26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I draw the atten tion of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to a statement reported to have been made by Mr Gorton, the Prime Minister, that he would like
– Order! The honourable senator is completely out of order in reading from a newspaper.
– I was not actually reading it, Mr President. I had not put the newspaper down.I ask: Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report of a statement said to have been made by the Prime Minister that he would like to see in Australia an Army of the Israeli type? In asking that question I am seeking information about something that has concerned me for some time.
– Order! I do not wish to be hard on the honourable senator but I ask him to direct his question. The Minister is not responsible for something that has been concerning the honourable senator. He should now ask his question.
– I ask: What is the authority of Mr Tony Eggleton. Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, to make comments on matters of policy? This has happened a good deal of late. Are we to follow the experience of the United States where public servants speak for parliamentarians and Ministers on matters of public policy?
– I think the role of Press secretaries is universally known to parliamentarians. Ministers have Press secretaries and I understand that the Leader of the Opposition in each House has a Press Secretary. Their role is quite clearly understood. I would not accept for one moment that the Press Secretary to the Prime Minister had been making statements on policy in the sense suggested in the honourable senator’s question.
– My question relates to the question asked by Senator Ormonde. Will the Leader of the Govern ment in the Senate examine and explain a report in yesterday’s Sydney ‘Sun’ in which the Prime Minister is reported to have said that he would like Australia to have a citizen Army on Israeli lines ready for action at any time? Mr Eggleton, his Press Secretary, is reported as saying that the Prime Minister’s concept of a citizen Army is the very worst defence alternative facing Australia, and that a citizen Army is less likely to develop as a result of talks with President Johnson. Will the Minister remind the people concerned of the famous dictum delivered by a British Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, to his Cabinet that it does not matter what we say so long as we all say the same thing?
– I am not familiar with the points raised about the speech said to have been made by the Prime Minister, beyond whatI have read in the Press. Of course, Australia’s defence policy is well known to us all and has been the subject of debate many times in the Senate. We have permanent naval, military and air forces, a compulsory national service scheme, and voluntary Citizen Forces. Theseare all evidence of Australia’s defence preparedness.I will refer the other part of the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister.
(Question No. 8)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
-I have received the following answer from the Minister for National Development:
Chairman- Mr N. D. Pixley, M.B.E.. K.St.J., V.R.D., Chairman, Peninsular and Oriental Lines of Australia Pty Ltd
Deputy Chairman - The Hon. Sir Robert C. Wilson, C.M.G., Chairman of Directors, Tooheys Ltd; Director, Bank of New South Wales, Sydney.
Industry (six members) - Mr R. A. Beaufoy, formerly Managing Director, British Tube Mills (Australia) Pty Ltd; Mr C. W. Clift. ViceChairman and Managing Director, Patons & Baldwins (Australia) Pty Ltd; Mr R. C Davis, Managing Director, Mayne Nickless Ltd; Mr R. J. Gillingham, Director of Supply, British Motor Corporation (Australia) Pty Ltd; Mr A. F. J. Smith, Manager, Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd; and Mr C. J. Whitworth. Distribution and Materials Handling Adviser, Unilever Australia Pty Ltd.
Representing the Commissioners for Commonwealth and State Railways- Mr N. McCusker, C.B.E.. Commissioner for Railways, New South Wales.
Representing Department of Supply and also Defence and Service departments - Mr R. W. Davis. First Assistant Secretary, Department of Supply.
Representing Department of National Development - Mr A. I. McCutchan, Senior Assistant Secretary. Department of National Development.
The National Materials Handling Bureau was set up as a permanent authority for the coordination of materials handling practices on a national basis.Its aims are to assist industry and commerce to adopt improved and uniform handling techniques and distribution methods. Its functions are in three main parts:
Educational, advisory, and - within the limits of the Bureau’s resources - research and development services are available to all sections of industry, public instrumentalities and the armed Services.
(Question No. 109)
Senator MURPHY (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
In each of the years 1965, 1966, 1967, how many applications in criminal matters, for special leave to appeal from each State or leave to appeal from each Territory, have been heard by the High Court of Australia and how many were (a) granted, and (b) refused?
Of those granted how many were successful?
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
The following table, compiled from in formation supplied by the Principal Registrar ofthe High Court shows how many applications in ordinary criminal matters for leave or special leave to appeal from each State or Territory were heard granted or refused in the High Court in 1965, 1966 and 1967 and the result of the appeals where leave or special leave to appeal was given. There were no applications in such matters fromthe Territories not mentioned. The table includes only applications for leave or special leave to appeal from the exercise of original or appellate criminal jurisdiction - it does not include applications involving questions of criminal law where the applications were not for special leave or leave to appeal from criminal jurisdiction.
(Question No. 113)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Are more than ordinary arrangements being made to counteract the spread of venereal disease among Australian troops in Vietnam?
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Active measures are taken by the armed Services directed to the prevention of the spread of venereal disease.They includean educational programme of lectures, talks and films in which both medical officers and chaplains participate. As cases are reported, treatment is instituted immediately and carried through under a planned programme of surveillance.
(Question No. 200)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 239)
Senator DEVITT (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– I have received the following reply from the Ministerfor Shipping and Transport: 1 and 2. No. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has not offered the Sydney-Tasmania cargo and passenger ferry ship ‘Empress of Australia’ to New Zealand.
– On 14th March, Senator Marriott asked a question about a reported move to have daylight saving introduced into the Australian Capital Territory. I now inform him that apart from the possibility of action under the defence powers in time of war, the Commonwealth could legislate on daylight saving in respect of only the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Two years ago the Commonwealth sought the views of the Premiers on the question of introducing daylight saving throughout Australia, but their replies at that time indicated that there would be little chance of agreement amongst the States. The Premier of Tasmania has submitted daylight saving as an item for discussion at the Premiers Conference to be held in June.
(Question No. 193)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
In 1965 when the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House was first established reference was made to the Government’s earlier announcementon this question but it was also made clear that any member or members of the Committeewill, in the Committee’s report be free to make such observations on the question of the site of the new Parliament House as he or they may desire. It is expected that there will be an opportunity forthis question to be debated in the Parliament in the near future.
-Yesterday, Sena tor Mulvihill asked me a follow up question to one that was directed to me by him on 16th May with relation to sunglasses. I now havethe following answer for the honourable senator:
In reply to a question raised some time ago by the honourable senator it was stated that in the absence of an Australianstandard the Royal Australian Air Force had requested the Defence Standards Laboratories to examine locally produced sunglasses against a United States standard and a number of deficiencies were discovered.
The Defence Standards Laboratories are now drafting a standard for sunglasses at the request of the Standards Association of Australia. The standard will be in two parts, one covering normal civil requirements, and the other the Services specifications.
Australian manufacturers of sunglasses have been unable to meet specifications for the supply of sunglasses tothe R.A.A.F. and the Department of the Army. Some manufacturers have consulted my Department about processes which could be applied to improve their standard of lens. Advice is freely available from my Department to the manufacturers.
Senator ANDERSON (New South
Wales - Minister for Supply) - by leave - This morning the Senate will be receiving a number of messages from the House of Representatives and, with the exception of the one relating to the National Service Bill. I will ask leavethat consideration of the messages be postponed until a later hour of the day. In doing that I want it to be understood that if we get to a consideration of them - andI do not think we will - we will not proceed with the Bills involved unless it is by agreement between the leaders of the various parties in the Senate.
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.
The purpose of this Bill is to introduce two separate provisions into the Act which governs the conditions relating to most Australian loans raised overseas. The first provision, which is set out in clause 3 of the Bill, will clarify the Australian tax position of non-resident holders of Australian securities issued overseas. The second provision, in clause 4 of the Bill, will enable the introduction of new and simplified procedures for transferring Commonwealth stock already on issue in London.
Section 6b of the Loans Securities Act already provides that payments of interest and principal on Commonwealth securities issued overseas are to be exempt from Australian taxes when the Commonwealth gives such an undertaking at the time the securities are issued. The only exception is where the payments are made to residents of Australia or of the Territories of Papua or New Guinea. When that provision was introduced in 1959, it was explained to the Senate that overseas loan agreements completed by the Commonwealth normally provide that repayment of principal and payments of interest will be exempt from Australian taxes except when beneficially made to residents of Australia or of the Territories of Papua or New Guinea. Exemption from taxation of all payments to overseas lenders is in accordance with long established practices in foreign borrowing operations in overseas markets.
It is also a normal requirement that the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department should provide an opinion, satisfactory to the lenders, to the effect that the loan agreement is a valid and legally binding obligation of the Commonwealth. This opinion customarily includes a specific reference to that portion of the agreement providing for exemption of interest and principal payments from Australian taxes, and mentions section 6b of the Loans Securities Act as a statutory provision that confirms the binding character of the Commonwealth’s undertaking in regard to tax exemption. However, on some more recent occasions, the lenders have sought a specific undertaking in the loan agreement to the effect that the commitment fee payable on undrawn amounts of a loan will also be free from Australian taxes. Section 6b of the Loans Securities Act does not render effective such an undertaking if it is inconsistent with any relevant law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory. Consequently it has been found necessary several times in the past to make special arrangements to give effect to these undertakings, usually by incorporating a specific clause in any legislation relating to the loan.
Clause 3 (a) of the Bill accordingly gives legal effect to an undertaking by the Commonwealth that payments, ‘ in addition to principal and interest, made in respect of Commonwealth securities issued overseas, will be exempt from Australian taxes. The provision has been drawn to cover’ any payments including commitment fee in order to meet the possibility that a future agreement might require an undertaking concerning other payments. The remainder of clause 3 of the Bill is to amend the existing section 6r (2) to place beyond any possible doubt that, the effectiveness of section 6b is not limited by the recent amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act whereby withholding tax was imposed on’ interest payments to non-residents. The references to the other taxes, such as estate. and gift duties, are in the existing legislation.
Clause 4 of the Bill will allow the Registrar of Stock in London to introduce new procedures for transferring Commonwealth stock already on issue in the United Kingdom. Commonwealth stock now on issue in the United Kingdom is registered under the British Colonial Stock Acts of 1877 and 1892. While these Acts provide for a Registrar to prescribe the procedure for transactions in stock, before any particular stock is issued, the transfers have to be effected by deed. This restriction was removed by the Colonial Stock Act of 1948, which permitted transfers of stock registered under the earlier Acts to bc made by instrument in writing, provided that each dominion or colony concerned gave legislative authority for its Registrar to implement the simplified form of transfer.
At the time the Commonwealth did not introduce legislation to take advantage of the new provision because in practice there was little difference in the procedures to be followed for the transfer of stock. However in 1963 the United Kingdom Government passed the Stock Transfer Act which prescribed much simpler transfer procedures for domestic issues. The authorities suggested that all issuers adopt the new procedure, which dispensed with the transferee’s signature on the transfer document and with the need for the transferor’s signature to be witnessed. The majority of foreign borrowers in the United Kingdom have now adopted the new procedure. Clause 4 of the Bill will empower the Registrar in London to take advantage of the authority in the Colonial Stock Act 1948 to have transfers of stock already on issue made by instrument in writing instead of deed. The instrument in writing could then follow the simplified arrangements regarding signatures adopted by the United Kingdom Government under the Stock Transfer Act of 1963. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The present national service scheme came into operation from the beginning of 1965. Under it all young men, whether British or, since January 1967. non-British, who are ordinarily resident in Australia are required to register in the half year in which they reach 20 years of age. Those registering have a choice. They may elect to serve in the Citizen Forces for a period of 6 years as an alternative to national service provided they make the election before the date of the ballot. Alternatively they may take their chance in the ballot and, if selected, are liable for service; in round terms, they have one chance in four of being selected by the ballot. Those who are apprentices, trainees or students at the time of their registration are eligible for deferment, subject to satisfactory progress, to enable them to complete their courses of training or study - and, of course, subject to the overriding consideration that deferment cannot be used as a basis for a man escaping his national service obligations, which normally cease at the age of 26 years.
The standards of fitness for national service as well as for alternative service in the Citizen Military Forces are identical with those for the Australian Regular Army. These standards are high and most exacting, as is to be expected for an efficient fighting force. Since the national service scheme started, some 326,000 men have registered for service, of whom 24,000 men have been enlisted for national service, and 10,000 have elected to serve alternatively in the Citizen Forces.
The overwhelming majority of young men and their families accept the obligations imposed by national service. These men register when required, attend medical examinations to determine their fitness for service when required to do so, if passed fit, comply with their call-up notice and in the Army render efficiently the service for which they are liable. A small number, however, are seeking to evade, or are defaulting in, their obligations at one or more of these stages. Amending legislation is necessary to enable more effective action to counter these efforts and ensure that such men do not escape their obligations. Legislation is also required to give effect to a number of the modifications of the national service scheme which the Government considers desirable.
As most honourable senators know, those detected as failing to register or who register late are liable for call-up regardless of the result of the ballot and also to prosecution. In a number of cases there are, of course, acceptable explanations . and circumstances which do not warrant prosecution. Failure to register is, however, one of the most serious offences committed under the Act since it goes to the root of a person’s liability to render national service. Some technical difficulties have been experienced in the prosecution, of those who fail to register and action is being taken to overcome them. The penalty for the offence is also being doubled.
Men normally register when they are detected. A number of cases have occurred, however, where men have refused to register, generally on the grounds of their complete opposition to national service, this notwithstanding the advice to these men that following their registration they may apply for exemption as conscientious objectors if they so wish. The Department has no alternative but to prosecute in these cases. If following prosecution a man still refuses to register, he continues to be in breach of the Act and he is legally liable to further prosecution. As there is no wish to compound a man’s offence it is proposed that where a person is convicted for failure to register and continues to refuse to do so he may be deemed to be registered. Steps are being taken to make fictitious registrations a specific offence with a penalty of up to $200. Some of these registrations are practical jokes, but others appear to be serious attempts to embarrass the person named in the registration form and to disrupt our administration.
Honourable senators will recall the demonstrations against national service which were accompanied by deliberate burning or destroying of registration certificates. The certificate is the key document of a national service registrant. While these demonstrations have abated, the opportunity is being taken to cure deficiencies in the present legislation by making the damaging or destruction of a registration certificate a separate offence carrying a penalty of up to $200.
Since the original national service scheme was introduced in 1951, the Secretary of the Department has been empowered to require “any person” to answer questions and furnish information relating to a person’s liability to register or to render service under the Act. It is to be emphasised that the original obligation in the 1951 Act was expressed quite generally. It was an obligation imposed on “a person,” that is, any person.
The amendments, proposed by this Bill as originally submitted to Parliament did not alter the classes of persons subject to the obligation. But on consideration of the Bill it bas been acknowledged that the obligation to answer questions and furnish information in its general statement was capable of excess. Family relationships and recognised confidential professional relationships should not be invaded. No prosecution has been taken under the existing power. This fact is testimony to the integrity of the administration. But when attention was drawn to the possibility, the Government considered that family and recognised confidential professional relationships should be protected by the law. The Bill therefore protects members of a family from disclosing any information and legal or medical advisers or ministers of religion from disclosing confidential information.
There are, however, others who, in the particular personal circumstances, may be in situations similar to that of family members as defined. There are others who have confidential relationships not dissimilar to doctors; I refer to psychologists and social workers. Whatthe Bill proposes in these cases is that the obligation to give information should not apply where the court considers that the person concerned has reasonable cause, founded on compassionate or other grounds, for the failure to answer questions or to furnish information.
The Bill in its original form included a specific additional clause applicable to educational and other institutions enabling the Department to seek or have access to the names, addresses and dates and places of birth of male students or clients. The purpose of this provision was to reveal the existence of those of whose identity the Department was unaware, and who were liable to register or render service and had not done so. Its inclusion had followed the Government’s examination of this matter in the light of its experience in obtaining information on a voluntary basis from educational institutions including a number of universities.
The Government has, since the introduction of the Bill, examined the whole matter again in further detail. In the light of what has been put to it by educational authorities, particularly universities, it is now evident that to require information in its present form would present problems of varying magnitude arising from the nature of the records themselves and the confidential nature of muchof the information in them and other circumstances. The Government has therefore decided not to proceed with the provision but to rely on other methods of identifying defaulters among the student group. AsI have already implied, clause 21 does not exclude education institutions from its cover.
Two changes are proposed in regard to medical fitness. First, the existing provisions regarding medical examination are being recast to place beyond any doubt the power to call all those liable for service not only for medical examination but other examinations, e.g. radiographic, specialist or psychological examination, which may be required to determine whether the person meets the Army’s standards of fitness. Second, a very small but apparently growing number of self-styled objectors to national service - they are self-styled since they have not been successful in applications as conscientious objectors or have indicated that they are not prepared to submit applications - are refusing to attend medical examination when called upon to do so, and are endeavouring to make capital out of their refusal.
What is proposed is the adoption of a provision under which a person who is convicted of failure to attend or submit to a medical examination may, without prejudice to any monetary penalty which may be imposed under the Act- currently $100 but being increased to $200 - be required to enter into a recognizance to submit himself to a medical examination to determine his fitness for national service. If he is not prepared to enter into a recognizance the court shall require him to be detained in custody until that examination has taken place, provided that the detention does not exceed 7 days. If, at the end of that period, there is a continued refusal to undergo medical examination, call-up action will proceed. If the man fails to report as required he will, of course, be liable to prosecution for failure to obey a call-up notice.
The Bill makes a number of changes bearing on the obligation to render service. It is proposed to amend the provisions regarding the liability to render service to give recognition to defence service performed overseas. Where men have served in the Australian Permanent Forces for less than 2 years before becoming liable for national service, they are required to serve only for a residual period of national service. Since, from the Army’s point of view, there is nothing to be gained by requiring men to serve for a matter of a few months, those who have already completed 15 months or more service are not required to do any additional service but those with less than 15 months service are required to carr; out the residual period of service. These latter have the option of serving in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to the residual period of national service. lt is proposed to apply the same rules to migrants, whether British or not, who have served in the defence armed forces of an overseas country on a continuous full time basis before becoming liable for national service in Australia, lt is proposed to remove the requirement of an oath for nonBritish national service registrants enlisting in the Citizen Forces.
When national service was introduced for non-British subjects foreign governments were assured that aliens would be free to exercise the same option as British subjects of serving* in the Citizen Forces. Alien registrants, having elected to retain their alien status, may see the taking of an oath as incompatible with citizenship of their own country and they could run the risk of losing their current citizenship and becoming stateless persons. The oath is not. required for the enlistment of men, whether British or not, in the Regular Army Supplement for full time national service. On presenting himself for service a man is deemed to be enlisted. It is therefore proposed that the same arrangement apply to alien national service registrants enlisting in the Citizen Forces.
As honourable senators know, the present legislation provides for the deferment of the liability to render service on grounds of exceptional hardship. Where a person is passed fit for service and the rendering of service would impose exceptional hardship on him, his parents or dependants, he may seek temporary deferment of call-up and the courts are empowered to grant deferment for successive periods not exceeding 12 months. Honourable senators will be aware of cases where it is evident that the circumstances have not changed, and are unlikely to change from year to year and to require a registrant and his family to return to the court each year to seek deferment on the same grounds could be harsh and is Surely unnecessary.
The Government has decided, therefore, that where a national service registrant has been deferred by the courts for not less than 2 years in total on the ground that the rendering of service would impose exceptional hardship on him, his parents or dependants and at the end of the 2 years the Department has no reason to believe that the circumstances which led to the grant of leave will not continue, the registrant will be granted indefinite deferment and in present circumstances will not be called up for service. The same approach will be adopted in respect of serving men. Where men have been granted leave without pay from the Army for not less than 2 years in total they will, subject to the Department being satisfied as to the continuation of the circumstances, be discharged without further liability for service.
While the Department will take a not unsympathetic view of cases which come before it for review, 1 want to emphasise that all registrants granted deferment on the grounds of exceptional hardship will have had the opportunity of gaining indefinite deferment from national service by undertaking to serve in the Citizen Forces including, where appropriate, the CMF special units.. These units were formed specifically to provide the opportunity for all men to elect to serve in the Citizen Forces. If young men do not take advantage of this option there should be good and compelling reasons to warrant the granting of what is, in effect, exemption from service.
Under the present arrangements men who fail to comply with a call-up notice are, on conviction by a court, normally committed to the custody of the Army and it is then for the Army to make soldiers of them. Where the defaulter on enlistment decides not to carry out his service, the Army deals with htm under military law, including by court martial. Where a man persists in his default the only alternatives open to the Army are repeated convictions resulting in detention, or discharging the offender as unsuitable for further service, in which event the person is free from any further liability for national service simply because of his continued default. The disorganisation and waste of Army resources associated with such cases is. as honourable senators might imagine, not inconsiderable.
The present procedures have also been criticised by such diverse groups as the Returned Services League, the Australian Quaker Peace Committee and Federal Pacifist Council of Australia and the Australian Council of Churches. They have all argued that mcn should not be committed to the custody of the Army but should be dealt with on a civil basis, namely civil imprisonment, and this is what the Government proposes.
Where a man fails to comply with a callup notice, he will, upon conviction, be given the opportunity of entering into a recognizance to obey a further call-up notice and be liable to a fine not exceeding $200. If he is not prepared to enter into a recognizance the court will commit him to civil prison but no fine will be imposed. Where he enters into a recognizance but fails to obey a further call-up notice, he shall, upon further conviction be sentenced to civil imprisonment. On being sentenced to civil imprisonment a person will have no further liability for service.
The length of the prison term has received the Government’s close consideration. The Quaker Peace Committee and Federal Pacifist Council and the Australian Council of Churches have suggested a maximum period of 2 years. Bear in mind that the man concerned has failed to establish conscientious objector status or has refused to have this determined despite the opportunities provided by the Act. He has deliberately chosen not to undertake national service while others undertake their Army service and accept the risk of going to Vietnam for .12 months. After weighing all the factors the Government has decided that the prison term should be 2 years but that men should be entitled to the normal remissions for good behaviour as provided in the various States.
Mcn may, of course, be enlisted but subsequently fail to render service. We cannot, however, contemplate removing from military law all cases of default during Army service. What is proposed, therefore, is that civil prosecution of enlisted men who fail to render service will proceed only where the Military Board recommends, and the Minister for Labour and National Service approves. Those convicted by the court will be sentenced to civil imprisonment for 2 years less any periods of continuous fulltime service already rendered or counted as service. Again, a person sentenced to civil imprisonment will have no further liability for service.
As honourable senators will doubtless have observed, although the Bill provided that failure to obey a call-up notice or render service shall be a civil, rather than a military offence, the issues which will have to be determined as to whether a man should be convicted remain unchanged; they are the same simple, uncomplicated issues, lt has to be shown that the defendant is a person liable for military service and has been served with a call-up notice and has failed to report to perform his service. Under the legislation in the generality of cases conviction has resulted in military service and this is expected to continue. If military service is refused, the Bill requires the magistrate to commit the defendant to service in a civil gaol for the period of military service refused. The only change is in the nature of the penalty - a penalty determined, as now, by the legislation, and in the imposition of which the court has no discretion - 2 years’ custody in a civil prison, with credits for any service performed, instead of custody in the Army for the very same period. Accordingly the offences of failure to obey a call-up notice and failure to render service will continue to be dealt with summarily.
Finally there are a number of miscellaneous matters with which the Bill deals. Men liable for national service are required to have the permission of the Department if they wish to leave Australia before commencing national service. It has been, however, possible for men liable for national service to escape their liabilities, at least temporarily, by going overseas without permission. If they return to Australia before the age of 26, they are, of course, still liable for service. The most serious loopholes involve breaching the National Service Act, and there is, I am sure, no disagreement that these need to be closed. After a detailed examination of the position, the conclusion has been reached that, in principle, a ticket to travel overseas should not be issued to a man in the age group for national service without an authority from the Department. There are, however, a number of aspects on which further discussion with the airline and shipping companies is necessary before this could be given practical effect; this may take some little time. The legislation, therefore, provides in effect that the relevant section will become operative only on and after a date to be fixed by the Minister for Labour and National Service by notice in the ‘Gazette*.
The present provisions do not adequately deal with a variety of circumstances in which false or misleading statements may be made. The furnishing of false documents and making false statements is being made a separate offence with a penalty of $200.
The National Service Act imposes obligations on employers; the Bill will clarify them in a number of respects. The Act currently provides that an employer shall not prevent - and the legislation proposes to add hinder - an employee from serving and neither penalise nor prejudice him in his employment by reason of his obligations under the Act. Employee does not include workers who are not under a continuing contract of employment with an employer but who are nonetheless employed by an industry, such as casual waterside workers and allied waterfront workers, lt may possibly not include apprentices and perhaps cadets. The Bill will ensure that these groups of workers are covered, lt is proposed also to provide for the payment of compensation to an employee whose employer is convicted of having penalised or prejudiced him in his employment by reason of his obligations under the Act and to facilitate the enforcement of an order for compensation.
The current legislation also provides that a person shall not employ, or retain in his employment for more than 7 days, a person who is required to register and has not registered or who has been called up for service and has failed to render service. Every possible aid is needed in detecting defaulters but a number of members of the Parliament, and most recently the Australian Council of Churches, have represented to the Minister for Labour and National Service that a man should not be deprived of the right to earn a living when the fact that he may be a defaulter is, or has been made, known to the Department and there is no question of employer connivance in his possible default. Where default is apparent, it is of course, the Department’s job to prosecute him as a defaulter. The
Bill therefore recasts the present provision to require that an employer shall notify the Department of any person in his employ whom he has reason to believe is a defaulter.
We have no means of recovering fines imposed for offences committed against: the National Service Act where the normal remedies of execution against goods or committal to prison for non-payment of fines are not available. This situation can arise, for example, where the person has been fined for failure to obey a call-up notice and then is enlisted in the Army. The Bill, therefore, seeks powers to deduct from the national serviceman’s pay the amount of the fine and any costs which may be ordered.
The majority of the penalties under the legislation date back to the inception of the original national service scheme in 1951 and in some instances to earlier penalties provided in the Defence Act even as far back as 1917. They have now been reviewed in the light of the seriousness of the offence in relation to the present national service scheme and present day money values of the penalty. Flowing from this review, most penalties are being doubled. A minimum penalty of $40 is also being introduced for the offences of failure to attend or submit to a medical examination as is already provided in respect of the offence of failure to register. These are serious breaches of the National Service Act as, whatever the cause, the result may be the same, viz., the avoidance of national service liability.
Lastly the opportunity is being taken to tidy up a number of minor procedural issues which have been encountered in the administration of national service. The present Bill stems: from an exhaustive examination of the National Service Act which the Minister for Labour and National Service and his Department have undertaken in the light of the experience over the past three years of the present national service scheme.” When the examination was virtually completed the Minister received some quite extensive representations from the Australian Council of Churches, particularly bearing on the ‘ matter of conscientious objection. Subsequently, the President of the Council, the Rt Rev. N. R. Faichney, who is also Moderator General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Council’s General Secretary and the Convenor and members of the Committee on Conscientious Objection, which had prepared the Council’s report, discussed the proposals with the Minister at some length.
In brief, two of the Council’s proposals, namely the making of failure to obey a call-up notice a civil offence and modifying the obligations imposed on employers in respect of men who have refused to register or failed to obey a call-up notice, are dealt with, wholly or substantially, in the amending legislation. As to a third proposal seeking deletion of the provisions of the Act under which a person who has commenced to render service can be granted exemption on the grounds of conscientious beliefs only if he has formed the beliefs after he commenced to render that service, the Government has decided to deal with the matter administratively. Several other proposals are still under examination by the Government. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
Thatthe Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Science and Industry Research Act 1949- 1966; to provide financial provisions appropriate to the Commonwealth Scientific and. Industrial Research Organisation; and to make other minor amendments. During an examination of trust accounts the Parliamentary Joint Committee - of Public Accounts considered the need for the continued existence of the Science and Industry Trust Account to be established under section 25 of the Science and Industry Research Act. The Committee decided that this Trust Account no longer served any useful purpose and recommended that the Account be closed. The changes now proposed as a consequence will permit the adoption of financial arrangements for the C.S.I.R.O. similar to those of other Commonwealth statutory corporations. The principal features of this arrangement are that the funds to be provided out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the use of the C.S.I.R.O. will appear as a one line entry in the Appropriation Acts and will be paid over to the C.S.I.R.O. for use in accordance with approved estimates of expenditure. The corporation will operate its own bank accounts and be responsible for its own accounting arrangements subject to audit by the Auditor-General.
The Science and Industry Research Act 1949-66 provides that the C.S.I.R.O. be a body corporate which exercises its powers and functions under the Act subject to the approval of the Minister. The C.S.I.R.O. is empowered by the Act to undertake scientific research in connection with and for the promotion of primary and secondary industries, the training of scientific workers and the making of grants in aid of pure scientific research, and has a number of other functions incidental to these principal activities. The Executive is the governing body of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. In carrying out these complex operations the C.S.I.R.O. Executive has the responsibiliity, with the approval of the Minister, for the administration of the C.S.I.R.O. subject to such necessary safeguards as are required to recognise its responsibility to the Minister and to the Parliament. The Act gives to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Executive the responsibility of defining and carrying through the scientific programme and of making decisions, subject to the Minister’s authority, that are required in this connection. The Act also provides the Com mon wealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Executive with direct responsibility for making appointments of scientific and other staff to the Organisation. The success which the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has achieved in serving the needs of Australia through scientific research can be attributed to the responsibility which its Executive has been given to exercise its scientific and practical judgment in the selection of a programme of work and . in the appointment of scientific and other staff to carry through this programme.
The financial provisions now proposed give the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Executive and the Minister, with necessary safeguards, the same degree of responsibility and flexibility as are inherent in the other provisions of the Act. These proposals are consistent with the views expressed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts. That body, while not formulating any alternative arrangements to be adopted on the closure of the Trust Account, stated:
One of the main problems of a governmental research organisation is to retain the flexibility so vital to successful research, while still obtaining the funds so necessary to conduct the research. Your Committee sympathises fully with the desire of the Organisation to preserve ils freedom of action insofar as research activities are concerned.
In addition to these financial provisions, there are several other minor proposals. When the Act was amended in 1959 to increase the size of the C.S.I. R.O. Executive to nine members, no change was made in the size of the quorum of the C.S.I. R.O. Advisory Council, of which the Executive is part, lt is desirable that the quorum of the Advisory Council should be enlarged and it is proposed that the number be twelve. The opportunity is taken to update the provision of the 1949 Act requiring the C.S.i.R.O. Executive to seek the approval of the Minister for the appointment of persons the maximum salary of whom exceeds £1,500. The present proposal raises this to $10,073. It is proposed to permit the C.S.I.R.O. Executive with the approval of the Minister, to appoint in exceptional cases a senior scientist who does not meet the normal requirements of physical fitness. Finally the Bill clarifies the way in which the Organisation exercises its powers of delegation under the Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dittmer) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act 1943-1967 by inserting a new section, section 6a, in relation to an award as to long service leave for certain classes of seamen. As the law stands, along with certain other employees of the Commonwealth, seamen employed by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which operates the Australian National Line, look to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act for long service leave benefits. In broad terms, persons may become eligible under that Act to furlough on completion of 15 years satisfactory and continuous service with the one employer, the Commonwealth. Section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act permits the Commission to make an award that is not in accord with a law of the Commonwealth but it may not make an award that is nol in accord with certain Acts, one of which is the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. However, the Seamen’s Union of Australia has made an application to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an award providing for long service leave to be granted after a period of service as a seaman in the maritime industry and not, as is usual, after service with the one employer. In broad terms the application which has been made by the Seamen’s Union seeks long service leave after 15 years as a seaman in the Australian maritime industry. This service would be related to registration as a seaman under what is known as the Seamen’s Stabilisation System administered by the Department of Shipping and Transport.
The draft award which has been placed before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been the subject of discussions between the union and the shipowners, including the Australian National Line. These discussions have resulted in a conditional agreement on the terms of the draft. However the draft award is clearly not in accord with provisions of the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act and, without enabling legislation, the Commission would not be able to join the
National Line as a party to the award in view of the terms of section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
This would be an undesirable state of affairs. The ANL is the major operator in the Australian maritime industry. Moreover the terms of the proposed award seem more suited to the employment of seamen than those of the Furlough Act. Therefore, the Bill would insert a provision in the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act to the effect that that Act will not affect an award or order made by or an agreement filed with the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as to long service leave for seamen included in a prescribed class of seaman. However it would be unreasonable for seamen to whom such an award order or agreement might apply to be able to secure both long service leave and furlough in respect of the same period of service. Therefore a provision has been included in the Bill that where a Commonwealth employee has in accordance with an award, order or agreement relating to seamen, been granted long service leave or been paid in lieu of long service leave in respect of a period of service, no part of that period of service shall be included in the period of service of the Commonwealth employee for the purposes of the Furlough Act. In other words if a seaman is able to fulfil the requirements of the Furlough Act been use of continuous employment by an authority or authorities of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Furlough Act. he may receive furlough under the Act instead of long service leave under the award. But he may not have both long service leave and furlough in respect of the same period of service or any part of it.
The amendment proposes that the Furlough Act will not affect an award made as to seamen included in a prescribed class of seamen and that the term ‘seaman’ has the same meaning as in Division 2 of Part III of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1967. At present it is not contemplated that an industry long service leave award will be made as to all classes of seamen included in the definition of a seaman in Division 2 of Part III of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. However it may well be that, in the future the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will be asked to make awards similar to that now before it but as to other classes of seamen. Such awards would also involve the Australian National Line. In that event the same problem as now arises in relation to section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act could arise again and legislation would be required each time an award was sought as to a particular class of seaman. Thus the Bill now before the Senate avoids this by reference to a prescribed class of seamen. This will enable classes of seamen to be prescribed as the need to do so arises.
One further point about the Bill requires brief explanation. It will be noted that it provides that subsection (2) of section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will not apply to an award to which the Bill refers. That subsection applies to awards of the Commission covering employees of the Commonwealth, certain sections of the Public Service Arbitration Act relating to the tabling in Parliament of determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator. It is not considered necessary that those provisions should apply to an award binding a business enterprise such as the National Line. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to remove certain privileges of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and his employees in respect of legal actions. Section 78 of the Commonwealth Railways Act provides that actions against the Commissioner, or against any person for anything done under the Act, must be commenced within 6 months of the occurrence of the cause of action. Section 79 requires that persons, before bringing such actions, must give notice of the occurrence of the cause of action, and that a month’s notice of intention shall be given before commencing the action. Section 81 provides for limitations on the damages or compensation that may be awarded against the Commissioner in actions arising out of personal injury - to $4,000 in case of death or permanent disablement, and $2,000 in the case of temporary disablement.
The Bill repeals these sections and thus removes both the limit of damages for personal injury and the limitations now imposed on the time of commencement of an action, together with the provisions for notice. The general effect will be to place the Commonwealth Railways in the same position as ordinary individuals and corporations, as the law of the relevant State or Territory on these matters will take the place of these provisions. Clause 7 of the Bill will ensure that the benefit of the repeal extends to actions in respect of causes of action that had arisen before the date of the repeal, other than actions in which judgment was given before that date.I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8 May (vide page 857) on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
Thatthebill be now read a second time.
– This Bill makes a number of alterations to the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-1966, most of them matters in regard to which the Opposition has no strong criticism or comment. However, there are one or two points to which I shall direct the Minister’s attention during the course of my speech so that the considerations which the Postmaster-General (Mr Hul me) in another place had in mind may be mentioned again. However, as I have said, most of the proposals contained in the Bill are designed merely to bring the Act up to date.
Let me mention at the outset that it is significant that during the debate on the Post and Telegraph Bill which we have just disposed of the question of changing the Australian Post Office into a corporation was canvassed at length. The Over- . seas Telecommunications Commission, to which the Bill before us relates, is a good example of how such a corporation can operate efficiently, carry out important functions in a developing world and return satisfactory profits. To illustrate my point I shall refer to the annual report and balance sheet of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 31st March 1967. The extracts from the report which I shall read provide guidelines for the Post Office to follow if at some time in the future it becomes a corporation. On page 2 of the report the Commission states:
The Commission, a corporate body of the Commonwealth of Australia, created by the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946, is directed by five Commissioners appointed by the GovernorGeneral for three years with eligibility for reappointment.
It is responsible for the establishment, maintenance and operation of telecommunications services between Australia and other countries, with shipping and to and between Australia’s external Territories.
In association with the Post Office within Australia and communication carriers in other Commonwealth and foreign countries, the Commission provides public message telegram services to 257 telephone to 172, telex to 106, phototelegram to 33 and leased circuit services to 21 countries and places throughout the world.
Through the Commission, Australia is one of the major international telecommunications countries and is a substantial owner of world-wide communications facilities. Net fixed assets exceed $42m. The Commission has a 25% share in the COMPAC cable, a 28% share in the SEACOM cable and with a 2.5% share is the sixth largest shareholder in the International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (INTELSAT).
The report then refers to revenues during the year:
There was considerable growth in the Commission’s operations in 1966-67 both in new. facilities and in the means of communication, with the expansion of the international cable and radio networks, of the coastal radio system and with entry into the new medium of international communications by satellite. Revenue increased by 24% to $ 18.8m and the net profit after all charges rose by 44% to$5.8m.
On page 4 the report refers to the matter of finance in these terms:
Total revenue increased by 24% from$1 5.1m to $ 1 8.8m, expenditure by 17% from$11m to $12.9m, and net profit by 44% from $4m to $5.8m. The sharp rise in profit reflects the continuing growth in demand for telecommunications services and return on the substantial capital invested in recent years on modern telecommunications facilities.
In the matter of industrial relations with the staff the report makes this comment on page 23:
Harmonious relations continued between management and the associations representing staff interests, making it possible for industrial problems to be resolved by negotiation.
In the Overseas Telecommunications Commission we have an excellent example of a corporation, such as may be envisaged in the future for the Post Office, operating most satisfactorily.
I have slated that most of the proposed amendments are designed to bring the Act up to date. For instance, there is the deletion from the Act of the reference to the Island of Nauru, following the granting of independence to Nauru. In clause 4 of the Bill provision is made for a commissioner who replaces one who has served only a portion of his statutory period to be appointed for 3 years rather than for the unexpired portion of the outgoing commissioner’s. term as has been the case previously.
Clause 5 of the Bill provides for an increase in the maximum staff salary level which may be adjusted within the Commission from $5,000 a year to $7,500 a year. The Commission may not go above that level without ministerial approval. The trade union movement made some submissions on that matter to the industrial committee of my Party and they were put to the Postmaster-General before and during the debate on the Bill in another place. The trade unions suggested that the fixing of a ceiling of $7,500 beyond which the Commission could not go without the Minister’s approval inhibited the kind of arbitration and conciliation proceedings in which the Professional Radio Employees Institute would be involved. They would prefer the amount to be much higher to make it consistent with- the salary levels of top executives. In reply to submissions in the other place the Postmaster-General is reported on page 1131 of Hansard of 7th May 1968 as follows:
What we are doing in the Bill is to create a situation similar to that in other areas. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Austraiian Institute of Aboriginal Studies and .the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation all require that, above a certain level of salary - I think it is $7,500’ - the approval of the Minister is necessary. What we are doing in this situation is to throw responsibility for the salaries on to the person who has the final responsibility for the authority and that is the Minister. However, we appreciate that most employees in any organisation are below this level and we leave the Public Service Board or, in this instance, the Commission to determine the level of salaries for these people, lt is right that the Minister should be responsible for the higher salaries.
The Minister has not replied to the submission of the trade unions that the fixing of such a salary ceiling in the Act inhibits to some extent the negotiations that occur between the unions and the Commission in relation to salaries. I think we should be grateful to Mr St John, an honourable member in another place, who directed attention recently to the levels of remuneration of people who are not classed as top executives. For example, it is significant to note - this supports the Labor Party’s submission to the Minister - that the Press Secretary to the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) is entitled to an annual salary of $7,278 plus a specialist allowance of $615 which gives him a salary of almost $8,000- $7,893 to be exact. That is a case of a public servant receiving a salary, which is above the level proposed to be specified in the Act, without the necessity of obtaining ministerial approval.
We know that legislation is pending to increase the salary of conciliation commissioners from $9,000 a year to $12,000 a year. Conciliation commissioners do very useful work. Their salaries are above the level proposed within which discussions between staff organisations and the Commission can take place. The base level salary for a second division officer of the Public Service is $9,605. The Professional Radio Employees Institute, which covers most of the staff in the union, sees good reason for having the ceiling lifted. It is evident that the level of $7,500 is simply an arbitrary ceiling, lt would have been better if the amount had been doubled, as this would have ensured that future negotiations between the parlies were not inhibited. One of the best provisions in the Bill is for the deletion of the prescription in relation to married women.’ Clause 6 repeals section 26, which covers the employment Of married women and places certain restrictions on their admission as permanent officers. This action is in line with the decision made by the Government last year iri relation to the Public Service. It is a very good move and we welcome it.
– That is a change of attitude.
– It has taken a long time.
– It is a change of attitude on the part of your Party, too.
– No, it is a change of attitude on the part of the Government. We have been plugging away for years also on the question of equal pay for women, and we expect the same sort of thing to happen in this connection.
– That is not related to the employment of married women.
– Of course it is. I take the opportunity to refer to the support that we have had on this question from Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood, who is at present in the Chair. She has supported both the proposal for removal of limitations on the employment of married women and the proposal for equal pay for women. We expect the second matter to receive the same support from the Government as the first matter has now received. I hope that soon we will be able, to say that the equal pay concept has been approved by the Government for application in Australia. As we know, the Government supports the principle internationally.
Clause 7 relates: to the appointment of officers on probation. It provides for the deletion from section 27 of the words: (not being an officer to whom sub-section (11.) or (12.) of section eighteen of this Act applies).
We are rather concerned as to whether removal of this provision, which applied in the circumstances of the transfer of staff from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd and Cable and Wireless Ltd, will prejudice existing benefit right’s. We hope that no disadvantage will be suffered by anybody as a result of this alteration. The union thinks that disadvantage could be suffered by former officers of the two organisations to which 1 have referred.
There is also doubt about the proposed deletion of the word ‘appoint* in section 33 and the substitution of the word ‘engage’. This provision is contained in clause 8. If it is intended by the proposed amendment to restrict or limit the obligations of the Commission to appoint a person to the service, or to engage a person for an indefinite period as a temporary or unappointed employee, the trade unions strongly object to such a provision. The Professional Radio Employees Institute points out that the second reading speech makes no reference to the reason for the proposed amendment to section 33. Therefore we seek to have the position cleared up. Is there a real reason for the substitution of ‘engage’ for ‘appoint’? Will it allow an increase in the number of temporary staff members?
Clause 1 1 seeks to amend section 35 to give recognition to an existing arrangement between the Commission and the Post Office. Revenue received by the Commission’s stations handling international messages has been paid to the Post Office under settling arrangements. These payments are for services performed by the Commission on behalf of the Post Office. One of the important matters about which the unions are concerned is the provision in proposed new section 77 (5.) which imposes an obligation upon the Overseas Telecommunications Commission to do work as required by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The proposed, new section 77 reads:
What is worrying the trade unions is the proposed obligation upon the Commission in the event of an interruption of service. This will require a request from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to be complied with. We are concerned about whether this is intended to meet an industrial situation which does not often occur but which could occur. In the event of a stoppage will the Overseas Telecommunications Commission be required to do certain things? Let me refer to what the Postmaster-General said in the other place on 7th May 1968 in reply to the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), as reported at page 1133 of Hansard:
The honourable member suggested thai, if this provision were included in the Act, an alternative service would be available in the event of an industrial dispute. 1 assure the honourable member that nothing of the sort is contemplated, for I believe it would be impossible for the facilities of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission adequately to handle the normal telegram and telegraph traffic of the Post Office. This is neither «. strike-breaking operation nor an operation to dual with an industrial dispute. This arrangement has been operating over a long period of years, and this provision in the Hill is merely to clarify the legislation.
A number of other minor alterations do not require stressing. We do not oppose the legislation. We draw to the attention of the Minister the matters, to which I have referred. In particular we should like to know whether, since the Postmaster-General made his observation on the salary ceiling, fresh consideration has been given to the matter.
– (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [11.39] - in reply - I appreciate the force of Senator Bishop’s comments in relation to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, but 1 should like to make again the point that I made last night in the debate on another Bill, that it does not follow that the organisational structure applicable to a public corporation is applicable to the Post Office. The service responsibilities of both organisations have a widely different application to and impact on the community and on the development of the nation. The points that I made last night are relevant in this connection. 1 shall now endeavour to answer several points raised by Senator Bishop, the first of which concerned clause 5, which relates to payments of salaries exceeding $5,000 annually. Legislation for most authorities requires approval for salary increases beyond a specific level to be given by a Minister. The present salary limit beyond which the Overseas Telecommunications Commission cannot approve a salary increase is $5,000 a year. This provision has remained unchanged since 1958. The limit is being raised to $7,500 or to such higher amount as may be prescribed. I draw the honourable senator’s attention to the fact that similar provisions exist in legislation relating to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Atomic Energy Commission, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Stevedoring Industry Authority and the Australian Wool Board. The amounts shown in the principal Acts vary, particularly where the legislation has not been changed since times when salaries were lower. However, the provisions for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies and Housing Loans Insurance Corporation are identical with the provision prescribed for the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. In some cases the determination of a higher amount is arranged by regulation: in other cases it is determined by ministerial decision. In many other cases legislation which is in need of review provides for lower salary limits. That legislation is under review.
I wish now to refer to the honourable senator’s comments in respect of clause 6. As the honourable senator said, it is intended to remove the restriction on the employment by the Commission of married women as permanent officers. Like the honourable senator, I am very pleased indeed to see this clause. The honourable senator also referred to clause 7, which seeks to amend section 27 of the principal Act as it affects the appointment of staff. No further appointments of staff transferred from private companies will be made and the provision in the Act is therefore redundant. lt is being deleted for that reason. Because of Senator Bishop’s concern with this matter T inform him that the rights of officers transferred from private companies to the service of the Commission on the establishment of the Commission are still preserved in section 18(11), as he will see set out in the last four lines of that section.
Senator Bishop also referred to clause 8. The word ‘engage’ is considered to be more appropriate than the word ‘appoint’ for use in regard to the employment of temporary staff. The change does not envisage an alteration to policy for the engagement of staff. T turn now to the honourable senator’s queries concerning clause 16, regarding the obligation of the Commission to carry Post Office traffic when there is an interruption of services. The proposed change has not been influenced by any industrial consideration. Section 77 (3) of the principal Act refers to the same obligation with regard to carriage when there is an interruption to land line services.- Services are not confined to land lines and for that reason the words land lines’ have been deleted. The change is therefore’ intended to clarify the legislation on this point. It does not introduce a new responsibility or obligation, but in future the Commission will be paid for such work. I think I have answered the points raised by Senator Bishop. I thank him for the comments he has made in this debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 9 May (vide page 910), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this legislation, one purpose of which is to set up a trust account. The Government indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech. 1 think–
– Following my advocacy. ; Senator WILLESEE - I do not think that was referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech. I was not aware that Senator Gair had suggested the setting up of a trust account. The ‘honourable senator says many things in this place and I find it difficult from time to time to follow them. 1 am sorry that his advocacy did not go a little further, because the Australian Labor Party believes that this legislation is only a tiny step in the right direction. As I understand it, all Post Office moneys will be paid into the trust account and will stay there in limbo, at it were, until the Postmaster-General and the Treasurer make up their minds what to do about it. A lot of trouble has surrounded the Post Office in recent times and this legislation makes no attempt to solve many of the problems that have arisen. Many things are left unanswered.
The Opposition has no quarrel with the setting up of a trust account. We hope that it works as well as it seems the Postal Department thinks it will work. I wish to raise several small points. I think an opportunity was missed by the Parliamentary Draftsman to tidy up the Act as it stands at present. We are used to sloppy drafting here in many Bills that come before us. This Bill is an example of that sort of work. All sorts of factors impinge on this legislation. One provision in this Bill is near and dear to my heart. The salary of the Director-General is to be fixed in the Act at $17,500 a year. From time to time Government supporters contend that they want salaries fixed by regulation. On one or two occasions we have been able to resist such moves, but at other times we have been unsuccessful in preventing them. I hope this is a pointer to a permanent change in policy, and that the Government no.w believes it is ready to include in legislation the salaries of senior people. When it is done by regulation, the same opportunity for scrutiny is not given to this Parliament. However, I am pleased to see that the salary of the Director-General is now to be fixed in the Act itself.
Clause 6 of the Bill seeks to amend section 5 1 of the principal Act which relates to occasions, in the verbiage of the Bill, when letters or . packets are ‘ opened and valuables are found inside. Previously the policy as set out in section 65 has been for payments to be made into Consolidated Revenue. Fines were not paid into Consolidated Revenue. I would like the Minister to indicate to me what is intended to be done with moneys received for fines imposed.
I would also like to know why the words letter or packet’ are used and not the words ‘postal article’.- The term ‘postal article’ means just about anything that goes through the post. I. would not expect letter cards or newspapers to contain valuables but parcels could easily contain valuables.It may be that I do nol fully understand the clause, but in the Act ‘postal article’ is defined as including .letters, post - cards, letter- cards, newspapers, packets or. parcels and all other articles transmitted by post, and telegrams when transmitted by post. I cannot think of anything else that can be transmitted by post. Therefore everything transmitted by post is a postal article. However, although the Bill specifies the two articles most likely to contain valuables - letters and packets - it does not mention parcels. This is left to the regulations and I am wondering what happens to valuables found in parcels. 1 merely raise this matter as a possible means of improving the administration of the Post Office.
Receipts from trading have until now been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund but fines have been dealt with as the Governor-General has directed. I would like to know into what account moneys received for fines have been paid. There may have been good reason for the provisions of the Act, although in the days when it was first drawn revenue from fines must have been small. Will fines be paid into the new Trust Account?
I’ notice that the word ‘telegraphic’ is still used although in Post Office working telegraphic’ means ‘telephonic’. Lt is one of those cases where the child has outgrown the parent. Nowadays we rarely hear of telegraphic workings. As we all know the Department is lagging behind in providing telephone services and this is an indication of the expansion of this kind of service. Perhaps it would have been a good idea to rephrase the definition to provide that telephonic’ includes ‘telegraphic’. 1 envisage that in the future the word ‘telegraphic’ will be almost completely replaced by the word telephonic’.
T notice that in proposed section 96e the limitation of 1 year appears. This is a practice that has grown up over the years but there does not seem to be very much warrant for it. I do not see anything magical in the period from 1st July to 30th June. It may be useful as an accounting period but I do not know why we have to genuflect to it. Section 96e, referring to the proposed Trust Account, states:
The Treasurer may, before or during a financial year, do either or both of the following things:
determine the maximum amount to be paid out of the Account during that financial year in respect of capital expenditure;
determine the maximum amount to be paid out of the Account during that financial year in respect of a class of capital expenditure specified in the determination.
The desirability of long-term planning is one of the strongest arguments put forward by those advocating the administration of the Post Office by a statutory authority. It is very obvious that, with the tremendous development that is occurring in Australia, planning has to be done for a long period ahead, not just for 1 or 2 years. I am wondering whether we are introducing a limiting factor by tying the Treasurer to capital expenditure for only I .year. Surely this restriction will inhibit a huge organisation such as the Post Office in its planning for the future.
The Australian Labor Party believes that this Bill is a tiny step in the right direction. I do not think that the Minister has made any comment on how this Bill will impinge on the administration of the Post Office - whether it will create more work for the Department and, if so, at what level. I think it will create more work at the district level, which is the section of the Department that carries the brunt of the daytoday work of the Post Office. Whether this has been considered I do not know. There is always the danger that the additional staff that is required will outweigh any benefit that accrues. The Minister has said that this Bill will ensure the better working of the Post Office. It is true that the Bill will give the Post Office some degree of autonomy. But the Bill docs not provide an answer to the problem of the mounting complexity of industrial relations that has shown up so vividly in the Post Office over the past few years.
Honourable senators will recall the debate on the last Post and Telegraph Rates Bill when there was general criticism of the increased charges that were to be levied for some services. The traditional subsidising of the Australian Press by the Australian taxpayers was raised because of the tremendous profits made by that mass medium. Another matter that I can never quite work out is the building policy of the Post Office. In some States the Department is leasing buildings and in others it is trying to buy them. The provision’ of new post offices in towns and cities is lagging behind. This should not be happening. Possibly some problems such as this could be solved if the Government would take another step in the direction it is following in this legislation. However, all in all, the Opposition does not-‘ object to this Bill. It does seem to give some autonomy to the Post Office. lt docs seem to ‘ be desirable that receipts should be paid into one account and that expenditure should be met from that account. 1 know that the profits can be determined by the Treasurer and taken from the Post Office. I wonder whether* after a couple of years’ experience, it might bc possible, if profits are to be made, to establish some sort of fund which would help in the general planning of the Post Office. I repeat that this Bill is a step in the right direction; the Opposition hopes that it will be followed by ma«y others.
– The Post and Telegraph Bill (No. 2) basically deals with the financial procedures of this very important service. Any business in Australia which has a turnover approximating that of the Post Office could probably be criticised in some of its areas of operation for. inefficient accounting. The turnover of the Post Office during the last financial year was $430.7m. This makes it Australia’s largest commercial undertaking, if it can be termed that. lt is very pleasing that the Parliament has an opportunity to look at the financial procedures of an institution such as the Post Office, f congratulate the Post Office and the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) on bringing forward the Bill, which amends the financial arrangements under which this organisation works. One can perhaps see that this is a step towards further activity in the financial affairs of the Post Office. I have some misgivings as to the reasons given for the claim that the benefits expected by the Post Office will flow from this measure. One of the reasons given is that the Bill will improve substantially the accounting procedures that have previously been available, but I cannot be convinced that, even though certain accounts needed to be kept for parliamentary purposes, basically the same volume and type of work will not be needed under this arrangement of a trust account.
It is interesting to note that over many years the Post Office has been the subject of close scrutiny as the result of a number of inquiries instituted by the Parliament. These go back to a royal commission on postal services from 1908 to 1910. Also, Mr Robert Anderson was appointed to report to the Parliament on the need for a business outlook and business methods in the management of the Post Office. There was a royal commission on economies from 1919 to 1929, which again investigated further matters concerning the Post Office. On a number of occasions the Public Accounts Committee has taken evidence on postal activities. In its twelfth report, in 1954, and again in its thirty-fourth report in 1957, the Public Accounts Committee made some impact in relation to the changes that are now taking place.
A reason given for this alteration is that it is intended that greater scope and flexibility will be afforded so that the Post Office can operate on a business basis. It would be very interesting to see that explanation expanded to indicate how the internal accounting procedures will achieve the objective which cannot be achieved today. The bringing about of a more effective parliamentary control, which has been mentioned, is very important and I look forward to seeing how this will be done. 1 imagine that the form of the accounts- and the White Paper that will be introduced to the Parliament will bring about this better parliamentary understanding and parliamentary control. Also, there is a public relations content in the change that is proposed. The Post Office suggests that it will enable the public to have a better understanding of Post Office finances. The Minister set out in his second reading speech, in short, what it is hoped to achieve. I cannot but think that it will be the aim and object of the Post Office to transfer its activities into a more commercial form.
– What does the honourable senator mean by that? What is the point of transferring the Post Office activities to a more commercial form?
– I adopt the point that several honourable senators have made, including Senator Willesee, that this is a more acceptable form of administration of the Post Office. Some honourable senators have referred to the system in Great Britain and other countries. I am merely saying that the Post Office accounting, in regard to its management and the method of presentation to the Parliament, as it is today appears to me to be acceptable. I see a problem if we are pushing the contention that the Post Office must become a commercial undertaking. There are problems relating to the expansion of its services into areas which are perhaps not economic. I should tike to register my grave concern that, if it is the view of the Minister or if it is the desire of members of this Parliament that this institution be converted into a hard business undertaking, disadvantages may accrue to the community. The further endeavours by the Post Office to bring to the people, both in metropolitan areas and in country districts, services which will in actual fact encourage decentralisation and the expansion of the community into other than crowded areas in metropolitan centres, may be jeopardised.
– Is the honourable senator using ‘business’ in the sense of making profits over certain periods?
– I think that is the general intent of what has been mentioned - the activities of the Post Office should merge so that it may become a more business-like enterprise and demonstrate its capability of making money.
– What does the honourable senator mean by the word ‘business’? If he just means profits, I am not with him at all. To some people, if they can make more than they spend it is business.
– The point is well added to by what Senator Willesee says. Let us be very cautious. I have mentioned that a number of investigations have been made into the Post Office by parliamentary institutions over the past 60 years, and people have received services which have been of great use in the expansion and development of this country. I am particularly proud of the service that the Post Office gives to the community at the present time.
– The honourable senator is easily pleased.
– I do not think I am easily pleased. I have had many arguments with the Post Office and, now that Senator Henty has introduced the matter, I propose to mention some areas in which I am not particularly pleased. However, I believe that they are matters which are given sound consideration by the Post Office, and I take the honourable senator’s point that perhaps it would be as well if a little more force were used from some quarters to see that note is taken of some of the demands that are being made in the community for greater attention to the activities of the Post Office.
– What are the main ones?
– One of the most pressing tasks that I as a member of Parliament have is endeavouring to convince people in outer areas, where the upgrading of lines is taking place, of the necessity for this. One of the amazing things that I have noticed in my short parliamentary career is that members of all parties in both Houses of this Parliament agree that it is wrong that the cost of upgrading a line to a private subscriber, who originally had a contract with the Post Office, I imagine, has to be borne by the subscriber. Of his own free will he expended a substantial sum of money to put in the service that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department demanded, and recently the Department has said: ‘We are coming into this area to improve and upgrade the line, and you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones who must now upgrade your line, even if you are to retain the service which you originally had.’
By questioning in this chamber it has been established that in Victoria four subscribers have had their telephones disconnected because of this particular proposition. To me this is immensely important, and I sincerely hope that the Department will take notice of it. I have a question on notice at the present time asking the Minister what discussion has gone on with the individuals in Victoria. I have not yet ascertained who they are but I intend to do so. Should any of these individuals write to me and say that, because of the effects of the drought or for other reasons they have not sufficient finance to be able to contribute to the upgrading of their line, they have had to say no to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and this has caused the disconnection of their communication system in an outback area, I shall be most upset, and indeed this Parliament will not stand for it. I merely draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that the question has been on notice for some time. It is probably a very difficult one to answer; but I do ask the Minister and the Department to look very closely at this proposition because there are strong arguments as to why this should be demanded. The Minister might argue that he will have to plead for another $3m, possibly, to be able to carry out this type of work. But let me mention, as an example of what the Postal Department can do, the installation of telephones in a huge multi-storey building occupied perhaps by some large private enterprise in one of our big cities. There might be 1,000 telephones involved in this installation, and although undoubtedly the cost of laying cables along the streets and connecting them to this concentration of telephonic communications is great, I do not know that anything more is demanded of the users of the telephones than the installation fee of $16, or whatever it might be. I do hope that before the end of the next sessional period the Minister or his Department is able to convince me that something will be done along these lines because it is not my intention that this state of affairs should continue for very far into the future.
There are two other matters which I think are of public interest. I note that municipalities are now taking a great interest in the fact that telephone booths are being removed because of vandalism. If a bus operated by a private company happens to be damaged at a certain point on its route, I do not think that the community would be happy if the operator were to say: ‘Our service will no longer run to this point because some ruffians have caused damage to our bus there’. No doubt the Department has very good reasons for saying that it will not install public telephones at places where they are likely to be destroyed by a lot of irresponsible people. But I have letters from half a dozen municipalities, such as Broadmeadows, Keira and other areas in which the residents cannot afford to install private phones, and where it is important that a public telephone be provided at the street corner. A letter that I received from the Broadmeadows City Council reads:
My Council has asked me to write to you expressing their great apprehension at the policy now being adopted by the Postmaster-General’s Department to remove telephone booths where vandalism is prevalent.
Council realises that vandalism causes very expensive maintenance on many projects, but feels that the deprivation of public telephone services could cause great hardship in a particular area and has, therefore, asked that the policy of the PMG regarding this particular matter be reviewed.
That is typical of many others that I have received, including representations from private individuals. I believe that the Postmaster-General’s Department has already gone a long way in solving the problem of preventing the theft of coins from public telephones. I understand that a gelignite charge would probably be required to get coins out of public telephone boxes now. Again, the booths are of a better type than previously, and they are better lighted. But perhaps some attention could be given to better placing. It might be better even to install public telephones at the rear of the homes of private persons provided the situation of the facility were made known. Perhaps some attention should be given to placing public telephones at spots where more responsible citizens can help to ensure that our public property is protected.
Another point about which I wish to speak relates to the delivery of mail. I have had several communications from local authorities and councillors requesting two deliveries of mail a day. I know that there are economic problems associated with providing this service but I do ask the Minister to convey to his Department the information that there is a strong demand in some areas for a second delivery during the day. This demand comes more particularly from businesses which are moving from the inner city areas to the outer metropolitan districts. The people situated in the inner metropolitan areas do enjoy a great advantage, having the benefit of two mail deliveries a day. I suggest that consideration be given to providing a similar service to people who are now demanding it in the outer suburban areas.
Honourable senators will have noted the comment made by the Postmaster-General within the last two days. I wish to commend the Department on the appointment of Mr R. E. Butler, Deputy Assistant Director General at Post Office headquarters in Melbourne to the position of Deputy Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union. It comes as a great thrill to Victorians, especially Victorian senators, to learn that a fellow Victorian has received such a great honour and I ask the Minister to pass on our sincere congratulations to the person concerned.
This Bill provides for close scrutiny by the Parliament of the financial affairs of the Post Office. This is good. Nothing that is done in a general way is better than the close scrutiny that members of Parliament give to the financial affairs of particular departments. Here I suggest it is opportune for me to quote an extract from the ThirtyFourth Report of the Joint Committee of
Public Accounts. It is a report on the trust fund and was submitted in 1957. The relevant extract reads:
We conclude, therefore, that no system is proof against error, nor is the adoption of any one principle or single practice a panacea that will solve all the problems of financial control. The unremitting vigilance of the Parliament and its agents is the only way to safeguard the financial rectitude of the government. With that vigilance can and should be linked the adoption of sound practices.
I believe that the Department and the Minister are adopting sound practice in submitting to the Parliament these proposals relating to the commercial affairs of the Post Office.
– By way of interjection, Senator Benn suggested to Senator Webster that public telephone boxes might be installed at the police stations. I do not know whether the honourable senator was serious or whether he was being facetious, but his suggestion had merit. 1 move around quite a bit and have seen how public telephones have been destroyed by vandals but I have never yet seen any damage done to a public telephone booth which has been placed near a police station. Yet I know of six metropolitan areas in the city of Sydney in which there are police stations that have no telephone booths within a mile of them. If the Department proposes to cut telephone services by removing public telephones, I suggest that it would be of great help to the public if the public telephones situated near police stations were not removed because it is very seldom that these are destroyed or interfered with.
Another matter that I want to mention briefly relates to the Postcode system. I asked a question on it about 12 months ago. I think it was during the Estimates debate. I suggested that the Postcodes be included in the telephone directories. I was told that that would be done. Well, it was done, but the Postcodes were put in the back of the directories. I suppose that was the cheapest, if not the most efficient, way of doing it. But what I had in mind was that the Postcode be put after each address. I would like the Postal Department to consider whether it is possible to put the Postcode on the same line as the subscriber’s address and telephone number in the telephone directory. That would save members of the public the laborious job of always having to look elsewhere for the Postcode.
Generally speaking, I admire the Post Office service. I believe that it is very good. Criticising it is a job for an expert. Officers of the Post Office do a remarkable job. I will never forget the job that they did during the war. I remember with satisfaction that many of our great war leaders in an engineering sense came from the Post Office. It is a great training ground. Men and women have to be smart in .their jobs. They are very closely in touch with members of the public, especially on pension day. If a person is in a post office on a Thursday he will see the Post Office employees handling the aged pensioners with courtesy and in a gentlemanly or ladylike manner. I have nothing but admiration for the Post Office service generally.
[12.22] - in reply - I thank the honourable senators who have spoken in this debate for their interest in the Bill and the very real consideration that they gave to a number of matters. Some very interesting and valuable points were brought forward by the last two speakers, Senator Ormonde and Senator Webster. Those points may not have been related strictly to the Bill, but because of their importance and the very real concern displayed by the honourable senators who brought them forward, I will ensure that they are brought to the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme).
I should like to comment on a few points that have been raised in regard to the legislation. Senator Willesee spoke about the fixation of salaries. I make the point that it is necessary to have some provision relating to the fixation of the salary of the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, which at present is $17,500 - the rate paid to the permanent heads of the larger departments. I am interested in the honourable senator’s comments on this matter because it seems to me that he is adopting an attitude that is inconsistent with the proposition that was advanced earlier in regard to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. That proposition was that salaries up to $15,000 should be fixed by the Commission and not by the Minister. Of course, $15,000 is the rate of salary for the permanent heads of the smaller departments.
I make that comment because I am interested in the point that Senator Willesee made.
– I do not know what the Minister’s comment is apropos of.
– Of the honourable senator’s remarks.
– Not of my remarks. That is pure fiction.
– My comment was apropos of Senator Willesee’s remarks, but let me continue.
– I dealt with the regulatory powers, but the Minister did not deal with that.
– If the honourable senator will allow me to continue, I will deal with many of the points that were raised.
– I doubt that.
– If the honourable senator listens, I think he will find that I will do so. He made a comment about money contained in parcels. He queried whether the provisions of clauses 6 and 7 covered parcels. In accordance with the structure of the Post and Telegraph Act, detailed provisions relating to parcels are dealt with in regulations rather than in the Act itself. This is as provided for by paragraph (d) of section 97 of the Act, and particularly sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph. The relevant provisions are in Postal Regulations 208 and 209.
Senator Willesee referred to section 96e, which gives the Treasurer authority to limit the capital expenditure of the Post Office. I believe that the comment that I am about to make on this matter is very important. With a department that is spending $240m a year on capital, the Government must still have the authority to determine the upper limits of expenditure, because of the impact of such spending on the Budget and the economy. Senator Willesee also spoke about fines. The Bill does not change the principle that fines must be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. All fines are paid into the accounts administered through the Attorney-General’s Department The establishment of the Trust Account will not affect that situation.
Senator Webster referred to the upgrading of telephone services. He may recall that yesterday I made some comments on this matter. I said that the PostmasterGeneral had received representations on it. I will bring the honourable senator’s comments to the attention of the PostmasterGeneral. I think I have covered the main points that were raised. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the points in relation to public telephones, and the vandalism and destruction that are so disturbing, are not strictly related to this legislation, but because of their very real importance and the very real concern of the honourable senators who raised them I will ensure that they are brought to the attention of the Postmaster-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to clear up one or two points. Firstly, the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), completely misunderstood what I said about the salary of the DirectorGeneral. 1 congratulated the PostmasterGeneral - I repeat those congratulations now - on writing the salary of the DirectorGeneral into the Act. I commend that action as strongly as I can. What I do deplore is that in other fields the fixation of salaries is taken out of the Act and put into regulations. From time to time the Senate has brought the knuckle down on the Government in that regard. I congratulate the Government on putting the salary of the Director-General in the Act.
I wish to raise a couple of minor points. Firstly, why is it that fines are paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund? Perhaps this is not very important, because not much money is involved, but there must be a reason. I am interested in why fines should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and not into the Trust Account that is being set up. Secondly, why are parcels dealt with in regulations and not in the Act. If the term ‘postal article’ had been used instead of the term ‘letter or packet’, the matter would have been covered and that would have been the end of it. There must be a very good reason for parcels being dealt with in regulations. I would like to know that reason. I ask this very simple question: If valuables are found in a parcel, are they treated in the same way as they would be if they were found in a letter or a packet?
[12.28] - I would not ever wish to misunderstand Senator Willesee. I noted the point that he made. Let me reply to it by giving this information: The salaries of permanent heads are never determined by regulations; (hey are always determined by the Appropriation Act. The Appropriation Act no longer applies in this case because of the establishment of the Trust Account. Therefore we have to make specific provision for the salary of the Director-General in this Bill. I do not remember clearly the other points that the honourable senator raised.
– Would the Minister like me to repeat them?
– Yes, I would.
– These points are not very important. I think the Minister said that fines will still be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and will not be paid into the new Trust Account. The matter is not important because the amount of fines will not be great. I just wondered why the fines will be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Perhaps there is some technical reason. The second point is on the question of parcels. If the term ‘postal articles’ instead of ‘letters or packets’ had been used in clause 6, it would have included parcels. Again there must be a very good reason why it is dealt with in the regulations. In relation to that matter T ask this simple question: If valuables are found in parcels, will they be treated in the same way as valuables found in letters or packets?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [12.31] - The fines themselves are not part of the normal business of the Post Office. The Act specifically provides that parcels are to be dealt with by regulation. There is a regulation concerning parcels.
– What happens Comoney found in parcels?
– It goes into the Trust Account. I repeat that the fines have nothing to do with the general business of the Post Office. They are not treated as general revenue. They are not included in the commercial accounts.
– I do not want to press this, but I simply ask why that is so-
– I am informed that it is the general practice with every department.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 May (vide page 908) on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Whilst the Opposition does not oppose the Queensland Grant (Maraboon Dam) Bill, we take the opportunity to be critical of it in some degree. The grant was long overdue. Whilst the grant was an election gimmick, Queensland was quite happy to receive it. We are happy to receive grants of this nature, whether they be election gimmicks or otherwise. I am familiar with the Emerald area. It is a very fertile stretch of country. Undoubtedly, with the aid of water, the area will provide first class crops of lucerne, sorghum, wheat and cotton. Crops of sunflower and safflower also grow well in the area. Where the holdings are big enough grasses of various types will be grown probably to fatten sheep and cattle. Under the national water resources development programme the former Prime Minister in November 1966 promised - again it was an election gimmick but it was appreciated also - $50m to the State governments over a period of 5 years for water conservation. Honourable senators will remember that there were many delays before the programme was put into operation. Each time we asked questions about it we were told that the States were too slow in sending in their submissions. The submissions received from the States covered 32 projects valued at $290m, which was well in excess of the $50m that had been made available for the 5-year programme.
The Queensland State Government submitted four projects but documented only two, the Emerald project and the Kolan Dam project. The Queensland Government classified the Emerald project as of No. 1 priority. This is a shocking state of affairs. The Queensland Liberal-Country Party Government should have had those plans ready well in advance and should have been able to submit more projects that would warrant the spending of Commonwealth money. However, I do not suppose we could expect more from the Queensland Government, which is a hillbilly government still living in the horse and buggy days. The Nogoa River dam site will be approximately 12 miles upstream from Emerald. The waters will be used on the channel system to irrigate land on both banks of the river. It is estimated that the storage capacity will be 1,170,000 acre feet and that the normal regulated flow will be 120,000 acre feet per annum. It is estimated that there will be 130 farms with an average irrigable area of 450 acres. I believe that the grant will be very welcome. It will hold the population in the area and it will give the farmers an opportunity to make a reasonable living because it will make water available.
In retrospect, I think I should say something about the abolition of the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Emerald area and the State of Queensland generally could be assisted by the work done by this tremendous organisation. The Authority could be put to work in Queensland with very great profit to that State and Australia generally. In the last couple of days an Australian Country Party senator has asked questions concerning the dismissal of Snowy Mountains Authority staff. The honourable senator has not received very satisfactory answers. The plain fact of the matter is that the Government intends to abolish the whole of the set-up associated with this tremendous scheme. We might not be able to get any of these people back again.
I wish to refer to a project further north in Queensland, the Burdekin project. This has been talked about for so many years that each senator in this chamber, regardless of his age, could say: ‘I heard that talked about in my childhood’. Today we are no further ahead with the project. Now that the Government has made a start in relation to the Emerald project, why not take a serious look at other projects in the area and, if necessary, apply pressure on the Queensland Government to see that it does the preliminary planning to introduce schemes so that the Commonwealth Government has something on which to plan for the future? One cannot do these things overnight. Water conservation schemes must be set out, as the Australian Labor Party believes, in a long range plan so that as sums of money become available the Government will know what to do with them.
In addition to the grant made for the Nogoa area, the Government has promised the long overdue balance of the finance for the Ord River scheme. This virtual desert area in Western Australia has been transformed into a very fertile area just because water was made available. I conclude my remarks by saying that I hope this grant is the beginning of forward planning on the part of the Government and that the Government will, when the opportunity presents itself, look at a bigger scheme in the State of Queensland, the Burdekin dam scheme.
– I support this Bill and express pleasure that it has come before the Senate. It provides for a grant by the Commonwealth to the Queensland Government of up to $20m for the construction of a dam and associated works on the Nogoa River near Emerald. I point out that this is a grant, not a loan.
– It is the first money we have been given for water conservation works in Queensland.
– The State is to provide $8m from its own funds of the total estimated cost of the project of $28m. It is true that this is the first time that the Queensland Government has had assistance from the Commonwealth Government in meeting the cost of construction of a dam in Queensland. Many dams have been constructed in the past but this is the first time that the Federal Government has come to the party. That is an indication of the cooperation that exists between the Federal Government and the present Queensland Government.
This grant implements part of the Government’s policy of national development and particularly of northern development. The decision to construct a dam on the site was taken after much planning and investigation. This kind of project cannot be undertaken in a hurry. I have here a copy of the Queensland Government’s submission of July 1966 to the Federal Government. Look at the size of it.
– How many pages does it contain?
– I do not think they are numbered but there appear to be about 150 pages. This indicates how comprehensive the investigation has been. Following receipt of the submission the Federal Government asked for more information. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics investigated the project further and supplied additional information. Investigations were also conducted by private irrigators in the area - people who have been irrigating there for some time - and a couple of pilot farms were established.
About 18 months ago I led a deputation to Sydney to meet the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). The deputation comprised representatives of the Rockhampton District Promotion Bureau which is very interested in the proposal, the Chairman of the Emerald Shire Council and certain government officers. Mr McMahon promised to come and have a look at the scheme. He eventually arrived 7 or 8 months later but in the meantime the electors of Kennedy had seen the light and elected a Country Party member, Mr Katter, to represent them. The Emerald project happens to be in the Kennedy electorate. Immediately upon election Mr Katter threw his weight behind the scheme. Both the Treasurer and the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) came to Queensland, and as soon as they saw the area in question they were convinced of the need for a dam. Soon afterwards the Federal Government agreed to come to the party. This was not a hasty decision. As I have said, it was made after a lengthy investigation. I should like to quote from a speech made in another place by the honourable member for Dawson, Dr Patterson, who led the debate for the Opposition. He is reported in Hansard of 8th May 1968 as having said:
The Opposition welcomes this Bill . . . The can be no doubt that the Nogoa scheme wi . bring tremendous benefits to the very drougprone area of central Queensland.
Later he said:
The Opposition believes that the Nogoa project is good and that it will provide immense benefits, both direct and indirect, to central Queensland.
Later on the same day another honourable member who represents an electorate in central Queensland - the honourable member for Capricornia, Dr Everingham - had this to say-
– Mr President, I rise to order. Is the honourable senator in order in reading from speeches made on this subject in another place during this sessional period?
– I do not think we need to be too exact about this. However, the honourable senator should not quote from Hansard. Are you reading from Hansard, Senator Lawrie?
– Yes. I want to make only one more brief reference-
– Order! The honour, able senator may not quote from the Hansard report of a debate held during the present sessional period but he can use his imagination.
– The honourable member for Capricornia, whose electorate includes Rockhampton and Gladstone which will benefit considerably from the proposed dam, is of the opinion that this is a hasty and ill-conceived scheme. So there is a great difference of opinion between members of the Opposition. A great deal of investigation went on and it cannot be claimed that the decision to construct a dam on the Nogoa, which is a tributary of the Fitzroy, was hasty and ill-conceived.
The dam will be about 180 miles from the sea and midway between the sea and the inland sheep areas which have needed so much fodder in the past. Originally, fodder had to be obtained from areas close to Brisbane and the Lockyer Valley and from coastal districts in central Queensland such as Callide. Now the fodder will have to be brought by rail only one-half the distance that it travelled previously. The dam will have a capacity of 1,170,000 acre feet of water and will irrigate 130 farms each with an average irrigable area of about 4S0 acres.
The whole area already is considerably developed. This is not like going into a new area where railways, roads and electricity have to be provided. Emerald has a population of over 2,200 people, lt is the centre of a railway and bitumen road complex and has reticulated electricity. It is very close to and associated with the great coal reserves of the Mackenzie River, Blackwater and Blair Athol where both steaming and coking coals are available. In addition, it is handy to the coastal meat works. It is a very big cattle centre with some sheep in the immediate vicinity.
The provision of the dam and the irrigation of the farms in the area will ensure supplies of fodder, sorghum for grain and cotton and will enable mixed farming to be carried on. It has been proved that the crops I have mentioned can be grown in the area. I believe this will be the start of a big increase in population. The dam will be in the western area of the No. 3 brigalow scheme. The area has been transformed considerably as a result of the farming activities of the Queensland British Food Corporation in the years immediately after the war. Many of the farms to be irrigated are on cleared brigalow land which is very rich in nitrogen. The dam will play a big part in getting people into the area. Together with the Ord project, it will play a part in the defence of our northern areas by encouraging people to go there. I support the Bill wholeheartedly. I hope the Senate will assure it a speedy passage so that the Queensland Government, as the constructing authority, can get on with the work of building the dam.
Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2 p.m.
– Neither I nor my Party oppose the measure, for various reasons. Firstly, this is to provide the first contribution by the Federal Government towards water conservation in Queensland. Secondly, we never oppose the spending of money on research, investigation and water conservation. Let us get that quite clearly into the minds of honourable senators. When I offer criticism it is not of this project as a project or of Commonwealth assistance to my State. I am offering criticism of the cavalier attitude of the Government to all projects in Australia in relation not only to water conservation but also to defence, education or anything else. We in this Parliament are expected to be a rubber stamp. Cabinet decides on a proposition and no real evidence is tendered to the Parliament to justify the expenditure of tremendous sums of public money which are entrusted to us and the handling of which is our responsibility. The Federal Government with its cavalier attitude does not deem it fit to provide information to the two Houses of the Parliament so that they can make correct assessments as to the justification or otherwise for the expenditure of these tremendous sums of money.
We do not even know whether this particular project known as the Maraboon Dam, on the Nogoa, a tributary of the Fitzroy, is entitled to No. 1 priority in the State of Queensland. There is justification in their own right for dams on the Kolan, Burnett, Burdekin, Herbert, and other tributaries of the Fitzroy. We know that this project has been under consideration for years. We know that the State Government has conducted certain investigations. But some 3 years ago the Bureau of Agricultural Economics made a cost-benefit assessment of this area and reported adversely on the project. Yet because of the imminence of the last Senate election the then Prime Minister said that $20m would be granted to Queensland for the Nogoa project and $48m would be granted to Western Australia for the Ord project. No evidence has been submitted. Many reports have been made but not one has been made available to members of Parliament so that they may try to assess whether or not there is justification for the project.
Do honourable senators know just how many acres are affected? There are 80,000 acres, of which 19,000 acres will be taken up by the irrigation works. There will be 130 farms. In other words the capital cost of the provision of water facilities alone will be $210,000 for each farm. Where is the farmer who will say: ‘I can afford that*?
I do not say that in the process of time the expenditure will not be justified. I do not know whether income tax will redeem it. I do not know whether the provision of fodder for starving stock further west will redeem it. I do not know whether railway freights will redeem it. I do not know whether the provision of a livelihood for 130 farmers, their families and their employees will redeem it.
Surely the Government has a responsibility not to come to the Parliament barefaced, with a bare Cabinet decision, saying: We have decided that this is right. You put your rubber stamp on it. We will provide $20m to Queensland and the State will provide $8m.’ The cost of providing water for each farm will1 be, as I have said, $210,000. I do not know, Mr Deputy President, what your attitude as a farmer would be towards going into an undertaking with a basic capital cost such as that to be redeemed. Honourable senators and members of the other place are entitled to much more information when they are asked to assess projects and consider the disbursement of public funds. Surely we have a responsibility. Surely we are entitled to see that evidence is produced to us. The report that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics made on the project some 3 years ago has been tendered to the Department but it has not been provided to us. The Bureau condemned the project.
Senator Lawrie said that he went to Sydney with a deputation, saw the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), and spent less than a day there. Senator Lawrie must have a tremendous amount of influence, as Senator Benn said, if he can persuade Mr McMahon on half a day’s visit to spend $20m on this project in Queensland. We would like to see more of the Treasurer in association with deputations led by Senator Lawrie in Queensland. We have been told that cotton can be produced in the area but there is talk also of overproduction of cotton in relation to Australia’s demands. We have been told also that sorghum, wheat and lucerne can be grown in the area. No one has told us how many tons will be grown or what will be the value of production immediately or in 5, 10 or 20 years when this project has to be amortised in the coffers of the public of Australia.
That is why I rise to criticise the Government, mot in relation to this particular project but in relation to the whole matter of the disbursement of public moneys which are handed to us to be disbursed honestly and reasonably. No evidence has been tendered to the Parliament to justify disbursement of this money. All we get is a simple Bill, with very little explanation by the Minister. I am not saying that Ministers do not know what they are talking about but I do say that they have a responsibility when introducing such measures as this, which is to give Queensland $20m of the Australian people’s money as a gift, lt is nothing but a gift; no return is coming from it to Australia. We are just asked to give $20m. Evidence in justification of the gift is not before us.
This is just not good enough but it is nothing more or less than one would expect from a Liberal-Country Party Government. This is its attitude. There are twelve members in the Cabinet. They say: ‘We will make decisions. The other fourteen members of the Ministry do not matter. Let them make their submissions to us. We will make assessments as to whether or not action is justified.’ I am not saying that the members of Cabinet have not evidence before them, and I am not saying that they have. We just do not know and they have not told us. This practice has grown up over recent years. When we read the records of the Parliament of years ago we find that when tremendous sums of money were being disbursed evidence was produced and there was a contankerous argumentation as to whether or not it was justified. Over recent years the system of what is termed executive government has grown up. In other words the Cabinet decides what is good and right for Australia and what is justifiable for the people. Those who are elected to the Parliament, whether in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, do not matter a damn. That is the position.
Consequently, I quarrel with the approach to this Bill as to many other Bills. I say that water conservation is justifiable. This is the driest continent in the world. Each year 280 million acre feet of water flow into the sea. We have some of the best river systems - particularly in Queensland - but nothing has been done with them. Nothing can be done by what
Senator Keeffe termed the hillbilly Government of that State because it is just not interested or just not capable. Allegedly it represents the Country Party but it would be far distant from the real interests of the farmers and the employees of the farmers in that State. It has not been able in recent years to make a substantial submission to the Federal Government to justify Cabinet in granting money. Consequently, we had to wait until a year ago when the then Prime Minister promised out of the blue - no evidence and no justification having been produced to him - that this money would be provided. This was just in the hope that the Government would pick up extra seats. He promised that an amount of S50m would be provided for water conservation over 5 years. Then willy nilly the Government provides $68m. The Governor-General, at the opening of the Parliament, said: ‘My Government proposes 10 spend $50m on water conservation.’ But already the Government is committing $68m, $20m to the Nogoa scheme and $48m to the Ord scheme. The suggestion was for the provision of $50m for the whole of Australia. What will happen to the other States?
– The money is to be spent over 5 years.
– That is so - at the rate of $10m a year. But in this case the Minister has spent $68m in one night just before an election. So what is the point of the $50m? The Government has a real responsibility in respect of water conservation to plan and investigate and engage in research. Government supporters must realise that on this dry continent we are engaged in primary production. I do not know what will happen in a few years in other respects, but we will always have primary production in no small measure. Water is essential for that production, both for men and animals.
I appeal to the Government to complete investigations and determine priorities. It is not of much use spending a lot of money on works on one particular river and then deciding that there was greater justification for the expenditure of tremendous sums of money on other works. The Nogoa River is a tributary of the Fitzroy River. For years I have told this Parliament of my belief that the Fitzroy
River, together with its tributaries, of all the water systems of Queensland - and I am conscious of the claims for the Burdekin River - is the most capable of being efficiently dammed. The Fitzroy River has a watershed of over 58,000 square miles. The soil in that area is generally good although it is deficient in phosphate and nitrogen. That is true of the area covered by this legislation. There will be great need of fertilisers and it is clear that they will not become any cheaper. Why a cost benefit analysis has not been submitted to Parliament I do not understand. The advisers of the Ministers are responsible men. I know that they are competent, but I know also that the Ministers should have a sense of responsibility to members of this Parliament and to the people of Australia. When they make a certain submission to Cabinet to justify the expenditure of tremendous sums of money, Cabinet or the particular Minister concerned has a responsibility to make a submission to members of this Parliament, both here and in the House of Representatives, justifying his plea for the spending of that money.
Let us face the issue. It is a simple one: In this country research, investigations and conservation of water can easily be justified. It is necessary to determine priorities. That is a sensible and reasonable approach in any field of human endeavour. However, for some reason there is no suggestion of planning in the minds of supporters of the Government and its Ministers, who cannot visualise the necessity. Every business in Australia, big or small, visualises its plans from 3 to 25 years ahead. This Government plans from year to year, from Budget to Budget. Government supporters say: ‘We will undertake this project this year.’ They do not say what projects will be tackled next year. The Government cannot even give us a defence plan. It has been held up while the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is visiting in the United States of America. Perhaps when he returns he will make a statement to Parliament. If so, probably it will be as deluding as statements made by Prime Ministers and Ministers for External Affairs in the past. It will not be very informative for the people.
The Government is beholden to the people who, over the years, through times of mistakes, have by their loyalty kept it on the Treasury bench. It has a responsibility to take into its confidence not only members of this Parliament but also the people of the nation. The people should be told what is planned and visualised for the future. The Government just will not do that. For some reason members of the Ministry regard themselves almost as a secret society which is confined to the twelve top members associated with fourteen lesser members. It seems that the rest of the members of the Government parties do not matter at all. Possibly it is their own fault because they do not ask that bills be subjected to party discussions in which they could be thrashed out and modified. A recent example is the National Service Bill, which came to the Senate today. It is only part of the original National Service Bill. If I were Prime Minister the man who mutilated that Bill after he had put it before me and persuaded me of its merit would not be a Minister today. It is only a shadow of the original Bill. It is plain that the Minister responsible for it did not conduct sufficient investigation. He did not do his homework or pay sufficient regard to the effect of the legislation on the people of Australia. However, we will deal with that legislation at the appropriate time.
A tremendous amount of water flows from this continent every year into the sea. We have the human ingenuity to design facilities to dam and hold that water. Water is valuable to man and beast. It has been shown over the years that money spent on water conservation has been well repaid. Deprivation of water in various parts of the country will result in deprivation of land. We cannot use that land. It then becomes desert country. This has happened in various parts of the world and we do not seem to have learned from the lessons of history. There is no set of circumstances to which one could not draw a parallel in history, even if modified in certain circumstances by environmental situations existing at particular times.
The Government has a real responsibility to determine that there shall be a real and substantial programme of water conservation and a planned system to determine priorities. That system should be used to justify the expenditure of large sums of money. The Government, as distinct from executive control, handles each year millions of dollars. It is engaged in the spending of large sums of money and in no small way is responsible to the people to ensure that the funds available to it are utilised to their fullest extent.
The Government has the responsibility to set down a system of priorities. Above all, when a project involving the expenditure of millions of dollars of public money is discussed in this Parliament the Government is entrusted by the people and the members of its Parties to state the evidence which justifies the decision to spend money on that particular project. Even with the limited intelligence of Government supporters they should realise that it is necessary to justify the spending of public money on a particular project. I plead with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), Who saw fit to rush back to Australia, to examine this legislation and to realise the responsibility of the Government to the Parliament and the people of this nation.
Senator Sir KENNETH MORRIS (Queensland) [2.18] - I do not intend to follow the unsound practice and example that has been given to us by Senator Dittmer from Queensland. He has used this debate to traverse questions of national service, defence, and many other matters. I am dismayed to realise that a senator from Queensland can be so ill-informed about the irrigation scheme which is the subject of this measure. I know that all honourable senators from Queensland, on this side of the chamber, have studied this project. They are aware of its value to Queensland. We have spent, not months, but years investigating the project. It is a very high priority irrigation scheme for which we are deeply thankful to the Federal Government. Unfortunately, honourable senators opposite from Queensland appear to be completely ignorant of the value that the irrigation scheme will have for Queensland. Part of the burden of Senator Dittmer’s remarks was that there has been no planning of this irrigation scheme. What a lot of nonsense that is. Senator Dittmer is attempting to interject. I listened quietly to him, with courtesy, although he does not deserve it. I ask him to extend the same courtesy to me. Probably he does not have the capacity to treat anybody courteously. Nevertheless, he should try.
I remember that 6 years ago when I was a member of the Queensland Cabinet we spent a great deal of time considering various irrigation projects in Queensland. This was one of the top priority schemes in our minds at that time. I also remember that about 4 years ago an application was made to the Federal Government for financial assistance for the development of the Emerald or Maraboon scheme - call it what you like. The matter was referred to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, which carried out a very thorough examination, the result of which examination should be known to all. The Bureau recommended to the Federal Government that at that stage it was not a viable scheme. This recommendation was made approximately 3 years ago.
It was therefore necessary for the Queensland Government to re-examine this scheme in depth, and pilot farms were commenced. As a result of continuous and concentrated effort by the Queensland Government the report which was outlined to the Senate by Senator Lawrie was finally presented to the Federal Government. That report covered the weaknesses that had been highlighted and illustrated by the Bureau, lt was possible to show that although the Bureau’s investigation had been reasonably thorough it had overlooked certain aspects. The criticisms by the Federal Government and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics were shown by the Queensland Government to be not valid. Consequently a further application was made to the Commonwealth for financial assistance for the Emerald scheme. I cannot remember when that application was made but I think it was about 12 months ago. I do remember that my colleagues and I again raised this matter in the Senate and gave quite a thorough exposition of the desirability of this scheme.
As a Queenslander I am deeply grateful not only that the Federal Government has finally seen the value of this scheme but also that the Ministers of the Queensland Government persisted throughout all the difficult times and succeeded in overcoming, one after another, the problems raised by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I think that the Queensland Government has done a splendid job. But for the persistence of its Ministers, Queensland would not be able to proceed with this irrigation scheme knowing that it will have Federal Government assistance. For any honourable sena tor to stand up and say that this is a wildcat scheme or a scheme that has been introduced suddenly without investigation is clearly to speak either without knowledge or in an attempt to mislead the people. I do not know the motives that prompted Senator Dittmer’s comments, but for him and his colleagues on the other side of the chamber to charge Queensland Ministers with being not interested or not capable is the height of folly.
I feel obliged to explain this scheme to those honourable senators from other States who are perhaps not as well aware of its background as are honourable senators from Queensland, so that they will understand that the remarks of Senator Dittmer and his colleagues are not worthy of consideration. Indeed, I am somewhat distressed to recall that when this Bill was discussed in another place the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) spoke of the scheme as being ill-conceived. It is a scheme that was investigated by the Queensland Government and its irrigation authority, the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission. I digress here to say that one could search Australia and not find a more competent authority on irrigation than Mr Haigh, the head of that Commission. This scheme was then thoroughly investigated over a period of time by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Bureau found that there were certain flaws in it. The Queensland officers thoroughly investigated the alleged defects and again presented the scheme to the Federal Government. It was then finally accepted. So this is no illconceived or rash scheme presented to attract the attention of a section of the community.
Let me digress again by saying that if the Federal Government had desired to introduce some assistance to Queensland for political purposes, as Senator Dittmer insinuated, then surely this scheme is not the greatest vote winner it could have been produced. How many votes are there in that area? I daresay that even Senator Dittmer will acknowledge - if he is fair at all - that if voting were to be a consideration, there are a lot more areas where more votes could be attracted. This scheme will be a great contribution to what I could almost call the heart of Queensland. This is an area where water is needed more than anywhere else. I could talk for an hour about the contribution that this Dam will make.
– Do not do it.
– 1 could do so to very much more effect than the honourable senator. Senator Lawrie has already told the chamber of the advantage that this scheme will be to the area, particularly during times of drought.
I conclude by saying that anybody who hopes to represent adequately the State of Queensland in this Senate has a responsibility to be informed on these matters. For Senator Dittmer to come in here and cast doubts on the value of this scheme and to demonstrate so clearly his lack of knowledge of its value is shameful. 1 hope that in the future when Queensland’s voice on this side of the chamber may be slightly less than it has been in the past, Senator Dittmer will attempt, in the interests of the State he represents, to inform himself more thoroughly about Queensland’s needs.
– I do not propose to waste the time of the Senate by defending the statements made by Senator Dittmer, which were disputed and erroneously represented by Senator Sir Kenneth Morris. Senator Sir Kenneth Morris has the failing of many senators in that he cannot speak upon a subject and deal with its merits without introducing statements made by other honourable senators and making wild personal attacks upon them. I listened to all that Senator Dittmer said about the Bill, and the gist of his speech was that this project did not compare with the other projects awaiting attention by the Queensland Government. He said that there is such a thing as priority, and that this project was not measured with the others. That was the gist of his remarks but, as usual, he was not understood by Senator Sir Kenneth Morris.
It could be assumed that only the Queensland senators have an interest in this matter, but I correct that impression immediately, because senators represent electors in all States, who are interested to know where the money for this scheme will come from. Senator Sir Kenneth Morris did not tell them. He wasted his time, as he usually does. The money is coming out of Consolidated Revenue, so every taxpayer in Australia has an interest in this project. We are now in the eleventh month of the financial year, and we are told that the Queensland Treasurer is able to come to the Commonwealth Treasury and have it make available $20m to the Queensland Government to carry out this irrigation project. Of course, that is so - $20m is being taken from the Commonwealth Treasury and is being made available to the Queensland Government. Incidentally, it was made available from December last year and a good deal of it has already been spent by the Queensland Government. Therefore, every citizen of the Commonwealth is entitled to know whether the project is a sound one, because it is the taxpayers’ money that is being spent on it. If the Queensland Government were not conscientious about how it spent its money, it could perhaps have a good time spending $20m in a year or two.
Senator Sir Kenneth Morris also failed to tell the Senate where the Nogoa River is. Very few people in Australia have ever heard of the Nogoa River, and most people are never likely to see it. In 1948 and 1949 I travelled through that area and saw the Nogoa River. I saw the site where this dam is to be constructed. At that time the residents of Emerald took me to the area where the dam is to be constructed. Who told them of the site? A member of the Queensland Parliament named Foley, who was the State member for the district, did so. He advocated this project for a number of years. If the Queensland Government wanted to honour Mr Foley it could call the dam the Foley Dam, instead of using the Scottish word Maraboon that appears in the Bill.
We all like to see and hear of facilities being made available in all States for the conservation of water, because we know that if water is successfully conserved in any area an irrigation project invariably follows. I have here a document which traces the history of water conservation. On 18th February 1918 a Queensland Premier travelled from Brisbane to Townsville by ship to make a policy speech. He had to travel by ship because in those years there were no aircraft, there was no road from Brisbane to Townsville, and there was no railway. This is what he had to say about water conservation:
Th: Government recognises that there can be no successful scheme of land settlement without adequate water conservation and it intends, therefore, to co-ordinate the land settlement policy and water supply and conservation activities under one head, with competent experts. This action will ensure the adoption of a comprehensive system of water supply.
Since 1918 many dams have been built in Queensland. I am unable to state the precise number, but every project was worth while. Each one has proved to be of much economic value and a means of creating settlement in its area. Every one of them has been an economic success. Senator Sir Kenneth Morris would not say that the conservation project in the Dimbulah and Mareeba areas were not economic and worth while.
– Of course I would not. They are wonderful.
– Of course they are. Prior to the construction of the dam servicing those areas, members of the party to which Senator Sir Kenneth Morris belongs were against the scheme because it did not appear that it would be economical.
– It is not rubbish. I can give the facts of that matter, but I shall turn to other features of the project dealt with in the Bill. Senator Lawrie had recourse to an old-fashioned document of 1966 vintage, I think, dealing with this project, and apparently he was claiming that this was the last official word that was ever said about it. According to him, he had complete evidence that it was a worth while project and that it would be successful. Probably he could tell the Senate the cost of every item involved. However, I like to keep myself up to date in respect of these matters, and if my information is not up to date I remain silent. I have before me a document headed, ‘Queensland Department of Primary Industries: Irrigation and Water Supply Commission Report on Emerald Irrigation Project.’ It was printed in January 1968 and there is nothing later than this. If any honourable senator is interested in it he is welcome to borrow it from me. It is my personal property, and 1 shall make the maps and the complete document available.
All honourable senators know what happens before $20m is to be spent. The Commonwealth guards the funds that are in its hands and it has experts who are fully qualified to go out and cover the ground that has already been covered by State experts to ascertain whether a project should be carried out in, say, 1968, next year, or in 10 years’ time. Much is said about whether projects will be successful or not. The trained experts whom the Commonwealth fortunately has in its employ and also the trained experts whom every State Government has under its control are dedicated to their work - more dedicated than many senators are to their duties. Being dedicated, they bring up a report that is irrefutable. They do not limit their activities to one field; they cover all fields. The Senate is dealing today with a proposal for the construction of a dam across the Nogoa River in the Emerald district so that irrigation can be provided to a certain area on which there will be a number of farms. It may be this year, next year, or perhaps the year after. At the same time, working with that dedication which is most notable in nearly all the experts employed by Government departments, there are men now ascertaining what crops can best be produced next year, the year after, and so forth. They are investigating whether cotton can be grown there successfully. This kind of work has been going on all the time. Because we had a certain cotton seed 5 or 10 years ago, that does not mean that there has been no improvement in the plants that have been grown since then. All this is part of the scientific work being done by the scientists employed by the various Government departments. I leave it at that.
I have no doubts about the future of this project. I know the area well. Emerald is about 150 miles from Rockhampton. I hope that a percentage of the hard working Italians of that north Queensland area will be given an opportunity to take up some of the farms there, for, if they are, Longreach and other towns in the west will be supplied with white hearted lettuce, celery and other vegetables, as will the Rockhampton market. I could enlarge at great length on this if I wished to do so. In the north there is one of the greatest grazing areas in Queensland - or in Australia for that matter. It does not take second place even to the great tableland in the Northern Territory. In the Clermont district there are some excellent sheep grazing areas.
We know also that Queensland has a greater mileage of dry rivers and creeks than any other State. In this instance, we are speaking about the Nogoa River. That river is dry for 9 or 10 months of the year. But the important point, and the one to which I think Senator Morris should have paid some attention, is the catchment area of the proposed dam across the Nogoa River, lt is not merely a question of building a dam across a river that is permanently dry. The important feature is the catchment area involved. With the aid of the map that was so kindly supplied to me by the Department of Primary Industry in Brisbane I have studied the catchment area of the proposed scheme very carefully. This map shows that the Nogoa River commences at about the junction of the Great Dividing Range and the Drummond Range and flows on to a point not very far from Emerald where it becomes completely lost. It is absorbed by another river - the Mackenzie - which carries the waters of the Nogoa River on to the Fitzroy River.
– It is the Isaac River. I have a map here.
– The Minister gets slightly confused. There is a river there called the Isaac. I know the Minister is fond of travelling through interesting country. I suggest that when he gets the time he should take a tour through this area up by the Nogoa River and around Emerald and Clermont and see for himself what interesting country it is. Lucerne can be grown on the banks of this river. It is being grown in a small way in some places now. Both lucerne and other crops could be cultivated there in the future and used for ensilage. It is possible that some company or co-operative will be able to obtain sufficient funds to construct a cloister of silos adjacent to this area. Growers could then store in these silos any surplus of grass or any other of the products that go into silos. This would be of great advantage for I am certain that Queensland will have more droughts in the future. In fact, it usually has one drought every 3 years. I suggest the pattern of Queensland’s pastoral future will be one good season, one fair season and then a drought. This project provides an opportunity of guarding against the effects of drought.
That is all I have to say. When I rose I wished to emphasise just whose money was going to be spent on the project and to speak about safeguards for that money.
Senator Dittmer was conscious of all these things. I have only spoken in the way I have to confirm what he has said. I repeat that if anyone wishes to examine the document to which I have referred he is at liberty to do so.
– It was with a great deal of interest that 1 listened to the debate both from this side of the chamber and from the Opposition. lt is very pleasing to me to know that the Opposition is not opposing the measure. The two honourable senators who spoke on this side of the Senate were unanimous in their opinion that this is a wonderful project for Queensland. But 1 cannot say that the members of the Opposition who have spoken were unanimous in their opinions. Senator Benn and Senator Dittmer had completely different views. Senator Dittmer said we were wasting $20m on the dam.
– That is not correct. 1 did not say the Government was wasting it at all. 1 said I supported the dam.
– Senator Dittmer said that the Commonwealth Government war wasting $20m in making it available to the State of Queensland for the construction of this dam. He backed up that assertion by saying that it would cost $200,000 to put each farmer on a property, and he asked what farmer could make a success under those conditions. Those were the words that were used by the honourable senator. He gave me the impression that he was opposing the scheme because he did not think that these farmers could make a success of farming in the Nogoa river area.
– I did not say that al all.
– Senator Benn then said what a wonderful scheme this is. He said: Why should we not harness all the rivers in Queensland and have irrigation projects, throughout the length and breadth of theState?’
– The Minister should read Hansard and see what I said.
– This will be in Hansard tomorrow.
– If the Minister had read Hansard before he got up to speak he would not be as confused as he is.
– Everybody heard Senator Dittmer say that it was going to cost $200,000 to put each farmer on the land and everybody heard him ask how farmers could be expected to make a profit under those conditions. I do not agree with the honourable senator’s statement that it is going to cost $200,000 to settle each farmer. If we divide $28m by 130 farms, we arrive at a figure a little less than $160,000. The honourable senator is wrong in his arithmetic. But I do not want to continue with that argument.
Senator Keeffe started his contribution by saying that this scheme and the Ord scheme were promised merely as election promises just prior to the Senate elections last year. Both these schemes have been on the stocks for quite a while. The Ord River scheme has been under consideration since 1947, and the Nogoa River scheme has been receiving attention for a number of years. 1 remind Senator Keeffe that we got no criticism at all for not bringing forward these schemes just prior to the House of Representatives elections the. year before last. We could have brought them forward quite easily had we wanted to gain political kudos or a few votes out of these schemes. But we brought them forward when we thought it was right to do so and when we believed they were economically sound. It would be: just a coincidence if that happened a month or two prior to a Senate election.
– We will say that it was a coincidence, but an intentional one.
– Another statement that was made by the honourable senator who interjects so frequently was that, as we are spending $20m on the Nogoa River scheme and as the Commonwealth has made available $48m to Western Australia to build the Ord River Dam, already we are over the $50m that we said we would spend in 5 years on water resources throughout Australia. That is not even factual. The facts are, as honourable senators will ‘be interested to know, that prior to an election the Commonwealth Government made a promise that, if elected, in the next 5 years ft would spend $50m on water resources throughout Australia. Of that $50m, the first $20m has been given to Queensland. Yet Queensland senators are saying: ‘We have received no assistance at all, or very little assistance, from the Commonwealth Government.’
– Not Queensland senators on this side.
– Not on this side, but on the other side. The fact is that already Queensland has received two-fifths of the $50m that the Commonwealth Government promised to spend over 5 years. To say that the money for the Ord River scheme is included in that $50m is a complete fallacy. The money for that scheme is made available by the Commonwealth to Western Australia partly by way of grant and partly by way of loan. Therefore, Senator Dittmer’s figure of $68m is quite irrelevant to the promise of $50m and is not correct.
The next item of expenditure from the $50m will be the $3.5m that will be spent on the Murray River desalination project, the object of which is to stop salt running into the Murray River. That accounts for about $28m of the $50m. I do not think the rest of it has been committed yet. This Government has looked after Queensland to a very large extent.
– Only since the photo finish election in 1961.
– A number of honourable senators are interjecting, but I would like them to know that this Government has always looked after Queensland and intends to look after it in the future, lt is a very important State. It is interesting to note that already the Commonwealth Government has come to the party, as far as Queensland is concerned, to the extent of $23m so far for the brigalow lands scheme. Prior to 1961 it came to the party, in helping the Queensland Government, to the extent of $34m-
– In helping your Party.
– In helping the Queensland Government. It does not matter which party was in government. The Commonwealth provided $34m for the reconstruction of the railway line between Townsville and Mount Isa.
– That was a loan, not a grant.
– The Commonwealth Government made the money available. That is what it has done for Queensland. So far I have not mentioned the money for beef roads. la that field the Commonwealth Government has made available more money to Queensland than to any other State. It has provided $ 15.5m by way of gift and $8. 5m by way of loan for the construction of beef roads in Queensland. So I do not think that in the future any honourable senator will stand up in this chamber and say that this Government has not been very generous to the Queensland Government in helping that Government to develop its State.
It is interesting to note that the Maraboon Dam, which will be built about 12 mites from Emerald, has been given the No. 1 priority by the Queensland Government. The Kolan Dam, I understand, has been given No. 2 priority. Those are two of the four projects that the Queensland Government has put to the Commonwealth Government. I should like honourable senators, particularly honourable senators opposite who have charged the Queensland Government with not putting forward schemes, to note that in a collection of schemes that would cost $300m, or a little less, the Queensland Government has put forward schemes that would cost in excess of $126m. So honourable senators will see that the Queensland Government is an up and coming government and that Queensland is an up and coming State and is quite different from what it was under previous governments.
The Maraboon Dam has a catchment area of 6,300 square miles. The catchment area has an average annual rainfall of 2s inches and will yield 120,000 acre feet of water per annum. The dam will have ;j surface area of 85,000 acres at full supply level and an evaporation rate of 90,000 acre feet per annum because of its large surface area. It will enable the establishment of 130 farms with an average area of 450 acres. Water will be supplied to those farms at a cost of $3.50 an acre foot.
– Does the Minister know the cost of this storage per acre of farmland that is to be brought into use?
– 1 do not have that figure. Perhaps the honourable senator could ask the question again at the Committee stage.
– It is a most interesting figure. I draw the Minister’s attention to it.
– I thank the honourable senator. The Queensland Government had a survey of the project made by its Department of Primary Industries and Irrigation and Water Supply Commission. Those bodies have found that the area is quite satisfactory for growing excellent crops of sorghum, wheat and cotton.
– What is the annual revenue from the farms?
– I will obtain that information later. It is interesting to note that one of the pilot farms began operations in 1965 and the other in 1966. The pilot farms this year are expected to yield as much as 2 tons of sorghum per acre and between 3,000 and 4,000 lb of seed cotton per acre. The Emerald area is a very rich area. With irrigation it probably could grow anything at all. It is right in the heart of a beef raising area. Almost two million cattle are in the surrounding district and within a radius of 180 miles. The area is approximately 180 miles from Rockhampton and its port, Port Alma. Slaughtering facilities and an abattoir are situated in Rockhampton. The development of this area will help assist the beef industry. We know that the area, under irrigation, will1 produce up to 10 tons of lucerne per acre. We know, from the trials that have been carried out, that the area carrying beef will produce about 900 lb of beef per acre.
– How often?
– I thought that we always spoke in terms of a year. It will produce 900 lb of beef per acre per year. I am sorry that I did not make that plain to the honourable senator. The whole scheme is assured of being a financial success. The Government had to go into the question of economics. Senator Benn postulated what happens when the Government gives the State Government $20m. The honourable senator said that the Treasurer takes from tax revenue in one year $20m to provide the funds to build the Nogoa dam. The actual facts are that money will1 be provided on four or five different occasions because it will take time to complete the dam. I have listened with a good deal of keenness to the debate, I thank honourable senators on this side of the House for their most constructive thoughts. I am sorry that members of the
Opposition were divided in their approach to this legislation, but I am pleased to know that they have no intention of opposing the Bill. 1 look for a speedy passage of the Bill through its final stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I hope that the questions that 1 am about to put are in order. I have been listening to honourable senators talking about the Nogoa dam that the Queensland Government proposes to build. I have knowledge - and I suppose most other honourable senators have, too - that at present a group of nuclear scientists is operating in Australia, particularly in central Australia where the need for water is greater than anywhere else. I ask whether the Minister for Customs and Excise (Sena;or Scott) can supply some information concerning the objectives of the scientists and whether they can see any prospect of being able to use nuclear explosive power to build dams. Can the Minister say how successful the scientists have been and whether it is possible to build dams by using nuclear explosive power?
– I raise a point of order. Is Senator Ormonde in order in making a second reading speech at the Committee stage?
– Order! The Bill is being taken as a whole. Therefore Senator Ormonde is quite in order in asking questions of the Minister.
– I understand that these scientists have been in central Australia for some time. If nuclear explosive power is the economic way to build a dam, is it not rather anomalous to talk of 7 years planning and of building dams by the manual method when these other methods are just around the corner?
– I did not say that the construction of the dam on the Nogoa River would take 7 years. I said that it would take from 4 to 5 years. I want to get that straight. There are people from the United States of America looking at Australian projects. They are connected with Operation Ploughshare, which is concerned with the peaceful use of atomic energy for the development of projects such as dams. Dams can be constructed by the method that the honourable senator suggested. The Americans are interested in the development of deep sea ports and mining ventures throughout the world. They are not interested in Australia alone. At the moment they are making an examination of the feasibility of using this method for the construction of dams and ports and for mining in Australia. Their work and that of the officers of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, with whom they are working, will be of benefit to Australia.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14 May (vide page 947), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill bs now read a second time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) - Order! There being no objection that course will be followed.
– These Bills foreshadow the expenditure of amounts up to $25m. The gravamen of the legislation is to help alleviate problems created by the drought. The Bills refer to the four drought affected States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. Under the terms of the States Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill $5.1m will be allocated to New South Wales, $4.8m to Victoria, $2.4m to Queensland and $1.7m to South Australia. Under the terms of the States Grants (Drought
Reimbursement) Bill, Victoria will be reimbursed for expenditure on certain drought relief measures to the extent of $7.5m and South Australia to the extent of about $1.1 5m.
In his second reading speech Senator Anderson, who represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), outlined some of the purposes for which these funds were designed. He mentioned loans to farmers for carry-on and restocking purposes where credit is not available through normal commercial channels. This legislation will help, perhaps in a small way, to restore farmers to a condition of financial fluidity and allow them to face their bank manager and their creditors. The full effects of drought, are not immediately visible and sums of money such as those now before us only touch the surface of the problem. The Opposition views this legislation with pleasure but that pleasure cannot match the pleasure we feel in knowing that the drought has broken. That is the main point. Once a drought is broken the cycle of seasons can start again.
On an occasion such as this I think the Senate should direct its thoughts to the tremendous problem facing Australia in the recurrence of drought. How little has been done to come to grips with the causes, treatment and effects of drought. Australia has been described as a vast continent with people living comfortably on the fringes and others continually hanging to existence in the inland areas. Drought usually strikes inland areas more frequently than other areas, but the recent drought affected some of the most fertile and the more moderate rainfall areas of Australia. That has driven home to us more vigorously than ever how a drought affects the whole Australian economy. It is not usual for a drought to affect all of Australia at the one time. From that starting point the scientists should be gathering all the information and knowledge that they possibly can and advancing a proposition to show the Commonwealth Government - after all, this is a national responsibility - how the areas affected by drought can be reduced.
I have heard people say that it is better to allow stock to die than to feed them during a drought because once you start expending money to keep stock alive there is no limit to the amount you may have to expend. They believe that restocking after a drought is a much better proposition. Let us examine the proposition. Drought is caused by lack of rainfall. The seasons follow a cycle. If there is no rain there is no moisture in the ground, and if there is no moisture in the ground the grass will not grow to feed the stock. Therefore it is a matter of rainfall and water.
In an earlier debate today relating to the construction of a dam on the Nogoa River in Queensland we heard some interesting contributions about the value of the proposed dam. That raises the whole matter of water conservation. Even though the number of major water conservation schemes in this country is limited, there are proposals for an increase in the number of existing dams and for action in other avenues of conservation. I must observe here that it is a great pity that we are not directing the technicians, scientists, engineers and others associated with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to turn their minds towards solving this great problem that faces our nation.
– Has the Labor Party a policy to overcome the problem of lack of rainfall?
– The problem of lack of rainfall cannot be overcome but there has never yet been a drought which has not been followed by rain. I do not know whether the honourable senator has lived through a period of 12 or 15 months when rain has not fallen. If he has, he will know the benefits that flow almost immediately after rain has fallen in drought areas. I lived through a drought of 15 months when rain did not fall and I realised the terrible effects that follow. I was working at that time in the west of Queensland. The only way to keep the stock alive was to cut the mulga scrub with an axe. Teams of us were scrub cutting. We could see the stock becoming poorer in condition and the weaker ones dying off. There was no possible hope of saving the stock because as the drought became worse the trees did not produce new leaves. The old leaves were falling from the trees and the rabbits and the stock were competing for them.
We saw the tremendous loss by degrees of sheep that had been bred very carefully over the years by a good husbandman who had bought good quality rams and had culled uneconomic ewes from his flock to build it to a standard where it became an asset, not only for himself but also for Australia as a whole. That happens throughout this nation. When seasonal conditions are right, graziers try to increase the quality of their flocks so that they will produce better grade wool and meat. If they have cattle they try to develop and fatten their herds more quickly so’ that they will bring the highest price on the market. The aim of a good husbandman is to build up the quality of his flock or herd. But the wheel turns, and when a drought hits him he has to decide whether to allow his stock to die or to allow himself to verge almost on bankruptcy. The losses resulting from drought cannot be measured in terms of $25m. There are unknown and unpredictable factors. In a whole season there are virtually no lambs or the Iambs die at foot. The loss of the value of that season’s progeny is projected through generation after generation of the particular line, so the drought may have repercussions on the flock for up to 10 years. This is a national loss and the problem must be approached on a national level.
Many suggestions as to what should be done about drought have been made. As surely as we have heard rain falling in drought stricken areas recently, filling the rivers and dams and bringing great joy, we know that at some time in the near or distant future drought will come again. Now is the time for the establishment of priorities. Now we must face what is, I believe, our No. 1 problem. We must ameliorate the effects of the national catastrophe of large scale drought. Although many suggestions have been made, we have not yet got to first base. We must encourage, by the provision of assistance in the form of scholarships and otherwise, the formation of a team of scientists to get down to the basic problems of establishing weather patterns and evaporation rates, and finding means of improving the fertility of marginal soils and establishing better types of grasses through the application of fertiliser or trace elements. There must be a balance between economics and practicability. In the final analysis the nation cannot afford to allow these tragedies to occur in cycles without directing the best brains in the country towards alleviation of their effects.
We come back to the basic problem that this country has one of the lowest rainfalls in the world. Last year we had the lowest rainfall in recorded history in Tasmania. From Lake Margaret on the west coast, where the average rainfall is 120 inches a year, there is a variation to 20 inches on the central midlands and about 26 inches on the east coast. In a distance of 130 or 140 miles we find these extremes. The problem of drought arises in Tasmania only once every 70 years and when it comes the people are completely unprepared. They are inclined to think that it cannot happen here but it can happen anywhere in Australia. People in western Queensland expect a drought every 4 or 5 years, whereas in Tasmania a whole lifetime might pass without experience of the ravages of drought.
The drought that gripped Victoria will cost farmers over $150m. The production of wool will suffer most. The 24 million sheep estimated to remain in western Victoria are worth about $10 a head. The estimated loss of between 1 million and 5 million sheep could result in a loss of between $10m and $50m. The cost of hand feeding at $1.50 a bushel will be enormous. Stock can be fed about 1/2 lb of wheat a day. This brings me to another aspect to which agricultural scientists and other experts should direct attention. In ancient Egypt the people were able to fill barns and storehouses in preparation for barren years. We must consider the provision of funds to build silos and other storages as a national insurance against drought.
– Had not the Egyptians the River Nile?
– I remind Senator Lillico that at one time on the Murray River about 100 families lived on what is now an irrigation area. At the present time 30,000 people are directly or indirectly associated with the Murray irrigation area. In Egypt the Nile, flowing from a high rainfall area, provided the water to grow the crops to fill the barns. In this country the Snowy Mountains scheme provides two benefits - generation of electricity and storage of water which for generations had been running to waste. Periodically the Snowy River at Orbost used to be flooded, land was waterlogged and transport was dislocated. Apart from flood mitigation and hydro-electricity generation we have a magnificent asset in the form of a reserve to supplement the dams that have been built along the River Murray. It does not take very much imagination to project that type of development to other rivers throughout Australia.
An earlier debate concentrated on the Maraboon dam in Queensland and the Ord dam in Western Australia. These are attempts on a relatively low priority to attack one of the aspects of the problem. A national research institute could engage in research into drought. As a result of experimental research with plants and pastures it has been proved that Townsville lucerne is particularly suitable for northern areas of Australia. It is a new type of grass that thrives in the climate of the north. Not only is it replacing the old more or less wasteful type of natural grass but its nutritive value has sparked a revolution because of its ability to provide food for larger numbers of stock to be carried in northern Australia.
Most honourable senators will be aware that some land in the north has a very light carrying capacity. It ranges from a capacity to carry five sheep to the acre, in the very good land, down to two or three sheep to a square mile. Similar figures apply to the capacity of the land to carry cattle. Our best brains should be directing their ability towards finding out how to improve our pastures, even if it is done only in a gradual way. Some progress is being made in discovering the types of grasses that should be introduced on much of our land in Australia.
Progress is also being made in studies of stock fertility. I have read in recent reports of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of the spectacular success that has been achieved in improving lambing percentages. As I said before, the effects of the great losses that occur when well bred stock die during a drought are reflected through generations of that stock for up to 10 years. Of course, the quickest way to recovery is to resume lambing activities. In this direction experiments have shown that the British breeds of stock are most successful. I refer to the Border Leicester, Rylands and Suffolk breeds. Owners of those breeds have been able to achieve lambing percentages of 150% to 170%.
– In parts of Tasmania and Victoria. With some culling, it has been possible to get twins from 100% of ewes. Many have produced triplets after hormone injections. This great improvement has not been found to be -possible with Merino sheep. People who have been associated with Merino sheep know that basically it is a poor lambing breed. In good country lambs can be expected from 70% to 75% of Merino ewes. In the poorer country the average varies from 45% to 50%. The main wool producing sheep of Australia take very much longer to reproduce than the English fat lamb type breeds.
The availability of hormone injections for sheep to graziers and farmers throughout Australia is a matter of economics. Primary producers are trying to recover from the effects of drought and measures of an intelligent order are required. The known results of scientific work applied in practice to our primary industries can help the recovery process. Recently the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) announced that the drought would cost about $660m in this financial year. The amount provided for in this legislation is less than 5% of that sum. It comes after the event, but the point I make is that we are discussing a measure to alleviate problems arising from drought.
All we are doing is attempting to keep our graziers and farmers financially solvent. To farmers recovering from drought the amounts required to keep them solvent look like vast sums of money. Having survived a worrying time during which they had to perform all the extra work associated with the feeding of starving stock in an atmosphere of drought, on visiting their bank managers they find that although the rain has come at last it has not added anything to their bank accounts. In a small way this measure will hold out the carrot ahead of them to start the cycle again. It is amazing to me how the Australian man on the land carries on. He certainly must have a great heart to do so. I suppose he often wonders whether it is worth it. Each time he goes through a time of trouble he comes out of it with the same approach. But individuals cannot cope with this national problem. He tries to survive as an individualist but collectively he is handling a great national asset.
At budget time we speak here of thousands of millions of dollars. We speak of the great results achieved by primary industry. The figures look magnificent when produced by the Commonwealth Statistician. We continually say that primary production is a staple and stable part of our economy. We refer to newly found mineral resources as matching the primary section of our economy, but primary production is still the basis on which the population exists. Our food comes from the land. The land provides the raw material for our clothing and exports of primary products are essential to our balance of payments.
The Australian primary producer is an individual sort of fellow. He likes his individuality. He would not be what he is if he were not an individualist. I do not think he realises, absorbed with his isolated problems within his own boundaries, facing up to the challenge of nature, and all the other tests and hazards that come along, that his losses added to the losses of the man next door and of the whole district and adjacent districts collectively have a very bad effect on the overall prosperity of the nation. At a time like this when our minds are directed to assisting the man on the land we should be considering a better, bigger and more progressive scheme for drought amelioration.
– What does the honourable senator suggest?
– The honourable senator has been absent from the chamber while I have been discussing this matter. An article in ‘The Bulletin’ of 30th March 1968 dealt with this matter. It was headed Schemes for drought-proofing’. The article began:
It has certainly been a great week for drought relief. Embattled landholders in southern New South Wales are, presumably, especially grateful.
Referring to a recently published book entitled ‘Drought: Causes, Effect, Solutions’, written by Mr Don Campbell, the article stated:
Mr Campbell, over much of his book, writes very much from the heart. Yet, the sorry story of “Waste and destruction culminates in a plan which could be attacked in matters of detail or emphasis, but which at least shows that some kind of national plan is feasible.
Mr Campbell nails his idea of planning forcefully to the mast right at the beginning of the argument: ‘Australia needs a new attitude to drought. We must all become aware that droughts are costing us a great deal of money, that wu could be more prosperous and safer if droughts were beaten. Australia needs a national drought research institute.
Such an institute would be the first step towards providing a reservoir of scientists and researchers to examine the problem in toto and then to particularise the nature and extent of the difficulties faced in certain areas. I do not think that has ever been done. I am of the opinion that we should start off from that basis. It would be costly but it would be a good investment when measured in terms of the statement of the Federal Treasurer that the drought will cost Australia $660m this financial year. It is inevitable that droughts will recur. The setting up of a national drought research institute would be the beginning of a very good investment. Mr Campbell believes that the institute would have to be a Commonwealth organisation. That is quite obvious. We often hear arguments advanced that the States must retain their rights, that they already have agriculture authorities and that we do not want duplication. But this is a matter that is beyond the States.
– The honourable senator is not opposing this legislation, is he? It provides for State administration.
– 1 am not opposing the legislation at all. The purpose of the legislation is to alleviate the effects of a drought. This drought has already happened. It is something in the past. Value will be derived from this assistance but these measures will not ameliorate the effects of the next drought. We should give consideration to this aspect.
– The honourable senator says that the problem is beyond the States, but this legislation leaves it with the States.
– The setting up of a national drought research institute is beyond the resources of the States. Such an authority or instrumentality should be financed and organised by the Commonwealth. I suppose it could be said that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics are doing similar jobs in another direction but their activities are not sufficiently directed towards the problem of drought. Possibly this is due to staffing problems. That is why I agree with
Mr Campbell on the importance of having a research institute that is directed entirely towards the problem of drought.
– The only question is whether the institute ought to be a Commonwealth body or whether each State should have its own body.
– I believe that it would be wasteful to have individual bodies. Each State has its own individual problem according to the extent of its rainfall, the fertility of its soil, the type of stock that it produces and the emphasis that it lays upon its primary production. Different States have different problems. However, the concept of drought itself can be taken overall and approached on a national level by a national instrumentality.
– What about the human factor involved where you have skilled or non-skilled farmers?
– I think another great problem that faces the nation is whether it can afford the luxury of the nonskilled farmer. Such a person possibly has a love of the land. From time immemorial men have had a love of the land but some have not had the skill, the knowledge or whatever it may be to make a success of farming. Success is usually measured by one’s bank balance, but many people enjoy puddling along from year to year, just getting their own milk and killing their own beasts when required. Lots of people like having an orchard around them or growing a few vines. If ever I wanted to be a noneconomic farmer I would grow avocado pears, of which I am very fond, but I am afraid I would eat the profits and my bank balance would be in the red.
– Many farmers would take objection to the honourable senator’s statement that the measure of success is one’s bank account. That is a very unfair thing to say to farmers who have been through a drought.
– I am generalising. There are a lot of farmers in Australia who have not been affected by a drought.
– It is an unfair statement.
– But it is not a wrong observation to make. Many farmers will be sorted out under the proposed dairy legislation and dismissed from their farms. Whether they like it or not, their farms have been categorised as non-economic farms in the eyes of the Government. Some of these farmers may be second or third generation dairy farmers who have not installed hygienic milking sheds, sophisticated milking machines or refrigeration.
– That has nothing to do with drought.
– If those people are not economic dairy farmers they are for the high jump, so in that context I believe that whereas they might be quite happy on their farms they are barely able to pay their way and their farms are uneconomic. From the point of view of classification by the dairy industry authority, which evidently is to be set up before very long, those farmers will have to give up their farm lands, or unite them with a larger area, or be bought out. Their situation illustrates my point, that the measure of success nowadays is economic, the criterion being whether a person can pay his way. As I have said, some people judge farmers on their economic success and the size of their bank balance.
– I take exception to that comment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Fitzgerald) - Order! Senator Webster will have an opportunity to speak later in the debate.
– The honourable senator is entitled to his opinion.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator O’Byrne must address himself to the Bill.
– The article in the Bulletin’ states also:
Mr Campbell finds it quite easy to establish, through the course of the book, ‘that drought is an inevitable hazard for the entire economy of Australia, not only a setback for farmers.’ Quite sensibly he does not then defend his plan as the only or best solution.
The article then, referring to Mr Campbell’s proposal for some form of unified, semiautonomous body, says:
Grandiloquent, you may say. In the face of cyclical national disasters, unnecessary you can’t say. When a country lacks, for instance, any wellbased estimate of its farm dams and bore resources, and hence of the water available for stock in drought, some kind of all-over resource analogue should obviously be compiled. The same goes for fodder storage and stock shelter. 1 do not know whether there has ever been such a national survey, but this is the type of thing that d am advocating, and I believe that it is a reasonable proposition that the Commonwealth should be able to obtain the information now. lt should be possible to ascertain the extent to which the acquisition of that knowledge would assist in alleviating the impact of future droughts.
– What are the two areas dealt with by Mr Campbell1 - fodder reserves and water reserves?
– He refers to farm dams and bore resources, and hence the water available for stock in droughts. This deals with only one section of the problem - water. 1 have projected it into other fields.
– We already have a National Water Resources Council.
– That is so, but I do not know whether it concerns itself with the requirements of individual farms. The information (hat is available to it may stop at government and semi-government projects, including huge water storages such as those in the Snowy Mountains. I do not know whether the Water Resources Council extends its activities to farm dams. The article from which I have been reading also contains this paragraph:
Don Campbell has become a firm proponent of the ‘drought bond’ notion now being advocated by the Australian Primary Producers Union and a few other grower organisations. Under this, farmers could buy bonds in good years for cashing to purchase fodder in drought years.
– Senator Prowse put that forward.
– Yes, I remember when he did that but the whole thing has to be co-ordinated. It is no good having bonds in the bank or in the cash box if you cannot get the things that you need to buy. I liken the situation to the man in the desert who has a heavy suitcase full of gold, and no water. That is an illustration of what it is like to have bonds to buy stock fodder when there is no stock fodder to buy. Senator Webster is aware that, with pasture improvement the carrying capacity of properties has increased and the acreage sown to wheat, oats and other crops is increasing as a result of improved agricultural methods. Generally, the capacity of our lands to produce in average and good seasons is increasing with the use of fertilisers. I hope it will increase even further as a result of off-shore oil exploration, which will result in by-products such as nitrogenous fertilisers which I hope will become available to farmers at a lower price than they have had to pay for their top dressings in the past. This in turn will make it possible for supplies to be set aside so that for the farmers can buy cheap stock feed in a time of drought with their bonds. However, it is not much good encouraging the farmer to buy drought bonds if some co-ordinated system of conserving stock feed is not carried on at the same time.
It is only when a drought is over and we can see that there is some limit to the amount of finance needed by the afflicted farmers to get their heads above water, or even to get back on to their feet again, that we as a Parliament apply ourselves to this great problem. Therefore it would be a pity if the opportunity were missed to repeat many of the things that are said spasmodically during a period of drought. My view is that, having grown up from infancy to a stage where we are rapidly becoming a well-balanced primary producing and industrial nation, we can never overlook the fact that basically we cannot do without the primary producing section. It is not beyond the wit of our scientists and researchers, if not to overcome completely, at least to ameliorate to a great extent the scourge that periodically visits primary producers in the form of drought. I hope that not only $25m will be made available to offset the effects of drought but that a very high priority will be given by the Commonwealth Government to tackling this problem which has caused tremendous losses, the extent of which will never be known. Some effort should be made to balance the losses that accrue from a drought and the gains that can be made by a well-organised scientific approach to this problem by an enlightened and co-operative society.
– The purpose of the Bill is to give legislative effect to decisions that were made earlier regarding allocations to the States to assist them in their drought problems. I shall not deal with the Bill at length but I should like to make some reference to the grants that are made to the States. I propose also to make a few remarks about drought generally. First, I express to the Government appreciation of its action in making this money available to the producers in the four States that are mentioned in the Bill. 1 am quite sure that this has substantially helped many stock owners who saved very valuable stock which otherwise might not have been saved. It is hardly necessary for me to mention to honourable senators the extent of the drought. It has been one of the worst ever known in Australia. It caused enormous economic loss to the producer and to the national economy. But it is pleasing to be able to say that, as far as is known at this stage, the losses of stock have been relatively light. This fact can be looked upon as a tribute to those who have carried on their businesses in the face of very serious handicaps caused by the drought.
Because I come from a State which has received assistance from the Commonwealth, I would like to mention the help given by the New South Wales Government by way of subsidies for the carriage of stock by road transport when the railways could not cater adequately for all the stock that had to be shifted to the northern areas of the State earlier this year. It is estimated that over 2 million sheep and tens of thousands of cattle were transported from the southern areas of New South Wales, and from Victoria to agistment that was available at that time in the northern part of New South Wales. Because of the assistance given by the Commonwealth, the New South Wales Government was enabled not only to grant rebates on the carriage of stock by rail but also to subsidise road transport to the extent of about one-third of the cost of transporting stock to where agistment was available. I think it is reasonable to assume that, given reasonable seasons over the next few years, this allocation of money from the Commonwealth could easily be returned to the national economy and to the Government by way of taxation. I hope that this will be so because then it would be an indication that the stock industry was again getting on to its feet.
I think that now is the most appropriate time to take action to alleviate the worst effects of major droughts. As has been stated, over many years now, but particularly over the last 3 or 4 years, both Commonwealth and State Governments have set up committees to inquire into these problems. No doubt many of their reports are in pigeon holes in State departments, as well as in the Commonwealth departments. Although the worst effects of the drought may be behind us, I suggest that now, whilst those effects are fresh in our memories, is the time for both producers and governments to do all they can to alleviate the effects of future droughts.
I believe the onus is on the producer himself, to take adequate steps to cushion the effects of drought. The producer, like anybody else in business, should take action- in his own interests with this end in view. I agree with some of those who, when speaking about national disasters the other night, said that far too many are inclined to lean on the Government. Therefore I hope that producers will recognise that they have a tremendous responsibility to see that they take adequate steps in the way of fodder conservation and the provision of water supplies to help overcome this problem.
I know that over the last few years quite a number of agricultural economists have mentioned to various producers that in their opinion very often it was not economic to conserve fodder - that the producers would be better off either selling their stock or buying fodder. I disagree with that view. I think that the conservation of fodder is the best insurance one can have. I repeat that I think every one of us has a responsibility to look after our own business wherever possible instead of looking to the Government for assistance. In my view, this is fundamental to the interests of the primary producer.
I also believe that the Government has a responsibility to see to it that the primary producer enjoys a climate which gives him an opportunity to make a profit. This applies particularly to those industries which are selling on overseas markets. I have been associated with an organisation connected with the wool industry for quite awhile and I believe it is true to say that the majority of the woolgrowers are strongly opposed to direct subsidies on wool. This is a good thing, for it emphasises the independence of the producers. The industry has a very long and proud record of not going to’ the Government for assistance unless absolutely compelled to do so. It has been only over the last 2 or 3 years, because of the economic squeeze, the cost-price squeeze and lower prices for their products, that they have been forced to go to the Government for assistance of some kind. Even then, I am sure that most of them went reluctantly.
Nevertheless, the Government must recognise the disabilities under which the industry is operating at the moment. I refer in particular to lower prices, high costs of production and fluctuating income. It is unfortunate for the wool industry in particular that at the present time we are confronted with what might be described as economic recessions’ in many of those countries which purchase our wool. I speak mainly of Europe, and, to a large extent, the United States of America. But I am still confident that wool will come through and hold its place in obtaining a reasonable share of the fibre market of the world.
Recently I asked a question in this place about drought bonds. That question was referred to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) who had quite a lot to say in his reply to me. I and other honourable senators have mentioned droughts bonds on various occasions. One paragraph of the Treasurer’s reply reads:
Moreover, there already exists a range of ways in which primary producers, like other members of the community, can temporarily invest surplus funds-
I emphasise ‘surplus funds’ - and obtain a substantial return thereon. Special bonds, which after a short initial period can be cashed at a month’s notice at par or better, would provide a particularly suitable medium of investment for primary producers wishing to maintain a financial reserve against future contingencies.
To me, that did not seem to be particularly realistic. We must recognise that at the present time there would be only a small percentage of growers who would have surplus funds with which to do as the Treasurer suggests. But I am quite sure that if they had surplus funds they would be prepared to put them into a reserve against future contingencies. I think that the Treasury will find, perhaps not only in this year but in the year to come, that very few of those engaged in primary industry, particularly in the wool industry, will have a taxable income. Further, I believe that in 1968-69 about 90% of those who are fortunate enough to earn enough income to attract taxation will be paying their taxes with borrowed money. Therefore, the advantages of drought bonds will not be gained. As Senator O’Byrne and other people have said, if portion of the income in good years could be invested in bonds bearing a short term rate of interest and then brought back into the wool grower’s income at a time when he was feeling the effects of a drought, I am quite sure that such a levelling out of income would be of tremendous assistance to him. I also believe that this would be a good proposition economically. I am sure that the Treasury would benefit later as a result of additional stock being saved.
In conclusion I repeat that nobody in. the primary industries, particularly the wool industry, is anxious to ask for handouts. But if we are to overcome the difficulties of the wool industry which operates in a protected economy, it is necessary that the Government understand that the wool grower sells on unprotected world markets and therefore is in a particularly bad position. I hope that people in the industry and in government will learn a lesson from the effects of the recent drought and will take every possible action to alleviate at least the worst effects of droughts that may come in the future.
Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales [4.12] - I wish to express a few thoughts on this matter of drought relief. Firstly, it appears to me that men who have become experts are sent along to us and give us the benefit of their expertise, but we take no notice of them. Every proposition that is put forward for drought mitigation or flood mitigation seems to be related more to what the Treasury thinks about it than to the advice given by the experts. Everything is related to finance. I suppose that in the system under which we live that is very difficult to obviate. In my younger days we used to read of the Bradfield scheme. Dr Bradfield suggested a method of transferring the water in the Burdekin River to the centre of Australia. Honourable senators from Queensland will know more about this than I do. When it was suggested it was certainly not a very costly scheme. But nothing ever happened about it. The idea was not exactly stillborn, but it remained in the realm of fantasy and romance and is part of the great poetical story of inland Australia. There is plenty of evidence to show that it would have been one of the cheapest ways of getting water into the centre of Australia.
We are now in the nuclear age. Earlier todayI asked a question about a groupof American scientists who are looking for ways of making dams to conserve water in the centre of Australia. Sir William Hudson has left his position as Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority a very disillusioned man. Recently he was reported in one of the magazines - I think it was the ‘Bulletin’ -as saying that the fact that the authorities had not accepted the proposition to extend the reservoir system at Lake Eucumbene was a matter of great regret to him. He advanced a water conservation proposition for filling a reserve lake with water produced from snow. I think the Government is looking at the proposition with a very icy stare. Sir William Hudson is very disappointed. He said so at a meeting of the Murrumbidgee Water Users Association. The water users in the irrigation areas are starting to demand attention.
I attended a meeting that was addressed by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). I was most impressedby what he said about the drought problem. He said that the essentials in attacking this problem were, firstly, drought organisation - we talked about that on Tuesday; secondly, water conservation; thirdly, fertiliser aid; fourthly, performance testing grants -I do not know what that means, but another senator might be able to tell me; fifthly, education assistance; and finally, occupational transfer and pensioning - I dare say that that is the rationalisation of properties. Whatever ideas the Minister for Primary Industry may have, the solution of the problem is related finally to whether we can afford to implement them. Any Treasury official who sits down and works out whether we can afford to do something, particularly in regard to flood mitigation, must balance the cost of doing it against the great losses suffered by the man on the land and by Australia as a nation as a result of repeated floods.
I do not want to take up too much time. I am sure that honourable senators will be pleased to hear that. It would help me to make my speech shorter than usual if honourable senators agreed to allow me to incorporate some information in Hansard so that it will be on permanent record. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard a list of the droughts that have occurred in New South Wales and some comments on them.
DROUGHT IN NEW SOUTH WALES
Published references to drought in New South Wales date back to 1789, but these refer to the settlement at Port Jackson as it was not until 1813 that Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth crossed the Divide under pressure of drought conditions. Regular rainfall records are available for Sydney from 1840 but few observations were made outside the Sydney area before 1860 (Bathurst from 1858, Deniliquin 1859, Bukalong 1856).
Even reading that list might break a person’s heart because it makes the problem look almost insuperable. Floods and droughts come with such regularity that, if each young man who thought he- wanted to be a farmer studied that list, he might decide that he did not want to be a farmer after all. But people are not like that. As Senator O’Byrne said, despite all the drawbacks and hardships, people will still go on the land because man, by his very nature, likes to be associated with the land.
I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry, to tell me whether the Government intends to extend the Lake Eucumbene scheme. That is one part of the solution of the problem. Will the Minister also tell me whether any close attention has been given to the propositions advanced by Mr Anthony for a general attack on the problems of drought and flood mitigation and all the associated matters? Finally, let me congratulate Senator O’Byrne on his very able speech. This subject is very close to his heart. He reads a lot about it and studies it. This afternoon he enlightened the Senate on subjects on which it should be enlightened. Each year we can expect to hear from Senator O’Byrne at least one speech like the one that he made this afternoon. He was reared on the land. He lived on sheep stations and went through western Queensland working in the sheep industry. Tha-t is why he speaks on these subjects with such authority.
– I believe that the Government deserves full marks for its recognition of the need to help the States alleviate the effects of drought. The Commonwealth has expressed this recognition in hard cash amounting to just under $59m since 1965- 66. I would like to express the appreciation of those in South Australia who have been on the receiving end of some of these moneys. Indeed it has been a great help to the Government of South Australia and to the farming community which needed assistance because of the drought. The $1.7m that was granted to the State to overcome a shortfall in normal revenues as a result of the drought is indeed a help to the State Treasury. In a year such as that which we have experienced revenues from railways and harbour dues arc down. About $25,000 a week is spent on
Dumping water continuously to offset the drought conditions that we have been experiencing. Increased Government expenditure and the reduced revenue have, to some extent, been compensated for by the Commonwealth Government’s special grant of $1 -7m based on the usual method of apportioning grants to the States. That grant is greatly appreciated. The amount made available to South Australia of up to $5m for reimbursement of necessary expenditure by the State Government on certain drought relief measures Ls also of great assistance.
I notice that so far in South Australia approximately $1,490,000 has been paid out by the Government, of which some $540,000 was advanced to 160 applicants for drought relief. The sum of $400,000 has been paid to district councils for works so that farmers could be employed and tided over the worst, of the drought. The sum of $50,000 has been advanced for the purchase of hay. A very commonsense early step was taken when it appeared obvious that a drought was with us. Farmers were encouraged to cut and bale crops for hay rather than leave them to bc harvested for grain. That very early action by the Government ensured the biggest possible hay cut and assisted greatly in tiding us over a very difficult period. There is an expected $500,000 account for cartage of water and the concession on the transport of fodder and stock. This adds up to $1,490,000, so the original grant of $I.5m has been almost eaten up. I notice that the South Australian Minister for Lands, Mr Brookman, said just a few days ago that whilst we have had excellent rains, and there will bc rapid growth of pasture and feed relief generally, the number of applications in hand and still coming in from areas most adversely affected by the drought will require much more than the Si. 5m so far expended.
This brings me to the very generous figure of up to $5m, mentioned by the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) as the amount to which South Australia would be entitled, if the need arises. 1 think the Commonwealth Government: deserves full marks in every respect for a very practical and a generous approach to the drought situation in the four States which have been affected. I expect, that through this initial generosity there will be a possibility of increased incomes for individuals resulting in increased revenues ultimately for the Government. t hope that the drought relief, which has been provided, will be not only a generous gift but also the basis of good economic practice by the Federal Government. I support the Bill.
– in reply - I thank the Opposition for not opposing the States Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill. I would also like to thank those who, on behalf of their States, have expressed their appreciation of the assistance given by the Commonwealth. Senator O’Byrne made a few points to which I would like to reply. I speak as one who. over the years, has gone through several droughts. The honourable senator is quite correct in saying that we must expect recurring droughts in this large continent of ours. The honourable senator raised the question of whether it was better to feed stock or let them die. Quite apart from the humane aspect, the difficulty is that once one starts to feed stock, feeding has to continue. Very often it would be far cheaper for the stock owner not to commence feeding but to allow his stock to die. The problem is that even if one is inclined to adopt a practice which does not appeal to anybody with a love of stock in his makeup, the day after alt the stock die it may rain. These are some of the things that have to be considered.
The honourable senator mentioned, quite rightly, that one of the great needs in Australia is more and more water. Some 18 months or 2 years ago the Government decided to set up what has become known as the National Water Resources Council. I think this Council is doing the correct thing. It is, of necessity, working slowly because it has to ascertain the water resources, measure the Mow of streams and investigate associated matters. That is one of the reasons why we have not seen spectacular results from the Council to this point of time. But it is in operation and I am quite certain that it will be of great benefit to Australia in the future. We must have more and more water. 1 am one who believes that desalination must come to this country if we are to develop Australia in the way that it should be developed. I recall a saying attributed to one to whom Australia, and New South Wales particularly, owe a great deal. I refer to the very famous Sir Samuel McCaughey. Near Yanco in the Murrumbidgee area he looked for a region where the ground as a whole sloped away from the river. He found such an area there. He was known in many quartersas the man from Ballymena. Recently that area has been drought stricken, but normally it is an oasis in an arid desert. It has earned millions and millions of dollars for Australia. It is comforting to know that this problem is being tackled.
I suppose it is 2 years since the drought commenced in Queensland and the northern part of New South Wales and spread into the southern and south western areas of the continent. After providing assistance to Queensland and New South Wales the Commonwealth Government set to work to see whether a drought mitigation scheme could be evolved. Certain departments got together and carried out investigations, and I understand that some 12 or 18 months ago the report flowing from those investigations by the departmental officers was handed to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I have been informed that the Bureau’s investigations have now reached the stage at which it is submitting reports to the Department of Primary Industry. So another worthwhile step has been taken.
We must expect droughts in this continent of ours. Over the years I have travelled throughout my own State of New South Wales and in many other parts of Australia. I have been told by some people on the land that they never have droughts but sooner or later a drought will come. It may last for 6 weeks, 6 months or 18 months but it will come. Even a 6 weeks drought in certain areas has serious consequences for the district. As I have said, we must expect droughts and it is heartening to see that something is being done in an effort to mitigate their effects.
Senator Bull mentioned certain directions in which relief had been obtained following the Commonwealth Government’s decision to make funds available to the States. Senator Laucke referred to the benefits flowing from the contribution to his State of South Australia. Senator Ormonde asked whether I could give some reason why the scheme proposed by Sir William Hudson in relation to Lake Eucumbene had not been implemented. I cannot give him a reason.
This is a matter for the Department of National Development. He also mentioned the late Dr J. J. C. Bradfield who had a scheme to divert water from the north to the centre of Australia. He was not the only person to hold that idea. Other men have regarded the proposal as impractical but I am not an expert and cannot say whether it is. I thank the Opposition for its assistance in giving this Bill a speedy passage.I hope that the Bill will not be delayed in the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 14 May (vide page 948), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like to comment on clause 3 (2.) which relates to a special additional payment to Victoria of $lm, and to refer to the circumstances in which it is being paid. I do so because supposedly this amount has not been made available to any other State for a similar purpose. This matter was raised originally by a number of rural bodies which claimed that the funds should be directed towards drought feeding of breeding stock. On 21st March the Commonwealth agreed to make that sum of money available to Victoria. I suggest that better liaison is needed between the Commonwealth and the States in arriving at a decision on when the Commonwealth will support a State in time of drought following a request from a State for financial assistance.
On 19th October 1967 this matter was first raised in the Senate by way of question. On 11th December 1967 a request was sent to the Treasurer, Mr McMahon, and on 1 2th February 1968 a request was sent to the present Prime Minister, Mr
Gorton. The Graziers Association of Victoria sent a letter to the Prime Minister in these terms:
This request for a Commonwealth subsidy on the cost of wheat purchased by Victorian stock owners for drought feeding of breeding stock is made in the full knowledge that the request has already been rejected by your two immediate predecessors in office, firstly by the right honourable Harold Holt on 16th November 1967 in response to the State Government’s initial request for a 50% subsidy on wheat and other fodders, and later by the right honourable John McEwen on 8th January 1968 in response to the State Government’s request that at least the Commonwealth should subsidise the cost of wheat to the extent of the price which operates in the Stale.
The point I make is that the Commonwealth was reticent to deviate from the kind of assistance that was given to other States, lt will be seen from the dates I have cited that the Commonwealth did not make a decision on the request until 21st March. The relationship between the Federal Government and the State Government must come into question. Honourable senators may recall that I raised this matter on a number of occasions. I directed a question to the Leader of the Government and alerted him to the importance of a ready decision in this matter. lt is interesting to note that on 19th March 1968 the Premier of Victoria announced that he would al’locate State funds for this purpose. I mention this because if anything breeds discontent amongst individuals in the community it is argument about what the Commonwealth Government is doing to assist and what the State Government is doing to assist. That is brought out very clearly in this matter. I. should like to refer to one comment that was made on 19th March which was in fact 2 days prior to the Commonwealth’s making a decision on a proposal which had been put to it for some 5 months continuously. I refer to a Press report which reads:
Sir Henry Bolte made it clear yesterday that the State Government was now prepared to go it alone in the absence of any Commonwealth announcement on this matter. lt is interesting that on that day i asked a question as to whether the Commonwealth wished to assist in this matter and the answer by Senator Anderson was: ‘I certainly will direct the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister’.
– Sir Henry Bolte repeated his statement at a by-election, lt was not accurate at that stage.
– The point I make is that throughout the drought areas in Victoria I have heard it said that the Commonwealth will not assist but the State Government does. Let me refer to a particular comment on 13th May.
– To what clause of the Bill is the honourable senator speaking?
– I emphasised it when 1 began to speak. I shall mention it again, lt is clause 3 (2.) which reads:
There is payable to the Stale of Victoria, during the year that commenced on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-seven, by way of financial assistance in relation to loss of revenue due to the effects of drought . . .
– I raise a point of order. I point out that the honourable senator is speaking to the States Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill whereas the Bill before the Committee is the States Grants (Drought Reimbursement) Bill.
– I was listening fairly closely and I thought that the Clerk had in the first instance read out the title of the Bill relating to drought reimbursement payments and that we were now dealing with the States Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a first time.
f4.43J - I move:
The primary purpose of this Bill is to amend special provisions of the income tax law that authorise deductions in respect of capital expenditure incurred by mining enterprises. The Bill will also change the conditions under which income tax deductions are available for calls paid on shares in mining companies. Since the introduction of a Commonwealth income tax in 1915, the taxation law has provided special deductions for capital expenditure incurred by enterprises in carrying on mining operations in Australia. This has been done in recognition of a number of factors peculiar to the mining industry, including the wasting nature of the ore deposits and the unusual need by mining companies to provide community facilities close to mining sites.
The general mining provisions were last subject to major review in 1951 following the report of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation, 1950-54. Since then, there have been major developments in the Australian mining industry and very large capital expenditures have been incurred in connection with the new ventures. Several companies have submitted to the Government that the income tax law does not adequately recognise some large classes of capital expenditure incurred in present day mining projects. On examining these representations, the Government came to the view that it would be undesirable to attempt anything less than a complete review of the existing provisions. This Bill represents the results of that review. It aims to clarify and rationalise the law in’ the light of presentday conditions. Under the present law the treatment of particular items of capital expenditure incurred by mining enterprises is left to be determined according to whether or not they fall within very general provisions enacted over half a century ago in very different circumstances from the present. The Bill describes the major classes of capital expenditure which will qualify for the special deductions and those which will not qualify.
In deciding the scope of the new provisions it was necessary for the Government to strike a balance between conflicting considerations. As T have already mentioned, the particular circumstances of the mining industry have always been recognised as meriting special taxation treatment. On the other hand, income tax paid by mining companies helps to finance Commonwealth expenditure and is thereby a means by which the community generally, as well as the companies engaged in the industry, may benefit from the exploitation of our natural resources. Before I go on to discuss the changes proposed by the Bill, I wish to refer briefly to the fact that the existing provisions of the law have recently been the subject of a case in the High Court between the Commissioner of Taxation and the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Mr Justice Kitto, in a judgment issued in March of this year, upheld some of the contentions by the company and aspects of his judgment are at present the subject of an appeal by the Commissioner to the full High Court.
The Government has been aware throughout its consideration of these amendments that it was dealing with an area in which the interpretation of the existing law was open to doubt. However, in its review, the Government was concerned with future expenditures and the need to resolve any uncertainties on the part of mining enterprises as to the deductibility of those expenditures. The proposed legislation does not take away any rights to deductibility of past expenditures that fall to be considered under the existing law.
I will now state in general terms the main amendments proposed by the Bill. The location of some facilities on which mining enterprises incur capital expenditure may, under the existing provisions, play an important part in determining whether special deductions for the expenditure are or are not allowable. The result is that expenditure of the same kind may be treated differently for taxation purposes according to whether the facilities are in the mining area or somewhere else. The Government has come to the view that it is no longer generally appropriate for tests of this kind to apply for the purpose of deciding whether or not capital expenditure on these facilities is deductible. We have therefore decided that the existing provisions should be re-written so that the location of the facilities is clearly not a decisive factor. Capital expenditure deductible will be that incurred by a taxpayer in carrying on mining operations to extract minerals from the ground and on certain facilities necessary for and directly related to those operations. As under the present law, the deductions will be available, at the option of the mine owner, over the life of the mine, or in the year in which the expenditure is incurred, or in the year in which income is appropriated for that expenditure.
Capital expenditure on certain processing facilities will be deductible in the same way. Plant for mechanical sizing or cleaning of ore, or the concentration of ore, will come within the special provisions, irrespective of whether the plant is located at the mine site or away from it. Plant for more elaborate processes such as pelletising, sintering and calcining ores or the production of alumina will be specifically excluded from the special provisions. These plants will be subject to the general provisions of the law and will attract depreciation allowances. Where appropriate, the investment allowance of 20% of the cost of the plant will also be available. Vehicles used wholly in the extractive operations will come within the special provisions. Vehicles used for transporting ores or concentrates away from a mine site or concentration plant will be subject to the general depreciation provisions on the same footing as vehicles used for the transport of other goods. The Bill will also introduce a provision authorising deductions for the cost of acquiring a prospecting or mining right for general mining purposes. This will correspond broadly with a provision which already applies as to the acquisition of a petroleum prospecting right.
In the course of its considerations, the Government has had regard to the large amounts which have been spent in remote areas during recent years by the new mining ventures on railways, roads and pipelines. However, it would not, in the view of the Government, be appropriate for this type of expenditure to be included within the scope of the provisions to which I have been referring. Those provisions relate to capital expenditure incurred in connection with the carrying on of mining operations by the taxpayer. Instances may arise in the future where transport facilities are provided to handle the business of more than one taxpayer or the facilities may be owned by a taxpayer not engaged in mining operations. While it is clearly desirable that all such facilities used for transporting minerals and products of minerals should be treated in the same way for tax purposes, it would be inconsistent for the special mining deductions to apply to expenditure of a taxpayer not engaged in mining operations or to expenditure intended largely for purposes other than the taxpayer’s own mining operations.
In view of these factors, the Government has decided that there should be a special provision to provide for deductibility over a period of 10 years for capital expenditure on railways, roads, pipelines and other facilities used primarily and principally for transporting minerals and products of mineral’s. The provision will cover the cost of earthworks, bridges, tunnels and cuttings. It will also extend to transport facilities which are not owned by the taxpayer such as facilities constructed on leasehold land. This will meet the situation where State Governments have granted leases for the construction of railways and ownership of the improvements will ultimately rest in the State. Deductions will be available under this special provision even though the expenditure on the transport facility is incurred by a person not engaged in mining and minerals transported. Some mining companies have incurred, or are incurring, substantial expenditures on the construction or improvement of port facilities and the Government has received requests to allow deductions for the full amount of this class of expenditure. However, it has been decided that, in respect of expenditure on port facilities, mining companies should be treated on the same basis for taxation purposes as business enterprises generally that construct or improve port facilities, or incur capital expenditure on other improvements necessary for their business operations.
This decision does not mean a denial of deductibility in respect of all capital expenditures on port facilities. Expenditure on wharves, jetties, handling equipment and other items of plant will be deductible by way of depreciation over the effective life of each item of plant. The principles of the existing provisions relating to the deduction of capital expenditure on housing and welfare and expenditure on prospecting are contained, without change, in the Bill. The amended provisions governing deductions for capital expenditure will apply to expenditure incurred since the beginning of the current financial year. In respect of expenditure on transport facilities, the new provision extends to expenditure incurred as from 1st July 1961. This has been done to ensure that all companies that have undertaken expenditure on major facilities of this kind in recent years will be placed, as nearly as possible, on the same footing as those about to undertake construction. The Bill ensures that any rights to deductions under existing provisions are preserved as to expenditures already incurred up to 9th May 1968. Any such rights will also remain available in respect of expenditure incurred under a contract for specific work to be done, where the contract was entered into on or before that date.
The Bill also proposes to discontinue the present provisions of the income rax law relating to mining leases, but not so as to affect an entitlement to a deduction which existed at 9th May 1968 in respect of a past transaction. The basis of discontinuance of the mining lease provisions corresponds with that adopted when the general lease provisions were discontinued in 1964. The mining lease provisions are inconsistent with the approach adopted in the new mining provisions and their retention could result in use being made of them to obtain deductions the Government has decided should not be available in future.
Another amendment proposed by the Bill will effect changes in the basis on which shareholders in mining or prospecting companies may obtain deductions for one-third of the calls they pay on shares in those companies. At present, these deductions are available for calls paid on shares in a company carrying on as its principal business mining or prospecting in Australia or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for a number of minerals not including natural gas or coal. Following representations that natural gas should be included within the scope of the provision, the Government decided that this concession should also be the subject of a general review.
One effect of this provision is that new share issues by mining and prospecting companies usually provide for small sums to be paid on application and allotment, so that the bulk of funds is raised as calls. Shareholders thus obtain a deduction from assessable income of one-third of virtually the whole of the subscribed capital. The concession does not affect the entitlement of the companies to deductions for capital expenditure financed from such calls. In this respect, the one-third concession differs from more recent concessions under which shareholders are allowed deductions for the full amount subscribed as share capital in mining companies, provided the companies declare that they are willing to forgo equivalent deductions which they could otherwise make from their own income. A further factor which was considered is that the deductions available to mining companies have been extensively liberalised since the deduction for calls was enacted in 1941.
The Government has decided that, for the future, the one-third concession should apply only to moneys paid as calls which are used for expenditure on prospecting and exploration by companies whose principal business is mining or prospecting. Calls paid on shares which are used to finance the development and exploitation of mineral deposits will be excluded from the scope of the concession. We take the view that once mining companies have advanced a project past the prospecting and exploration stage, they are in a much better position to obtain funds to finance development and do not need a concession under which Commonwealth revenue bears part of the cost of raising equity capital. The new provision will, in future, apply to all minerals extracted by mining operations and this will have the effect of including natural gas and coal within its scope. The existing concession will continue unchanged in respect of calls by afforestation companies. It will also apply to calls by mining companies in respect of shares, other than redeemable shares, issued on or before 9th May 1968, or issued after that date in accordance with an announcement or an agreement made on or before that date.
In the course of the Government’s review of this matter, it was found that some companies had issued shares which were redeemable over a relatively short period. The shareholders of these companies thus received deductions for one-third of what was virtually a short term loan to the company and not a contribution to its permanent capital. The Government considered that this was an abuse of the provisions and decided that deductions in respect of calls made on redeemable shares after 9th May 1968 should not be allowed.
The final amendment deals with the exemption from income tax of income earned from mining and treating uranium which was first introduced in 1952 and which expires on 30th June 1968. The present day outlook for uranium mining seems bright as there is widespread expectation that uranium prices will rise under the pressure of demand for its use in nuclear power stations. There is the likelihood that uranium will be in direct competition with coal and petroleum as a fuel for electricity generation in the future. In these circumstances the continued exemption of uranium would be seen as discriminatory by producers of coal and petroleum. We have therefore decided that the existing exemption for uranium should be allowed to expire at 30th June 1968 and that from then on income derived from mining uranium should be treated in the same way as mining income generally.
However, it has also been decided that there should be a transitional provision to ease the transfer from complete exemption into the taxable field. This will be done by allowing deductions from the assessable income of future years for expenditure incurred in the exemption years on exploration and prospecting for uranium. Deductions will also be allowed for capital expenditure on mining plant, development of the mining property and on housing and welfare to the extent that this exemption has not been recouped from net income which was exempt from tax. In addition, the Bill provides for the inclusion of uranium in the concession which allows mining companies to pass on to their shareholders deductions for capital subscribed.
The Bill is explained in more detail in an explanatory memorandum available to honourable senators and I do not propose to go into any further detail at this stage. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this amendment is to give the Australian Canned Fruits Board a power to borrow money from the Reserve Bank under a Commonwealth guarantee of repayment. This power is already enjoyed by certain other statutory marketing authorities.
The Australian Canned Fruits Board, under section 18 (3) of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act of 1963, already has authority to borrow under a Commonwealth guarantee but this power is restricted to the matters specified in section 18 relating to the purchase and sale of canned fruits by the Board. The Board has not exercised these powers. The amendment now proposed will widen the Board’s borrowing powers so that they will apply to the general powers and functions of the Board. The Board has an assured income from collections of excise tax on the sales of canned fruit in the domestic market. The Board could, therefore, use its anticipated income as security against any borrowing it might wish to undertake. The excise tax receipts are received by the Board on a monthly basis but the production of canned fruit and to a large extent the export of canned fruit are highly seasonal. The Board considers that its operations in assisting and promoting the export of canned fruits to overseas markets could be a good deal more flexible if it were given the power to borrow.
Production of canned fruit in Australia has increased rapidly in recent years and the task of disposing of more than 70% of the pack in overseas markets is becoming more difficult each year. Recent developments have convinced the Board that it is essential for it to have the power to ‘borrow if it is to be able to meet its commitments to canners promptly. This would assist the canners to make early payments to growers for fruit delivered.
In regard to the general problem in the industry of an approaching stage of overproduction from trees already in the ground, industry leaders - both canners and growers - are working on a scheme for rationalisation of the industry. This scheme is expected to be submitted to the Government in the next few months. Until this scheme is received and considered the Government wishes the Board to be able to receive the maximum assistance from the banking system to enable it to provide the maximum assistance in promoting Australian exports abroad. The Board, before borrowing, will be required to obtain permission from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) whose approval must have the concurrence of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). This arrangement is intended to ensure that any borrowings by the Board are well within the Board’s capacity to repay from its regular income. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poyser) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14 May (vide page 949), on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this Bill. The measure provides a matching grant of $3. 6m to the State of Victoria to assist in meeting the cost of draining saline water away from the Murray River into settling basins and thereby increasing the purity of the Murray in general for irrigation purposes. This is an overdue project. For many years salt problems have existed in the Murray River. These problems have been accentuated since 1967 and early this year by the very dry seasons that we have had. The Opposition hopes that this will be just the start of a general plan and that the Commonwealth will take still more responsibility in the matter of the water resources of this nation. It is true that over the last 12 or 18 months the Government has granted a tremendous amount of money for water conservation programmes in various parts of Australia. Although I believe that in some cases, as Senator Keeffe has stated, it was purely an election gimmick, these grants are nevertheless welcomed. I think that the need for this grant arose as a result of the Chowilla Dam project being turned down because of the salinity problem as well as the cost involved. An investigation has clearly shown that the high salinity of the Murray River is very detrimental to the growers, particularly those in the Mildura and Robinvale areas.
As early as 1962 the Australian Labor Party suggested that before any money was expended on the Chowilla Dam project, an investigation should take place along the lines of the one that is now being conducted. It seems that $5m has been spent in an area that might never be developed to the extent that was originally thought. The initial estimate for the project was $28m, to be shared by three States and the Commonwealth. The last figure that I saw for the project was in the vicinity of $80m. However, apart from the cost, the problem of salinity was known. People within the growing areas had brought it to the attention of the Government and had requested that a proper investigation be made before the project was commenced. An organisation in the Mildura-Sunraysia growing area - I think it is the production problems committee of the Australian Dried Fruits Association in that district - has put quite a deal of propaganda before the Government in relation to the salinity problems. They are real problems, because right along the Murray River from Kerang to Robinvale there are vast salt areas, and water from them is being drained back into the river from all the irrigation projects there, so much so that I understand from figures which I have read - though I cannot quote them authoritatively because the authority was not cited - that at one stage the water table in the area of Kerang was 12 feet, and it is now only 4 feet, due to the high density of irrigation in ‘he area and the water table rising. As a result the salt is washing back into the river.
In the main the drainage from irrigation projects along the Murray in Victoria is going back into the river and not into settling basins as happens in parts of Sou’.h Australia. The result is that when the river is at a low level, as it has been for 3 years, the salt content reaches a highly dangerous figure. In fact it has caused severe damage in the Mildura and Renmark areas, particularly to citrus crops. It is tremendously important in those areas, not only in relation to citrus crops and grapes, that the purest water possible be available for irrigation. A tremendous problem faces this nation. This week the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) said that by the end of the century Australia will have a population of 20 million people, so that we will be faced with the problem of feeding almost double our present population. It is becoming increasingly apparent from the fact that the vegetable-growing districts of the metropolitan area of Melbourne and of big provincial centres are being taken over for subdivision, that most of our fresh fruits and vegetables will be grown in the Sunraysia area. Faced with the problem of feeding double the population within about 30 years, we must ensure that water for irrigation is as pure as possible. The money to be made available under the Bill to assist Victoria to do drainage work and to construct the settlement basins will be of tremendous benefit to the people.
I have here a copy of a paper submitted by Professor J. R. A. McMillan as the Farrer Memorial Oration in 1965. It contains some amazing figures which demonstrate the absolute necessity for conserving as much pure water as possible, and I want to quote briefly from a section of it because I am sure it will make many honourable senators think seriously about the problem. Professor McMillan lists the average quantities of rain required to produce some Australian products. One 2 lb loaf of bread requires 2.5 tons or 560 gallons of water. One egg requires I ton or 220 gallons. One gallon of milk requires 15 tons or 3,300 gallons of water. One pound of scoured wool, in a good rainfall area, requires 250 tons or 56,000 gallons of water. In a poor rainfall area .1 lb of scoured wool requires 750 tons or 168,000 gallons of water. To produce one orange half a ton or 110 gallons of water is required. One 3 lb chicken requires 1.5 tons or 3,300 gallons: I lb of meat, 50 tons or 11,200 gallons; and 1 pint of beer, 1.5 tons or 330 gallons. That proves my old argument that it. is much cheaper to drink beer than milk. Every honourable senator who is interested in the conservation of water should study this paper closely. 1 propose to read only one other section of it: lt is interesting to estimate the quantity of water required per day to provide the food for one adult and give him a normal Australian diet of about 2,700 calories. This would be 35 tons of rain per day. Taking into consideration the population as a whole, that is men. women and children of all ages, the average daily caloric requirement is 2,000. The average quantity of water required to produce this food for each person in the community is 26 tons per day.
Professor McMillan is a very eminent and highly regarded agricultural scientist. I have spoken to other scientists about this matter and they say that one can rely on the research work that Professor McMillan has done to produce this paper for the Farrer
Memorial Oration. It clearly shows the tremendous task that faces Australia. Not only are we to double our population, but we have to provide good, pure water to ensure that the required quantities of fruit and vegetables are brought to the big markets in this country. Therefore, it is tremendously important that this grant be used to ensure that the waters of the Murray River and others in Australia which are similarly affected, of which there are many, are used in a manner which will ensure that salt will not be drained back into them farther downstream after it has been used for irrigation.
There is another problem which will accentuate the position if proper drainage works are not. done in other parts of the country as well as those mentioned in the Bill. At Piambie about 40 miles north of Swan Hill, al nit 8,000 acres are to come into production under irrigation. Cohen Brothers Ltd from Bendigo own the whole of that property, and soon about 8,000 acres in that area will be irrigable for the production of fruit, vegetables and some cereals. The drainage from this area will go back into the river, as things are at the moment. Many hundreds of acres on the Kerang side of Swan Hill are being drained for the very same purpose, and this area has probably one of the highest density earth salt contents in any part of the State. Any honourable senator who has driven along the Murray Valley Highway between Kerang and Swan Hill will have seen for himself the quantity of salt that is in that area. Huge tracts of this land are being reclaimed, but it is extremely unfortunate that, in the planning of the area and with all the drainage work that is going on to reclaim (his land for production, the water is draining back into the Murray River.
When one considers the magnitude of the Murray and the fact that some of its tributaries start in Queensland and that every river in Victoria north of the Divide flows into the Murray, and high density irrigation farming is being undertaken in many parts of Victoria, one appreciates the intensity of the problem. Calivil is a case in point, lt is a high density dairying area, where the same problem is worrying farmers. The water that is used for irrigation in these areas, having passed over the salt, areas, is drained back to its source in the Murray River. I do not want to delay the Senate, but I thought it was important that some of these points should be explained. The Bill is a forward step to ensure that the purity of the water is maintained to the best ability of the governments concerned. The Commonwealth has a big part to play in this matter because of. the problems of feeding the nation and producing the export commodities we require to sell on our overseas markets. I commend the Bill to the Senate and hope that this is only the first of a series of sums that wilt be given to the States to help solve this problem.
– As a South Australian, I am delighted that the Government has initiated this move to prevent saline water from re-entering the River Murray. 1 am hopeful that some of the tributaries that flow into the Murray and which are not now under the control of the River Murray Commission might be brought under the control of that Commission at some future time As 1 have said, as a South Australian, 1 welcome this grant of $3. 6m to Victoria because we, too, are interested in good water for irrigation purposes. lt is true as Senator Poyser has said, that at the source of the river the water is relatively fresh, but every time water is used for irrigation and seeps back into the river it takes salinity with it. We have heard a great deal about salinity. It is a vital problem so far as South Australia is concerned. I am rather interested because this is my last day in this chamber to know that at last Victoria is getting a little gift of $3. 6m. No longer will my Victorian friends be able to say to me: ‘We get nothing. We feed the rest of Australia, we built a bridge across the Narrows in Western Australia, we let water down to feed you in South Australia, we finance all the dams and just recently we have given $20m to Queensland to build a dam*. Now, at last, Victoria is to get $3. 6m.
The Commonwealth is to be commended wholeheartedly upon now tackling this problem of salinity. We are not the only country in the world confronted with this problem. It arises in the famous irrigation settlement now fed by the Rio Grande. Salinity has caused a great deal of conflict between the United States and Mexico. Just as the salinity that occurs in Victoria and New
South Wales affects South Australia, so also was Mexico affected by salinity in the water scheme on the Rio Grande.
In my view, the money being expended on the scheme under discussion is well safeguarded by the provisions of the Bill in that all works have to be submitted to and approved by the Commonwealth Government. In addition to that, al’l accounts have to be certified by the Auditor-General of “Victoria. The work involved in this scheme is firstly the construction at Lake Hawthorne, near Mildura, of a pumping station with the capacity to pump water at the rate of approximately 20 cubic feet per second. 1 was going to work out just how much water that was. It represents 125 gallons of water a second. There are 3,600 seconds in an hour. This means that a fairly large volume of water will be pumped away.
What is to happen to this water? lt is to be pumped completely away from the river in the hope that none of it will seep back into the river. It is to be pumped first over a distance of 7 miles into an evaporation basin. I thought the Minister might have told us just how much salt it was hoped would be recovered from these evaporation basins.
– It is 50,000 tons a year.
– I understand that is correct. As Senator Webster has said that is the figure, it must be correct. No doubt we shall be able to get some salt at a reasonable price in South Australia as a result of this scheme. The evaporating basin will not be any small pond. The area will total 3,000 acres. The land required for the carrying out of this work will have to be acquired by the Victorian Government.
The second direction in which some of this money will go is the construction near Kerang of two diversion weirs and the construction at Barr Creek near Kerang of a pumping station with the capacity to pump water at the rate of approximately 60 cubic feet per second. Honourable senators will appreciate from this the amount of water that is seeping back. As I said earlier, every time water is pumped on to the ground it collects added salt as it seeps back to the river. In the past, this water has been draining back into the river. That is why, although this water about which we have heard so much was relatively pure originally, by the time it reached Mildura, it had a high salt content. But, believe me, we iri South Australia below Mildura sincerely hope that we will be receiving better water as a result of this pumping of such a huge quantity right away from the river with a view to avoiding seepage back into it. Again I congratulate the Government on its efforts. The water is going to be pumped from Kerang a distance of approximately 6 miles to Lake Tutchewop, which is again well clear of the river. It is interesting to know that this is only the beginning of this type of work. I think we shall be expanding these efforts greatly in the future.
I am particularly interested in this proposition because it does affect us in South Australia. What Senator Poyser had to say about the amount of water required to produce a gallon of milk and about 26 tons of water a day being required to sustain a human being was extremely interesting. We in South Australia have almost reached the limit of our population expansion unless we can get more fresh water from the River Murray. I think it is safe to say that we have now exhausted almost every possible source of water supply within a promising distance of the metropolitan area of Adelaide. We are depending now upon the Murray not only for the expansion of our industries but for our population growth. If our population increases as it has increased over the last few years then, by 1975, we in South Australia will be right up against a very big problem in providing sufficient water not for irrigation purposes but to meet the needs of the population. We have given Queensland $20m to build a dam to supply approximately 150 farms. I point out, too, that as yet we have been shown no proof that these farms will be successful. On the other hand, as Senator Poyser has said, we in South Australia have proved what we can do. We have turned water into gold.
I now make a final plea with relation to the Chowilla dam. I am confident that had the cost not been so high, Chowilla dam would have been in existence now. Indeed, for South Australia, the Chowilla dam is an absolute must. Let me explain why I mention the Chowilla dam. We are proposing to spend $3.6m on desalination works in Victoria. But in the Chowilla Dam project a 4 foot pipe to drain off saline water and take it over the hills into a pondage miles away is envisaged. The cost of that has been included in the total cost estimate. One of the reasons for the increase in the cost of the Chowilla Dam has been the proposed works to reduce salinity. The South Australians were among the first people to recognise the need for desalination works.
I believe that the only reason why the Chowilla Dam has not been built is the increase in cost and that any excuse has been good enough to prevent it being built. The excuse that has been given is that the water in the Chowilla Dam would be too saline. I repeat that provision has been made for reducing the salinity of that water. Not one senator, not one engineer, nol one person in Australia can prove that the water in the Chowilla Dam will be saline. Only time would prove that, just as time has proved that some water in New South Wales and Victoria can be saline. Ten years ago no-one said that that water would be saline. The decision not to proceed immediately with the Chowilla Dam has been attributed to salinity. But I challenge the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), any of his experts or anyone else to prove that the water in the Chowilla Dam would be saline. I am gratified that this work will be done in Victoria. The spending of $3.6m in Victoria is but the beginning. More money will have to be spent. I welcome the spending of this money, or even more money, because it will mean that the water that comes down to South Australia will be of the highest possible quality. I support the Bill.
– I add my support to Senator Poyser’s remarks in which he complimented the Government. I also support what Senator Mattner said in reviving the real problems in relation to water in South Australia, the salinity of the River Murray and the Chowilla Dam. Whilst we welcome whatever small assistance is provided under this legislation through the programme of works that is set out in the Schedule, I suggest that this is delayed action. Those works, which include embankments to provide evaporation basins and other methods of reducing salinity, are practical measures which could have been taken years ago.
I remind the Senate that for 5 years South Australian governments - I am referring to the Liberal and Country League Government that preceded the Walsh Labor Government and the present Liberal and Country League Government under Mr Hall - have advocated the giving of urgent attention not only to the problem of saline sludge coming down from the upper reaches of the Murray River into South Australia but also to the urgent need to construct the Chowilla Dam. The only reply that we have ever received when we have raised the question of the Chowilla Dam in the Parliament has been that technical discussions had to be held as a result of decisions of the River Murray Commission.
The result has been that over the years there has been no real appreciation of the need for the dam. As Senator Mattner put it, the construction of the dam has been held up simply because the estimate of the cost of the project had doubled. That has been the main reason for delaying the project. When we said that during the debate on a matter of urgency last year, Senator Henty, who is now in the chamber, told us that that was not so; that there were technical reasons; and that the experts had to look at the project. But the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) said that all the necessary investigations were carried out before the project was first considered. Technical investigations were made firstly by a group from the United States Army - men who were experienced in the construction of dams and other works - and later by some of the top experts in the field from all over the world, including the United States. Those investigations were made at the direction of the Playford Government and the Walsh Government,
Then suddenly it was decided that the project should be stopped, after $5m had been spent on it, all the engineering details had almost been completed and complementary railway work had been carried out. The reason given for stopping the project was that it would cost about $73m. At the time we were told by Mr Beaney, who represented South Australia, that that amount could be reduced by SI Om. When this matter was discussed in this chamber Senator Henty told us that the investigations would probably be completed before the end of the year; that was last year. Now we are in another year, and another project has been suggested. The Government supports the Minister for National Development who, with the other members of the River Murray Commission, has agreed to the investigation of the construction of a new reservoir at the junction of the Mitta Mitta River and another river. I strongly support what Senator Mattner has said. We in South Australia are being rubbished by the Federal Government.
– Of course we are. We are being rubbished in respect of important projects. We have managed to supply the water needs of industry by the great Morgan-Whyall’a pipeline, lt has kept South Australia going. But the need for advanced planning to provide improved supplies from the River Murray has never been properly recognised by the Federal Government. Once the Chowilla project had been considered and the governments concerned had agreed to it, it should have been proceeded with although the cost had increased. Can anyone point to any other construction project, the cost of which has not increased to quite an extent? The works that are proposed in the Schedule to the Bill are only marginal to the wider issues of salinity. Had the Commonwealth Government supported South Australia in relation to the Chowilla project, we would not have had to consider the piecemeal legislation which we are now considering and to which Senator Poyser and Senator Mattner have referred. Whilst it may meet the intermediate problems of salinity, about which people have complained, it will not solve forever the problem of providing adequate water supplies for any of the States concerned.
Since April I have asked the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), who represents the Minister for National Development, four questions about the many discussions that are taking place. I have not received answers to those questions. I asked the Minister whether he was aware of the trips being made around the country by the South Australian Premiers, Mr Dunstan and Mr Hall, in an endeavour to obtain support from other governments. I asked whether the Federal Government would convene a conference. The Government always says that we have to allow these research expeditions, which after all are simply delaying the project, to continue.
Ultimately we have to face up to making a decision on the Chowilla project. The Government should face up to that now and provide the financial support that would mean that New South Wal’es and Victoria would support South Australia. What are the answers to the questions that 1 have asked? Senator Laucke is another person who has said to Senator Scott: ‘Your viewpoint is quite different from mine’. We should be given an early report on the Chowilla project, but we are given nothing. I support what Senator Poyser said, which was more directly related to the Bill than the remarks that 1 have made. But my remarks have been related directly to the need to spend more money on the Murray River. After all, whatever special purpose works are carried out to improve the water supply, the ultimate answer is the construction of adequate dams. 1 suggest that there should be no more delays and that the Government shoul’d come straight out and support the request made by the South Australian governments, both Labor and Liberal and Country League.
– This Bill allocates S3. 6m to Victoria for the reduction of the flow of saline water into the River Murray. The Bill is of immense importance to Australia. I wish to mention several matters which are small but of particular importance. The work done by the Murray Valley Development League, the Australian Citrus Growers Federation, the Australian Dried Fruits Association and the Mildura and District Citrus Co-operative Association has been instrumental in influencing the Federal Government to grant certain moneys to assist in the lowering of the salinity of the River Murray, lt is difficult to express adequately the concern of those who were losing some of their livelihood. Indeed, the loss in production was a great loss to the Nation. The rate of flow of the River Murray due to the current drought has pinpointed the problem of salinity.
An important matter that I would like to mention is that we should view the Murray as a national, strategic waterway. I believe that honourable senators would do well to advert to the fact that while provisions of the Bill will lead to a reduction of the saline content in the River Murray itself, the difficulty that the River Murray Commission probably is not the correct body to be handling the problems associated with salinity. The River Murray Commission is not a corporate body and the concurrence of all members, expressed through their Commissioners, is required before anything can be achieved. I quote the following statement by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn): 1 point out again that the responsibility for the development of the water resources away from the Murray River lies with the States.
The key point is that the salinity is being created not in the Murray itself but in those waterways which feed into the Murray. Indeed the development of the whole of the Murray Valley is something which must be locked at not by a confined body such as the River Murray Commission but by a complete Murray Valley authority. Such an authority is necessary to control the whole matter. There are a number of important matters with regard to the agricultural, urban and industrial development of the area, but I make one final point of which we should take heed. 1 refer to a comment made by Councillor Mellor of the City of Swan Hill. Basically the Council is greatly concerned about the problems of the area. Councillor Mellor has played a leading part in achieving the benefits that are flowing to that area now. His comment is this:
Water quality, rather than water quantity, is likely to be the most important single limiting factor in the development of this region, therefore, drainage and the co-ordinated control of its effluents are the most important single factors in the maintenance of the status quo and are absolutely vital for the continued development of the region.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
Senator LAUCKE (South Australia) [8.01 - We are considering a Bill for an Act to grant financial assistance to Victoria amounting to S3. 6m to cover the cost of works to reduce the flow of saline water into the River Murray. Although the Bill refers to the State of Victoria 1 feel that it applies equally to South Australia because of the good effects which will flow to my State from the Government’s action in allocating that sum of money to Victoria. In South Australia we have had for a long time a real1 appreciation of the need to prevent the saline waters in our drainage systems, irrigation areas and so on flowing back into the River Murray proper. It would be disastrous if all States which have an interest in the Murray were to allow it to become a sewer for saline waters. The Federal Government’s action in making this money available at this time is a step in the right direction. The matter is of vital importance to the irrigation systems in both Victoria and South Australia.
In the realisation of the need for this action and for the application of measures higher up the river to reduce the saline flow-in, 1 hope that there will be a new appreciation of the position right along the Murray and along other rivers in Australia which already have, or will have in the future, a problem similar to that which confronts us now in relation to the entry of highly saline waters into the Murray.
When the Loxton irrigation scheme was engineered provision was made for the residual drainage waters to be pumped under the river to an evaporating basin from which they could not get back to the main river to contaminate it. Now we find that a pumping station is to be built at Lake Hawthorne “near Mildura having a capacity to pump water at the rate of approximately 20 cubic feet a second, an evaporating area of some 3,000 acres to hold the saline waters is to be provided and two diverson weirs near Kerang will be constructed. These are all major projects which in toto will prevent the entry of some 56,000 tons of salt into the river.
– What will be done with the salt when it accumulates?
– I do not think it will have any commercial value. It will be a good thing if we succeed in keeping it in the evaporating basin. The main concern is that there shall be no means of re-entry, either directly or indirectly, of the water in the basin into the main stream. 1 congratulate the Minister for National Development on having, through the national water resources development programme, done that which is contemplated in this legislation. It is something that we in South Australia have been pressing for most strongly. We recall very clearly the emergency steps that were taken by individuals to prevent saline waters entering the river at Renmark. They realised the great threat to the river that was posed by the entry of salt water. I have in mind men like John Seacombe of Renmark. I am sure that he and others will continue to use their best endeavours to ensure that the waters of the river remain as sweet as possible.
I do not wish to go into further detail on what has been done. The main point is that the Federal Government has seen fit to regard this work as a matter of national importance. For that reason it has assisted Victoria but in the process of assisting one State it has assisted another - my own State of South Australia. I admire the Government and express appreciation for what it has done. I hope that its action on this occasion will give rise to further activity in retaining the high quality of our water.
I have no wish to enter into discussion tonight in respect of the supply of water to South Australia. I appreciate that this Bill is designed for a particular purpose but I feel impelled to join with my fellow senators from South Australia, especially Senator Mattner and Senator Bishop, in their references to the need for a major water supply project in our own right. The lack of such a facility worries us intensely in South Australia. I shall refer to a matter which is by no means a dead duck in the minds of honourable senators from South Australia - a matter which has been the subject of deep and considered thought and investigation. We see projects going ahead in other parts of Australia but we do not for one second hold the view that if we cannot get what we want no other State should get what it wants. I say good luck to the State where developmental projects are proceeding. Good luck to the nation.
However, 1 hope that in due course this House will see fit to concur in a project that we in South Australia regard as something to which we are legally and morally entitled. We have a basic need for a major catchment which will ensure our supplies of water not only for a decade or two ahead but also far into the future so that any fears we may have of a lack of water of good quality will be removed. Not only our rural industries and irrigation system will benefit; our whole industrial set-up will feel the beneficial effects of a guaranteed water supply. South Australia is a water conscious State. We have not less than 11,000 miles of major trunk mains. Only 10% of the land surface in South Australia enjoys an average rainfall of more than 10 inches. Through the years we have spent some $260m of our own funds on water conservation and reticulation works. That is why I stress tonight that we are a deeply water conscious State which needs assistance.
Commencing in 1938, South Australia was led by a realist, a man who kept his feet on the ground and who could see that our State needed basic things if it were to develop and grow. The provision of amenities such as water supply, power reticulation and a decent system of roads has been pursued from that time. This was the era of the great statesman Sir Thomas Playford. The base to which 1 have referred is something for which I will be pressing continuously. I will not accept that it is something that we can do without. 1 say with every respect to those who would oppose that which we seek that we will pursue this matter in the full realisation that to our State it is something quite fundamental and vital. We have proved our interest in similar things by considerable expenditure in the past. What we seek at Chowilla is vital to our future. In the meantime we have this legislation for which I laud the Government, lt is a move towards achieving something which is vitally important to us - clear sweet water in our river. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– My name was mentioned during the course of this debate by Senator Bishop with reference to answers that I gave to questions by him. f want to say to him and to the Senate that I do not detract one word from what was said in answer to those questions. I firmly believe that the Government’s intention as soon as the way is clear is to provide the clear sweet water in the River Murray to which Senator Laucke has referred. That is the purpose of the Government and I am sure that when this problem is ironed out eventually this purpose will be achieved. I was somewhat amazed to hear Senator Poyser say that the Australian Labor Party had pushed for years, prior to the start of the Chowilla Dam, for the very inquiry that is being held now. Yet the Opposition raised matters of urgency and asked lines of questions in an endeavour to persuade the Government to do what the Labor Party, having first sought this investigation, was not prepared to do.
– This is substantially a very interesting and effective measure in a country that suffers perennially from a water shortage problem which is one of the great limiting factors in its development. This is a good exercise in federalism, with the Commonwealth Government coming to the assistance of a State government to provide finance for what is essentially a State problem but is also a national problem. Increasingly we find ourselves in the atmosphere that the Australian nation is a nation of Australian people not divided by customs stations on the borders of States. The Federal Government has increasingly important federal powers and authority but at the same time State rights and autonomies are preserved. Here the Federal Government is coming to the aid of a State government in the solution of a State problem which is also a Commonwealth problem and in the passing scene becomes the problem of another State. This is a matter of providing financial resources quickly to find a solution to a problem which if it were not handled would create a greater problem in another State. It is an exercise in co-operative federalism which is worthy of placing on record.
It is increasingly my feeling, and it has been for years, that we who talk about the sovereign rights of States and how they conflict with the powers of the Federal Parliament ought to talk about the Australian people, the Australian continent, the Australian resources and Australian problems. We should look at the matter and ask how we make work the situation that we have. This is one of the ways in which it works, in handling a national problem which tends to reside iri the first instance in one State but if not resolved will pass to another State. Here we have the position that salinity is occurring in the River Murray substantially because of a decline in the flow of the river. A situation is generated in the first instance in the State of Victoria, engendering problems for that State and also for the State of South Australia. That is why it is terribly important that there should be ready financial assistance to overcome the over-salinity of the River Murray which occurs substantially in the Mildura area. The proposition is simple. One takes the water out of the system and puts it into an evaporating pan to get rid of the salt. This resolves the problem at that point and the water flowing down to the next State is as pure as possible.
On many occasions we ask ourselves what are the limiting features of Australia, ft does not hurt to repeat this question. One of the great limiting factors is the problem of water. One thing we do well in a federal system is to act as a group of Australian people, as we do in the Australian Water Resources Council, to deal with a problem which is at the same time national and State. I am very much heartened when I read that such a measure has been successfully brought down. I hope that this sort of thing will lead eventually to a situation in which we regard ourselves first of all as Australian people charged initially with resolving Australian problems.
Senator CORMACK (Victoria) [8. 1 8 1 - I have listened with great interest to this debate because I see the State that I represent in this place being cast, by inference, in the role of villain in the matter of salinity problems in relation to the River Murray and the lack of water available to South Australia. 1 am moved, therefore, to protest on the only occasion on which I can find myself in a position to protest on behalf of the State of Victoria, which has its financial back bowed by the plundering of other States under the uniform income tax arrangements. This forces me to defend the State of Victoria and not accept the openhanded statement of Senator Colton that this is a big wide Commonwealth problem of the people.
Rivers have been a problem to people for thousands of years. One of the problems of rivers is that the people downstream always complain that the people upstream are taking too much water. That is embedded in human nature. I regret to say that South Australians have worked themselves into an emotional state in which they believe that they are being deprived of water, firstly by Victoria and secondly by New South Wales. This emotional problem in which South Australians tend to find themselves is exacerbated by the fact that they read in Hansard and the Press statements issued by the Government concerning millions of dollars being lavished on the construction of dams in other States.
Grants are made to Western Australia under section 96 of the Constitution for what appears to me, on the surface, a specious reason that the Ord River scheme will solve some of the problems of that State. A great sum is being spent on phase 2 of the Ord River scheme. The South Australian Government and South Australians are entitled to feel resentful because it is difficult for them to get any Commonwealth money as it is being diverted from the stream of Commonwealth revenue to go to Western Australia for the Ord River scheme. How many people will that scheme support? One thousand people for SI 00m. South Australians argue, and I think with some substance, that about I million people in South Australia depend on the River Murray to obtain the water they need. I am sympathetic towards South Australians in their emotional approach to the problem of getting additional water. However, it is interesting to read the history of South Australia’s attitude towards the River Murray. lt is only in the last 20 years that South Australia has evinced , any interest whatsoever in the River Murray as a source of fresh wafer. The policy of South Australia from 1870 onwards - and this is a substantial reason for the present locking system on the River Murray - was to provide facilities with which South Australia could maintain navigation rights to that river.
It was not until 1949 that the South Australian Government and South Australians began to realise that the problems in respect of water they were then beginning to envisage could be solved by obtaining palatable and potable water from the River Murray. From the time that South Australia took an interest in the River Murray, for the first 60 or 70 years that interest was directed towards the provision of a navigable stream. It did not make any difference to the South Australians that the water from the River Murray may have been saline.
– What was the depth of the river?
– 1 think the average depth was about 16 feet, but 1 am nol too sure of that at the moment. I want South Australian senators to understand that the present locking system in the River Murray was put there at the behest of South Australia in order to provide navigational facilities for South Australians. It is true that Victoria, the Stale I represent here, is cast in the role of villain as providing a great amount of salinity in the River Murray, lt is completely forgotten, or not accepted, that a great deal of salinity in the River Murray above the proposed Chowilla Dam comes out of New South Wales from the Darling. Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers. So New South Wales is a contributor to the salinity problem. However, I agree that most of the salinity comes from the Victorian irrigation system. This Bill sets out to solve that problem, at least partially.
In the past three debates on the Chowilla Dam that have taken place in the Senate not one South Australian senator has ever admitted that South Australia is a major contributor to its salinity problem.
– Have measures been taken to overcome it?
– Steps have been taken in Victoria, but no South Australian senator has ever admitted that South Australia itself is a contributor to its salinity problem. 1 have mentioned that only to illustrate the significance of my opening sentence when I last spoke in the Senate on the subject of the Chowilla Dam. I said then that 1 had not been able to discover from any South Australian senator whenever a bill related to the Chowilla Dam has been debated whether they are interested in a dam or in water. lt is obvious that the problem that confronts South Australia is a problem of water. As Senator Laucke has said, South Australia is the driest Australian State, lt has created an industrial base on the Adelaide plain but does not have enough rivers to provide sufficient industrial water, lt needs high quality industrial water and it can satisfy that need only from the River Murray. That is well understood.
But what is it that South Australia requires? It requires water that can be used for irrigation or water that can be used industrially, lt is not a question of whether a dam will be built at a certain place. The problem in South Australia is to get water. The problem is therefore of an engineering nature. I do not wish to recapitulate at length the problem of Chowilla Dam. The partners in the River Murray Agreement and the River Murray Commission - the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia - agreed that the Chowilla Dam as a project seemed feasible as it would be able to provide a reasonable amount of water - 4i million acre feet - at a fairly low cost of $28m. The cost was to be paid not only by South Australia but by the four partners in the River Murray Commission. South Australians should remember that there are three other partners besides South Australia.
When the estimates for the construction of the Chowilla Dam were received it was discovered that the estimated cost was about 24 times or at least twice the estimate which formed the basis of the Agreement. The other parties to the Agreement were entitled to express some doubts on whether the enormous cost of the Chowilla project was, in terms of cusecs of good water available, a reasonable proposition. So there are two problems, the first of which is the provision of water for South Australia. The second problem is ensuring that it is effective water. In other words the problem is water and not dams.
In order to provide effective water for South Australia the four partners of the River Murray Commission have proposed at present that an answer to the salinity problem may essentially be provided by taking water from the River Murray and storing it at the highest possible situation behind the place where the salinity problem begins to be generated. It has been decided that the best place for this purpose is in the area of the upper Murray. The engineers who are reporting to the River Murray Commission say that it appears on the surface that the best means of providing effective industrial or irrigation water for South Australia is to store the water at the highest possible level in the upper stream area and hold it back until the evaporation rale ensures that the water flowing into the dam will .not have any saline content. Present investigations have shown that probably the Mitta Mitta River area will be the area in which enough water will be harvested to enable South Australia to obtain its requirements. The Mitta Mitta River comes under the control of the River Murray Commission because it forms part of the headwaters of the River Murray.
South Australia has become emotionally debauched by the word ‘Chowilla’. Politicians are streaming all over South Australia - at least figuratively in my mind. Marching at the head of the caravan is someone carrying a great banner with the word Chowilla’ written across it. As the caravan nears a town its members chant, ‘Chowilla, Chowilla.’ So it has now become an emotional matter and not an engineering problem. Under the River Murray Agreement, Victoria, the State I have the honour to represent in the Senate, guaranteed the South Australian Government and people that in a drought year enough water would be allowed out of the domestic dams of Victoria - not River Murray Commission dams - to enable South Australia to get through a period of drought without being affected. Victoria has honoured that agreement. It has fulfilled its promise. Tt restricted the amount of water available to Victorians fairly severely at a time of great economic loss, during a drought year, and provided water for South Australia. I must confess that when I went to Adelaide and saw hundreds of lawns being watered by sprinklers day and night and subsequently returned to Melbourne to find trees were dying and the great gardens of Melbourne had become parched deserts, I wondered what in the name of heaven was going on.
Victoria will go along with the terms of the Agreement made as a partner in the River Murray Commission to provide South Australia with its entitlement to water. South Australia will get its entitlement to water if water is available. South Australia will be provided with the amount of water to which it is entitled under the Agreement - no more and no less. It will receive three-thirteenths of the headwaters of the River Murray. The problem is whether South Australians want a dam or water. If they want water, it is highly probable that they will get water from the upper works on the River Murray and not from the Chowilla Dam.
Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) [8.30J- It is not my intention to debate the merits of the Chowilla Dam. I leave that to its advocates. I rise for two reasons. Firstly, I was rather surprised at the attack that Senator Henty made on my colleague Senator Poyser. Senator Poyser said that the Australian Labor Party desired a thorough inquiry into the waters of the River Murray as far back as 1962. What was wrong with that? Senator Henty then went on to accuse honourable senators on this side of the chamber of being humbugs. Surely there was nothing wrong with asking for a thorough inquiry to be conducted in 1962. 1 have always been against the Commonwealth handing out millions of dollars here and there unless it places responsible officers in a position to see that the money is well spent. It has been stated in this chamber that about $5m has been spent so far on the Chowilla Dam. How much of that was Commonwealth money? Possibly 1 am right in saying that it was around one-half. But what inquiries did the then Minister for National Development make to ensure that the Chowilla Dam site was the correct one or to ascertain whether the Dam would affect the salinity of the River Murray? This is not the first time that I have risen to point out that when the Commonwealth makes grants to a State it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Minister concerned to see that the money is spent in the best interests of the people of this nation. I have just been handed a letter that was written by the present Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) on 17th November 1966. Sometimes letters are like Hansard - it is bad te keep them too long. Here is what the Minister said when replying to a colleague of mine:
The first three parts of your question in effect asked if there had been a thorough investigation into any detrimental effects the project might have on the water quality in the lower Murray; what would be the effect of the dam on the flow of the river, especially between Wentworth and Mildura and will the restriction of the flow increase the salt content to a level which would engage its use for irrigation.
The Engineering and Water Supply Department of South Australia which is constructing the dam made a study of the effect of evaporation on the storage, lt ascertained that although an increase
In average salinity may occur, this would not be excessive. More particularly the storage would have a beneficial effect in reducing the peaks of salinity such as those frequently experienced in the late autumn. Accordingly irrigated primary pursuits will not be endangered; to the contrary their outlook will be improved first because of the greater availability of water and secondly because of the reduction in the salt content of the water which has approached critical levels from time to time in the past.
We are supposed to be here to guard the welfare of the people, and in guarding the welfare of the people we should guard the finances of the people. It seems to me that S5m has already been spent on this Dam to no effect or with very little effect. South Australia contributed only a very small part of that money because it has never been an over-wealthy State - and I say that with great respect to my South Australian friends. The letter I have quoted was written in 1966. What investigations had been carried out at that stage? I have no doubt that the South Australians concerned wilh the project are honourable men but they have been pushed on to get the dam built. I am not saying that they would build a dam that would not meet the requirement. But where was the Commonwealth when this money was being spent? I understand that it was contributing much more than any of the States. Was this matter investigated by the Commonwealth? Did the Commonwealth merely say: ‘We have a lot of money and South Australia wants water but perhaps the political climate of that State is not good at the moment from our point of view-
– That is not a consideration-
– I do not need to remind the honourable senator of what happened with the Fill aircraft. The Government sent a Minister over to the United States just prior to an election and it brought other planes over to this country to fly during an election campaign. One needs a good memory in this game. I do not have one now but I do know that because of the Government’s propaganda on that occasion we are now saddled with a huge debt for the Flit aircraft. A Bill was passed today granting S20m for the construction of a dam in Queensland and the Government is now going to put millions of dollars into the Ord River scheme, lt is also making this grant to my State, Victoria, to assist in the desalination of the River Murray. When did the Government announce these grants? Things were not going too welt in Queensland at the time of an election and out rolled the money.
– When did the Government announce the grant to Victoria, Senator?
– This is the first that 1 have heard about it, to be quite honest. But the honourable senator has been here long enough to know the political ups and downs of the Ord River scheme. To be quite candid, I have played a bit of politics now and again during my time, but during the short time that I was a Minister of the Crown 1 did not spend the people’s money in the way that it is being spent now.
I am one who believes that if a person earns £1 and spends 19s 9d he does not get into any trouble, but when he spends £1 0s 3d, someone sooner or later comes and knocks at the door. My point is that the Government should investigate projects thoroughly before it throws the people’s money away. The dam in Queensland which was discussed earlier today may be warranted, but I sincerely hope that the Government has made exhaustive inquiries into it, that it has sent the right men there to make the inquiries, and that not only Queenslanders have been sent there, however good they may be. I do not think anyone can say anything other than good of the officers in the Commonwealth departments. All those with whom I have dealt - they have been few - have been men whom I greatly respected.
I should not like to see a repetition of what happened with the Ord project. I do not want to get into trouble again with my friends from Western Australia as far as the Ord is concerned, but I firmly believe that a project must be proved to be economic before the Government spends millions and millions on it. I wonder what is to be grown on the Ord. I have heard that it is proposed to grow cotton and sorghum, and possibly they will want to grow sugar, and then of course there will be some trouble with Queensland.
I could not understand the outburst of Senator Henty, and I regret that he is engaged otherwise than in this chamber at the moment. My colleague from Victoria, Senator Cormack, opened his speech by saying how badly Victoria had fared on account of uniform taxation. 1 ask him why Victoria has got the worst end of uniform taxation? The reason is that under its governments of the 1930s it was the lowest taxed State so far as high incomes were concerned and the highest taxed State so far as low incomes were concerned. Its social services were of the lowest standard of the six States of the Commonwealth. Uniform taxation was brought in on the basis of what was spent on social services and the amount that, was received from taxation. Therefore, whatever ills Victoria has suffered under this system have been the fault of its governments of the 1930s.
We in the Senate have a great responsibility to make sure that when the Commonwealth Government hands out largesse, whether it has been first spoken of during an election campaign or not, the same mistakes are not made time and time again. 1 do not propose to say what is wrong in South Australia. I know that it wants water, but I happened to be in South Australia when we in Victoria could not use a hose at any time, and the Government of South Australia, possibly wisely, had put the people on their honour. However, they had water and we had none. I have some knowledge of the plight of the parks and gardens in my own State.
– What about that lake of yours? Is there any water in it?
– lt is in a pretty bad way, too. at the moment, but I am hoping it will improve. If someone can tell me how to get the salinity out of the lake 1 will be pleased.
– The salinity might fix those weeds.
– We shall have a look at those later, lt is wrong that we should act with a disregard of the responsibility that the people expect us to display, when millions of dollars are given away without proper inquiry. Irrespective of the State in which a project is situated, and irrespective of the parliamentary seat concerned, the fact is that the people’s money pays for the project and it is up to the government of the day. whether it be from the other side or from this side, to ensure before the money is handed out that it will be spent wisely. The Government has been lucky, it has the money, but it should ensure that the nation’s welfare is guarded when it provides millions of dollars here and there so that Government members can remain on the right of the Chair for years to come.
– I am in accord with Senator Kennelly when he says that he hopes this money will be wisely spent, but I remind him and other honourable senators, even some from this side, that the Bill is designed to give financial assistance to the State of Victoria to undertake works to reduce the salinity of the River Murray. I am well aware that when we speak about reducing the salinity of the River Murray we speak of something that affects not only Victoria but New South Wales and South Australia as well. Any measure which is designed to reduce salinity merits consideration. I have had the opportunity of being associated with measures relating to the Murray waters and salinity, and since I was elected to the Senate 1 have made many observations in this chamber on the subject. Every honourable senator is in favour of a programme to reduce salinity in the River Murray. Honourable senators have spoken in this short debate in terms concerning their own States. I am sure that my South Australian colleagues will be anxious to join me in taking Senator Cormack to task and in assuring him in no uncertain terms that we are in no emotional state about Chowilla Dam, as he suggested earlier in the debate. As we now understand it the Chowilla Dam is designed not only to provide water but also to provide plenty of good, sweet water. We are in no emotional state about that project, because about 65% of the population of South Australia is dependent in one way or another on the waters of the River Murray, their quantity and quality. That percentage of the population of South Australia includes more than those people in the irrigation settlements on the upper Murray. It includes the population of Adelaide and of the industrial complexes of Port Pirie and Whyalla and, indeed, the Weapons Research Establishment at. Woomera. All of these are dependent on the River Murray, not only in terms of quantity of water but also in terms of its quality. Therefore a
Bill such as this which spells out in detail how money is to be made available to the State of Victoria for” the purpose of reducing salinity in the River Murray within that State merits our interest and attention because it is a genuine attempt by the Commonwealth to hel’p Victoria take steps to ensure that the water will be improved in quality. In those circumstances, perhaps the relationship of Chowilla Dam and South Australia becomes of rather greater and more intense significance than an ordinary reading of the Bill might present at first sight.
Sir Thomas Playford, to whom my COleage Senator Laucke referred earlier in the debate, was surely, amongst others, one of the pioneers of the Chowilla scheme. In a recent article in a South Australian newspaper, he strongly defended the steps which his Government of that day first took in relation to the Chowilla scheme. He argued, I think convincingly, with the then Minister for National Development in relation to losses of water by evaporation. He argued to the effect, that when the specifications of the dam were drawn up they were drawn with the advice and direct assistance of world authorities. As is to be expected, he built the article up to relate to the salinity problem and this is what he said with respect to salinity:
Our salinity problem in South Australia occurs at times when there is little flow in the river and when river levels are low. Under these circumstances salinity builds up rapidly in the lower reaches of the river not only through evaporation but from seepage waters returning to the river. lt is obvious that the maintenance of a better flow and a higher river made possible by the extra water available from Chowilla will not increase our salinity problem but must help to alleviate it.
So when we examine a measure that’ is designed to reduce salinity, we not only support it but we also make our claim that South Australia needs water in quantity and quality.
One point that was not made earlier is that we need it on time. We do not want to be assured that there are great storages of sweet water 6 weeks away. South Australia will need water on time, whether she needs it for industrial development,- or irrigation or to meet a particular set of circumstances, or an emergency. We have not been assured up to this stage that storages of water at any other place will meet this particular situation. I am very understanding of the point which has been raised concerning cost, and .1 am very understanding of the necessity for extra investigation into this project and its efficiency. We have an assurance that the River Murray Commission is undertaking such an investigation. All I would ask is that the River Murray Commission and those associated with the investigation should remember that there is a State called South Australia which is dependent upon the investigation, which is dependent upon the river and which is dependent upon the quality and quantity of water that comes down that river.
I also ask that for these reasons there shall be submitted from time to time some kind of progress reports during the course of the investigation. To have to wait 2 or 3 years until the investigation is completed and then to be told that the situation is such and such and therefore there is no appeal against it and no questioning but only a kind of protest, is not good enough. Let the investigators take the people into their confidence and give them some idea as to what is being undertaken and what has been done so that they will know just what their supply of water will be, where it will come from, what its quality will be and what its availability will be. We will then be able, not only to plan accordingly, but perhaps to enter into such conversations with the investigators from time to time as the case permits. Because of our interest in South Australia we support the measure. Arising from Che programme which is spelled out in the Bill there will surely be results that will be of benefit not only to Victoria but also to everybody else who is concerned with the River Murray.
– in reply - 1 congratulate honourable senators on both sides of the chamber for the way in which they have conducted this debate. Whether they come from Victoria, South Australia or New South Wales-
– Or Tasmania.
– Or from Tasmania, they have entered into the debate and given their views on the problems associated with the construction of the Chowilla Dam and on what this Bill is designed to do. That is to provide the State of Victoria with the sum of $3. 6m to reimburse it for money. spent on containing the salinity problem in two areas adjacent to the River Murray. The debate has been very interesting indeed. Many statements have been made, but not all of them have been accurate. The Opposition endeavours to place on the Commonwealth Government the responsibility for knocking Chowilla.
– It did, too.
– -The honourable senator says that it did. Let me state the facts of the situation now so that they will be understood by everybody. If I do this, we may not get any more awkward questions later in the year. The Chowilla Dam was originally estimated to cost a total of $28m. This was in 1963. By 1966, the estimate had increased to $47m, and when tenders were called in April 1967 it had risen to $70m. This was for the storage of 5 million acre feet of water. Then we ran into the problem of salinity. We have been criticised by members of the Opposition. I have forgotten whether any of those supporters of the Government who have spoken criticised us. The Opposition says that the Commonwealth Government wasted $5m on a preliminary investigation of the Chowilla project. I want to get the record quite clear.
– Who said that?
– Senator Kennelly said that $5m was spent by the Commonwealth Government on the Chowilla project. The fact is that the S5m was spent by the River Murray Commission and that one-quarter of that sum was provided by each of the parties concerned, they being the Commonwealth and the States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. So this great Commonwealth Parliament of ours contributed in the vicinity of $1.25m to the cost of this investigation. I should like to emphasise, too, that not one penny of that $5m was spent on the construction of the dam itself. It was all expended on a preliminary investigation.
I am not criticising the River Murray Commission because any wise organisation whether it be private enterprise or governmental will always spend some money to ensure that the venture into which it enters is completely sound economically before proceeding with the major constructional programme. We have an example of this in private industry at Mary Kathleen. Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd spent over $2m to prove a venture that would require an overall expenditure of Si lm to develop. In that case, the preliminary expenditure represented 20% of the total development cost. In the case of the Chowilla project, it represents only 10%. So it is not an expenditure that one need worry about. I do not think we should criticise the River Murray Commission at this stage for having incurred that expenditure. The money was spent on the construction of a camp establishment, a spur railway line and part of a pipeline for pumping away saline water.
– I have seen that.
– Yes, the honourable senator would have seen it. Wells were sunk in the area in which the dam was to be constructed to take the saline water away from the dam site itself - to pump it away. To any reasonable, thinking person, that means that a salinity problem was associated with the construction of the dam from the beginning.
One honourable senator claimed that the salt content of the water in the River Murray would be reduced if the Chowilla Dam were constructed. A statement made by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) was quoted. The answer to that claim is that the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department made a study of the likely effect of the Chowilla Dam on the salinity of the River Murray. The finding of that Department
– Acting for the Commission, of course.
– Yes, and the Commission acts for the various governments.
– And acting for the Federal Government.
– The Commission acts on the basis of 25% for each of the Federal, South Australian, Victorian and New South Wales governments. The finding of the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department was that the average salinity would be increased by 15% if the Chowilla Dam was built. There is no comment on that. The finding also was that the building of the dam would have a beneficial effect in the levelling off of the peak slugs coming down the river.
When it was found that the total cost of the Chowilla Dam was to be $70m and because there was a doubt about salinity, it was decided - not by the Commonwealth and not by South Australia, Victoria or New South Wales, but by the River Murray Commission on which the four governments are equally represented - to carry out further experiments and further research in the upper reaches of the Murray River to see whether a more suitable site could be found, before going ahead with the construction of the Dam. That is quite reasonable.
– How much does it cost to be reasonable?
– Now we are hearing comments from South Australian senators. I do not want to be parochial, but earlier tonight somebody said that some of the people of South Australia were becoming emotional on this matter. If they want a dam, the dam should be built at Chowilla; but if they want water, the dam may have to be built somewhere else. The River Murray Commission has moved to decide the matter, lt has said: ‘Let us have a look at the other available sites’. The Commonwealth is not directly involved in this matter. All that South Australian senators have been doing is criticising the Commonwealth. But the Commonwealth is only one of the four parties. The River Murray Commission is saying: ‘Let us examine this nisi i ter thoroughly’.
– All right; it is saying: Let us re-examine this matter thoroughly’. I will go along with that. Senator Kennelly goes along with that too. He said: ‘We do not want to see money wasted’. He was referring to Commonwealth money. I agree with that. We do not want to see taxpayers’ money wasted, whether they be Commonwealth or State taxpayers. When the River Murray Commission goes ahead with a project to give extra water to South Australians, it should be one that will give them the greatest amount of water with the least amount of salt in it and at the lowest cost to the taxpayers.
– And at the time they want it.
– We want to give extra water to South Australians as quickly as it can possibly be given, but we realise that it is no good giving them a quantity of water containing excess salt. We want to give them the quantity of water to which they are entitled under the agreement - water that is completely free of salt, if that is at all possible. I go along 100% with the River Murray Commission on this matter.
Many speeches have been made in this debate. I point out that the Commonwealth Government already has given $20m of the $50m that it promised to give for water conservation over a period of 5 years.
– To which Stales has it given money?
– The honourable senator heard the debate on another Bill this afternoon. Surely I do not have to repeat what I said then. The Queensland Government is to receive $20m for the construction of the Maraboon Dam on the Nogoa River which flows into the Fitzroy River which in turn flows into the ocean near Rockhampton. Then there is this S3. 6m which the Commonwealth has promised to Victoria to reimburse it for expenditure on the control of the salinity problem in the River Murray.
– Why did the Commonwealth stop the Chowilla project for $60m?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Tangney) - Order!
– Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President, lt was most kind of you to call our friend from South Australia to order. He is interjecting too frequently. He just said: ‘Why did the Commonwealth stop the Chowilla project for $60m?’ Senator Kennelly, who comes from Victoria, said: ‘I do not want to see the Commonwealth Government wasting money’.
– No. If the Minister wants to quote what 1 said, let him be a little honest.
– I think Senator Kennelly said: ‘Be careful how you spend money’.
– No, I did not. I said that inquiries should be made.
– 1 do not want to misquote the honourable senator. If he says that he did not make those statements. I will accept that; but that is what I. thought he said. I did not profess to be quoting his exact words. I thought 1 quoted his meaning accurately. Anyway, we will see what he said in Hansard tomorrow.
Senator Bishop says: ‘Why did the Commonwealth stop the construction of the Chowilla Dam for the sake of $60m?’ I say to him that the Commonwealth is not finding the S60m; it is finding only onequarter of that. It is not the Commonwealth that has stopped the construction of the Chowilla Dam, it is the River Murray Commission. I admire the Commission for doing that because, as a Minister in the Commonwealth Parliament, I believe that when the Commission makes its final decision that decision must be made in the interests not of a few politicians but of all the people living in South Australia so that those people can have the best quality water and the maximum amount of water that can be provided, at the least possible cost.
Senator Davidson mentioned that Sir Thomas Playford had said that the construction of the Chowilla Dam would reduce the salinity content of the water in the River Murray. I have already said that overall the salinity would rise by 15% if the Chowilla Dam were constructed. That may not be too bad because an increase of 15% on 400 grains a gallon brings it up to only 460 grains a gallon, which is quite good. But that is not directly related to the purpose of this Bill1, which is to reimburse Victoria for expenditure up to $3. 6m incurred in stopping or helping to stop water with an excess salt content going down the River Murray.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I want, to make a few brief comments in relation to the Bill. It is particularly interesting that in the investigation into the salinity and use of water in the River Murray the Government has thought it wise to act with such speed and to provide this money while the matter is being investigated by experts.
– Who are the experts?
– An English consultant company and an Australian consultant company.
– That does not help me much.
– I do not know that the names would help the honourable senator very much. Hunting Technical Services Ltd is the name of the English company. The name of the Australian company, the largest consulting engineering company in Australia and Victorian based, as I am sure the honourable senator knows, is Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey. I take the opportunity to say that my interest was aroused by a comment made in a recent debate in another place. A very intelligent member of the other House said:
One important thing about the problem of salinity has been the action of the River Murray Commission which has appointed a firm of overseas consultants of worldwide reputation. The firm comprises people who have been able to accrue far greater experience and knowledge on this subject than anybody in Australia might have been able to do. I believe it has been wise to appoint an overseas firm to do this work because this will remove any tinge of Slate jealousy or bias from any decisions or recommendations made.
– The honourable senator cannot remove State jealousy from Victoria.
– No, hut there is a very important point to be made there if the honourable senator follows me. Over the past year I have been endeavouring to stress in this chamber how important it. is for the Commonwealth Government and Australian organisations to use Australian consultants. In this instance we have a very good example of the desirability of that course. I give credit to the River Murray Commission for bringing to Australia a team of expert consultants. I give credit to the Commonwealth for moving in to tackle the problem, even though an inquiry was proceeding. The Commonwealth moved in, certainly after discussions with the experts, and suggested that this grant would alleviate the position at the present time. It is most important that Australians should know that the River Murray Commission appointed an Australian firm of consultants to do this work. Undoubtedly the English consultant company which also was appointed has had far greater experience than have the
Australian consultants, but 1 make the point that Australia and the Australian Government, to some extent, write down the great need for our professional people to gain knowledge and experience of these matters. We have undertaken great volumes of work in architecture, engineering and other professional areas, but we have had a tendency to say: ‘in Australia, of course, we have nol had the experience of building a great port. We have not had sufficient experience to undertake a big drainage job. We have not had sufficient experience to build a big pipeline. So we will get an overseas consultant.’ This is a most ridiculous position.
I plead with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) to listen to my words and report them to the Government. The thing that we must do is to appoint Australian consultants. Australian based firms have their associates in other countries of the world and are able to employ experts from other countries to bring that specialist knowledge here. Once it has been brought here the knowledge is in the possession of the Australian firm. Within the next week the Government wishes to pass the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2). The provisions of the Bill will enable companies to claim a tax deduction in respect of work done overseas by consultants, but such work will not. bc possible in South East Asia or any other area because the overseas people will say to the consultants: ‘Tell us what work you have done.’ The consultants will have to say: ‘Of course we cannot gel big harbour work in Australia. We have to call in overseas consultants to do it.’ Our professional bodies will not receive recognition. There must be a change in attitude of the Government. 1 plead with the Minister to see I hut this happens.
The firm of Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey is the fifth largest engineering consultant in the world. We in Australia should be proud of this fact, considering the great length of time that Great Britain, the United States of America and other countries have had to provide work for companies such as that. There is a plea that I want to make to the Government. I have read that somebody said: ‘Is it not wonderful that we have brought in British consultants to help us with this work?’ No mention was made of the local firm. The best way to retain the knowledge here is for the local consultant to retain it. I plead with the Minister to take my remarks back to the Government. We should take advantage of the fact that professions in Australia have overseas affiliations which can be used when we are seeking work overseas. I would like ro mention a very important point in this respect.
– 1 raise a point of order. 1 have been patient in listening to Senator Webster, but the honourable senator has not made any reference to a clause of the Bill.
– 1 refer to clause 5. There is one particularly important matter that f would like to mention. A tender has been called for the construction of Darwin harbour facilities.
– Order! Senator Webster, to which clause are your referring?
– To clause 5. A tender has been called for the construction of harbour facilities at Darwin. One may say that Darwin Harbour has no bearing on the Bill, but the use of an overseas consultant is referred to in relation to the Darwin Harbour project. The terms on which tenders have been called state very clearly that it is envisaged that an overseas consultant will be necessary, but it is hoped that the overseas consultant will establish for some time his offices in Australia. Mr Temporary Chairman, I can see that you would wish me to bring this matter forward on another and more appropriate occasion. But I say to you that, the very work that is being done at the present time, the results of which are actually coming in prior to the final report, is being done by the Australian consultants. The interim report is expected at the end of June this year. The report: on the work that the Commonwealth has approved will come in then. I hope that the Minister will take back to the Government the thought that I have raised in relation to the use of Australian consultants. It is one of the most important matters that the Government can attend to at the present time.
– I inform Senator Webster that the Australasian firm of Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey is working in conjunction with the United Kingdom firm of Hunting Technical Services Ltd in connection with the saline problem of the River Murray and all aspects pertaining thereto. The English firm carried out a comprehensive survey of the problems of salinity in the Indus River in Pakistan. Therefore they are fully equipped to give the River Murray Commission and those associated with it the full information required. They will do that in association with the Australian firm.
The honourable senator mentioned that the Commonwealth Government must do this. This is not a problem for the Commonwealth Government. The Chowilla Dam is not a problem for the Commonwealth Government except to the extent of 25%. No doubt 25% of the cost of this survey will be paid by the Commonwealth but the rest will be paid by the States. 1 recognise the point that the honourable senator has raised. It is most important that we use Australian firms as much as possible, but I do not know whether any Australian firm has carried out any large scale survey of salinity problems associated with a river as large as the River Murray. That is why the River Murray Commission saw fit to bring in this big English firm to work in association with its Australian counterpart.
– I do not want to prolong the agony for very long but I want to know whether the British firm of consultants has yet furnished a report.
– Which report does the honourable senator mean, the 1961 report, the 1963 report or the 1965 report?
– The report covering the project in respect of which this financial assistance is being granted. Who has reported on the construction at Lake Hawthorne near Mildura of a pumping station? Has the Government yet received a report on that project?
– To what clause of the Bill is the honourable senator referring?
– I am referring to the schedule to the Bill. All I am asking is whether the report has been received, whether it has been studied by the departmental officers and whether they have agreed that the works outlined in the schedule to the Bill should be carried out. I do not want to see, as we have seen so often in the past, money handed out to the States without due regard to the purposes for which it is allocated. In this case Victoria is to receive S3. 6m, How do we know that the work will cost that much? Have any reports been submitted in relation to that aspect? I do not want to delay the work but I do not want the Minister or anyone else on the Government side to think that the people’s money can be handed out here and there without proper supervision. I need only remind honourable senators that the Government wasted onequarter of $5m in relation to one dam.
– That is the first payment.
– A lot of people in authority have said: ‘Hush, hush. We had better have another look at this’. Is this another step in the dark? My only object is to ensure that before millions of dollars of the people’s money are handed out the officers concerned are satisfied that the money will be spent, as it should be, in the interests of the people.
– It is not possible to make a normal assessment of the economic merits of these proposals. Barr Creek is known to be one of the major sources of saline water enclosing the so-called sludge of saline water which periodically causes such trouble in the irrigation area downstream. Lake Hawthorne in its present condition is not able to hold all the drainage water it receives. Leakage from the lake seriously increases salinity in the Mildura pool and downstream along the River Murray. The Commonwealth Government is committed to pay the sum of $3 .6m to the Victorian Government, no more. That is the end of our commitment so far as these two projects are concerned.
– The Minister has replied in relation to two projects but in the schedule to the Bill Part I contains five items and Part II contains six items. Have the departmental officers studied the reports? Can the Minister tell me whether the Minister for National Development knows how this $3. 6m is to be spent? Is it to be spent only on the two projects the Minister has mentioned or is it to be spent in accordance with the items contained in the schedule to the Bill? Has the Minister received a report that everything contained in the schedule to the Bill should have money spent on it? Are they an economic proposition? Is it right to spend this money? That is all I want to know. The Minister has said that Lake Hawthorne is too shallow or weeps. I do not know whether his officers have said that embankments are needed for evaporating basins of a total area of approximately 3,000 acres.
I return to the same old question: Are the departmental officers satisfied that the funds to be allocated will do all that they are supposed to do according to the schedule to the Bill? Will this be in the best interests of the people of Victoria? It is most important that the Government should not throw money up in the air and say: I hope it comes down heads.’
– The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), through his departmental officers, closely examined the scheme before it was put to Cabinet. It was approved by interdepartmental officers, by the Minister and by Cabinet. We are now asking the Parliament to approve this expenditure. The two projects involved are at Lake Hawthorne costing not more than $1.6m and at Barr Creek, costing not more than $2m. Clause 6 reads:
The State is not entitled to financial assistance under this Act in relation to expenditure by the State, whether incurred before or after the commencement of this Act, in carrying out a particular work -
where the Minister has requested the State to furnish information in relation to the design or construction of the work - unless the State has duly furnished that information;
unless the Minister is satisfied that the design and construction of the work are in accordance with the purposes for which the work was proposed by the State; and
where the expenditure was incurred under a contract providing for the expenditure of more than Five hundred thousand dollars - unless the contract was entered into with the approval of the Minister.
– Are the reports furnished on this matter available for honourable senators to read?
– I am informed that no report has been published.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
An international conference was convened in London in 1966 by the InterGovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation with a view to the adoption of a new convention to replace the International Convention respecting Load Lines, 1930, which vast technical changes in ships since that time had rendered seriously out of date. The conference, in which fifty-two countries including Australia participated, produced a new convention with the title International Convention on Load Lines, 1966’, and the Bill before the Senate makes the considerable amount of amendment of the Navigation Act that is necessary to enable Australia to accept the Convention. It will assist honourable senators if I refer to the main changes in international requirements introduced by the new Convention, which are applied under the Bill.
The most significant change is that large ships, such as the new large tankers, ore carriers, and bulk carriers, will be permitted to operate lower in the water by a reduction of some 10% to 20% in the amount of freeboard - in simplest terms, the height of the side of the ship above the waterline - thus enabling them to carry a greater weight of cargo. This is being permitted, however, only after the most careful consideration of the safety factors involved, and only provided the ship complies with more rigorous requirements, particularly for closing appliances in upper decks and superstructures. Dry cargo ships, if fitted with weathertight metal hatch covers, and which meet the other requirements of the Convention, are permitted a reduction in freeboard of up to 10%. While the above changes apply primarily to ships built after
Australia becomes a party to the Convention, they also apply to any existing ships which meet the additional safety precautions prescribed, or which are suitably modified to meet the conditions laid down by the Convention.
Freeboards for the smaller type of vessels which are built after the Convention comes into force, particularly those under 328 feet in length, will be increased slightly as a result of the 1966 Convention, unless they comply with the requirements of the Convention in relation to length of superstructure and type of hatch covers. No existing ship, however, irrespective of its size, which is not modified to meet 1966 Convention requirements, will be expected to increase its freeboard beyond that which it is required to have under the 1930 Convention.
The new Convention also makes practical changes in respect of geographic zones, areas and seasonal1 periods which govern the depth to which’ the ship may be loaded in prescribed areas during specific periods of the year, including changes sought by the Australian delegation at the conference. In addition, it establishes suitable criteria for the preparation of relevant weather statistics for Convention purposes.
Detail provisions such as those referred to above do not, of course, appear in the Bill, which provides the broad framework within which regulations will be made setting out the detailed technical requirements of the Convention. In drafting the Bill to give effect to the Convention, because of the number of changes involved, it was found desirable to repeal1 the existing Division 5 of Part IV of the principal Act, and insert in its stead a new Division 5, consisting of fifteen sections, which gives effect, in an improved form, to the Convention and makes provision for prescribing load line requirements for ships to which the Convention does not apply - principally small craft.
As was done in relation to the safety of Life at Sea Convention 1960, provision has been made for extending international standards and conditions to Australian ships on coastal voyages. The operative clauses of the Bill, in addition to a number of machinery matters, such as altered definitions and a co-ordination of some of the Safety Convention and Load Line Conven tion references, give effect mainly to the articles of the Convention, with the matters set out in the annexes to the Convention being left to the regulations.
Very briefly, the new Division 5 provides for the issue of load line certificates to Australian ships which have been surveyed and marked in accordance with the regulations, and which comply with the conditions of assignment. It provides penalties for going to sea without a load line certificate, for offences as to load line and subdivision load line marks, and for overloading of both passenger and cargo ships. It allows for the acceptance in Australia of Convention certificates issued by other Convention countries in respect of their own ships and provides for all ships to be required to produce their load line certificates to Customs officials before leaving port.
The new Convention allows for ships to be exempted, either partially or wholly, from the provisions of the Convention under certain specialised circumstances and provided .adequate alternative arrangements are made. The Bill also gives effect to these requirements and makes provision for the issue of international load line exemption certificates in certain cases. As has been the practice in the past, most load line certificates will be issued by the various ship classification societies which have been approved for this purpose, although provisions exist for the Minister or his delegate to issue such certificates.
The Convention has already been accepted ‘by nineteen countries, including many of the major maritime countries, and will come into force, in respect of those countries which have accepted it, on 21st July 1968. The passing of the Bill during this session will enable Australia’s instrument of acceptance to be deposited in time for the Convention to come into force in respect of Australia shortly after that date. Action is in hand to have the necessary regulations ready to be brought into operation as soon as Australia’s instrument of acceptance becomes effective and the main operative sections of the proposed new Act have been brought into operation by proclamation.
Honourable senators will appreciate, I am sure, that this is an important Bill which will ensure that the latest international standards are observed in respect of the load lines of Australian ships and that prompt advantage is taken of the new increased carrying capacity that is permitted under the Convention. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Drury) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1283).
– This legislation amends the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act and arises from negotiations between the Australian Seamen’s Union and the Australian National Line concerning long service leave. The new provisions for long service leave which have been contracted between those parties will be based not on service with one particular employer but on length of service in the maritime industry. That is a very satisfactory arrangement. To some extent it is similar to arrangements which have been, contracted in some other industries where difficulties arise in identifying the service of an employee with a particular employer.
Section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that the Commission has power to make an award not in accord with a law of the Commonwealth, but it may not make an award that is not in accord with the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act or the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. It states, in part: (1.) In relation to an industrial dispute, being a dispute referred to in paragraph (d) of the definition of ‘Industrial dispute’ in sub-section (1.) of section four of this Act or a claim, application or matter referred to in paragraph (e) of that definition, the Commission may, where it thinks it proper to do so, make an award that, in the opinion of the Commission, is not, or may not bc, in accord with a law of the Commonwealth relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay or terms or conditions of service or employment of employees in the Public Service as defined by section three of the Public Service Abit ration Act 1920-1956, not being -
The legislation applies only to seamen as defined in the principal Act who obtain registration under what is known as the seamen’s stabilisation system. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) in this chamber, pointed out in his second reading speech that there is an intention later to prescribe the same treatment for other classes of seamen. This is a necessary amendment to the principal Act and it is welcomed by the Opposition. We do not intend to retard the passage of the Bill. The only other observation I wish to make is that seamen may not receive the benefit of the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act and long service leave. They may choose between long service leave or the provisions of the Commonwealth Furlough Act.
– They must take one or the other.
– Yes. The Act will be amended by the insertion of a new section 6a. Clause 3 of the Bill provides for the insertion of the new section and makes legal the award which has been made. The Opposition gives the legislation its support.
– It is very gratifying to hear that the Opposition recognises the merits of an amending bill of this character. The principle on which it is based has been indicated by Senator Bishop only briefly. It is well that the Senate should take a few minutes to reflect upon the principles underlying this legislation. Senator Bishop used an expression which seemed to me to indicate an inadequate recognition of the principle of section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That section provides that an award of the Commission shall not be made effective contrary to a law of this Parliament. Of course, the Commission must recognise that the Parliament, from the point of view of its authority, is predominant.
It is well to remind ourselves that when that section became law it specifically provided that one of the laws that should not be eroded was the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act, because by statute it preceded the industrial issue of long service leave by many years and guaranteed employees of the Commonwealth upon the termination of their service furlough proportionate to the period of their service, provided it was of a sufficient length. Now that the Commonwealth is legislating for long service leave, this Bill in relation to employees of the Commonwealth who are seamen - employees of the Australian National Line - recognises that if any improvements in conditions are available to seamen of that authority in the way of benefits generally applying in the industry which are better than those provided by the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act, those seamen should be entitled to the benefit of arbitration.
That is the principle of this Bill. In restating itI wish to ensure that the proposition is understood by the Opposition that seamen who are employees of the Commonwealth will get the best of both worlds; that is to say, if furlough under the Act provides a better reward for them, they are to receive it. If an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is more advantageous, they are to receive it, but they are not to receive both. I am grateful to the Senate for the ready acceptance of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 1275).
– This short Bill is designed to correct an anomaly or doubt that existed in regard to withholding tax. It is merely a machinery Bill. The Opposition does not object to the passage of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 1284).
– This Bill repeals three sections of the Commonwealth Railways Act 19 17-1968 - sections 78, 79 and 81 - which at present put the Commonwealth in a privileged position and impose limitations and methods of procedure which are not consistent with present day practice. For example, section 78 of the principal Act provides that all actions against the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner or against any person for anything done or purporting to have been done under the Act must be commenced within 6 months of the occurrence of the cause of action. Section 79 of the principal Act provides that notice of the occurrence of the case of action must be given to the Commissioner and that action may not be brought until at least1 month after notice of the intended action has been given. This procedure is not generally required in legal actions. Section 81 of the principal Act imposes limitations on the amount of damages. In the case of personal injury which results in the death the amount of damages is restricted to$4,000; personal injury which results in permanent disablement, $4,000; and personal injury resulting in temporary disablement,$2,000. It has been pointed out in the very useful notes which have been prepared by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) that there are cases pending under this section. Mr Justice Joske strongly criticised this provision in one case and the matter has cannoned in this Parliament. Because the amendments are necessary it is not the intention of the Opposition to oppose the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the borrowing by the Commonwealth of 16.8m Deutsche marks $3.75m. from the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt to assist in financing the purchase of four Fokker Friendship quick change aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission. These aircraft, which can be converted quickly for the carriage of passengers or freight, will replace DC3 and DC4 freighters which are now obsolete and costly to maintain. Trans-Australia Airlines intends to sell the old aircraft as soon as possible.
The agreement is quite straightforward in principle and the general arrangements for the borrowing are similar to those approved by Parliament for other loans for Qantas Airway Ltd and TAA in recent years. One unusual feature is that the definitive text of the agreement is in German. This text is shown as the schedule to the Bill. Copies of an English translation of the text are available to honourable senators and, at the conclusion of this speech, I will seek leave of the Senate to have the translation incorporated in Hansard in order to have a permanent record.
The Commonwealth will be the borrower in the first place, and the full proceeds of the loan will be made available to TAA on terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) pursuant to clause 7 of the Bill. These terms and conditions will be the same as those under which the Commonwealth itself borrows the money. As the airline will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreement, the Commonwealth will, as usual, merely assume the function of an intermediary in these arrangements.
The amount outstanding under the loan will bear interest at a rate of 6i% per annum until 31st December 1970. From 1st January 1971 until 31st December 1973 interest on the reduced amounts then outstanding will be at a rate of 33-% above the official discount rate of the German central bank but, in any event, not less than 6i% or more than 7i% per annum. The overall average interest cost of the borrowing will be a minimum of 6.65% per annum and a maximum of 7.04% per annum. Variable interest rates are becoming a normal feature in overseas borrowing operations now. The average interest rate will be high by historical standards, but compares very favourably with rates being paid overseas by other borrowers in foreign capital markets.
The drawdown period for the loan extends to 3 1st December 1968, and a com mitment fee of i% per annum is payable on the undrawn amount of the loan. Repayment of the loan will be made in ten equal half-yearly instalments from June 1969 to December 1973. The borrowing will be authorised under the 1967-68 programme approved for the Commonwealth at the Loan Council Meeting in June 1967 and will be additional to the Commonwealth’s approved programme of $123m for State housing purposes. The terms and conditions of the loan have been approved by the Australian Loan Council.
Where possible, it has been our policy to borrow overseas for the financing of foreign aircraft purchases by Qantas Airways Ltd and Trans Australia Airways, and this if the eighth occasion on which parliamentary approval has been sought for a borrowing by the Commonwealth on behalf of TAA. The earlier loans provided the equivalent of $50m for the expansion of TAA’s aircraft fleet. The equivalent of $40m of this amount has been drawn and the equivalent of $10m has already been repaid. Though the present loan is for a comparatively small amount, it will make a further contribution towards financing an important step in the modernisation of TAA’s fleet, lt would, of course, be much more convenient if we could borrow our requirements overseas in a small number of sizeable amounts. However, borrowing conditions overseas have been particularly difficult in the last few years and it has become a case of arranging a series of borrowings each year - some of them comparatively small - which have in total been of considerable assistance to our balance of payments. Another point is that, while the average interest rate is much higher than we would have contemplated a few years back, the interest we now earn overseas on the investment of our international reserves is also much higher than we would have believed possible some years ago. Indeed, the rate of interest we will be paying on the new loan is not particularly higher than the interest now available from some of the comparatively short-term foreign investments we would have to forgo if we were to draw on our international reserves in order to pay cash for the aircraft.
I commend the Bill to honourable senators. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I now incorporate in Hansard the English translation of the agreement.
DEUTSCHE BANK AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT
Commonwealth of Australia, February 19, 1968
Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
We refer to previous correspondence and are pleased to submit the following offer:
Australia with our Zentrale/Geldstelle, Frankfurt/Main.
The enclosed English translation of this credit offer is given as a matter of courtesy only, tha German version alone being the governing text of the contract.
To confirm the acceptance of this credit offer, please return the enclosed copy duly executed on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Deutsche Bank, AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 May 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680530_senate_26_s37/>.