26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. On 27th March this year I asked him a question relating to the waste of natural gas at Barrow Island. In reply, he agreed that gas was being wasted. He said that it was of no commercial value and that if I required any further information he would obtain it for me. I now ask him: Has a contract been entered into for liquefying the natural gas at Barrow Island and exporting it to Japan? Can be give the terms of the contract?
– I remember the question quite well. A contract has been entered into between West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd and a Japanese company, I understand, for the sale of liquefied natural gas and its export from Australia to Japan. But I understood that the gas in question is not from Barrow Island but from another source. However, in order to clear the matter up I ask the honourable senator to place his question on the notice paper so that I may obtain an answer for him from the Minister for National Development.
– Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General any further information concerning equality and uniformity as between the States in recognition of the qualifications of migrants coming to this country?
– On 12th September Senator Lillico asked me a question concerning migrants in Tasmania having difficulty in gaining recognition for their qualifications. I am pleased to inform him that, following representations made by the Minister for Immigration to the Tasmanian Attorney-General, an amendment of the relevant law is being introduced in that State to enable an applicant for recognition in the dental mechanic field to sit for the necessary examination.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. Is it a fact that the city of Darwin is the only Australian city not honoured by having a naval unit or naval ship named in its honour? Will the Minister give consideration to rectifying this omission?
– I am not aware of the matters outlined by the honourable senator, but I will place his question before the Minister for the Navy and obtain an answer.
– My understanding is that such a decision would be the responsibility of the Presiding Officers of the Parliament. I shall raise the question with the Government and the Presiding Officers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Following the murder whilst on duty of a Postal Department mail sorter in Sydney some weeks ago, will the Minister ensure that employees of the Department on night duty in Hobart are not required to work on their own but are accompanied by at least one other employee?
– Recognising the problem which the question poses, I shall refer it to the Postmaster-General.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. In a recent issue of ‘Walkabout’ an article on the bauxite township of Weipa appeared, part of which read:
All Aborigines will bc excluded from the new school at Weipa which will be for white children only. The Aborigines have their own school.
As that statement appears to be the basis for much of the recently expressed concern, I ask: is the statement true? If it is not, will (he Minister take steps to inform the journal concerned of the facts?
I am aware that at some time an article concerning this matter appeared in a magazine. I do not know the actual details of the article, but I do know the details of a reply which has been made to interested parties. I think that this would be of value in reply to the question asked by the honourable senator. The question of providing suitable education facilities at Weipa was investigated by senior officers of the Queensland Departments of Education and Aboriginal and Island Affairs in consultation with the Aboriginal Council of the Weipa community. The Queensland Minister for Education considered the idea of transporting children over the 10 miles from one community to the other, but concluded that this was impracticable, as the 20-mile trip each day in Weipa’s climate would only impose hardship on the young pupils and their parents. In the end it was decided that two primary schools should be provided. 10 miles apart, at Weipa North and at Weipa South.
– One black and one white.
– I think the honourable senator will be interested in the next paragraph which completely answers his interjection. It is intended that both schools will serve the children living in the separate areas, irrespective of colour. The same conditions of enrolment will apply at the Weipa schools as in any other State schools in Queensland. 1 believe this answers perfectly the question asked. I also inform the Senate that I believe that the Queensland Minister at some earlier stage made a similar statement in the State House of Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Labour and National Service. On 1 8th September 1 asked a question about the historic significance of the year 1969 for the International Labour Organisation, and I requested that the Government give consideration to convening a conference, ls the Minister for Works in possession of any further information in relation to the likely attitude of the Government to the matter?
– I undertook on Wednesday 18th September to refer the matter to the Minister. He has been good enough to inform me that the plan suggested by the honourable senator has been implemented already. At its first meeting in April 1968 the National Labour Advisory Council appointed an International Labour Organisation 50th Anniversary Sub-Committee consisting of four persons each from the Government, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Council of Employers Federations and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. This Sub-Committee has met twice and has proposed a number of celebrative activities and functions. They include the issue of a commemorative postage stamp in June J969, a review of the current position with regard to 1LO conventions not ratified by Australia, a function on United Nations Day, 24th October 1969, attended by national figures from fields associated with the work of the 1.LO, and widespread publicity of the work of the 1LO, including probably a major television documentary programme. There are also other proposals which it is not appropriate to mention publicly at the present time.
(Senator Sim having directed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service) -
- Senator Sim, I propose to uphold the point of order. I would suggest that you reframe your question so that it will accord with the accepted practices in the Senate.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Supply 1 refer to a question which I asked him during the Estimates debate. I asked whether any moneys are being or were to be spent by the Department of Supply on biological warfare. The answer was no. Can the Minister explain the purpose of experiments on atmospheric contamination and neuromuscular pharmacology disclosed in the Defence Standards Laboratories report at pages 33 and 35? Can he assure the Senate that these experiments are in no way connected with biological warfare?
– Apparently I was not in the Senate when this matter was raised during the debate on the Estimates. lt is my clear understanding that I promised to give a considered reply to any unresolved questions r;used by an honourable senator during that debate. Clearly this could apply to this question, lt has to be understood that we in Australia must keep ourselves informed of what is happening throughout the world. Quite obviously a government would be recreant to its trust if it did not keep itself to some degree informed on all aspects of warfare. But that it not to say that we are proceeding with experiments in biological warfare - we are not. If .1 may reduce this to a simple proposition, let us consider respirators. If we did not make certain that we knew what was needed in the way of respirators to protect our people and our forces in certain circumstances, we would be acting in an irresponsible way. That is a fact of life that everybody recognises. 1 would like to give an answer in complete depth to the honourable senator’s question. We are not taking any action in relation to the type of warfare mentioned by the honourable senator, but it is a fact of life that we must always keep our scientists informed of what is happening in other parts of the world. We in. Australia cannot live in isolation. We must be in possession of certain information and we must ensure that our scientists study what is happening in other countries in all manner of matters which lie within the responsibility of my portfolio.
– Did the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities see the 16-page supplement to the ‘Mercury’ newspaper of 23rd September which highlighted the development of the tourist industry in Tasmania? Does the Minister consider that this and the recent promotion of Tasmania Week will play an important and integrated part in the overall development of tourism in Australia?
– I am glad that the honourable senator has mentioned this because it gives me an opportunity to compliment the ‘Mercury’ and the tourist interests in Tasmania which have given such a prominent display of the interest that is being taken in the tourist industry. The action that has been taken so early in this financial year indicates that all industry is becoming alive to the importance of tourism. I should also like to take this occasion to compliment the Minister for Tourists in the Tasmanian Government and his assistants who so ably organised Tasmania Week. There was a very impressive list of functions which gave encouragement to the whole community in the revival in Tasmania of the tourist industry which is so vital to the island.
– My question to the Minister representing the Treasurer is prompted by a reply given by the Leader of the Government during the week to a question on the matter of private taxation. Do not responsible Ministers agree that parliamentarians who are elected and entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the affairs of the Australian people would command much greater confidence of those people if the whole of their incomes were made available for public scrutiny? Is it not a fact that the United States of America has adopted the practice of making available and publishing such information through departmental channels? Will the Minister take up this matter with the Treasurer with a view to having this policy of making public the total incomes of parliamentarians implemented in Australia?
– Thank God this is still a free country. A man’s personal affairs belong to him. I recognise that if something is under challenge and some impropriety is raised there may be some justification for the suggestion but even that, as 1 indicated in a reply that I gave to a question the other day, should not be on an ad hoc basis. I think it should be done as a matter of discretion. We have great privileges in this Parliament and I think we all recognise that we do not introduce a matter which reflects upon a person or a company unless we are completely satisfied that it is a bona fide matter which should be developed in the public interest. As for any suggestion that we or any citizen should be required to publish our personal affairs-
– It is operative in other parts of the world.
– What is done in other parts of the world is not the issue. We have a fundamental principle in our political philosophy - I hope honourable senators opposite have it too- that a citizen has his rights. To have a man’s personal affairs laid bare simply because certain people have some ghoulish interest in looking at them is something I would not countenance.
– 1 direct my question to the Leader of the Government, the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry or to whichever Minister the question most properly should be addressed. I ask the Minister whether he is aware of that part of the current report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board which states:
Along with other Commonwealth authorities, this Board had been previously prevented from taking out forward exchange cover with the Reserve Bank. With this limitation now removed, this Board is taking out forward exchange cover on United Kingdom shipments and is quoting in Australian currency in other markets where sterling was previously used.
Is it correct to say that the Government found it necessary to compensate the wheat industry to the extent of approximately S30m due to limitations which applied previously on forward exchange cover? Does this relaxation of limitation on forward exchange cover now apply to all statutory authorities?
– Yesterday the honourable senator asked me a question in relation to this matter and 1 sought to get some information for him. He has now followed it up with something almost in the nature of a supplementary question. 1 obtained some information from the Treasurer a short time ago but I point out that I am limited in commenting upon anything other than this aspect. The information supplied to me - I believe it is significant - is that the forward exchange facilities offered by the Reserve Bank are available to statutory marketing authorities on the same basis as for all other traders. I think that is all embracing. I would have to refer any supplementary question stemming from that to the Treasury for further information.
– Has the
Leader of the Government in the Senate seen reports of the presentation in the New South Wales Parliament yesterday of that State Government’s Budget imposing additional charges on the people of New South Wales estimated to mean additional taxation to the extent of 70c a week to the ordinary family man? Has the Minister also seen the statement by the New South Wales Premier that the Commonwealth Government no longer acknowledges the States as full partners in the Australian Federation but sees them primarily as puppets dancing to the Commonwealth’s tune? If Mr Askins’ assertions are correct, will the Commonwealth Government take action to see that the living standards of the people of New South Wales are not further seriously eroded as a result of the constant wrangling and bickering going on between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments over their existing financial arrangements? Finally, if the Premier is right in saying that the State Premiers are regarded as puppets dancing to the Commonwealth’s tune, does the Commonwealth intent telling him to keep in step with the rest of the act?
– 1 have only had the opportunity of reading the newspaper headlines relating to the announcement of the Budget by the Premier of New South Wales which, I gather, was announced last night. Therefore 1 would not like to make a categorical statement as to the significance or implications of the New South Wales Premier’s Budget speech. But I did read that not only is there provision for increases in taxation but there are also some provisions for reductions in taxation. The honourable senator’s question is singularly quiet about those reductions. In all the circumstances, I can only repeat what T have said in this place before: Problems connected with Commonwealth-State financial relations are not new. They are a fact of life and the present agreement between the Commonwealth and the States still has two years to run. I. am quite certain there will be a series of conferences held and a number of statements made prior to the settlement of a new agreement at the Premiers’ Conference and Australian Loan Council meeting. J do not think one could read into the Premier’s statement anything more than that the Premier - very properly if you like - is seeking to get more revenue for his State. I would suggest that in the final analysis the ultimate decision on these matters has to be taken at a conference between the Commonwealth and the States and that will be done prior to the finalisation of the new Commonwealth-State financial arrangements. As for the rest of the honourable senator’s question I do not concede that New South Wales has been placed in the position which the honourable senator has described.
– i address a question to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. With regard to the exposition to be held in Japan in 1970 for a period of over 6 months, is the Minister’s Department taking active steps to advertise Australian tourist potential in that forum? If so, can the Minister state what they are?
– The Australian Tourist Commission has made a special point of focusing its attention on the Japanese market. U opened a branch office in Japan in, I think. May of this year. It is also associating with its own activities the activities of trade commissoners involving displays to attract Japanese interests. The Australian Tourist Commission has invited several groups of Japanese travel agents to this country, and in every respect is focusing its attention upon the Japanese market with particular reference to the exposition to be held in 1970.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation by referrng to an answer that he gave me yesterday in whch he said: ‘1. do not know of any proposal by the Woollahra Council to take over the flying boat base at Rose Bay or for AnsettANA to relinquish the base at the present time.’ In view of continued Press statements by the Mayor of Woollahra, Alderman Crouch, and Alderman. White that discussions have been held with the Department of Civil Aviation, does the Minister still stand by yesterday’s answer, or docs he feel that the Minister for Civil Aviation has not fully briefed him on. this subject?
– I stand by what 1 said yesterday. But in view of the fact that the matter referred to by the honourable senator is within the jurisdiction of another Minister and as the honourable senator wants further advice, I will obtain that advice for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I ask: When is work likely to commence on extensions to the main runway at Rockhampton Airport that will enable Rockhampton to have a jet service? Has there been any undue delay in starting this work? If so, what is the cause of this delay?
– Approval has been given for the development of Rockhampton Airport to enable it to take DC9 and Boeing 727 aircraft. The contract price for the work involved is $l.lm. I understand that my colleague the Minister for Works, on behalf of the Department of Civil Aviation, has already let contracts for the work to begin. Road diversions will be necessary. Tenders have been called for the main part of the work associated with extending the runway and the pavements. A satisfactory tenderer has notified the Department that he is ready to commence construction, but work has been held up because of a delay in reaching agreement between the Department of the Interior and the Rockhampton Golf Club as to compensation for that part of the golf course that will be resumed. Discussions and negotiations are continuing between the Commonwealth Government and the Rockhampton Golf Club. However, it is inevitable that completion of the extensions will be delayed.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the Government’s announcement that it intends to phase out the cotton bounty. Does the Minister have any information regarding the attitude of the States on this matter, particularly the State of Western Australia? If he has not, could he obtain their opinions and attach them by way of appendices to the Government’s statement that was read in the Senate?
– When the cotton bounty was first introduced the Government clearly indicated that it would be for a period only and there was never any suggestion that at the end of that period an extension of the bounty would be granted. Cotton growing has accomplished what the Government hoped it would accomplish; it has provided Australia with sufficient locally grown cotton. Incidentally, the industry has proved to be very lucrative for the cotton growers, particularly those in the Wee Waa area of New South Wales. I think the growers have each shown a return of something like $68,000 gross. Very heavy expenditure has been involved and is still involved in providing facilities for getting cotton to. the market. I understand that a cotton ginnery costs about $7m. Unfortunately, the cotton growers at the Ord in Western Australia have not been nearly as fortunate as those in the Wee Waa area. They started later and most of them did not have the advantage that the Wee Waa growers had of the presence of American cotton growers who came out here with the know-how of cotton growing. The Commonwealth Government cannot allow this bounty to continue at a considerable cost for an indeterminate period for the benefit of a few growers - and there are only a few - in one particular State. Therefore, the Government has decided that the bounty will be tapered off. The bounty for the next cotton crop will be $4m, as it was with the last crop. For the two crops after the next crop it will be 83m and $2m respectively. At the end of that no bounty will be paid.
– In view of the gross imbalance in trade between this country and the United States of America, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry state whether in his opinion there is scope to investigate the possibilities of procuring from Japan, Australia’s best customer, some of the goods at present imported from the United States? Is the Minister of the opinion that if some of those imports could be so obtained it would encourage the purchase of Australian primary products by Japan and would provide part insurance at least against the present curtailment of beef imports by the United States, which has proved to be almost disastrous to some Australian producers? Is the Minister aware of any other market for beef exports which could be exploited?
– I have some information on the matter raised by the honourable senator. As it is rather comprehensive it seems to me that it would be more practicable to give it after all questions without notice have been asked. Subject to any honourable senator’s taking a different point of view, I will answer the honourable senator’s question later.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. What is the financial allocation for the University of Papua and New Guinea for the current financial year? If the sum allocated has been decreased, by how much is it short of the amount required to carry out the expansion and administration of the University as previously planned for 1968-69?
– 1 have not al hand the precise figure appropriated for the University of Papua and New Guinea this year. When the Estimates are being debated we will have that exact information. However, I am in a position to tell the honourable senator that secondary and technical enrolments in the Territory have increased from about 7,600 in 1963 to about 14,900 in the present year, an increase of about 100%. That trend is in line with the general expansion taking place in the University of Papua and New Guinea. Any argument as to the sufficiency of the current appropriation for that institution we can have. 1 suggest, when the Estimates are before us.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral been drawn to a device, now on sale at chain stores, known as a door viewer which purports to be for use as a protection for families but in fact can be used in many other ways as a visual snooping device? In order to assist the Minister I present one of these devices for demonstration purposes. Will the Minister consider urgent action to have the device declared illegal in the Australian Capital Territory as a lead to all State governments to take similiar action? By putting the device to my eye 1 am able to view more than half the Senate chamber. It can be obtained at a cost of Si. 50 for use in hotel or motel walls, or in any other place where spying is possible.
– lt is novel to me to hear the suggestion that it is part of my responsibility to prohibit the use of an Argus eye. I shall consider the matter. If it comes within the scope of the AttorneyGeneral’s functions, no doubt he will provide further information. I remind the Senate that the Standing Committee of
Attorneys-General considered the question of invasion of privacy at its last meeting. As I understand it, ideas for the formulation of appropriate laws are in the stage of development.
– Before I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health 1 will send across to the Minister the tablet or pill container I hold in my hand, lt cannot be opened in the ordinary way. Pressure must be applied before the lid can be removed. In view of the fact that many children are brought to doctors and hospitals after accidentally swallowing pills and tablets and the fact that today many tablets are fruit flavoured, will the Minister ask the Minister for Health whether he will insist that this type of container be used in the dispensing of pills and tablets?
– I am pleased to receive the sample from the honourable senator. 1 think we all appreciate the very real problem that exists in children taking and being affected very seriously by tablets that they are not meant to use. I will place the honourable senator’s comments before the Minister for Health and show him the sample that the honourable senator has given me.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government been drawn to an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald’ on Wednesday, 25th September, and which stated that United States aircraft designers have abandoned the swing wing design? Will he investigate that report in order to determine whether the Australian Government should abandon further expenditure on the controversial FI 11 aircraft?
– I was asked a question on this matter the other day. I repeat in substance what I said then: What may be applicable to one type of aircraft may not necessarily be applicable to another. I do not think I or any other senator is competent to enter into a discussion of the theory of aeronautics. The position is that, as I read the article, in part it related to a type of civil aircraft-
– A commercial aircraft.
– Yes. It may well be that a certain type of design or variation for a civil aircraft would not be appropriate for a military aircraft. However, I will refer the question to the Minister for Defence and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Can I expect a reply to my question No. 421, which 1 placed on the notice paper on 22nd August and which relates to the defence space research facility near Alice Springs, at an early date?
– As soon as question time has finished I will have an examination of the question made and see what has been done about providing the honourable senator with an answer to it.
– I point out to honourable senators that when they ask for replies to questions that are on the notice paper they take up the time of honourable senators who wish to ask questions without notice. I think such questions should be left until later in the proceedings.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the recent remarks of the Yugoslav Premier Mr Spiljak expressing concern at the rising tide of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics political pressures on Yugoslavia, does the Australian Government believe that the Warsaw Pact powers are contemplating another Prague adventure either towards Belgrade or towards Bucharest?
– 1 saw the report in the Press. The honourable senator drew my attention to it in case I had not already seen it. Both Yugoslavia and Romania have consistently criticised the Soviet invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia and have taken certain measures to strengthen their own military preparedness. In response the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its associates have launched a strong Press campaign against those two countries. At the present time we have no evidence that the USSR is planning to resort to further armed intervention. It may be that the military buildup in Bulgaria is intended primarily as a means of psychological pressure against Albania, Romania or Yugoslavia. Notwithstanding its actions against Czechoslovakia, it is seriously to be hoped that the USSR is fully aware of the grave consequences for international peace that any further resort to armed force would present.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to an answer that he gave to me on Wednesday, 18th September last, that Australia has already paid some $140m on account in relation to the purchase of the Fill aircraft. In view of the fact that all these aircraft have been grounded and that delivery of even one aircraft has not yet taken place, I ask the Minister: Is Australia bound under the contract to continue the payments willy-nilly or are we entitled to suspend payments pending the removal of the bugs and faults?
– I think it would be appropriate to ask that the question be put on notice. I will attempt to obtain a prompt reply.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. ] refer to the troublesome contract between Avis Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd and the Department of Civil Aviation for rental concessions at airports. In view of the statements that have been made here and elsewhere, will the Minister make a statement to the Senate dealing with the financial stability of the Avis company, making particular reference to its paid up capital and also dealing with the inquiries made into the financial stability of the company? Will the Minister state why it was necessary to have a contract for so long a term; why it was necessary to have a contract dealing with all airports in Australia and, as I understand, in New Guinea; why it was necessary to establish in effect a monopoly of the airport car rental business any why the contract was so obviously tailored to suit the requirements of the Avis company?
– Quite a number of questions have been asked on the subject.
In view of the complicated nature of the questions–
– I have asked that a statement be made.
– The honourable senator should let me finish. I shall be very pleased to accede to his request by asking the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he is prepared to make a statement so that it can be read to honourable senators.
– Mr President, while agreeing with the general principle underlying your request to honourable senators not to ask questions that relate to questions already on the notice paper, I ask: What action can honourable senators laketo obtain answers to questions that have been on notice for periods of up to 6 months? Many questions from the last session are still unanswered. One was asked as far back as 13th March.
– That matter does not come within my province. It is the responsibility of the Ministers concerned.
– My question also is directed to you, Mr President. When an answer to a question on notice is received in the Senate would it be possible for the date on which the question was asked and the date on which the reply is given to be shown on the roneoed sheets?
– I will study that matter. I see no reason why it should not be done. The dates already appear on the notice paper.
(Question No. 413)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
With reference to the receipts duty provisions of the 1967 Stamps Act of Victoria and the advice, which has been received by the Government and referred to by the Prime Minister last week, that this Victorian tax is within the competence of the Victorian Parliament, and in view of the fact that the Victorian legislation, which is necessary to supplement the Commonwealth grant to Victoria, expressly permits employers to pay the tax for employees, and expressly provides for an arrangement being made by the Government of Victoria with the Commonwealth Government for the payment by the Commonwealth of the tax payable by
Commonwealth employees, will the Government assist the Victorian Government in the collection of its revenues by entering into such an arrangement; if not, why not?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth Government has indicated that, as a matter of principle, it is firmly opposed to the imposition of State receipts duty on wages and salaries and other comparable payments such as superannuation and pensions. The Government has taken the view that it would be inconsistent with this attitudeto enter into an arrangement whereby the Commonwealth either collected the tax on behalf of the Victorian Government or paid the tax itself.
(Question No. 432)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 439)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What were the amounts and value of exports of kangaroo meat for the second quarter of 1968?
SenatorMcK ELL AR - The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 101.910 lb of kangaroo meat valued at $18,672 was exported duringthe second quarter of 1968.
(Question No. 464)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– I have received the following answer from the Minister for Shipping and Transport:
(Question No. 465)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Indus try, upon notice:
When will an announcement be made regarding the compensation to be paid to dried fruit growers, as promised by the then Prime Minister last November, for josses sustained by the industry as a result of devaluation in Britain?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed that the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board will shortly submit to the Chairman of the Devaluation Reporting Committee certain basic information which will enable the Committee to proceed to make a recommendationto the Government as to the payment of devaluation compensation to the industry. The honourable senator may be assured that the matter will be brought to finality as quickly as possible.
(Question No. 477)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What is being done to implement the recommendations of the 1968 United Nations Mission to New Guinea that: (a) great care should be taken to ensure that freehold titles are granted only wherethe land is likely to be an economic holding. not only at present but in theforeseeable future; (b) consideration be givento large scale development of clan lands with government finance where the owners agree; and (c) some statutory power should be available to enable some government agency to grant leases to large areas of idle land after consulting the owners or claimants and to hold the rent in trust pending the settlement of the title or titles to the land?
– The Minister for External Territories has now supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 479)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What is being done to implement the recommendation of the 1968 United Nations Mission to New Guinea that efforts should be continued to reach agreement upon a national flag, a national anthem and a single name for the two Territories?
– The Minister for External Territories has now supplied the following answer:
The Government agrees with the view of the United Nations Visiting Mission that a principal prerequisite of nationhood is a feeling of national identity and is ensuring that these recommendation are brought to the notice of the people of the Territory and the House of Assembly. The Government would expect that proposals for changes would come from the people ofthe Territory.
(Question No. 480)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What is being done to implement the recommendation of the 1968 United Nations Mission to New Guinea that the Administration as well as the United Nations should conduct a more energetic programme of education on the role of the United Nations?
– The Minister for External Territories has now supplied the following answer:
The dissemination of information on the role and nature of the United Nations in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is primarily a function of the United Nations Information Centre at Port Moresby. The Administration co-operates closely with the Centre and has active education programmes on the role and nature of the United Nations which supplement its efforts. Text books and film strips are prescribed in schools to educate senior classes on the work of the United Nations and special days, such as Children’s Day, are celebrated throughout the Territory. Current United Nations activities are publicised through radio broadcasts and newspapers.
The Administration Department of Information and Extension Services co-operates closely with the United Nations Information Centre in distributing pamphlets and other information material and assists in the translation and printing of United Nations material. Discussions havebeen held between the Administrator and his senior officers and the Director of the United Nations Information Centre towards expanding existing programmes in the light of the Mission’s recommendation. The Mission’s observation that the Centre’s work would be helped if an additional officer were provided is a matter for the United Nations itself. The Trusteeship Council has endorsed this observation in its report to the United Nations General Assembly.
(Question No. 558)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following reply:
As has been indicated in reply to previous questions from the honourable senator on this matter, Polish vessels are understood to be trading into various South East Asian ports including Haiphong in North Vietnam. Of the six Polish ships which called at Australian ports in the last year it is understood that four called at Haiphong in North Vietnam as one of a number of ports on their regular trading run in the South East Asian area. Information on previous movements of one of the other two ships is not available. I am unable to say what cargoes or passengers were handled in Haiphong.
– Yesterday Senator
Bishop asked me a question about the possibility of the Department of Supply carrying out certain work in relation to the Royal Australian Navy Skyhawk aircraft. I am now able to supply the following answer:
As the Minister for the Navy stated yesterday in reply to a question, spares sufficient for all aircraft have already been ordered from overseas. At this stage it would notbe practicable in the time available to tool up and manufacture in Australia the items currently in short supply. In consultation with the Department of the Navy, my Department has already made arrangements for the overhaul of Skyhawk engines and airframes in Australia by Qantas Airways Ltd, with spare parts being supplied by the Department of the Navy.I understand that all repair and overhaul work on the Skyhawks will be undertaken in Australia, except for one special item of equipment. The tooling for the engine overhaul is being made here. It is Navy practice to build up support from within Australia where it is at all practicable. Consideration will be given to production in Australia of additional spares required, but I should point out that where the requirements arc small it is usually uneconomicto set up local sources of supply and a lengthy lead time would be involved. However, the matter will be examined by officers of the Navy and my Department.
– Earlier today Senator Lillico asked me a question relating to meat exports and although I had some information available I was not able to sort it out under the pressure of question time. The question was in these terms:
In view of the gross imbalance in trading relations between this country and the United States of America, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry state whether in his opinion there is scope to investigate the possibilities of procuring from Japan, Australia’s best customer, some of the goods at present imported from the United Stales? Is the Minister of the opinion that if some of those imports could be so obtained it would encourage the purchase of Australian primary products by Japan and would provide part insurance at least against the present curtailment of beef imports by the United States, which has proved to be almost disastrous to some Australian producers? Is the Minister aware of any other market for beef exports which could be exploited?
The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following information:
As a signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Australia subscribes to the principle of multilateral trade and our importers are free to obtain their requirements from whatever source they desire.I am sure that Japanese suppliers are well aware of the opportunities which Australia offers as a market. Japan is already buying large quantities of Australian primary products. Nevertheless despite strong representations in our trade negotiations with Japan, the Japanese Government maintains quota restrictions on imports of beef and veal to protect its domestic meat industry.
There are other markets for beef including the United Kingdom, the European Economic Community and other European countries but prices in those markets are well below those in the United States market particularly for lean beef of the type available from Australia. Despite thisI do not accept that the temporary curtailment of beef exports to the United States will be disastrous for Australian producers. Our exports to the United States are at a higher rate this year than in 1967 and a further increase is expected next year.I would emphasise the point made by my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, that shipment for sales in the United States in 1969 should re-commence around 1st December.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Higher Primary School, Gove, Northern Territory.
I ask for leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows:
Motion (by Senator McKellar) agreedto:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act 1962-1966 to provide for the payment of Service Pensions and for the Extension, in certain cases, of a period of Special Service to include a period of Service in Australia.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
The purpose of this Bill is twofold. Firstly, in the case of those who are on special service serving overseas it extends the repatriation cover they have under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act to include visits to Australia under the rest and recuperation arrangements, commonly known as R and R, and certain other visits to Australia of short duration which are on duty, for medical treatment or on compassionate leave. Secondly, the Bill provides service pension eligibility for those who serve on special service. Eligibility under the Act is for special service, that is to say, for any period of service outside Australia at a time when the serviceman is a member of or attached to a unit of the naval, military or air forces which is allotted for special duty in a special area This includes units currently allotted for service in Vietnam.
Under the present provisions of the Act a period of special service ends if the serviceman returns to Australia, and the service he then commences in Australia does not give him entitlement to repatriation benefits. This is appropriate where his return to Australia signifies that, at least connection with warlike operations has terminated. However, there are circumstances where the return to Australia is temporary and of short duration during which time the serviceman’s unit remains allotted for service. In those cases the Government has decided that the serviceman’s period of special service should not be broken and for the period of such a short visit he should retain his cover under repatriation legislation while in Australia.
Servicemen spending their R and R period away from a special area but outside Australia already retain their repatriation cover and it is proper, now that the R and R. programme has been extended to enable them to take R and R leave in Australia, that they should retain that cover while they are here. Likewise it is appropriate that they should do so during other short periods where the visit to Australia is temporary and with the intention of their being returned to a unit which has remained on special service.
The Bill therefore proposes that, in the case of a serviceman serving on special service, eligibility for war pension and other repatriation benefits under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act will be continued during the period of his return to Australia for R and R leave or on a short term visit on duty, for medical treatment, or on compassionate leave. In the case of an R and R visit the normal period is 5 to 6 days which may be extended by a few days dependent on transport arrangements. For the purposes mentioned, the Bill provides for a period of up to 14 days, which is regarded as reasonable to meet all of these particular circumstances.
The second amendment which the Bill proposes is to extend eligibility for service pensions to those who have served on special service under the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act. The Government believes that the nature of the special service, which is similar to theatre of war service in earlier wars, justifies the recognition of its intangible effects in the future. The Bill makes two important improvements in the repatriation system in respect of current service and I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 25 September (vide page 971).
– I just wish to reiterate the points I raised last night. Firstly, last night I made an appeal for a consolidation of the Act. The second point was that I appealed to the Department to give consideration to the introduction of amendments designed to simplify the language of the measure in order that it might be readily understood by the layman. I also sought information as to the meaning of the words ‘residing permanently in Australia’. I pointed out last night that the Act at present provides that a woman who is residing permanently in Australia at the time of the death of her husband becomes entitled to a widow’s pension if in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral her husband, at the time of the occurrence that led to her becoming a widow had permanently resided in Australia for a period of 1 year. I sought some explanation from the Minister as to what will be taken as permanent residence in Australia under the amended legislation. I am in doubt now as to whether it would be possible to establish permanent residence in Australia after 1 week or whether the Director-General will be requiring a residential period of something more than 12 months to establish qualification for a pension. There must be some reason for the change. What it is I do not know and I shall be grateful for an explanation from the Minister.
The next provision relates to the qualification of a person who apparently was not residing permanently in Australia at tho time of the death of or desertion by her husband. She will be entitled to payment of a pension as a widow if she can establish that she has been continuously resident in Australia for a period of not less than 5 years. There would appear to be some distinction between ‘continuous residence’ and permanent residence’ in Australia. In this instance, the widow is required to establish continuous residence and not permanent residence. If she can establish continuous residence for a period of not less than 5 years it seems that she can receive the pension without giving any guarantee that she will reside permanently in Australia. She will be at liberty to leave Australia at any time. I am greatly concerned as to why the requirement of 1 years residence is being altered. How does the Department intend to interpret, ‘residing permanently in Australia’ under this measure?
– 1 rise briefly to support Senator Cavanagh’s appeal for a simplification of the wording of the Act and for a consolidation of the Act. 1 share with him the difficulty he experiences in understanding the terminology employed. 1 draw attention to clause 10, line 35, on page 5 of the Bill which relates to a dependent female. The words to which I make special reference are:
[1.2. 1 7] - I have some information which I think might be helpful to Senator Cavanagh who raises certain points with relation to clause 9. Senator Cavanagh stated that he understood that paragraph (aa) which is proposed by clause 9 of the Bill to be inserted in section 50 of the principal Act, is designed to authorise payment to the wife of a pensioner who is an inmate of a benevolent home of the child’s allowance payable to the pensioner and he asked why the paragraph could not simply say this. In fact, child’s allowance by that name is abolished by clause 7 of the Bill and, in its place, provision is made for a corresponding increase in the husband’s pension. The purpose of the proposed paragraph is to provide for the payment to the wife, where the husband is in a benevolent home of the amount by which his pension is increased by reason of his having the custody, care and control of children. This amount can be easily ascertained where the pensioner is in receipt of the maximum pension. However, when the pensioner is receiving a pension at less than the maximum rate by reason of the means test, this cannot be so readily ascertained, and can only be ascertained by deducting from the total pension actually payable to the pensioner the pension that would have been payable if he had not had the custody of those children. This is what the paragraph in. question provides for.
Senator Cavanagh also asked whether the amendment proposed by clause 10 of this Bill would make less generous the provisions of the Act with regard to determination of the question whether a widow and her husband were residing permanently in Australia on the occurrence of the event by reason of which the woman became a widow. Senator Prowse was also concerned about it. I can assure the honourable senators that the clause does not extend the discretion of the Director-General which is contained in the existing provisions. Under the present legislation if, in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral, a widow and her husband were residing permanently in Australia when the husband died, the residence qualification is 12 months instead of 5 years. The new provisions abolish the existing I 2 months residence requirement that applies to a woman whose husband dies in Australia and extends that concession to all categories of widows. As I understand the position, these are deserted wives and others who were mentioned. The decision as to whether a woman and her husband were residing permanently in Australia when she became a widow is taken largely in the light of the widow’s statement of intention in that respect. In general, a woman would be regarded as residing permanently in Australia unless there was evidence to show that her intention was otherwise.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of New South Wales into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs F. L. Ley, C. W. Prince and R. F. Malton, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on the 1 8th day of September. 1968. and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name ‘Ku-ring-gai’ be substituted for ‘Hornsby’ and the name ‘Grose’ be substituted for ‘Blacktown’ and the name ‘Cook’ be substituted for ‘Kurnell’.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the debate be adjourned.
– by leave - 1 oppose the motion for the adjournment of the debate. All the relevant documents were tabled on Wednesday of last week. It is not as if a second reading speech on a Bill had just been made. All the necessary information has been in the hands of honourable senators for a week and there is no reason why the Senate should not proceed with the debate on the redistribution resolutions. 1 assume that Senator Murphy will move for the adjournment of the debate on the proposed electoral redistribution for the other five States as well. My view is that the Senate should proceed with the debate and that, although the six States will be debated separately, any honourable senator who wishes to advance general arguments when (he first resolution is before us should not be inhibited. 1 do not think adoption of my suggestion would entail any breach of the Standing Orders, f oppose the motion for the adjournment of the debate.
– by leave - 1 think we must be living in Alice’s wonderland. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) gave notice yesterday that he would move motions for redistribution of the electoral divisions of the House of Representatives. This will be the first redistribution since 1955. There should have been a redistribution years ago. The Government has allowed the electoral divisions to become distorted to the extent that democracy is being effectively denied in Australia, lt has shown no inclination at all to have a fair electoral distribution. The Government has stalled any redistribution whilst arguments have proceeded between the Liberal Party and the Country Party as to what would suit their particular interests. The Government has now moved a motion for redistribution of the electoral divisions of New South Wales and it is trying to force the matter to debate in the Senate today. I do not think that any honourable senator has, in the time that has been available to him, been able to read the documents that have been tabled in connection with this matter. I would be very surprised if there is one honourable senator who has been able to read and study the proposed boundaries, the objections that have been raised and the reasons that have been given for the proposed redistribution. If any honourable senator has been able to do this, he is a very fortunate man. I understand that on the last occasion a proposed redistribution was introduced into the Parliament - of course, it was not dealt with as it did not suit the Government Parties - at least 1 month’s notice was given in the other place. I feel that the usual course should be adopted of adjourning the debate. I hope that the Senate will agree to this course.
– I was under the impression that the proposed redistribution would be debated today.
– I do not know where the Minister got that impression from. He did not get it from me.
– .1 said that 1 was under the impression that this would happen, ft is important that this matter should be debated and disposed of. The Government has been endeavouring to obtain a redistribution that will be satisfactory to all political parties in the Parliament for a great number of years, lt has come forward with a proposition that apparently does not meet with the approval of the Australian Labor Party. Therefore, the Labor Party is endeavouring to delay the debate, not for a day or two, but until the sitting resumes in about 10 days time. This will delay the redistribution for so much longer. The proposed redistribution is at present being debated in another place. If the Senate could debate it today it could be made legal. But what is happening at the present time? The Lit bor Party is endeavouring to delay the adoption of these resolutions.
The last time a redistribution of electoral boundaries was proposed the Australian Labor Party endeavoured to delay he action that the Government was seeking to take to bring about a suitable redistribution.
– We all know who stymied the last one.
– Let us face the facts. The facts of life are that at present fewer than 35,000 electors are enrolled in certain electorates, while in other electorates there are over 100,000 electors.
– For how long has that position obtained?
– We wantto correct the position by a redistribution of boundaries.
In that way the anomalies can be eliminated.I am absolutely sure that the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) would not like that condition to continue and we therefore look forward to his full support.
Question put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– In view of the motion that has just been carried, I move:
I wish to speak to that motion.I draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that despite the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) this particular piece of legislation has been currently under debate in another place since yesterday afternoon. The argument that the Opposition has not had time to consider the Bill is complete nonsense because members of the Opposition have been holding caucus meetings and Federal Executive meetings. They have been almost standing on their heads. The attendance in the Senate chamber has been remarkably small because those meetings have been going on with the organisational members of the Australian Labor Party in a discussion of the redistribution proposals. In those circumstances the argument is not valid. The Opposition in another place is currently debating the measure under the guidance of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and it has been under debate since yesterday afternoon.I therefore suggest that the motion I have moved is a proper one.
– In view of the remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) I movethe following amendment to the motion:
Delete the words ‘a later hour this day’ and insert instead the words ‘the next day of sitting.’
The result of the amendment, if carried, would be that the matter would be placed on the notice paper and would be in the same situation as if the Leader of the Government had moved the postponement of the debate in the ordinary way. The reasons for the stand of the Opposition have already been outlined. I suppose that the period of 16 years since the last redistribution cannot fairly be regarded as being all delay. But the fact is that the last redistribution was made 16 years ago. Certainly for at least 8 years there has been an unconscionable delay on the part of the Government.
The Opposition is not impressed with the expedition which seems now to characterise the Leader of the Government. Indeed, it makes me wonder why he is so anxious to push the matter through today. The anxiety that he shows gives us some concern. We would like to look a little more closely at the timetable. It would be better if the Minister would be more frank with the Senate and would tell us what is worrying him. If he thinks that there will be an election, why does not he say: ‘We are thinking of having an election on 30th November’, or whatever the date is? Why does not he let us and the country know what he has in his mind? We do not like this foxing about.
– The Government is waiting to sec whether the FI 1 1 flies or does not fly-
– That is right. Surely the people of Australia and the great political parties are entitled to know these things. Why should this matter be kept in the breasts of members of the Government? After all this delay, the Government comes along to the Senate and says: ‘Here are the redistribution proposals. Let us shove them through tonight.’ The Government is always telling us that the Senate is a leisurely House and that we should review matters and act after due consideration. I believe that that is what all honourable senators would like to do. We certainly will not be stampeded or railroaded. We will have a look at these matters. We want to consider them. We certainly are not impressed by the proposition, which is put after the Senate has decided that the debate be adjourned, when the Leader of the Government says: ‘Let us bring it. on at a later hour today’, which would mean that the proposals could be slipped in at some late hour of the day and put through when people were unaware that they would come on. It would be much better for everyone if the proposals went over and if we have a look at them after we come back from the week’s recess.
– The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) to the motion moved by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) - that the debate be adjourned until a later hour this day - is simply designed to delay the debate until the Senate resumes in about 10 days time. The reason for members of the Opposition wanting the delay is that they are not prepared to face up to even a remote possibility that there may be an election this year. They can say and do what they like, but these are the facts.
Let us examine what the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) has said in the Press recently and today. He has said in the Press that the DLP does not want an election this year and will do everything possible to oppose the holding of an election this year. At least we admire him for making that statement. Members of the Australian Labor Party have said that they have all the courage in the world, but the fact is that when they are put to the test they renege and delay things because they just do not want to have an election. This is the great Australian Labor Party. It may have been great some time ago but its greatness has since been disputed by Senator Gair.
As the Leader of the Government said, the Senate has been devoid of members of the Opposition in the last couple of days while .they have consulted with their Federal Executive in order to receive their riding orders on what they should do, so that they can get away from their responsibilities arising from the remote possibility of there being an election this year. In fact, all of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition are designed to do away with the fact that an election could be held this year, if he can possibly do so.
– It is with a good measure of sympathy for the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) that I rise to enter this debate on the postponement or delay of the consideration of the reports on the redistribution of electoral boundaries. I can understand very clearly how difficult it must be for them to advance a good reason for their viewpoint.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had expressed sincere sympathy to the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) for what must have been for them one of tha most embarrassing experiences in their political careers. In the light of the background of the redistribution of electoral boundaries, they had to try to convince the Senate that the matter to be debated was one of vital urgency and that the reports of the distribution commissioners should be dealt with today and could not be allowed to remain for consideration and debate until next Tuesday week. How on earth could either or both of those gentlemen sincerely try to convince us or anybody else that the debate could not be deferred for 10 days, that being the number of days mentioned by Senator Scott? Our memories are too fresh and too clear on the history of redistribution. We know what happened the last time that the Government wanted a redistribution of electorates to correct the imbalance about which Senator Scott spoke before the suspension of the sitting. He mentioned the situation whereby one electorate had so few electors and another had so many over the quota that a position of imbalance was created which could not be perpetuated. But the Government - this inept and tardy Government - permitted the situation to continue for years.
On previous occasions I have quoted from Hansard the remark of the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, that he was putting the whole thing to bed. That is what he thought of the reports of the distribution commissioners on that occasion. He was not concerned about the future of the imbalanced electorates. He was prepared to perpetuate an . unsatisfactory state of affairs because he could not obtain the agreement of the Australian Country Party to the adoption of the reports of the commissioners. The Australian Labor Party and the Country Party joined forces to prevent the adoption of the reports of the commissioners.
– Now you are joining forces with the Labor Party.
– I am in the happy position that 1. do not have to join forces with anyone because whether the reports will have reference to the 1969 election or the much canvassed, extraordinary and unnecessary election that is likely to take place this year does not matter to the Australian Democratic Labor Party. We do not of necessity have to participate in it. We can debate the matter free from personal interest. Our judgment is not coloured by personal interest. We are trying to view this matter nationally. We have condemned the Government previously for not carrying out a proper redistribution. I have said, and I still believe, that the Government contravened the Australian Constitution when it failed to carry out an effective redistribution of electoral boundaries following the taking of a census of population. That procedure is laid down by the Constitution, but that did not matter to the Menzies Government, lt was only a minor matter. What does it matter if one electorate has 35,000 electors and another has 135,000, provided that the seats are held, as the Menzies Government wanted them to be held, by the respective parties?
– You want to be careful how that reads in Hansard.
– You want to be careful.
– Methinks you treat the truth a little lightly.
– I am not treating the truth a little lightly. You know very well - if you do not, you are the only member of the Country Party who has not been informed of the secret - of the bargaining that went on about the redistribution of electorates. What amazes me is that the Country Party was permitted, and was competent enough, to lead the ALP by the nose on this issue.
– What are you doing now?
– I am making out an excellent case in support of Senator Murphy’s amendment in relation to the deferment of the debate until Tuesday week.
– He is leading you by the nose.
– Many people have tried and many have failed to lead me by the nose.
– You have your second wind now.
– Yes, I have my second wind now, but I do not need it to deal with a political party that has been nothing more politically than a flea on a dog. The Country Party has responsibilities and powers in the Government out of proportion to its numbers and the number of electors supporting it. The party that I represent obtains a greater number of votes than the Country Party does. Yet the
Country Party has half a dozen or more Ministers. It was able to influence the then Prime Minister to withhold and to put to bed. to use his term, the reports of the distribution commissioners some years ago. lt was able to perpetuate the imbalance that obtained then and obtains now. Senator Murphy’s amendment seeks to defer the debate until Tuesday week. Is there anything extraordinary about that in the light of the dilatory, indifferent and apathetic attitude of the Government over the years? There is not. Two responsible Ministers have tried to make us believe that there was urgency associated with the debate.
– The Labor Party may change its mind in the next week.
– The new senator is becoming quite agitated and I can understand why. If an election is held this year, as a senator tilling a vacancy he has to face the people. He has a more than ordinary interest in the proposed election. Who will bc the candidate?
– He wants the election, you do not.
– He has to face the people. He may not have the support of a DLP candidate.
– Would you like a double dissolution?
– Are you suggesting that the DLP would be afraid of a double dissolution?
– That proves positively what I have said so frequently. The Liberals arc babes in the woods politically. Except for the Country Party the Liberal’ Party is the most inept political party with which 1 have had dealings.
– You have had a variety of experience.
– I have indeed, and it has been to the advantage of the Senate. 1 feel certain that the honourable senator is only one of many who have benefited by my presence in this Senate and I think he should acknowledge with gratitude that benefit instead of being critical. There was a census in 1954. and according to my interpretation of the Constitution it was imperative for the
Government to carry out a redistribution following this. There was a census in 1955 and another in 1961. In NovemberDecember 1962 there was a redistribution debate in another place and the attempt at redistribution failed.
– lt was adjourned for 6 years.
– lt was adjourned sine die. There was a census in 1966 and a redistribution in 1968. What became of the 1962 redistribution? Nothing. Six years have elapsed and no-one has raised any protests about the delay in correcting this imbalance. They have not been concerned about it. Now, with an election due in the ordinary course of events in November or December 1969, until somebody in authority makes up somebody’s mind or makes up his own mind as to this much publicised extraordinary election, we are not entitled to believe that there is to be an extraordinary election. The year 1969 is the time for the next triennial election, which gives us ample time to reconsider and have a look at this matter, and we arc only going to take until Tuesday week to have a look at these papers.
– Are we sure of that?
– I would like to be sure of the honourable senator’s exit.
– Senator Gair determined it.
– Yes, I did. lt is not the only thing I have determined and it is not the only thing 1 will determine. 1 will not be here as a robot or a puppet for anybody. We will determine the issues as they come up and we will not have to run to an executive to get our directions. We will make up our own minds on the merits of the case. The Senate can depend on thai.
– The honourable senator will have a Party meeting in a phone booth.
– That is right, but it will bc an amicable one, no-one will be thrown out, there will not be any threat of resignation, and we will come out of it in one piece. If I was a more venomous type of bloke I would say that it was the height of political hypocrisy - but I do not intend to say that - for Senator Anderson and Senator Scott to suggest that it is vital, that it is urgent that this be dealt with today. The papers are still being discussed in another place and the debate will not be concluded tonight. If Senator Murphy, myself or anybody else on this side of the Senate wanted to frustrate or delay a decision - and we have been charged with that today - we could have debated this. We could have arranged for everybody to make a contribution to the debate and carried it on until the adjournment tonight. It would have been resumed on Tuesday week and the delay about which so much has been said would still exist. So let us grow up. Let us face these things sensibly and not create a storm in a teacup about anything, particularly when there is no ground for complaint. Senator Scott went out of his way to applaud mc for having publicly stated that we did want an election.
– Is that not true?
– It is. lt is in accordance wilh our performance. We are out in the open and we make our statements, but I am a very unselfish fellow. I do not want the monopoly of that credit which the Minister gave me. I want him to spread that to others who have been equally as forthright and open as I. Why does not the Minister include Senator McKellar, who in Western Australia a few months ago said: There is no warrant for an election. It would be a waste of public money’? This is exactly what f said. I think the Minister should have included him in the applause. There are others who have had the courage to say that they did not want an election, but 1 am sure they will not want me to name them, lt might be embarrassing.
– Do not be so sensitive.
– I am a bit hypersensitive, and for that reason the honourable senator should be a bit careful about what he says. In all seriousness, it is true that this matter of redistribution is an urgent one. We want to correct the position, but it is not so urgent to do this that we cannot defer debate on it until next Tuesday week. If any matters have to be referred back to the commissioners it will not take them a long time. They have until November 1969 or thereabouts before they have to make any reports. So if I were asked the position, that is what I would say. After all, no-one has told me that there is to be an election in the near future or at a lime which would necessitate an expeditious handling of this matter. 1 am not concerned whether we have one or not. My party will determine the extent to which it will interest itself in such an election. We will only contest seats which we have a chance of winning.
An honourable senator refers to percentages. How little things worry little minds. The little Country Party is content to go round for years and years and live on the hide of the Liberals. It should not be wanting an election with all the major primary industries in dire straits. There are matters relating to wheat, sugar, the lifting of the cotton bounty, the Chinese trade and a few other things that members of the Country Party will have to face up to. They cannot be very comfortable about it all. It is no wonder the old war horse over there, Senator McKellar, said: ‘I do not want an election. It is a waste of money’. He is a bit wiser than a lot of other fellows here. He has been longer in the game. He does not want an election and he agrees with me that it is just a waste of money. There is not any warrant for it, there is no justification for it, and there is not an issue on which the Government is required to face the people. There is the suggestion that the new Prime Minister must get a mandate in his own name. Did honourable senators ever hear anything so ridiculous? In another place, the Government has a majority of 38 which is the result of the decision of the people in 1966.
– We could do with a few more.
– It is evident that the Government could do with a few more, but it would only misuse them. It does not know how to handle a majority. The coalition Government has a majority of 38 given by the people in 1966. The people did not vote for the late Harold Holt, did they? They voted for the policy of the coalition Government whilst many others voted for it nol because they believed in it but because they had lost confidence in the official Opposition. That is the analysis of the result of the election of 1966. Did not the present Prime Minister, as a member of the Ministry, share in that victory? Did he not share in the public approbation of the policy? Of course he did. This suggestion that a Prime Minister must have a mandate in his own name is so much poppycock, particularly when it is costing the taxpayers money that should not be wasted in this way. If the Government has a surplus of funds, let it distribute them in a more generous manner under the heading of social services instead of wasting money. We have had three elections in 2 years.
– And a referendum.
– Yes, and a vital one, too. M was vital to the three major parties, lt was a grand victory - one of the triumphs of my political life - in which 1 was aided by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright).
– He has deserted your ranks.
– No, 1 would not say that. That is unfair. I would not charge him with deserting the ranks. 1 think that if the issue is big enough he possesses sufficient principle to stand up for it.
– No issue is big enough today.
– He may not want an issue, but someone might create one some day and he will have to make up his mind on what is right and what is wrong. I think 1 have said sufficient to prove to the Leader of the Government that his case was poor. We appreciate his difficulty and make allowances for the fact that he had a bad brief. Re has no cause whatever for complaining of a delay of 10 days in the discussion of these redistribution measures. In 10 days time the matter will be disposed of and it will be handled satisfactorily. There is no merit in trying to make a fuss about nothing.
– Mr President, 1 ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I should like to remind the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) that I did not make the statement that he alleged I made in Perth, that another election would be a waste of public money.
– The Senate has become accustomed to these declamations by Senator Gair. Today he has taken about 25 minutes to pui forward a proposition that there should be a delay of some 10 days in the consideration of the electoral redistribution of the Commonwealth. He was, 1 thought, somewhat untoward in the use of an expression that he chose to apply to the Australian Country Party. He suggested that it was a flea upon a dog. I hope that any honourable senator of this chamber would regret the use of an expression like that in relation to any minority party, lt is an expression which may, for the occasion, carry the imputation that the party was a wart on the nose or a flea on the tail of the dog which for the time being wagged it. There is a decorum in this place. When one is elected one gets no great irritation such as is given by a flea but rather experiences an exhilaration in being able to express a view. Had my friend the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party expressed not. irritation but exhiliration after lunch, as would be becoming, I would have greatly rejoiced in the experience, but I want to put a stopper to these doggy suggestions.
Let us proceed to the issue of the moment, that divine detachment that comes to the Democratic Labor Party. Even in a Senate election it can disappear without very much notice being taken and in a House of Representatives election it has not yet reached the stage of recognition. Yet we have all this excitement. About what? We remind ourselves that in this chamber the endorsement of an electoral distribution, the dividing of the Commonwealth into divisions for elections to the other House, is of merely indirect concern. Yet we have Senator Gair running to the support of Senator Murphy to defer consideration of this issue. Forsooth, the only complaint that he advances is that it is already too long delayed Oh, indeed, I love the Irish. I just love their illogicality and I relish this supreme exhibition of illogicality. I go further and remind myself that in July, I think it was when the decision for the redistribution was publicly announced, the Australian Labor Party Executive declared that the Labor Party would accept it. Senator Gair, with all those opportunities that are given to him in his particular position, perhaps sometimes tempting him to irresponsibility, was alone in his declaration of opposition to the electorates. Senator Gair’s new found friends in the Australian Labor Party announced that (hey would go meekly and support the redistribution proposals, but not before they had received their directions from the Executive.
– Where does the Minister gel his directions?
– Not from Senator Lacey. Then we have this great spectacle whereby the Australian Labor Party throws itself upon the wind, all over the credentials of one clerical figure. Does the Senate remember Harradine? Members of the Labour Party were then prepared to risk their necks for the leadership in the contest, Whitlam versus Murphy and Cohen, the result of which was 38 to 34 - just four heads in front. The Labor Party graced the country with this spectacle. Then we saw Dr Cairns, the newly emergent political leader, about to win an election, but he is now in the discard, defeated even by Arthur Augustus. These are the spectacles that make me so bemused - that this Australian Labor Parly, blanched and drenched of blood, pale with the prospect of going to the electors either on the old boundaries or the new distribution, should have the support of Senator Gair. Indeed, he does me the honour to remind the Senate that I once had the privilege of joining him to sustain the constitution-
– I put up with a lot.
– Well, well, well.
– We won.
– Whatever may be the insignificance of my contribution, I made it, and as a Lot looking back into Senator Gair’s recollection, I am sorry it turned into salt. What I want to say is that 1 am sorry to think that he will bring his Party, which is desirous of obtaining a proper redistribution after this long delay, to the aid of Mr Whitlam, Senator Murphy and Senator Cohen in deferring the day which they regard as the most evil day of judgment they have had to face in 20 years. The irony of it is that in the other place, where men go into battle on their own responsibility, where some of them are having (heir seats abolished and others are having them reoriented, they are proceeding with the debate while here, where the endorsement of these proposals is a matter of no concern to the Senate because we are elected according to State boundaries, the proposals should excite the declamation that Senator Gair has chosen to exercise since a quarter past two.
It is a great thing to have a majority in the Senate. We saw that between 1949 and 1951. They were the days before Senator Gair chose to interest himself in national affairs. He was still concerned with Brisbane and all that, and that was a very valuable interest to have, but he was not yet concerned with national affairs. I remind him that between the years 1949 and 1951 the Labor Party had a majority in the Senate and, just as Mr Whitlam did the other day, the members of that Party at that time plunged into the gulf and broke their necks.
I appeal to the parties in this chamber who, by concerting or consorting can achieve a majority to delay these things in the hope that our appeal will evoke an appreciation of the need now for a responsible judgment which after all guarantees the permanance of that political existence that Senator Gair so obviously relishes. I would hope that my inoffensive remarks would appeal to that Party which can make up a majority in the Senate and induce it to give us a decision that this matter will be made an item for consideration this day. Do not let us finish it this day. Let us start the argument, and then Senator Gair can reveal the contribution that he will make and the Senate can proceed to a decision.
– I feel it incumbent upon me to set the record straight on one or two of the questions that have crept into this debate, although, forsooth, I in no way wish to make any reference to Mr Harradine or the contribution he could make to redistribution, or what that gentleman’s opinion may be on the question of redistribution. I am entirely unaware, and I would imagine that Senator Wright is also completely unaware, how Mr Harradine came to rear his head in this debate at all.
One of the things that were particularly funny in the very humourous contribution made by Senator Wright was his suggestion in relation to the picture that Senator Gair drew of fleas on the dog that it was the dog that did the wagging. I understood Senator Gair to suggest that the Country Party was the flea and the dog was the Liberal Party. I have never been too sure, in my also rather lengthy political career, that the Liberal Party is the one that does the wagging for the coalition. I have often had the impression that it is the Country Party that is the motivation - that it is this Party which wags the dog, whether the Country Party be the flea or the tail on the dog.
– It is some flea.
– Yes, it is some flea, but one that is being recognised for what it is. especially since the recent by-election at Swan Hill. If the result of the by-election at Swan Hill has aroused the enthusiasm of Country Party members for an election at this particular time, one can only wonder–
– Where was your candidate?
– I will tell the honourable senator where our candidate was if he will be patient. He will get all the answers. I will also tell the honourable senator where our candidates have been in elections over the last 15 years. Apparently he has been unaware of them. To a political realist, the Swan Hill by-election result should have discouraged not only the members of the Country Party but all the members of the Government from considering the proposition that there should be an immediate election. We did not run a candidate. It is very interesting to try to assess the votes that the Government has been getting second hand for so long and which are responsible for the majority that it holds in another place. It will be interesting also to see what will happen at the election to fill a Senate vacancy which will be held the first time an election is conducted for the House of Representatives. The Party which Senator Wright suggests has not yet reached recognition in the House of Representatives does not propose to allow its members to be used indiscriminately in the interests not of Australia but of the personal vanity of those politicians who want to run about boasting of reduced majorities that they have gained in their own right rather than the majorities that they had already established because of the electoral circumstances of 1966 when the Opposition of this country was led into an election under a policy and perhaps a leadership that were unacceptable to the people of Australia.
Let us have a look at this lack of recognition of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. The people in the electorate show no lack of recognition for a party that has been operating for the length of time that we have been operating. We are having sensational victories. Did any of the major parties improve their voting percentages duringthe last Senate election when we were able to increase our vote in a sensational manner in Victoria?
– That was your personal vote.
– But that happened in Queensland as well as in Victoria. It was a landslide for the Democratic Labor Party. Yet Senator Wright says we have received no recognition. There are a number of members sitting on the Government side of the House of Representatives today who attained their majorities on the votes which they got second hand after the people who preferred us to them chose them as the second of two alternatives. At least twentyone members in the House of Representatives owe their political survival at the present time to the recognition that is granted to the Democratic Labor Party. Do not make any error about whether the situation would be precisely the same if we were not in the political field. We do what we do in politics because we feel that it is incumbent upon us to do what we believe is best for the Australian people. That is why we are opposed to an election at this time. However, I do not see that that has any relevance to the proposition presently before the Senate.
If someone had said: ‘There is to be an election’, we may have had a different assessment of and a different judgment upon this specific situation. But on-one has said that. The newspapers have flown kites. Some people in this House have told me one day that there is to be an election and the next day have said that they thought the possibility was receding somewhat.
– It depends how many planes have crashed.
– lt seems to be related in some way to that but at the same time other Influences are at work. 1 do not think we should consider that. Senator Gair’s attitude to this question was not illogical as has been suggested by Senator Wright. He advanced an argument and obviously Senator Wright was not listening. It is the Government’s attitude that is illogical. It has postponed a redistribution that should have taken place 6 years ago and now it comes to the Parliament and says: ‘lt is a matter of minutes. It must be done. The whole procedure of the Parliament giving proper consideration to the propositions before it must be reversed’. It takes longer to get an answer to a question placed on the notice paper of this House than is now proposed for consideration of the proposals for the redistribution of the electorates of the Commonwealth despite the fact that the Government has been giving the matter consideration for 8 years.
It is much more logical to say that if the redistribution has been postponed for 6 years the redistribution not only should take place but, as the honourable senator has said, that the proper redistribution should take place. Further, not only that it should be a proper redistribution but also that it should appear to be a proper redistribution with this House giving proper consideration to it. How can you give proper consideration to a major question of the redistribution of electorates which may have to stand for another 8 or 10 years when a different procedure is adopted in relation to the smallest and most insignificant Bill that is brought before the Senate? The debate on all Bills is adjourned to the next day of sitting to allow honourable senators to consider not only the preamble to the Bill, not only the superficial matters contained in the Bill but also the final decision that will be made. We believe that that prodecure should be adopted in relation to this matter which will affect the Commonwealth for a period of 8 years. There is. nothing illogical in that.
I believe that the proposal is reasonable. I believe that we should postpone the commencement of the discussion. It may be all right for someone who is already prepared to enter the debate to say: ‘I am ready to go this afternoon’, and then talk about a lot of things which would not be understood by those of us who have not had the same privilege of having all the material before us for perhaps the same length of time, or who are not endowed with his particular keenness of perception. That is the whole basis of the procedures adopted in this or any other Parliament. I see no reason why, in relation to a matter that will not affect, for a period of at least 12 months, other than politicians who are seeking endorsement for seats we should rush in and shorten the usual mature consideration that Parliament is expected to give to an item of this magnitude. I believe therefore that this mutter should be adjourned until the next day of sitting.
– in reply - I want to make it clear at the outset that 1 am closing the debate so that this question can be brought to the vote. The arguments which have been advanced by Senator Murphy and, to a degree, by Senator Gair have been based on the assumption that by calling on this item of business .1, as the Leader of the Government, was attempting to force the issue to a decision today. I have never said that; I have never implied that. I certainly had no intenion of that and, if the division enables the debate to be postponed to a later hour of the day, I certainly have no intention of attempting lo force the Senate beyond the normal hours of sitting.
I state that as the fundamental of my remarks because, as I have said, the whole argument has been based upon the assumption that here was an attempt by the Government, for some motive which has been alluded to, to force a decision today in relation to the redistribution proposals. I have never said that; I have no intention of doing that. Indeed I remind the Senate that last night when I sought to have the debate on the Social Services Bill, in relation to which there is a high degree of urgency because we want to make the increased pensions available to pensioners, continued after the normal time set by the sessional orders the Senate indicated its reluctance so to do and I said: ‘There shall be no division*. It is sheer nonsense and imagination to suggest that here is an attempt by the Leader of the Government to steamroll the Opposition and the Democratic Labor Party on this issue.
There always has been a tradition in this Parliament, and indeed I would think in any other British Parliament, that sessional orders and standing orders shall provide that the orderly arrangement of government business shall be in the hands of the Government. Frankly, if one cannot live with that situation the future for democracy in our parliamentary institution will be destroyed completely. I put to the Opposition, and to Senator Gair as the leader of a Party, that it is a very serious matter when a majority for the time being in any Parliament sets out to take out of the hands of the Government the orderly running of government business. The Government comes here in the first place with a mandate to govern. If we are to have a repetitive situation of a majority for the time being attempting to destroy that principle, then I say the inevitability is that we will have a situation similar to that which existed a few years ago and that it will have to be resolved at another level.
– The Government should be reasonable.
– I want to return to the supporting arguments advanced by Senator Murphy and Senator Gair in relation to urgency. It has been put in argument-
– It was the same with the site for the new parliament house.
– lt is amazing that when you start to hit they start to shout. I have a pretty good voice when it comes to shouting. This is not something which has been sprung on the Opposition. I repeat that the plans and submissions of the distribution commissioners were put down in the House of Representatives 8 days ago. Senator Murphy, and 1 presume Senator Cohen, are members of the parliamentary executive of the Labor Party. It is within my knowledge that caucus of the Labor Party had a meeting last Thursday night which went until all hours to resolve the very issue we are now being told they have not had time to consider.
– The central executive has not spoken yet.
– As Senator Marriott has said, the central executive has not spoken yet. Members of the executive were brought here from all over Australia at 9 o’clock yesterday morning so that Allah could speak. There has been a caucus meeting since then. The Labor Party caucus met after the tabling of these documents. I read a little snippet in the Press - admittedly I always have some reservations about what I read in the Press - concerning an argument at that meeting about a simple majority. I had to chuckle when 1 read that because I remembered the histrionics in this chamber when there was an argument about a similar issue. Apparently that principle does nol apply to the Labor Party caucus, although the Labor Party applies it with the Standing Orders.
The Senate has sessional orders. The proposed redistribution was brought on in the ordinary course of Government business and there was no attempt to suggest that it would be steamrolled through today. This debate was brought on in the normal way.
– Why did Senator Scott not make a speech on the matter? He said nothing.
– Senator Scott is not required to make a speech. The question at issue is the documents that have been tabled and not what Senator Scott may say or what I may say. The substantive issue is consideration of the reports of the distribution commissioners. It is sheer nonsense for honourable senators opposite to say that they have not had lime to consider these documents. In fact, the documents have been tabled in the House of Representatives for 8 days. The Labor Party has had 8 days to consider them. It had a Caucus meeting last Thursday night. The Labor Party Executive was brought here from all over Australia to formulate the riding instructions. I believe it is incorrect for the Labor Party lo say that it has not had time to consider the proposed redistribution. f have one further comment lo make on what may happen in the event of the amendment being carried and the resolution being made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. Senator Scott will move that the Senate approves of the redistribution for the other five States. If Senator Murphy moves that the debate on the redistribution for each State be adjourned the Government will not seek to have the adjourned debates made orders of the day for a later hour of the day.
That the words proposedto be left out (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMuIlin)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution ofthe State of Victoria into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs C. J. A. Lack, C. E. Middlelon and R. Dowell, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate onthe 18th day of September 1968, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ La Trobe “ be substituted for “ Maroondah “ and the name “ Casey “ be substituted for “ La Trobe “ and the name “ Bruce “ be substituted for “ Waverley “ and the name “ Holt “ be substituted for “ Bruce “ and the name “ Isaacs “ be substituted for “ Beaumaris “.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions as proposed by MessrsI. F. Weise, E. F. Lane and E. Smith, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said Stale into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on the 18th day of September 1968, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the Stale of South Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs A. J. Walsh, H. A. Bailey and A. R. Kopp, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on the 18th day of September 1968, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name ‘Hawker’ be substituted for ‘Holder’.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Western Australia into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs L. J. Abbott, H. Camm and J. W. Robson, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on the 1 8th day of September 1968, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referredto therein, be adopted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Tasmania into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs J. M. Windsor, F. Miles and M. E. Young, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the Senate on the 18th day of September 1968, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– by leave - 1 am grateful to honourable senators for giving me art opportunity to speak, while not being in a position to anticipate what I am about to say.
– We are taking a risk.
– Perhaps you are. 1 rise at this stage to express my views on an important matter that has concerned me during the course of today’s debate. It is an important matter relating to the status of the Senate. Perhaps therefore it is appropriate that leave was given to me without honourable senators knowing exactly the direction I am about to take. During the debate conducted today there was a great deal,, of levity and good humour. But beneath the surface lay a threat to the position of the Senate - its independence and its significance as a house of review. That became clear through interjections made repeatedly by honourable senators on the Government side, suggesting that if there was any frustration of the Government’s will there was a distinct possibility of a double, dissolution of the Parliament. That is a very serious situation to arise.
Members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party propounded a few weeks ago our recognition of the position of the executive Government, and our appreciation of its duties, rights and responsibilities in the Parliament. A specific public statement was made that the Government has the right to propound its legislative programme and to have it discussed. It has been suggested that the action taken today to defer consideration of the redistribution of electoral boundaries frustrates the legislative or administrative programme of the Government.
For very many years the present Government has been in office, with a very significant majority in another place -and a substantial majority in the Seriate. Iri- that situation there has been a very substantial absence of parliamentary discipline over the Government through the ineffectiveness of the Opposition in lacking the necessary numerical strength. It is to be regretted that the first time that numbers emerge in the Senate to give the Opposition an opportunity to provide that type of discipline - and I suggest that the numbers have been given by the voters specifically for this purpose - it is said that any attempt by the Senate in any way to impede the intention of the executive Government will be considered as a matter which may warrant a double dissolution of the Parliament.
Let us examine the matter before the Senate now and the matters which have been before the Senate in this sessional period. So far we have not had a heavy legislative programme. The Bills presented to the Senate have not been amended. 1 do not think any amendment to a legislative proposal has received the attention of the Senate during this sessional period. Each Bill presented by the Government has gone through unamended, and even without requests, up to this point. Senator Cormack, whose concern for the functioning of the Senate I appreciate, said that by creating Senate select committees and parliamentary standing committees we might be impeding and bogging down the legislative and administrative programme of the Government. I had occasion then to point out that such is not the case. Surely what we have done today could not properly be considered as in any way impeding the administrative or legislative acts of the Government.
As has been said, particularly by Senator Little, the proposal for redistribution of the electoral boundaries is very substantial. It will affect the distribution of electoral boundaries in this country for a minimum of 7 years. In view of past unfortunate experience, it could be for a period of between 13 and 15 years. During the life of a proposal as lasting as that this nation will develop within the boundaries set. Surely the measure should not bc hastily considered by the Senate. Senator Little has pointed out that the most minor Bill that comes before the Senate is given the consideration of an adjournment for one week to allow its terms to be considered and reflected on by interested senators. Should such’ consideration be denied to this measure? Only if there were an overwhelming reason why it had to be discussed immediately and the debate had to be embarked upon forthwith.
Unfortunately, at no stage of the debate was a proposition put forward which would justify the Senate in accepting that that urgency existed which would justify abandoning the position we have taken to defer consideration of this measure. I am sure that had a compelling consideration been put forward as to why the debate should have been embarked upon immediately, we would have been prepared to adopt that course. But no such argument was presented.
– Was that objection raised in the other place?
– I do not know what happened in another place. What concerns me in the Senate is that if every action we take, not to reject but merely to postpone or delay consideration of a matter which we think is of such importance that at least it should be deferred for a week or a little longer, is to be regarded as such an impediment to the actions of the Government that the threat of a double dissolution is then posed, that could totally frustrate or destroy the character that the Senate has begun to assume. i Senator Greenwood - Does the honour able ‘ senator say that the Government or the Opposition has the duty to say when the’: Government’s business shall be discussed?. .
– On the question of the fixing of business for consideration by the Senate, as I said earlier, the Democratic Labor Party has said that it considers that the legislative and administrative programme of the Government must be given an opportunity to be presented in this Parliament. But if an important matter is to be thrown into this chamber for hasty debate, we would be recreant to our obligations here if we were to stand by and tolerate and condone such action. The Opposition should not wantonly, arbitrarily and frequently take control of the business out of the hands of the Government. But that power must be there to be used in circumstances that merit or demand its use. We believe that today is one day on which such circumstances exist.
– The Government has obligations as well as the Opposition.
– The Government has the obligation, not merely to bring its legis lative and administrative programme before this chamber but also to ensure that the widest possible terms for discussion and debate are afforded to this chamber.
– A question was asked about what was done in the other House. In fact a notice of motion was on the notice paper of the other House as from Thursday, 19th September. It was there for at least a week before it was debated.
– I am indebted to Senator Murphy for that answer to Senator Prowse’s question. Obviously -there is much more reason for doing this here if it was done in another place. It has been mentioned by comment or interjection that in the consideration of these matters the Senate has completely parallel responsibilities with another place. I think Senator Wright suggested in the course of his remarks that the Senate was rather intruding into this matter, which is a redistribution concerning and involving the other place.
But when we look at the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act on the very matter that is now before us we see that both chambers are given equality of power. Section 24 of that Act says that if either House rejects a proposed redistribution the Minister may refer it back to the commissioners. In other words, specifically by a statute passed by this Parliament the two Houses are given equality of opportunity and a decisive ability that may result in the Minister referring the proposals back to the commissioners. Therefore, the power of this chamber in this matter has been acknowledged by the two Houses of the Parliament itself and has been translated into statute.
For those reasons I view with concern any suggestion that this chamber is to. be inhibited in the discharge of its normal duties by the threat of a double dissolution, when it is discharging those duties, not arbitrarily or wantonly, but with a sense of duty and responsibility. I am sure that every honourable senator who gives his mind to the implications of such a statement will regret that it was ever made and will hope that the Senate, in the absence of such a threat, will be permitted to go about, its lawful and proper duties in the best and most effective manner.
– Mr President-
– The honourable senator wants to apologise.
– By interjection I asked the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party what he thought about a double dissolution and whether he would like one. I make no apology. There was no threat in my interjection. Although the homily we have just heard from the Democratic Labor Party Whip, Senator Byrne, was quite enjoyable, I point out that by way of interjection I asked a fair question. My question remains unanswered, and I will await an answer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 September (vide page 851), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill has been introduced by the Government in order to increase broadcast listeners and television viewers licence fees principally for the purpose of assisting to finance the operations of the national broadcasting and television services operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The prospective increases in charges that are involved are: An increase from $17 to $20 in the case of a combined television and wireless licence; an increase from $12 to $14 in the case of a television viewers licence; an increase from $5.50 to $6.50 in the case of a broadcast listeners licence for Zone 1; and an increase from $2.80 to $3.30 for a broadcast listeners licence for Zone 2. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), introduced the Bill in this place. In her second reading speech she said that the additional charges would mean increased revenue for the Government of $5m in this financial year and $7m in a full financial year.
The Opposition has given very careful and close consideration to this matter. Because we believe that the Government is merely playing around with the problems confronting the national broadcasting and television services and that the measure, as proposed by the Government, will not solve those problems or help the ABC in any way to substantially expand its services, on behalf of the Labor Party I move the following amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘this Bill should not be further proceeded with until a select committee has inquired into and reported upon the way in which licence fees and other revenue can be used in the best interests of Australian production of television and radio programmes’.
Let me say at the outset that the carrying of the amendment would not, of necessity, kill the Bill. It is an expression of opinion that the Opposition regards the activities and operations of the ABC as being so vital a part of the mass media of communications in Australia today that the Parliament should thoroughly investigate all aspects of the situation before it accedes to the passage of this Bill. Matters of efficiency, finance and the adequacy or inadequacy of buildings and all other matters relevant to the best interests of the Australian production of television and radio programmes should be considered by the Parliament before we pass this legislation.
As I have said, the terms of the Minister’s second reading speech indicate that the Government has no conception of the necessity for the ABC to adequately expand its activities and of how it can best be put on a more secure economic basis. There is implied in the Minister’s speech an economic control by the Government over the ABC. The Minister says that, notwithstanding the measures now being contemplated by the Government, the Government will carry the remainder of the deficit, namely, just over $llm. She goes on to say that no business undertaking in this country or anywhere else in the world could carry on with such a loss. Obviously, the fact that the ABC has to rely so heavily on additional government financial assistance to the extent of about $llm in order to balance its budget and merely to continue its present activities must make it financially subservient to the Government. The present method of financing the operations of the national broadcasting and television services certainly has to be reviewed, in the opinion of the Opposition, if the ABC is to obtain a greater measure of independence, to be properly and more effectively efficient and to play its real role in the development of the mass media in Australia.
Let me cite some of the matters that the Government seems to be overlooking. We are told by the Postmaster-General that colour television is on its way to being introduced in Australia. In reply to a question asked in another place, he said that colour television could be expected in Australia within the next 4 or 4-J- years. Extensions of the present service to the remoter areas have been contemplated and have to be developed. Certainly the opening up of the new mining areas with a consequential and natural shift in population must bring about heavier additional burdens on the Commission.
There is the very vexed and interesting problem of frequency modulation. Despite a statement by the Postmaster-General in another place earlier this year, certainly a strong case has been made out for the implementation of frequency modulation broadcasting. I suggest that eventually a complete reorganisation and reshuffle of our transmission system will take place in order that benefits may be derived from this high quality transmission. Earlier this year a publication titled ‘The Views of Industry Leaders. A Digest of FM Facts’ relating to frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia was issued. In the publication Sir James Kirby of the Electrical and Radio Development Association of New South Wales is reported to have said:
A majority of the Australian listening public does not know that FM ‘broadcasting is superior to the existing AM system or that it can be utilised to provide a generally acceptable service throughout the Commonwealth.
That is the present system, not the system in existence in other countries of the world, as instanced by Sir James Kirby.
– The honourable senator means amplitude modulation.
– That is the term I was trying to think of. Sir James Continued:
A minority understands why FM sound on television is quite static free during severe electrical storms when radio is virtually useless. If the majority could appreciate this situation, a substantial public demand for static free FM broadcasting would be assured.
Most countries have established FM broadcasting successfully. Australia and New Zealand are way , behind the rest of the world in not doing so, although New Zealand may start soon through a recent serious suggestion to license their pirate Radio Hauraki to establish an FM broadcasting station.
Surely we in Australia should admit our errors and omissions of the past and get on with the important job of establishing a world standard AM/FM dual broadcasting system without further delay.
I point to these matters to indicate that the future costs involved in a successful expansion of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are likely to be enormous. The Government, judging by the provisions of the Bill, obviously is not looking ahead to the day when these matters will have to be faced not only by the Government but also by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Bill indicates the Government’s paucity of thought on the future development of our media of mass communication. The Minister, during her second reading speech, and the Postmaster-General when he introduced the Bill in another place, said:
There is talk of inefficiency in the ABC, but it is simple to make sweeping generalisations when one is never called upon to substantiate the claims.
I made some remarks on the subject during the course of the recent Budget debate wherein I pointed out that it was more a case of inefficiency on the part of the Government than of inefficiency on the part of the ABC because the Government had failed to provide adequate accommodation for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That, of necessity, must bring with it a certain amount of inefficiency within the Australian Broadcasting Commission. To me it is incredible that a large national organisation such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is responsible for operating some 50 television stations and over 80 broadcasting stations simultaneously, should function as it does from 17 different localities in the metropolitan area of Sydney and from 10 different localities in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. The fact that the Government will not provide country studio facilities for the Commission must add to its difficulties and to the magnitude of its burdens. Indeed, one wonders how in these circumstances the Commission manages to be as efficient as it is. Nonetheless, if one reads the annual reports of the Commission one must come to the conclusion that it is saying to the Government and to the Parliament that if it were provided with better accommodation and more modern facilities its methods of operation would be improved, it would be more efficient and it would have more effective supervision and control. The recent annual report of the Commission, which has been tabled in Parliament, states:
Any extension of programme output in both radio and television is dependent in large measure on the provision of new buildings.
When one analyses the Postmaster-General’s answer to my question on 29th May last as to the number of buildings that are rented or leased in New South Wales and when one realises that there are some 24 of them, 17 being in Sydney, and that the Commission is paying $500,000 a year for the lease or rental of those buildings, one wonders where the efficiency is to be found in that kind of operation. In answer to a further question the Minister said that in New South Wales last year only two additional buildings had been purchased by the Government, one being a residence in Bega and the other a residence in Broken Hill. When one understands this to be the manner of operation of the Commission and realises that its annual report states that any expansion of output in both radio and television programmes is dependent upon the measure of accommodation that is provided; when one realises that the Bill adds only $7m to the Commission’s financial arrangements and appreciates that the Government still has to provide a further $llm to enable the Commission to accomplish its present tasks let alone those of tomorrow; and when one knows that the capital works programme as outlined to the Parliament is only a small bite at the cherry and provides for additional accommodation only in Adelaide and certainly not in Sydney and Melbourne where the bulk of the Commission’s work is performed, one can readily understand why the Labor Party desires that the Parliament, through the eyes of a committee, should have another close look at these questions.
Now let me come to the question of programming. I gave evidence recently before the Public Service Arbitrator on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s senior officers who are responsible for the programming arrangements of the ABC. In many respects they pioneered what now might be called a semblance of an Australian film and television industry. The fields of documentaries, controversial discussions and, to a lesser extent, dramatic programmes were encouraged by these people. But probably because of their present financial restrictions and limitations they have not been able to fulfil this role adequately in recent years.
The Minister said earlier that it was simple to make sweeping generalisations about the question of inefficiency when one is never called upon to substantiate the claims But just let me mention one or two programmes that I suggest have been of vital importance to the promotion of this nation and its image - for want of a better term - in the eyes of the world, to see whether or not there was efficiency in their presentation and production. Let us take the Telstar programme which was presented some 18 months ago, when we had the spectacle of a tram running up one of Melbourne’s streets being shown to the whole world over this hook-up system. I certainly think every Australian was disgusted at the recent Japanese-Australia hook-up. We had the spectacle of Japanese schoolchildren singing Australian songs such as ‘Click Go the Shears’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’. When the ABC produced its portion of the programme in some down-town discotheque it had a belly dancer swaying to the rhythm of some out-of-beat band. I understand she was not even a professional belly dancer in her own right but a nurse recruited from a hospital.
That was the type of programming on that occasion. If anyone can tell me that that is efficiency and that it is promoting the image and culture of this nation then I am not satisfied that the ABC in that respect is doing the right thing. Certainly the Minister cannot say that these are sweeping generalities, when millions of Australians and millions of people outside Australia saw the programmes. One wonders what the consequential effects were on Australia and the Australian image as a result of this type of programme being produced.
I do not think the Minister could say that this indicated efficiency and competency. Let it be denied that these programmes must have cost the ABC some thousands of dollars to produce. Surely the Government will not pretend that the spending of some $50,000 on enabling the Indianapolis 500 to be shown by way of satellite some time between midnight and dawn on a day in June last was well warranted, when hundreds of Australians who have any amount of talent cannot get a go because there is insufficient production of Australian programmes.
Is the Government prepared to say that this type of expenditure and this type of programming are warranted when there is so much that can be done by way of the promotion of Australian talent? Then, of course, there is the question of the number of trips overseas by officers of the ABC. On 29th May I received an answer to a question which I had placed on the notice paper as to the number of personnel from the ABC who had gone overseas between 1st July 1967 and 17th March 1968. When the answer was supplied to me I was staggered to see some six pages of Hansard taken up with the names of officers, the amount of expenditure involved and the reasons for their trips. In this period of 9 months some forty-three officers of the ABC went overseas at a round cost of some $50,000. It is certainly not a question any longer of joining the Navy to see the world. It appears that of the number of officers from the ABC who went overseas only one, namely the Federal Director of Television Programming, was even remotely connected with the provision and production of local drama or light entertainment.
Let me now say something about Australian dramatic and variety programming. Since I have been in this Parliament I have devoted a great deal of attention to this subject, as have some of my colleagues. I believe that insufficient is still being done by all sections of mass media throughout Australia adequately to encourage the production of dramatic and variety programmes. But if ever a government indicted itself on this question it was this Government last Thursday night in another place when the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), as reported at page 1275 of Hansard, had this to say:
We are not very experienced in the development of actors, writers and others necessary for a television production which would enable us to produce a high standard programme such as the Forsyte Saga’.
We have had television in this country since 1956, some 12 years. What the Minister said last Thursday night, put in another way, was that the Government has done nothing to develop Australian talent in Australian programmes. I suggest to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in the Senate that we in Australia have as much talent in Australia or overseas - it has gone overseas because it could not develop itself here - as there is anywhere else in the world. If our professionals were inexperienced it is because they have never been given an opportunity by this Government to acquire experience and skills.
But, of course, the Minister has not said quite that. He did not say that we do not have the talent here or overseas. What he in fact said was: ‘We are not very experienced in the development of actors’ - not that we have not got them. In fact the Government has done little if anything to foster their development. Only the week before last I was privileged to have a discussion with an Australian international star, Mr Rod Taylor, who had come back to Australia from overseas to be present at the premiere showing of a film in which he starred, “The High Commissioner’. He told me, as undoubtedly he told the Prime Minister when he saw him, that Australia has a tremendous amount of talent in this field if it is prepared to do something about developing it. He told me of the many actors, actresses and writers who have left our shores and who have made good because they have been able to acquire experience overseas. He said that there are many producers overseas who are ready, willing and able to come to Australia, as many already have, to help us develop our skills in the production techniques and the know-how needed for this type of production.
I remind the Minister that we have people in Australia, and some overseas who would gl’adly come back to Australia and who could assist us to produce programmes. If the Government, and through it the Australian Broadcasting Commission, does something to encourage this sort of development we will be able to produce any number of programmes similar to ‘The Forsyte Saga* about which the Minister was speaking. All that is needed is some assistance in the form of taxation concessions and encouragement from the Government for people to display their talents on behalf of the Australian nation. To date, despite pleas from this side of the chamber and despite the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television in 1962, little if anything seems to have been done.
The Minister said also in his speech last Thursday night in another place that Australia does not have many opportunities to sell its programmes overseas. I suggest that we have had little opportunity to do so because we have not had sufficient programmes. Everyone with whom I have spoken in the industry, everyone connected with the administration of the industry or associated with it on the professional side has assured me that if we can get this industry off the ground our standards, quality and techniques can be as good as those to be found anywhere else in the world. The programmes that we have made and have offered for sale overseas have been sold. If one looks at the recent report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which was tabled in this place only last week one will see that at page 93 it deals with Australian drama. In paragraph 371 it states:
Almost 70% of people interviewed felt that the quality of Australian drama programmes either compared favourably with overseas programmes or was approaching that standard. About 65% of those interviewed expressed the wish for more local drama in evening programmes, and about 25% said they would prefer less.
On the subject of cultural programmes paragraph 372 states:
More than 50% of the respondents in Sydney and Melbourne favoured some increase on commercial television stations in the amount of cultural programmes, that is, those dealing with such topics as classical music, art and sculpture. Over 30% thought that there were already sufficient programmes of this type.
The findings resulting from surveys conducted by the Broadcasting Control Board show that Australians are overwhelmingly in favour of more Australian dramatic and light entertainment programmes. I say quite frankly that it is my view that one of the commercial stations in Sydney has now taken over the rote of the ABC in giving a lead in the production of Australian dramatic programmes. I venture to suggest that Channel 7 in Sydney has done much more in this respect in the last 12 months than has been done by the ABC.
One of the best programmes that we have seen on Australian television for some time was ‘You Can’t See ‘Round Corners’. Although in the past I have criticised Channel 7 and its management, I believe it is quite fair to say that Mr Oswin, the General Manager of Channel 7, is doing his utmost to develop Australian programmes. Yet we see from the report of the Broadcasting Control Board that favourable concessions are given by the Board to the Ansett network of stations. Those stations have received a dispensation and are not obliged to comply with the Control Board’s standard so far as the production of dramatic programmes is concerned. One wonders what is going on in the media of mass communications. I suggest that the great bulk of commercial stations are catching on to the fact that Australian programmes are equally as good as any that come from overseas at comparable prices. Commercial stations, which are operated for the purpose of making a profit, can use those programmes. But what encouragement does the Government give to those in the industry?
Only last week the Postmaster-General provided me with an answer which referred to page 84 of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board where it is stated that the Board was concerned to note that difficulties were being experienced by the more recently established metropolitan stations in meeting its requirements, particularly the requirement of 2 hours per month of Australian drama programmes. The report continued:
In response to special representations which put forward in detail the financial problems facing members of this group, the Board, in February 1968, decided to waive the drama requirement for them for the remainder of the financial year, and to re-examine the situation when the present rules are reviewed.
I suggest to the Minister by way of an aside that this group of stations should be made to live up to the standards laid down, that it should be made to honour its original undertakings to the Control Board given at the time when it applied for a licence. It is no wonder that people are saying that the Government is flying all the way with Ansett-ANA.
I have attempted to show that much more could be achieved by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and that the passage of this measure will do little - probably nothing at all - to assist the development of an Australian industry. As I said earlier, the Government has chosen to ignore the findings and recommendations of the Vincent Committee which recommended expressly against an increase of television and wireless licence fees and suggested other means of financing the development of an Australian television industry. It said that other avenues were available to the Government without imposing additional taxation on the Australian people in order to pay for the imported trash that now goes into their homes in the form of television programmes. Let me say in conclusion that the Labor movement certainly wants the Australian Broadcasting Commission to prosper and to expand. We want it to play a really vital role in the future development of mass communications in this nation where the mass media are in the hands of so few people. lt is vital for Australia that we have a strong, independent and fearless national broadcasting commission which is completely independent of government thought and government finance in every way. This measure imposes heavier burdens on the Australian people but will make the Commission financially dependent, to a very large extent, on the Government. The whole matter of television, particularly as it applies to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, should be re-investigated by another select committee, and the Opposition urges the Senate to appoint such a committee to inquire into the manner in which licence fees and other revenue can be used in the best interest of the Australian production of television and radio programmes. Therefore, because of the matters I have outlined in my speech, I have moved this amendment on behalf of the Opposition.
– I second the amendment.
– The main reason that I have entered the debate this afternoon is the opposition which was expressed during the Budget debate to the proposed increases in radio and television licence fees. Unfortunately I was out of the chamber during the early part of Senator McClell’and’s speech and at this time have not before me a copy of the amendment which he has moved. Whilst I have been here he has dealt mainly with programmes but in the concluding part of his speech he referred to increases in costs, and it is to these that I wish to direct my remarks particularly.
We all recognise that nobody, whether he be a television viewer, or a listener to radio or even a member of the Government, likes increased costs of any nature. I am pleased to note from the speech of the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame
Annabelle Rankin) that there is to be no increase in the licence fees charged to pensioners or blind persons. I am also glad to note that schools are still excluded from increased charges. We have to be realistic in the situation in which we find ourselves today especially when we remember that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has not increased its licence fees since 1964. Everybody knows that during this period costs generally have increased. This has applied equally to the ABC as to everybody else. The revenue from viewers’ and listeners’ licences will fall short of expenditure by $18m a year at present rates. Even at the increased rates, revenue will be Slim a year short of expenditure.
Does the Opposition believe that this deficit should be borne by the general taxpayers? 1 do not think it is fair to ask the taxpayers to pay for a service which is not available to everybody. I subscribe to the principle that those who use the service should pay for it. As I said before, costs in all fields are increasing. The ABC is particularly vulnerable in this direction because not only is it faced with the increased operating costs which confront everybody but it is also faced with huge expenditure in expanding its operations into country districts, for this is a country which has wide areas with sparse population.
As the Minister has stated, in 1956 the ABC’s costs of operation amounted to $18m. The Minister also gave the number of stations in operation at that time. Today, with 39 high powered television stations and 20 relay stations, plus 89 broadcasting stations, the Commission’s costs, including capital development, are $59m. This gives some indication of the great expansion that has taken place in the operations of the ABC over that period.
Senator McClelland and others ; possibly even I have done so - have complained frequently about the service and the programmes. There have even been suggestions of inefficiency generally. It is only natural that there should be some criticism; but I believe that we are fair minded people and will all agree that the ABC does a particularly good job in giving service to the people of the Commonwealth. I am pleased to learn from the Commission’s report that it has extended its operations into more country districts. I appreciate that this involves a good deal of capital expenditure but the people of the inland areas are just as entitled to the service as are the people living on the coast.
It has to be kept in mind that the giving of adequate service helps to develop the inland. It helps industries to become established and to expand in outback areas. I might mention here that a little while ago representations were made to me from the town of Cobar, a western town of New South Wales where, as honourable senators know, there has been considerable development of mining in recent years. Those who spoke to me told me that at that time they were not able to get a television service. I would hope that this matter is being looked into by the Minister with a view to giving Cobar and other country areas like it an efficient television service. I hope that it will be possible to give these areas some service because I understand the people who made representations to me cannot develop industries in the area to the extent that they desire because they are having great difficulty in inducing young people to stay in the town and earn their living there. Lack of amenities in dry western towns like Cobar is not encouraging young people to stay in the country areas.
T should like to make particular reference to Radio Australia. I wonder whether we know enough about the tremendous job the ABC is doing in this area. Recently, with a group of other parliamentarians I visited Radio Australia in Melbourne and we were all greatly impressed with the job they are doing in that city. Radio Australia’s broadcasts are regarded overseas as being reliable and factual. They cover a wide field embracing news, talks on all kinds of things including sport and music, and entertain.mment. I shall refer again to these programmes later, but I understand they are broadcast in eight languages. Radio Australia is also giving special attention to .the troops in Vietnam. This is keenly appreciated up there. As honourable senators know, too, there are a great number of English speaking people in South East Asia. They are also enjoying and appreciating the service being given by Radio Australia.
I should like to say something else on this matter. Not only are these broadcasts of value from the point of view of news and entertainment, but they are helping to build up something that is very precious and desirable. I refer to the need for security in this area and the need for trade which we are developing very quickly. Great good will is being engendered in the area because of our close association with the people of South East Asia.
Recently the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) spoke about how well Australians are regarded in this area. He spoke of the high regard in which not only members of the Government who visit there but departmental officers, service officers and other visitors from Australia are held by these people. He referred to the fact that representatives of South East Asian countries or organisations like the Asian and Pacific Council and the Asian Development Bank look to Australia to give them guidance. They regard Australians as being reliable and dependable in giving assistance.
I believe that Radio Australia has definitely assisted to promote Australia’s interests and to generate goodwill in the area. For the benefit of honourable senators I shall cite a few statistics. The broadcast is in 8 languages and there are 16 on the staff in Melbourne broadcasting in Indonesian. Radio Australia receives 250,000 letters a year commending it on its programmes. When one considers the great difficulty the Indonesian people have in writing to Australia - many of them of course do not write English - together with the high cost of posting airmail letters, one has a true indication that there must be tens of millions of listeners to Radio Australia in that area. I have here a document prepared by the Postmaster-General’s Department relating to a survey that was made in this matter. It states: in triennial polls conducted by the International Shortwave Club in London, Radio Australia is always among the leaders - and three times since 1956 has topped the poll. During 1965-66 a poll among members of the Japanese Shortwave Listeners’ Club gave Radio Australia top placing in popularity followed by the BBC External Services and Voice of America.
The great bulk of mail expresses appreciation of Radio Australia’s programmes and there are many requests - requests for music, requests for programme guides, requests for information and requests for the instruction booklets which accompany Radio Australia’s English-teaching programmes in Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese. During 1967 Radio Australia distributed more than 200,000 programme guides. 1 will not weary the Senate with more of the information obtained from the survey, but if honourable senators read it for themselves they would be extremely proud, as I am, of what Radio Australia is doing to build up goodwill and, through that goodwill, establish our security in this area of South East Asia which is so important to us. ‘ !
I have a word of criticism following my visit to the Radio Australia studios in Melbourne. I am sure those who accompanied me would agree with me. There was far more congestion in the studios than there should have been, and I hope that within the next year or two some improvement will be effected so that the people operating Radio Australia will be able to work in less cramped conditions and in a better atmosphere. However, I pay a tribute to Radio Australia for what it is doing at a time when we need to win friends in this part of the world which is of such enormous importance to us. I can think of no better way of doing that. Therefore, we must protect jealously our reputation in this area because the goodwill engendered is of immeasurable benefit. From discussions that I had in Melbourne with representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission I know that the ABC shares my view that great benefit must flow to all Australians. I support the Bill.
– When I come to the point in my speech at which I shall deal with Radio Australia I shall be quite happy to take all the remarks Senator Bull has made and incorporate them in my speech in support of the amendment that the Australian Labor Party has proposed. I direct attention to the Minister’s second reading speech which, as far as it could go in four pages, outlined the situation very satisfactorily but it left a lot of loopholes which possibly will be closed when we hear the answers given to the questions we raise during the course of the debate. We then perhaps will understand exactly what is going on. In her Second reading speech the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who represents the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) had this to say:
Revenue from viewers’ and listeners’ licences will fall short of this amount by about $18m.
That is to say, the shortfall would have occurred if this Bill had not been introduced. Even so, it is expected that it still will be $llm short of the amount required to run the services. I do not find quite the same position in the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30th June 1968. The figures contained in the Board’s report can be reconciled with those contained in the Auditor-General’s report but I find difficulty in reconciling them with the figures contained in the Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for 1968-69. Probably that is because I do not know how those latter figures were arrived at.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board revenue from listeners and viewers licence fees and broadcasting and television station licence fees in 1967- 68 amounted to $4 1.470m whereas operational expenditure for the same period amounted to $47. 271m. That is a difference of only $6m. If we incorporate the cost of works and services and the installation of equipment by the Postmaster-General’s Department we get a totally different answer. The Minister, in her speech, did not point out clearly the basis on which we can make comparisons. I think she could have been a little more definite. However, I have no doubt that she will straighten that out in her reply.
We are considering a proposal to increase broadcasting and television licence fees, but what is our direct connection with broadcasting and television? Senator Bull has pointed out that we have a magnificent service. I agree wholeheartedly with him. In fact I worked on Radio Australia when we were doing broadcasts in Western Australia during the war. But it is not a service to which the people of Australia listen. Why should we attempt to make listeners in Australia pay for it when it is directed overseas? I believe the cost should be directed towards either the Department of External Affairs or one of the defence departments. It is not a service for which the ordinary listener or viewer in Australia should be asked to pay.
Another matter I wish to raise is broadcasting and television programmes for schools. These are excellent. Anybody who has watched or listened to them is impressed by the selection of speakers and the way in which the subjects are presented. But the provision of this service should be a charge on the Department of Education and Science and not on the ordinary citizen as the service is primarily for schools. A person does not listen to a programme on chemistry or watch a physics demonstration unless he happens to be home on holidays or in bed ill. As a matter of fact, when I was home ill on one occasion I saw a very good programme. But normally a person does not do this. The provision of this service should not be a charge on the ordinary listener or viewer.
The Broadcasting and Television Act requires the Australian Broadcasting Commission to broadcast the proceedings of the Parliament. These proceedings are broadcast regardless of whether or not the public likes them. Many people do not like listening to these programmes. As a result, people are being forced away from the national broadcasting service to a commercial broadcasting service and so are developing a habit of listening to commercial services. The Government should not allow this to happen. I have mentioned only a few charges that are made on the ABC, but I feel that if they were made on the department concerned the Commission would probably find itself in front financially, even with its present revenues.
Quite often the claim is made that the Post Office is spending a lot on developmental work for television and broadcasting. The Post Office receives a grant for carrying out the installation of broadcasting and television equipment, but once the equipment is installed the maintenance cost is very low. People tend to think that the capital cost which, as can be seen from the annual report of the ABC, goes up by around $2m a year, is excessive. In fact a tremendous amount has been done in the last few years. I think that the PostmasterGeneral boasts - and he has every right to be boastful - that 96% of the population is able to view television in Australia. I feel that we should be moving a little bit faster towards the introduction of colour television. The Postmaster-General has said that the trade would need a warning 18 months in advance that the community was interested in having one of the good colour systems introduced to Australia. I think that this notice should now be given. Those of us who have had the opportunity of seeing the different types of colour television, will appreciate that Australian technology has reached the stage where a very good colour television picture could be produced.
Senator McClelland referred to frequency modulation broadcasting. Frequency modulation was instituted some years ago in Sydney and Melbourne on an experimental basis in order to determine the public’s reaction to it. It did not receive nearly enough publicity and, as a result, did not catch on. In fact, today everybody listens to frequency modulation through television receivers. Television sound is by frequency modulation and so is free from crackles, static and storm interference. Frequency modulation should be made available for good musical broadcasts. It is used in something like forty-eight countries. In the United States of America one has a choice of dozens of frequency modulation stations. In much the same way as we buy radio sets with medium, low and short wave lengths, in America frequency modulation is available as another form of broadcast. It should be introduced into Australia.
Commercial broadcasting stations are making tremendous profits on the moneys invested in them. Page 13 of the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board indicates that for the financial year 1966-67, which is apparently the last financial year for which figures are available, the profit of the 42 stations in operation totalled $9. 5m on an expenditure of $56m. That is a very good profit. The actual amount paid for broadcast licence fees was $299,000, which is very small when compared to the profit of $9.5m. I think that an investigation should be conducted to determine whether a fairer assessment could be made of the charges on commercial broadcasting stations. I feel, therefore, that it is important that the amendment which the Opposition has moved, which aims to find out the true allocation of expenditure, what income is received and what is the possibility of other sources of revenue being used - should be carried so that the Senate will not rush in at this stage and increase broadcasting and television licence fees. It seems to me that the establishment of an inquiry would be a very important and valuable exercise that would probably result in savings greater than the increased revenue that would be obtained from this legislation. 1 ask honourable senators opposite to think about some of the matters that 1 have brought to their attention. I particularly ask them to think about Radio Australia, broadcasting and television programmes for schools and parliamentary broadcasts when deciding whether there is a case for an investigation of the needs of the industry, which is doing a good job and should be supported. Extra charges should not be imposed on the public unnecessarily. I support the amendment.
– 1 support the Bill and oppose the amendment. Nobody likes increased fees and nobody likes to have to impose them. But the Australian public has something special in the Australian Broadcasting Commission. lt has an organisation that keeps abreast of world standards and provides good programmes and coverage. The Australian public demands the best in broadcasting and television. It demands programmes of world standard. The cost of overseas programmes is very high. The cost of satellite relays has already been mentioned. Although such relays are costly, they enable us to see on our television sets programmes that a few years ago we would not dream of being able to see.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission provides a good coverage of sport, both in Australia and overseas. It caters for a very big viewing audience of football finals in the various codes, as have been shown in recent weeks. Programmes showing cricket, racing, soccer and other sports are provided. Senator McClelland and Senator Wilkinson suggest that frequency modulation should be established. They say that it is used satisfactorily in television and gives a more faithful reproduction of the human voice and of music. That may be so, but the honourable senators do not point out that it has the same limited range for broadcasting as it has for television transmission.
Honourable senators are aware of the limited range of television transmission in Australia. In most areas of Australia television reception is limited to an area within about 80 miles of the transmitter. In some areas reception is available at greater distances, and in some areas only at shorter distances. The problems involved in amplitude modulation transmission over long distances are giving enough trouble. Honourable senators should not forget that in many areas of this country there is no television. Senator McClelland and Senator Wilkinson are suggesting that the big cities should have four media of broadcasting and television; that they should have amplitude modulation broadcasting and black and white television as they have now, plus frequency modulation broadcasting and colour television. A different type of receiving set is required for each form of transmission. Receiving sets for frequency modulation and colour television are expensive. Do not honourable senators agree that the average Australian is involved in enough expense in buying a radio receiver and a television set? If he wanted the lot he would have to buy four different receiving sets, possibly on time payment.
– Is the honourable senator suggesting that we never get colour television?
– No. I am going a little further.
– In many places they are not getting any reception at all.
– That is so. I hope that the extra fees being collected will help to extend television to inland towns. In Queensland all television transmitters but one are located on the coast. The exception serves the Toowoomba-Dalby-Warwick area and is about 80 miles inland. Probably Queensland has more people who have no television reception than any other State. A microwave relay is being built in Queensland to extend television into the CloncurryMount lsa area, lt will serve a fair number of people. Later on it will probably serve places such as Hughenden. But there are many other towns in western Queensland - Longreach, Blackall, Barcaldine, Charleville and Cunnamulla - with populations ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 people that do not have black and white television. I believe that before Australia embarks on a costly programme of installing frequency modulation and colour television, something should be done to get black and white television to people in such towns. One can imagine the reaction of those people on hearing proposals for expensive colour television and frequency modulation with limited transmission range while they cannot gel black and white television. In many outback areas radio reception is restricted.
– 1 .hope the honourable senator will not mind my correcting him. Frequency modulation is nol expensive to install in respect of either transmission or receiving.
– It would be necessary to duplicate the transmitters. I am sure the honourable senator would not suggest that there would be only frequency modulation. That would be ludicrous, lt would be necessary to double the number of transmitters and receiving sets. Many country districts are not able to receive an alternative radio programme. I refer, for example, to Townsville. Why not provide alternative channels for those places to give them a choice of programmes?
Many people living in inland areas do not see television unless they visit the coast or the bigger cities on holidays. Children are denied television. There are no educational television programmes for them such as are enjoyed by children in the more thickly populated cities. 1 ask honourable senators to imagine what a boon it would be for the inland towns to have even black and white television. I refer, for instance, to such isolated places as Normanton where a big prawn fishing industry is being established. There is already a fairly big population at Weipa and more people will go there. The people on Thursday Island would like to have television. Why should not more of our funds be diverted to provide in those areas the entertainment media available in the big cities? The benefits should be enjoyed by all the people in the Commonwealth and not only by the population in the closely settled areas.
I hope that more funds can be used to provide translator stations. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) in this chamber, states in her second reading speech that $lm has been involved in capital expenditure on the installation of translator stations. In Blackwater, a mining town in central Queensland, a mining company with the permission of the Postal Department is to install and operate at its own expense a translator station for the residents of that (own. lt is lo be installed to keep the employees of the company contented so that they would not leave for the amenities of the bigger cities.
At Emerald the Commonwealth is assisting with a big irrigation scheme, lt is on the fringe of a television reception area. I have seen television there, lt is in the ‘snow’ country for television viewing. The people there would appreciate a translator station. The extra fees to be paid for licences could be diverted into providing translator stations. Senator McClelland said that there are no country television studios. I remind him that the ABC has television studios at Rockhampton and Townsville. Programmes originate there and are relayed by several transmitters. Perhaps the honourable senator was referring to New South Wales and Victoria. Many country radio stations in Queensland broadcast local programmes.
I turn now to the proposed amendment. lt refers to a Senate select committee. 1 want to say a few things about Senate select committees. I am serving on one at the moment and know what is involved. It takes a great deal of time of senators and staff of the Senate. I appreciate what it is costing the country. The Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures and the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes have completed their reports. Three Senate select committees are currently operating. I refer to the Senate Select Committtee on Air Pollution, the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum and the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs. The Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution is yet to commence operations. When it does, four Senate select committees will be operating. With a Senate of sixty members, when one takes out those who hold office, such as the Ministers, the President and the Chairman of Committees, one runs short of senators for select committees.
Senator Murphy already has on the notice paper proposals for the appointment of two more select committees and one standing committee, while Senator O’Byrne has on the notice paper proposals for the appointment of one more select committee and two standing committees. It is quite ludicrous to suggest that another select committee should be appointed. Even if we did not take the proposals in the order in which they are on the notice paper, it could be a year or two before this proposed select committee could be appointed, at the rate at which work is proceeding on the existing select committees.
– Those committees are in addition to the statutory and Senate committees.
– 1 know that. Senator Wilkinson criticised some of the radio and television programmes. I think he said: Who wants to look at physics in the home?’ Does not he realise that some people are interested in adult education and that some of these programmes are very interesting to younger people and children? He also mentioned the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings. He said that people should not be compelled to listen to them. I do not know whether they were his actual words, but that was the meaning he conveyed. I believe that more people listen to the parliamentary broadcasts than is generally realised. These broadcasts educate the people to take an interest in who their members are and what is happening in the Parliament. If Senator Wilkinson went out along the roads, I think he would find that many people who are driving along in cars with nothing else to do, when they become tired of listening to music or do not want to listen to it, listen to the parliamentary broadcasts when they are on. Many taxi drivers, who have to almost live in their cars, have told me that they do the same. So I believe that the parliamentary broadcasts are listened to more than we realise.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has been criticised on many matters. J believe that but for the ABC many overseas artists would not be able to be brought to Australia. The Minister said in her second reading speech:
The ABC, in accordance with ils charter, provides many services in the interests of the community at large which would not otherwise be available. 1 refer particularly to the Commission’s sponsoring of various symphony orchestras throughout the Commonwealth, its youth concert programme, now in its twenty-first year, the annual production for radio, from its own resources, of about 250 plays of an hour or more and the annual production for television, from its own resources, of about fifty drama or feature items, the majority of which are written by
Australian authors. The ABC educational television programmes are now received by over 4,000 schools throughout Australia.
I believe that every effort must be made to maintain and improve our national broadcasting and television services. They cost money, and the viewers and listeners who use these services should contribute a fair share of the cost. I believe that the amendment is only a delaying tactic. At present it is just impracticable to appoint any more select committees. The suggested inquiry would bc delayed indefinitely under the present setup of select committees. So I support the Bill and oppose the amendment.
– I support the amendment because 1 believe that even the Australian Broadcasting Commission itself would want to have an inquiry that would be of- assistance to it in respect of its administration and future. 1 think it can be truly said that all honourable senators are favourable to the ABC and that anything that we say in criticism of it is meant to be friendly and constructive. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), said in her second reading speech:
Revenue from viewers and listeners licences will fall short of this amount by about $18m.
The ‘amount’ to which she referred was the total operating cost. The question that I ask is: Why should the taxpayers have to pay to maintain this great force in television and radio in Australia? Why should not. the national advertisers pay? Why should not the people who keep the commercial stations alive help to keep the national stations alive?
– Why should they?
– Why shouldn’t they?
– Advertising is phoney, and there should be a tax on it.
– The Government should find some way of exploiting the advertising potential of the ABC. It has that potential. I think I heard the Minister say something about this being unconstitutional. Am 1 right?
– No; I did not say that.
– Eavesdroppers hear evil of themselves. This matter could be examined. A way of raising revenue for the ABC out of the advertisers could be found. They have the money to spare because fortunes are being made in the modern world of commerce and advertising, lt is said that there is a constitutional reason why this cannot be done. But certain functions and activities of the ABC make admission charges and receive income. The ABC used to publish material in respect of which advertising space was sold. So, in a lesser way, what I am suggesting happens now. I emphasise that point to the Minister. I believe that the Government should have a look at it. The taxpayers should not have to pay all the time.
I now wish to say something by way of constructive criticism of the ABC. Over the years I have wondered why it has not established a place called ‘Hooker House’. Mr Hooker has been very closely associated with ABC people. He must have been, bc- cau.se he has influenced them to rent, nol to buy buildings. As Senator McClelland pointed out, the ABC operates in about seventeen buildings in Sydney. How many messenger boys does it have running between buildings? What is the telephone bill, if it does not use VIP motor cars? I know that this is not the fault of the ABC people. They have not been able to obtain enough money. Why has not Mr Hooker, who sells homes, buildings anc! properties to other people, been able to sell some buildings to the ABC? In each Stale the ABC operates in many different buildings. In many States some of the buildings, as well as being too numerous, look to me like broken down barns.
– They are completely unsuitable.
– Yes. They are not a good advertisement for Radio Australia to the Asians whom the ABC does such a lot to look after and with whom it does such a lot lo develop strong liaison. Members of my family work for Radio Australia. So 1 have watched with interest what has happened. The employees of Radio Australia have very bad working conditions. They should have better buildings in which to work. I am sure that this situation would not occur in the British Broadcasting Commission, in which a great elite operates.
There is nothing but the best there. The BBC is in one very big building in London.
– The ABC should have a large building at Gore Hill.
– That has been suggested. I come now to the criticisms which 1 hope the ABC will accept as constructive. One of its best sessions was ‘Four Corners’. Nobody would agree that ‘Four Corners’ today is anything like it was. I refer to the time when Michael Charlton and Robert Moore were associated with it. I was interviewed by Robert Moore on television and I took a grilling from him. He was provocative. He interested people. 1 did not mind him knocking politicians. It is part of the business.
– He would find you easy.
– He probably would. He might like to read your speech this afternoon for future reference. Last Saturday night’s ‘Four Corners’ programme c,ea!t with the housing problem. With due respect to the Minister, the programme was very lame. The subject was not news. The programmes have to be newsworthy. This Day Tonight’ has taken the place of ‘Four Corners’. ‘This Day Tonight’ is a first class provocative programme which probably helped lo dim the lustre of ‘Four Corners’. I hope ‘This Day Tonight’ does not have to be run on the restricted financial budget on which ‘Four Corners’ has to run. My idea lo improve ‘Four Corners’ is that it must get news items, and they must be first hand, not second hand. It could live up to its name if it had a full camera crew and a full ‘Four Corners’ team in the four corners of the globe to get immediate results instead of having to wait for the cables on Monday. Often the news is old when the programme is shown. It should not be. The ‘Four Corners’ teams ought to be where the action is. Today the action in world news is not in Australia but overseas. Wherever the news is being made, a ‘Four Corners’ team ought to be there. Then the programme would bc able to recapture the vast listening audience that it had and the national stations would be able lo carry two dialogue programmes, if we can call them that, such as ‘This Day Tonight’ and ‘Four Corners’, with great advantage to the public.
I was a journalist and I had many opportunities lo test the Commission’s veracity and the correctness of its reports. There was a time when the coal industry was first class news and a first class subject to ridicule. A socialised industry was trying to setle down. My job was to hand ‘out the publicity. If I wanted to keep the story on the line - and 1 say this with respect to some of the most important newspapers - I found that it was always more accurately reported if the facts were first published by the ABC. If the Government will not print its own newspaper or have its own sessions on television and radio it ought at least to maintain television and radio services which will report factually on what happens. That would lead to a more truthful popular newspaper set-up.
I would like the Commission to give serious consideration to the desirability of having four teams in different parts of the world to report instantaneous news for the ‘Four Corners’ programme because a news report must be instantaneous to be good. To help reduce costs and the strain on the taxpayers, I suggest to the ABC that it bring forward its news services to the time slot of 6.30 p.m. Other news services in Sydney today - 1 do not know about the other capital cities - have their news services then. The commercial stations are the best judges of what the public wants. 1 say that for them. The commercial stations think that that is the best time to gel viewers to watch the news broadcasts. When people have watched the news on Channel 7 or Channel 9-
– They stay on that channel.
– Of course. They do not switch. The ABC is reducing its field of potential viewers by almost 50%. lt has to be up with the field in this game, particularly in regard to news services. It should not be reviewing the news; it has to make news. It has to be a news maker and has to stay with the commercial stations in this field. 1 think the time slot for news ought to be changed to that of the commercial stations. That is the only way the ABC can keep up with them.
– Would the honourable senator impose New South Wales times on Queensland?
– 1 do not know about that. That is another matter. We cannot alter the course of the sun.
– Would it not be unfair to have all the news services broadcast at one time? Certain people might like to watch the news at 7 p.m.
– i do not think so. The honourable senator probably represents a small minority in the community - not a political minority. I imagine that he would have a long drawn out dinner with wine. He would nol be ready to watch the news until 7 p.m. Most men are busy at that time helping their wives do the washing up. They would have finished their meal by 6.30 p.m. I think the Liberals, as a class, would be slower eaters than wc on this side of the chamber. People in busy homes like to get the news over early. In the average home watching the news is an important matter. After washing up the mother likes to watch the news. If she misses the news she is unlucky. I do not want the ABC news to come on al 7 p.m., to be a stop gap and to fill in with odds and ends of news.
I was on the Advisory Council of the ABC. One lesson 1 learned was that the ABC seemed to be interested in catering for minorities. For instance, it televised a chess tournament. That would be terrific.
– Last Saturday a rugby league match was televised.
– That is so. Last Saturday the ABC televised a rugby league match in Sydney. Generally the ABC is more interested in televising Sydney rugby union matches. Rugby union is the minority game. The popular game is rugby league. Televising rugby union is like televising soccer instead of Australian rules in Melbourne. I know that the ABC has to maintain its respectability and that its stations do not have to be as commercial as the other stations, but it certainly does not get the viewers on a Saturday afternoon. If it televised the aerial ping pong game that is played in Victoria it would get viewers in that State but not in New South Wales. The point 1 make is that the ABC wastes too much of its time in catering for minorities. lt even caters more than it should do for musicians of a type which is in the minority. The Commission is changing now, getting a bit way out and coming up with the field, and I think that is very good, but it should not go to the other extreme. I am an ABC man. One member of my family has the problem of 5 children. He has disconnected all channels other than the ABC, so it is really an ABC house. They have only ABC programmes. I am not anti-ABC. What I am saying is that if the ABC is to get popular support - this means viewers and listeners - it must make an appeal and do what is popular., lt must bring provocativeness back into ils news programmes. In the modern world of news the public lives on provocativeness. A station which is not provocative today will die. This is what happened to ‘Four Corners’ and this is what makes ‘This Day Tonight’ a better programme than ‘Four Corners’ ever was; it has more variety.
As Senator McClelland said, it conies back to the fact that the people are not providing enough money. They cannot pay any more for their licences; the Government would not dare to ask them to pay more. The cost of the licences is increased regularly and it cannot go up any more. So the Government has to find any extra money from the taxpayers, and 1 think that is unfair. Advertising of all types in Australia probably is worth $ 1,000m. If $10m of that is not made available constitutionally to the ABC to help cut down costs and lift the burden on listeners and viewers, the Government is not doing the right thing. The Constitution, after all, has been stretched a good deal in the last 10 years by this Government. Sir Robert Menzies did not treat it with a great deal of care. What about, making State grants? This is a clever little device to do something that according to the Constitution cannot be done. We might be able to create a new approach for making money available to the ABC - not surreptitiously, of course.
The biggest problem facing the ABC is administration. 1 do not know how it administers this great organisation with all of its activities and buildings. In Sydney I have seen the problems associated with moving between buildings. 1 have seen message boys running everywhere. This cannot be an efficient method of conducting a business and it must cost the Commission a lot of money. It ought to have its own buildings. Apart from the aspect of effici ency, there is the financial consideration. Senator McClelland mentioned the payment of 5500,000 in rent. This is a terrific amount of rent to pay every year and it has been paid for a long time.
It is important for Australia that the ABC should be held at the pitch of efficiency. This cannot be done if it is run on a shoe string. Generally speaking, industrial conditions for its employees are good. I know that they complain now and again but I think that they are up with the rest of the field in salaries and working conditions. Two years ago 1 was in London for a meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and I had the honour to visit the British Broadcasting Corporation on 2 days. I was chosen from the delegation to address the staff of the BBC and give my views.
– Who inflicted that on them?
– They were very pleased to have me. I told the General Manager that in this monopoly-type broadcasting and television organisation there appeared to have been built up an elite with God-given rights to say what it thought, and I did not think these rights should be available always to anybody. 1 was horrified at what I saw in the preparation by BBC crews for the televising of a meeting of Prime Minister Wilson. He was to talk to electors in the middle of the election campaign. I was fortunate enough to go out with a team and to be on the platform with him. Outside, members of the public were gathering with sticks and banners to block his way into the meeting. The BBC personnel were arranging for little incidents that were to take place during the meeting.
– That is democracy.
– Democracy is all right but I thought it was wrong for the BBC to be organising in this way. Instead of ils cameras being trained on the Prime Minister, the great Harold Wilson, they were trained on 3 or 4 organised women who were to scream at a given moment in different parts of the hall. The cameras were ready to shoot. 1 hope that that sort of thing never happens in this country. It occurs because the organisation is independent and can do what it likes. The cameramen and news getters were being paid to bc hot on the news. They were where the aci ion was. My complaint is that they were creating the action. So far as I was concerned, the action was with Harold Wilson, but he was not news that night. 1 am afraid that our television people make a great mistake when they overdo this sort of organisation. 1 hope that the ABC will always take care and watch that type of camera work: it is not good. The Government should do something about it. Ons can be over-provocative.
– You said they were nol provocative enough.
– Provocative’ is a wide term, lt has to be understood and associated wilh other things.
– It is a matter of poetic licence.
– That is so. I should like the Minister to give a view on the financial proposition I put in relation 10 getting revenue from advertising.
– You suggest a I2 j% tax on the value of it?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
Bull) - Order! The honourable senator is quite capable of making his own suggest ions.
– Thank you. Mr Deputy President. I should like the Minister to ask her officers whether there is any difficulty about altering time slots for ABC news services. Would there be any difficulty, financial or otherwise, in having an instant news service for ‘Four Corners’ in the four corners of the earth where the news is? 1 should like to know also whether 11 is practicable - Senator Wilkinson may be able to explain this technically - to extend television booster arrangements in dead areas. 1 do not think they have been extended sufficiently into country areas. That might answer Senator Lawrie’s problem. He seems to spend most of his time in the back country. Despite what he says, 1 understand that television has not been extended to many of these areas because of a lack of applications for a television service. There is something that country people like about going to bed early although I do not know what it is. I ask the Minister to consider the matters I have mentioned.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Ormonde. I was very impressed when he mentioned that his family had pulled all the plugs and wires necessary to have only Australian Broadcasting Commission television reception. However, having listened to him expound a little further and having heard his impressions of the ABC generally, I have come to the conclusion that he is an ABC listener only because of family compulsion. He was prompted by Senator Lawrie’s remarks to comment on the staggering of the time of news programmes. 1 suspect that the honourable senator has not spent enough lime in the country or stayed long enough with people who live in farming areas. He mentioned that. 6.30 p.m. is a time when one is helping his wife by wiping the dishes, but I suspect that he was not being honest about that. Nevertheless it was an interesting exercise to listen to. I suggest that in the summer months most farmers arc thinking about having afternoon tea at 6 o’clock or are still working. They do nol finish their day’s work at 4.30 p.m.
In South Australia the ABC presents its news service al 7 o’clock South Australian time, and quite often that is too early for a farmer. Strange as it may seem, this is one area where the ABC fits into the pattern of community life. Commercial stations are usually interested mainly in the profits and they want the greatest number of viewers at peak hours. The ABC could be regarded in many ways as providing a. stop-gap service. Tt supplies a service for another section of the community and overlaps with its programmes to all sections of the community.
– The ABC watches ratings very closely.
– J agree that il does. Nevertheless, it considers also viewers’ requirements. In South Australia requests were made to the ABC by a big primary producer organisation when the ABC had altered its news service to 6.30 p.m. South Australian time. The ABC acceded to the requests and reverted to 7 o’clock for its news service. Many country people would have preferred an even later news service. While Senator Ormonde was speaking Senator Wilkinson interjected some quite good comments, but he left me with the impression that he was critical of ABC programmes when compared with those seen on commercial television stations.
– I did not say that.
Senate YOUNG - The honourable senator said that commercial television stations present different types of programmes in some areas. Perhaps 1 misunderstood his remarks. 1 think it is necessary to bear in mind that the commercial approach to programming is tied in with peak viewing hours. The requirement of some people are completely overlooked by commercial stations because it is known that the ABC will present cultural programmes, orchestral recitals and programmes of that kind which perhaps have a small viewing public. Nevertheless, these programmes serve a purpose in the community. I think we would all agree, whether or not we like classical music, ballet or even lectures on physics that even these programmes play a part in community life and in the cultural development of the community. I think it would be agreed that as such they are a necessary part of programming on a medium of communication such as television which reaches more people than radio.
I refer also to the school programmes which have been mentioned this afternoon. Television and radio pla”y a very big part in assisting schools. I believe that as time goes on they will plan an even greater part in the education of school children. Many educationists are now advocating a far greater use of television. They suggest that it is more efficient, both from the administrative side and in its effectiveness in getting through to students the messages which teachers wish to convey to them. All these things add up to the fact that we are running into costly areas for the ABC in supplying by television and radio programmes which are essential to the young as well as the older people.
I should like to follow on from what Senator Bull said and refer to the expenditure on programmes. This year the Australian Broadcasting Commission incurred a deficit of about $l7m on operational expenses for radio and television. Much of this expenditure was on an extension of stage 4 of television development throughout Australia. This is a subject with which Senator Lawrie dealt very well in his remarks on the extension of a television service in country areas. Many country people have seen television only when they have come to the cities. People living in country areas where they are required to do without many amenities available to city dwellers are playing a very big part in Australia’s development. They deserve to have some of the amenities that city dwellers have. 1 think all honourable senator will agree that the extension of a television service to those areas is a necessary area of expenditure. I -believe also that we all hope that a similar amount will be spent next year so that television and other facilities can be taken deeper into country areas.
While referring to this subject my mind goes to one area in South Australia where television is still a very long way off. People in the area to which 1 refer feel that perhaps they have been forgotten, but they live in hope that one day a television service will be extended to their area. Senator Wilkinson referred to colour television. He expressed the hope that because of the quality of colour television it would not be very long before it was available in Australia. 1 am one who will oppose the introduction of colour television in Australia while there are still many areas throughout the Commonwealth without a television service. This comes back to a matter of priorities. People who are willing to live in remote, areas where communications are poor, whether they are by road, rail or by any other means, are living a life which falls far short of what city dwellers consider that life should be. Therefore I consider that these people who are playing such a magnificent part in the overall development and production of this country should be given the utmost consideration. The city dweller now enjoys television reception. No doubt he will probably have better television entertainment if he has colour television, but if there is to be any talk of introducing colour television just to duplicate or improve the entertainment service enjoyed by city dwellers before ordinary television is extended to country areas I would strongly oppose the introduction of it.
Certainly people in the country can listen to radio. They can learn a lot from listening to radio programmes but all of us who have had the benefit of television services will admit that there is greater comfort and greater relaxation to be had from watching television that can be enjoyed from radio. Some of the time may be wasted, but generally it is of value and again 1 emphasise that the extension of television services to country a reus should be given the highest of priorities. Although I look forward to the day when we enjoy colour television .1 look forward more earnestly to the day when the many people in the outback areas will have the benefit of at least the ordinary television service.
Reference was also made to Radio Australia that it is not listened to in Australia, lt was basically argued (hat as it is not listened to in Australia the Australians who do listen to radio stations should not contribute to the cost of Radio Australia, lt is perhaps all right lo look at the overall position in this way, but I tend to assess it in an entirely different way. We might not listen to Radio Australia in Australia, but there are many people overseas who do listen to it.
– Then is not that a stronger argument as to why the taxpayers as a whole should pay for it?
– I shall mention that in a minme. There is an area where that is covered. The point I want to emphasise at this singe is that we are getting our image across to people overseas; we are getting our message through to those people; we are bringing ourselves much closer to our neighbours overseas. In this way the whole nation must benefit from the programmes of Radio Australia. Therefore, although we may not listen to Radio Australia it is making a contribution to our welfare, as Australians. Senator Little asked who should pay for it. I refer him to this passage in the Ministers speech:
Revenue Prom viewers’ and listeners’ licences will fall short of this amount hy about $18m. lt goes on further:
A government could decide to make up this leeway through increased taxation affecting everyone, which would hardly be a popular move, or by the more obvious cause of asking for an additional contribution from those that make use of the service. The latter course has been chosen but even so the revenue from the increased fees will return the Government only an additional $5ni this year-
This is for Senator Little’s information - and $7m in a full year. The Government will carry the remainder of the deficit - just over Slim.
Therefore the taxpayers as a whole are making a contribution.
– The Minister sets out the principle that people who do not use the service should not pay and then he says that the listeners who do not use it should pay for it.
– Senator Little commented that the taxpayers should pay for these things. During the course of the Budget debate, we heard caustic comments about the fact that there were to be any increases in taxation at all. So we come back to the question: How do you and where do you satisfy everybody when you set out to do something lo assist certain areas of the community? Whichever way we look at this problem, there will always be comment and criticism of the overall exercise. The main thing is to see that the money is being well spent, that a service is being given and that benefit does accrue to the general community in Australia. And this is an area where I do nol think anybody can deny that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is certainly doing its job.
I come back now to the quality of the programmes provided by the ABC either on the radio or through television. Many of the programmes that are being provided for the people of Australia today are very expensive. The commercial stations, however, are using a lot of old films, some of them 10 and 15 years old. The viewing public has no option but to look at them because they are all that are given by the commercial stations. Possibly they are cheap but half of them are almost worn out. Perhaps the sound track is bad. Sometimes they break.
– Do you have an interest in the industry?
– No, but I do walch television. They do not break very frequently, but they do break occasionally, because they are old films. Overall, it is a commercial exercise. The ABC. however, sets out to give the community a service. Therefore there is a different area of comparison. Reference has been made to two particular programmes. They are ‘Four Corners’ and ‘This Day Tonight’. I consider both these lo be very good programmes. They are topical. Here I am inclined to agree with Senator Ormonde that perhaps Four Corners’ is not as good as it used to be, but perhaps 1 have watched it for too long. We all know the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. Perhaps the viewer is expecting too much from ‘Four Coiners’. But both these are good programmes and they are costly to produce. The production every night of a programme such as ‘This Day Tonight’ could be very expensive. But the ABC is doing this. It is rendering excellent service to the community. Both programmes relate to the affairs of today. They deal with current topics, and they are both very educational. We do not find a commercial station doing this sort of thing every night. So here we come to a definite area of service that is given to the community by the ABC. Here again we come to an area of priorities. Although the ABC, overall, may be cosily, it is making a worthwhile contribution to the community, and I think this is borne out by the number of points which it receives from the viewers.
So. overall, even though I must be quite honest and say that I am very disappointed to note that there is to be an increase in radio listeners’ licence fees anil television viewers’ licence fees, unfortunately this appears to be a fact of life. There have been increases in the salaries paid by the ABC this year and costs of other components of the organisation will be dearer. These tilings are unavoidable. Bui I do not think anybody could criticise the overall contribution that the ABC makes. Therefore I am rather surprised, first that the Opposition has sought to move an amendment and secondly that it has sought the appointment of another Senate select committee.
We have so many Senate select committees sei up now that we cannot really effectively appoint another. I have the honour to be a member of one Senate select committee. This involves a good deal of work, but it is very interesting. It is going to take some time for the Committee to get where it wants to go. Of course, unless a Senate select committee sets out to do its job properly and takes enough time to ensure that it does do its job properly, it is only wasting its own time and the time of everybody else. If we appoint too many select committees at the one time we are going to overtax the staff, we are going to overtax senators and we are going to finish up with an inefficient job. in this way, the very purpose of setting up the committees will be defeated. Therefore, 1 support the motion and oppose the amendment.
– I shall speak briefly in support of the amendment moved by Senator McClelland on behalf of the Opposition. This Bill has the apparently simple purpose of increasing fees for television viewers licences, broadcast listeners licences and combined receiving licences. The combined receiving licence seems to be the most popular of all and the fee for that licence is to be increased from $17 to $20 a year. Last year over 2 million persons paid for combined receiving licences. Senator McClelland’s proposed amendment is in these terms:
This Bill should not be further proceeded with until a Select Committee has inquired into and reported upon the way in which licence fees and oilier revenue can bc used in the best interests of Australian production of television and radio programmes.
All honourable senators know I hat the question raised by your amendment has been canvassed many times in the Senate. You yourself. Mr Deputy President, were as I was, and as Senator McClelland and Senator Wright: were, members of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, the Chairman of which was the late distinguished Senator Vincent. That, was an all-party select committee which dealt extensively with the problem raised by the Opposition’s amendment.
I make it perfectly clear that our attitude should not be misunderstood. This is not an attack on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. On the contrary, I think all of us regard the Commission as an extremely important Australian institution. In many respects it is an admirable institution though with imperfections attaching to any institution. It represents the assertion of the public interest in television. That is a trend which is becoming apparent in many countries of the world. The United Stales recently has moved into this field by setting up a public television corporation, which has the imprimatur of the President of the United States, because in America they have come to realise that in the general field of public enlightenment, the dissemination of information and entertainment through the mass media, there has to be some public instrumentality whose main motive is not profit, making as is the case with commercial television operators. 1 want lo refer briefly to the reasons why we say that the burden of paying for the obviously needed expansion in the services of the ABC should not be thrust upon the listeners and viewers. We believe it is part of the Government’s obligation to provide national television services and that future expansion cannot be financed simply by loading increased costs on to the person who holds a licence so that he has to pay for the expansion. The Government concedes that the higher fee will meet only a proportion of the anticipated increased costs in the coming year. Our view is that these arc such important things nationally that one should not approach them merely by saying: ‘Some of the finance can be raised by making the viewers pay more’.
Many important questions have been raised in the debate in relation to colour television, frequency modulation and radio and television services for country areas. I think they are all extremely valid questions to which we do not yet have the answers. However our complaint - this is why we have proposed the amendment - is that the Government has demonstrated over the years a positive genius for wriggling out of the consequences of acting on the recommendations of select committees and special inquiries with the establishment of which it has been associated. I mention only two - the Vincent Committee and the Weeden Advisory Committee on Educational Television Services.
Wc now have bad 12 years of television in Australia. After 6 years the Senate in its wisdom set up an all-party select committee to look into the problems associated with encouraging Australian content in Australian television. With whatever human imperfections there are in the report, one still’ would have to recognise that it was a substantial report which, if it had been acted upon at the time - at the end of 1963 - would have paved the way for a much livelier television industry and an industry with a much greater Australian component in it, and would have rendered unnecessary the criticism we make today that the Government does not seem to be ready to act on any of the recommendations.
I will not spend a lot of time arguing the case. The Vincent Committee made many recommendations for the positive encouragement of Australian artists, actors, writers and producers in the television area. lt set out to lay the basis for a loan subsidy scheme which, had it been acted upon, would have revitalised the film industry in Australia and restored it to the place of pre-eminence it occupied at the turn of the century. It is easy to forget and not fashionable to refer these days to the fact that at the turn of the century Australia had a thriving film industry. We produced the world’s first full-length motion picture Soldiers of the Cross’ in 190.1. From the beginning of the century until the immediate post First World War years Australia was on of the leading producers in the world of full-length feature films. During that period not less than 198 full-length feature films were made and exported by Australia. Are we able to boast of anything comparable today? The answer is no. We certainly would have been in a better position if the Government had seen fit to act upon the recommendations of the Vincent Committee back in 1963.
So far as educational television is concerned, the Government asked the Weeden Committee to investigate the whole matter, to report upon it and to advise on the authority or authorities which should be responsible for the operation of educational television services. The Committee reported in 1964 and recommended the establishment of a separate authority, to control and operate an educational television service. I know that something has been done but it is not nearly enough nor is it on a properly planned basis.
The Opposition’s attitude is that we will not sanction increases in licence fees to be imposed upon those who use the service without some proper attention being paid to where the industry is going. That is why we have proposed that a select committee be appointed. I know the arguments against select committees. They have been raised in this chamber in recent times apparently because it is thought that we have enough of them at the present time. However we believe that we should not agree to the imposition of these increases. Instead the Senate should be prepared to appoint a select committee to investigate the whole matter and then, when some coherent approach emerges to indicate that the whole community should bear the responsibility for the necessary expansion in the activities of the ABC, we will be able to look at the question of increases in licence fees in the light of the committee’s recommendations. 1 support the pica made by Senator McClelland for a proper and comprehensive approach to these problems on an Australia wide basis. 1. suggest that the Opposition’s amendment is what is called for in the present situation.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Mr President, the Senate is considering a Bill to amend section 128 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1963. Section 128 provides that certain fees are payable by persons who hold broadcast listeners’ licences, television viewers’ licences and combined licences. The simple purport of the Bill is to increase the fees payable by the holders of those licences. To the motion for the second reading of this Bill the Opposition has moved an amendment which does not appear in its general intent or in references that appear in it to be germane to the purpose of this Bill.
The debate that I have heard so far has roamed very largely over the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. With due respect, i. doubt whether the activities and the functions of the ABC are in any way directly relevant to this measure. I say that because I propose to advert to the character of the fees payable by the holders of these licences and to indicate that these are fees payable for the general revenue of the Commonwealth and are not in any way earmarked specifically for the ABC or for any activities of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. But before 1 embark on any such discussion, I think it is useful for me to refer shortly to the provisions of the Bill. The Bill provides that the television viewers’ licence fee, which at present stands at $12 a year, shall be increased to $14 a year, which is an increase of $2. lt proposes that the broadcast listeners’ licence fee be increased from $5.50 to $6.50 in respect of listeners within approximately 250 miles of any broadcasting station, and from $2.80 to $3.30 for listeners outside that area. For the combined receiving licence a fee of $20 a year shall be payable, which represents an increase of $3 on the existing fee.
Tn considering whether or not these increases are reasonable it is useful to refer back to when the fees were first imposed. The broadcast listeners’ licence fee was last fixed in 1956. It has nol been changed since that time. The television viewers’ licence fee was introduced in 1956 and the only change that has taken place over the last 12 years has been an increase of $2, which was to make up for the loss of revenue to the Commonwealth by the removal of the excise on cathode ray tubes. The combined receiving licence was first: imposed in 1964 at a rate of $17 a year, which was slightly less than the amount that would have been payable for a broadcast listeners’ licence and a television viewers’ licence if both licences had been taken out separately. I think it is therefore evident that charges on the television viewer and the broadcast listener have not altered substantially over the last 12 years. The only variation has been the increase of $2 in the television licence fee in 1964. We have around us ample evidence of increased wages and increased costs generally. Therefore, in terms of any objective standard, it would be difficult to find any reason to object to these increases. They are modest increases and by any reasonable criterion they cannot be regarded as objectionable.
I turn now to the way in which debate on these matters usually develops. As I said earlier, there has been a considerable amount of discussion on the activities of the ABC. At this stage 1 do not propose to engage in any such discussion as the amount which will be raised by means of the increased licence fees envisaged by this Bill will go into Commonwealth revenue and will not in any way facilitate any activities in which the ABC may be engaged, lt is curious to note the way in which the revenue received from licence fees is regarded as being associated in some respect with the expenditure on the activities of the Commission. It is all… the more curious that this is the .way in which impliedly it appears in the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. As 1 said earlier, the increased revenue from licence fees will not be related to expenditure by the ABC.
One is reminded of the position of the petrol tax in earlier days. Originally, receipts from the petrol tax were, under a pre-determined formula, payable to the States. This is no longer so. It was realised that there was no real justification for the petrol lax, and only the petrol lax, being the source of revenue for roads, and that expenditure on road construction and maintenance should be a charge on the public purse. So, the connection that at one time existed between the petrol tax and road construction and maintenance was abolished. When considering the Bill in this context it is relevant to recognise that the fees being imposed will simply augment the Commonwealth revenue. With all due respect, I say that this is the way in which the Bill should be looked at. 1 think the justification for the measure is to be found simply in the fact that in a period when charges for most activities and services have been rising, it is anomalous that this particular field of activity should not also experience the same increases. I refer to section 68 of the Broadcast and Television Act essentially for the purpose of illustrating the point that 1 am making. Section 68 refers to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its finances, and it states:
The Commission shall prepare estimates in such form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure each financial year and shall submit those estimates to the Minister.
Accordingly, when we wish to consider in this Parliament whether or not the amounts provided for the services of the Commission are amounts which have the Senate’s approval1, we do so when the relevant estimates are before us. As I said earlier, expenditure is not directly related to the fees which arc received from the various licences that are covered by this Bill. The report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30th June 1968 shows a total revenue from broadcasting and television services of $4lm for that financial year. Of that amount of $41m, $39m is received from licence fees paid by broadcast listeners and television viewers. The balance is made up of licence fees paid by braodcasting and television stations, and other miscellaneous receipts of the Commission. The overall expenditure - operational and capital expenditure - was approximately $55m. So in terms of receipts by the broadcasting the television services as against their expenditure there appears to be a deficit of $l4m. It is to be expected in the coming year that the deficit, so construed, will be even greater.
The estimates for this year indicate that an amount of about $59m will be spent as operational and capital expenditure on the broadcasting and television services.
If the revenue from the sources I have mentioned proceeds at the same rate at which it has proceeded over the last 3 years it will be increased by about $2m. The deficit would then be about $16m. If there were this correlation between licence fees received and expenditure on the national broadcasting and television services one would expect an attempt to increase the fees payable so that in some way that revenue would equate to the likely expenditure. If the proposition were to be supported that those who have radio and television sets should pay for the cost and operational expenses of the services of which they enjoy the benefits, there would then be a strong case for increasing licence fees above their present level.
In all conscience I suggest that even though this is not the particular purpose for which licence fees are raised, because they are taken into account in a way in which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board report takes them into account, there is a strong case for increasing these fees greatly beyond the point to which they are to be raised by this Bill. We all recognise that fees must be imposed for services to be rendered. There may be a great difference of opinion as to the character of those imposts and as to the persons who should bear most of the burden. Our national broadcasting and television services are expensive. They are widely recognised and appreciated. This is a sign of our affluent community. In these circumstances it is not unreasonable to expect that the people who enjoy the benefits should be prepared to pay for them.
In other spheres of activity heavier fees are imposed on the people who enjoy certain benefits in order to meet the expenses which flow from the conditions under which those benefits are provided. I refer in particular to drivers of motor cars. I suggest that the payments that they have to make by way of registration and insurance fees and other imposts of like character are paid for a distinct benefit. Why should that principle not apply also in the field of broadcasting and television?
– What about the people who walsh commercial stations and in the cost of the goods they buy pay for the charges made for advertising?
– I think Senator Dittmer is referring to a point made earlier by Senator Ormonde who suggested that advertisers should bear some of the costs which are at present borne by the Commonwealth and the holders of broadcast listeners’ licences and television viewers’ licences. I think there is one very substantial reason why a tax should not be imposed on advertisers on broadcasting and television services: The advertisers pay the television and broadcasting Mar’ons for the services they receive from those stations. I understand that the charges for advertising are quite substantial. Thai, of course, is a burden which must be borne by the manufacturer or distributor who uses the advertising services.
– The cost is passed on to the community.
– That is so. If a further burden is to be added to advertisers so that the amount they must guin from the sale of their products is even greater, so much more will be the hurden that is passed on to the community. You cannot have it both ways, lt should be recognised that the cost of advertising is a burden to the community because it is passed on to the consumer. If that cost is to be increased it will be added to the already existing burden. I would think right at the outset that that is one very substantial reason why a tax ought not lo be imposed on advertisers in that field. The more profits made by advertisers, the more they pay in taxation. That ought to be the proper field in which they are made to pay. A licence holder enjoys the benefits which the community provides and it is reasonable to expect that a payment will be made by him. I feel that according to the affluence of the community, so should there be recognition that the fees to be paid should be increased. I would think that that is a field in which a fee can be more readily imposed than in other fields. I think the Government ought not to be reluctant to recognise that fact.
I sense that there has not been any substantial objection lo (his measure. I recall that Senator Gair in his speech on the Budget some weeks ago stressed what he fell was a burden and the inequity of the increase in licence fees. I believe he was unfair in his comments, in the light of two facts. Firstly, there has not been a general increase since 1956; secondly, for those persons whose concern he was particularly pleading - the pensioners - these are particular cases in which reduced fees arc payable. Such provision is recognised and maintained in the legislation. In such cases no increase is provided for in this Bill.
I have listened to this debate and 1 believe that there has not been any substantial criticism, if there has been any criticism at all. of the amounts by which licence fees ure to be increased. The Opposition has directed its attack to the proposed amendment. I want to say a few things about that amendment, lt proposes that this Bill should not be further proceeded with until a select committee has inquired into and reported on the way in which licence fees and other revenue can he used in the best interests of Australian production of television and radio programmes, lt appears to be a tactic by which the Australian Labor Party these days expresses its opposition to ask for an inquiry or a committee to be sei up. One senses that the Opposition feels that it should oppose; but it cannot think of any adequate argument in opposition and believes its function is best served by suggesting that an inquiry should be instituted.
The Opposition, supported by the Democratic Labor Party, has sought the appointment of a select committee to inquire into repatriation. One wonders how genuine is the intention of the Opposition on that matter. Since the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Repatriation Bill was carried, no effort has been made by the Opposition or the DLP to set up a repatriation select committee. 1 can only suppose that what was wanted was the temporary advantage of publicity thai they thought they would gain from it. Now we have another proposal for a select committee to look into the way in which licence fees and other revenue can be used in the best interests of Australian production of television and radio programmes. 1 express doubt as to whether the Opposition is genuine in wanting this select committee set up. When one considers that four select committees have been appointed already and that on the notice paper there are motions for the appointment of another four committees, either select or standing, including one with regard to television, one can only express the thought that if there was any genuine intention to have select committees on repatriation and the Australian production of television and radio programmes it would have found expression at the time when the Opposition put forward ils various motions for the appointment of select committees. This amendment is a temporary, ad hoc measure designed, as I said, lo secure some particular advantage when the Opposition is nol game 10 come out and say that it is not in favour of the increases in licence fees. I think that members of the Opposition are prepared to accept the increases in licence fees that are proposed in this Bill and that they are not prepared frankly to admit it.
There is one other ground on which 1 believe the amendment is to be criticised and which is a reason why it should not commend itself to the Senate. lt is that the amendment proceeds on an assumption which, as I said earlier, is an incorrect one. 11 suggests that the Senate should inquire into and report upon the way in which licence fees and other revenue can be used in the best interests of Australian production of television and radio programmes. Senator McClelland, who moved the amendment… might just, as appropriately have said that, the Senate should inquire into and report upon the way in which customs revenue or any other impost can be used in the best interests of Australian production of television and radio programmes. In fact, as I said, there is no correlation between the source of revenue and the objects of expenditure. 1 suggest that the objective that the Opposition seeks lo have attained by this amendment can be attained by the motion that it has on the notice paper for the appointment of a standing committee on Australian television.
Senator Rae has reminded me that four select committees have been appointed and that six - not four, as I said earlier - further committees have been proposed. One of those proposed committees is a committee to look into the matter that is covered by this amendment. So it appears to me that there is no point in the amendment. I support (he Bill and oppose the amendment. I commend to the Government the thought that it have further regard to whether these licence fees, which are being increased for the first time in the last 12 years, could not reasonably be further increased on the basis that such an impost could be justified in terms of the service that is being provided.
[8.23 - 1 rise to support the Bill and to oppose the amendment. There arc several points which have been raised by honourable senators during the discussion today and to which I should like to reply. Senator McClelland raised some points which I believe are of great interest and which I should like to answer. He spoke of the accommodation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I remind him that this has recently been the subject of investigations by the Public Accounts Committee and will be dealt with fully in that Committee’s report. He also referred to the amount of Slim that figures in the second reading speech, lt represents the difference between the revenue derived from licence fees and the total expenditure incurred by the Post Office and the ABC for capital, operational and maintenance purposes associated with the national broadcasting and television service.
Senator McClelland referred to people visiting overseas countries. I felt that he was a little unfair in what he said. I thought it was rather interesting that me statements that he made and those that his colleague Senator Ormonde made were contradictory. While Senator McClelland was critical of the people who travelled overseas, Senator Ormonde said: ‘We want the “Four Corners” teams overseas. We want people reporting in overseas areas’. I wonder whether Senator McClelland thinks that the General Manager of the ABC should not have travelled abroad as Chairman of the International Television Federation and that ABC officers should not participate in the activities of the Asian Broadcasting Union, the European Broadcasting Union and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Conference. Does he think that the ‘Four Corners’ teams should nol: have gone to New Zealand and South East Asia and that the ‘This Day Tonight’ team should not have travelled to the United States? I cannot believe that he would think that. I am sure that Senator
Ormonde, who is anxious that ABC officers should travel abroad, is pleased that those visits have been made so that the officers may have the opportunity to obtain first hand information and knowledge. It is rather a pity that visits of this calibre, which I believe must have been of value to the people who participated in them and to the presentation of documentaries, discussions and so on in which they were able to participate on their return, are criticised.
Senator Ormonde discussed the time for news services. He expressed the opinion that 7 o’clock was not a good time for the news service. Apparently it does not fit in with his household arrangements. There was a little banter about that. I am afraid that he may be almost alone in expressing that opinion. I believe that some of the figures that I will now give show that 7 o’clock is a very appropriate time for the news service. These figures come from ABC assessments based on information that is supplied by the commercial audience research companies. About three million Australians view or listent to ABC news bulletins each day. The ABC national television news bulletin at 7 o’clock each night is watched by approximately one and a half million people. The next most popular news bulletin is the ABC’s 7.45 a.m. radio bulletin. It attracts 525,000 listeners. News on radio and television and current affairs programmes generally reach something like five million Australians every week. I think Senator Ormonde would also be interested to know that during the last financial year the ABC transmitted 86,576 radio news bulletins and 11,155 television news bulletins.
Senator Ormonde also asked whether it was possible to have commercial advertising on the ABC. 1 refer him to section 55 of the Broadcasting and Television Act, which says that the Commission shall not broadcast or televise advertisements. That is the answer to his question. 1 believe it is rather a pity that when we have a discussion on the ABC and its programmes one’s view is rather coloured by a film or programme that one has seen recently. Very often one’s feelings about a particular programme colour one’s impression of all programmes. I believe that we should look at this matter in a much wider way than that. The first point that needs to be understood in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its expenditure is that its operations cover a very broad area of activities. That is tremendously important. The field is a very wide one.
The Commission produces radio programmes which are broadcast daily from 6 a.m. to midnight over seventy-three medium wave stations and ten short wave stations in Australia and in Papua and New Guinea. It transmits television programmes over thirty-nine stations and a number of translators in all States. From short wave transmitters it broadcasts over Radio Australia a daily service in eight languages. I am glad to hear the high commendation by honourable senators of the programmes and of the great service that Radio Australia performs in other parts of the world. In Papua and New Guinea it broadcasts programmes not only in English but also in Pidgin, police motu and Kuanua
The functions of the ABC are set out in its excellent thirty-sixth annual report. The Commission arranges and presents more than 700 public concerts a year. 1 think we all appreciate that many of these concerts are held outside State capital cities. During the last financial year the Commission’s orchestras performed in several country towns. The South Australian Symphony Orchestra visited Alice Springs and Darwin. I know that in my own State of Queensland the concerts arranged by the ABC give a great deal of pleasure to residents of some of the most distant areas in north Queensland, such as Innisfail and Mareeba, while further south they give pleasure to the people of Gympie and other places as well as of the capital cities. This is a very great service indeed: 1 suggest that honourable senators should look at Appendix 11, if they have not already done so.
Honourable, senators mentioned the programmes. In reply I would like to refer to the background of what has been said. In the 5 years to 30th June last the ABC has produced more than 1,000 plays for radio of 1 hour or more in length, using Australian casts. Senator McClelland has shown a great interest in the Australian content of productions. He referred to this point during his speech. During the same period the television total was 165 plays and well over 50 serials or serial episodes. During the period 24 full length operas and 85 ballets were produced in ABC television studios. Again J refer to the annual report which indicates that during the period 1967-68 245 plays of an hour or more in length were produced for radio. Also 132 episodes of ‘Bellbird’. 19 episodes of ‘Contrabandits’, 4 ‘Australian Playhouse’ plays, 3 major plays under the title of ‘Love and War’, 3 single 1-hour productions, a contribution to serious drama, were produced for television.
There is also the education field. I again refer to the Commission’s report. I think educational programmes are of tremendous value and indeed without such educational productions certain areas would lose a great deal. Of course not all programmes come up to the standard that we want. Nol all programmes are enjoyed by all of us. One of the unfortunate aspects is that those that we like least seem to be the ones we remember most. But there have been many excellent programmes, many of them Australian, which may well bc remembered. A moment ago 1 spoke of education. During the course of the financial year the ABC produced 3,500 radio and 450 television programmes for schools. One can only agree that this service should be extended. Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber mentioned this matter. lt would be a fine thing to be able to provide facilities for local television programmes in regional areas, but we have to remember that the Government is still faced with an obligation, as was mentioned by a colleague on this side of the chamber, to provide television to remote areas such as Darwin, Mount Isa, Geraldton, Renmark and Kalgoorlie. The provision of such a service will increase considerably capital costs and operational expenses. I think the whole spirit of the Broadcasting and Television Act is to ensure that all Australians who wish it have television. More Australians should have the opportunity of seeing television before we think about the next stage - colour television. The Government must determine a policy in relation to priorities for making these services available.
I think that the discussion today was a very interesting one. I believe that all honourable senators showed a real interest and a very keen desire to see good Australian programmes. They also showed a very real appreciation of. the work done by the ABC in a wide area and demonstrated an appreciation of the work done by Radio Australia in distant lands. I thank those honourable senators who contributed to the debate. I noted their interesting comments. I shall pass on to the Postmaster-General those which I think should be passed on. [ thank those, honourable senators who have indicated support for the Bill. I inform the Opposition that I oppose its amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McClelland’* amendment) bc left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMuIlin)
Majority .. ..4
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I present the fourth report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Consideration resumed from 19 September (vide page 864).
Proposed Expenditure, $21,883,000.
Proposed Provision, $37,000.
– The matter to whichI wish to refer with regard to the estimates for the Department of Customs and Excise concerns the very important subject of literary and film censorship which is handled by the Department and which comes under Division 210 of the Estimates.In a statement issued recently by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), announcement was made of the creation of a National Literature Board of Review, the apparent purpose of which is to handle the censorship of books entering Australia from overseas. This,I believe, is one of the most important aspects of the work of the Department of Customs and Excise. The other matters in which it engages are, I should imagine, very largely subject to the direction of the Department of Trade and Industry, but the subject of censorship is one in which the Department of Customs and Excise has a great deal of autonomy.
Australia has been notorious for a great many years as having more ludicrously oppressive censorship laws than practically any other country. There are books and films available practically wherever one wishes to go throughout the world which are not available in. this country. For many years the mention of Australia produced howls of derision from people who remembered that James Joyce’s classic ‘Ulysses’, which is now accepted as a fit subject for study even among the most junior adolescent students of English literature, was banned in this country. Fortunately, at last, we do not have to be subject to the ignomy of having a work of this nature banned, but there are many other books which at present are banned in Australia.
I last had occasion to address the Senate on this subject on 17th May 1967 when Senator Scott’s predecessor, the present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson), was the Minister for Customs and Excise.I then referred to certain books which were banned at that stage. I am pleased to say that the ban on some of them has now been lifted. The literary merit of some of them, such as the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana’, I should have thought was less than the merit of some others, but apparentlythe Minister intervened on this subject and now the ‘Kama Sutra’ is available. But there are other works of a nature which could quite clearly be defined as being not pornographic in any sense - perhaps a case could possibly be made out for sayingthat the ‘Kama Sutra’ is - and for some inexplicable reason theyare banned. One example of the great many that I referred to on that occasion, theban on which remains completely mysterious to me, is the book by the French philos opher, authoress and literary critic Simone de Beuuvoir on the Marquis de Slide. I can understand arguments for a fairly stringent literary censorship of the original works of the Marquis de Sade, but I am completely bewildered as to why a work of philosophic and literary criticism on the nature of the arguments put forward by the Marquis de Sade should be prevented from entering Australia. Yet that is the position at the present time.
I do not want to weary the Committee by enumerating all the other books which are prohibited from entering this country but which are freely available in practically every other country. If one goes to the United States of America one sees books of serious literary merit which are denied to the people of Australia.I refer to publications such as the works of Jean Genet, one of the most significant French writers at present, and William S. Burroughs, the very distinguished American writer, which are freely available at railway kiosks all over the United States, freely available in Great Britain and in western Europe, but not available to the people of this country.I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise: In view of the creation of this new Board which is to deal with literary censorship, are there to be any particular guidelines laid down for the Board in the way in which it is to approach matters of literary censorship? Is it to show any more advanced, civilised or liberal attitude than the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board imposed in the past? What is the composition of this Board? Who will appoint members to the Board?
Another very significant field of censorship in which the authority appointed by the Minister engages is that of film censorship. A great number of films which are freely available and which may freely be seen in other parts of the world may not be seen in this country, and a number of films shown in Australia seem to be ruthlessly hacked by the censors. My colleague Senator Mulvihill only recently referred to the censorhip of the film ‘Point Blank’ which has won very great acclaim from serious film critics in western Europe and the United States, but a significant part of the film was clearly cut before it was shown in Australia. At presentI have a question on notice, to which I still do not have an answer, concerning the British film ‘How I Won the War’ which I saw in the United States earlier this year. It certainly has nothing of a pornographic nature and it has no emphasis on violence. The allegation was made recently in some organs of the Australian Press that the distribution of this film was being banned in Australia owing to some pressure being applied by the Returned Services League. These, again, seem to be serious matters.
I believe that for the benefit of honourable senators and of people who are interested in these matters the Minister should be able to tell the Committee once again who are the people who are responsible for this censorship, what is their policy, what are the general outlines of policy which they follow and why it is that Australia is subject to a censorship much more ruthless than practically any country in western Europe or in north America.
– by leave -I lay on the table documents relating to the F111 aircraft purchase and propose to make a short statement on behalf of the Prime Minister. Honourable senators will understand that whenI use the personal pronoun I’, it relates to the Prime Minister.
I have told the House that the Government wishes to provide Parliament with as much information as possible concerning the arrangements made for the purchase of F111 aircraft. I have made it clear that we will not disclose any document, or part of a document, which has a security content. AndI have stated that we will not disclose any document which, being confidential as between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United
States of America, cannot be disclosed without the full consent of the Government of the United States of America. These limitations stand and will stand.
We have had an examination made of the documents and we have had consultations with representatives of the United States Government. As a result 1 lay on the table of the House certain documents which .1 believe satisfy the proper requirement of a House of Parliament to be advised as to the spending of public money. These documents comprise:
This technical arrangement provides:
The remaining documents are minutes of meetings from which some extractions have been made, and paragraph 4 of the last document reaffirms the ceiling price of $US5.95m on the basic Fill configuration which has already been announced, subject only to the conditions already announced to the House. As to the subject of these documents, the aircraft itself, I will at this stage say only two things.
If it is agreed that Australia needs a long range strike bomber - and 1 had gathered it was generally agreed that we did - then the Fill fulfils the requirements of the Australian Air Force Staff, for such a bomber, in all respects, f know no other available bomber that does. If it is agreed that Australia needs a bom’ber which will fulfil these requirements far into the future, instead of a bomber that only partly fulfils our requirements and that for a limited time, then this aircraft meets that need better than any other I know. I believe the present difficulties it has encountered will be overcome, and if so Australia will have what is admittedly a highly expensive aircraft - but an aircraft which will rank among the most effective in any air force in the world. I move:
– 1 do not notice the truck which was expected to bring in the documents. Is it expected that this matter will be put on for debate at some reasonably soon time?
– The Government has no concern about a debate on this issue. Within the work load of the Senate, very properly, it will be brought on for discussion.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 8th October, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That until the end of the present period of sitting and in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1931-1966 leave be granted tothe Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to meet during sittings of the Senate.
Proposed expenditure $21,883,000.
Proposed provision $37,000.
-I refer to Division 210 which relates to Administration. I should like to make a few comments on the matter that was raised by Senator Wheeldon. It relates to the National Literature Board of Review. I do so more with the object of obtaining information about the setting up ofthis Board of Review than of seeking details of the books that have come under review by it.
I cannot find in the appropriation any provision for expenditure for the establishment of this Board. I understand from the annual report of the Department of Customs and Excise that the Board was set up in January 1968. I should liketo have some details as to the extent of its functions. As this Board operates under an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States relating to the introduction of uniform censorship of books, I should like to know whether representatives from the various States are included amongst its nine members. I should also like some general information as to how and when the National Literature Board of Review was set up.
It would appear that this Board has the very important function of co-ordinating censorship throughout the Commonwealth and of establishing a certain uniform standard throughout Australia.I hope that when the members of this Board are selected the view will be taken that some of the older approaches toward thebanning of books should he modified to bring them up to the standards applying in other parts of the world where they are more sophisticated, and where they do not seem to have the paternal influence on society that traditional’ censorship authorities have had in this country.
I am always most interested to hear Senator Wheldon who has a great capacity for reading and assessingbooks of literary merit. I believe that he makes a valuable contribution not only to the Senate but also to the nation generally by acting in this place as a watchdog on many of the literary works that are banned by the authorities. I understand that over a period of ban on some of the books to which he has directed the attention of the Senate, and indirectly of the authorities, has been lifted. I know that Senator Henty, a former Minister for Customs and Excise, and the present Minister, Senator Scott, have made some progress in having thorough examinations made, through the Board, of books that have been banned in the past.
I should like some information in relation to the Board. How was it set up? How is it composed? Does its membership comprise representatives from the States and the Commonwealth? Are the represent atives appointed by the Commonwealth? Are they public servants? How are the Board’s activities financed?
Will the Minister give some details of the schemeto grant preferential rates of duty on specified imports from less developed countries? The scheme seems to be operating quite successfully and this year the range of goods eligible for concession has doubled. It is interesting to note that we are finding areas of trade with underdeveloped countries. Where would information relating to this matter be available? In the Department’s annual report to the Parliament attention was directed to this aspect of its operations and mention was made that the range of goods eligible for concessions had doubled. . How can we obtain information relating to the type and range of goods concerned? Are they subject to scrutiny by the Tariff Board to ensure that they cannot do any great damage to industries already established here? Is this relatively new approach to the importation of goods on the sentimental or sympathetic level fitting into the economy generally?
I raise the matter of the Customs House in Melbourne. A number of years ago when
I was a member of the Public Works Committee 1 was associated with the inquiry into the Customs House project, lt seems to be an inordinately long, time since that building was commenced, and although I understand it has been completed an appropriation of approximately $4m has been made for this financial., year. Why is that amount payable in. the. coming year now that the building has been completed? I would appreciate any information the Minister can give me. .
– Senator Wheeldon and Senator O’Byrne asked questions relating to the setting up of the National Literature Board of Review. Prior lo 1st January 1968 a Board was operating under the control of the Commonwealth, but following a meeting of the Commonwealth and the Slates a new Board was set up to take effect as from 1st January 1968. The Board consists of nine members, it operates under the Customs (National Literature Board of Review) Regulations and its charter is the implementation of provisions of the Commonwealth and State agreement on the uniform censorship of books of literary, artistic or scientific merit. The Board’s role is an advisory one and responsibility for decisions following its recommendations rests with the government concerned.
As 1 have said, the Board has a membership of nine comprising a chairman, two deputy chairmen and six members appointed for 3 years by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister. The present appointments expire on 3.1st December 1970. Since January the Board has examined some 17 titles, 12 of which have been released and 5 prohibited. Currently 8 titles are under review. Two appeals have been lodged and handled. On recommendation, that concerning ‘The Experiment’ was disallowed, whilst that concerning ‘Beardsley’ was upheld. The Board meets quarterly, lt has had three meetings - at Canberra in February, at Sydney in April and at Brisbane in July.
The chairman receives a salary of $1,750 a year, the two deputy chairmen receive $1,250 each and the six members receive $750 each making a total annual cost of $8,750 of which the States provide varying amounts ranging from $1,500 by New
South Wales, $1,100 by Victoria, $600 by Queensland, $400 by South Australia, $300 by Western Australia and $100 by Tasmania, making a total contribution by the States of $4,000. If any honourable senator is interested, I have the names of the books concerned but I do not propose to read them tonight.
– Would you read thu titles of the five that have been prohibited?
– Yes. They are ‘City Lights Journal’ No. 3 edited by Laurence Ferlinghetti, ‘Why Arc We In Vietnam?’ by Norman Mailer, ‘The Exhibitionist’, United States edition by Henry Sutton and Women’ United States and United Kingdom editions, by John Philip Lundin.
– Was any reason given for the banning of ‘Why are we in Vietnam’? Was it pornographic?
– No. I made a statement in the Senate on prohibited imports a few months ago. I said:
Honourable senators are aware that regulation 4a of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations prohibits the importation of literature and articles that are blasphemous, indecent or obscene, or unduly emphasise matters of set, horror, violence or crime or are likely to encourage depravity.
– Does this book do that?
– All the books to which I have referred would have been banned for one of these reasons. No book is banned for political reasons, although sonia honourable senators seem to be under that impression. The Board is non-political. The Department is largely guided by the opinions of that Board although I have authority to overrule it. Senator Georges can ask questions later if he wishes. I am endeavouring to answer the points that have been raised by various honourable senators. If one gets caught up in a discussion across the table one forgets the points raised by other honourable senators. I do not want to get into that position. Senator Wheeldon asked how the Board was composed and what guidelines or standards it laid down. The Board is representative of various sections of the Australian community from professors to housewives. Most States are represented. No direction is given on standards but these are progressively reviewed to fit in with the community’s taste. The Board has an advisory role. Also there is provision for appeal. As 1 said earlier, two appeals were lodged during the last 6 or 8 months. One was upheld and one was disallowed.
Senator O’Byrne wanted to know the amount of the honorarium. It appears under Division 210 item 10 ‘Incidental and other expenditure’. The expenditure for 1967-68 on this item was $114,734. The estimate for this year is $129,700, an increase of $14,966. This item provides for the maintenance of office machines, compensation payments, honoraria to members of the National Literature Board of Review, payroll services, legal fees, advertising, training and other miscellaneous charges. As I have said, the estimated expenditure for 1968-69 is approximately $.15,000 higher than the 1967-68 expenditure. The increased use of radio equipment is expected to result in higher maintenance and service charges amounting to $2,400. Payments to other governments authorities are expected to increase by $3,000, due mainly to the increased use of interpreters by the Prevention and Detection Section. An increase in the payment to the Queensland Government Analyst for work performed for the Department, is expected to amount to $3,000. Payroll service charges are expected to increase $800, legal fees are expected to increase $2,000, advertising is expected to increase by $200 and training costs are expected to increase by $3,600. Miscellaneous increases in all States should result in an increase of approximately $3,000. Those amounts total up to the sum of $15,000 that I mentioned earlier.
– I wish to raise three or four matters in Division 210 - Administrative. I am interested in the work of unions representing employees who work around the waterfront. I am particularly interested in those employees of the Department of Customs and Excise who work in that area. I notice that the estimated expenditure for 1968-69 on salaries is $16,160,000, which is an increase of almost Sim on last year’s expenditure. Is part of this increase the result of the employment of more men in the Prevention and Detection Section? What was the increase in the number of employees in that section of the Department?
The Minister is no doubt aware that there was a deputation in Canberra yesterday from master printers. Last week Senator Milliner referred to agitation by the printing unions throughout Australia. 1 asked the Minister a question regarding the importation of paper-back books from Hong Kong. These books are printed, on cheap paper. Their importation is to the detriment of the local industry as they have taken a serious proportion of the market. I would like the Minister to comment on that aspect. What has been done about this matter? How real is the attempt to keep these cheap productions from entering Australia? I am not suggesting that these books are pornographic. I am merely concerned about the danger to the local printing industry. I am aware that the Department employs people in Australia to search for contraband goods including drugs, pornographic material, watches and radios, but is there any organisation at the other end doing the same work? For example, do the governments in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore assist the Department in any way? Does the Department have liaison with other countries?
I also asked the Minister a question the other day regarding what happens to the transistor radios that are seized by his Department. I was referring in particular to a quantity of radios seized from the Himalaya’ in Sydney about 2 weeks ago. The Minister told me that these goods were held by the Crown for a certain period of time and that they were then auctioned at a public auction. I am not particularly worried about that aspect. What I am concerned about is the price at which those who buy these goods at public auctions are allowed to resell them to the general public. I am only concerned with protecting the man in the street. Somebody might buy the whole stock for about $4 each and sell them retail over the counter for up to $40 each. Has the Minister any method of controlling the quantity that one individual can buy? I refer particularly to purchases by traders. Where do they dispose of the goods after they buy them? It may be that after the purchaser buys the goods they pass out of the control of the Minister. Can something be done to see that the public get a fair deal, particularly in respect of watches and transistor radios?
Has the Minister’s Department any power to search naval vessels which come into the port of Sydney? I know of no rule to prove that persons on naval vessels are not as capable of bringing in contraband goods as anybody else, lt seems that not much notice is taken of those vessels to check whether contraband goods- are carried. That is my experience on the waterfront. Persons on naval vessels could be guilty of bringing dutiable goods into Sydney without paying duty on them. Is there any connection between the Department of the Navy and the Department of Customs and Excise through which protection is afforded against this practice, particularly in the port of Sydney. 1 refer now to the appropriation of $22,000 for a contribution to the Customs Co-operation Council. I would like the Minister to explain the purpose of the Council and by whom it was established.
– During the debate on the Estimates last year I raised the question of the duty payable by certain individuals who were importing machines and other equipment from overseas, f asked the Minister whether a way could be found to hasten the exercise by which officers of his Department return the money due to individuals who have imported machines, a similar type to which is not available in this country. The first point I wish to raise tonight I have raised previously. The Minister will be well aware of it as I asked a number of questions about this matter 2 years ago in an endeavour to find a reasonable solution. The Minister will recall that he satisfied my particular complaint. However, it was raised originally with Senator Anderson, who at that time was Minister for Customs and Excise.
It concerned the importation of a hop drying machine from Germany. A comparable unit was not available in Australia and had never been manufactured here. Senator Wright may recall this case because he also answered some questions about it. Duty of $18,000 had to be paid about 2i years ago. From that date until the last couple of weeks 1 spent hours making inquiries of the Department, endeavouring to obtain a rebate of that amount for the importer. Letters went backwards and forwards between that gentleman and the Department. Finally, within the last few weeks, he received a cheque for $18,000. No interest was allowed to him although he was out of pocket all that time.
I understand that the Department of Customs and Excise seeks to protect Australian industry. I quite agree with that. However, my experience has been that industry does not always handle as carefully as it should inquiries by the Department as to whether it is in a position to provide a similar type of machinery to that which it is desired to import. I had experience of a company in Melbourne importing pattern making timber from Canada. It was obtainable in Canada at a very low price because it was made there out of scraps, placed end on end. No manufacturer in Australia could have contemplated adoption of that principle because we did not have the necessary knowledge in this country. The Department asked the company importing the timber to inquire of two or three local manufacturers whether they could manufacture that type of pattern making timber. The Department said: ‘If they say that they cannot supply it, we wilt allow you to import the material’.
Two of the companies to which the Department directed inquiries were big names in the timber industry but they had never manufactured timber of that type. However, they also happened to be importers of the same item. They would have been very pleased lo put it on the market and so they replied: ‘Yes, we can manufacture it.’ On that advice the Department denied permission to the other company for about a year, until I established that in fact no company in Australia could make this item. I established that the firms to which the Department had put the proposition could not make it for anything like a comparable figure. Then the company making the original request was allowed to import the timber. Tt took the Department about 18 months to arrive at that decision.
In the case of the imported hop drying machine, it took about 2i years to reach a decision. I wrote to Senator Anderson who was then Minister for Customs and Excise. The gentleman importing the machine came to Canberra on two occasions to put his case. It was very clear that no manufacturer in Australia could have provided the equipment. Australian manufacturers did not know the principle upon which the German firm produced the equipment. In fact, it held a world wide patent. Two or three major engineering firms in Australia had said that they could manufacture the equipment. Acting on that advice, the Department had to say: ‘No, we cannot give you a refund of duty.’ A letter went through the ramifications and windings of the Department and emerged at the top in the Minister’s hands. The Minister sent me two letters to say that a refund could not be paid. Finally, he must have found a method by which it could be done because the gentleman concerned has now received a refund of his 518,000. The process takes far too long. 1 think I am correct in saying that the amount of the cheque did not include an interest payment although he was out of pocket for a sizable sum of money. Why should this be so?
– I suppose he was hopping mad?
– He has reason to be hopping mad. J am sure it is not the wish of the Minister that such cases should occur. The Minister must reply that that is the way his Department has to assess the matter; that it must seek the advice of Australian companies on whether they can supply equivalent equipment. If they say that they can, it is necessary to go further into it to establish conclusively whether it can be done, lt is unfortunate that it takes so long. I suggest that the process should be speeded up. That has been my experience of the processes of the Department over a long period. 1 refer now to a matter I am currently handling and one of which the Minister may be aware; that is the importation of auditory hearing aids. 1 have made representations to the Minister on three occasions on behalf of individuals who have hearing loss. It seems that there can be no allowance for an auditory type training aid which is not carried on the person. Such aids when used in schools are in a special category for duty purposes and may be entered duty free under by-law. However, when such equipment is used in a house for the amplification of voices of members of the family in the training of a child, the person importing the auditory training aid for that purpose must pay duty of about 42£% under sub-item 90/19/2 of the First
Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1966-67. I believe that it is unfair that that should be so. The investigation of this matter should be based not on a Tariff Board report made in 1959 but on up to date evidence of what is taking place in training people who have a loss of hearing. 1 will not take the matter any further. I have bad a great volume of correspondence with the Department and the Minister. I thank them for their diligence in looking into the matter. 1 am quite convinced that, before I cease speaking on the estimates, in the next few years they will have given me satisfaction and that these units will be available without payment of duty.
– First of all, I advise Senator Webster that under by-law we deal with 40,000 to 45,000 applications a year. Each one is quite different from the others in its implications. We have a set of guidelines which guide the officers of my Department and which are vitally necessary in the interests of establishing and maintaining industries in Australia. The fact is that, if suitable goods are manufactured in Australia and are reasonably available, the goods are not allowed in under by-law. I think the honourable senator agrees with that.
– My word I do. They should not be allowed in.
– They are allowed in upon payment of the duty that is imposed on them. This is vitally necessary for Australia. Senator Webster mentioned a sum of $18,000 that was paid by way of duty on a hop drying machine, no doubt because my departmental officers believed that a suitably equivalent machine was reasonably available in Australia. Because of that belief, the person concerned had to make a decision as to whether he would purchase the Australian manufactured article or pay the duty of $18,000 and import the overseas manufactured article. He decided to pay the $18,000 by way of duty, under protest. He made further protests to the Department, and over a period he established to the satisfaction of the Department that the machines that were available in Australia were not equivalent to and could not do the job as well as the imported machine. So the Department, being honest in its approach to these matters, said: ‘We will repay the $18,000’. The honourable senator asks why we did not pay the person interest. It is not the policy of the Government in these circumstances to pay interest on amounts that are outstanding.
I come now to hearing aids. Senator Webster andI have had quite an exchange of letters on this subject. He is claiming that auditory training units are a help to deaf people. But an auditory training unit is part of a machine that will amplify noise. It can be put into a radio set so that the further the volume knob is turned the louder the voices of people become.It can be put on to earphones. Under this Government, hearing aids of the types that are carried on the person to overcome deafness are free of duty under the preferential tariff and otherwise are dutiable at the rate of 71/2%. However, the units in question are essentially audio frequency amplifiers and as such are dutiable at 271/2% under the preferential tariff and otherwise at 45%. As the honourable senator mentioned, those duties stem from a Tariff Board report made in 1959. When imported by the governing bodies of public institutions having the care of deaf persons, they are automatically admitted duty free under by-law. In other cases a by-law application would have to be made. Such an application would be considered on the basis of the normal by-law criterion, namely, whether suitably equivalent goods of Australian manufacturer are reasonably available. Senator Webster and I do not argue on that point.
I did not mention before some items that Senator O’Byrne raised.I am sorry that I missed them. I will go back to them now. He asked about the scheme to give preferential tariff treatment to goods from less developed countries. Before any goods are added to the list of those receiving preferential treatment, full consideration is given by the Minister for Trade and Industry to the effect that such concessions would have on local manufacturing industries. Another question that Senator O’Byrne asked related to the cost and construction time of the Customs House in Melbourne. The figure of $4,930,336 quoted on page. 21 of the Civil Works Programme for the Melbourne Customs House is the total amount authorised for this work. Expenditureto 30th June 1968 totalled $4,884,412, leaving$45,924 for expenditure in 1968-69. That is in the appropriation of $180,000 for expenditure on departmental buildings and works of the Department of Customs and Excise by the Department of Works under Division 925 in Document B. The other provision sought by the Department of Customs and Excise this year is $5,300 for alterations to lighting. This has been the subject of a report by the Public Accounts Committee.
asked a series of questions. I am advised that the increased provision for salaries in Division 210 covers the salaries of additional officers appointed last year and an estimated increase of fiftyeight officers this year. That includes prevention and detection staff increases. Let me mention that we are continually increasing the prevention and detection staff. When I was in Brisbane recently thirty new officers were going through a school. I think all of them would have gone into the prevention and detection staff in Queensland. We have schools running throughout the Commonwealth. In the last 3 or 4 years the number of prevention and detection staff has more than doubled. I do not propose to give the exact number.
Senator Ormonde also referred to the importation of paperback books, allegedly to the detriment of local industry. This is a matter for the Minister for Trade and Industry. Senator Ormonde referred to the sale of transistor radios. Any person is free to purchase them at auction. Reserve prices are set to ensure that reasonable prices are received.I think the honourable senator wanted to know whether there was any way of stopping a person who had purchased a transistor at an auction sale for $5 from selling it for $25 to the public. This would be outside the control of my Department, except in Canberra, andI do not think we would be prepared to take any steps along these lines in Canberra. It would a different matter to police because the Department is finished with the radios when they are auctioned and meet the reserve price. The honourable senator also asked whether naval vessels are subject to search by customs officers. We receive full co-operation from naval officers to ensure that customs controls are not evaded. We liaise with other overseas countries and receive information from them on matters of mutual interest, particularly matters involving the smuggling of drugs and so on. The honourable senator asked a question about the contribution to the Customs Co-operation Council of $22,000. The Council is an international body comprising customs authorities from most countries. It meets at Brussels and considers and advises on customs procedures for the sake of uniformity and to simplify customs relations between member countries.
– My question relates to the increase in salaries and allowances payable under Division 210 - Administrative. 1 think that over the last 2 or 3 years the practice of the Department of Customs and Excise has been to withdraw personal supervision by customs officers concerned with bonding procedures. The responsibility now seems to be in the hands of the companies. Has this system proved to be satisfactory? Has it resulted in a saving of manpower? If so, where has this manpower been directed? Has it been directed to the prevention and detection staff which deals with the prevention of the entry of drugs and other items into the country? lt is a considerable change from the old type of supervision to supervision by a company which may bc dealing in spirits, petrol, oil or other items.
– Senator Georges has asked about commodity control. Within the next fortnight of sittings Bills will be introduced in the Senate authorising the Department of Customs and Excise to continue the present procedure. At present approximately 40% of the revenue collected from excise duties is collected under the new system. For instance, refineries, breweries and tobacco factories come under commodity control.
– Personal supervision has been withdrawn.
– The procedure is that, instead of having a person on the premises all the time counting the barrels of beer or the packets of cigarettes, we make a periodic check of the books and examine the goods on hand. If they tally everything is under control. This is a very successful way ot handling the supervision. It is a modern system, as against’ the old-fashioned idea.
– I return to the subject of censorship, to which the Minister referred earlier, and in particular to the ban on a book written by Norman Mailer about the war in Vietnam. I think honourable senators will be aware that Norman Mailer is a very distinguished American novelist. There was some censorship difficulty with his first novel which achieved any fame, ‘The Naked and the Dead’. That ban has been lifted. As far as I know, apart from a political book, none of his other works is banned in Australia. He is an eminent political journalist who has written a series of articles on the national conventions of the major American political parties. He wrote them for leading American journals. He is also a novelist. It seems rather odd that the one book of his that is banned at present in Australia is the one written in opposition lo American participation in the Vietnam war. The grounds which have been given for its banning arc the general grounds which are always given - that it is either blasphemous, indecent or obscene, lt seems difficult to imagine how a political book can be blasphemous, indecent or obscene.
The reason I raise this matter is that whatever virtues may be possessed by members of the boards appointed to administer the censorship of books and films - and I realise that the people who tell us what we may see or read have a wide variety of occupations - nonetheless I submit that items of such importance ought lo be subject to the scrutiny of Parliament. I know thai housewives are members of the boards. I have no doubt that they are proficient housewives. I have no doubt that all the members of the boards are qualified in their fields. 1 suggest to the Minister that when books or films or part thereof are banned by any of these boards a periodical report should be made to Parliament saying what hooks or films have been banned and giving some reasons. Surely the boards would be capable of giving reasons rather than just giving this fatuous description of a book or a film as being blasphemous, indecent or obscene. That phrase is quite meaningless, fi means nothing to say that a book or a film has been banned because, it comes within the category of being blasphemous, indecent or obscene. What it amounts to is that the board does not like the book or film. That kind of statement is a nonsensical one for anybody to make.
– ‘The Naked and the Dead’ was a book about war and it was banned.
– It was banned, but the ban has been lifted. My point is that: it seems rather curious that the ban has been lifted on a book about the Second World War which was alleged to be blasphemous, indecent or obscene, and yet a book about the Vietnam war has a ban on it. The Minister has given an assurance that it has not been banned for political reasons. If that, is the case it would be interesting to know why Norman Mailers political book - not a novel - on Vietnam is blasphemous, indecent or obscene whereas The Naked and the Dead’ does not come within that category. What is it, within those categories, about the book on Vietnam that makes it worse than ‘The Naked and the Dead’? One can only infer that there is political censorship of the book on Vietnam, unless it can be established that it is more blasphemous, more indecent or more obscene than ‘The Naked and the Dead’. With all due respect to the people on these boards - whatever their qualifications - I must say that I for one am not satisfied for them to be telling me what I can read, what I cannot read, what I can see and what I cannot see, however distinguished they may be as university professors or housewives or in other occupations, and whether they come from all six States of the Commonwealth or only one State of the Commonwealth.
A lot of people have a certain aversion to being told by somebody what is good for them to read and what is bad for them to read. I appreciate that this country is far from ready for complete abolition of censorship. We still have probably some of the most rigid and fatuous censorship carried out in any country in the world. I certainly do not think that we are anything like ready for the sort of situation which now exists in Denmark, where literary censorship has been abolished completely. 1 am not advocating complete abolition of literary censorship. I am advocating that when these things are being done, when these university professors and housewives say we cannot read this, we cannot read that, we cannot see this, or we cannot see that, at least the Parliament should be informed as to what it is we are being told we cannot read or we cannot see, and what are the grounds for this to be done, rather than have this broad statement about its being blasphemous, indecent or obscene.
If this information needs to be confidential, so that the public does not see these terrible things that the university professors and housewives are able to read without being corrupted, some private report could be made to the Parliament, including excerpts from the books - if we are talking about books - that caused them to be banned, rather than these general and unhelpful suggestions that they are blasphemous, indecent or obscene. 1 submit that this is purely to use three emotive words which in concrete terms, especially when one is referring to a book such as Mailer’s book on Vietnam, are completely meaningless.
Senator SCOTT (Western AustraliaMinister for Customs and Excise) 1 1 0.3.1 - Senator Wheeldon mentioned the banning of books and in particular” ‘Why are we in Vietnam?’ by Norman Mailer. He asked why this book was banned. The facts of the situation are that the National Literature Board of Review works under a set of guidelines. I have mentioned some of them and Senator Wheeldon mentioned some of them, but he did not mention them all. There is a prohibition on the importation of literature and articles that are blasphemous, indecent or obscene, or that unduly emphasise matters of sex, horror, violence or crime or are likely to encourage depravity. Honourable senators will agree that these are fair criteria for a board to work under, and this book was banned for those reasons.
– Which reasons?
– One of those, no doubt.
– Can you tell us which one?
– I do not propose to tell the honourable senator which one. I am not trying to evade the issue. If honourable senators will let me finish and not interject so much, they will learn as much as I have had to learn since I became Minister for Customs and Excise. Senator Wheeldon asked why these hooks should not be looked at by senators and why they should not be made available. I should like to tell him that prohibited publications are available to all honourable senators.
– I am not suggesting that. I was suggesting that a list of books that have been banned should be circulated periodically to senators.
– I do not think I interrupted the honourable senator once. I said when I was starting this conversation that we would not talk across the table but would talk through the Chair. On a request by a senator or member to a senior officer of the Parliamentary Library provision is made for the making available on loan for a limited period of a book declared to be a prohibited import, but it may be read only in the Library. The book is obtained from the Department of Customs and Excise by the Librarian. Prohibited publications may be released for special purposes. As Minister, I have to report annually to the Senate and give a list showing the number and names of books prohibited or released. That covers the third item to which the honourable senator referred.
Senator MILLINER (Queensland) (10.7] - I refer to Division 210 - Administrative. I wish to stress to the Minister the difficulties confronting the printing trade at present. I spoke on this subject during my maiden speech. Several questions have been asked in relation to these problems and we are awaiting answers to some of them. I will not weary honourable senators with a recital of all of the episodes associated with the printing of Australian books, in Hong Kong particularly. Suffice it to say that al the present time books are printed to the film stage in Australia. The films are then flown to Hong Kong. There they are processed, printed and bound and they come back to Australia as completed books. This, of course, means that the industry is cut in half. The first section of the work up to the film stage is done here.
– I do not want to interrupt you but you arc talking about a matter that has relation to the Department of Trade and Industry. I suggest that you wait for the estimates for that Department to come up for discussion. I have already answered a question on the matter.
– I refer to Division 210. I was very interested to hear Senator Webster raise the matter of the hop harvesting machine. Has a person who makes application for a by-law entry and is not satisfied with the decision of the Department any recourse of appeal, or can he get a special interview with a departmental officer who would have experience in the particular field? I refer also to a young man who is an expert in his field of tyre retreading. He applied for by-law entry of a German type buffing machine. He felt that the efficiency of his business revolved around the features that this machine had. He contacted the Department of Customs and Excise and was advised that an equivalent machine was made in Australia. The Department referred him to a company which contacted him and sent to him details of its machine. However, being a man who knows his job, he was not satisfied with what was offered by the Australian company, lt did not meet his needs lo carry on his business.
He is in private business in a very competitive field against big international tyre producers. He has built up his business from the ground floor in Launceston, Tasmania. I feel that some facility should be available to him to enable him to appeal either to the Minister or to an officer of the Department to whom he should be able to present details showing the variations between what is offering in Australia and the machine he needs as the central part of an efficient production line. He should be able to point out the disadvantages of the local machine. I ask the Minister whether such an appeal1 is available or whether he would be able to travel to Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne or some other place to present a case. He is an expert and would know how to present his case, ls there a departmental officer who understands the differences which may exist between a highly technical piece of machinery manufactured overseas and the one that is manufactured locally?
– The honourable senator has inquired about an imported machine for burring tyres in a retreading business. He has said thai the machine which is manufactured in Germany is much more efficient than the Australian made machine and he asks whether we have officers available to examine applications for by-law entry. He has asked also whether (here is a right of appeal against a refusal. Let me say first of all that there is reasonably available in Australia a machine which is suitably equivalent to the one manufactured in Germany. Therefore the person or company must decide whether they are prepared to pay the extra duty for the imported machine or buy the Australian machine.
I think the honourable senator would agree that in the final analysis a decision must be made by the Department on whether the machine which is available in Australia is suitably equivalent. This is a rather fine decision to make and it involves a tremendous amount of research. Nevertheless,- we must be the final authority to determine this question. We cannot say to a manufacturer or a company wishing to import a machine: We believe the Australian machine will do the job but if you do not think it will do the job you can bring a machine in under by-law. If we were to allow that sort of thing to happen we would have no manufacturing industries in Australia. 1 advise the honourable senator that we do have officers available at all times to consider any request that he may make to me or the Department in relation to the entry of goods under by-law. My officers will give him whatever attention he requires. If he is not then satisfied he has the right to come to me as the Minister and I will adjudicate as I have done on other occasions.
– To enable me to direct a question to the Minister 1 refer him to Division 210 - Administrative. I refer lo the report of the Auditor-General at page 55 under the heading ‘Short Payment of Duty on Tobacco Products’. The report states:
During the year, the Department investigated the records of a number of firms associated wilh the importation of cigars and cigarettes, and found thai duty had been short paid on these importations during the period 1961 to 1967.
The Department advised that the amounts of duty short paid were assessed al $808,244 in respect of cigars and $1,082,425 in respect of cigarettes. At the date of this report, amounts of 5573,561 and $17,372 respectively, had been recovered. 1’he amounts of duty short paid are subject to revision and departmental investigations arc continuing. Administrative and legal action has not yet been finalised.
I ask the Minister: H.ow did the short payments arise? ls there adequate machinery within the Department to ensure that evasion of this sort will not occur in future?
– This is a very touchy subject at the moment. I should like to make one or two comments without taking the matter too far. We have been very disappointed to find this amount of money involved in the lack of collections by officers of the Department. They have been reprimanded and ‘fined because of their inefficiency in collecting these moneys. The matter is at present before the High Court and therefore is sub judice. Consequently 1. do not propose to comment on the other matters referred to by the honourable senator.
– by leave - 1 propose reading a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) relating to drought relief. Honourable senators will understand that when 1 use the personal pronoun T it relates to the Prime Minister. 1 recently received representations from the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria requesting the continuation of Commonwealth reimbursement of State expenditures on drought relief measures. The Premier of New South Wales asked for a continuation of Commonwealth payments for drought relief measures in the south east corner of the State and in the Cobar district. The Premier of Victoria asked for the continuation of drought assistance for financing employment grants.
Honourable members will recall that, in my statement of 20th August 1 968 in this House. I pointed out that, contrary to the normal arrangements in relation to natural disaster relief assistance, the Commonwealth has been meeting virtually the whole cost of State expenditure on drought relief measures. These arrangements have undoubtedly been the most generous ever designed to meet such a situation. I also announced that, as the drought which has been affecting most of the eastern half of the Australian continent had virtually ended, certain cut-off dates for this assistance had been set. 1 added that, if a State felt it necessary to continue any particular measure after the cut-off date for Commonwealth assistance, it would be reasonable for the State to meet the limited expenditure likely to be involved. At the same time, 1 made it clear that, if drought conditions were to reemerge on a large scale, the Commonwealth would be prepared to consult with the States regarding the need for any new arrangements which might be necessary. Very favourable seasonal conditions exist in most of eastern Australia and the areas which arc still drought affected make up only a small proportion of that area. The drought has not re-emerged generally on a large scale. The Commonwealth therefore does not feel able to continue the existing scheme.
We have decided, however, that the Commonwealth should make a contribution towards meeting the special problem which exists in New South Wales where the south cast corner and Cobar districts are still very seriously affected by continuing drought and which might be regarded as areas of natural disaster. In order to help the State Government alleviate hardship being experienced by the people of these regions, I have therefore informed the Premier of New South Wales that the Commonwealth will be prepared to meet half the cost in this financial year of relief measures which his Government may find it necessary to continue in these areas, until the drought breaks.
Victoria is not drought stricken and the seasonal outlook in that State is generally very good. There is no doubt that drought conditions have disappeared over virtually the whole of the State. Because this is the situation, I have informed the Premier that we cannot meet his request for the continuation of drought assistance for financing employment grants beyond the end of this month.
However, I would remind honourable members that, under existing arrangements, the Commonwealth will be reimbursing the States during the whole of 1968-69 for the cost of certain other relief measures incurred after 30th September. 1 refer here, in particular, to carry-on loans to farmers who have established a case ‘ for such assistance before 30th September and to restocking loans to farmers who establish a case for such assistance before 31st December. In addition, the Commonwealth will be reimbursing the States for freight concessions given prior to the end of December on the transport of slock back from agistment or for restocking purposes. Under these arrangements a further advance of $lm is now being made to Victoria bringing our total payments to that Stale to- $13m including $5m this financial year.– 1 would repeat that the four Stales which suffered from the drought have been informed that the Commonwealth will be prepared to consider new arrangements if drought conditions re-emerge on a large scale. I am sure we all hope that this will not be necessary and that the pockets of drought which still remain in New South Wales will be relieved by good general rains in those areas.
(Question No. 375)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has supplied the following answer: 1 and 2. This information is not available for 1968. The following table shows information for 1966 which is the latest available.
Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-I wish to refer to a matter which caused me great concern. It is a Press statement which I noticed yesterday to the effect that the National Capital Development Commission is apparently proceeding with a proposal to erect a building for the Department of External Affairs on Camp Hill. Bearing in mind the discussion which recently look place in this chamber on the site of the new and permanent parliament house, and the overwhelming decision in favour of the site on the hill, and in view of the statements made by the average member of this chamber about the possible extremely adverse effect of a building on Camp Hill, I would ask that the attention of the National Capital Development Commission be drawn to the fact that the matter has not yet been resolved and that if the new and permanent parliament house is to be built on Capita] Hill reconsideration will have to be given to the proposal to erect a building for Che Department of External Affairs on Camp Hill in order to ensure that nothing is done to spoil the view from the new and permanent parliament house.
– I would also like to draw attention to the concernI similarly felt when I heard a news item yesterday to the effect that the National Capital Development Commission was determined to proceed with the building of a ring road on the area on which the new and permanent parliament house is to be built on the hill. I feel that the Commission is acting strongly againstthe wishes of the Senate at a time when this controversial matter is as yet unresolved. I am sure that the general public would also feel thatthe National Capital Development Commission is going beyond the bounds of the usual relationship between a Commonwealth instrumentality and the Parliament in announcing that it is going to proceed with this ring road at this stage.
– Who are these bureaucrats?
– That is whatI want to find out. I would like the Minister to exercise his authority over those responsible for this exhibition of bureaucracy.
– I shall bring before the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) the proposed erection of a building for the Department of External Affairs on Camp Hill, which was referred to by Senator Rae and the proposed construction of a ring road as outlined by Senator O’Byrne.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 September 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680926_senate_26_s38/>.