26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuilin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Works any information concerning a question which 1 asked him on 7th November relating to hazardous forms of insulating material which were widely used in Australia in multi-storey buildings and which, under test, had been found to emit lethal gas? Can the Minister supply any information resulting from his investigations?
– In answer to the honourable senator’s question of 7th November 1 can inform him that insulating material in use in Australia has been referred to the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station for testing. The results of the tests will be brought to the attention of bodies which have a genuine technical interest in this matter. Those bodies include the government building authorities referred to in the question. I should like to add that coronial proceedings are pending in relation to a fire out of which these tests arose. That is one reason for not giving full details at this stage. In addition there are certain arrangements by reason of which tests are conducted in order to protect private interests.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Can he give to the Senate any further information on the plans that have been undertaken to hold a windjammer race to coincide with the Captain Cook commemorative activities next year?
– This question should more properly be directed to the Prime Minister. The Government has had in mind for some time that sailing ships of various nations should be invited to participate in the bi-centenary celebrations. Inquiries of various diplomatic missions have been made to obtain an indication of how a formal invitation from the Prime Minister would be received by the overseas governments concerned. Although replies have not yet been received from all the missions concerned, the response so far has been rather disappointing. The Commonwealth Director, Rear-Admiral Oldham, is following up the matter, however, and we are hopeful that sufficient favourable replies will be received to allow the project to proceed.
– Can the Minister for Supply state whether the proposed firing set for next Monday at Woomera has been deferred?
– A short time ago I received a signal which indicated that there will be a deferment - I do not know for how long - of the firing that was due to take place in the early hours of next Monday morning. As the Senate now knows, I made arrangements for parliamentary representatives from the Senate and the other place to be present at the firing. As soon as I have information on when the firing will take place I shall make it available to the Whips of both Houses so that those honourable senators and members who propose to attend the firing will be able to make the necessary arrangements.
– ls the Leader of the Government aware that just 14 miles from the Sydney General Post Office in the Mona Vale area of Sydney 300 families living in the suburbs of Ingleside and Bayview Heights have no water supply? Would the Minister not agree that in this so called advanced age, when we are launching moon rockets and the like, it is a disgrace that people live under such conditions? As the New South Wales Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board receives federal moneys, 1 ask the Minister as the Leader of the Government and a senator from New South Wales whether he will take appropriate action to secure reticulated water for these families which will be of benefit to their health and could be the means of saving human lives should fires occur in this area?
– I recognise that the absence of a reticulated water service in an area reasonably close to the city of Sydney is in fact a serious matter, and it gets added emphasis, of course, in circumstances of drought or bush fires. I know the area quite well. But I would point out to the honourable senator that the question of water supply in the States is a matter for State governments. In the State of New South Wales and in the city of Sydney and the Cumberland County Council area, the responsibility is that of a State instrumentality, namely, the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board. Its functions and responsibilities are delineated by State legislation. The Commonwealth has no jurisdiction whatsoever and, indeed, would not seek to have any jurisdiction in this particular circumstance. It is a matter for the State Government and one which could well be referred to the Premier of New South Wales and to the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board directly if necessary.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Following an address by the Minister for Primary Industry to the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Scientists in which he emphasised the need for a three-way partnership involving the farmer, the scientist and the Government, will the Minister give consideration in next year’s Budget to making a grant specifically for agricultural extension officers so that the results of scientific research can be more readily and effectively applied to primary industry?
– I will have pleasure in conveying the suggestion made by the honourable senator regarding this very worthy cause to the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise: Is it a fact that three European motor firms have been told to increase their prices or face dumping charges? Which department made the investigations leading to the ultimatum and what was the nature of these investigations? Has the Minister any comment on the assertion by the Fiat company that no charge of dumping can be sustained? As the firms handling Renault, Volvo and Alfa Romeo vehicles have all denied being approached by the Government will the Minister name the other two firms to assist and hasten the process of elimination?
– I made a statement the other day that three European car manufacturers were being investigated in regard to the problems associated with dumping vehicles on the Australian market. I would like to advise the honourable senator that if one studies the map of Europe one finds that there are twenty-four countries in it, including England and Ireland. I also mentioned that I was not prepared to name the companies involved and that assertion still stands.
– Is the
Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral aware that once-daily mail services have caused considerable inconvenience to many business and professional people in outer capital city areas? Has it been brought to her attention that in order to overcome this inconvenience some business houses have applied for post office boxes only to find that apparently insufficient boxes are available? Could she inform the Senate what arrangements, if any, have been made by the Post Office in cases such as these, where business houses would like to obtain their mail more than once a day?
– I have received some information on this subject. There are some post offices at which no vacant private boxes are available for letting to applicants. This situation has been caused by manufacturing problems. But steps have been taken which are expected to remedy the situation in the near future. There are a few post offices, however, where structural alterations will be necessary before additional private boxes can be installed. At post offices at which no normal private boxes are available for the time being the use of an indoor box is arranged as a temporary measure. Under this arrangement mail may be collected as often as necessary each day while the post office is open for business.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, if he is the appropriate
Minister. Has he seen a news release by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd which states that the Premier of Western Australia will officially open Stage 1 of the development of Australia’s fourth iron and steel works at Kwinana in Western Australia on Tuesday, 19th November? I also ask whether his attention has been drawn to the paragraph that states:
Other raw materials used in iron making are shipped into Kwinana over a new bulk loading jetty. They are: Coke from Port Kembla, New South Wales, lump limestone from Japan. . . Can the Minister inform the Senate whether BHP has been given a licence to import limestone from Japan, in view of the amount of limestone that exists in Australia?
– I am not aware of the circumstances of this matter; nor am ] capable of answering the direct question in relation to a licence to import lump limestone from Japan. I will seek the information requested and make it available to the honourable senator as expeditiously as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. I refer to a report that certain suburbs, streets and areas in Canberra are to acknowledge the names of famous aviators and aircraft in Australian history. If the inclusion has not been made already, will he take up with the Minister for the Interior the possibility of making similar recognition at a convenient time of the personalities connected with the Royal Flying Doctor Service?
– In the naming of the suburbs of Canberra, the Australian capital city, it has been acknowledged for some time that the names of prominent citizens should be honoured. Many of our Prime Ministers have suburbs named after them. In addition streets are named after prominent persons. I will have pleasure in putting before the Minister for the Interior that part of the honourable senator’s question which relates to personnel attached to or working in an honorary capacity for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and in recommending that the Minister take note of the honourable senator’s request.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister a question. As Question No. 169, which I put on the notice paper on 28th March 1968, sought to exonerate a journalist from a most serious accusation, does not the Minister consider that in the interests of justice and fair play the question should have been answered before now?
– I would need to refresh my memory on the question on notice to which the honourable senator has referred. But, as I understand the position, it has been outstanding since 28th March. So I certainly will have a look at it as soon as question time is finished and see what the situation is.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he is aware that an examination of the world market for second hand aircraft such as the Electras, currently regarded as obsolescent in the Trans-Australia Airlines fleet, shows that big losses on their resale will be sustained if they are retained until 1970 or afterwards. In order to meet this contingency and having regard to the resultant monetary saving, will the Minister cause an immediate re-assessment to be made of the decision to defer the retirement of the TAA Electras with a view to their early replacement by DC9 jets?
– It can readily be understood that these aircraft have depreciated over the 10 years they have been owned and operated by TAA. I do not know that the depreciation will be very much greater if they are kept for a further 12 months. However, I will refer the question to the Minister for Civil Aviation in order to get a detailed reply.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that a joint Australian-Japanese study of the Great Barrier Reef will commence in the near future? Can the Minister inform the Parliament of the amount of Commonwealth finance involved in the project? Is it a fact that the Australian part of the study will be carried out aDd financed by the Bureau of Mineral Resources because the real purpose of the project is to search for mineral resources and not to study marine life, as stated for public consumption? If the Minister does not have this information readily available will he promise to supply it as a matter of urgency?
– Yes, I will get this information for the honourable senator as quickly as I can.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to an article in today’s Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ stating that satellites are capable of detecting disease in crops and forests and can be used to locate concentrations of fish and oil deposits? Will the Minister cause this article to be studied closely to see whether the Department of National Development could make a useful breakthrough by the use of satellites in its forestry development and mineral and oil search programmes?
– I will be happy to bring the honourable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for National Development. I have read the statements in the Press relating to the use of satellites to aid countries in finding new mineral and oil deposits. The Bureau of Mineral Resources has used magnetometers and others sensitive equipment attached to aircraft to detect certain anomalies relating to mineral deposits.. The use of satellites has opened up a new field of search. The Department of National Development and the Bureau of Mineral Resources have close contact with, and work in co-operation with, authorities in the United States of America. There is a complete exchange of ideas and information relating to this type of work. We believe it will lead to a new system of searching for oil, minerals and fisheries, and that it wm also help in forestry work throughout the world in future years.
– Can the Minister for Works say which Australian airport terminals have refrigerated air conditioning and which terminals have a water evaporation cooling system?
– Being aware of the interest that my colleagues from South Australia have generated in this matter, I have made some preliminary inquiries. I shall later confirm the completeness of the information. In relation to the public areas of Australian airports, only three airports have air conditioning and then only in part. They are at Mount lsa, Darwin, and in the Trans-Australia Airlines section at Sydney. Airports with public areas possessing water evaporation cooling systems are at Adelaide, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. Air conditioning facilities are installed in the catering and business concession areas at various airports, the connections of which I believe in most instances are provided by the concessionaires or at their expense. I add for the interest of honourable senators that following the question asked yesterday by Senator Prowse I have examined the evidence that was given in relation to extensions at Adelaide airport. I found that Mr Ure, Assistant Director-General of Works, in giving evidence before the Public Works Committee, stated that the increased cost of providing air conditioning at Adelaide terminal would be, in his opinion, of the order of $170,000. As I stated yesterday, consideration must be given not only to the increased capital cost but also to the economics of the operating costs.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that heavy imports of New Zealand strawberries on to the Australian markets are causing a depression in the strawberry growing industry in Tasmania and elsewhere? Will the Minister make an early statement on the likely future operation of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement in view of the extreme concern being expressed by the timber, potato, pea, bean and strawberry growing and processing industries and the fat lamb producers of Australia?
– A long series of questions has been asked about the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, with the emphasis on peas, beans and timber. I now learn that strawberries enter the situation. I am quite certain that the same application of the Agreement would be made to any suspected or anticipated injury to the strawberry growing industry as would be made to other industries. However, I will direct the question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I am quite certain that the agreement provides quite adequate safeguards for the protection of Australian and New Zealand interests in the circumstances projected by the honourable senator.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Tn view of today’s Press reports of the possibility of Vietnam peace talks being held in Paris without representatives of the Saigon Government being in attendance, I ask: What is the attitude of the Australian Government to such proposals?
– That is clearly a matter of policy, lt would not be proper for me to answer that question at this stage. But if an announcement or statement is made by the Prime Minister in the future, I will ensure that the Senate is informed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister seen Press reports to the effect that the Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has fully endorsed the claims made by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union in respect to the employment by the PostmasterGeneral of certain persons in mail offices? In view of the report that the ACTU Executive is seeking negotiations with the Postmaster-General and the Minister for Labour and National Service, can the Minister say whether such a conference will take place? Can the Minister say whether the Postmaster-General’s attitude at this point of time is different from the attitude expressed by him in earlier discussions with the APWU’s representatives?
– I understand that a conference on this matter will be held next Monday. I think that we should wait until we know the outcome of that conference. I will refer the remainder of the honourable senator’s question to the Postmaster-General for his reply.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the tactics being used by the Hubbard organisation in the States relating to the claim that Scientology is a religion and therefore cannot be banned, I ask: What is the attitude of the Commonwealth Government regarding the acceptance or non-acceptance of Scientology in the Territories?
– I am aware that certain action has been taken in some sovereign States in relation to Scientology but that action has varied from State to State. 1 am not aware of the approach that may be taken in relation to the Territories. I think this is a matter which should be directed to the Minister for the Interior for his comment, and 1 shall do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Has he anything to report on the conclusions reached at the conference on space research that is taking place at a ministerial level in Bonn at present? Do the conclusions so far reached indicate the prospect of a further work load on his Department at Woomera and Salisbury in South Australia?
– Senator Laught asked me a question on this matter on Tuesday and I indicated to him that I expected to receive signals from Bonn within the next 24 hours. Signals have now been received and are being evaluated. It should be remembered that there was to be a European space conference in Bonn immediately following the European Launcher Development Organisation conference. That second conference is in fact going on at the present time. The ELDO conference took place on 11th November. The preliminary advice is that the ELDO Ministers decided to continue the current ELDO launching programme within the monetary ceiling agreed upon in 1966. For Australia this will mean continuation of the Europa I programme for launchings from Woomera until approximately the end of 1969. The Ministers also decided to continue the work that was agreed upon in 1966 for the commissioning of the ELDO equatorial launching site in Guiana for subsequent launching of Europa II vehicles.
Honourable senators will be interested to note that the conference also decided on the preparation of a further development programme aimed at European satellite launchings, and in particular the launching of heavy geo-stationary application satellites. The detailed development of this programme will have regard to the decisions that emerge from the European Space Conference which, as I indicated a moment ago, is currently going on. It takes a wide sweep in relation to European space programmes. Australia’s contribution to ELDO, as the Senate would know, has been the making available of facilities at Woomera for the initial ELDO programme. A matter for consideration and resolution is our association with Europe in her future space programmes, but this can only be given after we have the ultimate determinations when the present European Space Conference is concluded and we can get a valuation of what may be involved.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. On 3rd June 1964, the Government, in a letter to the United Slates said: Our advice indicates that the safe fatigue life of the Canberra bomber could favourably cover the presently estimated period required for the introduction of the Fill into squadron service; that is in late 1967.’ In view of the prolonged delay in the delivery of the Fill, is this statement still valid?
– The whole history of the FI ] 1 programme is well known in the Senate. To try to equate a statement made in 1964 with conditions in 1968 is a rather unusual approach, lt would be interesting to read some of the speeches made by honourable senators opposite in 1964. They might have had reasons to adjust their views in view of current events, for things do change. When that statement was made in 1964 it was valid. It has been caught up by events, and there is nothing unusual or odd about that.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in Senate. Does the Government dispute or qualify reports that the Government of Saigon has repudiated the arrangements made by President Johnson? Is this Federal Government now ready to concede that its Vietnam policy is in ruins? Will the Government tell us why, in view of the refusal of the Saigon Government to co-operate in reasonable steps towards peace, the Australian Government continues to sacrifice Australian lives in Vietnam?
– I do not concede, and I am sure the Government does not concede, that Australia’s overall policy in relation to its involvement in Vietnam is in ruins. On the contrary. It is true that there are some difficulties at the peace conference but I do not think we should prejudice the overcoming of these difficulties by making statements at this time in relation to them. When the Government wants to make a statement on the matter of policy, it will certainly do so.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that the Minister for Trade and Industry indicated recently that contracts signed this year by pea and bean growers have made the position safe for this year in that companies are thereby obliged to lift the consequent crop? Is it not of the greatest importance, so that the Minister will be on safe ground, to take up with him the contention widely held that the contracts let in some cases are of no protection whatsoever to producers in that there are so many loopholes in the agreement that it is optional whether this year’s crop is lifted or not?
– I had tremendous difficulty in hearing the honourable senator but that was not his fault. The Minister for Trade and Industry made the point that there was not a threat in this present season but that there was an alleged threat in respect of subsequent seasons. I recall that the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry made a statement, I think yesterday, about the negotiations that are going on to deal with the matter within the framework of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. A panel of representatives of both countries has been considering it. I do not think that what the Minister for Trade and Industry said is inconsistent with that. If the honourable senator thinks there is some possibility of a loophole, I am quite certain that that aspect will be looked at in terms of the overall Agreement. I think the question of contracts, and the implications of forward contracting, rates an answer from the Minister for Trade and Industry rather than from me as his representative in this place.
– Mr President, 1 should like to ask you a series of questions regarding the presentation of petitions to this House. Is this merely a futile exercise or has it some significance? 1 ask out of curiosity: What happens to the petitions? Is any machinery established in the Parliament to inform honourable senators of the results of the petitions, just as we receive answers to questions?
– So far as I am concerned there is no machinery to follow up petitions. It is for Ministers whose departments are involved to take whatever action they desire to take on them.
– Supplementary to that question may 1 ask you, Mr President, or the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Standing Orders Committee could pay some attention to this matter with a view perhaps to setting up another committee within the terms of the Standing Orders to deal with petitions on behalf of the Senate. Perhaps there could be an administration committee, as has been suggested previously, to deal with this matter and to see that some action appropriate to the responsibilites of the Senate is taken.
– I should be pleased if the honourable senator would make a submission to me on that matter.
– Does the Minister for Supply recall that he undertook to make a statement about the feelings of insecurity that are held by workers and officers at the weapons Research Establishment at Woomera and Salisbury after he had assessed the position following the Bonn conference? Has he discussed or investigated those feelings of concern? Can he now make any firm statement on regularity of employment in the future for these employees of his Department?
– I do not know whether the honourable senator was here when I replied to a question asked of me by Senator Laught. The situation at Woomera and Salisbury has a relationship to the outcome of the ELDO programming and the other forward programming that is in contemplation. Quite clearly whilst the European Launcher Development Organisation does not constitute the whole of the Woomera establishment - it is only part of it - the activities of the Organisation definitely will have a bearing on it. A first appreciation of the reports I have received suggests that there is a very good prospect that ELDO firings will go on through 1968 and 1969. I do not think it is possible to make an intelligent appreciation of the forward employment situation until these matters have been resolved. As I have said, the conference of member states of the European Launcher Development Organisation is still proceeding in Bonn. It may be that matters concerning Australia’s involvement in the project will arise from the conference and will have to be considered by the Government. These could have very significant implications for the work factor at Woomera. Another matter to be considered is that we have re-negotiated the joint agreement with the United Kingdom Government in relation to Woomera. That should provide a work load in the area for another 4 or S years and would be the main source of employment at the Woomera range.
– I remind the Minister for Repatriation, in his capacity as Minister representing Ministers in another place, that during the debate on the Estimates I cooperated by agreeing to accept replies to questions on a date after the termination of the debate on a particular division. The Minister agreed to supply replies to questions not later than 12th November 1968. I have not received the replies. I now ask when the information requested is likely to be forthcoming.
– I am very concerned to hear from the honourable senator that he has not received the replies. If he will let me know what the questions are I shall endeavour to get the information for him. He should have received replies by now. I apologise for his not having received them.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I refer to my previous question which arose from a letter and other documents which he tabled some weeks ago. I now ask again: Does the Government still expect the fatigue life of the Canberra bomber to cover the period of delay in bringing the Fill into service?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is yes.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise in his capacity as Minister representing Ministers in another place. During the debate on the Estimates the Minister agreed to supply replies to certain questions. The information has not been forthcoming. I now ask him whether be can nominate a date when such information is likely to be made available.
– ls the honourable senator referring to questions in relation to the Department of Customs and Excise or another department?
– Another department.
– I have asked the Ministers for the information and if the questions have not already been answered I shall endeavour to answer them in the shortest possible time. I said that they would be answered by a certain date. I apologise for not having answered them. I shall make further inquiries and see what can be done.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Now that President Thieu has fallen out with America over its Vietnam policy, will the Minister make inquiries as to whether the President’s life expectancy is about the same as that of Ngo Dinh Diem when he fell out with the United States Government?
– Order! (Question not answered)
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Works in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for External Territories. During the debate on the Estimates the Minister agreed to supply replies to certain questions as soon as possible. At what date may I expect the information?
– 1 am pleased to inform the honourable senator that I had a conversation with the Acting Minister for Externa] Territories yesterday and I was informed that answers to the honourable senator’s questions are in the course of dispatch.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise tell the Senate whether a meeting was held yesterday between representatives of the Government and the oil industry at the Department of Customs and Excise, at which meeting it was revealed that a secret agreement existed between Esso-BHP and the Government concerning the oil industry? If there is in existence or has been in existence a secret agreement, why has Parliament not been given details of it? If the Minister knows nothing about the matter at this stage will he make inquiries and, if such an agreement is found to have existed, undertake to table its contents in the Parliament?
– 1 know that there was a meeting of representatives of the oil industry in Australia - both refiners and producers! - and officers of the Government in relation to the new oil policy announced by the Prime Minister early in October. Many items were discussed. The senator has mentioned that there is a secret agreement between the Prime Minister and one of the oil producers in Australia. If the honourable senator wants this tabled I would have to see if there is such an agreement, and whether it can be tabled.
(Question No. 621)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 665)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 699)
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
Is it a fact that some of the new Royal Australian Navy patrol boats have not been fitted with radar or electronic equipment; if so, when will they be so fitted?
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answer:
All of the patrol boats are fitted with radar and electronic equipment before commencing service with the RAN. Most of this equipment is fitted by the shipbuilders during construction, and some items are fitted by the Navy after delivery of the boats.
(Question No. 711)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers: 1 and 2. 1 have already supplied the details of the matter to which the honourable senator refers in a reply to a question on notice he asked on 8th October 1968. The reply appears in Hansard for 17th October 1968.
TEN Sydney- Signed by Mr Kenneth O. Humphreys, Chairman of Directors.
TVQ Brisbane- Signed by Mr J. R. Savage, Chairman of Directors.
SAS Adelaide - Signed by Mr A. M. Simpson, Chairman of Directors.
But the concession was granted on the basis of consideration of the position of the stations concerned as a network, the fourth station of which - ATV Melbourne- did not make an individual application.
TEN Sydney- 5th April 1965.
ATV Melbourne- 1st August 1964.
TVQ Brisbane- 1st July 1965.
SAS Adelaide- 26th July 1965.
Is it a fact that the Postmaster-General intends to reduce postal services to one delivery a day? Is it also a fact that most of these deliveries are done by postmen on push bikes? Would the Minister take up with her colleague the possibility of motorising these services in the hope of retaining the twice daily service which we now have?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
Mail deliveries by postmen are at present being changed progressively to a once daily delivery frequency, except in the inner capital city areas. The changed arrangements are considered to provide a mail service appropriate to community needs, having regard to the relatively small amount of mail handled on the second deliveries and the alternative communication services provided by the Department.In addition, it will now be possible to roster delivery staff on more favourable shifts, and thereby improve their working conditions.
It is a fact that most postmen now use bicycles on their delivery rounds. As an alternative to this approach, the Department has, for some time now, been investigating the suitability of several types of motor vehicles.
Motor scooters, particularly, have proved successful in outer suburban and country areas where there are reasonably long travel distances between delivery points. Generally, however, the vehicles have not been suitable in built-up areas as delivery times are then adversely affected by the need for frequent stops and for the parking of the vehicle while the postman crosses the footpath to deliver mail.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
As a result of representations from the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and from the Commonwealth Bank Officers Association, the Government has reexamined certain existing Legislative provisions relating to the Commonwealth Banking Corporation service and has decided to propose a number of amendments. Section 104 of the Commonwealth Banks Act precludes the permanent employment of married women by the Corporation, except in special circumstances. Both the Corporation and the Officers Association have sought repeal of the section and, in accordance with the Government’s own policy in this matter, clause 10 of the Bill so provides.
Clauses11 to 13 of the Bill propose substantial revisions to some of the existing provisions relating to dismissals and punishments. On occasion the Corporation disciplines an officer by reducing his salary or by withholding salary increases. Doubt has arisen whether actions of this kind are within the scope of the appeal procedures provided in the Act, and the Officers Association has requested amendment of the law to remove this doubt. It is not the wish of the Corporation that such cases be excluded from appeal. Clause 1 3 of the Bill therefore makes it explicit that such actions are subject to appeal. The Corporation has also suggested that the determination of an appeal against disciplinary action for misconduct would be facilitatedby inserting in the Act a definition of that term.
The provisions in clauses11 to 13 have been carefully drawn up in the light of experience with the existing provisions and with the corresponding provisions in the Public Service Act. They fully safeguard the rights of officers against whom disciplinary action is taken. It will be noted that the suspension of an officer, in the circumstances and subject to the conditions that are laid down in the Act, is not itself subject to appeal, though action taken followingthe suspension is subject to appeal.
Other clauses in the Bill will remedy the present lack of a statutory provision for the determination of leave rights of the five fulltime statutory office holders;’ will allow for the Deputy Managing Director, as well as the Managing Director, to give’ certificates relating to the appointment to the Corporation service of persons’ other than those passing the prescribed entrance examination; will authorise present practice by which war service taken into account in assessing an officer’s efficiency includes fulltime defence service; and will increase from $1,000 to$1, 500 the statutory limit on special circumstances’ loans to Corporation officers by the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
Finally the Bill provides for the repeal of section 54 of the Commonwealth Banks Act, which exempts from State stamp duties cheques drawn by customers of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The customers eligible to conduct cheque accounts with the Commonwealth Savings Bank - and the same provision applies to the private savings banks - are local authorities and nonprofitmaking societies and clubs. In practice most local authorities keep their main working accounts with a trading Bank.
Whether or not a society or club is liable for State stamp duty on cheques drawn on banks other than the Commonwealth Savings Bank depends on the law of the particular State. Broadly speaking - andI should emphasise that the situation differs from State to State - societies of a charitable, religious, patriotic or educational nature are exempt from stamp duties. In respect of other societies, however, the general exemption conferred on cheques drawn on the Commonwealth Savings Bank gives that Bank a competitive advantage in holding and attracting accounts.
It has also been put to us by some State governments that the liability of societies and clubs to pay State stamp duties is a matter which the States themselves should determine and which should not, because of over-riding Commonwealth banking legislation, also depend on which bank conducts a society’s account. The Government therefore proposes the repeal of section 54. It is a provision that dates from well before the establishment of the private savings banks.
Customers of the Commonwealth Trading Bank do not have any special exemption from State stamp duties.
It will be noted that section 54 also exempts from stamp duty any receipts or orders for withdrawals from the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Repeal of the section is not expected, nor is it intended, to result in the payment of State stamp duties on withdrawal forms, as I understand that the States do not collect such duties on withdrawal forms used by any of the savings banks. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1963-1966 by providing that in respect of the raw cotton crop produced in 1968, bounty will be payable on the basis of production. I would emphasise that this Bill does not give effect to the 3-year extension of the raw cotton bounty which was recently announced by the Government. That is a matter which will be introduced later when the necessary legislation is prepared.
When the present cotton bounty scheme was introduced in 1964, Australian production was about 10% of demand, and the legislation provided that bounty would be payable only on raw cotton ‘sold by processors for use in. Australia’ within the defined bounty periods. The practical effect of this was that, provided a grower produced raw cotton above the prescribed minimum grade, he received, until (his year, bounty in direct relationship to the quantity and qualities he produced and which were acceptable to Australian spinners. In short, he received an equitable share of the bounty and this was the Government’s intention.
This year, for the first time, and far sooner than was ever contemplated, production exceeded Australian demand and, although an earlier assessment of the marketing situation had led to the belief that the 1968 crop might be absorbed by the local spinning industry if the selling period for bounty purposes were extended by 4 months to 30th June 1969, a recent review of the situation reveals that this is now highly improbable. Unless a remedy is provided this would lead to a situation where growers, who have produced cotton which falls within the bountiable classifications could be denied a proper share of the 1968 bounty because by reason of later harvesting or some other reason over which they have no control they now find the Australian market unable to absorb the whole crop within the defined period.
The purpose of this measure is to remove the possibility that bounty receipts by any grower could be determined by pure chance, and to ensure that the 1968 raw cotton bounty is distributed to all growers in direct relation to the quantity and qualities produced. This is consistent with the basis which the Government has decided should apply over the phase out period of bounty in the next 3 years. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[12.6] - I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the application of the proceeds of two loans recently arranged overseas for the purpose of making advances to the States for housing. The loans have been raised under agreements already signed by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) which are identified in the Schedule to the Bill. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), who was then Acting
Treasurer, referred to the signing of the first agreement for the borrowing of 200 million Deutsche marks in a statement to the House of Representatives on 19th September, and to the signing of the second agreement in the Schedule in a further statement on 8th October 1968.
As is usual with loans raised both in Australia and overseas for the purposes of the Loan Council works and housing programme, full authority for the Treasurer to sign both agreements was given by the relevant Loan Council approval, in the first place, and by Orders-in-Council made under section 105a of the Constitution and under legislation associated with the Financial Agreement.
While authority already existed for the Treasurer to sign the agreements and for the funds to be borrowed and to be transferred to Loan Fund there was no suitable appropriation at the time for advancing the proceeds to the States from Loan Fund. This was because the Loan (Housing) Bill 1968, which would have normally been expected to provide the necessary appropriation for the current financial year, had not yet been enacted. The alternatives were to appropriate the proceeds of the two loans by separate legislation, which is now being proposed in this Bill, or to amend the Loan (Housing) Bill 1968 which has recently been agreed to by the Senate. The latter alternative was rejected solely for procedural reasons.
To avoid duplication in the appropriation, clause5 of the Bill provides a limit of $1 26m to the amount that may be borrowed and applied for housing under the two Bills. This is the amount of the housing programme approved by the Australian Loan Council for 1968-69, as explained in my second reading speech on the Loan (Housing) Bill 1968. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
This bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the borrowing by the Commonwealth of 9.9 million Swiss francs -$A2m - from the Union Bank of Switzerland and $US2,490,040- $A2.2m from the United States Export-Import Bank and the Boeing Company to assist in financing the purchase of a Boeing 727 jet aircraft and related equipment by the Australian National Airlines Commission. This will be the fifth Boeing 727 to join Trans- Australia Airlines’ fleet of jet aircraft. The airline also has four Douglas DC9 jet aircraft, and two more have been ordered with the assistance of the loan approved by the Australian National Airlines Commission Equipment Act 1967.
The general arrangements for the loans are similarto those approved by Parliament for other loans for TAA and Qantas Airways Ltd in recent years. The Commonwealth will be the borrower in the first place, and the full proceeds will be made available to TAA on terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer pursuant to clause 7 of the ‘Bill. These terms and conditions will be the same as those under which the Commonwealth itself borrows the money. As the airline will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreements, the Commonwealth will, as usual, merely assume the function of an intermediary in these arrangements.
As the Export-Import Bank is now restricting the proportion of the cost of aircraft which it is prepared to finance, the Commonwealth found it necessary to secure additional finance elsewhere. We were fortunate in being able on this occasion to secure supplementary finance from the Union Bank of Switzerland, which has been a major underwriter in the Commonwealth’s public issues in Switzerland.
The agreement with the Union Bank was signed by the Treasurer in Zurich on 19th September and the text appears in the First Schedule tothe Bill. The agreement becomes effective when appropriate legislation has been enacted by the Commonwealth. The agreement provides for a loan of 9.9 million Swiss francs at 6.5% interest, with a com mitment fee of 0.5% on the undrawn balance payable from the date of signing. The loan is to be drawn by November 1969 and will be repaid by five equal annual instalments commencing 3 years after the date of drawing. The letter which appears as Part II of the First Schedule provides for payment of a fee of $1.5% to the Union Bank as a placement commission.
The agreement with the Export-Import Bank and the Boeing Company, which was signed by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on 2nd October in Washington, and the text of which is shown in the Second Schedule, also requires Parliamentary approval before it becomes effective. It provides for aloan of $US2,490,040.. 90% of which is to be advanced by the Bank and the remainder by Boeing. A commitment fee of 0.5% is payable, commencing 15th September 1968, on the amount to be advanced by the Bank. The loan is to be drawn by February 1970 and is to be repaid by fourteen equal semiannual instalments between May 1970 and November 1976.
As in the similar borrowing on behalf of Qantas,the Export-Import Bank and Boeing have the right to sell the Commonwealth’s obligations in respect of the amounts advanced by them. If they find it necessary to offer a higher yield than 6% in order to sell these obligations, the Commonwealth is required to meet the additional interest cost involved up to a maximum of 7% per annum. The terms and conditions of these loans have been approved by the Loan Council. The amounts borrowed have been authorised under the 1968-69 programme approved for the Commonwealth at the Loan Council meeting in June 1968 and will be additional to the Commonwealth’s approved programme of $126m for State housing purposes. 1 commend the bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
-I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of parliament to the borrowing by the Commonwealth of $US53m- $A47.3m - from the ExportImport Bank of the United States, the Boeing Company and a syndicate of U.S. commercial banks headed by Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York to assist in the financing of jet aircraft and related equipment being purchased by Qantas Airways Ltd. The form of the loan agreement is annexed to the Bill. The money to be made available under the agreement will be used by Qantas to assist in financing the purchase of four Boeing 747 aircraft - Jumbo Jets - and related equipment, spares and services. The total cost of the project is $US137.5m$A122.8m - of which $US132m $A117.9m - will be expended in the United States. Finance is being sought for approximately 80% or $US106m- $A94.6m- of the United States expenditure. In view of the large amount required, and the fact that a large proportion of it will not be required until 1971, the funds will be borrowed in two tranches of approximately $US53m each. The present loan represents the first tranche.
The general arrangements for the borrowing are similar to those approved by parliament for other loans for Qantas and TransAustralia Airlines in recent years. The Commonwealth will be the borrower in the first place, and the full proceeds of the loan will be made available to Qantas on terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer pursuant to clause 6 of the Bill. These terms and conditions will be the same as those under which the Commonwealth itself borrows the money. As the airline will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreement, the Commonwealth will, as usual, merely assume the function of an intermediary in these arrangements.
The proposed agreement with the banks and Boeing follows the current pattern of agreements with the Export-Import Bank. The Bank usually requires the borrower to find 20% of the total cost of the programme for which finance is provided.In this case, Qantas will be expected to provide$US1 3.25m -$A1 1 . 8m - from its own resources for the first half of the programme, which is estimated to cost $US66m, while the Export-Import Bank will lend $US23.85m, Boeing $US2.65m and the commercial banks $US26.5m.
Drawings on the loan are planned to commence when the necessary arrangements can be made. The final date for drawing is 30th November 1971, unless the parties agree to an extension. In accordance with normal banking practice in the United States, a commitment fee is to be paid on the undrawn amounts of the portions of the loan extended by the Export-Import Bank and the commercial banks. The loan is to be repaid by fourteen semi-annual instalments, the first of which is payable on 30th June 1972. The first seven repayments will be made to the Commercial banks and the second seven to the Export-Import Bank and to Boeing.
Interest on the Export-Import bank and Boeing portions of the loan will be at 6%. However, both parties have the right to sell the Commonwealth’s obligations, in respect of amounts advanced, at prices involving additional interest costs to the Commonwealth of up to a maximum rate of 7%. This is a usual provision’ in recent loans by the Export-Import Bank.
The commercial banks’ share of the loan bears interest at a rate which will fluctuate 0.5% above the minimum commercial lending rate charged by Morgan Guaranty - at present 6.25% - with a maximum rate of 7% and a minimum of 5.5%. The borrowing will be authorised under the 1968-69 programme approved for the Commonwealth by the Loan Council in June, and will be additional to the Commonwealth’s approved programme of $126m for state housing purposes. The terms and conditions of the loan have been approved by the Loan Council. I commend the bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia - Minister for Customs and Excise [12.20] - I move:
This is a Bill for an Act to authorise the Treasurer, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to guarantee the repayment of loans arranged by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd in financing the purchase of a Boeing 727 aircraft and associated spares and equipment.
Recently the major domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A., have reviewed their aircraft fleet requirements wilh particular emphasis on jet equipment. The review has been brought about by the continuing rise in demand for air transportation in Australia, and the operators’ and the Government’s desire to see that the capacity offered continues to cope with the traffic task. The annual report on civil aviation presented to Parliament last month drew attention to the continued growth in air traffic, and mentioned that the International Civil Aviation Organisation now ranks Australia as the world’s third busiest nation in domestic airline operations. This ranking is a high tribute to the domestic operators, and it underscores the soundness of the Government policies which guide and support the development of civil aviation in Australia.
During 1966/67 traffic on the competitive routes operated by Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines was nearly 9% higher than in the previous year, the growth on long-haul routes alone being 1H%. In 1967-68, the overall growth rate on the competitive routes rose to almost 11%, while that of the longer routes leapt to 18%. This order of traffic increase has continued into the current financial year, and has been higher than was expected. On the :long-distance services, in particular, the greater comfort and speed offered by jet aircraft have undoubtedly contributed in no small measure to this outstanding growth.
Both of the major airlines at present operate four Boeing 727s and four DC9s as front-line equipment and, with the further DC9s on order for delivery in November 1968, and August 1969, will each have six of these aircraft in operation by September 1969. The airlines are convinced that each will need another Boeing 727 in the second half of 1969 if they are to cope with the traffic expansion on long distance routes. The Boeing 727 has proved to ‘be a most efficient and popular aircraft and is ideally suited in terms of range and economics for these operations.
The Government has reviewed the airline’s proposals and has agreed that the additional capacity will be needed, in the interests of the travelling public and the community generally. Its attitude is consistent with its policy of promoting the development of an efficient air transport system operated with the most modern equipment available anywhere in the world today. The airlines have reserved positions on the production line and anticipate delivery of the additional Boeings by November 1969, and introduction into service in time to cater for the Christmas traffic. As :in previous cases, the Government has been able to arrange loans overseas as part of the finance for the aircraft to be purchased by Trans-Australia Airlines and the Treasurer has introduced a Bill to authorise these loans.
The Government has concluded that, in the interests of the two-airline policy, it would be appropriate for the Commonwealth also to guarantee the repayment of loans raised by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd for the purchase of its fifth Boeing 727. It will be recalled that this procedure has been adopted in the past, and, in particular, that the Airlines Equipment Act of 1958 and the Airlines Agreements Act of 1961 authorised guarantees of this nature.
The 1961 Airlines Agreement provides that the Commonwealth will guarantee the repayment of loans, not exceeding Si 2m in total, raised by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd for the purchase of jet aircraft comparable with those acquired by TransAustralia Airlines, and the company requested the Commonwealth to guarantee loans to the extent of $12m in 1967, when it arranged the purchase of its DC9 aircraft. The present Bill is necessary, therefore, to authorise the issue of further guarantees for loans outside the limit imposed by the 1961 Agreement.
The Ansett Boeing 727 and equipment will cost some $5. 6m and, as is usual, the company will finance 20% from its own resources arid borrow 80%, in this case approximately $4.48m. [t has arranged loans in the United States equivalent to about $2. 23m, mainly from the ExportImport Bank, and from Australian banks for the balance of $2. 25m. The provisions of the Bill are along similiar lines to previous legislation of this nature, and they contain adequate safeguards of the Commonwealth’s interests in the unlikely event of it being called upon to make payment under any guarantee. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 October (vide page 1497), on motion by Senator McKeIlar:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $5,500,000 for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania during the financial year 1968-69. The money will be made available to these States on the following basis: Western Australia $2,500,000; South Australia $2,192,000 and Tasmania $808,000. There is also provision for block drainage of irrigated holdings at Loxton and Cooltong in South Australia and a limited amount of farm reconstruction work. This will account for $450,000 of the $5,500,000.
Something over $5m will be allocated to meet the requirements of settlers for working expenses and for stock, plant, and, where necessary, the replacement of plant. The sum of $5m will be matched by the receipts for repayment of advances made to settlers during the earlier years of this scheme.
I think I should refer to the background of this legislation because, while the Opposition does not oppose the proposals contained in it, we feel there are a number of good grounds upon which we can criticise the Government and the administration for failing to arrive at positive and permanent solutions of the problems of war service land settlers. Against the background of repatriation legislation designed to give exservicemen an opportunity of settling on holdings, the Government ought to be taking a con tinuing interest in ensuring that the purpose of the legislation can be achieved. We know that over the years there have been many complaints from all States about problems which arise, not always but certainly on occasions, because of seasonal conditions. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), when introducing the Bill in another place, said:
Adverse seasonal conditions have, from time to time, affected income in diverse areas where settlement has taken place. ‘ Some primary products upon which some settlers are dependent have experienced, and are still experiencing, a cost-price squeeze, lt will be appreciated that all these factors have militated against a proportion of settlers, particularly those on the later allotments, being able to accumulate’ sufficient financial reserves to enable them- to carry . on without further borrowing.
Senator McKellar, in his second reading speech, had this to say:
Honourable senators will recall that one of the basic principles .of the scheme was the concept that lack of capital was not to debar an otherwise eligible ex-serviceman from participating in war service land settlement. In fact, -most settlers have borrowed their full financial, requirements from the settlement authorities. The .authorities, for their part, accepted a charge over the assets concerned as security for the money advanced. Many settlers, particularly those allotted- farms in the more recent years, have as yet been unable to improve their financial position , to. the stage where they can operate without further’ borrowing.
We know that representations have been made regularly by ex-service settlers in most States, including my own, but the problems as we see them have not been solved. I should like to refer now to comments made by the Director of War. Service Land Settlement, Mr ColqUhoun, in .a general discussion with Kangaroo Island settlers in 1962. A large number of settlers who were aggrieved about the position .organised a meeting after being prompted to do so by the Returned Services League. It was attended by the then Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Adermann, the. Federal member for the district, Dr Forbes, and the Acting Minister for Lands in South Australia, Mr Brookman. When advancing reasons to explain away the grievances of the settlers, Mr Colquhoun said:
War service land settlement is part of the general repatriation scheme that was introduced following the war. Being a part of the repatriation scheme it must of necessity bear a strong resemblance to the principles that underlie other repatriation benefits. In all repatriation schemes is an essence of assistance for ex-servicemen to re-establish themselves in civil life.
Then he referred to the assistance with was provided under the Act to tradesmen, professional men and settlers. He said:
I will not bring into this discussion the question of pensions.
He concluded by saying:
As war service land settlement is part of the general scheme, the crux of the whole situation is to present an opportunity to the ex-servicemen going on to a block to make a reasonable living. That is what the scheme promises.
That is what has not been done for many ex-servicemen. As the Minister well knows, many of them are suffering great disabilities and the remedies which have been adopted are only temporary. For instance, there was assistance with drainage at Loxton and Cooltang but that is not a permanent solution.
I repeat what I said in 1962 about Kangaroo Island, where the settlers are suffering great disabilities because of their location. Being an island, it is subject to very heavy freight costs. That, for a start, would be enough to embarrass them in trying to reestablish themselves. At the time the rentals were adjusted because they were claimed to be too high. A new method of accounting was adopted. They claimed that the living allowance was too low. The Minister said that in his opinion most of the difficulties arose because of seasonal conditions. That has been presented as the reason for the problems which exist in the upper Murray area.
In addition, there is a continuing argument among the settlers in zone 5 in the south east of South Australia which has not been resolved. Following representations to the Department and to Mr Corcoran, who was then the responsible Minister in South Australia, the settlers finally decided to take legal action. So we have a residue of disagreement in a large section of settlers in the south cast of South Australia in addition to the problems I have mentioned in relation to Kangaroo Island. Perhaps the worst complaints arise from the current position in the upper Murray area of South Australia where they have special problems. Their organisation, the Upper Murray Exservicemen’s Land Settlement Association, led a deputation to the Minister and there were discussions and suggestions to which I shall refer later.
It is true that these troubles arise from a number of causes. They arise from the state of the industry itself; they arise in part as a result of salinity. Fortunately this was corrected partly by the provision of loans about which questions were asked by most of us. There was provision also for undertree sprinklers which have been of some help but have not solved the general problems which the settlers say should be solved by a revaluation of their properties. The deputation came to see the Minister in May this year and put to him that the only solution to the problems of the settlers in the upper Murray area was to write down valuations. In a written reply later to the deputation the Minister said that there was no case for that to be done because sales on the open market of properties which had been surrendered or taken over had been based on very high values and very good prices had been secured. He went on to say that those very good prices were an argument against writing down the valuations.
There is a good deal of logic in the claim of the settlers that when sales are made the financial1 arrangements are very beneficial in order to induce groups, some of them migrant groups from the cities, to take up land. Very special conditions are provided which may cause preference for the land on offer. When local land agents sell ordinary properties it is on the basis of a 35% or 50% deposit with the balance at 6i% or 7% interest, but when war service properties are sold it is on the basis of a 15% deposit with no repayments for at least 12 months, the bal’ance being repayable over 15 years at 6% interest. It is obvious to me - this is a strong argument by the settlers - that this gave rise to the very good prices which were received at the sales. In addition, the sales which had been made at the time were at fairly inflated prices.
The settlers put to the Minister that growers who were having difficulties and could not see any permanent solution to their problems asked: ‘Why cannot we make the same financial arrangements in relation to the sale of our property, if we think we have to get off the land, as are provided when the properties are sold by the Department?’ To date that request has been refused despite the fact that it has a certain measure of justice in it. If a grower wants to sell his property and rescue the value of the skill, the labour and the endeavours that he and his family have put into it, he has to find a cash buyer. That is almost impossible. I mention these things so that they will1 be on record and perhaps re-examined at a later stage.
One fear that the settlers put to the Minister was that, because of their argument relating to high prices received for land sold in the area, the Department might be prompted to say: ‘Perhaps we should sell more land. If a grower is in difficulties and fails, perhaps we should promote the taking over of properties’. 1 trust that the fears of the settlers in this regard will receive proper consideration and that there will not be simply a change of policy as there could well be if the Department wanted to get a quick return on properties from people who in many cases are trying to establish their own countrymen in the district, lt seems to me that these fears are justified. A summary of their conclusions, which the settlers have put before the Minister and which at this stage have not been agreed to, are as follows: The first requirement would be an overall writing down of valuations. Secondly, there should be an investigation of each property and a financial assessment should be made of the property. Arrears should be written off where they have accumulated, in most cases through circumstances outside the control of the individual settler. In arriving at a valuation it should be decided whether, because of the nature of the industry and the area, special consideration should be given on an individual basis. The settlers do not dispute that in some cases properties have failed because of a lack of competence of the settler, but these cases are few.
Another feature in this area is that more and more settlers are being brought under budgetary control to get them out of their difficulties which I suggest, and the settlers organisations agree, are due mainly to the area and the nature of the industry. More than 30 settlers in the area have been brought under budgetary control as a result of which certain rehabilitation measures have been adopted. This has involved replanting and some changes in the working of the holding, but most of these things, apart from drainage work, result in additional debts for the settler. So when he is at the stage of improving his property and rehabilitating it he has to meet additional charges which make his burden greater. Some of the settlers who are men of more than 50 years of age are getting to the stage where their chance of securing permanent monetary advantage from their blocks is becoming less encouraging than it otherwise would have been.
I should like to know whether there is any substance in the reported threats by the Minister which were mentioned in correspondence and discussions. I refer to the suggestion that in future Commonwealth policy will be that blocks which revert to the Crown will be sold on the open market. Settlers claim that previously such blocks were first offered to other settlers whose blocks were perhaps too small. They point out that in some cases difficulties have arisen because of the size of the holdings. They have suggested that it would be a good plan to consider, in instances where there has been a failure, whether the property should be offered to the neighbours of the settler who has failed so that the adjoining properties may be consolidated and improved. But their main reason for making this suggestion is their belief that some blocks are too small to enable a settler to succeed. One of the reasons for the settlers’ dislike of budgetary control is referred to in a letter to Senator Drury from Mr Phelps, the secretary of the organisation to which I have referred. The letter dated 3rd November states, in referring to budgetary control:
This type of solution is not desirable as a form of rehabilitation. If this is how the money is used it will bc of no benefit to the settler, lt will, at the best, conserve the Government’s assets, but the settler will be saddled with a mounting current account. As we told you he will have a deficit accruing until block disabilities are corrected and he can finance all block working and living expenses from crop proceeds. In the meantime he will be pegged to a living allowance of $1,700 a year, or $32.70 a week. That probably would not be so bad if it was over in 3 or 4 years, but he then has the long haul of repaying the deficit he accumulated under budgetary control, plus the arrears that he must have had when he was placed under budgetary control.
The letter goes on to point out that all that happens is that a settler reaches an age at which he might just as well become an age pensioner. For those reasons it seems to me that there are special grounds for ensuring that something is done about the scheme. I know that I am supported by honourable senators from other States who are more aware of the problems than I am, when J. say that many of the settlers seem to think that the administration has become too routine, that the real purpose of the Original legislation has been partly forgotten because of the need for strict economies and the difficulties of making a go of it in the circumstances that I have mentioned. I am aware of assistance that has been given by the Returned Services League.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had mentioned budgetary control and pointed out that in the upper Murray area - a particular area in South Australia with problems - there was a growing number of settlers under budgetary control and, while it did help to rehabilitate the properties, in fact on occasion it caused very heavy disabilities for the future years. I have already read a letter from the secretary of the Association which was sent to Senator Drury. It seems to the Opposition that the growing number of complaints about the scheme has been such as to occasion some special consideration. When there have been grievances in the past the Minister has simply met the settlers. The Director of the scheme has gone down to meet the settlers, but in fact there were no lasting solutions. Some remedies were applied on a short term basis but in view of the initial obligation of the scheme to give certain benefits to ex-servicemen there ought to be a completely new look at the scheme.
I suggest that- as the settlers have said - administration has become too much of a routine. Over the years most administration tends to run in a set pattern and does not encompass the greater issues which arise. As has been mentioned in the other place and in questions in this Senate, there are recurring problems in the States concerned and, it seems to me, there ought to be a meeting of the State Ministers who are responsible for administering the scheme together with the Commonwealth Minister. I would suggest that representative bodies such as the Returned Services League should also take part in this meeting.
The last thing I want to mention is the establishment of a similar scheme for exservicemen who have served in the Vietnam war. While this matter has been raised over the years, a decision not to do anything about it was announced by the late Prime Minister, Mr Holt, in August 1967 - I think - and has since been repeated by Senator McKellar in this place. The argument which was advanced was that the rehabilitation loans were satisfactory for the sort of service which these young people are giving, but in my opinion this does not fit the situation at all. The fact is that ex-servicemen of these wars are in the same sort of position as the ex-servicemen of earlier wars.
Most of the fellows who will apply for the rural re-establishment loan cannot be established in training schemes in industry. Many of them have come from rural areas. In fact, the loan is allocated to them for the purpose of re-establishing themselves on their former properties, lt is certainly not enough to do much more than buy small equipment or a small part of plant. A man who received the allocation could not do much more than buy a new tractor. So there seems to me to be a real case for the Government to look at the reasons found for rejecting the scheme. The Government has indicated that today these ex-servicemen did not have the obligations of the older ex-servicemen who were in the forces for the duration. But in fact it has been widely recognised that all exservicemen are entitled to re-establishment and this scheme has been applied to soldiers who served in the earlier wars. A scheme has been found for national servicemen and others who served in these wars, lt seems to me that as we have a scheme which fits the skilled trades - people who want to find their place in industry as mechanics, fitters and other tradesmen - a scheme ought to be provided for these young people who want to go into the rural industries. So I would like to know whether any further consideration has been given by the Government to the policy which was announced in 1967 in respect of this final group of exservicemen.
– This Bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $5.5m for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania during the current financial year. Of the $5. 5m. approximately $5m is to be devoted to meeting the needs of settlers for working expenses and for stock and plant. The South Australian allocation is given as $2,192,000 of which $450,000 is earmarked for developmental work, mainly on block drainage of irrigated holdings at Loxton and Cooltong, and for limited reconstruction work on some farms which have not achieved the level of productivity desired under the settlement scheme. I commend the Government for what it is doing and has done for the soldier settler generally, but I am perturbed at the very difficult situation in which many settlers, through factors beyond their control, find themselves, lt is a matter of concern that in the irrigation areas of South Australia, for instance, only 40% of the settlers have been able to meet their commitments. At Loxton there are 25 settlers under budgetary control and 14 under developmental cost charges, which means that they have not received sufficient income from their holdings since 1955 to meet their living costs. I am given to understand that at least another 25 will come under budgetary control made possible by the funds being provided under the legislation now before us.
At Cooltong, of 50 original settlers there remain today only 34 due to termination of leases, walk-offs or sale. This does not present a happy picture of the past nor a bright prospect for the future. Something is badly wrong somewhere down the line. A talk with the settlers soon reveals the deep concern felt by them. The years go by marked by hard work and determination to scale the commitment mountain, but then comes a sense of frustration and futility in the minds of many whose only hope seems to be to attain the ability to get out of their financial morass with sufficient cash to provide a home in a new setting, to go out to work and ultimately to be the recipient of an age pension. This surely is not what was envisaged for them. The value of any property used for primary production must surely bc in direct relation to the income earning capacity of that property and governed by this basic consideration. I believe this was the original concept for the determination of the real value of a property and the basis for determining the repayments a settler could reasonably be called upon to make each year.
It appears that those settlers who had no capital themselves when they were allotted their blocks are especially the ones who have the hardest grade to make. Yet it was originally the idea that the proceeds of the holding based on conservative estimates over a long period of prices and yields of products should be such as to ensure a reasonable living for the settler after meeting such financial commitments as would be incurred by a settler with no capital of his own.
I believe that the time has come for a complete reappraisal of the situation concerning the financing of war service land settlement. In spite of the good intentions of the Government, the cold fact is that in many cases moneys made available to relieve the financial embarrassment of settlers have proved to be little more than palliatives, with residual increased financial commitment. The interest burden and the yearly amortisation requirement become insuperable when they are related to the income earning capacity of the holding. I believe that the nettle must be grasped and that once and for all a condition must be arrived at which will allow the settler’s property to be a reasonable business proposition for him. This calls for the holding of an independent inquiry into the whole matter of soldier settlement. At best, palliatives conserve the Crown’s asset, but the settler is saddled with a mounting current account.
My concern is that so often and in so many instances the reason given for the failure to rehabilitate ex-servicemen satisfactorily is just the settlers themselves. From my observations I believe that the trouble goes far beyond the inadequacies of any given settler. The question surely is: Has a realistic business approach been made to many facets of soldier settlement? Is it not better to face the facts fairly and squarely and to take such action as a down to earth inquiry might reveal to be unavoidable? The persons I have met on the war service land settlement fruit growing blocks in South Australia and other areas impress me as being reasonable people intent on making a success of their holdings. I. am afraid that, unless they have made in their favour such overall policy changes as will directly relate the value of the property to the income earning capacity of it and thus provide a proper basis for determining the repayments that a settler can reasonably be called upon to make each year, the basic objectives that either the Government or the settler desires to attain in land settlement will not be attained.
– What area of land do the settlers in South Australia have?
– The area of land is a question that also perturbs me. At one time a given area of land could provide a settler with all that would be required to enable him to live properly, to amortise his indebtedness and to finish up with an asset in the normal course of. events. But, with the change in the economics of rural production generally, it appears that the small unit is the one that is in danger insofar as it is unable to provide a basic return. That raises the question whether consideration should be given to extending holdings to a certain degree.
There has been considerable discussion of what constitutes a livable area on fruit growing properties, and other properties too. It has been claimed that fruit growing blocks of the present size are too small to provide an adequate net income and that if these properties are to remain economic their size must be increased from time to time. There seems to be ample evidence to support that view. Perhaps the most recent statement on the matter was made by Mr A. C. B. Maiden, the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry. He was quoted in the Press on 2nd September last as having said: lt is no exaggeration to say that some of our farmers are no better than what would be regarded in other countries as peasant farmers. Some farms, no matter how efficiently they may be operated, cannot return a reasonable income because of their size. We will encourage people to get off farms like this, and encourage their neighbours to take up the vacated blocks under various terms and conditions we would consider attractive.
With the net return per acre constantly diminishing. Mr Maiden’s remarks are particularly applicable to fruit growing properties. If the principle of increasing acreages to help overcome problems is accepted, we should look at methods whereby this may be attained for war service settlers in the areas.
For various reasons leases are cancelled or surrendered from time to time. As steps to achieve an increase in acreage, where desired, I suggest the following, which are the considered opinions of people right at the heart of the problem. Firstly, the reversal of Commonwealth policy under which blocks whose leases have been cancelled or surrendered are sold on the open market, and the substitution therefor of the reallotment of the property to a war service settler already holding property in the same area or the calling for tenders from existing settlers in the same area, with the successful tenderer making annual payments of interest and principal over the remaining term for the property. Secondly, settlers wishing to sell should be able to offer their properties on the open market; otherwise the market value of the properties could be depreciated. However, if the successful buyer is a local war service settler he should pay only the value of the improvements over and above the valuation to the seller and should be permitted to take over the annual repayments of interest and principal in the same way as the original owner. I hope that the points I have raised will be given due consideration by the Government. I support the Bill.
– I rise to speak on this matter not as a senator from Queensland - this is not a Bill that has application to that State - but because the Australian Democratic Labor Party received overtures from primary producers in South Australia, particularly those associated with the dried fruits and citrus fruits industries, in relation to the general economic condition of those industries, and subsequently a gentleman who was a member of the deputation, Mr Wilson, wrote to the Party in relation to this Bill. This Bill was not the primary subject of the deputation, but Mr Wilson sought the opportunity to make his overtures to the Democratic Labor Party - they already having been- made to the Government and to the Australian Labor Party - so that the approach’ of the association for which he spoke-the Upper Murray ‘ War Service Land Settlement Association - would be of a totally non-party political character. He drew attention to the serious position that faces the producers in the Upper Murray area who, with others, are the subject, of the provision-now being made in this Bill.
The fact that this legislation, which makes provision for such a vast sum of money to be made available to primary producer exservicemen, has to come before the Senate indicates that the attempt to find a place in life has not totally succeeded in the case of many of them. Apparently the major proportion of this money will go not to the opening of any new soldier settlement blocks - although there may be’ a few- - but merely to trying to retrieve the position of those who, over many years, have been attempting to place their ex-servicemen’s properties on an economic basis and have not’ succeeded.
Undoubtedly the fact that this very considerable sum of money has to be voted on this occasion is itself an unfortunate acknowledgment of the condition of these people. I agree with Senator Laucke and other honourable senators,’ including Senator Bishop, that the approach to this matter obviously has not been totally satisfactory. This area and this group of growers who have placed the facts of- their situation before my Party, are of immediate concern. While it is a complex situation for one immediately to comprehend not being associated with it either in the State of South Australia or in the industry generally, nevertheless we can appreciate the. problems facing these growers.
The solutions are many but none of them appear to be totally, satisfactory. At best, they are short range solutions and I doubt whether ultimately they can succeed. Perhaps, as Senator Laucke said, a totally new approach to solving the problems may have to be embarked upon. As I understand the situation, there have been people in this area who have been attempting for years to put their properties on an economic basis but have not succeeded. The position has finally emerged where the valuation of the property having been taken into account and a calculation made of what would be a reasonable economic return from the property, provision is made for a not unreasonable income for living expenses and the balance is put aside to service the mortgage or loan to the Department of Primary Industry. The position is that the valuations are high. As this is a factor taken into account, altogether too little money is left after the calculation. These good gentlemen, their wives and families, are not able to attain the standard of economic living to which we aspire these days.
One of the problems in the settlement of ex-servicemen in rural industries is that those who are settled are not altogether and always personally and individually equipped for the occupation they have selected. We know the tragic history of soldier settlement in the Slates, particularly after the First World War. The inability of men to conduct their farms was a contributing factor. That by no means was the major factor and certainly was not the only factor. One of the things to be considered always, of course, is the economic condition of the industry concerned. There have not been so many returned soldier land settlement ^problems in rural industries that were economic. In Queensland, from long memory, returned soldier settlement presented problems in industries such as the tobacco industry and the fruit industry, which were subject to sporadic economic returns. Therefore the settlers were exposed to all the vagaries of intermittent production and intermittent markets. In other industries, such as the sugar industry, there has been soldier settlement. In that industry, which was stabilised and organised, the same problems did not arise.
In South Australia, whether soldier settlers are engaged in the citrus industry or the dried fruits industry, obviously they are in a very difficult position. This was indicated to us by another deputation which asked whether it was possible to get some form of national control by the establishment of a statutory board or otherwise, to inject stability into the industry and enable it to attain an economic level which today is denied to it. We find that the good gentlemen from the area under discussion are engaged in an industry which is faced with great problems of land valuation. In addition, it is an industry which, economically, is not functioning satisfactorily. In those circumstances, and in conjunction with all the factors that have been mentioned, it does look as though it will be extraordinarily difficult to solve the problems.
One solution suggested was that there might be a writing down of the valuation of properties. That suggestion may appear all right for the moment but once this was done it would be very difficult to restrict the writing down to the farmers concerned. This step might have to be taken over the general area and this immediately would lower the loan potential of the whole of the area from the point of view of banks and other lending institutions, machinery suppliers and people of that nature. Therefore, while this may appear to be an acceptable and easy solution, possibly it is not the best solution. I know that when similar situations faced primary producers in Queensland after the First World War and a great number of them, whether in group soldier settlement areas or in small State settlement areas, got into economic difficulties periodically, there had to be a recalculation of indebtedness. There had to be a funding or a capitalisaion of arrears. There had to be an alteration in interest rates and a redetermination of the period of loan. I should say that this appeared to be a rather logical and close to hand technique which should be available, and perhaps would be available, in this case.
Whatever the position and whatever the solution, it is obvious that there is nothing close at hand. After many years in which these men have been trying to eke out a living and obtain some level of economic self sufficiency - probably after 17 years or so - the Government is now called upon to provide $5m in order to retrieve them from the financial difficulties in which, through no fault of their own - in a general sense - they are now embroiled. It is quite likely that we will be called upon to do this periodically. If a solution is not found for these good people they may have to be underpinned financially by this Parliament time and time again. That is not satisfactory for them. The present situation is personally disastrous and socially unsatisfactory and robs a person of his personal dignity. In rural areas generally we find men of independence who like to pursue their independent way. Many are forced to live under budgetary control. We know that this happens. It happened some time ago in a different sense in the grazing industry when lending institutions put their mortgagors under some sort of budgetary control. This is undesirable. As a financial measure, it may be the only practical thing to do but it is resented, and those who are subjected to this form of social and financial discipline must resent it.
All these things will be the inevitable concomitants of a scheme such as this if we pursue it along the present lines. It is very easy for me and for other honourable senators to say that we merely suspect these things. I am sure the Ministry is quite aware of the difficulties generally and of the difficulties of individuals. I am sure departmental officers are equally solicitous and that they try to discover solutions which they could profer to their Ministers and which could come before the Senate for debate. Having the will, of course, does not solve the situation. Perhaps a thorough investigation of this scheme by some appropriate body might discover a solution to the whole problem. It was suggested by Mr Wilson, the person who wrote to me, that perhaps the Senate, following its rather recently discovered procedure of creating standing investigatory committees, could well give its attention to this matter. 1 do not know that it would be appropriate for the Senate to set up a committee merely to consider this matter. But there would appear to be some warrant for standing committees, in the general sense, over many areas of administrative life such as, for example, land service war settlement, so that if a problem arises in the administration of a scheme, as has arisen in this case, a special committee might well be directed to investigate the particular area, report back to the Senate and in turn, bring a report to the Parliament. Those are matters which have been canvassed by my correspondent and which appealed to me as practical approaches to the problem.
Perhaps one of the major conclusions we can draw from the whole unsatisfactory state of affairs is that obviously the industries in which these good people are concerned are industries which require economic stabilisation. I think that in the absence of stabilisation our bravest attempts to try to plug up these recurring holes are not going to be greeted with success. We will be constantly defeated and constantly asked to revote money to try to carry these people on further. A great number of soldier settlers already have walked off their blocks. That is the last act of desperation. We have seen this’ happen too often in Australia and the fact that men do so is no criticism of them. After many years of attempting to the best of their ability, and no doubt with services given and sacrifices made by their wives and children, to make the venture successful, they are compelled to take the last drastic step of walking off. We hope to avoid that in future, if possible. Such unfortunate events will recur unless the settlers are engaged in an industry which is economic, viable and stable. We can take this problem only as an indizia of general malaise that exists in the general geographic area where these people are engaged.
I suggest that it is the responsibility of members of this Parliament, our attention being drawn to the plight of these people through this legislation, to direct our concern to the primary industries of Australia on which we have relied so much and for which in many cases we have done so little to provide stability to enable the people in them, irrespective of whether they are e>:-i servicemen, to gain the economic return to which they are entitled. There is great concern for economic stability and return in every other segment of life. Trade unions and members of industrial tribunals have regard for those factors in the determination of conditions for people in the employee class. Members of the professions and selfemployed persons are able adequately to look after themselves, but soldier settlers arc subject to vagaries which are completely beyond their control. They are victims of international supply and demand, of policies that are extremely difficult and render their task even harder, of pressures exercised within the community by competing groups. At the end of the line come the soldier settlers who are trying to establish themselves in a way of life for which they have worked for many years.
The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill, commends the Government for the provision of the money that is to be made available, but regrets that it is necessary to take this action because it points to a very serious and even tragic situation for which nobody seems to have a remedy. 1 suggest that the Government should attempt to discover a remedy and to apply it so that the settlers who are left can go forward wilh more hope of economic security and viability in the future.
– I rise to support the Bill, of course. In doing so 1 do not offer any criticism of the war service land settlement scheme because 1 believe that the officers of the Department of Primary Industry who administer the scheme have done their best to make it work. Difficulties have been encountered. It is not easy to establish people on farms and to get them eventually into the position where they can stand on their own feet and become stable primary producers in the community. The following statement by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in his second reading speech indicates that something must be very wrong:
Just over S?m of this money is needed to meet the requirements of settlers tor working expenses and for stock, plant and, where necessary, the replacement of plant purchased previously. . . Many settlers, particularly those allotted farms in the more recent years, have as yet been unable to improve their financial position to the stage where they can operate without further borrowing.
I do not know how recent is the period referred vo in the last statement. The scheme has been in operation for about 20 years and few settlers should be left in the position of requiring assistance to become primary producers. It seems to me that something is not right with soldier settlers. Senator Laucke cited figures relating to the scheme in South Australia. He pointed out the numbers in one district who had left their farms. I believe that a very much bigger percentage of farmers who were established on King Island have left their holdings and have gone somewhere else.
It is difficult to establish people who are triers and do their best but have no financial nous whatsoever. All kinds of human factors come into the proposition. A large soldier settlement scheme was originally planned on King Island but it has been a running sore ever since it was established. 1 remember quite well that there was opposition to the scheme in the Tasmanian Parliament by people with long experience of primary production. They said that the scheme should not be established on King Island at all. lt is an isolated location involving heavy freight charges in and out. The wives of many settlers cannot put up with the isolation and wish to leave. All kinds of factors must be considered.
Attempts have been made for many years to have set up a thorough and searching inquiry into conditions on King Island and some other centres in Tasmania. A few years ago a departmental inquiry was held but the results were never divulged. I think the inquiry was set up by both the Commonwealth and State governments, not byrne parliaments. Great things were expected of it and I believe that it did throw light on many dark places of the scheme. 1 believe that an all-embracing inquiry should be conducted into war service land settlements, at least in Tasmania, to find out the basic causes of the trouble. At a time so long after the establishment of the scheme it should not now be necessary to provide money for the settlers, except in respect of recently established settlements.
Another factor to be considered is that the problems may well become more acute because of a slump in primary production caused by steep increases in costs that have occurred in the last few years. Even stable primary producers outside the war service land settlement scheme are rinding it difficult to carry on; or at least they have to be very careful. Certainly they are not making a substantial profit. Because of that factor soldier settlers probably face greater difficulties than they have so far encountered. On King Island there has been agitation for years past for an inquiry. Even the Returned Services League agitated for a royal commission. I do not know whether that is necessary, but I do agree with Senator Byrne that in times when the Senate is setting up select committees to inquire into all sorts of subjects, it should be possible to consider the setting up of a committee to inquire into war service land settlement. If that is not possible, at least an inquiry could be conducted by men in a position to know - I am not saying that I am one of them - just what is necessary to stabilise what is left of war service land settlement in Tasmania. I remember that years ago a very good committee was set up by the State Government in Tasmania to inquire into war service land settlement on King Island. That committee was composed of men with a long standing knowledge of primary production. Although its report was never given effect, it was looked upon as the yardstick. Copies of it were eagerly sought by those interested in soldier settlement on King Island. A lot of people believed that the Committee’s recommendations would remedy the trouble that afflicted soldier settlement on King Island. That inquiry was conducted years ago. In the light of prevailing conditions and the slump that is taking place Australia-wide in primary production, I believe that there is a dire necessity for an inquiry to determine what is basically wrong with soldier settlement, particularly in Tasmania.
– I shall not take up the time of the Senate for more than -a couple of minutes. As a senator from Western Australia, I believe that I should express my appreciation of the fact that a move is being made to assist the soldier settlement scheme in Western Australia. 1 have met soldier settlers in the Mount Frankland and Rocky Gully areas who have been there for periods of 20 years and although some of them are in quite reasonable circumstances, a large number are really finding the position at the present time to be most difficult. I agree with Senator Lillico that at some early date we should have an inquiry into war service land settlement in order to determine what can be done to make the soldier settlement scheme - which started out well - work much better for the soldier settlers than it is at the present time. But on behalf of the soldier settlers in Western Australia I wish to express appreciation at what is being done.
– in reply - I, too, regret that it is necessary for legislation of this nature to come before the Senate, but it only comes before the Senate because there is need for it. It has been made quite evident by those who have spoken this afternoon - and I know that those who have not spoken feel the same way - that a large measure of sympathy is felt for those people in need of the assistance provided by this Bill. In any scheme to re-establish or rehabilitate any body of men it is very difficult to make sure that everyone comes out on a reasonably affluent basis. Failure is brought about in some instances by misfortune and in others because some men are better managers than others. Also there could be some slight difference between the properties acquired, although this factor is taken into consideration when the properties are being apportioned.
So far as New South Wales is concerned, a large majority of those who took advantage of the war service land settlement scheme after World War I were in very poor circumstances for many years. It was felt that the blocks were too small. The soldier settlers also ran into bacl years with poor prices. But the blocks made available to soldier settlers after World War II were larger and most of the settlers - particularly the early ones - had a run of good seasons and high prices. I am pleased to say that many of these men were comparatively wealthy within the space of a few years. Unfortunately, as has been shown this afternoon, this has not been the case in the agent States. My own State, New South Wales, is not concerned with this legislation because it does not come into the category of an agent State.
I turn now to some of the matters mentioned by honourable senators. Senator
Bishop referred to rentals. He also mentioned that legal action had been taken. That is quite correct. Therefore, I cannot comment on that aspect. He also spoke of the sale of soldier settlement blocks. 1 do not know wether he has received the information on this aspect that I forwarded to him, but I point out that, in future sales, concessions will be given. The deposit required from outsiders will be 30% and from those owning war service land settlement blocks it will be only 15%. The honourable senator is> no doubt aware that there have been anomalies .here. It is hoped that this legislation will iron out some of those anomalies. The request that the Commonwealth finance sales by soldier settlers goes beyond this legislation. However, I can inform the honourable senator that the matter is under consideration. Senator Bishop said that the Government should adopt a policy of offering lots for sale to soldier settlers. As I understand the position, vacant blocks that were not productive were offered as transfers. I believe that some transfers have already taken place. Some blocks were also subdivided to build up adjacent blocks, perhaps of marginal productivity. Senator Byrne referred to credit advances to the States. Credit advances to all States so far have amounted to $103m. An amount of $73m has already been repaid. Much of the outstanding amount is for long term mortgages.
The sum of $5m which will be raised under this legislation to finance working expenses, plant replacement and so on works out at an average of about $2,000 for each soldier settler. Generally speaking, this is not a very large amount to have outstanding on a farming property. Senator Laucke also referred to the general conditions prevailing. It may be of interest to honourable senators to know that the numbers of farms allotted under the war service land settlement schemes are as follows: 3,047 in New South Wales; 3,048 in Victoria; 470 in Queensland; 1,028 in South Australia; 1,017 in Western Australia and 539 in Tasmania- a total of 9,149. Commonwealth funds used on the scheme amount to $247m. This includes a nonrepayable amount of $7m for living allowances and remission of rent, and $2.5m in interest payments to the agent States. Excess costs written off in the agent States amount to $37m. 1 also made a note of Senator Bishop’s other remarks. I am not conversant with the area that he had most to say about. 1 have seen- King Island and 1 know some of the difficulties associated with that area. I was shown blocks where soldier settlers had been . successful and had bought out their neighbours. I agree with Senator Lillico’s comments that the conditions on King Island were against the settlers right from the start.
– Did the Minister say that he had been to King Island?
– Indeed I have. I am sure that the honourable senator is well aware of that, too. I was pleased to hear that the soldier settlers in Western Australia are in a somewhat better position than those in Tasmania.. Senator Byrne said that there should be a write-down in the overall value of farms. This has been looked at, but it has not been found practicable. Senator Bishop also asked why those who are serving in Vietnam, are not eligible for a similar soldier settlement scheme. I have given the answer to this on a number of occasions,.. and 1 give it again briefly now. It has not been Government policy to do this, the reason being that these national servicemen are called up for a period of 2 years. They know exactly how long they are going to be’ in the Army. The World War I and World War II men did not know this. Further, in some cases national servicemen are given some concessions when they are called up. I was a bit disturbed the other day to hear a man who should have known better if he had been following Government legislation - he was not a senator, thank goodness - referring to what he called a ‘soldier settlement scheme for ex-servicemen’ from Vietnam. He said that the proposed figure of’ $6,000 was too low. A soldier settlement scheme for Vietnam ex-servicemen was never mentioned by the Government. As was correctly stated this afternoon, this amount is to be available to assist those who are going back on to the land, or to assist men who are qualified and who have some other money to go on to the land. As honourable senators know, we already make S3.000 available for those who want to go back into industry or business. It has not been the policy of the Government and there is no intention on the part of the Government at present to extend the war service land settlement scheme to men returning from Vietnam. I thank the Senate for its reception of the Bill and for its speedy passage through the second reading stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining, stages . without amendment or debate. ,
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos 1 to 9) 1968
Debate resumed from 23 October (vide page 1496), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– The nine Bills which we are considering together were last amended in 1964. I have not looked up the debate which took place at that time to see the arguments that were presented both for and against them, but 1 am certain that the Australian Labor Party then in Opposition would have been opposing them. On this occasion we adhere to our policy that sales tax should be reduced to the minimum, not increased. Therefore, we are again opposing these measures.
I delved back into the history of Parliament to find out why nine Bill’s should have been introduced. It seemed to me to be a quite confusing way of dealing with sales tax. Sales tax was first introduced by a Labor Government in 1930. It was introduced for a special reason, and the rate imposed was 2½%. The reason for introducing sales tax at that time was that customs duties were falling seriously and it was necessary to obtain funds. The imposition of sales tax was a practice that had grown up around the world. We endeavoured to introduce a Bill’ framed somewhat on the lines of the Canadian legislation. In Canada however, because of the way in which their constitution is drawn up, they were able to deal with the matter by the introduction of only one Bill. Because of section 55 of our Constitution, this was not possible in Australia. According to a High Court interpretation of the Commonwealth Constitution, it was considered that several Bills would be necessary. I refer to page 4932 of Hansard for 1930 where Mr
Scullin is reported as having said this when introducing the legislation:
It is necessary to introduce nine separate assessment Bills and nine separate rates Bills to do precisely what in Canada can be done with one assessment Act and one rales Act.
This does seem peculiar, but apparently nothing can be done about it.
The first four Bills before us deal with goods which are manufactured in Australia and sold in various ways. The first one relates to goods made in Australia and sold by the manufacturer or treated by him as stock. The second relates to goods made in Australia and sold by the taxpayers who purchase them from the manufacturer. The third relates to goods made in Australia and sold by a taxpayer who is not either the manufacturer or the purchaser from a manufacturer. The fourth relates to goods manufactured in Australia which the taxpayer purchases for his own use. In Bills Nos 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 we, deal with goods that are imported into Australia. Even though the Constitution seems to insist that we must have separate measures, 1 cannot for the life of me see why the goods covered by Bills Nos 5 and 6 could not be dealt with in the one Bill because Bill No. 5 relates to goods imported into Australia by a taxpayer and Bill No. 6 covers goods imported into Australia by a taxpayer and sold by him or applied by him for his own use. It would seem to me that they could have been included in’ the one Bill originally. But I suppose this is our own fault. A Labor Government introduced them and what we did has just simply been carried on. I also think that two of the other Bills possibly overlap.
As I have said, sales tax was first introduced in 1930 and the rate then imposed was 2½%. Gradually the rate was increased until in 1940 it was, I think, 8%. In 1940, different schedules were introduced. These schedules, now appear in the nine Bill’s now under consideration. First we had the General Schedule, the Second Schedule and the Third Schedule. Since then the Fourth, the Fifth and the Sixth Schedules have been added. Apparently the Fourth and Sixth Schedules have been dropped by the wayside because they are not mentioned at all in the nine Bills under consideration. We are nowleft with the General, the Second, the Third and the
Fifth. Schedules. The Second, the Third and the Fifth Schedules are not being amended at all by these Bills.
The General Schedule, which is the only one being amended, relates to a tremendous range of commodities used by the ordinary person. These were outlined by the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), when introducing the Bills. Incidentally, although this is a particularly complex matter the Minister introduced the Bills with an extremely short speech. His speech barely takes up one column in Hansard, yet the Bills make a tremendous change in the economy of the country.
The 15% we are now asked to approve will add in a full year about $44m to the exchequer. This is an insidious form of taxation; people do not realise it is being levied although it is costing them more to live. If you asked a person how much he paid in sales tax, which is only one form of indirect taxation, he would not have a clue. That was pointed out during the debate in another place. One honourable member emphasised how difficult it was for the ordinary man in the street and the people in the lower income group to know what was going on. It was pointed out that the increased sales tax has been in operation since August and no one has complained. That is true. I think the reason is that people just do not know what is happening.
– Which of these items would be purchased by the ordinary man in the street?
– If you look through the schedules in the original legislation you will find that many of the items are purchased by the ordinary man in the street. Motor cars do not come into this. They attract sales tax of 25% and I am not speaking about them, but there are many other things that the ordinary man in the street purchases. I was interested in one argument that was put forward in the other place - that the tax is imposed at the point of manufacture. I do not entirely agree with it from my reading of the Bill. As far as I can see, that does not happen all the time although it happens quite a lot.
When I as an ordinary purchaser go into a shop how do I know at what point the sales tax is applied? For the benefit of Senator Greenwood, who just interjected, let me instance ray own experience. When 1 go into a retail store to buy some bolts which will be used on the farm the assistant adds sales tax on the docket. Although the bolts are manufactured in Australia the point of purchase is not the point of manufacture. When I tell the shopkeeper that the bolts will be used on the farm for an attachment to a tractor he asks me to sign a form to that effect and I am not required to pay the tax. According to the Act, if these articles are manufactured in Australia the sales tax should be added at the source of manufacture, not at the point of sale. If all sales tax were added at the point of retail sale we would know where we stood.
In another place reference was made to a rather interesting point iri relation to Sunbeam mixmasters. Large firms buy these articles in bulk and obtain a discount. Sales tax is added at the point of manufacture and is correspondingly lower. These articles can be purchased by the large firms at a lower rate than that at which they can be purchased by the small store which buys only one or two at a time. That is one of the advantages of buying in bulk. Quite a considerable amount is involved with mixmasters. Instead of paying $51.18, which attracts sales tax of $1.28, the big firms which buy 50 or more at a time get them for $42.65 which attracts sales tax of only $1.07. For my own satisfaction 1 rang two firms in Canberra this morning to find out the price at which they were selling mixmasters. To my surprise I learned that there is a special price at the present time for mixmasters. I do not know whether it has anything to do with this legislation.
– Is this for senators only?
– I did not mention my name. If I had I am sure the price would have been doubled. I found that I could buy the mixmaster from the first firm for $53. I asked: ‘Does that include sales tax? I was told: ‘Yes, sales tax is included. This is a special price, because they normally sell for about $70.’ That is what I expected to pay. I rang the second firm and when I asked the price I was told: ‘We are having a special at the present time and the price is $52.95’. I stopped investigating then because I had made my point. I was told by both firms that the price included sales tax but I could not get from them whether they were including the sales tax or whether the sales tax was included before they received the articles. I gather - I think this is how it should be - that in their case the sales tax was added at the wholesale point, not at the retail point. But that does not happen every time. On a number of occasions when I have gone into stores, particularly electrical stores, I have found that sales tax was added when they wrote out the docket. That happens particularly with radio valves, parts for transistor radios and so on. When I tell them that I was in the Post Office at one time they say:In that case you get a discount’, but they still add the sales tax. I think sales tax should be added on to the wholesale price.
An increase of 2½% in sales tax does not sound very much but when you realise that it is 2½% on top of the 12½% which is already in existence it represents an increase of 20%. In 1967-68 sales tax per head of population amounted to $34.93. So for a family of four - this is only a rough estimate because different people buy different things - sales tax would be about $140 a year or about $3 a week. That must be a burden on the ordinary family man. Now the Government proposes to increase the burden of indirect taxation on the family man and the lower income group by $20 a year, an increase of 20%. It seems to me that what we should do - this was proposed in the other place but we are not so moving in this House - isto take steps to institute a full inquiry into the general application of sales tax to see where it is being applied, which groups in the community are being hit the hardest, and what is the proper method of spreading the amount required by the Treasury over the community as a whole. All these things should be looked at in a proper investigation. I am sorry that the amendment was not carried in the other place, possibly due to the lack of numbers, but it should be considered seriously by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). Instead of taking an easy way out to raise another$44m by increasing sales tax on all these items which affect the individual, consideration should be given to an inquiry of the type suggested.
Perhaps I. should point out, particularly for Senator Greenwood’s benefit as he was the one who interjected, that of the total amount received as sales tax under all rates almost half comes from the items on which the rate was 12½%, notwithstanding that the sales tax on motor cars is at the rate of 25%. The revenue received from sales tax on all the other smaller items which are bought by the community is about half the total amount of sales tax collected each year. I feel that at this stage, particularly as it is so late in the session, we can do no more than register our opposition to the proposed increase in sales tax. The Opposition will oppose the Bills when they come to a vote.
– in reply - The honourable senator who has led for the Opposition has told us that the Opposition will oppose the Bills which form part of the Government’s budgetary considerations. The sales tax proposed by the Bills is already applicable and in operation. Some references have been made to the main classes of goods on which the rate of sales tax has been increased from 12½% to 15%. I have a more comprehensive list of goods than was stated in the second reading speech. Rather than read the list, with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate it in Hansard.
MAIN CLASSES OF GOODS ON WHICH THE RATE OF SALES TAX HAS BEEN INCREASED FROM 12½% TO 15% ON AND FROM 14TH AUGUST 1968
Commercial motor vehicles, motor cycles, caravans, trailers and bicycles.
Motor vehicle parts, tyres and accessories.
Boats, yachts and outboard motors and parts and accessories.
Business equipment and office furniture.
Radio and television transmission equipment.
Commercial air conditioning equipment.
Commercial refrigeration equipment.
Commercial laundering and dry cleaning equipment.
Commercial cooking equipment.
Chemicals, detergents, soaps, soap powders, polishes, glues, starches and disinfectants.
Whisky, brandy and other potable spirits.
Imported beers and wines.
Chocolates and other confectionery.
Advertising matter and stationery.
Paper cups and other paper containers.
Toilet paper and other paper products.
Toys, games and other amusement equipment.
Sporting equipment including firearms and ammunition.
Musical instruments including pianos and organs.
Lawn mowers, garden sprinklers and hoses.
Slide and film projectors.
Travelware, handbags and baskets.
Tents, tarpaulins, car covers and ropes.
Sales tax is traditionally a source of revenue for the Government. It is natural that the Opposition would oppose an increase in sales tax, but the Government has the responsibility of budgetary administration. There is nothing new or unique about indirect taxation. A Senator Wilkinson said, it is part of our budgetary proposals. I observe that the opposition intends to oppose the Bills. I suggest that the most effective way of proceeding is to put the question of the second reading of these measures to the Senate.
That the Bills be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– Over the past 2 or 3 weeks I have asked the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), who represents the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in this chamber, whether it was just to charge . 15% sales tax on school pads for children. I received an answer which was not satisfactory so I followed the matter up with another question. YesterdayI received an answer which still indicates to me that the people of the Taxation Branch of the Treasury cannot differentiate between a school padand commercial stationery. The argument brought forward by the Minister was not convincing. Part of the answer stated:
The problem mentioned in the answer to question No. 497 was not whether a distinction can be made between a child’s school pad and commercial stationery. Instead, it was that the writing pads and stationery used by school children are of the same kinds as thoseused for other purposes, for example by parents of the children for private purposes and by business firms for commercial purposes.
So I took the time to go down to a stationer’s at Civic Centre and to ask what was the range of school stationery and whether it was possible to distinguish between school stationery and commercial stationery. I was told it most certainly was. I would like to ask the Minister concerned whether this article that I have in my hand, the ‘Ideal Home Lesson Book for Children’, can be in any way confused with commercial stationery. Further, is it necessary to charge 15% sales tax on ah article that can be used only by a child and have no other purpose, perhaps with the exception that the child’s mother might use it as a note book? This is the first of a series of forty articles used by school children on which 15% sales tax is being charged by the Government.
When I questioned the Government’s right to collect almost $2m by way of sales tax and return it as part of $6m provided for secondary school scholarships, I was given a rather garbled answer to the effect that it would be impossible for the retailer to distinguish between a person who was buying it for school use and one who was buying it for commercial use.
– How can it be guaranteed that it has been bought for commercial use?
– I should like Senator Sim to point out any commercial firm that would go to the trouble of seeking out this book to use it for commercial purposes. lt is quite possible for the Taxation Branch to do what it has done in other fields, that is, to give a specific- exemption from this particular sales tax to a school book of this nature and run the risk that some person may use it for commercial purposes, because the number of instances in which a commercial firm would go. to the trouble of buying a school pad- to use in its routine business would be particularly limited.
I still insist that the 15% sales tax imposed on children’s school pads amounts almost to a criminal imposition on the family. An honourable senator from the’ opposite side of the chamber said: ‘Where does an ordinary person become involved in the payment of sales tax?’ Here is the classic case, where a family with five children is imposed upon in a most unjust fashion by the imposition of 15% sales tax on ordinary stationery. I insist that the wholesaler could seek exemption for the whole range of stationery which is labelled School Stationery5. If desired, the words For school use only’ could be printed on the pad. There are many ways in which the Government can avoid the charging of 15% sales tax on the pads that school children buy from the age of 5 years right up to the age of 17 years. If it is not possible for the normal retailer of school pads and stationery to do this, I suggest to the Government that it allow the schools to distribute school pads directly to the children because then this situation would not arise. The retailer would not be confused as to whether he was selling a school pad or a ream of foolscap. I say that it can be done and the Government should attempt to do it. Otherwise, the whole application of sales tax is highlighted as an iniquitous tax which falls heavily upon the lower income families.
Before I resume my seat I wish to speak on the subject of margins, that is, distributor margins, wholesaler margins and retailer margins being placed upon sales tax. How many times do we find that the wholesaler places a 15% margin on goods and the retailer places another 25% - sometimes 331%, sometimes 50% - on the wholesale cost of the goods plus the sales tax? In other words, the retailer charges a margin on the sales tax and the extra 2i% sales tax which has been imposed on these goods is inflated further by the retailer’s margin. I think the Government could overcome this also.
– I want to make a few observations while we are discussing the Bill at this stage. Over a long period people from the north of Australia have continually advocated the reduction of sales tax on cooling appliances, air conditioning plants and so on. Ultimately we were successful in this in that the sales tax applying is now the same as that on heating appliances.
– It took a long time, did it not?
– It took many, many years. We still have one major complaint, and that is in regard to the imposition of sales tax on freight. I asked approximately a year ago, and again prior to the compilation of this year’s Budget, whether or not some relief would be granted. Freight is assessed on spare parts for motor vehicles or household goods as at the capital city and then they are transported to the northern parts of Queensland. On top of this the sales tax is assessed with the cost of freight included. This is a primitive method of assessing sales tax in the first place. Secondly, it is an added imposition on those people who are endeavouring to develop the north of Australia and are prepared to suffer some of the privations associated wilh living a long distance from capital cities. They may not be particularly keen on the tropics but desire to live there for a number of reasons. Nevertheless, the small numbers of the the Australian population who live north of the Tropic of Capricorn are pioneers in this regard.
I would earnestly request that in the future the Government, when assessing sales tax, pay particular attention to this matter. In addition to the normally assessed price of an article at the capital city a certain amount is usually added for transport and so on. An article costing a certain amount at Brisbane will cost double that amount or will certainly have its price largely increased by the time it is purchased at some remote centre in Cape York peninsula such as Weipa and Cooktown or at Thursday Island. In replies to questions asked by myself and other honourable senators we are told that this cannot be dissected because of the tremendous book-keeping problem associated with it. This is an utterly stupid reply concerning what ought to be a simple accounting exercise. I would suggest that in the respective departments associated with the assessment of sales tax if the accountants and other officers associated with this work cannot divide the two amounts so that sales tax is charged only on the original price, then the accountants ought to be disposed of and replaced by somebody who can do it. In other words, it is probably a weak excuse given by the Minister for obtaining additional revenue for the Government and I suggest this should be seriously looked at in future sales tax calculations. Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) [3.44] - Senator Georges asked a series of questions in relation to the sales tax on school writing pads, exercise books and the like. As late as several days ago, I gave him an answer that I had received from the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). I must admit that I have not much more to contribute by way of reply than the answer that I gave then. Senator Georges is exercising his right to disagree with the answer and to say that he does not accept it. But I do not think there would be a senator who would not say in fairness that at some stage he has seen an exercise book being used for some commercial purpose. The term ‘commercial purpose’ has to be used. It covers a commercial undertaking buying books for commercial purposes at one end of the scale and the back street grocer who writes down his orders in an exercise book at the other end of the scale.
I do not think there is any doubt that exercise books are used for some commercial purposes. It is because of the multiplicity of purposes, the absolutely unlimited number of variations that can be produced in the argument as to what is a commercial purpose and what is not and the difficulty of separating them for tax purposes, that this problem has arisen.
– The Government is catching a thousand innocent persons to penalise one guilty person.
– No, it is not. The human element enters into the matter. Human nature being what it is, if exercise books could be bought without the payment of sales tax and used for a commercial purpose, 1 do not suppose it is beyond the bounds of possibility that some commercial organisations would buy them without paying sales tax and then use them for commercial purposes. This is a fact of life. While I recognise the point that Senator Georges makes and that other people are caught up in this taxation provision, I cannot add very much to what has been said already by way of answer by the Treasurer.
– This book could not be used for any purpose other than school work.
– Apparently people in Civic Centre have been pretty busy today, one way and another, answering queries about Mixmasters on the one hand and selling exercise books on the other. I am not being supercritical of Senator Georges for holding up an exercise book and saying what he says. But there would be many other types of exercise books which would not have as obvious a purpose as the one that he has produced in this chamber.
– What about the ones with an obvious purpose?’
– That brings me to the very point that 1 am making, namely, the difficulty of distinguishing between the purposes of books in the drafting of legislation.
– The Government should exempt them all if it has any doubt about some of them.
– A series of problems would arise. WhatI undertake to do in this case is to draw the attention of the Treasurer to the remarks which Senator Georges has made in Committee today and which are a follow-up to a question he asked before, and to drawattention to the points of view that he has expressed.
Senator Keeffe raised the question of freight. He says that freight is caught up in the price of goods and therefore it attracts sales tax. That is quite true. This matter has been considered over a good number of years. When the first parliamentary committee on taxation was formed, it made a study of all the complexities of taxation and this very matter, which on the face of it appears to be an anomaly, was considered. Here again there are difficulties of draftsmanship and separation. Although Senator
Keeffe says that the departmental officers should be able to evolve a system under which the freight could be separated from the rest of the price for the purposes of taxation, I believe that many computers would be needed to handle every transaction in which freight is added to the price. In the gathering of taxation revenue, the essence of the system is to try to gather it in the simplest form and with as little book work as possible. That has always been a tradition of taxation law. All that I can say is that the point raised by Senator Keeffe is well known to the taxation authorities. Tt has been examined from time to time. Articles have been written about it. The first parliamentary committee on taxation made the following observation about it:
From its examination of the subject matter, the Committee is satisfied that theoretical equity is virtually unobtainable, lt is fundamental that sales tax should be simple enough in form to be collected economically, and to this end a small measure of equity might be sacrificed. In the opinion of the Committee, the present basis of the tax is a reasonable compromise.
I conclude by saying that I will pass on to the Treasurer the comments that Senator Keeffe has made. However, this matter has been considered over the years and up to this time no suitable way of overcoming the problem has emerged.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed:
That the Bills be now read a third time.
– These are tax Bills. As all honourable senators know, the concurrence of both Houses of the Parliament is necessary for the passage of any tax measure. I say that because it was stated recently in one of the great daily newspapers that the Senate had no power to reject any tax or money Bill and could only delay such a measure. That is quite incorrect. No tax Bill, money Bill or Bill of any kind whatever can become law unless both Houses agree to it, either sitting separately or, in the rarest of all instances, sitting together after a double dissolution.
– Who made that statement?
– It was made in one of the daily newspapers in Sydney. Secondly, there is some notion that the Senate should not use its constitutional powers. I believe that that motion has been rejected decisively by the Senate over the years. It can, and it will, use ali its constitutional powers in relation to tax or money Bills. The only limits on it are the limits imposed by its own discretion and reason.
Next, there has been the suggestion that the Opposition, the Australian Labor Party, for some traditional reason, would not oppose in this Senate any tax or money bill. That suggestion is completely without foundation. Today we have seen another instance of the traditional attitude of the Australian Labor Party, that whenever it thinks it important to do so in the public interest and in furtherance of its policies, it will oppose in the Senate any tax or money Bill. In fact, the history of voting in this chamber since about 1950 shows that on more than 100 occasions the Australian Labor Party has opposed, either in whole or in part, tax or money Bills and has done so by calling divisions. We did so last year. We did so on the famous occasion of the motor car sales tax legislation and we are doing so again today.
The only reason we are not succeeding today is that the honourable senators of the Australian Democratic Labor Party - and they are in sufficient numbers to enable us to defeat this Bill - did not join us in the vote on the second reading. They did not speak in the debate. When it came to the opportunity to defeat the measure they failed to vote. The Democratic Labor Party claims to be a labor party. Its members in this place claim to represent the family man. They speak about this kind of imposition on the family man as though it were the most terrible thing that could be done. This is a measure which is especially obnoxious because it is a sales tax measure and, in one sense, it falls on everyone in the community, rich or poor. Everyone has to pay the same amount of tax on the items they purchase, whether they are car parts, items for commercial vehicles, and so on. But this tax also applies to items such as school books, confectionery, sporting goods, toys and other domestic goods.
– And to jewellery and cosmetics.
– I thank the honourable senator. This measure involves increases which will fall unfairly on the family man. It is easy to see that the family man with children at school, who has toys to buy as well as various other domestic requirements, really has to pay more than the single person. This is an unjust tax. It is an inequitable tax. It is a tax which is against the public interest, lt certainly is a tax which ought to be opposed without any resiling by those who have claimed time after time in this Parliament and outside it that they represent the family man. Yet members of the Democratic Labor Party in this place have not spoken on the matter. 1 can understand this because there is no way in which they could justify their attitude, lt will be interesting to see whether they rise to their feet at this stage and try to do so. It will be an interesting exercise in sophistry if they try to justify their attitude.
– Do not forget the postal case.
– Listen to the explanation. The explanation will bc like this: Look, you did something like this once before. You did the wrong thing also. Do not forget that you did something wrong.’ That is the explanation of the Democratic Labor Party. Let honourable senators representing the Democratic Labor Party stand up and try to justify, in the terms of their own philosophy and their own policy, their failure to support the Opposition today in rejecting this measure out of hand. I believe that the rank and file of the Democratic Labor Party would expect their leaders to come in here and give effect to their principles. No doubt those people vote for that Party because they believe that it stands up for the family man. But when it came to the interests of the family man - and no-one could doubt that this matter involves the interests of the family man - what did their leaders do? They abandoned the interests of the family man and walked across the floor to vote with the Government to carry a measure which would push up from 12i% to 15% the tax on the very items which are bought by the family man.
Mr President, in future the representatives of the Democratic Labor Party can come into this chamber and talk about their Vietnam policy and all sorts of other things, but do not let them waste the time of the Senate and mislead the nation by talking about the interests of the family man. We hear great speeches from the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party, Senator Gair. The Party moves motions referring to the family man in relation to the Budget. The Leader of the Democratic Labor Party makes speeches over the air to the effect that we must look after the family man because he is really the foundation of the community. But when it came to the point what did the Democratic Labor Party do? It abandoned the interests of the family man. How can the Party justify this? Let us see later what the newspaper which represents the views of the Party, and which is controlled by Mr Santamaria, says about the action of the members of the Party in voting with the Government against the interests of the family man.
– We could not trust the Australian Labor Party, otherwise we would have been with you. We thought you would walk out as you did in relation to the postal charges. We had to save you on the wheat legislation because you were not fair dinkum with your amendment.
- Mr President, is this not remarkable? Senator Gair has said to the Senate quite openly that his reason for not voting with us is that he could not trust us.
– We did not know how far you would go with us.
– This is interesting, Mr President. If that is Senator Gair’s reason it is fortunate that I rose when I did because this Bill has not yet been passed by the Senate. I am speaking on the motion that the Bill be read a third time.
If Senator Gair is honest in what he has stated to the Senate, let us see what happens when this motion is put to the Senate. If he is honest in what he has said then let him vote with us and let us reject this measure at the third reading stage. But, Mr President, you know what he will do. Despite the undertaking in the statement just made to the Senate by the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party, he will1 repudiate it and will go to water when we come to the vote on the third reading. I challenge Senator Gair to stay with us and vote against the third reading. He has been caught out. I think that momentarily he forgot that the measure had not yet been passed by the Parliament. He forgot that we were not looking back retroactively. He forgot that we still have a third chance to reject this legislation. If Senator Gair means what he said, if the Democratic Labor Party proposes to take the last opportunity offered to it, let the honourable senator and those behind him stand by their principles and vote with the Opposition.
Let us cast away these notions which have been aired. Let those who have the numbers reject this measure because it is obnoxious, inequitable and unfair. We will be prepared to overlook what the Democratic Labor Parly has done in the past and to forget the betrayal of the family man. We will forgive the members of the DLP. lt will be sufficient for us if they take the last opportunity offered to them to vote against this legislation. If they fail to do so. they will be condemned throughout Australia for the betrayal of the principles they claim to espouse. They will be deliberately abandoning the family man whom they claim to represent. We know that the DLP does not really represent the family man and the people of Australia will come to realise that. Every person who has been misled into voting for the DLP will come to see its leaders in their true colours if they vote with the Government on the third reading of this Bill. By so doing they will betray the interests of the family man and the public interest of Australia. The Opposition will oppose this measure on the third reading.
– We have just had a very interesting exercise in political speech making by a senator who, apparently tired of endeavouring to win in his own Party, is now trying to win in our Party. Perhaps that is not surprising. The honourable senator may have grown tired of taking orders from a Federal Executive composed mainly of nonparliamentarians. Only a few weeks ago Senator Murphy was forced into the situation of apologising to members of his own Party and now he endeavours to make policy for our Party. I think we should take this measure in its proper perspective. Of course, it is part and parcel of the Budget. The Democratic Labor Party does not support the general principle of sales tax. I have not heard members of the Australian Labor Party in their policy speeches expounding the claim that Senator Murphy has made this afternoon, that sales tax is so evil that if the Labor Party is elected to office it will abolish all sales tax. Members of the Australian Labor Party spend most of their time in election campaigns fighting one another as to what policies should be adopted on much less important issues than sales tax. A great deal of time is spent by the ALP Federal Executive and Labor parliamentarians deciding what line should be taken for a particular election. But Labor senators, in respect of a measure that is part of the Budget, try to throw upon us the responsibility to carry their last futile attempts to take away from the Government the right to raise money to finance the Budget in the manner thought fit by the Government.
It is interesting to study the history of the Budget to determine who is responsible for this measure’s even being here, quite apart from stupid suggestions that it is our responsibility to vote with the Opposition to save the workers. I remind honourable senators that when the Budget was introduced it included particulars of sales tax increases and the pittance-by which pensions were to be increased. All the inadequacies’ of the Budget could have been corrected at the one time because my colleague Senator Byrne moved an amendment at that time. I will not weary honourable senators with details, but the effect of the amendment was to have the Budget withdrawn and redrafted because it failed properly to provide for pensioners the amounts that they should be paid, among other things with which honourable senators may acquaint themselves by reading page 639 of Hansard of the current sessional period.
How was that DLP proposal received by the fearless champion of the workers who today in the Senate condemns us because we are now prepared to allow the Government to raise in its own foolish way, perhaps, the pittance it is prepared to pay to pensioners? When the vote was taken on the amendment moved by Senator Byrne, who voted for the Budget to be withdrawn and redrafted? It will not take much time to read the names - Senator Gair, Senator Byrne and myself. The honourable senator who today wants to be a lion at our expense voted with the Government so that all the Budget provisions should come into effect. But today he wishes to shift on to our backs the onus to save his skin. Why should we? Certainly there are anomalies in the sales tax provisions. I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Georges about exercise books. I hope that the Minister will perservere with that issue. Exercise books are supplied almost exclusively to school children. If the Government wished to ensure that the black covered exercise books which sell for about. 60c, and may on odd occasions be used for commercial purposes, attract sales tax. it could exempt from sales tax aH exercise books that are sold retail for less than 40c. By that move about 95% of sales of exercise books would gain exemption and the Government would prove its sincerity in not wanting to charge sales tax on items used by school children.
But the sales tax on exercise books is only a very small part of the total scheme of sates tax. I agree with Senator Murphy’s submission that sales tax is imposed unfairly. All indirect taxes are unfair. They cannot be otherwise/ Senator Murphy, flushed with victory in his own Party - he had to line up Mr Whitlam, his leader, to oppose this measure - having vanquished the forces of Calwell and Whitlam, wants to whip us into line. His proposal’ would not alter by one iota the important budgetary measure brought down by the Government. It may serve only to shift the burden from an area in which he and 1 agree it is unjustly placed, to an even mc-Te anomalous and unjust situation.
When members of the Australian Labor Party are prepared to campaign on the hustings in opposition to sales tax and to act to remove all sales tax we may then believe that they are sincere on the whole issue. My leader pointed out our doubts by interjection. However, at this stage of the debate we are conducting an analysis of ways and means of carrying out a measure that the Government in all honesty explained to the Opposition it was its intention to implement, at the time it brought down the Budget with the support of the Opposition, despite the amendment proposed by the DLP. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) now suggests that the reponsibility rests on our shoulders and that, lo and behold, our supporters will condemn us for all time if we do not vote with the Opposition. We are prepared to run the risk. By being sensible about this measure and by assisting the Government to meet its responsibility to govern and to raise the money for the procedures that it has said it will introduce, in a manner which the Government will have to explain and justify to the community at the next election, we are accepting our responsibility. It is probable that if there had been time for the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party to consider this measure Mr Calwell and his colleagues would have won and Senator Murphy might have been in the position of voting with the Government today. But that is another matter altogether. The DLP does not apologise for its stand on this matter. There was no attempt to avoid this stand. I and I alone in my Party am responsible for it. My colleague Senator Byrne had indicated to me that he was to speak on another measure before the Senate and T took the opportunity of accepting the invitation of the Parliamentary Librarian, Mr Fleming, to meet the technical staff of the Research Department of the Parliamentary Library. I was doing that at a time when I should have been in this chamber presenting the DLP’s case on this measure. I have apologised to my colleagues for not being here. This measure seemed to come on very rapidly indeed. But I have no intention of apologising to Senator Murphy or anybody else in this chamber. I owe no responsibility to them on this issue.
The DLP’s attitude is quite clear. When it disagreed with the Budget it took what it thought was the appropriate step to have the Budget withdrawn and redrafted along more acceptable lines. But the DLP could not get the numbers in this chamber to support it; the Opposition saw fit to vote with the Government. We were reproached by the Government and the Opposition. It is not the function of the DLP as a minority group to hold up the process of government for our own aggrandisement or for our own political opportunity. The Opposition having voted in favour of the Budget when the Opportunity was there to defeat it, I charge that the venture of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate today is purely and simply a gesture of political opportunism. That being so, the DLP rejects all the arguments - if one can call them arguments - that he has presented. The DLP stands where it stood on the other occasion. When the Senate divides the DLP will have no hesitation in doing what it has done previously.
– rt was not my intention to enter into this debate, but it has been necessary for me to do so because Senator Little has deliberately misled the Senate and the Australian public, lt is interesting to examine the motions that were moved following the presentation of the Budget. The Australian Labor Party moved an amendment to the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget papers and its amendment specifically mentioned taxes.
– 1 rise to order. Mr President. Standing order 413 states that no Senator shall allude to any debate of the same session.
– I will not do so. 1 wish to quote the amendment.
– Order! The honourable senator is not entitled to revive arguments which have been dealt with earlier but he may advance fresh arguments. Thai is what is happening at present. The honourable senator cannot revive an old argument but he can discuss it.
– The Australian Labor Party moved an amendment to the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget papers to the effect that the Budget was inadequate in that it did not make provision for lightening taxes and health costs for families. Did the DLP vote in favour of that amendment? Of course it did not. The DLP did something else. The ALP drew the Senate’s attention to the fact that the Budget increased taxes. We did not want that to happen so we moved an amendment that would have lightened taxes for the family man, but the DLP voted against it. Yet Senator Little stands here today and tries to mislead the Senate by saying that the ALP voted with the Government. Those are the tactics he tries to adopt to mislead the people but the records defeat his aim. Senator Little drew attention to Senator Murphy’s battle, as he alleges, with Mr
Whitlam and Mr Calwell. For the information of Senator Little, I point out that members of the ALP are not dictated to by Santamaria. We conduct our caucus meetings and arrive at our decisions by a majority vote. It is unfortunate that at times certain people are in favour of one proposition and others in favour of another. But I assure the honourable senator that decisions are arrived at by a democratic process. That is more than one can say for the Democratic Labor Party. It does not have caucus meetings.
– Yes it does, but there is no leakage from them.
– There is nothing to leak out. All the DLP does is sit back and act as an opportunist. It is displaying its opportunism on this occasion when the Senate is debating legislation to impose the most inequitable form of taxation on the family man. The DLP did the same thing yesterday with the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill 1968. It supported the Government’s proposals, which will increase the price of bread for pensioners. Yet Senator Little stands up in this place and talks about the Government paying a miserable pittance to the pensioners. He made sure yesterday, and he is making sure today, that the miserable pittance the pensioners receive will buy even less. That shows the principles of the DLP. 1 wish to say something regarding the powers of the Senate. Whilst 1 do not fully agree with what Mr Odgers has written in his book ‘Australian Senate Practice’ - he may be correct, but I fail to understand certain words he uses - he clearly set out that:
Except for the origination of money grants-
Whatever that may mean; I do not know what it means.
– That is not all the honourable senator does not know, either.
– I do not know as much as the honourable senator. Thank the Lord I am not a know-all. Mr Odgers continues:
As I understand the position, the restriction on the Senate is in respect of the ordinary annual services of the Government. But the fact is that the Senate has power to amend Bills, to request the amendment of money Bills and to veto any Bill that comes before it. No one can take that power away from it without amending the Constitution. At any opportunity that it gets to protect the ordinary citizens of Australia the ALP will seek to have the . Senate exercise it rights. That is what we are doing today. I .challenge those who voted against the ALP’s amendment to the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget papers, and who have attempted to mislead the Senate today, to support their claim that they represent the family man and the pensioner by standing in their places and being counted in the division on the third reading of the Bill.
– It is a very sad situation indeed that a matter as important as sales tax, which bears very heavily on great sections of the community, should be used by Senator Murphy and the Opposition as an instrument to mount an attack on the Democratic Labor Party. The bona fides of the Party in mounting an attack on it is very gravely suspect. It is obviously not genuinely presented out of interest in the sales tax position itself. It is presented merely for the purpose of scoring what political capital might for the moment be scored against the Democratic Labor Party. As far as legitimate concern for the disentitled sections of the community is concerned, it is not a genuine presentation whatsoever.
Senator Cant has referred to the standing orders and the powers of the Senate in relation to money Bills. I want to comment on the nature of the amendment to the Budget propounded officially by Senator Murphy in moving the amendment. The Senate has total power of rejection of a money Bill; it cannot amend it; it can issue a request. But it has total power of rejection. If one wants to take a firm stand against a money Bill in the Senate, one embarks on the process of rejection which is what Senator Murphy is trying to do in relation to the Sales Tax Bills. He is trying totally to reject them.
What was the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to the Budget? It made no attempt to avail itself of the forms of the Senate to reject the Budget. All that was done by the Opposition was to express a pious motion that the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it does not make provision for certain things. There was no move to reject it. Nor was there any move to withdraw it. It was left to the Australian Democratic Labor Party to put that before the Senate in its Budget amendment.
– That amendment would have affected only the Budget papers.
– That might be so.
– It would not have been operative.
– That might be so. That might be a technicality, ‘but at least it must be conceded to the Democratic Labor Party that we did, in the fullest possible terms, attempt to have the Budget rejected, and it was a form that was available on a motion for a reception of the Budget papers. I suppose we could have moved in precise terms that the Budget papers be withdrawn, but we elected to move that the Budget should be withdrawn. The Australian Labor Party now comes along and says: ‘Yes, but what did you do? You opposed your amendment on the Budget.’ All we did was oppose a pious motion which apparently epitomised and went to the very limit of the Opposition’s attitude to the terms of the Budget to which it objected. Of the two groups on this side of the chamber the Democratic Labor Party obviously manifested the greatest and gravest concern for those sections of the community who are today stated by the Opposition to warrant the particular solicitude of this Parliament.
– Why did the honourable senator not vote for our amendment?
– Why did the Opposition vote against our amendment which sought the total rejection of the Budget? It would have given them everything they wanted in the attitude they are now taking. It would have meant the withdrawal of the Sales Tax Bills and every other provision, but they refused to do it.
What concerns me in this matter is that this is going to be a continuous tactic which is going to be presented in the Senate. Relying on the sense of responsibility of the Democratic Labor Party, the Australian
Labor Party now feels entitled to be totally, politically irresponsible. It feels that it can present anything at all, knowing that the sense of responsibility of this group will prevent the Australian Labor Party’s irresponsibility being carried into effective legislation. If that is to be the attitude of the Australian Labor Party, it is a total denial of the sense of responsibility that we of the Parliament are entitled to expect from the official Opposition. If that attitude is going to be allowed to continue, then, if not numerically, then certainly in fact, the official opposition in the Senate will be concentrated in this group in the Democratic Labor Party and will totally leave the major group that stands on our right.
The official Opposition must not only have a sense of responsibility to its party and political principles; as an official Opposition, it must have a sense of responsibility to the Parliament and to the nation. Once the official Opposition abandons that attitude and relies on the responsibility of this group, then it has surrendered its right and entitlement to be regarded as the official Opposition of the Government.
If that position arises, we are prepared, as we are doing on this measure, to assume that position of responsibility and I can assure the Government that when, in that capacity, we put forward propositions that should be put forward in this chamber, we are not going to call upon the Party on our right to demonstrate any irresponsibility in supporting it. We will submit responsible motions which the members of the Party to our right will be entitled to and feel justified in supporting. They will not be motions of the type that the Australian Labor Party has presented today and which it expects us to support. ;
We are perhaps entering upon a new phase in the distribution of power and in the sense of duty on this side of the chamber. We welcome that and 1 can assure the Government that, while we will continue to oppose the things we think should be opposed, where the interests of the nation are concerned, the Government can rely upon the Australian Democratic Labor Party to continue, within the principles of that Party, to demonstrate the sense of national duty which, from our inception, we have always demonstrated.
– Perhaps I can bring the chamber back to a bit of calm reasoning. It seems to me that because, for reasons best known to themselves, the members of the Democratic Labor Party absented themselves most of the time from the debate when we were considering the Sales Tax Bills, they are unaware of what went on before and did not appreciate the position. When I spoke in leading the debate, I did not expect that I would be able to convince the Government, but I did expect that I might be able to get the support of the Democratic Labor Party because of the reasons that I presented.
I should like to add to, not recapitulate, what I said before. It seems to me that very few people took the trouble to read completely the second reading speech delivered by Senator Anderson when presenting the Bills. From that speech honourable senators will see that the items involved are the sorts of things that the public of Australia buys. They are not the sorts of things bought only by sectional groups. Let me quote directly from the Minister’s speech. He said:
Among these the more important are commercial motor vehicles, motor cycles, .caravans, motor vehicle parts and tyres, office furniture and business equipment-
Which I know is not bought by every man-
– Order! I hope the honourable senator will not be retracing his steps.
– I have not mentioned these things before.
– As long as the honourable senator puts forward fresh argument he will be in order.
– Others are: advertising matter, stationery and other paper products, confectionery, potable spirits, toys and sporting equipment, including yachts and boats, soaps, detergents, polishes and chemicals, lawn mowers, travelware and musical instruments.
These are considered by the Minister in introducing the Bills as some of the more important of the items and these are the things to which the increase of 2i% will apply. When speaking earlier, 1 did not slate the amount that was returned to the
Government in 1967-68 from the taxation levied under the Schedule covering the items to which the 2±% rate applied. It amounted to $627m. The revenue returned to the Government from sales tax on the items covered by the 25% rate, which includes motor cars, was S737m while the revenue derived from the 12i% sales tax, which is the section we are now considering, and which applies to the goods which most people buy was $l,486m. That is almost half the amount collected under all the schedules relating to sales tax. lt was because I wanted the members of the Democratic Labor Party to appreciate that this was a Bill that was going to hit the family man and the wage earner harder than anybody else that I felt I should rise at this stage.
– I am expecting the cock to crow shortly after the third denial. It has been very interesting to see all the posturing and the manoeuvring that has been going on since the Australian Democratic Labor Parly has had four members on the cross bench. Now we see them in their true colours. They are chameleons. They change colour to suit their own purposes. After all the crying about the family man and what it would do for him. the DLP has been given the opportunity to be tested but it has been found to be wanting. We have been waiting for the lime when the members of the DLP would condemn themselves out of their own mouths. I believe that the people of Australia now will have a proper insight into the true nature, purposes and objects of this political rump.
Senator Gair has been saying for a long time that he cannot rely on the Australian Labor Party but he was contradicted by his colleague, Senator Byrne, who said that members of the DLP could not vote against the Budget because to do so would be politically irresponsible. Why do these fellows not get together occasionally and get their lines of communication straightened out? They cannot have it both ways. We have to contend with the present situation because the purpose of the DLP is political blackmail. It was born in political blackmail. It tried to blackmail the Australian Labor Party by using the same methods as the Communists use to infiltrate organisations, namely, by creating cells within the Party, blackmailing individuals, taking over power in a subtle way, dominating branches and following the science of the numbers. Fortunately for this country the DLP was cut off in its prime. Like an organ that is transplanted it was rejected by the Labor Party, lt was not part of the body politic; it was just a ring in. And when 1 say ring in, I mean ring.
It is obvious that this Party is surviving politically because it is blackmailing the Government when it suits it to do so. One has only to see the bargaining that is going on. The Government is in a trap and it must come good each time the DLP applies pressure. We saw an example recently of the political blackmail in which the DLP indulges when the Party threatened the Prime Minister that if he took certain action ii would direct its preferences against the Government. This is a very dangerous situation for a country and a Parliament to be in, but the balance of power is in the hands of members of the DLP. Nevertheless it suits them individually and it suits the few people who are pulling the strings. Behind this political Party is a very sinister figure, one of the most sinister figures who has ever appeared behind the scenes in Australian politics.
– Is it Vince Gair?
– lt is not Vince Gair. It is the fellow who appears on television wobbling his head and spending an unlimited amount of money on propaganda.
– What is his name?
– Santamaria is his name. He is spending a tremendous amount of money on television propaganda. 1 would need a lot of convincing to believe that he is getting that much money from the few people who are already members or supporters of the DLP and who are trying to keep other institutions and organisations going. It would need a lot to convince me that this man can finance these television appearances out of his own pocket or out of the pocket of the DLP. In any event, I believe that he is a sinister figure who is dominating the members of the DLP. He prepares the bullets for them to fire in this Parliament. His power was created in Victoria in the days when the sectarian issue formed the background of that Party. He was very closely involved in the sectarian field and was completely frustrated when he lost the opportunity to dominate the Australian Labor Party, a traditional political party. Now he is using every method possible, including the method which was used here today. We have exposed it. We have shown that the members of the DLP are political chameleons, political humbugs, people who will make any excuse to worm their way out when they are in a jam. They are in a spot now, because they will not support the claims they have made over the years that they are prepared to help the family man.
The legislation before us relates to the normal everyday commodities that are involved in the standard of living of the people of this country, things like soaps and detergents, polishes, chemicals, law mowers - the everyday necessaries of life. Every person in the community needs them but every time they are purchased the people are taxed indirectly and unjustly to put more revenue into the Government’s coffers. Every day this insidious indirect taxation is being imposed on the people, not only to the extent of 12½% as previously was the case but now to the extent of 15%. This has a cumulative effect; the inflationary process goes on, and the cost of living goes up. 1 am trying to bring to the notice of the Senate, and 1 hope of the people of Australia, that we have shown how members of the DLP contradict themselves. Senator Gair claims that he cannot trust us and then his colleague, Senator Byrne, says: ‘We cannot be politically irresponsible’. The Senate has its own powers and is master of its own destiny. It can make its own decisions. On this occasion the DLP has fallen down very badly in accepting its responsibilities. It has been caught out in its political gymnastics. We condemn members of the DLP for running out through the back door when they have an opportunity to do something for the people of this country. All their posturing over the years has been shown up for what it is. It is froth and bubble. We will test them now with a note. We are sure that the Judases we have known for the past 20 years will remain true to their colours.
That the Bills be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6 November (vide page 1709), on motion . by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I hope that consideration of this Bill will be very much quicker than consideration of the last nine measures. This Bill, which is quite straightforward, deals with three aspects. It deals first with the variation in taxation in relation to activities associated with petroleum exploration and mining on Australia’s continental shelf. This aspect is probably the most difficult and the one that would require the greatest amount of investigation. The measure deals also with the position which arises from the independence which has been granted to Nauru. This is purely a machinery matter. The third aspect involves rebates that are available for expenditure on the development of export markets. -This also is more or less of a machinery nature.
The second reading speech by the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) gave a fairly thorough introduction to the Bill, but in addition to’ that we have had the benefit’ of an explanatory’ memorandum containing twenty-six pages of detail related to the Bill and covering various’ facets- of the measure. Although we have no objection to the Bill, we would have’ appreciated more time to examine in particular this section which deals with the variations relating “ to petroleum activities on the continental shelf. However, in leading for the Opposition in this debate, I inform the Senate that we do nol intend to oppose the Bill. I stress again that we feel that the measure should have been introduced much earlier in the session so that we could have investigated thoroughly what was meant by the provision relating to taxation in respect of petroleum matters. Wc raise no objection to the other two aspects of the Bill. I say no more than that we shall not oppose the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 7 November (vide page 1770), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Labor Party supports this Bill which was introduced in the other place about 2 or 3 weeks ago. I shall not take very long to add my support. The Bill removes the financial burden which until now has fallen on those who, although insured, have had their hospital benefits reduced under the rules of the hospital benefit organisations relating to pre-existing or chronic ailments or long-term illnesses. Honourable senators will be aware that that has been a subject for discussion for many years. All honourable senators are pleased that the Government has seen fit to do something about this situation. The Bill pro vides also for a supplementary benefit of S3 a day to be paid in respect of patients in nursing homes who require and receive intensive nursing home care. The supplementary benefit will bc in addition to the existing nursing homes benefit of $2 a day. The Bill provides thirdly for a benefit 51.50 a day to be paid in respect of handicapped children residing in handicapped persons homes conducted by religious or charitable bodies. This is the provision which interests me most of all because handicapped children have not previously been in receipt of a benefit. I think all honourable senators would agree that it is time that we did something for handicapped children. We have talked about handicapped workers and handicapped adults and it has taken to this day to do something for the children.
I am especially interested in what we have done for the children in registered homes who are deaf. 1 have taken a personal interest in places where the deaf are cared for, and it is a wonderful1 thing that they are to be financed because aid for the deaf without any attention or financial assistance from the Government has been going on for a long time. The finance is to be provided now and we are very grateful. I do not want to accuse the Government of being completely dilatory about this because the Government’s policy over the years has been to bring in reforms. These are not revolutionary but the Government has gradually built up over the years its own health measures, and to that extent this side of the Senate has supported it. But it is just as well to recognise that these handicapped children have always been looked after by some sections of the community - religious orders and others - which have done wonderful work in relation to these children. Now the Government is meeting its responsibilities - I do not say that grudgingly - and it will be of great assistance in relation to these handicapped children.
They are the three main points of the Bill, which allows me to mention a few other matters which should be brought up. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) showed a great deal of resentment in the other place because the supporters of the Labor Party talked about the Government’s policy being ad hoc. He was most concerned about that. I think any fair minded supporter or critic of the Government would agree that the policy has been ad hoc. and possibly it has had to be ad hoc in lieu of a grander national scheme covering everybody. But 1 think the Labor Party was entitled to its criticism because after all the Government must take criticism, lt certainly has big problems, but the Minister himself would know that responsible newspapers - and we must not just deny the newspapers all the time - and responsible authorities have been talking about the inadequacies of the health policy of this Government and the health situation in this country for many, many years. They, too, say that there is an ad hoc approach to these things. The Government could not have escaped the fact that it has been the most talked about thing in politics for 20 years or more. This applies to public health the world over. At the moment there are three committees examining the health situation in Australia. As honourable senators know, the Nimmo Committee is overseas at the moment. We have our own Senate Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs, and in addition the New South Wales Government has a committee functioning, lt has been front page news for years, but the Minister seems to complain if the Opposition points out the faults of the Government’s policies.
I leave my criticism of that and talk about things within my own experience that are probably a bit more constructive. The Minister says that everything is all right, everything is under control and we are going along well. One can be too complacent about these things. I had an extraordinary experience in relation to a private hospital housing 25 or 26 patients. Tt was discovered that the hospital was bankrupt and was not even owned by the people who were running it. The house in which the hospital was established was a war service home. I had a good deal to do with the investigation of that and the Minister was very helpful. But what sort of care was taken in the establishment of this place? We can be pardoned for criticising the Minister and saying that the Department was lax. in my life as a senator I get many complaints - as most of us do - about people who feel they are getting a raw deal. In the past 18 months I seem to have had a surfeit of applications from people with psychiatric troubles who want something done for them.
The Government’s attitude on the treatment of psychiatric patients has amazed me, really, because it does not give any pharmaceutical benefits to those who have not been hospitalised. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Minister for Health, has written to me and explained it. I thank her for the letter. 1 called a meeting of a little group of people I have interested in these things and read the letter to them. The Minister says that in matters of psychiatry a person cannot get these medical benefits unless they have been in hospital. On the other hand, in this very Bill the Government talks about domiciliary treatment. The Government hopes and works to keep people out of hospitals - and rightly so - and it is setting up a domiciliary service, which will be subsidised, for ordinary patients or people who are not sick enough to bc in hospital. They will receive pharmaceutical benefits and the Government will be relieved of the cost of hospitalisation. They are staying at home and actually the Government is supplying aid for them although they have never been hospitalised.
I suppose it would be true of many people who are in the 70 age group that whatever else might be wrong with them they tire often suffering from an associated psychiatric condition or a mental illness. They will be getting domiciliary treatment on full benefit pay, I should say. At any rate, 1 would hope so. Other people who are suffering from mental illness are assisted by general practitioners, having their own treatment in a domiciliary way and being kept out of hospitals. There are thousands of people not sick enough in a psychiatric sense to go into institutions and they do not get any benefits. But if they can get a specialist to put them into hospital then they can receive medical and pharmaceutical benefits. If it is good in one case, why not in the other? I have also been informed by the Minister that ordinary general practitioners cannot treat psychiatric cases. But, of course, there are many of them who do. They are quite skilled and I do not think anybody would dare challenge their right. Although T understood from the Minister and Senator Turnbull that general practitioners arc actually debarred from prescribing drugs in the psychiatric field they do prescribe them and it would be a sorry day for people so afflicted if the general practitioner did not do it. He is not supposed to be allowed to do it, but he does it because he understands the drugs. Obviously, the chemist who serves the patient and dispenses the doctor’s prescription agrees, so in a sense he, too, is breaking the law. But he does it for the benefit of the patient.
I would like to know why there is a difference. A psychiatric patient who goes into a hospital has the right to necessary medicines on payment of the 50c prescription fee after being discharged from the hospital. But the people about whom I am talking attend private practitioners and pay $5 or $6 for a bottle of medicine. It is bankrupting them. If they could get a doctor to put them into hospital for 6 months, or even 2 weeks, once they were discharged from hospital they would be in the other category. The Government agrees with this principle in respect of the domiciliary treatment of patients with other illnesses. Many of the other illnesses have something to do with psychiatric ill health, particularly among the aged. I would like the Minister to have a look at that aspect of the problem. I meet dozens of these people in the area in which I live - the Potts Point and Kings Cross area. One meets the sick there if one meets them anywhere. One sees them in groups. This is the situation. I believe that it is very unjust.
I know that Dr Forbes has objected to the health policy of the Government being referred to as an ad hoc policy. But that is a correct description. I saw the domiciliary service for which provision is made in this Bill in total operation about 10 years ago. Many hospitals have been providing this sort of service for as long as I have been in the Senate. As was mentioned in the other place, for years the Royal Newcastle Hospital has been sending its patients home early and giving them home nursing at its expense. It was doing that even before the hospital benefits scheme became the financial institution that it is today and before one was able to describe it as big business. I have personal experience of a man being sent home from the hospital for domiciliary treatment and final cure and the hospital sending carpenters to his home to build a new back verandah and new steps to suit his condition. I believe that other hospitals supply that sort of assistance and have been doing so for years. But the Government has taken a long time to think about doing it at an official level, helping to pay for it and subscribing to the idea. So I believe that Dr Forbes should agree that the Government has been dilatory at least to that extent. I am glad that this service is to be provided now.
There is not much more that 1 want to talk about. I am particularly interested in the four or five points I have made. The one I made about private hospitals is pretty important. Certain people must have been able to get under the Government’s neck in some way or other. The control in relation to private hospitals must have been lax. I wish to talk about another private hospital now. I do not talk only out of my own experience. It is no good to stand up in this chamber and do that. I do not ever name hospitals or people, if I can avoid it. I do not think it is fair to do that. Once I attended a hospital in the western suburbs of Sydney in which male and female psychiatric patients were being treated. They certainly were not terribly ill. They appeared to me to be in an almost continuous state of sedation.
In that hospital there was one trained nurse. If she was a day, she was 70 years of age. As far as I could count, there were two or, at the most, three pantrymaid type trainees. It was frightening to see what happened there at night. There were no locks on the doors. I believe that that has something to do with the rules for that type of hospital. The night I remained back to talk to my friend who was at the hospital, one of the patients got out into the main street and decided to go home. The only person who was anything like trained had to go and look for the patient. So for 3 hours that hospital was unattended by any trained staff.
– How many patients were there?
– There were 60. I walked out one night when the hospital was being locked up. A form was put across each door to keep it shut. That was the extent of the protection of those patients. I have to admit straight away that the hospital was having labour troubles. It could not get labour. But I have the idea that if a hospital cannot get labour it should not have patients. I have no doubt that this hospital was trying to get labour and that it could not get labour because it was not paying the right money to its employees. 1 suggest that even hospitals have to pay the right wages in order to get staff. If the Government made a really down to earth survey of private hospitals in this country it would find thai there are more cases like the one I am talking about than one would think possible. Generally speaking private hospitals cannot get the labour they want. I mention these examples from my personal experience as a senator in following up cases and trying to get down to the bottom of the troubles and to work out solutions. 1 leave the matter with the Minister for Housing. She has always been very sympathetic. I think she will take note of what 1 have said. I know that she has an interest in these matters. I do not say for one moment that the incidents of which I speak are general. If they were, the system would collapse. They arise from a lack of control and an inability to get labour, particularly skilled labour. They represent a great danger in the community in the fields of health and hospitalisation. I would like the Department of Health to have a good look at the incidents to which I have referred. I assure honourable senators that they happen. Of course, they are not general. Many other senators might have had like experience to mine. If we apply ourselves to this matter and stand up in this chamber and express our practical ideas for ending the present situation, we will do a great deal of good for the community.
– I wish to speak for a couple of minutes on the third part of the scheme, which provides a benefit of $1.50 a day in respect of handicapped children. As mentioned in the second reading speech, this breaks new ground in the Commonwealth social welfare programme. I have a special interest in this matter because it covers a home in Townsville in which I have been very interested for some years. 1 have had repeated interviews with and deputations to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in an effort to obtain some help for the people in this home. It covers the whole of north Queensland. The children who come from outback areas have to be cared for by a nursing staff. So the home definitely comes under the conditions laid down in the Bill. In addition, a large number of children and young people are collected in Townsville each day in a bus and taken to the home, lt is beautifully equipped and the hospital section has been made a showplace. The people responsible are doing a really wonderful job. The home is run by a dedicated committee of Townsville citizens. Unfortunately, 1 understand that the benefit available under this legislation will not operate for about 2 months. The nursing section of the home was about to be closed because those responsible could not cope with costs. This Bill will make it possible for the home to continue the wonderful work it has been doing.
The second reading speech also stated:
The benefit recognises that handicapped children in their formative years need constant medical or nursing supervision as well as specialised education and training.
Specialised education and training are provided at this home in Townsville. Dedicated specialists, teachers and nurses, as well as other people, are available to train these children, lt is wonderful to see what is going on there. This home is really something special. The older children can go to a sheltered workshop. All this work will continue simply because the home will receive the benefit available under this legislation to allow it to keep these children in the hospital section.
The Minister also mentioned in the second reading speech that the new benefit will apply to physically and mentally handicapped children up to 16 years of age. At that age these people are entitled to an invalid pension if they are still unable to look after themselves during their young adult life. This provision bridges the gap between the time when there is nobody to look after them financially and to provide the care and attention that they need. They will get this care in a nursing home and for that reason alone it is a very worthwhile scheme. These things are dealt with in the third section of the Bill. 1 commend the Minister and the Government and I hope that many more homes besides the home in Townsville will benefit from this legislation.
– I wish to make a few brief remarks about this excellent piece of legislation, the National Health Bill. I regard it as a step in the right direction, particularly because it recognises the needs of children who are handicapped in any way at all. It most certainly covers children who could be said to be mentally retarded. Probably there is no other field of medicine in this age and generation which has more justification for financial assistance than this relatively new field of activity. Australia is amongst the most affluent societies but the modest amount proposed in this Bill would hardly be sufficient to meet more than part of the requirements in the field I have mentioned.
For years, mentally retarded children were looked upon as being the sole responsibility of the family. Families made tremendous sacrifices. Indeed, I think that even today we do not have accurate statistics of the number of children in this category who require assistance. Many families still retain an old fashioned approach to this problem and not all children who ought to be registered as being mentally retarded are registered. We must venture further into the field of education to eradicate this aspect of the problem. There is a tremendous number of such cases. Once upon a time the great majority were considered utterly hopeless and incapable of being educated. However, people and families have become dedicated in this work because they have been associated with it and, strangely enough, very often their intensive interest continues for years after their own personal association with the problem has ended for some reason or other. People who have been personally involved with this problem have been responsible for alerting the nation and the world to the requirements in this field. Children who once would have been considered permanently handicapped now receive assistance at such an early age that many become quite responsible and become excellent citizens. Therefore, the money spent in this field is not all paid out for nothing; there is sometimes a tremendous dividend because so many people have been cured when hitherto they were considered incurable.
Of course, if assistance is not provided in this field at an early age, then a particular case will become incurable. I wonder how many people there are in country areas today who are faced with this problem through being far removed from centres where assistance is available. Many children who could become responsible members of the community are still being lost. In later years they will become a charge on the community, probably at tremendous expense. This is because we are not spending enough to help them at the age at which they could be helped.
I applaud the Government for venturing into this field but I hope it will not merely take the first timid steps and let the matter rest. I know that after beginning schemes such as this we have to proceed somewhat slowly. However, the claims of mentally retarded children in this community are such that I think some of the matters I have mentioned could well be the subject of a Senate committee of inquiry in order to establish precisely the needs in this field.
There is another matter to which I wish to refer. I suppose it is one which most members of Parliament quite often find on their plate. I am referring to elderly people who cannot lead useful lives in the community. This has become a modern problem. Due to the brilliance of the medical profession these days people are able to live a lot longer than was the general pattern in years gone by. It is most difficult to get aged and chronically ill people in the community admitted to a hospital where medical benefits are available. This is because they are considered incurable and hospitals require accommodation for curable cases. Because of their age, many of these people have nobody to take an interest in them and to care for them. They finish up in all manner of nursing homes. The problem of finding adequate treatment for them is a tremendous one. This is a growing problem and one for which we have made no adequate provision by way of the right types of homes and hospitals. For this no government is to blame, either this Government or past governments, because this is a problem the immensity of which is only now beginning to be realised. We no doubt will continue with experimental medicine, such as heart transplants, but I do not know whether these people can ever be returned to the community to live useful lives. Probably they will always require some type of hospital treatment.
Unquestionably we have to face the problem of providing special homes and centres for aged people who are chronically ill and have nobody to care for them. It was suggested to me recently that I should try to help an aged relative of mine. There is nothing physically wrong with her but her brain is not receiving sufficient nourishment from her body to allow her to remember or to function in the normal way. I suppose she could be certified and placed in a mental institution but her aged husband, who looks after her, would not hear of it. There is no proper place for that aged couple. He does not have the physical strength or the knowledge to look after her properly. He is doing what he can and they will muddle through. We are an affluent society in which the problem can be multiplied by hundreds of thousands.
The time must come when we try to do more than we ure doing to assist cases such as the one to which I have referred. Many such people are certified as insane or mentally jil so that they can be placed in a mental institution, because at present that is the only place equipped and able to take care of them. We have been caught by surprise by the advances in medical knowledge. We have been caught unprepared but we must begin to become sufficiently aware to meet the challenge. Finance is necessary. Regardless of the disputation over finances between the Commonwealth and State Governments, the awareness of the Commonwealth Government in providing finance to meet this problem is the first material step towards eradicating it from the community. This legislation provides the first step. 1 applaud it and look forward to the future steps to be taken by this Government or succeeding governments, whatever may bc their political complexions.
– This Bill will remove the financial burden which until now has fallen on people who, although adequately insured, have had reduced the benefits paid by hospital and medical benefits organisations in respect of pre-existing, chronic or long-term ailments. I believe that the Bill should have gone much further than it does. The health services of this country are in a state of confusion verging on chaos. Hospital costs are rising and numbers of people are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the premiums they are required to pay to hospital and medical benefits organisations. They are also finding that there is a large gap between the bills they must pay and the benefits they receive from the hospital and medical benefits organisations.
An unfortunate aspect of the Government’s national health scheme is that it is designed to take away the final responsibility from the Government and place it in the hands of virtual business organisations. The expression ‘actuarily sound’ is acceptable in accounting terms, but it misses out on the very important matters of human welfare and health. I have stressed over the years that the objective of a social system and of governments should be to provide facilities that will return people to the community as quickly as possible as healthy and valuable citizens. A person who is sick, in addition to being unhappy within himself, withdraws his services from society. The longer he remains ill, the longer society is deprived of his valuable services.
Fear of hospitalisation and of an inability to meet medical costs is ever present in a much larger section of the community than is generally realised. I can remember very well the commencement of a health project in Tasmania. Mass radiography was introduced to examine people for signs of tuberculosis. In the early stages of the project a big proportion of the community volunteered for X-ray. The slogan was: Remember the day of your annual X-ray’. After about 50% of the community volunteered, the Tasmanian Government introduced legislation to make an X-ray examination compulsory so that the tuberculosis carriers in the community could be isolated. It was not until about the last 15% of the community were examined that the Government really got to grips with the scourge of tuberculosis.
New hospital provisions were set up and at the same time legislation was introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament to provide social service payments to people who were hospitalised following detection of tuberculosis. The scheme was co-ordinated to such effect that in Tasmania tuberculosis has been practically eradicated. The point I wish to make is that the people who thought they could not afford to pay for treatment for tuberculosis, even though they suspected they were sufferers, avoided for a time voluntarily submitting to X-ray examination. They were the last people to report for X-rays, even when it was made compulsory, because of the fear of being taken away from their places of employment and because of the costs associated with hospitalisation. It was also felt that there would be great inconvenience in homes where the breadwinner was hospitalised and travelling backwards and forwards to hospitals would be involved. This mitigated against people submitting to X-ray examination so that tuberculosis sufferers could be treated and then returned to the community. 1 believe that the national health scheme fails to encourage people who require treatment to enter hospitals to be cured of their illnesses as quickly as possible. The costs associated with hospitals, diagnosis and prescription of medicines impose a great burden on individuals in the community. I do not think the legislation delves deeply enough into that area. The amendments provided by this legislation are in the form of a sticking plaster over the obvious deficiencies. They go only part of the way towards the scheme advocated as part of the policy of the Australian Labor Party. Under that scheme hospital and medical services would become part of the ordinary life of the community. They would be available readily without cost as a public service. The idea that people in ill health can moulder away in a corner has vanished from modern life. Modern science has contributed tremendously towards rapid cures and towards speedy return to the community of people suffering from illness. But it is vital that they obtain this treatment without having the worry of hospital and medical costs ever present in their minds.
The measures contained in this legislation are fong overdue. A financial burden has now been removed from those people who have pre-existing or chronic ailments or long term illnesses. When one examines the national health scheme in its proper perspective one will realise how ridiculous it was that those who were sick when the scheme came into operation were excluded from its benefits. Although, the scheme has been in operation for a long time, the Government has allowed this position to exist up till now. There are many other anomalies and inadequacies in the whole of the national health scheme.
I concede that the supplementary benefit of $3 a day will be a great help to patients in nursing homes who require and receive intensive nursing home care. The nursing homes carry out an important social function in the community. They are relieving the pressure on hospitals. Though they may be intermediate in nature they perform a most important function. In the light of ever-increasing costs, this legislation will go part, of the way towards encouraging nursing homes to continue to carry out the important function that they perform in the community.
The Bill provides for a benefit of SI. 50 a day to be paid in respect of handicapped children residing in handicapped persons’ homes conducted by religious or charitable bodies, i believe that the qualification that the benefit shall be paid only in respect of handicapped children residing in handicapped persons’ homes conducted by religious or charitable bodies is an unnecessary restriction. There are many handicapped children and handicapped persons who, because of the devotion of relatives or parents, reside at home; but there is no recognition that these people are the responsibility of the Government, the State or of society. However, the fact that in the past it has not been the custom for these people to attract any benefits at all shows that the Government is at last making a limited move. Generally speaking, this Bill makes some progress towards eliminating some of the obvious anomalies in the national1 health scheme. The whole scheme is overdue for a complete reassessment.
We are overdue for a complete reassessment of society’s attitudes towards national health, hospitalisation, medical benefits and so on. Inquiries are at present being conducted into health insurance by the Health Insurance Committee of Inquiry, known as the Nimmo Committee, and by the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs. I hope that as witnesses come before these tribunals and give their evidence it will be realised that a completely new approach should be made to health in this day and age. It is the responsibility of the Government, and in turn of the community, to lift not only the financial burden but also the psychological1 burden from families that are unable to pay their way. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill, but it is of the opinion that the Senate and the Government should strive at every opportunity to improve the national health scheme. We should accept the fact that the scheme has been tried over a period of years and has been proved to be unsatisfactory. It is in need of a complete reassessment. In this day and age we should have a much more efficient and effective national health scheme.
[5.40] - in reply - I thank those honourable senators who have spoken during this debate for their support and interest in this Bill and for their very obvious concern for those who need medical care. As honourable senators are no doubt aware, the main purpose of the Bill is to provide extra financial assistance in areas of special need. Those who have spoken during this debate have covered the various fields most adequately. There are one or two points I wish to answer very quickly. Senator Ormonde asked whether deafness was a handicap which would attract assistance and Senator Little inquired about sub-normal children. In both these instances the children would be regarded as handicapped and would receive the benefit of $1.50 a day if they reside in the type of home mentioned in the Bill.
Senator Ormonde mentioned domiciliary care. The Commonwealth has undertaken to examine ways of assisting the States with domiciliary care. The States are to reach agreement as to the ways in which the Commonwealth can best help. Typical examples are home nursing, home care and senior citizens’ centres. I think everybody will agree that Commonwealth assistance in this direction will be a great help. I have carefully noted the points that have been raised by honourable senators and I shall see that they are placed before the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). I thank the Senate for the support it has given to the Bill and for its assistance in the speedy pasage of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) - by leave - agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered the times of meeting of the Senate for the remainder of the present period of sittings be as follows:
Debate resumed from 6 November (vide page 1710), on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Air Navigation (Charges) Bill will not be opposed by the Australian Labor Party, but that does not mean that I shall not be critical of the Government’s action in increasing air navigation charges annually without giving proper information to the Senate to justify the increases. This will be the ninth time that the Air Navigation (Charges) Act has been amended since 1957. In 1961, the Government came to an agreement with the airlines that there would not be an increase of greater than 10% in any one year. Since 1962, that 10% has been extracted each year. The result of this policy is that Australia now has the highest air navigation charges of any country in the world. We are a very air-minded people in Australia. We have a territory of 3 million square miles and a population of only 12 million, and most of that population is served by some form of air transport. But that, to me, does not justify air navigation charges in Australia being three and a half times higher than the average charges for the world. Later, I hope to be able to explain what I mean by that.
As a result of this Bill, charges for international aircraft will be increased to $898 for each landing and take-off compared with $US51 in San Francisco, $189 in Athens, $268 in Amsterdam and $286 in Tokyo. The country with the second highest charges in the world is England with $680. The greatest percentage of this new charge will fall upon the national airline, Qantas
Airways Ltd, because Qantas operates about half the services out of Australia. For the year 1968-69 the increase to that airline could easily be of the order of $500,000. The increase to be borne by domestic airlines will be a somewhat similar figure. To the domestic airlines this increased charge must inevitably mean increased fares to the public.
– Or less profit.
– Senator Kennelly says: Or less profit’. The profit of Trans- Australia Airlines, of course, is not determined by the amount of business that it can generate. The profit which that airline shall make is an amount fixed by the Minister.
– Yes, and it is fixed annually, according to the Act.
– The Minister fixes the amount upon which the airline will pay interest.
– I wish the honourable senator would read the Act. It says that the Minister shall declare the dividend that the Government will require from TransAustralia Airlines annually. Qantas is not in the same position as the domestic airlines. The domestic airlines only need to make application to the Minister for the right to increase fares and the Minister then, in his wisdom or otherwise, will agree to the application. Qantas, however, is bound by the International Air Transport Association so far as its fare structure is concerned. Therefore, in order to find an additional sum of approximately $500,000 in 1968-69, Qantas will have to rely on the good graces of the International Air Transport Association to agree to an increase in fares, or be able to generate sufficient extra traffic to enable it to pay the increase, or make less profit. I might say in passing that this problem will probably be accentuated in a couple of years time when the jumbo jets go on the international runs unless there is some re-organisation with respect to those types of aircraft.
Let us have a look at what the effect of the increase will be. After all, the airline business is a pretty big business and it must rely on the continued growth of traffic to survive. The effect of increased fares will be to dampen down the expansion of the airline industry both domestic and international. The whole policy of the Government with respect to the airline industry needs reviewing. I say this advisedly because the Government has continued without change the policy that was adopted in 1961. There has not been any review of this policy to take care of changed circumstances as they developed. Circumstances are changing very rapidly throughout the world today and certain things need to be reviewed at fairly frequent intervals.
One thing that we should probably look at is the preferred treatment being given to Ansett-ANA in the domestic airline field. I will not be critical of that aspect here and now because this is not the kind of Bill in relation to which one becomes critical, but I have been critical before and I will be critical again. It may be that the Government will find that the preferred treatment is warranted. I do not think it is but perhaps an inquiry by the Government would find that it is. In any event some review should be made of it because, after all, there have been changes in domestic services over a good many years.
Ansett has gathered a lot of subsidiaries, both inside and outside the airline field, into his organisation. Some of his subsidiaries have reduced their activities. For instance, MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd recently has discontinued services to 28 aerodromes in the north west of Western Australia. Some of them are being taken over by commuter services, some by charter services. This, I might say, is a fairly heavily subsidised airline. Of the order of $300,000 is paid annually to MacRobertson Miller Airlines Ltd by the Commonwealth Government because the company operates several development lines. Nevertheless, this is one of the changes that has taken place and some review is necessary.
We should look also at the efficiency of the airline industry. I am not critical of the industry’s safety standards because they are set by the Department of Civil Aviation and are of a very high order, but there are inefficiencies within the airline industry which could be reviewed with a view to bringing the service to the standard of what is regarded ‘as an efficient industry. We should also examine and review the effect of the two-airline policy in respect of the availability of aircraft to service the required schedules. I say this as one who comes from a State which is on the end of the line where there are no reserve facilities whatsoever in the event of extra services being required. There is no hourly service on the hour between Perth and Melbourne as there is between Melbourne and Sydney. You take the scheduled service that is provided by the airlines. The airlines operate for the benefit of the airlines, not for the benefit of the paying public.
I am convinced that neither major airline has sufficient aircraft to operate the schedules that are required in Australia today. If someone likes to take the trouble to examine the number of special flights that are flown between eastern Australia and Western Australia one will find support for my statement. Under the rationalisation scheme there has to be agreement for them to fly scheduled flights but there is permission for them to fly special flights, and that is the way in which they operate. You can go to the airport on one night and you will find that both airlines have a flight going out, one a special and the other a scheduled flight. On the same night in the next week you will find there is only one flight, the scheduled flight. Frequently you arrive in Adelaide and find that instead of there being one TAA and one Ansett-ANA flight through to Perth they each have two flights, one a special. They are able to do that because the aircraft are not required in eastern Australia so much in the night time as they are in the day time. However, I repeat that the schedules are flown for the benefit of the airlines, not for the benefit of the public.
We should examine also the fare structure to encourage use of the service. 1 believe that quite a useful examination could be made of the fare structure because people must fly long distances in Australia. Despite what the Minister may say about the per mile fare in Australia being perhaps cheaper than it is in other countries, the distances that have to be travelled make the fares pretty high. A per mile fare does not seem to me to matter very much. If you want to travel the 1,800 miles from Perth to Melbourne you have to pay 1,800 times the per mile fare. There is no other way of covering the distance quickly: so it is the total fare that has to be considered, not the per mile figure.
Those are only a very few of the things that I think could be reviewed in the light of the development of this industry in Australia. Perhaps they would provide reasons for not so frequent increases in air navigation charges. If we look at the charges that are imposed upon the airline industry I think it is only fair to look not only at the Air Navigation (Charges) Bill’ but also at the Government take from the airline industry. The Government takes quite an amount overall having regard to air navigation charges, airport concession revenue, miscellaneous revenue - rentals, receipts from parking areas and so on - and a fairly high return in fuel tax which is not credited to the airline industry but is paid into Consolidated Revenue.
According to the Minister’s second reading speech, which appears on page 1709 of Hansard of 6lh November, it is expected to recover the cost of providing the facilities at airports by means of air navigation charges. If we were to attempt to do that even now, the charges would have to be increased about 4i times to recover the amount that we are told is invested in these facilities. Some puzzling words were used by the Minister. This is what he said:
Clearly, positive measures must bc adopted to increase revenues if reasonable progress is to be made towards the full recovery -
I emphasise the words ‘full recovery’ - of costs properly attributable to commercial aviation, particularly if one bears in mind the heavy capital expenditure to which the Commonwealth is committed in developing some of our major airports.
I shall have a word or two to say about some of our major airports. However, I refer first to the two phrases which were used by the Minister when he was speaking of the full recovery of costs. As I have said already, a full recovery of. costs would require air navigation charges to be increased about 4i times, if this were the only source from which the increased revenue was to come. The increase will apply to navigation charges, miscellaneous charges and airport concessions from which there will be an expected return of SI 3m as against an expenditure of $56m.
The other phrase used by the Minister was ‘properly attributable’. This raises lor serious consideration the question of what charges, costs or expenditures are properly attributable to the airlines. For instance, is it contemplated that the facilities that are provided at the various airports - runways, navigation aids and other facilities - have no defence value? Would it be proper to charge a portion of this expenditure against the defence of Australia or is it to be taken that the whole of the costs are to be laid at the doors of the domestic airlines and the overseas airlines? ls it proper to consider the benefits that the industry provides for Australia by way of trade? Is it proper to consider the benefits that flow to Australia through tourism, both through the domestic airlines and the overseas airlines? I believe that Senator Wright said that the tourist industry was worth $86m to Australia in overseas income last year.
– But worth that only if the tourists pay for the services.
– They paid last year. Does the Minister want more this year?
– Of course.
– From the same number of tourists? I thought the Minister’s ambitions would have risen a little higher than that and that he would have wanted more tourists. Has he given any consideration to the growth factor? T think we should consider also, in order to see what is properly attributable to the industry, what the airline industry contributes through taxation of all kinds.
– Is the honourable senator arguing that the Government’s take should be less than is proposed?
– I am suggesting that the whole industry needs a review and probably a shake out; that it is getting into a rut and is not performing the function that it should perform; that it is becoming too costly for a nation of 12 million people; that costs and expenditures which are being attributed to it should perhaps be attributed elsewhere; that it is not reasonable to expect an airline industry in Australia, with its small population and big area, to pay the greater part of the costs of the development that is required without receiving further assistance; that it is unrealistic to consider the full recovery of costs from only one section of the industry without taking into account the other benefits to the industry and the other charges that are imposed upon the industry. In any case, the Government will soon have to face up to this situation. 1 believe that as a result of the increased charges the International Air Transport Association proposes to send a committee to Australia to investigate the charges that are being imposed upon overseas airlines. The Government will have to give some explanation to the International Air Transport Association which will want a breakdown of the costs. I believe the Government will have to provide that breakdown. I hope that once the breakdown has been made, the Government when placing legislation of this nature before the Parliament will present it also with the breakdown of costs that it supplies to the International Air Transport Association. If it does not do so it may be necessary for the Opposition to move that the papers be tabled. I think it is necessary that the Senate should have this information. Finally we should look at what the breakdown of costs and expenditure reveals in relation to the development of our major airports as international airports.
Representatives of the domestic airlines are quick to tell us that there is too much emphasis on the international aspect of Australian airports. I think this statement is borne out by the huge expenditure that is being made at Tullamarine and the huge expenditure at Kingsford-Smith airport. It is very expensive to build a runway out into Botany Bay. Certainly the domestic airlines will use the runway, but they do not require it. They operate out of Essendon and Adelaide now and would be capable of operating out of Sydney with lesser facilities, but the facilities are there. The extra length of runway is there for use by the larger overseas aircraft. But the cost of the extra facilities becomes a charge against the domestic airlines. This is another matter that the Government should look at when reviewing this industry in relation to the charge that it wants to impose on the airlines. It is not the airlines that will pay this added cost; the travelling public will pay it. The charge will be automatically passed on to the travelling public.
In addition to the increased air navigation charges which inevitably will result in an increase in fares, there is to be an airport tax. This, in addition to all the other charges which are to be imposed on people using air transport., will have the effect of damping down the air transport industry. Yet Australians are perhaps the most air-minded people in the world. With the vast distances between our major centres of population, in modern times we must use air transport. Therefore air transport should be as efficient as it is possible to make it within the bounds of safety and as cheap as it can possibly be for the air traveller.
– in reply - I thank Senator Cant for advising us that the Opposition does not oppose the measure and for the contribution he made in a thoughtful speech which must have taken a considerable time for him to prepare. I would like to inform the honourable senator that for its size and population Australia probably has the best air service of any country.
– There is a certain lack of refrigerated air terminals.
– I can tell the honourable senator who interjected that there are some countries with a population ten times the size of Australia which do not have one refrigerated air terminal. The Government has been criticised for the increase this year of 1 0% in air navigation charges. When one examines the amount of money that is required to provide the service that we give in Australia and the amount of money that we receive one can really understand why the Government has decided to increase these charges by 10%. Revenue from air navigation charges has continued to rise. Expressed as a percentage increase on the revenue in the preceeding year, the variations are as follows:
In 1963 the revenue that we received by way of air navigation charges from the domestic airlines was $1,531,600 and in 1967-68 it was $4,949,100. Of the international airlines, Qantas Airways Ltd paid $1,901,000 this year, British Overseas Aircraft Corporation paid $761,500 and the other airlines paid $1,820,600, giving a total of $4,483,100. When this figure was added to revenue from the other charter services, $427,400, it gave a total revenue by way of air navigation charges for the last financial year, 1967-68, of $9,859,600. When we find that the total expenditure is three or four times that amount we can readily understand why the Minister in his second reading speech said:
Clearly, positive measures must be adopted to increase revenues if reasonable progress is to be made towards-
And I emphasise the word ‘towards’ - the full recovery of costs properly attributable to commercial aviation, particularly if one bears in mind the heavy capital expenditure to which the Commonwealth is committed ki developing some of our maojr airports.
This was referred to by Senator Young. When we look at the terrific cost involved in providing adequate finance and adequate airport facilities in Australia we find that the capital expenditure involved in providing air conditioning for some of our terminals and also for providing extended runways and new airport facilities at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) and Tullamarine Airports is heavy. In the past 12 months we had a total capital expenditure of almost $90m. We expect some of the people who are travelling and using the facilities to pay a part of these costs. The additional revenue from this 10% increase will be $460,000 in 1969 and $1,010,000 in a full year. The additional increase for the large jets is of the order of 10%, amounting to $200,000 in 1968-69 and $425,000 in a full year. This amount of money we are to receive will not come anywhere near meeting the increased expenditure this year. I mentioned these figures because Senator Cant mentioned that these increases of 10% in air navigation charges on domestic airlines were a little too steep and a little too often. The recurring cash costs for the maintenance of airport and airway facilities have risen from $25,040,000 in 1963-64 to $41,577,000 in 1967-68. The percentage increases on a yearly basis, notwithstanding the fact that air navigation charges have risen by only 10% a year, are as follows:
In not one of those years has the percentage increase been anywhere near the 10% that the Government is asking the airlines to contribute towards the cost of supplying the additional facilities. Senator Cant went on to say that he wanted us to give the reasons for this annual increase of 10%. I think I have covered them adequately in my previous remarks. He said that Australian air navigation charges are higher than the average world charges. But many other factors have to be taken into consideration in regard to this matter. Let us take, for instance. DC9 aircraft operating internally in Australia and other countries. The Australia charges are not the highest in the world. As from 1st January 1969 our charges will be a little less than those of sonic other countries.
– Which other countries?
– Apparently the honourable senator wants, for example, the landing charges for a DC9 aircraft with sixty passengers.
– I mentioned a charge of $898 for a Boeing 707 or VC10 overseas aircraft weighing more than 200.000 lb.
– I am not arguing about that. I am talking about internal aircraft. As from 1st January 1969 - that is the date from which these new charges will take effect - the landing charge in Australia for a DC9 aircraft with sixty passengers will be $58. In Great Britain it is $110. In some other countries it is somewhat higher than the Australian charge. For instance in the Sudan it is $92; in Bolivia $81; and in Germany $73. The charges in some other countries are lower.
If wc are considering this as an argument on costs, we have to take into consideration also some of the other costs, such as taxes and duties on turbine fuel. Australia charges 7.9c a gallon on turbine fuel used within Australia. Italy charges 35.7c, Greece 19.2c, Austria 17.4c, Brazil 11.8c, Pakistan 9.4c, Belgium 9.4c and France 8.2c. The taxes and duties on turbine fuel in other countries go down to as low as 1.5c a gallon. I give these figures to enable honourable senators to compare the Australian figures with those of some of the other countries in which domestic airlines operate.
Senator Cant said that we have not sufficient aircraft in Australia to cater for the needs of the public. That may or may not be so. I believe that with the new DC9s coming on route this month, the proposed purchase of extra 727s for delivery towards the end of 1969 and the additional three or four DC9s of which each of the operators will be taking delivery in the next few years, we will probably be able to cater pretty adequately for the people who want to travel by air in Australia. Those were the main points that were covered in the debate, apart from Senator Cant’s mention of the defence, trade and tourism value of airport facilities.
– I wanted a breakup of the costs properly attributable to those areas.
– That is right. The honourable senator mentioned those three areas. Airport facilities have a defence value. If we argue along the lines that the honourable senator suggested, the taxpayers of Australia are finding at least two-thirds, if not three-quarters, of the cost of providing the facilities that are needed for air transport in Australia. In addition we can look at airport facilities from the standpoint of trade and the standpoint of tourism. In regard to trade, the aircraft that carry people and/or goods to Australia from other countries attract landing charges. So they are catered for. Part of the fare of the tourist who comes into Australia meets his share of the landing charges imposed by this measure. So. by and large, I believe that the Government, recognising the need for adequate airport facilities, is quite justified in imposing this increase. I think Senator Cant, having heard what J have said, will agree that this 10% increase is nowhere near enough to recoup the additional amount of money that we are spending this year. I thank the honourable senator for his speech. 1 am sure that the Bill will have a speedy passage through this chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 7 November (vide page 1772), on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I am very pleased to be able to say that this is another Bill which the Opposition supports. It provides for a number of things and farmers throughout Australia will be suitably impressed with the changes that it will bring about. For instance, although the subsidy for superphosphate will rise from $6 lo S8 a ton, under one of the provisions of the Bill, superphosphate containing trace elements will attract the same subsidy as standard superphosphate. This means that additives to superphosphate, such as copper, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum, manganese and boron, which are added in various amounts to suit certain soils, will be deemed as superphosphate for the purposes of the bounty. This is a very important alteration to the Act. The Bill also provides for an increase to $40 a ton in the bounty on phosphorus pentoxide contained in superphosphate other than standard superphosphate. This also is a very welcome increase for farmers using this type of superphosphate. The increases also will apply to superphosphate which contains phosphatic fertilisers other than those I have mentioned. There is to be a bounty also for ammonium phosphate fertiliser.
There is one danger that I would like to mention. We have seen in the past, on so many occasions, that as a subsidy is increased it is absorbed before long in a price increase. This has happened in the past in regard to superphosphate. I think there should be a clause inserted to ensure that the increase provided for in this Bill will be retained for the benefit of the farmer and that it will not lead to an increase in the price of superphosphate. We do not want to find after this legislation comes into operation that farmers are paying the same as they were previously. I have dealt quickly with the points covered by the Bill. The Opposition has nothing but pleasure in seeing this measure brought forward. We support the Bill and will give it a swift passage.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia) ment for introducing the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill the main purpose of which is to increase the bounty on phosphatic fertiliser by $2 a ton. The bounty previously was S6 a ton and has been in operation for some time. The Bill also extends the period of the bounty for another 3 years.
I would be lacking in my duty if I did not point out the importance of this bounty when related to the average costs of farmers. A farmer who uses 50 tons of superphosphate a year - and he would not need to have a big holding to do this - will now benefit to the extent of $400 a year. It is interesting to compare that amount with the cost of the wheat industry stabilisation scheme which we dealt with last night. The last survey revealed that the average payment to farmers in the period covered by the last bounty scheme was $332, so that the amount of the superphosphate bounty is greater than the benefit conferred in cash by the wheat stabilisation scheme. 1 think farmers are apt to overlook this point in assessing what the Government is doing to assist primary industry. Of course, the point made by Senator Wilkinson, about increased prices has to be considered. It is perfectly true that the price of superphosphate rose after the bounty was applied. However, it is necessary to look at the reasons for the price increase. Firstly, there was an increase in the landed cost of phosphate. Superphosphate companies could do nothing about that. This matter is controlled by the British Phosphate Commission and the increase resulted from increased prices in the islands and in other places. Another reason for the rise was the increased landed price of sulphur. The landed price of sulphur rose tremendously. From memory, it rose by about 300%. Higher wages as a result of new awards in industry also were incurred by superphosphate manufacturers. These costs are unavoidable and have been responsible for price rises. Therefore the increased costs have eaten up the bounty of $6. The Government was aware of this and that was one of the reasons why the bounty has been increased.
I noted Senator Wilkinson’s remark about providing some protection to ensure that the bounty is paid to farmers. This protection is provided already. One of the very good points about the original Act was that it conferred upon the Department of Customs and Excise, which administers the bounty, the right to examine the accounts and statements of the superphosphate companies so that the Government could be assured that they were passing the bounty on to the users of superphosphate. I admit that generally little is known about this safeguard. It is well to remind the Senate that this very sound provision was written info the Act.
I wish to comment on one of the words used by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) in his second reading speech. I have the strongest possible objection to the use by the Minister of the word triple’ when applied to any superphosphate marketed in Australia. The word ‘triple’ means three times. In the sense in which it was used by the Minister, it implied that a particular superphosphate had three times the P205 content of ordinary superphosphate. In fact, it is not three times the value but only slightly more than double the value. I have received from Dr A. F. Gurnett-Smith, Secretary of the Agriculture and Biological Sciences Section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, a letter on this subject from which 1 will quote. Dr Gurnett-Smith wrote:
From the inquiries 1 have made it seems that the two terms ‘double’ and ‘triple’ cannot be taken literally as meaning twice or three times the amount of P.06 in ordinary superphosphate. I am told by an officer of the Department of Customs and Excise that the double superphosphate of a New South Wales manufacture contains 37% P:06. In Victoria Imperial Chemical Industries markets a product called ‘Hyphos’ which has a total phosphoric acid content of 45%, made up of 34% water-soluble, 7% citrate soluble, and 4% citrate insoluble phosphoric acid … I have been unable to obtain figures for ‘Triple’ superphosphate and it is possible that the manufacturers do not make a product which they are prepared to call triple superphosphate.
In fact, one firm manufactures a superphosphate called ‘triple’. .1 refer to the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act return for 1966-67 which, among other things, records the fact that a firm manufactured a substance which it called ‘triple superphosphate’. Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd in Melbourne was paid a bounty of §370,420 for 30,473 tons of this allegedly triple superphosphate. Calculations based on those figures show that the amount of bounty was actually paid on a substance that was only a trifle more than double. On behalf of the industry I object strongly to including in the description of a product a word the ordinary meaning of which is not borne out by the properties of the substance being sold. It is misleading and highly dangerous to assume in purchasing this particular type of phosphate that it has in fact three times the value of ordinary superphosphate.
Another feature of this particular type of phosphate is that it contains little sulphur. In the light of increasing knowledge of our sulphur deficient areas its widespread use could be very uneconomic. Its use in compound fertilisers with nitrogen has advantages with regard to transport costs and where factories are situated some distance from the place of useage; but care needs to be exercised to calculate the benefits of the freight savings as against the extra cost and the fact that this particular phosphate contains little or no sulphur. Another fairly important point in consideration of the overall economics of the superphosphate industry in Australia is that in those States where agriculture and superphosphate usage have moved inland from the coastal areas, especially in Western Australia, it is urgently necessary to review the expansion of the manufacture of superphosphate in coastal locations.
Modern railway transport can cope with costs only by transporting bulk commodities in whole train loads from point to point. I instance bauxite and iron ore in Western Australia, and coal sent from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta where wonderfully efficient transport has been achieved by the railway system. That type of transport must be expanded if we are to make the railways pay. That is particularly important in Western Australia. Tt is of great importance to a manufacturer of superphosphate because, in the process of manufacture, onethird of the weight of the raw material, which is in fact water, need not be added at the point of manufacture but can be added inland, providing the amount to be manufactured at any one place is large enough to be economic.
The development of agriculture away from the coast and the concentration of the manufacture of superphosphate on the coast has led to several very undesirable circumstances in relation to agriculture generally. It has delayed the transport of superphosphate and necessitated the spread of deliveries over a long period. Consequently, it has led, through an increase in the usage of bulk superphosphate, to the establishment of rather uneconomic types of storage in the country. Worst of all, it has led to the application of superphosphate to save storage costs long before the break of the season. Experiments conducted, particularly in Western Australia, have shown that losses of efficiency of up to 50% can occur because of the premature application of superphosphate. As the Commonwealth Government is to pay a subsidy of up to $8 a ton in expanding the use of superphosphate, it has an interest in ensuring that it is used economically and not wasted. Because of premature application on a large scale in Western Australia, losses of efficiency are occurring.
In speaking in an earlier debate on this subject I regretted that the Commonwealth Government had decided not to pay a bounty on the use of rock phosphate on the ground that normally rock phosphate is not as efficient as superphosphate. That is true, but in some circumstances the use of rock phosphate is desirable. By not paying a bounty on the use of rock phosphate the Government did not save any money because the use of rock phosphate became no longer economic when compared with the use of superphosphate. Former users of rock phosphate simply transferred to superphosphate so that no bounty money was saved in that regard. It simply meant that there was an uneconomic transfer of what was in certain circumstances a desirable usage of one form of phosphate.
That development is of greater significance in the light of statements about biosuper in the twentieth annual report of CSIRO. I will quote from the report because it is of interest in considering the new development. The report states:
At the Division of Soils, scientists have devised a novel way of turning low-grade rock phosphate into a more useful fertiliser which they have named ‘biological superphosphate’ or ‘biosuper’. This fertiliser could be a suitable alternative to superphosphate in much of northern Australia where there are deposits of rock phosphate and where the cost of bringing in superphosphate is high. Biosuper is made by pelleting rock phosphate with sulphur and certain bacteria called thiobacilli. When biosuper is added to the soil, the thiobacilli slowly convert the sulphur into sulphuric acid. The acid then acts on the rock phosphate, changing it into a soluble product resembling superphosphate and gradually releasing sulphur and phosphorus for plant growth.
Biosuper is essentially a slow acting, long term fertiliser. Where a quick response is wanted, for example during pasture establishment, superphosphate is better. But biosuper could provide a reasonable alternative to superphosphate in northern Australia in those situation where it is intended to apply large amounts of fertiliser at infrequent intervals. Field trials are now being carried out in the Northern Territory to test the value of biosuper on rice, sorghum, and Townsville lucerne pastures. Biosuper might have advantages over superphosphate on certain sandy soils where phosphorus is easily dissolved and washed away, and on lateritic soils where phosphorus tends to become fixed in the soil and unavailable to plants.
The latter two circumstances apply to a great degree in my own State of Western Australia., where we have sandy soils and lateritic soils. Considerable economic advantages could be achieved by the use of biosuper. I happen to know that the work on biosuper was very nearly abandoned because the Commonwealth decided that the bounty would not be paid on rock phosphate. Fortunately, I had the opportunity of intervening in this matter and the CSIRO decided to go ahead with experiments in the Northern Territory. We do not know how successful biosuper will be until the results of those experiements are evaluated. But there is a very good probability that this new use of rock phosphate with sulphur could confer considerable benefits, particularly in areas where the use of superphosphate has some difficulties because of its high degree of solubility. Another advantage is that there is a possibility of varying the phosphorus-sulphur ratio, which is highly necessary in some of our soils.
This leads me again to a matter which greatly concerns me. Recent work in Western Australia indicates there is an extreme probability that sulphur is a factor in the estrogenic composition of our subterranean clovers and that a lot of the benefits which have been derived from the use of ordinary superphosphate are largely due to the use of sulphur. A farmer who is a neighbour of mine is a graduate in agriculture. He was formerly an officer of the State Department of Agriculture. This man tried to buy a quantity of elemental sulphur from the fertiliser companies for experimental purposes. The only type he could buy was the finely ground sulphur that is used as a fungicide for dusting plants. He was charged a price in excess of $100 a ton for this sulphur, which - with due apologies to the Minister - costs $47 a ton landed in Australia according to the latest information 1 have received.
Vast quantities of this type of elemental sulphur are used in New Zealand for agricultural purposes. I have seen quantities of up to 4 cwt to 1 ton mixed with superphosphate and used on soils in the south island of New Zealand which are very deficient in sulphur, lt appears that we will soon have to use sulphur in similar quantities in the south west of Western Australia. 1 trust that in protecting the welfare and interests of the primary producer the Government will ensure that these essential elements in fertilisers are made available at reasonable prices, nol extortionate prices, and that there wil! be no bar to their ready purchase by those who want to use them. I am taking the opportunity of this debate to introduce matters which 1 consider have a bearing on the use of superphosphate. If we are to subsidise superphosphate it is important to ensure that it is used economically and that it is not being used where sulphur or some other element should be used. With those observations, 1 again commend the Government for increasing the bounty on superphosphate. I believe that the industry needs the assist;) nee at this time.
– in reply - I thank Senator Wilkinson, who spoke on behalf of the Opposition, and Senator Prowse, for their interesting remarks. Firstly. I wish to reply to some of the queries raised by those honourable senators. Senator Wilkinson said that the Government should ensure that the benefit of the bounty is passed on to the farmer. The Government is well aware of the need lo ensure that this will be done. Senator Prowse indicated that it was the responsibility of the Department of Customs and Excise to ensure that any bounty on superphosphate is passed on to the user and is not gobbled up before it gets to him. I am well aware of my responsibilities to ensure that the bounty is passed on intact for the benefit of all users. 1 should mention that officers of my Department recently examined the manufacturing costs at all Australian fertiliser manufacturers, r understand that a full report will be available to me soon. I assure honourable senators that I shall take appropriate action if the price variations of the manufacturers are such as would suggest that any portion of the bounty is not being passed on to the user.
The increase in the bounty from $6 to $8 a ton of standard superphosphate will increase the Government’s commitment by $13m to a total of $37m this year. This is a considerable sum. But the Government realises that the farmers need this bounty because of increased costs and has decided that the taxpayers of Australia should contribute a little more than they have been contributing in the past towards the cost of superphosphate. Senator Prowse raised one or two very interesting points. He said that the triple superphosphate that I mentioned in my second reading speech was in actual fact not available to the primary producers al the present time.
– I pointed out that it was available but it was misdescribed.
– We have not any information as to whether it is available at the present time.
– The Government has paid bounty on it, so the Minister must know.
– I would like to tell the honourable senator that double super can be from 35% to 40% PL,05 and triple super is from 444% to 50% P..0-. The terms as used commercially are loose when compared with the ho un tv payment Which, in relation to other than standard superphosphate, is based on the P.,0.-, or phosphorous pentoxide content. The bounty payment is $40 per ton of P»Os, and the Department polices the P2O5 content of the various products. The higher concentrates of superphosphate are likely to be used more in the future than previously because there is a trend in Australia to the use of the more sophisticated fertiliser compounds such as ammonium phosphates. Double super is sold by Australian Fertilisers Ltd and Greenleaf Fertiliers Ltd. Triple super is sold by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd and ACF arid Shirley’s Fertilisers Pty Ltd.
– The Minister now knows that the Government pays it.
– 1 am sorry. I think the farmers of Australia should be aware of the P2O0 content of the product they are buying, regardless of whether it is described commercially as double or triple super, for they received the bounty only on the basis of the actual P.,On content of the super.
Senator Prowse also spoke of rock phosphate. The Commonwealth’s decision not to pay bounty on rock phosphate was made after careful consideration of the problem. The 20th annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation will be examined. The use of biosuper is still in the experimental stage, but this development will be kept under review to determine its economic application. In his most interesting speech, Senator Prowse mentioned that rock phosphate could be used in the development of our pastures in the north of Australia particularly if the sulphur additive that has been discovered by CSIRO, is added to make the phosphate content of the rock available more quickly to plants in those areas.
I am sure the honourable senators will also bc pleased to know that, apart from this new discovery of biosuper, as we cal’l it, a company known as Broken Hill South Ltd has discovered huge deposits of rock phosphate in the north of Australia adjacent to Cloncurry. From memory. I think that the tonnage proven to date in two or three of these major deposits that have been discovered and tested indicates that there is available within those areas 1,300,000,000 tons of ore with a phosphoric content of 18% and more. This is of tremendous value to Australia particularly when we realise, as has been pointed out by Senator Prowse, the great advantage that biosuper will1 have in the development of our pastures in the north of Australia. 1 point out that with the use of superphosphate and Townsville lucerne the development companies operating in the high rainfall areas of northern Australia are able to increase the carrying capacity of the land from 1 beast to 100 acres to 1 beast to 2 or 3 acres. We can appreciate, therefore, the tremendous development that can take place in areas such as Cape York Peninsular, which is about the same size as Victoria, and which has a rainfall of between 40 and 50 inches a year, if adequate transport facilities are provided to make available at a reasonable price for the improvement of our pastures these new phosphates that have been discovered.
Senator Prowse also referred to the effect of trace elements on the soil. He explained how large acreages throughout Australia have been transformed by the use of trace elements. Most of our trace elements, of course, are used in conjunction with superphosphate. He also mentioned the findings in Western Australia resulting from experiments with the use of sulphur and its effect on the fertility of breeding ewes in certain pastures over there. He also told us of the terrific improvement of some of our land that can result from the use of sulphur.
He also pointed out that many farmers were top dressing their pastures far too early and as a result were losing up to 50% of the value of their superphosphate. He spoke, too, about bulk transport. Realising its responsibilities, the Government has once more come to the assistance of producers, particularly those in the agricultural areas of Australia, by increasing this bounty on superphosphate from $6 a ton to S8 a ton. 1 thank the members of the Opposition for agreeing to our proposals, and in particular I thank Senator Wilkinson and Senator Prowse for their interesting contributions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through ils remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 12 November (vide page 1878), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The main purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to amend the War Service Homes Act to increase the amount of the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme from $7,000 to $8,000. This Bill is typical of the Government’s general approach to housing - it gives too little and gives it too late. As I develop my speech I will endeavour to point out to the Senate how the Government has allowed the amount available under the Act to slide back gradually until now the amount which a prospective purchaser has to find by way of deposit, second mortgage and so on has increased greatly.
With the exception of a couple of minor amendments which I shall mention later, the Act was last amended in 1962. Early in her speech the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) referred to that aspect when she said that the War Service Homes Act had been in operation since 1918 and that it had not been amended since 1962. I mentioned a couple of minor amendments. One was made under the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966, which had no bearing on the amount of loan under the Act, and the other was made under the Statute Law Revision (Decimal
Currency) Act 1966. Therefore it is 6 years since we have had an opportunity to look at the War Service Homes Act. As I have said, the loan of $7,000 has been in force since 1962 and the Government’s failure to increase it has caused the gap between the cost of a home and the amount of the loan to widen. That reinforces my statement that the Government gives too little and gives it too late.
I think we should consider the 1967-68 report of the Director of War Service Homes. Appendix L to the report comprises a table which shows the considerable increase that has occurred in the cost of homes over a period of 10 years. I do not wish to weary the Senate by reciting all the figures but I think some of them should be quoted. For example, in 1958-59 the Commonwealth average cost of a home - that is, a dwelling house and land - was $7,608. In 1961-62 the cost had increased to $8,481. In 1965-66 it was $10,643 and in 1967-68 it was $11,487. I think that those figures indicate the tremendous increase that has occurred. Over 10 years it has amounted to $3,879. With the concurrence of honourable senators and so that no-one will be misled, I incorporate appendix L of the report in Hansard.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 November 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19681114_senate_26_s39/>.