate policing of awards can be initiated in this section of the State of Victoria.
Perhaps the matter could be discussed with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, to investigate the possibility of conferring the right on trade union officials to carry out these inspections, and then proceeding to initiate prosecutions. 1 do not know the policy of the ACTU on this matter, but I think it would be worthwhile to discuss it with that body to see whether this would be a way to ensure adequate and proper inspections being made and subsequent proceedings being initialed in this particular part of the State. I ask the Minister to examine these matters, to see whether something can be done in this very rapidly developing part of Victoria. Already the western district is a very important section of the State, and it will become more important as the area around Portland and the hinterland of the western districts are developed as the result of the operation of the port, which will bring about an advancement of the area in the next few years. These matters should be examined now. I make no complaints about the inspectors who visit Geelong, for they endeavour to carry out their duties in the best possible way they can, but they are governed by the limited facilities provided by the Department.
I now wish to address some remarks to the Senate concerning the River Murray Commission. From time to time the Government has received many requests from the dried fruit and citrus growers, especially in the Sunraysia area, for a national investigation or inquiry into the increasing saline content of the water in the River Murray, which will be accentuated, according to the people who have studied this question, by the construction of the Chowilla Dam, thus ending the flow of the Murray River in the vicinity of Wentworth in New South Wales. A study has been made of the salinity of the water in the Murray River; this has been done by an expert in this field, Mr Seakamp, a Bachelor of Agricultural Science, who has made a complete and absolute study over a number of years in association with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation at South Merbein. The results of his studies are very interesting. 1 do not propose to speak at great length on all the aspects of his report but it indicates that, due to the vast amount of irrigation that is taking place along the whole of the Murray River valley, the salt content in the river is increasing rapidly. In the main, all the irrigation waters are draining back into the river, and the salt content that gathers during the irrigation process is moving back through the soil. In addition, the reclamation of land at Kerang, which will be beneficial in that area for agricultural purposes, will result in the drainage water flowing back into the Murray River, where the saline content will be building up continuously. I understand from reports and investigations that have been made that the water table in this area was once about 12 feet from the surface. It is now only 4 feet from the surface. This trend will continue as long as the irrigation waters build up and will be accentuated by the availability of water from the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme. So we have a situation in which the people in the Sunraysia district in particular are becoming very much concerned at the likelihood that at the completion of the Chowilla Dam, and perhaps even before, they will have grave diffi culties in growing citrus crops economically. Citrus will be the crop that will suffer most from the salt content of the water, because overhead spraying of citrus causes the leaves to fall and produces poor crops. Pure, clear water is needed for good crops of oranges, lemons and grapefruit.
I believe that the situation can be coped with only by the holding of an inquiry at national level with the assistance of experts.
A gentleman like Mr Seakamp could give much help in this field. Another expert in the Mildura area is Mr Orton, who, I understand, has made a thorough study of the problem. It is considered that the Chowilla Dam will cause a huge body of still water to back up to a point near Wentworth, some nine miles from Mildura. The normal flow of water, which serves to keep the Murray River reasonably clear, will cease at that point, particularly in dry years. The salt content will then build up. The area of which I speak is worth millions of dollars to this country in export income. There is a danger that production will drop and that it may even cease altogether. Already there are some places in the Mildura district where the cultivation of grape vines has stopped completely. The salt content of the water has defeated the farmers absolutely. So we must consider various ways of draining off the irrigation water by means other than returning it to the river. This is exceedingly important. The high salt content of the soil between Kerang and Swan Hill is continually extending farther back from the river. The more water we take from the river for irrigation purposes, the more this effect will increase. I appeal to the Government to look into the matter and to initiate the inquiry that has been asked for. I am certain that it will be of tremendous benefit to the people along the Murray River and to Australia generally.
It seems that the River Murray Commission has no power to investigate the matter. In a letter to Mr Beaton, the member for Bendigo in another place, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) stated:
The River Murray Agreement does not impose on the Commission any general responsibility for the quality of the water either in the river or on the irrigation areas. Nevertheless as a result of discussions with the States it has commenced gathering data on salinity in the river and proposes to appoint a consultant to provide advice on this matter.
The data being obtained will consist simply of information gathered by taking readings of the river at certain points. I understand from my informants that this is as far as the Commission has gone. Indeed, they report that this is the only activity in relation to this matter that is proceeding. I think it is absolutely vital that before the Chowilla Dam is completed we look at the complete picture. We must consider not only problems existing in South Australia with respect to irrigation water but also the problems of the huge area already under irrigation in the Sunraysia district. I hope that the three matters thai I have mentioned will be attended to by the Government very soon.
Senator BRANSON (Western Australia) 8.55 - Mr Acting Deputy President, I want to mention three matters. They concern the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Territories. The first matter concerns fisheries in Western Australia, with particular relation to crayfish and prawns. In Perth recently there w.is ,:/d « meeting of the Western Fisheries Development Committee. Il was attended by Dr Kesteven. who is Assistant Secretary of the Fisheries Division of the Department of Primary Industry and who has been associated w:th a fisheries research establishment of the CSIRO at Cronulla, in New South Wales. He delivered a paper on the crayfishing industry, which is a valuable earner of export income. I was most impressed by it. In the past the vessel ‘Diamantina’ has been stationed in Western Australian waters to undertake research work and oceanographic surveys. I believe that it is now to cease this duty. This is disconcerting to the fishing industry in Western Australia. Dr Kesteven is most perturbed about it also. In his paper he stated:
The research carried om so far on the West Australian crayfish has given a preliminary account of the biology of the species, and of the structure and dynamics of i he population, permitting a tentative stock assessment.
But this work is to cease. Dr Kesteven added:
Our knowledge of this species is most seriously inadequate in respect of larval and immediate post-larval life and since this phase is (free swimming), knowledge of it can bc gol only through oceanographic research.
As I have said, this research is to stop. I believe that representations have been made to the Department of Primary Industry for an allocation of funds from the Fisheries Development Trust Account, which was established wilh funds received for the sale of the whaling station at Carnarvon to finance fisheries research. The CSIRO cannot provide funds from its own resources for a continuation of this fisheries research in Western Australia and it has applied for an allocation from the Trust Account to enable the work to continue for a further six years, though not by the use of the ‘Diamantina’. 1 beseech the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) to bring this matter to the attention of Senator Gorton and of Mr Adermann, the Minister for Primary Industry, who will have to accept or reject an application for the allocation of funds from the Trust Account. 1 appeal to Mr Adermann, through Senator Anderson, to consider the matter sympathetically and to see that the required funds are provided. The sir-t involved will not be large, I believe. Referring to cras fishing. Dr Kesteven Mated:
We believe we CU,i’d get this information by :r programms consisting nf a iwo year oceanographic survey of six cruises per year, followed by in > era rs of w.irk al a much reduced level, after w hich a monitorir,g system would bc set up.
He went on to d. ‘scribe the kind of vessel that would be needed. I here is in Western Australia a company thai has been doing a great deal Oi research and survey work of this kind, which it has financed out of its own resources, lt realises that the Japanese fishing fleets present a very real threat, particularly to the prawn industry in Australia and to fisheries on the Western Australian coast. Th:s company has recently obtained a 600-ton ocean going cargo ‘-ess I which it is convening as a research vessel. The company will be happy to tender lor the research work that has to be undertaken. It realises ti’ at il will be one of a number - I hope of many- to tender lor the work. Everything hinges on the availability of funds from the Fisheries Development Trust Account specifically for research work. I his Trust Account was created to provide funds for fisheries research when th; Carnarvon whaling station was sold, and I believe that funds for this kind of research are still available in the Account.
– It should have earned a lot of interest by now, as the whaling station was sold a long time ago.
– That is so, if the Treasury pays interest on its own funds. I do not know whether it does, however. Dr Kesteven stated:
We already know that the larvae of this species are to be found some hundreds of miles off the coast and we know something of their vertical movement through the upper 200 metres of the water column; but we do not know the paths followed by particular swarms or broods of larvae. Specifically, we need to know the paths followed by larvae after their release from the breeding stock (on the continental shelf), drifting for some eleven months in oceanic waters until they return to settle on shallow coastal reefs.
That is where the fishing takes place. He continues:
Moreover, we need to know the average survival rate of these broods, and the range of fluctuation of mortality from year to year.
This is so that the industry can predict with some degree of accuracy what the harvest will be consistent with conservation. These men in the industry are terribly conscious of the fact that they cannot farm it all and that it has to be-
– They want to farm it, but they do not want to farm it out.
– I think the honourable senator knows what I mean. Dr Kesteven continues:
To acquire this knowledge we must make a study of the currents and system of water circulation off the west coast of Australia and of the responses of the larvae to factors of the pelagic environment.
I gather that that is the free-swimming environment. I referred to the dictionary. The quotation continues:
We expect that such a study will show the extent that fluctuations in the strength and direction of these water systems cause variations in the recruitment of larvae on their return to settle on the coast.
At Watermans Bay in Western Australia, a laboratory is being established in which certain studies will be carried out concerning this matter. It is envisaged by Dr Kesteven that a hydrology technician will come over from Cronulla to assist in these research efforts which will be carried out by this ship, processed at Watermans Bay and examined further at Cronulla.
In my discussions with people in the industry I have found that they are most unhappy with the lack of real interest that is being shown respecting fishing generally. They say that here is a marvellous source of food-
– Lack of real interest by the Government - that is characteristic.
– I will not be drawn in by my friend regarding that. I am voicing now the opinion of the industry. I am putting the view of the people of the industry to the Minister so that it may be conveyed perhaps to the Minister for Primary Industry. This view is that an Australian fisheries commission should be set up. An authority such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority is set up to go in and do a developmental job. The work in the Snowy Mountains has been carried out on a magnificent scale. The fishing industry seems to be a poor sister as far as any activity is concerned. CSIRO is not very happy about the situation.
– No, because the Government does not give it enough money.
– That is what I am told by CSIRO. I am told that it could use more money. But I do ask seriously that this matter be looked at and that consideration be given to setting up an Australian fisheries commission to develop this terrific amount of food that is available quite close to the shores of Australia and that is to be found practically around the whole coastline of Australia.
– Regarding the conference that was held in February, the Minister has promised that he will present a report on all the studies carried out at that conference.
– That is right. I have not seen any report.
– It has not come in yet.
– All 1 have seen is the paper that Dr Kesteven delivered to the conference. The other factor that I want to raise in this respect concerns the prawning industry. Australia is processing between 5,000 tons and 6,000 tons of prawns a year. This is not good enough. I am told by people who have carried out surveys in the Gulf of Carpentaria that there would be no trouble whatsoever in producing at least 25.000 tons of prawns a year from that area alone without even considering all the other known areas on the Western Australian coast. I refer honorable senators to the annual production of prawns by India. That country is producing 80,000 tons of prawns a year. Within the next couple of years India intends to lift that production to 160,000 tons per year. This is being done by India which has not the same sort of resources that we have in our affluent society. lt is time that we had a close look at this source of food. Ready markets are available. This miserly production of 5,000 tons to 6,000 tons of prawns a year could bc increased by 500% within a couple of years. Honourable senators may ask how this is to be done. Let me say this respecting the Commonwealth Development Bank. I am reliably told that a small fisherman in Western Australia can go to the Development Bank and receive a loan. But this is useless to a man who goes to sea, has a large catch of prawns but has not the facilities to process his catch. This is quite ridiculous. Yet the people who are capable of providing the processing facilities are told when they go to the Bank for assistance: ‘It is not our role. We do not want to encourage this sort of thing. You will have to get your capital elsewhere’.
There is a company in this field that I happen to know of quite well. I will mention its name because I think most Western Australians know of it. It is Ross Fisheries (Australia) Pty Ltd, which is run very capably and ably by the Kailes brothers. They say: ‘We can get from the Japanese all the money we need for this project. But we do not want Japanese capital coming in to the extent that the Japanese will be fully dictating to us what we are going to do with our industry’. So, they say: ‘We do not want this capital that Japan will put in. We prefer to borrow Australian capital. If we can get this sort of capital to develop the processing areas along the coast of Western Australia and around into the Gulf of Carpentaria, then by all means let the Development Bank give the small fishermen with one or two boats the assistance that they need. When these fishermen catch their prawns there will be somewhere where the catch can be processed and marketed’. Again 1 think this matter comes back to the fact that instead of leaving this sort of thing in a piecemeal fashion with CSIRO, that carries out the investigations, and with the Department of Primary Industry, that handles the fishery side of it, an Australian fisheries commission could be established to deal with this most important industry.
The final matter with which 1 wish to deal very briefly - I prefer to mention it now than raise it in Committee - concerns the residence of the Administrator of the Northern Territory in Darwin. I have been there on two or three occasions wilh the Public Works Committee. It is costing the Government a great deal of money to keep the residence up to what are very poor standards, let me say. lt is an old building. It now suffers from the disability of having a bitumenising plant immediately behind it. Some terrible smells emanate from that plant. Wharf facilities extend nearby. How poor Roger Dean and his wife put up with the conditions with which they have to put up, I just do not know.
I cannot substantiate these figures, but I am told that to bring that residence up to any sort of decent standard would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. To build a completely new residence out on the point - this is a magnificent site - would not be so costly. It is estimated that a very modest residence would cost as low as $40,000. I discount that estimate because I think that il would be a shame to spend that sort of footling amount in an area which in the north is the gateway to Australia. The estimates range up to $240,000. That is the figure that I would recommend. I hope that the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) will have a close look at this matter because I very much doubt whether all the agitation in the world that came from Darwin requesting that this be done would get very far. It is our responsibility.
I think that the matter can be started off in the Senate by people who have been to Darwin and who have seen the conditions under which our Administrator in the Northern Territory has to work. He does a magnificent job. The area of land where the university eventually is to go is an ideal spot for a new residence for the Administrator. This matter should be investigated before more money is poured down the drain in trying to make the old residence livable. Those in the Administrator’s residence have literally had to rush around with buckets in every room of the residence whenever it rains because the ceiling leaks. I think that it is time some money was saved by building a decent residence in Darwin befitting the Administrator of the Northern Territory.
– I take the opportunity afforded by the presentation of Supply Bill (No. 1) and Supply Bill (No. 2) to raise a number of matters which .are of importance to us in South Australia. I shall refer to some figures which have been released recently by the Commonwealth Department of Works which show the amount spent on works carried out by that Department. The figures cover the years 1956-57 to 1965-66 and include an estimate for the current year 1966-67. At the outset let me say that the information I have shows that the percentage of Commonwealth funds spent on Commonwealth works in South Australia has declined over those years. In saying that, I pay due allowance to the fact that in one year expenditure was high in South Australia because of construction work at Woomera.
Taking the amounts spent by the Commonwealth throughout Australia but excluding the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea, we find that in 1956-57 the Commonwealth spent $34m, in 1957-58 it spent $34m, in 1958-59 the amount was $41 m, in 1959-60 it was $44m, in 1960-61 it was $42m, in 1961-62 it was $44m. in 1962-63 it increased to $45m, in 1963-64 it increased again to S47m, in 1964-65 it was $64m and in 1965-66 the amount was $89m. Tt is estimated that in the current year nearly $108m will be spent. Now let me cite the amounts spent in South Australia. In 1956-57 the Commonwealth spent $5m in that State, in 1957-58 it spent $4m, in 1958-59 it spent $7m, 1959-60 it spent Si 1m - this includes the sum spent on important works at Woomera which I accept as being unusal - in 1960-61 the amount was $7m, in 1961-62 it was $7m, in 1962-63 it was $6m, in 1963-64 it was $5m, in 1964-65 the Commonwealth spent $4m and in 1965-66 it spent $5m. This year it is estimated that some $4m will be spent in the State.
Now let me state the amounts spent in South Australia as a percentage of the Australian total. In 1956-57 the amount spent in South Australia represented 15.7% of the Australian total, in 1957-58 it represented 13.8%, in i 958-59 it represented 18.2%, in 1959-60 it represented 26.5%, in 1960-61 it represented 18.2%, in 1961-62 it represented 15.8%, in 1962-63 it represented 14.3%, in 1963-64 it represented 11.7%, in 1964-65 it represented 7.7%, in 1965-66 it represented 6% and it is estimated that for this year it will be 4%. Whatever might be argued about the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States, it is apparent that the amount of Commonwealth work performed in South Australia is decreasing at a time when some stimulus should be given to the building industry. 1 submit these figures as an illustration of the position and in the hope that the Minister will have the situation, as well as the representations submitted by the State Government, reconsidered by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). Let me now mention works which we think should be commenced.
– Those figures prove that South Australia is getting a raw deal.
– 1 think they do. Although it may be argued that the States accepted this state of affairs after negotiation with the Commonwealth, if one considered the trend in South Australia one would expect the Commonwealth Government to be mindful of the economics of the State and the situation in respect of Woomera and the general defence organisation of the Commonwealth. Regard should also be paid to the very important manufacturing units, such as the motor vehicle industry in South Australia, and on which the State rests to a large extent. It is obvious that Australian profitability rests on the motor vehicle industry and that anything which tends to knock our general profitability knocks Australia.
The Parliamentary Library statistician has been kind enough to obtain figures showing the amount spent in the Commonwealth and in South Australia respectively on a per capita basis. This information includes the Northern Territory because he was not able to separate the Territory from the Commonwealth for this purpose.
– Surely this should not be the test in relation to public expenditure.
– It is one of the tests. We have the situation in which the level of
Commonwealth capital works in South Australia has fallen. In addition, some works have been promised but not started. 1 shall refer to them later and will ask the Minister to support the plea made by South Australian Governments over the years - not merely the present Government but the Playford Government as well - for the whole situ lion to be looked al afresh. The trend is obvious. Honourable senators can talk as much as they like, but it is clear to nic that there has been a reduction in the amount spent in South Australia on Commonwealth capital works. This should be of some concern to Australia as a whole because il is of concern to us in South Australia.
When these matters have been raised and controversies have arisen ki the past between the Commonwealth and the State Governments it has been argued that we have been dealt with fairly on a population basis, so let us look at the position from that angle. As I have said, the amounts I am about to cite include expenditure in the Northern Territory. In 1956-57 Commonwealth expenditure throughout Australia on a per capita basis was $3.58. In 1957-58 it was S3.52, in 1958-59 it was $4.19, in 1959-60 it was $4.41, in 1960-61 it was $4.10, in 1961-62 it was $4.23, in 1962-63 it was $4.17, in 1963-64 it was $4.32, in 1964-65 it was S5.75. in 1965-66 it was $7.80 and the estimate for the current year is $9.27. The amount spent per head of population in South Australia in 1956-57 was $6.25, in 1957-58 it was $5.34, in 1958-59 it was $8.36, in 1959-60 it was $12.73 - this was the year when expenditure at Woomera became obvious - in 1960-61 it was $8.09, in 1961-62 it was $7.26, in 1962-63 it was $6.49, in 1963-64 it was $5.47, in 1964-65 it was $4.74, in 1965-66 il was S4.99, and the estimate for the current year is $4.02. The hard cold fact indicated by those statistics is that South Australia should be given some direct consideration in the allocation of Commonwealth works.
Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber have referred from time to time to the need for particular works in South Australia. One request was that a new airport terminal building should be constructed al Adelaide because of the congestion there at present, because the existing space is not sufficient to meet present requirements and because of the great increase in flight schedules and passenger traffic, lt took more than two years for the Minister to examine the proposition and then he told us: ‘We intend to extend the terminal’. He told us that plans for this work had been considered, but no fixed date has been set for the commencement of work on the new terminal building.
While this discussion has been going on - it has been going on for four years to my knowledge - the Department of Civil Aviation has carried out certain earthworks preparatory to the construction of two new parking areas. What confuses me about this kind of planning is that the important work is the construction of the new terminal. Instead of this, the Department has spent many thousands of pounds on the construction of two parking areas. On this work, heavy earth moving . equipment has been employed on draining, levelling and culverts. As more visitors will be attracted to the airport. I suggest that the airport construction work should have been given first, not second, priority. I understand that the South Australian Government has made requests on two occasions for an early start to be made even if only on the extension work. 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation again tonight to confer with the Minister and with the Treasurer with a view to seeing whether this work can be started straight away.
There is one other matter associated with this which, although incidental, is important in my opinion. Having constructed these new parking areas the Department of Civil Aviation has decided to let portion of the parking area on a private concession. Tenders for this have been called for in the Press already. 1 cannot understand why the Department of Civil Aviation does not follow the example set by the Adelaide City Council. In Adelaide, there are three or four very well run parking stations which are staffed and controlled by the Adelaide City Council. These are community organisations. They are most efficiently operated. I cannot see why the Department of Civil Aviation, which has in ils employ many officers of suitable class could nol run its own parking area. There are officers of the Department of Civil Aviation already employed at the airport
I have said whatI have about the need for work to be carried out in South Australia because the unemployment situation in that State is something like that of Queensland although the figure is not quite so high. I have canvassed this matter before, and I do not propose to canvass it tonight. On previous occasions I have mentioned to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) that there has been a general downturn in building activities. In fact, an examination of the figures shows that this downturn is general throughout Australia. If it affects one State more than the others, then I submit that immediate action ought to be taken in the State most severely affected.
I have obtained from the Bureau of Census and Statistics the latest figures available in relation to new capital expenditure and the predicted expenditure for the period between January and June 1967. These figures are set out under two heads, one relating to new capital expenditure by manufacturing industries and the other relating to capital expenditure by nonmanufacturing industries. In the period between January and June 1966, the total amount of new capital expenditure under both heads was$850.3m. The amount spent between July and December 1966 was $885. 2m. The estimated expenditure for 1967 from January to June is $812.5m. 1 repeat that this is the forecast given by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. The information given by this Bureau is usually reliable, and it indicates a definite downturn in the building industry. In addition to efforts to stimulate home building which the Government claims will result from recent legislation such as the Homes Savings Grant Bill and the legislation relating to loans through various corporations, the Government itself should give consideration to embarking upon projects which might be profitable.
I suggest that the Government give serious consideration to the wisdom of erecting its own block of Commonwealth offices, thus acquiring for the Commonwealth additional assets instead of paying money to private insurance companies for rental premises. In 1958 this Government built a Commonwealth office block in Melbourne, and in 1961 it built another in Brisbane. I am pleased to note that at the moment the Public Works Committee is examining a proposal for a Commonwealth office block in Perth to cost, I think, approximately $5m or $6m. What is wrong with looking again at the wisdom of building a block of Commonwealth offices in South Australia? We have been told in answer to questions that this matter is under consideration. I suggest that now is the time when the work should be undertaken to help the building industry. Not only will it help to stimulate the industry, but it will also result in the acquisition of assets by the Commonwealth in lieu of the payment of large sums of money to private insurance companies.
There is one other matter thatI should like to mention. There have also been discussions between the South Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government in which it has been suggested by South Australia that the Commonwealth might set up some sort of ordnance factory, something similar to what was established during the war years, at either Elizabeth or Salisbury. During the war years, South Australia played a splendid part in setting up enterprises which were most fruitful in producing equipment for our Defence Forces. I am told that a site has been reserved at Elizabeth for an ordnance depot but to date, there has been no attempt to set about the establishment of a depot on this land despite the fact that the Elizabeth area is closely tied with the Weapons Research Establishment which is a very important unit of Australia’s defence and which, of course, is tied up with the Woomera rocket range. 1 suggest that this is the most obvious area for the construction by this Government of some sort of munitions or vehicle producing plant.
I seriously suggest to the Government that if it wants to embark upon something which will be profitable it should set up a plant in this area for the construction of motor vehicles for the Defence Forces. In this way it would avoid the necessity of importing large numbers of vehicles from overseas. We have the skill to do the work there. Many of these people in the Elizabeth area were at one time or another employed in th: motor vehicle industry. They could be employed to great advantage using their skills in the production of equipment which is at present imported from overseas. It has been argued before in the Senate that we are able to produce the type of earth moving equipment which we buy even now on occasions from overseas for the Defence Forces. We know, too, that in South Australia we can produce the sort of vehicles needed by the Defence Forces for weapons carriers and for the transportation of troops. All these matters should be given serious consideration. I put them forward as practical ways of giving assistance to South Australia and as ways in which best results can be obtained from the employment of the work force in that State.
– I wish to refer briefly to this Bill which has for its purpose the provision of funds for the various Government departments to enable them to carry on their functions until about November next. One of the organisations affected is the Standards Association of Australia. Of course, it is part and parcel of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I want to refer to one of its duties - the standardising of safety belts provided for motor vehicles. The Standards Association of Australia, in carrying out its various duties, prescribes standards for many things in the Commonwealth. At the present time looming in the horizon is the great importance to be attached to the standardisation of motor vehicle belts which are commonly - and erroneously - referred to as ‘safety belts’. I read in the Press to-day that Sir William Hudson, who for seventeen years was in charge of the Snowy Mountains project, outlined to a small audience how he had minimised the number of accidents while carrying out that very important project. Those of us who have been to the Snowy Mountains project and have had the opportunity to examine it understand fully how it would be very easy to meet with an accident while driving round the roads in the Mountains. We know that the roads are not all sealed - far from it - and vehicles have to be driven at a certain speed. Also, the roads are covered with snow. Nevertheless, by exercising care and by insisting that every driver wore a safety belt, the number of accidents has been brought to and held at what could be termed a ‘minimum number’. 1 will quote briefly what Sir William Hudson had to say on this point. He was reported as follows:
The biggest factor behind the reduction -
He was referring to the reduction in accidents - had been the rigid enforcement of the wearing of seat belts in the Authority’s 600 vehicles . . . Severe penalties were imposed on drivers who did not use belts. The first offence brought a warning and the second brought dismissal.
Every man driving a motor vehicle on the Snowy Mountains project knew where he stood in respect of the use of safety belts. He either wore the belt or he sought employment elsewhere.
I believe that every honourable senator has an idea of the approximate number of fatalities which have occurred in the Stales which they represent as a result of motor accidents. Perhaps they have an idea of the approximate number of persons who have been chronically crippled as a result of road accidents this year. It would be interesting to get statistics relating to the number of persons who have been crippled in the past decade. Some very odd situations arise when we come to consider this matter of the use of safety belts. A standard is laid down by the Standards Association of Australia which is governmentally controlled. Yet it is not compulsory for people to use seat belts in any State or in the Territories of the Commonwealth. To me it seems idiotic that organisations are going to great pains - and I will outline them shortly - to test safety belts only to find that it is optional whether a motor car driver uses them.
There are innocent people in the community. They go to the places at which safety belts are sold. For a certain amount of money they are able to purchase a safety belt and then they have it attached to their vehicle. Being innocent, simple people, they drive their motor vehicle on good and bad roads including gravel roads where a car can skid at any time. These people think that the safety belt will protect them if they have a collision. I shall outline the position, not only in Sydney and in New South Wales, but in the whole of the Commonwealth at the present time. The position is fraught with danger because people are being blatantly hoodwinked when they purchase safety belts. The Sydney newspaper the ‘Daily Mirror’ performed a national duty in outlining a test that it had made on several safety belts quite recently. The newspaper carried out this test, not to get something of news value out of it, but to get something that would be worthwhile in the public interest. The information certainly opened my eyes. The heading of the article is - ‘Danger in your car - safety belts that rip, snap and break’. .1 am going to quote some portions of the article for the purpose of getting them into Hansard. I think that this information is worth publicising. It should be publicised not only in New South Wales which is the State in which the ‘Daily Mirror’ is published, but in the whole of the Commonwealth. The article states:
Safety belts save lives,’ says the slogan. But a car safety harness is only as good as the material and skill that goes into it and the manufacturer’s sense of responsibility.
The Daily Mirror bought five out of the nine belts on sale in Sydney and tested them through the Institute of Highway and Traffic Research at the University of New South Wales, directed by Professor W. R. Blunden.
I think it is important to quote that because it shows that the test was made by a gentleman who was fully qualified to make it. The article continues:
Four of the belts were on sale in city department stores. The fifth was sold by a scat belt manufacturer at Marrickville.
When I refer to ‘Marrickville’ I will not follow it up with some story about margarine. The article continues:
They ranged in price from $6.95 to as little as $2. One belt was manufactured in 1961, another in 196S and the third in 1966.
Then there is a sub-heading, ‘Frightening’, and the article continues:
The two remaining belts did not have their date of manufacture stamped on them. Not one came up to the requirements of the Standards Association of Australia.
Of all the belts that were tested, not one came up to the requirements of the Standards Association of Australia, which is a governmentally created body and which has ascertained what stress a safety belt will withstand.
As I said earlier, there is a hiatus somewhere along the line. If the Standards Association can prescribe a standard for safety belts, the six State governments and the Commonwealth Government should be obliged to introduce legislation which would make it compulsory to restrict the sale of safety belts to those that meet therequirements of the Standards Association In addition it should be compulsory to use them. 1 have cited the evidence of Sir William Hudson. Probably I could not get a better witness. He was in charge of a project in a very dangerous area and he minimised the number of accidents on the roads and, of course, on the job as well. I shall proceed with this matter, because 1 think it is interesting. The ‘Daily Mirror’ uncovered some disturbing facts during the testing of the harnesses. Four were proved to be inefficient. Each harness was tested on a special SI 4,000 static testing apparatus at the research department of the Institute of Highway and Traffic Research at Randwick. The newspaper report states:
Three seat belt experts attended the test. They were Mr H. J. Turner, Senior Lecturer in Traffic Engineering, University of New South Wales, Mr A. Crouch, professional officer, IHTER, and Mr J. H. James, engineer-secretary of the Standards Association of Australia committee on car seat belts. One by one the belts were strapped around a 250 lb dummy-
They provided the dummies. I am not being personal when I make this statement about dummies. 1 am not suggesting that the services of a senator were obtained. The report continues: a torso made of hardwood. The torso was pointed towards the ground. Slowly the dummy was forced down until the webbing (the fabric that holds a person in the car) was as stiff as a board. The load increased … the pressure gauge reached 10001b . . . 2000 . . . 2500 . . . 3000. It was a frightening scene as one by one in separate trials four belts ripped, snapped and catapulted buckles and fittings into the air or against the protecting wire with tremendous force.
I need not go any further. That was briefly the result of the trial that the ‘Daily Mirror’ newspaper conducted. It has to do the work that the Commonwealth Government and the six State governments should be doing periodically. They could handle this matter if they wanted to do so. We read of the number of Australian servicemen killed or wounded in the Vietnam war, but let us match the losses in the Vietnam war with the losses in the war on the roads - the loss of life from traffic accidents, and the number of persons who are crippled for life in accidents.
There is another matter to which I want to refer. Inefficient seat belts and failure to use seat belts are not the only causes of accidents. There are other causes, too. I should like to refer now to another newspaper, the Brisbane ‘Truth’. Recently it had an article headed ‘Another alarming menace on our roads. Buckets of rust abound.’ The article refers to the second hand cars in use on Queensland roads, and reads:
These cars, which usually look immaculate outside, can fall to pieces at the slightest thump, bump, or even during normal driving. And they arc beating the periodic blitzes carried out by Machinery Department Inspectors both on the roads and in used car yards. They are death traps which can kill or injure. Automotive experts say they are a big factor in the mounting road toll.
A gentleman was interviewed in respect of who was to blame for this situation and he gave a very interesting story. He said:
He was plagued with people who had bought second-hand cars and later found them rust heaps. Car yards were not all to blame. In many cases the cars had been dressed up with plastic cement and paint by backyard repairers.
That refers not only to the engine and various parts of car bodies. It is a kind of camouflaging to conceal the dangerous condition in which these cars actually are. In relation to one car, this gentleman said:
Because he knew il was a death trap, he replaced the complete body wilh that from another secondhand utility.
He told how owners managed to have a car full of rust dummied up with filling and paint to get a better trade-in price. We read on occasions of an accident in which a motor car is travelling along a road and the driver tries, perhaps, to avoid some obstacle. The car collides with a tree near the road and is divided into two pieces. One would not credit that a car could be cut in two by contact with a tree, yet this has actually happened because of some of the things that I outlined a while ago. The article continues:
The people who own these cars have them doctored up before they go to a dealer to buy a new car.
Here we cannot blame the poor purchaser. Somebody should know of this, and it should be the duty of somebody in our society to learn whether cars are safe and in a roadworthy condition. If they are not, people should not be deceived and permitted to drive them on the roads.
Another method that has been adopted is more deceptive and more blatantly dishonest than anything 1 have described up to the present. I think everyone, knows that when a new car is purchased a warranty is granted that up to a certain mileage the car may be given free service and free repairs. It is the responsibility of either the distributor or the manufacturer of the car to meet the cost of repairs within a certain mileage. 1 should like to refer to a case that came to my notice. During the warranty period it was observed that the left rear wheel of a car had developed an oil leak. When the owner of the car found that out, because the car had not travelled more than a little over 10,000 miles - it that far - he promptly drove it to the workshop of the distributer of the vehicle. It was still within the warranty period. He took delivery of it, thinking that an efficient job had been done on the car. Later when a reputable car company was attending to the regular oiling and greasing a request was made for an examination of the left rear wheel because it was grabbing when the car was braked slightly.
This is what was revealed. The brake liners were soaked with oil. The seal was broken and inoperative. The outer ring of the bearing had been turned in its housing and there was evidence that an endeavour had been made to prevent the outer ring of the bearing from turning by applying a red substance known in workshops as Loktite. The outer ring bore evidence of scorching. Any mechanically minded person will appreciate how blatantly dishonest was the person who did that work. Instead of taking the wheel off and attending to the car in a thorough and workmanlike manner, he did a patch-up job, put the wheel on and let the owner drive it away. The company concerned is located in Perth, Mr Deputy President, in your home State. Wentworth Motors Pty Ltd of Claremont committed the sin to which 1 have referred.
The time has arrived for the Commonwealth and State Governments to confer and decide upon positive action to be taken legislatively to minimise as far as possible the number of motor vehicle accidents occurring daily on our roads. Each day the newspapers carry reports of motor accidents killing one or two persons. I think that something can be done to correct that situation.
– I wish to say a few words before the passage of this Bill grants supply to the Government. I desire firstly to discuss a question relating to the Department of the Interior. I wish to support the remarks made by Senator Bishop concerning the need for the Commonwealth to build a Commonwealth centre or group of buildings in Adelaide to house its departments. The present situation in South Australia is fantastic. As Senator Bishop pointed out. Commonwealth departments are spread hundreds of yards apart. Tt could well be three-quarters of a mile from the Department of Immigration to the Repatriation Department, and a quarter of a mile from the Department of Social Services to the Department of Health. It is very difficult indeed to transact business between departments, and the cost of a courier service must be very large. I submit that, from an economic standpoint alone, to build a fairsized Commonwealth building in Adelaide would he desirable. On 12th April last I asked the following question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior:
In relation to the Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane areas, in which the Commonwealth uses large buildings to accommodate its public service, will the Minister take, as examples, Four buildings which the Commonwealth owns and four buildings of which the Commonwealth is tenant, in each of the areas, and advise the Senate of the average annual cost per square foot to the Commonwealth for office accommodation space in each type of building, specifying the precise building taken as an example.
I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who is now at the table, to be good enough to see that I get an answer to that question. There seems to be no excuse for a long delay in furnishing an answer. When the figures are supplied, they could show that at present the Commonwealth is paying far more to hire buildings than it should be paying for the construction and use of its own buildings. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is housed in shocking conditions in Hindmarsh Square in Adelaide. It occupies a beautiful old church built more than 100 years ago. The building fell into disuse and later into disrepair. The ABC is endeavouring to carry on its splendid work in that building. After seeing the buildings in which the ABC is housed in other Slates I am ashamed of the building provided for its use in Adelaide. I invite the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to draw the attention of the responsibile departments to this position so that something may be done about it.
I read yesterday in the ‘Financial Review’ an article headed: ‘TAA Jets Set Record for Safety’. The article stated:
TAA’s two DC9 T jets have achieved what is believed to be a world record for mechanical reliability, a company spokesman said at the weekend. The two jets today completed more than 200 scheduled revenue flights without one delay due to a mechanical fault.
I commend Trans Australian Airlines upon that achievement. It illustrates the excellence with which one of the two great airlines of Australia is able to conduct its services, and the high standard of maintenance of its aircraft. I can assure the Senate that it is a great pleasure to travel in these beautiful new planes. However, I pass now to another aspect of aviation which I think is really shocking. I refer to the commercial side of the organisations of which the Department of Civil Aviation has control. In doing so 1 draw the attention of honourable senators to inter-university sporting contests which are about to commence. I understand that about 1200 university students from twelve universities will be competing in twenty-nine events in the next week or two. Ten teams will be competing in athletic events in Sydney; eleven teams will be competing in Australian football matches in Hobart; twelve women’s hockey teams will be competing in New South Wales; and nine rowing eights will be competing on the Nepean River. Following the tradition established over the years these university teams have sought to travel by air, some students to fly from Perth to Hobart and others to fly from Adelaide to Brisbane, thus completing their journeys within a day. Then they would go into training, compete in their events and return home to resume work on the same day. The university students have found that travel by air is of utmost importance to the successful staging of the events. For many years now both airline companies - Ansett-ANA and Trans-Australia Airlines - have granted them the usual half-fare concession, regardless of their age. Practically all of them are older than nineteen years and so do not qualify for the normal half-fare concession to students, but the concession has been extended under an arrangement which has stood for many years. I have a letter written on 10th May from the Adelaide office of Ansett-ANA to the honorary secretary of the Adelaide University Football Club. The relevant part states:
Many thanks for your letter of 8th May. The following reservations are being held for you and your colleagues.
The colleagues referred to are the members of the Adelaide University football team and officials, together about thirty people. The letter refers to departure times from Adelaide and Melbourne on Sunday 21st May and arrival in Hobart at a certain time. They were to return on Sunday, 28th May. The return fare per person was quoted as $41.60, which is half the normal return fare.
Imagine the confusion among members of this football team, which is only one of the many teams from the University of Adelaide, when last Friday they received word that the fare was wrongly quoted; that the tickets were wrongly issued; that the fare would be exactly double the fare that was quoted; that all tickets that had been issued would be cancelled; and that no students could fly on the tickets that had been issued unless they paid the full fare. The first of the teams, the rowing team, had to leave for Sydney at 7 o’clock on Saturday morning.
Naturally, this information threw all the University athletes into complete confusion. I understand that the members of the rowing team got away by borrowing money from their parents and other people. They are in Sydney. 1 believe that many of the other teams are having great difficulty in getting their full teams together. I understand that already one of the rowing teams from Queensland has scratched and that a rifle team from New England will not be coming to South Australia. It is believed that that is because of this sudden decision by TAA and Ansett-ANA to cancel all previous contracts, to cancel all issued tickets and to demand twice the amount that they have been prepared to accept over the years.
When representations were made to the airline operators, they immediately put the blame on to the Department of Civil Aviation. I should like the Minister for Housing to make an urgent report to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), explaining the tremendous problem that has been presented to more than 1,200 athletes in twenty-nine inter-university teams from twelve universities in Australia by this sudden decision of the Department not to permit Ansett-ANA and TAA to issue tickets at half fare as they have been doing for many years past. Secondly, I should like the Minister to ascertain for me the reason why this decision was arrived at right at the eleventh hour, as it were - actually, a few hours before the rowing team was to leave for Sydney.
I believe that the action of the Department of Civil Aviation, as translated to Ansett-ANA and TAA, is shocking in the extreme. It is all very well to create a world record in running the DC9 jets, as the Financial Review’ reported yesterday; but these two airlines have created the most dreadful humiliation and the most dreadful confusion and are guilty of complete commercial immorality, if I may put it that way, with regard to the carriage of passengers. The Department, in order to save face and to do the honourable thing by these students, should immediately permit Ansett-ANA and
TAA to carry out their contract and to issue tickets at half the normal fare to athletes competing bona fide in inter-university contests. If the idea of tertiary education means anything to us, surely the sporting activities of the university students deserve better treatment than they have been receiving in the last few days as a result of the attitude of the airline operators, which those operators assure the universities is the result of the policy of the Department of Civil Aviation of forbidding university students to travel at concession rates as teams.
Senator TURNBULL (Tasmania) [I0.5J - The first point that I wish to raise relates to questions on notice. The last question on the notice paper is No. 205. Although many of the intervening questions have been answered, many have not been. I can only regard this as pure contempt, of the Parliament. I will keep repeating this until some of these questions are answered. What is th: point of my asking questions when Ministers refuse to answer them? I know that this is not the fault of Ministers in this chamber. They have to obtain the answers front other people. Some of them are simple questions. Only a telephone call would bc required to obtain answers; but they stay on the notice paper.
The first one was asked on 23rd February. If four simple answers were given the question would be deleted from the notice paper. There is nothing in that first question. One can go through the list of questions and find the same thing happening all the time. One question standing in m> name has been answered in writing to Senator Gair. Yet it is still on the notice paper waiting to be answered. That is not contempt of the Parliament; it is just plain stupidity for a Minister to say that he cannot give an answer whe’n a written answer lue. K’on supplied already to the leader of the people supporting the No case in the referendum. Actually. Mr President, I believe that because of your position you should get a little whip and flagellate some of the Ministers for their contempt of the Senate - 1 can see that happening - and so spur them on a little I have on the notice paper three questions in regard to VIP aircraft. I intend to add another one tomorrow. At the rate questions are being answered, my four questions will bc the only ones left on the notice paper in regard to VIP aircraft. It is pure contempt when nobody does anything about this matter.
A similar position applies in debates on supply Bills and appropriation Bills. We have only one Minister in the chamber. Every Minister should be interested in such debates. Do not tell me that they are so busy that they cannot be present. I do not think Senator Gair, when he was Premier of Queensland, would have stayed out of the Queensland Parliament as much as Ministers stay out of this chamber, although I would says that a Premier would be far busier than some of the junior Ministers that we have in this chamber would be. I recall Senator Mc Kellar. I think it was, chipping me for not being in the chamber. I would say that he is absent from the chamber far more often than I am. But, of course, he is on ministerial duties, and I am on my pleasure bent, according to him.
I have asked these questions about VIP aircraft not because I want to clutter up the notice paper but because I want to know the answers to them and the public wants to know the answers to them. We have been waiting for a long time. Obviously the Government is so ashamed of this business that it just will not answer them. Members of the Government are frightened to answer these questions because they know that they are misusing these aircraft. If they are not misusing them, why can we not have the answers to the questions? No-one is objecting to the use of VIP aircraft if they are used properly.
All I. am asking is that certain guidelines bc laid down for the use of these aircraft so that everyone will know who can use them. At the present time we are told that they are not misused because the Minister for Air has to give his permission. I can quote straight away two instances of misuse. I have mentioned them before in this chamber. Surely the use of VIP aircraft [or electioneering purposes is not a proper use of them. Secondly, if we are to accept the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in regard to VIP aircraft - that it is good for his family to use them - then it is good for our families to use them, too. It is just as important for us to have our families with us as it is for the Prime Minister to have his with him. But it was never intended that the VIP aircraft should be used for relatives, family members and others.
The second point is that these VIP aircraft are a charge against the defence vote. This is an absolutely improper use of the defence vote; everyone knows this except the Government, which uses the defence vote as a shield by giving the most stupid answer ever to come from any Prime Minister - that you could not get the figures dissected to show when a VIP aircraft was used for defence purposes and when it was used for VIP purposes. That is so childish that I do not think even he believes it. But obviously he is scared of the whole project. Why not say straight out: ‘We believe in the use of these VIP aircraft”? The public would agree with that.
– He did say that.
– Yes, but he will not dissect the defence vote to show the extent of the use of these aircraft. If we agree that they should be used properly and that guide lines should be put down, why is the Government afraid to say how often they are used? There should be no shame at all; if they are used properly there should be no dispute at all and the Government’s conscience should not be worried about the number of times they are used.
– I believe that the statement by the Prime Minister exhibited no shame. He explained how they are used and what good service they give on many occasions.
– I am not denying that they give good service. I think they give too good a service. That is one of the arguments. If the Government believes that these planes are for the families of Prime Ministers-
– I do not think he said that.
- Mr President, I think he agreed they were. In his statement he said that they should be used for Prime Ministers’ families. I do not think anyone else in Australia agrees with that. Having said my piece again about VIP planes, I now wish to mention the FI IIA aircraft; I do not know whether it is the FI IIA or the FU IB, but there is an A or a B somewhere. It is recorded in Hansard of 28th October 1963 that I raised this question and asked the Ministers about these planes. They would not give an answer to my question and could not tell us anything about the cost. 1 pointed out that what we wanted was a supersonic reconnaissance bomber. At that time there were the TSR2 and FI 11, which was then called the TFX. They both suited the requirements with one vital difference. I blame the Government’s decision at the time as much as any other factor for killing the British aircraft industry. Admittedly that was not the sole reason why the British aircraft industry folded up, but it certainly was helped by the fact that we refused to buy the British bomber and instead bought the American aircraft.
– This helped, indeed. The TSR2 was flying at the time. I have heard interjections from honourable senators on the other side of the chamber, claiming that it was never off the drawing board but that is not true.
– I am not saying that.
– The honourable senator did not.
– But I do say that there is a book in the Library which goes into great detail concerning this, and shows that the Australian Government did everything it possibly could to get information about the TSR2, but could not get it.
– lt has all the information about the Fill, has it? We do not know anything about the Fill; indeed, it is still not flying properly. We certainly still do not know anything about the cost. When 1 raised the question of cost about four years ago, pointing out that the British aircraft industry built planes 20% cheaper, my statement was pooh-poohed. If I can find it I can read where the Prime Minister himself went so far as to say that the American F111A will be ‘very, very, very much cheaper’. How untrue his prophecy was. The British at that lime, when they did have a chance to produce an alternative plane, said that their developmental costs would not be added on to the cost of the planes themselves. lt was obvious even at that time that the developmental costs of the Fill would be about $200.000m to $300,000m, part of which of course is being added to the cost thai we shall have to pay for the aircraft. Already, in the intervening four years, the cost of the Fill has been doubled.
We just cannot believe anything at all told to us by the Ministers because they do noi seem to know themselves. The Minister for Air (Mr Howson) admitted that he does not know; he just hopes that the price is not going up any further. We know that the British can produce cheaper planes, and we are partly to blame for the death of the British aircraft industry. Another consideration is that these planes that we are going to purchase were supposed to be flying in 1967. but we have already reached May 1967, and I doubt very much if we shall see them before 1970. These arc the planes that we required so urgently at the lime of an election, although we are told that the announcement to purchase them was not made because of the election. However, we suddenly rushed in and bought (hem.
The final point I wish to make concerning these aircraft is that at that time we were told the American plane could carry only a nuclear warhead. This meant that we were involved in using planes with nuclear warheads because the FI IIA could not at that time carry an economical load of conventional bombs. I do not know whether that position has changed, and I hope we shall be told. Of course, there is no Minister in the chamber who is sufficiently interested to tell us about this. I hope that the Ministers are not staying away so that they do not have to answer these questions. Maybe their attitude is: Let them talk and blow hot air, and let someone else give an answer to these questions.’ I would not know whether it is true or nol, and I would not know that what was said in 1963 is true today; that is, that the American aircraft will carry only nuclear warheads and cannot carry an economical load of conventional bombs. I should like to hear that disputed. If it is true, we shall still be in trouble with these aircraft. Certainly we shall never find out their cost, which will rise until the FI IIA becomes known as the Opera House plane.
I shall speak now concerning drugs and the National Health Service. I believe it was in 1964 that we raised the question, because of the bitterness in the medical profession, concerning the special committee set up by the Government that did not have to answer to the Government or to anyone - not even to the medical practitioners. This committee decided thai it did not like compound drugs and so it decided to eliminate them from the list ot pharmaceutical benefits. The main drug was amesec, a drug for the treatment of asthma. We were assured that this was done not because of its price. I sent a question to the Minister and even said to him: ‘You have your advisers here. Ask them whether it is duc to the price or because they do not want compound drugs?’ The Minister answered that the committee did nol want compound drugs. However, they took off amesec but left tedral, another drug for the treatment of asthma. These were both triple compound drugs, yet one was taken off and the other left on.
To illustrate the stupidity of these people who live in their ivory towers and cannot possibly have any practical knowledge of what is going on, they then added another drug, theosec, which is also a triple compound drug. This is what we get from these bureaucratic big brothers. I have always been contemptuous of them. They sit in their little offices, without any practical experience. Even the doctors on the committee have the same attitude; they get on to committees and you expect them to be unpractical but you do not expect them to be stupid and unintelligent. But this is what happens when they get on committees. This is the farce that has occurred with these compound drugs that are used for the treatment of asthma. Amesec is removed from the list; tedral is left on the list; and then theosec is added. You could say that these eminent medical men are just plain stupid; . that is my opinion of them, and I hope they read my remarks in Hansard. Another ashmatic drug, ephedrobarbital, has been on the list for years. The argument is, of course, that every individual is different, and therefore the doctor should prescribe exactly for that individual. But 90% of us could take the same drugs and it would not matter. Let the other 10% have special compound drugs made up for them. Senator Wade who at that time was Minister for Health, was so silly as to say that they can get these drugs and all the doctor has lo do is prescribe instead of compound drugs one of the other drugs that are prescribed. The result is that it costs the Commonwealth money for three different drugs and three different dispensing fees, whereas the people concerned could have got the one drug in the one capsule or tablet.
– How does the patient get on?
– That does not matter, apparently. In Senator Wade’s lime the patient had to pay 5s for a prescription. Today he pays 50c for each prescription. So it costs him $1.50 instead of 50c for the triple compound. I understand that the authorities are again thinking of taking these triple compounds out of the pharmaceutical benefits list. It bothers me to think that such stupidity can occur in the Department of Health, which says that not the money but the method of prescription is important. Everyone knows that the only hatred that the Federal Department of Health has is for the drug companies and that anything it can do to sabotage them, it will do. While it is doing that, incidentally, it sabotages the patient. I forgot to mention that the Department was about to take mysteclin off the pharmaceutical list, but when there was an uproar amongst members of the medical profession it was left in the list. This is a compound drug, too. Even worse is the colossal stupidity or childishness of the Department in another matter. Really, I cannot think of the right word to use, for I do not think the Department’s action is due to mere stupidity or childishness.
– Frustration for doctors, yes. We have now come to the point at which phenacetin is about to be taken off the pharmaceutical benefits list. So far as I know, over the last thirty-five years this has been the main ingredient in pain killing mixtures. There is no doubt that the old A PC mixture - aspirin, phenacetin, caffein - in its various forms is the best pain killing medicine, if taken properly. All medicines, of course, are dangerous if not taken properly. The Department of Health, however, takes the view that because somebody has ascertained that about eighty people have been killed through taking phenacetin it should be taken off the pharmaceutical benefits list. There are two fal sities in this argument. The exact number of people who have died from the effects of phenacetin may not be eighty, but the exact number does not matter. A certain number of persons died from taking phenacetin because it affected their kidneys. But those people were taking 80, 90 or even 100 tablets a day. They themselves were as stupid as are the authorities in the Federal Department of Health. If anyone wants to swallow 80 or 100 phenacetin tablets, all I can say is that it serves him right if he gets kidney trouble. Why should everyone in Australia, in addition to this minimal number, be deprived of a drug that has been proved over the years to be the best pain killer in existence? There is no doubt that for pain killing it is far superior to the new drugs that we have to use now - the paracetamol type drugs which are now on the market and which have come into use only because of the restriction’s on phenacetin.
– Panadol is effective for most people.
– -Panadol is effective for some people. There is no doubt that it will relieve pain for some people. But one APC tablet does the job quicker and better - and very much cheaper. A doctor would not order more than the equivalent of two tablets every four hours, or eight a day. There is no harm in people taking eight a day. The fantastic feature of the whole affair is that it has also been proved that the ordinary, common aspirin is guilty of causing duodenal and gastric haemorrhages. It is well known as a cause of this trouble. But we do not do anything about aspirin. I do not know why. Surely if the authorities want to take anything off the pharmaceutical benefits list aspirin should be removed from it, for this preparation is far more dangerous, even in smaller doses, than phenacetin. One does not have to take eighty or ninety aspirin tablets a day to suffer ill effects, whereas one has to take eighty or ninety phenacetin tablets a day to ruin one’s kidneys.
– I have just switched to aspirin.
– There are various types of aspirin. I can assure the honourable senator that if he takes eighty aspirin tablets a day he will have a duodenal or gastric ulcer.
– There will be another vacancy in the Senate.
– Another Senate vacancy in New South Wales will have to be filled. The problem is the need for sense in taking drugs. One can hear people condemning fluoride because it is a poison. Of course it is a poison. So is strychnine. But we have it in tonics. We use it in hundreds of things. What is important is the way in which these drugs are used. A sensible approach is needed. Yet we find the Government taking phenacetin off the pharmaceutical benefits list though it is useful to pensioners. I do not think that the authorities in the Department of Health believe that phenacetin is a dangerous drug, but if they do why do they allow it to be sold in any shop in the Commonwealth? One can go into any sweet shop or delicatessen and buy A PC powders. After all, we know that the favourite brand of the Australian Democratic Labor Party is Vincents.
– Take Vincents with confidence.
– That is so. I am giving the DLP a plug by saying that.
– Are not the members of the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee doctors?
– The honourable senator must have missed a remark that I made earlier. They are not practical.
– Are they not doctors?
– Most of them are doctors, but they do not know what they are doing. They cannot see the wood for the trees. It is only when a drug is taken to excess that it is dangerous. Phenacetin is not a dangerous drug, and I do not think that any doctor on the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee would say that, taken under direction, it is a dangerous drug. Yet the Department of Health declares that doctors may not order it as a pharmaceutical benefit, though one may go into a shop anywhere and buy it. In effect, the Department says: ‘We do not care how much you take. Kill yourself off if you want to. Buy phenacetin in the shops but do not buy it on a prescription under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.’ How stupid is a department that adopts this attitude.
– The Department has also decided that a warning must be printed on the wrapping of APC powders.
– That is good. I believe that that is what should be done. There should be on the wrapping a warning that APC powders and tablets should not be taken to excess. This is an aspect of preventive medicine. All that the Department need have done was require a warning in these terms: ‘This will kill you if you take excess doses’. But when a doctor issues a prescription for phenacetin, its use is his responsibility. If he considers that phenacetin is the best thing for his patient he should be able to prescribe it. Furthermore, it is cheaper than the drugs of the paracetamol type. The same sort of thing applies to penicillin. There are not many deaths in Australia from the use of penicillin, but occasionally death occurs from just one shot of it. However, that does not prevent us from using it, because it is the greatest life saving drug we have.
– I almost believe that I should pay the honourable senator a consultation fee.
– From here 1 shall have to charge mileage. I now come to a point concerned with preventive medicine. Again, the Department of Health will have to bear the brunt of my attack. The National Health and Medical Research Council, though it has taken a while to do so, has now condemned smoking. But what does the Department of Health do? It shillyshallies, passes the buck to the States and tries to do nothing about the matter. It adopts this attitude because big business is involved. We know that the newspaper, radio and television interests cannot get along without the revenue that they earn from advertising cigarettes. So nothing is done to prevent the advertising of cigarettes and the encouraging of people to smoke. Everyone knows the sort of advertising that is indulged in. lt is designed to make people think the thing to do is to smoke - that whatever activity one is engaged in one ought to be smoking a cigarette. This is the big thing that is impressed on teenagers today. But what does the Government do? It sits idly by and does nothing, though by now it has been told by the best experts in the land that smoking is the worst thing of all for our health. The Government worries about phenacetin but it does nothing about smoking. This is a stupid attitude if ever there was one. This Government allows people to kill themselves by smoking cigarettes. Smoking kills more people than phenacetin will ever kill, and there is more morbidity with cigarettes than with phenacetin.
– People kill themselves by smoking. It is not the Government’s fault that they smoke cigarettes.
– Let us go back to phenacetin for a moment. People who take eighty phenacetin tablets a day kill themselves. I could not care less about that. If they want to take eighty phenacetin tablets a day let them. But why should we doctors be told by Big Brother that we must no* prescribe phenacetin any more?
– We have to protect people against themselves.
– The Government protects only a few people against themselves by preventing the use of phenacetin, hut it would protect the entire nation by taking action against smoking, which is not only a health hazard but also a great cause of morbidity. Figures published in today’s newspapers indicate that smokers are absent from work three times as much as workers who do not smoke.
– Does that refer to the smoking of cigarettes?
– Yes. I do not want to include cigars, because I smoke them myself.
– What about a pipe?
– A pipe is less dangerous than cigarettes. On the score of morbidity alone we ought to prevent the smoking of cigarettes. The Government thinks it is good enough to say that doctors must not prescribe phenacetin because people are stupid enough to take overdoses. Yet nothing is done about our young people and cigarette-smoking. We all know that smoking is a social habit. People follow it. The young imitate their elders. I am not asking the elders to stop smoking although it has been proved that a person who is getting cancer cells through smoking will have a regression of those cells if he or she stops smoking. That should be warning enough for people who smoke. It should show older people and lead them to realise that it will be helpful to them and assist their health if they give up smoking. Therefore, I raise the matter again; and again, nothing will be done about it. I get up in the Senate and beef about these matters, but then I see that not a thing is done about them. Yet, these morons on these committees such as the Drug Evaluation Committee and these morons in the Department of Health will condemn a drug like phenacetin instead of doing something to stop smoking.
The final preventive measure that I wish to raise was discussed earlier by Senator Benn. I refer to seat belts in motor vehicles. At last we are doing something about seat betts. But I do not think we are doing it fast enough. We still see Commonwealth cars without seat belts. We still see people driving vehicles and not using the seat belts fitted to their cars. At last we are moving in the right direction. But if we can take action regarding seat belts, why can we not take action regarding smoking? We do not worry about the death toll on our roads. This does not matter. We worry when we pick up a newspaper and read that eighteen Australian soldiers have been kilted in Vietnam. But eighteen people are killed on our roads practically every day.
– Sixty a week.
– We do not worry two hoots about the road toll. In fact, I am not sure whether a person who lives in Sydney would not be safer living in Vietnam. Nevertheless, that is not my argument. The point is that this carnage is taking place on our roads, and we do not worry two hoots about it. The Government has to bc forced into taking action. Finally, after a lot of nagging, the motor vehicle companies are doing something about seat belts. But this is not the complete answer to the problem of road accidents. Far more attention should be paid to the subject.
I wish to conclude my speech by referring to national service trainees. Honourable senators may recall that I asked a question regarding youths called up for national service training who have a police record. The answer given to me by the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) was not worthy of him at all. He is usually intelligent. But he did not think this one out although I gave him warning of my question. He asked me whether I would like to see a rapist in the Army. I am not sure whether the Minister said rapist or murderer, but it was some stupid equivalent like that. I do not care whether a person called up is a rapist. I would say that the best place for him if he was a rapist would be in the Army. I know that during an adjournment debate I argued this question regarding homosexuals. At least these people would be safe in the Army. Why should any youth, because he has a police record, get out of serving in the Army?
Do honourable senators know what the Government is doing in this country? It is picking the best men, the people with the best brains and the best physique and is sending them off to Vietnam to be killed. The Government does not worry about unfit youths. It lets them off. It does not worry about people with a police record. The Government says that it does not want them in the Army. These are the people who would probably make the best soldiers, especially if they are delinquents. We have in Australia such a terrific dose of unfitness - medically unfit youths - that it is time something was done about it. These youths should be drafted in and the Army should make them fit. There is no reason why they should not be utilised in office jobs overseas. They can easily fill clerical positions in the Army. They could be used as cooks and even used as a peace corps. The whole point is that the Government is picking the best youths of Australia and throwing them to the wolves to be murdered. The Government does not do anything about the unfit because it cannot be bothered with them. It would cost the Government money to make them fit. The Government does not worry about them. The Government worries about taking phenacetin off the free list. That is the high sense of preventative medicine that we have.
Dealing with the subject of national service, I become a bit cross about the method of balloting. Why does the Government not make everybody join up? I am in favour of national service training. I am not opposing it. I am just, opposing the methods that the Government uses. Every boy in this country should do a period of national service. The Government says that this cannot be done because it has not enough equipment or not enough people trained to instruct the national servicemen. 1 know that, too. A friend of mine has a son in the Army now. I think the son said that there are eighteen drivers of a special type of vehicle in the one unit. But there are only three vehicles of this type in the unit and the eighteen drivers take turns at using the vehicles. If that is so, then the time of these people is being wasted. But the Government will say that I propose that more time and money be wasted by demanding that everybody does national service training. At least the youths would be made medically fit. Some useful purpose would be served. This iniquitous system of balloting would not apply.
I go so far as to say, as I suggested many years ago, that provisions should be made for compulsory service for women as well. This would do our young girls quite a lot of good. They could be taught clerical work or first aid. In the next real war - this is an undeclared war at the moment - when a few nuclear bombs are thrown around, every person will need to know something about first aid. There is no reason at all why young girls of today should not have to do compulsory service for six months or so for their country as others are required to do. My main theme has been the iniquity of the Department of Health. Could the Department not think for a change about what it is doing before it approves things which become so impractical and are so colossally stupid that one shudders to think what goes on when Big Brother really wields the whip in this country.
– I wish to thank the Opposition Whip, Senator O’Byrne, and Senator McClelland for their courtesy in allowing me to speak at this stage of the debate for just a few minutes. I said that I would like to speak for five minutes. Having heard the balance of the things that Senator Turnbull has said I rather regret that five-minutes limit but I will try to abide strictly by my undertaking. The main purpose for which 1 rise is to answer some of the things that Senator Tunbull has said relating to the purchase of the Fill aircraft as against the British aircraft, the TSR2. I, too, have been very interested in this subject. I was fortunate enough to get from the Parliamentary Library a book entitled ‘The
Death of the TSR2’. This book is written by an aviation authority in Great Britain, lt outlines in minute detail the work that was put into the development of the TSR2. The writer regarded it as a deep tragedy that the TSR2 project had been dropped from British aviation activity.
Quite frankly, as I read the book, I came to believe from the detailed description that the TSR2 truly was a fantastic plane. Even after reading this book with great concentration, I should not care to suggest that the Fill is a better plane than the TSR2 would have been, lt is a fact that prototypes of the TSR2 were Hying in Great Britain. But the real tragedy as far as Great Britain is concerned is that in the period of negotiations which extended over a period of nearly twelve months and preceded the necessity for Australia to make a decision on this matter, the authorities in Great Britain would not and could not in the early stages give Australia any guarantee whatsoever as to a delivery date. Indeed, a study of this book indicates to me that the decision to drop the TSR2, whilst it remained a secret, was made several months before Australia’s order was finally placed with the United States of America for the Fill.
I repeat that the writer of this book is a prominent aviation expert in Great Britain. Incidentally, he is a member of the House of Commons, and a Conservative member at that. He was extremely critical of the Conservative Government in its latter days for its delay in relation to this matter, but he was even more critical of the subsequent government because of the killing, as he termed it, of the plan to proceed. Even if Australia had contracted to buy the TSR2 this would not have done anything to assist the manufacture of the plane. It was doomed. For many months Australia tried to get some finality in regard to the TSR2 and failed, all because of messing around by the authorities.
– The Government has not yet obtained a definite date from America for the Fill and delivery was promised this year.
– I do not think that is quite right. I suppose it would be technically correct to say that there is no definite date, but I do not think it is correct to say that we do not know in what year the plane will be arriving, because to the best of my knowledge - I get my knowledge only from general reading - the FI 1 1 will be delivered in Australia early next year or during next year.
– if we can afford it.
– That is another point. Costs certainly have risen but here again a lot more has been made of the subject than is fair or just, because a large part of the increase in the price of the Fill is associated with the more sophisticated weapons which are being installed in it. Consequently that cost is added to the basic price of the machine. That is one of the major reasons why the price has increased. I say that merely as a layman. I have no departmental information. 1 have to depend on my general reading, but from my study I believe that to be the case. 1 should like to give one minute to another matter the honourable senator raised, namely, the toll of the road. This subject is very dear to my heart. I have said time and again that it is shocking that Australia is allowing the toll of the road to continue at its present level, with over 60 people killed every week. I spoke at length on this subject some weeks ago and I stated then that in my view - it is not a view formed without a deal of study - we should take the same rigorous precautions with our drivers as we try to take with our airmen. We should introduce a law making it an offence for anyone to take the wheel of a car if he has consumed alcohol within a certain time prior to driving, say two or three hours. This would need to be done by the States; it could not be done by the Commonwealth. If we enforced such a law I believe we would cut the toll of the road by 50% within a month.
I have said before that such a law would be unpopular and I know that I make myself unpopular by advancing the suggestion, but I advance it at every opportunity. I agree with Senator Turnbull that the State governments should at least face up to this problem, because the matter is in their hands. If they took the step I have suggested we could reduce the number of people killed each week from 60 to 30 or even less. The majority of beds in surgical wards in our large general hospitals would not be filled with road accident victims and this would reduce enormously the cost of hospitalisation in Australia. In fact, the results would be fantastic. This could be one of the greatest steps ever taken by our State governments. I repeat the plea that I have made previously that the State governments take action on this matter. I am sorry if I have spoken a few minutes more than the five minutes that the Senate accorded me. I thank the Senate.
– This Supply Bill gives honourable senators an opportunity to discuss various aspects of Government policy, and I use the occasion to raise a matter which is worrying all wage and salary earners in Australia. I refer to the difficulty they have in obtaining sufficient money to enable them to keep pace with their reasonable and just requirements. I refer also to the decision by the Commonwealth Government to intervene in the national wage case at present before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and to oppose any application by the Australian Council of Trade Unions for an increase in the base rate paid to Australian workers. The estimated population of Australia today is 11½ million, of whom just over 5 million are engaged in the work force. Obviously the outcome of the national wage case and the financial policy being pursued by the Commonwealth Government are of vital importance not only to every Australian citizen but more particularly to our work force.
The fact is that after nearly eighteen years of conservative government the upward trend in prices is continuing. Doubtless this trend will continue as long as this Government follows its present policies. Already there has been a move - it failed last Friday night - to increase postal charges substantially, to the extent of some $67m a year, and there was an announcement towards the end of last week that petrol prices would once again be going up. Any Australian housewife or mother will state that food prices have been on the up and up for some considerable time. To add to all this, only last week we read of a proposal to increase doctors’ fees.
In addition to these local cost factors there are the increasing costs involved by reason of the Government’s decision to engage in the war in Vietnam. Last year we had some 5,000 Australian troops in Vietnam. This year we also have some airmen flying Canberra bombers in the area and at least one of our ships bombarding installations in North Vietnam. While this state of affairs may give satisfaction to some of the hawks who sit on the Government benches, and perhaps to some people in the community, the plain fact is that all these costs -increased postal charges, increased petrol prices, increased food prices, increased medical fees, plus the costs involved in supplying and victualling our forces in Vietnam or wherever else they may be in Asia - have to be met by the Australian taxpayer.
I read recently - I think it was in the Financial Review’ - that the rate of price increases in Australia between 1961 and 1964 was about 1% but in the last two or three years it has risen to about 4%. The cold hard fact of life is that while this Government is in office and pursuing its present local economic and international policies, while the military situation in the Far East is increasingly affecting world monetary and economic affairs, and while Australia is engaged in the costly carnage in Vietnam, the price structure in Australia will continue to show a very sharp upward trend, because not only is the Asian military situation affecting world monetary affairs, it is also affecting greatly the United States balance of payments situation. Let me, in the time available to me, compare the situation in Australia today with that which exists in the United States of America. In November last year, President Johnson, after he had visited Australia, stated that he foresaw no need to increase taxation unless there was a substantial increase in the cost of the Vietnam war. That was in November 1966. But in January of this year he was preparing to ask the United States Congress for a supplementary appropriation of some $US9,000m bringing the total military budget for the fiscal year 1966-67 to about $US67,000m.
Then, again, in January of this year, the President announced a 6% increase in taxation after admitting that the war might last another two years or longer. He has had to announce, unfortunately, a reduction of some SUS5,300m in the federal programme which is obviously delaying enormously his worthwhile fulfilment of the great American society. But since that time the United States troop commitments in Vietnam have substantially increased and the casualty lists have become heavier. The cost of the bombing operations, according to reports that are available to the Australian public, must have risen astronomically because now we learn that the total tonnage of bombs being dropped on North Vietnam is equal to the total tonnage of bombs that was dropped in Europe towards the end of the Second World War.
If one compares the situation in Australia with the situation to which I have referred in the United States, one will see that today wc have practically the same situation. There are Australian troops in Vietnam and we now have aircraft engaged in operations there that we did not have engaged in Vietnam last year. I refer to the advent of the Canberra bombers there. Our naval force is in action there as well as our Air Force and our troops. All this, of course, is placing an additional burden on the shoulders of the Australian taxpayers, and in particular on the shoulders of the wage and salary earners of the Australian work force. Then, to these additional costs to which I have referred there has to be added the additional cost of all forms of government, Federal, State and local, all of which arc crying out for increased finance to be made available to them. Then there are the additional costs to industry and to primary production, every single one of which is paid for, in the main, by the consumer - the taxpayer - the wage and salary earner.
The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) himself went on record at an Institute of Directors luncheon in Melbourne on 20th March last as saying that a cautious attitude was needed so far as our overseas trade balances were concerned. The fall that has taken place in our overseas reserves since 1st July last, according to figures issued by the Commonwealth Treasury, has been of the order of some $200m and the present balance of SI, 174m is the lowest we have had since March 1963.
Full well knowing the international situation, is it any wonder that the Prime Minister went further at the Institute of Directors luncheon in Melbourne and forecast that overseas reserves would fall further during the year? Knowing all these things, knowing that the already heavy burden will become greater on the Australian wage and salary earner without this Government imposing any ceiling at all on prices and profits, the Commonwealth briefed senior counsel to intervene in the national wages case to oppose the application by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the high councils of public service associations-
– Surely not to oppose it?
– I will quote one or two things from the address of learned counsel for the Commonwealth in the wages case in opposing the application by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and white collar workers for an increase in the basic wage of about $7.30 a week. Indeed, it is very interesting to compare some of the statements attributed to the right honourable Prime Minister at the Institute of Directors luncheon held in Melbourne on 20th March with the statements made by counsel for the Commonwealth in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on 2nd May. about six weeks later. I take this first quotation from the Australian Financial Review’ of 21st March in which he is reported as follows:
The Federal Government wanted 1967 to be A year of comparative wage stability, the Prime Minister, Mr Holt, told an institute of directors luncheon in Melbourne yesterday.
That was on 20th March. Then, on 2nd May, counsel for the Commonwealth, intervening in the national wages case, at page 28 of the Commonwealth submissions on this very aspect of price stability, is shown to have made the following statement to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission:
A further upthrust of costs and prices at this stage would have in present circumstances serious effects on the economy and especially the balance of payments. It is because of its concern with the national interest that the Commonwealth would be particularly concerned about an outcome for this year’s wages cases that would give a lift to prices.
If that is not opposition to the application of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the white collar workers for a just and reasonable wage increase, then 1 do not know what else it is. The Government is asking the Australian wage and salary earners to bear the brunt of this Government’s economic and foreign policies because it is frightened of the economic consequences that lie ahead.
Let me quote one or two other statements. I return to the report of the Institute of Directors luncheon on 20th March wherein the Prime Minister is quoted as having said that the 196*6 rise in the basic wage would take industry some time to digest. I emphasise that was a statement by the Prime Minister at the Institute of Directors luncheon in Melbourne on 20th March. Now what were the submissions made by counsel for the Commonwealth on this aspect before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? I quote the following from page 27 of the submissions put forward by the Commonwealth:
The Commonwealth would therefore urge the Commission in deliberating on the issue now before it, to bear very much in mind the fact that the economy is still digesting the 1966 increases.
So counsel briefed by the Commonwealth to appear before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has said that the economy has not yet been able to absorb all of the increases awarded by the Commission in 1966 and the Prime Minister has said that the 1966 rises in the basic wage would yet take industry some time to absorb. Then the Prime Minister went further and said that a cautious attitude was needed towards overseas trade balances. He forecast that overseas reserves would fall during the year. 1 think that when we peruse this section of the Government’s submissions to the Arbitration Commission we see the gravamen of the reason for the recent attempt to increase postal charges and the reason for the economic dilemma that faces this Government at the present time. On the question of overseas reserves, at pages 20 and 21 of the submissions, amongst other things counsel for the Commonwealth had this to say:
Whereas in the first six months of 1965-66– that is the last financial year - net apparent capital inflow was $460m, in the same period of 1966-67- that is this financial year - the corresponding figure fell by more than half, to $205m.
If my arithmetic is correct, that is a drop of $255m in the first six months of this financial year compared with the first six months of the previous financial year. On the question of future capital inflow, counsel for the Commonwealth had this to say:
What the capital inflow will prove to be for the remainder of the present financial year can only be a matter for conjecture. On the trends so far net apparent capital inflow in 1966-67 will be much less than last year’s record total. It seems likely that the fall in gold and foreign exchange holdings in 1966-67 will be greater than the $200m already recorded to the end of March.
Any assessment of our balance of payments prospects for 1967-68 must, at this stage, be subject to wide margins of error. Question marks surround most of the larger items in the accounts.
Already I have pointed out that according to the figures issued in the latest Commonwealth Treasury information bulletin, the estimates made at the time of the last Budget are far out when compared with the actual figures that are available now. But counsel for the Commonwealth on 2nd May, a fortnight ago, said that any assessment of our balance of payments prospects for 1967-68 - the next financial year - must be subject to wide margins of error. According to page 21 of the submissions counsel went on to say:
How capital inflow will affect the situation it is impossible to predict with any certainty but the omens are far from good. The amount of capital coming our way from abroad will depend la , g. i on the state of international capital markets, and the duration and effects of the United States and United Kingdom measures of restraint on capital outflow - there is certainly nothing to suggest that there will be any easing of these restraints for a considerable time to come.
Overall, it seems certain that there will be another large fall in 1967-68. In the light of the uncertainties affecting capital inflow it is difficult to make a confident estimate of that fall, but an approximate repetition of our experience with reserves this financial year would not be unexpected.
Already reserves have fallen by $255m more in the first six months of this financial year as compared with the first six months of the last financial year. The Commonwealth’s submission to the Arbitration Commission that an approximate repetition of our experience with reserves this financial year would not be unexpected surely indicates to this Parliament and to the Australian people that economic difficulties, which have arisen as a result of this Government’s policies, will confront the Australian people in the future.
Apparently, having regard to the Australian price structure as evidenced in events that have taken place in recent weeks, the galloping horse of inflation is about to run away again. Without any curb being applied on prices or profits, the Commonwealth has gone to the Arbitration Commission, has presented the figures to which 1 have referred and virtually has said: ‘For goodness sake please do not go ahead and give wage and salary earners an increase in the basic wage rate’. The Government expects the wage and salary earners of this community, the blue and white collar workers, to bear the full brunt of the economic problems which have been brought about by the Government’s policies.
I want to say something about the hypocritical policy of the Government on this question of wage stability. I have referred already to the fact that the Prime Minister said that the Federal Government wanted 1967 to be a year of comparative wage stability. Counsel for the Commonwealth, at page 12 of his submissions, is reported to have said, on the question of stability of wages and prices:
As the Commonwealth sees it the best means of preserving the real value of wages is to preserve stability of prices. The wage earner, the housewife, the pensioner, all have a common interest in this.
The Commonwealth has said to the Aribitration Commission that the best way to preserve the real value of wages is to preserve stability of prices. If the Government were doing something about this matter then perhaps it would be all right. But in the course of this debate I have referred to the increases that have occurred in food prices which affect the Australian housewife. I have also referred to the proposal further to increase medical costs to the Australian wage and salary earner. I have referred also to last week’s announcement that petrol prices are to be increased. Then, of course, there was the Government’s decision to introduce into this chamber last week a Bill to increase postal charges at this stage - some two and one half months before the Federal Budget will be introduced - by $67m. I should like honourable senators opposite who are interjecting to know that I am talking about the Government’s submission to the Arbitration Commission on price stability. I am quoting evidence that is available in Press reports and in statements which have been made in this chamber in the last couple of weeks. I am showing to the Australian people and to this Parliament the complete hypocrisy of the Australian Government-
– I rise to order. I object to the use of the word ‘hypocrisy’. Over and over again it has been ruled that it is unparliamentary. 1 ask that the honourable senator withdraw the word hypocrisy’
– I withdraw the word ‘hypocrisy’ and say that it is complete arrogance on the part of the Government on the one hand, to adopt this attitude before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission when Australian workers are applying for wage increases, and on the other hand to act as it did last week in introducing a Bill to increase postal charges to the extent of $67m. Surely it must be obvious to all wage and salary earners - blue collar and white collar workers - that they are being forced to bear the brunt of the cost of this Government’s internal economic policies and its external foreign policies. But unfortunately, whatever be the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, for the time being this Government has the last say. Let us assume that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission does accede to the request of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and decides that on the basis of price increases and productivity movements alone over the past twelve months there should legitimately be an increase in the basic wage of some $7.30, it is obvious, from what has happened in this Parliament in the last couple of weeks and from the statement attributed to the Prime Minister that the Government wanted 1967 to be a year of comparative wage stability, that any increase awarded by the Commission will be drained away from the Australian work force - the wage and salary earners of this community - by the Commonwealth in further taxation increases in the forthcoming Budget. All the evidence available indicates that in August the Federal Treasurer (Mr McMahon) will really hit hard the hip pocket nerve of the Australian worker. This must indeed be an anxious time for Australian wage and salary earners.
Senator HEATLEY (Queensland) 1 11.11] - I rise for a very brief period to refute some of the statements or implications made by Senator Laught tonight in regard to rowing regattas held by universities throughout Australia. We should applaud and uphold these sporting events as much as we can. On the educational side they help more than many people think. Not only scholastics come into education; the sporting side assists no end. lt was implied by the honourable senator that the Brisbane rowing crew had withdrawn from the forthcoming regatta because of regulations and restrictions placed upon it by the Department of Civil Aviation or the airline concerned. During the weekend i had various conversations with the sporting organisations in this field and 1 find that the implication is not correct - in fact, it is far from correct. As far as 1 can see, the University of Queensland is not sure at the moment whether it has a crew and is able to compete in the inter-university rowing regatta. I tried to check the position tonight and the authorities there are still not sure whether they have a crew trained and fit and ready to compete in this regatta.
Senator Laught mentioned that one crew in particular had bought its tickets and undertaken to fly its boat across with a particular airline. I do not know whether this is quite correct but if anyone books an aircraft, as is done when going overseas, at a concessional rate, normally this is a contractual obligation. I think such would apply in this particular case. So I do nol think that these people made a firm booking. I think that had a booking been made for the boat and the crew it would have been upheld. If it were not upheld redress could have been sought through the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), but I really do not think that this would have been necessary.
– How would they get an eight oar boat on an aircraft?
– The honourable senator has seen an eight taken apart and carried from Southport to Brisbane. If need be, it can be dismantled into four component parts. Today with the civil aircraft in use it is not necessary to dismantle a shell into four parts; it may be dismantled into only two parts. Let me mention the concessions that are made by the various airlines to university and secondary school students. If students under nineteen years of age pro duce a certificate, they are allowed a 50% concession to go anywhere at all for any sports. No-one can complain about this. University students aged from nineteen to twenty-six years arc allowed a 25% concession when going from their homes to the university or vice versa. These concessions are known to all of the universities and schools. I am sure that, had the universities which were mentioned tonight studied the position adequately and taken sufficient time beforehand to present their case to the airline concerned - I am not sure which one it was; I will not enter into that matter at all - if there were a case to be upheld it would have been upheld. I raise the matter for this reason: Investigation may show that the airline concerned - I again say that I do not know which one it was - is not to blame. If a reasonable time were given to propose the case to the airline it would have been upheld, I think. If it were not upheld the correct approach would have been to the responsible Minister.
– 1 rise to speak on this measure as I feci that in the next week or two, when we have returned to our respective States, it will probably be said that Commonwealth Ministers will have ample time to deal largely with the administration of their departments as distinct from legislation. Tonight, as I listened to the earlier discussion on bush fire relief measures, my mind kept going back to another matter. I was particularly struck with the expenditure of money involved. I should like to direct attention to question No. 99 in my name and the answer that I received on 2nd May. I asked what the Commonwealth Government was doing to emulate Canada in the acquisition of a certain type of aircraft. The type that I named was the CL215 amphibious fire bomber, which does effective work in forest fire prevention on the American continent. In Australia our forest lands consist only of some 3% of our land area, so obviously we have a smaller margin than other continents and it is essential that we look ahead. For that reason the answer that T received from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) amazed me. He said that he was not aware of any proposal to use such an aircraft, and that whilst the Australian agent for these aircraft had drawn the attention of the
Director-General of Civil Aviation to their use nothing further had emanated.
In this jet age in which we live the immediate reaction should have been that if there were anything worth while in this proposal we should have a man in Canada to have a look at it for ourselves. I am nol one of those people who deplore visits by Ministers to other countries. The world is getting smaller and obviously as a result of these overseas visits we get a greater appreciation of new technical developments.
The aviation expert of the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’, Mr Gregory Copley, makes out a very strong case on the value of these particular aircraft and what they can do. He points out that Australia, with its 800,000 square miles of forest land, has a priceless heritage. Let us take that in conjunction with the statement on 26th April by Mr W. M. Logan, forestry adviser to the British Ministry for Overseas Develop ment, that after 1975 there will be a world wide shortage of industrial wood. That is just the commercial aspect of it. Any honourable senator who has a concept of conservation must regard it as a most barren and negative answer to have come from a Commonwealth Minister. I will go a little further. I cannot imagine for one moment (hat the Director-General of Civil Aviation should just continue to sit back and do nothing in his ivory tower. Last summer the disastrous fires occurred in Tasmania. We do not know what mainland State may be affected by bush fires in the coming summer. I appeal to the Government to ensure that in the recess a little progress will be made by the Director-General of Civil Aviation. I do not wish to castigate him in respect of recent airways mishaps, but surely to goodness he can exercise a little foresight. An aviation expert employed by a newspaper has presented a detailed picture of what can happen.
I wish to develop my Canadian analogy a little further. I will make a provincial approach and quote from the annual report for 1965-66 of the Saskatchewan Department of Natural Resources. At page 8 it refers to equipment for water bombers. The annual report for 1964-65 of the Canadian Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources refers on page 22 to the acquisition by the Yukon Forest Service of a Super-Cub aircraft. At page 29 of the sixteenth annual report of the Province of Alberta reference is made to the acquisition of a Dornier D028 aircraft. That Province has three fixed wing aircraft and three Bell type helicopters; nine fixed wing aircraft and four helicopters were leased. These were apart from the Province’s own aviation pool. I cannot see for the life of me why our Service helicopters cannot be utilised for fire-fighting purposes. Coordination should be established between the Department of Civil Aviation and the Service Ministries so that Service aircraft could be used for fire-fighting. It is not merely a question of the conservation of timber. Fire is a great problem in an arid continent like Australia, and I appeal to the Minister to ensure that in the next few months action is taken in this field.
I wish to make another plea for conservation in the Australian Capital Territory. On 4th April last I placed on the notice paper question No. 80 in which 1 pointed out that as a valuable adjunct to Lake Burley Griffin I would like to see action taken in respect of the Jerrabomberra Creek and Molonglo River regions so that permanent reservations might be established for various forms of bird life. There is considerable interest in this matter in Canberra and a strong belief that action should be taken, ft is not necessary to spend any money. I have simply asked for a ‘hands off’ policy to be laid down for some of the upper reaches of rivers in the area beyond the Cotter Dam. I have been very objective. I have commended the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) for certain action taken in the Tidbinbilla region and portion of the Northern Territory. I appeal for action to be taken along the lines I have suggested in question No. 80 on the notice paper.
I also want to tilt at the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann). On April 20th last I placed on notice question No. 156. As a corollary to the conservation DrOjects I suggested to the Minister that valuable revenue could be obtained by the imposition of a levy on sales of kangaroo meat. I suggest that the present Government emulate the action of the Chifley Government in the early post-war years. It imposed an excise duty of so much per ton on coal. The proceeds were put into a fund from which payments could be made for miners’ long service leave. Last year sales of kangaroo meat were worth about $200,000. A levy on sales of kangaroo meat could be distributed to the States for use in conservation activities. I do not supposeI could quote a better authority in this field than Mr Lewis, MLA, the New South Wales Minister for Lands. He said:
Wherever I can get dollars - millions if necessary - I want to extend the New South Wales national parks system.
I should think that every State Minister responsible for the administration of national parks would echo that view. A little bit of statesmanship is required. If the appropriate Commonwealth Ministers were to confer with their State colleagues, out of the discussion and criticisms would come action. In this morning’s Press appeared a report of the discovery in Western Australia - in the Albany area - of a small type of marsupial. People have been talking about it. It is to be hoped that the species will be preserved.I suppose that the Western Australian Government has the same difficulties as other State governments. We have certain legislation on the statute book now dealing with tourist activities. Let us hope that the preventive measures I have outlined are successful so that tourists may be brought to view our conservative projects.
I wish to refer to another situation that may develop in the parliamentary recess. I refer to certain minority of extremist elements of the right in this country, and particularly to the Ustashi. I imagine that when this Parliament resumes in August or September the Yugoslav Embassy will be opened in Canberra. I have already pointed out to the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) the need to ensure that some hotheads arc kept under control. I am prompted to make these remarks by an incident in Sydney. A stick of gelignite was thrown into a dwelling in Darlinghurst. I noticed that Senator Ormonde looked up when I. mentioned that area. Some of these people are still determined to make their presence felt in a way that is not appreciated by Australians or most Yugoslav citizens in this country. We might take a leaf out of the book of the United States Senate and set up a standing committee to confer with our detection agencies - the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation or the Commonwealth Police Force - and all such bodies.
I do not think that the United States Senate could properly be regarded as a radical body. It has a standing committee which meets officers of security bodies from time to time. Reports recently have given prominence to the distribution of Central Intelligence Agency funds. It has not been thought infra dig for United States senators to make inquiries about the activities of the CIA. Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, Senator Fulbright and quite a number of other reputable United States senators have been very actively making inquiries about the CIA. They have asked that investigations be extended. I do not believe that the efficiency of our security agencies would be impared one iota if a standing committee were established to confer with them. It would be comprised of the Leaders of the Parties in the Senate and perhaps conferences could be held on a continuing basis. I do not complain about the existence of security bodies, but about their performances. I do not believe that the Federal authorities have backed the State police sufficiently in their efforts to control outbreaks of Ustashi activities.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator (the Hon.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 May 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670516_senate_26_s34/>.