26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Will he make a submission to the Treasurer regarding fares granted by Mount Isa Mines Ltd to those of its employees who have worked at the mine for 2 years? Will he suggest to the Treasurer that these fares should be regarded as being in the nature of a tax free zone allowance? Failing that, as the fares are granted to an employee and his wife and children up to the age of IS years after the employee has worked at the mine for 2 years, will he suggest to the Treasurer that the amount of the fares be spread over 2 years for the purposes of assessing taxable income?
– The matter which the honourable senator raises, together with many others, will be given full consideration when the Budget is being prepared. If the honourable senator puts his question on notice I can assure him that this point will be considered at that time.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: Has he yet been able to obtain for me any information relating to requests from certain far north coast shire councils in New South Wales and the Gold Coast City Council in Queensland for special grants to combat beach erosion?
– First I would ask the honourable senator whether this question is on the notice paper.
– I do not see it on the notice paper.
– I suggest that it be put on notice so that I may pass it on to the Minister for National Development and get an answer to it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has allocated radio and television time to various political parties but not to the independents in the forthcoming Senate election. Is the ABC supposed to be non-political, and what steps does the Government intend to take to stop this political discrimination? Is it a fact that in the past the Australian Country Party in Tasmania was refused time on the ABC because it had no representative in Parliament from Tasmania? If so, is it the intention of the ABC to discriminate against the Australian Democratic Labor Party at the forthcoming Senate election?
– The allocation of broadcasting and television times during election campaigns has always been a matter of some disputation. Obviously I will not comment in reply to a question on the decisions made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on these matters. For obvious reasons the question should be placed on the notice paper to enable me to direct it to the Postmaster-General who no doubt will raise the matter with the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Parliament whether the Queensland Government has recently submitted a plan for the construction of the Burdekin Dam or of any part of the Burdekin Dam scheme? If plans have been submitted is it the intention of the Commonwealth Government to make a special grant or grants for the immediate commencement of the work?
– If the honourable senator places on the notice paper that part of his question which does not involve policy I will find out whether an application has been made and let him have an answer to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is he aware of reports in Victorian newspapers which suggest that drought relief for that State is being delayed because of the reticence of the Federal Government to make a positive statement on its attitude to aid to Victoria? Can the Minister make clear the Government’s attitude on this matter?
– I have seen a Press report; in fact it has been brought to my attention. The facts as I understand them are that perhaps 11 days ago, for the first time, the Premier of Victoria approached the Prime Minister and said that because there had been no spring rains in that State he now wished, for the first time, to make formal application for some drought assistance. The Prime Minister replied that any specific request the Premier made along those lines would receive sympathetic and speedy attention. He suggested that Commonwealth and State Treasury officials confer to discover the facts of the situation, following which perhaps a more specific request could be studied. At the same time the Prime Minister informed the Premier that if assistance along the lines given to New South Wales and Queensland when they had their drought problems were found to be appropriate, the Commonwealth would be prepared to consider his approach on that basis. I do not think there is substance in the Press reports.
– I address my question to the Minister for Supply. Have there been any further developments in relation to industrial capacity in the field of micro electronics upon which he made a statement in September last to the effect that he was prepared to consider the provision of certain assistance to industry if it could produce the capacity to meet defence needs in that field?
– 1 should like to get details of what has happened since the honourable senator asked his previous question. We have been in consultation with sections of. industry particularly those engaged in the research and development fields and have asked them to submit to us suggestions as to ways in which we could assist them. These are now being examined. We have also let one or two contracts for the development of certain areas in the electronics field. This is an important subject and in fact a matter of importance for Australia. 1 shall look at the details of what has been finalised, what is still in abeyance and what is at present under discussion and let the honourable senator know the position.
– My question to the Minister for Education and Science relates to a statement made by the National Director of Abschol to the effect that a considerable number of Aboriginal schoolchildren may be unable to receive a secondary education next year because of the lack of scholarship funds. Can the Minister state whether the circumstances surrounding this statement are accurate? Will the Government formulate plans which may assist in this situation?
– I am not in a position to comment on the accuracy of the statement to which the honourable senator refers. I have not seen it and I am not in a position to comment on it. Scholarships which are provided at the moment by the Commonwealth Government are awarded not to Aboriginals or to non-Aboriginals but to any of those who are capable in competition of winning such scholarships. There may be some suggestion that scholarships should be set aside particularly for Aboriginals. If this is so, I believe that it would come from the new section being set up in the Prime Minister’s Department rather than from the Department of Education and Science. So this matter is still to be decided.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation, who represents the Minister for Air in the Senate. Is the Minister now able to inform me why my request to obtain a copy of ABOE27/6 paragraph 3 (d) was officially refused?
– If this is the form that the honourable senator was inquiring about yesterday, the reason why the form was not made available to him was that it is a restricted document.
Has the Minister for Customs and Excise seen a newspaper report concerning complaints by passengers from the liner ‘Kuala
Lumpur’ upon conditions at No. 10 wharf, Walsh Bay, and the inconvenience to passengers while their luggage was being cleared? Were the complaints justified? Will the Department of Customs and Excise take steps to avoid grounds for such complaints in the future?
– I think that we have here a classic example of the danger of a Press report which would tend to suggest that the Department of Customs and Excise was responsible for this situation. That comment is not offered as a criticism of the honourable senator. The truth is that this is the responsibility of the Maritime Services Board in New South Wales. Officers of the Department of Customs and Excise carry out their functions at points of entry where ships are berthed. I understand from the Press comment which I saw that the ‘Kuala Lumpur’ was brought in to that particular berth because other ships were using berths which are more convenient both for passengers and the officers of my Department.
I can say that the officers of my Department feel the conditions under which they have to deal with passengers in connection with customs procedures just as much as the passengers do who suffer the inconvenience. I propose through my Department to raise the matter with the Maritime Services Board to see whether some arrangement can be developed which will avoid this sort of situation in the future. But, in fairness- to the Maritime Services Board, I point out that it is making extensive improvements. Quite a big capital works programme is being carried out by the Board to improve facilities in the port of Sydney.
– Mr President, I wish to follow up the question that I have just asked regarding the Air Force order. The Minister for Repatriation replied that I could not get the document I sought because it was restricted. Now, I am not blaming the Minister because this is the information given to him. But if what he says is so, I ask the Minister: How is it that I have in my hand a photostat copy of that particular order if this is a restricted document as, according to the Minister, it is? I ask the Minister also: Is it not true that if a document has a security classification and is restricted, confidential or secret this fact must be stated on the top and bottom of the document? I have sent the Minister a photostat copy of my photostat showing that there is no such restriction on the document. Therefore, the Minister has misled this Senate in regard to stating the reason why I was refused access to a document which, according to what I have here, is unclassified.
– I would be interested to know how the honourable senator came into possession of a document which, on the information given to me, is classified. He is quite correct when he says that on the photostat copy that he gave to me there is no suggestion that the document is classified. I should like to know how he came into possession of it. If he will put his question on the notice paper I will see whether I can obtain a little more information on this matter.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In the debate on the fruit aboard the ships locked in the Suez Canal he stated that all of the insurance policies contained a war clause. Will he ascertain from the Australian Apple and Pear Board the terms of that war clause and inform the Senate whether the insurance companies are disputing that the loss was caused by risk of war?
– I will see whether I can procure the information for which the honourable senator has asked.
– I am not being facetious about this matter. I direct this question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air: Would the Government, in all seriousness, be prepared to have the two new BACIII aircraft which are being purchased for the VIP flight converted into air ambulances so that Australian wounded from Vietnam can be brought to Australia in more comfort than at present?
– I cannot help feeling that the honourable senator is asking these questions purely for political purposes.
Opposition senators - Oh!
– Honourable senators opposite may laugh. They are entitled to their opinion; I am entitled to mine. I will see whether the information for which Senator Turnbull has asked is available.
– Has the Minister for Education and Science become aware of the magnificent gift by Sir James Kirby of $2m towards a foundation the central purpose of which is to provide a special educational programme to advance Australian technology? As there is thus a distinct possibility of the proposed foundation actively entering the field of technical education at both the secondary level and the tertiary level, can the Minister state whether there is any legislative authority to enable the Commonwealth, if requested to do sp, to contribute funds to this foundation or to any similar foundation that may bc created elsewhere in Australia?
– I do not know of any legislative authority to that effect. I think every application for assistance to a foundation that was in existence would, have to be treated on its merits and in accordance with a judgment on the question whether Commonwealth funds would properly be used if used in the way in which it might be suggested they be used. I cannot give a general answer to the question because I do not believe that there is one.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that Sydney’s two biggest hospitals for the reception and treatment of people with venereal disease have been instructed that no United States servicemen are to be treated there, but that the authorities at St Vincent’s Hospital and Sydney Hospital have been told that all United States servicemen who are found to be suffering from venereal disease are to be sent to United States headquarters for treatment and that no details are to be kept at the hospitals? Is the purpose of this order to conceal the extent to which visiting servicemen may be found to be suffering from this disease? What steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the rest of the community?
– I do not know whether the information given by the honorable senator is correct. I have not seen it. I will place her question before my colleague, the Minister for Health.
– I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question which follows upon one I asked yesterday. Firstly, are my earlier questions about VIP flights to be answered? Secondly, has the Minister any further information as to when the papers sought are to be tabled?
– Yes, the honourable senator’s questions are to be answered. I have an assurance from the Prime Minister that they will be answered on Tuesday next. I have not any information as to what papers are appropriate or have been discovered, or when they will be tabled. 1 do not know that. But I do know that on Tuesday next an answer will be given which 1 think will be found to be satisfactory. T do not mean that it will be satisfactory to the honourable senator, but it will answer the questions as far as they can bc answered.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the annual report of one of Australia’s leading private banks which was issued yesterday? Has his attention been directed to the basic suggestion contained therein, that both public and private companies are being overtaxed? ls he aware that the growing incidence of State taxes, together with the existing Commonwealth taxes, produces a disincentive to growth? Does the Minister agree that a healthy and virile company structure is fundamental to advances in the living standards of Australians? Will the Government give urgent consideration to a review of particular areas of Federal taxation, particularly pay-roll tax?
– The honourable senator has asked a very comprehensive question. I have not seen the document to which he refers, but I have been long enough in the business world to know that companies always think that any rate of taxation is too high. That is quite understandable. Businessmen think it would be wonderful if we could do without taxation. That is understandable, too. As I have said, the honourable senator has asked a very comprehensive question and I think that the Treasurer should have an opportunity to consider it. If the honourable senator places the question on the notice paper I shall personally convey it to the Treasurer, ask him to study it and to give a reply to the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, also relates to questions on the notice paper concerning VIP aircraft, is it the Government’s intention to supply answers to the questions of which Senator Ormonde gave notice on 27th September?
– It is our intention to endeavour to supply all the information sought in this matter not only by Senator Turnbull but by honourable senators generally.
– I have an answer to a question which Senator Willesee asked me on Tuesday. He asked whether wheat was one of the articles the export of which to Rhodesia is banned by the Australian Government. I have obtained the following answer for him:
On10th January 1967 the Government adopted in full : a United Nations Security Council resolution which involves, among other things, the prohibition of the export of certain commodities to Rhodesia. Wheat is not included in this list of commodities.
(Question No. 331)
SenatorDRURY asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What plans, if any, are in hand for the reconstruction or replacement of the Canberra air terminal?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer!
It is anticipated that, the Department of Works will be shortly calling tenders for a terminal building at Canberra which will replace and considerably extend the existing facilities. It is hoped to have the building completed and in operation by the end of 1968.
(Question No. 348)
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– I now provide the following answer:
Some years ago the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation carried out investigations on aspects of fluoride in the diet of sheep and the results of this work have been published. No investigations are currently being conducted by the Organisation into the presence of fluoride in superphosphate used for top dressing of pastures.
Motion (by Senator Turnbull) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959- 1965.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[10.31] -I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the operation of the States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Act 1964 for a further period of 3 years, from 1 July 1967 to 30 June 1970. Under the States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Act 1964 capital assistance grants have been provided to the States in respect of mental health institutions, on the basis of $1 from the Commonwealth for each $2 expended by the States for the 3-year period 1 July 1964 to 30 June 1967. This 1964 Act replaced the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act 19SS which authorised capital assistance on a similar basis but provided for a ceiling of $20m divided between the States.
The 1964 Act which is being extended by this Bill applies in respect of ‘mental health institutions’ which are denned as being institutions ‘carried on exclusively or principally for the care and treatment of mentally ill or mentally defective persons’ and which are conducted by or are in receipt of maintenance grants from a State. Assistance is made available by the Commonwealth in connection with expenditure made for the acquisition of land and buildings to be used as mental health institutions, the construction and alteration of buildings used for this purpose and the acquisition of allied equipment. The Commonwealth has provided material assistance to the States under this legislation, amounting in all to over $29m over the 12 years for which the scheme of capital assistance for mental health institutions has been in operation. The States have derived tremendous benefit as a result of the Commonwealth’s participation and the overall mental health facilities in Australia have been improved immensely. A total expenditure by the Commonwealth and the States of over $88m has been directed to improving the buildings and facilities for the care of mentally afflicted persons.
Today, as a result of these efforts, modern facilities for the care and treatment of the mentally ill have been established or are in course of construction in all States of Australia. This certainly was not the case 12 years ago when this scheme of capital assistance was introduced. Honourable senators will be aware that the Government designed the scheme in 1955 following a survey which disclosed gross overcrowding and a deplorably low standard of accommodation in mental health institutions throughout Australia. Although this situation no longer exists, the Commonwealth has decided to extend the scheme for the further 3-year period to enable works already planned to be completed with Commonwealth financial assistance. The Government saw the need to continue its support and encouragement of the States’ plans for improved conditions which will be in keeping with modern concepts and will include the provision of outpatient clinics, day hospitals, after-care hospitals and rehabilitation clincs.
The Bill provides for Commonwealth assistance to end on 30 June 1970, except where a State may still not have exhausted all of the assistance to which it was entitled under the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act 1955. In this case a State will continue to be eligible after 30 June 1970 for the unexpired amount authorised by the 1955 Act. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dittmer) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to increase the monetary benefits provided by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1964 and to vary the format of the Third Schedule to the Act. The opportunity has also been taken to provide for the amounts of compensation payable under the Act to be expressed in decimal currency.
The increased benefits provided by the Bill are: The Act at present provides a basic lump sum benefit for the dependant of a deceased Commonwealth employee of £4,300 ($8,600). Under the Bill the amount is increased to $10,000, a figure considered by the Government to be reasonable by comparison with the amounts provided under the legislation of the States. The present maximum lump sum benefit is increased by the Bill from £4,300 ($8,600) to $10,000, with proportionate increases for other specified injuries. The maximum lump sum benefit for a specified injury is kept the same as the basic lump sum death benefit and the statutory maximum that is payable in cases where incapacity for work
Is not total and permanent. Lump sums for less serious specified injuries are maintained at constant proportions of the statutory maximum, the amounts presently being expressed in dollars. This has meant that each time that the statutory maximum has been varied in the past, it has been necessary to repeal and re-enact the Third Schedule to show the new amounts payable for the various specified injuries. To avoid this in the future the Bill provides for the replacement of the list of monetary amounts in the second column of the Schedule for those injuries which attract less than the statutory maximum by a list of percentage equivalents of those amounts.
The Act prescribes the maximum amount of compensation which may be paid in respect of any one accident to an employee who is not totally and permanently incapacitated. In accordance with past practice, the Bill also increases the existing maximum from £4,300 ($8,600) to $10,000.
As honourable senators will be aware, the weekly payments were fixed in 1964 to provide a total amount for a man with a wife and one child equal to the 1964 Federal six capitals basic wage. In reviewing the rates at this time the Government concluded that the amount payable to an employee should be increased to $25.35 or 75% of the current equivalent of the 1964 basic wage. The Bill so provides. The amount payable for a dependent wife will be increased to $6.00 and the allowance for each dependent child to $2.45, making a total weekly payment for an employee with a wife and one child of $33.80. This rate is also regarded by the Government as reasonable in comparison with the rates contained in the legislation of the States. The new rate of weekly payment for an employee who is a minor will be $19.00, representing 75% of the rate applicable to an unmarried adult employee.
The Act provides that, subject to a specified minimum payment, currently £700 ($1,400), the lump sum payable upon the death of an employee shall be reduced by the amount by which any lump sum paid to him before his death, in redemption of the Commonwealth’s liability to make continuing weekly payments of compensation, exceeds the total of all weekly payments which would have been payable had he continued to receive weekly payments until his death. The minimum payment figure is seldom applied but it is increased by the Bill to $1,650.
In conclusion, I wish to inform the Senate that the Government has now virtually completed its examination of the many other proposals for amendment of the Act put forward by honourable senators and other interested parties in recent years. It was earlier hoped that it would have been possible to introduce further amending legislation giving effect to the Government’s decisions before the end of this session. I regret to say that this will not now be possible, but I can assure the Senate that a further Bill will be introduced early in the next Session. I commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
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.
This Bill is primarily for the purpose of increasing the amounts of compensation payable to seamen under the Seamen’s Compensation Act, in line with increases being made in the amounts of compensation payable under the Bill to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The proposed increases take account of the upward movement in salary and wage levels that has occurred since the rates of compensation in those Acts were last increased in 1964. During that period there have been increases in the rates of compensation payable under the legislation of some States, and also substantial rises in rates have been foreshadowed in several States. These factors have, been taken into account.
Under the Bill the basic lump sum benefit for the dependant of a deceased seaman is increased from £4,300 - that is $8,600 - to $10,000, which is considered to be a reasonable figure by comparison with the amounts provided under State legislation. The amounts of the lump sum benefit payable in respect of the most serious injuries, such as loss of both eyes or hands, and the statutory maximum payable in cases where incapacity for work is not total and permanent are also being increased from £4.300 - that is $8,600- to $10,000. Lump sums payable for less serious specified injuries are being kept at the same proportions of the statutory maximum. Until now these lump sums have been specifically stated in the Third Schedule but under the Bill they are expressed as percentages of the maximum amount payable, which will avoid the need for amendment of all the different amounts in the future. In addition, weekly payments for incapacity are being increased in line with the increases in weekly payments under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act.
Apart from using the opportunity to convert the amounts of money stated in the Act to decimal currency, it is being used also to extend the application of the Act to masters and deck, engineer and radio officers. The original Seamen’s Compensation Act, passed in 1911, applied to all seamen, including masters and officers, but following the inclusion of compensation benefits in the officers awards the Act was amended in 1938 to exclude masters, mates and engineers from its application. Radio officers were subsequently excluded also. Recently, however, the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers requested that the Act be amended so that it would again apply to engineer officers, as the validity of the relevant award provisions, which purport to require payment of compensation in terms of the Seamen’s Compensation Act, was considered to be in some doubt. As the other organisations concerned have indicated that they too desire that the Act should again apply to their members, the necessary amendment is being made by clause 3.
I might mention that it is intended to introduce a Bill to make a number of other amendments to the Seamen’s Compensation
Act on the same general lines as the other amendments envisaged in respect of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, following the introduction of a further bill to amend the latter Act. The Bill before us is in the interests of all classes of our merchant seamen and I commend it to the Senate for favourable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
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.
This is a Bill for an Act to amend the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952-1966 for the purpose of securing an increase in the revenue from the various operators and owners of aircraft who make use of aerodromes and other aviation facilities provided, maintained and operated by the Commonwealth.
The Government has, on a number of occasions, made clear its policy of moving progressively towards full recovery of the costs associated with these facilities which are properly attributable to commercial aviation. As is usual each year, a review has been made of the progress being achieved in reducing the gap between civil aviation costs and revenues, and of the ability of the industry to absorb a further increase in charges. The facts have led the Government to conclude that it would be appropriate to raise air navigation charges by 10% with effect from 1st January, 1968.
The Bill increases the charges applicable to all domestic and international airlines and to charter, aerial work and private operators. It also inserts two additional route factors in the table of flights annexed to the Act. Non-stop flights are operated between Brisbane and Perth and Melbourne and Lae on rare occasions only, but it is considered desirable to include them in the table to avoid a loss of revenue in these instances. The proposed factors are the sums of factors for the routes by way of appropriate intermediate ports.
Clause 5 of the Bill makes retrospective to 1st January, 1966, aircraft weights determined by the Director-General of Civil Aviation for the purpose of calculating air navigation charges and which were notified in the ‘Gazette’ of 1st June, 1967. In 1965, Parliament amended the Act to enable the Director-General to fix lower weights of aircraft if he considered this appropriate in the light of certain operating restrictions. The airlines were assured that any relevant reductions in charges would apply from 1st January, 1 966, but difficulties arose in determining weights which would be reasonable in all cases, and it was only early this year that this problem was resolved. The existing legislation does not allow for retrospective application of a determination by the Director-General, and the proposed clause 5 corrects this situation in the one particular instance mentioned so that the result contemplated by Parliament and the undertakings given to the airlines can be achieved. The excess collection of air navigation charges arising from the delayed notification of lower weights amounts to slightly over $300,000, and allowance for refunding this sum has been made in estimating revenue for the current year. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ormonde) adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
– I move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government business take precedence of general business on Thursdays during the remainder of the present period of sittings. . .
The purpose of this motion is to ask the Senate, in the light of the circumstances now prevailing, to approve that Govern ment business take precedence of general business on the ensuing three Thursday nights which I hope will be the only remaining Thursday nights in this sessional period. I know that the opportunity to bring general business before this House on Thursday nights is highly valued by private members, and no doubt by the Opposition generally. I value it because, as a member of Parliament, I believe it is absolutely necessary that time should be set aside during which matters which engage the attention of private senators or of organised oppositions may be debated. This opportunity should not be lost because of the run of Government business. In my opinion the allocation of such time is necessary for the efficient working of a Parliament.
We all know the circumstances which are now before us. We hope to be able to rise after sitting for a further fortnight. We have extended our hours of sitting and our days of sitting to enable our business to be completed within that period; and there is much business before us. During this session much use has been made by private members of the Thursday night period to raise matters of concern to them, and I trust that we will continue to see much use of it in future sessions. The motion now before the Senate does not rule out all possibility of general business being brought on during the time remaining in this sessional period because the terms of the motion are that Government business should take precedence of general business unless otherwise ordered. I must make it clear that I do not see the likelihood of circumstances arising in which it would be otherwise ordered, but if they did arise it would be possible to do so under the terms of this motion.
The matter now before us is really one for the judgment of the Senate and of individual senators; not a judgment as to whether time should be made available but a judgment as to whether, in the time remaining in this sessional period and in the circumstances of which we are all aware, it is reasonable to accede to the request that unless otherwise ordered Government business should take precedence of general business on Thursday nights for the remainder of this session. In those circumstances it is essentially a matter of judgment for the Senate.
While I am on my feet perhaps I should ay something, with the permission of the Senate, about a second motion which relates to the introduction of new business after 10.30 p.m., although I believe that these motions should be voted on separately. As I have said, we have extended our sitting hours till 11.30 p.m. Bills are likely to come from another place and be put on the notice paper. Having extended our hours of sitting, it seems perfectly reasonable and sensible to allow the hour between 10.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. to be used to introduce new business into the Senate.
– We of the Opposition want to co-operate with the Government, as I think we have shown by our agreement to extend greatly the hours of sitting. The Senate agreed to that earlier this week. We have also suggested that the time allotted to each honourable senator in debates be limited voluntarily so that the business of the Senate may be expedited. Although we thought that Friday sittings should not have been approved unless they became inevitable, we have indicated that we will be quite happy to sit on Fridays if this becomes inevitable. In any event, the Senate has decided that, unless otherwise ordered, we shall sit on Fridays. The Opposition has been extremely cooperative in seeing to it that the business already on the notice paper and the business which is to come before the Senate is dealt with expeditiously. A lot of this business is Government business. But the business of the Senate also covers general business which is raised by the Opposition. Not much time is provided in the sitting week for the consideration of general business. This is business which may be raised by any honourable senator as distinct from business put forward by the Government. Mostly it is the business of the Opposition senators and the other senators who are not members of the Parties that form the Government here. We feel that that right ought to be preserved.
There are many important matters on which the Senate ought to be able to give a decision. There is the matter of the Papua and New Guinea local officers award. There are proposals to set up select committees such as the one on medical and hospital costs. This subject has been debated to some extent. We regard these matters as having an importance equal to that of many of the measures which are being introduced by the Government. We feel that the right to debate general business ought not to be taken away. If time is needed, let there be further time. Why should general business be gagged?
Certain members in the Senate have said that they will never vote for the gag. What is being put by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton) amounts to the gagging of general business. Government business will continue. I agree that Senator Gorton has said that he recognises the importance of general business. There is no doubt about this fact. I think that this is recognised generally in the Senate. I do not want to overstate or to put wrongly what Senator Gorton has said to the Senate; but it seems to me that if the motion is carried it will mean in substance that general business will not be discussed for the rest of this year. It is fair enough to say that general business is being gagged. This is as we see it. Other honourable senators may take a different view but it seems to me that if this motion is carried it will mean that there simply will be no general business dealt with for the rest of this sitting. Therefore, we will oppose the motion and will ask that the Senate will not vote in favour of it.
As to the other motion that Senator Gorton has dealt with, it seems to us that he has proposed a reasonable course and that the motion should be carried. We see no objection to it. When our sitting hours are extended from 10.30 to 11.30 o’clock, as they have been, it is sensible that new business should be introduced after 10.30. This will help to facilitate the discharge of the business of the Senate. This we are endeavouring to do. But the Opposition will vote against the first motion relating to general business.
– Mr President, this is a matter that has caused concern to the Senate every year since I have had the honour to sit in the chamber. But there are two matters that I wish to raise. One relates to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). It is this: There is a backlog of Government business. This business has to be cleared up. I say this not because we on this side of the Senate support the Government but because the business is the government for the people of Australia. The government for the people of Australia, I think, must have priority if the time of the Senate has to be compressed, as it is at the present moment. It is at this stage, of course, that some of the additional rights of the Opposition are compressed in their turn. So, I think that in those circumstances the motion by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton) is a reasonable one. But it overlooks a fundamental problem in which we find ourselves involved in the Senate at this stage each year.
I have never advanced this subject before except by casual reference to it during the debate on the proposal to break the nexus between the two Houses of this Parliament. The truth is that to a substantial degree the Senate has been living an illusory life for the last 66 years. It has set out to mirror the house of government which is the House of Representatives in dealing with business. In fact, after 66 years it has succeeded in turning itself into a parody of the house of government. We solemnly go through the process of having a second reading debate on every Bill that originates in the House of Representatives. But in truth part of the function of the Senate is to act as a house of review. So once a policy has been established by electoral mandate in the House of Representatives it is no longer a matter of concern to the Senate. The Senate’s function as a house of review is to examine at the Committee stage whether the constititional proprieties are being observed. Of course, that does not apply to legislation that originates in the Senate.
The amount of time that is wasted in the Senate solemnly parodying second reading debates on legislation that originates in the House of Representatives is the cause of the situation which now exists and which caused the Leader of the Government in the Senate to move this motion which is designed to suspend the normal processes of the Senate. Therefore I believe that the real solution of this problem is for the Senate to debate this matter in a substantial way when it reassembles next year and to see whether it is possible to obtain within the Senate agreement on instructing the Standing Orders Committee to examine whether the existing forms of the Senate are compatible with the interests, processes and pressures of the second half of the twentieth century. Provided the opportunity comes to me or I oan seek it, I intend to move in the new year that the Senate re-examine the method by which legislation that originates in another place is processed through this chamber.
– We appreciate the difficulties with which the Government is faced at this time. But we have to look at the conduct of the Senate. Whilst it is true that the Senate election is around the corner and that everyone wants the Senate to rise at the time stated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton), in my opinion that, is not a reason why the Opposition should not have the opportunity to have a general business day. We have been sitting since 16th August. We spent practically 7 weeks debating the Budget statement presented by Senator Henty. After about 3 weeks there was nothing left in that debate, yet the Government had so arranged its business that there was nothing for the Senate to do.
Now we find that the most important part that the Senate plays in relation to the government of this country - namely, the examination of the performance of the Government and its economic measures - has to be played during extended hours of sitting and extended days of sitting. This is the only opportunity in the year that we have to perform this function. At this stage of the session senators are becoming weary and a mass of reports is being put before them. We receive the annual report of a department one day, and the next day we are expected to debate the estimates of that department. That is the attitude that the Government has adopted in order to get its legislation and other business through. If there is any blame for the Senate now being pressurised to deal with business so that it can rise on 2nd or 3rd November in order that we may go to the people on 25th November, it clearly lies at the door of the Government. That is not a reason why we should be deprived of the opportunity to debate matters that we want to bring forward.
Senator Cormack says that at this time Government business should take precedence because the Government has been elected by the people. But let us not forget that the people have also elected the members of Her Majesty’s Opposition who have the rights provided for in the Standing Orders of this chamber. One essential right which wc hold very dear is the right to debate general business on Thursday nights. Senator Cormack is quite wrong when he says that the kind of action that is now proposed has been taken ever since he entered the Senate. This is the first year since I entered the Senate that we have had general business on Thursday nights. Over the years members of the Opposition and back bench members of the Government parties have been deprived of the right to debate general business on Thursday nights. Government business has always taken precedence, mostly without any motton whatsoever. The business has just flowed along and Government business has always been debated. This is the first year that we have had the opportunity to debate general business. Even if it means extending the sittings of the Senate beyond the time set by the Government, we should have the right to debate the matters that we believe should be debated in the interests of the people of Australia.
– It would appear that Senator Cant believes that we backbenchers have never had the opportunity to debate general business. Ever since I entered the Senate we have been able to do that, but it has always been the practice in the last 2 or 3 weeks of a session for the Government to move that Government business take precedence over general business. Ever since I entered the Senate that has just happened naturally. I wish to inform the Senate that during this session members of the Opposition have had wonderful opportunities to discuss matters that they wanted to discuss. Last year we devoted 42 hours 2 minutes over a period of 3 weeks to the Estimates, and while we were discussing the Estimates very few, if any, matters of urgency were raised. But what has happened this week? A normal sitting week of 3 days provides 18 hours 45 minutes of debating time. This week 6 hours has already been taken up by the Opposition wishing to discuss two very important matters of urgency. That represents about 33% of the normal sitting time.
Let us look at the time that we have spent on the Estimates this year. The Government having given the Opposition 3 weeks - the normal period - for discussion of the Estimates, we find that up to this moment on the last sitting day of the period of 3 weeks only 19 hours has been devoted to the Estimates, compared with more than 42 hours last year. So members of the Opposition, by the action that they have taken, have prevented themselves debating the all-important Estimates. Therefore, I believe that the Senate would be very wise to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton).
– in reply - All that I wish to do is return to what I put to the Senate initially. Arguments can properly be advanced on this matter from both sides, but it is a matter of honourable senators making their best judgment on which argument should prevail in the present circumstances.
Question put -
That the motion (Senator Gorton’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister
Majority . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) agreed to:
That standing order 68 be suspended up to and including Friday, 3 November 1967, to enable new business to be commenced after half-past ten o’clock at night.
Consideration resumed from18 October (vide page 1405).
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure. $33,549,000.
Proposed provision, $43,987,000.
– I direct attention to Division No. 342 - Northern Division, for which an appropriation of $386,000 is being sought by the Government. The Northern Division is, perhaps, the most important division of the Department of National Development because it advises the Government on northern development. As I said last night in respect of the River Murray Commission, water is probably the most valuable thing that we have in this country today, despite all the talk about minerals and their development and the amounts of money that are gathered from primary industry. Primary industry or mineral development could not be carried on without adequate water supplies. It is well known to the Senate and to the Australian people that the bulk of Australia’s water supplies lie in the northern part of Australia. Yet we find that the sum of only $386,000 is to be made available to this important Division.
When we turn to the schedule of salaries and allowances we find that the Division has no Secretary and no Director. At least, nothing is appropriated for two such positions. Forty persons are employed in the Division which, as I have indicated, is very important to Australia. There is one Senior Assistant Secretary - not a Secretary - two Assistant Secretaries and thirty-five officers who are classified as Senior Project Officers, Project Officers, Chief Investigation Officer, Senior Research Officers,
Research Officers, Senior Investigation Officer and Publication Officer. I have seen very little material published by the Department of National Development. I am very interested in national development, particularly northern development, but no documents on these subjects are made available by the Department. Very seldom do we get from the Department of National Development a report to keep people informed of the huge amounts of money that are being expended by the Department.
The salaries or wages bill for the Northern Division amounts to $188,500. I would like to know from the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) whether an amount is to be appropriated for a Director, if there is a Director in this Division. There was a Director at one time. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) was previously the Director of this Division, but at the present time it would seem that there is no Director. I would like to know whether the Division has a Secretary.If it has not, who is the Senior Assistant Secretary? Surely the Committee is entitled to all available information in respect of this Department.I noticed in the ‘Australian’ this morning a short article by Sir William Hudson directing attention to the fact that unless we develop this country we may not be here to develop it and others will develop it for themselves. This Department is being almost completely neglected.Item 09 of subdivision 2 of Division No. 343 relates to contract mapping. Over 2 years ago in reply to some questions, I was advised by Senator Gorton that the mapping of Australia was just about complete and that it was only a matter of assembly of the photographs that had been taken. I should have expected this sort of work to be completed by this time. I notice that last year we expended $329,976 on contract mapping and this year we propose to expend $600,000. I should like to know what is being mapped and whether the work is connected with mineral development, water conservation, drought relief, erosion, or some other matter. Provision is made in Division No. 345 for expenditure by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Item 09 of subdivision 2 relates to contract investigations. Last year we expended $748,212 on this item and it is proposed that $1,450,000 will be expended this year. The term ‘contract investigations’ is pretty vague. It does not convey anything to a senator or anyone else who reads this document. What contracts does the Bureau of Mineral Resources investigate? What contracts is the Government carrying out in relation to the Bureau that require investigation? Are contracts carried out by private enterprise in connection with mineral resources being investigated? We should have more information in connection with this item.
– Last night Senator Ormonde asked about the Joint Coal Board’s annual report. The report for the year 1966-67 is currently being printed and is expected to be tabled before we rise - if we rise - on 2nd November. It is an industry report and contains not only particulars of the workings of the Joint Coal Board as a board but also a vast amount of information that stems from private industry. Therefore, a great section of industry has to be contacted to get these records and the report takes a little longer to prepare than do ordinary departmental reports.
This is a situation that I do not like. I like to have annual reports presented - even if they have to be printed outside - before the Committee of the Senate discusses the relevant expenditures. Reports are a great source of information to honourable senators and help them to formulate the questions that they want to ask. I have always tried wherever possible in my own Department to get annual reports earlier so that we may have a good discussion on them. I hope that the Joint Coal Board will read my comments and take steps to see whether it cannot next year present its report in time for honourable senators to study it and ask questions upon it.
Senator Cant referred to the Northern Division of the Department of National Development having only $386,000 to spend. This expenditure is merely on the administration side and relates only to the salaries and travelling allowances of office staff. The honourable senator asks why provision is not made for a Secretary. The Secretary of the Department of National Development, of course, is responsible for the Northern Division. The one Secretary has control over the whole organisation. The Senior Assistant Secretary is Director of the Northern Division. ‘Senior Assistant Secre tary’ is the correct Public Service title pf the position; ‘Director* is only the local title.
Senator Cant referred also to the provision for contract mapping in the Division of National Mapping, which is covered by Division No. 343. Maps of Australia have been ‘ completed on a scale of 1 inch to 250,000 inches. The present programme is to prepare maps of Australia on a scale of 1 inch to 100,000 inches. This programme is to be completed by 1975. He asked a question in relation to water conservation. I should like to give him some details because they are not without interest. Under the national water resources development programme an amount of $50m is available to the States. We have now received from some States particulars of schemes for the expenditure of this money. The money is to be provided at the rate of $10m a year for 5 years. Only some States have reacted and some schemes are now being discussed. The Emerald water resources study is now under consideration. In Western Australia - a State in which the honourable senator is immensely interested - the first stage of the Ord River scheme has been completed at a cost of $ 12.2m and the second stage is under consideration. The Government is seeking some information on results in the area before the second stage is approved.
When it comes to a question of northern development I could not pass the opportunity of mentioning the enormous amount of money that the Commonwealth Government has, rightly in my opinion, expended on beef roads which will be of tremendous benefit to Australia. An amount of $50m is to be spent over 7 years and expenditure has been approved amounting to $58m since 1961 upon these projects. This is of considerable help to Queensland. That State and Western Australia have vast areas over which the cattle industry extends and the gradual but quickening development of beef roads that this Government has undertaken has helped tremendously in enabling producers to get stock to markets, especially in moving stock away from drought areas, and in the general development of the regions that these roads serve. I believe that’ we cannot let this opportunity pass without acknowledging the vast expenditure that has been devoted to this one aspect of development of the beef industry in northern Australia.
I would mention also the development of the brigalow lands, for which $23m has been allocated, permitting the development finally of 1 1 million acres of brigalow country. I mention again also the development that has taken place at Weipa, on Cape York Peninsula, where a vast bauxite enterprise has been established. Senator Cant has raised the general matter of northern development and I think that therefore we should discuss at least briefly the development at Weipa and also at Gladstone, where an alumina plant has been established. All this has stemmed from what I believe to be one of the best and soundest decisions made by this Government, namely, the transfer of the aluminium industry a: Bell Bay to private enterprise. From an annual production of 11,500 tons, private enterprise has developed output to, I think, 72,000 tons a year. The decision to allow private enterprise to carry on the Bell Bay industry has been of tremendous advantage to Australia and was a basic cause of the development that has taken place at Weipa and Gladstone. As a result of the development that took place at Bell Bay, private enterprise looked about for sources of bauxite to provide secure supplies of raw material for the Bell Bay aluminium industry. So the bauxite enterprise at Weipa was developed. Those who have been there and seen the enormous resources that exist there and the efficient manner in which they are being handled realise the far reaching effects of the Government’s decision to put the Bell Bay aluminium industry in private hands.
The development of Gladstone has followed as a natural corollary of the development at Weipa. About 1 ton of alumina is obtained from 2 tons of bauxite, and to obviate the long haul of a large volume of bauxite all the way from Weipa to Bell Bay, private enterprise looked for a suitable port nearer the source of the bauxite as a site for an alumina plant. Gladstone was chosen and a huge alumina plant has now been constructed there to treat the bauxite. This means that only half as much tonnage has to be shipped from there to Bell Bay. This is not all. In satisfying the local demand, private enterprise has developed a considerable export trade in alumina. Only recently, I read a report that 30,000 tons of alumina, I think, was being exported to the United States of America.
The recital that I have just given is only a short history of some of the great factors in the programme of northern development that has been undertaken by this Government. I believe that members of the Opposition, when they make a general attack on the ground that the north is not being developed, sometimes overlook these factors. There are many others that I could mention, too, but I do not want to take up the time of honourable senators who may wish to discuss details of the estimates for the Department of National Development. T am prepared to answer any queries that may be raised by honourable senators on the individual items, but I suggest that Opposition senators should not make .second reading speeches, as it were, on northern development.
– I intend to reply te the Minister’s remarks.
– The honourable senator raised general principles in relation to northern development. If that is the way in which he intends to discuss these estimates, that is the way in which 1 shall answer him. What honourable senators opposite propose to do is entirely up to them.
- Mr Chairman, I wish to refer to the Forestry and Timber Bureau under Division No. 348 in Document A, and to direct the attention of the Committee to a situation that appears to be developing in the timber industry largely as a result of a rising level of imports of timber. The imported timbers to which I refer particularly are a timber known as Meranti, which comes from Sabah, and Douglas fir, or Oregon, as it is better known, from North America, i have endeavoured to get some details and figures illustrating specific instances of increases in the level of imports, and in the course of my research I have found it very difficult to obtain a document that clearly sets out the increases. I referred my inquiries to the Parliamentary Library and I find that I am bound to rely on a document containing figures compiled by the Forestry and Timber Bureau in Melbourne. Not only I but also the officer in the Library to whom I referred the matter had difficulty in getting the precise details that I wanted. However, I believe that I have been able to get sufficient documentary material at least to make it clear to the Committee that the growing level of imports, especially of the two timbers that I have mentioned, is affecting the Australian timber industry.
Comparing the figures for July 1966 wilh those for July 1965, imports of sawn timber from North America increased by 1 10% and from Malaysia and other areas by 50%. Imports of logs increased by 45%, and the overall increase was 68.33%. The overall level of imports in November 1966 fell by 23% compared to November 1965. ] shall just go through the figures quickly because I do not consider that there is any purpose to be served by going into them in great detail, in December 1966, imports from North America increased by 40% and from Malaysia and other areas by 25% compared to December .1965. The overall increase was 27%. For February 1967 compared to February 1966, the overall increase was 14.5%; for April 1967 compared to April 1966, 17.33%: and for May 1967 compared to May 1966. 45%. The general trend indicates a significantly accelerating volume of imports. ( would have no great argument to offer about this if it were not for the fact that these timbers are competing against the Australian product in the home building field, principally in the Sydney market. The selling price of timber in Sydney is so high that it must add considerably to home building costs; but at the same time the imports are damaging the local industry. I refer particularly to the position of the timber milling industry in my home State of Tasmania. There is some concern among sawmillers in Tasmania. They sell timber at $9 or $10 per 100 superficial feet f.o.b. but the same timber is sold in Sydney at approximately $23 per 100 superficial feet. This is an increase of about 170% on the f.o.b. price in Tasmania. I suspect that the price of this timber is being jacked up - whether my suspicions are soundly based 1 do not know - so that the merchants in Sydney will be able to sell the imported timber at a figure which will return them a profit margin. This practice does damage to the local industry.
A similar position is facing the Australian plywood industry because of imports. Japanese manufacturers have done substantial damage, I think, to the Australian ply wood industry. One of the advantages that the Japanese have is that there is a Japanese shipping line. Japanese ships returning from Asian markets are able to pick up cargoes of suitable timber from the Philippines and other such places, lt is processed in vast quantities in Japan. The shipping arrangements assist to keep the cost of the Japanese plywood manufacturing industry down to a very low level and consequently our imports of Japanese plywood does damage to the Australian industry.
I mention these things because concern is felt in my home State about the effect on the local industry of the increased timber imports, principally from Malaysia and North America. It is considered that these imports are doing considerable damage to the locally based industry. Timber prices have been increased substantially although there does not seem to be any valid reason for the increase, certainly not to the level I quoted. 1 should like the Minister to tell me whether he believes adequate protection is given to the local industry against these imports and against the cost structure on the Sydney market. There has not been such a great development in home building as would require greater imports of timber. Obviously, if the use of timber has not increased and if overseas timber is being sold here, damage must be done to the Australian industry. I hope the Minister will be able to allay my fears. I hope he will be able to give some assurance to the timber millers, particularly in Tasmania, that they are not to be forced out of business. A threat of unemployment is hanging over their industry at the moment. It has been said that 500 or 600 employees might lose their jobs because of the situation which has developed. I hope the Minister will be able to give some assurance that my fears, and the fears of the industry, are groundless and that there is some basic reason for the situation which is developing in this industry.
– I have received an answer to the question asked by Senator Cant. He referred to the sum of $1,450,000 which had been, allocated under administrative expenses for contract investigations carried out by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. He asked what this item covered and what the money was spent on. Under this item provision is made for work carried out for the Bureau by competent outside contractors. The work includes the hire of computer time, contract drafting, scientific investigations and analysis, rotary drilling and coring, auger drilling and the hire of aircraft, both fixed wing and helicopters. All this work is provided for under this item and is in addition to that carried out by the Bureau staff. Where necessary a member of the Bureau staff is located on site to supervise and direct the work done by contractors. Examples of the work done include diamond drilling at Rum Jungle and the great research into phosphate. A sum of $150,000 is devoted to this research in 1968. This year the Government is also providing $240,000 for helicopter gravity surveys. The programme of logging water bores in Queensland is being allocated $100,000. A sum of $490,000 has been allocated for this year for the marine gravity sonar boom. Those examples show how this, money is being spent.
As to the matter raised by Senator Devitt, the responsibility logically lies with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), the Tariff Board and those who formulate the general policy on timber imports. The matter does not come under the division referred to by the honourable senator. His query should be raised with the Minister for Customs and Excise but I will take him up on the general problem. He referred to it as being a general problem and got away from the items that I have been urging the Senate to consider. The importation of timber does affect timber production in Tasmania, which he and I represent in this Senate. He referred to the selling price of timber in Tasmania and the price at which merchants in Sydney sell that timber. I understand that the timber association in Tasmania opened its own selling yard in New South Wales. I wonder whether it has followed the price pattern or whether it has sold timber at less than the normal Sydney distribution price. It would be an interesting exercise to find out just what has happened since the association began distributing and selling direct. I understand the association made the move in order to try to overcome the situation in New South Wales. If the Tasmanian industry did enter into direct competition and sell at prices lower than the normal price in New South Wales, the merchants and distributors in New South Wales would have had to reduce their prices; on the other hand, the association might have accepted the normal selling price in the Sydney area. I do not know what is happening. However, it occurs to me that this course might have been adopted.
One of the most difficult situations for the timber industry - I have stated this often because I am closely connected with the industry - is that Sydney is Oregon happy. Sydney builders use Oregon for a number of purposes when Tasmanian hardwood would fill the bill. Suitable timber could come from local sources but there is this Oregon fixation in Sydney. This has often irked me and other Tasmanians.
The position of the plywood industry is also a matter for the Tariff Board. The way is open to the manufacturers in Tasmania if they feel that the industry is being damaged by imports. This matter is related to the Japanese Trade Agreement. The Japanese have been more than correct in their application of this Agreement. If they believed that any particular area of Australian industry had been damaged, they have always been prepared to have a quick look at the problem to see how the situation could be met. Apart from that, the Special Authority and the Tariff Board can protect Australian industry, if it is called upon to be protected, against importations.
The honourable senator referred to meranti from Malaysia and Oregon from North America. These timbers are not grown commercially in Australia. The Government has set out through assistance by grants to increase softwood plantings in all States. The honourable senator will be aware of the assistance that has been given to Tasmania and other States. Money has been made available to the States to increase softwood plantings. Already people flying over Tasmania can see the development of the softwood plantations which has stemmed directly from Commonwealth encouragement. Grants totalling $20m have been made enabling yearly plantings to reach 75,000 acres. The grants have been made specifically to develop the softwood plantation areas of Australia. Our softwoods receive some competition from meranti from Malaysia and oregon from North America, as I have mentioned. I have generally covered the position. The honourable senator did not refer to a particular item in the estimates so I do not have any information from the Department to give him.
– With some reluctance I accept the suggestion of the Minister that we should not touch on general policy matters in this debate. I realise that there is a great divergence of thought in relation to the approach that should be made by the Department of National Development, particularly by its Northern Division.
– I do not want to interrupt the honourable senator but I should point out to him that I do not mind if general questions are asked, providing the honourable senators asking them do not mind receiving general answers. If questions are asked on individual items, I will give answers .to those questions. General answers will be given to general questions.
– I thank the Minister for that advice. The first matter to which I wish to refer relates to Division No. 342 - Northern Division. Has the Department delineated the area which it describes as coming within the ambit of the Northern Division? I have heard this area delineated by many people in a number of different ways. When people talk about northern development they frequently confuse the areas involved. I do not think one can properly say that the term ‘northern development’ is applicable to the central one-third of Australia, for example. A lot of subjects are referred to as coming within the scope of northern development when in fact they relate broadly to central Queensland, and certainly not to northern Queensland. I am most interested in the delineation of these areas because I think it is vital to our consideration of the matter. 1 will return to this subject when I have received an answer from the Minister.
My next query relates to Division No. 345 - Bureau of Mineral Resources, and particularly to the proposed appropriation for contract investigations in item 09 of subdivision 2. Senator Cant, I think, asked some questions about this appropriation. If it was not Senator Cant, it was another honourable senator opposite. The Minister in his reply referred among other things to boring and drilling for phosphates in northern Australia. I think this is a vitally important aspect of the work that can be done. Quite recently discoveries of phosphate deposits have been made in the far north. I have tried to get information about the value of these deposits but I have been unable to obtain any very definite advice. J do not know whether the deposits are of a grade and quality sufficiently high for processing. As most of northern Australia is very deficient in phosphates, it would be of tremendous value to Australia generally if the recent discoveries were of a payable quality and quantity. I would like the Minister to inform us of the latest information available about that.
In general the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has stated that the attitude of the Government to the development of northern Australia has been that it is necessary to provide the means and basic needs for development so that private enterprise can proceed to develop the potential of that area. I most certainly accept that approach as being correct and desirable. I have never quarreled with it. However, I believe that in certain regions this very desirable policy is not being carried out. I refer particularly to the far north. In an area of northern Queensland which covers approximately one-third to one-quarter of the whole of the State practically no money has been spent on road development although it is an area where roads are most urgently needed. A short time ago the Minister referred to the great development of bauxite deposits at Weipa. These deposits are very valuable to Australia. Bauxite is transported from Weipa and converted into alumina, at a rate of about 1 ton of alumina to 2 tons of bauxite. Later it is transported south where it is again converted, this time to aluminium at a rate of about 1 ton of aluminium to 2 tons of alumina. It is rather sad that there is still no access by road of any type whatsoever to the great base at Weipa. I do not say that a road constructed to serve Weipa alone would he as valuable as some other roads. However, if Weipa were connected by road to Cairns, or to Mareeba on the Atherton Tableland, it would not only serve Weipa and the growing industry there but it would also pass through country which is now being very rapidly developed - country which has not been developed at all before.
– What would be the mileage of the road, to which the honourable senator refers?
– I cannot say at the moment. I have known, and I do have the figures. I have spoken of this matter before and have given the mileage but at the moment I do not remember what it is. I would not like to state a figure that may be incorrect, lt would not be by any means beyond the capacity of the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government to build such a road. Perhaps Senator Lawrie, who has also referred to this matter frequently, will be able to tell us the actual mileage. I hope he can. The point that I wish to make and which I have attempted to make repeatedly is that if the road were put through to Weipa it would serve not only the port of Weipa and the great industry there but also the vast area of country which it traverses and in which the beef industry is being developed most rapidly. It would traverse an area where, until two years ago the number of beef cattle carried was infinitesimal, and where, now, because of the more modern approach that has been brought to the development of the industry by way of improved pastures, improved fencing and all the other ancilliary works necessary if this is to become a prosperous and progressive industry, the number of cattle carried has increased enormously. Millions of dollars are being spent by private enterprise in developing these areas, which were relatively undeveloped before, yet these interests have no road access at all over many months of the year, and only very bad access when they do have any. T have pleaded on, I think, half a dozen occasions in this chamber for greater attention to be paid to the development of this road, but we see very little being done about it. For these reasons I say that although our policy of providing the means for development is good we are not carrying it out in the far northern part of the State as far as I think we should.
I recognise that I shall be told in reply that a certain amount of money was allocated for this road recently, but the point is that it is being used merely to build a few bridges. I am not saying that these bridges will not be useful - they will be - but this is only a very marginal approach to the problem. I do not think our approach is as ambitious as it should be, nor do 1 think it is as progressive as it should be. I repeat that I support the Government’s policy of providing these facilities, but I maintain that if we say this is our policy and if we start on it, then we have to do more than merely start on it verbally; we have to demonstrate that we are in fact providing the facilities.
I come now to another aspect which probably also will be exercising the minds of other honourable senators. I have spoken about the huge potential of the prawning industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria. This potential is increasing all’ the time. Only this morning I had a phone call from someone quite apart from anybody to whom I have ever referred before in connection with this industry. It was from a person who is anxious to establish a prawn processing plant at Burketown. The point I wish to stress today is that in quite a number of these places where prawns can be, and are in fact being, processed, and where relatively large numbers of people are employed in that work, there are no water facilities and there is no road access except in good weather. It is impossible to get to them when there has been rain. They also lack many other facilities. This is an industry that could bring to Australia a minimum of $50m annually in export income and which could employ hundreds of people in the far north, where this type of light employment has not been available before.
I know that an approach has been made by the Queensland Government for financial assistance to develop some of these natural resources not only at Weipa but at Karumba and other places, but I do not think that any decision has been made as yet. 1 am still very hopeful that the Government will make a decision on the matter and that as a result the facilities which I have advocated will be provided. If we adopt a policy and develop it, then let us develop it properly, particularly in the areas of greatest hardship about which T have spoken so often.
Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) ti 2.6] - I wish to refer to two or three points connected with the coal industry. I do not expect the Minister to be able to answer them immediately but I shall be satisfied if he can obtain the answers and let me have them later. My remarks will be related mainly to markets. The fuel industry is a happy one at the moment. There are ample supplies of gas, fuel oil and coal and there is no industrial unrest in the industry. But I see a great danger that the coal industry could become the poor relation of the fuel industry, because I am not certain that its best interests are being looked after at the moment.
We have what might be termed a glut of fuel at the moment, and strange things are hapening in the coal industry. We have been concentrating all our efforts upon obtaining export sales for coal. I do not say that the industry has not wanted these sales, but we have concentrated almost exclusively on exporting coal to Japan and to nowhere else. I do not think that is good business, and I should like the Minister to obtain some information for me as to whether any attempt has been made by the Joint Coal Board or any other authority to establish diversified export markets for our coal. 1 can think of plenty of other places that need coal and that in fact import coal, but we do not seem to have any success in establishing markets there.
There are one or two problems involved here. A large proportion of the coal exported comes from open cut mines. We have been able to get into the export market because in the initial stages the open cut method is the cheapest way of producing coal, especially if the overburden is light. But costs continue to rise as the overburden becomes heavier, which apparently is the position in Queensland. As the overburden becomes heavier, so does the production of coal become more expensive. Eventually the Japanese could lose interest in buying coal from Australian open cuts and we could find ourselves short of export markets for this type of coal. Mas any attempt been made by the Government to establish markets in other areas, and has the Government given any consideration to the rising costs of open cut production? I do not know what the figures are, but 1 understand that open cut costs are rising all the time. They must rise because of the very nature of this form of development. Does the Government see any risk of eventually losing this market in Japan?
I point out that originally Japan would enter into only very short term contracts. She would not write long term contracts. Japan has a very close source of supply in China and if she ever made friends with China our exports of coal would be finished. All sorts of things happen internationally. We are friendly with Japan at the present time but we were not friendly a comparatively short time ago. Things of this kind have happened in the past and they could happen in the future. Can the Minister give mc any information about the length of the contracts? Is Japan signing longer term contracts now? Where they were, say, 2-year contracts previously are they now 5-year contracts? Can we look for some hope of continuity of exports of coal to Japan? What has the Board done about getting markets in other parts of the world?
Another serious development in’ the industry is the takeover by foreign interests. This matter may be outside the ambit of this debate but I would not be surprised to learn that 50% of the Australian coal industry is now owned by foreign interests whereas a few years ago it was totally owned by Australian and British interests. Does the Joint Coal Board keep a register of the ownership of mines and the origin of the capital invested in the industry? The Government believes in private enterprise. This could have serious repercussions because a foreign owned coal industry would be able to do almost anything it wished if the industry found itself in less prosperous times. Some time ago it had to be semi-nationalised and government aid was necessary to pull it out of the doldrums. If this had not been done it might never have moved. There is a particularly menacing situation when an industry is owned by overseas interests. I would like the Minister to let me have whatever information is available on the two aspects I have raised, namely, the diversification of our export trade in the interests of what I regard as the safety of the Australian coal industry, and the percentage of the Australian coal industry which is now in the hands of foreign investors.
I should like to raise two industry matters which possibly are difficult to answer. In paragraph 2.35 on page 16 of its report for 1965-66 the Joint Coal Board has this to say under the heading .r ……..1, Mining’:
The Board has continued to keep closely in touch with the application of longwall mining practice on the South Coast. One longwall operation gave good results over a considerable period but severe difficulties have been encountered with all units. Some modifications to technique have been made but it is by no means certain that these will be successful.
Can the Minister tell me what progress, if any, has been made in that regard? In paragraph 2.14, which refers to markets, on page .12 of the report, the Board states:
But coal is of course more than just a cheap source of energy te be burnt in a boiler furnace. New technological developments suggest that coal may bc economically processed to derive valuable products capable of supplying energy in a modified form. Pilot plants to test such processes arc now being constructed overseas.
What progress has been made in that regard? My final point relates to the competition confronting the coal industry. Does not the development of natural gas and all the other competitive fuels mean that the New South Wales coal industry will lose almost all of its interstate markets? I should like the Minister to report on that aspect. Has the Joint Coal Board this point in mind? Is it examining future possibilities in this regard?
– Senator Morris raised the question of defining the area which comes under the consideration of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. In general, in Western Australia and the Northern Territory it extends north from 26 degrees south latitude, and in Queensland north from the Tropic of Capricorn which is 23£ degrees south latitude. However, in relation to matters such as roads the Division also considered associated areas in the Channel country in Queensland and in the north-east of South Australia, although such matters do not normally come within the attention of the Division. Senator Morris also referred to prawning in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I advise him that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has received representations from interested organisations for the development of roads in that area, ‘ and the road from Normanton to Karumba is now under consideration. I agree that the prawning industry is most important and, when it is fully developed, will be a tremendous export earner. I believe that two great export industries in the form of beef and prawns will be developed in that area.
As to the road to Weipa, broadly the situation is that we provide Queensland with a certain sum of money under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and a certain sum of money - both are large amounts - in respect of the construction of beef roads, but the planning is largely in the hands of the State Government. This must be so. The Government consults with us always. If it can be persuaded to accept the priority which Senator Morris puts on that road, then perhaps all his difficulties will be over, but it is up to him to persuade the Queensland Government that his assessment of priorities is better than its own. I do not disagree with the honourable senator. He may be perfectly right, but I think the course I have mentioned is the one he should follow.
Senator Cant commented that expenditure in relation to the staff and functions of the Northern Division seems to be very small. The Department points out that its work is done in association with a number of Commonwealth bodies such as the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Department of Territories, the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation as well as with a number of State departments and authorities. They try not to duplicate existing administrative authorities. That is sound administration. For that reason the Northern Division does not necessarily have to grow to the extent the honourable senator apparently would like to see it grow. There is no sensible purpose in duplicating technical staff. Regular meetings and consultations at both ministerial and officer level take place between Queensland, Western Australia and the Commonwealth.
I (urn noV to the matters raised by Senator Ormonde. It is true, as the honourable senator said, that most of our coal exports are to Japan. A mission went to South America some 4 years ago and since that time we have investigated the possibility of exporting coal to Italy and the United Kingdom. So far we have not had any success regarding the export of coal to these areas mainly, it is put to me, because of the shipping costs. I presume that if ever we use real bulk carriers we may be able to look again at these markets and become more competitive than we are at the present moment.
Our exports of coal have increased vastly. They are mostly from south coast mines. The figures that have been given to me show that in 1963-64 New South Wales exported 3 million tons of coal. In 1964-65 this figure increased to 4,675,000 tons. In 1965-66 the figure stood at 6.2 million tons and in 1966-67 had risen to 7 million tons. So the amount of coal exported by New South Wales has risen from 3 million tons to 7 million tons in 4 years. That is a pretty vast increase. The export of coal by Queensland has risen from 0.8 million tons in 1963-64 to 1.2 million tons in 1964-65, 1.7 million tons in 1965-66, and 1.7 million tons in 1966-67, In total, exports of coal have risen from 3.8 million tons to 8.7 million tons in those 4 years.
The exports from the south coast of New South Wales - the Burragorang Valley - are mostly the subject of 3-year to 5-year contracts. In 1966-67 the south coast exported 4 million tons of soft coking coal to Newcastle. In 1965-66 the export figure was 3 million tons and about half of this, 1.5 million tons, was on a 3-year to 5-year contract basis while the rest was mainly on a year to year contract basis. That is the situation as I understand it. The production of coal has reached a level of 26 million tons and approximately 5 million tons will be produced this year in Queensland. Production has been steadily increasing.
The honourable senator spoke of his feeling that the coal trade in New South Wales would lose its interstate markets. I can understand what he refers to when he says that natural gas, residual oil and other products are coming into competition with coal. But this is a pretty healthy position. This engenders competition in industry. Competition in industry is a very good thing. The coal industry has taken steps to make itself more and more efficient. It is living in a world in which efficient competition exists. Nobody can say what the future will bring. I would not hazard a guess. But I can say this to the honourable senator: The use of residual oil and natural gas offers undeniable advantages to some States.
I refer again to the State of Tasmania which for years paid tribute to New South Wales for its coking coal. New South Wales is the only place in Australia from which Tasmania could obtain coking coal. I notice with some interest - this is understandable interest, and I do not question it - that pressure is now mounting in New South Wales for a uniform price for gas. I noted no request for a uniform price for coking coal throughout Australia by New South Wales when it had’ a monopoly of coking coal. At that stage, Tasmania had to pay the price that New South Wales asked. That was it. I would say that the present argument put forward by New South Wales would be reinforced if, in the days when it had a monopoly of coking coal, it had been prepared to agree to an overall Australian price and had allowed Tasmania to compete.
In fact, residual oil saved many of the industries of Tasmania. It allowed them to develop, and develop economically. Because it was on the .doorstep residual oil could be supplied to Tasmanian industries at prices which were competitive. The industries were put in the same position regarding their fuel costs as factories in New South Wales which were using coal and the freight differential was done away with. This is a matter of economics and something that has to be taken into account. The coal industry is pretty efficient and far-sighted. I think the honourable senator will find that the industry will meet any situation that arises. There will be developments in technology and uses for coal which I think will ensure that the New South Wales industry will continue to develop for many years. The interstate markets for New South Wales coal have been diminishing for many years. The interstate coal market is now down to 800,000 tons per annum, I understand. Railways, the cement business and general industry are the users of this coal. I suggest that the cement industry in Tasmania is not using New South Wales coal at the moment. I think that would be a fair assumption. Perhaps the cement industry in Tasmania is using residual oil. I am not sure. Senator Ormonde will understand what I am referring to when I say that.
The Coal Board anticipates that this trend will continue. But it is anticipated also that the export trade will continue to develop and to grow. 1 think that this is of some value. Now, the honorable senator asked me two questions.
– I asked the Minister about foreign capital too.
– The honorable senator asked me about the longwall. The installation on the south coast is currently operating successfully. There is a strong indication that the technical problems have been overcome. The honorable senator also asked me about the interstate markets for coal. I have already said that the Coal Board feels that these markets will be diminishing.
– I refer to Division No. 348- Forestry and Timber Bureau, subdivision 3 - Other Services, item 10 - Sirex wasp research and containment (For payment to the National Sirex Fund Trust Account) for which the appropriation this financial year is $200,000. According to the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June 1967, all States contribute to the Trust Account in proportion to the area pf State-owned, sirex susceptible soft wood plantation. The Auditor-General goes on to state:
By agreement, these contributions are matched by the Commonwealth on a $ for $ basis, subject to a maximum Commonwealth payment of $200,000, of which $150,000 was to be allocated to research.
The Auditor-General states that total contributions by the Commonwealth to this fund since its introduction to 30th June 1967 are $999,940.
I am wondering whether the Minister is in a position to give some information regarding the transactions of the Trust Account for 1966-67 compared with transactions in 1965-66 as set out in the balance sheet of the Trust Account on page 113 of the Auditor-General’s report. In 1965-66 net payments to State forestry commissions and departments amounted to $278,400. But the net payments of $260,000 in 1966-67 represented a decrease of more than $18,000. Can the Minister give a break-up of the payments to the State forestry commissions and departments and tell the Committee how the money was expended? The amount of $100,403 is easy to understand because it was paid to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Can the Minister give the Committee any information about the success of the campaign against the sirex wasp, its containment and its eventual eradication? The wasp, if unchecked, could be a very serious matter, particularly in the south eastern portion of South Australia. I see from the Auditor-General’s Report that South Australia makes a greater contribution to the Trust Account than any other State. I would appreciate any information that the Minister can give me on how successful the campaign has been and how far we have gone in containing the wasp and eventually eradicating it.
– I have an answer to Senator Ormonde’s query about foreign investment in the coal industry. The largest investment is at Moura in Queensland. In New South Wales there is a growing tendency towards foreign ownership. One large group in that State is now foreign owned. The Joint Coal Board has the position in hand and is watching it.
Senator Drury referred to the sirex wasp campaign. I cannot give him a break-up of the payments to the States. That will necessitate a little research. We will do that research and give him the facts as soon as possible. We will also obtain for him information on the research that is being done and on the present situation in regard to the results of the attack on the sirex wasp. The contributions by the States in 1967-68 are expected to be, in round figures as follows: New South Wales $46,000; Victoria $41,000; Queensland $25,000; South Australia $57,000; Western Australia $18,000; and Tasmania $9,000. The total is $199,000. The research sub-committee of the national sirex committee has recommended the following allocations for 1967- 68: the Forest Research Institute $23,000; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation $100,000; the Waite Institute $10,000; and the Forestry Commission of Victoria $250,000.
– I wish to explain briefly my apparent discourtesy in leaving the chamber when the Minister was rising to reply to some of the comments that I made. There was a committee meeting that I wanted to attend for a short time. I heard the Minister say that it is the responsibility of both the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government to work in conjunction on the provision of beef roads and developmental roads. I accept that statement because I know that it is true. I know that a large mileage of beef roads has been built in Queensland to the advantage of the beef cattle industry. But the Minister went on to say that my task was to convince the Queensland Government of the validity of the priority that I give to the building of this road from Mareeba to Weipa. Incidentally, in answer to a question that I was asked I mention that the distance involved is about 400 miles. I realise that that is my task. I accept that”.
But 1 wish to point out to the Committee, and especially to the Minister and the Department, that this matter merits a little further study because in the first discussions between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments on the building of beef roads the then Minister for Mines and Main Roads in Queensland, the Honourable Ernie Evans, gave the road to Weipa No. I priority. He gave roads in two areas No. 1 priority. The first roads were from the Channel country to the railheads. They were very important. But he gave equal priority to the road to Weipa. I point out that that was before the great bauxite development that has taken place at Weipa had proceeded very far. So in fact the Minister of that day regarded my judgment as being absolutely correct. Unfortunately the present Minister for Mines and Main Roads in Queensland does not give this road the same priority as his predecessor gave it. I am very sorry about that. I think it is fairly well known that his predecessor was not a particular friend of mine-
– Order! I ask the honourable senator to keep to the estimates and not to make a second reading speech.
– I am not making a second reading speech.
Order! The honourable senator is getting a little too far away from the estimates.
– I want to emphasise this point. Actually, I have studied the matter to which you have just referred, Mr Temporary Chairman, and tried to find any basis in the Standing Orders for a ruling that a senator is not permitted to speak on general policy matters in the Estimates debate. If senators are to be prevented from expressing general opinions in the Estimates debate, the time may come when we will have to challenge a ruling to that effect, because I disagree with such a ruling.
Order! To which division is the honourable senator referring?
– I am referring to Division No. 342, as I was before. I gave the reference before. Anyway, Mr Temporary Chairman, you called me to order when I had said what I wanted to say. But let me add that, if I am not to be permitted to speak of the policy of a department in the Estimates debate, I give notice now that I will move a motion of dissent from such a ruling, whoever may give it.
– I may transgress your ruling too, Mr Temporary Chairman. After I spoke previously the Minister roamed all around the world in order to justify some of his answers. So I might have to - commit a slight transgression. I am sorry if I happened to miss the Minister’s answer to my query in relation to the appropriation for contract investigations under Division No. 345, which represents an increase of almost 100% on the expenditure last year. If the Minister answered that query, I must have been out of the chamber when he did so.
– I did answer it. The answer will be in Hansard.
– I thank the Minister. I notice that this year’s appropriation for the oil search subsidy under Division No. 345 represents an increase of approximately $2m over the expenditure last year. Last year the expenditure was $9,930,867. This year the appropriation is $11,800,000. We are all very pleased to know that large quantities of natural gas and minor quantities of oil are being produced for Australia’s benefit. We on this side of the chamber look at the amounts of public money that the Government is spending on the search for oil and note that the Australian people have no equity interest in the oil and gas that is found. It is true that in certain circumstances the amount of the subsidy is refunded under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act. But in many cases the money will never be refunded; it will go down the drain. I suppose it could be said that the money expended on the search for oil has been used towards the development of Australia. Nevertheless, we on this side of the chamber believe that if public money is appropriated to assist in the development of an industry there should be a public equity in that industry.
I refer now to the proposed appropriation of $50,000 for the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories. Last year there was no appropriation or expenditure under this particular item. I would like the Minister to give us some information about this item. Is the work carried out in cooperation with private enterprise or is it carried out by the Commonwealth and the States in co-operation? What is the purpose of the Mineral Development Laboratories? What do we mean when we speak of the Mineral Development Laboratories?
I also refer to Division No. 348, subdivision 2, item 03 which deals with postage, telegrams and telephone services. Last year there was an appropriation of $12,000 and an expenditure of $13,999. An appropriation of $54,000 is being sought for this particular item this year. This is an increase of almost 300% on what was expended last year. Surely the Committee is entitled to an explanation of the massive increase in the expenditure on communications. I refer also to item 10, which deals with incidental and other expenditure. Last year there was an appropriation of $40,000 and the expenditure was $36,944. Yet this year there is to be an appropriation of $82,000. Although there was an underexpenditure last year, the appropriation for this year will be more than double that for l£st year. We are entitled to an explanation of this item.
The Minister, in his reply to my query about water resources, mentioned the sum of $50m which is to be spent over a period of 5 years. He said that some proposals were coming in, but I do not know whether we will ever be able to get a look at the schemes that are proposed by the States to attract the rather small grant of $10m in each of 5 years. We will not be able to examine the merits or otherwise of the schemes that are put’ forward. Therefore I do not think it is a proper exercise for the Minister to refer to them in reply to a question concerning the small amount of money that is to be appropriated for the Northern Division of the Department of National Development.
The Minister referred to the Ord River scheme. Of course, that scheme is a dead duck, lt is all very well for people to sit back and say that the Government is waiting for other developments and that it will not spend money on a monoculture scheme. I and people from the country areas know that wherever there is water Australian people make use of it, and they do so economically. I reject the Minister’s statement about the Ord River scheme. I ask him whether, included in schemes which are coming in for consideration, there is a request from the Western Australian Government for the development of the Gascoyne River, which feeds the Carnarvon plantations, and for the development of the Fortescue River. The Minister is very proud of the development that is taking place in the north as a result of private enterprise. I point out that the Fortescue River is in the middle of the iron ore industry, and that industry cannot progress unless it has adequate supplies of water. This ties up with the two matters to which the Minister referred. He referred to beef roads and then to the Bell Bay aluminium works. The people’s equity in the aluminium works at Bell Bay was sold by the Commonwealth Government.
– It was the greatest thing that ever happened for Australia.
– That is a matter of opinion, but I do not want to canvass it now. I want to refer to what has happened to other State-owned industries. Whilst the Minister is very proud of the amount of money that is being spent on beef roads by the Department of National Development, he omitted to inform the Senate that millions of dollars have been spent on roads to provide access to the Wyndham meatworks. The Government established these meatworks in 1919 but it subsequently sold them to private enterprise and the kill has been reduced by two-thirds. We are spending money on the development of beef roads in order to give access to the Wyndham meat works, but those meatworks could be closed down in favour of the Katherine meatworks at any time that Clementson liked to put up his finger. Like the Bell Bay aluminium works, the Wyndham meatworks were a State asset which belonged to the Australian people. But they were sold by a Liberal government. Considerable justification would have to be placed before this Parliament before T would agree to the expenditure of further moneys on beef roads to give access to the Wyndham meatworks. If Clementson continues to reduce the kill, in a very short time Hooker will have all the beef from the Kimberleys area going to the Katherine meatworks. There is no reason why the Minister should be proud of expenditure on beef Toads.
– We have heard a great deal about nothern development. I want to come a little closer to home and refer to a matter about which I think the Commonwealth and State governments concerned are rather worried. I refer to the Chowilla Dam. The only way in which I think I can deal with this question is to relate my remarks to the proposed appropriation for the River Murray Commission - Contribution towards expenses, under Division No. 340. I crave the indulgence and tolerance that you, Mr Temporary Chairman, have shown to others, in order that I may speak about the Chowilla Dam. We hear a lot about northern development and I am not against this. But the people who speak about it live in the clouds. They are not at all concerned with whether northern development is economic, whether it will pay, or what will happen to it. Hardly a word is said about the development of the good southern areas where there is useful rainfall, which have to provide money before any northern development can occur.
I should like the Minister to tell me how much money the Commonwealth has expended by way of assistance for the Chowilla Dam. The River Murray Commission is under the control of the Commonwealth Government. We hear a lot about the good work done by the Snowy Mountains Authority, which comes under the control of the Department of National Development. I should like to know what officers of tha Authority have been sent to South Australia to inquire into the Chowilla Dam project, what reports they have made as to the feasibility or otherwise of the dam, cost of construction, salinity and some of the other problems associated with it. Has the River Murray Commission ever decided to go a little further and see to the tributaries of the Murray? We have heard a great deal about salinity. This matter has cropped up only in the last year to two. The Commonwealth is m joint partner with the States in the Chowilla Dam project. Can the Minister give me any idea whether an investigation of salinity has been made? What do the present critics say about salinity? They say that we can have storage on the upper reaches of the catchment area. That is fair enough. The water will go down to the Hume Dam. I am informed that the water at present in the Hume is of the quality required for irrigation. But it is said that when this water gets down as far as Chowilla there is an increase in salinity.
Has this matter been investigated? How much more advantageous would it be to store water in the upper reaches, then let it go down to Hume and then to Chowilla where it will have salinity? It is said that the construction of the Chowilla Dam would lead to an increase in the salinity of the water available. This does not seem to me to make sense. Irrigation from the tributaries of the Murray is at present going on. After water has been used for irrigation salinity occurs in the residue. This water .is drawn back by . gravitation to the River Murray and this leads to greater salinity between the Hume and Chowilla. If the River Murray Commission could prevent this residue of water re-entering the Murray by having it pumped away into poundage ponds for evaporation, salinity would be reduced a great deal.
A dam at Chowilla is an absolute must as far as Australia is concerned. We hear a lot of nonsense talked about praying for rain. Let us dam more and pray less. The best place for a dam is at Chowilla. We could do ali sorts of things with the water. Let us conserve our water. We battled here to get the Chowilla project through. All South Australians battled for it. We had the best experts to advise us. It was not easy to get the Chowilla project through this chamber and the other place for South Australia.
I get sick and tired of the talk about this wonderful place, Queensland, about the northern areas and their great resources, of the untold benefits they can provide, but not one of these members is prepared figuratively to take off his coat and show by example how to really develop Queensland. They refer to poor old South Australia as the crow eaters, starved, hungry, lean and miserable. They tell us we can work and save but for generosity give them money so they can sit down, watch the sugar cane grow and enjoy all the beauty and the wealth of Queensland. It is nearly time representatives in this chamber of these rich and wealthy States thought a great deal about South Australia. At least give us a little water so we can have a drink. We do not want anything else, just something to drink, something to wash ourselves in, and something with which we can grow a little produce so that we in our turn can provide the means whereby these wealthy northern and north western areas may be developed. I should like to know what is to be done about Chowilla.
– After listening to Senator Mattner the only water I can supply is tears. He has made me cry at the thought of South Australia and its poverty. I always look at it as one of the most stable and rich areas in Australia, but that does not say that it will not be assisted in respect of Chowilla. Under Division No. 340, subdivision 3, item 01, an amount of $7,000 is provided for administration expenses only. The Commonwealth contribution is one-quarter of the total. The subdivision covers the Commonwealth’s share, $315,000, which is one-quarter, of the total capital costs projected. Expenditure on Chowilla to date is $772,000, of which the Commonwealth has paid onequarter.
I turn now to the provision for postage, telegrams and telephone services in item 03 of subdivision 2 of Division No. 348, which covers the Forestry and Timber Bureau. Senator Cant raised this matter. The new Forestry Research Institute building was completed in Canberra in June 1967. A new telephone system had to be installed. The installation costs will be some $30,000, which accounts largely for the increase this year. The increases in post and telephone charges are provided for also in this item. By far the biggest part of the $42,000 increase in the appropriation - that is, $30,000 - is attributable to the installation of the telephone system in the new Forestry Research Institute.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I wish to refer to the River Murray Commission under Division No. 340 in Document A and to expenditure under the River Murray Waters Act under Division No. 932 in Document B and to follow up what Senator Mattner said about the Chowilla Dam project. I do not want to belabour this question, because, as the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) said, it was discussed in this chamber on an earlier occasion. However, I believe that two points arise from the remarks made by Senator Mattner, lt seemed to me that he was raising the general plea that this project and the need for adequate water supplies for South Australia might be the subject of special consideration again by the Commonwealth Government. I understood him also to be putting on record his own view of the importance of this matter. I suggest that this Government consider making available facilities for a meeting between Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, the other Premiers concerned and the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) as proposed in the South Australian Parliament.
When this matter was being discussed in the Senate, I asked whether agreement had been reached about a meeting between the South Australian Premier and the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). Senator Henty, as the Minister representing the Prime Minister, asked me to put the question on notice, which I did. I received the Prime Minister’s reply yesterday. He stated:
I told the Premier that I felt that the River Murray Commission’s decision to defer the Chowilla project until further investigations have been carried out was the only one open to it. The estimated cost had increased enormously and recent information had raised doubts on whether Ave million acre feet was an appropriate size for the storage. In addition the question of salinity (which is of such importance to South Australia) hail been one of increasing concern.
I fully acknowledged to the Premier the need for additional regulation of the River Murray to reduce the frequency and severity of future restrictions and assured him that I am aware of the importance of the river to South Australia. The Commission’s current investigations are aimed at finding means of providing this additional water at a reasonable cost in the light of the developments mentioned earlier. Well-known consultants have also been engaged to examine the salinity question.
He then referred again to his letter to Mr Dunstan and stated:
I therefore told the Premier that until we have the results of these investigations, I did not see that a meeting such as he had requested could advance the matter further.
There can be no doubt of the Commonwealth’s sympathy on this matter. Our agreement in 1962, on the basis of the information then available, to meet our share of the cost of Chowilla is ample evidence of this.
I hope that any representations that are made in this debate will be considered by the Government. I remind it that the Liberal and Country League Opposition in the South Australian Parliament supports the Premier and the State Government. The Premier is aware of the current situation, and he still maintains that it would be fruitful if he and the other Premiers concerned had a meeting with the Minister for National Development to consider all the matters relevant to the Chowilla project. What Senator Mattner has said seems to support this proposition. I support, it also. 1 want to state clearly what the position in South Australia is. In doing so, I wish to avoid the atmosphere of an urgency motion and arguments of the sort that were used in this chamber when the matter was raised as a question of urgency.
I believe that Senator Mattner made the position clear, and I think that Senator Henty indicated his attitude when he said, in effect: ‘We are prepared to accept that concern exists in South Australia about future water supplies because of the growing development of the State and the increasing requirements of industry.’ The State Government is greatly disappointed at the decision to defer construction of the Chowilla Dam for a considerable time, and its attitude is supported by the State Opposition. I have listened to debates on this subject in the State Parliament and I have also read the State Hansard reports. I have obtained no particular information from any other source. The reports in the State Hansard make it clear that there is in South Australia general concern about the need for an urgent discussion on the matter. I have read to honourable senators statements made by the Prime Minister in his answer to my question upon notice. He relies on the investigations that have been made by consultants. Some of the opinions expressed by them are based on various devices that they employ in making computer studies. I support the view adopted by not only the South Australian Government but also the Opposition in the State Parliament. They believe that in these matters much is to be gained by direct discussions between the Premiers and the responsible Commonwealth Minister.
The Prime Minister, in effect, has said: Let us wait and see how things develop. The Commonwealth will be sympathetic in the end.* But even in the face of this attitude, it might be helpful if the Minister for National Development and his Department were to provide facilities for the organising of a meeting such as the South Australian Premier has proposed. Nothing bad could come of it, and everything could be gained. Everybody knows that in both national and industrial affairs some good always comes from the direct exchange of views between important officials. For this reason, I cannot understand why the Minister for National Development, having been made aware of the views of both the South Australian Government and the Liberal and Country League Opposition in the State Parliament, has not quickly agreed to participate in a meeting of the kind proposed in order to clarify the situation and make progress towards the construction of the Dam, even in some modified form that might be proposed by the constructing authority. I hope that my remarks and those of Senator Mattner will receive due consideration from the Government and that it will be sympathetic to the proposal made by the South Australian Premier. This is not a matter of politics. It is obviously a matter of national importance with a direct bearing on the economic development and welfare of a State that is a constituent part of the framework of the Australian Commonwealth.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to:
That consideration of intervening Divisions be postponed until after consideration of the proposed expenditures for the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Works and the Department of Labour and National Service, in that order.
Department of Civil Aviation
Proposed expenditure. $48,654,000.
Proposed provision, $7,390,000.
Senator BULL (New South Wales) (2.10] - I want to refer to the development and maintenance grants for aerodromes. These matters are dealt with in Division No. 144, items 06 and 07. These grants are referred to at page 45 in the annual report of the Auditor-General, as follows:
Policy, adopted in 1958, of providing support under the Local Ownership Plan to local authorities prepared to own and operate aerodromes which serve a local rather than a national need was continued during 1966-67. The Flan provides for the Commonwealth to hand over, free of charge to local authorities, aerodromes owned by the Commonwealth and to share equally with the local authorities the costs of approved development and maintenance.
I particularly want to draw attention to the words ‘a local rather than a national need’. I think these grants are of great importance, particularly for the inland aerodromes of Australia, of which there are a great number. I would like to know how the Government and the Department of Civil Aviation decide which aerodromes serve a national need. Who determines whether there is a national need to have an aerodrome at Mount Isa, for example, at Gladstone, in the irrigation area of New South Wales, which takes in Narrandera and Leeton, at Broken Hill or like places? As the AuditorGeneral has pointed out, a great deal of money for these aerodromes is provided by local government authorities at a time when they are having a great deal of difficulty in financing their own operations.
I contacted the Department about this matter and got some figures relating to an aerodrome in which I am particularly in terested, the Narrandera-Leeton aerodrome, as an illustration. The Department told me that the local councils had provided $23,000 for maintenance over the last 7 years and that the Commonwealth had provided $35,000. I understand that the plan is to provide money on a 50-50 basis but for some reason there was a difference in this case. The development grants paid by the Commonwealth and by the councils amounted to $39,000 each. I was not given the number of years over which these sums were paid. The total contribution by the two councils concerned amounted to $62,000. Again I am not too sure of the period over which this money was provided. That information was not given to me.
I think it is time the Commonwealth accepted more of the financial obligation to provide country aerodromes, particularly when they serve the national interest. These aerodromes are just as important to the development of inland areas as the metropolitan aerodromes are to our cities. They are an enormous burden on the financial resources of local government bodies.
Will the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson), who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation in this chamber, tell me whether the Government is accepting full responsibility for establishing more aerodromes of this type than it was a few years ago? I believe that the contributions from local government bodies should be gradually phased out. I realise that they cannot be completely phased out for some years because more development is taking place each year throughout Australia and the provision of airfields is an enormous burden on the taxpayers. Where such aerodromes are serving strategic areas and are reasonably well spaced, the Commonwealth gradually could take over the responsibility for providing all of the necessary finance and phase out the contributions required from local councils. I would like the Minister, if he could, to give me some information on this subject.
– I want to refer to the subsidy for air services. I am not sure whether this subsidy is paid to Ansett-ANA or whether it is for the service to Flinders Islandand to King Island. Ansett-ANA has been paid a subsidy for providing a direct service to Melbourne from those two islands but it has now, with some justification on its part, dropped out of the running. Although I have not had official notice from the airline I understand that the average loading per trip is 5 or 6 passengers. Obviously it could not make this service pay if it used a Fokker Friendship but surely it could operate a smaller aircraft. If the Department of Civil Aviation subsidises AnsettANA on this service, surely it could subsidise the company in respect of the capital cost of a smaller aircraft. Possibly the Government could provide a VIP aircraft which could take five or six people across Bass Strait at a time. I would like the Minister to tell us whether the Government could provide a smaller aircraft for this route and also tell us of the effect of this subsidy.
The next point I want to raise could also come under the same division. It concerns Qantas Airways Ltd. The Government owns this airline and I would like to know whether it is subsidised. I think the Minister should give us a statement on the future of Qantas. I do not think it looks very rosy. There have been recent discussions about the Pacific routes and the formation of a combine with Pan-American Airways to keep fares high. Then, of course, there is the other argument that perhaps the fares are not so high. Nevertheless, the fares are extraordinarily high for the person wishing to travel on those routes. The Americans believe that fares could be lowered considerably if there is more competition. I do not think there is any doubt that very shortly either Eastern or one of the other American airlines will be given rights to traverse the South Pacific route.
I think we are trying to bolster Qantas too much. It certainly will not be able to stand on its feet when the new service to Scandinavian countries, inaugurated by the Scandinavian Airlines System - which, like Qantas, is a first class airline - commences operations. Passengers will be able to fly to Singapore, spend the night there, leave at 8 o’clock in the morning and be in Copenhagen by 4 o’clock in the afternoon. If such a service is available people will use it and Qantas will not be able to compete. If the Americans are to operate in the Pacific, Qantas again will not be able to compete. We are a small nation and the people using Qantas are, in the main, Australians. People of other nationalities use the service, of course, but if there is diversity of airlines obviously such people will choose to fly on their own national airline.
We must think in terms of survival. Australia is one of the few countries where a national airline is divorced from the internal airlines. There should be consideration given to the amalgamation of Qantas and Trans-Australia Airlines. There is no doubt that many airlines survive only because they operate internally as well as externally. I doubt whether we can afford to keep Qantas in the air in future simply for the prestige of Australia. Admittedly, Qantas does well and returns considerable sums to the Government; that is, except this year. But I think the future outlook is pretty dim. I would like to hear from the Minister on this matter.
The next point I wish to raise relates to the fact that Qantas Airways Ltd belongs to an international combine, the International Air Transport Association. It is a most peculiar combine. I asked on a Qantas aircraft why wines are not served to the economy class passengers as is done by some of the other airlines. I was told: ‘We belong to IATA.’ It seems to me to be a magnificant opportunity for an Australian company to advertise Australian wines. Australian wines could be offered to economy class passengers, but the airline is not allowed to do it because it belongs to a combine. Another ridiculous aspect which I discovered on a recent trip is that, although one-tenth of the full fare must be paid for a child passenger aged 2 years or less, one does not get very much service for the child - that may have been exceptional - and there is no luggage allowance for the child. Any grandparent or parent will appreciate the absurdity of such a position.
– Is the honourable senator referring to a child who occupies a seat or one who is nursed?
– I am referring to a child who is nursed; but one-tenth of the full fare must be paid for that child, for some reason. It is obvious to anyone who travels with a child that it is necessary to carry clothing for him, especially when changes in climate are met. I approached a representative of Qantas and was told: This is part of the IATA agreeent.’ lt is absurd, and it is time that Qantas left the IATA. 1 relate my next comment to the proposed appropriation for administrative expenses. 1 point out to the Minister that there seem to be too many cancellations of scheduled flights. In reply to questions asked by me 1 have received the usual answer that is given when one raises this subject. I have been told: ‘The safety of the passengers comes first.’ Everyone knows that. But we also know that a lot of flights are cancelled solely because of insufficient tra flic. The Minister knows that. If a question is asked about this matter we are told that safety comes first. We hope that is true, but it does not alter the fact that too many flights are cancelled when they should not be cancelled. Inconvenience is caused to the travelling public. I understand that the difference between a charter company and the commercial domestic companies is that the non-charter companies must keep to their published timetables. Otherwise they may as well operate charter flights. That is the big difference. But if the commercial airlines cannot find enough traffic for a flight they cancel it. They want it both ways. I gave an example recently. In the last 2 months four or five flights on which I wished to travel have been cancelled.
– Is the honourable senator saying that in each case there were not enough passengers?
– It is never said that that is the case and that is not the excuse that is given, but it is my belief and the belief of a lot of other people. The airlines say that the flights are cancelled because of unserviceable aircraft. They should not be unserviceable. If they are, they should be checked more often. I inquired about a scheduled flight from Melbourne to Launceston. I asked: ‘Why can I not travel on that flight?’ I was told: It is taken off this morning.’ I said: ‘You cannot do that when you have scheduled the service.’ I was told: ‘Oh yes we can. We can change our schedules every day.’ Of course they can, and the excuse is that there is something wrong with the aircraft. The fact is that the cancellations are caused by an insufficient number of passengers wanting to use a flight. The Minister should take a firm stand with the airlines on this point.
I wish now to refer to congestion on the roads to airports. It is intense but we do nothing about it. It is of no use to build big roads. Why can we not build a monorail service to our international airports and have a monorail car service operating?
– Surely that is not a Commonwealth responsibility?
– I admit that. I am not saying that it is a Commonwealth responsibility, but the Commonwealth helps the States in many ways. Assistance in this area should be part of the Commonwealth structure. It is just a suggestion that the States should set up monorail services. In Melbourne a monorail service could operate from Tullamarine to Spencer Street station. There is plenty of room for it and it could obviate waiting times at the airport. The time for the journey to the city could be reduced from half an hour to about 5 minutes. It is time that such action was taken because at present it takes more time to get to and from an airport than it takes to fly between cities.
– I think I should attempt to answer the queries currently as they arise. At the outset. I want to make it clear that I do not object to the use by members of the Committee of the traditional form of raising queries by reference to the appropriation for administrative expenses in order to speak on general matters. However, I am sure that the Committee will appreciate that in most cases it is not competent for a Minister to reply on matters touching on policy or that require information not available to the officers who attend here to advise on the estimates. 1 do hot want members of the Committee to take that to mean that I object to an expression of views on policy as it concerns a department, but I hope it will be appreciated that I would be somewhat inhibited in replying to those views.
In a moment or two I will refer to the matters raised by Senator Turnbull. Since we got off the ground with the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation on Tuesday last a lot has happened. Two or three points were raised at that time.
Senator McClelland referred to Towra Point. The facts as 1 have gleaned them will allow me to answer in a general way only, but I will put them on the record. The only area available for expansion of the present Sydney airport at Mascot is at the southern part of Botany Bay, 4 or 5 miles distant in the Towra Point area. This is a departmental expression of view. The development of Towra Point hinges on the plans of the New South Wales Government to develop the southern part of Botany Bay and on its reserving an area for eventual airport development. In the event of a site being reserved it would be unlikely for any construction to commence for many years to come. This is a plan in terms of acquisition of a site. The only alternative would be to go about 30 or 40 miles out of Sydney, whereas the present plan allows for any development to become part of the present Sydney airport complex. That is the thinking behind the plan. I understand that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) is presently considering a number of aspects of this matter. As Senator McClelland indicated, representations have been made and are being made to him in relation to the Towra Point project. I appreciate that that does not necessarily supply the answer that the honourable senator would like to receive, but at least it is factual and deals with the matter from a departmental point of view.
Senator Bishop raised a query and I will get some information for him. He may wish to ask it again, for the sake of the record, and then I will reply to it. Senator Devitt referred briefly to the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended 30th June 1967 and to receipts of the Department for 1965-66 and 1966-67. The increase of $ 1.86m between the 2 years is fully explained in the report of the AuditorGeneral. The increase of $1.86m referred to by Senator Devitt is not an estimated increase in receipts but is actually the difference in receipts between the years 1965-66 and 1966-67. When consideration of these estimates was interrupted on Tuesday Senator Devitt was referring to the fact that Qantas Airways Ltd had paid a dividend of $2.6m to Commonwealth revenue in 1966-67. Although he did not get down to making the point, I feel sure that he intended to inquire about the position relating to the payment by Qantas of a dividend. The effect of the NovemberDecember 1966 strike on the company’s finances is expected to preclude Qantas from paying any dividend in 1967-68 wilh respect to operations for the year 1966-67. It will be appreciated that the effect of this strike will not show up until the end of the year’s operations.
Senator Bull raised certain questions relating to grants for the development and maintenance of aerodromes. Here again we are dealing with a matter of policy, but the explanatory notes give some reasons for the decrease. The development grant provides for the reimbursement to local authorities of half of the cost of development works on locally-owned aerodromes and for the development of governmentowned aerodromes in process of transfer to local authorities. The present position is that 179 aerodromes and aerodromes sites, 69 of which were formerly governmentowned, are now owned and operated by 135 local authorities under the Local Ownership Plan which is described by the Director-General of Civil Aviation in this way:
The Local Ownership Plan was adopted by Cabinet in July, 1958 with the following objectives:
All suitable aerodromes serving a local rather than a national need should be owned, developed and maintained by the communities (i.e. Local Authorities), which they serve.
The Commonwealth would pay 50% of the costs of maintenance and development of those aerodromes owned by a Local Authority and operating under the Plan.
Certain Local Authorities, which hud developed aerodromes prior lo 1958 on an implied promise of ultimate acquisition by the Commonwealth, were reimbursed by the Commonwealth in 1957/58 for expenditure incurred. The ownership of these reimbursal aerodromes remained with the Local Authorities. All appropriate reimbursements have now been made.
A number of Government aerodromes have been offered free of charge as going concerns in good order and condition to Local Authorities and in some cases also to Commonwealth Railways, Missions and private stations. The total handed over is now 72, including 54 to Local Authorities. In addition four others are in the process of transfer to Local Authorities.
In order to qualify for 50% development grants a Local Ownership aerodrome must be served by a regular public transport airline service or a particularly high level of unscheduled charter operations.
New aerodromes may be developed under the Plan with 50% assistance providing a proper case can bo put forward concerning the need including a regular airline service.
Commonwealth contribution towards the development of Local Authority aerodromes from inception to 30.6.67 approximated $7. 17m. In the same period the Commonwealth has contributed $1.25m towards their maintenance.
At 30.6.67, 164 aerodromes, owned and operated by Local Authorities, were receiving assistance from the Commonwealth under the terms of the Plan.
The honourable senator also made reference to Narrandera and Leeton. All I can promise, as I have promised other honourable senators, is that wherever a particular case is drawn to my attention I shall have it investigated and furnish full information later in the debate.
Senator Turnbull referred to item 05 of Division No. 144, which relates to subsidies. My brief in relation to this merely relates to the point that the increase of $48,000 provides for extension of assistance by way of subsidy to the operators of developmental services and essential air services in rural areas. The estimated increase allows for the payment of increased subsidy to Brain and Brown Airfreighters Pty Ltd for the carriage of carcase meat. The .amount involved here is $14,000. It also includes the payment of the amount of $34,000 to Connellan Airways Ltd. This expenditure is essentially for developmental services and essentia] air services in rural areas.
The honourable senator also made reference to Ansett-ANA and the equipment policy of the airline. This is dictated by considerations of equipment installation as well as the particular needs of particular routes. He also referred to Qantas. The points to which he addressed himself are covered by an international agreement and it would not be appropriate here for me to make any observation other than that 1 shall do what I promised to do earlier - refer the matter to the Department of Civil Aviation.
Senator Turnbull also spoke of cancellations and delays. I cannot agree with his general statement that a significant number of flights are unduly delayed or cancelled. I am not referring now to happenings over the last- 24 or 48 hours which were due to an industrial dispute relating to other matters. Apart from that, we all appreciate, as I said in answer to an earlier question, that our first consideration has to be the safety of passengers. Nobody queries or challenges that. But if on arrival at an airport one finds that a flight has been cancelled and if the reason given is that the aircraft requires special attention or maintenance, one should accept that in good faith, and I am sure we all do. All I can say to the honourable senator is that if at any time he is not satisfied with the explanation given to him in circumstances such as that I am quite certain that if he refers the matter to me, or approaches the Department of Civil Aviation direct, a satisfactory explanation will be furnished.
These delays do cause inconvenience not only to honourable senators but to people in the business community who have entered into certain commitments. I have found it inconvenient at times when I have wanted to travel between Melbourne and Sydney, or Melbourne and Tasmania, and so on. This has been especially so when f have sought to take advantage of the commuter services early in the morning in an endeavour to reach another city before the normal hour of starting business, l t is indeed distressing, but I would emphasise that the airline companies are in business to make a profit. There is no deliberate disruption-
-(Senator DrakeBrockman). - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I refer to Division No. 144 - Development of Civil Aviation - and particularly item 05 which relates to subsidy paid on account of air services. The Minister, when replying to Senator Turnbull, did not give us a breakdown of the subsidy but I notice some information on this aspect on page 45 of the Auditor-General’s report which indicates that Ansett-ANA is to receive a subsidy of $145,480; the Ansett flying boat service a subsidy of $101,200 - to the best of my knowledge only Lord Howe Island is served by the flying boat service so it is costing $2,000 a week to serve Lord Howe Island - Airlines of New South Wales is to receive $40,000; Connellan Airways $400,000 which is an increase of some $120,000 on the subsidy paid last year; East-West Airlines is to receive $26,000; Mac Robertson Miller Airlines $356,320; Trans-Australia Airlines $231,000 and Brain and Brown Airfreighters $6,000. Substantially more than one-half of the total subsidy of $1,306,000 is to go to Connellan Airways and MacRobertson Miller Airlines both of which, we understand, are serving developmental areas and pioneering districts.
If the Minister does not have the information available now, will he give us later a breakdown of the subsidy of more than $145,000 paid to Ansett-ANA and $231,000 paid to TAA? In respect of which routes in which States are the subsidies paid? I refer now to item 04 ‘Ground facilites in Pacific - Contribution towards cost $300,000’. I know that Australia has contributed some $5m towards the cost of the Nadi Airport. To what other places in the Pacific is the contribution directed?
– I refer to Division No. 135 - Adminisstrative and Operational - and Division No. 144 - Development of Civil Aviation. When Senator Turnbull asked the Minister about the construction of a monorail one of his Tasmanian colleagues interjected and said that that was a State matter. Instead of monorails - they are now termed rapid transit’ - most overseas countries are now postulating two-rail systems. The provision of a terminal inside an airport is a matter for the Commonwealth, and even though the Minister did not reply to Senator Turnbull consideration should be given to this matter in case monorails ultimately become a method of transport.
It would be quite acceptable to have a monorail or rapid transit system in Melbourne where the Government is constructing the Tullamarine Airport with the intention, I believe, of making it, not Sydney, Australia’s future international airport. The position in Sydney is different. KingsfordSmith Airport can be approached from all quarters and most people travel to the airport by car. lt is questionable, therefore, whether a rapid transit system from the heart of the city of Sydney to the terminal would be worthwhile. I suggest that the Government consider the provision of land for the construction of rapid transit terminals if that method of transport is introduced. It has not been extraordinarily successful overseas.
Why has Queensland been so badly neglected? 1 am not being parochial; I am merely pointing out that the Brisbane terminal is worse than any other in Australia. Let me detail what has happened in Queensland. Bilinga Airport serves Coolangatta and the south coast. The Brisbane terminal is a disgrace when compared with the terminals in other capital cities. Perth has the most modern airport in Australia because a former Minister for Civil Aviation was a senator from Western Australia. I am not being biased when 1 say that he saw the need for a modern terminal and he realised that Perth should have priority because he came from Western Australia. I would not adopt that kind of approach. The terminal buildings at Brisbane are igloos which were built during the war. I am not claiming that ground facilities are not up to standard but when one looks at the airport overall the view is dreadful. Only last year the Commonwealth Government was forced to spend $40,000 to provide some facilities and amenities for international travellers who are holed up there when planes cannot land in Sydney.
Further north a terminal is being built at Mount Isa. Mackay Airport is disgraceful although it has a much greater inflow and outflow of passengers than has Rockhampton where a modern terminal has been built. I am not denying the right of Rock.hamptonites to a modern terminal but apparently it was built when the Capricornia electorate was represented by a Liberal. Labor now holds that seat and is likely to hold it for many years. There is a notice Do not stand here’ on the roof of the Townsville terminal building, the inference being that one is likely to fall through if he does so. The Cairns terminal is little better, lt meets present needs but it is not modern. Bilinga and Brisbane Airports are particularly bad, Mackay is dreadful and Townsville is shocking. I should like the Minister to give us some information about those terminals. Other matters should receive attention. I do not claim that the food served by airlines is inferior but it is badly cooked and not very often delightfully served. I am not selecting one service as against another. I will not raise the matter of late departures. Those things occur but they seem to occur very frequently these days. As Senator Gair pointed out to me on one occasion, the airlines have a record apologising for the late departure of aircraft and they play it when the occasion arises.
One important aspect is the operation of parallel timetables. An inter-departmental committee was set up some time ago to inquire into this matter but the Government characteristically has not supplied us with a copy of the report if one has been submitted. We waited for a very long time for the Loder report on transport costs in the north. We have never received a report on the construction of beef roads or a report following inquiries by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics into the Nogoa scheme. The Committee surely must have finished its inquiries into parallel timetables and have submitted its report to the Government. Surely it should be made available to honourable senators, to members of another place and to the public so that we can learn whether parallel timetables are necessary, whether they serve the interests of the public and whether the airlines concerned would suffer financial disabilities if parallel timetables were eliminated.
I refer also to the reduction of services. Many country towns in Queensland are being deprived of air services. Is this because the Government is not prepared to pay reasonable subsidies to Ansett-ANA, TAA or any other company which wishes to serve those areas? We know that commuter services are being established but they will probably be run on a haphazard timetable designed to give the best financial return, leaving a particular town at a particular time to suit the convenience of the greatest number of travellers. I say that if the Government believes in decentralisation and if it is going to pay tribute to the rights of the people who see fit to settle in the outback and so serve the interests of those people who live in metropolitan areas or the bigger cities, then the Government must see that due regard is paid to their basic human rights and to the rights of their children. Apparently this Government is not concerned one iota with those rights.
Only recently we have found that air services in Queensland are being curtailed. Even in the north the reasonable service operated by Trans-Australia Airlines between Townsville and Mount Isa is being curtailed. No night landing facilities are Available at Mount Isa. If the service is running late, it bypasses Richmond. If it does not bypass Richmond then it bypasses Julia Creek. The mail, parcels and passengers go on to Mount Isa and are returned to their destinations the next day or the day after that. The convenience of the passengers is not considered by the Government. Yet the people affected are the very people who play a real part in earning overseas credits which contribute to the standard of living of those people who are fortunate enough to live in our capital or major cities. The Federal Government seems to have no concern for those people at all.
The question of the ownership of aerodromes was mentioned by Senator Lawrie. He referred to aerodromes that had been handed over to local authorities and to local authorities which are being encouraged to consider ownership or taking over control of aerodromes in their areas. Frankly, I was not opposed to this idea originally. What is ultimately going to happen is that a greater measure of power will be held in Canberra and less power will be vested in the States. We will then find, even if it means an amalgamation of authorities, greater autonomy vested in the process of time in our local authorities, with a better serving of local interests and a recognition of the rights of the people who live in those areas. Ultimately, this is inevitable, I think. But if the Government is going to take away air services it. cannot at the same time ask these people to assume the financial burden of their own aerodromes. This is what is happening. One concrete case in which the Department of Civil Aviation is not adamant but persistent is in relation to the aerodrome at Charters Towers. Other areas in Queensland are involved also. As was mentioned by the Minister, since 1958 a number of local authorities have assumed the control and ownership of aerodromes. This has been subject to the control exercised by the Department of Civil Aviation in relation to airline precautions, the safety of passengers and aircraft landing, and so on.
The Government cannot expect the local authorities to assume ownership and responsibility for the aerodromes where, when it comes to maintenance, the Department of Civil Aviation has control and can say whether or not it grants licences. The Department requires local authorities to find 50% of the cost of establishing such facilities and also requires local authorities to do such work as it orders. If this is not done, the aerodrome can be de-licensed for commercial purposes or for any other purpose, incidentally. How can the Government ask these people to take over ownership or to assume ownership and financial responsibility of these aerodromes if in the process of time the airline companies that may be established or serve the area concerned - be they TAA, Ansett-ANA or any other company - say that they will not service those aerodromes? How can the Government ask representative groups to assume these financial responsibilities when the facilities may be taken from them?
I am asking these questions because they are of practical importance. They represent the approach of ordinary people to a reasonable problem in relation, we might say, to their transit to an aerodrome or their transit from an aerodrome and concerning the financial responsibilities that they may assume. Why is it that the Government is not so interested in ordinary people? Why has it not made available to the public the report on parallel airline timetables? I am not in a position to speak in relation to airline terminals in each State of Australia in general. I have seen a number of them. I understand that even now the Government is prepared to spend hundred thousands of dollars to meet the demands of Adelaide which has not an international terminal. As I have said, Perth has a particularly modern terminal. Melbourne is to have a terminal worth over $30m.
– Is not Perth entitled to its terminal?
– I have spoken about Perth. I know that Perth is entitled to its terminal. I said that, Senator Cant. I do not deny the right of people to a thing if they are entitled to it. All I say is that the State from which I come, Queensland, has long been neglected by this Commonwealth Government and I just cannot understand how the Government can be so irresponsible and so neglectful in its approach to the legitimate rights of my people.
– Senator Lawrie adverted to Division No. 144 - Development of Civil Aviation and referred to item 05, Air services - Subsidy. He requested a break-up in more significant terms than is provided in the report of the Auditor-General of the subsidy paid to airline service operators. I will endeavour to get that information and make it available to the honourable senator and to any other honourable senator who wants it. Senator Lawrie referred also under the item - Ground facilities in Pacific - Contribution towards cost. The explanatory information that I have indicates that the appropriation provides for the payment to the New Zealand Government of Australia’s share of an approved programme of work to be performed by SPATC, which is the South Pacific Air Transport Council. Member governments of this Council contribute for the provision, maintenance and operation of ground facilities of United Kingdom territories in the Pacific. Australia’s contribution, along with the contributions of other member governments, has enabled the development of Nandi Airport to modern aircraft standards. Australia’s international airline, Qantas, is one of the principal users of this airport which has been developed for trans-Pacific services. Expenditure under this head is incurred mainly at Nandi Airport, Fiji, and this amount has decreased in the estimates to $36,926.
Senator Dittmer referred to various points that were raised by Senator Turnbull. Before my time expired when I was last on my feet, I had begun to make reference to mono rail services. That was a good general observation which I and everybody else took on board. The provision of transport facilities to airports is one of the major problems to the industry. The present situation, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, is that huge sums will be spent by State governments on the provision of access for transport to our major airports. I assume that the same thing is happening in other major cities. If I may introduce a personal element into the debate, I point out that I live in a suburb of Sydney. Because of transport problems, it takes me longer to get from my home to the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport than it does for me to fly between that airport and Canberra. Yet I am living in a normal suburban area within 10 miles of the city. This is another of the problems that we need to bear in mind.
– Rapid transit will not solve the problem.
– No. But if we are to have, as we expect in the forseeable future, expressways feeding our airports, a tremendous contribution will be made towards the solving of this problem. We all recognise that this problem is world wide. Those honourable senators who have been overseas and observed the airports at London, New York and other big cities will know that this problem is not peculiar to Australia. Senator Dittmer made some further quite interesting observations relating to Division No. 135 - Administrative and Operational. These remarks will be noted and analysed. I hope that in the fullness of time the honourable senator will receive some replies from the Department of Civil Aviation.
The only other thing I wish to do now is to refer to a point with which I was dealing when I was beaten by the gong, so to speak. I said that the airline companies were in business for profit. The next thing I was going to say was that this profit was consistent with the service to the community. 1 believe that the two airline policy which the Government has followed in Australia has provided a good service to the country bearing in mind the geography of Australia and the huge distances that we must cover. Although it has to be admitted and acknowledged that there are difficulties in providing these services, nevertheless I believe that aviation is providing an excellent service to the community. That is not to say that there is not always the opportunity to make valid criticism as we do in this place m the hope that certain weaknesses that may occur from time to time can be remedied.
– I refer to Division No. 135. 1 wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the Civil Aviation Report 1966-67, particularly the section on page 2 under the heading ‘Timetables Inquiry’. Senator Dittmer has mentioned this subject already. I consider that the interdepartmental inquiry that was instituted about a year ago was one of the most important and significant inquiries set up by the Department of Civil
Aviation or any other department. Honourable senators will recall that there was a good deal of discussion in this chamber on the duplication of timetables and the way in which the aircraft of both operators left capital cities at precisely the same time and arrived at other capital cities also at precisely the same time. After good deal of pressure in this chamber, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) decided to set up this committee.
When I became aware that the committee was coming to Adelaide I sought permission to present my views to it.. I compliment the Minister on the high standard of the men who were selected to be on the committee. They obviously were interested in all the evidence that they heard and discussions that they had in Adelaide. But I detected that they were rather disappointed that more people had not gone along to present their views in view of the fact that there was a good deal of pressure in South Australia for improvements at the Adelaide Airport.
– That applied elsewhere, too.
– Yes. However. I spent a very interesting half-hour with the committee. 1 offered my views and learned from it some of the matters that were being discussed in connection with Adelaide.
When in the Parliamentary Library a few weeks ago I was very interested to read the report of the committee, lt was on the table in the Library for honourable members and senators to read. So interested in it was I that I asked the Library authorities to give me a photostat copy of the portion of the report that referred to South Australia. But when I went for my photostat copy I was told that the report was a secret document and should not have been on the table in the Library. I assure honourable senators that it was an excellent report. It was obvious that the gentlemen on the committee had applied themselves to the problem. The report was of tremendous value. So I suggest to the Minister that the report be made available to honourable members and senators. 1 understand that it might have been put on the table in the Library by mistake. But there it was on the table and 1 read it. I compliment the Department on the excellence of the report
I do not believe that it had on it any mark to indicate that it was secret, confidential or anything like that. It was factual and, I thought, to the point.
I am mentioning this matter because there is a summary of the interdepartmental committee’s report on page 2 of the Civil Aviation Report. That summary states:
The Committee of experts appointed in April 1966 to inquire into timetables and other related problems finished its investigations during the year. The Committee visited all States and PapuaNew Guinea and interviewed or talked to about 250 people and representative groups . . .
The Committee’s recommendations dealt with fundamental issues of public interest, effective competition between the airlines and the provision and use of airport facilities. The recommendations have been given to the airlines. Some have been introduced already in whole or in part. These include a progressive spreading of nights throughout the day-
That was the point that we all were stressing in this chamber -
Other recommendations included greater use of computers to devise new timetables and to streamline bookings and frequent inter-airline timetable reviews.
I consider that the details of the interdepartmental committee’s report are of great importance to the Parliament. A summary of it has been presented to us in the Civil Aviation Report. Our appetites for it have been whetted. I believe that it would be logical and fair to the Parliament for the Minister for Civil Aviation to consider making it available for honourable members and senators to read.
The matter of airline timetables is of tremendous importance. The timetables are printed, say, towards the end of one month and operate as from the beginning of the next month. People gear their work to fit in with those timetables. But then they discover that the aircraft do not run. There is no question of the aircraft being laid up for servicing. I consider that the airlines print the timetables irresponsibly. The aircraft do not run although according to the timetables they are to leave at certain times. The whole matter of timetabling is of fundamental interest and importance to the people of Australia. This interdepartmental committee has reported on it. The Civil Aviation Report shows in the broad the subjects dealt with by the committee. I consider that a good deal of the disquiet in the business community concerning the timetables would be alleviated if the committee’s report could be made public and if honourable senators were kept in touch with what the Department is doing to give effect to that report. I am sorry that I have to speak in this fashion. But I really believe that the Department of Civil Aviation needs to keep abreast of the times and of public opinion in Australia as it was gauged by this high level and very expert committee.
– I wish to discuss the item ‘Aerodromes and buildings - Maintenance materials and services’ in subdivision 2 of Division No. 135. Before doing so I say that we in Australia are very fortunate to have a department such as the Department of Civil Aviation which has such high standards of air safety. They are among the highest standards of air safety in the world. In travelling in other countries I have missed very much the safety precautions taken by our Department of Civil Aviation. I am certain that some of the aircraft that are flown overseas would not be passed as airworthy by our Department.
We have an excellent air terminal in Perth. It is regarded as one of the very best in Australia. Out of deference to the memory of my late colleague, Senator Sir Shane Paltridge, I point out that that terminal and airport came into being not because he was a Western Australian but because in the year it was opened Perth was the host city for the Commonwealth Games and he was determined to have the very best front door for the reception of overseas visitors arriving by air. We already had one of the best seaport terminals in Australia. So it was decided that the airport should not lag behind. Therefore Perth got an excellent aerodrome at that time.
I come now to the point that I wish to raise with the Minister. I raised it at that time with the late Sir Shane Paltridge and I have raised it from time to time since. Although vast sums of money were expended on this aerodrome, very few facilities were made available for women travellers who have to spend some time at the airport. Some of our overseas airliners arrive in Perth in the early hours of the morning. Between 2.30 a.m. and 3.30 a.m.
Is a favourable time for the arrival of overseas aircraft. That would not do for Melbourne. As a result, passengers have to wait around the aerodrome for some time before their connecting flights leave for the eastern States. Facilities, such as rest rooms for women travellers in particular, are very limited. After I raised this matter with a former Minister for Civil Aviation a little lounge was placed in the mothers’ rest room and nursery, but any mother who used this lounge would have to be like Twiggy. It was not built for anybody else. That is the only rest room facility.
Often 1 have to wait at airports for 2 or 3 hours to get a connecting flight. I get into Melbourne from Perth at a quarter to 6 or 6 o’clock in the morning and I have to wait until 8 o’clock to get a connecting aircraft to Canberra. At times 1 have had to wait for 4 hours for a connecting aircraft. Very modern seats have been provided al the Melbourne airport, but they are not built so that people of my build can relax for those 4 hours. Quite recently, because of a delay in aircraft connections I had to wait at the Sydney airport for 24 hours. There again facilities are very poor for women - particularly those who are not well or who aTe elderly - who have to wait for connecting flights. I hope that consideration will be given to the provision of a women’s lounge in any future airport buildings that are constructed, lt would not be toe difficult to set aside a small portion of the buildings for such a purpose.
The congestion at the Adelaide airport is terrific. Sometimes two, three or four planes arrive at the same time. The toilet facilities for women are most inadequate. In the interests of health and ordinary common decency something more should be done at the Adelaide airport to provide adequate toilet facilities for women, lt may appear to honourable senators that this matter is not very important in the general scheme of things when we are dealing with a Department that is spending up to $48m a year, but attention to the smaller details is vitally necessary for the comfort of passengers, particularly those who travel long distances.
As 1 have said quite recently I was on an aircraft that was delayed in Sydney for 1 hours quite late at night. I looked around to see where my fellow travellers were but I could not find them. I thought that I had missed my connecting aircraft, as happens in the best of circles. Some honourable senators in this chamber have missed the call announcing the departure of their aircraft. As I said, when I looked around I could not see any of my colleagues from the west. When I inquired whether the plan for Canberra had left I was told that it had not and that there was still an hour or so to go. I discovered that my fellow travellers had found refuge in a private room which is provided for VIPs.
I happened to be the only Labor member on the plane. I do not know whether it was just coincidence or not, but during this long delay I took pot luck with everybody else while certain people were being entertained. If it is all right to entertain VIPs during these delays, at every airport a room should be set aside for women who have to sit around in these draughty terminals for hours while awaiting the next aircraft. It is not a case of sour grapes. I am referring to what should be the ordinary and decent thing. For the last 10 years at least I have been frying to get the Department to arrange for the spending of a small amount of money at the various airports in order to give a little bit of comfort to women, particularly those who travel very long distances at very inconvenient hours.
– I refer to Division No. 144, item 06 - Aerodromes - Development grant. The Minister referred to the number of aerodromes in Australia that had been taken over by local governments under the joint Commonwealth-local government scheme, but he did not refer to them State by State. I would be glad if he would do that. I am fairly certain that none of the aerodromes in Tasmania, that are used continuously for interstate services have been taken over by local governments. To me that is easily explained. Although local governments all over Australia are impoverished, I believe that those in Tasmania are more impoverished than those in any other State. From my experience, those in Tasmania are simply not in a position to enter into the financial commitments necessary under this Commonwealth-local government ownership scheme.
I know that it is a matter of policy and of interpretation of policy, but I am interested in how the Department of Civil Aviation interprets this local, as distinct from national, need. About 2 years ago the Department of Civil Aviation constructed very up to date airport buildings in Launceston. They are probably among the most up to date buildings in the Commonwealth. The Department did a good job there. I say: ‘Good luck to the Launceston people.’ On the north-west coast there is another aerodrome from which, in the main, planes fly to Melbourne. Just as they fly from Launceston to Melbourne. Aircraft from both aerodromes operate to Melbourne and, of course, other airports further on. But when the Devonport council proposed to the Department of Civil Aviation that something should be done for its aerodrome - I might say that at the most the conditions at that aerodrome are primitive - it was told, fairly forcefully, that it should adopt this Commonwealth-local government ownership scheme.
From letters that I have read in the Press, 1 believe I am correct in saying that the Department of Civil Aviation has stood four square on that proposition. In effect it has said: ‘If you want anything done you have simply got to enter into this scheme and contribute towards the cost of the aerodrome yourself.’ This has caused considerable heartburning in Devonport. One aerodrome in one part of the State is serving the same city, namely Melbourne, as is another aerodrome in another part of the State. The Commonwealth Government has stepped in and has provided a remarkably fine terminal at Launceston. I give it credit for that. It has done a wonderful job.
– What is the population of Launceston?
– Sixty thousand people. But when Devonport, whose aerodrome caters for interstate flights, made an application it was told, quite forcefully, that it was about time it tried a bit of self help. I am interested to know how the Department interprets this local, as distinct from national, need which is referred to in the Auditor-General’s report. I know local government in Tasmania pretty well. I was connected with it for many years. Almost the only revenues that accrue to it come from rates paid by property owners. I suppose that situation pertains over most of the Commonwealth. But the Tasmanian
Government has foisted upon local authorities many responsibilities which do not properly belong to them. This is one reason why they are in such a position that they simply cannot enter into any financial commitments in respect of the development of aerodromes.
I should like to know precisely what is the position in regard to other aerodromes. One local authority makes application and is provided with an up to date airport. Another makes application in regard to an aerodrome which is serving precisely the same purpose and is told that it is about time it tried a bit of self help. It is a matter of interpretation. If we are to differentiate between one centre and another, it is no wonder that the people in Devonport are demanding a meeting and are up in arms.
– I refer to Division No. 135, subdivision 2, items 13 and 14, which relate to maintenance of aerodromes and buildings and airways facilities. I am concerned with arrangements for car parking at Adelaide Airport. As the Minister knows, I have raised this matter on two occasions. On the first occasion I pointed out that there had been rumours of some arrangement to give the car parking facilities to a concessionaire. This raised the matter of whether parking inspectors employed by the Department of Civil Aviation were to be retained. Later, construction work started and then the concessionaire took over the parking facilities. Can the Minister tell me the amount of money that was spent on the construction and extension of the new parking area, which has been taken over by the private concessionaire? As a result of this development some employees were shifted. They were not retrenched. By making representations I was able to have them retained in other positions in the Department.
The second point relates to congestion. The new parking arrangements have by no means improved the position for the motorist. During recent weekends many motorists have complained that they have been held up for longer than they required to be at the airport and were charged for the amount of time they spent waiting to get out of the airport parking area. Motorists are required to clock in on a device that lifts an arm. The exit lanes have not been modified or re-arranged and they pass the airport terminal. Vehicles picking up and depositing passengers in front of the terminal cause congestion, so motorists have to do the round’s. Many thousands of dollars have been spent on the re-arrangement but the position has not been improved. Congestion on particular days has resulted. The exit lanes are not satisfactory. The fact that motorists have to wait to get out of the area is an imposition. Parking fees have been increased. On many occasions, a motorist who wants to leave the airport after picking up or dropping passengers has to wait, according to statements in the Press, from 15 to 20 minutes.
I understand that the matter has been investigated, that the Minister has looked at it and a reply is available. I should like him to state what re-arrangements will be made and what constructional alterations are proposed to alter this bottleneck and how much money has been spent in setting up this new arrangement which in my opinion is a backward step. It seems good sense for the Department to run its own parking facilities. We had retained the three employees whom it was proposed to retrench when the concessionaire took over. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) advised me in reply to a question on notice that the matter was being watched. Will the present arrangement for the operation of the parking facilities by the concessionaire be permanent or temporary? Will the situation be reviewed after 12 months or 2 years?
– Senator Laught referred, under Division No. 135, to the timetable inquiry. As he cited accurately and completely the reference to this matter in the Civil Aviation report, I shall not read it again. His comments about seeing the report of the interdepartmental committee in the Parliamentary Library and then, as a very devoted senator, going back to increase his knowledge and finding that the report was not supposed to be there, are of interest to us all. I shall raise the matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) and pass on the honourable senator’s request, which I am sure is made in the name of all senators, that the document be presented for everyone to see. I have no doubt that he was not the only one to go to the
Library and read the document in part or in whole.
Senator Tangney referred to items 13 and 14 of subdivision 2 of Division No. 135, which relate to aerodromes, buildings and facilities. She has in previous debates on the Estimates raised the question of rest room facilities, not only at Perth but also at other airports, particularly for in transit passengers, with special regard to the needs of mothers with babies and other persons who want to Test for a variety of reasons whilst they are at airports. I understood that as a direct result of her representations some facilities at Perth had been improved. I shall bring the matter again to the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation.
Senator Lillico referred to developmental grants for aerodromes under item 06 of Division No. 144. I do not know whether the honourable senator was present earlier when this matter was raised by Senator Lawrie. Senator Lillico now asks for a break-up of the figures State by State. I shall endeavour to get this, also the departmental determination of the criteria used to separate what might be described as local aerodromes from inter-city aerodromes for the purposes of grants. I have asked my officers to provide any information that is available and they are trying to do so. In any event, we shall get a departmental or ministerial comment on that issue. Senator Bishop referred to conditions at Adelaide airport as also, I think, did Senator Tangney. I understand that extensions to the building are under consideration and that in fact a reference has been made to the Public Works Committee.
– We members of the Committee would have been happy to have the honourable senator as a witness.
– I gather that in accordance with the processes which are very well known to many distinguished senators who have sat on the Committee, evidence is currently being taken, the result of which will eventually find expression in a report to the Parliament.
– Will that Committee be like the Australian Capital Territory Committee?
– If, with the indulgence of the Chairman, I may be permitted to digress, I would say that the Public
Works Committee is probably the major committee of the Parliament. Some of its members have been very distinguished persons, and it has never had any difficulty in disregarding Party affiliations. I am not suggesting, of course, that difficulties of this kind arise with other committees. The Public Works Committee is in many ways a unique committee that performs a very valuable service for the Parliament and the Australian community.
Senator Bishop raised the question of the parking facilities at the Adelaide airport and asked for a breakup of the expenditure on them. I have not that information, but I shall certainly get it. He asked also about the circumstances in which a private entrepreneur had been allowed to take over the control of the parking facilities. I understand that this has been done on a 3-year contract. As with all contracts, at the expiry of the term, the whole policy will come under review, and this will occur periodically. This fact, however, will not inhibit the Department of Civil Aviation from exercising its right to insist that the operation of the contract be scrutinised. I am informed that the present contract was entered into about a fortnight ago.
On the first Sunday after the private contractor took control, I am told, there occurred a number of delays in getting vehicles out of the car park. The honourable senator, I think, directed my attention to that privately. This happened because the contractor had not expected the unduly large number of cars that arrived that day. I understand that in Adelaide it is a favourite Sunday afternoon occupation to go to the Airport to see the activities there. I almost used the phrase ‘all the people from the east coming and going*. I think we all know that great numbers of people who are not themselves travelling go to airports to see passengers and aircraft coming and going, and often considerable congestion occurs on Sunday afternoons in the areas used by these visitors. The contractor who controls the parking areas at the Adelaide Airport, on the first Sunday after he obtained the contract had in attendance a staff inadequate for the expeditious handling of the rather large number of cars that arrived. He has now taken steps to ensure that this does not happen again, and reports given to me by officers of the Department of Civil Aviation indicate that the parking areas are now operating satisfactorily. If it is thought at any time in the future that some improvement should be made, anybody who is interested can bring the matter to the attention of the Department and it will be raised with the contractor. I shall deal later with the other matters that have been raised.
– I want to deal with maintenance materials and services for aerodromes and buildings and for airways facilities, which are provided for in items 14 and 15 under subdivision 2 of Division No. 135, with particular reference to air transport operations based on Adelaide. A good many honourable senators have been associated in pressing the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) about the situation at the terminal building at the Adelaide Airport. We recognise that it is to be extended, but I express again my disappointment at the fact that already some additions to a temporary building are being made. The original plan, of course, was for a terminal building on another site at the Adelaide Airport. The’ Minister for Civil Aviation has said that after a specified number of years construction of a permanent building will be considered, and I hope that the present temporary one will not have a considerable degree of permanence.
I want also to take up the point that was made earlier about air timetables. I ask the Minister to take note of the representations that have been made on this matter, particularly with reference to Adelaide. This centre is a junction point for services from the north, the east and the west. Naturally, with the departure early in the morning of services designed to allow South Australians to take advantage of the business hours in the eastern States, there, is considerable congestion. I hope that note has been taken of another factor also. We now have in this country a number of fast jet aircraft operating side by side with slower machines. As a consequence one may travel from A to B by jet and arrive 1) or 2 hours before the departure of a connecting service. Under the timetables formerly arranged for operations very largely by Viscount aircraft, onward movement was much more convenient. I trust that the Department will consider this matter carefully in relation to the overall timetable arrangements.
My final point relates to the situation at Adelaide when the Tullamarine Airport at Melbourne comes into use. Travellers from the east to Adelaide at present have the advantage of the jet service from Melbourne through Adelaide to Perth. When the Tullamarine Airport comes into use, jet aircraft will be able to carry fuel loads that will enable them to fly direct from there to Perth. This development undoubtedly will influence the kind of aircraft used and the timetables adopted for services between the eastern States and Adelaide. I trust that travellers on the sector between the east and Adelaide will not be penalised when direct jet services from Melbourne to Perth are introduced. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation will note the weight, strength and frequency of repetition of expressions of opinion, both publicly and in the Parliament, in relation to the three matters that I have mentioned.
- Mr Chairman, I refer to Aerodromes and buildings - Maintenance materials and services, under subdivision 2 of Division No. 135. I have prepared a list of questions that I would like answered. To make matters easier for the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) I shall read those questions to him at the conclusion of my remarks so that he may then take a note of them. I want to discuss country aerodromes, particularly in Queensland, where, unfortunately, in the far west and the north west, and even in some coastal areas, airstrips have earth surfaces, and an inch of rain or even much less sometimes puts them completely out of commission. In that State of vast distances, air services frequently provide the only means of transportation from one point to another. This may be provided by regular, scheduled services, by charter or by light aircraft privately operated. I wish to mention particularly the situation in the Mount Isa region. On a recent morning when I was there, I saw about fifteen light aircraft lined up. The situation at the Mount Isa aerodrome is good, but those machines have to make flights to many places where only rough earth strips exist. The provision for this item in the current financial year is very little more than that of last financial year. I wonder whether funds could be pared from some other item so that additional money could be made available for tha construction and maintenance of country airstrips and the provision of necessary facilities at them.
I now turn to the problems of places at which even light aircraft are not able to land, because local airstrips do not exist. One in particular is Thursday Island. Probably all honourable senators are not aware that the normal commercial air service to that island terminates at Horn Island. It is possible that the topography of Thursday Island does not permit the building of an aerodrome for a commercial airline. However, the local people assure me that there is an ideal spot on the island suitable for the landing of light aircraft and there are a lot of light aircraft used in this area.
I asked a question in the Senate about 18 months ago about money which was to be spent at the terminal at my home port of Townsville. The money was spent but we still have the old terminal. The kiosk is built between two sets of toilets. It is not in a good location at all. Something like 150,000 people fly into and out of that airport each year. It is one of the larger airports in Australia but the congestion in the terminal at peak periods has to be seen to be believed. The conditions are somewhat like those at the small terminal we have in Canberra. Of course, the congestion at the Canberra airport is to be rectified in the near future.
I would also like to know what happened about the survey carried out some months ago into airline timetables. For several years it did not matter which airline you were travelling with because the flights arrived and departed at almost the same times. I know that the Minister for Civil Aviation made a tentative statement about this. A slight alteration to departure and arrival times was made but within a matter of weeks we were back to the old system of aircraft arriving and departing within 5 or 10 minutes of each other although they belonged to different airlines.
The point raised by Senator Bishop was a pertinent one although he confined it to the Adelaide airport. All honourable senators travel frequently by air. All of us have been inconvenienced at some time because of lack of parking facilities at various airports. On one occasion my vehicle broke down as I arrived at the Townsville terminal to catch a plane south. Admittedly I was a little late in getting to the airport. The vehicle could not be moved. lt passed out and coasted into the terminal and I was given two minutes to shift it. I think some leniency ought to be shown in such cases. It was a new car and possibly that was why it was not going well. There ought to be areas set aside so that passengers who will be returning to the same take-off point the next day can park their vehicles safely and not find, on their return, about 16 parking tickets attached to it.
Another major point I wish to mention relates to the leasing of kiosks and terminal facilities by the Department of Civil Aviation. I refer both to licensed establishments and refreshment kiosks. The licensed restaurants at the Brisbane and Sydney international terminals are probably the worst in Australia. I do not normally complain and I am not complaining about the employees at these places. I am complaining about the people who hold the leases. It is quite legitimate for people seeing friends off at an airport to have a drink together before take-off time. But in the case of Brisbane I suggest that people look closely at the measure of liquor that they get in their glasses. Some glasses of beer have collars of clerical size. In other words, the glass contains half froth and half beer. If a customer looks at some of the spirits being poured, he will notice that there is a shake of the hand and the full measure does not go into the glass. In addition, the price is exorbitant. Perhaps the Department of Civil Aviation could provide better service by putting in its own managers and running such places itself, rather than leasing them to private enterprise and allowing such rackets to continue. If a passenger wants a quick snack at Sydney airport there are no facilities for it. The little kiosk bars are too crowded and the waitresses are run off their feet in trying to cope with customers. The customers get impatient and the waitresses get impatient. The same thing happens at the Brisbane and Melbourne airports. The Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports are the three with which I am most familiar. I think that proper facilities should be made available at all these airports. Of course, the international terminal at Brisbane for a long time was just a shed. If a passenger arrived at midnight or early in the morning the hostesses provided a cup of coffee and a biscuit. I understand this service will be improved In the immediate future.
There is another thing which annoys me about airports. They are largely tourist facilities. The Minister mentioned this point when replying to another honourable senator a short time ago. They are often filled with visitors and people with young families. After all, it is a big adventure for young children to see aircraft taking off, particularly on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. They are taken there in the family car which often has to be parked half a mile from the terminal. If it is parked at the terminal and the driver forgets to put 5c in the parking meter he is up for a $4 fine. But such activities prevent the fullest use of an airport for the purpose for which it was designed. The terminal at Brisbane and the international terminal at Sydney also become meeting places for underage drinkers on Sunday afternoons. I have no objections to lads or girls of 18 or 19 having a drink of liquor but I have many objections to 15 and 16 year olds going into these licensed places. They may not be served by the staff but drinks are bought by older persons in the group. The last thing I want to see is a severe restriction placed on these facilities for people accompanying passengers and farewelling them at airports. They should not be restricted in having a drink. If we are to provide for 16 and 17 year olds in our communities, let the State liquor laws be changed. Young people should not be allowed to use airport facilities as drinking places outside legal hours.
I now have a number of questions to ask the Minister. Will it be possible in the immediate or foreseeable future to provide a landing strip at Thursday Island for light aircraft? Will it be possible to improve the facilities at the Townsville terminal? My colleague, Senator Dittmer, mentioned the Mackay terminal. He made a case for improvements at Mackay and I am making one for Townsville. I imagine that the Department would be responsible for tightening up the control of leases at airports to see that proper services are provided for the travelling public and to ensure that there is no racketeering on the part of leaseholders. What is to happen about parallel take-off times? Is the present setup with us permanently or is the report on timetables to be properly discussed? Is there any likelihood in the future of a wider range in take-off and arrival times? Incidentally, I also would like to know the cost of making the inquiry into airline schedules. Are these figures available?
There are two other points I did not mention. In the Auditor-General’s report for 1966-67 ] saw that Ansett-ANA received a subsidy of $145,480. The Ansett Flying Boat Service received a subsidy of $101,200 and Trans-Australia Airlines received a subsidy of $231,000. I would like to know the amount of subsidy paid to Ansett-ANA for the Cairns-Horn Island-Thursday Island service. I mention this because of the high fares charged. In other words, the cost of flying from Cairns to Brisbane - a distance of about 800 miles by air and about 1,036 miles from rail - is less than the cost of flying from Cairns to the tip of the Cape York Peninsula. The people who live in the isolated communities of Australia are entitled to receive maximum comforts at minimum cost. We will not settle this outback country and keep it settled by driving people back to the cities through lack of comforts. The same argument applies to places west of the main coastal air route and to the norTh western area. Perhaps it might be preferable for the Minister to give details of tha subsidies for Queensland and the subsidies which apply to each particular route.
I refer now to the subsidy of $101,200 which is payable to the Ansett Flying Boat Service- I would like to know for which routes it is paid. I am not aware that it is a very extensive flying boat service. My final query relates to the fact that in the north of Queensland we were promised a jet service in August last. We were then promised it in December. My latest information from my unofficial but very green grapevine is that we will not now get a jet service until May of next year. Recently we were told in this chamber that the Viscount aircraft are obsolete, too old, worn out and unsafe for the VIP flight. An Ansett-ANA Viscount plane flying on Mount Isa route last year was involved in a tragic accident. I believe it is time for Viscount aircraft to be taken off our com mercial air services if there is any danger at all to the travelling public. I am not complaining about late take-offs by planes because of weather conditions or the necessity for technical adjustments. 1 much prefer to be on the ground until weather conditions improve or technical adjustments are made. I do not want technical adjustments to be made at an altitude of 21,000 ft. I am not complaining about those factors, but I think improvements could be effected in services.
-(Senator Drake-Brockman).- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I refer to the proposed appropriation for a subsidy in item 05 of Division No. 144 - Development of Civil Aviation. My remarks follow upon those of Senator Keeffe about air fares in the northern half of the Commonwealth. The Loder report recommended the payment of a further northern subsidy, as it is called, of about Sim. In view of the number of passengers per State, the passenger mileage rate and the freight mileage rate, I would appreciate some information about the growth of approximately $50,000 in the subsidy this year. I suggest that to introduce an equalisation of air fares would be preferable to continuing to increase the subsidy. The prices of petroleum products have been very successfully equalised. Incidentally. I notice that the equalisation of petroleum prices does not apply to fuel for aircraft in various parts of the Commonwealth. I would like to know whether action has been taken in this respect since the issue of the latest report. If not, I think an adjustment should be made to assist people living in the more remote areas. However, my main purpose in rising is to suggest that, in view of the freight and passenger mileage rates, the subsidy could be reduced by equalisation of air fares. I would like the Minister to tell me whether that course can be followed.
– I refer to Division No. 900 - Capital Works and Services, particularly *o the proposed appropriation in item 03 of $90,000 for Connellan Airways Limited as financial assistance for development purposes. I would like an explanation from the
Minister about this item. Last year Connellan Airways Limited received a subsidy of $400,000, apparently for the development of routes or something of that nature. It is now proposed to. give that company additional financial assistance amounting to $90,000 for development purposes. A subsidy may be paid to develop areas because they do not carry sufficient traffic to make the service pay. I am familiar with the country over which Connellan Airways Limited operates its service. It seems to me a rather large appropriation to be used for development purposes, and I would appreciate an explanation from the Minister.
I also want to complain about the timetable committee. All honourable senators know that a timetable committee was set up. 1 have here the names of the members of the committee and their terms of reference. I do not propose to read the names out because I take it all other honourable senators received this information. The committee was charged with the responsibility of finding ways and means to obviate, if possible, parallel flights by the two domestic airlines. Within about a month of the time that the committee was to present its report to the Minister, Ansett-ANA altered its schedule in an attempt to capture the favourable times. Evidently there was a leak from the committee to Ansett and Ansett thought that he would get . on the swinging boat and gain the most favourable times. Subsequently Press reports showed that Ansett had picked the wrong times and that Trans-Australia Airlines was getting a bigger share of the passenger traffic. Negotiations had to take place under the rationalisation legislation so that an arrangement could be reached about times.
Again parallel flights are operating. There may be a slight staggering of the times of flights between Melbourne and Sydney, and perhaps between Sydney and Brisbane. They are not of much significance. There is certainly no difference in the times of flights from Perth and there is certainly no difference in the times of flights I see leaving Adelaide and Sydney when I am travelling to and from Canberra. It seems to me that a considerable amount of public money was spent on the timetable committee, the report of which we have not seen. I do not propose to quote from the report of the Department of Civil Aviation on this point because Senator Laught has already dona so. The report of the committee has been presented to the Department and according to Senator Laught it was in the Parliamentary Library. The courtesy of having an opportunity to examine the report has not been extended to the Senate or the House of Representatives. It is a secret report. We would like to know what this Committee recommended so that we might have some idea as to whether the airlines are giving the public the services most suitable to the public needs and not just giving the service that they themselves think good enough, as the television companies do.
Once again I raise the question of the exclusion of Trans-Australia Airlines from the Perth-Darwin route. There seems to me to be no logical reason for this exclusion. It is a route between capital cities, in that Darwin can be termed a capital city, and it covers territory over which the Commonwealth has jurisdiction. The only argument that I can see that could be used against TAA is that it would be competing with a subsidiary of Ansett ANA - MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd.
I point out that the Rationalisation Committee has granted Ansett ANA access to routes flown by TAA even though they were considered not to be profitable, on the ground that in the opinion of the Committee competition would generate its own traffic. We argue that if TAA were granted access to this route competition between TAA and MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd would generate its own traffic and in a very short time there would be sufficient traffic to make the operations of both airlines profitable. It would seem that the Rationalisation Committee holds the view that it is quite all right to grant Ansett ANA access to routes flown by TAA, but it is not desirable that TAA should be given access to the Perth-Darwin route, and we protest against this most strongly.
We all know that Ansett-ANA has been granted an extension of time for changing over exclusively to DC9 aircraft on interstate routes in Australia. Because of this, TAA is unable to utilise a full complement of DC9s and, because of this restriction in the number of aircraft that it may use over the routes allocated to it, there are continual delays of TAA flights. I do not believe that these constant delays are caused by mechanical and technical difficulties, especially when we appreciate that the aircraft in use are new modern Boeing 727s and DC9s. Some flights are completely cancelled for the day and delayed for 24 hours.
In one week, one flight by TAA from Perth was completely cancelled, the delay being 24 hours. Within two days of that another flight which was scheduled to leave Perth at 1 p.m. did not leave until 8 p.m., and within another 2 days there was a slight delay of 3i hours in the departure of one flight. I repeat that, in all instances, new modern aircraft were involved.
I note from the report of the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation that difficulties have been experienced with the fan blades in the jet engines. Are we to believe that after all the surveys that were made of the various aircraft available throughout the world we have set out to buy aircraft that are either defective in design or that are manufactured from defective materials? Reference is made in the report to the blades being replaced with other fan blades that do not deteriorate under heat. All these things have to be looked at closely, because they are responsible for constant increases in the cost of operation and in the fares and other charges levied upon the travelling public.
Both Senator Keeffe and Senator Bishop referred to parking at airports. There is a rather large parking area at Perth Airport. Part of it is metered and part is not. This means that there is a charge for parking in some parts of the area while in other parts parking is free. I understand that this system is to be altered, that gates are to bc installed and that there will be a charge for parking in any part of the area. I do not complain about that. My concern here is with another aspect. At the Perth Airport there is a service station which is owned by the Department of Civil Aviation but which is leased to a private individual. Attached to that service station is a parking area, part of which is covered in. This is obviously provided for people who are flying out of Perth for 2 or 3 days and who want to leave their cars under cover at the Perth Airport. Although the lessee of the service station to which the parking facilities are attached pays a fee to the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department fixes the prices he shall charge for the parking of cars. If he wants to charge a lesser or greater fee for the use of his parking area he must seek the permission of the Department of Civil Aviation. I suggest , that the Minister should have a look at this question, for in my view the proprietor of the service station should be allowed to set what he considers to be an economic price for the use of the facilities be has to offer.
Whilst we all know that Senator Anderson merely acts here for the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) who is in another place, I do know that during the winter recess he did travel through part of the north west of Western Australia. I therefore direct his attention to the types of runways provided in that part of Australia. Until such time as we are able to provide scaled runways of adequate length, and solid standing ways, the people of that area will bc stuck with service by DC3 and Fokker Friendship aircraft. There is no possibility of upgrading the type of aircraft to be used in this most important area, which is developing much faster than any other area in Australia, and there will be no possibility of providing modern air transport services for the people mere, unless the Department is prepared to spend some money on the further development of aerodromes. 1 understand that a considerable amount of money has been spent on Learmonth Airport, but this port is not used for commercial purposes; its main function is to service the very low frequency installation of the United States Government at North West Cape. It is not the sort of port that generates a considerable amount of air traffic. Port Hedland, however, is developing very quickly. In fact, it is literally bursting at the seams, and it is high time someone had a look at the desirability of laying down a solid air strip and constructing a decent air terminal with substantial standing ways there so that better types of aircraft may be used on that route.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Senators Davidson, Keeffe, Heatley and Cant have referred to a series of matters which do not attract any specific answer from me in terms of the Estimates. The points raised will be looked at except those covered by Division No. 144 item 05 which relates to subsidies paid on account of air services. They have been dealt with already. I was interested in the point raised by Senator Keeffe in relation to Thursday Island and Horn Island because I have been there. We have a Customs establishment on Thursday Island. His suggestion about the possibility of constructing an airstrip on the island to take light planes attracted my interest and I will refer it and the other points mentioned to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz). The degree of supervision that is exercised over lessees of kiosks and so on at terminals can be looked at. If, as he suggested - he puts it no higher than that - there is the possibility of under age drinking, 1 am sure that can be dealt with expeditiously. He referred to Townsville. In fact, Townsville is a dual airport serving both civil airlines and the Royal Australian Air Force and some difficulties could emerge. I notice from the works programme that some work is going on there but I do not think it touches the honourable senator’s remarks. Discussion on parallel timetables was touched off by Senator Laught and the subject has been dealt with.
Senator Davidson directed attention to timetable congestion. He also raised the point whether jet flights between Melbourne and Perth will bypass Adelaide in the future because of the different type of aircraft which will be used. I am certain that suitable timetables will always be maintained to meet the requirements of Adelaide. Senator Cant referred to the $400,000 subsidy to be paid to Connellan Airways. This subsidy is paid to assist in the development of essential rural air services as distinct from the $90,000 paid in conformity with a formal agreement between the Commonwealth and the company in relation to a repayable advance.
Senator Heatley mentioned the equalisation of air fares. Although he did not mention this aspect I point out to him that petroleum used in the provision of air services attracts the subsidy. Then I understood him to say that the broad principle of equalisation of petroleum prices should be extended to air fares. That matter will be looked at. Reference was made to parking facilities at airports. It is a fact that at major airports, at any rate, short term, long term and even overnight parking ls available for a certain fee. That may not apply in all capital cities but it certainly applies in Sydney and Melbourne. I have noted the reference to areas like Port Hedland and the north west where, having regard to the great development which is taking place, it is inevitable that in the fullness of time vast sums of money will have to be spent on the development of airstrips. As I have said, these matters will be looked at by the Department.
– I direct attention to Division No. 135, subdivision 2, items 13 and 14 which relate to maintenance materials and services in respect of aerodromes and buildings and airways facilities. I am prompted to do so by the remarks made by Senator Lillico. We would be in a better position to evaluate his submissions if we had a breakdown of the items mentioned on page 47 of the report of the Department of Civil Aviation relating to the allocation in respect of 251 intermediate aerodromes.
– I have already committed myself to see that that information is made available.
– Very well. The other point I wish to raise relates to the contribution towards the cost of providing ground facilities in the Pacific, as mentioned in Division No. 144. Could we have a list showing the other nations which contribute and the broad percentage contributed by the various international airlines, including our own?
– I refer to the recent disastrous dispute between pilots employed by Qantas Empire Airways Ltd and the company. I thought it would have been mentioned earlier. If there had been a dispute between what I might call the trade union element - clerical workers, engineers and so on - and the company, the processes of arbitration would have been used and the dispute ended quickly and generally to the satisfaction of both parties without a great deal of financial loss to Qantas. On this occasion the strike was by the pilots, a different kettle of fish altogether. I do not suppose anyone ever thought that pilots on a salary of $10,000 year would go on strike.
Apparently the strike developed and continued because there was no communication between the parties. The management of Qantas had no avenue of contact with the pilots so the strike went on for weeks wilh disastrous effects to Qantas both from the financial aspect and from the loss of prestige it must have suffered all over the world. But it certainly eliminated this year’s profits.
I think we al) agree that the situation broke down because there was no point of contact between the management and the pilots. No arbitration organisation could be used to conciliate between the two parties. My inquiry is: As a result of this dispute, which was so disastrous to Australia’s aviation industry and to Qantas itself, has anything been done to see that such a situation cannot develop again? If there is a difference of view between the management of Qantas and its pilots or the more highly qualified employees, will the company and its employees be able to get together and not stand out as they did in the instance 1 have mentioned like schoolboys in the sense that nobody could make a move? There was a stalemate until the dispute was settled. That should not have been the case. I want to know whether any machinery has been established to alter that situation.
My second point is that some time ago lt was suggested that the fire fighting school at Mascot was to be transferred to Tullamarine.
– Well, that is what 1-
– I gave an assurance that it was not to be moved. In answer to a question, I think, I said that it was not to be moved.
– That is the report that I saw. It was a newspaper report. I put it aside at the time. I am glad to hear the Minister give that assurance.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I am relying upon my memory in this regard but I will check the facts. T feel confident that I gave that reply in relation to the matter raised by Senator Ormonde. Senator
Mulvihill referred to Division No. 144 - Development of Civil Aviation - and referred to item 04 - Ground facilities in the Pacific - Contribution towards cost. I made a statement earlier in the afternoon on this matter. I suggest that the honourable senator pick up my remarks in Hansard. The honourable senator took the matter further and sought information as to the parties to the agreement and a break-up of the proportions contributed by each member. I will see whether this information can be made available to the honourable senator.
Senator Cant was out of the Committee when I gave a reply on a specific matter he had raised in relation to Connellan Airways. Strictly speaking, I do not like to recapitulate matters but I shall give the information to him quickly. A subsidy of $400,000 was paid to Connellan Airways for essential rural air services. The other amount, $90,000, was a payment to Connellan Airways by way of interest bearing payments advanced for development purposes in conformity with a formal agreement made between the Commonwealth and the airline.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I relate my remarks to Division No. 135 - Administrative and Operational - and wish to make reference to the Air Navigation Regulations and in particular to regulation No. 322. The regulation states:
Unless the Director-General otherwise directs, a licence or certificate required by or under these Regulations shall not be issued to a person who is not a British subject ordinarily resident in Australia or a corporation substantially owned and effectively controlled by British subjects ordinarily resident in Australia.
The Civil Aviation report 1966-67, in dealing with helicopter operations at page 4, states:
Helicopter operations continue to grow and diversify during 1966-67. Ansett-ANA has introduced two Sikorsky 62As to support off-shore oil exploration in the Bass Strait and, Bristow helicopters
I wish to refer particularly to Bristow Helicopters UK Ltd:
I come back to Bristow Helicopters in relation to air navigation regulation 322. I refer to information that has been provided to me as to the ownership of Bristow Helicopters. The information is this:
The Australian management of BOC recommended acceptance of our bid to their principal Burmah Oil Company Ltd of London, but this was rejected in London in favour of Bristow Helicopters of England although it is understood there was no significant difference in price or equipment and Bristow Helicopters were not authorised to operate in Australia or import aircraft.
We have been advised that a company, to be styled Bristow Helicopters Australia Limited, is being set up in Australia by Mr Bristow who is a director of British United Airways of UK. which company holds the majority of shares in B, wow Helicopters UK Ltd.
We are further advised that the main shareholders in Bristow Helicopters Australia Limited arc to be Mayne Nickless Limited, P & O Company of Australia Pty Limited and Mr Bristow
We have information that P & O Company of Australia Pty Limited is almost wholly owned by P & O UK Limited, only one share of an authorised two million dollars being held in Australia.
We arc further informed that P & O are substantial shareholders in Mayne Nickless, in Bristow Helicopters Limited and in British United Airways of UK.
The proposed company would therefore have a minority Australian interest and the whole of the circumstances surrounding its application for chaner licence and import permit are therefore suspect.
In the face of that information and in the face also of the terms of the regulation to which I have referred, we find that Bristow Helicopters is operating in Australia. T would like some information from the Minister. In what way did this company get around the regulation? I am quite conversant with the first sentence of the regulation which states:
Unless the Director-General otherwise directs . . .
There is a discretionary power. The Director-General is exercising a discretion under a regulation to the detriment of an Australian company that wishes to operate in the helicopter field, to allow a company which in no way can comply with that regulation to come to this country, operate here and to import aircraft.
– What was the number of the regulation?
– It is Air Navigation Regulation No. 322. Can the Minister give mc or obtain for me some information on that matter?
Now, I want some information about concession fares granted by Qantas. We have been told recently that Qantas has entered into an agreement to give concession fares to people who, having migrated to Australia, in circumstances that we can appreciate might want after a few years to visit their relatives and friends in their homelands. What is involved is the fare to the person’s homeland and the fare for the return journey to Australia. As I understand the position, these concession fares are available only to members of a group who want to travel together. But the people who want to travel overseas in order to visit their homeland and relatives may come from different parts of Australia. They may have, no contact with each other. They may not even know each other. Because they are unable to form themselves into a group or a delegation, these so called concession fares are not available to them.
It seems to me that the statement that has been made - namely, that these concession fares will be made available to travellers for this purpose and that Qantas is becoming magnanimous and is prepared to carry such people at concession fares in order to encourage people to come to Australia and settle here with the opportunity to visit their relatives from time to time - is a complete myth. People will not be able to comply with the Conditions that are laid down. I would like a clear statement from the Minister on the terms and conditions under which these concession fares are available. Will the people, to whom this bait is being held out take advantage of this so called concession? Qantas also gives concession fares to other groups of people. Only 2 or 3 weeks ago a gynaecology conference was held in Sydney. It was attended by about 2,000 people. Most of them came to Sydney by Qantas at concession fares. If they did not travel with Qantas they travelled with airlines with which Qantas was able to make an agreement for them to travel.
I would have thought that the concession fare system would have been associated with the tourist drive in Australia and would have been a means of encouraging people to come and have a look at this glorious land of ours as well as a means of providing a certain amount of foreign exchange for which we would be very grateful. Many countries earn large amounts of foreign exchange through the tourist industry. For instance, the tourist industry is worth more to Spain than Australia’s wool clip is worth to Australia. The Government has recognised that there is a tourist, drive by the appointment of a Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities.
Yet in the Civil Aviation Report we find the vaguest information on Qantas passenger traffic statistics. I will not give all of the statistics. They run from 1962 to 1966. The total number of passengers has risen from 276,146 to 560,726. The only information that we can glean from the Report is that in 1966 the number of passengers under the heading ‘East’ was 106,551. I take it that that refers to passengers travelling east out of Australia or into Australia. Actually I do not know what it means. I would have thought that anyone who was on the east coast of Australia and who went east would be leaving Australia. The number of passengers under the heading ‘West-North* was 201,875. I take it that they would be passengers who went through Perth and Singapore. The number of passengers under the heading Tasman’ was 252,300. I would like some explanation of ‘those figures.
I would also like information on whether the concession fares that Qantas is offering to the travelling public are encouraging more people to leave Australia than to come to Australia. Are the people in the so called pacemaker group - they are Australians under 26 years of age who can obtain a concession fare of $650 for a journey from Australia to the United Kingdom and return - mainly the ones who are taking advantage of these concession fares? Rather than Australia earning any foreign exchange as a result of these concession fares, is Australian currency being spent in other countries? I should like the Minister to give me some information on those subjects.
– Senator Cant referred to regulation 322 and asked whether the operations of Bristow Helicopters Australia Ltd were in conflict with that regulation. As he pointed out to the Committee, the preamble to the regulation says: ‘Unless the DirectorGeneral otherwise directs . . .’. He quite definitely dealt with a specific case, which does not lend itself to any contribution in this sort of debate. No information, on the matter is available to me. I assume that in view of the statement that he has made the matter will be taken up with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz). I think it is sufficient for me to say that it is assumed that this company is operating in accordance with the regulations.
Senator Cant also referred to charter flights. I remind him that on 3rd October the Minister for Civil Aviation made a statement on this matter in another place. If my memory serves me correctly, that statement was incorporated in Hansard in this place.
– I was querying what the full extent of that statement was.
– The statement runs to five pages of foolscap and it is a closely typed document. I do not want to canvass the arguments beyond saying that the honourable senator is putting under challenge the judgment of Qantas Airways Ltd and the principles that caused it- to take the action that it has taken. This is a matter of judgment. The action that has been taken is designed to keep Qantas in competition with the other major world airlines. I do not believe that the honourable senator can sustain the argument that these concession fares would have a tendency to facilitate departures from Australia rather than help to bring people here.
– In that regard I was speaking about the opportunity for migrants to return to their homeland.
– As we all recognise, the fact is that a certain percentage of migrants become disenchanted because of home sickness or other reasons and want to return to their country of origin. Senator Cant was making the point that these concession fares might make it possible for such people to do that under conditions that would be advantageous to them. The saver is that they have to travel together in a group. I believe that that factor would be far outweighed by the tremendous advantages accruing to ;he industry, Qantas and Australia as well as in the earning of overseas balances. I would hope, and I am sure we all assume, that the factors which the honourable senator has projected would have been weighed very carefully by the company and by the
Minister before this agreement was entered into.
Lt is not a new thought. As far back as 1959 the Minister for Civil Aviation was looking at trends in other parts of the world in regard to international charter flights. This agreement follows world trends, and 1 believe that it will prove to be successful. Nevertheless, the honourable senator has a point of view which he has expressed for the record. Time will tell whether or not it is correct. Some points which the honourable senator has raised may be considered by the Minister for Civil Aviation when he examines the report of the debate that has taken place today.
– I want to advert to a matter that I regard as being of great current importance. I refer to the liability of aircraft operators to pay compensation for passengers who are killed or injured in the course of carriage. This matter is of great current importance because this week we have had tabled in this chamber Mr Justice Spicer’s report on the Winton disaster which occurred on 22nd September 1966 - over 12 months ago. In that disaster 4 crew members and 20 passengers were killed. On behalf of some of the dependants of the deceased passengers, some publicity has been given to the inadequacies and unjust limitations of the law under which compensation is available. I take leave to remind the Committee of these deficiencies. I am not speaking for the record. I am speaking so that this matter can be considered by the Government which in this connection is represented in this chamber by the Minister for Customs and Excise.
It will be remembered that when the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill was before us in 1959 a great deal of discussion took place regarding the provision which exempted carriers from liability for negligence. It was pointed out that the Bill went so far as to exempt operators from liability for negligence, whether it was ordinary negligence or negligence of such a grave nature as to come within the category of criminal negligence. It was argued that the immunity of the operator from that liability was justified because there would be few cases in which negligence could be proved, by way of evidence, against an operator. Some instances were given at the time which would satisfy an ordinary “jury ana” an ordinary judge of the fact that a disaster had been caused by negligence. I want to bring to the mind of the Committee one experience which has occurred since then. It graphically shows, to my mind, the deficiencies of this legislation.
It will be recalled that about 3 years ago before an aircraft which set out from Essendon had got out of the Melbourne area one engine was seen to be so loosely fitted that it was not safe for the aircraft to proceed any farther over the metropolitan area. It circled round Port Phillip Bay and the engine was jolted into the bay. Let me take as an example the case of two directors of one company. 1 take directors to be people who earn high incomes and whose widows would have to rely on a large amount of compensation in order to maintain their standard of living. Let us assume that Director Jones was killed in an aircraft disaster. His widow’s compensation would be limited to £7,500, to use the old form of currency. But if Director Smith had been in Collins Street and an engine had dropped on him while he was walking along the footpath, his widow probably would have recovered at least £75,000 from the airline operator. That shows the degree of responsibility which wo accept when we deprive a person injured in an aircraft of recovery for negligence. There are other instances.
The next point I want to make about the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act is that it does not provide automatic cover for £7,500. That amount does not accrue to each claimant. All sorts of limiting factors operate to reduce that amount and to make £7,500 the maximum amount recoverable. I will not go into the circumstances that may be invoked to give rise to that contention. -Since I spoke in this chamber in 1959 that matter has been illustrated by public announcements. I take some little comfort from the fact that I put all these deficiences before the Senate on that occasion. But it is not the first time that I have been frustrated in getting acceptance of my point of view. Of course, sometimes my point of view may be wrong. On this occa”sion I urge the Minister to reconsider the whole of the debate that took place in 1 959 and to re-examine the Act.
I have seen reference to the fact that negotiations are going on for the extension pf the maximum amount of £7,500. That will be only a partial remedy. I want the Minister to tell us to what extent the negotiations have proceeded, I also ask him to be good enough to ask the Department of Civil Aviation to provide me, before this sessional period ends, not with the personal details of the passengers concerned but with a list showing the number of passengers killed in each of the three aircraft disasters that have occurred in the last 3 years and the amount of compensation that was paid in each case. I refer to the Mackay incident which concerned a Trans- Australia Airlines aircraft, the accident over Botany Bay which concerned Ansett-ANA and in which len or twelve people lost their lives, and also the Winton disaster.
As soon as the Senate is in operation again after the forthcoming election, I intend to ask it to appoint a select committee to consider the whole of the operation of the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act and to place a considered report before the Government so that these deficiencies may be brought to the point of decision. I have read the report of the Winton inquiry once and I hope that it will come up. for considered debate before the Senate disperses in a couple of weeks. 1 hope that we will have sufficient interest in this matter to ensure that it is thoughtfully debated. There are four or five items in respect of which the Board of Inquiry reports that civil aviation regulations had not been complied with. Consequently, under regulation 34.1 (a) the aircraft’s certificate of airworthiness was deemed to have been suspended.
I have always thought that it was fundamental to the long experience of skill and safety that we have enjoyed in Australia to rely upon the absolute, imperative nature of a certificate of airworthiness. I hasten to add - as the Chairman of the Board added - that none of the items referred to had any relation whatever, in a causal sense, to the accident in which the aircraft was involved. I am interested to know that that is its view of the value of a certificate of airworthiness. I should have thought that the flying by any operator of a machine in respect of which he has no certificate of airworthiness would invoke consequences that would really ground him or - cause him some disabilities for quite some time.
It does not deter me from making these comments that the three brake pressure transmitters had exceeded by 574 hours their approved figure of 3,000 hours between overhauls. It does not concern me that these matters were not the cause of the accident. They may be the cause next time. What I want to know from the Minister is: what is the idea of a certificate of airworthiness? What is the consequence of its being deemed to be suspended? I find in this matter that where we are considering a suggested device in the blower which gave rise-
– Order! My attention has been drawn to standing order 419, which reads:
No Senator shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the Notice Paper.
Item 20 on the Notice Paper relates to the adjourned debate on the report of the Board of Accident Inquiry on the accident to the Viscount aircraft near Winton, Queensland. I rule that the honourable senator’s continuing reference to the blower infringes this standing order. Consequently. I ask him not to anticipate the discussion of the Viscount aircraft accident near Winton.
– Thank you, Mr Temporary Chairman. I hope that the Minister will be so good as to tell me whether or not a certificate of airworthiness continues to operate so as not to impose a liability, either civil or in some ways criminal, upon the operator when part of the assembly of an aircraft is not in accordance with the rules. I am concerned that the certificate of airworthiness should be an absolute guarantee of the operation of an aircraft in complete conformity with the regulations, and that the regulations should require aircraft in all components to be in accordance with their designed construction. I hope I am not trespassing too long on your patience, Mr Temporary Chairman, or that of the Committee. I raise this matter only because I believe that the safety of aircraft in Australia is of fundamental importance and our duty requires that the Minister should give us some elucidation with regard to the value that we can place upon a certificate of airworthiness. If the certificate does not give a guarantee to people that that aircraft, in respect of all components, has. been completely and properly assembled in accordance with the design of the manufacturer, we must reconsider the regulations as to the meaning and value of a certificate of airworthiness.
– Senator Wright adverted to a matter referred to in a question asked yesterday by Senator Heatley, to which I hope to be able to give an answer tomorrow. This relates to the provision for damages amounting to $15,000 under the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act. I understand what the honourable senator says, and some of the answers to the matters he raised will find expression tomorrow in the answer to the question on the notice paper. As a matter of fact, as Senator Heatley said, there is a misunderstanding with relation to this provision. I agree with Senator Wright that it would be wise for the matter to be cleared up and put into its right perspective. I well recall the original debate on this provision and the part that Senator Wright played in it. The honourable senator says that on some future occasion he will canvass certain matters in relation to the provision. That is proper. I am not competent, nor are my officers who are here, to comment at short notice on that reference.
The honourable senator asks for assurance on a technical matter in regard to certificates of airworthiness. I am certainly not competent, and it would not be expedient or sensible for me, to make any other statement than that I shall refer to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) the very penetrating questions that the” honourable senator has directed. I am conscious of the matters that he raises. He pointed them up very significantly. It would not be proper for me to canvass, even with the assistance of the officers that I have here, the answers to those questions.
– I acknowledge with thanks what the Minister has said. I should like it understood that for my part a debate on the Estimates is not to be prevented just because there is on the notice paper an individual question seeking some detailed information. I know that the Minister did not mean his reply to be taken to suggest otherwise. My inquiries with regard to the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act go much deeper than that question. On the subject of the certificate of airworthiness, if it would be inappropriate to give the information impromptu from the advisers within the chamber I ask the Minister to see that the matter is carefully considered and to give in the form of a memorandum to the senator who raises the matter, as early as is convenient, a considered commentary upon the submissions that have been made. That would be entirely, I should think, as parliamentary debates should be recognised. I will be most obliged if that is intended but if it is not intended we should debate it.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, let us get our lines perfectly clear. It is not for me as Minister representing another Minister, to give a memorandum to Senator Wright or any other honourable senator. What I do permit myself to do is to refer the points made by the honourable senator to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz). It will be for that Minister to exercise his judgment as to whether he should direct a reply to the honourable senator. Knowing the Minister as I do, and knowing the procedures that apply, I am sure that Senator Wright will receive a reply.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I do not wish to be frustrated and I have no wish to be provocative. But the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) represents in this chamber the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz). It is only through the Minister in this chamber that we can focus responsibility. I want no absolute undertakings and I want no unreasonable undertakings. However, unless the Minister in charge of these estimates can so understand his colleague’s general attitude to the consideration of estimates in this chamber as to say that the information sought will be forthcoming, the proper course is to delay further consideration of these estimates until the two Ministers can consult and say whether the matter will or will not be dealt with in the way that I am seeking. I submit that the Senate should not be foiled in its request that the Executive discharge its responsibilities to the representatives of the people in this place by Ministers here saying that they cannot speak for Ministers in the other chamber. The Ministers in this chamber take responsibility here for the estimates as they are considered here. Now, as quietly as I can, I suggest that the only proper course is for the Minister for Civil Aviation and his Department to ensure that the submissions of any member of the Senate are duly considered and that the thoughts of the Minister arc communicated to the senator concerned.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I must be as persistent as Senator Wright is. I observe that he has been present for most of the discussion on these estimates, which began at 10 minutes past 2 this afternoon. Not once but, I suppose, ten times, I have indicated that I had not the information sought and that one could not expect the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation who are present to advise me, to have it, and in each instance I have given an undertaking that I will refer the matter concerned to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) with a request that the information sought be supplied to the honourable senator concerned. I am not proneto give undertakings unlessI can carry them out. I suggest that the course that I have adopted has been the practice in this place ever since it has considered estimates for the various departments.
– But it is not good enough.
– It may not be good enough, but no Minister can make a commitment on behalf of a Minister in another place. I suppose that representations have been made on something like 50 matters.
– I do not believe that the Minister really wishes to frustrate me.
– Of course I do not. I even went so far as to say thatI considered that the point that the honourable senator had made about serviceability in relation to the aircraft accident near Winton was a very potent and powerful point and that obviously it will be taken up. But in these matters one can only do one’s best, and I have always set out to do that. It is impossible to go beyond that in relation to a matter that comes within the administration of another Minister whom one represents in this chamber. If the department concerned were one that I administered myself, the situation might be different.
Proposed expenditure and proposed provision noted.
Department of Shipping and Transport
Proposed expenditure, $49,581,000.
Proposed provision, $37,705,000.
Proposed expenditure, $19,761,000.
Proposed provision, $14,000,000.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, 1 wish to discuss the services provided by the Commonwealth Railways, particularly to the Australian National Capital. I have discussed these services previously. The service between Melbourne and Canberra on three nights a week is a joke - and a very bad joke at that. A number of other members of this Parliament have now come to my support. I regret that my remarks and everything that they have said have met with so little success. In 1954, on Monday nights a passenger could get a sleeper right through from Melbourne to Canberra. In 1967, on Monday nights and on two other nights each week the service is worse than it was in 1954. A sleeper car comes right through from Melbourne to Canberra on only three nights a week, and it apparently is carefully scheduled to operate on the three nights that will be least convenient for members of the Parliament or any other persons having business with the Parliament. As I have said before, if I were a representative of the airlines, the present arrangement would be the one that I would most want, because it ensures the least competition with the airlines. On three nights a week, passengers travelling from Melbourne are compelled to leave the sleeping cars at Goulburn and board a dirty, decrepit carriage for the remainder of the journey to Canberra. As I have remarked before, the carriage generally used looks as if it could even have conveyed troops to the Crimean War. In the depths of winter, passengers are expected to travel from Goulburn to Canberra without any heating and in some instances even without latches on the doors to keep them closed and exclude draughts. Conditions such as these in which passengers have to complete their journey to the capital of Australia would not be tolerated in the worst hill-billy area in South America. This is ironical when we have a Minister in charge of Tourist Activities. Is this sort of service one of the attractions that we can offer to tourists who wish to visit the National Capital?
– We can show them antique trains.
– Yes. I, like other honourable senators, receive a publication that is devoted to extolling the virtues of the Australian railway systems. Recently, it contained an article in which there was a statement in these terms: ‘What an attraction to tourists must be the comfortable train by which they can travel to Canberra’. I suggest that tourists ought to be warned against the present train service to Canberra rather than encouraged to use it. Any tourist who leaves Melbourne on a Monday night in mid-winter to travel to Canberra by train will wonder what he has struck. I believe that it is a grave scandal that the various parties involved have not co-operated to provide a proper rail service to Canberra.
I have pursued my investigations into this matter. I was courteously informed by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner that the Commonwealth is prepared to provide the necessary service, that the Victorian Railways Commissioners are prepared to provide the necessary service, but that the fly in the ointment is the New South Wales Department of Railways which refuses to co-operate in providing the capital of Australia with a satisfactory rail service each night of the week. There is a hopeful suggestion in the latest report of the Commonwealth Railways of better things in the future. Judging by the number of knockbacks that the Commonwealth appears to have got from the New South Wales Railways I just wonder.
I have been a traveller on branch lines to small towns in Victoria with populations of 4,000 and 5,000 and in winter I could get into a heated rail car. If the accumulated resources of the Australian railway systems cannot provide a heated rail car from Goulburn to Canberra then the sooner they shut up shop the better. They should be able to provide this even if they did not run a sleeper on the extra three nights that this service should be provided. I repeat that I am glad that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is willing to provide Canberra with a proper service from Goulburn. I am glad that the Victorian Railways is prepared to do this. But I deeply regret that the New South Wales Railways Commissioner is so backward and blind to his duty that he refuses to co-operate.
– Could the honourable senator not use the air service?
– In these days the air service is not very reliable, is it? I have a further example of the lack of co-operation of the New South Wales Railways Commissioner. I am informed that New South Wales is the obstacle at the present time to a better rail service between Canberra and Sydney. I am informed that the Commonwealth Railways is prepared to offer every co-operation in order to run a train from Canberra to Sydney in the morning and back at night. This is the kind of convenience that ought to be available in the capital of Australia. Canberra is a big city and it is going to increase. The people in this area who desire to go to Sydney for business or other reasons should be able to make the trip and return on the same day. I have no doubt that the service would be used and that the traffic would be very satisfactory.
As I said before, this is the capital of Australia but the rail services from Melbourne and Sydney are most unsatisfactory. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has put forward proposals to improve the situation. The Victorian Railways is prepared to look after the Melbourne end but the New South Wales Railways Commissioner shows no disposition to co-operate on both scores; either with the service from Melbourne through New South Wales to Canberra or in regard to instituting a daily service between Canberra and Sydney. I regret that Canberra is being treated in such a way and in a manner unworthy of the worst hill-billy area in South America.
– I desire to raise some matters about the Commonwealth Railways organisation. I note that under Division No. 810 and Division No. 812, which deal with the Trans-Australia Railway and Central Australia Railway respectively, the appropriations tor this year are similar to those of last year. But in the case of Division No. 814, relating to the North Australia Railway, there is a tremendous increase from the expenditure last year of $1,945,627 to an appropriation this year of $4,279,000. I would like to know the reason for the proposed huge increase in expenditure on the North Australia Railway. It appears that the increase is not to meet the salaries. Payments for salaries are shown at page 307 of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1). The number of personnel is to be increased by about 300.
In the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) we see that the appropriation for works and services for the Central Australia Railway is somewhere near the expenditure last year but there is again a big increase for the North Australia Railway. There has been some interweaving of (he staff for each of the three divisions, Nos 810, 812 and 814. In the schedule of salaries and allowances the staff of the Commonwealth Railways is divided into the ‘Central staff’ and ‘Other than central staff. The number of staff personnel shown under the heading ‘Other than central staff is expected to be increased in this financial year by about 300. There is expected to be a big increase of 340 employees in the group referred to as Other operative and maintenance employees’. The amount provided under the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and the amount to meet salary increases arising from basic wage adjustment are also shown in the schedule. 1 would like to question the Minister about the turnover of manpower employed by the Commonwealth Railways. There are about 2,700 such employees but according to my information there is a turnover of about 1,000 each year. This applies particularly to the fettling gangs. I am also advised that there are frequent derailments on the Central Australia line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. I ask whether this is attributable to the conditions under which these men work. Is there a lack of maintenance on this line? Is there a need to engage new and untrained employees from time to time and is this the reason for the derailments? Is there some way of keeping the permanent way in good order so that derailments will not occur in future? I ask the Minister whether there is some solution to the problem of the big turnover in labour.
I have been informed that the fettlers employed by the Commonwealth Railways are the worst paid in Australia and that possibly they work under the worst conditions in Australia. They cover a big area and often work many miles away from civilisation. They must share the cost of providing the mess in which they eat and relax. If a refrigerator breaks down their food is ruined. The men have to share the cost of this food and if they cannot eat it, it has to be thrown out.
It is obvious that at this period of our civilisation such conditions are not good enough for employees, no matter what is their rating or the locality at which they work. The industry is suffering because of present conditions. Complaints from men on the job have also been made about the married quarters provided. The interim report of the Commonwealth Railways has declared an all time record profit. Can the Minister give details of the amount spent on line locations on housing, septic systems, hot water services, air conditioning and refrigeration? Can the Minister give us some information on those amenities at married quarters on the various lines? Can the Minister explain why in the remote areas portable electricity plants are’ not installed at line locations? Such amenities are provided for employees of other Commonwealth departments in remote locations, but they are not supplied for employees of the Commonwealth Railways. I have also been asked to inform the Minister that employees have kerosene lighting and refrigeration, wood stoves, pan type toilets, and in most cases bad drainage, but no hot water service.
Under the by-laws of the Commonwealth Railways employees answer on form CR47 charges made against them. A written answer is required. It is impossible for many new Australians, who comprise a large proportion of the work force of the Commonwealth Railways, to answer the questions on form CR47 when charges are made against them. Questions are asked in English and the new Australians are expected to answer in English. I ask the Minister to recognise the difficulties under which these men work. They are entitled to a disability allowance greater than is paid to similar workers in less remote locations, lt is clear that some conditions of home life or greater reward for the services given would be beneficial; they would assist, in retaining manpower and perhaps would allow better trained men to have continuous employment with the Commonwealth Railways. Some of the problems of derailments and heavy turnover of staff could be avoided. Any turnover of manpower is costly. 1 am concerned at a recent case heard before an Arbitration Commissioner relating to a Commonwealth Railways disability allowance, ft was not granted because the Commissioner said that he inspected only portion of the railways system and held over a. decision until a further inspection could be conducted. The Building Workers Industrial Union, one of the unions concerned in the application, has reported to its members on the conditions that were inspected along the line. It reported that at work places along the line there were no toilets, sheds, lunch rooms or shelters of any kind. At one fettlers’ and plant operators’ work place there was a tree under which workers sheltered to eat their lunches. An Aboriginal worker squatted cross-legged in his natural position on the ground while his work mate had dug a hole about 18 in sq and deep enough to rest his feet in. They were not provided with a seat of any kind. The dust was several inches thick along the side of the railway and a bulldozer was there to bank up soil along the line. The bulldozer was not being used while the inspection was conducted, as it was lunch time, but it did not require any imagination to appreciate the extreme discomfort of the workers when it was operating.
– Did the honourable senator name the paper from which he is reading?
– It is a report of the industrial officer of the Building Workers Industrial Union to the members of the union. The report states that all the workers were thickly coated with red dust. Several plastic containers and a water bag contained water which was used for drinking and washing. In lieu of toilets there were the wide open spaces. Flies were thick but the workers assured the inspection party that they were not bad that day. There were no basins for washing. Building workers are required to work under those conditions. At times they are away from home for periods of up to 18 months, with visits home after each 2 months. A visit home is for 1 week inclusive of travelling time and is not time off. Therefore, if a worker travels for 2 days along the line from home he would have 3 days at home, during which he would work the normal hours at his home base and would then spend 2 days returning to his job. I ask the Minister whether it is reasonable to expect any class of workers to work under such conditions. I have frequently travelled by car to Marree in the northern area of South Australia, and also on occasions to Oodnadatta, visiting fettling gangs along the line. I can verify the details given in the very descriptive report from which I have just read.
Another matter which is causing discontent amongst workmen of the Commonwealth Railways and the possibility of resignations is the new system of the uniform gauge on the Trans-Australian Railway. For the trip to Sydney an alteration of carriages is necessary. I understand that some carriages 9 ft shorter than the ordinary carriages are used because of difficulties in the haul up the Blue Mountains. Because a smaller dining car is used increased sittings are necessary. Second class passengers have their evening meal at 4.45 p.m. Their next meal is provided at 7 o’clock the following morning. How can we expect to attract passengers to a service on which there is a gap of 14£ hours between meals? Passengers could not reasonably be expected to carry food in view of the time taken for the trip. No supper or early morning cups of tea are provided and for 14i hours on the new service passengers will be without food. In the second class cabins there is no room for suitcases.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator McManus spoke with great feeling on . a matter he has raised before through the forms of the House. There is not much I can add to what the honourable senator said. He drew a picture of the inconvenience caused and also gave an explanation of the procedures involved in the arrangement between the New South Wales and Victorian railways to serve Canberra. I presume that patronage would be one factor, but I can readily appreciate that if service is not given the patronage will get worse. I do know that representations have been made by the Commissioners to the New South Wales Government that certain improvements in the service should be made, and 1 am sorry to learn that as yet no improvement has been effected. I am not using the service myself.
The point which the honourable senator made with relation to providing a timetable designed to capture what business may be derived from the parliamentary institutions here is a valid one which I would have thought would have had some significance in connection with increasing patronage. However, again I can only bring the matter to the attention of the Minister, who no doubt will take it up with the Commissioners. I cannot say more than that at this stage.
– What about the Canberra-Sydney service which the Commissioners wish to institute?
– I gather that the honourable senator suggests that arrangements should be made with the States for a service in which no changing over to other carriages is involved.
– A daily train from Canberra to Sydney in the morning and back at night. The Commonwealth Commissioners want to institute such a service but the New South Wales Government refuses to co-operate.
– Here we come to the situation where the States argue that a service would be traversing State territory and therefore competing with the State railways. All manner of arguments can be raised against it.
Senator Cavanagh referred to Divisions 814, 815 and 816 in giving us a broad picture of the problems experienced by the staff of the Commonwealth Railways. This year, provision for the North Australia Railway relating to salaries and payments in the nature of salaries has been increased by $337,591. This item covers all wages and salaries payable in connection with the maintenance and operation of services on the North Australia Railway and chargeable to working expenses. An amount of $16,000 has been included in the estimates to cover additional costs arising from the increase granted in consequence of the national wage cases decision of 1967. In order to cater for the greatly increased train services necessary to handle the iron ore traffic from Frances Creek and, later in the year, from Mount Bundey, provision has been made for additional train crews, and station, depot and maintenance staffs. Additional track forces have been engaged to undertake maintenance and rehabilitation work on the permanent way, with a consequent increase in the provision under this item.
In the item relating to stores and materials there is an increase of $1,422,315. My note on this is that appropriation under this item covers anticipated costs of all materials used for the maintenance and operation of services on the North Australia Railway and chargeable to working expenditure for that railway. The increased expenditure under this item stems mainly from the rehabilitation of the permanent way which includes the complete relaying of approximately 117 miles of track with 80 lb rails. Last year 19 miles of relaying was completed It will be seen that there has been a rather significant increase there.
– I thought that the Auditor-General’s report put it at 1 14 miles.
– 1 notice that the figure ‘117’ in my notes has been altered. I shall attempt to sort that one out before we finish dealing with the estimates. The need for additional train services to transport the iron ore from Frances Creek and Mount Bundey has made it necessary to increase the provision for material costs.
As to administrative expenses, the appropriation is increased by $573,467 this year. This item covers incidental expenditure of the North Australia Railway debitable to working expenditure and includes all items not directly chargeable to either salaries and payments in the nature of salaries or stores and materials. The major portion of the relaying of the track to be undertaken on the North Australia Railway will be carried out by contract labour and as such the costs are debitable to item 3. The increased mileage of approximately 117 miles as compared with 19 miles last year will result in a substantial increase. Senator Cavanagh made a point of what appears to be an inordinate turnover of staff. What he says is true. This is a fact of life, but it is difficult to put one’s finger on the precise cause of it. I think it would have been due to a combination of things. No doubt isolation would be one factor. There could well be a variety of reasons. Senator Cavanagh argued that communications he has had with officials of the Building Workers Industrial Union suggest that the conditions under which these people work are a great contributing cause of the turnover of staff. He made some reference to living conditions. T have a note that $40,000 has been appropriated this year for housing improvements and it is expected to repeat this provision over the following 2 years. Turnover of staff is high through isolation and availability of work opportunities in other more settled areas. We can all appreciate those elements.
Reference was made to such amenities as refrigerators and electricity. I understand that the houses are equipped with kerosene refrigerators. Electricity is provided at many depots, and a policy of extending this amenity is being followed, although it is being restricted by limitation of availability of maintenance staff. Septic tanks are provided at those depots where water is readily available. Unavailability of water, of course, restricts the extension of this amenity in some areas. This is another case where the provision of amenities is governed by the availability of natural resources.
The honourable senator criticised the times of victualling on trains. This would be an administrative matter. He was quite justified in raising the matter, however, and I shall see that his suggestions are directed to the right people for examination. But I think that it would be a fair assumption that the arrangement for the evening meal at 4.45 p.m. and breakfast at 7 a.m. would not be made with the deliberate intention of incon veniencing the public. I suggest that other considerations would be involved.
– To avoid the trouble would require the inclusion of a second dining car.
– There might be other considerations such as staff, but I shall refer the points which the honourable senator has raised to the appropriate authorities for their consideration.
– I refer to Division No. 450, subdivision 3, item 02, which relates to the subsidy for the shipping service to Papua and New Guinea. I note that the appropriation for 1966-67 was $400,000 and that the same sum is to be appropriated for 1967-68. In many ways the service that is provided is not very satisfactory from the point of view of Queensland ports. If necessary, I can go into detail on that but I do not want to do so at this stage because although the appropriation has been made for this year, I did see in the Press - I think within the last two weeks - that the Commonwealth Government has decided to discontinue the payment of this subsidy. The subsidy has been in operation for some years and I understand that the agreement provides that in the event of the Government deciding to discontinue it notice of the Government’s intention must be given a certain number of months in advance to enable a readjustment of services. I have not seen anything official about this matter so I was quite interested in the Press report.
Will the Minister state whether a decision has been made to discontinue the subsidy? If the Press report is not correct I shall comment on it later because, as I have said, although the service has been satisfactory so far as certain southern ports are concerned, most assuredly it has not been satisfactory so far as northern ports are concerned. However, it would serve no purpose for me to be critical now if in fact a change is contemplated and pending. I leave the matter there, looking forward to receiving a reply from the Minister in due course.
I refer now to the appropriation of $234,000 for the promotion of road safety practices as mentioned in subdivision 3 of Division No. 450. I thank the Minister for providing us with such detailed notes although they do not supply the answer to a question which I propose to raise. During the Budget debate and on at least one occasion subsequently I have endeavoured to direct the attention of honourable senators, and as far as possible the public, to the tragic and increasing road toll. The number of people being killed and injured on our roads is increasing alarmingly, and it is some comfort to me to know that in two or three States much more severe action is being taken in an endeavour to enforce the law relating to the consumption of alcohol and driving.
What troubles me is that although some Slates are taking definite action, others are not. There is no uniform approach to this problem although each State is approaching the matter in its own way. Following a recent investigation in Great Britain much more severe penalties have been introduced for people who drive cars after having taken alcohol. I think we all will be aware of the effect this is having in Great Britain. Throughout the world there seems to be a rapidly growing recognition that much more severe action must be taken to put an end to the toll of the Toad.
I know that quite a deal is being done in relation to this matter and I am not being critical, but has any action ever been taken by the Department of Shipping and Transport to bring together in conference not only the State Ministers who are responsible for road safety practices, but also Leaders of the Opposition in the States so that a detailed examination of this most important problem can be made by persons from both sides of the political fence? Do not forget that Queensland and South Australia caused top level investigations to be made by some of their experts and the reports have been released within the past 6 months. In fact 1 quoted from them earlier this year. I believe that this subject should be removed from the field of politics. I know that when State Ministers consider increasing the severity of the penalties imposed on those who drive vehicles when they are under the influence of alcohol In either minor or major degree, they realise that they are handling a very hot political potato. I know also that in some instances the State Opposition has taken advantage of the opportunity to criticise the Government’s proposal to impose heavier penalties.
Not only State Ministers but I am sure Leaders of the Opposition in the States as well, are concerned about this problem. If they were brought together in conference and were given the latest available information, I believe that they would agree unanimously to remove this subject from the field of politics. If the Commonwealth Government is to spend $234,000 on promoting road safely practices, I think it is worthwhile trying to bring together the people 1 have mentioned.
During the Budget debate I quoted statistics relating to the toll of the road. lt is alarming to find that today the figures are worse than they were 6 months ago. Consequently I again ask the Minister whether efforts have been made to bring together the leaders of all political parties to discuss this most important subject. If no such efforts have been made, will he commend my suggestion to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) in another place in the hope that some action will be taken to attack this problem even more vigorously than has been the case in the past? I say this with some hesitation, but I do know that there are certain figures which have become available to certain governments recently - I cannot take it any further than that - where even greater proof exists today than existed 6 months ago on this subject.
– Greater what?
– Greater proof of the danger of mixing alcohol with driving exists today than existed 6 months ago. I think that the circumstances are worthy of consideration at the moment and I ask the Minister whether he will consider the matter.
– Mr Temporary Chairman, f am always interested in the remarks of Senator Morris who is much concerned with the aspect of road safety relating to accidents caused by drivers who have indulged in alcohol. Often I hold the belief that this is an easy escape from facing up to many of the possible causes - perhaps the real causes - of road accidents. This is something that I would like to make the purpose of an exercise at some future occasion. I know of many occasions when hardship has been caused to a family because someone has been in breach of the regulation, although he could not be called drunk, in circumstances where no danger was involved. I seriously wonder whether the drunken driver or the driver who has had a certain amount of alcohol but is not uncontrollably drunk is really the cause of as many of the accidents as it is claimed he is. I would support any move suggested by Senator Morris to enable experts to get together to determine whether any solution of this problem can be found. Among the other no-hopers that I defend, let me put a word in for the drunk.
But the question of the Commonwealth Railways is more important to me at the present time. Obviously some explanation is needed of the answers given by the Minister to my queries. While the Minister justifies the big increase in the appropriation for the North Australia Railway because of the re-laying of 117 miles of railway track as against 19 miles last year, I point out to the Committee that at page 245 of the report of the Auditor.General for the year ended 30th June 1967, the following passage appears:
Contracts were let during the year for the supply of five narrow gauge diesel electric locomotives at a total cost of $1,225,000 and for the re-laying of approximately 140 miles of track on the North Australia Railway at a cost of $1,152,145.
I gather from the remarks of the Minister that the Commonwealth Railways is concerned at the turnover in labour power in its organisation. I asked the Minister how much was spent on the provision of various facilities and accommodation during the last financial year. I know the difficulties of supplying these details. The Minister replied that there is an appropriation of $40,000 this year for housing improvements.
I do not know how far that amount will go or how many houses there are that need improvement. The cost of improvement must be viewed in relation to the location and the areas in which the houses are situated, ls this a large amount to provide? May I increase my knowledge by obtaining some indication on what was spent by the Commonwealth Railways on housing improvements last year so that this may be compared with any additional appropriation this year?
The Minister said that the difficulties in extending electric light and other facilities arose because of the inability to obtain maintenance staff. The very question that I bring up for consideration is the inability of the Commonwealth Railways to keep staff at any time in isolated and remote areas. Some inducement must be provided. As I have stated, fettlers in the Commonwealth Railways are the lowest paid fettlers, because of their arbitration award, in Australian railways. I wonder whether the Minister would give consideration to the cost of entering into arbitration processes to oppose legitimate applications for increases for these railway fettlers, compared with what a successful claim would cost the Commonwealth Railways. I ask him to consider that cost in comparison with the continued turnover of men in these areas. I ask the Minister whether it would not be more financially beneficial to the Commonwealth Railways if more consideration was given to the approaches to arbitration by this division. There has never been an application to the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator for claims against the Commonwealth Railways that has not been strongly opposed by industrial officers from the Commonwealth Railways. Obviously the Commonwealth Railways has very capable officers who in the main succeed in their submissions.
The men live in poor conditions. I have described them in this way at the congress of the Building Workers Industrial Union and the Minister acknowledges the existence of the poor conditions. The reason he gives for the poor conditions is lack of maintenance staff. But the men, living and working in the worst conditions in Australia, are the lowest paid for their class of work anywhere in Australia. As a result the turnover of manpower in the Commonwealth Railways is greater than that in any other government department in Australia. In view of this, does not the approach of the Government to the industrial claims of the men and to their housing conditions in these remote areas need rethinking?
– Mr Temporary Chairman, when the Committee resumes after the suspension of the sitting, 1 hope to be able to deal with the matter raised by Senator Morris. Concerning the matters raised by Senator Cavanagh, I have just been told that the information that he seeks relating to the expenditure last year in comparison with the expenditure this year is not available. It is not possible to get it at this point in time. A departmental break-up of the figures will be required. The officers here do not have those figures. I will see that the honourable senator receives the information.
Regarding the other matters that the honourable senator raises, we acknowledge the problem of staff relations. The points that the honourable senator is making in this respect are germane to this very problem concerning conditions. The honourable senator read from the report of the Auditor-General a reference to 140 miles of track being relaid on the North Australia Railway as against my figure of 117 miles. During the suspension of the sitting, I hope to get some information relating to that matter.
In the half minute left to me before the sitting is suspended, I point out to the honourable senator that he is raising matters in relation to conditions of employment and wages and salaries that, quite clearly, we are not competent to deal with during this Estimates debate. The honourable senator is expressing a point of view. He is making a case. Nobody gainsays the right of the honourable senator to do that. 1 am not competent, nor are my officers here at this time, to make any real observations relating to these matters beyond saying that if the honourable senator asks for specific information, which is not available now, we will see that he obtains it. It may be that between now and when the sitting of the Committee resumes I will be able to obtain some additional information for him.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before dinner I was referring to requests that Senator Cavanagh had made. I was putting my mind to the apparent difference between 117 miles and 140 miles of railway, as referred to by me and the Auditor-General respectively. In regard to the relaying of the North Australia Railway, the Auditor-General’s report records that during the year a contract was let for relaying approximately 140 miles. At the end of the year 19 miles had been completed, leaving 121 miles to be relaid in order to complete the job. The total mileage relaid was 4 miles short of that expected at the time when the estimates were compiled. That means that although the estimates make provision for 117 miles in Division No. 814, an additional 4 miles still have to be relaid. Additional funds may be required under the Additional Estimates later in the year if the necessary savings cannot be achieved in other items of expenditure.
The honourable senator referred to further information in the Auditor-General’s report in regard to rolling stock being purchased for north Australia, which had not been mentioned in the explanations previously given in respect of the working expenditure votes in Division No. 814. He was unable to relate figures shown in the Auditor-General’s report with the explanations given. The cost of the rolling stock is provided for in the capital vote under Division No. 972, item 03. In regard to the contract for the relaying, only the labour and incidental expenditure is provided for in Division No. 814. Material costs are distributed proportionately between capital expenditure and working expenditure and are provided for in the estimates under Division No. 972 - capital expenditure - and Division No. 814, subdivisions 2 and 3 - working expenditure.
Senator Morris referred to the removal of the subsidy payable in respect of the shipping service between Australia and Papua and New Guinea. On 10th October the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) and the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) made a Press statement which was circulated through the usual channels. As it has not had the currency that one would have hoped it would have, I will read it. It stated:
The Commonwealth Government has decided to withdraw progressively the subsidy paid to Burns Philp & Co. Ltd, in respect of its shipping operations between Australia and Papua-New Guinea.
In a joint statement today, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Gordon Freeth, and the Minister for Territories, Mr C. E. Barnes, said the present annual subsidy would be phased out gradually over the next 15 months, and end altogether on December 31, 1968.
The withdrawal of the present annual subsidy would begin in April 1968. The Commonwealth Government in accordance with agreed arrangements will give the company 6 months notice to that effect
Subsidy would be withdrawn in respect of the Bulolo’ in April 1968, and ‘Maleluka’ on June 30, 1968 and the ‘Moresby’ on December 31. 1968.
Continuation of the subsidy for each ship in the meantime would be dependent on the ship remaining on the Australian register up to that date.
The Ministers also said that the special privileges granted to Burns Philp for the carriage of copra and Government-controlled stores would be withdrawn on June 30, 1968.
The pointed out that the subsidy had been introduced in January 1955 to maintain three ships of the Australian register in the Papua-New Guinea trade. In 1966-67 the amount of subsidy had been $400,000.
That was the amount to which the honourable senator referred. The Press statement continued:
Burns Philp had played an important role in the development of the Territory, and they were expected to continue to do so. Shipping circumstances in Papua-New Guinea had changed, however, and shipping services . to the Territory had increased. Mr Freeth said there were now thirteen operators serving Papua-New Guinea ports and there was little likelihood of shipping services being diminished by the withdrawal of the subsidy.
Modernisation in cargo shipping and handling methods was taking place, with new types of ships and the introduction of modern cargo handling techniques which would enable more efficient and profitable service.
The Ministers said that in recent years greater emphasis had been placed on passenger travel by air. The first class air fare was. less than the lowest sca fare.
There had been discussion in the Papua-New Guinea House of Assembly about the monopoly in the copra trade enjoyed by Burns Philp, and also the right to Government shipping business between Australia and the Territory, and Mr Barnes said that other shipping companies were seeking a share in the trade.
Removal of the subsidy and privileges is expected to be more conducive to competition and it is therefore hi the long term interests of the Territory’s economic development.
Senator Morris also referred to the promotion of road safety practices. The burden of his submission was that the Commonwealth Government should take action beyond that which it already takes. That implies that there should be an alteration of the Estimates. The explanatory notes supplied to me state that the cost of campaigns to increase public awareness of the seriousness of the road accident problem and to reduce the high rate of preventable road accidents is provided for in Division No. 450, subdivision 3, item 04.
In recent years the principal avenue by which the Commonwealth has undertaken the promotion of road safety practices is in the field of public education. This year the Department of Shipping and Transport will continue its vigorous national education campaigns, propaganda aimed at all age groups and the extensive use of all media of advertising which are financed from this appropriation. To ensure that there is no diminution in the Commonwealth’s interest in the Australia-wide promotion of road safety, the provision for 1967-68 has been maintained at the same level as the 1966-67 appropriation. In addition to the funds provided under this item, $116,000 has been included under Division No. 949 - payments to or for the States - for disbursement to the States. In that last sentence we see the pattern of the procedures that are adopted in respect of this matter.
No-one would deny the points that were made by Senator Morris in respect of the seriousness of this problem. We recognise that it is a world problem; that it is not peculiar to Australia. By world standards, our record in terms of the impact that we are able to make puts us in about the middle of the road. It must always be borne in mind that the primary responsibility for doing the things that need to be done rests with the States. The modus operandi is through the Australian Transport Advisory Council, which consists of the State Ministers for Transport and the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport, who is the Chairman. Whilst the Commonwealth Government gives leadership and provides financial help to the extent of the $234,000 provided in the estimates of this Department for overall campaigning which goes across State boundaries and which makes use of media such as radio and television and special pamphlets, it is the States that have the responsibility for such matters as traffic control, and they are very jealous of their rights. The portfolio administered by Senator Morris in Queensland certainly encompassed transport, because as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety I remember going to see him personally in connection with these matters.
When we think of all that ought to be done, the three Es come to mind - education engineering and enforcement. Those matters rest within the constitutional responsibility of the States themselves. We can give the States a degree of leadership. One of the functions of the Australian Transport Advisory Council is to draw the various States together in an attempt to give them leadership so as to achieve in practice a degree of uniformity. But there is a degree of reservation as to whether the proposals that are advocated are necessarily acceptable to a particular State. For instance, Senator Morris referred to liquor and the use of breathalysers. Some countries very strongly hold the view that there should be some form of breathalyser test and that heavy penalties should be imposed on persons who are convicted. I stand to be corrected, but I think that Victoria is the only State which is using breathalyser tests in an effort to overcome this problem. Other States do not regard breathalyser tests as being necessary or desirable, or at least they have not embraced them in their campaigns.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I am very grateful to the Minister for the time that he has given to this matter. I would like to make it clear to him that I am not being critical of what the Commonwealth Government is doing. I think that it is doing some splendid work in this field. I accept completely his comment that the prime responsibility for overcoming this problem rests with the States. But the Minister went on to say that the Federal Government has the responsibility to give leadership. I think that it has given leadership, and it is in this field of leadership that I am making my present plea. I know that there are many Ministers who are anxious, to do something constructive in this field. Many of them recognise the fact that the man who drinks and then drives poses one of the greatest problems, if not the greatest problem, facing us’ at the present time. The Commonwealth should continue to give leadership. But I make a plea for the Government to extend its leadership a little by bringing together from all the States not only the Ministers who are responsible for trying to overcome this problem but also the Leaders of the opposition in the hope that a unanimous move could be made.
Politics should not enter into this question. There should be co-operation from both sides of the State Parliaments so that a more uniform approach to the problem could be adopted. I am certain that if the Ministers in charge of this aspect of State administration knew that they would receive the co-operation of the Leaders of the Opposition, sterner measures would be taken and we would get greater uniformity throughout Australia. I emphasise that my comments were not designed to criticise what the Government is doing in this field. I think it is doing very well. I am not asking for a reduction in the money provided in this field or for more money to be provided. But I am asking for a certain amount of money to be used - it would not be much - to bring all these important sections of our political life together so that a greater effort will be made to overcome the problem.
– I want to wind off what I was saying about road safety. I was about to say that to my knowledge this matter was not being used as a political football. Perhaps Senator Morris did not mean to imply that. State Ministers who have their own advisers hold fairly strong views on what they consider is the best for their own particular State. Reference has been made to uniformity. As some honourable senators know, when you bring together officials from the States they are all in favour of uniformity. But my experience is that they want uniformity to embrace their own system. Let me take an accident reporting sheet as an example. They say: ‘We are in favour of a uniform accident reporting sheet. The one to have is the one that we have in our State.’ Uniformity is very good but it does not necessarily solve the problem. The view that I have held for a long time and which is based on evidence I have gathered around the world, is that of the three Es - education, engineering and enforcement - education in the final analysis is the most important. The States have a tremendous responsibility in relation to education. What the Commonwealth can do in the broad sweep is not really significant when compared with what the States can do.
Senator Morris suggested that we should draw more people into the Australian Road Safety Council so as to get a broader look at the problem. I believe that the Australian
Road Safety Council and the State Road Safety Councils are doing a magnificent job. It is a continuing job, and there can be no letting up. Every day we are in this chamber people are being injured or killed on our roads.
-Because the debate has revolved mainly around the Commonwealth Railways, I want to raise a number of questions concerning that department. FirstI want to ask the Minister a question on the matter raised by Senator Cavanagh, namely, the turnover in the track maintenance staff. According to the 1966-67 annual report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the turnover in the permanent way staff was 3,323 this year compared with 3,572 last year. I would like the Minister to tell me - if he cannot do so now he may let me know in writing - the reason for the large turnover in permanent way staff in the last financial year. It appears to me that the turnover is far too great. There must be a reason for it. It could be because of isolation, which was one of the reasons which the Minister himself advanced. I suggest that the probable reason is the difference between the margins paid to the permanent way staff in the Commonwealth Railways and those paid to permanent way staffs in the other railway services throughout Australia. This is an important matter. The Government ought to pay some regard to what the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has said.
The second point relates to the Commonwealth Railways workshops at Port Augusta. I have regularly raised the matter of the need to have a completely productive unit there for the manufacture of rolling stock and even the prime movers that run on the Commonwealth Railways. I must admit that in recent years there have been some extensions to the Port Augusta workshops. The Commissioner’s interim report for 1966-67 points out that the heavy plant workshop has been extended by 6,000 sq ft. I put it to the Government that the Port Augusta workshops ought to be equipped to produce most of the rolling stock and some of the main prime movers. As I understand the position, the workshops’ productive capacity ought to enable them to do this work. Most of the requirements are being purchased from outside industry and some from other States. Whilst I wel come increases in the capacity of the workshops I put it to the Minister that there ought to be an association between the Islington workshop and the Commonwealth Railways workshops in the production of most of the rolling stock and first class cars required by the Commonwealth Railways. Over the years much of the rolling stock has been obtained from overseas and this should not be necessary. We should be able to produce it in our own workshops.
The report states at page 16 that two stainless steel sleeping cars were officially handed over at Port Augusta on 28th July 1966. It continues:
Freight rolling stock was further augmented during the year by the following standard gauge and 3 ft. 6 in. gauge vehicles:
Twenty-nine 75-ft. open goods wagons.
Sixteen 56-ft. flat wagons.
Twenty-four 75-ft. louvre vans. 3 ft. 6 in. Gauge:
Twenty 36-ft. open goods wagons.
The twenty narrow gauge 36-ft. louvre vans, for which a contract was let last year, have not yet been received. . . . Eight standard gauge 45-ft. steel brakevans were received. . . .
At this stage in the development of our standardised railways we should ensure that the Port Augusta workshops, which are the only workshops of the Commonwealth Railways, are able to produce most of the required rolling stock. If the workshops cannot do this they ought have some association for the purpose with the South Australian Railways workshop at Islington. I hope that as a result of my comments there might be a progressive association between the South Australian Railways and the Commonwealth Railways.
The report refers at page 19 to railway standardisation. Reference is made to the connection between Port Pirie and Adelaide and to a survey of the proposed route between Port Augusta and Whyalla. I should like the Minister to advise whether there has been a firm report about a positive route. The interim report states:
A report has also been submitted to the Commonwealth Government in connection with a proposal (hat the Commonwealth should build and operate a new standard gauge railway between Port Augusta and Whyalla.
Moneys have been expended by the Commonwealth Government on the survey of a route to Whyalla and I should like to know the current position. I should like some information also in relation to the Frances
Creek railway. Earlier in the year 1 raised the matter of complaints by the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen to the effect that the track was not safe andI requested that urgent attention be given to re-laying and traffic conditions. I should like to know whether this work is in hand, whether the track is safe and whether operations over the track are conducted in safe working conditions. 1 refer now to the arrangements made to supply water to the Tarcoola Hotel which provides a community service. Many railway employees from the “TransAustralian line go to Tarcoola for professional medical and optical attention and they stay at the hotel which has to pay higher water rates than are paid by government employees. I applied to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and the Chief Engineer for a reduction in the rates charged for water supplied to Tarcoola Hotel to the level of the charges made to government officials at Tarcoola. I should like the Minister to consider this matter favourably in view of the services which are supplied by this hotel In this very isolated area.
Finally,I refer to the Australian National Line and direct my remarks to Division No. 450. I should like the Minister to consider the recommendations by the Australian National Line in relation to overseas trade. I have referred to this matter previously. To bring the position up to date I refer to a question directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) in another place by Mr O’Connor on 20th September 1967 as to the Government’s intention in relation to Australian shipping interests trading overseas. Mr Freeth replied:
As 1 have told the House on numerous occasions, both the Government and -he Australian National Line are constantly studying possibilities of engaging profitably in overseas trade. Recently the Government has had comment and recommendations from the Australian National Line which are at present receiving the consideration of the Cabinet.
In the current report, the Chairman of the Australian National Line states:
In overseas trading, nineteen voyages to the Far East were completed during the 12 months, including those by the ‘Jeparit’, now continuously employed carrying supplies to South Vietnamese ports . . . Meanwhile, consideration of the feasibility of operating vessels under the Australian flag as general cargo carriers in certain overseas trades is in progress.
I would like the Minister to tell me whether a decision has yet been made or whether the Cabinet is still considering the matter.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I would like to know whether the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) has any further information about the Melbourne to King Island Shipping Service than is contained in the explanatory notes circulated to honourable senators. It is proposed this financial year to reduce the financial assistance in respect of that service by $30,000. In view of the improvement in the island’s economy, which has resulted in an increased flow of freight to Melbourne, it is difficult for me to understand why the. financial provision is to be reduced this financial year. I see from the explanatory notes supplied that it is proposed to review the matter in June 1968. It seems as though the financial assistance might then be cut out altogether. Has the Minister any further information about this?
– Mr Temporary Chairman, I think that I can now dispose of a couple of the matters that have been raised. Senator Lillico referred to the Melbourne to King Island Shipping Service. It is true that the provision for financial assistance, which was $160,000 last financial year, is to be reduced to $130,000 this financial year. The explanatory note that I have been given states:
Under an agreement with K. H. Houfe and Co. Pty Ltd, the Commonwealth is providing financial assistance towards the maintenance of the shipping service between Melbourne and King Island operated by that Company. The aim is to reduce the burden of freight costs on the Island’s economy, and financial assistance is paid to the operator, with an equivalent reduction in the rates of freight charged to the users of the Service.
The intention in granting the financial assistance is to enable the Service and the Island’s economy to develop to a point where assistance will no longer be required.
Expenditure during 1966-67 represents actual assistance payable within the terms of the agreement and the 1967-68 estimate envisages a reduction in the rate of subsidy by agreement between the Department and R. H. Houfe and Co. Pty Ltd, based on an examination of the Company’s financial returns for the previous 2 years during which the subsidy has been payable.
Inherent in that is the proposition that the subsidy is beginning to achieve its original object and that a more viable and more efficient service is developing. This is revealed in the Company’s own records, and this is what has led to a reduction of $30,000 in the subsidy.
– Is it correct that there has been an increase in the volume of freight carried from King Island to Melbourne or in the return direction?
– From what source is the honourable senator quoting that information? Is he quoting from a document?
– Will Senator Lillico name the document?
– It is the document relating to the estimates for the Department that has been circulated by the Minister.
– Then the information given is correct. What that document states is practically the same as the information contained in my own explanatory note, which I have just read.
I turn now to Senator Bishop’s comments. He asked whether it was contemplated that the Australian National Line would enter into overseas trade. The Government is still examining this question as the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) has indicated, and I therefore have no further information to give at this stage. Senator Bishop asked also about the survey of a rail route between Whyalla and Port Augusta. 1 have no information about that. He asked also about the Frances Creek railway. Work was done on the track as a matter of urgency and I understand that it is now considered to be safe, f have already given some reasons for the turnover of staff, a matter that was mentioned by Senator Bishop and Senator Cavanagh, and I cannot at present add much to those reasons. They based their remarks on conditions of employment and they put some strong points about isolation and the standard of amenities compared with those elsewhere.
Senator Bishop also mentioned the possibility of the Port Augusta workshops of the Commonwealth Railways undertaking additional works. A number of factors are involved. This answer may need elaborating subsequently, but I shall give what information I can now. It is obvious that the Commonwealth Railways are having diffi culties in providing enough staff to undertake even the regular maintenance now required. The sort of proposition envisaged by Senator Bishop would involve considerable extension of the functions and work of the Port Augusta workshops. As he no doubt knows, an establishment, cannot, be geared up over night for additional work of the kind envisaged. The economics of gearing up for it in a climate and an area in which it might subsequently be difficult to get enough staff to continue the work have first to be carefully considered. All sorts of economic questions are raised, and I am not competent to expand on them here. I merely project them in order to give some idea of the problems that no doubt the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has been considering.
– Does he intend to undertake such a proposal or will he not bother about it?
– I do not know. This is a matter of policy, also, and ! could not be expected to give an answer about it now. I have been given a note that emphasises the difficulty of getting maintenance staff at present for ordinary maintenance work. A proposal such as that made by the honourable senator, which envisages the development of huge workshops that will undertake much construction of rolling stock, necessarily poses many problems that would have to be considered in depth.
The Tarcoola Hotel is regarded as an economic venture and therefore it cannot be put in the same category in relation to the provision of accommodation, water supplies and the like as are schools, hospitals and other establishments that provide essential community services, f shall see that Senator Bishop is given an answer on this matter in greater depth. If I have missed any points that have been raised, I shall certainly pick them up later.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) [8.381 - Mr Temporary Chairman, I would like to discuss the promotion of road safety practices, which comes under Division No. 450, and for which $234,000 is being allocated this financial year. I believe that one of the most important functions of the Department of Shipping and Transport ‘.% the promotion of road safety. We ought to do everything in our power to try to end dreadful carnage on our roads. So far this year, more than 2,000 lives have been lost on Australia’s roads. Many of those killed were young people in their teens. Last weekend in Western Australia, my home State, no fewer than five teenage boys on the threshhold of adulthood were killed in road smashes. We all know of the dreadful suffering and toss caused by road accidents, not only in terms of death but also is terms of the maiming for life of many of the unfortunate victims. Therefore, I believe that the proposed expenditure on road safety could well bc increased. I was interested to read this statement in the notes supplied by the Minister:
Funds arc provided ro carry out Commonwealth responsibilities in this field, using principally the media of television, radio and the metropolitan and country press.
I do know that the Road Safety Council of Australia does Use television very effectively but a lot of the impact of this method of publicity is spoilt because it is often followed by advertisements by motor companies about new, bigger and faster cars. The idea of great speed being a virtue of a new car is one of the big problems which f think the Road Safety Council should attempt to combat. In the United States of America investigations were recently carried out to make cars safer by fixing governors to them. Speed should not be made a virtue in television advertisements by motor firms. I think the Government should do all it can to discourage this speed element. I read in today’s Press a report about the London motor show. There are cars on exhibition capable of speeds up to 150 miles an hour. All honourable senators know what young lads are like. If a car is capable of travelling at 150 miles an hour they will try to make it do 1 60 miles an hour. This is what one expects of young lads.
I feel that a lot more remains to be done to promote safe driving. Efforts could be made in the field of education. In Western Australia, with the co-operation of the State Government and the Department of Education, the Road Safety Council has established an excellent setup to teach safe driving in the schools. Road safety, road laws and so on are taught in the schools. I should like to see this idea adopted on a Commonwealth basis. I think that the appropriate Ministers of the various States should get together with the Road Safety Councils and other authorities in an effort to combat the speed element.
Most road accidents are due to two factors: the human factor and the mechanical factor. We can only control the human factor by appealing to the public, particularly to the younger people because they represent such a large percentage of accident victims. So far as the mechanical factor is concerned, most of the accidents come about through excessive speed and this is something which the Government could control by limiting, at the manufacturing point, the speed at which cars can travel.
People who can drive cars at speeds of 180 or 200 miles an hour are held up as heroes for young people to copy. This is ridiculous because drivers have a weapon of death in their hands. Road accidents not only result in terrific mental anguish ir. the community but also involve great economic loss. From every point of view I think that the whole of the resources of the Road Safety Council should be employed in an effort to reduce the dreadful toll of death on our roads. It is increasing every day. We read in the Press every day thai the road toll stands al a certain figure compared with the same period last year. It would almost appear that we were trying to surpass last years figures. Very little is being done towards saving young people from themselves.
I have visited hospitals and paraplegic institutions and have seen many men. just on the threshold of life, doomed to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives. I am certain that if some of the young offenders against road safety were taken to visit those places and saw the results of road accidents they would realise the consequences of speed. Many of the victims would be better off if they had been fatally injured. Then they would not be suffering a lingering death. I feel very strongly about, this matter. 1 hope that the Road Safety Council will redouble its efforts to see that more is done to bring about better safety conditions on our roads.
– I wish to address my remarks to Division No. 810 which covers the TransAustralian Railway. I refer the Minister to the interim annual report for 1966-67 of the Commonwealth Railways. At page 22 of that report there is a reference to the Bogie Exchange Centre at Port Pirie Junction. lt is only a short reference and it is as follows:
The Bogie Exchange Centre at Port Pirie Junction continued to operate satisfactorily throughout the year. Since the introduction of bogie exchange at that point in October, 196S, a total of almost 200,000 tons of goods traffic has been handled by this method, of which approximately 140,000 tons was handled during 1966-67.
I have had the opportunity of inspecting this Centre at Port Pirie. In the short time I was there I was most impressed with the efficiency of the operation and the excellent team work of the men.
Could the Minister let me know whether there is any chance of this exchange operation being extended and whether there are any limiting factors to its use? Would it be possible to install such an exchange system at Marree where the line to Alice Springs passes? At Marree the rail gauge changes from 4 ft 8i in to 3 ft 6 in. It would appear that if the exchange system is so successful at Port Pirie it would be equally as successful at Marree. If a satisfactory bogie exchange could be set up at Marree a lot of the problems associated with the broadening of the gauge between Marree and Alice Springs could be overcome. This idea of a bogie exchange seems to me to be quite an important venture. I would like the Minister to give me some facts about it, such as the percentage of goods involved in the operation at Port Pirie Junction. I would also like to know whether there are any limiting factors which would inhibit the extension of the idea and whether it could be used at Marree, further north, where the gauge changes from 4 ft 8£ in to 3 ft 6 in.
– I was glad to hear my colleague Senator Lillico refer to Division No. 450, subdivision 3, item 05 which deals with the provision of financial assistance for the MelbourneKing Island shipping service. A subsidy is provided by the Commonwealth for this service. The oddity is that King Island is the beneficiary of this provision but assistance is only provided for one way trade. I am obliged to the Minister for the notes about the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport which he Was good- enough to circulate. But those notes absorbed a bit of the indefiniteness of the Canberran scribe and did not go into much detail. The notes state:
The Commonwealth is continuing to provide financial assistance for this service for a period which commenced on 1st January 196S and is under regular review.
On what terms? By whom and on what criteria? The notes continue: lt is hoped that by June i960 the increasing volume of cargo carried will enable the Government to review the need for continued assistance in the light of improvement in the island’s economy.
I am very glad to read that. It is in accordance with my expectations that Mr Houfe’s company, with the backing of a new ship for the service, would generate a trade that would increase the freights earned. 1 would be obliged if the officers of the Department could be directed by Her Majesty’s servants to give to the Senate a statement of the freights earned. I would like to know the terms of any arrangements as to the subsidy that has been provided and whether as part of those terms there has been any requirement that the King Islanders are to pay increased freights. Then we will be able to make a judgment as to the degree to which we are benefiting the people who on King Island tonight are milking their cows probably until this time.
Another aspect of the shipping service from King Island to Melbourne is, I am reliably informed, that Mr Houfe has put forward proposals for his shipping service to operate not merely from Victoria to King Island but from Victoria to King Island and Tasmania and return, providing a roll-on roll-off service with a terminal at Stanley. I would like to be informed whether any such proposal is under consideration and whether we have reached the stage where we can be told whether a subsidy will be offered for that service. I would like to know the general terms of the proposal, because such a service would be of great value to the port of Stanley, one of the main ports of the Circular Head district of north western Tasmania. I would like to see Commonwealth assistance granted to it in its first few years.
I ask the Minister now to turn his attention to Division No. 460 - Australian Shipbuilding Board. We are asked to approve an appropriation of $42.472m, of which sum S42m is to be appropriated for the purchase of ships, material and equipment. It surprises me that this programme of the Government still operates, as I understand it, under National Security Regulations which were introduced in about 1947 by the Labor Government. It was a device to avoid the provisions of the Constitution. I do not suppose that we are very enthusiastic about compliance with such necessary laws as are embodied in the Constitution. We In this chamber seem to have developed an enthusiasm for adherence to regulations over the last week or two.
– Only the referendum law.
– Perhaps we will return to compliance with some of the provisions of the Constitution which require that subsidies or bounties are to be uniform. Under Division No. 460 we are not asked to approve a subsidy. We are asked to approve an appropriation. The AuditorGeneral will then have his chaner for an appropriation for the purchase of ships, material and equipment. But of course, we know that the Australian Shipbuilding Board builds ships for Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and others and then sells them.
– They are built under contract.
– That may be so, but the cost of construction is always about 30% above the price at which the ships are sold, The benefit of the depreciated price in the way of a subsidy is thereby given to the purchasers.
– It is like sending wheat to China.
– No, J reject that idea entirely. I have a few ideas on the sale of wheat to China which it will be appropriate to voice when we come to a matter such as that, lt has nothing to do with the sale at wheat to China.
– The sale of wheat to China has nothing to do with the estimates under discussion.
– -I was trying to get over to the Senate my point about the construction and purchase of ships. On 4th October 1963 the Tariff Board brought out a report on shipbuilding, lt found that assistance should be accorded to the building in Australia of ships and other floating structures of a certain type. We understand that we are guided by the recommendation of the Tariff Board on this matter to grant a subsidy, and we do it by building ships and selling them at a loss. I have put this matter before the Minister previously, I hope not too tediously, for the purpose of making a simple request. I ask the Minister to tell us of the operations of the subsidy over the last 12 months. Who really got the benefit of the loss that we made on the construction and purchase of ships, and in respect of what ships? Any subsidy provided in this country should be available to all who can earn a part of it. However, I understand that the view is taken that the Government may specify certain shipbuilders and they are the only people who can participate in the arrangement. 1 ask the Minister to inform me whether there is provision for that arrangement in any statute, regulation, Cabinet directive or other instrument in writing. I am anxious to be informed of the legality of the requirement - which the Government insists upon - that only specified persons shall enjoy the benefit of this policy.
– I rise because prior to the suspension of the sitting the Minister promised to give me information about expenditure on improvements to homes last year. The Minister did not supply that information, nor did he give it immediately after we resumed this evening. I do not believe that the Minister has since given that information and I would remind him that he has overlooked my question.
– I have gleaned that the information is not available in the form in which Senator Cavanagh seeks it. That applies also to a number of requests that have been made of Her Majesty’s servant by Senator Wright. The information he requests is not available to me. My officers have not been able to give me all the answers for which he has asked. This information is not available at the moment, but it will be supplied later. Senator Tangney spoke of road safety and referred in particular to the question of speed. I do not think anyone could find any quarrel with the views she expressed. But here again we get back to the point I made earlier with Senator Morris. Some States believe in applying a prima facie speed limit and placing the onus of responsibility on the driver. Under this system, it is permissible to drive at any speed outside certain built up areas but, in the event of an accident, the onus is placed on the driver to prove that he was not driving dangerously. Other States, however, believe that it is better to place an absolute limit above which it is unlawful to drive on any road. So we have that conflict of opinion where speed is concerned. There is no doubt that speed is one of the main killers on the road. Statistics prove that it is one of the main contributing causes of road deaths. Statistics also show that people between the ages of 17 and 24 years are more accident prone than older people but then, when they become elderly say when they are over 65, they again become accident prone. It is a very complex question and I think that for the most part we all agree with the arguments adduced by Senator Tangney.
– I spoke also of advertising cars as having more speed.
– The honourable senator has suggested that advertisements exhorting people to buy a particular brand of motor car simply because it can do 120 miles per hour should be prohibited. This again is an area in which the States are required to accept responsibility, but 1 do agree that encouragement to speed is the wrong way to approach the problem.
Senator Laught referred to the bogie centre at Port Pirie junction. I am not able to get any information at the moment as to whether it would be economic to expand this principle although it is effective where it is operating. Consideration is being given to the development of the standard gauge system in that area. The departmental officers could not offer any immediate answers to the proposition put by the honourable senators as to what the limitations of the bogie exchange system would be.
– Could the Minister find out and let me know?
– Certainly. This is a very pertinent question. The honourable senator wishes to know whether this system could be introduced in order to do away with the awkward situations created by breaks in rail gauges. The honourable senator will know that we are now giving full consideration to completing the Broken Hill standard gauge project, but all the problems involved there have not yet been fully resolved.
Senator Wright adverted to the King Island question which was mentioned by Senator Lillico. The point that I was making was that the subsidy would tend to reduce as the operation became more successful. The honourable senator agreed with that. Senator Lillico was endeavouring to argue that as trade increased so did freight charges. Senator Wright wanted particulars of the position. He also asked for information relating to wharfage arrangements and extensions of the service. This information is not readily available but will be supplied so soon as it is obtained. I might add that if any honourable senator feels that he would like more information on any point he has raised it is quite competent for him to make representations either to me or the Department of Shipping and Transport and it will be obtained for him. I must point out in all fairness, however, that some questions do involve a considerable amount of breakdown in details in the Department, but any information required will be supplied so soon as it is available.
The honourable senator also referred to some of the problems connected with shipbuilding. These involve constitutional considerations that I am not competent to discuss but, in reply to Senator Wright’s question relating to assistance to the shipbuilding industry, I would say that in its endeavours to provide the shipbuilding industry in Australia with financial assistance, the Government does so by requiring that each vessel which is to qualify for subsidy is built through the auspices of the Australian Shipbuilding Board, whose responsibility it is to enter into contracts with shipbuilders for the construction of vessels to owners requirements. Authority for the Commonwealth’s actions in this regard stems from section 47 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act which reads as follows:
Item 01 of Division 460, subdivision 3 covers the funds needed this year to make payments to shipbuilders for vessels under construction or to be built under contract to the Australian Shipbuilding Board. The Australian Shipbuilding Board provides the design services for owners and when requirements are finalised, calls tenders from the recognised shipyards, lets the contract and finally, after accepting delivery of the vessel, sells it to the owner at a price which is arrived at on a basis of comparison with what the cost would be if the same vessel had been built in a United Kingdom yard and delivered to Australia. The limit of financial assistance is one-third of the cost of building it in Australia.
Only vessels of 200 tons gross and above qualify for subsidy as do a number of types of marine craft, other than merchant ships, such as dredges, barges, pontoons, floating cranes, etc. Such limitations were decided upon by the Government after considering recommendations which flowed from the Tariff Board inquiry held in 1963. Senator Wright referred to the Tariff Board’s report of 1963 and then asked for information as to the operation of the scheme over a certain period of time, f have not that information available tonight, but I shall see thai it is furnished to the honourable senator later.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) [9.9.1- 1 direct the Minister’s attention to item 01 of Division No. 451 which concerns expenditure under the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act. Could the Minister explain adequately what the Commonwealth has gained in return for the moneys expended under this item 01. I refer also to item 3 of Division 949 of Appropriation Bill (No. 2). This item relates to promotion of road safety practices. Here, what Senator Tangney has said could well be repeated by myself. The money expended by the Commonwealth on this work should be directed towards obtaining some return for Australia as a whole. Will the Minister inform me what is involved in the expenditure and what gains, if any, the Commonwealth has made in relation to those two items? Can the Minister indicate the nature of the expenditure that is likely to be incurred by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads for which an appropriation of $650,000 has been made for this year compared with an appro priation of $375,000 last year and $50,000 the previous year? This allocation is covered by Division No. 451.
I direct attention to that portion of Division No. 460 - Australian Shipbuilding Board - which relates to ship construction. How are contracts let for the purchase or construction of ships? What is the present position in relation to the lighthouse supply vessel ‘Noel Buxton’? On page 159 of his report the Auditor-General refers to a series of events and provides some background to the construction of this vessel, in respect of which T should imagine the Committee is entitled to an explanation. The AuditorGeneral has this to say:
In June 1964 a contract was let on a variable price basis for the construction of the lighthouse supply vessel MV ‘Noel Buxton’. The estimated cost at that time was $428,000. Subsequently, certain alterations and modifications in the design were effected.
During 1966-67, expenditure charged to Division No. 948-1, Item 02 Lighthouse supply vessels - Replacement, included $175,584 in respect of the construction of the MV ‘Noel Buxton’. This expenditure, after adjustment of $9,837 administrative expenditure from the previous year, brought total expenditure to 30th June 1967 on the vessel to $717,574.
The MV ‘Noel Buxton’ was commissioned in July 1966 but has been in effective service for approximately 6 weeks only since that date. Al the time of preparation of this report, the vessel was undergoing further tests of auxiliary equipment. The Department has advised that the vessel is scheduled to re-enter service towards the end of August 1967 and that the matter, generally, is under examination.
What responsibility has the Department in relation to this vessel? 1 do not have a wide background of knowledge as to the way in which appropriations have been evolved over the years. The matter to which I wish to refer relates to salaries and wages and is covered in Divisions Nos 450, 455 and 460. I emphasise that I am not referring only to the Department of Shipping and Transport on this occasion and unless 1 am satisfied with the Minister’s general answer to my questions I shall have to raise the matter again when we arc discussing the estimates for other departments. I notice an item ‘Higher duties allowances’. How is expenditure under this item assessed? How can one estimate to the nearest $1 how much will be required for higher duties allowances? I would be interested to know the background to this item. I should imagine it indicates that during the year individuals will be placed in a higher category and will receive some higher allowance, but in the context of the Public Service one would think that there would be some limit to it. I made a rough calculation of expenditure in this direction in all departments and it amounted to over $5m.
It is interesting to note that in departments which have overseas connections, such as the Department of Immigration and the Department of External Affairs, an estimate is made in respect of each post, but no provision is made for any allowances of this nature by the Department of Trade and Industry for its overseas posts. Apparently expenditure under this item is not regarded by the Treasury as likely to be incurred at every overseas post. Approximately $37,000 is to be allocated to the Department of Trade and Industry foi higher duties allowances but, if my calculation is correct, some $1.1 7 8m is to be allocated to the Department of the Treasury for this purpose. There appears to be complete inconsistency.
– What is the point of the juxtaposition?
– I am seeking to learn the way in which departments calculate higher duties allowances for their staffs. If an officer holds a certain position at the beginning of the year which carries a certain salary, should his duties generally be affected to the extent indicated by the appropriation for higher duties allowances, even if he acts in a higher position for some part of the year? Is this item used as a device to hide the total salary that an officer will receive before the year is out? I should like the Minister to explain the position as it affects his own Department
– Dealing with the last point first let me say that this item applies to practically every department. In all departments, particularly where many people are employed - and they are employed throughout the Commonwealth - inevitably it happens that officers are called upon to carry out higher duties, and when they carry out higher duties they become eligible for the higher duties allowance. From its background of experience of previous years and projec tions for ensuing years, every department knows that a certain amount must be set aside to meet this contingency. Sometimes that amount may be in excess of requirements - I am sure that does happen on occasions - and sometimes the amount may not be adequate to meet requirements. These assessments ultimately take the shape of estimates which come within the purview of the Treasury and the Public Service Board in the normal way. The Commonwealth Public Service, is a huge organisation and this kind of thing is inevitable. Even in the smallest business the prudent businessman or employer makes provision in his budgeting for the coming year for unexpected contingencies in relation to salaries.
I move away now from the generality and will speak about the Department of Customs and Excise of which I have a more intimate knowledge. We are to be called upon to perform all manner of Government functions which were not apparent when our estimates were being prepared. We must make adequate provision for expansion or for officers who may be performing higher duties. It could well be that certain officers are on sick leave while other officers are on extended leave. There are all manners and ways in which provision must be made for increased duties or increased emoluments for officers.
There are safeguards within the Public Service regarding these provisions just as there are safeguards within the accounting system in which the Auditor-General’s office plays its part. This is ordinary practice. If the honourable senator puts his mind to it, I think he will appreciate that it could not be otherwise in a well managed and properly controlled Public Service. This is far from getting away from the control of the Commonwealth and the Parliament. The very fact that this amount is nominated and shown in the estimates at this point means that it can be picked out. It is exposed to even greater scrutiny because it is presented in that way and not in any other way.
The honourable senator raised a question in relation to Division No. 948, concerning Lighthouse Supply Vessels - Replacement. The ship was returned to Papua and New Guinea waters and is functioning satisfactorily. Until a suitable period of actual working operation the Department of Shipping and Transport will not be able to determine where the faults lie and who should be held responsible for costs incurred in getting the vessel back into operational service.
The honourable senator made reference also to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. He took the point that funds under Division No. 541 are provided solely for the administration of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and its staff. The honourable senator adverted to the substantially significant increase in the vote. The increased appropriation reflects the growth or the building up of this Bureau since its beginnings in 1965-66 when the vote was $50,000. The estimated expenditure for 1966-67, as the honourable senator said, is $650,000.
-What are its achievements?
– The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads is intended to create a roads policy. It is not my function during this debate on the estimates to give off the cuff an exposition of the functions of the Bureau. Given time, I will do that. The list of functions must be readily available somewhere along the pipeline. Senator Webster, under Division No. 450 relating to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, sought an extensive break-up of the appropriation of $650,000. If the honourable senator really wanted it, I could provide him with the heads of expenditure under the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act
– I would be pleased to know of that. It might indicate what it has achieved.
– The details that I have are: Salaries, overtime and allowances in the nature of salaries - $270,000; Transport and travelling and living allowances - $46,000; Office equipment, and plant, furniture and fittings - $20,000; Printing, stationery and office requisites - $15,000; Library holdings - books, periodicals, etc. - $13,000; Telephone, telegraphs and postage - $10,000: Office accommodation, rental - $77,000; Consultations, fees, fares and allowances - $110,000; Services - Australian road needs survey - $30,000; Parttime members, remuneration, faros and allowances - $4,000; Incidental and other expenses - $15,000. The major items in the estimates are salaries, travel, accommodation rental, consultant and data processing. The amount provided for salaries anticipates that the Bureau will attain its approved employment strength during the year. The amount provided for accommodation reflects the first full year during which the Bureau will occupy its own accommodation. The amounts provided for consultants and also for travel and other major items all reflect the energy being directed towards the preparation of the reports associated with the 1969 Commonwealth aid roads legislation. In that explanation 1 think that the honourable senator gets some idea of the functions of the Bureau.
I turn now to Division No. 948 - Capital Works and Services, subdivision 1 - Plant and Equipment and item 02 relating to Lighthouse Supply Vessels - Replacement. A nil return is provided in the estimates for the current financial year. The expenditure on this item during 1966-67 was $196,944. My understanding is that there has been trouble. Until the trouble is resolved no more money is being provided. The matter must first be sorted out. That is the ad lib answer to the inquiry why no amount is shown in the estimates. My explanatory notes point out that a programme for replacement of old lighthouse supply vessels provided for the construction over a period of years of five such vessels, three vessels of approximately 2,200 tons gross each, and two smaller 105-ft vessels, the latter two being for use in the waters of the Torres Strait and Papua and New Guinea. The three larger vessels have been completed and are in operation in their respective areas - Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. The first of the smaller vessels has been commissioned but as the trial of this vessel in actual service for assessment of general suitability before proceeding with plans for the second vessel has not been completed, no provision has been included for 1967-68. In other words, there are still matters to be straightened out. I have no doubt that this is normal in these things. Those of us who have some idea of shipbuilding would suspect that there would be teething troubles.
– They are very big teeth according to the Auditor-General.
– That may well be so. Until such time as these matters have been resolved, no provision is made for 1967-68. Some items may have been mentioned to which 1 have not referred. If so, 1 hope that we will pick them up in the fullness of time.
– The only comment that I can make upon this matter is that if we strike that trouble in a lighthouse supply vessels programme the information accompanying the estimates should give some indication of the action taken by the Minister to rectify it and explain in what way money that we have previously appropriated has not been economically spent and what steps are to be taken for its recovery. I take it that this construction programme is under the guidance of some governmental agency. If it is not, and if it is under some private contractor, we ought to be told the basic reasons for the failure of the programme and what we are doing to enforce our liability against the contractor.
The other matter that I wish to mention is what my friend, Senator Webster, mentioned, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. I followed the explanation that we received from the Minister concerning the Bureau. The Minister has been good enough to circulate notes explaining the estimates of the Department of Shipping and Transport. We are told in these notes:
The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act 1964 established the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads as a body corporate, with perpetual succession, and with power to acquire, hold and dispose of real and personal property.
I must say that I enthusiastically grasp that unique piece of knowledge pertinent as it is to the estimates. The explanatory notes then refer to a matter that excites my interest. They state:
The functions of the Bureau are:
to investigate and report to the Minister on matters relating to road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government in its consideration of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States. . . .
This Bureau was constituted in 1964. Last year the expenditure on it was $375,000. This year we are asked to appropriate $650,000 for it. I ask the Minister whether any report has been produced by it; and, if the Bureau has produced a report, on what subject or subjects has it reported, who has the report under consideration and for what time has it been under consideration. This body significantly is called a bureau. It is now promoting itself from an expenditure of $375,000 to one of $650,000. Its function is to investigate and report on matters relating to road transport. Can we be informed whether any report has yet been made and, if a report has been made, on what matters was it made, when was it made, to whom was it made and what consideration has been given to it?
– At short notice I cannot add very much to what Senator Wright has said about the Bureau of Roads. Perhaps 1 can come back to that matter later. Let me refer to the other matter that he raised. It would be quite wrong to assume that there has been a complete breakdown in relation to lighthouse supply vessels. The fact is that the Department is still endeavouring to find out what the true position is. It would be premature to start thinking or talking in terms of recoveries and matters of that nature. Clearly, this is not a unique occurrence. It happens quite often in the takeover of vessels. Oddly enough, I have heard of it in respect of other departments. After vessels are taken over there is a period during which there are what I described as teething troubles. Senator Webster gave me amild rebuke for so describing them. What hashappened in this instance is not unusual. In commenting quite fairly on the remarks that have been made, I say that as I understand the situation the Department and the people concerned are in the process of finding out the facts. I believe that we all should reserve judgment on this matter until we know the facts.
In relation to the Bureau of Roads, Senator Wright read the first part of the explanatory note, which states that the Bureau is ‘a body corporate with perpetual succession and with power to acquire, hold and dispose of real and personal property’. The explanatory note goes on to state:
The functions of the Bureau are:
I cannot obtain the details of the volume of work that the Bureau has done, but I am very conscious of the fact that it could consider such important matters as the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. I can well recall, as I am sure those honourable senators who have been here for some time can, the very heavy and solemn debates that we have had on that legislation which involves considerations as between the Commonwealth and the six States. I would imagine that there are tremendously important matters on which the Minister could receive great help from this Bureau in the form of background information. That would be a very big part of its task.
Also the interlocking of Commonwealth and State interests in the field of road transport raises very big issues. I believe that this Bureau has been set up as a fact finding body on such issues. Whilst I cannot be particular and precise about what it could do, I believe that a little application of our minds to the debates that we have had in this chamber over the years on matters of roads, road transport and the like will convince us that there must be many problems on which the States and the Commonwealth need to have the advantage of the services of a bureau such as this one. If I can obtain any additional information for the honourable senator I will certainly do so.
Proposed expenditures and proposed provisions noted.
Proposed expenditure, $341,164,000.
Proposed provision, $240,000,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services
Proposed expenditure, $48,754,000.
Proposed provision, $8,583,000.
– Some weeks ago the Senate debated the very contentious matter of the finances of the Post Office.I do not intend to go into that matter again. But, in view of the insistence of the Government that the increases in postal charges were essential, it is interesting to note that the other day we received on our desks copies of an explanatory statement on a statutory rule issued by the authority of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). That statement said that the relevant regulation was: . . designed to extend a postage discount of 60%, instead of the existing 30%, to parcels posted under the Householder Mail Service. Under this service, articles addressed to ‘The Householder’ or similar title are delivered to each point in a designated area.
So, at a time when many deserving people and businesses, particularly in the publishing field, in our community are to be hit hard by increased postal charges, we see the introduction of a regulation that doubles a discount of which advantage is taken mainly by big business organisations, particularly the great emporiums that function in our big cities.
Why has this regulation been introduced? I have received a communication from the editor of a small publication to which the increased postal charges are a deadly blow - almost a death blow. Referring with some bitterness to this handout by the Post Office to big business organisations, this gentleman had this to say:
Most objectionable of all . . . is the great concession (60% for articles over 2 oz to replace the existing 30% discount) for householder mail. This is only used by big business houses . . . who employ the services of the postman to deliver their heavy catalogues to every single householder. This is not the purpose for which the Postmaster-General’s Department was set up and by the nature of the thing is something which will only befor the use of big business. The likely growth in this means of advertising may prove an impediment to the proper distribution of genuine mail and, as the USA experience has shown, could disrupt all our postal service. To take an example supplied to me, the firm which supplies the commodity Kotex distributed a free packet to every woman listed on the electoral rolls of the USA. Some Post Offices were filled to the ceiling and for the delivery to Honolulu I understand that the department had to make a special charter of a cargo ship.
Our Post Office is clearing the way for the distribution in Australia of what in the United States is popularly known as junk mail. This is referred to in a recent article in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ by the well known journalist Peter Costigan, who has just arrived in New York and is now being inundated with this flood of mail. He says: my apartment mail box is cluttered daily with heap upon heap of that class of posted matter the Americans quite accurately call ‘junk mail’.
There are pleas to buy magazines, books, records, a dozen different encyclopaedias, replypaid envelopes (the posting of which will get me a week’s free trial of a wig- so firm, you sleep in it), several different cameras, a vast array of gadgets and enough discount coupons on soup, soap and toothpaste to turn my home into a warehouse.
This avalanche of mail pours through the front door . . .
The main reason for the size of this sellingbypost industry-
This is the point: is the discount the American Post Office allows for bulk mailing.
Junk mail’ … can be posted for less than 60% of the normal letter rate.
This is an interesting point:
Several times, Congressmen have tried to control the volume of ‘junk mail’ by moving to have the rate increased or by prohibiting the use of car registration and other address lists.
Their moves have never got beyond the debating stage. The mail-order and ‘junk- mail’ lobbies are powerful and their work in Washington is very effective. 1 wonder whether their work has been effective in Australia, too.
The well known journalist. Susan Cooper, wrote a book entitled ‘Behind the Golden Curtain’, which refers to the situation in the United States. She refers to this amazing phenomenon of junk mail, which our Post Office proposes now to imitate by following the example of the United States in increasing rates for almost everybody but giving this handout of a double discount to the big emporiums and the big business bodies. This is what she says:
The other kind of immediate advertising, the communication that pretends to be personal, is direct mail’. This has reached a stage in the United States now where some 60% of all the post arriving in each household consists of advertising matter. The average householder sifts through his handful of envelopes, removes the advertisements, sighs, drops them in the wastepaper basket and settles down to open his real letters. But the advertisers, undeterred, continue the deluge; white one firm in any one field uses direct mail methods, the others must nervously follow suit to keep up. They fall roughly into three categories: (A) they offer ‘special savings’ (B) they enclose coupons or free gifts (C) they seek to flatter the customer with the idea of being one of a special elect. Consider, for instance, this selection -
This is only a selection; it is not all that came in the junk mail - from the post received in two households on one April day in 1964. . . .
The Special Savings
Bradlee’s Family Centre . . . Anniversary Sale. . . .
Glossy Catalogue, 16 pages: Gem Journal for the Family. . . .
Birds Eye: AWAKE: Frozen concentrate for orange flavoured breakfast drink . . . save 10c when you buy a 9oz can of AWAKE. . . . ‘
It informs the householder that he has been chosen as a specially preferred customer for the purpose of purchasing a Philco 2-speed 4-cycle automatic washer. Following that there were two cyclostyled white sheets prompting the person to try another news magazine. Then they proceed to tell the householder why he should buy the new magazine. Then there was an offer of twenty-two weekly issues of a magazine called ‘US News and World Report’. Then there was an imposing white envelope headed in Olde Englishe type National Social Directory’, giving a list of the 18,000 representative families of the United States.I presume that you buy one to sec whether you are in it. Finally there was a 2-page advertisement, pre-paidreply card, enclosed with a letter asking the person concerned whether he would like to buy the next volume of ‘Who’s Who in America’ which had just been published. A special discount coupon was enclosed. On top of that there were coupons for soups, soaps, toothpaste and other commodities to the extent, asI said, that this is becoming one of the horrors of the United States. It is caused by the fact that the big business organisations put pressure on the Post Office to give them discounts which will enable them to send this junk through the Post Office.
– The big business directorships are always filled by people who have retired from the Post. Office.
– 1 am not going to say that. AH 1 shall say is that J strongly condemn the fact that, when we are told that it is vital for us to increase postal charges on all kinds of necessary articles, the Post Office puts itself in the position of allowing our own householders to be subjected to this flood of junk. If it continues and increases we will be forced to pay increased charges to provide special services, even special ships as happened in the case of the commodity that had to be distributed in Honolulu. The handouts for Tasmania could require the purchase or the leasing of special ships. I therefore register my emphatic protest at the double discounts for junk while postal charges are increased for industries which are vital to the country.
– Madam Temporary Chairman, I am bound to say that no doubt Senator McManus followed the procedure of relating his remarks to Division No. 820 - Administrative. I remind the Committee that’ we have had meetings of the Senate, including a meeting in June which was unprecedented in the history of this Parliament, to deal with postal charges. I plead with the Committee not to have a fourth debate on these matters. We have had three bites at the cherry in relation to postal charges and regulations. The matter which Senator McManus has raised has been dealt with by the Parliament. The ink is hardly dry on the Act, which came into effect on 1st October. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the contribution made by the honourable senator and would love to read the book I remind the Committee that we have dealt with this matter three times and that it is history. To debate it again would not in all the circumstances be appropriate.
– There is nothing to stop us from doing it.
– Nothing at all. Because we want to put a Customs Tariff Bill on the stocks, 1 ask that the Committee report progress and seek leave to sit again at a later hour.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I take the opportunity to speak on the motion for the first reading of a Bill that the Senate has no power to amend. This gives me the chance to speak on a wide range of subjects that are relevant or not relevant to the Bill. I have made efforts over some weeks to get an opportunity to speak on the motion for the first reading of a Bill and I thank the Government for going out of its way to make the opportunity available to me.
I want to speak about one of the greatest injustices that it has been my misfortune to come across in the period in which I have been looking after the interests of sections of the community. I make a particular appeal to the Attorney-General’s Department to consider all aspects of the case that I shall recite and to see whether it should not revise its present attitude and withdraw any threats that might appear to be made in correspondence to the individual concerned. I appeal to the Senate to consider the justice that seeks to take away from a small inventor the fruits of his labour, his struggle, his expenditure, his patience and his inventiveness. I make a particular appeal to Senator Henty, who is not in the chamber at present. I hope it will reach his ears or that he will read of the case, because I understand that he is Patron of the Inventors Association, which comprises most inventors. If what I claim is correct and one small inventor has been deprived of his invention for no other reason than that he is a small inventor, this threatens the future activities, the initiative, and possibly the wealth of the members of the Association of which the honourable senator is Patron. I think it is essential that we seek to preserve an encourage small inventors to whose achievements and contributions to the welfare and development of Australia the nation owes so much.
The story is that Mr Jack Messer, who was during wartime a Royal Australian Air Force radar instructor, has a small sound engineering business in Blackwood, South Australia. He had some discussions with members of the dental profession as to a theory that a sound device could transmit stereophonic and television sound for the purpose of analgesia to the face and jaw, to assist dentists to combat the pain of dental treatment and extractions. This presented many problems to be overcome by investigations, lt necessitated the conveying of sound to the patient without its being transmitted to other people and without outside noise being transmitted to the patient. The need to listen deliberately to the sound and the discomfort and inconvenience of wearing earphones which would prevent a dentist from working on the patient’s jaw had to be avoided. These problems, after a long study, patience and considerable expenditure were overcome.
Mr Messer developed a Ushaped headrest with stereophonic speakers sufficiently close to the ears not to permit the infiltration of outside noise or the escape of the sound being transmitted, and of such a size as to cover the cars completely. It was then found that this invention had possibilities. It could be used in aircraft and bus seats, professional waiting rooms, advertising diplays, exhibitions, demonstrations, record shops and stores. These are a few of the uses to which the inventor realised the invention could be put. Realising the commercial possibilities of the invention, Mr Messer engaged the firm of Collison and Co., patent and trade mark attorneys, of Adelaide, which has a very good reputation amongst patent attorneys throughout Australia and does patent work for the Commonwealth Department of Supply.
This company was engaged for the purpose of getting patent rights over this Ushaped headrest that Mr Messer had developed. There is some difficulty in obtaining patent rights. The Patents Act has a particular significance, lt provides that, 6 months after lodging, the specification of a patent shall be advertised in the ‘Official Journal’ for public inspection. Not until 6 months have elapsed will anyone be permitted to make an inspection. Section 47 of the Act provides that an Examiner of Patents shall report whether an application and the complete specification comply with the requirements of the Act. Under the terms of section 48, the Examiner shall (a) ascertain and report whether any similar application has already been received; (b) ascertain and report whether any similar specification has been lodged within 50 years; (c) ascertain and report whether any other claim to a similar invention has already been made; (d) ascertain and report whether the invention has already been published in Australia; and (e) report whether the invention was or was not novel. Honourable senators can see how thorough are the investigations that are made before a patent is registered. Section 52 provides that when an application has been accepted the Commissioner of Patents shall advertise the acceptance in the ‘Official Journal’ and that an appeal lies to the Appeal Tribunal from a decision of the Commissioner under this section. The Appeal Tribunal is the High Court of Australia. Section 54 provides that an application may be accepted within 21 months from the date on which the first report of the Examiner on the complete specification was sent to the applicant. Part V of the Act provides for objections to the granting of patents. Part VI provides for the sealing of patents. Section 69 in that part provides:
Subject to this Act, the effect of a patent is to grant to the patentee the exclusive right, by himself, his agents and licensees, during the term of the patent, to make, use, exercise and vend the invention in such manner as he thinks fit, so that he shall have and enjoy the whole profit and advantage accruing by reason of the invention during the term of the patent.
One can there-fore see the value of obtaining registration of a patent, for it confers on the patentee the sole right to use, manufacture or sell the invention. Section 99 provides that the Attorney-General or any other person may present to the High Court a petition for the revocation of a patent. The reasons for revocation are very wide. Section 108 provides that after the expiration of 3 years from the date of sealing of a patent any person may claim that the reasonable requirements of the public with respect to the patented invention have not been satisfied and may ask for the grant of a compulsory licence. Section 109 stipulates that after the expiration of 2 years from the date of granting of the first - compulsory licence, any person may ask for revocation of the patent. Section 113 provides that jurisdiction to hear a claim for the infringement of a patent rests with the High Court, but this section does not prevent another court that has jurisdiction to hear such claims from doing so. I mention these matters to show that if a patentee does not satisfy the reasonable requirements of the public there is opportunity for someone else to obtain a licence. This imposes a responsibility on the patentee. Under the terms of section 116, if any judicial hearing takes place in a court other than the High Court, the action shall automatically be removed to the High Court if the defendant applies by way of counterclaim for revocation of the patent. Those are the pertinent sections that should be read if one is to keep the story in some sort of logical order.
Honourable senators can see that if a person has obtained patent rights he has the sole right to manufacture, vend, sell or use the particular patent, subject to the requirement that he comply with public needs. But action over a refusal to comply with public needs can be taken only by application to the High Court of Australia. If a person other than the holder of a patent invents something similar to the article covered by the patent, he cannot manufacture, use or vend his own article if he has not patent rights for his invention. In order to obtain patent rights, his invention must undergo thorough inquiry and conform with all the requirements that I have mentioned.
I have in my hand a certificate of registration of a design issued by the Patent Office of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is a cardboard device to which are attached by special rivets that cannot be removed photographs of the invention to which the patent applies. This invention is a U head rest connected to a gramophone for the supply of sound. The certificate is dated 21st March 1961. It was issued to John Albert Messer and Lorna Joyce Messer, both of 16 Thorpe Street, Glenburnie, via Mitcham, South Australia in the Commonwealth of Australia, whose occupations are given as round engineer and home duties respectively, who have been registered as the owners of the design thereon, which is depicted in photographs that, as I have said, cannot be substituted. A ribbon passes through one end of the certificate of registration and both ends of that ribbon are sealed by the Seal of the Registrar of Patents. The certificate is signed by T. E. Ashton, Deputy Registrar of Designs. The patent rights for the sealing of the patent were taken out by Mr Messer. There is no question about the ownership of this j patent. If one looks at the head rest as shown in the photograph and as patented, one realises that exactly the device patented by Mr Messer was used in the chairs in the Australian Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. Those talking chairs achieved world wide acclaim, and whoever invented them used an invention identical with that registered at the Patent Office by Mr and Mrs Messer.
– Was that patent registered in Australia?
– Or was it registered in other countries?
– It was registered in Canberra.
– Did it apply in countries other than Australia?
– I do not know whether there are world patent rights or patent rights in any other countries.
– That is the main factor.
– No, it is not. The infringement about which I am complaining was an infringement within Australia.
– That is the reason why 1 asked my first question.
– I understand that. This was an infringement by the Australian Government.
– Were the chairs manufactured in Australia?
– I shall tell the honourable senator the whole story and he will learn where they were manufactured. I emphasise that a person who developed a similar invention on his own initiative had no right to manufacture or vend it. if he had no patent rights, while someone else held patent rights.
– In that area?
– In the place where the patent rights apply. These rights were given to Mr. and Mrs Messer. In April 1966, Mr Messer heard from a trade source in Melbourne that a Mr Williams of the Department of Civil Aviation and a Mr Featherstone, who is Managing Director of Aristoc Industries Pty Lid, 651 Waverley Road, Glen Waverley, Victoria, were working on a talking chair that infringed the patent obtained by Mr and Mrs Messer. He learned that they were working on it at Mr Featherstone s flat at St Kilda and that the chair was to be used in the Australian Government’s Pavilion at Expo 67. As the chair used a device identical with his own invention, Mr Messer notified Featherstone that there was an infringement of patent rights, and he told Collison and Co., his patent attorneys, what he had discovered. Collison and Co., a firm which has much knowledge of the operation of Federal departments, told Mr Messer not to worry because if the Department of Supply believed there was a possibility of an infringement of a patent, it stipulated in any contract that the manufacturer had to make arrangements with the patentee about any patent rights that might exist.
Accordingly* Collison & Co. wrote to the Department of Supply on 26th April last year. The Department replied advising that the letter should have been addressed to Mr Worth of the Prime Minister’s Department. The Department said that a copy of the letter from Collison & Co. had been sent to Robin Boyd, the EXPO exhibition controller. On 5th July 1966 Collison & Co. wrote again to Mr Worth seeking information about the Commonwealth’s intention concerning the patent it was using for the manufacture of the chairs. The firm waited 7 months for a reply from Mr Worth. When it did not receive a reply, Mr Messer wrote to Mr Worth on 18th January 1967 and again in February. Three letters were sent to Mr Worth. He sent a reply dated 3rd March 1967 stating that he had referred the matter to the Attorney-General’s Department, It took a total of three letters and a period of 8 or 9 months to get the reply from Mr Worth stating that he had referred the matter to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Mr Renfree, of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor’s Office, wrote asking for more time to consider the matter. When 2 months elapsed and no reply was received from Mr Renfree, Mr Messer approached his local Federal member, the honourable member for Boothby in the other place, and asked him whether he would see what was happening. He asked the honourable member to take up the matter with the Attorney-General’s Department.
– Who is the honourable member for Boothby?
– Mr McLeay. Afterwards, Mr McLeay advised Mr Messer what had taken place. I was not advised of this because it was considered that this was confidential information between the honourable member for Boothby and Mr Messer. There was a report about this matter in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 14th July which stated:
Mr McLeay, the Federal Member for Boothby, the district in which Mr Messer lives, has taken the matter up., with the Attorney-General at Mr Messer’s request.
Mr McLeay said yesterday, ‘I have a strong feeling that someone down the line in a department other than the Attorney-General’s is not being open … is not playing the game . . . is covering for someone else.
– Who said that?
– The honourable member for Boothby, Mr McLeay. That was the end of the quotation concerning Mr McLeay. The article went on to say:
The view in Adelaide is that someone in Canberra or Melbourne has decided to protect the Commonwealth from embarrassment. Mr Messer’s interest will have to be sacrificed.
He is known to be a relatively small businessman unlikely to be able to afford the costs of an action in the High Court to test bis claim.
In the meantime, he has lost not only all the royalties on more than $100,000 worth of equipment, but priceless international publicity.
The dilemma for the Commonwealth, however, is that according to Mr Messer’s patent attorneys, if his claims are successfully by-passed, it will open the way to wide-spread pirating of small inventors’ patents by big firms and industries throughout Australia who will be encouraged by the Government’s lead.
– -What is the honourable senator quoting from?
– From the ‘Canberra Times’ of 14th July 1967.
– ‘But the ‘Canberra Times’ printed what somebody said. Who said this?
– I am reading from an article in the ‘Canberra Times’ under a by-line ‘From our South Australian correspondent’. What reliance the Government is prepared to place on this article I do not know, but 1 suggest that, as the story unfolds, it will be proved to be justified and that there is this threat to small inventors. We have already got to the point that Mr McLeay, after speaking to the Attorney-General, exonerated the AttorneyGeneral but said that he was satisfied that someone in the Commonwealth Parliament- or in the Government sphere was covering up for someone else.
There is an important section of the Patent Act, section 125, which gives a right to the Commonwealth Government, a State government or any person or firm nominated by the Commonwealth Government or a State government to use a registered patent to manufacture an article with or without the consent of the patentee. It is obvious that no-one should be able to put a lock on an invention and refuse manufacture if manufacture is in the interest or welfare of the State or the Commonwealth. But there is a safeguard; this section cannot be used until there has been a conference with the patentee and terms of manufacture agreed upon. If terms cannot be agreed upon, there can be an application to the High Court to settle terms. Notification must be given to the patentee unless this is felt to be against the public interest. We can understand why this is so. The Commonwealth may seek to use a patent to manufacture guns or other weapons of war etc. when the patentee did not want this to be done. Protection is given in section 125.
A patentee can claim to the High Court that the Commonwealth has used his patent and can seek recognition for such use. But like every other approach to a court under the Patents Act, an approach along these lines must be made to the High Court of Australia. The only approach to a lower court is in relation to cases seeking to prove infringement of a patent by a manufacturer.
The Expo chairs were manufactured at Aristoc Industries Pty Ltd. What Government support there was for manufacture, I do not know. I found a new revolving chair in my office here this year and it was manufactured by Aristoc Industries. A case of infringement of patent would be possible if section 125 was not invoked by the Commonwealth. There was a case which tested this, I believe, and it was reported in the Patents Journal of this year. It was the case of General Steel Industries Incorporated vs the State of- New South Wales. In this case the Chief Justice of the High Court held that if section 125 was invoked there was no case of infringement of patent rights. A claim could not be made in this respect. Mr Messer wrote to the Attorney-General on 10th March 1967 and asked whether section 125 had been invoked by the Commonwealth. As yet he has received no definite answer as to whether or not the Commonwealth is seeking protection under section 125 of the Act.
– What was the date of that letter?
– It was dated 10th March 1967. Mr Messer has received information to the effect that he can apply for recognition under section 125 and that the Commonwealth will put up certain defences. After receiving this letter he had a telephone call from the liaison officer to the Attorney-General. The letter, which was from Mr Renfree, the Crown Solicitor, stated that the Commonwealth would not admit liability and it asked Mr Messer to state his claim. Mr Messer was asked to state whether he was seeking only recognition for the use of his patent or whether there was any other claim. He replied that he would make a claim for the profit he would have made from the manufacture of the article. Mr Messer then received a letter from Mr Renfree which stated that the Attorney-General’s Department was not admitting liability. Mr Messer was asked to state his claim and he replied as follows:
The claim is for loss of net profits on the headrest listening device, profits which 1 would normally expect to receive in the way of margins on the chair proper and tape cassette machines and installations. It is pointed out that the chair in itself has little or no novelty value unless our patented device is used with it and as with our record store listening device we would reasonably expect to supply associate equipment and take part in the installation of such equipment.
Mr Messer also claimed compensation for loss of publicity, asked for recognition of the patent and mention on Australia’s day at Expo 67, naming the inventor. That was the claim which was sent to the AttorneyGeneral. Mr Messer had not received a reply up till the day before the opening of Expo 67 when he rang the liaison officer in Sydney and asked whether he could obtain some information as to the Commonwealth’s intentions. He received a letter from Mr Renfree. the Crown Solicitor, dated 1st June. I will nol take up the time of the Committee by reading the whole of the letter. Copies of this and other letters to which I have referred are available to any honourable senator who wishes to see them. The letter of 1st June said, in part:
The Commonwealth does not agree that in the manufacture or use of the chairs or headrests any invention the subject of Letters Patent No. 251.(33 has been made, used, exercised or vended. 1 should also state that, in the event of legal proceedings being commenced against the Commonwealth in connection with this matter, the Commonwealth will, as an alternative, to the defence foreshadowed in the last preceding paragraph, contend that Letters Patent No. 251,133 is invalid in whole or in part on one or more of the grounds mentioned in section 100 of the Patents Act 1952-1966,
Without in any way limiting the material or the grounds on which the Commonwealth will seek to rely m any such proceedings, 1 direct your attention to an article by Dr N. Reilly in AMA Archives of Otolaryngology, vol. 68 (September 1958) number 3, pp. 363-6 and to the use in the Deafness Guidance Clinic, Adelaide prior to 16 December 1960 of the equipment described in that article.
It became clear that one of the defences was that the chair was not novel, that it had been made by someone else. As I have stated, Mr Messer’s invention was tested in the terms of the Patents Act and it survived the test of novelty, lt was patented and patent rights were taken out on it. The Attorney-General claimed, according to an article in the ‘Australian’ of 11th July 1967, that it was not a valid patent. The article stated:
The Federal Attorney-General, Mr Bowen, last night denied that Australia’s talking chair concept at the Expo 67 exhibition in Montreal was invented by an Adelaide sound engineer. He said the engineer, Mr J. A. Messer of Blackwood, could take court action if he believed his invention had been illegally used. ‘Mr Messer has a patent for the invention of a talking chair but this invention was not used by the Commonwealth’, Mr Bowen said. He could not recall off-hand who invented the chair concept used at the exhibition.
The Commonwealth claimed that Mr Messer’s device was not used in the chair and that if it was Mr Messer’s device his patent was invalid. It was found that there was no similarity between Dr Reilly’s project that was used in 1960 and Mr Messer’s talking chair. I do not think the AttorneyGeneral relied on that argument for any length of time. I come now to the question as to whether Mr Messer’s patent was invalid. In fact no patent is invalid until it is revoked by a court order. It is still in force until a court revocation is obtained. 1 think we may take it for granted that Mr McLeay, in presenting the case for one of his constituents to the Attorney-General, put as capable a plea as possible. No doubt he would have referred to the injustice done to this small Adelaide firm which had no finance to go to the High Court of Australia although it knew that only High Court action would restrain the use of the talking chair. Plainly the Commonwealth has adopted the attitude that the firm was in that position. The law provides that Mr Messer, believing that Aristoc Industries had infringed his patent, could have applied for a preliminary hearing in a lower court. However, certain avenues of challenge would automatically be opened for Aristoc Industries to proceed to the High Court. Aristoc Industries has invested capital amounting to $400,000. Last year its sales totalled about $lm. That firm would have been the legal opponent of Mr Messer.
– Did Aristoc Industries manufacture the talking chair?
– Yes. I will tell the honourable senator the history of the manufacture in a moment. Collison and Co. has a high reputation throughout Australia as a firm of patent attorneys and has done much work for the Commonwealth. That firm states that this is one of the most blatant infringements of patent rights that it has come across. The contract between Aristoc Industries and the Government for the manufacture of the talking chairs did not include a clause which is included on all occasions where there is a doubt about patent rights. That clause states that the responsibility is on the manufacturer to negotiate with the patentee if there is any possibility of infringement of a patent. Had the Commonwealth included that clause, the conflict would have rested between the manufacturer and the patentee. On this occasion the Commonwealth adopted the role of judge of the question as to whether there was an infringement of patent. The Commonwealth first employed the argument that the Commonwealth had not used Mr Messer’s chair, and secondly, the Commonwealth said that if it did use Mr Messer’s chair, he had no right to hold the patent. Aristoc Industries was written to and a mistake was made as to an interview between Mr Messer and Mr Howard of Aristoc Industries. Mr Messer journeyed to meet Mr Howard, but he was in Japan at the time. Mr Jenkins, the sales director of Aristoc Industries, on 26th April last wrote to Mr Messer and, after apologising and explaining the reason why the interview did not take place, stated:
So far as your patent is concerned, we confirm that we propose to take no action because our solicitor considers that responsibility for this matter lies with the Commonwealth Government in respect to the Expo 67 chairs. We do suggest that you pressure the Government for a decision and wi- will also ask them to expedite the matter.
– Who wrote that?
- Mr L. A.
Jenkins, Sales Director of Aristoc Industries Pty Ltd. lt will be noted that this company c’oes not claim that the chair was its invention. It seeks to throw responsibility onto the Commonwealth Government. The letter continues:
If the Expo chair infringes your patent and if wc decide to proceed with it commercially we would certainly negotiate a royalty basis with you. You have suggested the royalties should be at the rate of 5%. My personal view is that this would bc acceptable provided the royalty applied only to the difference in price between the standard chair and the price for the chair fitted with head pieces and listening devices. At this stage, however, there is no point in further discussing it.
So the manufacturer is prepared to acknowledge the patent on condition that it is proved to the Commonwealth-
– No. He said: ‘If and so on. He is not acknowledging anything.
– That is so. He is insisting that it be established that the Commonwealth used it.
– You have not told us Whether the chairs were made by this company on the order of the Commonwealth Government.
– They were. I can give more of the history of that later.
There is still another development. These chairs were shown at the Homes Exhibition at Wayville showground, Adelaide, in, I think, August of this year by a firm of chair manufacturers called Danish Deluxe Pty Ltd. Mr Messer went along to Mr Foley, the Manager of Danish De Luxe Pty Ltd and told him of the patent rights. The chairs were then withdrawn from the exhibition.
They were shown again at the Royal Show by Danish De Luxe Pty Ltd. Mr Messer again approached Mr Foley and told him that action would be taken it the chairs were not withdrawn from the exhibition. Mr Foley said to him: ‘You are in a hopeless position. We are going to show similar chairs. You are fighting the Commonwealth Government and you have not got enough cash to win.’ This is indicative of the attitude taken on this matter. We now learn that twenty of these chairs were ordered some time this week for the San Francisco World Fair.
– By whom?
– I do not know who ordered them, but they are to be made by Aristoc Industries Pty Ltd. In the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 13th October last, this article appeared in Mr Keith Dunstan’s column, ‘A Place in the Sun’:
Talking chairs like the ones in the Australian Pavillion at Expo 67 arc on sale in Melbourne.
They have stereo loudspeakers in the wings.
The idea is that you can plug your talking chair into your TV set, radio, or tape-recorder and you have your own little private session.
The price of the talking chair is $220.
Grant Featherston said that when he first designed them for Montreal he did not realise that they might have a commercial application. They obviously have.
The firm said nothing about this in its letter. In the Melbourne ‘Age’ of the same date appears a photograph of Miss Di Young in a very attractive pose in one of these chairs, and the price again is given at $220. Here we have proof that at least one manufacturer is making and selling chairs which are the invention of a person who has not enough money to fight the Commonwealth Government in the High Court of Australia.
Let us go a little further in this matter. In the ‘Australian* of 5th July 1967 there appeared an article by Donald Sharpe in which reference is made to the part played by Mr Mervyn Williams of the Department of Civil Aviation who had been to Indonesia doing some work for President Sukarno. The article reads:
Now back in Australia with the Department of Civil Aviation, 41-year-old Mervyn Williams is still fixing things.
He is the man behind the famous talking chairs that are wooing thousands of visitors to the Australian pavilion at Montreal’s Expo 67. He is so enthusiastic about the project that an hour with him is like breaking through the sound barrier …
The concept of using a narrative to tell Australia’s story was first suggested by Mr Williams in November 1965 at an early meeting of the Exhibit Organisation formed within the Prime Minister’s Department.
He had been seconded from the Department of Civil Aviation, where he heads the engineering research laboratory, to join representatives from other government departments working on the blueprint for the Australian exhibit.
The original idea was to project the sound from whisper-quiet speakers placed strategically around the exhibits. People would only hear the commentary if they came within range.
But it was too late to incorporate this in the pavilion design, so the exhibit architect. Robin Boyd, hit on the idea of talking chairs.
Further on, the article reads:
Time was short so a select team of experts was drawn in to develop each aspect of the project. The chair design was handed over to Grant Featherstone, a Melbourne furniture designer, who came up with a beautifully simple, light-weight chair, easy to relax in and covered with plain, pure wool fabric.
Officials expected 20,000 visitors to use each chair, so it was tough and hard-wearing. Aristoc Industries won the contract to build them. . . .
The other technical items were left to the PMG and the Department of Supply. Behind it all was the guiding hand of Williams and the DCA coordinating team.
They had to provide for people of all shapes, nationalities and sizes, so the Commonwealth Acoustical Laboratory spent hundreds of hours investigating the physical characteristics of the expected visitors.
There we have another claim as to the origin of the Expo 67 chairs. We find now that the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories had some hand in designing them. The Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories knew of Mr Messer’s invention because they had tested it.
– On 11th September 1963. It is not my intention to read the whole of the report by Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories.
– Why not?
– For one thing, it would be beyond my pronunciation capabilities and I do not think it would be of any value to the argument.
– Is this a report from the South Australian Division of Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories?
– I cannot say but from conversations I have had I am inclined to think it came from Melbourne. It reads:
All the following tests were made with the ‘Mestereo’ mounted on a chair in the manner suggested by the manufacturers and connected to a quad 15 watt audio amplifier. A person was asked to sit in the chair and rest their head against the back so that the ears located approximately opposite the centre of each loud speaker.
The report goes on to mention certain tests and faults that were found and then it states:
There is no doubt, however, that the comfort afforded by this system would be greater than any other and despite the limitations in frequency response would form a useful listening device for the partially deaf, particularly elderly people.
For the other purposes mentioned such as for use at a record bar and for radio communication centres the units should be satisfactory. The application to audio analgesia, particularly in dentistry, is doubtful because of the relatively high noise levels radiating beyond the confines of the headrest
The Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories knew that the unit existed because of the graph of the sound waves and the voltage. Mr Williams from the Department of Civil Aviation had a big hand in this invention. The Department of Civil Aviation in Melbourne is located in the same building as Trans-Australia Airlines, and it is usual for articles sent in for testing to be tested and inspected by the Department of Civil Aviation. Mr Messer sent one of these headrests to TAA for test and on 4th November 1966, after some time had elapsed, he asked for it to be returned as he had heard nothing about it. On 16th November Mr E. J. Soulsby, Customer Services Manager of TAA, 50 Franklin Street, Melbourne, wrote to Mr Messer as follows:
Thank you for your letter dated 4th November which reminded me that we were still in possession of your sample ‘Mestereo’ audio headrest. Unfortunately, I have to report that over the last 2 or 3 months the unit has been mislaid between our radio section and this office, and under the circumstances I would appreciate, you forwarding an invoice to this office for the cost of this unit.
With the extension of Boeing services to the Northern Territory and New Guinea early in 1967, 1 will again be examining tha possibilities of obtaining funds to provide an audio headrest for first class passengers on these services.
This matter will be receiving my attention in approximately February 1967, and 1 will be again in touch with you at this time seeking your latest price per unit. i would take this opportunity of thanking you for your past co-operation and look forward to seeing you when next you are in Melbourne.
One of the patented headrests was lost by TAA which has offices in the same building as that in which Mr Williams works lor the Department of Civil Aviation. Without any further proof I make no accusations, but at the least there must be a suspicion that the new unit is a copy. As I mentioned at the commencement of my remarks, this was being worked on at Mr Featherstone’s flat at St Kilda. That is not hearsay now; it was proved before any announcement was ever made that the Commonwealth was involved because Collison and Company had written to the Commonwealth Government and to Mr Featherstone in relation to the matter.
Honourable senators will realise f.he loss that is being sustained. I make my plea for the individual. If I have done no more, surely 1 have established a prima facie case of infringement of patent rights with the connivance of the Commonwealth Government. Why was not the ordinary escape clause put in the contract with Featherstone for the manufacture of this unit? Who is hiding the person responsible for that? Why will the Department of Supply not admit that the escape clause was omitted? Why did it take Mr Worth 9 months and 3 letters before he could get one reply with the very involved information that he referred later to the Attorney-General’s Department? Why have two defences been raised on this matter, firstly, that it was not this person’s patent, and secondly, that the patent was invalid?
This Government should have an interest in small inventors. Irrespective of the justification that may be sought foi the actions of this Department, I express no recriminations against anyone or any Department. Let. us have a thorough inquiry to obtain answers to the questions F have asked. Let us find out whether Mr Williams ever came in contact with the set that was lost by TAA before he had his novel idea of the talking chairs. Let us have an inquiry to see whether injustice has been done in this instance. Let us provide safeguards for the small inventors of this country. If the Government will not accede to my request for a thorough inquiry into this matter, will it do as it has done in, to my mind, less deserving cases and finance the cost of an application to the court because the costs involved are beyond the means of this particular inventor.
– We have heard tonight from Senator Cavanagh a statement of what is virtually a legal case which 1 have no doubt he put to this Senate in the same terms as it was put to him. Therefore he is presenting to us the side of an argument which a client, as it were, has put to him to present to us. In principle I think it is quite right and proper that if an honourable senator feels that an individual is being messed about, if I can put it that way, by an establishment he should bring the matter before the Parliament.
– If the honourable senator cares to put it that way, very well. If an individual feels that he is being robbed it is right and proper for him to present his case to an honourable senator to present to the Parliament. But I think it is also right that some considerations on the other side of the argument should be put before the Parliament when the matter is raised. I do not know what Mr McLeay wrote in the letter from which the honourable senator quoted but I have spoken to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) in another place and I have no doubt in mind that the AttorneyGeneral’s view is the view that I hope to put before the Senate tonight.
We are dealing with a claim that there is an invention pertaining to a chair and to loudspeakers which are incorporated in that chair. There is no claim that the speakers, the- electronic components or any of the radio equipment concerned are the subject of a patent. They are either in the public domain or are the subject of someone else’s patent. There is no claim that the concept of a chair is something which is a patent or a patentable thing. I speak subject to Senator Cavanagh *s correction, but my understanding is that there is a claim by this man that the incorporation of speaking and electronic devices in a particular chair in particular positions - that is the point - is the subject of a patent If I have my facts correct, the claim is that the incorporation of those speakers between a distance of 11 in and 21 in, or something of the kind, from the person’s ear is the proper subject Of a patent.
This patent indeed has been applied for and has been taken out. There is no suggestion that the incorporation of speaking devices in chairs, per se, is something which can be patented. Indeed, there could be no such suggestion. They may have been used in many chairs, in which people sit, for very many years. They have been used by Trans-Australia Airlines, for example. I am not speaking of something installed between 11 in and 24 in with a speaker on each side. But the matter of sitting in a chair and having a speaker which, when one sits in the chair, talks to one has been in operation for many years in very many fields.
– But somebody has patent rights on it.
– Somebody has taken out patent rights and has been granted them. But patent rights when taken out and when granted are subject to legal challenge and to legal decision.
– But the patent rights apply until the legal decision is given.
– But the Minister is throwing the onus-
– Somebody who claims that his legal rights have been infringed has a legal opportunity to require a court to decide upon it.
– And the Minister is relying upon-
– Senator Cavanagh interjected along those lines. There is a dispute as to the legality in this case. I think that the Attorney-General himself has not said so but I think that his Department, in a letter which the honourable senator quoted, stated some doubts. The AttorneyGeneral himself has not said so, being fairly careful not to say so personally because of a desire not to prejudice any claim which may be made by the honour able senator’s client against some other person or individual - not only the Commonwealth, but some other person.
– He is not my client.
– Nevertheless, the Attorney-General’s Department has stated in a letter which Senator Cavanagh has quoted and which has been publicised that considerable doubt exists as to whether this patent would stand up to a test in a court of law,
– The Department did not. 1 said that it had raised this defence.
– I did not interject when the honourable senator was speaking.
– I am trying to keep the Minister strictly to the facts.
– Where have I strayed?
– The Department said that it would use the invalidity as a defence if action was taken against the Commonwealth.
– That is not different from what I said.
– Yes it is. The Minister said-
– I said that if action was taken it would be claimed as a defence that the patent was invalid and the matter would be left to the court to decide. Surely I have not said anything different from that?
– The Minister’s previous statement was.
– I do not think it was.
– Well, the Minister is right, then!
– Well, I will accept that. Surely it is inherent in a statement that if action is taken to show that a patent has been infringed then the defence that will be advanced is that the patent is invalid - and that is what has been said - this is casting some doubt on the validity of the patent. That is all I said at the beginning of the matter. That is not, as I hope to develop later, the only matter that is in mind. It is one quite important matter because we are dealing here with funds which are public funds. We do have here the claim that public funds should be used to pay royalties on an invention which it is claimed is patented and is a validly patented invention. I take it that the honourable senator and very many other honourable senators would not say that the Parliament or the Government should automatically accede to paying money to any individual who takes out a patent when the Government or the Parliament believes that that patent may not be valid and ought to be challengeable. I think that this would be generally accepted by the Senate. But there is more to the matter than that.
I wish to move away from the legal grounds because I did not wish to get onto them at this stage. We would not wish, as a Government, to stand strictly, completely and utterly on the mere legal grounds of whether this in fact could or could not be a valid patent and whether or not in fact it was not for many years known and practised that speakers were inserted in chairs so that when people sat in those chairs music could come into their ears, ft has been known. It has been used in other world fairs before Expo ‘67. It has been used in the New York World Fair. It has been used on many different occasions. I think at the New York World Fair a person sat in a chair and put on earphones. A passenger sitting in an aircraft had one speaker behind him; two speakers were not involved. But the principle has been applicable for very many years. But that is not the first point that I want to make.
The Attorney-General did feel that whatever the final decision might be on the point that I first raised - and I think that this is the point which ultimately needs to be decided by a court and not by argument here - and whether or not the legal position was as he believes it to be, there could be a serious, moral situation here. Did somebody know of the actual positioning in chairs of speakers which Mr Messer had worked out and, having that knowledge, did that person use that knowledge? Did that person know that Mr Messer’s development was legally patentable? If that person did have that knowledge and did use the invention, was there, therefore, some extra legal claim which could be admitted by the Government with reasonable attention to the need to conserve public funds? This is the matter to which the Attorney-General directed his mind. He is convinced after questioning Mr Robin Boyd, a well-known and, I think, well esteemed man who was concerned with the interior decoration and the interior fitments of Expo ‘67, that Mr Robin Boyd had never heard of this particular method of positioning of speakers in chairs. Mr Williams - I agree with the honourable senator - is a member of the Department of Civil Aviation. He too was questioned by the AttorneyGeneral. He makes the statement, which i would be prepared to believe, that matters that come to Trans-Australia Airlines, to Ansett-ANA or whatever airline company it may be, do not necessarily and very rarely come to the attention of the Department of Civil Aviation and that in fact he had no-
– That is what he says.
– The claim is made by inference that something is sent to be tested by TAA and because TAA is in the same building as the Department of Civil Aviation therefore somebody in the Department of Civil Aviation must have known what had been sent to TAA and must have been prepared to use that for his own aggrandisement - if that is how the honourable senator wants to put it - and must have been prepared to make untrue statements abou it later. That is a very slender basis on which to claim this sort of accusation and allegation.
– Does Mr Williams claim to have thought this idea out in his own head?
– What idea? The only idea that we are talking about is the positioning of loudspeakers.
– No. We are talking about U-shaped headrests and certain side-
– Really, is the honourable senator going to claim that there is something patentable about, the idea of U-shaped headrests? Surely he remembers his grandmother or grandfather sitting in a chair with a U-shaped headrest. All that means is something that one leans against with a U-shaped headrest.
– But they did not have U-shaped headrests.
– I can show the honourable senator pictures of U-shaped headrests in the 18th century. I am willing to defer to the honourable senator’s exposition of the case of his client, but I have always understood that it was the positioning of the loudspeakers rather than the U-shaped headrests-
– It is the U-shaped headrests, the size of the speakers and the positioning of them.
– Not the size, but the positioning of the speakers. I think the Senate can gain some impression of the genuine doubts that the Attorney-General has as to whether public funds should be used to test a claim that a U-shaped headrest is patentable.
– That means that he places no reliance on his patents department.
– It is not his patents department, is it?
-I did not think it was. I thought the application was made to a South Australian court. If what Senator Cavanagh says is right, it is not a matter of the Attorney-General not placing reliance on his patents department. Let the proper authorities decide the matter. We are told that this U-shaped headrest is patentable and that because of the positioning of the speakers these chairs are patentable.
– The Minister is oversimplifying the whole matter.
– Am I? I do not believe that I am. This is the real simplification of the whole matter: A claim is made by an individual who we are told is a small inventor - I will accept that - to the effect that there has been some infringement of a patent that he has validly taken out. There is only one real way in which that can be tested properly in accordance with our system of institutions. That is by that claim being made in a court of law to see, firstly, whether the patent was validly taken out and then, if it was, whether that patent was infringed by the Expo ‘67 chairs. That is the only proper way in which such a claim can be tested.
– What happens if the individual has not enough money?
– In response to that interjection I put this proposition although I would not agree with it: Let us have this chamber or the Parliament take the place of a court of law and, whenever anybody says: ‘I have taken out a valid patent and it has been infringed’, let us not bother about having that claim decided by a court of law; let us have it decided here and let the Government pay out funds accordingly. Whatever party affiliations might require, that proposition really would not appeal to the majority of honourable senators. I am quite sure of that. I am told by way of interjection that the only thing that prevents this claim being tested in a court of law is that the inventor concerned has not sufficient funds to take the legal action that is open to him.
– I agree with the Minister that no other body should be substituted for the court. But how does this man overcome his difficulty?
-I think he applies to a court.
– What happens if he has not enough money?
-I understood that this was a South Australian invention and that it was invented by a South Australian citizen. My information is that he would be entitled to legal aid under the South Australian legal aid scheme if in fact he did not have enough money.
– I am pretty sure that he would not be entitled to that aid. It is for destitute people.
– Does the honourable senator mean that it is for people who have not enough money to apply to a court?
– It is for destitute people.
– It depends on what the definition of ‘destitute’ is. I gather that if this man has not enough money to apply to court and if he is convinced of the strength of his case, he can obtain legal aid under the South Australian legal aid scheme. I believe that inherent in the honourable senator’s proposition is a suggestion that the
Commonwealth Government should finance a claimant against itself in a civil action.
– I am asking the Commonwealth Government, because of its involvement, to set up an inquiry.
– Instead of having a court case? The methods to be used are quite clear and simple. If a man feels that his patent has been infringed and if the Commonwealth Attorney-General, firstly, does not believe that the patent has been infringed and, secondly, believes that it is highly doubtful whether the patent would stand up to challenge in any case, then let that man who feels that he has been wronged take the legal redress that is open to him. The only argument that has been advanced against that proposition is that the man concerned has not enough money to take that sort of action. If in fact he is destitute, as I have said, he can obtain legal aid under the South Australian legal aid scheme.
But the Attorney-General does not. stand only on those legal grounds, although in my view they are sufficiently valid legal grounds on which to stand, unless we are to substitute ourselves for a court of law in patents cases. The Attorney-General has examined Mr Williams and Mr Rose. There was some suggestion that Mr Rose of the Acoustic Laboratories had some advance information and had used it.
– I did not mention any name. I referred to the Acoustic Laboratories.
– Yes. The AttorneyGeneral has examined Mr Rose. My information is that Mr Messer had approached the Acoustic Laboratories in South Australia - Mr Rose not being connected with those Laboratories but being connected solely with the head office of the Acoustic Laboratories in New South Wales. The evidence of Mr Rose is that he had no knowledge at all of this matter; that on making inquiries after it had been raised he found that this invention had been taken to the South Australian Acoustic Laboratories; that those Laboratories had been concerned mainly with the analgesic use of this invention in dentists’ chairs so that music could be played to take the patient’s mind off the drill; that the experiments had been rather discouraging for the South
Australian Acoustic Laboratories; but that in any case the matter had never come to the attention of Mr Rose before it was raised.
The people who were examined and who are of some substance must all be telling untruths in some sort of conspiracy if their evidence is not to be accepted. They include Mr Williams of the Department of Civil Aviation, Mr Rose of the Acoustic Laboratories, and Mr Robin Boyd the known architect and Mr Featherstone, as well as other people connected with Expo ‘67. The Attorney-General is convinced that they did not take this idea from Mr Messer, whether it was patented or not. They developed their talking chair from past experience and past developments of talking chairs. Perhaps they were wrong. Perhaps they did come quite independently to the same kind of conclusion as that to which Mr Messer came. If they did and if Mr Messer’s patent were valid, he would have a legal claim - not a moral claim - in respect of the use of that chair.
However, as I have said, I believe thai this matter can be argued out properly only before the proper legal tribunals of this country. T did not intend to debate the matter raised by Senator Cavanagh at any length. I express no objection whatever to his raising it. But I felt that, the case on one side having been propounded in this chamber, the case on the other side should initially be sketched out, rather than that only one point of view should be put. Because 1 do not want to develop the matter any further at this moment, 1 now ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) - I am happy to ‘ tell honourable senators of two important appointments just made by His Excellency the Governor-General. Both have to do with one who is well and favourably known to us all - the Parliamentary and National Librarian, Mr H. L. White, CBE. From 1st January 1968, the two positions of National Librarian and Parliamentary Librarian, which to date have been vested in the one office, will be separated. This is in recognition of the development of the two libraries and the completion of the new National Library building next year. It also follows an amendment to the National Library Act earlier this year which honourable senators will recall. . Mr H. L. White, who has performed the dual functions since 1947, will occupy the newly created statutory office of National Librarian and, by virtue of this appointment, will vacate the office of Parliamentary Librarian.
On the recommendation of Mr Speaker and myself as the Presiding Officers of the Parliament, Mr A. P. Fleming, OBE, Special Commercial Adviser, Department of Trade and Industry, who is at present stationed in London, will be promoted to be Parliamentary Librarian. Mr Fleming will have the particular responsibility of developing the Legislative Research Service which was recently established on the recommendation of the Library Committee and which has already greatly improved the information services available to the Parliament.
Mr Fleming is widely experienced in matters with which the Parliament is concerned, in particular the economy, trade, defence and international relations. Following a most distinguished war record, he planned and conducted research as the first Director of the Joint Intelligence Bureau and later Controller of Joint Service organisations within the Department of Defence until 19S8. He has since served as Trade Commissioner in Paris and London, as First Assistant Secretary of the International Trade Relations Division of the Department of Trade and as a member or leader of delegations to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and United Nations conferences on trade and development.
I know that all honourable senators would want me to wish Mr White continued success and happiness in his new full time statutory office of National Librarian from 1 968. His notable contribution to the development of the National Library and to Australian library and cultural activities generally has often been praised in this Parliament and elsewhere, and is so well known as to need no further elaboration. However, because of my close association with his work over many years as Chairman of the parliamentary Library Com mittee and of the Australian Advisory Council of Bibliographical Services, I feel especially moved to pay a further tribute to him. For this I cannot do better than quote what was said of Mr White by one of the most experienced members of the library profession, Dr Keyes Metcalf, Director of Libraries at Harvard University, when he visited Australia in 1958:
A librarian with broad vision and wide horizon both in breadth and depth who is widely known in cultural and educational circles throughout Australia and in the library world there and elsewhere.
Honourable senators would also wish me to recall especially Mr White’s association with the Parliament itself, now extending over almost 45 years, as Deputy Parliamentary Librarian from 1928 and as Parliamentary Librarian since 1947. He has served the Parliament longer than most - perhaps longer than anyone else since federation. But he has also done it with high efficiency and a deep sense of public service which I am sure the Parliament will remember.
Consideration resumed (vide page 1485).
– 1 relate my remarks to Division No. 820 - Administrative, because 1 cannot find any reference to rural automatic exchanges within the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. 1 draw the Committee’s attention to the anomalies that exist in relation to rural automatic exchanges - or RAXs as they are more commonly keown. In order to indicate more clearly the anomalies that exist, 1 specifically refer to the RAX which is in the course of being constructed for subscribers at Cope Cope in the Wimmera district of Victoria. Tt is proposed to establish in that area an RAX which will provide telephones for thirty-six potential subscribers who are at the present time subscribers on various exchanges, including party lines.
The anomaly that exists in this area - it is to be found throughout the whole of Australia - is that of the thirty-six potential subscribers to the RAX nineteen will receive the service completely free of charge and the other seventeen will be charged, in some cases, tremendous amounts to have n telephone installed. It means, in effect, that people who in some instances have had a service for more than 40 years - they paid for the original installation - are not being asked but are being told that if they do not pay these exorbitant charges to have a new telephone connected to their homes, they will be without a service altogether. An examination of correspondence between the people concerned through their local member in another place, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) indicates quite clearly an anomaly that should be rectified as quickly as possible.
Approximately 3% of the subscribers of this nation are being put in this particular position. On the statement of the Minister which is contained in this correspondence, >n any one year it would cost $2m to provide this service for that 3%. When we look at the Auditor-General’s report we find that this year approximately $205.5m will be expended on capital works and services for the Postmaster-General’s Department. This money will be expended in many ways, including the extension of automatic exchanges to many cities and towns throughout Australia. This service will be provided completely free to any one of the subscribers in those cities and towns. T. presume it will also mean that the subscriber trunk dialling service will be extended between the capital cities and the major towns throughout the Commonwealth, without any additional charge to the subscribers in those areas. But because the farmers and the people who are living in remote areas live beyond a certain distance which is prescribed as a matter of policy by the Department, they will be forced to pay charges which they should not be forced to meet.
In some instances, if they desire to have a telephone connected they will have to do some of the work themselves. They are then in the situation which is described in the correspondence I have before me but which, because of the lateness of the hour, I do not propose to read at length. These people are expected to provide their own lines, poles, etc., by using their own labour. If they do not do that they will not have a telephone service. I would like the Minister to tell me who will look after these people if they have an accident while they are doing tha work. Naturally the Department will accept no responsibility for them. They have been to insurance companies and investigated the possibility of insuring themselves against accident on this type of work but because of their lack of skill and experience in the work they are finding it extremely difficult even to get Insurance coverage.
– To what work is the honourable senator referring?
– Erecting overhead lines and other work associated with the establishment of a line from the service to their homes, in many cases covering many acres and long distances.
– It is the upgrading of an existing line which is most unfair.
– Yes, without a request from the people concerned. The tragic thing is that these people are forced to accept this at the charge imposed or go without a service. As recently as Monday of this week they have decided to go without a service because they are not prepared to accept the conditions. One subscriber in this area sought from the Postmaster-General’s Department an estimate for the laying of an underground cable. This estimate was given in a letter of 3rd July this year, the relevant part of which reads:
The position has now been examined and, providing an acceptance is received within 7 days, the required amount of cable is available to cover from the departmental end-point to the roadway entrance to your property. The cost to you for this work would be $2,000. In view of the maintenance difficulties you could encounter with underground cable, this offer can be made only on the basis that, when the cable has been laid at your expense, you hand it over unconditionally to the Department, which would then undertake all future maintenance and replacement without further expense to you.
This is a very handy method of getting these people, who are already in difficulty because they live in a remote area, to pay for upgrading a service that already exists and with which they are satisfied. Five of them have a 24-hour service that gives them no difficulty whatever. When estimates for this Department are before the Parliament we should make clear that money must not be expended in a manner that will victimise and discriminate between two sections of the community, 3% of the consumers being forced to pay because they live in remote areas and 97% receiving the service without any cost.
The sixteen people who have decided not to proceed with this scheme are submitting to the Minister further arguments in relation to the matter. The Postmaster-
General’s Department must re-examine very closely the general principle associated with this matter. We do not find this principle operating even at the municipal level when municipalities have the difficult and expensive task of replacement of footpaths and roads. These people paid the initial costs, in some instances 40 years ago, for the establishment of their telephone services. They have met their commitments, including maintenance, up to this point of time. If upgrading of the service is to be imposed by the Department it should be at departmental expense,
In my city of Geelong we are very pleased that the subscriber trunk dialling system has been established to enable all subscribers to dial Melbourne directly. I should like to have during this debate particulars of the cost of establishing the STD service between Geelong and Melbourne in the current financial year and I should like to know the cost of providing this service throughout Australia. I congratulate the Department upon the improvement that it has made but I am quite certain that when we hear of the mammoth amounts being spent to improve services in major towns we will not sit in this chamber and approve a system whereby 3% of the community who have established telephone services or may want them in the future are expected to meet all of the costs associated with providing the service.
The Department has something to sell that the people will buy. An imposition of this type will drive people away from using the service rather than encourage them to use it. Senator Hendrickson has told me that when he worked for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department employees were paid 2s 6d for each new customer they could sign up. That is how this business was conducted in those days. We sought people to use the service because we wanted our product on the market. I hope that there will be a decision to ensure that these anomalies and discriminations disappear entirely from the administration of the Department.
– I address my remarks to item 01 of subdivision 5 of Division No. 820, which relates to telephone services. The Minister might recall that I have raised in this chamber by question, I think on four occasions, the matter raised by Senator Poyser. I am afraid 1 must say that to this point of time I have had no joy whatsoever from the answers of the Minister as to any change in policy’ on the cost of upgrading telephone services. We are here as representatives of our States to examine an expenditure under this heading of about $169m.- For people who are fortunate enough to live in a metropolitan area the service will be provided by the Department for very little more than the annual rental and a connection fee. I attended the opening of the new Customs House in Melbourne the other day and I wondered what was the capital cost to the Department of laying the telephone services for that multistorey building or what would have been the cost if the building had been the property of a private company. It would have been enormous.
The people involved in the Cope Cope area are only one group. I have brought to the attention of the Minister in another place the plight of farmers who, having a telephone service, are told that there will be a new improved service in their area and that they will have to pay - in one instance, up to §2,500 - to get a service of a slightly higher grade. Although they have services the Department demands payments of this type. This is not good enough. It is something at which the Committee of the Senate should look very closely. This policy should be pursued by the Department. It reacts against the development and the spread of population for which we are looking. The Postmaster-General’s Department should have looked at this matter before this.
– This policy impedes decentralisation.
– I agree. If this community at Cope Cope in the Wimmera, to which I have referred previously, had not been as strong as it is, these charges would have been forced on it. The Department is having a second look at the matter and it ought to review its policy.
– Where do we find a statement of the Department’s policy on this matter? Is there a public document from the Minister?
– Perhaps that question may be addressed to the Minister shortly. The application of a charge for providing a telephone service is not unreasonable but for the upgrading of a service it is altogether unfair. 1 should like to mention the Department’s view on applications from various instrumentalities and companies.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly)
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 October 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19671019_senate_26_s36/>.