26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Education and Science received a request from the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory for a thorough inquiry into the education system operating throughout the Territory? Is he aware of the allegations made by a former school headmaster as to inability to give proper training to infant school children through lack of trained teaching staff? Will the Minister institute an investigation into the education system and facilities in the Northern Territory and report the results of such investigation to the Senate?
– The short answer is no. The reasons for that short answer are that the staffing of schools and the running of schools in the Northern Territory arc done by the South Australian Department of Education and to do as the honourable senator requests would therefore be an interference with the operations of that Department in its duty to provide teachers for those schools.
– Even if it is not providing them?
– Let me finish my answer first. The second point is that the provision of schools and buildings in the Northern Territory is the function and responsibility of the Department of Territories and not of the Department of Education and Science. As the provision of schools is the function of the Department of Territories and as the provision of curricula, teachers and other things is within the province and is the responsibility of the Department of Education in South Australia, I suggest that the honourable senator ask the South Australian Government to have an investigation and obtain a report on any shortages for which it is responsible in that area.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate indicate to me what action the Senate can take in respect of Mr Whitlam’s cowardly attack on the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers, who is not in a position to defend himself in this place? Did Mr Whitlam say that there is an ‘Odgers Plan’ and that that plan is a prescription for frustration’? Is there such a plan, and if there is not is there any action that the Leader can take to have Mr Whitlam withdraw this vicious attack on a man who is recognised as a world authority on Senate practices and, indeed, on all parliamentary procedures?
– I read the statement which was published in the ‘Canberra Times’ this morning in relation to this matter. I must say that, during the course of the many years that I have been here and in the office that I now hold, I have had many discussions with Mr Odgers when I have asked him for assistance on matters that affect the running of the Senate. Never at any time have I had from him or heard him make any reference whatever to any political matter. He has given advice to me, as he will give advice to any senator, on the procedures of the Senate, on which he is an expert. His publications show the close study that he has made of this institution, the way in which it is run and the rules that govern it. On many occasions all of us have received from him very valuable information on how properly to conduct proceedings in this chamber and on any course that we might have wished to take. At this stage I have only the report that I read in the ‘Canberra Times’ to go on. If it is correct, I deplore the attack that the Leader of the Opposition in another place made on a very valued servant of the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. With a view to overcoming the acute shortage of geologists and geophysicists in the mining industry, will he give consideration to enlarging the number of scholarships available in this branch of the faculty, publicising that fact and at the same time publicising the opportunities that exist in this field?
– Commonwealth scholarships, whether university or advanced education, are not awarded by faculties. They are awarded on the performances of candidates in the examination concluding their secondary education. The selection of particular people for a particular faculty could well lay the selecting authority open to a charge of excluding from scholarships some people who had obtained better results at matriculation than had other people who were given scholarships. Nevertheless, the honourable senator has raised a matter which 1 believe is of sonic significance. The places for practical geologists that arc becoming available and will be more available in the future in the new colleges of advanced education will go sonic way towards overcoming the difficulties experienced in this field. Although 1 cannot do what the honourable senator has suggested, I will consider whether there is wmc other way of trying to help to solve this problem.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. By way of preface, I refer to the responsibilities shouldered by governments in finding alternative employment for miners who become redundant as a result of the mechanisation efforts in the mining industry. In view of the impending battle between the Esso oil company and the Australian Gas Light Co. Ltd. will the Commonwealth Government exercise its good graces to ensure continuity of employment for members of the Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union?
– 1 am quite sure thai the Department of Labour and National Service, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, will endeavour and endeavour successfully, as it always has done, to place in employment not only in the field to which the honourable senator referred but also in others people who, because of changing circumstances, have to find employment in some other field or in some other part of the same field. T do not think anybody should guarantee ever that somebody employed in a particular factory would continue to be employed in that factory in a particular job. But I think even the honourable senator would agree that the Commonwealth Employment Office, run by the Department of Labour and National Service, does concern itself with this problem and, on the whole, rather successfully.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is the Government aware of the announcement of a substantial trading loss by the vehicle manufacturer, Volkswagen (Australasia) Pty Ltd? ls the Government aware that the policy of requiring vehicle manufacturers to introduce a particularly high Australian content into the production of vehicles is leading to a high production cost for companies which produce lesser numbers of vehicles? Would the Government consider a review of this policy in the light of a substantial loss by a company which is very important to this country?
– I am well aware of the policy referred to by the honourable senator. I will not comment on the loss of the company or on the company itself. I know nothing about it. Its dealings are matters of a private trading institution and I do not propose to comment on them. The policy allows the importation of certain motor vehicle parts which are being imported at present. As I understand it, they are imported al a preferred rate of duty by any Australian motor vehicle manufacturer or motor vehicle manufacturer in Australia who undertakes to build up over a certain period of e rs to an Australian content of, I think, 95% of the vehicle. I believe that it is essential that we encourage Australian manufacture in all these fields to create employment for our people. Therefore I feel that such a policy is sound.
As f understand it, it is optional for manufacturers to accept this policy. If they accept it, they agree to work up the percentage of Australian content of the motor vehicles to 95% over a period of, I think, from three to five years. In that case they receive the advantage of importing, at a preferred rate of duty, the parts not made in Australia. I cannot see that that policy adds to the cost of Australian manufacture at this stage, but in the long run, when the stage of 95% Australian content is reached, it may add a little to the cost. As we are a protectionist country I think that small added cost is well worth while.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen an article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 17th February last which stated that it is found that classes in beauty care and cosmetic therapy are playing an invaluable part in the recovery of mentally disturbed patients? Is sales tax imposed on the cosmetics used in such psychiatric treatment? As cosmetics are an essential ingredient of modern living will the Government consider the removal of sales tax on these essential commodities?
– Am I to take it that the honourable senator is suggesting that sales tax should be removed from all cosmetics or just, from the cosmetics used in the way he has described?
– First, from cosmetics used as I have described; but why not from all cosmetics?
– I will refer the matter lo the Treasurer. Of course, it is a budgetary matter and, as the honourable senator knows, we do not deal with budgetary matters in questions without notice. We refer them to the Treasurer so that when (he Government is considering the Budget - which will be within the next six weeks or so - it can deal with all requests made by honourable senators. 1 will see that this matter is referred to the Treasurer.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the widespread dissatisfaction voiced by listeners to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s stations when programmes are suddenly taken off the air on Fridays to allow the proceedings of Parliament to be broadcast, and because of the obvious difficulties faced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in this matter when either House, without due prior notice, meets on Fridays, will he ask the Prime Minister to consider making definite arrangements that the proceedings of Parliamentary shall be broadcast only on the normal sitting days, namely, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the parliamentary sessions?
– I have had one experience of our silting on a Saturday. I must say that on that occasion we received a number of complaints because certain programmes were put off the air on Saturday afternoon in order that the proceedings of Parliament might be broadcast. I understand from the letters 1 received that listeners much prefer listening to the results of race meetings to listening to the debates in the Senate on a Saturday. That was the only occasion 1 know of on which we engaged in that practice. Of course, we may bc engaging in it again in perhaps the nearer future than honourable senators realise. However, that is by the way. I understand that the honourable senator is a member of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee.
– 1 think this a matter that ought to be referred to that Committee and 1 suggest that the honourable senator do that.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. Is it a fact that later this year Australia will be launching its first satellite? Could the Minister give me a less approximate date for this launching than is mentioned in the Press? Could the Minister also advise me whether he will give an opportunity for members of Parliament to watch the launching of this satellite? Does this launching mean that Australian technicians and scientists are equal to the best in the world?
– I would say at once that I think it would be of great interest to members of Parliament to watch this launching and I shall do my best to see that when this satellite is launched from Woomera an opportunity is made available for members of Parliament to visit the area to view what could be a very historic event. This satellite is the culmination of a great number of tests carried out by the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury, the Woomera establishment and the University of Adelaide. These tests have taken the form of experiments with the firing of Sonar rockets into the upper atmosphere with a view to manufacturing and launching our own satellites. We have been given great assistance by the United States and Great Britain. The United States has made available to us the Redstone rocket and has also put at our disposal the services of great tracking and recording stations which it owns throughout the world to track and make recordings of the progress of this satellite when it is in orbit.
This launching represents an achievement because when it takes place Australia will be the fourth country in the world to fire its own satellite from its own country. This is an achievement of which 1 think we can all be proud. I should like the Senate to know that at this stage this is only a research and developmental project but it is an experiment which we believe can be brought to fruition. We hope to bring it to fruition sometime early in 1968. We hope to lire the rocket in February or March next year. This will give us information from sources throughout the world similar to that which we have been getting from the Sonar rockets that have been going straight up from Australia and down again. We shall also be able to give valuable information to other countries which have shown a great interest in the work of the University of Adelaide, the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury and the Woomera organisation. I think, too, that the developments that have taken place in Australia do indicate the high quality of our scientists. May 1 point out that the American tracking stations throughout Australia are manned by Australians. I understand that this is one of the few countries of the world where there are American space tracking stations in which the stations are manned by nationals of that country. From this work a lot of experience has been gained. This co-operation between the United States of America and ourselves and between Great Britain and ourselves on the joint project at Woomera is something of which we can all be proud.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the urgent need for well trained and experienced civil air pilots, can the Minister advise whether he and the Department of Civil Aviation are satisfied with progress in this important field, keeping in mind the rapid growth and demand for air travel? Can the Minister advise what training procedures are in operation to meet Australia’s future needs by providing highly skilled air pilots and crew?
– To obtain the information sought by the honourable senator I will have to refer the matter to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I do not suggest that the honourable senator put the question on the notice paper. I will take the question up with the Minister for Civil Aviation and attempt to have an answer sent to the honourable senator during the recess.
– Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate be able to convey to the Senate the attitude of the Government towards the possible agreement, or signing of the agreement on, nonproliferation? Prior to the Government making any decision in relation to this matter, will the Minister assure the Senate that this House will be given the opportunity to debate the matter - that is, before action is taken?
– The non-proliferation of what?
– Nuclear weapons.
– As one of Australia’s great needs is increased population, I hope the honourable senator is not referring to the non-proliferation of population. If the honourable senator puts his question on the notice paper I will have the matter referred to the relevant Minister.
(Question No. 41)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions: t, 2 and 3. I have seen the articles in question. They do not appear to warrant further official investigation.
(Question No. 50)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government follows the long established practice that details of the activities of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation should not be disclosed. I do not therefore propose either by confirmation or denial to answer these questions.
(Question No. 106)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions: 1 and 2. Full-time members of the defence forces are prohibited by the provisions of Section 44 of the Constitution from being chosen or sitting as senators or members of the House of Representatives. Eligibility to be elected to a House of a State parliament depends on the laws of the State concerned but it is considered to be impracticable to allow a full-time member of the forces to also be a member of a House of Parliament. Subject to the exigencies of the Services at the lime, the Government docs not seek to prevent bona fide candidates who happento be members of the Services obtaining a discharge to contest an election. In accordance with this policy, two members of the Royal Australian Air Force were discharged to allow them to contest the recent Victorian State elections. Applications for discharge submitted by servicemen for the purpose of contesting elections are investigated by the relevant Service boards to ascertain whether the applications are genuine. The decision as to whether a particular servicemen will be discharged or not is taken by that Board having regard also to the exigencies of the Service.
(Question No. 107)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answers:
Within the annual budgetary reviews the needs of the pensioner community are assessed within the availability of revenue for services. This annual assessment has enabled a continuing broadening of the range of entitlement and increases in the rates of benefits. This system appears at Government level the most effective way of providing for the social welfare needs of the community.
(Question No. 142)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 145)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
What are the reasons for the decision of the Government that the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be a part-time salaried official?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer:
The structure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been reviewed from time to time and the Government is satisfied that the present arrangement of a part-time Chairman is the most satisfactory for the present requirements. The honourable senator will be aware that the Commission has a substantial full-time staff headed by a General Manager who, in the Broadcasting and Television Act, is specified as the Chief Executive Officer. Amongst other things, he is responsible for implementation of the policies of the Commission.
(Question No. 158)
SenatorPOYSER asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
In preparing the 1967-68 Budget, will the Government give consideration to the excluding of exservicemen, who are recipients of war pensions, from the application of the means test?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Successive governments have closely examined, but have been unable to accede to, proposals that war pension should be disregarded as income in assessing eligibility for service pension. It willbe appreciated that the adoption of such a proposal would amount to a relaxation of the means test for the exclusive benefit of those persons in the community who are in receipt of a war pension. The Government, in equity, could not treat any one particular section of the pensionable age group differently from another for means test purposes. There are, for example, many aged persons in the community who have made provision for their retirement by various means and who could claim an equal right to a share in any increased allocation of funds for social welfare. Pensions for warcaused disabilities can be viewed in a similar light to normal income as they are intended, in part at least, to make up the recipient’s loss of earning power arising from his disability. The Government however will keep well in mind the position of those persons whose pension eligibility is affected by the operation of the means test. Its stated policy is to relax the means test generally fromtime to time as circumstances permit bearing in mind the position of those people most in need of assistance. In accordance with this policy, legislation has recently been enacted which has resitted in many more persons being admitted to the pension field.
(Question No. 161)
– asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will the Government consider the establishment of a Commonwealth disaster fund, or assistthe State governments to establish such a fund, specifically designedto be accessible to individual cases where personal and financial disaster occurs?
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Proposals to establish a national disaster fund have been considered on a number of occasions by Commonwealth Governments but on each occasion it has been concluded that such a scheme would not be practical in this country.
However, us a result of other questions on this matter in recent times, investigations into the schemes operating in New Zealand, Canadaand the United States have been initiated to see whether there is something in these schemes which would have useful applicationto our own needs.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 171)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answers: 1 and 2. Licensees of metropolitan commercial television stations were informed by the Board in August 1966, that as from 3rd July 1967, in addition to being required to devote at least 50% of transmission time to programmes credited as being of Australian origin, they would be required to televise, each month, between 7.00 p.m. and 9.30 p.m., not less than twelve hours of Australian material, subject to the following special requirements: (a) that an aggregate of not less than two hours would consist of Australian productions in the form of drama; and (b) that an aggregate of not less than two hours of Australian programmes would be televised each week between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. In an endeavour to encourage the production of Australian drama and constructive children’s programmes, special credits will be allowed for such programmes in calculating the percentage of Australian content. These provisions would also apply to country stations which had completed three years of regular programme transmission.
(Question No. 172)
asked the Minister representing the Ministerfor Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 173)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 176)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 178)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers to the honourable senators questions:
(Question No. 181)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 186)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Health has furnished the following replies:
State governments are responsible for the control and management of infectious diseases. An outbreak of gastro-enteritis on Hayman Island is, therefore, outside the sphere of authority of my Department. Under the circumstances, the honourable senator may wish to refer his inquiries to the Queensland Minister for Health.
(Question No. 191)
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 194)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 196)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 197)
– asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers:
It is also significant that the major railway systems of the Commonwealth are operating on an identical basis to Commonwealth Railways and it is my view that no good purpose would be achieved by a departure from existing practices.
(Question No. 202)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 204)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 205)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answers:
– On11th May Senator Benn asked me the following question:
I address a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Does the PostmasterGeneral’s Department provide telegraphic services for the Press at concessional rates? If so, what was the total value of the concession for the year ended 30th June 1966?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
– On11th May
asked me the following question without notice:
My question is also directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, and by way of preface I would like to compliment thePostmasterGeneral on the noticeable economies flowing to the user, and no doubt also to the Department, from the recent introduction into South Australia of the subscriber trunk dialling method of charging for trunk calls to Melbourne originating in Adelaide. Will the Minister discuss this matter with his colleague, the Postmaster-General, and ascertain the projected timetable associated with the implementation of the system of subscribertr unk dialling between South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory and between South Australia and Sydney? Will he also ascertain the possibility of the wider use of this system within South Australia?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
Subject to supply of essential equipment, standard trunk dialling to Sydney and the A.C.T. will be provided from selected exchanges in Adelaide network late in 1967-68 and extended progressively thereafter to other interstate centres and from additional Adelaide exchanges. Within South Australia standard trunk dialling will be provided to Adelaide from Murray Bridge, Port Augusta, Gawler, Nuriootpa and Naracoorte areas during 1967-68 and from Gladstone, Jamestown and Melrose areas in 1968-69. During 1968-69 standard trunk dialling will be provided from all Adelaide exchanges to some 56 country centres in South Australia.
– Are there any papers to be presented?
– On behalf of the honourable senators advocating the No case at the forthcoming referendum, I seek leave to make a statement in relation to the statements made affecting the Clerk of the Senate, his conduct in relation to the No case and other related matters of misrepresentation.
– It is inappropriate for one honourable senator to speak on a matter that is not before the Senate.
– It is quite inappropriate to do so during the presentation of papers. Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
APPROPRIATION BILLS Senator HENTY (Tasmania - Minister for Supply) - I present the following paper: Report dated 28th October 1964 from a Committee appointed by Government senators on appropriation bills and the ordinary annual services of the Government.
Ordered to be printed.
– I present the following paper:
Report of the Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia.
I have arranged for this report, which is usually referred to as the Loder Committee report, to be circulated to honourable senators. I seek leave to make a statement in connection with that report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate the statement in Hansard. It reads:
In April 1964, the former Minister for National Development, the late Sir William Spooner, announced the appointment of the Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia. The Committee consisted of Sir Louis Loder, C.B.E., Mr P. L. Baillieu, Mr. L. G. Blythe. Mr B. B. Callaghan, Mr. G. R. Fisher, C.M.G., and Captain J. P. Williams, C.M.G., O.B.E. In foreshadowing the appointment of the Committee late in 1963, the former Prime Minister stated:
When we consider the great increases, and sometimes multiplication of costs in the Northern Territory, the North of Western Australia, and parts of the North of Queensland caused by the costs of transportation, we see that we have here a practical problem of great magnitude.
Before anybody offers to say how this northern freight problem should be tackled, it is necessary to have a thorough and authoritative examination of the facts, and the feasibility of various methods of dealing with the problem disclosed.
The terms of reference given to the Committee are set out at the beginning of the report now tabled and I therefore do not need to repeat them in detail at this point. Nevertheless, I draw particular attention to the two matters the Loder Committee was invited to examine. These were:
To make a thorough and factual examination of, and to report on, the costs of transportation to, from and within Northern Australia, with particular reference to the costs of transporting goods and the effects of such costs on the development of Northern Australia.
To examine possible means whereby such costs might be reduced and to report on the practical and economic feasibility and the implications of each means so examined.
The report of the Committee was received by the Government on the 30th September 1965. As honourable senators will observe, the Committee put forward a great number of conclusions: forty-nine of these are listed in the summary of conclusions provided in the report, and honourable senators will see from a study of the document that some of the conclusions encompass a number of related issues.
Since it was transmitted to the Government, l he report has been under close examination, and extensive investigation by the various Commonwealth departments has been necessary. Action has been taken by the Government on a number of the measures dealt with in the report. I shall refer to these again later in this statement. Studieswill continue in regard to a number of matters raised in the report as part of the continuing responsibilities of the Government departments and authorities concerned. The Government believes, however, that it is now appropriate for the report to be tabled all d made generally available.
Honourable senators will appreciate that the Committee had before it a difficult task, lt was a task of great proportions, involving all modes of transport, a wide variety of interested persons and organisations, and a vast area of country. The part of Australia with which the Committee was concerned aggregates some 1. 4m square miles and is characterised by low population density, some very harsh climatic conditions, and widely scattered centres of population and industry. The essential first step in the Committee’s investigations was to make a thorough and factual examination of the costs of transportation to, from and within northern Australia. Accordingly, the Committee travelled extensively in the north, made a series of on-the-spot investigations, interviewed many people, and assembled for the first time a large body of useful information on northern transportation costs.
Some of the Committee’s conclusions relate to the possibility of achieving reductions in transport costs which might be passed on in lower freight charges and lower product prices to northern residents. Transport costs in our distant northern areas are inevitably high in comparison with transport costs in the south. It is therefore important that, in the operation of northern transport services, every effort be made lo reduce costs and charges to a minimum by the most efficient utilisation of resources, by efficient methods of operation, and by the use of improved transport equipment and techniques. The report provides a timely reminder of the need to pursue these objectives continually.
Other conclusions in the report envisage the subsidising of transport services in and to the north. Subsidies do not reduce costs, of course, but rather transfer part of these costs to the taxpayer. However, if subsidies are passed on in the form of lower freight charges and lower product prices, users of the transport services concerned do of course derive a benefit.
As I indicated earlier, the report contains a great number of conclusions. Some or these are observations which do not involve proposals for particular courses of action. Others relate to matters of State responsibility on which it would not be appropriate for the Commonwealth to comment. Copies of the report have therefore been made available to the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia. A further group of conclusions relate to matters of relatively minor importance which the responsible departments will bear in mind in carrying out their normal functions.
Of the more important findings in the report, the Committee expressed its strongly held judgment that a vigorous road programme is the most important single step needed to accelerate development of the north. The Government, as honourable senators are aware, has pursued for some years an active policy of northern road development. The Government has recently approved an additional SI 4m beef roads programme for the Northern Territory. Furthermore, at the present time the Government is discussing with the State Governments concerned its proposals to allocate up to $50m towards a further beef roads programme in the States extending over the next seven years. This is in addition to the continuing and increasing assistance that the Commonwealth is providing under the Commonwealth aid road arrangements, which require at least 40% of the funds provided to be spent on rural roads, and which recognise the special needs of such States as Queensland and Western Australia with their large areas.
With regard to the Committee’s conclusions which would involve subsidies or taxation concessions, the Government has provided a freight subsidy on superphosphate landed at Darwin with the objective of assisting pastoral and agricultural development in the top end of the Northern Territory. In another field, the Government provides substantial subsidies to airlines operating in northern areas to ensure the maintenance of services at reasonable frequencies and tariffs. The Government also last year approved a subsidy on the transport costs incurred by producers in the Northern Territory when restocking their properties following the drought. The income tax law has been amended to remove the limit of seven years on the period for which primary producers may carry forward losses of previous years for income tax purposes. Action is in course with regard to the uniform road permit conditions for the operation of cattle road trains, and much has been achieved in reducing wharf and shed congestion at the Port of Darwin.
It will be apparent from these illustrations that much has been done, and is being done, that accords with the Committee’s findings. As honourable senators will see on examining the report, however, a number of the Committee’s conclusions were not entirely clearcut, and the feasibility and implications of some proposals were not fully explored in the report. This is understandable, of course, bearing in mind the magnitude of the Committee’s task. The Government considers that attention to these matters appropriately forms part of its continuing examination of northern transport issues. The Committee’s views will serve to give added direction and purpose to consideration of these issues. As I indicated earlier, copies of the report have been made available to the Queensland and Western Australian Governments, as certain of the conclusions in the report deal with State transport questions.
– I present the first re port of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the modifications made by the Senate to the House of Representatives resolution.
The following Bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment:
Narcotic Drugs Bill 1967.
Customs Bill 1967.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks Parliament’s approval of an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland, under which the Commonwealth will provide financial assistance to the State for the development of a further area of brigalow lands in the Mackenzie-Isaac River basin of Central Queensland. Approval of the agreement, which has been signed by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Commonwealth and by the Premier on behalf of the State, will have the effect of increasing the amount available under the existing Commonwealth and State Brigalow Agreement by$8.5m. Under the Brigalow Lands Agreement Act 1962-1965, the Commonwealth has agreed to provide financial assistance to Queensland of up to $14,500,000, over an eight-year period end-, ing 30th June 1970, for the development of certain specified areas in the Fitzroy River basin.
The scheme involves the State acquiring the existing holdings in the area and resubdivision to yield a larger number of blocks, some of which are allotted to the existing landholders, some sold at auction and the remainder balloted for by applicants selected by the State. The ballot blocks are developed by settlers with the assistance of loans provided by the State Government from funds made available by the Commonwealth under the Brigalow Lands Agreement Act.
Tt Is also proposed that Commonwealth financial assistance under the Agreement should be available for cultivation on brigalow blocks. There is considerable evidence and technical opinion to indicate that under some circumstances cultivation and cropping to grain or fodder crops for a few years is the most effective way of overcoming brigalow sucker regrowth. It will be observed also that the amending Agreement provides for a minimum of 30% of the new blocks in the northern area to go to auction, instead of 23% as in the areas of the existing scheme. An increase in the number of auction blocks may help to avoid excessively high prices for these blocks.
Ii is proposed that the increased level of Commonwealth financial assistance for the development of the additional area will be made available on the same terms as under the existing Agreement. That is to say, assistance will be by way of interest-bearing loans repayable over twenty years. Under the present Agreement interest on advances made to the State up to 30th June 1967 is capitalised and repaid with principal over twenty years from 15th January 1968. For advances made after 30th June 1967 and up to 30th June 1970 interest is payable as it accrues and capital is repayable from 1 5th January 1971 over twenty years. The amending Agreement provides that in respect of advances made to the State from 30th June 1967 to 30th June 1970 interest will be capitalised up to 15th July 1970 and repayable over twenty years from 15th January 1971. In respect of advances made by the Commonwealth after 30th June 1970 interest will be capitalised up to 15th July 1975 and repayable over twenty years from 1 5th January 1976. The scheme is administered by the State, the Commonwealth’s participation being restricted to the provision of financial assistance.
This additional area, like the area presently being developed, has been the subject of an economic evaluation by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The Bureau has reported very favourably on the economic potential of the area and the Commonwealth has decided that the provision of financial assistance to the State to allow the development to proceed would bc fully justified. The assistance would be provided over the period extending up to 30th June 1975. It has been estimated that the existing limit of $14. 5m on Commonwealth financial assistance for the development currently under way would have to be increased to $23m to permit development of this new area.
The proposed plan of development for the new area is along lines generally similar to those adopted for the development of the areas covered by the existing Agreement, although the State has proposed one or two additional features that experience has suggested are desirable. One proposal is for the State to predevelop portion of the brigalow country on some holdings before they arc allotted to settlers, so that the blocks will have a carrying capacity of 400 to 500 head of cattle at the outset. This would enable the settler to earn income more quickly, and would also reduce the risk to the settler of a major setback due to poor pasture establishment or serious brigalow regrowth problems.
Finally I should like to express the Government’s confidence in the brigalow scheme and to record our belief that it will prove a notable success. Some problems have arisen in the operation of the scheme, but these have been mainly caused by the recent drought.
We are confident that the scheme remains a sound economic proposition which will make a worth-while contribution to northern development and to our export earnings from beef. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
- Mr President, this Bill is really a replica of previous measures that we have dealt with over the years. I think it is generally known that some officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation have devoted years of their service to investigating the worth of the brigalow lands for grazing and general farming. The area of Queensland that is covered with brigalow scrub is considerable. This Bill relates to only a small portion of it. There is a lands department in every State of the Commonwealth. The Lands Department in Queensland has very efficient officers who have surveyed the whole tract of country. They are able to say almost precisely what is a living area. They are also able to indicate to the holders of the land how the areas which they occupy can be put to the best use. Those who have travelled through the brigalow country and have seen it know that the first task of the holder of an area of brigalow land is to get the brigalow cleared. There are techniques now for clearing brigalow scrub from the land in such a way that it can be done hastily. On suitable occasions the trees and their foliage are destroyed by fire, and the area of land which has been cleared is sown with suitable grasses. It happens that after the brigalow trees have been destroyed growth which is known as suckers follows from the roots of the remaining brigalow stumps. The CSIRO working in conjunction with the officers of the Queensland Lands Department has ascertained that if the land can be grassed heavily for a period of twelve months that prevents the growth of suckers. That is valuable knowledge and it helps to create a sound economic position so far as the holders of the land are concerned.
The Commonwealth Government previously has made grants to assist the State Government. It is understandable that the Commonwealth Government has a financial interest in the settlement of these lands. If they are not settled, if people do not take them up and farm them or graze cattle or sheep on them, they remain in their present condition which is really a waste condition. I note from the second reading speech of the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) that it is proposed that more blocks will be made available in the future. Perhaps some of them will not be of the dimensions of previous blocks. I also note that there is to be an auction sale of some of the land. Of course this appeals to the Commonwealth Government and the State Government because people who are able to purchase a block of land at an auction usually are in a financial position to do the rest of the work associated with the development of the land. On the other hand, if applicants for land are prepared to allow their names to bc submitted to a ballot and they acquire an area of land in that way, it follows that they are not in a proper financial position to farm the land in a suitable way. Therefore they have to turn to some governmental body for assistance. Of course, if there is any money available from the Commonwealth Government in connection with these lands, these people turn their gaze towards that Government which is the chief financial authority in the Commonwealth.
I have travelled through this country and I happen to know what I am talking about. In a fair season the turnoff of cattle for slaughtering purposes is considerable. In some areas it would be possible to tarry on dairying. I know that certain brigalow country areas have been devoted to wheat growing. So the young man in Queensland who has had farming experience and who is prepared to work hard can undertake, with some confidence, settlement on one of these brigalow blocks. I have examined the Minister’s second reading speech in relation to the proposed legislation and I do not find fault with any part of it. My Party is satisfied with the Bill and does not wish to oppose it.
– In view of the circumstances ] shall not devote a great deal of lime to this Bill. First, I want to say that I am in complete agreement with practically everything Senator Benn said. I. commend both the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government for the co-operative work they have done on this matter. I must confess that in the early stages of the brigalow development scheme I had some doubts about the economies of the proposal because the capitalisation costs were so great that I. could not see a reasonable return within a reasonable period. Obviously I was not the best judge in that regard. I think one looks for judgment on the part of those who are prepared lo invest their hard-earned money in these projects.
The Minister told us in his second reading speech that the Bureau of Mineral Resources had made an evaluation of the next stage of development of the brigalow area and is confident of success. 1 have great respect for the Bureau. It has done splendid work over the years and I regard its judgment as being better than my judgment or the judgment of many others who know something about the area. Senator Benn referred to the work being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I believe that very few people in Queensland, or indeed in Australia recognise the tremendously valuable work that the CSIRO has done for the primary industries of Australia. I am very glad that Senator Benn referred to it. 1 have described the Organisation’s work on other occasions so I shall not restate it now although T could occupy the whole of the time allotted to me in this debate in doing so, and the speech would be to the advantage of anyone who cared to listen. However, I do not intend to do that. 1 have only two or three other comments to make. The Minister advised us in his speech that there has been a slight change in the proposal and that the settlers going on to these blocks will be able to stock to the extent of 400 or SOO head of cattle in the very early stages. This is ever so much more important than is generally realised, particularly, as Senator Benn also stated, as the problem of regrowth is extremely severe, not only in the brigalow area but also in most of our northern cattle areas, and even more so in the far northern areas of Queensland. The proposal whereby properties may be stocked up to. say, 500 head is splendid.
As we all probably know, brigalow belongs to the legume family. Therefore it has certain nitrogenous properties, or properties whereby it captures nitrogen from the air and enriches the soil. But it has not these properties in any large degree. The tropical legumes, on the other hand, have them to a tremendous degree. I think that one of the early mistakes right at the origin of this plan was that insufficient legume was planted in the pastures of the area and to the best of my knowledge this is now being rectified. I am very glad that there has been an increase from 25% to 30% in the number of blocks that are to be auctioned, because in my judgment the prices that have been brought at previous auctions have been excessively high. This move will help. My personal view is that an even greater increase would have been better, seeing that so much settling has been done in the area already.
I have tried to cut my remarks to the absolute minimum. I am delighted with the Bill. I am glad to know that agreement has been reached. 1 re-emphasise, because it cannot be said too often, that the whole of central and northern Queensland has been enriched beyond description by the CSIRO. This is something that should be recognised and never forgotten. The Organisation is continuing this work and has made further great progress even in the last twelve months. I pay an extremely high tribute to it because of this work. I am very happy indeed to support the Bill and to commend it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– 1 move -
That the Bill be now read a second time. lt is wilh much pleasure that I introduce this Bill, the purpose of which is to enable the Commonwealth to enter into agreements with the States for the provision of financial assistance which will be used for the purposes of expanding softwood plantings by the States. Honourable senators will recall that on 16th March last year my colleague Senator Anderson reported to the Senate that the Government had endorsed a recommendation by the Australian Forestry Council that Australia should expand its softwood plantation resources by an average of 75,000 acres a year during the next thirty-five years. The present target is a plantation resource of 3m acres at the turn of the century, by which time we must have the resources to support some 20m people, a conservative estimate of our expected population at that time.
The Government has agreed to finance additional planting by the States above a base year acreage for each State. The financial assistance approved by the Government will take the form of loans to be repaid over a period of thirty-five years. They will be free of interest and repayment instalments for the first ten years. The Government has promised finance for the first five years of the scheme and this is expected to cost the Commonwealth about $20m. Towards the end of the five years we will need to have another look at the programme and consider the question of further support for future plantings.
Following the statement to the Senate on 16th March 1966, Australian forestry, including this proposed programme, was thoroughly debated both in the Senate and in the House for the first time since federation. The discussion was conducted on a particularly high plane. There was general support for the programme. The main critical comments were that the proposed terms were not generous enough and that the Commonwealth had failed to take a more active part in resource development in Australian forestry at an earlier stage. 1 should point out that, in effect, the remission of interest for ten years is equivalent to a grant to the States of about 38% of final costs. Honourable senators will be aware that when the Constitution was adopted control of Crown lands in the States remained with the States. These State Crown lands include the greater part of Australian forest land of good quality. Apart from forests in Commonwealth Territories, the direct control of Australian forests is a State matter. lt recently became apparent that a national advisory body was necessary in the field of forestry. Approval for the establishment of an Australian Forestry Council was given by the Government in 1961. After discussions with the State Premiers, and preliminary exploratory meetings, the Prime Minister announced the formal establishment of the Council together with its structure and functions in July 1964. The Council comprises the Minister for National Development as Chairman, the Minister for Territories and the Ministers in charge of each of the six State forest services, lt is assisted by a Standing Committee of officers. The Council and Standing Committee have considered many aspects of the problems of Australian forestry and future requirements for forest products.
Before the Second World War the annual value of forest products consumed in Australia was about $60m, of which $40m resulted from industries based mainly on the native forests and $20m represented imports. The present annual value of forest products consumed is $700m. of which $500m represents products from our own forests and $200m from imports. Most of the imports are made from softwood which could be grown in Australian plantations, processed in our factories, transported over our road and rail systems, and distributed by our business houses.
I wish to stress the fact that products from industries based on our native and plantation forests have increased in value from $40m to S500m annually in a generation, and to assure honourable senators that the Forestry Council is not neglecting the many problems of our native forests. Much study is being put into them and more is needed to devise ways to improve their productivity. The Stale forest services have spent large sums of money on this work. Nevertheless, all States agreed that the first priority for a national programme should be to increase our resources of home grown softwood raw material.
Honourable senators should know that all States made a very significant effort to expand Australian softwood resources before approaching the Commonwealth for aid. Since 1962 they have increased the annual planting rate by 10,000 acres to a record level of about 29.000 acres in 1965, an increase of about 50% in three years. The States said there was a limit on the amount of money they could allocate to new plantings. They said that the base year acreages shown in the schedule to the proposed agreements represent this limit, taking into account the demands made by the necessity to give regeneration treatment to some 25 million acres of the better native forest. They also need to continue fire and other protection to perhaps another 100 million acres of other Crown lands. The provision of this Bill will permit the States to roughly double their base year acreage of softwood plantings. As can be seen from the schedule attached to the proposed agreements. New South Wales plantings are expected to increase from the base year acreage of 8,100 to 19,600 acres in the last year of this five-year programme: Victorian plantings are expected to expand from 6,000 acres to 12,000 acres; Queensland from 5.200 acres to 10.000 acres; South Australian from 4.500 acres to 6,000 acres; Western Australian from 3,000 acres to 6.000 acres: and Tramanian from 1,940 acres to 4,900 acres.
The financial assistance to be granted to any State in any single year will be a proportion of the total cost of new plantings incurred by the Stale in that year up to the acreage limit set by the agreement. The proportion will relate to the factor by which the acreage of new plantings exceeds the base year acreage. If a State doubles its base year acreage the Commonwealth will finance half the total cost. Subject to the Treasurer’s approval, the agreement provides that financial assistance for additional plantings will be available in respect of all normal planting costs incurred after 1st July 1966, including land clearing, road works, protection, tending the crop, and acquisition of land where necessary. The State Auditors-General will be required to report to the Treasurer concerning the correctness of State accounts and to certify that the moneys provided by the Commonwealth have been spent on planting. The foregoing are necessary protective provisions in legislation of this nature. - Provision is also included giving discretion to the Minister for National Development to approve carryovers from one year to another where he is of the opinion that it is appropriate to do so. This power gives flexibility to the arrangement. It will permit the carryover of shortfalls in plantings in one year to a later year, when conditions are more favourable to planting, or to use excess plantings in one year to make up for a shortfall in a later year. The Minister also has the right to request information, lt is proposed that advances will bc made to the States in anticipation of expenditure on programmed plantings. The Commonwealth acknowledges that this is necessary for the effective working of the scheme. The Stales are borrowing money for enterprises in which they have already had wide experience. The forest services will keep each other and the Commonwealth informed through the activities of the Forestry Council and the standing committee.
Following the announcement made in the Senate on 16th March 1966, the encouraging parliamentary discussions which followed, and a formal offer made by the Acting Prime Minister to the Premiers on 16th July 1966, the States have proceeded with the 1966-67 part of the programme. 1 am pleased to be able in inform honourable senators that between State plantings and plantings by private interests our softwood resources will be extended by nearly 60,000 acres in the current year, and our total softwood plantings will pass the 800,000 acre mark. We are well on our way to our present planned target of annual plantings of 75,000 acres. Efficient organisations have been built up in each State and success is assured if this financial support is given.
I have mentioned that the value of forest products consumed in Australia is now S700 million annually. At present each four-fifths of a cubic foot of log yields commodities worth one dollar. We have had wide experience with the trees that are being planted and know that the plantations will produce an average of at least 200 cubic feet per acre per year for future industry. Our target area of three million acres will therefore yield 600 million cubic feet of logs annually worth, at current values, around S750 million. It can be seen from these figures that the potential yield from these plantations alone will be sufficient to base an industry greater in size than our current forest products industry. In addition to their economic value, the plantations will be an important source of rural employment. The older softwood plantations in Australia already employ one man to each 30 to 50 acres which is a very high rate of employment for rural areas in this country. All Ministers on the Australian Forestry Council recognise the potential of the programme as an aid to employment in several difficult sections of our agricultural and grazing industries.
I believe that the measures proposed in this Bill will provide a unique opportunity for this Parliament to assist in the expansion of Australian forests which are renewable resources and yield raw materials from which a wide range of products is produced. It will be an historic act by the Commonwealth Parliament. It is breaking new ground. Not many of us here will reap the benefit which will accrue from this decision, but posterity will, I am sure, (hank us for our foresight. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition welcomes this measure. As indicated by the Leader of the Government (Senator Henty) when introducing the measure, this matter was fully discussed in March 1966. As he has also stated, the uniformity of viewpoint expressed then prevails now. I do not think there is any need to engage in any repetition of what was said then, but I do not think it can be emphasised too often thai as this country has such large arid areas it is essential that we make the maximum effort to develop and conserve the forests that we do have. T note that the Minister states that towards the end of the five year programme we will need to have another look at the matter and consider the question of further support for future plantings. 1 have in mind certain areas on the north coast of New South Wales where this industry could be developed. They are areas in which certain other rural industries are not proving to be as economically sound as they might appear to be on the surface. Possibly the Government has this in mind.
One very interesting aspect of this subject is the work of the Australian Forestry Council with the Minister for National Development as chairman. T feel that the time might not be far distant when the term national development’ will embrace conservation. Any layman who has attended seminars on conservation cannot help but be greatly impressed by the high degree of dedication displayed by those engaged in forestry work. There are occasions when those engaged in other professions have been rather impatient towards the layman, but I have never found anybody connected with forestry who has not been happy to go to great pains to explain fully the various ramifications of forestry work. I feel confident that this dedication will play a major role in making the programme we are adopting today a success.
There is one aspect that has not been explained as fully as I would have liked. I would not have raised it now except that when we were discussing the Supply Bill the Minister in charge of the Senate at that time did not give me a satisfactory answer. 1 refer to the question of fire protection. Now that we have an Australian Forestry Council with a Commonwealth Minister as chairman, perhaps something more will be done in this direction. I believe that the Commonwealth has to assume much greater responsibility in connection with fire fighting and protection against fire.
I would suggest that we can learn much from Canada’s experience in this work, for they have most efficient fire fighting methods over there. The Canadian Government is not backward in providing various kinds of aircraft for bush fire fighting. Honourable senators will recall that I asked a question on notice relating to the purchase from Canada of some CL2I5 amphibious fire bombers. I suggest that these should be purchased in the interests of the preservation of our forests. Various types of aircraft for fire fighting are operated by the provincial authorities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and one or two other provinces in Canada and I suggest that we should follow the;r example. Failure to obtain this type of equipment could mean that although our softwood target, might be achieved, some of our other limited forests could suffer severely.
I do nol say that the adoption of my proposal will mean that wc will be able to preserve our forests intact, but at least it would have the effect of reducing the number of bush fires that occur. Now that we are to have a Commonwealth Minister as chairman of the Australian Forestry Council, T do hope that the Government will do more than just adopt the casual attitude that it did towards the suggestion I put in what was question No. 99 on the notice paper. I want to see something more than a mere statement by the Minister that the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation had read a brochure on aviation expansion that was referred to in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’. T suggest that when an aviation expert like Mr Gregory Copley makes out a very strong case for this type of aircraft we should take note of his opinion. We know that in the not far distant future - or it may be the distant future - the Commonwealth Government will have to give mature consideration to the purchase of certain types of aircraft for our defence services. The expenditure necessary to purchase the CL215 amphibious fire bombers which I have suggested will be virtually chicken feed compared with the cost of the aircraft required for the defence services.
T conclude by saying that the Opposition welcomes this measure. We approach this question on a national basis free from any party differences. But we do insist that the Government is now faced with an added responsibility and the Minister has a particular and specific responsibility to give this Parliament an assurance that the Government will do more than adopt the casual attitude it did towards the suggestion I put in connection with the purchase of aircraft for fire fighting purposes. That type of attitude is nol good enough. I sincerely hope that in the future the Australian Forestry Council will accept responsibility to utilise aircraft to supplement the State’s efforts to protect our forests.
– Thu discussion on this Bill should not take very long because, as Senator Mulvihill has said, this issue has previously received general support from both sides of this chamber and both sides of the other place. I should like to reiterate a few points only to draw attention to the importance of forestry in Australia for I feel that the public interest is best served by bringing these issues to a head in a chamber such as this.
It ought to be said once again that of the great resources of raw material in the world, timber is one that is renewable. It can be regrown and recreated. It is not like coal, iron ore, or oil in that respect. Therefore it is most important for a young developing country such is we are, with the world ahead of it, to take note that if it is deficient, as we are, in forest resources, we can, with our own energy and efforts, do something about it. Indeed, this is what is happening here. Secondly, I think the example set here in the federal system of co-operation between Federal and State interests is capable of being carried much further. This is a very good example of how, in the federal system, we should manage Australia’s affairs in the interests of the Australian people by marshalling *.he best collection of human resources that we can assemble. Here we have the Federal and State governments acting together in the national interest, and what is being done here is really an example of what can be done in many other fields where the responsibilities are to some extent divided in the federal system. This example of setting up an Australian Forestry Council for the purposes of administering forestry works, is well worth emulating for other activities at a later dale.
What Senator Mulvihill said about conservation is indeed true. It is true of the problem, and it is true of the men who live in the world of conservation and of forestry. They are dedicated men. Their training is training with the long view in mind. Many of them will not see in their lifetime the fruits of what they are doing today. They are working for the future and they work in a most dedicated fashion. They are really good servants of the Australian people. I suggest that the conservation attitudes to soil, water, forestry and fauna could well be set together as intermingling in the sense of co-existence. This attitude is being encouraged and wc ought to support it.
I think the figures quoted by the Minister are worthy of note. He stated that the value of Australia’s production of timber in the prewar years was S60m whereas now it is $700m. This illustrates quite clearly just how fast the consumption of forest products is growing in Australia. This is part of the world pattern in the developing countries. We know from previous discussions just how much of these requirements is met from local resources, and just how great the deficiency would be, probably by the year 2000, were these local resources not augmented. This is why the proposal of the Commonwealth and the States to fill this gap with softwood plantations is, as I said before, worthy of support and indeed why it is receiving support. There is a further issue now that this one has been resolved. The present programme is really on the move and many of the States have increased their plantings. The target set out has been achieved, to date, and the plan to fill the gap with softwood plantings is well forward. 1 should like to mention one other matter. That is the need for a survey of the existing stands of native timbers. In fact this work is being taken in hand. What indeed are our true resources that are in the hands of the people at the moment? This is a necessary activity that I am sure the Forestry Council will embark on. We ought to know what are our true native forest resources, to what extent they are usable and to what extent they arc unusable. As honourable senators probably know, .ve have a national mapping programme. As part of that programme, it is possible to evaluate forest resources much more simply than hitherto. This is work that I am sure will proceed. It is important because we might well find with a proper evaluation and a national inventory of existing forest resources that we arc perhaps better off than we thought we were.
The point raised by Senator Mulvihill about the protection of forest stands is extremely important. There are two problems in the matter of protection. These are the problems of pest and fire. The problem of pests so far has been brought in many cases to native forest stands by sheer human neglect, by forests being continually burned to provide grass for grazing and also by the introduction of all sorts of opportunities leading to diseased timber stands. It is really a matter of obtaining a public consciousness of the importance of forest and timbers. In the time that I have been associated with the industry. I have seen a total change in its attitude. When I first came to the district in which the industry operated, every lute winter the whole of the ar;a would bc in flame and smoke as people burned the native forest stands. But one has not seen this happening in the last fifteen years. One does not see it happening now. So, this sort of public attitude is very much a part of the programme to control the problem of pests. The problem of the eradication of pests has also been taken in hand by the joint sirex wasp council of the Commonwealth and States. This is quite important. The introduction of pests from overseas is one of the things that can destroy forest reserves nearly as effectively as a fire.
– More effectively.
– Yes. Perhaps Senator Laught is correct when he says ‘more effectively’. I have had the misfortune of seeing in Tasmania and New Zealand total areas of forest destroyed completely by the wasp. It is a very depressing sight.
– lt has been arrested in Tasmania.
– The problem can be arrested by isolation only. The real arresting of the problem gets back to the prevention of the introduction of pests in any introduced wood, such as packing cases and things of that sort.
– The sirex wasp came in about 1948 or 1949 from Norway in some prefabricated housing packing cases.
– I think that the honourable senator is correct. The question of the problem of fire is one worthy of much more study. First of all. one of the problems of fire is the irresponsible person who lights a fire for a variety of reasons. Some people light fires through carelessness. Some people allow fires to develop out of the residue of picnic fires. Some people light fires out of neglect. Some people still light fires to produce some grazing in the summer time after winter. A public education programme is required to overcome this problem. I think it is fair to say that we should be doing and that we will need to do more than we are doing at the present singe. 1 turn now to tha question of fire control by aeroplane. This is an American technique. ft has been fairly well developed. What I want to say to I he Senate is this: I do not think it is correct to say that the Commonwealth is not taking enough interest in the matter. The Forestry and Timber Bureau works on fire protection in native and planted forests. That work is carried out very carefully and most assiduously. Techniques have been developed for the control of major fires. These techniques so far have not been proved ineffective. But new methods are being evaluated. One of these new methods was suggested by Senator Mulvihill. For my part. I prefer to leave this problem to the technical people. But I do give to the Senate this illustration as a case in point.
I refer to what is called a bad blow up day. This is a day of hot. dry winds the velocity of which is above a certain level. I think it is 60 miles an hour. These winds do occur. Unless a fire that commences in those circumstances can be stopped in half an hour, it cannot be stopped at all. That is the programme. The technique that I wish to describe to the Senate regarding the circumstances I have outlined is along these lines: when the weather turns and a point of danger is apparent - signals come for high winds - the forestry control people are in the forest before daybreak. They man their lookout towers. They have water wagons and tenders. Patrols are manned. As soon as a wisp of smoke is recorded it is triangulated on the watch towers. It is pinpointed. As long as the fire fighters can reach the fire within half an hour, it can be controlled. If they cannot reach the fire in that time and it is a bad blow up day, it is nearly impossible to control the fire.
The time interval is not great when we remember that a softwood forest is very heavily roaded. The forest is roaded before planting is begun. The roading is laid down on the basis of involving the most economical programme of extractions when the forest is due for harvesting. The accessibility to any point of danger in softwood forests is of a very high order. When we remember that fire control officers are in the forest at daybreak with their water wagons and tenders and when we consider the whole of the lookout system and the way that it works, I think we can say that it is likely that the present technique will enable the fire fighters to be at the site of the fire about as fast as an aeroplane could be there.
Some case can be made out for water dumping from aeroplanes. But we must bear in mind the diversity of the Australian forest stands and the necessity that would arise for aerodrome construction. Also there is still the problem of the signal from the fire fighter on watch to the aeroplane and the time that it takes the aeroplane to reach the fire. I would leave the matter up to the responsible Commonwealth and State authorities in charge of fire control who are very carefully on this job. Indeed they are more conscious than we are of what losses would result from a major fire disaster.
– In addition to the water dumping technique, the Americans are expanding the use of various types of chemical bombs.
– That is correct. But 1 do assure Senator Mulvihill that from my own knowledge this work is carried out carefully and thoroughly and the techniques are up to date. 1 know officers who have been overseas on study programmes to find out what is going on regarding these matters.
I want to add one or two further points. 1 wish once again to mount that old hobby horse of mine. I wish to make out an argument again for an overall examination of Australian supplies of wood. There is a growing condition of world wood shortage. This is quite apparent. Figures can be produced to demonstrate that fact on a later occasion. A country such as Australia, with all the favourable land for developing forests that it has, ought to consider quite seriously growing wood for export in addition to growing wood as a matter of economic self-sufficiency. One day. in view of the growing world shortage of wood, this could be an extremely valuable crop for Australia. 1 wish to illustrate this as quickly as I can. In any of the Scandinavian countries - half the economies of those countries are based on the forestry industries - a tree with a diameter about the size of my hand has taken something like thirty-five years to grow. Australian softwood forests will produce a tree of the same diameter in ten years. Australia’s capacity’ to grow wood of a high quality quickly is very high indeed. 1 make the observation that we ought to consider as time goes on, and even in the next stage of the work of the Forestry Council, that Australia should grow wood for potential export?
– Does the honourable senator mean the fast growing species?
– I mean the radial.,s the poplars and the other fast growing species. Here, I think, an additional case can be generated for the point that Senator Laught has often raised here. This is the importance of private forestries and the importance of encouraging people who are land owners to establish forests by providing some form of taxation rebate or some form of probate concession. This should he done to lead to the establishment of plantations as such in many of the farmland areas of Australia. This would be done with the view that it might cost not so much to Jo now and that later it could be valuable to the owners but an aggregation of all these both in private and government hands could produce resources one day for export. There is a further set of figures in this regard that is very interesting. This can be produced later. It has been shown in some of the colder areas of Europe, where the climatic conditions are rather like some of the areas of Australia and where forests arc planted, thai the planting of farm shelter belts to the extent of 10% of the total farm area not only does not decrease the carrying capacity and the crop capacity but actually increases it and the shelter as such allows the crops to grow much better and the livestock to prosper. One can allocate about 10% of the farm in the climatic areas I am speaking of and still have no loss of productivity in respect of the livestock or crops. It could well be, if a case for the growing of timber for export can be demonstrated - and this needs careful examination, which would be worthwhile - we might have here in the wet lands an alternative land use for some of the dairying areas that have produced problems.
I commend the Government for introducing this legislation, the presentation of which has been a great personal satisfaction and delight to me. I commend the Opposition in both Houses for the support it has given to this measure, and I commend all honourable senators on the part they have played in this debate and on the high plane on which the matter has been debated.
– During World War II Hermann Goering said that the timber industry was the third most important economic industry in Garmany. I believe that that would apply throughout the world even today. This Bill was debated on a statement by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) some seven or eight months ago. It was a lengthy debate during which most aspects of this measure were fully discussed. However, I should like to mention one or two points from my own State’s viewpoint in respect of the $20m that will be made available. It is expected that Victoria W’ use about $2.9m on the planting that is necessary. I congratulate the Government upon making the statement so many months ago because it has enabled the States to commence the work that must be undertaken. Tt requires about three or four years planning before effective use can be made of the finance available. It must be remembered that roading, fire protection, clearing and the purchase of land to enable this work to lake place all take a number of years.
I draw the Government’s attention to the fact that there are some difficulties between State and Federal relationships in the matter of accounting and production periods,, and
I nsk that some consideration be given to what is a calendar year in the Slates and what may be a planting year in the States. This matter requires explanation. I invite attention, also, to the difficulties that some States are having in the field of research. 1 make this my main plea to the Government - that having decided that some $20m should be made available for lnc expansion of forestry in the States, perhaps the most important problem that we have to face now is insufficient research in forestry. Great problems arise from the biological balance that may be found in the forest, from the necessity to attack disease which is very prevalent in forest stands, the growth of fungi, the problems of logging, fire protection which was mentioned by Senator Cotton, and the very important factor of water use in forest areas.
My main purpose during this speech is to suggest that while we apply the $20m offered to the States with the aim of having this country, if possible, self sufficient at the end of this century, I believe there is a new factor that should suggest itself to us; that is, if we undertake adequate research in the next few years we may halve the time it takes to become self sufficient. Tn some nurseries - indeed in the Victorian Forestry Commission nursery at Mount Macedon - early experiments have shown that by the use of a new and very little known fertiliser, deposited beneath the tree when it is first planted, an enormous increase in the growth of the tree is noted within the first year or two. I put to the Minister that some consideration could bc given perhaps to making available to the States an amount to generate an increase in research. The Senate has recently debated a Bill the purpose of which is to encourage research in industry, and I submit that research into the growing of timber in this country also requires our prompt attention. If it is believed that $20m should be devoted to the generation of forests, I suggest that we could apply some millions of dollars to more adequate research into modern fertilisers and the possibility of their generating growth over and above the normal growth. Research might reveal that the growth rate of trees could be increased in this way by 50%. This is a most important matter that should receive our attention immediately because the acceleration of the growth rate of trees is something which in the next few years will prove one of the most important factors in the forestry industry in Australia.
– J wish to say a few words on this most important question but, firstly, I compliment all the senators who have already taken part in this debate, especially Senator Mulvihill who expressed the Opposition’s unqualified blessing to the measure. The Government has been very wise in following up the plans it laid down in the paper that was adopted by the Senate about six or eight months ago. I congratulate, also, the forestry Ministers of the Stales and our own Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) and our Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) upon virtually coming to agreement. I do not wish to say anything more about the financial aspects of this measure, but suffice it to say thai I thoroughly approve of them. The repayment arrangements, with the repayment of interest and the delay in the first repayments of capital and loans, are very well worked out.
Another example of the splendid co-operation in the field of forestry has been shown by the joint committee on the eradication of the sirex wasp. Honourable senators will recall that some years ago the threat of the sirex wasp to the timber industry was debated, and that, on that occasion Senator Wade, as Minister for Health, played a most significant part in organising the Sirex Wasp Fund and obtaining co-operation and contributions from the States. At that time it was greatly feared that the sirex wasp would spread throughout the industry, but that has not taken place because the area of infestation has been contained. We in South Australia are particularly grateful to the Commonwealth for its early activity in this matter. [ wish to place that fact on record and to compliment the Ministers for Health of all the States and the Commonwealth, for the contributions of the States added to those of the Commonwealth in this great campaign have been so successful to date.
Senator Webster mentioned research, and I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Australian National University has recently expanded greatly into the realm of forestry, lt now has a Professor of Forestry and quite a depart- ment has been developed and is doing excellent work. As honourable senators know, the Australian National University is one of the foremost research universities in Australia and I have no doubt that in the very near future important research work will be going on at this university in relation to matters affecting forestry.
To mention briefly the importance of forestry lo the community, the forestry industry employs about one person for every thirty to forty acres. In a country like Australia, where efforts are being made to decentralise the population, this industry presents an excellent opportunity for achieving this purpose. In South Australia for a very long time we have been producing softwood timber, especially in the south east portion of the State, where one can find decentralised communities of 300 or 400 people living in very modern homes, with splendid education facilities for their children, right in the heart of the forests. The homes have electricity, television and every available modern amenity. I contend that probably no industry in Australia is playing a greater part in the decentralisation of the Australian population than is forestry. Therefore, I commend the Government in its wisdom in pushing this idea that extra plantings of softwoods should be encouraged. I concur entirely in Senator Cotton’s remarks about the importance of forestry in terms of the production of timber for the use of the Australian people and also in terms of an export trade in timber.
T reiterate - this is perhaps the third or fourth lime that I have said this in the Senate and I say it now with greater emphasis than ever before - that the Government is doing great things for government forestry enterprises, but private forestry enterprises also need consideration by governments, and it is high time they received it. T mention first the matter of income tax. Admittedly, over the last four years, this Government, by the use of the depreciation provisions in the income tax law, has made it more feasible for forestry companies to claim adequate deductions. But I stress the importance of forestry on the properties of individual farmers and graziers. Senator Cotton has pointed out the importance of growing trees to provide shelter for stock and crops. I believe that forestry plantings ought to be encouraged for this reason as well as to provide an export crop. I believe that one way to encourage such plantings is to improve the tax law as it applies to these operations. Broadly, the law provides that receipts from the sale of the product shall be included as income in the vendor’s tax return for the year in which the product is sold. It is generally known that the milling of softwood timber does not begin until fifteen years after the trees have been planted, then thinning is undertaken. The mature trees are not milled until, say, thirty years after planting. So, in the fifteenth and the thirtieth years after planting, a farmer will have an abnormally high income for the year. In those two years he may pay tax at the rate of 8s, 10s or even 1 2s in the £1 .
– He is allowed to average his income over five years.
– That is so, admittedly, but that relates only to the rate of tax. Although the averaging provisions may result in the rate being a little less, a particularly high income in any year could be of tremendous disadvantage to a farmer. I answer the Minister by saying that in South Australia a number of farmers and graziers are rather reluctant to plant softwoods, though they could well plant many acres, because of the tax impact in the fifteenth and the thirtieth years after planting, when timber would be milled. This is a very real problem and I urge the Government to make a close study of it.
Lastly, I invite the Government’s attention to the problem of estate duty, which has a direct bearing on forestry lands owned by individuals. When a farmer dies the value of trees in growth has to be included in the estate. Under the valuing method adopted they assume a pretty high value. Estate duty is payable within six months of death, but the trees may not be economically milled for another fifteen or twenty years. This means that the Government receives estate duty on the market value of the trees long before that market value is attained.
– Does not the Canadian Government, on an annual basis, pay a subsidy to land owners on the prairies to protect or provide wet lands for ducks, geese and the like?
-I do not know the Canadian law as it relates to ducks and geese, but I do know that in New Zealand estate duty on the increased value of land attributed to the presence of growing timber is virtually waived. I ask the Government to consider seriously the question of estate duty in conjunction with the income tax problem and in co-operation with the State authorities responsible for the collection of succession duty and death duty. If relief could be given, a great service would be done to this country by the removal of a present bar to the planting of softwoods on farms and grazing properties. Some relief in this direction would be of great importanceto Australia as a whole and particularly to the development of forestry. In conclusion, I congratulate the Government on what it is doing in the public sector of forestry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henly) read a first time.
Senator HENTY (Tasmania - Minister for
Supply) [11.39]- I move:
This Bill aims to continue to encourage the search for petroleum in Australia and Papua and New Guinea and on their continental shelves by extending the period of operation of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act which was originally introduced in the Senate in August 1959. That Act as amended in 1961 and 1964 has resulted in a significant increase in geophysical surveys and drilling by oil exploration companies. This exploration effort has had some success. It resulted in significant discoveries of oil and gas - oil at Moonie, Alton, and Barrow Island, and gas at Roma, Gidgealpa, Gippsland shelf, Gilmore, Amadeus Basin and Gin Gin. In some cases, for example, Moonie, Alton and Barrow Island, production is already established.
The search is now entering a new stage. Onshore, more specific geological targets are being investigated. Offshore, five or six mobile rigs will bc operating on our continental shelf before the end of the year and platforms are planned on the Marlin and Barracouta fields for development drilling and for subsequent production from these important discoveries. More work will be needed before all the present discoveries are fully evaluated. The Government feels that, as the production potential of the probable oil reserves already established will supply only about 10% of our current needs in oil, there is still a real need to encourage active exploration. Current exploration may reveal large reserves of oil and indeed everyone would hope that this proves to be the case. If this happens the need for subsidy would disappear. In any case the Government will keep the situation under constant review and will be watching the results of exploration with keen interest.
The amended Act will extend the operation of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959-1964 for twelve months, so that operations completed before 30th June 1969 may qualify for subsidy. Subsidy is payable out of moneys appropriated by Parliament for the purpose of this Act. The amount appropriated for 1966-67 is $ 1 1 .900,000 and on the indications of the size of the exploration effort a comparable amount will be required in 1967-68. Subsidy liabilities are carried forward in respect of approved operations so that there is no break in the continuity of the scheme but this means that appropriations will bc necessary for perhaps two years after approvals cease. Since exploration started, about $60m has been paid or committed by the Commonwealth in subsidies, and in addition $250m has been spent by companies and governments on oil exploration on the mainland of Australia. In very rounded terms this expenditure has established assets worth about $400m in the case of oil, plus about $500m for natural gas.
By ils actions in establishing the petroleum search subsidy scheme, in providing for the basic geological and geophysical investigations by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, and by taxation concessions to investors in oil exploration companies and to the companies them selves, the Government has continued to affirm the importance of finding an adequate supply of indigenous oil. This Bill aims to continue the task of assisting exploration at what could be a critical stage in the whole history of petroleum exploration, f commend the Bill to the favourable consideration of the Senate.
– The Australian Labor Party will not oppose the Petroleum Search Subsidy Bill. It is important legislation and I do not think that it should be Jet pass without some comment, but I will be very short in what I have to say in respect of it. Following the Tariff Board’s inquiry into the oil industry, there have been several complaints about the high price that the refinery people have to pay for Australian oil. 1 commend the Government for adding to the Tariff Board’s determination the amount that it did in order to protect and foster the exploration industry in Australia. I think it was a very wise move. T do not think that any of these oil refining companies will go broke because they have to assist the industry.
The oil that is being presently recovered from Barrow Island is of such a high standard that it is fed straight from the drill hole into the furnaces for the production of power. It is fed straight into the heaters in the kitchen that is used to prepare meals for the workers who are employed on the Island. The oil requires no refining or processing whatsoever. It can be used in its crude form, lt has a very high petroleum content. 1 think that BP Australia Ltd at Kwinana is squealing too much when it claims that, because it is forced to use Barrow Island oil for refining, its profits are down. After all, it did not get its first oil from Barrow Island until approximately the middle of April of this year. It is hard io say what effect that would have had on the profit and loss account when we know that the ‘P. J. Adams’, which is the ship that carried the oil down, has a capacity of approximately 250,000 barrels and that the refinery al Kwinana is capable of refining, and in fact has refined, 3 million tons of crude oil each year.
I will not be critical of the Government’s policy in all respects. 1 have great, admiration for the persistence and tenacity of
Western Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd - commonly called Wapet - in continuing its search for a fourteen year period from 1953. It first struck oil in October 1953, and it was years before it discovered anymore oil. Eventually Wapet was able to recover oil from Barrow Island, but under the Government’s policy, four-ninths of the area had to be surrendered to the Government to be put out for tender by other people. I think that the Western Australian Government should be commended for returning this four-ninths to Wapet as a reward for its persistence and tenacity in trying to find oil in Western Australia.
However, this does not mean that agree with all that the Western Australian Government has done in respect of oil search in that State. If one takes the trouble to look at the potential oil bearing areas in Western Australia one finds that at least 95% of those areas are under the control of Wapet. This, to my mind, has had an inhibiting effect on the search for oil inasmuch as over this large area, practically from Wyndham around to Esperance, down the coast, both offshore and onshore, only one large company has been allowed to operate in this area. It is true that in the last couple of years Wapet has farmed out a quite considerable amount of these areas. There are three farm out operators operating in Wapet territory. But this has happened only in the last, couple of years. I believe that, if the area had been broken up a little more, the search for oil would have been intensified.
Having said that about Wapet, I am not satisfied that the Government was justified in returning four-ninths of the offshore petroleum area in Victoria to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and the Esso Exploration Australia Incorporated group. These companies were very lucky. I do not wish to detract from their effort but they dropped, almost, onto a very large field of gas and oil. Their capital expenditure in the search for oil, particularly in this area, must bc very small when compared with the rewards that they will gather from the area, even though we know that offshore drilling rigs are more expensive than onshore drilling rigs and that offshore drilling is much more expensive and much slower than onshore drilling. Nevertheless they have been very lucky to get this oil and gas in such a short time. I do not think the Government was justified in returning the four-ninths to these people in return for an increase of 1% in the royalty. I think the Australian public was entitled to a better share than that.
In his second reading speech the Minister said:
Since exploration started, about $60m has been paid or committed by the Commonwealth in subsidies, and in addition S250m has been spent by companies and governments on oil exploration on the mainland of Australia.
In round figures, the Commonwealth’s subsidy to the oil search interests represents something like 25% of the investment, yet when oil or gas is found as a result of the assistance given by the Government the Australian people have no equity in it. The Australian people also have a claim to a further share in the benefits from oil and gas discoveries by virtue of the fact that they forego taxation receipts on money invested in oil exploration.
– The honourable senator does not believe in this?
– I do not criticise it. All I say is that if public money is invested the Australian people should be shareholders in that investment. 1 am not critical of the legislation. 1 think it is good legislation, but 1 think the Commonwealth should be protecting the interests of the Australian public to a greater extent than it does by at present requiring a company, after it goes into production, to return the amount of subsidy it has received from the Commonwealth. I am not sure, but I think 1 am fairly correct in saying that the subsidy which is subsequently returned does not bear interest whereas money loaned by the Commonwealth to a State or a State instrumentality carries interest. Public funds invested in this industry carry no interest. That is a matter that the Commonwealth Government might review.
It is rather remarkable that Commonwealth investment on behalf of the people of Australia runs at roughly 25% of the expenditure on the search for oil. I do not go back to the dim and distant ages because the search for oil in Australia really commenced in 1953, fourteen years ago, when Wapet commenced to drill in the Exmouth Gulf area but the subsidy scheme did not commence until 1959. As 1 have said, public investment since 1959 represents approximately 25% of expenditure in this industry.
For the reasons .1 have stated, the Australian Labor Party will not oppose the legislation but we ask the Government to note what we have said in respect of Australian investment in this industry.
– I congratulate the Government for bringing down the Petroleum Search Subsidy Bill which provides for a continuance of the subsidy for a further twelve months so that operations completed before 30th June 1969 will qualify for subsidy. The subsidy is being extended for only twelve months so that the Government can consider other forms of encouragement to the industry. 1 have decided to enter the debate because certain statements made by Senator Cant in relation to oil exploration in Australia require close examination.
Senator Cant represents one of our major Stales and therefore he has a decided view on the search for oil in Australia. He believes that the Government, by its policies, is taking away from the Australian people their right to a share in the oil industry when a company finds oil. He mentioned the graticule system by which an area is divided into nine parts of approximately 5 miles by 5 miles each. The company finding oil is entitled to retain five of the nine parts and the remaining four paris are sold at auction, the revenue received being paid to the State Government concerned. This is all very interesting.
The honourable senator is fully acquainted with mining. He has spent a large part of his life in mining, and the search for oil is a mining venture. I do not know whether he can mention any other mineral which would be treated in the same way. If a company found gold, lead, zinc or copper at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, for instance, it would be entitled to peg the whole of the area and retain it. The honourable senator is suggesting that if a company wishes to spend a large sum searching for a mineral deposit, and finds it, four-fifths of the value of the mineral produced should be sold by auction or by tender so that the State concerned or the Commonwealth may receive some revenue. Then he went on to say that at present the Australian people do not benefit at all when a company locates and exploits oil in Australia.
– I did not say ‘at all’.
– That is what the honourable senator said and that is what he meant. That is the point 1 want to take up with him. Let us examine the matter closely. A company finding oil in Australia must first be registered in Australia, lt must pay a royalty of 10% of the value of every gallon of crude oil that is found. Having paid the 10%, the company is then committed to pay, at the present rate. 42 i% of its net profits by way of company tax. This means that the Australian taxpayer participates in the result of that company’s activities to the extent of over 50%. The Australian people benefit by the mere finding of oil in Australia, even if nol directly as the honourable senator has mentioned.
The Government may be justly proud of the way it has endeavoured to promote the search for oil in Australia. The result now is that over $60m has been provided by the Commonwealth for the encouragement of oil search in Australia and its territories. We have found oil and gas to the approximate value of SI. 000m. This is a good investment, particularly when we consider the export income that is saved by having oil in Australia. I repeat that wc have located areas which will produce sufficient oil to meet 10% of our requirements. Other large areas will no doubt bc found and developed in the immediate future. Realising that this was a very important subject, I thought that I should say something about it. Having put straight the matter that the honourable senator raised, I conclude by congratulating the Government and thanking it for the very sympathetic treatment that it has meted out to the oil industry in Australia in the last decade.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
J will not take up the time of the Senate in repealing at length the second reading speech made previously on this Bill, which sei out in detail the proposed charges and their effect. 1 do propose to clarify some aspects which have been subject to distortion in an attempt to cloud the issue. I thought 1 had made it very clear in my second reading speech that I was informing the Senate fully on all the changes which were proposed, including those which would be covered by regulations and administrative action rather than by the Act. Some honourable senators, sections of the Press, and perhaps some of the public, seem to have assumed, quite wrongly of course, that all the charges included in the statement attached to the second reading speech were covered by the Bill.
The intention was to give honourable senators as much information as possible so that they would see clearly what we were proposing to do in the matter, lt is perfectly clear and open to no doubt whatsoever that, where the Act does not authorise amendment of charges by regulation or administrative action, then those charges can be adjusted only by the Act. On the other hand, where we are authorised in the Act to use regulations or administrative action to adjust charges, we propose to take action in this way. This is quite normal and a continuation of the practice which has been applied many times in the past.
However, because of the confusion which seems to exist on the matter, I repeat that, if it is necessary to bring down a rates Bill, it is obviously not possible to apply the charges contained in it by regulation if the Bill is rejected. Telephone charges, external postage rates and fees for money and postal orders can be covered by regulation or by administrative act. However, internal postal charges and rates for telegrams can be varied only by the approval of the Bill by the Parliament. Therefore, I am bringing these proposals back to the Senate so that honourable senators may have the opportunity to reflect and re-consider their previous attitude on the Bill.
The facts are simple. If the adjustments were to be associated with the Budget and the proposals in this Bill introduced from the 1st October, we would lose upwards of $7m in revenue, which would have to he made good in some other way. The matter of interest and the amount of capital on which it is charged have been referred to frequently in recent debates. Some honourable senators and sections of the Press appear to believe that, because the Post Office is receiving $206m for capital works in 1966-67. it will have to pay interest on this additional amount. This is by no means the case as the expenditure on assets in any year is reduced by the provision for depreciation and any net profit to arrive at the net advances on which interest is to be paid to the Treasury.
If honourable senators look at the Financial and Statistical Bulletin they will see that in 1965-66 total expenditure on fixed assets was $207m, but the increase in the advances on which interest was paid was only $138m. The difference is accounted for by depreciation provision of $69m and, had there been a profit in 1965-66. this also would have been deducted from the asset expenditure for purposes of assessing interest.
On the general question of interest 1 would remind honourable senators that interest has always been paid on loan funds provided for Post Office capital works, indeed, up till 1942 this was almost the only source of such funds. Since 1942 new advances have been provided from consolidated revenue and in 1953 the Public Accounts Committee drew particular attention to the fact that no interest was being paid by the Post Office on most of its capital investments. In fact, it said that the present basis of charges for interest on capital in the commercial accounts of the Postmaster-General’s Department has long been anomalous’. It went on to suggest that a review should proceed expeditiously.
The Government took up this suggestion and referred the question, together with other matters affecting the finances and accounts of the Post Office, to an ad hoc committee comprising three persons from outside the Public Service and two senior public servants. These five people came to the unanimous conclusion that interest should be charged and the Government has simply applied the recommendation of the committee. If interest was not charged and, in effect, received from the people who use Post Office services, the equivalent amounts would have to be provided from extra taxation.
Interest charges are paid by a number of business undertakings operated by the Commonwealth and dividends are paid by others. I do not believe there is any real difference between interest paid by the Post Office and dividends paid by the Australian National Airlines Commission, Qantas Empire Airways Limited or other companies which are completely Commonwealth owned. These Commonwealth business undertakings which pay a dividend or interest - indeed some of them pay taxes - include the Post Office, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. the Australian National Line, the Snowy Mountains Authority, the Government Printer and the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority. In 1965-66 an amount of $94m was paid by these authorities and, but for this, taxation would have had to be increased very substantially. 1 do not understand how we could support a propostion that an organisation such as Qantas should not be required to pay interest on the money used for the purchase of aircraft or for other purposes and that the relatively small proportion of Australians who travel overseas by air should be exempted from paying the full cost of a service they are using.
Yet honourable senators opposite are suggesting that those who use the Post Office should not pay the full cost of its services and that the balance should be made up from taxation. If we applied their suggestions to all Commonwealth undertakings, the Treasury would lose $94m and the only other source front which compensating revenue could bc obtained would bc taxation. In the year 1965-66 this amount of $94m would have represented an increase of 51% in individual taxation, or a 5.5c in the SI increase in company taxation, or a 25% rise in sales lax, or nearly a 60% rise in payroll tax, or a 9% increase in customs and excise. Do honourable senators opposite believe that we should adopt this course rather than ask the people who use the service to pay for it?
Much has been made of the fact that these increases have been brought in to apply from 1st July, a date which will precede the introduction of the Budget. If we go back to June 1949, we will find that a Labor Postmaster-General introduced a Bill to increase postal charges from 1st July that year and that many other charges were introduced by regulation or administrative act from the same date. These charges were quite substantial and, in relation to yearly revenue at the time, were actually slightly higher than the increases now proposed. I cannot see how the Labor Party, which followed the same course in 1949 as we are following today, can argue that the increases we now propose should be introduced as a Budget measure on this occasion. The 1949 Bill of course, had the full support of Mr Chifley, who was regarded by honourable senators opposite as one of the most outstanding financial brains in Australian public life. Yet honourable senators last week seemed to have abandoned completely the principles which were applied by a Labor Government under his leadership in 1949.
The rejection of the Bill by the Labor Party, in association with the Democratic Labor Party, has broken its principles and the decision to do so has been taken purely on the basis of political expediency. But in doing so the Australian Labor Party has abrogated its leadership to the Democratic Labor Party. The rejection was initiated not by the Australian Labor Party but by the Democratic Labor Parly. The Australian Labor Party keeps saying that it has no time for the Democratic Labor Party, yet it accepts Democratic Labor Parly leadership in seeking to defeat something which is essential to the interests of the Australian people.
There has also been criticism of Post Office efficiency. This criticism is most unjust and reflects unfairly on tens of thousands of men and women who are doing a fine job for the community. 1 remind the Senate of the comments about the efficiency of the Post Office which I made on an earlier occasion. I do not need to develop them to any extent. I am not suggesting that the staff of the Post Office does not make mistakes or that we can find 100% efficiency everywhere, but the record of improved productivity and of service speaks for itself. I do not propose to quote too many figures on efficiency, but there is no doubt that a rise of only 10% in the number of people employed on postal services to handle a growth of 31% in traffic over the last six years is evidence of efficiency. Last year postal output rose by 4.1%, with an increase of only 1.8% in the number of employees. Do these figures suggest that there is inefficiency?
There has been no increase in the postal charges covered by this Bill since 1959 and it would be difficult, if not impossible, lo find any other business organisation in Australia which has not found it necessary to increase charges for its goods and services substantially during that period. The proposed increases are by no means excessive when we look at the general background of cost and price rises during the period since 1959. Only recently the Australian Women’s Weekly’ and the Woman’s Day’ increased their charges by 50% - from 10c to 15c - and one of these publications at least referred to the increase as moderate. Although telephone charges are not covered by this Bill - I emphasise that - my second reading speech and the attached statements did give honourable senators very full information on our proposals. The public demand for these services is growing rapidly and the provision of facilities to meet this demand is essential to continued expansion of industry and commerce and the growth of the community not only in the capital cities and on the eastern seaboard but throughout Australia.
The Treasury has been quite generous in recent years in the provision of new capital for the Post Office. In fact, the appropriation for capital works has been increased from SI 37m in 1963-64 to S206m this financial year. All loan raisings made by the Commonwealth go to the State governments and the capital expenditure of the Post Office, like that of other Commonwealth undertakings, is met from Consolidated Revenue. How could we reasonably expect the Treasury to go on year after year appropriating greatly increased amounts for Post Office capital works from the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth without some action being taken to reduce the strain on the Commonwealth Budget? Since the Post Office must obtain increased capital to meet public needs, it is by no means unreasonable to expect the people who use its services and are demanding expansion of its facilities to make some contribution towards the expense. The proposals to increase charges are an attempt to help the Post Office to provide from its financial resources some of the means of meeting the ever increasing demands by the community for postal and telecommunications services.
If honourable senators opposite reject the Bill they will accept a heavy responsibility in so doing. In common with other members of this Parliament, they make many representations for expanded and improved Post Office services and, if they reject this Bill, they will make these demands more difficult to be met. I hope that honourable senators opposite will now realise the importance of this Bill and the full implications of the stand that they took previously on the matter. The simple facts are that, from the moment the Bill was introduced in another place, the Government has at all times been completely frank as to its intentions and has endeavoured to inform the Parliament, the Press and the public of what it proposes to do and why.
I am confident that, once the public understands fully that we are increasing charges merely to cover costs and to give us the means of providing expanded and improved postal and telecommunications services, they will give us their full support and the temporary electoral advantage that honourable senators opposite are hoping to gain will not materialise. I suggest to them that they should take stock of the situation and appreciate that we are not playing politics but acting in the interests of the Australian community. To do otherwise would be to deprive a great department of the opportunity of getting on with the job and at the same time to penalise the Australian taxpayer. I hope the honourable senators opposite will join with us in passing this Bill so that the Post Office can press on towards its objectives.
– The Opposition will oppose this Bill. It has been brought in for the second time. Instead of being accompanied by a second reading speech endeavouring to justify the increased charges contained in it, all the accompanying speech contains is a diatribe of complaints about the Opposition in an endeavour to make as much political capital as possible out of the way in which the Opposition co-operated with the Democratic Labor Party to defeat the Bill on the last occasion.
– That was one sentence in a long speech.
– Yes, and it was a sentence that could well have been left out. This Bill is being defeated - I expect that it will be defeated - because the Opposition is opposed to it. We are the Opposition. If we were not opposed to it, it would be passed. Because we choose to oppose it and because other honourable senators support us, it is rejected.
Let there be no nonsense about what the Opposition is doing. Everyone in this chamber knows that we take our decisions after deliberation. We are not in a position, immediately something is announced, to say what our course will be. We conduct our proceedings with deliberation. We considered this matter with great deliberation. After deliberation with our colleagues in the other chamber, we chose to oppose the measure on the first occasion and to oppose it. when it was presented a second time, which is what is being done now.
The kernel of the matter is whether the increased charges are warranted. One has only to examine the statement made here today to see that they are not warranted. The Minister has said:
If interest was not charged and, in effect, received from the people who use Post Office services, the equivalent amounts would have to be provided from extra taxation. . . . honourable senators opposite are suggesting that those who use the Post Office should not. pay the full cost of ils services and thai the balance should be made up from taxation. . . . How could we reasonably expect the Treasury to go on year after year appropriating greatly increased amounts for Post Office capital worts from the consolidated revenue of the Commonwealth without some action being taken to reduce the strain on the Commonwealth budget?
Since the Post Office must obtain increased capital to meet public needs, it is by no means unreasonable to expect the people who use its services and are demanding expansion of its facilities to make some contribution towards the expense.
That is the nub of the matter. Should the people who have contributed, by way of taxation and from other sources, to Commonwealth revenue have to pay interest on the funds which are being used by the Post
Office? We say, no. It is absurd to say that the people should have to pay interest on their own money. The Commonwealth raises this money from the people. It is using the money in a public instrumentality and we say that the profit which the Post Office is making should not be turned into a loss by charging the Post Office interest on the people’s own money. It is as simple as that.
– The Government does not pay interest on the money it is lending to the Post Office to the people from whom it gol the money.
– That is so. If the interest were not charged the Post Office would be making a profit, lt would bc able to buy the necessary equipment and so on. As it is, by a bit of juggling in the bookkeeping the Government will turn into a loss a considerable profit that has been earned. Then it will say: ‘Now we have to push up the charges.’ But those charges already are higher than comparable charges in Great Britain, New Zealand, Canada and the United Slates of America. That is a fair description of the proposal. We say that it is not justified. The people have already paid the money to set up this organisation and they should pay only charges reasonable for its services. The profit which the Post Office is making should not be convened into a loss with the result that the people are called on, through increased charges, to pay disguised taxation. That is what it is. It is as clear as that. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) has not shown that the increased charges are warranted, that the Post Office cannot operate without them, or that the proposed charges are reasonable in the light of what is charged elsewhere. In effect he is saying: ‘We have to do it this way. We have to charge the Post Office interest or else we will have to put more taxes on.’ What does that mean other than that the Post Office is being used as a tax collector. This is the basis of the whole argument. We say that in the public interest the Bill should be rejected.
– It is a sectional tax.
– lt is. lt is a tax on the people who use the Post Office. The increased charges will give an impetus lo inflation at a time when everybody is seeking to prevent unnecessary inflation. There is no justification whatever for the increased charges in the drivel that has been put forward by the Postmaster-General on this, the second occasion.
As to the Australian Democratic Labor Party’s assisting the Opposition in this matter, wc would accept assistance from the devil himself on this occasion. Wc are pleased that the Democratic Labor Party has seen the light and is an effective ally, as Senator Gair says, on this occasion. We are quite pleased to have the DLP’s co-operation and the co-operation of any honourable senator to defeat this measure, as 1 ask the Senate to do. This Bill has come forth for the second time. The PostmasterGeneral and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who represents him in this Chamber, apart from indicating clearly that they want to use the Post Office as a taxing authority have suggested that the Opposition in alleging inefficiency against the Post Office has been in some way attacking the workers in the Post Office. We have not done that and would not do that. We have, in close co-operation with the officers of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia and other organisations, joined in attacks upon the Postmaster-General for the obvious inefficiency in the Post Office. But the inefficiency lies at the level of management, not at the level of the worker. The Post Office was a great institution which used to operate efficiently. It should operate efficiently and the Postmaster-General should consider resigning if he cannot run the Post Office better than he is running it now.
– Then Senator Cameron should have resigned in 1949.
– That is a long time ago. I am glad that the honourable senator seems to agree with the proposition I am putting that the Postmaster-General should resign.
– 1 do not agree. The honourable senator is twisting my meaning.
– We take the view that the Senate decisively rejected this Bill on the last occasion it was presented. For some reason the Government has chosen to bring a Bill from the House of Representatives in the same form, but with no more substantial argument to support it than it had to support the other. So we take the view not only that the Bill should be opposed but also, in order that there will be no manipulation during the course of this day or on a subsequent day when the Senate is oppressed with business - there are many Bills coming through and the Government has given no assurance that this Bill will not be presented and re-presented when a senator might be caught outside the Chamber - that the Opposition should propose an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. Accordingly I move:
If the amendment is carried its effect will be to defeat the Bill and end it so that it could nol be re-presented during the course of this day or on a subsequent day. It is not a motion for the adjournment of the debate in the accepted sense. It is an amendment which would simply defeat the Bill.
– lt does not protect us against what can be done by regulation.
– lt does not, but 1 will come to that point in a moment. 1 wish now to refer to an excellent work on the Senate hy Mr J. R. Odgers, ‘Australian Senate Practice’. I quote a passage which deals with this particular amendment:
An amendment may be moved to the question for the second reading by leaving out ‘now’ and adding ‘this day six months’, which, if carried, finally disposes of the Bill. As already pointed out, the whole essence of the motion for the second reading is in the word ‘now’. The reason for the selection of the words ‘this day six months’ is that it is assumed that Parliament would not be sitting on the day on which the Bill would appear on the Notice Paper. In any event the motion, if carried, is fatal to the Bill. For precedent for such motion agreed to. and Bill consequently disposed of. see Central Reserve Bank Bill 1930. (In this particular case, certain other words, expressing the Senate’s opinion as to the action the Government should take with respect to introducing a second Bill embodying certain principles, were added to the question to add the words ‘this day six months’.)
– I said that it would not.
– No indication has been given by the Government that it would bow to the will of Parliament which has been clearly expressed by implication in the rejection of the last Bill, and which I anticipate will be so expressed in the rejection of this Bill. The Senate ought to be able, if it wishes to dispose of regulations, to exercise its powers under the Acts Interpretation Act by disallowing any regulations which might be introduced to increase telephone charges in the way indicated by the Postmaster-General.
In order that I might answer Senator Gair, I would indicate now that on the occasion of the adjournment of the Senate this evening, or on whatever day we rise for this legislative period, I intend to propose an alteration to the normal motion which reads:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn to a day and hour to bc fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each Senator by telegram or letter.
I intend to move that words to this effect bc added:
Provided thai the President, upon a request or requests by an absolute majority of senators that the Senate meet at a certain time, shall fix a day and hour of meeting in accordance with such request or requests and such time of meeting shall bc notified to each senator by telegram or letter. For these purposes a request by the Leader of the Opposition shall be deemed to be a request by every member of the Opposition and a request by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party shall bc deemed lo be a request by members of that Party. And the request or requests may be made to the President by leaving or delivering the same lo the Clerk of the Senate.
If that were carried it would mean that the Senate would be able to exercise, by an absolute majority of its own members the ability to meet again when desired. If such action were not taken, of course, the Senate would meet when the President himself fixed the time of meeting. But it would bc consistent with the constitutional position that the Senate should be in control of its own affairs and that an absolute majority of ils members could convene the Senate.
The proposal which 1 have made would avoid some of the mechanical difficulties of getting various senators to agree upon a recall of the Senate. It is a proposal which we consider to be practicable and which we consider to be constitutionally proper. With such an adjournment of the Senate, we feel confident that if the need should arise the Senate would be able to deal with any proposals by the Government to introduce charges by way of regulation. We would think that the Government ought to be willing to bow to the will of Parliament as it has been clearly expressed in relation to this Bill, and, anticipating-
– I thought it had gone through the other House.
– No. This Parliament consists of two Houses and any proposed law requires the consent of both. If a proposed law does not receive the consent of this House, then it does not receive the consent, of Parliament. Let there be no doubt about that. Not only has it not received the approval of Parliament but it is quite evident it has noi the approval of the people of Australia. One does not need a gallup poll to know that the people of Australia do not want their charges for the various postal services increased by a means whereby the. Post Office is acting as a taxing authority. I do not think that needs demonstration. The Government is flouting the clear will of the people, and I would ask that the Senate carry the amendment which I have moved and so completely dispose of this Bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has taken a curiously different attitude on this occasion from the one that he took on the previous occasion that this matter was before the Senate. On that occasion I was one of the last speakers on the measure. I summarised the comments that had been made by the Opposition by pointing out that the Opposition’s charges were based on four premises: The first, and the one perhaps most vigorously pressed, was inefficiency with relation to the Post Office. That, undoubtedly, was the charge that was pressed most. Senator Murphy has not referred to that aspect of the matter at all this morning. Obviously, he realises that the charge of inefficiency against the Post Office clearly will not stand. Now he is changing his approach and is using some of the subsidiary arguments that were used on the previous occasion to attempt to bolster up his case.
The first point on which I wish to take issue with him is his statement that the Post
Office is being used as a taxing authority. Thai clearly is not true, lt can be demonstrated that it is not true and, in fact, it has been demonstrated on more than one occasion that it is not true. I shall not repeat the figures now because I used them when I spoke on 12th May, but the fact is that we have moved from a stage of overall profit to the stage where we are now approaching an overall loss in the postal services. That loss has to be made up somehow or other. The question is: From what source is it to be made up? Should it be made up by those people who use these services? Or should it be made up from Consolidated Revenue? We have heard quite a lot in the last week or so from Senator Cohen and two or three others who have debated other matters, particularly on various aspects of education. They have argued that it is very important that we should plan ahead for a triennium period so that university and tertiary authorities generally will know what they are going to have to spend in the years ‘ahead. This is a perfectly good principle. This is precisely the principle which is implemented in this Bill.
This point could Ik: elaborated at great length, but I recognise that this is not the appropriate time to elaborate it at great length. But I say that the figures and all the statements that have been made throughout this debate on our side of the Senate categorically deny that it is a legitimate charge to say that this is a taxing Bill, lt is not. lt is a legitimate statement to say that the Post Office is a business organisation which requires the additional charges to carry it through the next three years in which a heavy loss will be shown, lt is obvious that this is going to be refused. It is going to be refused by the Australian Labor Party on the basis that the users arc not to be called upon to pay the rates for the services they get but that the general community has to be called upon to pay for them. Let me reiterate something that I said previously. There is a completely unreal approach to this whole business by the Opposition.
– It is purely political.
– Of course it is purely political. I recognise that the members of the Labor Party live in the capital cities and do not themselves understand the problems that are being faced by many of the people who are living thousands of miles away from the centres of population. 1 can speak with a degree of authority on this subject. I have said before, and I say again that the improved services that we are getting from our telephone service today as compared to eighteen months or two years ago justify an enormous increase in these charges. Whilst under this proposal it might be somewhat more expensive to make individual calls the amount of time that will be saved as a result of the improved services will justify to an extraordinary degree the payment of the increased charges. This fact is not recognised by the Opposition. Perhaps the Opposition does not realise the advantages that have come from the introduction of subscriber trunk dialling or the rapidity with which calls arc put through from far distant areas. If the Opposition has realised this, it has overlooked the matter. The Opposition is taking this action, as I have already said, purely for political purposes.
Why has the Opposition retreated from the basic charges that it made when this matter was before the Senate previously? The basic charge made by the Opposition was the charge of inefficiency in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It was demonstrated clearly to the Opposition that this charge was unfair and that if any charge of inefficiency could be levelled against the Post Office it was of such a minor nature as to be virtually non-existent. Frankly, I am disgusted to think that, when it is recognised that the money to bc raised by these charges is needed to carry on the organisation and to keep its financial operations on the right side of the ledger, our opponents for political reasons attempt to defeat this Bill.
I have one further point to make. The Leader of the Opposition said this morning that the will of the Parliament has been clearly expressed. 1 repeat again something that I said previously on this matter. The will of the Parliament has been clearly expressed in that a majority of more than thirty members of both Houses of the Parliament are in favour of this Bill. Unhappily, a situation has arisen in the Senate because of the death of certain members of the Senate. The Senate was not before the people for election a few months ago when the Government was returned with an overwhelming majority. So, because of the unhappy situation brought about by the death of certain senators and by sheer force of circumstances the Senate is able to defeat the will of the people as expressed last November. It is able also to defeat the will of the overwhelming majority of the members of the Parliament. That is the point that I want to make. So, on no ground at all does the argument of the Leader of the Opposition stand. I charge him again with taking this action purely for political purposes. I know that, perhaps, he can get some cheap publicity out of this situation by using the forms of the House to frustrate the will of people.
I2.44] - ‘Mr Deputy President, nothing has happened nor has anything been said in the week that has elapsed since this Senate rejected this particular Bill-
– Only that the Australian Labor Party has pinched the initiative or tried to pinch the initiative of the honourable senator’s Party. That is all.
– The interjection of the Leader of the Government in the Senate scarcely does him justice. It does not become him to interject in that fashion-
– lt is a fact.
– He interjects, when I, as leader of a political party in the Senate, am endeavouring to make a sensible, common sense and properly balanced contribution to a debate that concerns all the people of Australia. What happens between the Australian Labor Parly and the Democratic Labor Party is our business.
– And ours also.
– But it is open to comment.
– ‘Our’ covers two parties. The Leader of the Government will have his hands full and the hands of his leaders will be full in attending to their own business as they have been over a long period of time. None of us forgets the charges and the countercharges that went on for years of back-stabbing between Earle Page and Menzies, and Arthur Fadden and Menzies. All these things are still in the memories of a number of us. So I say to the Leader of the Government in the Senate that he would be will advised to keep interjections of that character out of the debate or he will get more than he is looking for.
– Fair go! I will comment any time I like whether the honourable senator is looking for anything or not. Do not worry about that.
– Then the Leader of the Government will have to be prepared to put up with what he gets.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order!
– 1 will take it without any trouble. Do not worry about that. Do not try to intimidate me into not saying what I want to say.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Gair has the call.
– I was saying when I was rudely interrupted that nothing has happened nor has anything been said that would cause me to change my mind or alter my attitude to this Bill. My first reaction to it was that it was an unnecessary, unfair, sectional tax and that it would impose on a section of people that could ill afford even an increase of lc, a tax that should not have been imposed. I still subscribe to that view as 1 have always been opposed to sectional taxes because these all the time hit a particular section of the people. During the course of the debate this morning the Government said that if the charges are not increased the money that is required will have to come out of taxation. But what is this measure? It is nothing more nor less than a taxation measure, but it taxes a section of the people.
In my speech when the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was before the Senate originally, I restrained myself inasmuch as I refrained from making any comments on the matter of the efficiency of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I am satisfied that 1 have been overgenerous in that connection. After what I have learned in the course of this week, I now share the views expressed by Arthur Fadden, now Sir Arthur Fadden, when he was in Opposition in 1949. He said that it was not good enough - and I say now that it is not good enough - in a case such as this for a Minister to introduce into the House of Representatives a Bill to impose additional charges when to a great extent the proposed charges could be well avoided with perhaps better administration, the exercise of some economies and some regard to making the utility pay. Perhaps the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) is at fault in this case. He has a reputation as a public accountant and of having had some experience in wholesale and retail business. But I suppose, like so many more people, he has got into the habit of passing on increasing charges for goods rather than adjusting deficiencies in his own organisation. Perhaps Sir Arthur Fadden was right when he said that a committee of inquiry could investigate this Department with advantage to the Government and to the people of Australia. In any case, Mr Deputy President, we see from the reports on the PostmasterGeneral’s Department that while earnings totalled $40 1.3m- a rise of S3 1.2m on the previous year - the expenditure was $40 1.4m, an increase of $35.6m. The earnings of the postal service rose by $4. 6m to SI 16.8m, and expenditure rose by SI 2.3m to SI 27.1m. The figures disclose, a S 10.3m loss in the postal service as against SI 2.2m profit in the telephone and telecommunications branch.
The question asked is: Why are the users of telephones being required to pay additional charges to meet the deficiency in the postal services? That is one question, but the major question is: why is the postal service not paying? I. think that the people are entitled to know why it is not a paying concern. Dealing now with the payment of interest, I suppose on a business principles basis it is the right thing to do. By interjection, I asked Senator Murphy while he was speaking what interest the Government paid on the money that it lent to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Of course, the answer is absolutely none - it comes out of taxation, which is contributed annually by the people. If the Commonwealth Government were paying some interest on that money - if it were loan money allocated to the Postmaster-General’s Department - it would be quite a different matter. I repeat that Sir Robert Menzies said, when ne was asked by a State Premier concerning the charging of interest to government departments that he did not approve of it and could not see the sense of it. I quoted this in my previous speech.
Surely the Government is not so unmindful of the requirements of the people as a whole as to adopt this cavalier attitude to these things by saying: ‘We can adjust this by imposing further taxation in the form of increased charges or rates for services.’ That is not good enough. The Government should be conscious of the necessity of trying to balance the budget in these institutions, but it is apparent that it is not very concerned about this need. The members of the public are concerned about it. That is confirmed by the number of communications - letters and telegrams - that I continue to receive from people all over Australia on this important question. Do not tell me that they represent merely a small percentage of the population. They represent, in fact, a big percentage because they are expressing the view of a lot of people who do not have the means or facilities for sending telegrams and writing letters. At any rate, it is very difficult for any of us to satisfy the aged, the sick and the people who are almost penniless of the necessity to pay even an additional lc for the postage of a letter, or to pay additional telephone charges on a telephone for which they are already stinting themselves. Less than only two years ago additional telephone rental charges were placed upon them and now the Government is asking them !o pay these additional charges. It is very difficult to convince these people that they should have to bear this additional cost when they see such extravagance on all sides of government activities - when they see even at the present time a referendum on a suggested increase in the number of parliamentarians, each one of whom will cost the taxpayers of this country approximately S30.000 per head per annum.
– Yes, perhaps - if the referendum is carried.
– What has that to do with this Bill?
– It has a lot to do with it. Senator Anderson mentioned figures and charged honourable senators on this side of the Senate with opposing this Bill on political grounds. I am opposing it on public grounds and For public reasons, and because I am concerned about the public’s attitude to this matter. I am telling the Minister that the people are concerned, lt is not good enough for the Prime Minister to say that additional members of Parliament will cost only 40c per head of population.
One must bear in mind that infants, children, juveniles and adolescents all are included in the calculation of the 40c per head. But let the Prime Minister tell the public that every additional member who comes into this Parliament will cost $30,000 per head per annum. That conveys a different picture. The people are not blind. They see the extravagance with VIP planes and they wonder where the money for them is coming from. They see a lot of other things, for which the Government is responsible, that indicate very clearly that the Government is not very conscious about conserving and husbanding the moneys the people pay in the form of income tax and other forms of taxation. The Government has become accustomed to treating the public with disdain and adjusting all these difficulties by additional imposts.
I am pleased to be associated with the attempt to stop this move in this particular instance, hoping that at least it will be a lesson to the Government that its tactics and methods have to stop. Let it give some attention to correcting this, even to the extent of changing the Ministers. Perhaps some person who is more active, more congenial or more awake to the administration might cause some alteration to be effected. I do not know whom I would nominate, though.
– The honourable senator could always nominate himself.
– Yes. and I would do a good job, as I have shown in other spheres of politics.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– Mr Deputy President, I believe that I have expressed my views on this very important subject in no uncertain manner. I do not think that there is any doubt about where I stand on the issue. That being so, I shall content myself with saying that I propose to support the amendment moved by Senator Murphy. It had been my plan to take precautionary measures against the imposing of any increased charges by regulation. As Senator Murphy has intimated that he proposes to take those measures at the close of this sessional period I indicate that I shall support that action also.
- Mr Deputy President, Senator Gair’s speech was an unashamed appeal to emotions and baser instincts. That is all that I wish to say about it. The views expressed by Senator Murphy were dictated not by principle but by sheer political expediency and political opportunism. He was concerned more with making political points than with acting in a responsible manner. Three points seem to be involved in this issue. The first is whether the Postmaster-General’s Department should be regarded as a taxing authority. The truth is that Senator Murphy has suddenly found in this proposal for increased charges a breach of a great and high principle. But the plain fact of the matter is that the Department has been a taxing authority since federation. If it had not been, our postal and telephone charges would surely have been the same today as they were then except that they have had to be raised to meet increasing costs. That is the only reason why they have been increased. This has been done because every government has regarded the Post Office as a business enterprise. That is the first point. So there is nothing new in this. No high principle is involved. The only principle involved is one that, as I said when I spoke last week on the earlier measure, was accepted by the Labor Government in 1949 as sound. I repeat what Mr Calwell said on behalf of the Labor Government, because I believe that what he said was true. It was true then and it is true today.
– Quote Arthur Fadden.
– 1 shall deal with his views in a moment. In 1949 Mr Calwell said:
The operation of the Department at a heavy financial loss would place an added burden on taxpayers generally, whereas an increase of charges for the services rendered means that the users of these services will make the necessary increased contribution. Equity demands that the last course be followed.
If that was true in 1949 it is equally true today. The principle that was outlined and supported by Mr Calwell on behalf of the Labor Government in 1949 is the principle that we are adopting today. Now, what about Sir Arthur Fadden? It is probable that when in opposition in 1949 he criticised the Labour Government’s proposals. All I say now is that if the Labor Government was right in 1949 and the present Government parties were wrong then, we are right and Labor is wrong today. The matter is as simple as that.
Wc suddenly find now that a principle i.i involved in the payment of interest, according to Senator Murphy, who waxed eloquent and emotional on this question. The plain fact is that this involves no new principle, though he claims suddenly to have found a new principle in his pocket. Interest has been charged since federation. There were discussions on this question as far back as 1905, and it was accepted that interest should be paid by the Postmaster-General’s Department because it was not a department in the true sense of the word. It was then, as it is now, regarded as a business enterprise. Senator Gair throws it in among the other departments, but the basis of his argument is quite irrelevant. The Post Office is not a department in the accepted sense of the word. It is a business enterprise - a commercial enterprise - and it has been accepted as such by every government sin ve federation.
Are the proposed charges justified? I suggest to you, Mr Deputy President, that they are justified on the same grounds as those on which increased charges were justified in 1949, when both Senator Cameron and Mr Calwell, on behalf of the Labor Government, said that the charges then proposed were justified because of the enormously increased costs of both labour and materials. The Post Office is faced with the fact that the last basic wage increase added $l7m to its annual wages bill. This is quite apart from increases in margins, which added many more millions of dollars. It >s very easy for Senator Gair to talk airily about adjusting deficiencies. Let him put his finger on the alleged deficiencies. Let him be constructive and say how he would adjust them. It is very easy for him airily to throw these remarks about. But none of those who talk of inefficiency in the Department can point to the inefficiencies that they claim exist. The truth of the matter, as I mentioned last week, is that the productivity of the Department is increasing at a rate higher than the national average increase. This does not denote inefficiency. It is very easy to avoid presenting constructive arguments about increased costs. This is done by some in a spirit of financial irresponsibility, purely in the hope of gaining some political objective. That is not the way in which the people expect members of their Parliament to behave.
The final point that I wish to make relates to this question of introducing the increased charges by regulation. In 1949 the Minister of the day increased charges by regulation. Again, no high principle is involved in this. The Minister of that time was entitled to take that course, and had full authority to do so, just as the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) has. There has been much misrepresentation on this issue of prescribing increased charges by regulation and I am glad that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), made the matter clear in his second reading speech. Because of the limitation of time I do not propose to traverse it in detail again. But I think the record should be put straight. I invite the next Labor speaker to establish, if a great and high principle is involved, that the same great and high principle was not involved in 1949, when the Labor Government regarded the Post Office as a commercial enterprise that had to pay its way. We regard it in the same light now. We are adopting the same principle that was adopted by the Labor Government in 1949.
- Mr Deputy President, all this talk about political expediency does not come well from Government senators. We all recall things that have happened in the past. Senator Sim has accused the Australian Labor Party of now abandoning principles to which it adhered in 1949. May I point out that the present Sir Robert Menzies regarded himself as bound to a great principle that required him on one occasion to resign from office. One would think that no principle could be greater than that. But subsequently, after seventeen years in office, Sir Robert found that principle did not matter two hoots. If a party wishes to change-
– He has character.
– Do not be stupid. He wanted to be Prime Minister. That is why he resigned. He wanted to stab Joe Lyons in the back. The honourable senator claims that he did it because he has character. What nonsense that is. If Senator Sim believes that everyone who opposes this Bill is doing so for political expediency in order to help himself politically it is a wonder that he does not attack the ‘West Australian”, a newspaper in his own State, which, in an editorial in today’s issue, has condemned the proposed increased charges.
– I am not interested in the West Australian’.
– I know that the honourable senator is not interested in it. but he is interested in claiming, as did the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), that everyone who opposes this Bill does so for political expediency. The Minister said in his second reading speech that he proposed to clarify some aspects of the matter. I do not think he clarified anything. He was on the defensive all the time and devoted himself to accusing others because they did not agree with him. In his view, no one in this chamber is of any value unless he agrees with the Government. The Government has reintroduced the Bill. Why has it reintroduced the Bill when it was defeated a week ago? lt is because of political expediency. That is why the Bill has been reintroduced.
– It is because of political responsibility.
– Political responsibility, my eye. The Bill was defeated on that occasion and it will be defeated on this occasion. The Government reintroduced the Bill because it hoped that somebody would be absent and somehow or other the Bill would go through. Please stop talking about political expediency on all occasions.
– Does it give the honourable senator a guilty conscience?
– No. I have not a guilty conscience. I am entitled to be away from this chamber as much as any other member. There are ten other members away now. No mention has been made of the five members of the Liberal Party who are away.
– They are paired.
– All right. But I was not given a pair. I do not care. The point is it was noticed that I was not in the chamber because I was not given a pair by the Government. I have every right to be paired, the same as any other member in this chamber. But because I will be voting with the Opposition I am not given a pair.
– That is right.
– That is right, but the Government gives pairs to other members of the Opposition. If I happen to be in opposition to the Government, I am entitled to a pair. To say that I was not here-
– I did not say that the honourable senator was not here.
– Another honourable senator said that. The point is that I am entitled to have my say, and as this is the first occasion on which I have spoken on this Bill, I intend to finish my speech. The payment of interest on loan funds by the Postal Department is a new principle that we have suddenly discovered. The Minister said: ‘I would remind honourable senators that interest has always been paid on loan funds.’ Can we not have a change? Because it has always been done in the past, is that any reason why it has to be clone in the future? Then the Minister went on to deal with an argument that does not hold water with me. He compared the Post Office with TransAustralia Airlines and Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. All right. Let us do what we want to do. Let us make the Post Office a statutory body in the same way as sire TAA and Qantas, and then let us see whether we will be confronted with the problems that have arisen now.
– Qantas is not a statutory body.
– I am sorry. TAA is a statutory body. Qantas is run by a board of directors who are not civil servants. That is one difference, lt is a very big difference, too, when we come to the question of business principles. The Minister criticised Senator Gair for using the fact that the referendum is going to cost us so much money. Yet the Minister in his own speech referred to the fact that the capital expenditure of other Commonwealth undertakings is met from Consolidated Revenue. If the Minister is allowed to do that, surely Senator Gair is allowed to raise the question of the cost of the referendum.
– I did not object to the argument on principle. I objected to the fact that another matter was brought into the question.
– lt was just as reasonable for Senator Gair to raise this matter as it was for the Minister to make his comparison. The Minister went on to say that we should not criticise the Post Office. He said that it is most unfair and unjust to do so. Can honourable senators opposite tell me that they have an efficient Post Office when they themselves admit that the Government has to double the rate of postage for something that has always been accepted as a normal procedure? I refer to the fact that if a letter were posted in Sydney at night it would be delivered the next morning. Under the proposed system people will have to pay double to get what was formerly a normal benefit. This is called efficiency.
The Minister went on to point out, very proudly, that there has been a rise of only 10% in the number of people employed on postal services to handle a growth of 31% in traffic. What about all the money that has been poured into the Post Office for the purchase of modern equipment? Is not that supposed to reduce the number of people employed? The very purpose of purchasing this expensive equipment is to reduce the number of people employed and to improve the efficiency of the Post Office. So his figures do not really mean a thing. However, whilst I am on this question of expensive equipment, I do not believe for one moment that any honourable senator in this chamber - it does not matter on which side of the chamber he sits - would be happy if his letter were destroyed in a machine. I am not going to get into the argument as to whether 1,000 letters, or thirty letters, as the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) recently stated, were destroyed in one day. It would have mattered if only one letter was destroyed. Members of the public would be disgusted if one of their letters was destroyed. So would the Minister and any other member in this chamber. When the Postmaster-General gets up and says: ‘All right, there were only thirty letters destroyed,’ is it not time that the
Government changed the PostmasterGeneral?
– Or the machine.
– Yes. I do not mind which the Government does. Then the Minister said that only recently the ‘Australian Women’s Weekly’ and the ‘Woman’s Day’ had increased their charges, and that because they had done this, postal charges should be increased. But the Minister did not mention one word about the terrific burden that is to be borne by industry. I shall give two or three examples. Two of them refer to medical journals. One journal will have to pay an extra $11,000 per annum, because of the proposed increased charges. One of the journals is non-profit making, lt is published for the benefit of doctors, and the advertisers, too. But doctors do not pay any money for either of these two journals. The charges for the second medical journal have increased by $12,000 per annum.
– By how much have doctor’s fees been increased?
– They have not been increased yet, but the Minister has given us a very good reason why they should be increased.
– The honourable senator is tossing the argument out.
– No. I do not agree that we should increase medical fees. I have not said that we should increase them. But in view of the way the Minister is arguing I feel that the Australian Medical Association has every right to do so. The Government has no right to complain about pharmaceutical benefits and pensioner medical benefits because the costs of these benefits have increased. But when it comes to the question of increased members’ salaries or increased Post Office charges, the Government is entitled to increase them. I. have a letter from a mail order business. It went out into the country so that it could decentralise. The proposed increased Post Office charges will cost this business an extra $250,000 a year. Again there is this subterfuge in the whole business. This is the third occasion, I think, on which the Government has attempted to hoodwink the people by imposing a sort of confidence trick on them. The Government did it in the Budget when it had a deficit of $300m; it did it with the referendum; and now it is doing it by saying that Post Office charges are not a tax. But Senator Sim got up and said: ‘This is a tax Bill and we should recognise it.’
As I have said, the proposed increased Post Office charges will cost this mail order business an extra $250,000 per year, which is an increase of 125%. Wages have to be increased and invariably costs rise. But noone expects a rise as steep as that contained in this Bill. This is a savage attack on industry and it cannot be borne by industry. The Bill should be defeated so that it can be taken back to Cabinet which should then face up to the fact that perhaps after all the Government might have to be unpopular wilh the electorate and raise this money by direct taxation. The Government did not raise the rate of taxation by 1 % because of the war. It did not raise an extra Id by direct taxation. It did it by budgeting for a deficit. Here the Government is trying another way in which to hoodwink the people, ft is saying that it is not increasing taxation; ii is increasing postal charges. The next thing will be that sales tax will be increased and then excise will be increased.
The Minister said that this is not a tax Bill. It is nonsensical for any Minister or any supporter of the Government to get up and say that this is not a lax Bill. It is an indirect tax measure. I am prepared to support, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition becat.se I think that what is proposed in the amendment is what we should do on each occasion to stop this shuttling of Bills backwards and forwards in the hope that somebody who voted against the Bill on the first occasion will be absent on the second occasion. I think that when a Bill is introduced and defeated we should always add the amendment that has been proposed on this occasion to provide that the Bill be deferred for a period of six months. Obviously, if we do not carry this amendment the Bill will come back time and time again. I strongly support the opposition to the Bill. I strongly support the amendment in order to stop this shilly-shallying that is going on.
– Mr President, what I would like to do in the very short time that is available to me is to try to let a little light into this problem and perhaps take a little of the heat out of the debate. First of all, I want lo take up the case of postal services because this is the area in respect of which most of the complaints about increased charges is coming. I make a few points that may be of some interest and value. There has been stability in Post Office rates since 1959. Tn that period charges in general for consumer services throughout the community have increased, on a broad average, by 22%. As far as I am able to work out the figures, looking at the matter as an average over the board, the present proposed increase in postal charges is of the order of 15% of revenue. Bearing in mind that since 1959 overall service charges have increased by about 22%, it is now proposed that the postal section of the Postmaster-General’s Department, be used to raise general postal revenue by 15%. In the light of the evidence this is nol unreasonable.
We should be looking at this question responsibly. I do not suggest that this is not being done, but we certainly have a responsibility. I have previously stated the losses sustained by the postal side of the activities of the Post Office but I shall state them again, because they are really the whole problem. In 1964-65 there was a loss of $2.6m. In 1965-66 the loss had increased lo S 10.3m. On current indications, this year the loss will be SI8m. lt is estimated that unless there is a change in the rate structure referred to earlier the loss in the year 1967-68 will be $25m and that the loss will increase to between S40m and $45m by 1971.
Certain people claim that these losses could all be overcome if the interest burden were removed from the Post Office and placed on the back of the general taxpayer. Pages 1 0 and 1 1 of the ‘Statistical Information Bulletin’ show in detail the relevant accounts of the Post Office. If one analyses the position one will find that the interest charged to the postal section amounts to only $2.8m out of a total bill of $60m. The interest bill of the postal section represents only 4.6% of the total interest burden that is borne by the Postmaster-General’s Department, and only 2.4% of the total revenue of the Post Office. I think we can regard the accounts of the Post Office as being reliable.
The interest burden on the postal section will not be the determinant. The loss factor is much wider than that. I have listened with some fascination to the arguments advanced about interest. Later we may be able to debate this in more general terms, but for the present I want to make one or two points that may be useful. The practice of charging interest at the long term bond rate on capital invested has been a long-standing practice of the British Post Office, which is not without experience in undertakings of this character. As I said in an earlier speech, the British Post Office is supported in principle by the present British Labor Government. In other words, a Socialist government supports that method of conducting an undertaking like the Post Office.
The Post Office is a business providing services for sale to the general public, and it is my view that it must ensure, as far as possible, that the charges it makes for those services are commensurate with the real cost of providing them. In order to get equity as between one citizen of Australia and another, the users should, as far as possible, pay for the service. I do nol claim that we do not all have an obligation to pay for the capital invested in the undertaking, wherever it may be. This aspect has been carefully examined over a long period, lt has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee and by the Fitzgerald Committee. The system that they recommended unanimously has been pui into operation on the basis of new money being provided at the long term bond rate, the average interest rate shown in the accounts being the. accumulation of rates over the accumulation of funds in the period.
The Post Office is not the only government business undertaking in this country to pay interest on its funds. I think I am correct in saying that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has paid the bond rate on money which was raised to enable it to commence and carry on its activities. The Australian National Airlines Commission and Qantas Empire Airways Ltd arc similarly placed.
I do not wish to traverse the ground that I covered in earlier debates but I point out that there are three areas to be looked at. Although the postal section is responsible for a large part of the loss of the Post Office it has never had a high interest content In its accounts. However, it continues to accumulate increasing losses without increasing its revenue, so we have the old alternatives referred to in previous debates under various governments. One is that we allow the present rates to continue and meet the growing deficiencies from general taxation. I submit that this is not equitable. The other alternative is that we reduce expenditure by curtailing services and the development of future services. Or we adopt the course we are now adopting. 1 do not want to conduct an argument on the efficiency of the Post Office. In fact I do not think it is a question we can argue here in real terms. I do not think we have the knowledge, the detail or the time to argue about levels of efficiency, but there are comparative statements and comparative tables, referred to in earlier debates, which demonstrate that the Post Office is an efficient organisation. These documents speak for themselves. The telecommunications side is moving from current profits to potential losses. A change of rates is necessary if we are to avert losses and provide revenue for the expansion of a service which has been commended earlier for its very notable progress and tremendous rate of growth.
The variation in charges proposed in relation to the postal section will bring in $30m in 1967-68. That is enough to give about a break-even result, on the average of the current year’s activities. 1 suggest that the real problem confronting the Senate is this: the Government has the responsibility of financial management in a responsible sense. The Government seeks to exercise that responsibility. It is the privilege of an opposition to have political irresponsibility, but that is not without its consequences for those who exercise it when the.y must consider that in due course the problem of losses cannot be avoided by the owners of the undertaking - the Australian people.
– I do not propose to scream into the microphone while I am addressing my audience in respect of the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill (No. 2). I wish only to submit a few questions to the Senate to have this matter clarified, because I seek clarification for myself, and perhaps honourable senators who are present in the chamber at the moment may also be assisted. The Bill seeks to increase post and telegraph rates. We arc quite clear about that. That is a positive fact. The first question is this: who uses the services of the Post Office? The answer is that the services are available to everyone in the Commonwealth. The second question is: who pays for the services provided by the Post Office? The answer is that the users of the services provided by the Post Office have to pay. Having won clarity on those simple matters wc proceed to another which is perhaps a little contentious: are the proposed increases warranted? To find the answer to that question wc have to go afield a little to ascertain what is involved in the costs incurred by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Let mc make another matter clear. 1 mention this for the benefit of my radio listeners. The Postmaster-General’s Department is not merely an ordinary department in the Commonwealth service. Tt is a business undertaking and is classed for all purposes as a business undertaking. Therefore it has to live on its own fat. An important question is: are the proposed charges warranted? We have been told as a fact that the charges were last increased in 1959. and this is 1967. so quite a period has elapsed since the charges were last increased. Are they warranted? Let us have a look al the situation. In order to make this more explicit I shall tell the Senate of some of the costs that this Department has to meet.
In the Australian Capital Territory is has 2.06.1 employees; in New South Wales. 32.899: in Victoria, 25,962; in Queensland, 11,619; in South Australia, 9,269; in Western Australia, 6,649; in Tasmania. 3.644; and in the Northern Territory, 281. So the Department employs a total of 92,382 persons. Where is the Department lo get the wages and salaries for these employees? From the charges that it requires the users of its services to pay? The answer is yes. What other costs are incurred? It is a big department. Some sections are mechanically operated. It has expensive equipment, lt has plant and so forth. New buildings have to be purchased. The Commonwealth exercises the power of acquisition and it can acquire lands for constructional purposes. Then there are repairs coming up constantly for existing buildings. So on the expenditure side there is a huge amount to be met.
Let us go back to 1959 and see why the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) is bringing in this legislation and asking for the permission of the Parliament to increase charges. What was the basic wage in 1959? I ask this question because economists in the Commonwealth and all over the world have always claimed that if inflation is to be measured the yardstick of the basic wage is used. The basic wage in 1959 was $26.70 a week; in 1960 it was $27.60; <n 1961 it was $28.40; in 1963 it was $28.60; in 1964 it was $30.60; in 1965 it was S3 1 .40. Last year the basic wage was increased to $32.70 and the present rate is $33.20. Thus the basic wage has increased by $6.50 since the charges of the Postmaster-General’s Department were last increased, lt has higher wages to pay and I think thai everyone is fully aware that a huge organisation which has 92.000 employees is constantly meeting claims for additional allowances - allowances for skill, allowances for new work - and for something extra. To preserve industrial peace in this industry the Department meets these demands in a reasonable way.
I leave my audience to deduce from what 1 have said whether the present proposals are warranted. I want to state this: if Labour had won the elections last year it would be now dealing with similar legislation. There would be scarcely a word different from what is in the present legislation. 1 say that it would bc impossible, and I will not go into the bookkeeping methods of the Postmaster-General’s Department. 1 have had an opportunity of going behind the doors in that Department. I have had an opportunity to cross-examine the finance and administrative officers of that Department on oath and I have not spared them; they never looked for any compassion. And 1 always deduced after the hearing that the Postmaster-General’s Department was conducted efficiently, having regard to the fact that it is a huge Department employing 92,000 persons.
Sometimes one hears comparisons made between the postal rates operating here and the rates operating in other countries, and it is quite in order to make comparisons. I know that in New Zealand no charge is made for a local telephone call. That is an excellent service. But when we make a comparison with Australia’s charges and what it has to offer to the public in the way of services we must consider the area of the country in which it has to provide services. Australia’s area is 2,967,000 square miles. Anyone who has travelled all over Australia knows that there is a postal service of some kind functioning in every area. So the services had to become costly because of the factors that 1 have mentioned. Can anyone think of any better improvement carried out by the Postmaster-General’s Department at any time than the improvement in telecommunications services? Many of our young men at the present time are in Vietnam and I think that we should have the very best telegraphic services that can be provided. There have been great improvements in services in recent years. It is possible for me to go to my office and dial Melbourne on the telephone. 1 can also dial Sydney. From Brisbane I can dial Townsville and Cairns. I say that these are useful innovations.
Some honourable senators have more knowledge than others about the measure before the Senate and I feel that 1 am privileged to talk in this way. Some honourable senators are not fully acquainted with the bookkeeping methods adopted by the Postmaster-General’s Department and I think that we should be enlightened by people, who have the capacity to inform us. I suggest as a very humble person, that the Senate be called together in a week, two weeks or three weeks, and let us have present the finance and administrative officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury and the Auditor-General. Then allow us to question those officers so that we may be enlightened on the position.
At the present time I have, satisfied myself, after reading the speeches that were made last week. I read that one senator said that we should put the whole of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in a steel case and then appoint a commission to run the Department. What a hopeless position the average member of the Parliament would be in then. He would never be able to ask a question about any difficulty in services; he would never know what was going on behind the walls of the commission. It is not the function of the Parliament to create commissions to perform any work that it is capable of doing. The parliamentary system is the correct one for the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. If those officers were called before us. we could sit down with them and have a chat. Any senator would have the opportunity to question them. From what I have heard and read of the speeches of the people who suggest the creation of a commission, 1 would say that they are not fully acquainted with the business ramifications of this Department and are not conversant with its bookkeeping methods.
– I wish to speak only very briefly on this matter. Firstly, 1 sympathise with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), in spite of the statements that he made about Senator Gair and me. He invited me to examine the Hansard report of my speech. I did that and found that as usual he was completely wrong. He claimed that 1 said things, but they do not: appear in Hansard. In spite of that, 1 do not think any Minister should be required to read in this place the type of second reading speech that was prepared for Senator Anderson by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). In seventeen and a half years in this place, it is the silliest and most irrelevant second reading speech I have ever heard.
I propose to speak, to use appropriate words, in almost telegraphic English. The Government makes the point that the capital investment in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will increase costs. I thought capital investment went into machinery and other modern technological means of reducing costs. I thought the introduction of TRESS into the telegraphic system, about which the unions were very worried, was designed to reduce costs. It completely destroyed the old system of morse telegraphy. Hundreds of telegraphists were sacked throughout Australia. A machine system was installed. Surely the purpose of that capital expenditure was not to increase costs but to reduce them.
When the Department installed subscriber trunk dialling - STD - it did away with thousands of telephonists throughout Australia. Incidentally, this is a very cheap operation, lt was only because this system had been used by technicians on an intrastate basis over a long period that progress was made when it was used over long distances. This is a reasonably cheap form of dialling. The Department was able to reduce expenditure terrifically. Despite all the sympathy that I have for Senator Anderson, 1 point out that the argument that he has to put on behalf of the Minister whom he represents connotes quite the opposite. lt is said that, because services are increased, ipso facto costs will be increased. One of the great achievements of the Postmaster-General’s Department is that in a country such as Australia it has been able to spread its tentacles as far as it has. If it i instais a telephone in north Queensland or in the outback of Western Australia, that costs a lot of money. That fact destroys the Government’s story that people who have telephones installed should be made to pay for them. Lf that principle were followed, the poor fellow in north Queensland or the outback of Western Australia would have to pay thousands of dollars. I understand that the cost of installing a telephone is about S800. The Government’s argument does not hold water. Having established the line, set up the exchange and laid the cable, it does not cost the Department any more to connect people to the system. So to make a simple arithmetical calculation that to connect one thousand people to the service costs one thousand times as much as it costs to connect one person to the service is completely false.
I love the political argument that there is something immoral or wrong in Her Majesty’s Opposition opposing this Bill. In the Government’s view, because all three component parts of the Opposition - the Australian Labor Party, the Democratic Labor Party and one of the independents - decide to oppose this Bill, it suddenly becomes terribly wrong. The Government has insisted that the Democratic Labor Party is part of the Opposition. We have complained about that, especially in relation to the lists of speakers. Time and time again members of the Democratic Labor Party support the Government. Yet the Government regards them as Opposition speakers. But suddenly, when all parts of the Opposi tion start to play their role of examining and opposing legislation, it becomes immoral and the Government says that there is something wrong with it.
The Government believes in a House of review; it believes in a Senate. Either it believes in an Opposition or it does not. If we are to have an Opposition, its job is to examine and to oppose. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot tell us that we are naughty boys when we believe that a principle is solid enough for us to stand up for it. When we do that, it cannot put forward this political argument that there is something wrong with what we are doing. Of course, members of the Government parties in this chamber get that attitude from the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), who said that Mr Whitlam was playing politics and that it was all his fault that this happened. Mr Whitlam is not the leader of the Government, lt was the Prime Minister who led the Government into the terrific mess in which it finds itself on this occasion. Why does the Government want an Opposition if the Government intends to adopt this attitude?
The Government is bothered about our statement that the Postmaster-General’s Department is a lax collector. One of the many misstatements in the second reading speech is that these increases are necessary only to cover the cost of services. The fact is that there is a surplus of S30m in the accounts of the Department. That completely confirms our argument that this Department has become a tax collecting agency. As I said last week, the Government cannot dodge the fact that in its last budget it pushed indirect taxation on to the States. It made them impose indiscriminate taxes in the form of water and other rates and transport and amusement charges. Those charges impose the same amount of tax on the poorest person in the community as on the wealthiest. The Government is terrifically sensitive on this point because it is dominated by the big business interests of Australia. It does not want to go any further in the direct taxation field. Anybody who is fair knows that taxation in this field places the burden on the shoulders of the people best able to bear it. The Government has been trying to dodge this field of taxation.
It is said that we have been accusing the Postmaster-General’s Department of inefficiency. I said quite a lot about this point last week. 1 invite Senator Anderson to read the Hansard report of my speech, just as he invited me to do, and to find where I once accused the Department of inefficiency. I said that it was an efficient organisation with some of the greatest training facilities of any business in Australia. But I said that the officers were being frustrated by Government policy. The Department could have had subscriber trunk dialling in Western Australia had if. had the foresight to make the necessary capital equipment available, lt is ten years since television was introduced in Australia. Yet yesterday a document was presented saying that it will ba another three years before people in outback places such as Kalgoorlie and Geraldton will have it, merely because the Department is wailing for microwave links.
– We do not even have television in Mackay.
– Mackay and the other places in north Queensland still do not have television.
– Of course we have. We have it right up as far as Cairns.
– That is wonderful. The honourable senator said so many offbeat things that he had belter check on that statement. On the question of inefficiency, it is not sufficient to say that the Treasury has been generous, lt is novel to make that claim. This is nol a question of being generous. It is not a question of figures. It is a question of at least keeping up with the demands of the Australian public for the services of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Government has singularly failed to do that. Had it done so, these country areas would have had television.
Subscriber trunk dialling saves a considerable amount of money because of the relative simplicity of the operation. The Postal Department’s failure to instal it in Western Australia is not because of the inefficiency of Post Office employees but because of the inefficiency of the PostmasterGeneral himself and the Cabinet members who are not prepared to stand up and attack him. Of course this is a question of the Post Office being a taxing authority. How can any honourable senator opposite claim anything else? Senator Morris made a very snide crack to the effect that because of the fortuitous result of the death of two Western Australian senators, my exworkmate and friend Senator Wilkinson is sitting in the Senate today. The fact is that Senator Wilkinson was elected under the rules made by this Parliament. He was elected under the law of Australia. He polled only a few votes less than the Liberal candidate. Because Senator Wilkinson is legally in this Senate he should not be subjected to this sort of crack. This Parliament is constituted under the law of the land and that is the beginning and the end of it. Never mind about the ifs and huts or anything else. The fact is that he was legally elected. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) shakes his head. He seems to be saying that Senator Wilkinson was not elected under the law of the land.
– I did not say that.
– We accept the fact that the Government has a great majority in the House of Representatives. We ask honourable senators opposite to accept the additional fact that the Government and the Opposition are constituted under the law of the land. However much honourable senators opposite might like to say that there should not be minority parties or that Senator Turnbull, the independent senator from Tasmania, should not be here - they are bugs in our hair too - the fact is that they are here because of the law of the land. In any event, without regard to minority parties and independents, there was such a majority against the Government on this legislation that it would have been defeated anyway.
We have heard a lot about what the Labor Government did in 1949; that it did not wait for a Budget to increase Post Office charges. But there is one remarkable difference that no honourable senator opposite has faced up to; that is, that the Labor Government took its action on the eve of an election, then we went before the people and accepted their determination. We did not wait until the election was over. We did not adopt the policy of not saying one word about increased Post Office charges and then announcing in Parliament the increased charges after the greatest secrecy about them. Government supporters have denied that there was secrecy surrounding the present increased charges. They have referred to frankness. What absolute rot.
We were told by Government supporters that they were called together one hour before the legislation was announced to the House of Representatives and told about it. So much for frankness, lt was done in complete secrecy because the Government was not game to allow its backbenchers to have an early look at the proposals.
How does that procedure compare with the action of the Labor Party in 1949? In one of the most controversial periods in history we announced our intention to increase postal charges. We had done things during the war which had prompted snide cracks from the then Opposition. The matter of increased postal charges could easily have been left for another few days and thus passed on to the next government’s plate, but because of the admirable integrity of the Government of those days, we did not follow that course. That integrity has been sadly lost and neglected. We said on the eve of an election that we would increase Post Office charges, so we could be judged by the people. If this Government had had the same courage it might have attracted some admiration for its action. Senator Scott is interjecting. I ask him to be quiet. He has said enough silly things in the past few days to last even him for a lifetime. I hope that students of parliamentary procedures will study the Minister’s second reading speech. It ;s ridiculous, lt does not even deal with the Bill, ft casts all sorts of snide innuendoes and contends that the Opposition should not follow the course it is taking, lt states that the Australian Democratic Labor Party has no right to vole with the Labor Party. Do honourable senators opposite want the DLP to sit on the Opposition benches but to vote with the Government in every case.
– Yes they do. lt is very obvious. Senator Henty has been very crusty in the last few days. Has somebody upset him in the Party room? I wonder who. Just settle down, old boy. It is very obvious that the Government is wriggling round the situation. It is attempting to evade nol only the Opposition in the Senate but also, the overwhelming voice of the long-suffering public. The public will nol fall for this. As was said the other day, the Government has pushed up the price of everything else. It threw away the stops to inflation in 1950, although Government supporters then spoke about putting value back into the £1 and all the rest of it. They threw up their hands in horror and said: ‘Let it go.’ The Government hoped that the public would say on this occasion: ‘This is just another increase which must be accepted.’ But of course the public will not stand for this any longer. Not only arc members of this Parliament opposing the legislation; not only are the Labor Party, the DLP and the independent Senator opposing it - and that is a pretty wide cross-section of the community - but also the people of Australia are completely awake to the Government.
Senator Morris made a lot of the position of the other place. He referred to a properly constituted Parliament and said that the present course should nol be followed in the Senate. Honourable senators opposite stand back and say: ‘Ah, because of the provisions in the Post and Telegraph Rates Act we have the right to bring in increased charges by regulation and we will do that.’ I cannot think of a more immoral attitude than that. After all, nol only the letter of the law has to oe considered: the spirit of the law must also be considered. The Senate has quite firmly decided that this legislation should be rejected and yet the Government still threatens to go on with its proposals. I sometimes wonder when I look at the Ministers whether they know anything about the regulations. Let us say that the Government brings clown a regulation - if it is not prevented - to increase telephone charges. That regulation would take effect immediately and for three months the higher rates would be charged. In three months when Parliament resumed the regulation would be disallowed and the charges would revert to the old rates. The chaos that would result does not worry the Government. It is not deterred by any thought of the chaotic state that would follow. Not only would it be an immoral action, administratively it would be chaotic.
I do not want to cover every aspect of the legislation. I want to say only that the Minister’s second reading speech is expressed almost in telegraphic English. It is disgraceful - a mixture of half truths and shibboleths mixed up with politics completely unworthy of the PostmasterGeneral. [ sympathise with Senator Anderson in having to read it out here today. It is completely unworthy of a government. Because the Government has a large majority in another place it has become so arrogant that it thinks the people of Australia do not mean a thing.
– This legislation has been fairly discussed in two second reading debates. I think fifteen senators spoke in the second reading debate on the last occasion and five: or six senators have spoken on this occasion. If 1 may say so, on this second lime round no new element has emerged in speeches by honourable senators opposite which would justify me in replying at length in winding up the debate. Senator Willesee in his concluding remarks tried to explain away the fact that the Labor Party in 1949 did precisely the same thing as the Government is doing now.
– Before an election.
– 1 am coming to that point. Senator Willesee is continuing to interject. 1 ask that I be allowed to speak without interruption.
– Would the Minister speak a little more loudly.
– I will. I will speak loudly enough for the honourable senator to get the message. He tried to pass off the very forcible argument that has been put throughout the debate; that is, that in 1949 the Labor Party did precisely the same thing. In fact, it introduced charges at a higher rate than are proposed in this Bill. He tried to explain that away by saying: ‘Oh yes, but we did it on the eve of an election.’ In fact, from memory, the election was held on 10th December 1949. I remind him that at least half of the Senate will face an election in about the same length of time after the introduction of this legislation as separated the passage of the 1949 legislation and (he 1949 election. This could well affect the future of the Parliament and the Government because many people around here are now saying that this is the powerful House. So the argument used about the great courage of the Labor Party acting on the eve of an election in 1949 is all poppycock, and Senator Willesee knows it as well as everybody else. The truth of the matter is that the Labor Party did it. Why, Senator Benn, one of the Party’s own members said that if Labor were in Government now and were faced with the position with which we are faced today then in all probability it would do precisely the same thing. I say that 98% of what Senator Benn said would be the Government’s answer to the Opposition’s case. I only hope that his vote is consistent wilh his remarks.
We are now al the stage where wc are to have a vote, lt would be pointless to go over all the arguments that we have already adduced. As we have said here so many times before, it is the numbers that will count on this issue. The Government is doing something which it believes to be right, because it believes it to be in the best interests of the efficient administration of the Post Office and I therefore ask that the Senate vote in favour of the second reading and that it reject the amendment as circulated.
That the word ‘now’ proposed to be left out (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is: That the words ‘” this day six months “ proposed to be added be added’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from IS May (vide page 1774). on motion by Senator Cohen:
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- 10a. - Section 1 16 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (3.) the words “If, during an election period, a licensee broadcasts or televises election matter, he shall afford reasonable opportunities” and inserting in their stead the words “During an election period, a licensee shall afford free of charge reasonable opportunities ‘: and
by deleting sub-section (5.).’.
Senator COHEN (Victoria) [3.7J- I want to reply only briefly to some of the remarks that were made in the discussion last night by Senator Cormack who criticised the use of the expression ‘reasonable opportunities’. What we seek in this amendment is that during a general election period the licensee of a commercial television or broadcasting station should be under an obligation to provide to all political parties contesting the election and who were represented in either House of the Parliament before the election an opportunity to present their cases free of charge. Senator Cormack went to some pains to ridicule the expression ‘reasonable opportunity’. He spoke of the difficulty of deciding what is reasonable.
The short answer to Senator Cormack is that this is the expression that already appears in section 1 16 (3.) of the Act - the very section we are attempting to amend. There are always difficulties in interpreting precisely what is reasonable in given circumstances but we have not heard any complaint that that expression has caused insurmountable obstacles in the present legislation. We see no reason why there should be any difficulty. If our amendment is accepted sub-section (5.) of section 116 of the principal Act will be repealed. That sub-section reads:
Nothing in this section requires -t licensee to broadcast or televise any matter free of charge.
We do not see why the Opposition’s proposal could not work effectively once the principle was accepted. I ask the Committee to approve of the amendment.
Senator McMANUS (Victoria) 13.8]- The Australian Democratic Labor Party will not support this amendment. As a party, I suppose we are penalised as much as anybody by the high cost of television. I have read in the newspapers that we do nol have any worries about television at election time as the oil companies subsidise us. When I realise that at the election in which Senator Gair was defeated as Premier of Queensland by the votes of the Australian Labor Party one of the issues during the campaign wis oil from Formosa and that the oil companies were flat out trying to defeat him, it amuses me to hear the suggestion today that we are paid by the oil companies. If there is one party they do not pay it is the DLP.
– I shall tell Senator Cavanagh. We ask our people in each electorate to put in £5 each, which they do, to collect £1,500. In my own State of Victoria we ask that of that £1,500. £1,000 should go to head office and £500 be retained for their own purposes. In Victoria we have an income of over £30.000, and taking in something we get from unions and others we are able to run our organisation. Having said that let me say straight out that the Australian Labor Pary would not be game to say where it gets its money to fight an election. The Australian Labor Party gets its money from the capitalist class which pays both it and the parties in office so that whichever is the Government it will always find an open door.
– There is none from the Central Intelligence Agency?
– As Senator Cavanagh does not propose to deny that statement I shall go on and say that, while the Australian Labor Party poses as a Socialist party, at election time it goes through a process which I have heard described as going round the traps - up Bourke Street, down Collins Street and into all the capitalist organisations - asking for donations. Yet it still claims to be a Socialist party. One thing that amazes me is the concept of a Socialist party financing its election campaigns by donations from capitalists.
– From Communists and capitalists at the same time?
– If Senator Wheeldon will take my advice - he is young in this game - he will not do what Mr Jones did. Fie will keep quiet until he knows what it is all about. Having said that I will try to pour a little oil upon troubled waters. I do not propose to support the amendment. although theoretically it might appear to be good for my party. We fmd that the enormous costs of television cause considerable difficulty when fighting our election campaigns, but I feel that under the proposed system we would get the same sort of treatment as we now get from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Wc will put up at each election a lull team of candidates and contest every election. In a democracy all candidates in an election ought to bc equally before the community, but what happens? Government money is used to give advantages to certain political parties - to the Government parties and the Australian Labor Party. They are given considerable time on radio and television, in excess of the time given to the Democratic Labor Parly. This is done on the basis that they are big parties and on that basis alone. Let us bc blunt about it.
– Does the honourable senator think that the Democratic Labor Party should get equal time?
– If we put up the same number of candidates as the Australian Labor Party we are entitled to equal time.
– Communists as well?
– In the case of Communists it was the Australian Labor Party which said they should not get time. Mr Calwell of the Australian Labor Party said the Communists should not be given time. If the honourable senator wants to disagree wilh that he should get up and say so.
– I have not said anything; I am merely asking.
– I do nol think the honourable senator would want to say anything when I tell him that his Party was responsible for putting the Communist Party off the air. If this amendment were carried we would have an extension of the grossly unfair situation that exists at the present time. The Government parties and the Australian Labor Party get far more lime on ABC stations than the Democratic Labor Parly does. The major parties would use this situation to give themselves far more time on commercial television than we would be given. What the Australian Labor Party is doing in pressing us to vote for this measure is asking us to intensify a grievance that we already suffer. I am not willing to do that. People may ask what ought to be done so I shall tell the Committee what should be done. In an election, the Australian Broadcasting Commission should have the right to broadcast the policy speech of every party represented in Parliament which had gained a reasonable percentage of the votes at the previous election. That would get rid of fly-by-night organisations. If the Commission gave one hour to each of the parties represented in the Parliament which had a reasonable percentage of votes, then all candidates would be put on an equal basis. Instead, under the present situation, certain candidates are subsidised with Government money. It is a scandal in a democracy that certain groups of candidates should be subsidised with Government money to the disadvantage of other groups of candidates.
I look forward to the day when the ABC will do the fair thing and will broadcast the policy speech of the parties that can show a legitimate claim, and then leave it at that. This would put every party on the same basis. As far as I know no similar situation exists in any country of the British Commonwealth of Nations. In Great Britain there is a committee representing all the parties which determines this matter of political electioneering. If there is any party labouring under a disadvantage compared with other political parties and other candidates in this country it is my party. The other parties have Government money spent on them and this suggestion that we should compel commercial television to provide free time would make the situation considerably worse.
– We say commercial television-
– 1 am putting to Australian Labor Party members who are interjecting that they should be honest. If they believe in democracy they should believe in the same time for all.
– We say commercial television stations should give time.
– What the honourable senator is saying is that the leaders of his party will seek an advantage, if they can get it,- just as leaders of other parties would do. Apart from my views that I have already expressed, I see nothing just or fair in saying to people who are providing a service such as commercial television that they are to be forced to make their facilities available free of charge to certain people. I do not see any justice in that. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is operating on Government money and it may be said that this is a different situation. The Government may call upon the Commision or direct it to make a certain amount of time available. The people in commercial television are providing their own money and running their organisations as business ventures. I ask Senator Cavanagh and Senator Mulvihill whether they would be willing to compel the newspapers to do the same thing. I should like an answer on this from the Australian Labor Party. If it intends to compel commercial broadcasting companies to provide free time, then it should logically compel the ‘Age’, the ‘Sun’, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and the Courier-Mail’ to provide free advertising space. Is the Labor Party in favour of that?
– I believe in giving the little man a go.
– Senator Gair and I are the little men but what sort of a go do we get when the major parties claim more television time? I am disappointed in
Senator Mulvihill. He puts up such a magnificent fight for the kangaroos and the wombats. What about a kind word from him for us? I conclude these calm and unimpassioned remarks by saying once again that 1 believe in equal treatment for every set of candidates in an election. I do not believe that any group of candidates is entitled lo privileges above others. At the present time the Australian Broadcasting Commission gives privileges to certain groups of candidates at a disadvantage to others. Under no circumstances will I vote for this proposal to put this system into operation in the commercial field.
- Mr Chairman, I am afraid that my brief contribution to this debate will be somewhat of an anti-climax, especially in light of some of the comments that Senator Willesee made in the previous debate. I disagree very strongly with this amendment because I think that it is totally unethical. I think it was Senator Cohen - I would not be sure whether it was Senator Cohen or another member of his party - who said that the commercial stations have been given a privilege and that they should be made to pay for it. I do not think that a television licence is a privilege. Television companies holding licences have tendered in competition with other organisations for those licences under certain conditions. One of the conditions is that they must give a certain amount of free time to religious organisations for what are called religious broadcasts. This free time is always a cost to business. But the companies tendered for the television licences knowing that they were required to provide this service. I am glad that they are required to do so. I hope that it continues. 1 would like to see it extended because I think it is a good aspect of our broadcasting services.
The point that I arn trying to make, somewhat laboriously, perhaps, because of interjections, is this: those who tendered for television station licences knew the conditions under which they tendered for them. They have received their licences under the conditions specified. If we were to amend the Act at this point of time in the fashion suggested by Senator Cohen, then we would be putting on to these companies that tendered in good faith a load that they had never anticipated and that they had never taken into consideration when they made their tender. So, from that point I think the amendment is unethical. I think it is also unethical - Senator McManus developed this argument better than I propose to do - but I say its insertion would be analogous to a form of political patronage. Senator McManus extended the argument: should this same proposal be extended to newspapers and all the rest of it? I never try to gild the lily. I merely say that 1 believe that this proposal is unethical for the two reasons that I have outlined, and especially the second one because the effect of the amendment would be to introduce a principle of political patronage.
Frankly, I am amazed that the Opposition has proposed an amendment of this nature. I can see reason in some of the amendments proposed by the Opposition although I disagree with them. But this one is so undesirable that I feel sure that, as I see Senator Cohen anxious to rise, his intention is to withdraw the amendment. I hope he will.
– Mr Chairman, I am not rising to withdraw the amendment. I am sorry that Senator Morris is amazed. I regret that Senator McManus is indignant. But 1 am pursuing the amendment.
– Mr Chairman, the Government will not accept the proposed amendment. 1 might add that, contrary to what Senator Cohen said about the Opposition pressing the amendment when he first introduced it, the amendment was not pushed to a vote in another place.
– No, because two of our amendments had already been accepted there.
– r am sure that if the Oppsition considered this amendment for any length of time it would not push it, either. The situation is that the Government will not have a bar of it. It is a proposition that we are not prepared to accept. As the honourable senator knows we are prepared at all times to consider any amendments put up by the Opposition which have some substance. There is no justification for this amendment I do not propose to speak at any length. I want to put the case. Then I hope that we will be able to get on with the business awaiting our attention.
There is no justification to single out the broadcasting and television media. If obligations were to be imposed, other publicity media should in all fairness be embraced in the principle. May I reduce the amendment to simple language in order to show its effect. It simply means that reasonable time during election campaigns shall be made available free to political parties by commercial television and broadcasting stations. The whole significance is in the word free’. The amendment seeks to provide for the political parties free political time on broadcasting and television stations. Therefore I say at the outset that the Government will not have anything to do with the proposed amendment.
The Australian television services are based on the principle of national and commercial services. A compulsory requirement for free time for political election telecast on commercial stations would intrude on the principle of commercial operations. Television and broadcasting time is a valuable commodity. We all recognise that fact. The stations pay substantial licence fees, recently increased, and should be free to arrange their own programmes without coercion in favour of any group. The question of the broadcasting of political matter has been considered on a number of occasions by governments, including. Labor governments, and by Parliament. But never has it been suggested that free lime should be provided by these stations as an obligation. The former Standing Committee on Broadcasting gave some consideration to this matter in 1942. but went no further than to suggest that an obligation to sell time as distinct from giving time free should be imposed on stations. This proposal was not adopted by the government at the time which was a Labor government.
The Government’s policy has always been a dual service provided by national and commercial stations. There is thus available in each area the services of a national programme. No-one can deny that the Australian Broadcasting Commission makes adequate time available for political telecasts in election periods. It must be conceded that the television services, in recognition of the privilege of holding a licence, should provide certain services to community groups. They do this for a great variety of such groups and this includes politics. It is the practice, for example, for stations to televise free of charge the election policy speeches of party leaders.
The present provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act do not oblige stations to televise political matter. They do provide that, if a station broadcasts election matter on behalf of any party, it must provide reasonable opportunities for the televising of election matter to all parties contesting the election. 1 think this principle is recognised. Television stations already provide substantial free time for the discussion of political views in ordinary programming of the panel or discussion type. The programme ‘Meet the Press’ is a case in point. A great many representatives of the different political parties have appeared on this programme.
It may be correct’ to say that many of the metropolitan stations are in a financial position to make free time available. This does not apply, however, to all stations and, indeed, not to many country stations. The revenue which these stations would lose from an obligation to replace programmes for which advertisers were prepared to pay by free advertisements would adversely affect their financial position and, in the final result, the shareholders. This would have a serious effect not only on programming and shareholders but also on the general public who saw the programmes.
I want to speak from copious notes on this because 1 want to put the information on record. It is worth while looking at the position for the last Federal elections as it is germane to the argument. The Australian Broadcasting Commission provided free time for political matter as follows on each national station: broadcasting, 8 hours 45 minutes; television, 41 hours. The commercial stations, as a whole, provided time for political matter as follows: broadcasting, 244 hours 27 minutes free time and 252 hours 32 minutes paid time, which was a not inconsiderable amount of time made available by the commercial stations; and on television, 60 hours 51 minutes free time and 63 hours 10 minutes paid time. I repeat that that is not really a bad record of co-operation by the commercial stations in view of the fact that there were no coercion and no obligation upon them by Act of Parliament. In no other English speaking country where commercial stations are in operation - namely, Great Britain, Canada or the United States of America - are licensees required to provide free time for political matter. Without going any further I indicate that the Government will not agree to the amendment; it will resist it with all the power of both oratory and numbers that it can command.
That proposed new clause 10a be inserted in the Bill.
The Committe divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Ayes . . . . 22
Noes . . . . 26
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Last night I drew the Senate’s attention to the fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission was still working on the basis which was established in 1931 when it was a very small business operating under a part time board of control. It now has an annual turnover of $36m and on the basis of its capital it is a multimillion dollar business. Apart from the management staff this vast business, which is one of the biggest in Australia, is controlled by a Commission of seven members, most of whom often are schoolteachers. I do not know why the Government prefers to have schoolteachers on the commission, but it seems to prefer them. The Government pays in salaries $14,000 for this Commission of seven members which controls the business of the ABC. The point I am making is that we live in a modern world and the Government should look at the ABC and consider whether it should not be controlled in the same way as other mammoth businesses are controlled, by directors who share the responsibility for running the business. Apparently the present members have no such responsibility.
If I may I propose to direct some remarks to Senator McManus who has complained that the Australian Democratic Labor Party is not getting enough publicity. He has suggested that his Party should gel as much publicity as the major parties. The difference between his present Party, which is a minority group, and the Australian Labor Party, to which he formerly belonged, can be stated shortly. The Party to which he formerly belonged was a Socialist Party. He will recall that we started off without aid from anybody. We fought elections on our policies and eventually we formed a Labor government. We are a major Party today. The DLP is in the situation that we were in originally. However, the DLP gets a lot of publicity that we did not get, because anybody in this country who opposes the Labor Party continuously can attract publicity. I believe that the DLP receives its share.
– Making a short reference to the first point put by Senator Ormonde, I must point out that the question of the control of national broadcasting and television stations is one that has been considered in many places in the world where consideration has been given to whether there should be full time or part time directors. This is not something that is peculiar to Australia and a good deal of investigation on it has been done overseas. I remind Senator Ormonde that the
British Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have systems that are identical with our own. The honourable senator mentioned the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Broadcasting Control Board, claiming that the Australian organisation is a huge undertaking. I agree that it is, but I remind him that there are many huge industrial undertakings as well as large organisations throughout the commercial life of Australia which are controlled by boards of directors the members of which act in a part time capacity as the Commissioners do. So I believe that an argument based on the size of the undertaking is not valid. The system, as it works, is a good system. There is provision in the measure for an increase in membership, and I am certain that the Commission will continue to work in the interests of Australia.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page1 797).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 5. which reads:
After section 3a of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: “ 3b. The Second Amending Agreement is approved.”. and I move:
The purpose of the first part of my amendment is to simplify the description of the land contained in the Agreement. In the description already contained in the Agreement almost a whole page is taken up in describing the subject area, in the same way as a conveyancer would describe a small area of land. In the Agreement the Government is trying to describe an area of 11,1 76,000 acres but one need only glance at its provisions to appreciate how confusing the present description is, for it contains, among other things, the names of places where the demarking line changes or bends. It is impossible even for a person who has a map in front of him really to understand the exact location of the territory in question. As I said, the aim of the amendment is to simplify the Agreement.
The second portion of my amendment was drafted for this reason: suppose a man succeeds in drawing a block of land or purchases a block of land, he has to fulfil certain conditions laid down by the Department of Lands. It would be natural for him to seek to develop his land so that he can make a living from the area; he does not want to be told by officers of the Department how to do it, because it is difficult for a lands department to lay down in principle precisely how brigalow land shall be developed by the occupier of each particular area. Soils vary between districts, and even over distances of 100 yards. It should be left to the occupier of the land to decide how he can make the best use of it. This practice obtains wherever there is profitable arable or grazing land.
The third part of my amendment refers to approval of works by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). It so happens that the Labor Party has unlimited confidence in the Minister for National Development, and knows that if this responsibility is delegated to him he will certainly carry it out faithfully and to the best advantage of the land holders in the district. These amendments are really simple and do not require any further explanation.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment that has been proposed.I remind the House that this is a finance measure.I made it very clear in my second reading speech that the Commonwealth’s role in this field was to supply money to the State of Queensland and that the State Government was the administering authority. The description of the area appearing in the Bill is that which was requested by the Queensland Government. It lies with that Government to say that. We cannot accept a variation of the description of the area. The Government believes that no difficulties will arise in regard to variations of developmental work and so forth.
The honourable senator said that he would like the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), in whom the Australian Labor Party has confidence, to administer the provisions of the agreement. The Government has great confidence in the Minister, too. If the Queensland Government sought a variation of the area or wished to develop further areas, as it now proposes - we are finding another $8. 5m for the purpose - such proposals would be submitted to the Treasurer who would consult the Minister for National Development and the Minister for Primary Industry, they being the Ministers vitally interested in this matter. If the Minister for National Development were the administering authority he would have to consult with the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry in respect of any proposals; so there is really no substance in the alteration suggested.
Perhaps I might add a word or two to the debate. I speak to the amendment because it is important that we should look at the situation from a specific standpoint. For some years now there has been an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government, concerning brigalow development. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) so correctly put it, this agreement has been operative for some years. It is a mutual agreement that has been subscribed to by both governments. Leaving aside altogether the fact that this is a money Bill - that is very relevant, although not for the purposes of my argument - if we amended the legislation we would be delaying the progress that is anticipated by the Bill. Certainly the amendment would express in more precise terms the area concerned, but I am not too sure that that would be a good thing. 1 have confidence not only in the Commonwealth Government, and in the Commonwealth Minister who is responsible under the legislation, but also in the Queensland Department of Lands. The brigalow agreement has occupied that Department’s attention for some years; that Department has designated the area laid down in the Schedule and it would be foolish for us to try to change the description. I support what the Leader of the Government in the Senate has said.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Bonn’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a third time.
– I have received a letter from Senator Prowse submitting his resignation from the Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures and requesting that he be discharged from that Committee.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - agreed to:
That Senator Prowse be discharged from attendance on the Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures and that Senator Sir Walter Cooper be appointed in his place.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
SenatorHENTY (Tasmania - Minister for Supply) [4.1] - I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland for the provision of financial assistance to the State in connection with the marketing of the 1966 No. 1 Pool of the Australian sugar crop. The terms of the agreement are that the Commonwealth undertakes to make financial assistance of about $19m available to the State for the benefit of the sugar industry and the State undertakes to repay the Commonwealth by 30th June 1980.
On 22nd July 1966, the Premier of Queensland wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) outlining the situation in the sugar industry and endorsing a proposal put forward by the industry for financial assistance. The proposal was that the Queensland Government should make a loan of$1 9m to the industry, and that the Commonwealth should make it possible for the Queensland Government to assist the industry in this way.
The industry’s proposal was put forward at a time when the world free market price for sugar had fallen to £16 sterling per ton.- c.i.f. London. There has since been some recovery in the free market price but it still remains relatively low. About one half of the Australian crop is sold on the basis of the world price. The remainder enjoys an assured market, at prices in excess of $100 per lon under long-term and other contractual arrangements within Australia, and in Great Britain and the United States of America.
Following an examination of the industry’s proposal and consultation between Commonwealth and State Ministers, the industry’s request was agreed to, as announced at the time. As a first step, and in order to meet the immediate problem, the Commonwealth undertook to facilitate the provision of advances to the Queensland Sugar Board by the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia, against the guarantee of the Queensland Government. Under the agreement now before Parliament, the Commonwealth is to make available to Queensland the funds necessary to discharge the obligation of the Reserve Bank, when it falls duc towards the end of October 1967.
The terms and conditions on which the Commonwealth will provide that financial assistance to the State are set out. in the agreement. The amount of financial assistance, together with interest, is to be repaid in ten equal annual instalments commencing on 30th June 1971. No interest is payable until 1st July 1970, and thereafter interest will accrue at the medium term bond rale. This agreement is separate and distinct from the CommonwealthQueensland Sugar Agreement, which has operated tor many years, and which is concerned primarily with the price al which sugar is sold in Australia and the long term regulation of the industry by the State. The Commonwealth-Queensland Sugar Agreement expires on 31st August 1967. and as a prelude to ils possible renewal there will shortly be further discussions between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments on matters relating to the sugar industry. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– The Bill is a very simple one. The Queensland
Sugar Board, using its statutory powers, borrowed the sum of $19m from the Reserve Bank of Australia for the purpose of meeting payments due to the sugar growers in respect of the sugar they had produced, lt is a simple process. The Sugar Board makes payments to the growers. The Bill really asks the Commonwealth Government to underwrite the liability in respect of the SI 9m which the Board will require to meet some of the payments to sugar growers during the next few months. It is as simple as that, Mr President.
I think it is generally known that the sugar industry in Queensland has been in the doldrums for a few years and that at present there are some hopeful signs. There have been indications that the price in the future will be more than £25 sterling a ton. and this will be considerably more than the rate that the Sugar Board has been receiving in recent years. This means, of course, that there will be a greater measure of prosperity in the sugar industry in Queensland. This will be a very good thing for Queensland itself, but in addition the huge tonnage of Queensland sugar that is exported will add a large amount of export income to the coffers of the Commonwealth. 1 am very pleased that this Bill is being agreed to. I will not go into the details of the sugar industry. I will not give statistics about last year’s production or the expected production in 1967. All I hope is that the growers will have greater prosperity this year than they had last year.
– I find myself in full agreement with the Bill, with the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) and with the comments just made by Senator Benn. I would be failing in my duty if 1 did not record my appreciation of the assistance that has been given to the sugar industry in the very difficult times through which it has passed during the last two or three years. The world price of sugar has been well below cost of production. Quite frankly, twelve months ago I could not see how many sugar producers, particularly the newer ones, would survive at all. Action was taken first by the Queensland Government, which approached the Federal Government, and then further action was taken bv the two governments together. While that action has not by any means overcome all the problems - and 1 would not like anybody to think that it had - it has been of great assistance over the most difficult period of all. In the circumstances I will conclude simply by expressing, on behalf of the people amongst whom I live and who have suffered a good deal in the last two or three years, appreciation for the action that has been taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the borrowing by the Commonwealth of $US13m, $A11.6m, from the United States Export-import Bank and the McDonnell Douglas Corporation to assist in the financing of jet aircraft and related equipment being purchased by the Australian National Airlines Commission. The money to be made available under the proposed loan agreement, the form of which is annexed to the Bill, will be used by Trans-Australia Airlines for the purchase of three DC9 aircraft and related equipment, spares and services. The aircraft will be purchased from the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, which is the successor to the Douglas Aircraft Company after a recent merger and which is to be one of the signatories to the agreement. On their arrival, these aircraft will bring TAA’s fleet of DC9s up to six. The first three of TAA’s DC9s, two of which have already been delivered, were financed with the assistance of a loan from certain United States commercial banks approved by the Loan (Airlines Equipment) Act 1966.
The general arrangements for the borrowing are similar to those approved by Parliament for other loans for TAA and Qantas Empire Airways Ltd in recent years. The Commonwealth will be the borrower in the first place, and the full proceeds of the loan will be made available to TAA on terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) pursuant to clause 8 of the Bill. These terms and conditions will be the same as those under which the Commonwealth itself borrows the money. As the airline will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreement, the Commonwealth will merely assume the function of an intermediary in these arrangements.
The main lender on this occasion is the Export-Import Bank, an institution whose primary function is the financing of United States exports. The Commonwealth has previously borrowed from the Export-Import Bank for commercial aircraft purposes. This was in 1960, when $US30m, or$A26.8m, was borrowed to help Qantas finance the purchase of three new Boeing 707 aircraft, and extensive modifications to other Boeing 707 aircraft. In addition, as I announced last month, the Export-Import Bank has now agreed to provide a further loan to assist Qantas to finance the purchase of ten more Boeing 707s. The Bank will provide $US66m, or $A58.7m, of the amount to be borrowed and the Boeing Company $US7m, or $A6.5m.
Australia has traditionally been a net importer of capital. Capital inflow has importance at the present time when we are running a sizeable balance of payments deficit which is expected to continue into next year. It has been the Government’s continuing policy to arrange oversea finance for a large proportion of the cost of new aircraft purchased by its two airlines. Much of the loan will be drawn in the latter part of 1968 and 1969 and there are obvious advantages in taking steps now to ensure that funds are readily available to meet known future contractual commitments of this nature. In a growing economy such as ours it is inevitable that there will be a continuously increasing demand for imports of materials, capital equipment and other items which must be obtained from abroad. To assist in financing such imports, the Government believes thatit should take advantage of opportunities, as they arise, to borrow overseas at reasonable rates of interest.
The proposed agreement with the Bank and Douglas follows the normal pattern of agreements with the Export-Import Bank. The Bank usually requires the borrower to find 20% of the total cost of the programme for which finance is provided. The Bank then provides up to 90% of the loan and looks to the supplier to provide the other 10%. Thus, in this case, TAA will be expected lo provide $US3.3m (SA2.9m) from its own resources, out of the total programme estimated to cost SUS16.3m, the Bank will lend $US11.7m (SA 10.4m) and Douglas $US1.3m ($A1.2m).
The loan agreement provides three methods by which TAA can make drawings on the loan. The first of these is to obtain reimbursement in respect of amounts already paid by TAA for items of equipment. Secondly, drawings may be made by letters of credit established wilh a United States commercial bank in favour of the suppliers of equipment, which would then be met by the Bank and Douglas. Thirdly, the Export-Import Bank may be asked to pay part of its share of the loan direct to Douglas in payment for items being financed under the loan. As the second and third procedures will not involve payments to the Commonwealth, which the Commonwealth as the borrower- would pass on to TAA, clause 14 has been incorporated in the Bill so that such disbursements by the lenders will in the first place constitute borrowings by the Commonwealth, and then loans by the Commonwealth to TAA.
The agreement will be signed as soon as convenient after this Bill becomes law, and drawings are planned to commence when the necessary arrangements can be made. The final date for drawing is 31st December .1969 unless the parties agree to an extension. In accordance with norma! banking practice in the United States, a commitment fee is to be paid on the undrawn amount of the Export-1111port Banks portion of the loan, and this fee accrues from 1st September 1966, when the Bank formally approved the loan. Interest is payable at the rate of 54% per annum from the date each drawing is made. This was the rale applying at the time the approval for the loan was given last year. The current rate for Export-Import Bank loans is 6%.
The loan is to be repaid in accordance with the three schedules set out in Article II of the agreement. Each schedule covers the finance to be provided for one of the aircraft and for equipment to be purchased between the dales specified, which fit iti with the estimated delivery date of the particular aircraft. The amount of: the loan represented by each schedule is repayable by semi-annual instalments over a period of seven years. Thus the loan is repayable over the expected life of the aircraft, and during the period that they arc making a substantial contribution to TAA’s finances. As I mentioned earlier, the procedures involved in connection with the loan are in accordance wilh the normal practices currently followed by the Export- Import Bank and follow generally the arrangements that applied to the borrowing from the Bank on behalf of Qantas in 1960.
The borrowing will be authorised under the 1966-67 programme approved for the Commonwealth at the Australian Loan Council meeting in June 1966 and will be additional to the Commonwealth’s approved programme of jil 20m for State housing purposes. The terms and conditions of the loan have been approved by the Loan Council. This is the sixth occasion on which Parliamentary approval has been sought for a borrowing by the Commonwealth in the United Stales on behalf of TAA. The earlier loans provided §US40m ($A36. Im) for the modernisation of TAA’s fleet. §US38m ($A34.I) of this amount has been drawn and $US8m ($A7.3m) has alreadybeen repaid. The present loan will make a further SUS 13m available for the purchase by TAA of modern jet aircraft and associated equipment.
I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– As honourable senators have just heard, the Bill sets out the terms of the proposal to arrange finance for the purchase of three additional DC9 twin jet aircraft similar to those that have been ordered, two of which have already been supplied to TransAustralia Airlines. There is nothing novel in this Bill; it follows a procedure that has been adopted over a number of years in respect of the financing of aircraft for Australia’s airlines. The Commonwealth will stand behind the proposal to borrow $US13m for the purchase of these aircraft with a repayment period of seven years. One gathers from the Bill that this period will be the term of life of the asset created.
This is normal practice in public borrowing. 1 am pleased to note that the interest rate has been negotiated at 5i%, whereas the current interest rate is 6%. We can be thankful that there is a saving here. 1 also note that the provisions of the Bill allow for the funding of the purchase of these aircraft up to the end of 1969 and that by common agreement between the parties concerned this period can be extended. However, 1 hope that in the interests of the airline an extension will not be necessary and that the airline will be equipped with DC9 aircraft well before the end of 1969. One wonders just what, the situation is with the aircraft being operated at present by this airline. Will the purchase of these new aircraft mean that aircraft now in service will be disposed of? Have the aircraft now in service been purchased on terms approximately similar to the terms of this new arrangement? In other words, were they purchased over a repayment period of seven years? If this is the case, one would expect that were it necessary to dispose of them the price recovered as a result of their sale would, in accordance with normal practice, be placed in an account which could be used to fund the additional requirements of the airline. I do not know whether this is to be the case. The Bill does not clarify this point.
Unfortunately, because of the scheduling of the Senate’s business we have not a great deal of time to go more deeply into this question. I would have liked to be able to do this. However, I have regard for the wishes, I believe, of all of us here that we should get through our business as quickly as we can. No doubt there will be an opportunity in the Budget session to discuss this matter more fully. One also wonders whether additional routes are to be pioneered by the operation of these new jet airliners. We have moved into the jet agc and it would be natural, I think, to expect that areas of Australia which have not up to this time been serviced by jet airliners will be brought within the range of operations of these aircraft, so that the services for which the people of Australia in general are paying will be available to people in remoter centres rather than be confined, as is largely the case at the moment, to people in the capital and major cities.
I have been for some time very much concerned about the ability of TransAustralia Airlines to meet requirements in the provision of services to the public. I was assured, when I raised this matter shortly before Easter because I was concerned whether TAA would be able to meet its commitments in the provision of modern airliners, that the airline did in fact have aircraft adequate to meet the needs of the service. I learned shortly afterwards that TAA had found it necessary to place in service for passenger use DC4 airliners which have been in service in Australia for very many years. These are quite old aircraft which do not come up to the modern standard required by the travelling public of Australia. One would expect that if their purchase was financed on the same basis as the purchase that is now being undertaken they would have been paid for many years ago and that the time would long since have passed when these aircraft would have been taken out of service for passenger transport and used for freight services, or sold, or disposed of in some other way, and the funds obtained used to meet the requirements of the airline for modern airliners.
I do not want it to be taken from what 1 have said that we are against the purchase of these airliners. In fact, we are very much for it, because we believe that the most modern aircraft and equipment and the best possible service ought to fie provided for the travelling public of Australia in this relatively new mode of transport which has far outstripped anything that has been available to us In the past. The amount of money involved in the purchase of these aircraft ls relatively small. In another place the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has assured us that Australia’s overseas reserves are in a healthy state. In these circumstances one wonders why we could not have purchased these aircraft out of revenue and thus saved the interest payments which will be made overseas.
To purchase new aircraft out of revenue wherever possible in order further to improve the airline controlled by the Australian National Airlines Commission would be a better course to adopt than to purchase them by loans raised overseas. The amount involved in the Bill is trifling, having regard to the cost of re-equipping an airline, and particularly having regard to the fact that the Government had to borrow from the American Export-Import Bank in order to purchase ten Boeing 707s for Qantas. In a case such as the one now before the Senate I would have thought that it would have been of benefit to Australia if we could purchase these aircraft from revenue and therefore save the paymentof interest, which goes out of the country. No doubt the Minister in his reply will say something about that matter.
One could say many things about the operation and re-equipping of TransAustralia Airlines. I trust that the opportunity todo so will be available later in the year. I assure the Minister that the Labor Party offers no objection to the passage of thisBill.
– in reply -I would like to refer to one or two of the matters raised by Senator Devitt. As to the disposal of aircraft, Trans-Australia Airlines disposes of them as and when it feels that the aircraft are surplus to requirements. This applies in the case of lX’4s. DC6s and Viscounts, the latter now about to go out of service on major routes. These aircraft have been paid for over a period’ of years. They have earned capital for TAA. which the organisation is now using to purchase new DC9s. lt would bc a wonderful world if the price of aircraft had remained stable. There would then have been no difficulty about financing the purchase of new aircraft. Unfortunately, as aircraft have increased in size they have increased in price. The result is that the capital provided by way of depreciation on the DC3s, the DC4s and the Viscounts is not sufficient tomeet the cost of the new DC9s. The money for the purchase of these new aircraft has to bc borrowed. I think we are borrowing it in the right way and in the right place - in the United States of America where the aircraft are made.
Senator Devitt complained about the lack of lime to study the Bill. This legislation has been on the stocks for a week.
– I was referring not to lack of time to study the Bill but lack of time for discussion.
– The Bill was introduced in another place a week ago. The second reading speech and the reports of the ensuing debate have been available to Senator Devitt if he had wanted to read them. If he had wanted to inform himself about any matter he had at least a week in which to do it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debute.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message that it had not made the amendments requested by the Senate.
Consideration of House of Representatives message.
After section14 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: 14a. …… 14a.- (1.) . . . . . (15.) Sub-section (3.) of section sixte en of this Act does not apply in relation to a person to whom this section applies but, for the purposes of this Act. the acceptable savings of such a person (being a person in relation to whom the prescribed date is adatelaterthanthethirty-firstdayof December, One thousand nine hundred and sixtyseven) as at a time (in this sub-section referred to as ‘the relevant time’) after thethirty-first day of December. Onethousand nine hundred and sixtyseven, are subject to this Act, the moneys that were saved in Australia before rhe relevant time by the person and -
Senate’s request No. 1:
In paragraph (b) of sub-section (5.) of proposed new section 14b, after “ society “, insert “ or credit union that has as a substantial part of its business the lending of moneys to its members for the purpose of the purchase or erection of dwellinghouses (including acquisition of land) for occupation by those members “.
Section 16 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (b) of sub-section (3.) the words ‘or was described in those books or records in any other way that indicated that the moneys were for use in connexion with the purchase or construction of a dwelling-house’.
Senate’s request No. 2:
Leave out the clause, insert the following clause: “8. Section 16 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (a) of sub-section (3.) the words or credit union’;
by adding at the end of sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (b) of sub-section (3.) the words ‘or was described in those books or records in any other way that indicated that the moneys were for use in connexion with the purchase or construction of a dwelling-house’; and
by inserting in sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (b) of sub-section (3.) after the word ‘society’, the words ‘or credit union that has as a substantial part of its business the lending of moneys to its members for the purpose of the purchase or erection of dwelling-houses (including acquisition of land) for occupation by those members’.”.
[4.32] - I move:
The Government has considered the Senate’s request that savings with some credit unions be acceptable at all times for purposes of the homes savings grant scheme. But, as 1 have said on a previous occasion, to accept this request would be to change one of the main purposes of the scheme. The scheme was designed to encourage young people who are saving to acquire their own homes to deposit their savings with institutions that provide the bulk of sizeable long term housing loans and thus to increase the supply of housing finance and of homes.
If some credit unions were to amend their rules to enable them to make the housing loans suggested by the Opposition parties, we have no reason to expect that that would lead to a worthwhile increase in the supply of long term, first mortgage housing finance. Credit unions are co-operatives. The co-operative movement already has building societies that cater for the long term housing loans sought by most home seekers. The institutions that make the bulk of these loans are banks, housing societies and building societies. The average housing loan that they make is close to $7,000 and usually is repayable over fifteen or twenty years or a longer period. The rules under which credit unions operate do not permit them to make housing loans of this magnitude or of this duration. All but three of the 500 or so credit unions in existence in Australia may not make loans to their members in excess of $2,000 and the maximum repayment period for any loan to a member is seven years.
It is doubtful whether the existing State legislation under which most credit unions operate would permit the registration of a credit union that had as a substantial part of its business the lending of money to its members for the purpose of the purchase or erection of dwelling houses if the lending were to be in the form of the high ratio, long term housing loans that are sought by most home buyers and builders. Credit unions and many other private and public authorities and associations with which young people deposit their savings cannot be regarded as primary sources of long term housing finance in the same way as can banks and building societies. Moreover, it is open to members of credit unions to form co-operative housing societies, as members of friendly societies have done.
– Have friendly societies done this?
– Yes, they certainly have. Savings with any co-operative housing society are acceptable at all times for the purposes of the Homes Savings Grant Act. Moreover, it would not surprise me if only a very small number of people who save with credit unions intend to seek a sizeable first mortgage loan from those unions in order to acquire a home. Many members of credit unions already own homes.
The amendment requested would also raise quite a number of administrative difficulties. For example, what is the definition of ‘a substantial part of its business’? What is meant by a loan for ‘the purchase or erection of a dwelling house’? Is this intended to include a relatively small second mortgage loan? If the volume of business in housing loans of a credit union declined below whatever might be determined as a substantial level’, would acceptance of savings with that credit union for the purposes of the scheme be withdrawn, as presumably it should be? These are, I think, matters which should be considered.
I hope the remarks I have made today and previously in this chamber will convince honourable senators that savings with credit unions, and also with many other organisations, both public and private, are not appropriate channels of savings for the purposes of this scheme. As I have said previously, the Government wishes to encourage young people to save and we applaud all those who do so. We accept that credit unions perform a very useful function in the community by mobilising savings to provide relatively small and short term loans to their members for a variety of highly desirable purposes. But they do not make available long term first mortgage loans, which are required by most intending home owners. One of the main purposes of the homes savings grant scheme is to augment the supply of funds for these loans. As announced by the Government parties at the 1966 election, it is our policy to extend the scope of the homes savings grant scheme to include widowed persons under thirty-six years of age who have dependent children; to raise the limit on the value of a home and land for the purposes of the scheme from $14,000 to $15,000; and to give the Secretary of my Department certain discretionary powers so that cases may be treated sympathetically on their individual merits. The purpose of this Bill is to do just those things. Many hundreds of young people throughout Australia today, who have saved or are saving to own their own homes, stand to benefit from the passage of this Bill.
The amendments proposed by the Opposition would detract from one of the main purposes of the scheme and could result in a reduction in the volume of savings available to make sizeable long term loans to those seeking to buy or build their own homes. This is why the amendments proposed by the Opposition are not acceptable to the Government If the Senate refuses to accept this Bill as it stands, and as the Government wishes it to stand, the Opposition will not be able to escape the responsibility. This legislation was introduced in conformity with the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) at the last election. The Government was given a mandate by an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia. This Bill is part of that mandate.
Over and over again I have listened with sympathy to Opposition senators who have spoken to me about problems they have encountered because of some particular matter which has not been covered by this legislation and in respect of which they have wished discretionary powers to be conferred. This Bill has one purpose. That is to benefit the young people of Australia and through the wider scope of the legislation, the widows. I believe that if this Bill is passed by the Senate without the requests of the Opposition hundreds of young Australians will be benefited who today are awaiting its passage. A mandate was given to the Government. The people have understood and considered the Government’s policy on the matters in which they have been interested. If the Opposition persists with its requests and this Bill is not passed for the benefit of our young people, the Opposition will stand condemned for what it has done. It will be the responsibility of the Opposition that it has not allowed the legislation to be widened in scope so that its benefits may be extended to young people and widows whom we wish to assist.
– The Opposition will press its requests. It will ask the Committee of the Senate to adhere to its previous decision because no argument has been advanced by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to show that the Committee ought to alter its previous decision. The policy to which the Bill and the original Act give effect is simple. We are dealing with homes savings grant legislation to assist young married persons to purchase or to build their own homes. That is the central policy of the legislation; nothing more and nothing less. For the Minister to say that to include credit union savings in this legislation would be to destroy its function is nonsense because the credit unions were included originally. Savings in credit unions were acceptable originally and there is no reason why they should not be acceptable now. Why should not savings in credit unions be treated as acceptable savings by young married people so that they may qualify for a grant? It is as simple as that.
– Interest is charged at eight or nine per cent.
– The Leader of the Government is interjecting. Is he attacking the credit unions?
– No. The honourable senator knows that.
– Then I think that the Leader of the Government should cease from interrupting because it sounds to me very much as if he is showing a bias against credit unions. The rates of interest, whatever they are, arc fixed by the members of the credit unions as between themselves. It is a co-operative body and the members make their own arrangements. Everybody in this chamber wishes that rates of interest might be reduced. No doubt if the Government were to take the right approach which the shadow Treasurer in the House of Representatives has often recommended that they take, then rales of interest generally in Australia could be reduced. No doubt the interest rates thai the credit union members have to impose upon themselves could also bc reduced.
Criticism is now made by the Minister for Housing for the first time of the words which were added lo the words ‘credit union”. This is not acceptable to the Opposition because, on the last occasion when the Bill was considered there were consultations about this matter. I remind the Minister for Housing that she did not suggest al any time that the addition of those words would make the amendment any worse. She said thai the only problem was the addition of mc credit unions. The Government was approaching it on a matter of principle and there was no suggestion that the addition of the words, ‘that has as a substantial part of ils business the lending of moneys lo its members for the purpose of the purchase or erection of dwelling houses, including acquisition of land, for occupation by these members’, would create any further problems for the Government.
– The problem was there before.
– The Minister indicated that the only opposition was to the addition of the credit unions. It was not suggested in any way that the words of qualification which will be added will create any further difficulty. The Government is showing an intransigent attitude. The credit unions are accepted as co-operative institutions to enable people to avoid the private banks and other lending institutions. They deal with their business in a way that seems suitable to them. The amendment, as it was requested by the Senate, is restricted only to those credit unions of which a substantial part of their business is concerned with the lending of money to members for the purpose of the purchase or erection of dwelling houses, including the acquisition of land, for occupation by those members. The Minister has said that encouragement should be given to financial institutions that are concerned with lending money for the purpose of the acquisition or erection of dwelling houses, and it is clear that this purpose will be achieved by the amendment that has been proposed.
My colleagues and I say that the central feature is that persons ought to be able to keep their savings where they like. The purpose of the Act is to enable people to obtain a grant, yet the Government seeks here to discriminate against a legitimate and proper form of saving institution in order to favour others. With the qualification that is in the amendment, the Opposition asks that the Committee of the Senate adhere to its previous decision.
– I shall speak briefly on this matter. 1 am sure that many Government, Opposition and Independent senators have received, as I have, many representations from young people who, since this legislation was enacted, just failed to qualify for a grant. I am certain that from members in another place and from both sides of this chamber representations were made to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) and to the Government, and that the Government realised that its legislation could be improved by widening the scope to let in those who had formerly narrowly missed out. So the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) proclaimed in his policy speech that if the Government were returned, action would be taken to improve the legislation in this regard. Since then honourable members have had this amendment. It is an amendment, in parliamentary terms, but I suggest that it is an addition lo the homes savings grant policy.
We have come to a situation where an evenly divided chamber of review can keep on asking for this amendment - this change in or addition to policy - to be accepted by the Government. The House of Representatives has gone into recess. 1 know that Parliament can be recalled, but ever since the Prime Minister’s policy speech and the lime when the result of the last elections was known, many hundreds of young people have been waiting for the fulfilment of the promise that, was made in this connection. lt will be fulfilled when royal assent is given to the Bill that is now before us. At the moment honourable members are faced purely and simply, with a clash of policies on whether credit unions should or should not be included in the legislation as authorised organisations.
I make this suggestion quite sincerely to any uncommitted voters in the Senate when the next division is being taken: why not side with the Government to get this Bill made law and then, when the Parliament reassembles, have another try, at the appropriate time, to see whether the Government will, on further consideration, alter its policy? I really do think that, although in parliamentary language this is an amendment, in effect it requests a change of policy. If we press the amendment at this stage of the sessional period many hundreds of young people are going to be bitterly disappointed, and I shall ky the blame for that where it rightly belongs.
– J will speak only briefly on this matter. One honourable senator opposite has spoken of the serious nature of this impasse between the two Houses. He has suggested that there are hundreds of people who are waiting to benefit but who will be deprived of the advantage if the Senate presses the amendment. Why is this so?
On the one hand, the Opposition does not propose to forego what it considers to be a principle and on the other hand the Government refuses to recognise a worthy group and will not accept an amendment which, in effect, only seeks to add one more thing to the alterations which this Government claims will bestow benefits on people who are wanting homes.
The Government says it cannot accept our proposals because the purposes of t-he Bill are to encourage young people to save money for the purchase of a home and to make money available for investment in long term loans for housing. I point out to the Government that since the original legislation was introduced the home building rate has declined: The important point here, however, is that, if young people are saving for a home, it matters not whether they deposit their money in a savings bank or with a credit union - they are saving the money with a view to qualifying for assistance under this legislation. Therefore, we say that the purpose of the Bill would not be defeated if the Government accepted our proposal.
It has been stated that credit unions cannot lend money for home building for longer periods than twenty years. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has admitted that. But how much money is being made available to other institutions for investment in home building? Do not let us fool ourselves into believing that the rate of home building has increased since the original Act came into operation. On the contrary, it has declined.
– But not because of the Act.
– Not because of it. I refer honourable senators to the last annual report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and remind them that irrespective of what we do under this legislation the Reserve Bank of Australia in effect determines the building rate, as it instructs the savings banks as to what money they shall make available by way of loans for housing. I remind the Committee, too, that the regulations under the savings bank regulations make it compulsory for banks to hold at least 65% of the money deposited with them in liquid assets and public sector securities. This leaves only 35% for other purposes. Therefore, at the most, only 35% of the moneys deposited wilh savings banks could be made available for housing, lt has to bc remembered also that savings banks have to bc ready to meet the calls of their depositors at any time. The whole of the 35% of the deposits thru they are permitted to invest could not be invested in long term loans, because part must be readily available for use if it is needed.
Mr Cameron, the Director of the Australian Bankers Association Research Directorate, has stated that the savings banks have. 24’.< .>)” their deposits invested in housing. According to Mr Cameron, this is the maximum percentage that the savings banks can invest in housing while they arc required to retain 65% of their deposits. Only 24% of the amount that home seekers deposit in special savings accounts can be used for housing. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) said that the purpose of the Act is to make money available for long term loans for housing. But only 24% of the amount deposited can be used in this way. The Minister said that S34.5m had been paid out in grants over three years. That was one-third of the amount that had been deposited in banks to attract the benefits of the scheme. Therefore, about Si 03.5m would have been deposited with the banks for this purpose. Of that amount, the banks could lend only about 24%. If we take this as one-quarter, we find that about S25m was made available for housing over a period of three years. This means that, by directing savings to a special purpose, the Act has made between S8m and S8.5m a year available for housing. But this assumes that the money would not have been deposited with the banks if the scheme had not been introduced. I suggest that, even before the Act came into operation, most people saving for a home would have deposited their money wilh a savings bank or a building society. The Act may have resulted in some additional money being made available for housing, but the amount that it has made available for long term loans for housing is insignificant.
The only consideration that prevents the Government from recognising deposits with credit unions for the purpose of this scheme is that credit unions do not make long term loans for housing. Credit unions have the right to lend the whole of their deposits for short terms and they can lend for housing purposes a bigger percentage of their deposits than the savings banks can. The savings banks can lend only 24% of their deposits for housing. The credit unions can lend a much bigger percentage for a short term and for a specific purpose. The purpose could be to bridge the deposit gap, to provide a second mortgage or to purchase land. All these are essential ingredients in housing.
If we examine the figure showing the amount that it. is possible to obtain from the enforcement of the Act as it now stands, we find that the amount available for housing and the number of people assisted would not be jeopardised if the amendment extending the scheme to credit unions were accepted. Everyone on the Government side has agreed that credit unions serve a commendable purpose. I do not think that any of their activities have been condemned. The only objection is that their loans cannot be made for terms as long as those on which savings banks can lend. Credit unions are not empowered to make loans for long terms. Credit unions are accepted generally as desirable and respectable organisations. The credit unions desire that those of their members who have saved in the recognised way through credit unions should receive the grant. These savings must be paid in for the purpose of the purchase of a home. They must meet the qualifications prescribed in the Bill relating to annual deposits, annual withdrawals, excess savings and other matters. A number of the people who save with credit unions meet every requirement in the Act. There can be no condemnation of credit unions which desire recognition of their members who have qualified under the Act and are eligible to receive these grants. We are only fooling ourselves if we say that credit unions are not contributing as greatly to the purchase of additional homes as banks are, when we consider the amounts of finance available in the two kinds of organisation. if the Minister has in her mind a suspicion that the amendment proposed by the Opposition is aimed at the destruction of the purposes of the Act, she should consider the point that I have made that the acceptance of the amendment will have no detrimental effect on the Act. It must be recognised that if additional numbers of widows are to be deprived of the benefits of this Act and if anyone who missed out previously and now qualifies is to be deprived of the benefits of the Act, the blame fairly and squarely must be placed on the Government because it will not accept this amendment, which only seeks recognition of organisations that we all accept as respectable savings organisations.
– Mr Deputy President, we have just heard a long and involved speech seeking to justify the action which the Opposition is taking. The amendment, if carried, will result in refusing to the Government the ability to carry out its promises to make benefits available to those who at present do not qualify for benefits under the Act. I point out to the Committee that what we are discussing is a policy promise made by the Government at the last election. The policy put to the people, the policy that we promised to carry out, was that we would alter the provisions of the Homes Savings Grant Act so that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) could have some discretionary powers designed to meet cases of hardship; so that we could extend the scheme to include widowed persons aged less than 36 years who have one or more dependant children and who were then, and are now, excluded from receiving these benefits; and so that we could raise from $14,000 to $15,000 the limitation on the value of a home attracting the grant. These were specific parts of the policy put before the people. In the election in which they were put before the people the Government was returned with a greater majority in the House of Representatives than has been known before. Not one member of the Senate was returned at that election. Yet members of the Opposition, not one of whom stood for election on that occasion, are now rising-
– But how did-
– I did not interrupt Senator Cavanagh. He can listen to me for a change. I know I am getting under his skin. Not one of the members of the Opposition stood at that election. Yet they are taking it on themselves to get up here and say: ‘In spite of the fact that the promise of this grant was made and in spite of the fact that the Government is attempt ing to carry out this promise to extend these grants, we the members of the Labor Opposition will not allow this to happen unless the Act is amended as we want it amended’. That is what the Opposition is saying. The situation is as clear as that. The Opposition is saying; ‘No matter what the Government promised to the people; no matter what the result of the last election; no matter what the Government is trying to do now; no matter who may benefit in the way of receiving grants who now cannot receive those grant’s; we will not allow the Government to make these grants unless it amends the Act in some other way’.
No purpose or need exists to go into the reasons that the Opposition has advanced in support of its claim that the Act ought to be amended in some other way. That has nothing to do with the matter at all. We are endeavouring to implement an election pledge and are trying to give to the people the benefits that we promised. The Opposition is refusing to allow that to happen, lt is is simple as that. Honourable senators opposite are saying that we should change the Act in some other way. If the Opposition persists in its attitude, the widows who otherwise will get a benefit under this legislation will not receive it. The Opposition is saying that unless we change the Act to bring in credit unions the people who would get the benefit of a higher valuation on their house or land will not be able to get that benefit. The Opposition is suggesting that unless the measure is altered in another respect those who would benefit by the ministerial discretion - the difficult cases which fall outside the regulations and have been refused grants so far - will not enjoy the advantages of the exercise of that discretion.
If honourable senators opposite persist in their attitude those people who in a week or a year’s time would otherwise receive the benefits of this legislation will now not receive those benefits. The Opposition is saying that it will not let those people get these benefits unless the Government alters the legislation in a way that has nothing to do with the benefits payable. It is as simple as that, and the Opposition should not try to wriggle out by attempting to put the blame on someone else.
– The Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) concluded his speech by saying that a number of people would be deprived of certain benefits because we would not allow those persons to get these benefits. That is not our attitude. We want those people to have these benefits; but we want a further group of people to have them as well. We have no objection to the first group of people having them; wa simply say that another group of people - those associated with credit unions of a type qualified to receive this money - should have the opportunity also. I want lo make it clear that we are not doing anything that will deprive anyone of a benefit.
– Yes, von are.
– The Minister may say that but we are merely wanting to add another group 1 remind honourable senators tlr.it about 200,000 people in Australia associated with the credit union movement are watching the progress of this debate. If the Government persists in its attitude, these people will be dented something, too. lt cuts both ways. The leaders of the credit union movement have assured mc that the larger unions are qualified to undertake these responsibilities and they resent the fact that the Government proposes to deprive them of the opportunity.
– Which they were not promised and which they do not have today.
– Many things that have not been promised beforehand have been included in Bills from time to time. This would be only one more such case in a very large number of cases in the history of Australia. Honourable senators claim that they admire the work of the credit unions, hut the attitude seems to bc that some of them are not qualified to undertake this responsibility and therefore the Government proposes to leave the lot out. I am the mover of the amendment. As Senator Murphy has said, certain discussions were held. I do not reveal private discussions, but. I can assure the Minister in charge of the Bill that if anyone is to be criticised for the wording of the amendment it should not be I. I shall leave the matter there. All I want to say is that the amendment envisaged that a certain group of credit unions which in our view were qualified to undertake this responsibility should be included. Those who are associated with these organisations have assured me that they are quite well qualified to be included. Their attitude and the attitude of their 200,000 members will be one of resentment if the Government persists in the view that it is adopting now. Several measures have been considered by this chamber in the past couple of days and a number of votes have been taken. There has been a tendency to suggest that if one votes against the Government’s measures one is undertaking responsibilities for things that should nol be done, but I should like the members of the Government to recall what happened when the Electoral Act was amended prior lo the election last year. The Government refused to allow the Electoral Act, as it stood, to take its course. But for the amending legislation the Government would have won the two casual seals in Western Australia and the two casual seats in Victoria. However, it insisted on legislating in a way which meant that instead of getting four seats it got only two.
If any responsibility has to be apportioned for a holdup of this measure, let us apportion some of that responsibility to the Cabinet and to Government supporters who deliberately ensured that in this Senate the Government would be left with only twentyeight votes. But for that action we would not be in this position today. I was one who warned the Government of what it was doing. I at least can say: ‘I told you so’. If the Act had not been amended the Government today would have had thirty votes, or thirty-one with that of Senator Hannaford, who supports it on nearly all matters except external policy, on which he has strong feelings of principle. Therefore, if there is to be any apportionment of responsibility, I will accept my share of it but I expect the members of the Cabinet and the supporters of the Government, who legislated last year to ensure that the Government parties would be in the minority in the Senate, to take their share too.
– The proposition wc are asked to consider is simple. This Bill is carrying out an election promise. It has been approved by the House of this Parliament which assumes the financial responsibility of government. It increases from 514,000 to $15,000 the limitation on the value of a home which may attract a grant, and gives additional assistance to widows. This was the policy that was put forward and was accepted overwhelmingly by the people.
I say this in great seriousness because this Senate has not been to an election: we are a house of review and we carried out our reviewing when we sent this measure back to the other House saying: ‘In our opinion this is what should be done’. That was the voice of the Senate. The other House has considered the requested amendment, rejected it and returned the Bill to the Senate. It is not now the function of the Senate to repeat the process. The standing of this House will be damaged if it misuses its powers. The power of every upper house in the world has been damaged and every upper house in the world has had its wings clipped because of a misuse of powers. If the Senate presses its amendment to this Bill the measure will not be passed and widows and other potential beneficiaries will not receive their benefits. The other House is not in session. The Opposition in this chamber must accept the responsibility. Knowing this-
– It is the Government’s fault.
– Never mind whose fault it is. I am putting the facts of life before the Opposition and they cannot be denied. If the Senate rejects this legislation now we must face up to the fact that it cannot come into effect until such time as the Parliament reassembles in August, at the earliest, and people will be denied the benefit of its provisions. Nor am I prepared to say that these people will benefit by it even them. But they cannot benefit until then. As an Upper House, having made a request and having sent it to the other place for consideration on a matter which will add to the Government’s bill and cost more money, the Opposition must take responsibility for any delay which results.
– It will not cost more money.
– Of course it will cost more money. I was interested in what happened on the last occasion that this measure was before the Senate. I honour Senator
McManus for saying that he will not refer in the Senate to discussions held in private. It is a pity that other honourable senators do not apply the same principle. Disclosing what has been said in private conversations makes it impossible to make arrangements. The Government set out to see whether it was possible to find a solution to the problem. This has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) who said that this discussion had taken place. I attribute that to his lack of experience or lack of knowledge about how the Parliament is conducted. He should realise that if he wants any assistance from anyone in the Government to find a solution to a problem in future he should not refer in this chamber to details of private discussions held for that purpose. I repeat that I honour Senator McManus for not referring to private discussions.
I asked the Leader of the Opposition a question about borrowing from a credit union to purchase a house for $8,000. A house costing £4,000 is not dear. I posed the question: if a young couple wants to buy a $8,000 house and wants to borrow $6,000 on first mortgage repayable over twenty-five years, can a credit union meet this request? The honourable senator had to come back, after consulting with some authority outside, to tell me that the request could not be met by the credit unions. The normal procedure is for loans to be made on first mortgage at 7% over twenty to twenty-five years, and on a $8,000 house a normal loan would be $6,000. But the only request that could be met by a credit union would be for a maximum loan of $4,000. I understand that three credit unions in New South Wales will lend as much as that. The remaining credit unions are able to lend only $2,000. If I understood correctly the signals which I saw being flashed across the chamber when this matter was last before the Senate, the loan would be available at a 5% flat rate of interest.
– I think the Minister is mistaken. The credit unions pay 5% interest on savings.
– I take it that the honourable senator accepts the fact that there was a signal. I understand that the rate charged is 5% flat.
– ls it 5% or 6%?
– I give them the benefit of the doubt. My information is that the rate charged is 5% fiat, which over a period of seven years works out at an actual rate of 8.97%. that is, almost 9%. Money available at that rate is not a sound proposition for housing. That is all we say.
I appeal to the Senate on the three grounds I have mentioned. Quite properly, the request has been pressed. Tt was sent to the House which is responsible for the legislation and which has been approved by the people. That House has rejected the request, lt has sent the request back to this House and has said that it cannot accept it. If we press the request a second time knowing that the other House is in recess, we will deny this assistance to the beneficiaries under the Act until the other House re-assembles. That is the first point I make.
I repeat that politics is the art of the possible. This request was made on the basis of the possible. The Leader of the Opposition said: ‘It does not fit in with what, the Australian Labor Party wants, but. it is all we can get. We will accept the decision of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.’ 1 say to the chamber that until the other House re-assembles, the provisions contained in this Bill, without the request, are all that can be granted. If honourable senators opposite have any thought at all for the widows and other beneficiaries under the Act, they will accept this as the ‘possible’. In accordance with that definition of politics they should accept the Bill without request, and then when the matter is before the chamber again and when the other House has reassembled honourable senators can fight to see what they can get.
– Why does not the Minister accept the request?
– The reason why it has not been accepted has been carefully explained to the honourable senator. The position is that honourable senators opposite are faced with a responsibility now and they should not try to run away from it. Every honourable senator in this chamber is faced with a responsibility. The other House has considered this request, lt has returned it to us and has said that it will not accept it. Honourable senators opposite are trying to interject. 1 ask them to sit quietly and to listen to what I have to say. Every honourable senator has to ask himself: ‘Am I going to accept responsibility for denying to beneficiaries under this Act the benefit which was promised at an election by a House which has been to an election’. This House has not yet had an election. I ask honourable senators opposite to take the advice of a pretty experienced politician in this field. I ask them not to press the request twice from the Upper House because if they do so they will be starting a trend of slipping powers for the upper House.
– I think that all honourable senators will agree that there has never been anyone in this chamber who has agitated more consistently for the welfare of widows than I have. 1 am rather sorry this afternoon to see that widows are being exploited in this way. Blackmail tactics are being used to try to get this legislation through the chamber. 1 would like to ask the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) how many widows who receive the widows pension come under this Act. In three years a widow would not save $750 from her pension. Widows could not live on their pension and save $750 in three years unless they had some other source of income. But if they had some other source of income their pension would be reduced. Whichever way one takes it, it is almost an impossible position. In addition, having received a grant of $750. where are they to get the balance of up to $14,000 with which to build a house? We all know that although set sums are slated in the Act, they are not the minimum required with which to build a house. Honourable senators know that housing costs have risen beyond all reason.
I ask the Minister to inform us how many widows would be affected by the passage of this Bill. I also ask how many widows have applied for assistance under the Act and have been refused it because of the terms of the Act as they have hitherto existed. Does it make any provision for widow pensioners or for wealthy widows? Which widows are covered by the legislation? It seems to me that it would be impossible for a widow with a child to save $750 in the course of three years from a pension. It could not be done: it would be an impossible proposition. I think that all this talk about widows has been introduced as a red herring across the trail. If 1 thought for one moment that the mass of widows was going to be injured in any way I would not vole for the amendment.
– The legislation affects more than widows.
– Yes, but this afternoon much play has been made of the effect it will have on widows. Honourable senators have been crying about widows, but they have not cried about them when I have tried lo gel for widows a decent rate of subsistence. Senators are worried about the widows now that they are trying to get the legislation through. How many widows are affected by the legislation? I should like to see the same enthusiasm for the cause of widows displayed when the Senate debates social service legislation as has been displayed this afternoon in an attempt to get the legislation through.
- Senator Tangney has been very unfair in making her comments on this matter. Certainly credit can be given to her for the way she has fought for many years in the interests of widows but it was unfair of her to suggest that the argument for this legislation has been based on what will happen to widows should it not be passed. I think the honourable senator would agree that if only one widow were to be denied the benefits proposed by the Bill then she would be the first to defend that widow’s rights. No Minister would press an amendment unless that amendment were being pushed for by members of the Parliament or unless it were being applied for directly by widows concerned. If we examine the debate that has ensued on the Bill we will note that many senators from both sides of the House have expressed gratitude for the fact that widows have been included in the legislation, yet the honourable senator is trying to say that the Government’s argument is being applied solely in respect of widows.
Let us examine the position a little more thoroughly. I give credit to the Australian Labor Party and to the Australian Democratic Labor Party for their arguments about the homes savings grant. Generally they have favoured the propositions that have been put forward. All members have acclaimed the original legislation, but I have heard some honourable senators, including Senator Cavanagh, ask what the legislation has done for the building industry and suggest that it has not achieved any increase in the building rate. It has done much to encourage young people to save.
– I very much doubt that.
– Well, I would not doubt it and I should imagine that the 60,000 to 70,000 young people who are at present saving in designated accounts will make a great contribution to Australia’s requirements. Honourable senators opposite, including members of the DLP, have made a political issue of this matter. The Labor Party has been caught by the nose by the DLP and led into following the DLP on this issue. Perhaps honourable senators in their anxiety to agree with a certain section of the community and to secure a few more votes at some later time have followed this line, yet in their hearts they realise that this is not a genuine stand by their Party.
– The honourable senator is better when he is discussing timber.
– I ask the honourable senator to look at the facts. The Minister for Housing, who introduced the Bill, said that it was designed to encourage saving for homes with institutions whose significant function was to provide long term finance for housing. The honourable senator cannot claim that credit: unions come within that category. I agree, as does every honourable senator on this side of the House, that credit unions play an important part in the community, but they wish to attract savings by being eligible to participate in the homes savings grant scheme. I do not blame them for seeking out honourable members opposite and suggesting that they push this application, but the criterion is whether they are institutions whose major significant function is to provide long term loans for housing. Honourable senators opposite must agree that that is the point.
– We want to liberalise that provision.
– I know, and 1 appreciate the point. I know that honourable senators opposite have a genuine interest in having this field widened, but they must not forget that the field will be widened by the passage of this Bill.
The Minister has moved that the request be not pressed. I believe that gives Opposition senators an opportunity to say that they have pui their point and it has been debated but they have decided to approve the Government’s proposition and pass the Bill. Then at a later stage, perhaps when credit unions fall into the appropriate category, those institutions will be given the right to enjoy the benefits of the grant.
– We also put this point in 1965.
– I know the point has been put previously but I believe honourable senators opposite know in their own minds - indeed certain of them have said this within the last half hour - that some credit unions would not fit into this category. Senator McManus made a statement to this effect: ‘We understand that there are credit unions not eligible to undertake these responsibilities’. If the Minister were so irresponsible as to accept a proposition which would provide for a blanket intake of credit unions, particularly in view of Senator McManus’s remark that certain of them are not eligible to undertake the responsibilities inherent in their becoming eligible organisations, she would certainly be betraying her trust as a Minister. I think that factor must be kept in mind.
– The amendment left that out.
– I understand the amendment fully. The wording of the amendment is as wide as the wording of the amendment that the honourable senator proposed when another piece of legislation was before the House and he attempted to obtain some extra time on television for political purposes. In that instance the wording of the amendment was about as wide as any lawyer would wish it to be. It was a lawyer’s paradise. The honourable senator is inconsistent. For the last fortnight he has been saying that too much power has been given to a Minister to make determinations in respect of certain matters, and here in this proposed amendment he admits that the constitution and purposes of the organisation are in the opinion of the Minister outside the relevant category. The heart and soul of the amendment relates to the discretion of the Minister.
The institutions which have been approved are those which have as their objective the purposes laid down originally in the provisions of the Act. Acceptable forms of savings are savings in savings banks and fixed deposits with trading banks, specifically designated as home savings accounts, deposits with building societies and housing societies, and savings used to buy land on which a home eventually will be built. In no case are the approved institutions ones in which members of the community may put aside money for some purpose in the future. The Opposition proposes that such money come within the ambit of the legislation. 1 plead with the Opposition, as did the Leader of the Government (Senator Henty) and the Minister, not to deny to people the benefits which will flow to them under the Bill as it exists at present by endeavouring to push the point. Credit unions are not obligated in this field at present. Their lending is not aimed at providing funds for housing.
– Are savings bank lendings directed particularly towards housing?
– Savings bank lend.ings, in the volume in which they are put through, undoubtedly are.
– Well, not entirely. But at least having heard the argument that the Leader of the Government (Senator Henty) put, honourable members opposite must have some misgivings as to whether credit unions really do come into this field. They do not come into it for the purposes of this benefit. They are a great attraction for a person seeking to save - not for housing purposes but saving generally in order to obtain other things besides a house.
In the words of Senator Murphy - and a few good democratic words they were - people ought to be able to keep their savings where they like, and wherever they keep those savings should attract the benefits of this scheme. Does Senator Murphy really believe that? I think his silence indicates that he sees a slight fault in his argument.
– I was merely allowing the honourable senator to be heard in silence.
– Many people these days form what are called equity share groups for the purpose of saving - and these are quite hard-saving groups. The people band together and each one puts aside a dollar or a couple of dollars every week or every few weeks. In this way they save and invest in shares, and over a period they find they have acquired quite an equity. They ought to be able lo keep their savings where they like, according to the argument that we have heard. As Senator McManus has reminded us, and as we all know, there are certain institutions that are excluded from the terms of this legislation, so that surely the proposition of Senator Murphy, that a person should bc able to keep his savings where he likes and still obtain this benfit, falls to the ground. I plead with honourable senators opposite, therefore, to accept the Minister’s proposition and not to press the requests that they have made, at least during this sessional period.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [5.37] - f would like to make one or two comments on the speeches that have been made by various honourable senators. My friend Senator Tangney has, during all the years she has been in this Senate, done her best for widows and needy people. She has always shown the greatest sincerity in trying to help them. Because I know of her concern and that she is always most sincere I want to tell the Senate with the deepest sincerity that I can muster that this legislation will honour the promise contained in the policy speech delivered some lime ago and will certainly assist widows. Widows will be able to obtain the benefit in respect of savings made not only by themselves but also by their deceased husbands. The honourable senator mentioned the period of three years that is referred to in the Bill. Savings can, of course, be made over any number of years but the minimum period is three years. I can assure Senator Tangney that the promise mad*: in the policy speech was genuine, sincere and honest, and that widows who are eligible within the terms of the Homes Savings Grant Act will indeed receive the benefit.
– Have any widows applied for and been refused the benefit up to the present time?
– Widows have never previously been eligible under the Act, so that naturally they would not have applied. But this Bill makes them eligible for the first time, and all the comments I heard in the debate following my second reading speech have indicated to me that those who have spoken believe that this provision for widening the field of eligibility will be of great assistance to the persons concerned. I remind the Senate, as I have done before, that it is open to the members of any credit union to form a co-operative housing society, as members of friendly societies have done. Savings with any co-operative housing society are acceptable at all times for the purposes of homes savings grants. I trust that as this debate continues all honourable senators will consider that fact most carefully and that the Opposition will not press its request.
– I want to have a word on this matter. I believe that it does the Senate great credit to see so many honourable senators, taking an active and earnest part in this debate. As the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) knows, I have had an anxious mind with regard to the claim that credit unions should be embraced by this legislation. I acknowledge here and now the very careful consideration that she has given to all my inquiries. I would not regard this Bill as being a money Bill and I would not claim for the House of Representatives the right to ask us to accept it without amendment on the ground that it was a money Bill. But I do suggest that every provision in the Constitution that puts the Houses of Parliament into balance should give recognition to the fact that the Bill before us is an express part, a specific part, of a recent policy programme.
I rise only because I take a function in the Senate that some people say is old fashioned and unrealistic. Nevertheless, I think that my contribution to the debate might be listened to with some interest. I put it to the Committee that everybody recognises the earnestness of the concern of the Opposition parties - the Australian Labor Party and Australian Democratic Labor Party - in promoting this amendment. The amendment has been to the House of Representatives and the House, which is entitled to make certain final decisions, has submitted the Bill back to us and has asked us to agree to it without this amendment. Let me say that in the old fashioned little State where I come from if there are matters which are the subject of a difference as between the two Houses at the end of a session, the lower House does not disperse until the legislation is finally resolved. Honourable senators might well think that this is an occasion on which to start a course that would be an instruction in parliamentary courtesy. But for goodness sake let us not, because it is raised for the first time, make the instance one of contention.
There are means of placing on record the Opposition’s perseverence with this matter. The Opposition could pen a notice for the appointment of a select committee tonight, hand it in, and a select committee on the subject of credit unions could be constituted. I am not authorised by the Government to say this; I say it off my own bat and by virtue of the authority that I claim as an individual senator. A select committee could make an inquiry. If, after examination of the subject it brought up certain matters, that would make a much deeper impression upon people on this side of the chamber and the Government than will mis argumentative type of debate. I mention that only because this afternoon the Opposition took a certain course on a measure which in some sense is a money Bill - the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. The Opposition was quite within its constitutional rights in taking the course which it took this afternoon. I deprecate the harking back by responsible persons in the Parliament to British constitutional conventions in that respect.
If a two-House Parliament is to work effectively in the public interest, it will not do so by an exertion of weight of numbers in whichever House there is a majority. I do not want this remark to be considered as that of a theoretician. I have been a practitioner of this art and I have brought onto myself all the criticism and contumely that, the orators of the other side could provide. I have been completely undismayed by it. When there are two Houses of Parliament and there is a decisive difference of opinion it is necessary for one House to give way if judgment dictates that it should give way. Sometimes it is noble to stoop to conquer. Why not allow the purposes of the Bill to be achieved today and then have a logical, careful and analytical examination made of the claims of credit unions between now and September? When the Parliament reassembles there could be a renewal of this debate in the light of that examination and, if necessary, amending legislation could be introduced. If this were done this Parliament would gain in stature and the Senate would be applauded not only for a vigorous exerting of its views but also for its judgment of what is in the public interest.
Senator Marriott has submitted that if the Senate insists on the amendment, some people who have been deprived of certain rights because of technicalities will continue to be deprived of those rights. The Minister has pointed out that for the first time the homes savings grant scheme will apply to widows as well as to married people. I submit that the Senate, instead of exerting its undoubted power to insist upon this amendment could ennoble itself by saying, in effect: ‘Yes, we wiM allow the Bill to go through but we will immediately set in process machinery to enable the issue upon which we are in deadlock to be presented in a clear, studied manner as soon as Parliament reassembles*. If we do this I believe that we shall receive acclaim from all sides without anybody here losing political prestige. The Senate will establish itself as a House capable of forming a judgment unclouded by a failure to understand an opposite point of view.
– It is difficult not to be moved by the emotional appeal of Senator Wright. One cannot fail to realise the gravity of a situation that may cause widows to suffer because of the failure of this Senate to accept this legislation in its original form. People who would be covered by the amending provisions of this Bill relating to an increase in the upper limit on the value of a home that may attract a grant will miss out. Other people will miss out as a result of the provision relating to the date of application not being put into effect. These matters were known from the dale of the introduction of this legislation.
Government speakers have said to us: Unless you pass this you are penalising people.’ That is the basis upon which this matter has been debated. It appears to be more a blackmail attempt than any display of logic. Our arguments have not been answered. As Senator Wright pointed out, the House of Representatives has adjourned and its members have gone home. If this legislation means so much and if such hardship will be caused to applicants if it is not passed, why was it returned to us, to see what our attitude would be, after the House of Representatives had adjourned and its members had gone home? We sent this Bill back to the House of Representatives some time last week. Yet it is returned only after that House has adjourned without our having the opportunity to consider our attitude. Nevertheless we have levelled at us the statement: ‘Unless you pass this you are penalising people.’ Surely this is the result of a plan on the part of the Government, without any logical basis, to get. this legislation passed. It is blackmailing the consciences of people-
-(Senator DrakeBrockman) - Order! The honourable member will refrain from using that word.
– It seemed to me to be very apparent that the word was not loo strong. The Government is trying to play on our emotions, asking consideration for widows and others who may benefit under this legislation. Do honourable senators opposite realise that the Government has had this legislation in its hands for some time? lt has had the right at any time since it was amended by the Senate to bring the legislation before us for reconsideration and to ask what our attitude was.
Whatever mistakes have been made, members of the House of Representatives have gone home. Irrespective of whether the Government could hope to succeed at this stage, we are faced with the position that someone will suffer. We believe that our position on the matter of credit unions is justified. Senator Wright, in his passionate plea, suggested that we should have a select committee or something like that. I am not the Government. At this late hour could not the Government confer with the Opposition on whether we can give some consideration in the future not only to whether another Bill could be submitted in September but also to whether a select committee could be appointed? If we must accept responsibility for any hardship that may be caused, could there not be a conference between the leaders of the parties to see whether the Government would agree to the appointment of a select committee to investigate this whole matter when the Parliament resumes sitting? I offer that as an alternative. Members of the Government parties should not place blame on members of the Opposition when the Government manipulated the presentation of this legislation to this chamber on the basis that we dare not. refuse to pass it and not on the basis of any argument on principles.
1 have been trying to stand up and speak-
– Order! The honourable senator has the call now.
– Yes, I am aware of that, thank you, Mr Chairman. I am saying that I have been trying to stand up and speak mainly because I wanted to follow the line that Senator Wright took in his remarks and to bring an air of sweet reasonableness into the debate. I feel torn in two directions. I object to being threatened. I object to a Minister standing up and saying in a petulant way that if we do not do this the Government will do something else.
– Now, now.
– That is a fact. The Minister in charge of the Bill said that if we did not agree to the proposal of the Government it would see that these beneficiaries would not get their benefits.
– Was there any threatening from the other side of the chamber?
– Wait a minute. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin said that if we do not do this the Government will see that the proposed beneficiaries do not get their benefits.
– That is not fair.
– She said it. Then we had the testiness of Senator Gorton. He surprised me. Usually his remarks are quite lucid. Perhaps he is feeling the strain of the lengthy sitting. Perhaps he is feeling the effects of yesterday’s sitting. I thought his remarks were a bit out of character.
– 1 will get back to character when Senator Turnbull finishes.
– Yes. The basic point is that if we do not pass this legislation we will deprive beneficiaries of benefits. The fault lies in the fact that the other House adjourned. I said that a long time ago by way of interjection. This is the basic problem. If the other House had not adjourned we could have continued with this argument. What is the objection to credit unions? We are told that they are not suitable. If they are not suitable the Minister will not include them, will she? So I do not think that is an argument at all. I would like to advance a suggestion along the lines of the suggestion advanced by Senator Cavanagh. In fact, I mentioned some time ago to Senator Hannaford, my fellow independent, that I proposed to suggest that we adjourn the debate to see whether some solution could be found. Let us come back afterwards and see whether we do not have a solution. What I had in mind was that the Government might give an assurance that during the recess it would consider this matter and when we resume bring in a bill to bring credit unions within the scope of the scheme. Then we could go ahead. I do not mind what the Government does, but I think we should now report progress.
– I suggested the appointment of a select committee.
– There may be better alternatives. I agree with Senator Wright that if possible we should pass this Bill, but 1 still do not see why we should knock out the credit unions. Those that are unsuitable would not be included, because the Minister has the right to exclude them. There is no real argument to support the exclusion of credit unions from this scheme. So I suggest that we report progress and that the Minister see whether she can find some solution to this unhappy state of affairs.
– We did that last week.
– The Minister may have other thoughts. She may be able to do something. If I keep talking she may have time to do something. However, I do not wish to waste time. I leave it to the Minister to do as I have suggested if she wishes.
– 1 think Senator Cavanagh distorted the position. He certainly used the wrong word when he used the word ‘blackmail’. The situation is, as Senator Cavanagh conceded, that some people who will benefit if this Bill is passed will not benefit if the Opposition votes against the Bill and defeats it. Irrespective of whether one widow or 100 widows would have received benefits if this Bill had been passed, they will not get any benefits if the Opposition defeats the Bill. The same argument applies in respect of other beneficiaries under this legislation. The Bill honours a promise made to the people by the Government at the last election. The Opposition says: ‘We will not let the Government pay the benefits, as it promised, unless it does something which was never the subject of a promise - something which will cost more and which is a different policy matter altogether*. That is what the Opposition is saying to the Government. To point that out cannot be described as blackmail.
– I would like to refer to two more points. One concerns the matter of an election promise. The opposition to this Bill is not opposition to the promise given by the Government to the people at the election. The Opposition apparently still believes that these people should have the extra benefits.
– But conditions are imposed.
– Yes, but that does not negative the proposition put by the Government to the people. In fact, it allows an increase. This brings me to the second point in Senator Gorton’s remarks.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– At the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the possibility of whether the Government could do something in regard to this Bill. I do not know exactly what it can do, but I have been giving some thought to it. I have come to the firm conclusion that whichever way the vote goes, the blame for the position we are in tonight rests solely on the shoulders of the Government. There is no doubt of that whatsoever. It had the chance to introduce this Bill earlier and have it discussed and disposed of. I think we have been treated contemptuously by the other House. lt has risen and its members have disappeared while we are still sitting. The members of the other place knew that this legislation could have been referred back lo them. In other words, we have been blackmailed, and 1 use that word advisedly.
– Then I will say that we have been forced-
– We have been pressurised, or whatever you like to call it, into a position where we are not sure what to do. The proposed amendments of the Opposition do not affect in any way any election promise. They certainly put a condition on an election promise, but they do nol otherwise affect it. There is no reason why the proposed amendments should not bc carried. If they are carried, because of me ineptitude of the Government certain people will suffer. We have to decide who will suffer most. Should it be the proposed beneficiaries under this legislation, or should it bc the credit unions? The credit unions do not suffer other than financially if they are not included in the provisions of this legislation, although I understand that they can be covered if they wish to be registered. In any event, some credit unions are eligible and can register. If the proposed amendments are not supported a few people in the credit unions will be unable to participate in the benefits of this legislation. I have thought it over and I feel that the balance must go on the side of the beneficiaries. Therefore 1 will oppose the proposed amendments of the Opposition.
– We believe, as Senator Turnbull believes, that the position we have been put in is entirely the fault of the Government. The House of Representatives has risen. Ii the Opposition insists on its proposed amendments and the Bill is not passed, that is not the fault of members of the House of Representatives as such. It is the fault of the Government because the Government dominates and controls the House of Representatives. We believe that this is not the way to conduct affairs between the two Houses when there is a difference between them. We do not believe that one House should say: ‘We have passed the legislation and unless you agree to it it will not be passed’, especially after this House had indicated its attitude and requested amendments. That is not a proper way to manage the differences between the Houses which must inevitably arise. We should be clear that so far as the proposed amendments are concerned, so far as the attitude of the Senate is concerned, we of the Opposition together with those who support us, have the numbers to insist upon them.
– And to deny the benefits.
– Yes. We have listened during the afternoon very carefully to what has been said. There have been some sensible and worthwhile contributions to this debate, but they have not come from the Ministers in this chamber, and in particular they have not come from the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton). We in the Senate resent the attitude of arrogance which has been displayed by the Ministers. Opposition senators, members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, Senator Turnbull, and some other senators have taken a very reasonable attitude to this matter. It is not easy to deal with. We have been trying to arrive at the best solution. In the past few weeks the Opposition has asked the Senate on many occasions to consider matters. We have put forward arguments to honourable senators on the opposite side and to honourable senators on our own side who are not members of the Opposition, and we have been pleased to see that some of them have been willing to change their minds even if they had previously indicated that, they had come to a certain decision. Those senators have at least been honest. The Minister for Education and Science is now attempting to interject.
I think he would be well advised to keep quiet. His contribution to this debate has not assisted the Senate in solving this problem. His contribution has not been calculated to advance the situation of the widows or the credit unions. He seems to be very much biased against the credit unions. In the past few weeks we of the Opposition have been pleased to see the attitude displayed on all sides of the chamber in response to arguments put forward. We want to indicate that we ourselves are equally reasonable. Even though we may come into this chamber with our minds made up to take a certain course, we are willing to respond to arguments that are put forward and to the logic of the situation.
We resent the fact that the Senate has been placed in its present situation. But we cannot achieve our purpose of assisting the credit unions if we insist at this stage on our requests. All we can do is to injure some other persons, however few. We have consulted with representatives of the credit unions and they themselves realise the situation. They know that they cannot be helped at this stage. As I said earlier, we have also consulted with the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which is closely associated with the amendment. Its members also have taken a very reasonable attitude to the matter, as has Senator Turnbull.
We think that the solution is that we should ask - and we do ask - that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) at least indicate to the Senate that the Government will be willing to reconsider this matter if a proper case is put up on behalf of the credit unions. We also indicate that we of the Opposition think that there is such a proper case and that we intend to do what we can to assist the credit unions. We intend, when the Parliament resumes for the Budget session, to push for the inclusion of credit unions in this legislation. There are a number of courses open to us. Apart from what was suggested earlier, we on this side of the chamber could introduce a bill. We intend to see that these courses are pursued.
Having listened to what has been said, having had the opportunity during the suspension of the sitting to consider the position in the light of what was advanced by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber, and having had consultations wilh those who supported us in this matter, we have decided that we shall no longer insist upon these requests.
– I suppose that if we bad been playing politics we could have dug our toes in and said that the Australian Labor Party gave in to the Government and that we did not. But I do not think that is the way to do these things. 1 think that the attitude that the Australian Labor Party has adopted in regard to this matter is the commonsense attitude. I am not going to attack the Government and say that it manoeuvred us into this position. The Government is made up of two political parties and they may or may not have manoeuvred us into this situation. However, we are in this position and the commonsense thing to do in these circumstances is lo let the Bill go through. I hope that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) will tell us that, if the credit unions put to her a documented case for their inclusion in this legislation at some future date, she will give it full consideration. As I said before, looking at the matter in total, I think we arc probably doing the best thing in letting this Bill go through.
– There is just one thing I want to make quite clear in case there is any doubt. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) said that there had been consultations between his Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party. He had no consultations with me. Apparently we arrived at the same conclusion independently.
– I thought that Senator O’Byrne had spoken to the honourable senator on my behalf.
– I spoke to the honourable senator as I came into the Chamber, but I had already made up my mind. 1 just want to make the position clear. I thank the Democratic Labor Party and the Opposition for adopting such a sensible attitude.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [8.11] - It gives me great pleasure to say how muchI appreciate the remarks of Senator Murphy, Senator McManus and Senator Turnbull, who have expressed the opinions of Opposition members on this request. I appreciate their consideration of it - and the Government, too, gave it consideration. I thank honourable senators for saying that this is a commonsense and good approach and one on which we are all agreed. They have askedme to give consideration to any case that is subsequently put up on behalf of credit unions. I assure honourable senators that any case that is put up to me on any subject is always given consideration. Of course, 1 cannot give any undertaking about the future, but I assure honourable senators that I am always ready to consider whatever representations may be put before me. Honourable senators might like to know a little of the hard business side of this matter. During the dinner adjournment. 1 took out some figures in reply to a question and it is clear from them that a large number of persons will benefit from the passage of this measure. I believe all honourable senators will be pleased to know that.
– I just want to say a word or two to all honourable senators. I believe that, as a House of the Parliament working in the best interests of all concerned we have come to the proper decision. It has not been easy to make. Both sides have held to their own points of view, but this compromise brings great credit upon all concerned. I congratulate Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin on the manner in which she has handled the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to encourage increased industrial research and development in Australian manufacturing and mining industries. As honourable senators know, it has been the consistent policy of this Government to encourage the growth of efficient secondary industry in Australia. This is fundamental to the attainment of our national objectives of continued economic growth, full employment for an expanding population, rising standards of living and the achievement and maintenance of national security. The Government, in proposing this scheme, is confident that increased efforts in industrial research and development in Australia will lead to a more efficient use of Australian raw materials and natural resources, and will contribute to the achievement of the national objectives I have mentioned. In emphasising that a higher level of research and development effort would provide a real stimulus for economic growth, I should like to draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that in mature industrial countries over recent years technological advance has accounted for about 90% of the increase in real output per person employed.
There is mounting evidence of a close relationship between the research and development effort of an industry and its rate of productivity change and overall rate of growth. There would seem to be little doubt, for example, that the relatively high level of research and development activity in the plastics industry and the electronics industry has been a major factor in the rapid growth of these two industries. Similarly, the whole existence of the petrochemicals industry is completely linked with research and development. The United Kingdom National Economic Development Council, in its recently published report on the growth of the United Kingdom economy to 1966, has drawn attention to the fact that in the past decade the output of the science based industries has been growing at twice the rate of manufacturing industry as a whole. The report also mentions that during the last eight years, while the volume of total exports from the United Kingdom grew by only 3.1% per annum, the annual growth rate of exports for typical science based industries was generally much greater.
Japan also provides an interesting example. Here is a country whose economy is growing at an extraordinary pace and which is making a very great effort to develop the most modern, up to date technology in its industries. In the earlier stages, imported research and development played a big part in Japan’s industrial growth but ils relative importance is now declining. 1 do not want to suggest to honourable senators that no industrial research and development is taking place in Australia. We have had some remarkable examples of Australian industry showing initiative and enterprise in developing new products and processes. Just as significant has been the quality of resourcefulness demonstrated by Australian scientists, engineers and technologists. Their capacity to adapt, modify and improvise has been a major factor in developing new products.
One company, for example, owned and controlled by overseas principals, relied on them completely for know-how and research and development in its major production Une, Yet in one production field it carried out a vigorous programme of research and development in Australia. As a result, in the manufacture of certain types of machinery for use in primary industry, Australia fed the world and exported both know-how and machines. In another case a small firm, manufacturing under license from the United States of America, but with no export franchise restrictions, was able through- the effective use of its own research and development group to compete successfully in nearby markets where its American associate could make no impression. But in too many cases skills available to Australia have not been properly utilised.
The reasons are not hard to find. A wide sector of Australian management has become accustomed to looking abroad for new products and new processes. Much of Australian industry has had ready access to the results of industrial research and development of overseas associated companies. Some Australian firms have been hesitant to undertake industrial research and development, often for a number of valid reasons. In some cases, firms have been reluctant to commit their limited financial resources to their own research and development, or to the commercial development of the research findings of the Government laboratories because it is cheaper to ‘buy-in* the results of overseas research and development. Others consider it a gamble. They prefer to import technological developments after their worth has been proven elsewhere. This means that we are in danger of always being one step behind in a wide area of industrial technology as the result of an undue reliance on overseas technological development.
The Government therefore believes that it is necessary to alter the attitude of Australian management toward industrial research and development. To do this we are proposing the introduction of a system of grants to Australian industry to encourage firms to undertake additional industrial research and development work. The Government, considers that a number of significant benefits arising from a research and development grants scheme of the kind proposed will, when taken together, provide a substantial incentive to industrial expansion and economic growth.
The main benefit will be the introduction into Australian industry of new technological processes and equipment particularly suited to Australian raw materials and conditions and to Australian demands. This will mean in the long run greater industrial efficiency with the consequent reduction in costs of production. This in turn will lead to a greater ability to compete with imports and to increase exports. New products resulting from Australian research and development will bc free of overseas royalty and licensing payments and of the restrictive export franchises often associated with products made under licence from abroad. Being available for export, the products and processes so developed with the encouragement of this scheme may earn Australia additional foreign exchange.
To compete in world markets, Australian products must have qualities that permit them to vie with or outclass the products of other countries. Cheapness, novelty of design, and high standard of quality are obvious competitive features any one of which may be important for export sales. If an Australian product, however, is to excel in one or other of these features, its competitive position will have to be based on a technological advantage over the overseas competitor. If the Australian manufacturer is content merely to purchase his technology, adding nothing through his own efforts, then he cannot lead in the race for markets. He must always lag a little behind, although good raw materials or proximity of market may help him to survive.
Established processes or know-how once purchased are immediately out of date. The purchasing country is always in the position of manufacturing last year’s models. Purchased knowledge being out of date cannot on its merits enable the purchaser to manufacture a product that will be competitive on the export market. He is forced to rely on a local market and even then on tariffs to protect him from those who are producing this year’s model.
In some instances Australian firms have also surrendered an interest because of their need to rely on foreign companies for technical backing. Further, some licence agreements apparently impose a requirement that the Australian manufacturer shall not depart from the designs supplied under the agreement, thus preventing independent development by the Australian firm and incorporation of improvements or modifications to meet the requirements of the local environment, or those of export markets where temperature, humidity, etc. are outside the range normally encountered in the temperate zone. Moreover, once the firm has become an innovator it will not only have put itself in a position to make a better bargain if it chooses to purchase information from overseas, but it will also have the opportunity to sell its patents and know-how to overseas manufacturers. All of these matters, of course, have important implications for our balance of payments.
Another benefit will be the greater ability of Australian industry to service and manufacture the increasingly complex requirements of modern defence. The scheme is also designed to encourage the greater development of Australia’s natural and human resources. It will assist in achieving the maximum benefits from professionally and technically trained Australians. Additional benefits can also be expected from the research now carried out in government financed institutions. In addition it will assist in attracting top class industrial research and development staff from overseas and will also reduce the drift abroad of our own top graduates.
Having explained the purpose of the Bill and its general objectives, I shall now turn to the main details of the scheme. To qualify for grants, firms must be companies incorporated in Australia which, in the relevant grant year, are engaged in Australia in the manufacture of goods or in mining operations and to be eligible their expenditure on industrial research and development must be directly related to the manufacture or the proposed manufacture of goods in Australia or to mining operations or proposed mining operations in Australia. This means that the results of the research and development will expand the capacity of Australian firms to produce goods in Australia. If it is not aimed towards this, it will not qualify for grant purposes. I should add that the Government has looked at whether individuals as well as companies should be able to qualify for grants. It has decided, however, that as public moneys are being disbursed, high control of accounts is necessary. Also the scheme is not designed for the individual innovator. This does not exclude the small firm. The only requirement is that a recipient must be a company incorporated in Australia.
The scheme will operate on an annual basis as from 1st July 1967 to 30th June 1972. That is initially for a period of five years. An assured duration over a reasonable number of years will encourage firms to commit a programme of expenditure on industrial research and development. The scheme will be reviewed in about the fourth year of operation. A board, assisted by an advisory committee of eight members, will be set up to administer the scheme. The board will consist of a full time chairman, and two part time members. Mining and manufacturing companies incorporated in Australia will be eligible companies. Eligible companies will apply lo the board for grants in respect of eligible expenditure on industrial research and development. To qualify, the research and development must be directly related to the manufacture or proposed manufacture of goods in Australia or to mining operations or proposed mining operations in Australia. This is to ensure that the research and development is carried out in the interests of production in Australia and not in the interests of production overseas by associated companies.
Eligible expenditure is the additional expenditure on research and development over that of the base year 1965-66, comprised of three components:
It will be noted that plant expenditure is not tied to base year expenditure. This is because all net additions to research and development plant and equipment add to a firm’s research and development capabilities. The purchase of plant and equipment is often cyclical in nature, but once installed it is always available tor research and development purposes. Firms will automatically qualify for grants of 50% of their eligible expenditure up to $50,000 a year. That is a maximum automatic grant of $25,000 a year. In addition, firms may qualify on a selective basis for grants on eligible expenditure beyond $50,000 a year. The Board will approve selective grants - that is. grants relating to the larger areas of expenditure - according to national interest type criteria laid down in the Bill.
Honourable senators will appreciate that the Government has sought to provide a scheme which will meet two major objectives. The scheme will provide eligible companies with room for a high degree of initative and flexibility, as well as with reasonable assurance about the eligibility of research and development expenditure for grants. At the same time the scheme will have the necessary safeguards to ensure that Commonwealth funds are utilized to the best effect from the viewpoint of the overall national interest.
The Government is confident that the scheme as outlined will meet these objectives and that it will reach eligible companies of all sizes with a positive stimulus which the businessman himself can evalu ate and use. Importantly, the Government will encourage, through this measure, the additional use of Australian physical and human resources, lt will enable firms to compete more freely on export market’s and also become more competitive in the home market against important competition. Industry’s contribution to the defence effort will be strengthened. For these reasons, Mr President, I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– The Australian Labor Party does not oppose the Bill but will move amendments at the Committee stage. This is new legislation in a new field which we have not had the privilege or experience of dealing with in recent times. As a result the measure needs careful study and consideration. It is regrettable that the Bill has only just been introduced into this House. The usual retort when complaints are made about the time of introduction of a Bill - that it has been for a week in the other House where it could be perused - does not apply in this instance. I understand that this Bill was introduced in another place on Wednesday; it was considerably amended on Thursday, and the Bill as it has now been presented was not available until some time after lunch-time today. How one can consider a Bill and do justice to it in those circumstances, I do not know. It is much easier to do so when we are dealing with amendments to legislation or when a Bill seeks to rectify some weakness that the operation of the Act has disclosed. A Bill dealing with a new subject may need more careful consideration than an amending Bill.
A Bill to provide for the granting of money for certain research work needs careful scrutiny by the whole Senate. This Bill does not limit the grants to those stated by the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) when he said;
Firms will automatically qualify for grants of 50% of their eligible expenditure up to $50,000 a year.
If a firm has an eligible expenditure - research expenditure - of $50,000 a year it can get $25,000. The Minister stated further:
In addition, firms may qualify on a selective basis for grants on eligible expenditure beyond $50,000 a year. The Board will approve selective grants.
As I understand the Bill, firms with eligible expenditure in excess of $50,000 a year will, at the discretion of the Board, be paid the whole of that expenditure. This is unlimited, and one can see the terrific power and the expenditure that might be involved in this legislation which we are asked to consider immediately after it has been introduced. However, I do not suppose complaints mean much at this stage. Although we can condemn the arrangements, we are faced with the fact that this is how the Government treats the Senate at the close of the session. This is new legislation in this field, and I believe we shall find from time to time that amendments will be required. This could happen fairly soon, and if it does I hope that the Minister will give us an opportunity to discuss the whole Act so that we may propose amendments to any section.
The Bill makes provision for the appointment of a board of three who, it seems, will be under the complete control of the Minister. The board will act, so far as policy is concerned, in accordance with direction by the Minister. Of course, the members of the board will be advised by an advisory committee of eight. Grants will be authorised by the board.
– Could the honourable senator give me a reference to the clause that provides for grants?
– I believe it is clause 27 (3.).
– Provision for the grants is made in clause 27. The other point that I wish to deal with during this second reading debate refers to ensuring that the new products resulting from Australian research and development are free of overseas royally and licensing payments and of the restrictive export franchises often associated with products made under licence from abroad. What we are concerned about is that, if large sums of public money are to be granted to firms for research, Australia will get some benefit from the expenditure incurred. In this country the number of firms that are controlled by overseas interests is increasing. Overseas companies establish Australian subsidiaries registered under the Companies Act of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, thus making them an eligible organisation. As a result of agreements between parent companies and subsidiaries, provision is made for a feed-back method whereby the subsidiaries have no right to the ownership of the results of their research in this country. Therefore, the results of their research in Australia could well be the property of the parent company abroad, which could then charge us a royalty for the use of the results of any research that has been paid for, either in part or in whole, by the Australian Government. We shall move amendments to the relevant clause to ensure that the benefits of this legislation arc conferred on Australian companies and that overseas companies are excluded from them.
– Would the honourable senator restate that point?
– We shall seek to move amendments to limit the grants to Australian companies, and exclude overseas companies.
– I think that is in the context of the Bill.
– If it is in the Bill and the honourable senator is happy with that proposition then obviously he will support the Bill, but I suggest that he will find that it is not in the Bill.
– Could I advise the honourable senator that this is payable only to companies which are incorporated in Australia?
– I agree. But I suggest that overseas investors could establish a subsidiary company in Australia to meet the requirements of that clause. In that case the parent company would receive the benefit of the research grant. Another question which we propose to raise in the Committee stage is whether individuals should be eligible for a grant under the provisions of this measure. Merely because someone who is interested in manufacture or development has not registered as a company, why should he be ineligible for benefits under this legislation? At the bottom of page 8 of the circulated copy of the Minister’s second reading speech - anything that calls for a criticism always seems to be at the bottom of a page; - it is stated: lt has decided, however, that as public moneys are being disbursed, high control of accounts is necessary. Also the scheme is not designed for the individual innovator. This does not exclude the small firm. The only requirement is that a recipient must be a company incorporated in Australia.
– I thank the senator. They are the words.
– The company must be incorporated in Australia. That is admitted.
– It is then an Australian company.
– But we are discussing subsidiaries of overseas corporations. Getting back to the point, the Opposition believes that if someone is contributing in a worthwhile manner to industrial research and development he should qualify for the grant. It should not be available only to wealthy monopolies which can spend more than 550,000 on research and development while a lesser amount is available for smaller companies and nothing is available for the individual who Ls making a worthwhile contribution in this respect. For these reasons we shall move accordingly in the Committee stage.
The Labor Party supports this Bill because we think it is time, if not past the time, when some industrial research and development was performed in Australia. In the United States of America 3% of the gross national product is spent on research and development; in Great Britain 2.5% is spent for this purpose; in Japan it is 1.4% and in Sweden the same amount is spent each year. Yet Australia spends 0.6% of its gross national product in this way. Wc propose to move an amendment to the definition of ‘eligible company’. f point out to the Senate that there is no provision by which the grants may be exempted from taxation, which will greatly reduce their value. We ask for some explanation of that from the Minister either in his reply to this debate or in Committee. As I have said, although we agree to the second reading of the Bill we propose to move amendments in Committee. Many sections of the Bill arc open to criticism and will have to be inquired into or criticised at the Committee stage. However, not knowing what provisions would be included in the legislation we have been unable to get instructions from our Party in respect of various clauses because it has not had an opportunity to give them proper study and consideration. The Bill could well be improved if we had the opportunity to give it the consideration that it deserves. It is not my intention to take up the Senate’s time during the second reading debate. I have recorded our protest at the way these matters are introduced at the end of the sessional period. At some time the Senate will have to do something to ensure that we do not get a continual repetition of what has happened at the end of every sessional period since I have been a member of this chamber.
– 1 believe that this Bill demonstrates the very imaginative policy that the Liberal and Country Party Governments have brought forward over the years of their terms of office. In particular I congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwan). 1 believe that the Department of Trade and Industry, which he administers, is well worthy of congratulations for the imaginative policy that has led to the introduction of this measure, lt is difficult to deal adequately wilh a Bill of this nature in a short lime because it has very wide ramifications. Honourable senators will realise that this measure has great implications for our secondary industries. 1 believe that the encouragement of growth and efficiency in secondary industries that will be brought about by this measure will be quite significant. I believe that it will add to our national security, raise living standards and create further employment and economic growth. I believe that the achievements of our secondary industries will be enhanced even further by this measure, lt will eventually improve our balance of payments position also. 1 wish to refer to one or two points which Senator Cavanagh raised. 1 did not note all the points that he made, but I believe that some were fairly reasonable. We agree with many of them. I make the point that these grants are confined to Australian industry. To qualify for grants, companies must be incorporated in Australia. Grants arc available only to companies which manufacture goods or are involved in mining operations and they apply only to increased expenditure on research and development which a particular company may undertake. This is a good feature. There are many points which one could bring forward in relation to some of the rural industries. I draw the Government’s attention to the fact that many small firms - and I emphasise the word ‘firms’ - are working in close cooperation with various government bodies, such as the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in my own State which has co-operated in the production of new and improved concrete or steel checks of the kind used in irrigation channels. Also, electronic firms are working on water sensing devices for use in automatic irrigation systems. Plastic pipe firms are working on practical methods of piping underground water supplies. Firms making aluminium and steel pipes are pouring considerable sums into research on cheaper methods of production, and other firms are working on the development of economic water saving devices.
I have used the word ‘firms’. I draw the attention of the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) to the fact that throughout his second reading speech he used the word firms’ quite often. 1 ask the Minister to make this point clear because it is quite important. When referring to clause 5 (4) he stated that the only requirement was that a recipient of a grant must be a company incorporated in Australia. The Minister said that this does not exclude small firms. I could refer to other paragraphs of the second reading speech in which the Minister used the word ‘firms’. I wish the Minister to make it quite clear to whom this measure applies. As I understand it, a firm is an unincorporated body and a company is an incorporated body. There is a distinction here that must be made clear to those who wish to participate in the scheme. To which type of instrumentality does the measure apply? I curtail my remarks so that the Leader of the Government in the Senate may clarify the position.
– I am loath to intervene in the debate at this time and to prolong the work of the Senate, but I am doing so as a result of representations which have been made to me by an industrial chemist in Western Australia. He is a highly qualified man occupying a responsible position in that State. Before I turn to his remarks I think I should comment on the same lines as Senator Cavanagh has already done. The
Opposition does welcome the Bill. We believe there is a great need for industrial research of the kind indicated as being necessary by the Government in its introduction of the Bill, but once again, as with so many measures produced to the Parliament by the present Government, no overall planning system has been adopted. The aid which is to be given is to be given solely to companies. No aid is to be given to public enterprise and there is no overall plan for scientific and technological research as related to industry. Having said that, I turn now to matters which have been drawn to my attention.
Firstly, I make a special plea for some additional assistance to be given to research in Western Australia. At present the opportunities for industrial research in there are very limited. The National Coal Research Advisory Committee, which functions almost solely in the eastern States of Australia, has a budget of $500,000. The Government Chemical Laboratories in Western Australia, which are also engaged on important research, receive a subsidy of only $10,000 from the National Coal Research Advisory Committee. It is rather interesting to note that although the Western Australian Government Chemical Laboratories receive $10,000 from the National Coal Research Advisory Committee the Western Australian Government’s contribution to the Committee is $8,000 per annum and some additional $2,000 a year is spent by the Government Chemical Laboratories in sending a delegate from Western Australia to attend meetings of the National Coal Research Advisory Committee which are held in the eastern States. So. in fact, all the money which is received by the Western Australian Government Chemical Laboratories is cut out by the subsidies paid in respect of the Committee.
I understand that some very original work is being undertaken in Western Australia, particularly in the coal mining industry. Very important work is being done on the upgrading of ilmenite to rutile and in the direct conversion of iron ore to metallic iron. These are both important to the industry and yet very little assistance is being given to the Western Australian laboratories for this work. Apparently the laboratories are undertaking a great deal of pioneering work without much assistance. This, I believe, is the type of work which should be assisted in any overall plan to promote scientific and technological research in industry.
– Does the honourable senator see the difference in what this measure is aiming to do? lt is designed to assist tax-paying companies.
– I can see that perfectly clearly, and that is precisely the point I am making - there should not merely bc assistance given to private enterprise, because if we are intending to sponsor research of this kind throughout Australia there should be an overall plan which includes not only private enterprise but also public enterprise. Any national plan for scientific industrial research should include all those bodies within Australia which are engaging in this type of activity. I understand that in many respects at present all of the research in the coal industry, which is largely undertaken by government or government-sponsored bodies, is indeed inadequate.
I am informed that the important matter of gasification, an overall problem which should be centralised, is split up between the CSIRO in Melbourne, the CSIRO coal research establishment in Sydney, and the Australian Coal Industry Research Laboratories also in Sydney. This means tha; three units are dealing with one aspect of one problem whereas there should be, as in Britain where there is a nationalised coal industry, one centralised government directed unit engaging in all this research.
Another matter which I think is relevant - certainly the gentleman who referred it to me regards it as being an important aspect of this kind of research - is the publication of original scientific works on subjects related to industry. Obviously it is important that if research is being done into these technical matters, the results of thai research should be published as widely as possible so that people not directly involved but who have done research will have the benefit of reading the results of the work and perhaps making some use of it. I understand that one of the difficulties at present is that the CSIRO, for example, publishes the ‘Australian Journal of Applied Chemistry’ which is relevant to this field but only officers of the Organisation are permitted to contribute to the journal. In fact it is very difficult to obtain access to it.
I am also informed that no industrial journals are produced in Australia on the scale of those produced in other countries which are in a slate of industrial development comparable to that in Australia. On the information which has been provided lo me, it would seem that one of the things this Bill could do would be lo make provision for the publication of the findings of research scientists in the fields wilh which we are dealing.
Another matter which should be dealt with by any overall planning body handling these things is patents. I know that other legislation deals with this. Although patents are granted under other legislation, once a particular process has been patented the results of that process often need some fostering until they reach the stage of practical application. One rather interesting thing to which my attention has been directed is the work being done in Western Australia on metallurgical fuel. I understand that to make the fruits of the work on metallurgical fuel a practical commercial possibility an investment of about Sim wilt be necessary. No steps are being taken in this direction. The original work in Australia was first published in 1932. I am informed that the process has not been used here. However, very shortly after the publication of the findings of this research work in Western Australia the particular method was adopted by the Polish Government and is being used at present in Poland with considerable success. Here is something which was the subject of research and discovered in Australia but which is not being used in Australia.
I apologise for taking the time of the Senate at this late hour but these matters were referred to me and I had to raise them. I repeat that the Opposition supports, in general terms, the sponsorship of the kind of research envisaged by this Bill; but we believe that it should not be limited, as it has been by the Bill, to certain large companies. We believe that there should be a wider overall plan to afford more assistance to other organisations and instrumentalities which are engaging in the kind of research covered by this Bill.
– I point out to the Senate that this Bill was introduced to the Parliament on 9th May 1967, so that for the last ten days the Bill and the second reading speech have been available to any honourable senators who wished to study them.
– Has there been any appreciable alteration?
SenatorHENTY- There has been some minor alteration, but there has not been any extensive alteration. Senator Cavanagh asked a question about whether grants made in respect of expenditure beyond the $50,000 mentioned in the Bill as the limit for automatic qualification will cover the full amount of such extra expenditure. I am advised that grants covering expenditure beyond the $50,000 will still be limited to 50% of the expenditure.
Only companies incorporated in Australia can qualify; individuals cannot qualify. There are precedents for this. One that I can recall is the provision in the Broadcasting Act that no broadcast licence will be granted to an individual; these licences are available only to companies. The provision in this legislation is in line with that kind of precedent.
– Does that mean that the word ‘firm’ in the second reading speech has been used loosely, and that the word company’ should have been used instead?
– Yes, technically the provision applies to companies.
– Are we to take it that throughout the Bill the references to ‘firm’ should be references to ‘company’?
– That is right. I used the word incorrectly in the second reading speech, but in the legislation itself the correct word, ‘company’, is used. Grants are subject to taxation. This is a matter of normal policy. All grants are classed as assessable income, but they do attract a taxation allowance. If a firm has research and development expenditure of $50,000 in a tax year the whole expenditure is deductible for tax purposes at the rate of approximately 40%. That is, the firm receives a tax rebate of $20,000 on the $50,000 expenditure, and therefore the net cost of the research and development is $30,000. If the grant were not taxable the firm would receive $25,000 by way of grant, thus reducing its total liability for $50,000 of research and development expenditure to $5,000. The Government would be covering 90% of the expenditure. With the grant taxable, however, the firm would receive a net grant of about $15,000 - that is, $25,000 less 40% - reducing the firm’s total liability for $50,000 of research and development expenditure to $15,000; in other words the Government would be covering 70% of the research and development expenditure. If the company is not liable for income tax - that is, if it has no taxable income - the position then is that it incurs expenditure of $50,000, receives a grant of $25,000, and its total liability is $25,000.
Any incorporated company in any part of Australia qualifies if it satisfies the criteria that are laid down, and this, I think, covers the point made by Senator Wheeldon. Not only private enterprise companies may benefit: any government companies incorporated in Australia may also qualify as long as they satisfy all the criteria.
– The Minister is referring to a company with government shareholding?
– Not a government instrumentality as such?
– No, an incorporated government company. The honourable senator referred to the Western Australian Government Chemical Laboratories. That organisation could qualify in respect of research work undertaken on behalf of a company, and a benefit would be available in this way: If the company sought the services of the Western Australian laboratories on a contract basis, it could benefit under clause 6 of the Bill. I understand quite well the honourable senator’s interest in having his part of the world looked after.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 5. (1.) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears: eligible company’ means a company that is incorporated under the law of a State or of a Territory forming part of the Commonwealth and carries on in Australia in the relevant grant year the manufacture of goods or mining operations; mining’ does not include mining for petroleum; the Board’ means the Commonwealth Industrial Research and Development Grants Board established by this Act; (6.) Without limiting the generality of the references in this Act to the manufacture of goods, those references shall be deemed to include a reference to the concentration of a metal or the treatment or processing of a metal after its concentration, or, in the case of a metal not requiring concentration, the application to the metal of a treatment or process which, if the metal had required concentration, would not have been applied until after the concentration.
– I have quite a few queries on clause 5. The first relates to the definition of eligible company’. We seek to amend this definition. There is no difference between Senator Webster’s opinion and my opinion as to what the clause means. We think safeguards should be provided to prevent an overseas company, with a subsidiary in Australia which qualifies under the definition of eligible company, from operating under a Commonwealth grant without a guarantee that the fruits of the research will be beneficial to Australia. As a result of the trade-back policy agreement between some companies the results of research could become the property of an overseas company which could even charge Australia royalties for the use of the results of the research. I move:
The provision would then read: eligible company’ means a company that is incorporated under the law of a State or of a Territory forming part of the Commonwealth and being wholly owned and controlled by Australian nationals and/or by a company or companies which are wholly owned and controlled by Australian nationals.
– To make the point clear - if I am interested in a private company and I am an Australian citizen, and my father is an Irishman and he holds one share, this company is excluded?
– It would be under the terms that the honourable senator has given.
– No, I think the honourable senator’s restriction is too great.
– The honourable senator used the expression ‘wholly owned and controlled’.
– Yes- wholly owned and controlled by Australian nationals. I think the honourable senator is citing a hypothetical case which is most improbable. I have yet to know the day when we do not own the Irish. We do not disown them. The protection we seek is that an overseas investment company should not benefit under this Bill. If we are agreed on the principle, there is little point in arguing about the drafting of the amendment. Perhaps that can be attended to later. At present I am pointing to a serious anomaly - .thi possibility of Australian public funds being used for research that might benefit overseas companies without any guarantee that Australia shall benefit from the research. Mr Chairman, does the procedure enable me to move one amendment at a time, or can we debate the whole clause?
– Does the honourable senator wish to move both amendments by leave?
– No. 1 shall be happy to deal with them one at a time.
– The amendment moved by Senator Cavanagh would involve the addition to clause 5 of the words: being wholly owned and controlled by Australian nationals and/or by a company or companies which are wholly owned and controlled by Australian nationals.
The aim of this legislation is to increase Australia’s industrial capacity. To qualify for research and development grants, research must be directly related to manufacturing or mining operations in Australia. This is the important aspect, not whether a firm has overseas capital in its structure. The research must be directly related to manufacturing or mining operations in Australia so that those industries may benefit with resultant advantages for the whole community in the form of higher employment opportunities, better living standards and increased productivity. The Government has outlined in the Bill criteria that the Board must follow in regard to selective grants. The national interest objectives there include the use of Australian resources, export potential, import savings, increased productivity and defence capabilities. All these things are directed towards the Government’s fundamental national objectives in this field. The amendment is not acceptable.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia) 1.9.13] - As I understand the amendment, it would exclude from the benefits to be provided by this legislation a company such as Mount Isa Mines Ltd which, through its subsidiary Macarthur Development Co., is engaged in a vast undertaking to expand an Australian industry in the north. Recently through my membership of the Public Works Committee I visited the scene of the proposed operations on the Macarthur River. The company has spent there nearly S3. 5m on an undertaking that hinges on the successful development of a chemical process which will enable the company to solve the problem of handling intractable ores. If the proposed amendment is agreed to, this company will be denied financial assistance in regard to a process that will be of inestimable value to the Australian economy and will help tremendously the development of the area 1 have mentioned. Are we lo deny the company this assistance merely because it is partly or wholly owned abroad? The point is that this is an Australian enterprise that will expand the Australian economy, give employment to Australians and develop Australia’s resources. We would be taking a very restrictive and narrow minded outlook and, in fact, would deter or inhibit enormously the use of this legislation if we were to accede to the amendment.
– Allowing for difficulties in draftsmanship, I suggest that the requirement in the amendment that a company be wholly owned by Australian nationals conflicts with the suggestion that Senator Webster made, namely, that if a company had only one share held by a person who was not an Australian national it would be ex cluded. I should like to know what is intended by the words ‘Australian national* if it is not a person who is a natural born Australian or a person naturalised as an Australian citizen.
I rose really to call Senator Cavanagh’s attention to a sub-clause, the significance of which has just been indicated to me. I do this only in the spirit of discussion. I point out that, although this Bill has been available in another place for ten days, if senators are working to a programme of legislation they do not really have an opportunity to study Bills before they are introduced in this chamber. At least, that is my situation with the programme on which I work. So I am handicapped. Let it be on record that nothing that I omit to notice in this Bill should be taken as a precedent by which I am bound hereafter, because of the insufficient time for consideration of the Bill. Clause 5 (4.) reads:
A reference in this Act to industrial research and development, in relation to an eligible company, shall be read as a reference to such industrial research and development only as is:
performed by or for the company directly in relation to the manufacture, or proposed manufacture, in Australia of goods by the company, or to mining operations, or proposed mining operations, in Australia of the company; or
performed by the company, acting as a research organisation, ‘directly in relation to the manufacture, or proposed manufacture, in Australia of goods by another eligible company, or to mining operations, or proposed mining operations, in Australia of another eligible company. lt seems to me, without a critical examination, that the sub-clause would confine the expenditure that is to be subsidised under this Bill to expenditure on manufacture or mining operations in Australia. I would have thought that consideration would be given to whether that was an acceptable criterion and a preferable one to that proposed in the amendment, which would make an eligible company only one which, as the Bill requires, is incorporated in Australia and which, as the amendment requires, is wholly owned and controlled by Australian nationals.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Cavanagh because I believe that it would widen considerably the present structure of the Bill.
– It would narrow it.
– How can the honourable senator support it? What about the Opposition’s legal boys?
– I have not even started my argument. I suggest that honourable senators opposite give me two or three minutes to expound it. As I understood what the Minister for Supply said in his reply to the second reading debate, the operation of this Bill is restricted to companies operating in Australia. In clause 5 - the definitive clause - ‘research organisation’ is stated to mean:
As 1 understand the Minister’s second reading speech, any Australian national engaged in industrial research and development activities who desired to obtain a benefit under this legislation would have to form himself into a company. Grants for research are made only in respect of Australian activities.
On 23rd February last I placed a question on the notice paper. It is now 19th May but still no answer has been provided. The question dealt with the activities of Australian inventors. There is in New South Wales an organisation known as the Australian Inventors Association. I think the Minister for Supply has been made an honorary member. The Association comprises about 300 people engaged in a small way in inventing machines and developing materials for the purpose of improving our manufacturing and secondary industries. I would like the Minister to tell me where these people stand under this legislation. These little people have contributed much in the past to Australia’s industrial development and doubtless they will contribute much in the future.
Replying to Senator Cavanagh’s argument the Minister said that in order to qualify for a grant under this legislation the activity for which a grant was sought must be related to manufacturing or mining operations in Australia. The Minister said that matters to be taken into account when considering whether a grant should be made would be the use of Australian resources, the export potential arising out of the research, the savings that might accrue and the defence capabilities of the project. One matter that immediately springs to my mind is a development which took place during the Second World War and which was of great significance to the defence of this nation. I refer to the invention by a man named Owen of the Owen sub-machine gun. His activities contributed greatly to the supply of military equipment to Australian forces engaged in New Guinea. When Mr Owen invented his sub-machine gun he was working as an individual and, of course, was an Australian national.
On 23rd February last I placed on notice the following question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister:
Bear in mind that I have not received an answer to my question since it was placed on notice in February last, and it is now May. I believe that the amendment proposed by Senator Cavanagh on behalf of the Opposition will rope in small Australian inventors. It would be in the nation’s interests to see that these people are covered by the legislation.
– Is the honourable senator now referring to the second amendment, or is he dealing with the subject in the broad?
– I want to deal with it in the broad. Let me refer to the situation of pharmaceutical companies which, generally speaking, are owned and controlled by overseas interests. Within the last year 1 read that of about 600 new drugs discovered between 1941 and 1965 and still in use, 366 originated in the United States, 44 in Switzerland, 33 in Germany, 8 in the United Kingdom and 21 in France. Between five and ten new drugs originated from the Netherlands, Denmark, Mexico and Sweden. Three new drugs originated from Belgium. Japan and Austria, while Argentina, Australia, Czechoslovakia and Italy each contributed only one new drug. Does it mean that these companies that have been operating in Australia making large profits from their operations here between 1941 and 1965 and contributing only one new drug for pharmaceutical purposes are to be the recipients of benefits under this Bill, whereas Australian nationals are to be deprived of its benefits?
Senator LAUGHT (South Australia) [9.26J - r turn my attention to the amendment proposed by Senator Cavanagh. Its purpose is to restrict very considerably the definition of an eligible company. The definition of an eligible company in the Bill is: eligible company’ means a company that is incorporated under the law of a State or of a Territory forming part of the Commonwealth and carries on in Australia in the relevant grant year the manufacture of goods or mining operations;
Senator Cavanagh’s amendment seeks to restrict the definition to a company which is ‘wholly owned and controlled by Australian nationals and/or by a company or companies which are wholly owned and controlled by Australian nationals’. The effect of the proposed amendment is that unless every share in a company is owned by people whom he terms Australian nationals it does not qualify for benefits under this Bill, no matter how honourable or useful its objects may be. I think that if the Senate accepted the amendment it would completely stultify this Bill. Senator Cavanagh does not refer to a company more than 50% of the shares in which are owned by Australian nationals’, an expression sometimes used in considering these ma Iters. He insists on a company being wholly owned and controlled by Australian nationals. I think that such an amendment would bc quite ridiculous for the Senate to entertain. I ask the Committee to reject it.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) 19.27.1- I am the first to admit that there were some weaknesses in the amendment which has just been negatived, in view of the restrictions it imposed, but those weaknesses will not be found in the amendment I am about to propose. In respect of clause 5 of the Bill I move:
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that an Australian national becomes an eligible person for the purposes of this legislation. At present the measure does not provide for a grant to be made to an eligible person, but only to an eligible company. As I said during the debate on the second reading, the Minister has given as would arise; that it could be that proper an excuse for not providing for an eligible person that the difficulty of keeping accounts accounts were not kept. I am asking that where it is established that proper accounts are kept by an Australian national doing worthwhile work in research, he should receive the benefits of this legislation in order to continue his research. Why is it necessary for him to be an ‘eligible company* in order to receive a grant?
While it could be said that the previous proposed amendment was too narrow, I do not think that that can properly be said of this amendment. We ask that Australian nationals be considered as eligible persons. We do not seek to have included all persons engaged in research and discovery, although possibly there are cases of persons other than Australian nationals who should be considered for a grant. We know that if Australian nationals develop any process, we will get the benefit of it.
Under this legislation, before a grant is paid the Minister for Trade and Industry or the proposed Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board will have lo be satisfied and will have to approve the research activity. They will have to know how much the company concerned expended in salaries and in other ways on the programme. Obviously this would not be known unless proper books of account were kept for this purpose. If in the case of individuals it is possible to estimate what is spent on research, and if the project is of value to Australia, why should that individual be excluded from the grant? The Government is prepared to make grants to registered companies. It is prepared to make generous grants to wealthy companies, ls the grant designed just to aid big monopolies or is it intended to be a grant for research and development? Fine research is often done by small groups and individuals, and these people are worthy of consideration. The amendment I have moved excludes persons who are not Australian nationals. If there is any any State two persons may form themwe are not adamant on the matter. But we must be particular not to hand over indiscriminately big grants from public moneys. We want to ensure, however, that the fruits of the research developed under this legislation will be beneficial lo Australia.
– I just want to refer to the matter that Senator Cavanagh has raised. The Government considered carefully whether individuals as well as companies should be able to qualify for grants under this legislation. But as public moneys will be disbursed, it is necessary that there should be strict control of the accounts of companies which receive grants. The scheme is not devised to aid individual inventors. It is related to the national objective of substantially increasing in the manufacturing and mining sectors research and development activity which will be of substantial benefit to the Australian economy. The scheme does not include small companies. The only requirement is that the recipient must be a company incorporated in Australia.
I think the honourable senator will agree that this legislation is to be reviewed at the end of one year. I believe that it would be safer to follow this course as required by the Bill and to confine the grants to companies. They must have trained staff and must, keep proper books of account. It will be possible to trace the money spent by them on research and development, and public moneys made available by the Commonwealth will be properly accounted for. As the honourable senator said, there may be occasions when an individual doing research work and other development in these fields operates in such a way that he keeps proper accounts and books. But I should think that one of the first things such a person would do would be to form himself into a company. This is one of the matters which could be looked at again in one year’s time. We have to start these schemes somewhere, and I think it is better and safer to start this one on the lines laid down in the Bill. The Government does not accept the amendment.
– 1 was very pleased to hear from the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) that this legislation will be reviewed in one year’s time. I do not know whether 1 should have been aware of that fact, but I did not know. Perhaps it was mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech.
The amendment makes a plea for the individual who does not wish to form himself into a company and is doing some worthwhile research which, in the opinion, not of the individual himself but of the Board - the Board has to approve of it - warrants a grant. Sub-clause (3.) of clause 27 provides:
The amount of a grant authorised under ibis section shall be such amount, not exceeding one-half of the amount of eligible expenditure in respect of which it is made, as the Board, in its discretion but subject to any relevant directions of the Minister under section 20 of this Act, determines. lt is clear that it is not simply a question of an application being made and a grant being forthcoming automatically. The applicant must establish to the satisfaction of the Board his expenditure on plant, machinery, salaries, etc., and the method of doing so is set out in the Bill. There is no question of a grant being paid on unreliable figures. The grant can be made only on figures that satisfy the Board as establishing the cost of the research. The fears of the Minister on this occasion are not well founded. Obviously he will nol accept the amendment. If it is defeated 1 ask him to give further consideration to this question or to refer it to the appropriate Minister in any review of this legislation that takes place.
– I can understand what Senator Cavanagh is driving at: he does not want a small individual with a good brain and a good idea to suffer by being excluded from the benefits of this legislation. I can see, too, the Minister’s view that only a company structure ought to be recognised. There is virtually uniform company legislation throughout the Commonwealth and in any State, two persons may form themselves into a proprietary company and secure registration. The whole point is that the company structure in Australia is a simple and relatively cheap one, and this is the least that the Government should demand before it pays out money under this legislation. I support the Minister’s attitude and explain to Senator Cavanagh, as best I can, that it would not be a serious setback to insist upon the company structure for any inventors or other persons seeking assistance under this scheme.
– I hope that Senator Cavanagh will agree with the Government in this instance. .1 am sure that the Minister would wish me to point out to the senator that the Minister stated in his recent reading speech that the whole scheme would be reviewed in about the fourth year of its operation.
– I gather from the Minister’s explanation that he is intending to use the company law to require that accounts shall bc kept. In my view, company laws have been so complex and inexact as to allow quite a deal of confusion with regard to the accountability of moneys, [n my view there is nothing less satisfying than company accounts, even those that are published under the Companies Act.
– They have to be audited.
– Quite so. But I shall be obliged if, sometime during the debate, we are told there is some provision in the Act for specific accountability of these moneys. There is one defect in company accounting that I can see. lt arises from the observations of Senator Cavanagh. It leads to a disclosure to competitors prematurely to the issue of a patent of what is going on. Secondly, I would have thought that a separate part of the Bill could have required each recipient of this money to sei out in detail receipts of the money on one side of an account and, on the other side, the permissible expenditure, as a particular obligation under the Bill. This might be considered as an alternative and a more effective means of properly accounting for this money.
– I should like to refer to two provisions in the Bill in reply to the point raised by Senator Wright. I refer first to sub-clause (2.) of clause 24, which reads:
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Board is not required or empowered to authorise a grant unless the Board is satisfied as to all matters relevant to the eligibility of the company for, and the amount of, the grant.
Does that cover the point which the honourable senator raises?
– Then I refer to clause 38 on page 15 of the Bill, which reads: (1.) The Board shall, as soon as practicable after the end of each grant year, furnish to the Minister a report on the operation of this Act, with particular reference to its operation in respect of that grant year.
The clause goes on to prescribe the matters upon which reports shall be made, and then provides: (3.) The Minister shall cause a copy of each report under this section to be laid before each House of Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after receipt of the report by the Minister.
Does that cover the point raised by the honourable senator?
– No. 1 should only like to add that I would put on record a request that consideration be given to inserting a provision that the company keep a separate account of the receipt of this money and that it show also in that separate account the expenditure that is permissible against it because companies can confuse this money in such a way that accountability would be quite misleading. 1 mention it now only as a matter for consideration because it is quite impossible lo complete the structure of this Bill to our satisfaction tonight.
– The point raised by Senator Wright has been noted. I understand that what he requires to be done can be done by regulation. The matter will bo looked at in that light, as will the other point that he raised.
– There were several other matters that I wish to raise in connection with various clauses, but due to problems that 1 can see and, because of inability to study the Act in the time available, I am not prepared to raise them at this stage. Unless they are raised by somebody else, I am prepared to accept the rest of the Bill as a whole.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– May I direct the attention of the Committee to clause 20, just to indicate that my interest in this giving of directions by officials is abiding? In clause 20, we find this provision: (1.) Subject to this section, the Minister may, from time to time, by notice in writing delivered to the Chairman and expressed to be given under this section, give directions to the Board with respect to the policies and practices to be followed by the Board, and the Board shall comply with any such direction that is in force.
I am happy to notice sub-clause (2.) and to recognise that it is not framed in such a fashion as will enable the Minister to give such published notice as he thinks fit. It provides:
The Minister shall forthwith cause to be published in the Gazette particulars of any direction given under the last preceding sub-section, and of any revocation of such a direction.
I bring these matters to the attention of the Committee and make the observation that they are directions from the Minister of a policy nature given to a Board whose function is to administer a subsidy scheme. They arc not. directions that interfere with individual rights, such as we were dealing with yesterday. I make the request of the Minister that he consider this matter, but not now because any amendment at this stage would cause trouble as the other half of the Parliament, are abed - gentlemen in Canberra now are abed and hold themselves accursed they were not here. Therefore, in the spirit of enduring co-operation -I almost made the mistake of saying compromise’ - I ask the Minister to make a request that consideration be given, before next we deal with this matter, to making an alteration to clause 38 which requires an annual report to be submitted. This is a rather satisfactory clause requiring a report to be made to the Parliament each year.I emphasise that this is in contrast with matters we have recently discussed. I ask theMinister to make a request that the annual report include the substance of directions given under clause 20. It is required that the directions shall be published in the Gazette’. That enablesanybody interested to go to the authentic record to find them, but for members of the Parliament that is not a very satisfactory medium through which to bring them to our notice. I ask him to make a request that those matters be specifically required to be incorporated in the Minister’s annual report.
– I think Senator Wright should look at sub-clause (4.) of clause 20, which reads:
Nothing in this section authorises the Minister to give a direction to the Board in relation to a particular company or a particular application.
This rather saves any prejudicial action of the Board against a particular company or a particular application. It is a very satisfactory sub-clause to have in the Bill. However, I support the suggestion made by Senator Wright for the future and I am sure the Minister will note it.
-I regret if I am trespassing on patience, but I would like to direct attention to clause 31 of the Bill. I have taken the Bill in hand only in the last four hours. Paragraph (b) uses the expression ‘to abuse this Act’. The words ‘Abuse of Act’ appear in the shoulder note, but the shoulder note has no operation. The clause reads:
Where the Board is satisfied that -
the act or thing is of such a nature that, having regard to the object of this Act, it constitutes an attempt to abuse this Act, the Board may, for the purposes of this Act, disregard any expenditure. . . .
The expression ‘abuse the Act’ is novel to me from the point of view of interpretation.I do not ask for this now, if it is inconvenient, but I would appreciate a request to the legal advisers of the Crown to indicate the meaning of that phrase, by writing if it is not convenient to do so now.
While I am on my feet, may I also direct attention to clause 37 of the Bill. 1 would just note this for the purpose of indicating that it has had cursory perusal and ask the Committee what its view of it is. Clause 37 (1 . ) provides:
Where any amount of grant to a company has been authorised in consequence of the making of a statement, or the presentation of a book, record or document, by or on behalf of the company that was, whether or not to the knowledge of the company or the person making the statement or presenting the book, record or document, false or misleading and that amount has been paid to the company, an amount equal to the amount so paid is recoverable by the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction from the. company as a debt due to the Commonwealth.
The point that I query is whether, in such a case, it is sufficient to make recoverable only the amount that the company has received. It seems to me to put a premium upon the chance of getting away with it, in circumstances where a recipient has induced a payment by producing a record that is false or misleading. It seems to me to be worth consideration as to whether double the amount that has been so induced should not be repayable by the company. I do not put forward that proposition as a conclusive view. But I remind the Committee that in the Australian Industries Preservation Act provision was made for treble damages in some cases where companies caused injury that was not permissible by law.
I finish by referring to clause 37 (2.) which provides:
For the purposes of this section, a certificate under the hand of the Chairman that an amount of grant has been authorized in consequence of the making of a statement, or the presentation of a book, record or document, is evidence of Lhe matters stated in the certificate.
– Evidence of the grant having been made.
– There is nothing about fraud.
– No, but it is evidence that the payment was made in consequence of that misleading or false record. It is evidence that the record is false or misleading, but it is evidence that the board did act upon a false or misleading record. The only point I raise about it is that it must be proved to the court that the payment was made.
– Good faith?
– lt does not matter about good faith because the liability to repay arises whether or not the statement was made to the knowledge of the company or person making it, so long as it is in fact false or misleading and the grant was made in consequence of the statement. The certificate is evidence that it was made in consequence of the statement. But I just wonder why, if that is a matter essential to liability, the board and its offcers should not be required to give evidence of it and prove it; and why in that circumstance it has not to be proved that it was in consequence of the book that the payment was made. I just leave those matters for the consideration of the Minister. Particularly do I ask that consideration be given as to whether it is sufficient simply to make 20s in the £1 paid repayable if that 20s in the £1 is secured by a false or misleading statement.
– Mr Chairman, I have a copious note on clause 31, Abuse of Act, to which the honourable senator has referred. I think it would be better if I passed this note on to the honourable senator. All the other matters that he has raised have been noted by my officers.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laught) - ] have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) appointing Senators Cormack, Bull, Mattner and Laught, and from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) appointing Senators Drury, Mulvihill and Willesee, members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs; also a letter from the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) appointing Senator McManus. A letter has been received also from the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) appointing Messrs Armstrong, Giles. Hughes. Jess, Killen, Nixon, Peacock and Turner members of the Committee.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
This being a money Bill I wish to take the opportunity afforded by the Standing Orders to raise a matter of vital importance to the Senate. It arises out of an odd and somewhat incongruous debate which took place in another place in regard to the referendum on the nexus between the two Houses of the Parliament. It is greatly to be regretted in my view - and I hope that the whole of the Senate will agree with that view - that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr Whitlam) chose to refer to what he described as the Odgers plan and then went on to add this criticism of a senior officer of this chamber:
I deplore the fact that Clerks of the Parliament should enter politics in this way.
My association with Clerks of Parliament now goes back for twenty years both in Tasmania and here. The-y have established a tradition for impartiality and confidence which is remarkable when it is to be considered that their knowledge is available to all members of Parliament, who have such diverse interests as politics require. To use a word suggested by Mr Whitlam, his understanding of what he called the Odgers plan is deplorable. 1 could not conceive of more immature confusion in his mind than he then expressed. The point of my reference to that is only to indicate that what he describes as the Odgers plan stems from a simple interpretation of section 14 of the Constitution which provides that when the Parliament is increasing or diminishing the number of senators it may provide for the vacation of seats by senators. This expression ‘Odgers plan’ derives from a fact of which the Leader of the Opposition in the other place apparently was completely ignorant. An exposition of this section of the Constitution was given by Professor Partridge in the proceedings before the allLabor Senate select committee of 1951, and is on public record. It was dubbed the Odgers plan by one journal in Canberra. Only one fragment of that history seems to have been within the knowledge of the Leader of the Opposition in another place, who chooses to enter upon a wholly unjustifiable criticism of an officer of this House.
Whatever differences divide us in this House on this question, I would hope that no-one will emerge to differ from the view that we should all support the integrity, impartiality and propriety of conduct of officers of the Parliament. I am specifically authorised by all ten senators who advocate the No vote in this referendum to say that Mr Odgers has not entered into the politics of this campaign, and I refute completely the statement by the Leader of the Opposition in another place to the effect that he has. As the Leader of the Government said this morning with regard to Mr Odgers’ availability for advice to Government members or any other members - whether they be independents, members of the Democratic Labor Party, the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Country Party or the Liberal Party of Australia. Mr Odgers has of course always made his knowledge available. Of course, he has made his unique knowledge of constitutional interpretation, constitutional history and parliamentary procedure available to members who support the No case. It is completely regrettable - and, I submit, unique - that a member in another chamber, entering upon a debate in which it is known that there is unanimity with regard to the subject matter of that debate from all 123 members who were entitled to be there and vote - how many were there I do not refer to - should reflect upon an officer of this House.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order. My point of order is that standing order 416 provides that no senator shall allude to any debate of the current session in the House of Representatives. I believe that perhaps enough has been said by the honourable senator to cover what he wanted to deal with insofar as the Clerk of this House is concerned. I take the point of order not only under standing order 416, but also under standing order 418 which deals with any reflection upon a member of another House. Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask you to require the honourable senator not to continue to deal with the subject matter of what was said by the Leader of the Opposition in another place.
– Speaking to the point of order, how absolutely absurd the position becomes if a debate can be arranged in the other place on a public matter, namely a constitutional alteration, which the people are to vote upon and if we in this chamber who would be affected by that constitutional alteration are to be denied the opportunity to make any reference in this chamber to the arguments used in that place, and are not to be permitted to refer to the impropriety of the arguments so used. If we were not at this stage of the session I would go so far as to suggest that the appropriate course would be to call the honourable gentleman concerned lo the bar of the House and require an apology from him.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I have taken a point of order. The honourable senator is not addressing himself to the point of order. 1 ask you to uphold the point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laught) - Order! Standing Order 4 1 6 slates:
No Senator shall allude to any Debate of the current Session in the House of Representatives, or to any Measure impending therein.
I have been referred also to Standing Order No. 418, which states:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House. . . .
I contend that Senator Wright has been referring to proceedings in a current session in the House of Representatives and to a debate in that place. I ask the honourable senator to refrain from referring to a debate that has taken place in the House of Representatives and also to refrain from using offensive words against a member of such House. The honourable senator may make a passing reference to the debate but may not refer to it in the detail to which he has applied his remarks.
– I want to conclude this part of my speech by saying that I affirm, I hope without difference from any honourable senator, that there is no foundation for any reflection upon the Clerk of our House and that his impartiality should be established by the Senate. It is deplorable that there should be any reflection upon the Clerk of the Senate, who has not a right of audience either in his own House or in another chamber of the legislature.
I refer also to a statement which has been made and, using parliamentary processes of broadcasting, given public dissemination, to the effect that the ten senators who advocate a No vote in the referendum do not include any member of the Australian Country Party. I want it to be clearly understood - it is understood, and would never be denied, by any member of the Parliament who has given the slightest consideration to the debate that has taken place on the nexus referendum - that our friend Senator Prowse from Western Aus tralia is one of those who has strongly advocated a No vote. Further, Senator Bull from New South Wales has taken a prominent part in New South Wales and throughout the country advocating a No vote. If any mistake should have arisen in the minds of any members of this Parliament, it is greatly to be regretted that credit is not given to the fact that when a vote was taken on the Constitution Alteration (Parliament) Bill, Senator Bull was ill in hospital and therefore was not able to vote. Senator Prowse specifically referred to the fact that he was voting in favour of the Bill in order to give the people the opportunity to decide the issue. But he made it quite clear that he would ask the people to record a No vote.
The next matter to which 1 wish to refer is a recent prominent statement to the effect that the No case was not signed. I would like to place on the table of this chamber a letter dated Sth April 1967 addressed to the Chief Electoral Officer and signed by myself and Senator Gair. Attached to it is a further letter to the Chief Electoral Officer signed by Senators Gair, Hannaford, Lillico, Mattner, Turnbull, Wood and myself authorising Senator Gair and myself to prepare and submit the argument for the No case. These facsimiles have been copied from the originals which were lodged with the Chief Electoral Officer. They bear our signatures in our own handwriting, each individually written. It is indescribably contemptible that public men should take the responsibility upon themselves of broadcasting falsehoods when they know that the No case is authorised under the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act. Section 6A of that Act provides that: (1.) If within four weeks after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses there is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer -
I wish to refer to another aspect of recent events regarding the No case. We had a referendum in 1946. Al that time the No case in respect of two of the most important proposals in the referendum was advocated by the Party led by the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. If honourable senators peruse the document relating to that referendum they will find that there is no signature to either case, and if honourable senators peruse the pamphlet issued by the Chief Electoral Officer at this present time they will find there is no signature to either the Yes case or the No case. Of course, through a concurrence unparalelled between the leaders of the three parties represented in another place, it was thought by them that prestige would be given to the Yes case if they appended printed names to it. They included their names in that way. The Chief Electoral Officer printed the case but it was not signed. I have no doubt the case is properly signed in the record that resides in the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, just as our case is signed.
It is completely contemptible that people who should know better try to capitalise upon some mistaken inquiries that might understandably come from remote quarters of the country. To peddle and repeat the case from the Parliament is deplorable. I refrain from further reference to this matter because we have had a long day in the Senate throughout which we have had great exertions. We are on the air and I do not wish to give any impression that I would be party to recent proceedings which, I would consider, amount to an unfair arrogation of parliamentary broadcasting time.
It is known that the Australian Broadcasting Commission - a national organisation with great responsibility - when it knew that this referendum was to be held, impartially divided television and radio time - half for the No case and half for the Yes case. It gave sixty minutes of television time for the No case and sixty minutes of television time for the Yes case, and ninety minutes of radio time for each case. So important is the management of this mass media that I would suggest it is a little beneath the dignity of people who have high responsibilities of state that they then should, with a concurrence of viewpoint between three parties, get a unanimous agreement to use parliamentary broadcasting time to give themselves another ninety minutes dissemination of their case over the radio.
I only want to add that it gives me great satisfaction to exercise restraint in criticism of these matters because we have proof that the No senators are making of the Senate the real legislative body in this country. I quote from Senator Murphy, the Leader of the Opposition, who is on record on 5th April as saying:
Indeed, it is a tragedy of our modern times that of the two chambers the Senate is the only one capable of being a true legislative chamber, lt follows from our responsible system of government, which extends throughout the British Commonwealth, that in the chamber which includes most of the members of the Government, the Government is dominant, except where the numbers arc fairly evenly divided. As a consequence, that chamber is really incapable of making any amendments to legislation or of passing legislation contrary to the writ of the Government. So that in fact if not in theory the House of Representatives has ceased to be a legislative chamber, lt is a rubber stamp for the legislation introduced by the Government.
I hope that these things are born in mind because it is important that we in this chamber protect the integrity of the officers of this chamber and refute the falsehoods that are unfairly and widely disseminated through the country by means of the mass media to which I have referred. Then we should bring to the attention of the people the special function which this House discharges. The passage I have read from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate indicates that the House of Representatives has become a rubber stamp of the Government and that the only effective independent legislative chamber in this Parliament is the Senate.
– Having regard to the doubt which was cast upon the validity of a reference to a debate in the other place, as referred to in standing order 416, in accordance with the provisions of standing order 448 I move:
That standing order 416 be suspended. 1 do so in order that the extraordinary circumstances which arose in relation to the debate in another place will not prejudice a fair discussion in this chamber of a matter which is of great concern to the Senate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
That standing order 416 be suspended.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
Question so resolved in the negative.
– 1 am compelled, Mr President, though somewhat reluctantly, to take advantage of the Standing Orders which permit me to address certain remarks to the Senate on the first reading of this Bill. For the circumstance that makes this necessary I accept no responsibility. I am prompted to adopt this course by none other than the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) himself. When the Prime Minister announced on 11th May last his intention to hold a one-sided debate on the referendum proposals in the House of Representatives, 1 requested by letter dated 16th May that Senator Wright and I be allowed to appear at the bar of the House to present the No case. 1 took this course of action for two reasons, Mr President. The Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasts the proceedings of the House of Representatives. Yet the Commission had come to a very carefully considered decision that the Yes and the No cases on the nexus proposal should receive equal time on ABC radio and television. To my knowledge there was no member of the House of Representatives who would present the No case in any discussion in that House on the nexus referendum.
The Prime Minister wrote to me on 17th May. He did not directly answer my request for permission for Senator Wright and myself to appear at the bar of the House. The nearest that he came to it was to state:
There are forms of the Senate available lo you to slate these views in that chamber should you so decide, when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast or otherwise.
That I contend, Mr President, was a ridiculous statement because unlike the Prime Minister, who exercises control over the House of Representatives, I do not control the proceedings of the Senate.
The discussion on the nexus question cf the referendum took place last night, which meant of course that it was a one-sided affair. The three leaders of the three major parties participated in it. Great emphasis was placed on the fact that there was unanimity among the three major political parties in this Parliament. The last time that I can recollect the three parties being unanimous on any question was when they all agreed to increase their salaries and allowances and pensions in 1964. They were unanimous on that occasion because they believed that they were to gain some benefit, and they are unanimous now because they believe that some benefit is to accrue to parliamentarians.
However, the action of the Prime Minister in bringing on the discussion last night completely torpedoed the carefully considered decision of the ABC that the Yes and the No advocates be granted equal time on its broadcast’s. The Commission had gone even to the extent of ensuring that neither side was given a monopoly of the best viewing and listening time when it arranged the actual telecast and broadcast times. Apparently this did not satisfy Mr Holt, because he undertook to circumvent this fairness of the ABC by engineering an extra few hours of broadcasting time in favour of the Yes case without anyone speaking against that case or in favour of the No case. I think that that would offend the sense of fair play and the sporting spirit of any Australian.
– Especially when the advocates for the Yes case combine to try to throttle us here.
– Then we find that they deny to Senator Wright and myself an opportunity to tell the public over the ABC radio service our side of the case. Did they have something to fear? Of course they had something to fear. Anyone with an impartial mind who had listened to the discussion last night would declare that they had found that they were pushing a very heavily laden barrow in this conflict. This was very evident from their criticism of the No case, which was puerile and poor, mentioning only things on which they believed they had some semblance of an argument. I am concerned about the charges of dishonesty against the No case. It was suggested that because the No case contains a statement to the effect that the nexus represents
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! 1 must make it perfectly clear to the honourable senator that he cannot refer to the debate in the other place. He must not misunderstand the position. I want to go along with him as far as I possibly can but if he starts to refer to the other debate I must of necessity uphold the previous ruling.
– I take a point of order. I just want the matter to be specifically understood. Do I understand your’ ruling, Mr President, to be that if a charge of dishonesty is made in a debate in the House of Representatives against a member of the
Senate in regard to the presentation of a constitutional case, on the floor of the Senate that senator is denied the right to refute that charge? Surely, Mr President, that cannot be the position in this chamber. I ask you to invoke the substance of our rights. An allusion to a debate means a debate, I submit, but a charge of dishonesty made in the course of a debate is a matter that demands refutation for the sake of the integrity of this chamber.
– Order! I do not know by what right the honourable senator considers he has to make that statement.
– But Mr. President
– Order! I do not want the honourable senator to canvass my ruling.
– Mr President, in the light of your ruling it would appear that I shall have no opportunity to reply to statements made in the course of the debate. Together with Senator Wright, and others associated with me, I have been charged with dishonest advocacy in regard to the No case. It was bad enough to have a mean, despicable trick played to get an extra two hours radio time to misinform the public on this matter, but it is even worse that we are to be denied the opportunity to state our case. When I took the opportunity of doing what the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) suggested I should do, and avail myself of the forms of the Senate-
– Those of our own House.
– That is so. When I took this action so as to tell the people the true position, the Standing Orders were invoked against us to prevent us answering these allegations of dishonesty and insincerity and that kind of thing made in the debate last night.
– Inaccuracy, too.
– And inaccuracy. Allegations such as those have been answered already by Senator Wright. Mr Whitlam did not know who were the ten senators who supported the No case. But he disclosed one thing, if no other; namely, that he has more than ample staff in his office and that they cannot be very fully occupied. In his attempt to answer my charge that we have too many parliamentarians and that since the increase in the size of the Parliament and the increase in the salaries of parliamentarians-
– Mr President, I rise on a point of order.
– The ultra-democrat!
– The honourable senator may not say that in that way after he has heard what I have to say. As I understand the position, it has been ruled that there may be no discussion of the debate that occurred in another place. Again as I understand the position, certain reflections have been cast on certain senators by members of another place. I draw your attention, Mr President, to a debate that took place in this chamber, I think it was last year, when a similar matter arose. Certain allegations were made against the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and considerable discussion took place about those allegations. On that occasion, I think you ruled that it was quite proper, under the Standing Orders, for a certain honourable senator on the Government side to make charges against the honourable member for Yarra. I submit that any honourable senator who believes that he has been maligned by statements made by anybody in another place is entitled to answer those charges without referring to the actual debate that occured in that place.
– I think honourable senators are misunderstanding the position. The Standing Orders say that a senator must not refer to debates in the other chamber. I point out to Senator Gair that there is a wide field outside the actual debate in that place. While I am in the chair I must uphold the Standing Orders. I understand that Senator Laught ruled earlier on this matter. If Senator Gair proceeds as he has been proceeding he will not encroach terribly on the area on which he should not encroach. But I will not allow him to argue on the debate in the other chamber.
– The claim made by those who favour the Yes case is that there is a great and urgent need for more parlia mentarians and that the present parliamentarians are overworked. It is interesting to note that from 1901 to 1949, when the number of members of the House of Representatives was seventy-five, the average number of sitting days each year was seventy-two. From 1950 to 1966, when the number of members of the House of Representatives was 124, the figure was sixty-three. In 1966, fifty-five sitting days were sufficient. It will be seen that the last increase in the number of members resulted in fewer sitting days. The salary has increased from $3,000 to $7,000 a year. Accompanying this attempt to increase the numerical strength of the House of Represenatives one may expect a move for an increase in the salaries paid to members of the House of Representatives. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has not denied that such a move will be made. The public of Australia should know that already the Joint House Department is considering spending about $500,000 on further extensions to the temporary parliamentary building.
On the subject of the number of sitting days, no opponent of the No case has been able to satisfy me that he is overworked. One bright gentleman who must have a surplus of staff or a lot of time on his hands has calculated how many bills were introduced in .the various years. But not satisfied with that exercise in support of the overworked, he has fingered every sheet of the Commonwealth ‘Gazette’ and of the Acts for each year and he asks us to pay regard to the number of pages in those documents. We are told that in 1948 the number of pages in the annual volume of Acts was 529; in 1949 it was 446 and in 1950 it was 302. He counted all the pages in the ‘Gazette’ and in the Acts to support his claim that members of the House of Representatives are overworked. One could not have a better case than that in support of our claim that they are not overworked.
A lot has been said about the limit of 85,000 people - men, women and children - in an electorate being a brake on the size of the House of Representatives. The fact is that this quota ensures-
– An acceleration of the increase.
– Yes, it ensures an accelerated increase in the number of parliamentarians, because a quota of 85,000 people in an electorate, almost half of whom will be under twenty-one years of age, will entitle the House of Representatives to one member. This cannot be denied and those who attempt to do so are only misleading the people. We have pointed out in the No case that by the end of the century - thirtythree years from now - when it is anticipated that Australia will have a population of about 25 million people, there will be about 300 members in the House of Representatives. Taking the quota proposed for our House of Representatives and applying it to the American scene, there should be 2,500 members in the American lower House, but in fact there are 435. At present we have a representative in our national Parliament for every 62,000 people - men, women and children. America has a representative in its national Parliament for every 355.000 people. These great advocates leading the Yes case say that that is not a fair comparison; that we should compare ourselves with the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has no State parliaments. We have State parliaments and America has State parliaments.
– In the United Kingdom there are country councils, of course.
– So do we have councils. The Yes case advocates do not say anything about New Zealand’s not having increased the number of members of its Parliament since the turn of the century.
– New Zealand does not have an Upper House.
– New Zealand has not increased the number of members in the Lower House.
– The Upper House wis abolished.
– The Upper House w;:s in existence for many years before it was abolished, and New Zealand has not increased the number of members of its Parliament since the turn of the century. Let us place the facts on record so that the people who are inclined to fall for. the Yes story as the lesser of two evils will know just what they can expect. It is said that if you vote Yes you will get less additional parliamentarians than if you vote No.
– That is right.
– Well, there will be an increase of thirteen parliamentarians in the House of Representatives immediately in the event of the Yes case being carried, raising the present figure of 124 to 137. In 1971, four years from now, when our population is expected by the Australian National University to be 13.2 million, there would be 156 members of the House of Representatives on a quota of 85,000. By 1981 when the population is expected to be 16.5 million, there would be 195 members of the House of Representatives. By 1991 when the population is expected to be 20.4 million there would be 240 members of the House of Representatives. At the turn of the century there would be 290 members of the House of Representatives if the Yes case were carried. The advocates of the Yes case have made only one point with which 1 and my colleagues agree and that is that there should not be any increase in the number of senators. But in addition to that, we say that there should not be any increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives now or in the foreseeable future. That is the difference in the two cases.
– Senator Wright said on television that he would not mind a ratio of three to one or four to one. He said that there was nothing sacred about a ratio of two to one.
– Senator Wright has told the Minister more frequently than enough just what he means and what he understands.
– I know what he said.
– Yes, and (he Minister has said a lot of things, too, and he would have difficulty in standing up to them.
– Oh, no.
– Oh yes, he would. Some of the best somersaults of all have been performed by the leaders of the present Government. Do we not have on record that the present Prime Minister has said that numbers did not matter very much in the duties of a parliamentarian? I wish to quote, not from his speech the other night-
– What are you about to quote from, senator?
– From a pamphlet produced for the Yes case.
– A dishonest one, too, of course.
– lt is not dishonest. 1 object to that statement that I am conducting dishonest advocacy. I ask for its withdrawal and an apology. I have not been accustomed to that treatment.
– Senator Sim, you will withdraw.
– I withdraw, because I have to.
– This statement is to be found in Hansard. On 23rd April 1948, the present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), who was then in opposition, said: . . a mere increase in population is not the proper test of what a member of Parliament has lo do.
The Prime Minister is putting a lot of emphasis on population now. He says that the people supporting the No case are not mindful of the great increase in the population and the increase in the multitudinous and complex duties that a parliament has to assume these days. Yet the number of sitting days has fallen from an average of eighty lo sixty-three. Last year the number was fifty-five. Does the right honourable gentleman think that the public is going to swallow such a puerile argument as the supporters of the Yes case will present? It is just like the case adopted by the Australian Labor Party in 1949 when it resisted the advocacy of the Opposition in those days to break the nexus. We have on record statements by the former leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate, Senator McKenna, the late Dr H. V. Evatt, and VI r Beazley, the honourable member for Fremantle in the House of Representatives. The honourable member for Fremantle is on record as saying:
It was intended to safeguard the rights of the smaller States, and I have no doubt that these States would resist any proposal for the enlargement of the Parliament that failed to preserve the present relative strength of the Senate and the House of Representatives, in which the larger States, owing to the operation of a democratic system of election, have so many more representatives than the smaller States. 1 wonder what Mr Beazley’s state of mind is today when he finds himself following along behind the old machine? In changing his mind on matters of principle and matters of importance I wonder whether he forgets the less populous State which he represents He forgets the country districts, all of which will be disadvantaged by the growth of the great metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne in the event of the Yes case being carried.
I am sorry that I have spoken for as long as I have. I probably was provoked to do so by all the frustrations I have met - and the same applies to my colleagues - in attempting to get what we term fair play. However, 1 have a very high regard for the appreciation by the Australian people of fair play. I know that they will not appreciate the discrimination and the despicable attempt on the part of the Prime Minister and others to cheat in regard to radio time for the presentation of their case. I will leave the matter at that, Mr President, very confidently believing that the Australian people will reject the Yes case with an overwhelming majority.
– .1 want to draw attention to the malicious statements made by people supporting the Yes case. The story has been told that if the No case wins - it will win, of course, overwhelmingly, there is no risk about that - there will be more parliamentarians appointed because senators also will have to be appointed when the membership of the House of Representatives is increased. That is a blatant statement designed to create fear. Supporters of the Yes case are trying to put this over the Australian people. My contention is that if the people of Australia strongly reject - as they will - any desire on the part of the Yes case supporters to increase the size of the Parliament by breaking the nexus, it will be a very courageous government which will oppose the people’s view. I can well imagine, if this Government is silly enough to try to do something like that, what a wonderful opportunity it will give to the Opposition to show up the Government as people who do not recognise the will of the people.
It is sheer nonsense to say that when the No case wins there will be more parliamentarians. The reverse will be the case.
Yet we find the Government, which is supposed to be supported by the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Country Party, working on a new scheme to fix the number of members in the House of Representatives according to the population of the country - on the basis of minimum quotas of 85,000 people. That number includes men, women and children - not just voters, who would probably represent less than half that number. The people are being asked to vote Yes on the question and are told that its adoption will mean that there will not be the great increases in the membership that would occur if the nexus were retained.
The founders of the Constitution inserted the nexus provision for the special purpose of restraining the growth of, not the Senate, but the House of Representatives. They recognised that governments would have difficulty in justifying big increases in the membership of the House of Representatives if the size of the Senate had to be increased also. Let us get back to facts. This is the snide way it is being done. If the Government does not have to increase the Senate it can proceed ad lib to increase the membership of the House of Representatives.
Let us take a look at the quota system, which sounds very good. Its proponents have put over a glib story. It is only a matter of another fourteen members in the House of Representatives, according to the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) who spoke on television tonight. The advocates of the Yes case say that unless the referendum is carried the growth of the House of Representatives will be stopped. That, of course, is a complete fabrication. It is contrary to what will happen because, as has been pointed out, on the basis of the rate of growth in this country, at the end of the century the House of Representatives would have 300 members under the proposed quota.
– Each costing $30,000 a year.
– Yes. I am coming to that point.
– And 150 senators then?
– 1 notice that the Leader of the Government and Senator Sim continually talk about so many senators. They cannot separate the cases. I am now talking about the proposition that they are peddling to the people. It is that if the nexus were not broken this would happen - and in this instance there would not be any senators. Let us examine this wonderful structure of the House of Representatives which they propose to erect if they kid the people into voting for it. They are talking about fourteen extra parliamentarians in the House of Representatives. That is not very many. In a statement I have before me which was made not in Parliament but by the Prime Minister on television last week, I note that he spoke about the cost per head of population of the House of Representatives working out at only 30c. What about all the other parliaments in Australia that the country has to pay for? Let me get it down to a more bulky figure which people can more easily digest. It has been calculated by an officer that it costs this country $30,000 a year for each parliamentarian in both Houses of the Federal Parliament, so that if the number is increased by fourteen - not a large number - the cost to the country right away would be another $420,000 a year.
– Do not forget the $500,000 for the additions to Parliament House for extra accommodation.
– If at the end of the century we have the population that has been forecast, the House of Representatives will have 300 members under this wonderful system which is being peddled to the people. It will cost them an extra $5,280,000 a year. In about twenty-five or thirty years from then, with the increase in population, there will be about 600 members in the House of Representatives and the costs -
– How many senators then?
– This is under the Yes proposal. There would be no additional senators at all.
– Is the honorable senator going to abolish senators?
– Do not talk nonsense. When the House of Representatives has reached 600 members in about fifty years time the additional cost will be $9m. When the increase becomes not 14 but 600, as it will in another fifty or fifty-five years, this country will be cursed with an annual cost of $ 14.7m for the Parliament. When we appreciate the great need of the people out in the cattle country for roads, when we appreciate the great need for water conservation in this country, and when we realise just how many other things are urgently needed, we see that this is a terrific amount of money for us to be wasting on parliamentarians.
Let me show just how ridiculous this proposed quota of 85,000 persons to each member of the House of Representatives is. Senator Gair has already referred to it but I am indebted to Senator Scott who first revealed the position to me on a previous occasion in this chamber when he referred to the population of the United States of America. When the population of this country reaches the size of the present population of the United States of America, we shall have about 2,400 members in the House of Representatives if we accept the quota of 85,000, for if we require one member to look after the interests of 85,000 people now, we shall require one member to look after the interests of that number of people when our population reaches the size of the present population of the United States.
Imagine a House of Representatives with 2,400 members. Imagine the size of the building that would be required. Just imagine Mr Speaker’s position. Would he bc supplied with a telescope in order to discern who was speaking? Would the members be provided with telescopes so that they could recognise each other? Imagine the dining room that would be needed. Imagine the bar and refreshment rooms that would be needed. Imagine what the position would be if most of the members were out of the chamber having afternoon tea or supper and the division bells rang. Just imagine 2,400 members of the House of Representatives stampeding down the corridors in order to get into the chamber before the two minutes allowed for the ringing of the bells expired. Again, just imagine the transport that would be needed with 2,400 members arriving and departing by plane every week. Imagine the number of cars that would be required to transport members to and from the House and to and from their homes in their respective cities. Imagine the staff that would be required. Indeed, imagine all the things that would be required. The situation would bo ridiculous.
How silly can we get? The Government, in suggesting that we agree to a quota of 85,000, is in effect suggesting that we create such a state of affairs. As I said before, if, as the Government tells us, one member is required to look after the interests of 85,000 people now, that same argument will be just as logical when our population reaches the size I have mentioned. There can be no argument about that. It is only by taking the argument to extremes that one can demonstrate the logical results of these things and show how silly they are. Just imagine what the size of the Ministry would be if we had 2,400 members in the House of Representatives, and the array of staff that would be needed to serve them.
– We might be able to get an answer to a question then.
– -That is so. Members of the House of Representatives complain now that they get an answer to only about one question a month. How often would they get answers to questions if we had a crowd like that in the House of Representatives? Why, it would be about once in every three or four years. Again, how often would a member be able to speak? Probably the only point about which there would be some unanimity is that that there would be so many members there that they would be able to do little more than just nod their heads and say: ‘Yes*. That is the ridiculous part of it. And that is what the Government is asking the people to accept when it asks them to agree to this referendum which seeks to provide one member for every 85,000 people - men, women and children.
The people who are peddling the Yes case are hiding not only the truth about the cost to the country but also the truth about the stupidity of the proposition they are putting before us. The very fact of the existence of the nexus is the greatest possible deterrent to the building up of the numbers in the House of Representatives. There is no doubt that if Senator Sim, who is interjecting, and a few others on this side want to be silly enough they will give the Labor Party the best possible avenue of getting on to the treasury bench. They are merely showing how silly we are in going against the decision of the people on this question. 1 have taken this line of argument to show how silly we can get. Nobody can argue about the figures that I have presented to the Parliament relating to the United States of America and the number of members we would have to have when the population of this country reached the size of the present population of that country. Let us be sensible about it. I know the people of Australia will be. I feel sorry for the advocates of the Yes case. They are about to get such a thumping that they will rue the day they ever took it up.
– I will be brief in addressing myself to the Customs Tariff Validation Bill. Of course, a peculiarity of our procedure enables a senator to deal with any irrelevant matter when speaking to Bills of this kind. Senator Wood asked us to imagine a parliament of 2,000 members. Frankly I cannot imagine it and I do not think anybody else can. This is not the type of argument that should be put before the people of Australia when they are being asked, under both of the propositions before them, to alter the Constitution of Australia possibly for all time or at least until another referendum is held.
The people of Australia tomorrow week will be asked to decide a question that will have a very important impact on Australia’s position in the international scene. This question relates to Aboriginals. Unfortunately, this issue has been swamped in the debates so far; it has not been mentioned. It is of tremendous importance that this question be decided with an overwhelming Yes vote. If it is not, there can be a complete misconception internationally of Australia’s position. The history of discussions and events leading to the framing of the Constitution before the turn of the century shows that no discrimination against the Aboriginals was intended. The provision was inserted in the Constitution because at that time there were no special laws for these people to be made by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth did not administer any area in which Aboriginals resided.
At that stage of our development, the Northern Territory was administered by the Government of South Australia. The special laws for these people were not to be made by ‘the Commonwealth Government, because such laws would not have any application. The State governments were the proper authorities to make laws for the original Australians.
I mention this briefly because, as I understand it, the 184 Commonwealth parliamentarians unanimously seek a Yes vote on the question relating to Aboriginals. I do not want to see this issue flooded, because it has a significance quite beyond the significance of a debate of the type that has developed here tonight and the atmosphere that has been created around the other question. Quite frankly, Mr President, I would have preferred the Government to have shown some courage some years ago and have placed before the people of Australia at a referendum separate questions dealing with the recommendations made long ago by the Constitutional Review Committee. After all, it was this Government that set up the Committee. Very eminent people from both sides of the Parliament served on it. It has always been clear, because this is part of the platform of the Australian Labor Party, that when we are the Government we will put these issues before the people and will advocate their acceptance. We have also told the Government unequivocally that we would support it if it put any of these issues before the people.
– And abolish the Senate?
– The abolition of the Senate is not a recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee, as the honourable senator would know if he read its report.
– It is part of Labor’s platform, though.
– How the Australian Country Party puts up with these people I do not know. We are not talking about the platform of the Australian Labor Party. If you will be quiet, you silly little boy, for a minute . . .
– I demand an apology, Mr President.
– What are you objecting to?
– I take a point of order.
– May [ speak to the point of order? I suggest the expression is so transparently offensive to the honourable senator, and is against the standing order, that Senator Webster’s request for an apology should be understood. I would ask you, Mr President, to allow Senator Willesee’s speech to proceed - we are all interested in it - by requiring first protection for Senator Webster under the standing order. I submit it is obviously warranted.
- Senator Willesee, you will refer to another senator by using his name. You should refer to Senator Webster by his name.
- Mr President, may I say in my own defence that I am not in the habit of saying harsh things in the Senate. But I point out that when a speaker is on his feet he is entitled to be heard in silence, particularly when the matter is as important as this. I am trying to bring some sanity back into the debate. I think that I should be heard in silence. I restrain myself at all times in debate except when honourable senators interject and put themselves out of court. I will try not to answer interjections in the future.
The Australian Labor Party made it very clear to the Government that if these proposals were put forward one at a time it would support them. I do not think that in the history of constitutional reform in Australia any government has had the green light from the opposition as the Government has on this occasion. Doctor Evatt tried particularly hard in 1944 when he obtained agreement from the Leaders of the Opposition and the Premiers of all States to support the fourteen points in his referendum. Looking back over that matter, some mistakes were made from which we should learn for the future. Some of the Premiers and Leaders of the Opposition did not see the proposals right out. That is on their conscience, and it was their responsibility. Because this happened so long ago I do not want to dwell on it. I merely draw the analogy that an attempt was made by a government to get leaders in both the
State Parliaments and the Federal Parliament to support constitutional reform, lt was unsuccessful.
A different approach has been made to this referendum. The former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, set up the Constitutional Review Committee, which brought down a very wide format for reviewing our Constitution. As I have said, never before has an Opposition given the green light to a Government. Because of that fact, I regret very much that we are dealing with only two items at this referendum and not with all the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. If the Government wants to approach on a wider front in the future, I hope that it will take encouragement from my words.
Tomorrow week wc have to decide on two items. I was glad to hear earlier the cry ‘Hear, hear!’ that came from Senator Wright who is one of the leaders for the No case on the first question in the referendum. But I refer now to the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution relating to Aboriginals. This matter has a connotation that goes well beyond the confines of the shoreline of Australia. Not only should this matter be carried: it should be carried overwhelmingly so that people overseas cannot make mischief out of the numbers who support the case if it is carried.
I turn to the link or the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives. I do not think it is realistic to project our thoughts forward to what might be the situation in 33 years time or 133 years time and say that according to what has happened in the past there will be an automatic increase in the number of members in the House of Representatives and therefore in the Senate. I for one - this is a personal thought - do not believe that we can carry on in this Parliament in the way that we have been carrying on since 1900. I believe that since 1949 some committee system should have been evolved - .1 do not mean exactly on the lines of the American system - to bring greater knowledge to this Parliament, cut down on the repetition that occurs in both Houses, and to get more to the nub and the core of the matters before us. It is not beyond the realms ,of possibility that this Parliament in the not too distant future will be dealing with questions concerning outer space. I do not know which honourable senator here considers that he would be an expert on outer space. Obviously this would be a job for experts. We would need to develop some form of procedure by which expert knowledge on this technological question can be brought to the floor of this chamber and to another place.
I do not want to go into a great argument on the referendum. We will be doing this in the next week. Unfortunately, particularly as a result of the contribution made by Senator Wood, that great old whipping boy, the parliamentarian, is being attacked. Questions are being asked as to whether he has enough work to do. Some honourable senators are saying that if there is a No vote, this will prevent the appointment of more parliamentarians in Australia. The supporters of the Yes case have argued that if the numbers in the House of Representatives are increased under the Constitution as it stands today then it is obvious that the numbers in the Senate must be increased also. This means that there will be more members of Parliament. This is a matter that ought to be ironed out in the next week. I suggest that even with the limitation suggested by Senator Wright the debate has got a little out of context and I mention this to try to bring back some calm. Whatever our personal feelings may be this is not an Act of Parliament that any government can alter at some future sitting. Our masters, the Australian people will be asked on Saturday week to write into our Australian Constitution for all time to come two important provisions. I think this should be approached with a great degree of calm and a very great degree of dignity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. President, this Bill validates, only until the 1st May 1967, the collection of duties of Customs under Customs Tariff Proposals numbers 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 moved in another place on 22nd February, 14th March, 16th March, 4th April, 13th April and 20th April 1967 respectively.
Each of these Proposals has pursuant to section 226 of the Customs Act 1901-1966 a validity, without challenge in a court of law, for six months. This means that, unless the Parliament acts, the duties collected under Proposals No. I could be required by court action to be repaid after 22nd August 1967. Duties collected under Proposals No. 9 on the other hand cannot be challenged until after 20th October 1967.
The position is further complicated by the fact that when certain proposals, specifically numbers 1, 5, 6 and 7 were introduced, the Customs Tariff 1967 Bill had not been passed by the Parliament. Honourable senators will recall that that Bill, now an Act, introduced support duties through the insertion of a new Fourth Schedule to the Customs Tariff. Hence when the Customs Tariff 1967 was proclaimed to operate on 2nd May 1967, Proposals No. 7 was incompatible with the principal Act while Proposals No. 6 was in part incorporated in the Customs Tariff 1967 but the balance necessitated an amendment of the Principal Act. In consequence it was desirable that the validity of these proposals be terminated at 1st May 1967 and their substance re-introduced in a form acceptable to the current act.
It then followed that rather than validate selected proposals up until some future date being a date by which an enabling bill might reasonably be expected to be passed by the Parliament, and indeed in the case of Proposals No. 6 to two different dates, it was preferable to validate all the proposals up till 1st May 1967, re-introduce the proposals to operate from 2nd May and introduce the enabling bill at a convenient date to enact the proposals before their terminal dare six months later.
For a detailed explanation of the alterations to be validated by this bill I commend to honourable senators the Summary of Amendments relating to Proposals No. 11 distributed for their information on 2nd May, 1967. I commend this validation bill to honourable senators.
– The Opposition supports the Bill and will give close scrutiny to enabling legislation when it comes to the Senate before the six months expires.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without request, or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr President, this Bill provides for the validation until 31st December 1967 of excise duties collected on certain canned fruits in pursuance of Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1 which was tabled in another place on 16th March last. The Government has decided to seek validation of the new rates and will introduce legislation to give full effect to the change in the new session when senators will be afforded an opportunity to debate the amendment. I comment the Bill to honourable senators.
– The Opposition looks forward to the opportunity of debating the subject matter of this Bill in the new session of Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Will the Minister confer with the appropriate authorities in the Australian Capital Territory with a view to having areas above Lake Burley Griffin, embracing the Jerrabomberra Creek and Molonglo River regions, declared a permanent reservation to provide a feeding area for ducks, pelicans, ibis, cormorants and other bird life7
Senator MCKELLAR - The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer:
In order to provide for the future development of Canberra, some disturbance of the area to which the honourable senator referred will be unavoidable. The hydrological characteristics of these flood plains may also make it necessary to undertake certain work in the future.
In carrying out these essential works, however, the need to retain as much of the area as possible in its present state and so preserve the wild life of the area will be kept predominantly in mind.
It may be some years before all developmental work is completed. In the circumstances it would seem too early yer to consider declaring the area a permanent reserve.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Senator McKELLAR - The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator HENTY - The Prime Minister has provided me with the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
The Loder Committee Report was not declared a secret document. The Report has been tabled in the Parliament today. 2. (a) $2,751.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Senator HENTY - The answers are as follows: 1 and 2. Except for the small production from four wells at Roma, there is as yet no ‘natural gas industry’ in Australia. The present reply has therefore been extended to cover announced plans, of varying degree of firmness, for the development of natural gas deposits and to cover gas fields that have not yet been proposed for development.
The details of field areas, title holders, interests, partnerships, nationality and control are as follows:
Title Holders: Associated Australian Oilfields N.L. (25%)
Associated Freney Oilfields N.L. (25%)
The Papuan Apinaipi Petroleum Co. Ltd (121/2%)
Associated Continental Petroleum N.L. (121/2%)
Interstate Oil Ltd (15%); and Sleigh Exploration N.L. (10%).
All these companies (the Associated Group) are Australian based but some members of the Group (Interstate Oil and Sleigh Exploration) are partowned by oversea interests.
Production: In addition to the four wells referred to above, it is planned to develop other potential gas reserves in the Roma area to supply gas to a petrochemical complex in Brisbane. This gas will come from wells within A.T.P.119p owned and operated by the Associated group of companies. There are two small farmout areas within A.T.P. 119, in which there are a number of potential gas wells. These will be operated by the Associated Group, in conjunction with the farmee, Amalgamated Petroleum N.L., which is Australian owned.
Title holder: Hematite Petroleum Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of B.H.P.). Under an agreement between Hematite and Esso Exploration and Production Australia Inc. (an American-owned company), Esso is the operator and is directing operations.
Production: The planned production of the Barracouta and Marlin fields will be shared equally by Esso Exploration and Production Australia Inc., and Hematite Petroleum Pty Ltd. There is also a21/2% royalty interest in these fields held by Mr Lewis G. Weeks, an American citizen. Pipelining of the gas to Melbourne will be carried out by the Victorian Pipelines Commission, a State Government instrumentality.
Title holders: O.P. 43 - Magellan Petroleum (N.T.) Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Magellan Petroleum Australia Ltd which is owned 88% by American and Canadian interests and 12% by shareholders who took up shares issued on the Australian share market. O.P. 56 - held by United Canso Oil and Gas Co. (N.T.) Pty Ltd, a Canadian company which is owned partly by Magellan Petroleum Corporation. In the Mercenie field (O.P.s 43 and 56), farmout operations are being undertaken by Exoil (N.T.) Pty Ltd. a wholly owned subsidiary of Exoil N.L. (Australian owned) on its own behalf and for numerous other Australian and overseas groups in return for a 50% interest. In the Palm Valley field (O.P. 43). operations are being undertaken by Magellan Petroleum (N.T.) Pty Ltd, but Exoil and its partners have a 50% interest.
Production: No plans have been announced for commercial production from the Mereenie or Palm Valley fields.
Title Holder: The two titles are checker boarded and inter-related and are held 50% by Delhi Australian Petroleum Ltd (American owned) and 50% by Santos Ltd (Australian owned). Delhi Australian Petroleum Ltd is the operator for these jointly held areas.
Production: There is no commercial production from the Gidgealpa-Moomba fields at present. Pipelining to Adelaide is planned to be undertaken by a State Government body known as the Natural Gas Pipelines Authority of South Australia. Delhi Australian Petroleum Ltd and Santos Ltd will share equally in any production, developmental costs, etc.
Title Holder: West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd which is owned 2/ 7th Shell Development Australia Pty Ltd (British and Dutch owned); 2/7th Texaco Overseas Petroleum Co. (American owned); 2/ 7th California Asiatic Oil Co (American owned); and l/7th Ampol Exploration Pty Ltd (Australian owned). West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd is the operator on behalf of the parent companies.
Production: There is no commercial production from these fields at present.
Title Holder: This title is held jointly by Phillips Australian Oil Co. and Sunray DX Oil Co., both major American integrated oil companies. Phillips is the operator for the title area.
Production: There is no commercial production from the Gilmore field at present. No plans for development have been announced to date.
asked the Minis ter representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Senator HENTY- The following answers have been provided by the Treasurer:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Senator ANDERSON- The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answers: 1 and 2. I am familiar with the incident to which you refer and which occurred at Moorabbin Airport, Victoria, on 26th April 1966. The incident involved a number of breaches of airmanship and airways procedures and was the subject of an article in the Department’s Aviation Safety Digest of March this year. This article was quoted, in part, in the Sydney ‘Sunday Mirror’ on 7th May 1967.
An Air Safety incident report was duly submitted by Air Traffic Control, and initial investigation into the circumstances resulted in the pilot’s licence being suspended under Air Navigation Regulation 257 on11th May 1966, pending further investigation.
The pilot was interviewed by an air safety inspector on 23rd May 1966, and made a statement. The interview and further investigations, together with the incident itself, clearly indicated that the pilot’s knowledge of airways procedures and his standard of airmanship had deteriorated to a level below that required of a private pilot and well below the level demonstrated in day to day operations at airports such as Moorabbin.
Two courses of action were open to the Department. One was to prosecute the pilot. This would probably result in a moderate fine being imposed and would not prevent the pilot continuing to My his aeroplane and perhaps be the subject of further incidents. The other was to examine the pilot’s standard of practical skill and knowledge of airways procedures. This course would require the pilot to bring himself up to date with procedures and would permit action to be taken to prevent his continued flying should he fail the tests.
In the interests of air safety, it was considered that the latter course was the most desirable. The licence suspension under Air Navigation Regulation 257 was lifted and a further suspension, pending successful completion of a written examination and flight test, was imposed under Air Navigation Regulation 256.
Although he failed the written examination on two occasions, the pilot perservered and gained a pass in December 1966. He then undertook the flight test on 2nd March 1967 and did not meet the standard required for an unrestricted private pilot licence. The Departmental examiner considered however, that the pilot’s aeronautical skill and knowledge did warrant the retention of a restricted private pilot’s licence.
The pilot was advised, on 7th March 1967, that in pursuance of Air Navigation Regulation 258, the privileges contained in his private pilot licence were varied by restricting its validity to: (a)flights within five nautical miles of the reference point of the aerodrome of departure on a particular flight;
The pilot was further advised of his right under Air Navigation Regulation 259 (1) to elect to have the matter submitted to a board of review or to appeal against the decision to a specified court.
I am satisfied that the action taken by the Department was correct and in the best interests of air safety, and it is not intended to take any further action. The seriousness of the incident does not warrant a public inquiry. The matter has been handled and concluded in a satisfactory manner, and the restrictions now placed on the pilot, together with the knowledge he has gained in passing the written examination, will reduce the possibility of any future breach of good airmanship.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
The Acting Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
The Acting Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: 1 and 2.I have had no advice of this decision of the New South Wales Association of National Health Benefit Organisations, apart from the Press reports which I have read. For this reason, I am not in a position to make any comment on the proposal at this stage.
– Every honourable senator could send a request.
– That is right, but he would not have the numbers. What happens if anything happens to the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party at a time when because of certain matters the DLP thought that the Senate should be called together? The amendment contains some weaknesses. However, it is not on those grounds that I canvass the position at all. I canvass the right of the Opposition to take the business out of the hands of the Government where it rightly belongs.
– The honourable senator has not read the amendment. It provides that there must be an absolute majority of the Senate in support.
– I want it to be quite plain that anything that suggests that the leaders of the parties should have control over senators or should be able to call the Senate together is unacceptable to me. Nor is any viewponit that it is for the Government to call the Senate together acceptable to me. I oppose the amendment.
– Surely the Minister is not serious.
– Outside the House we recognise parties and on the Opposition side members vote as a party, but we do not.
– I am speaking to the President so would honourable senators mind keeping quiet. We do not, as an institution, recognise parties. I should like to know how Mr President can judge that all members who sit behind Senator Murphy agree with the date and time that he sets when asking the President to recall this Senate unless they are all here to back Senator Murphy up when he makes a request.
– I rise to order, Mr President. The Minister has the floor for the second time on this question.
The PRESIDENT - Order! The Minister was speaking to a point of order.
– Order! I shall reply to Senator Gorton and Senator Branson. I would be guided by the vote taken tonight and would take my instructions from the Senate, as I am bound to do. Senator Branson has raised a rather involved problem. I think we would have to wait until the occasion arose, when I would use the best judgment I could.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be added.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the termination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator Henty) proposed:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a day and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
– I move:
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order!In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Mr President, the Senate as one of the legislative chambers is in control of its own affairs and that control is exercised in the ultimate by an absolute majority of the senators. The amendment which I have moved is an appropriate one to ensure that that control may be exercised. The Senate determines in meetings such as this to adjourn from time to time and it can determine whatever mode it desires of fixing the date of adjournment. We may adjourn to a fixed date or we may adjourn to a date to be fixed in some definite or ascertainable way. The mode which we normally use is to adjourn to a day and hour to be fixed by the President. But we do not need to do that. We could adjourn to a day and hour to be fixed in some other manner. Certainly the day and hour ought always to be within the control of an absolute majority of the senators because that ensures that the Senate is in charge of its own affairs.
The amendment which 1 have moved might perhaps be an appropriate form to be used by the Senate on all such occasions of adjourning at the end of a legislative period. There is, as honourable senators know, a special reason why it might be necessary for the Senate to reassemble before the occasion when the Government might desire that it be brought together. The practice which has been followed in the past we concede to be one in which the President, when fixing the time and place of meeting of the Senate, ordinarily would act in accordance with what was communicated to him by the Government, that being taken as an indication that it was the will of the Senate that the Senate be reassembled on such day. If the amendment is carried, a special provision is to be made that in the event of an absolute majority of the Senate requiring that the Senate be brought together, by a suitable form of request they may be able to achieve that objective.
I urge all honourable senators to support the motion. It is couched in terms which mean that an absolute majority of the senators will be able to require a meeting of the Senate to be held when they desire. Tt is difficult to see how anyone could oppose that democratic principle. The Senate ought at all times to act in accordance wilh the wishes of the absolute majority. I ask honourable senators to support the proposal. There is a special reason for it in this case because if the Government intends to bring forward, as it has indicated, certain regulations which will have the effect of increasing telephone charges, it is important that the Senate, if it desires, shall have the opportunity to consider those regulations. The Sen a le, on resumption after such regulations have been promulgated, may be able to order the regulations to be tabled here. If it desires it may take steps forthwith to disallow such regulations. What may happen at the meeting of the Senate is a matter for the Senate itself. What steps it may take is a matter for the Senate in its wisdom. lt is a matter for ‘he Senate whether it would make such an order, if the occasion arose, or whether it would disallow such regulations if the necessity arose. All of these questions are matters for the Senate itself. The amendment simply deals with the question of the Senate being able to be brought together if an absolute majority of senators desire it. I ask for the support of the Senate.
– The Government opposes the amendment. This is just another instance of an attempt by the Opposition to take the government of the country out of the hands of the Government. The power to call the Senate or the Parliament together rests in the hands of the Government. This is an attempt by the Opposition, using its temporary advantage in numbers, to upset a traditional motion which enables the Government to order its affairs and to call the Houses of Parliament together as and when it feels that that should be done. The Constitution lays down that the Parliament should meet. This amendment is a blatant attempt to take away from the Government the right to call the Parliament together as and when it thinks fit. Of course, numbers are difficult to overcome. But in this case I feel that the amendment contains great difficulties. What happens if anything happens to the Leader of the Opposition? No provision is made if the Leader of the Opposition is not available at the time. It is interesting to note that only the Leader of the Opposition can request that the Senate bc called together. 1 do not know what happens if anything happens to him.
– I rise because any claim that the Senate should be called together by the Government is quite unacceptable to me. The motion is that the President, pursuant to the resolution of the Senate, shall call us together. The Government has not any right whatever to call senators together or to require the Senate to adjourn. Neither has the Leader of the Opposition nor any combination of leaders any right to call this chamber together. The proper function of this place is to meet while there are questions to be resolved. Therefore, the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition is entirely unacceptable to me. I will not come here except by the resolution of the Senate. To put the leaders of the respective parties in the position that any one, two or three of them can call the Senate together is to me-
– Mr President. I should like to ask someone a question. The amendment contains the words:
For these purposes a request by the Leader of the Opposition shall be deemed to be a request by every member of the Opposition and a request by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party shall be deemed to be a request by members of that Party.
If the President of the Senate were to receive a telegram stating: ‘We desire a meeting of the Senate. Murphy. Leader of the Opposition. Gair. Leader of the DLP’, how could he be sure that every member of the Opposition was behind the request? There would also have to be a request from the two independent senators or some senators on the Government side. Is it fair for this Senate to agree to the amendment and to say that every member of the Opposition on this night ties him steadfastly to the decision of one man to call the Senate together with the help of members of other parties? I do not believe that the President could possibly take action under the wording of the amendment if it were carried.
– Mr President, f believe that the question requires an answer and 1 ask you. Sir. to supply that answer. Senator Murphy claims that he can send a telegram which will represent the wishes of all members of the Opposition. What is the proof of that? As I understand it. we do not recognise parties in this House. This House is a number of senators elected to represent each State.
– The Minister condemns himself.
– Mr President, I rise to order. I should like to know how, with so many senators absent, the Opposition can claim to answer for all honourable senators opposite.
– 1 raised a point of order and had finished what I was putting. I asked how the Opposition could answer for those honourable senators who are absent. I see empty seats everywhere. Can the Leader of the Opposition say now that he has the authority of those honourable senators who are absent to speak for them on this amendment? What authority has the Leader of the Opposition?
– Mr President, I rise to comment on something that was said by both Senator Wright and Senator Gorton. Senator Gorton exhibits a short memory when he says that this chamber does not recognise parties. I cast my mind back about two or three weeks when this chamber discussed the appointment of select committees on containerisation and the metric system. On behalf of the Government it was proposed that representatives of the Australian Democratic Labor Party should be members of both those committees. Apparently on that occasion he did recognise Parties but now, in relation to a different matter, he has suddenly decided that he does not.
Let me deal with the more serious objections raised by Senator Wright. I must say that for once I find his stand on this question most extraordinary because I have always understood from what he has said that he was one who upheld the authority of the Parliament over the executive. The proposition which is being submitted tonight does seek to uphold the authority of the Parliament over the executive. Senator Wright has said that only the President of the Senate can call a meeting of the Senate. In fact that is what this motion does - it calls on the President of the Senate to call a meeting of the Senate upon a communication from an absolute majority of members of the Senate. To say that we should resolve tonight when the Senate should meet is merely a specious argument, because we do not know at what stage the Government intends to practise deception in an attempt to overcome its defeat on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill by making regulations. If a date is specified, obviously all the Government has to do is to make the regulations after that date.
If anyone wants to assert the authority of the Parliament and to ensure that the rights of the Parliament are not ridden over roughshod by the Government, the only way to do it is to have a provision, such as is contained in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) in co-operation with the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair), which states to all members of the Senate that if the Government attempts this manoeuvre to circumvent the rights of the Parliament, then members of the Parliament are ready for it and will come along to see that the deception is not successful. It is an assertion of the rights of the Parliament over the Executive, and I am astounded that Senator Wright should adopt the attitude he has adopted.
– The only point of significance which has been raised is whether this Senate is competent to pass Senator Murphy’s motion. There can be no question that this motion can be carried and no question in my mind that when it is carried, as I believe it will be, you, Mr President, will be able to act in accordance with it should the occasion arise. We have heard a lot of talk and have seen many attempts to evade the question whether the Senate is master of its own business or whether the Government is master of the Senate’s business. Senator Murphy’s motion will make it perfectly clear that should the occasion arise an absolute majority of members of the Senate - 1 say this in reference to what was raised by Senator Wright - will, by virtue of what is contained in this motion, be able to express their views to you and express the will of the Senate as to when the Senate shall be called together.
– I rise to ask whether you, Mr President, can tell me the procedures which should be followed. Quite often we sit in this place looking wise and perhaps not quite understanding what procedures should be followed. This is my question: Suppose thirty-one senators, never mind who, present this petition to you to call the Senate together. What happens if, through some freak set of circumstances, the airport is closed down or some other reason prevents them being here? What would your ruling be if no Government senators were present and there were not thirty-one members of the Australian Labour Party, the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the Independents present? What would happen to the so-called sitting that they call?
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.56 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 May 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670519_senate_26_s34/>.