27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave -I wish to inform the Senate that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) left Australia on 26th April to visit Japan and Canada. In Japan he met leaders of the wool textile industry and in Ottawa he is attending the ministerial meeting of the International Grains Arrangement Conference. Mr Anthony is expected to return to Australia on 10th May. During his absence the Minister for the interior (Mr Nixon) is acting as Minister for Primary Industry. 1 also wish to inform the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) will leave Australia this evening for a brief visit to Japan to take part in Australia’s national day at Expo 70. Mr Gorton is expected to return to Australia on 10th May. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade andIndustry (Mr McEwen) will be Acting Prime Minister during the Prime Minister’s absence.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
Tuesdays - 2.30 p.m. until 6 p.m. 8 p.m. until 11 p.m.
Wednesdays - 2.30 p.m. until 6 p.m. 8 p.m. until 11 p.m.
Thursdays - 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. 8 p.m. until 1 1 p.m.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that Australia has been honoured by selection as host nation for the international conference on education this year, and that this year has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as International Education Year? Is she also aware that the World Assembly of Teachers will be holding a conference in Sydney from 4th August to 12th August this year? Is she further aware that the Prime Minister and Dr Angie Brooks, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, will address the conference? Does she know that the Australian Teachers Federation approached the Postmaster-General in October last year asking that an Australian stamp be printed to mark the occasion of this assembly and that that request was refused on the ground that the programme for 1970 was overloaded? In view of the great international importance of this occasion and in view of its importance to Australia, will the Minister use her good offices with the PostmasterGeneral to have an urgent review of the matter so that an appropriate stamp can be printed?
– I have listened with interest to the various points raised by Senator Murphy. I was aware of some of them concerning the conference but I was not aware that the Australian Teachers Federation had approached the Postmaster-General concerning the issue of a stamp commemorating the occasion. I do not know the details of this representation to the PostmasterGeneral or his reply to it, but I have noted the points raised by Senator Murphy andI will discuss the matter with the PostmasterGeneral and advise the honourable senator of the results of that discussion.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Further to questions asked by Senator Devitt and myself concerning the encroachment of Russian fishing trawlers into Tasmanian waters, is the Minister aware that there are further reports of these trawlers fishing close in off the north western tip of Tasmania? Has he had the previous questions investigated and will he make further investigations to see what the exact position is in regard to this matter?
– I recall the questions and I recall the answers that were given in relation to the sighting of Russian vessels or what were thought to be Russian vessels in the Bass Strait area.
– They were identified.
– Yes, they were. 1 have taken note of the supplementary question and 1 will have investigations made immediately in the hope that I will be able to give some constructive answer, perhaps tomorrow, in relation to the matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I refer to a published statement by the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, Senator Keeffe, that the Australian Government and its agents were intent on inciting violence during the Moratorium Day demonstrations. Will the Government give an assurance that Government agents were not involved in inciting demonstrators to smash windows in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, following the May Day rally addressed by Dr Cairns?
– The statement which came from Senator Keeffe is so ridiculous that it scarcely needs an assurance to the contrary from me. The Government is the custodian of the enforcement of the law and it will see that law and order are maintained to the limit of its capacity. It is an old fashioned pretext used by some propagandists that they try to create a screen of propaganda to excuse anticipated action on their own account. Into that category I believe Senator Keeffe’s statement comes.
– ls the Minister for Civil Aviation aware, firstly, that on 29th May J 967 an air traffic control officer at Canberra Airport made serious allegations concerning air safety at Canberra Airport, and secondly, that this officer was then technically demoted by being transferred to Sydney but was informed that if he would retract his observations his transfer would be cancelled? Has an investigation been held into the latter allegation - I know one has been held in regard to the first - and if so, what was the result? Was another officer who supported the first mentioned officer in regard to his allegations also transferred, in this case to Brisbane?
– I have some slight knowledge of the matter raised by the honourable senator but there are a number of new issues in his question as to the accuracy of which I have some doubt. Nonetheless I will have a carefully prepared answer obtained for him on the whole matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that there was a few years ago a direct air service between Sydney and Tasmania, and because of the known increased tourist and commercial traffic between the eastern States and Tasmania, will the Minister discuss with one or both of the civil airlines the possibility of some agreement being reached for a resumption of this service even on a rationalised basis, and in due course will he inform the Senate of the result of his discussions?
– Yes, I will. I am glad to be asked this question. I will take the matter up with the 2 operators under the 2-airline policy - Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and the Australian National Airlines Commission - see what they have to say about it and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– Is the Leader of the Government able to advise the Senate what plans, besides increasing interest rates, the Government proposes to adopt to curb the present inflation which the Treasurer states threatens the well being of all Australians? Is it true that increased Federal Government expenditure is regarded as a major factor causing this inflation? If so, what plans does the Government propose to adopt to overcome these grave problems?
– Let me deal with the last part of the honourable senator’s question first. As he knows and as the Senate knows, Commonwealth expenditure is on a budgetary basis and is budgeted for in advance of such spending. So I suggest to him and to the Senate that any inflationary tendencies that may be in existence are not things that have suddenly been created as a result of governmental expenditure, whether it be State or Federal. As to the question of linking the recently announced increase in interest rates with the economy, as I said here some considerable time ago the use of interest rates is a traditional and well recognised economic procedure in relation to any adjustments that may be necessary in the economy.
I do not think question time lends itself to a full scale discussion of the type of question the honourable senator has posed; but some other occasion - for instance, we will be dealing with supplementary appropriation Bills within the next fortnight, I hope - would provide an ideal opportunity for him to pose the question he has just asked, and 1 will then give him an answer in some depth. I am sure that he will be completely convinced when I have finished.
– Is the Minister for Housing aware of the fact that for several years the home building industry in South Australia has been in a state of recession and near depression, causing a massive movement of building tradesmen to other more prosperous States? Is she also aware that only in recent months has an upward trend in this industry in South Australia become apparent, but that the industry there can by no means be said to be bouyant as yet? Is it a fact that the building industry in South Australia has lagged far behind that in other States where boom conditions have existed for several years? If this is so, will the Minister-
– Under the Hall Government.
– It started long before the Hall Government came to office. It started when the Dunstan Government started mucking around with the economy. If these are facts, will the Minister take up with the Treasurer the possibility of giving some relief from the present high interest rates relating to loans to South Australian home builders in order to provide some relief from a possible return to depression conditions in this very hard hit industry which is primarily responsible for South Australian economic stability?
– It is so that in the past few years building activity in South Australia has been at a relatively low level. We would all like to see the recent increase in activity expanding further. As we know, there has been an increase in activity. Unfortunately it is quite correct, as the honourable senator says, that many building workers left South Australia when building activity was at a relatively low ebb. Although some of them have returned, there is little unemployed building labour in that State.
The honourable senator asks about the present state of building activity. I inform her that in the March quarter this year the number of private houses and flats commenced in South Australia was 2,285, which represents the largest number of dwellings commenced in that State since the March quarter of 1965. In the March quarter this year approvals were 8% above the number in the December quarter 1969. Home building activity would appear to be rising. If the overall monetary situation should bring about some casing in home building activity in South Australia I believe it should be of relatively short duration as the long term trend in dwelling construction in that State must definitely be up. Senator Buttfield spoke about the present high interest rate. The monetary restraint which is operating to curb a tendency for spending to run to excess applies to all forms of spending and investing in the community and is not being directed mainly to home building. But because this is a big industry - expenditure on home construction accounts for about 5% of total Australian expenditure - it cannot escape the effects of the overall monetary restraint. With Senator Buttfield I hope, most sincerely, that the upward trend in dwelling construction continues in South Australia.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Was the American drive into Cambodia made with the prior knowledge of the Australian Government? Were prior consultations held between the Australian Government and the United States Government? If so, when? Does the Australian Government agree with this extension of the conflict into Cambodia which further threatens world peace?
– The Prime Minister has indicated in another place that he proposes to make a statement later today on this matter. For that reason it would be quite inappropriate for me to answer questions on this subject in advance.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and is supplementary to the question asked earlier by Senator Lillico. I ask whether the Minister’s attention has been drawn to a radio news item which claimed that the Commonwealth Government intended to investigate a claim made by a Victorian fisherman that the Russian Trawler ‘Van Gogh’ was fishing off the South Australian coast and in South Australian waters. Can the Minister say whether the Government has made such an investigation and whether there are any results at this stage? Can he obtain further information for me on this reported incident?
– I will obtain the maximum information 1 can, as I said in reply to Senator Lillico, and it will relate also to Senator Davidson’s supplemental question. In the last few minutes 1 have been informed that the sighting of a suspected foreign trawler off Cape Patton by fishermen on Thursday, 30th April was not reported to the fisheries authorities until Monday, 4th May, when Victorian fishermen were requested to report by radio any further sightings. To date no sightings have been reported positively identifying the vessel as a foreign fishing boat or furnishing information to suggest that the vessel is still in the area. That is the information 1 have at this moment. I will try to obtain more up to date information for the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that there is no protective radar screen covering Bass Strait and the northern approaches to Tasmania? If this is so, and in view of the increase in air and sea activity in the waters of Bass Strait, will the Minister give high priority to the installation of such a protective radar screen?
– I understand that what the honourable senator says is substantially a fact, that there is no protective radar screen operating on the northern approach to Tasmania. That is the latest information I have. 1 do know the matter is under earnest consideration and the honourable senator may be assured, as indeed mav all honourable senators from
Tasmania, that this matter will be looked at carefully and given the highest priority possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that Boeing 727 aircraft are now being flown into Canberra Airport is there any reason why, on certain days, aircraft on Adelaide-Sydney flights cannot land at Canberra thus obviating an unnecessarily long journey for passengers whose destination is Canberra?
– I imagine that this is a management decision for the 2 airlines which fly Boeing 727 aircraft from Perth through Adelaide to Sydney. 1 imagine also that it is tied up with the capacity of the aircraft and the number of passengers who would be put down or picked up in Canberra. There was a previous question, from Senator Buttfield I think, about the possibility of a direct service from Adelaide to Canberra and return. I hope to have information for her on that matter fairly soon, and if I can get information for Senator Prowse in time I will add it to the reply to the other question. If not, I will get a separate reply for him.
– My question to the Minister for Works refers to the need to build a Commonwealth centre in South Australia and also to the present locations of some 23 Commonwealth departments in privately owned buildings in Adelaide. Has the Minister any further information to that which he gave me previously, to the effect that this project is under consideration?
– I gave the honourable senator a reply on this matter within the past few weeks. I indicated then that the programme for South Australia was under active consideration. T am not able to add to that answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I refer again to the widely reported statement of Senator Keeffe, Federal President of the Australian Labor
Party, to the effect that whereas organisers of the Moratorium have planned for peace the Australian Government and government agents are planning for violence, ls it the obligation of citizens, particularly members of Parliament, to give to responsible law officers any evidence of proposed violence or plans for violence? Has Senator Keeffe supplied any such evidence? If he has not supplied any such evidence, is this an indication that his statement is unfounded or that he is seeking to justify, before the event, any violence in which those engaged in the Moratorium Campaign may involve themselves?
– I have no information that Senator Keeffe has provided the law authorities of the Commonwealth or the States with evidence of any expected violence, but I did not treat the statement attributed to him with regard to his expectation in this respect with such seriousness that 1 ever considered that he would provide such evidence. It is completely ridiculous, as I said in reply to my colleague Senator Sim, for any member of the Opposition to suggest that the Government is encouraging violence. The Government has taken steps to ensure that its full authority as the law enforcement agency in the Commonwealth will be secured.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact, as reported by the Minister for Customs and Excise in Adelaide last week, that, resulting from detection pressures in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, international drug smugglers have begun using South Australia as a new inlet for narcotics? What special action is being taken in South Australia to stop this dangerous development?
– I have not seen the statement attributed to the Minister but I will direct the question to him and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry ask his colleague to endeavour to speed up discussions concerning the fruit stabilisation scheme which has been promoted by the Tasmanian Fruit Board, and indicate when a decision on the Government’s willingness to participate can be expected? This whole matter is one of urgency and extreme importance to the Tasmanian fruit industry and has been under the Minister’s consideration since December 1969.
– 1 will direct the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to the question asked by the honourable senator and obtain some information for the honourable senator.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform the Senate what Commonwealth Government initiative has occurred in the past 3 months to usher in the creation of a Sydney Harbour foreshores park?
– I can indicate to the honourable senator the information made available to me, which is that that is not a matter solely for Commonwealth initiative. It involves both Commonwealth and State interests. On the one hand the Commonwealth wishes to acquire land at Holsworthy and at Lucas Heights for its own purposes. On the other hand the Government of New South Wales has requested the Commonwealth to vacate large areas of land now held on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour for defence and other purposes to enable it to set up a national park. These are matters requiring careful consideration and negotiation. Various departmental interests are involved. But it is hoped that it will be possible to reach a basis for a mutually satisfactory arrangement with the States at an early date.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say when a television station will be built in Upper Eyre Peninsula to serve areas of South Australia there?
– I am aware of the interest that the honourable senator has shown in this matter before. 1 cannot give him an answer today as to when this television station will be built, bill 1 shall put this matter before the Postmaster-General and obtain a reply for the honourable senator as soon as I can.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. On 14tb April the Minister for Primary Industry issued a Press statement in which he said he expected to introduce legislation to enable Western Australia to commence the marginal dairy farms reconstruction plan at an early date. Can the Minister give any information about when this legislation may be expected?
– 1 saw the statement, to which the honourable senator refers, but I cannot give him any specific date at this moment. I shall make it my duty to find out as soon as possible and to let the honourable senator know.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science indicate the approximate amount which the Australian taxpayer is called upon to contribute, by way of direct grants or scholarships, to universities through the Commonwealth Government? As 30 academic personnel from at least one South Australian University and no doubt similar numbers from other universities throughout Australia, towards the salaries of whom Australian taxpayers contribute, have refused, while the Vietnam Moratorium is in progress, to carry out their academic duties, can the Minister indicate whether these academics will be paid their salaries while on strike? If so, is there any way in which the Government can protect the interests of taxpayers by seeing that the universities deprive these academics of their pay and, if necessary, suspend them from their positions at those universities?
– 1 would not undertake to state the amount of subsidy that the Commonwealth pays annually for the support of Australian universities. It has been a significantly increasing figure. With regard to the suggestion that there should be any deduction of salary or withholding of salary because of such matters as have been referred to, 1 regret to say that I would think that that is a matter entirely for the governing bodies of the universities.
– Will the Minister for Housing inform the Parliament whether war service homes loans for applicants in the Australian Capital Territory are no longer available? If this is not a fact, will the Minister advise when the last loan was granted in the ACT and on what date can the first of the many applicants now waiting for war service homes loans expect to receive a loan?
– I am at a loss to understand the honourable senator’s question. Of course the eligibility conditions are equal for all exservice personnel. However,.! will go into the points raised by the honourable senator and get all the information J can concerning them.
– ls the Minister for Works aware that many Australian architects on the mainland, when drawing up plans and specifications for buildings to be constructed in Tasmania, specify the use of Oregon timber, which is imported from North America, although it is well known that Tasmanian oak is in plentiful supply, is cheaper in price and is at least equally suitable? Is he also aware that when Oregon timber is specified the costs of buildings are increased and construction is delayed because of a hold-up in the supply of that imported timber? Can the Minister assure the Senate that if and when Commonwealth buildings are constructed in Tasmania preference will be given not only to Tasmanian timber, but also whenever possible to all types of building materials available in Tasmania? Will the Minister use his influence to urge architects throughout Australia to adopt a policy of recommending the use of locally available timber and other building materials as far as is practicable?
– Insofar as my honourable colleague’s question refers to the building trade in general, I would have no more information about that than any other person would have; but insofar as he has referred to the practice of the Department of Works I am able to tell him that in respect of the construction of Commonwealth buildings in Hobart or elsewhere
Oregon timber is preferred where stability is required. In some instances local timbers such as Tasmanian oak to which the honourable senator referred are capable of warping unless thoroughly seasoned and are therefore unsuitable as base timbers. At the general professional conferences of master builders’ associations and architects’ associations, I have no doubt that the comparative virtues of timbers are fully considered. I also have no doubt that the use of imported timber as against indigenous timber is thoroughly considered. The honourable senator will recognise that in modern building trades there is a tendency to use Oregon timber because of the ease with which it can be handled and dealt with from the point of view of labour.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: Is the Treasurer setting out deliberately to wreck the economy or is it being done just through inadvertence?
– I regard that question as the product of a distorted sense of humour and, to be frank, I do not think it rates an answer from the Treasurer’s representative in the Senate.
– In addressing my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation I direct his attention to a report in yesterday’s edition of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ that American Airlines is planning a move to introduce flights to New Zealand. The report claims that this move would give a tremendous boost to tourism in New Zealand at the expense of Australia. I ask the Minister whether the talks between the governments of Australia and the United States relating to the entry of American Airlines into Sydney are still deadlocked, as the newspaper reports. Can the Minister give any information on this situation and the effect that the entry of another airline in this field would have on Qantas Airways Ltd, Australia’s own international airline?
– I believe that the governments of New Zealand and the United States have agreed on a slight enlargement of the air traffic between the two countries, Air New Zealand being the carrier for the New Zealand Government and other airlines being the carriers for the United States Government. So far as I know, it has not yet been decided how the present air carriers into New Zealand will share the traffic, if they are to do so, with the proposed new entrant, American Airlines. Whether the move will produce a tremendous tourist boost to New Zealand, if it takes place, I am unable to say. I can say that the figures relating to the growth of air traffic in the Pacific region indicate a better growth overall in air traffic than in some other parts of the world, but nothing like as much as people have been talking or writing about. Negotiations between Australia and America about increased air traffic between the two countries are still proceeding. Beyond that I am unable to report at present.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the Minister satisfied with the security arrangements on Australian civil aircraft in preventing unauthorised entry to the flight deck of aircraft? If he is not satisfied, will he advise the Senate of the steps that are being taken to ensure that passengers do not confuse the entrance to the flight deck with the entrance to the toilets?
– I have had no problem myself involving security or people entering the flight deck, having mistaken the doorway for the doorway to other places. If the honourable senator has in mind any particular case concerning himself or his friends which has worried him I should like to know about it so that I can take the matter up seriously. I can agree that probably some of us recently have spent a little more time in the air than we planned, but while I was in the air I did not encounter any of these problems. I do not think such problems exist, but if the honourable senator is serious about this and knows of such cases he might be good enough to refer them to me.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. As the Hall Government in South Australia was defeated by the State Opposition supporting an amendment proposing the building of both the Dartmouth and Chowilla Dams simultaneously, and as the Commonwealth and other partners of the River Murray Commission have ratified the agreement for the building of the Dartmouth Dam, would such a policy of supporting the building of both dams simultaneously endanger the early building of the Dartmouth Dam and an increased supply of water to South Australia?
– I address myself to this question with a good deal of temerity because I assume that the honourable senator connects the Attorney-General’s responsibilities in this matter with interpretation, in some sense, of the agreements. I would be rash to give an interpretation of any responsibility without consulting the agreements, but on a practical basis it is quite obvious that any proposal to have 2 dams of these dimensions designed and constructed together is going to mean delay.
– 1 address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. What was the difference between the estimate and the actual cost of construction of the Captain Cook water spout and of its annual maintenance? Was the Government informed as to this matter before authorising its construction?
– I think it will be understood that 1 cannot be expected to be an expert off the top of my head on the cost of water spouts, but I shall certainly find out for the honourable senator and answer both parts of his question.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that Japan and Australia have reached an agreement on a 3-point plan on Cambodia? Does this plan propose a withdrawal of all foreign troops from Cambodia, a reactivation of the International Commission and supervision by the United Nations? If so, is the Government prepared to extend this plan to cover the conflict in South Vietnam?
– I mentioned earlier that we could anticipate that a statement would be made by ihe Prime Minister in relation to Cambodia and that I would make the statement in this place immediately it became available to me. I presume that the debate on the matter of urgency which is listed on the Notice Paper will precede my statement on Cambodia, but as soon as I have an opportunity under the forms of the Senate I shall put the statement down in this place. I am not in a position to say at what time that will be. but I shall make the statement at the first opportunity available to me. Until then I do not think I should be answering questions about the matters concerned in the statement.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate: How does it help the economy to force the family man to pay an increased rate of interest - a savage rate - on the mortgage of his home?
– The Leader of the Opposition has invited me to make a statement regarding the economy at question time, but I am a bit reluctant to set about to do so. As I indicated earlier, there will be opportunities to discuss the economy, particularly when we are dealing with the Appropriation Bills. But I think it has to be recognised that we in Australia probably are enjoying greater prosperity than that enjoyed in any other country in the free world. I think it would be equally true to say that we in Australia are enjoying a state of full employment; in fact there is a tendency towards over-full employment. It is equally true to say that the Australian people probably have more money in their savings bank accounts than Australians have ever had before. It is also true to say that there are available to the Australian people consumer goods the like of which are to be found in no other country and which are available at prices which are comparable with those applying in other countries.
All these things have been brought about by good government and by good husbandry by the Treasurer who was the recipient of a barb from the Leader of the Opposition a few short moments ago. It is because we on our side of politics, who have the responsibility to govern, wish to preserve those things mat I have mentioned, that from time to time we have to look at the economy and make adjustments. It is because we want to preserve those things for the people - the working people, the trade unionists, politicians and everybody in Australia - that we do the things which we are doing in relation to Australia’s fiscal policy.
– ls the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that South Africa intends introducing television into that country next year and has called for applications from Australians seeking positions in the industry in South Africa as directors, producers and technicians? Will the Minister investigate whether or not it is a fact that to date 219 Australians have shown their dissatisfaction at the lack of opportunity available in the Australian television industry by applying for positions with the South African television industry? Will the Minister admit that opportunities in Australia for Australian writers, artists, producers and technicians have never been at a lower ebb than they are at the present time? Bearing in mind the astronomical amounts being spent abroad by Australian commercial television stations on the purchase of overseas programmes, will the Minister ask the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to see that section 1 14 of the Broadcasting and Television Act which provides that Australians shall be employed as far as possible, is rigidly enforced?
– The honourable senator has asked mc a number of questions concerning the commencement of television in South Africa, the opportunities in Australia for Australian artists and writers and the number of Australians who he believes have shown an interest in applying for positions in South Africa. These questions cover a wide and varied field, and I will take them up with the Postmaster-General to see what information I can get for the honourable senator.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that due to lack of funds there is a lag of from 9 to 12 months in satisfying applicants for homes under the Commonwealth-State housing scheme in Tasmania? is it a fact thai mortgages on housing contracted in the past and still in operation will be subject to increased interest rates, thus adding a further burden on the shoulders of the family man? Is not Treasury policy of high interest rates and lack of provision of adequate finance for housing belting the family man where it hurts most?
– I am not aware of the current position in Tasmania. I do not know whether there is any lag in housing construction. That matter would be within the responsibility of the Tasmanian Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Interest rates should not be taken in isolation. One group should not be selected as a basis for saying that throughout the economy there is a variation in interest rates.
– The Government did that with the primary industries.
– A question has been asked. The honourable senator should wait for the answer. Primary industries have had a differential interest rale for a considerable time, and those industries were dealt with on that basis. Senator O’Byrne dealt with the matter in isolation. He singled out one group as being hurt or injured. That is not true. The interest rate should be considered in the light of the whole economy. As I said in response to Senator Murphy’s question, the interest: rate is an instrument of management in dealing with the economy. I do not think we should argue this matter now. Question time is not the time to discuss it because we tend not to have a straight debate. We have a series of questions - loaded questions sometimes - and a series of interjections when Ministers are trying to answer. The proper time to deal with this matter will be when we are debating the Appropriation Bill which. I think, will be in the next 2 weeks of the sittings.
– My question is directed lo you, Mr Deputy President, representing the President. Is it a fact that staff members employed in and around Parliament House have been forbidden directly or indirectly to wear Vietnam Moratorium badges or to participate in Moratorium activities?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - I will refer that matter to the President.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, refers to the comments made in Sydney yesterday by the Director-General of the International Air Transport Association, Mr Hammarskjoeld, about anti-hijacking devices which have been developed to detect metals in airline passengers’ baggage, etc. Are any such devices under investigation by officers of the Department of Civil Aviation or have discussions been held with any of the airline operators about the permanent or experimental use of these devices?
-I read with great interest the comments to which the honourable senator referred. In December a senior officer from the Department of Civil Aviation was sent to America to attend a conference on various devices which it was thought might be effective in detecting people who could perhaps cause trouble on aircraft. I expect to see Mr Hammarskjoeld on Friday. When I do see him I will ask him whether he can let me have any further information about methods we might adopt, additional to the ones we employ already.
(Question No. 13)
asked the Minister for
Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 74)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National development the following question, upon notice:
In view of the widespread interest by the people of northern Tasmania in the future of the woodchip industry and the dispute between the Japanese traders and the Department of National Development over the price of wood-chips, will the Minister give consideration to setting up an industry in Tasmania under the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act to provide for the full development of the manufacture of the end products of this industry both in Tasmania and throughout the rest of the Commonwealth so as to promote Australian primary industry and decentralisation.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In September, 1968, my predecessor announced in the House the Government’s decision that any proposals to export wood chips to any destination would require the specific approval of the Commonwealth. The control was introduced in view of the absence of any established international market for this commodity on which fair price levels could be determined. The aim of the control is to ensure that an adequate price is received for the wood chips and that a reasonable degree of processing will be undertaken in Australia.
It is true that the price that some Japanese traders have wished to pay for wood chips was less than 1, on my Department’s advice, considered fair. Therefore, in January last, I had reason to refuse one application to export wood chips from a company in northern Tasmania (Northern Woodchips Pty Ltd).
As to that part of the question dealing with the Industrial Research and Development Grant Act, I am informed that this Act provides for grants of financial assistance to eligible manufacturing and mining companies in relation to their increased expenditures on industrial research and development activities, on application by such companies to the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board. 1 am informed also that the Act does not empower the Board to take the initiative in getting projects underway in established commercial enterprises or in gelling new commercial enterprises established to carry om particular projects
(Question No. S3)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
A relief well was spudded in on 6th February 1970 and will be used to control the well. The well is being drilled to a target depth of 13,000 ft, and as at 15th April, the well had reached a depth of 9,585 ft. The relief well is being drilled by the same rig as was used to drill the original well, and which had to be towed to Singapore for repairs after ihe blowout. No other suitable rig, which would have enabled a relief well to be completed more quickly, was available. Inspectors appointed by the Government have maintained close liaison with the company on attempts lo control the well.
(Question No. 104)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development the following question, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 105)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 139)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 189)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 262)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth Banking Corporation has provided the following information -
The interest rates now being applied by the Commonwealth Savings Bank to new housing loans are -
The rate of interest was not increased on balances up to $4,000 deposited in ordinary savings accounts.
(Question No. 272)
asked the Minister for Works, upon notice:
– I have had some statistical tables prepared. Briefly, they indicate that projects under construction as at 1st July 1967 numbered 40. Those included in the programme for 1967-68 numbered 39; those in the programme for 1968-69 numbered 35; and those in the programme for the current year number 28, including the Nurrungar Project 55,600,000; Broadcast House, Collinswood Administration and Radio Studio Complex $4,429,000; and the Waymouth Street Telephone Exchange $8,200,000. With the concurrence of honourable senators I will have these tables incorporated in Hansard.
(Question No. 274
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
In view of the expected rise in numbers of Yugoslav migrants to Australia following the recent agreement between Australia and Yugoslavia, will the Minister consider decentralising Australia’s migration offices in Yugoslavia by providing offices in Zagreb and Ljubljana, which would avoid lengthy train journeys to Belgrade by migrant applicants.
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
When the Yugoslav Government has ratified the Agreement on the Residence and Employment of Yugoslav Citizens, the Government will consider decentralising its selection activities in Yugoslavia.
The location of offices in overseas countries is essentially a matter for arrangement between Governments but it would be premature to seek such an arrangement with the Yugoslav Government before the Agreement comes into operation.
It is unlikely that the Australian Government would wish to have offices in both Zagreb and Ljubljana as they are only about 75 miles apart.
– by leave - The statement I am about to make was put down in the other place by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) earlier this afternoon. Honourable senators will understand that when I use the first person singular pronoun it refers to the Prime Minister. The statement reads:
Honourable members are aware that the State of Queensland has been affected by serious drought conditions for several years. They will also be aware that the Commonwealth has been providing substantial drought relief assistance. Under present arrangements, the Commonwealth has agreed for 1969-70 to meet on a dollar for dollar basis expenditure on eligible drought relief measures up to $4m and to meet the full cost in excess of $4m, and it is currently estimated that the Commonwealth will need to provide some$15m under these arrangements in 1969-70. That would bring total Commonwealth drought relief assistance to Queensland since 1965-66 to over $32m.
Honourable members will also know that the Premier of Queensland recently proposed certain modifications of existing relief measures. Following Cabinet consideration of the Premier’s proposals, I have now informed the Premier that the Commonwealth is prepared to reimburse the State for carryon and re-stocking loans made to graziers to enable Queensland to extend the existing limits.
The Commonwealth has always adopted the flexible attitude to the limits on drought loans. Our main concern has been that normal commercial sources of finance should first be exhausted and that in making a loan the State authorities should satisfy themselves that the applicant has a reasonable chance of recovery. It will be for the State to determine the new limits, and the rate of monthly payments of loans, in the light of the circumstances of individual graziers.
I have also informed the Premier that the Commonwealth is agreeable to his proposal for graziers who have received drought relief carry-on or re-stocking loans under the 1969 drought relief arrangements to have their loans, including any unpaid sums under the earlier 1965 arrangements, consolidated as at 30th June 1970. I understand that the State’s objective is to give further relief to graziers by extending the period during which interest will be capitalised and no redemption payments will be required.
The Commonwealth has also agreed that rebates on the transport of stock for restocking purposes, which at present apply only to breeding stock, should be extended to cover all stock transported for restocking up to a property’s normal capacity - whether this involves stock purchased or stock returning from agistment - provided that the stock are held for a minimum period on the grazier’s property before being eligible for rebate. In addition, because of the widespread effects of the drought on Queensland pastoral areas and the fact that New South Wales could be a major source of stock for re-stocking when the drought is over, the Commonwealth has indicated its willingness to reimburse the Queensland Government for expenditure on freight rebates on stock purchases in New South Wales for re-stocking and on stock returning from agistment in that State.
The existing measures provide for additional carry-on loans to assist drought affected graziers with the payment of crown rentals and local authority rates in 1969-70. We have now agreed to further assistance in this regard in the form of grants to the State to enable it to meet half the cost of rates payable in 1970 by graziers who have experienced drought for more than 2 years in the 2 droughts of 1965-67 and 1969-70 and who are demonstrably in need of such assistance.
Even before allowing for the additional cost in 1969-70 of the agreed extensions to drought relief measures to which I have referred, the Commonwealth contribution towards drought relief measures in Queensland this year would be easily the largest amount ever provided to any State for drought relief in a single year. The Government believes that the additional measures which I have now announced will make a further substantial contribution to the relief of those farmers and graziers in Queensland who continue to be afflicted by drought.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) - by leave - agreed to:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
(Question No. 92)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
In the light of submissions made by the New South Wales Metal Trades Unions to the Minister for Trade and Industry when they expressed fears of growing unemployment in the railway rolling stock industry due to heavy imports of Japanese rolling stock can the Minister inform the Senate what action has been taken and how he regards continuity of employment prospects for metal trades’ employees in this sector of the metal trades industry.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Following approaches by union representatives to me in relation to the possibility of increased import competition in the railway rolling stock industry, a review of the situation was commenced. One aspect of this was the possibility of programming future orders within Australia on a more regular basis, and this examination is in hand.
The railway rolling stock manufacturers have recently initiated consultations with the Department of Trade and Industry regarding what action might be open under the machinery available for the protection of Australian industry. These consultations are still proceeding. -
I am not in a position to comment on employment prospects in any particular sector of industry. Recent figures, however, indicate that unemployment in Australia is at a very low level and job vacancies are at a comparatively high level. It is the confident expectation of the Government that the favourable employment situation which has been in evidence in Australia for many years, will continue in the future.
(Question No. 101)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
(Question No. 136)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following replies to the honourable senators question:
The main reason underlying the differences in the figures in the Honourable Senator’s question is the fact that colleges of advanced education, or similar institutions, have been long established in Victoria, while New South Wales has only recently begun to redevelop institutions and courses at Advanced Education level. However, the growth rales for colleges in New South Wales from 1969 to 1972 are considerably greater than those for Victorian colleges.
With comparatively few facilities in New South Wales, considerably greater capital expenditure is required in relation to enrolments, whilst recurrent expenditure on the Victorian colleges will be substantially greater than that on the New South Wales colleges because of the current higher enrolments in Victoria.
(Question No. 212)
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 216)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Public Service Board has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Public Service Board has now reviewed the pay rates applying to sub-professional structures in the Commonwealth Service. Following receipt of pay claims by the relevant staff associations, the Board has offered increases of 9%, with prospective effect, for the existing sub-professional structures for Draughtsmen and Technical Officers. The Board’s conclusions on pay rates for these sub-professional structures follow a review of all relevant circumstances, with particular emphasis on a re-assessment of work value against the firm policy desire of the Board to foster and develop the sub-professional area. The Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen has accepted the new pay rates which will be implemented by a full consent determination.
(Question No. 227)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 230)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 232)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Tasmanian ports is, in the first instance, a matter for commercial negotiation. It is currently being considered by both coastal and overseas shipowners. I am not in a position to forecast the results but as I have said before the sooner such a service could be provided the better for all concerned.
(Question No. 233)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
How many Aborigines or persons of Aboriginal descent have made successful applications for War Service homes in (a) the Torres Strait Islands area, (b) Queensland, and (c) Australia.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Eligibility for War Service Homes assistance is governed by the provisions of the War Service Homes Act which does not differentiate between persons on the basis of race or nationality. Applicants for assistance are not, therefore, required to provide in their applications details of their racial or national origin, and in these circumstances it is impracticable to indicate the number of persons of Aboriginal descent who have made successful applications for assistance under the Act.
(Question No. 234)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 236)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 237)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australia accepts and abides by the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council which impose sanctions against the illegal regime in Rhodesia and will continue to regulate import and export trade in accordance with them.
Security Council Resolution 253 (May1968) provides for certain exceptions to an export embargo including the exemption of foodstuffs from sanctions in special humanitarian circumstances. Australian wheat sales comply with this provision.
(Question No. 250)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
What are the income tax provisions which provide income tax allowances for calls on shares in companies engaged in afforestation in Australia.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The income tax law provides for a deduction of one-third of the amount of calls on shares paid by a person to a company carrying on as its principal business afforestation in Australia or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The deduction is not, however, available in respect of calls paid on redeemable shares.
The deduction is allowable under the provisions of section 77c of the Income Tax Assessment Act, or, where the shares in respect of which the calls are paid were issued or agreed to be issued before 10 May 1968, under the similar provisions of section 78 (l.)(b) of that Act.
(Question No. 287)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Navy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 4th and 19th March, Senator Webster asked me questions concerning the rates of interest charged by trading banks on loans to primary producers. In particular, he asked in effect whether arrangements could be made for loans to primary producers to be exempted from the application of the recent increase in maximum trading bank overdraft interest rates. I indicated that I would refer the matter to the Treasurer. The Treasurer has now provided me with the following information:
Following the increase of 0.5% in maximum trading bank lending rates of interest, which was announced by the Reserve Bank of Australia on 6th March 1970, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer consulted the Governor of the Reserve Bank on 16th March 1970 about the impact of the higher interest rates on rural producers. The Ministers stated the Government’s view that, having regard to the special difficulties suffered by a number of rural industries at present, and the financial problems facing many rural producers, it would not be appropriate that there should be a general increase in trading bank lending rates on loans to rural producers.
The matter was subsequently reviewed by the Reserve Bank, and the Governor of the Reserve Bank thereafter discussed it with the trading banks.
On 2nd April 1970, the Governor of the Reserve Bank announced a modification of the recent increase in maximum trading bank lending rates of interest. In announcing this, the Governor stated:
It has been decided that in present circumstances the banks will apply a selective exemption of rural borrowers from the increase. The objective will be to avoid adding to the cost of servicing bank borrowings by rural producers who are now in a depressed situation. It is not intended that the exemption will be extended, for example, to individuals or companies whose main business is not farming or to borrowings by rural producers to finance new property purchases or new expenditure not related to rural production.
– On 12th March 1970 Senator Marriott asked me a question concerning the road toll. I indicated I would refer the matter to the Bureau of Census and Statistics. The Treasurer has now provided me with the following information:
The Acting Commonwealth Statistician advises that statistics giving information of the predominant causes of road traffic accidents are not published by him for Australia as a whole. Determinations of the predominant causes of road traffic accidents are made in several States but. because there are normally a number of contributing factors each of which could be considered a ‘cause’, the allocation of a ‘predominant cause’ has to be the subjective judgment of the police officers completing the accident report form. Thus, there is no consistent classification between areas. However, in those States where predominant causes are allocated, statistics are published by the Deputy Commonwealth Statistician and the figures to which the honourable Senator refers were probably those for Tasmania for the 3 months ended 31st December 1969 issued on 11th March 1970 by the Hobart Office of the Bureau. Other than from an investigation carried out in one State some years ago, the Acting Statistician is not aware of any figures available in Australia linking speed with either alcohol or drug ingestion. However, there is information for one State showing the blood-alcohol levels of some persons killed in road traffic accidents.
– On 18th March 1970, Senator Laucke asked me a question concerning the proposed Army logistics cargo ship and the Whyalla Shipbuilding and Engineering Works. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has now provided the following information:
The proposed building of an Army logistics cargo ship will be a most useful order for the Australian shipbuilding industry.
The present order position of the Whyalla shipyard is more favourable than that of any of the other Australian shipyards recognised for shipbuilding subsidy purposes.
In placing orders with shipyards, the Commonwealth has regard to the competitiveness of tenders and does not give preference to any particular yard.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry seen an Article relating to the commercial progress of substitute and synthetic foods as an alternative to or substitute for meat. Is it not a fact that there are substitute steaks, chicken, bacon and even prawns on the American market and that patents have been taken out for the production of synthetic meats from mineral oil. As these substitute and synthetic meats are a real threat to the meat industry of Australia, will the Minister take steps to see that no production licences for these so-called meats are issued in Australia. Will he also ban the importation of any of these products into Australia so that Australian meat producers will be protected.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
It is a fact that reports relating to the manufacture of synthetic meal from soybeans and petroleum derivatives have been widely published during the past 2 years. These reports illustrate that synthetic meat can be manufactured as substitute beef steaks, chicken, bacon, ham and various kinds of seafood, in either canned, frozen or dried condition. Patent rights covering the manufacturing processes for these products are held in a number of countries.
The Commonwealth Government has no power to ban the production in Australia of synthetic meat. Any proposal to ban the manufacture of these products would be for consideration by die State Governments.
Regarding the possibility of imposing a ban on the importation of synthetic meat, the government has procedures for considering measures to prevent local industries from being damaged by competition from imports. It would, of course, be a matter of great concern if there was a threat of damage to the Australian meat industry, lt would be necessary, however, to have evidence of the damage or threat of damage before consideration could be given to measures to protect local production.
– On 15th April, Senator Lillico asked me the following question:
Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate any further information concerning the encroachment of Russian fishing ships in Tasmanian waters? ls he aware that it has been established that these ships were well within the 12-mile limit and were using fishing grounds frequently used by Tasmanian fishermen based at Stanley. Have any representations been made to Soviet authorities, or to whomever is responsible regarding this matter.
I undertook to find out for the honourable senator whether we had any more information on these fishing vessels and in the light of that give him a definite reply. We have no more information on the Russian fishing vessels than that given in my first reply. When the reports were received claiming that Russian fishing vessels were fishing within the 12-mile limit, immediate steps were taken to check the information. It was found that the vessels were outside the 12- mile fishing zone. In the absence of any further sightings, we have concluded that the vessels have sailed away from the coast. In these circumstances, and as the vessels were at no stage established to be within the 1 2-mile declared fishing zone, any representations to the Soviet authorities would be inappropriate.
– On 16th April Senator Webster asked me whether the aim in establishing the Commonwealth/ State Officials’ Committee on Decentralisation was that Governments throughout Australia, particularly the Commonwealth Government, be encouraged to further assist the decentralisation of industry and the Australian population, and whether a report of the Committee’s activities and findings would be presented to the Senate.
The Commonwealth/ State Officials’ Committee on Decentralisation was established to undertake a joint pooling of knowledge about and study of the many issues involved. The Committee has had instituted a wide range of studies, not all of which have been completed, lt is anticipated that when the individual studies being coordinated by the Committee have been completed the Committee will, after an examination of them, prepare its report. As the work of the Committee is a State as well as Commonwealth exercise, the question of tabling the report in the Commonwealth Parliament will be decided after the Commonwealth and State Governments have considered the report of the Committee.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - The President has received from Senator Wriedt an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency, namely:
The state of Tasmanian shipping services, especially -
the omission of Tasmania from the Australian overseas container service; and
the inadequate shipping space and irregularity of schedules.
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
- Mr Deputy President, I move:
Section 99 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides:
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
Section 102 of the Commonwealth Constitution states, in part:
The Parliament may by any law with respect to trade or commerce forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State or by any authority constituted under a State, if such preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State;
Mr Deputy President, we must bear in mind that, when the Constitution was formulated, railways had a great significance, a greater significance than they have now. But the spirit of section 102 is in conformity with section 99, the purpose of which was to ensure that the Commonwealth would not allow for any discrimination in any field against any State.
The question of the inclusion of Tasmania in the overseas container service is one which has been debated here at length over the past 18 months. It is a matter which has brought forth many questions directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) by members of both sides of the Parliament, not only from Tasmania but also from mainland States. Despite all the times that the matter has been raised and despite all the questions which have been asked of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, satisfaction has not been received from the Commonwealth and justice has not been obtained from the Commonwealth by the State of Tasmania. We remain outside the service.
Most of us are reasonably familiar with the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes which was submitted to this Parliament in, I think, July 1968. The report stated in very clear and concise terms the problems which would confront Tasmania when the service was introduced. Despite that early warning and the fact that so many of us drew to the attention of the Federal Government the possible disadvantages which Tasmania would suffer, we still remain outside the service and the Commonwealth has adopted an attitude of discrimination against Tasmania. Not only did the Senate Select Committee submit a most worthwhile report on the effects of containerisation; in the same year the Tasmanian Labor Government appointed a committee specifically to inquire into the problems which would confront Tasmania in the ensuing period. Again warnings were given to the Commonwealth and to everyone connected wilh the shipping industry as to what would happen if Tasmania was not given proper consideration for inclusion in the service. Despite all the warnings that came from the report of the Senate Select Committee no action has been taken by the Commonwealth to ensure Tasmania’s inclusion.
One of the prime reasons for that situation is that the Commonwealth has not been particularly interested. A statement made in 1967 by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) caused a great deal of confusion. Had the Minister done his homework more thoroughly, and had he been more responsible in his attitude towards the shipping services to Tasmania he would not have said that Tasmania was automatically to be entitled to the same rights as the mainland ports. During the course of the inquiry which was conducted by the committee set up by the Tasmanian Government Mr O’Regan, who appeared for Associated Container Transportation Ltd, was asked what Tasmania’s position would be in respect of freight rates. He said:
Referring now to the next part of the question. Part 2 of which says that an assurance was given in Parliament by Mr McEwen that “cargo shipped to feeder ports will be carried at exactly the same rate as freight to main terminals ports”, we can say that this certainly would be Ihe position as far as mainland ports are concerned, but for reasons Mr Page has already outlined and because the Tasmanian situation is unique, and because we are confronted with unique operating problems, it may noi bc practical to maintain this equality wilh the container services to Tasmanian ports.
That is the attitude that was adopted by Associated Container Transportation Ltd and Overseas Containers Ltd in the early stages. Let us be sure about what we are saying and clarify the facts. As the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), who is the Minister for Trade and Industry, did not clarify the situation it is not to be wondered at that the Commonwealth has not had a proper understanding of the position confronting us. Most honourable senators are aware that it was intended that the 3 main container ports would be Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. Brisbane and
Adelaide were to become feeder ports and Tasmania was not considered.
Exactly the same problems applied in respect of the routes Brisbane-Sydney and Adelaide-Melbourne as applied to the routes between Tasmanian ports and Melbourne. Shipping freight rates were much the same. In fact, there had been no general cargo trade by sea between Brisbane and Sydney, and between Adelaide and Melbourne, for quite some time. Nevertheless, the last freight rates available show that the cost of shipping containers between Brisbane and Sydney on the one hand, and Adelaide and Melbourne on the other hand, were little different from those pertaining to Tasmania. In order to get over the problem certain agreements were reached. 1 will not give details of them now because it would probably not be appropriate to tlo so. The agreements provided that the cost of shipping containers from Brisbane to Sydney and from Adelaide to Melbourne would be greatly reduced, from about S240 to about $80 or S90. This cost was absorbed in the overall freight rates. It was quite obvious that as a step like that could be taken for Queensland and South Australia, it could also be taken for Tasmania.
I accept the basic proposition that there are problems which are peculiar to Tasmania. One of the main problems is not so much the cost of getting the goods across to Tasmania because, as I pointed out earlier, Ihe costs were not all that different from those relating to cargoes to Brisbane and Adelaide. But the volume of cargo to Tasmania undoubtedly is small by comparison, and this would mean the movement of largely empty containers to Tasmania in the first place. Undoubtedly special problems of additional expenditure do exist, but this is a field in which the Commonwealth could have played quite an important role had it been sufficiently interested. The Commonwealth Government knew full well that there was a big future for containerisation. This was ihe reason why the Commonwealth bought into the overseas container shipping service through the purchase of a vessel for the United Kingdom trade, and one or two ships for the Japanese trade, lt also intends to acquire a ship for the trade to North America. The total investment will be about $40m, part of which obviously has been contributed by Tasmanian taxpayers. Despite the Commonwealth’s investment in the industry it was able to find only a fraction of the money needed to subsidise a container shipping service between Tasmanian ports and Melbourne.
The Commonwealth could see what a good thing it is to be in the container business but it has not been prepared to accept responsibilities which 1 believe, as I pointed out earlier, are contained in the Constitution. The Commonwealth Government has done very well out of its container cargo operations. The edition of 1 1 th March of the ‘Daily Commercial News and Shipping List’ carried on its front page an article about the records set by Overseas Containers Ltd and Associated Container Transportation Ltd. It stated that the ‘Australian Endeavour’, the vessel bought and operated by the Commonwealth, left Fremantle for Europe on 1st March carrying 1,272 full containers, the largest quantity of liner cargo ever to leave Australia in a single ship. The gross value of that freight would be between S600.000 and S700.000.
Some honourable senators will have seen recently in the Press a big advertisement placed by the container cosortia to the effect that they have now carried their first million tons of cargo in containers. Obviously they arc doing very well. In the early days of the service the load factors were not as good as they are now. At present all container ships leaving Australian ports are carrying full cargoes. 1 am not concerned so much now about the way ACT or OCL operate. I know it to be true that they endeavoured to overcome the problems involved in incorporating Tasmania in the service. I am primarily concerned, and this Parliament ought to be concerned, about the Commonwealth’s abrogation of its responsibilities. The ‘Australian Endeavour’ is doing extremely well. When the figures relating to its operations are made known I believe we will find that in its first year it has made a profit of about S3m. I base that figure on an estimate of 5 round nips a year, which I believe it can handle quite comfortably.
Although the Commonwealth Government has been pressured by sections of the Tasmanian community from both sides of the political fence and has received representations in this Parliament it still remains indifferent to the fact that Tasmania is left outside the container shipping service. There have been repeated statements by
Tasmanian exporters about the plight in which they now find themselves. There is no question that exporters are at an advantage if they use the container service. A recent supplement to the publication ‘Overseas Trading’ published by the Department of Trade and Industry said:
Australian exporters who gear their export effort to take full advantage of these new transportation techniques will benefit from the stability in freight rates and efficiency of service they offer.
There is no question that the Commonwealth and the Department of Trade and Industry are quite sure that every benefit flows from having the advantage of a containerised cargo service. But one other factor which has militated against Tasmania being brought into the service has been the attitude of some Tasmanians, people in positions of responsibility whose opinions carry weight, who have said things which would not exactly help Tasmania’s cause.
On 21st October 1968 I wrote a letter to the Hobart Marine Board. I shall not detail the letter; sufficient to say that I pointed out to the Board the need to look now at what containerisation would mean lo Tasmania. I quoted extracts from the Senate report and said that obviously there were problems. I asked what the Board intended lo do about the situation. I did not even receive a reply to the letter. After some time I thought I had better telephone and find out why I had not heard from the Board. 1 spoke to the Chairman of the Board who virtually told me that I did not know what I was talking about, that there was no need to worry about container shipping as Tasmania would get by all right with the so-called unit load vessel. He was not the only one to make statements to this effect.
This controversy went on for some time during the latter part of 1968 and early 1969, the attitude being that we need not concern ourselves about container ships as we could get by with the so-called unit load and Skandia type vessels. Obviously this attitude would bring from the container people the reaction: If they are nol so worried about container shipping, we will not worry about it either. Although this was the attitude of certain people in the southern part of Tasmania, I must say that some bodies in northern Tasmania adopted a more intelligent approach. Senator Devitt will have more to say about that later when he deals with the general question of shipping. However, a great mistake was made. Instead of recognising immediately the importance of container shipping and the impact that it would have on Tasmania, too many people in positions of influence did not grasp its significance. 1 can recall making a statement to the Press on one occasion early in this controversy and I did not receive any copy. Some 12 months later I inquired why this was so and 1 was told that they did not realise that it was so important. These are the sorts of things that one has to contend with and the sorts of things that people in Tasmania should have been more aware of.
It must be evident now to the Federal Government that it has a part to play. The Federal Government could at least make an offer to subsidise the movement of containers to and from Tasmania. Contrary to the rather fanciful proposition recently put up by the Hobart Marine Board which spoke of a great container terminal in southern Tasmania, we do not see this as being likely. Anyone looking at the situation realistically should not be thinking in these terms. The Hobart Marine Board would do well to consider the realities of the situation instead of putting up a proposition which anybody who knows anything about the economics of a container shipping operation would not even consider. If the Commonwealth Government has any degree of responsibility it should now make a statement, as it should have done 1 2 or 18 months ago, saying that it accepts its responsibility and that it will make an offer to the overseas companies to subsidise the trade in order to bring Tasmania into the service. This is our primary concern and this is the purpose of this motion. We ask that consideration of this proposal bc given immediately by the Commonwealth, particularly by the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Minister for Trade and Industry. We ask that they make a statement now accepting that Tasmania is entitled to exactly the same rights as any other State of the Commonwealth and that we in Tasmania are not prepared to remain outside the ambit of this system which the Department’s own publication admits is benefiting exporters all over Australia but which in fact is not benefiting Tasmanian exporters and importers. I have raised this subject as a matter of urgency because it is urgent and it is time that the Commonwealth faced up to its responsibilities. It is long overdue in doing so.
– I agree that to the State of Tasmania this is a most important question. The future prosperity and development of Tasmania is irrevocably tied up with shipping. This is a great disability under which the State labours. Whether it be by reason of industrial development or development of the tourist industry, the gauge of Tasmania’s progress will be conditioned by the shipping service that is available to the State. Shiping has an influence on every facet of life in Tasmania and it is something that merits the greatest consideration if the island State is to progress as it should. I have listened to Senator Wriedt. We have heard him before speaking about the containerisation of Tasmanian products. 1 agree that at the time the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes took evidence some people did not realise the full significance of containerisation to Tasmania. Some people dismissed it because they thought it would involve a very insignificant part of Tasmania’s trade - they had in mind the quantity of products that go overseas to the United Kingdom - and that it was a matter about which we had no need to be greatly concerned. But that was not true of all people who gave evidence to the Committee.
Some very conclusive and worthwhile evidence was tendered to the Committee while it was in Tasmania. Whilst the quantity of produce that is shipped to the United Kingdom from Tasmania is small, nevertheless it is of very great importance. I go along entirely with what Mr Nicholson said on behalf of the Meat Exporters Association of Tasmania, that the Tasmanian fat lamb exports coincided with a time when Australian exports from the mainland were concluded and exports from New Zealand were beginning. He said that the Tasmanian exports came in between those times and that it was essential to have a regularity of shipping so that the farmers, producers and others in Tasmania would not be penalised by an irregularity of shipping, that because the other two larger sources of supply were guaranteed regularity of shipping because of the innovation of the container method it was necessary that Tasmania should have the same regularity available to it if it were to place its lamb production to advantage on the British market. The irregularity of shiping is one disability suffered by Tasmania.
Another disability referred to some time ago by Mr Nicholson and others was to the effect that Tasmania had a meat trade with Japan to the extent of $300,000 per annum with a great capacity for expansion and that this trade was being crucified because of the irregularity and unsatisfactory nature of the shipping service. I am glad to find, from the reply given by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) in this chamber, that Commonwealth officials have been to Hobart and have ironed out that difficulty, and that it is proposed to inaugurate a more regular shipping service between Tasmania and Japan.
Senator Wriedt referred to 2 sections of the Australian Constitution. One section refers to discrimination between States or parts of States. I am not a legal man - sometimes 1 have been almost glad that I am not - but il seems to me that the provision which states that there shall not be discrimination between States or parts of States covers matters over which the Commonwealth itself has direct jurisdiction. 1 remind the Senate that this shipping consortium is owned by overseas interests, lt is not something over which the Commonwealth has direct jurisdiction.
– lt has some jurisdiction.
– Very little. The consortium owns the ships. The overseas interests who own the consortium do not live in Australia. Because the consortium owns the ships, it can call the tune, to a very large extent. Therefore, I cannot go along with the contention that the Commonwealth Government has discriminated against Tasmania in this matter. I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes.
– And you did a very good job on it, too. No-one could have put up a better case for Tasmania than you did.
– I am glad to hear that commendation from the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I recall to mind that in answer to a question by Senator Cavanagh, the representatives of the overseas consortium said that there would be no difficulty regarding Tasmania because the roll-on roll-off services were already operating from Tasmania to the mainland. They said that there would not be the same difficulty regarding Tasmania as there was regarding Queensland and South Australia because already there were roll-on roll-off services operating from Tasmania. The representatives of the overseas consortium indicated - and they were questioned about this many times - that the inauguration of container services from Tasmania to the feeder ports on the mainland would receive fairly prompt attention and that it would not be very long after container services were running from Australia to the United Kingdom before exports to the United Kingdom from Tasmania would be included in the container services for the whole of Australia. In reply to Senator Wriedt, 1 shall refer lo an answer which was given by the Minister for Civil Aviation, representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, regarding the TasmanianJapanese shipping service.
It indicates the extent to which the Commonwealth is interested in this matter. The Minister said:
Officials of the Department of Trade and Industry and my Department attended a meeting in Hobart, Friday, 3rd April with the Tasmanian Transport Commission and Tasmanian shipping interests. Shipping services to Japan were discussed. lt is clear that Tasmanian shippers to Japan are not being provided with the regularity of service they wish. Arrangements have beer concluded to up-lift all meat cargoes currently in storage in Tasmania direct to Japan from Hobart at the end of April. In addition, Departmental officers are continuing efforts to obtain satisfactory shipping arrangements for Tasmanian exports to Japan for the future.
Then he said - and it seems to me that this statement fits the case for the provision of container services from Tasmania to the United Kingdom:
The provision of feeder services- and he is referring to services from Tasmania to the feeder ports for cargoes to the United Kingdom: to Tasmanian ports is, in the first instance, a matter for commercial negotiation.
To an extent, at least, it is outside the ambit of the Commonwealth Government. The Minister continued: lt is currently being considered by both coastal and overseas shipowners. I atn not in a position to forecast the results but as I have said before the sooner such a service could be provided the belter for ail concerned
In common with every Tasmanian senator, 1 have been to see the Minister for Shipping and Transport regarding this matter. I formed the impression that he is alive to the position which is confronting Tasmania. He has made continuous representations for Tasmania to be included in the container services. Certainly it is not fair for anyone to say that the Minister for Shipping and Transport or the Commonwealth Government has discriminated against Tasmania in this matter. 1 wish to raise a query. Senator Wriedt referred to the subsidisation of shipping services from Tasmania. I wish this could be done, I would welcome it, but is it not a fact - and 1 ask Senator Rae, if he is listening to correct me if I am wrong - that this would conflict with that same section in the Constitution about which Senator Wriedt spoke, that there shall not be discrimination between States or parts of States? Is it not correct that if the Commonwealth were to subsidise Tasmanian services it would have to subsidise all shipping services throughout the Commonwealth? I note that little was said about inadequate shipping space and irregularity of schedules on the Tasmanian shipping services. The Commonwealth Government has spent a mighty amount of money in providing Tasmania with a remarkably up-to-date shipping service. The various roll-on roll-off cargo and passenger ferries that ply to Tasmania have been hamstrung. Their value has been largely cancelled out by reason of frivolous stoppages which have tied up the ships, caused a pile-up of cargoes and inconvenienced peole. It would not be so bad if it was done for any worthwhile reason.
It is not long ago that the ‘Empress of Australia’ was tied up because some of the crew said that the second steward was too dominant and (hat they would not sail with him. After a lot of investigation they ended up sailing with him. Not long ago the same ship was tied up because just before it was due to sail 3 men walked off. The newspapers said that they did not know what the grievance was, but the men walked off, and the ship was tied up. If we are to have an efficient and regular shipping service across Bass Strait to Tasmania, which we must have, then surely to goodness some power or authority must repose somewhere which would cut out the frivolity that is holding to ransom the shipping services to Tasmania and nullifying the vast amounts of money that have been spent to bring these services up to what they could be - one of the best shipping services in the world.
– 1 rise to indicate my support for the motion moved by my Tasmanian colleague Senator Wriedt. 1 too want to deal with the general aspects of Tasmanian shiping rather than with the specific problems and difficulties associated with containerisation, which has come into being in recent years. I was pleased to note that Senator Lillico, in the course of his remarks, seemed to imply a general support for the principle enunciated by us in moving for a full and proper recognition of the particular disabilities suffered by Tasmania. I wish to correct the impression which he appeared to give, that the Commonwealth has no part in the operations of overseas shipping. I gained that impression when he said words to this effect: ‘What can the Commonwealth do about this?’ 1 remind Senator Lillico - and this is well and truly on record - that the Commonwealth Government both recognises and subsidises the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee which involves itself in consideration of questions of this kind.
I want the Senate to turn its mind back to something that happened in late 1964 when out of the blue the AustraliaEuropean Conference Line announced an increase of 10% on the freight rate of beef consigned to the North American market, operative from October 1964, and an additional 17% freight impost on meat sent to the North American market, operative from April 1965. All the people associated with meat producing in this country - from the graziers through to the exporters - seemed to be completely bewildered that this situation should have arisen since no real elements which would justify an increase in the freight rate appeared to be running counter to the shipping operations. Honourable senators may recall that an Israeli shipping line not connected with the Conference Line offered to carry Australian meat to the North American market for a period of 5 years, I believe, without an increase in freight rates. The upshot was
That the Australia-European Conference Line immediately decided not to increase the freight rate, notwithstanding the indication to the community at large that an increase was necessary, provided that all the freight was carried by ships of the Line. I invite the Senate to bear that in mind when considering the broad question of shipping.
I hope that honourable senators will have a special regard for the particular position in which Tasmania finds itself because it is the only State that suffers the disability of not having road communications with its sister States. Tasmania is dependent upon air transport and shipping as the 2 physical means of contact with the other States. We all know the limitations imposed on air services. If weather conditions such as those of the last 24 hours prevail, quite serious problems arise so far as physical communication between Tasmania and the other States is concerned. Manufactured goods and primary products must be freighted by sea. Tasmania is a very vulnerable State so far as transportation is concerned. I believe that in the last few days an announcement was made as to the possibility of equalisation of freight rates from the 4 main Tasmanian ports to the overseas container port of Melbourne. I have seen no confirmation of such a statement, but I understand that an implication of this kind was conveyed. Tasmania suffers all kinds of shipping disabilities, but time does: not permit me to go into them at this stage.
The trade between Tasmania and King Island and Flinders Island suffers because of shipping disabilities. Over the past few years substantial sums have been spent on soldier settlements on King Island and Flinders Island. The carriage of stock and of the produce which results from the development of those soldier settlements and of the labour employed in other sections of industry in those 2 remote outposts, from those islands to the markets seems to be a perennial problem. It is interesting to note the statements that have been made about the availability of subsidy for shipping between King Island and Tasmania and between King Island and Victoria, but again time does not permit me to go into that subject. That is one of the peculiarities of the shipping system and from time to time it seems to bedevil the Tasmanian transportation system. We are very conscious of this problem of shipping and the transportation of our goods that are to be sent overseas.
Honourable senators will bear in mind that over the last few years Tasmania has developed a quite magnificent power generating system through the installation of its Hydro-Electric Commission works. These are proceeding apace and have had a very significant bearing on the establishment and development of industry in Tasmania. Although this attracts industry to Tasmania its significance, its benefit and its value to industry are lost if a consequential disability is suffered because of the separation of Tasmania from the mainland States by water. The difficulty arises because goods are unable to be sent to the main overseas terminals for connection for onward passage to their destination.
On past occasions I have mentioned the problems faced by a quite valuable industry - Ihe potato industry in Tasmania - which went to the wall and which now is virtually ruined as a consequence of the irregularity and inadequacy of shipping in past years. When we talk about the special difficulties that Tasmania has in this regard, we know what we are talking about because we have abundant evidence of the difficulties which have been suffered in the past. Some few years ago we talked about the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. In the course of our investigations it came to light that to transport peas from New Zealand to Australia cost only 5s 6d per ton more than it cost to transport peas from Tasmania to mainland markets. This was a remarkable thing. There was a minute fraction of Id per lb only in the freight differential between New Zealand and Australia and between Tasmania and its outlets on the mainland.
In the course of investigations into these disabilities and problems, as they affect the Tasmanian apple industry, it came to light that the rates of freight on apples from New Zealand to the United Kingdom and other European markets were very much lower than the rates of freight on apples sent from Tasmania to those European markets, taking all things into account. To this day nobody has been able to explain lo me the reason for that differential. There appears to be no reason why weighing all the different factors that go into the composition of the freight cost of these commodities, there should be such a difference between the freight from Tasmania to its European apple outlets and the freight from New Zealand to those outlets. At present the Tasmanian apple industry is in some difficulty. This is caused by a number of factors, one of which is the difficulty of getting adequate shipping of the right kind. The difficulty is a perennial one. I do not know how it can be solved.
In the future appreciation of this shipping problem, there has to be something quite new and something quite novel. The shipping service should not be allowed to grow higgledy-piggledy or haphazardly. It has to be a properly planned and co-ordinated service to ensure the proper servicing of our overseas markets. I certainly hope that the trade which we have with other countries will continue to grow. I look forward to the time when we are sending substantially more fruit overseas. I would hope that we could exploit the Japanese market, for instance, in terms of the sale of fruit, and I have a particular regard here for the Tasmanian crop. I am conscious of the need for a great deal more promotion in the sale of primary products. Heaven knows, have we not had enough evidence lately of the particular problems and disabilities of primary industry? Is there not a very, very urgent need for each and every one of us - because the responsibility must be equally shared by anybody with any ability in this direction - to promote the sale of primary products? Are we not concerned? Must we not strain every nerve and muscle to ensure that our trade is developed and fostered? Therefore, does it not follow as a natural consequence of that hope, that aspiration, that we must make sure that the things that have happened to our primary industries in the past as a consequence of the lack of shipping are not permitted to happen now and that we must have in fact a properly coordinated system of transportation from Tasmania to the mainland overseas terminals so that there is no delay, no holdup and no fouling up of the system as has happened in the past.
Goodness knows how many times I have raised this matter since I have been here. One of the things which has caused me the greatest amount of concern since I came into the Senate about 5 years ago is this question which continues to crop up from time to time, the lack of availability of shipping. One feels the impact of this right back along the line. We have an inadequate shipping system which is insufficient to carry away the cargo offering. We have an inadequate area. I am talking particularly now of one of the things that has continued to crop up in the past, that is, the problem of shipping goods out of Devonport. We have the problem of road transport operators coming to that central terminal area and being unable to find sufficient space for their vehicles, having a limited access to the facilities at that terminal, with all of the consequential problems to industry. How many of us from Tasmania have not had repeated requests from the Tasmanian Timber Association to do something about the shipping problem? This comes up from time to time and we reply that we have raised the matter in the Parliament and that we would hope, as a consequence of giving voice to our opinions about it and sending on the representations which that vital section of industry in our State has made to us, that there would be some improvement.
But time goes on and it is not very long before one gets a further request, with the statement that there are vital markets to be serviced here and there and they cannot be serviced and are being lost because there is a better shipping service from Canada or there is a better back freighting system from Japan for the plywood industry, or things of this nature. This is not just an ordinary little back yard affair; it is a very, very serious problem indeed. There is only one way that we can send substantial quantities of cargo from Tasmania and that is by the sea routes. If anything goes wrong with those sea routes - we know it has gone wrong and we have seen the evidence of what happens when it has gone wrong - to deter the proper development of Tasmania then we of course suffer, our economy suffers, and we will continue to bc a mendicant State for years into the future unless the natural resources and the natural attractions of this State of ours can be used and exploited to the maximum possible extent. We are concerned that the cheaper power in Tasmania which s not available in other States may no longer be a sufficient inducement to warrant industry establishing there.
Indeed, we are concerned that the time might come not far in the future when the advantages of the cheap power available in Tasmania are so outweighed by the disadvantages of the shipping problems that industries may very well consider leaving the State. I was talking to the manager of a very important industry that manufactures products based upon the dairying industry in north western Tasmania only yesterday on my flight from Tasmania to Canberra. Here again, we want to see promotion of the uses to which dairy products can be applied. He was telling me that only about 7% of the industry’s output is actually consumed in Tasmania and that the industry relies for viability and continued operation on the export from Tasmania of 93% of ils product. This gives some indication of the particular problems from which we suffer. Mr Acting Deputy President, I could go on for a long time about this matter but you are indicating to me that my time has almost expired and 1 will content myself with saying that I support to the full the proposition pui forward by Senator Wriedt and I sincerely hope that the Senate in recognition of the particular problems and disabilities of my State will accept, and approve the motion.
– I rise to take part in this debate-
– You have lost 1,000 preferences.
– Being a representative of Tasmania I will speak completely fearlessly with some very deep knowledge of the situation and, let me say to Senator Cant, with no thought of votes that may be won or lost. If the honourable senator would like to challenge me on that point he should just wait and listen. I want to say, first of all, that my colleague from Tasmania, Senator Wriedt, took rightful action in introducing this matter of urgency. We on the Government side were told of this at 2.25 this afternoon. This was unusually late - even for the present Opposition - notice to the Government and its supporters that a matter of urgency was to be debated. Knowing Senator Wriedt’s straightforwardness, honesty and decency, I say that this may have been caused by the fog that disrupted transport, but it is becoming more the exception than the rule for us on the Government side to be given very late notice of the raising of matters of urgency and this does preclude us from doing homework to get actual figures and information or, as is the case today because we have all been busy since we have received this notice, we are unable to give proper attention to the speeches mads; in support of the desire of the honourable senator for the Senate to adjourn.
Whether or not the Australian Labor Party is getting tired I do not know. Let us be honest and admit that this motion is built around container shipping because we are living in the world of container shipping and will live in it from now on. The question is whether Tasmanian exporters and importers are to get a fair deal by way of container services and in respect of freight charges. I claim that I was one of the first in the Senate to warn the Senate, the Government and the people of Australia of the importance of being prepared to take action in respect of the onrush of container shipping, lt is recorded in Hansard of 29th March 1966 that when speaking on the Australian Coastal Shipping Bill I reminded Ihe now Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) who was then Minister for Customs and Excise that I had some regret that the Australian National Line was talking about bulk carriers and also more rollon roll-off cargo ships because the world of container shipping was upon us and we apparently were not a wake-up to that fact and were going in for a type of ship that would possibly be going out of production rather than coming into production. Ever since 1966 I have been an advocate in and out of Parliament for the Government and private enterprise to apply themselves to providing adequate modern fair rate shipping services to Tasmania because apart from the airlines shipping is our most important and only real link with the mainland. lt is the lifeline from Tasmania to the mainland and for our exports to the rest of the world.
Senator Wriedt took up the question of the Constitution. I deny that this Government has ever discriminated in any way against Tasmania in respect of shipping. I rather take up the point made by Senator Lillico, namely, that if we intend to be terribly legalistic in regard to the Constitution perhaps we in Tasmania should go a little quietly because, if all the facts about all the money that has been spent by the present Government on providing shipping services to and from Tasmania were known, it might be said that the discrimination is in our favour. I do not claim that we have been overfavoured, but I suggest that we should go quietly on that point.
It is known - Senator Wriedt reminded us of this - that for overseas exports and container services there wm be three major ports and the two feeder ports that have been named, but no Tasmanian feeder port has been named. It would be a brave and knowledgeable Tasmanian who at this time would stand up and say that a particular port in Tasmania should be the one container feeder port to the main port of Melbourne for overseas exports. Again I point out to Senator Cant that I am not thinking about votes.
Senator Wriedt quoted a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) some time ago - I forget the actual date - in which he made almost a promise and at least an assertion that Tasmania would not be forgotten in respect of freights and feeder services to the main ports. Unfortunately I have not had time to obtain the actual Press cutting, but if my memory serves me correctly there appeared in the Tasmanian Press last week a statement that was a definite assurance that Tasmanian freights to the main container ports would be the same as all freights from feeder ports to the main container ports throughout Australia.
In other words, the McEwen promise, assertion or guarantee of some years ago either has been proved correct or is on the point of being proved correct. One does not normally state in the Parliament what goes on in private audiences with Ministers, shippers and other people; but we senators and members on both sides of both Houses of the Parliament, throughout this period of introduction of the system of container shipping, have been busy putting Tasmania’s case to the Minister and the powers that be. In my interviews with deputations I have found a growing feeling of confidence that Tasmania’s position will be adequately safeguarded and that we will be treated well when the final arrangements are able to be announced.
But 1 must remind myself and the Senate that in this respect, in my view, the Commonwealth Government has an ability only to advise and/or pressurise private enterprise - the consortia that are interested - in respect of overseas shipping and overseas freight rates. As a Tasmanian I am confident that the final result will prove that this Government, through its Ministers, has kept the interests of Tasmania in respect of overseas shipping in the forefront and that we will not be the losers when the final decisions are announced. In fact, 1 believe that they were announced at the end of last week.
I believe that we have problems in respect of Tasmanian container shipping services to the Australian mainland. No State in the Commonwealth has better ports or a greater proliferation of ports able to be used in practically all weathers than Tasmania has. Let me go quickly around the State from Stanley, Port Latta, Burnie, Devonport, Inspection Head and Bell Bay to Hobart and Port Huon. Literally millions of dollars has been spent in the last few years and will be spent in the future on preparing those ports for a growth in Tasmania’s import and export trade. I believe that roll-on roll-off ships, container ships and/or unit load ships will have to have schedules that include all the ports I have named in order to take cargo between Tasmania and the mainland. I cannot see Tasmania having one port for its interstate cargo, because of the cost factor. The railway and road systems would be completely inadequate, whereas I am sure that the port installations and facilities and the availability of cargo at the other ports will merit services from them to the mainland.
With the arrival of the Australian National Line on the shipping scene a change has come about which has been disadvantageous to Tasmania in some respects. Either the Australian National Line, by coming into the service and spreading its ships - not its wings - has forced private enterprise out or private enterprise has thought: The ANL is in. We cannot compete. It is able to build new ships and adequate ships for modern cargo handling. We will go off the run’. It is fair to say that in the interstate trade the Union Steam Ship company has done a great job, with the ‘Seaway King’ and the ‘Seaway Queen’, in providing services to Hobart and Launceston. There are also smaller ships on the island trade. But the ANL really has the bulk of the Tasmanian interstate trade.
This has had another result. With conventional ships going out, the new types of ships coming in and private enterprise drawing in its activity, as far as I can find out there are no longer tramp ships that are able to be called in, as in days of old, to pick up cargo that has banked up in any of the Tasmanian ports for transshipment to mainland ports. I cannot deny that, as in the past, we are currently experiencing serious problems in Tasmania -I hope that they will not last for long - because of the bank-up of exports for both the overseas trade and the interstate trade. This is caused by either a lack of adequate shipping or the hold-ups in the shipping services that are scheduled to run.
One of the greatest drawbacks in the tourist trade and in shipping generally has been the unfortunate spate of disputes, which last for far too long, on the waterfront at odd times - particularly on the mainland; we do not have much trouble in this regard in Tasmania - but especially among the crews. The disputes have involved mainly the stewards or engineers of the ANL and, in particular, those of the ‘Empress of Australia’ which is such an important cargo and tourist link between our State and New South Wales or the port of Sydney. Taking an unbiassed view of the situation, 1 do not believe it is fair in this urgency debate to blame the Government. There may be those among us who feel the Government should buy more heavily into union troubles. I believe in arbitration, not coercion, and in responsible pleading in trying to obtain agreements and satisfaction as far as both employees and employers are concerned. I do not blame the Commonwealth Government, nor do I altogether blame the unions. If the unions have problems which they want solved, perhaps striking sometimes is essential. But I believe there have been far too many hold-ups. These hold-ups have caused a great problem. I believe the Australian National Line must keep an influential and steady eye on requirements.
The Acting DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise to say but a few words on this question of shipping to and from Tasmania. As all honourable senators know, transport is an indispensable need. The success of trade and commerce and. indeed, the stability of the economy of any State or country depend on transport. This applies particularly in countries such as ours which is a continent, and in Tasmania which is an island State. Other forms of transport than shipping from Tasmania to the mainland are not available to any great extent and therefore I sincerely sympathise with the Tasmanian people, particularly those engaged in primary production and in trade and commerce in their complaint regarding the inadequacy of shipping space and the irregularity of schedules. That occurs to me to be more important than the omission of Tasmania from the overseas container service. I was privileged to be a member on the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling’ Cargoes which inquired into the introduction of the containerisation system of transport of cargo. When the Committee commenced to operate it found that very few people had given any consideration to adjusting themselves to the introduction of this modern method of transport. Even our banks, our insurance companies, our shipping companies, our government and semigovernment bodies had given very little consideration, if any, to what would be required to meet the position when containerisation was introduced.
It is true as Senator Marriott said a few moments ago that there had been a postponement of activity. No thought had been given, for instance, to a substitute for a bill of lading. Insurance companies did not know just what the position would be. The banks could not tell the Committee very much. The Committee from time to time examined representatives of all these organisations. The Australian Meat Board did not know anything. The wool people had not gone to the trouble of sending a sample of wool in a container to the British manufacturers to S2e whether containerisation would reduce or destroy the real value of the wool. After all, the manufacturer in Britain was the man who had to be satisfied with the form of transport to be. used for this densely packed commodity. That was just how the position stood. The Committee did an excellent job of work in arousing these people from their lethargy and causing them lo speed up and do something.
Senator Lillico of Tasmania was on that Committee with me. 1 interjected during the course of his speech to say that he was an excellent member of that Committee. No human could have done more on that Committee in the interests of the State he was representing than Senator Lillico. His advocacy for an adequate and regular shipping service was continuous. He was so insistent, in fact, that we used to have a little fun with him about the ports of Tasmania, In Tasmania there are numerous ports. Whilst I might agree with Senator Marriott that it would be hard to visualise the State with one port only, I could not visualise shipping companies being prepared to serve all Tasmanian ports. There would have to be some compromise. 1 sympathise with Tasmania in its plight, but I agree with supporters of the Government that this is not entirely the responsibility of government. A Government in Australia or in any democracy, cannot take shipping companies or private enterprises by the scruff of the neck and say: “You establish here. You carry out this function and that function.’ Nor can it say to the shipping company: You enter that port at regular intervals. You will use this port.’
In the State of Queensland which I represent the shipping companies refused to go into some ports because the cost was too great. The time it took to turn a ship was unbearable. The companies just would not go in.
– That went on for years.
– Yes, it went on. Bowen is a place where there was a lot of industrial trouble for no real reason at all. lt lost the bulk loading facilities for sugar. Bowen is a very good port and it has a very fine harbour. The decision on the location of facilities such as sugar bulk loading equipment was based to a great extent on the efficiency of particular ports. At that time I was Premier of Queensland and I told the waterside workers that they had no one but themselves to blame. Their pin-pricking tactics and their repeated stoppages for no good reason at all had driven the ships away. The whole economy of the State was being jeopardised and adversely affected because of the action of the waterside workers.
A lot of our troubles have been brought on by ourselves. When I say ‘ourselves’ I mean by the people of the country itself. A shipping company has a lot of money invested in a shipping line and it expects service. This containerisation system of cargo has been introduced at enormous expense to increase efficiency, expedite loading, expedite the turnround of ships, and overcome pilfering and pillaging of cargo.
– And making money too.
– And to get something out of it. To go into too many ports in one State increases costs. I think Brisbane is the only container port in Queensland. The others are feeders. The goods are brought to Brisbane. That is understandable. But do not let us over emphasise that all the advantages and benefits of containerisation make it the only worthwhile system of handling cargo. The unit system and the rollon roll-off system have their advantages and are very suitable, particularly if we can continue to have regular visits by ships to carry our produce, timber or whatever it may be. Indeed that kind of shipping - the alternative to containerisation - is probably more suitable for certain commodities than is the container system. Apples can be loaded as a bulk commodity, not necessarily cased. The unit type of shipping is more suitable for timber than is the container type. That is why I say that paragraph (b) of the motion concerns me more than does paragraph (a). If we get a form of shipping which meets our requirements that is the crux of the whole matter. lt is to be regretted that shipping space is inadequate and that there is an irregularity of schedules. Of course the Government can be expected to bring influence to bear on shipping companies. No doubt members of the coalition parties and others have requested the Government to ask shipping companies to improve the service to Tasmania. Beyond that .1 cannot see, unless someone can inform me, just how much more the Government can do without confiscating a shipping line or taking some such drastic step. I feel confident that if the Government puts it up to the shipping companies to pull up their socks, as it were, and do a bit better than they are doing for the producers and manufacturers of Tasmania, we may get some favourable results. I hope we do.
– I have listened with interest to the debate. It is of great concern to me that Tasmania should be provided with adequate shipping services. Therefore in general principle I agree with the suggestion that we take any opportunity to debate this subject and to bring to it considered thought. For that reason 1 feel that it is unfortunate, as Senator Marriott has stated previously, that this motion has been brought on at very short notice. Since we were given notice of it I have been trying to prepare some figures in relation to the matters specifically raised but I have not been able to complete them. Let me deal with those that I could get together.
I gained the impression from Senator Wriedt that containerisation concerned him most. I believe that this has to be looked at in its true perspective. We must consider to what extent Tasmanian exports or imports are suitable for containerisation. I have been trying to calculate figures in relation to that aspect during the short time that the debate has been proceeding. I do not have final figures so I will have to rely upon quotations from letters which I have received from the Marine Board of Burnie and the Marine Board of Hobart. Being concerned about this matter I wrote last year to each of the Marine Boards operating in the principal ports in Tasmania to ascertain the percentage of their cargoes which were suitable for containers, the percentage of their cargoes which were more suitable for unitising and the percentage of their cargoes which were suitable for other forms of export shipping. I was interested to receive a letter from Mr H. Miller, Secretary of the Marine Board of Burnie, in which he said, amongst other things:
Two points that must be kept in mind with regard to cargoes out of Burnie are that none arc seasonal to any great degree, and although the analysis is shown in countries the goods are destined to a number of ports within those countries. Some ships for South East Asia load for as many as 12 ports per trip and in most cases the same applies to a lesser degree to other countries.
When these points are considered-
He had mentioned earlier in his letter a number of points which 1 will not go through in detail - in relation to the quantities of the various items, the case for containerisation does not appear to be in favour thereof.
Later in his letter he said:
I believe the general concensus of local opinion is that unitisation is more satisfactory than containerisation for the reasons already given, and the present tendency in Burnie supports this contention.
In relation to Hobart I obtained some figures and comments which I thought were of interest. Unfortunately I have not been able to relate those figures precisely to the total exports from Tasmania but the same picture emerges as that in respect of Burnie. I refer only in passing to the comments made to me by the General Manager of the Marine Board of Hobart. He detailed the kinds of cargoes which were suitable for containerisation interstate or overseas. The figures supplied, which relate to cargoes shipped through the port of Hobart during 1968-69, indicate that a considerable percentage - I refer to zinc, bulk petrol, oil, feedstock, motor vehicles and anthracite coal - is not suitable for containerisation. Only a relatively small proportion is suitable for containerisation. One of the principal commodities is frozen meat. In his letter to me the General Manager of the Marine Board of Hobart stated in part:
Whether southern Tasmania’s principal overseas export of 200.000 tons annually of fresh fruit, which is shipped through the port of Hobart between the months of March and June, will eventually be shipped by containers is at present problematical. However, should certain problems surrounding refrigeration be overcome, then it is felt that there are definite possibilities of the Tasmanian fruit crop being exported in containers.
It would make a great difference to the importance of containerisation if suitable refrigeration facilities could be provided, thus enabling fruit crops to be exported in that way. I think it is important also to consider other things that have happened since containerisation came into operation. Let me refer to the fruit crop. In 1 967 some 29 ships took 3.4 million bushels from Hobart and Port Huon. In 1968 some 33 ships took 4.4 million bushels and in 1969, the year in which containerisation was introduced, 30 ships took 4.1 million bushels of Tasmanian fruit from Hobart and Port Huon. No marked problem appears from those figures. When one bears in mind that there has been a drop in freight charges as a result of the introduction of containers - I am assured that it is 2½% in respect of refrigerated cargo and 4% in respect of general cargo - it becomes apparent that some advantages, as well as possible some dangers and disadvantages, are accruing to Tasmanian shippers.
The other matter which makes it rather peculiar that Senator Wriedt should have proposed this motion today is that today happens to be the day on which the Examiner’ newspaper in Launceston carries the following headline:
Exporters assured of regular service.
Tas. to link with C-ships.
Feeder port is next step.
The text of the article reads:
Tasmania is expected to be linked with the fast, fortnighly international container shipping system with the next two or three months.
This major shipping breakthrough was announced yesterday by the Minister for Transport (Mr Bessel).
Tasmanian exporters will pay no more than they do now to ship their goods overseas in irregular and infrequent conventional cargo vessels.
The extra cost of sending a 20-ton container across Bass Strait to Melbourne - about$200 - will be absorbed into the new, Australia-wide equalised freight rates for next season.
So, in the light of that statement which 1 presume is correctly reported in a responsible newspaper. I think we can see that the concern of Senator Wriedt is perhaps illfounded.
If we look at the history of the matter we find that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) has been at great pains for a considerable time to do everything that he could to ensure that Tasmania was protected adequately in relation to this matter. As recently as last Saturday the Minister’s remarks were reported from London, where he then was. This report from the ‘Examiner’ of 2nd May reads:
The Australian Government wanted to ensure that the smaller ports around Australia’s coast benefited from containerisation, the Australian Shipping and Transport Minister (Mr Sinclair) said yesterday.
He said the Government wanted to ensure there was an adequacy of movement of container vessels, not only to the major Australian ports but also to the smaller ports such as those of Tasmania and Portland. Victoria, and Albany, Western Australia.
I mention this simply because it shows that, as recently as last Saturday, the Minister who was criticised by Senator Wriedt has shown his interest in the matter and that he did this while he was in London.
Because of the necessary brevity which one must observe in speaking in a discussion of a matter of public importance I puss now to interstate shipping as opposed to overseas container shipping. Several matters of concern have arisen here. Perhaps the first matter is the delays in the construction of new ships which were ordered by the Australian National Line and which were due to come into service long, long before they were finished. There were a number of reasons for the delays, not the least of which, I understand, was industrial trouble. This certainly cannot be laid at the feel of the Minister for Shipping and Transport nor can it be laid at the feet of the ANL. They cannot be blamed because industrial trouble held up the building of those ships, delaying their introduction into the shipping services of the ANL around the Australian coast. This introduction would have released to Tasmaniantrade greater shipping space.
– Perhaps it could be blamed on the ANL. It is not all one sided, you know.
– The ANL was not the employer of the people who were striking in relation to the construction ofthese ships. That is why 1 say that I do not think that in that respect this industrial trouble can can be blamed on the ANL. The industrial trouble was between Evans Deakin. the shipyard employer which was building the ships - I am not certain that that was the firm involved - and the employees working in the shipyards. The one problem which could be blamed on the ANL from Senator Cavanagh’s point of view, although 1 do not say that we should blame it. is the unfortunate situation that has arisen to create much of the mayhem, delays and interruptions to Tasmanian traffic, that is, the industrial trouble which has been experienced with the Empress of Australia’, the ‘Princess of Tasmania’ and the ‘Australian Trader’. I have here a’ list of the number of cancelled sailings and the number of delayed sailings during the 12 months proceeding February of this year. This is a long list. Rather than take up the time of the Senate by reading it, with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the list in Hansard. It reads:
DISRUPTIONS TO TRANS-BASS STRAIT FERRIES
EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA’
Cancelled Sailings - 19 June, 21 June, 24 June, 26 June, 28 June, 30 June.
Delayed Sailings - 23 May, 25 May. 5 August, 8 August, 10 August, 12 August, 15 August, 17 August, 15 October, 16 October, 29 October, 31 October, 2 November, 4 November, 7 November, 9 November, 11 November, 13 November, 15 November, 17 November, 20 November, 22 November, 25 November, 27 November, 29 November, 1 December, 4 December, 6 December, 18 December, 20 December.
PRINCESS OF TASMANIA’
Cancelled Sailings - 19 May, 20 May, 23 May, 24 May, 18 June, 19 June, 21 July, 22 July, 25 November, 26 November.
Delayed Sailings - 16 May, 17 May.
Cancelled Sailings- 20 July, 21 July, 25 November, 26 November.
Delayed Sailings - 1 July, 2 July. 3 July. 4 July.
Undoubtedly, the delayed and cancelled sailings, as shown in that list, had a twofold effect upon Tasmania. First, they created an interruption to the export and import by Tasmanian business people of their goods. They created an interruption to the Tasmanian tourist industry. Very often the cost of such an interruption can never be recovered. Further than that, these cancelled and delayed sailings have had the effect of increasing the cost of operation of the Australian National Line which in effect finishes up facing the likelihood of increasing freight rates.
In this respect I wish to quote from a letter that I received from the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It is dated 14th April 1970. Again, 1 had written to the Minister because I was concerned about the matter of shipping to Tasmania. In his letter, the Minister stated:
However the ability of the Australian National Line to operate competitively with aircraft as a passenger carrier depends on the reliability and capability of the passenger cargo vessels it operates. If future industrial troubles cause disruptions to timetables the vessels of the Line may well be forced to again carry cargo only with consequential detrimental effects to the reliability of the service in the eyes of potential passengers.
It is, I believe, most unfortunate that Tasmania should be on the receiving end of such a great degree of industrial trouble and that the Tasmanian people themselves should have to pay the penalty for something which has nothing to do with them.
In criticism of the Hobart Marine Board Senator Wriedt said something which 1 think was unfair and which I would like to correct. He said that the Board had put forward a fanciful - he used some other word with a similar meaning - proposal in relation to the development of a container port in the Huon area. Perhaps what Senator Wriedt does not realise is that that proposal was put forward in response to a request from the container shipping companies which had set out certain specifications as to what sort of port they wanted. As 1 understand the situation, the only place in Tasmania which came within the specifications required was this area. It was put forward on the basis of being a reply to the request. The request was not limited to Tasmania but was made Australia-wide.
– You are wrong, senator.
– This was the reply furnished by the Hobart Marine Board in response to that request.
I do not understand one other matter with which Senator Wriedt dealt. Perhaps it could so with some explanation. He said that the volume of Tasmanian trade is small and that a lot of containers must be brought empty to Tasmania. I do not understand that statement because, looking at the figures as quickly as I could, I saw that the value of imports was$220m and that the value of exports was $233m. These are on tables comparable with the figures for interstate exports not overseas exports. They are the figures for the financial year 1967-68. I took it that the honourable senator was talking about interstate trade at that time. It does seem to me that there is a relativity there which would make the proposition that he put forward untenable.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) [8.0J- At the suspension of the sitting we were debating an urgency motion moved by Senator Wriedt concerning shipping services to Tasmania. My colleague referred particularly to the omission of Tasmania from the Australian overseas container service and to the inadequate shipping space and irregularity of schedules. I believe that in raising this matter Senator Wriedt has done a good service to the Senate and to Tasmania, particularly as all Tasmanian senators who have already made their contributions have agreed on its importance. Not only has there been agreement that a serious situation is facing Tasmania in the immediate future, but there has also been agreement as to the long range prospects.
Honourable senators opposite have shown a tendency to try to defend the present situation by saying that the Commonwealth cannot be blamed or that we should place the blame on the Australian National Line for not having established closer consultation with the Tasmanian Government and with the shippers and manufacturers who will be exporting under the new shipping setup. The inadequacy of shipping services for Tasmania has been a long-standing problem. The new technique of containerisation of cargoes could properly be described as a revolution which may have a greater impact, on Tasmania than on any other part of Australia. lt is fairly well known that Tasmania is the most decentralised of the States. Our population centres are scattered; only 37% of the Tasmanian population is located in the capita) of Hobart, whereas 68% of the Victorian population is concentrated in Melbourne. The relationship is obvious between the density of the population and the need of Tasmania for special treatment in respect of shipping. Over the years it has been the policy of Tasmanian governments to decentralise as much as possible. The major centres of population are located close to the four main ports. Hobart is the traditional deep water port and the longest established port in Tasmania. The port of Launceston has been recently developed at Bell Bay and at Beauty Point. Burnie and Devonport are old ports historically but of relatively new development. All these ports are possible outlets for Tasmania’s production, but it has not been possible to get from the Commonwealth any specific advice about unity amongst the Tasmanian centres as to which port should be used eventually as a container port or a marshalling port for Tasmanian containerised cargo. I cannot see how the economy of Tasmania would ever be able to sustain the inevitable added costs of sending Tasmanian produce through our ports, having it unloaded again at one of the main container ports on the mainland and then being consigned overseas, unless massive support - I use the word ‘massive’ advisedly - was given by the Commonwealth, either as a subsidy to the Australian National Line which probably will have the main responsibility of providing a feeder service, or to Tasmanian exporters.
About 55% of Tasmania’s production is exported. The big problem is that about 92% of Tasmanian exports are transported by sea, and only about 8% by air. This immediately places Tasmania at a disadvantage when compared with the other States which have alternative transport by road and rail and by the major air services. Comparatively speaking Tasmanians are faced with shorter hauls at greater cost. The seriousness of the situation’ is illustrated by the special problems that exist in Tasmania. Our industries are small, the overwhelming majority of businesses having fewer than 20 employees, but they are important to the Tasmanian economy. Tasmania’s population is below 400,000. The domestic market has the potential equal to only’ one of Melbourne’s smaller suburbs. Our smaller industries do not have a sufficiently large domestic market and must look to exports to survive. We must therefore try to resolve our shipping problems. An increase of only lc per lb in freight can mean the difference between profit and loss to some Tasmanian industries. 1 think that illustrates how deeply these special shipping factors can influence the Tasmanian economy.
If the Australian National Line is given the responsibility of transporting Tasmanian freight to the mainland container ports some arrangement will have to be made so that Tasmanians will know with certainty what assistance is to be given in the form of direct reimbursement to the ANL in order to avoid freight increases. This afternoon Senator Rae referred to an article in today’s edition of the Launceston ‘Examiner’. This article needs to be read in ils proper context. I believe that Senator Rae stated only half a case. The article states:
Tasmania is expected to be linked with the fast, fortnightly international container shipping system within the next 2 or 3 months. This major shipping breakthrough was announced yesterday by the Minister for Transport (Mr Bessell). Tasmanian exporters will pay no more than they do now to ship their goods overseas in irregular and infrequent conventional cargo vessels.
The article also states, although Senator Rae did not quote this part:
It is not yet clear exactly what costs Tasmanian exporters will face when the new service is introduced in July or August. This will be settled by negotiations over the next 2 months.
So that on the one hand there is the prospect for Tasmania of a fast fortnightly international container shipping service, but on the other hand, it could be at a cost that would involve grave repercussions for Tasmanian exporters. In the ‘Mercury’ of today’s date appears an announcement that a review of freight rates between Australia and Europe appears to be unavoidable. This was announced by the shipping companies who said that since rates were reduced in 1968 costs generally had increased substantially. 1 should like to comment that the consumer in Tasmania could never have seen any advantage from a reduction in freight rales since 1968 because the saving was immediately absorbed by other increases in the cost of commodities. It is imperative that this matter be watched very closely when a review of freight rates is made and that due regard is taken of the impact that the review could have on Tasmania’s economy as compared with the situation in other parts of the Commonwealth.
In making this announcement the shipping companies argued that a review was imperative, and they added that they wanted an agreement with the Australia to Europe Shippers Association on the method. The report continues:
Without prejudice to its view that the present rates be extended to the 1970-71 season, the AESA agreed to a review by the accountants representing shippers and shipping companies to the voyage results in the trade for 1968 and 1969.
So it can be seen from this that undoubtedly there will be an increase in the cost of shipping, despite the announcement that has been made about container cargo going to Europe this winter. .
– Was not the only problem brought about by the fact that Tilbury was out of operation and that they had to go to Europe, which involved a surcharge?
– I understand that was one of the factors, but there is an inherent difficulty for all branches of shipping in Tasmania. The Department of Transport in Tasmania has given a promise to the people of Tasmania, similar to many promises that have been made in the past, that everything possible will be done to overcome shipping difficulties. The Department has asked for close liaison and prompt reporting of difficulties by Tasmanian exporters and importers. It is my view that these problems have been brought constantly before the Federal Minister for Shipping and Transport and before the State Department of Transport. If they still need further information it is difficult to know how long they will be seeking information and when some sort of action will result. A very important part of the inadequacy of the plans that are under way relates to the selection of a suitable port for the marshalling of Tasmanian produce. In view of the assistance that has been given to other parts of the Commonwealth in the way of assistance for railway and road construction, I consider that Tasmania is justified in asking for assistance of a scale that would allow for the construction of a connecting rail link between Launceston and Bell Bay. I consider that Bell Bay, the port of Launceston, would have a strong claim for becoming the main marshalling port for products for export from Tasmania because they are at a central point in the north of Tasmania, are closest to the port of Melbourne and are relatively equidistant from the north west, north east and south of Tasmania. However, Bell Bay starts a long way behind scratch because there is no rail link between Launceston and Bell Bay, a distance of about 30 miles.
– We have had 35 years of State Labor government that is why.
– If we have an attitude such as the one displayed by Senator Marriott we will continue to experience the shambles that we have seen through jealousies between one end of the island and the other. I hope that for the sake of Tasmania the attitude expressed by Senator Marriott will be overlooked and that the authorities in Tasmania will grasp the situation and ask the Commonwealth to provide sufficient funds to finance the railway. At least that will put Tasmania in a position where it can compete.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– We are dealing with a motion to discuss a matter of urgency which is stated as being:
The state of Tasmanian shipping services, especially -
the omission of Tasmania from the Australian Overseas Container Service; and
the inadequate shipping space and irregularity of schedules.
As I have listened to the debate it has seemed to me that we have had a most fascinating recital of the advantages, the beauty and the benefits of Tasmania, all of which 1 subscribe to and which views 1 share. But it seems to me that no case has been made out to support the matters mentioned in the proposal. I have not detected anything that has been of the slightest value. 1 have had given to me some interesting information on what is happening in Tasmania, but no case has been made out against what is happening in Tasmania at present that in any sense seems to call for an answer. No case has been made out to support this matter of urgency and there is very little justification for bringing the matter up and trying to achieve a result from it.
I believe that the best way in which 1 can handle the matter for the Senate is first to give a recital which has been prepared on what appear to be the issues and what would appear to be adequate answers to those issues. If time permits me to do so, after the general comments I propose to follow with some specific things that I should like to say for my own sake. I have listened to every speaker in the debate. Opposition speakers have, without doubt, raised several matters.I propose to deal firstly with what appears to be one of the principal matters, that is, the omission of Tasmania from the overseas container service. In speaking to this I think I should spend a little lime in going over the history of the introduction of containerisation in the Australian and overseas trades. When the shipping lines introducing containers into the Australia to Europe trade announced their service they announced also that their ships would call at Fremantle, Sydney and Melbourne. This decision was a matter of their commercial judgment, at least in the first instance. No doubt they took into consideration the costs. One would certainly hope so, if they intended to remain in business as shipping companies serving anyone anywhere.
On the one hand, serving many ports would have the effect of lengthening voyage times and making necessary additional equipment and facilities; on the other hand, serving fewer ports would bring about better vessel utilisation through reduced voyage time per year and make possiblemore voyages by each ship per year. When the service started cargo was brought from the ports of Brisbane and Newcastle to Sydney and from the port of Adelaide to Melbourne for carriage in the container ships at no extra cost. There has been a lot said here, as one naturally would expect, about the evidence given to the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes and statements made by the shipping consortia on their intentions in respect of centralising the cargo. This was at the initial stage of the introduction of container services. Every one of us will want to pay tribute to the work of that Senate Select Committee. As Senator Gair has said, it highlighted a great number of problems: it brought some of the things into focus; but in the life we live now one is inclined to forget that quite a lot has happened in this matter since that report was first tabled and since at an earlier stage work began on it.
The introduction of a container service is a major shipping revolution. That is something that I do not think one would appreciate fully unless one were involved in the shipping business in greater detail than any of us are or perhaps ever have been. It was a revolution in shipping of a very dramatic character.
– And a very costly one.
– The honourable senator says that it was a costly one. It brought about a change of outlook, a big reinvestment programme, perhaps training of people in different fashions and, very likely, the scrapping of equipment. It was do light matter. All the arrangements and all the changes cannot be effected overnight. The initial steps were the provision of the three terminal ports, as 1 have said, plus Adelaide, Brisbane and Newcastle. Since that time there has been almost continuous negotiation between the shipping conference, on the one hand, and the shippers, on the other hand, on the terms of arrangements for the extension of centralisation of cargo to other ports.
There were, of course, as honourable senators would expect, many factors to be taken into consideration throughout the negotiation. However, the Government’s view throughout all this was always made clear, lt was simply that any decision should bear in mind the social and economic effects on the ports serving the areas from which cargo might be centralised. Initially the negotiations were held between the representatives of the Conference and local shippers at the port of Portland and subsequently at Albany. Several concepts on the cost of centralisation were discussed. Honourable senators can imagine just what was involved. There was a complete reversal of handling methods, a complete break with the past. The normal patterns of operation of all sorts of people were going to be affected adversely. There were to be some opportunities for people to improve their businesses, but without any doubt for many people there was to be a change that could be adverse to them. So none of these things could be done very easily. The Conference representatives, whilst recognising that shippers should pay no more than they had done before, were seeking some contribution towards the cost of centralisation. They asked shippers to contribute in acknowledgment of the savings which would accrue in terms of improved frequency and transit times. This question of costs was of major importance to both the ship owners and the shippers, and it was not one that could be settled quickly. I have never known of a process by which people who are asked to give somebody some money do so very quickly. It is easy to ask somebody for money quickly, but I have always found that it is difficult to get it quickly.
During this period of the negotiations the Minister for Shipping and Transport made clear his own view that the cost of centralisation of cargo should be borne in the general freight rate. I am glad to say that this view has now been acknowledged. Following negotiations which started on 2 1st April between representatives of the Australian Tonnage Committee and representatives of the Australian-Europe Association a joint Press statement was released, and 1 shall quote from it. It stated:
The question of centralisation of cargoes was debated and it was agreed that the principle to be observed was that the shipping companies would only expect shippers to pay what it cost them now to ship in conventional vessels from the particular ports concerned. The additional costs will be met by the shipping companies, but will have to be included in the evaluation of rates of freight generally. lt was agreed that great care should be exorcised by both AESA and the shipping companies in avoiding an escalation of the costs of centralising cargo
The organisation necessary to develop centralising of cargo to and from Tasmania is in progress and the shipping companies will discuss wilh those concerned the arrangements which have already been made in respect to Portland and Albany.
So the principle has thus been established that Tasmanian shippers will continue to enjoy the uniformity of freight rates in overseas trade that they have enjoyed in the past and. what is more important, they will be linked at no extra cost with the container service which offers better frequency and reduced transit times. Once a month, as in the past, they will now have ready access to these modern ships sailing once a week. In 2 years time the frequency time could be 5 days. The cargo, instead of taking up to 2 months to arrive at its destination, as was sometimes the case, should now reach Europe in some 30 days. That is a halving of the time, and I should think it would be a very distinct advantage to anybody involved in shipping.
There have been some references also lo the adequacy of the coastal shipping services which link Tasmania with the mainland. I appreciate that Tasmania is in a unique position, in that it does not have access to the road and rail modes of transport which the other States enjoy. But there is no doubt in my mind that Tasmania is served by most efficient and adequate shipping services and, for that matter, air services. I have here a table which sets out the port calls per month for shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland. For example, to the port of Melbourne, Launceston has 5 sailings per month provided by William Holyman and Sons Pty Ltd; Bell Bay has 4 sailings by the Australian National Line; Devonport has 22 sailings and Burnie some 10 sailings, also provided by the Australian National Line. From Hobart the Union Steamship Co. provides 9 sailings. This company also services Strahan wilh 3 sailings. With the concurrence of my senatorial colleagues, I shall incorporate the table in Hansard for the benefit of all honourable senators who have a particular interest in this matter.
Senator Devitt has referred to shipping problems with King Island and Flinders Island, both soldier settlement areas. Let me remind the honourable senator that for many years the Government has assisted King Island shippers whose trade, unlike that of Flinders island, is principally with Victoria. An annual subsidy on goods shipped between King Island and Melbourne has been paid over the last few years, and this is running at the rate of between $120,000 and $140,000 per annum. Towards the end of 1968 the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the Tasmanian Government, appointed consultants to look into the King Island shipping problem, and it bore half the cost of this study, which has amounted to some $49,000. As a result of this study and another independent study made by. interests on King Island, the Tasmanian Government has taken steps to provide additional port facilities on the Island so that larger ships than those at present being used may service the Island’s growing needs. In March of last year the Commonwealth assisted in clearing a back log of some 10,000 head of sheep when an overseas charter was arranged to supplement the local ship. There is no reason why similar arrangements cannot be made in future whenever a build up of stock is likely to arise providing, of course, that the Minister for Shipping and Transport or his Department is given some warning of when the need is likely to arise. I think that will be acknowledged to be a reasonable proviso.
In any shipping service there must be times when circumstances outside the operators’ control, such as industrial disputes, weather conditions or other factors cause some disruption. Consequently, some cargo which is booked for shipment cannot always be shipped immediately. There are, of course, also seasonal factors where a combination of peaks in the shipping of several commodities may result in a requirement for shipping space beyond the immediate available capacity of the service. These apply to both overseas and coastal services which serve Tasmania. Recently there have been specific instances where Tasmanian shippers have been unable to get suitable shipping space, and they have raised their problems with the Commonwealth. I had to deal with one of those problems myself at a time when I was acting for the Minister for Shipping and Transport who was in Japan. As Senator Lillico stated, immediate action was taken by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport to have this problem investigated in order to achieve a satisfactory solution.
I think I should also make it perfectly clear to my senatorial colleagues, particularly those from Tasmania, that for some time Commonwealth departments have been in constant touch with Tasmanian Government officials and Tasmanian shippers on the question of Tasmanian shipping problems. The Premier of Tasmania referred specifically to some of these consultations at the time when I was dealing with a particular matter. We had a request for consultation. It came from him. This was attended to. I understand that this system of consultation is continuing and is a regular matter between Commonwealth officials and officials of the State government concerned.
As recently as last Friday, 1st May, a meeting arranged by the Secretary of the Department of Shipping and Transport was held in Melbourne. It was attended by the Tasmanian Commissioner of Transport, the General Manager of the Tasmanian Kailways and the General Manager of the Australian National Line. The meeting discussed operations to and from Tasmania and, in particular, the improved service which would result from the partial employment of the ‘Sydney Trader’ on the Tasmanian service. Ways by which costs could be reduced were also discussed. When the Commonwealth was given specific details of particular problems in the past it has made - and it always will make - every effort to consult the State government,, the shippers and the shipowners to bring about a satisfactory solution.
I have with me some notes I made as the debate proceeded, in the hope that I would have an opportunity to deal with the suggestions in a more general fashion. Senator
Wriedt seemed to me to make substantially a case for a subsidy, but he did not develop the case in any detail. Essentially, that seemed to me what he was seeking. The point was raised by him - if not, 1 apologise to him - and subsequently by somebody else about the constitutional issue and asking whether a subsidy could or could not be granted. I am not a constitutional expert. I do not know. If a case for a subsidy for any State is to be made out, the process by which one goes about it is that the State government concerned makes an application, documented by fact and substantiated in an appropriate fashion, which is examined and dealt with appropriately and properly. I imagine that if there is a case for subsidy it will come forward in that fashion.
I believe I would be justified in making the general comment that in the Australian Federation when one State feels that, because of a particular position or situation, it is disadvantaged as against the rest of the Australian community - its living standards are not as good and it does not have the resources to maintain an equality of opportunity - the body that exists for handling the problem is the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It has handled problems and it has set out to equate the opportunity and the standards as between the States. In this case I do not know how Ihe mechanics would apply, but I am in no doubt as to what was intended to be done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It was intended that the total Australian community would have, as far as possible, equality of opportunity. Those who were more fortunate would do something to help those who were not so fortunate.
– I do not think Tasmania did too badly out of it.
– I believe Senator Gair is correct when he says that through the operations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Tasmania has been helped. I am sure it will continue to bc helped where cases can be raised and supported. Honourable senators will know that at one stage 3 States - Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia - received some assistance through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Because of this-
– Because of that Bob Menzies could always count on Bob Cosgrove”s support.
– That is a good point, but equally because of that South Australia and Western Australia have voluntarily taken themselves out of the Commonwealth Grants Commission purview. They have taken the view that their standard of service, opportunity and resource is quite equal to the demands that their people make on them. This is one of the benefits of living in a country in which we join together to try to help each other. In the clamour that goes on from time to time about CommonwealthState relations I think it is well to remember that this is a Federation. In the past we have demonstrated our willingness and our ability to join together to help.
In today’s Hobart ‘Mercury’ there was a comment that Tasmania should be exporting to Europe in international containers in 2 or 3 months time. I would have liked more time to obtain fuller information on this development in the container shipping trade, particularly as it affects Tasmania. I noticed that reference in the newspaper today. Senator Lillico very kindly referred to an answer of mine to a question about meat export problems in Tasmania. He referred to the action taken by the Commonwealth Minister for Trade and Industry and the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport, at the request of the Tasmanian Premier to look into this matter. I think we all would agree that the matter was handled expeditiously. Sensible discussions towards a solution have taken place and will continue. The honourable senator said - and I think quite properly - that he could detect no discrimination by the Minister for Shipping and Transport, the Minister for Trade and Industry or the Commonwealth against any Tasmanian interest. I do not think any discrimination has been demonstrated. One or two speakers mentioned that perhaps Tasmania had received more help than was generally thought. This is an observation made by others. I do not have with me facts to back up that comment.
I think one is equally entitled to comment that Tasmanian shipping generally to Australia and overseas and the whole of our shipping affairs would be helped greatly if there was a cessation of the industrial behaviour that is taking place on some of the ships, particularly those serving Tasmania - frivolous stoppages, ships laid up and services disrupted. Perhaps one of the things to which we could have devoted ourselves when speaking to the matter of urgency was the reason why Tasmanian shipping in particular seems to have been singled out for this treatment. This could have been directed to Tasmanian senators. People are becoming thoroughly disgusted with what is going on. They are becoming quite disheartened. I should hate to be one of the operators in this business - one of the genuine people involved - who are putting up with the kind of thing that is going on all the time. I would like to see us directing some of our attention to ways that we might devise to improve relationships between those involved in the shipping trade between Tasmania and Australia and other places.
Senator Devitt referred ; and I think quite properly, as a Tasmanian ; to Tasmania’s disability in that it has a complete lack of a road connection with the rest of Australia, which makes it very dependent upon sea transport. I agree with him. This being the case, I wonder why in Tasmania more is not being done. The sea transport system seems to me to be continually bedevilled by trouble. Why is this happening? Who is behind this? What are they trying to do to the place? If I were a Tasmanian I would not be looking with great happiness at a lot of this industrial unrest. I would be asking myself: ‘Are they trying to push us further down towards the South Pole?’ Senator Devitt also mentioned the development of hydro-electric power in Tasmania, the dairy industry’s dependence upon its ability to sell its products outside Tasmania to the extent of 93% and the need for Tasmania to increase its exports overseas. One sees some hope for a much better position developing in Tasmania with the prospect of very large shipments of iron ore, which prospect ought to be attractive because of the volumes concerned.
My belief, stated in passing, is that Tasmania has a particular capacity to do something more with its forests. One of these days perhaps it will do something to process and produce more pulp. There tends to be a world shortage of pulp. I often wonder why, with its immense water resources, cheap power and very large areas of forest, Tasmania has not done more to develop an export pulp market. The overseas markets seem to me to be favouring a situation in which pulp exports could be considered an attractive proposition. Something is happening in Tasmania about this now, but is that at its full limit of exploitability? I cannot say, but with that climate and rainfall in that temperate area it should be tremendous for the growing of softwood forests at fairly high production rates. With its cheap water power and electricity it has something, I believe, to offer as a fairly largely organised pulp producing island - more so than in the production of timber. Pulp is an item that can be produced and shipped efficiently.
The problem of the trans-Bass and transTasman freight differential is one that I do not have the opportunity to pick up this evening but there is Ihe factor that once one loads a ship and unloads it the distance does not matter a great deal. Costs in shipping tend to come in the loading and unloading of cargoes and lime delays at loading and unloading points. Perhaps one of the problems of the trans-Tasman and trans-Bass freight differential is the earlier matter referred to of the dislocations and disturbances and hold-ups that have been taking place in the Tasmanian shipping trade. One ought to comment also that if we can make the shipping of all of our products more efficient and less costly all of the Australian people will benefit. That would include Tasmanians as well. Senator Marriott, very properly 1 thought, said that it was much to be regretted that a matter of this importance to Tasmania was brought in at such a late stage that it was practically impossible for any honourable senator whether on the Government or on the Opposition side to get together the material lhat he would like to have for a thoroughly well-informed debate on this matter in the interests of the Tasmanian people.
– Every Tasmanian would have known it backwards.
– Why was it not demonstrated to us by Tasmanian Labor senators? They have not put forward to me one single argument. Senator Marriott also said that it was very difficult to choose which of the many ports in Tasmania is to be the only container port. No honourable senator on either side mentioned this except, I think, Senator O’Byrne who indicated that he thought Bell Bay might have a slight edge. But nobody said: ‘Look, Tasmania will settle for that place and no other’.
– Hobart does not agree.
– 1 rather gathered that. The Minister for Trade and Industry I think, has given assurances and there has been no demonstration by anybody that the assurances that he gave will not be kept. Perhaps one of the points that came out in discussion was that Tasmania with its many ports - as far as I can believe they are all very well equipped. - was a place particularly suitable for tramp shipping, with small ships moving around from port to port to pick up cargo. This, unfortunately, is on; of the difficulties we now face with having to achieve lower costs and move bigger cargoes in bigger ships. This makes the task of the tramp ship much more difficult and does present, I imagine, a greater problem for Tasmania. Senator Gair, I thought properly, paid tribute on behalf of the whole of the Senate to the work of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes on which he. along with many other honourable senators, served with great distinction. He fell that the Committee had taken Tasmania!) shipping interests fully into account and that Senator Lillico as a member of that Committee had made perfectly sure lhat the Tasmanian view was pressed with considerable vigour. When one looks at Ihe report one finds quite a number of references to Tasmania and the developments that are taking place there. 1 imagine that the Senate Select Committee would have done a fairly thorough job in examining the particular problems of Tasmania. But, as Senator Gair said, it is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to issue instructions to overseas shipping companies on where they will put their vessels. He asked: How will it do this? lt does nol own them. The Government does not have to make them pay. I think that that is a fair view. If the Australian Government were to be asked to solve this problem by buying out overseas shipping companies to serve the whole of the Australian trade we would ‘have very little cash left for anything else.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I rise to support Senator Wriedt in relation to this matter of urgency and in doing so I want to say that 1 was interested in the statement made by Senator Gair that he was not concerned with paragraph (a) which reads:
But he was concerned with paragraph (b) which reads:
I suppose it can be claimed that at the moment paragraph (b) would be more important to Tasmania than paragraph (a). I rather imagine that if Senator Gair really had the interests of Tasmania at heart he and his colleagues would be voting for Ihe adjournment of the Senate.
– And would interrupt the whole of Government business?
– I heard Senator Marriott interject earlier that almost all of the sins which have combined to make an inadequate shipping service to Tasmania could be laid at the door of the Tasmanian Labor Government which was in office for 35 years. The voice of that Government went unheeded by the Federal Government for many years. I can recall studies that were made by very competent persons. Many, many years ago the Waterside Workers Federation prepared very substantial cases for presentation to shipping companies, shippers and the Commonwealth Government and for many, many years these submissions fell on deaf ears. It is only now being recognised that the Federal Government came into the picture and established the Australian National Line when it realised that if it did not speed the process up it would be left behind and probably would be voted out of office because of its tardiness in looking after the States generally. 1 cannot but think that the Commonwealth Government at this stage is remiss in not providing a line for overseas shipping that would compete with the private shipping lines. 1 think that it has a bounden responsibility to do this in the present scheme of things.
The private companies will, of course, pick the eyes out of the best propositions that they can sight and neglect some of those that are not so profitable. I suppose that is only natural but I do not think that the Commonwealth Government has realised, particularly in relation to Tasmania, that with the lack of shipping facilities there we are being unduly penalised. This was exemplified quite recently in a small way by the fact that there was a build up of meat - admittedly small tonnages, perhaps less than 250 tons - under contract to Japan. I think a ship called during the week before last and shipped that cargo to Japan, lt was lagging by 6 months. Now, it appears that there is to be another lag of 6 months and another build up of meat contracted to be supplied to Japan. Another feature - perhaps a smaller matter - is the suggestion that Cadbury Fry Pascall Australia Limited intends to shift a very considerable proportion of its factory workings to Victoria because of the lack of facilities for shipping from Tasmania to Japan.
If the Commonwealth Government had paid attention to the cries of the Tasmanian interests many years before it took an interest, we would be much better off than we are at the moment. As a former secretary of the Australian Labor Party in Tasmania, I can recall the number of times that very good cases were made out, presented to our State Conference and Federal Conference and, in conjunction with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, handed on to the Federal Government. In those cases we sued for conferences with shipping interests, but the unions in particular were simply given the cold shoulder. I do not know why that happened. Several of the cases that were made out were really worthwhile, in our opinion anyhow. We believed that it was time to get on with the business in view of the fact that Tasmania was going ahead very quickly and shipping facilities would certainly fall behind.
So, when the former Labor Government in Tasmania is charged with being remiss, I reply by saying that I cannot remember a time when it was not right on the ball, pressing very hard for Federal aid. That aid came. I am not taking anything away from the Federal Government and its efforts. I simply claim that those efforts were made a little too late and have landed us in a position in which the shipping facilities now leave much to be desired. 1 think
I should resume my seat after making those few observations, because doubtless other senators wish to speak.
– You are rocking the boat.
– I may be rocking the boat, but if this urgency motion serves no other purpose it has brought before the Parliament the lack of shipping to serve Tasmania. We people from Tasmania will keep pressing at all times for better services, more co-operation and more coordination, lt seems to me that ‘co-ordination’ is the key word. In many respects there is no co-ordination in respect of shipping facilities for Tasmania. I believe that the Government should have a really good look at all aspects of the shipping needs of Tasmania so that we might be given a better deal.
– The first comment I wish to make is that I am very disappointed that this urgency motion was introduced wilh so little notice being given to us on this side of the chamber to enable us to prepare material for such an important debate as this. As Senator Marriott said, the lack of notice may have been due to the fog in Canberra this morning, which may have meant that Senator Wriedt was not able to arrive in Canberra in time to give us sufficient notice. I participate in this debate not as a Tasmanian but as one who has been closely associated with shipping and the introduction of containerisation. Well before containerisation became a reality in transportation from Australia to other areas, I was closely associated with and particularly interested in shipping, including Tasmanian shipping services. I would like to have had time this afternoon to obtain figures with regard to the services and the tonnage movements from Tasmania to overseas ports. But, unfortunately, I was unable to obtain them because there was not time to make the necessary arrangements.
To my knowledge Senator Wriedt did not give any specific figures to illustrate the problems associated with Tasmanian shipping services; rather did he make general statements. 1 could be incorrect in making that comment, but my understanding is that no specific figures were given. I would have liked some specific figures because I could relate them to pertinent figures with regard to Tasmanian services prior to the introduction of containerisation. As a member . of the old Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee, which dealt with all aspects of freights, tonnages and problems involved in the export of Australian goods particularly to the United Kingdom and the Continent, I can say that that Committee dealt fairly with the States as a national committee and recognised the rights of Tasmania equally with those of any other State of the Commonwealth including my own Stale of South Australia.
A few minutes ago Senator Lacey referred to the fact that . certain recommendations had been made with regard to the problems of Tasmania. He spoke of the Federal Government in a rather condemnatory manner. Let me say that the Federal Government recognised the responsibility of the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee which has now gone out of existence but which prior to containerisation was the responsible negotiating body between the shipper - in other words, the exporter - and the shipowner. To my knowledge no evidence has come forward from Tasmania with regard to the problems of that State. I wish to say to Senator Lacey, through you, Mr President, that we as a committee were very much aware of the problems associated with not only Tasmania but all the States of the Commonwealth, and we did our utmost to make sure that the shipper section of this country was protected as effectively as the efficiency of that committee allowed it to be.
The whole of this debate this afternoon and this evening is related to the concept of containerisation itself.
– Not really.
– If the problems existed before containerisation, why did not members of the Australian Labor Party raise them before? They should have recognised that there was a responsible committee in Australia for a long time. They should have brought the problems before that Committee. They have now seen fit to introduce this urgency motion, which is related directly to the introduction of containerisation and the fact that Tasmania does not have a direct link in the form of a terminal port under the concept of containerisation. As a South Australian, I point out that my own State does not have a terminal port. But, as an Australian, I recognise thai if we are to curtail increases in freight rates, and hopefully to reduce them, we must look at this matter on a national basis and do all we can to make sure that efficiency in the transportation of our exports will be our ultimate aim, no matter from what State we come.
One of the main aspects of containerisation is the quick turnround of ships. We have seen the sophisticated method of loading and unloading ships with cranes that are specially designed to deal only with containers. The containers themselves are big boxes which are prepacked, loaded quickly into a ship and unloaded quickly from a ship so that the ship is not in port for long and can turn around quickly. That is one aspect of containerisation. But in order to get the most out of containerisation it is also necessary to have as few terminal ports as possible. Hence today we have only 3 terminal ports in Australia, namely, Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle in Western Australia because of its geographical position.
Basically, as I understand it, the deciding factor in determining whether a port should be classified as a terminal port is the throughput of cargo. The requirement is in the vicinity of I million tons of input and output. My own port - port Adelaide - regrettably does nol measure up to the 1 million ton throughput. Nevertheless we have accepted containerisation because of the benefits that it will bring on a national level. As I said, we have the 3 terminal ports. Consequently we have 3 States - Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania - that are serviced through feeder ports. There are some problems and queries with regard to these feeder ports. As a South Australian, I am still hopeful that this arrangement will work out; but in some ways I question whether in the long term there will be equality of freights, because at the present time we have a gentlemen’s agreement and not a written agreement.
I wish to emphasise this because under the old formula and with the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee there was uniformity of freights irrespective of the Australian port concerned. Today with containerisation we still have uniformity of freight rates throughout Aus tralia, even though they may be subject to a gentleman’s or verbal agreement. The one thing I want to emphasise is that in the first year of containerisation we had a standstill in freight rates - again an agreement between the shipper groups and the shipowner groups. In the second year of containerisation, for the first time in many years, we have seen a downturn in freight rates of 4% in general or, as it is termed, dry cargo, and a 2i% reduction in refrigerated cargo, lt has been a long time since we have seen a downturn in freights. I want to emphasise that these freight reductions have applied to all States and not just the States with a terminal port but also to the feeder States, including Tasmania.
Until 1967 we had seen freight rates increasing at such an alarming rate that the Government, along with the ship owner groups, looked to other modes of transport in an effort at least to check freight rates to counter this great problem which faced us as an island state, an exporting state so far from our markets. So the concept of containerisation was introduced in Australian trade to the United Kingdom. Even though there has been criticism tonight of this urgency motion moved by the Opposition I want again to emphasise that we have seen freight reductions of 4% and 21% with the introduction of containerisation. Even though the efficiency and effectiveness of containerisation may be questioned, and even though Tasmania at this stage may be served by conventional shipping and by the old type of refrigerated shipping, it has benefited along with South Australia and the other feeder States, as have the terminal States, from the introduction of containerisation. This is- possibly due to such things as fewer ships, more efficiency, quicker turnround and rationalisation, as it is termed. All of these things have brought benefits to us as a nation. ! can sympathise with Tasmania, perhaps in a parochial sense, as a South Australian, with regard to containerisation because the container ships do not call directly to the ports in my own State.
In 1972 the Scandinavian countries will introduce on the Australian . run another 5 ships. They will not be container ships, unit load ships or Scandia ships, as they are called. They will be the roll-on roll-off type of ship. These are extremely flexible ships.
They are the type of ships which do not require any sophisticated equipment on the wharf. They have their own ramp. They can pull into a wharf and they can unload and load at any port whatsoever as long as there are reasonable wharf facilities and depth of water. The Scandia type of ship, on the other hand, is the type of ship that can take either containers, the unit loads, or strap palletisation - as has been mentioned tonight - or general cargo. The ROR, that is the roll-on roll-off type of ship with which Tasmanians are particularly conversant, is the type of ship that is extremely flexible. With the build-up of tonnage on the United Kingdom run this type of ship - this is the only one to which I can refer on this aspect because the Scandias are coming in on this run - could bring benefits to States such as Tasmania and South Australia.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) has seen fit whilst overseas to make a statement that the Tasmanian container service will commence shortly and will bring with it the same benefits which the terminal States have, and the benefits that the mainland feeder States have. In other words, even though Tasmania has had the benefits of the efficiencies from the introduction of containerisation with the reduction in freight rates it will also have the added efficiencies of being able to containerise in Tasmania and bring the containers to the port of Melbourne at no extra cost to Tasmania. This cost factor is going to be averaged out with all the shipper interests, the exporter interests of Australia. Tasmania will directly receive the same benefits as the mainland States receive at present, be they terminal States or feeder States. I cannot see the necessity for an urgency debate tonight because the report of the Minister’s statement was made prior to this urgency motion which was brought on this afternoon.
Criticism of the Federal Government has been expressed by Tasmanian Opposition senators tonight. Prior to containerisation there was an exporters’ group or a shipper group, the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee. Since the introduction of containerisation there has been a shipper group known as the Australia to Europe Shippers Association. This group is . representative of the major exporter groups of Australia irrespective of State.
It represents all the exporter groups working in the interests of the exporters of this country. It has given very effective and efficient service to the exporters. When criticism is levelled at the Federal Government 1 would suggest that the Opposition look back into the background of our exports and relate its criticisms perhaps to another body and not . to the Australian Government, because this is the body which has closely watched the interests of the groups it represents and, at the same time, has closely watched the activities of the shipping companies themselves to make sure that efficiency will be the dominant factor and that the benefits will be in the gains to the Australian exporters.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to take part in this debate because, having been a . member of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargo:s, I have a few views to put forward which I think will be of interest. The Senate should realise, first of all, that there is no complaint that Tasmania is being overcharged in relation to the shipping of its goods, and there is no claim that its goods should be shipped by some particular type of shipping service. This matter has been .brought forward in accordance with the normal functions of the Senate, and I think Senator Wriedt should be congratulated for having brought it forward. Here we see a representative of a small State, which feels aggrieved about what has been happening, trying to obtain relief for that State. We have a duty to consider the grievance of this small State which feels neglected in relation to its shipping services.
The complaints that have been made are that Tasmania has been omitted from the Australian overseas container service and also that Tasmania suffers from inadequate shipping space and irregularity of schedules. It seems to me from what I have heard in this debate that there is ‘ a general belief that the Senate Select Committee inquired into and finally supported : the system of containerisation. None’ of the terms of reference of the Committee permitted it to say whether the containerisation method was right or wrong. Its purpose was simply to find out whether this system of containerisation could be accommodated in Australia when it was introduced. After hearing all the evidence given to the Committee I must say that at no time was 1 convinced of the justification for the introduction of containerisation in Australia, ft was simply that the Conference Lines had decided to introduce containerisation.
The full story has not been told. The Committee was given the most careful and. I think, the highest quality evidence that had the Commonwealth Government been prepared to supply the finance to the Australian National Line to provide unitised shipping the ANL could have run the Conference Line off the European trade. The Conference Line decided on containerisation. It was realised that Tasmania would be at a disadvantage because not only was there a question of accommodating Tasmania’s cargo, there was also the fact that Tasmania’s cargo needed a specific number of refrigerated vessels for a very short time. The system of containerisation could not guarantee the availability of such vessels. This is the matter which the motion before the Senate seeks to condemn. There is no hope for Tasmania in containerisation which grabs the bulk of the profitable cargo and leaves the less profitable cargo to rot on Tasmania’s shores because of an irregular shipping service. 1 support the motion. I believe that Senator Wriedt has performed a duty to the Senate in raising this matter as one of urgency and he should be given the opportunity to reply before the time for the debate expires.
– I enter the debate at this late hour because I think there are some things to be said which have not yet been said. For mc, one of the fascinations of the debate so far has been that Senator Wriedt has raised this matter today as one of urgency. This subject has been before the public notice for some time. He referred to the omission of Tasmania from the Australiaoverseas container service as a matter of urgency. I am not an expert on shipping but I think that anyone who has looked at the report of the Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes would realise, as my colleague Senator Young said some time ago, that whether one comes within the overseas container service depends to a large degree on the throughput or the input of any port.
Listening to the debate this afternoon 1 have gained the impression that Tasmania might have some hope of getting within the container service if it would only make up its mind on which port it wishes to use. For the life of me I cannot see how a State which, if my mathematics serve me correctly, is not as big as my own diocese in Western Australia expects to have four pons when the State from which 1 come and which covers some 1 million square miles has one container port plus the enormous bulk cargoes out of the Pilbara. One would imagine that the first operation in which Tasmanians should indulge would be to get together and decide which should be the container port. Then having decided between the merits of Hobart, Launceston, Burnie, Devonport and so on and come to a conclusion on which should be the correct port to use as a container port, and being able to establish that there is sufficient output and input at that port, they might be able to get somewhere. But to come to the Senate this afternoon and this evening and merely say, ‘Tasmania is being badly treated’ when they are not prepared to put their own house in order is somewhat beyond belief.
– Why not take up that point with the Premier of Tasmania who is of the same political Party as you are?
– There is no need for me to do that because I do not come from Tasmania.
– Thank goodness for that.
– I make no apology for it. Tasmania had a Labor government for an awfully long time before containerisation was introduced. Mr Bethune has been the Premier for less than 12 months and has not yet had time to put the State on a sound economic basis after some 30 years of Labor neglect. So perhaps with the luck of a good Liberal Government Tasmania will get somewhere instead of being one of the backward dependent mendicant States of Australia. That is what happened in my own State. After some 10 years with a good Liberal Premier we ceased to be a mendicant State and broke our association with the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I have great hopes that within a few years
Mr Bethune will do the same service for Tasmania. The honourable senator should be very grateful that for the first time in some 34 years Tasmania has a real government and a real Premier. Good luck to Mr Bethune.
– He is there only on a minority vote.
– This is the old, old argument. If the Labor Party cannot win an election it claims that the election is crooked and the electorate has been gerrymandered.
– I did not say that. I said that he was there on a minority vote.
– We are all here on a minority vote. It is pretty hard to take, is it not?
– On a minority vote, yes.
– After all, Labor loved the system for 34 years and was prepared to take office under the system. Why complain now when another Party can get a majority of seats under an electoral system that Labor loved for 34 years? It is beyond my comprehension. Let us talk about containers because someone should do so.
– Lyons is a good Liberal.
– Let me not enter into the domestic politics of Tasmania except to say, as I said before, that now that Tasmania has a good Liberal Government there is some hope for it.
– We have not got a Liberal Government. It is a coalition.
– Perhaps now that Tasmania has a government with some courage which is not .prepared to pander to parochial interests, at last it may get a container port. If anyone did a service to the Senate this afternoon it was my distinguished colleague and friend from Tasmania, Senator Rae. Even though he had short notice of the subject which was to come before the Senate this afternoon it was obvious that he has had a continuing interest in this matter for some time. It was obvious also that he had done a considerable amount of research to seek out information on it. One of the things which seemed to come to light was that Tasmania, being dependent as it is on sea transport, has been bedevilled by industrial stoppages. They have not helped to solve its sea transport problems.
I was most interested in the comments of Senator Gair this afternoon. He pointed out quite clear/y the dangers which arise from industrial stoppages in ports and how eventually they lead to the decay and destruction of ports. I was interested to hear Senator Gair instance what had happened in the port of Bowen in Queensland where, as a result of irresponsible industrial relations, the capacity of the port to have any say in the transport system of Queensland was eventually destroyed. This is one of the things which Opposition senators do not seem to appreciate. It has been rather interesting for me to sit here for the past several weeks listening to honourable senators opposite talk about the deplorable plight of the rural industries and give forth with all sorts of solutions, but when it comes to the containerisation of cargoes, which is a method of helping to reduce the costs of primary producers in selling on the export market, they seem to want the Australian Government, and shipping lines in particular, to indulge in uneconomic enterprises, allegedly to assist the primary producer who is trying desperately to keep his costs down. One would imagine that if Opposition senators were genuine in their assertions that they desire to help the primary producer to cut his costs and make his farming operations more profitable, the first avenue they would be looking to would be to help the primary producer to market his products by means of the cheapest possible transport. In spite of all the things which are said about the plight of rural industries, one of their greatest problems is selling their products on an overseas market and meeting the high cost of transport that is involved. It is for this reason that I welcome the introduction of containerisation with the enormous amount of bulk handling of cargoes because this in my opinion is one of the things which will do more to help the primary producer to cut his costs and to put his products on the world market at a reasonable cost.
To say that this area has been neglected is, I think, more than unfair. It is certainly more than unfair to the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. If I recall correctly, I think that its report was unanimous. The Committee was composed of 4 senators from this side, 3 from the Australian Labor Party and Senator Gair representing the Australian Democratic Labor Party. As Senator Gair quite rightly pointed out, a member of that Committee was Senator Lillico from Tasmania. Senator Lillico missed no opportunity to put the view of the Tasmanian electorate before that Committee. I think the report shows that he did his utmost to protect the interests of the Tasmanian people.
At page 16 of the report ‘feeder’ services are dealt with in fairly large detail. The report speaks of the roll-on roll-off ships which were then under construction lor the Australian National Line. In paragraph 214 on page 48 particular reference is made to the problems facing Tasmania. Indeed, in the conclusions and recommendations which commence on page 75, paragraph 299 recognises that:
A very real problem exists in connection with Tasmanian cargoes, and the fruit export crop in particular.
The Senate Select Committee dealt with this matter in some detail at paragraph 107 to 109 of its report. As this report was brought up and ordered to be printed on 1 hh June 1968, I think that the Opposition is rather jumping the gun, when, less than 2 years after that, it claims as a matter of urgency that the things it alleges in the discussion of this matter of public importance have come about.
I come back to my original proposition. Until Tasmanians themselves are prepared to put their own house in order they cannot attack either the Australian Government or the shipping companies for not providing sufficient services. We have had no indication from the Opposition of what it would do to force the shipping companies to provide one or more container services to the island of Tasmania. One would have thought that some positive propositions would have been put forward. But, with respect, all we have heard so far is a series of complaints and, with respect again, complaints are not sufficient. One would imagine that within a debate such as this one would have positive propositions put forward to solve what are alleged to be particular problems facing Tasmania, lt is for this reason that I could support at no stage the motion as moved by Senator Wriedt.
As lo inadequate shipping space and irregularity of schedules, one wonders how much the irregularity of schedules can be sheeted home to the industrial strife which lakes place on the wharves in Tasmania. Again, this is a matter which is within the domestic area of the senators sitting opposite to attempt to solve. One wonders what positive steps they have taken really to solve the industrial problems on the Tasmanian waterfront and to encourage shipowners to provide regular and profitable services. After all, Ihe people who pay for the industrial strikes are not the shipowners. They are either the shippers of cargoes or the consumer of the product. This appears to have been overlooked by those who are so keen to cause industrial strife on the wharves. lt is the primary producer who, in the first instance, pays through the nose for industrial trouble on the wharves, because either he cannot get a price for his product because it has not been shipped or. when it is shipped, he pays an excessive price for freight because of that industrial trouble which has been caused by certain militant unions. It is no good for the Opposition to come here and complain about inadequate shipping space and irregularity of schedules when its members have taken no lead to bring about industrial peace and harmony on the waterfront.
– Tasmania has a very good record.
– If my memory serves me correctly - I stand corrected if I am wrong - I rather have the impression from my cursory reading of the Press that it is amazing how often this kind of industrial trouble arises on the Tasmanian waterfront the moment perishable cargoes such as the Tasmanian apple crop are ready lor export. This is the time-
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– in reply - Mr President, I have only a minute in which to exercise my right of reply. All I wish to say very quickly is that honourable senators on the Government side have given us a lethargic argument in this debate. This argument is similar to the whole of the attitude of. the Government towards containerisation. So I move:
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alistair McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave - I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Honourable senators will understand that when 1 use the first person singular personal pronoun it refers to the Prime Minister. The statement reads: I am pleased to announce that the Premier of Queensland and I have agreed on the details of establishing Commonwealth and State Royal Commissions to inquire into the risk of damage to the Great Barrier Reef from drilling for petroleum. The Royal Commissions have been established under the Commonwealth’s Royal Commissions Act 1902-1966 and the Queensland Commissions of Inquiry Acts 1950 to 1954. The
Commissioners and the terms of reference will be identical for each Royal Commission. The Commissioners are:
The terms of reference for the Royal Commissions are:
What would be the probable effects of such an oil or gas leak and of the subsequent remedial measures on -
The area of the Great Barrier Reef referred to in the above terms of reference includes the entire area from low water mark on the mainland of Queensland to the outer line of the Reef and includes also the area outside and adjacent to the outer line of reefs. These agreed terms of reference incorporate some improvements and changes of a drafting nature from the agreed terms announced on 29th January following the conference on that date between the Premier and myself. The Premier and I are pleased that three persons of such eminence have agreed to be the Commissioners.
Sir Gordon Wallace recently retired as President of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales. He had previously been a judge of the Supreme Court of that State. While at the Bar he held office as President of the New South Wales Bar Association (1957-58) and Vice-President of the Law Council of Australia (1957). Dr Smith is a Doctor of Science, a Fellow of the Royal Society, Director of the Plymouth Laboratory of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, Chairman of Trustees of the British Museum of Natural History, and Chairman of the Indian Ocean Biological Centre Consultative Committee. He has held teaching appointments at the universities of Manchester, Sheffield and Cambridge, and for some years was Professor of Zoology at the University of London. He has served on the Science Research Council of Great Britain and on the Council of committees of the Royal Society of London. As Director of the Plymouth Laboratory, he organised the research undertaken by the Plymouth staff on the effects of the ‘Torrey Canyon’ oil pollution on marine life. Mr Moroney is a consultant petroleum engineer with experience in problems of off-shore operations. He has had over 40 years’ experience with oil companies in engineering and managerial positions throughout North and South America. He graduated from the Georgetown University, and is a member of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers.
The inquiry would be an open one and the Royal Commissions have sufficient authority to collect any evidence required. All interested parties would appear before the Commissions and state their views and adduce evidence to support those views. The Commissions will make announcements on arrangements for the hearing of evidence. Counsel assisting the Royal Commissions will be Mr A. E. Woodward, O.B.E., Q.C., of the Victorian Bar and Mr
C.E.K. Hampson of the Queensland Bar. I move:
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Honourable senators will understand that when 1 use the first person singular personal pronoun it refers to the Prime Minister. The statement reads: For some years North Vietnamese regular forces, and other forces controlled by North Vietnam, have been withdrawing across the Cambodian border after battles in South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese have built, in Cambodia, base camps in which their forces could rest, refit, regroup, and be prepared for further military action against allied troops in South Vietnam. This military disadvantage was endured with great forbearance by United States and South Vietnamese forces - for even though the neutrality of Cambodia was being violated by the Communists, the allies continued to hope that the protests of the Cambodian Government might lead to a cessation of the North Vietnamese invasion. This was a vain hope and since the displacement of the Sihanouk Government by the Lon Nol Government in Cambodia, North Vietnamese and forces controlled by them have extended and expanded their invasion of Cambodia’s neutrality.
There has been a gradually increasing violation of Cambodian neutrality - a violation which was grossly wrong in itself - which was carried out by a nation which had signed the Geneva Agreement to respect Cambodia’s neutrality - and which increasingly gave a military advantage to the enemy and posed growing military danger to allied forces in South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese have extended westward from the bases they had been occupying. They have attacked, in Cambodia, administration centres, communications and populated areas in Eastern and South Eastern Cambodia. And along with this increasingly cynical and increasingly overt invasion, they have taken steps designed to create a zone in Cambodia, occupied by them, along virtually the entire length of the South Vietnamese border with Cambodia. As President Nixon pointed out, they have embarked on a programme to make Cambodia a vast enemy staging area, and a springboard for attacks on South Vietnam along 600 miles of frontier.
They have in fact begun a wider invasion, and embarked on a course which poses greater military dangers to allied forces. This new military threat, increased in gravity, has led to South Vietnamese and United States forces taking action to protect themselves by crossing the border into Cambodian territory occupied by the North Vietnamese. The decision, reached by the President of the United States, was taken on operational military grounds and was designed to protect the lives of allied servicement. Those who ‘ condemn this decision, as the Government does not, must either argue that there has not been an increased threat to allied forces as a result of North Vietnamese action - which is scarcely arguable - or must hold that it does not matter whether there has been an increased threat or not - that allied forces should be left in greater danger from the flank and should not try to prevent that danger. We do not accept this.
Our own Australian forces are not engaged in this operation and I see no prospect that they will be. But the effect of the operation could well be to make all allied forces in South Vietnam, including our own, more safe. Our own objective for Cambodia is known. We wish to see a neutral Cambodia - a country which is not used by anyone as a base or a battleground, a country which enjoys in truth that freedom from interference, that real neutrality which it was guaranteed under the Geneva Agreement. We will try by diplomatic means to bring this about - and to bring about a method of international inspection designed to ensure that respect for the neutrality of Cambodia is real - and is continuing.
But let me make this clear. We do seek a Cambodia whose neutrality is respected in fact and in truth. We do not seek a Cambodia which is called neutral but which is occupied in greater or lesser part by North Vietnam. For this would be a continuance of the pretence which has prevailed.. It would not mean that the neutrality of Cambodia was real. And it would mean that South Vietnam was endangered.
In the Government’s view this is the situation. The neutrality of Cambodia has been consistently and progressively violated by North Vietnam. The increasing tempo of the violation has posed an increasingly grave military threat to the lives of allied servicemen. It has also, by widening and escalating the war, threatened to prolong it, and to delay Vietnamisation.
The action taken by the United States and South Vietnam was action to protect the servicemen against attack by an enemy which was increasingly occupying a neutral nation. We understand the reason for their action and we find it odd that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) should, on behalf of his Party, viciously criticise it. It is worth noting that not one member of the Opposition, at any time, has criticised the violation of Cambodian neutrality during the last 5 years by the North Vietnamese. There have been no claims that these Communist actions were ‘fatefully widening the war’ or that their increasing invasion ought to be condemned. There were no fulminations against this violation of neutrality. These were Communist actions and immune to criticism from the Opposition. But now that counter action has occurred, our allies are criticised - they have widened the war, they have engaged in escalation - they are in the wrong.
Sir, such comments are support for the theory that Communist forces should be allowed to operate as and when they like; should be excused for invading and occupying neutral countries; and that it is wrong to take action to stop them. By giving that support they show a willingness, even a desire, to accept defeat or surrender of allied forces in South Vietnam.
I can understand - though strongly disagree with - those who wish to surrender in Vietnam, and abandon the South Vietnamese and let aggression succeed. But I cannot understand those who, while the struggle continues, are prepared to subject allied forces to grave military threat - to endanger soldiers’ lives in action. We reject this attitude. We will continue to work for a truly neutral Cambodia by all means we can. But we will not excuse our enemies end attack our allies in our joint endeavours to bring peace and self-government to South Vietnam.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is notice of motion No. 6 formal or informal?
Motion (by Senator Turnbull) agreed to: That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws with respect to tertiary education.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
River Murray Waters Bill 1970
Dartmouth Reservoir Agreement Bill 1970
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 will fulfil the Government’s undertaking to assist the Australian film industry. It provides for the establishment of an Australian Film Development Corporation which will administer a fund with an initial capital of $lm. The Corporation will make loans to film and television producers. It will be able to guarantee repayment of loans - including bank overdrafts - made to producers of Australian films. It will be able to join with producers of Australian films under arrangements which will entitle it to receive a share of the proceeds without being liable for debts which may be incurred. It may also, subject to ministerial approval, participate in the formation of a company for the distribution of Australian films.
The Corporation will seek to encourage the production and distribution of Australian films of high quality.I should perhaps say, Mr President, that when I refer to films of high quality, I do not confine my meaning to films of technical excellence or those with an artistic content which could win a festival award, but be commercially unsuccessful. The Corporation will seek to encourage the production of films which are box office successes and which have those excellences of productions, camera work, and technical presentation which justify the descriptionhigh quality’.
The fund is intended for investment in films. It is not intended as a giveaway project. It indicates our optimism that such investment will be successful in all ways, but it is not intended as a vehicle for underwriting the full cost of a film or films. Producers of films will still be expected to have a substantial equity in a film and to show faith in their artistic and commercial judgment, and I hope that distributors will also be prepared to invest, at their judgment, in such enterprises. We believe that after a period of time, properly-made investments will be returning profits to the Corporation and there will then be no need for the Government to replenish the fund each year. That is our objective, and the measure of the scheme’s success will be judged partly on this.
So we expect profits in money terms. But at least as importantly we expect profit in human values. A flourishing film industry in Australia will employ talented Australian writers, artists, directors, actors, musicians and technicians. Many of them have all too often had to leave this country to pursue their chosen careers. Their talents have added distinction to the productions of other countries. But I know many of them wish to return again home. We hope that they will be able to do so as a result of the action here suggested. Further, film and television distributed throughout the world is perhaps the most effective means by which the image of a country can be projected abroad the most effective means by which the ideas and way of life of a nation can become known throughout the world. We hope this Bill will help Australia in this way. lt is now apparent that Australian interest and support is beginning to be available for local productions and it is my Government’s hope that money provided by the Corporation will act as a catalyst to encourage private capital to invest in Australian productions. In other countries, considerable investment in film production is forthcoming from banking and other financial institutions. Let us hope and urge that this support - along with that support from distributors and exhibitors which 1 have mentioned - will bc forthcoming here.
The Corporation will consist of a chairman and four other members - each appointed for periods not exceeding 5 years, but eligible for reappointment. Members will be appointed from amongst persons of standing, and varied experience, but without pecuniary interests in the business of making, distributing, or exhibiting films, or in a corporation carrying on such a business. The Corporation will be required to report annually to the Minister with appropriate financial statements. The Minister will be required to lay the report and financial statements, together with the report of the Auditor-General, before each House of the Parliament. lt gives me great pleasure to introduce this Bill, lt expresses the Government’s belief that we should devote ourselves not only to building great new factories and smellers, not only to wresting produce and minerals from the earth of Australia, not only to material standards, but also to involvement in, and development of, the arts. The human values we will thereby nurture, the satisfaction we will offer to individual development, the improvement of the quality of life are essential for any nation if it is to merit the description great. I believe this Bill will help us to attain these aims, and 1 commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22 April (vide page 1014), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
When the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) introduced this Bill into the chamber on Tuesday, 2 1st April 1970, I secured the adjournment of the debate, but the Government endeavoured to bring the debate on again on Wednesday, 22nd April, some 26 hours after the introduction of the measure into this chamber. It has been customary that when a Bill is introduced into this chamber, the second reading debate is adjourned and the Bill lies on the table of the Senate for a week before the debate on it is resumed. As I said a few moments ago, it was the Government’s desire to continue with the debate on the Home Savings Grant Bill 26 hours after its introduction into this chamber. On Wednesday, 22nd April, when I sought to have the debate adjourned for a period of time, the Minister accused the Opposition of delaying the introduction of the legislation. The accusation made by the Minister on Wednesday, 22nd April, was just so much absolute humbug.
My reason for making that statement is that this legislation was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech when His Excellency opened the Parliament on 3rd March of this year. The Minister herself made a statement regarding the legislation on the same day. On 5th March the Government introduced the Home Savings Grant Bill in another place, and the Government had the right to bring this legislation forward for debate at any time. I do not blame the Minister for not bringing the legislation forward for debate; I blame the Government. After the Bill was introduced in the other place, the Government had the right to bring it forward for debate at any time, but we find that 7 weeks elapsed between the time when the Bill was introduced in another place and the time when it was introduced in the Senate. Yet the Minister desired to have the Bill debated 26 hours after its introduction into this chamber. That is the reason why I say it was so much humbug on the part of the Minister-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! The honourable senator should know that ‘humbug’ is not a parliamentary word and I suggest that he do not use it again.
– I bow to your wishes, Mr Deputy President, but the Government could have introduced the Bill into this chamber and we could have had ample time in which to debate it, without the Government endeavouring to rush it through the week before we rose for a week’s recess. I feel disturbed in my mind to think that the Minister would accuse the Opposition of delaying the introduction of this legislation, when the delay is entirely the fault of the Government. The Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives 9 weeks ago. It took that length of time before the debate on the merits and demerits of the Bill could be instituted here. It has some demerits as well as merits. I give credit to the Government for some of the benefits which will be implemented by the introduction of the Bill. The provision enabling a divorcee to become eligible for a grant and the provision increasing the price of a home in respect of which a grant is paid from $15,000 to $17,500 are very good features of the Bill. I will come to them at a later stage. In my opinion, some of the features of the Bill are included only because the Government is giving lip service to a promise it made prior to the last election. I refer to the provision giving credit unions the right to participate in this type of legislation.
We well recall that in October last year the Prime Minister, on his election tour, promised that the price of the home in respect of which a grant is paid would be. increased from $15,000 to $17,500. The Opposition welcomed that provision. We could have criticised it and said that the increase was not sufficient to cover the increases in the cost of land and in the cost of building throughout the Commonwealth over a period of time. I do not profess to be a great authority on the cost of land in other States, but at least I know a little about the increase in the cost of land in the State I represent. The land to which I shall refer is not the land in the more elite areas of Hobart. Senator Wright will realise that the blocks to which I shall refer do not include the Sandy Bay area. I refer more to the New Town and Glenorchy areas in which people in the middle income bracket would live. In 1967 these blocks of land were procurable for from $2,300 to $2,400. Now they cost from $4,500 to $5,000. I have known some to be as dear as $8,000 or $9,000, the higher prices being due to an increase in services. I was able to buy a block of land for what I considered at that time to be a reasonable figure. This was prior to 1967. I had to pay £1,200 for a block of land on which to build my house. Immediately I bought the block the estate agent used the argument that a member of Parliament intended to live in that area and up went the price of blocks by another £200.
– I thought that the prices would have gone down.
– No. They rose not because I was the person concerned but because a member of Parliament intended to live in the area. This was the argument that was used. I do not see why the price of land should rise because a member of Parliament intends to live in the area, but that was the argument that was used.
– You should have bought a few of the blocks round about.
– I should have. Unfortunately, 1 am only a working man. I did not have the money. I am not a capitalist. I think something should be done to control land prices and the interest rates charged on homes and land. We know perfectly well that a number of working class people are unable to find sufficient money to buy outright a block of land. Therefore, they have to put down a deposit and pay it off. This is one aspect of home building in which credit unions can be most helpful to their members. They can arrange finance for a person who desires to purchase a block of land but who does not have the full purchase price of the land. The credit unions can lend money to their members at a rate of interest which is not as high as that charged by the lending societies. This is a big factor so far as the home builders and young people are concerned. I have had some experience with the rates of interest charged to young people who do not have sufficient money to buy outright a home or a block of land. They pay only a deposit. The Government could have assisted many home builders by introducing provisions which would have enabled members of credit unions to obtain loans from those credit unions for the purchase of blocks of land on which to build homes later.
– Can you tell us what interest rate the credit unions charge on loans?
– r am no authority on
Ihe interest rates that credit unions charge, but my understanding is that their interest rale is cheaper than the normal interest rate charged by lending societies.
– The hire purchase societies.
– Senator Georges is more of an authority on the subject than I am. There is a difference between what the credit unions charge on a sliding scale of interest and what the lending societies charge on a flat rate. If the two amounts of interest are taken into consideration - the flat rate basis and what the credit unions charge as interest - 1 think we will find that the credit union rate compares more than favourably with the flat rate charged by lending societies. I am afraid I cannot give the honourable senator the actual figures. I think that is the broad picture. I rather expect that the figures will come out in the speeches as Ihe debate proceeds. Senator Georges will speak on this Bill and I know that he has some figures which he can give to the Senate. I think they will be particularly helpful to the Senate.
I think we should go back lo 1963 when the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, proposed to introduce legislation which would provide for the payment of homes savings grants to certain people. It will be recalled that when the Bill to give assistance to certain people by way of homes savings grants came before the Parliament, the credit unions were excluded. At that time the Opposition endeavoured to have the” credit unions included in the list of organisations recognised under the Act which was to be introduced. The Government’ opposed that suggestion most vigorously and, wilh the support of another Party in the Parliament at that time, it defeated the Opposition’s amendment. Now the Government has introduced a provision which will enable credit unions to become recognised organisations under the Act. I do not know why the Government has had a change of face on this occasion, but a change of face has occurred. Having regard to the provisions which have been included in this type of legislation, the Government’s attitude has been one of hypocrisy. The Government has been hypocritical because the provisions which it has laid down in this Act make it almost impossible for the credit unions to participate.
I would suggest quite seriously that very few credit unions throughout the Commonwealth would have the resources to meet all of the provisions of this Bill. It provides: prescribed housing loan’ means a housing loan of an amount of not less than Seven thousand dollars repayable over a period of not less than 12 years;
That means that at least 90% of the credit unions could nol qualify.
– What would stop them qualifying?
– A lot of things would prevent them from qualifying. I suggest that if the Government were genuine in its approach to this matter it would have had more regard to the amount of money which the credit unions can make available to their members. Had the Government done so, 1 suggest, it should have reduced that amount considerably. If the Government had set a figure of about S3, 000 instead of $7,000 a larger number of credit unions could have participated under this legislation.
– Where would the home buyers have gone to. get the extra $4,000 on the second mortgage at 10%?
– They do not have to do that. Senator Marriott has completely missed the point. 1 do not think he has even studied the Bill. I am not trying to take anything from the honourable senator but I do not think he has studied the Bill. He has thrown in an interjection on a matter with which he is not conversant, and I suggest that he just keep quiet.
– Have I put you off your track?
– Not in the least. I have been on the track, 1 think, a little longer than Senator Marriott and I would be a little more difficult to get off the track than he would be. I also wish to question the period of 12 years which is mentioned in that provision. The credit unions do not desire this period because it will be a penalty to them. If the Government is genuine in its desire to bring the credit unions in to assist the home builder - and it has always made a feature of this point - wherever it can it should do everything possible to assist the home builder and to assist the people who are buying their own homes. This Bill is a complete contradiction of what the Government has put forward as its policy over a period of years. These are some of the things that I intend to put to the Minister for her consideration at the Committee stage when it is possible for amendments to the various clauses to be moved. By accepting these amendments the Government could assist more people and assist the credit union movement in its desire to help people who wish to purchase homes. Clause 5 (4.)(a)(iii) states:
The total amount that was lent by the credit union to its members during that financial year by way of housing loans was not less than Fifty thousand dollars;
That is one of the requirements that the credit unions have to meet to qualify to lend money to their members. It simply means that for a credit union to make money available to its members it has to prove to the Government that it had lent $50,000 for housing during the previous year. It is almost impossible for the credit unions to comply with this requirement. As 1 said earlier probably only 10% - I think this would be the limit - of the credit unions will be able to comply with that provision and I am doubtful whether it would be as high as 10%. Why is it necessary for the Government to put such a provision in a Bill as will prevent the credit unions from assisting their members to participate in this scheme? I am afraid that I am at a loss to understand why the Government has introduced a Bill such as this and put such stringent provisions in it to prevent the credit unions from taking part.
I do not know whether the Government is aware that the credit unions are also limited by State legislation as to the amount of money which they can lend. This is done by legislation but quite often it is done by the State Registrar of Companies who lays down the limit which a credit union can lend to its members for housing. Where this provision exists in State legislation the credit unions cannot comply with the provisions which are laid down by the federal Act. This seems to me to be trying to play the credit unions with a 2-headed penny. One other provision with which I have had some experience and about which I am not happy - I have raised this point with the Minister - is referred to in paragraph (3) of the amendment which we have moved to this Bill that applicants should, where necessary, have the right on appeal to have land and dwelling house valued on appeal by a Government Valuer of the Commonwealth Taxation Office. As the Act stands at the moment if an inspector from that section of the Department of Housing which is responsible for the granting of money to the applicant says that the. value of a house is above the permissible amount which has been $15,000 and which in the future will be $17,500 there is no appeal against that decision.
I feel that generally speaking the inspectors are experienced men and do a very good job. I give them credit for this. But the point is that we should not allow one person to make an arbitrary decision that has to be made under the provisions of this legislation as it now stands. We believe, as we always have, that there should be a right of appeal. In respect of other types of legislation the Government has said on many occasions that there should be a right of appeal. If it is right and proper to have a right of appeal under one type of legislation, in my opinion it is just as right and proper to have a right of appeal under another piece of legislation.
I put that to the Minister quite forcefully. She will be quite conscious of the particular matter to which I am referring when I say that I brought it to her notice
In Hobart some weeks ago. There was a disputed case involving a chap who considered that he had not received a fair deal under this legislation. He was advised to take certain action, namely, to appeal against the decision of the inspector. Whether or not he has taken that action, I do not know. But the Minister knows the matter to which I am referring. I believe that the Government should have regard to a number of these matters that will come out in the course of the debate on this legislation.
I realise that what I am about to mention does not really come under the jurisdiction of this Government, but I believe that the Government should have a look at the possibility of introducing uniform building regulations that would apply throughout a State or throughout the Commonwealth. Some very interesting stories can be told about the regulations that operate in the various Slates and the various municipalities. One amusing episode that came to my notice concerned a chap who bought a block of land and wanted to build his home on it and also wanted to build a fowl run on it. He had his plans drawn up. He submitted them to the local council but they were rejected because the fowl run was too close to the house. That was all right.
This episode shows the stupidity of some of the regulations that are in existence. J relate this story only to highlight the stupidity of them. This chap then made applications to build a fowl run and received approval from the council. About 12 months afterwards he made application to build a home and was granted permission to build it. Simply because he did not make a joint application in respect of the home and the fowl run he was able to build the fowl run first and Ihe home afterwards. Situations such as that show how stupid regulations can be. I suggest to the Minister that if it is possible for the Government, somehow or other, to prevail upon the authorities that be in the various municipalities and States to introduce a uniform code of building regulations it will be of assistance.
The Government has introduced a Bill that will increase the amount of money available to people who can qualify under the provisions of this legislation. I suppose that it is the desire of the Government to increase the number of homes that will be built in any particular year. But i just happened to pick up a Press cutting from the Hobart “Mercury* of Thursday. 30th April. The article is headed: ‘Fall in Building of Homes’. Whilst I do not desire to read out all of it, I will read out this passage:
There was a marked fall in the number of new houses and flats on which work began in Tasmania for the quarter ended 31st December last year compared with the same period in 1968.
This was shown in figures released yesterday by the State office of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics.
Whilst it is the desire of the Government to make more money available so that we will have an increase in the number of homes being built, it is rather disturbing lo read in the Press that the number of homes and flats on which work is beginning is falling. I confine this comment to Tasmania because I do not know the number of homes being constructed in the other States. 1 have not made it my business to try to find out the figures. No doubt I could find out the position if I obtained the relevant statistics. I sincerely hope that the Minister will have regard lo some of the suggestions 1 have made. In particular I ask that she give consideration - very favourable consideration - to making it much easier for credit unions lo channel more of their money iwto this field than is being channelled into it at the present time and will be channelled into it under this Bill.
– I rise to support the Bill and to oppose the amendment moved by Senator Poke on behalf of the Opposition. I oppose the amendment because it is my belief that if it were passed there would be still further delay in providing the undoubted benefits that are contained in this Bill. In answer to Senator Poke’s accusation that the Government has delayed the passage of this Bill, I suggest that it is rather obvious that the tactics of the Opposition in the other House were the delaying factor. It seems to me that members of the’ Opposition have been playing merry hell’ there for a long time and that it was high time this Bill came before this chamber. I ‘am glad that its passage is being expedited here.
– The’ ‘ Government played merry hell for 5 months before we came back here. “’ 1
– The Bill was ready to bc presented very early in the piece. I commend the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) on the fact that it was ready for presentation so soon after the Governor-General’s Speech in which it was mooted.
In the few moments remaining to me this evening I wish to say something about the credit unions, particularly in regard to some of the remarks made by Senator Poke. He said that he thought the credit unions lent at a lower rate than the lending societies. I think that was the term he used. I think he probably meant the finance companies because obviously they lend at a higher rate. They are hire purchase companies and their rate of interest is exorbitant. The Government, by its many efforts over the last few years, has endeavoured to eliminate the need for home buyers to go to finance companies for money. I am quite sure that I am right in saying that the credit unions lend at a higher rate of interest than do the building societies.
– Not on a flat rate.
– But the building societies do not lend on a flat rate. They lend mostly at rates in a vicinity of 61% to 7i% - not a flat rate but on a reducing rate. It is the finance companies that lend on a flat rate. The credit unions do not lend at rates as favourable as those of the building societies.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally pat the question:
That the Senate do now ad’journ.
– I rise tonight to speak about law and order and the double standards that seem to apply in the high councils of this country. I make this plea on behalf of the Australian Translators’ Association Ltd, a fairly laudable organisation. The editor of its bulletin is Captain Rudi Dezelin who has done much in the immigration field in New South Wales. The organisation, through its own initiative, embarked upon a radio programme on station 2WL Wollongong. After the programme had been broadcast for several weeks and was proving very successful, it was suddenly cancelled. As the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) is aware, 10 days ago I. asked her a question about this programme because I felt it was something the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should investigate. My motives were varied. In the first instance it appeared that some of the ultra-neo-Fascist Croatian groups which are Ante Pavelic sympathisers objected to some of the music played. I stress that it was not a question of divergent national anthems. It was just some of their rather extreme attitudes and ultra-nationalistic viewpoints. But be that as it may. T do not object if they did not like the music. The basic point is that because some small insignificant pressure group objected the radio station capitulated. When the manager of the station was asked why the programme was cancelled he said: Well, we are not going to take any risks. I have been threatened with a bomb at my home’. Plenty of people are threatened in their lifetime, politically and otherwise. The only answer is to ignore the threat and continue on. On 99.5% of the occasions when threats are made they are never followed up.
But I want to paint a much wider picture. I notice Senator Greenwood is present. I think he would appreciate this analogy. I wonder what would have happened if the South Coast ironworkers or the South Coast branch of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia had put similar pressure on station 2WL? First of all, it would not have been 10 days before I obtained a reply from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme); also, I might have obtained some action from the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). Strange as it may seem, there were some other earlier incidents involving these ultrarightwing Croats. Let me say this: I challenge anyone in this chamber or the Attorney-General to show where initial action or counter-action in the incidents I have referred to has been taken by the people in the centre or the people on the left. The action has always come from people on the far right.
Early in April I sent a telegram to the Attorney-General, the Hon. T. Hughes as a result of these incidents and I received a telegram in reply. 1 will not quote it. I will simply say the Minister was up north looking at the Barrier Reef on a ministerial matter. I do not object to that because I know it was probably agitation by Senator Keeffe and others that caused his visit. But the plain fact of the matter is that on 23rd April 1 received a lengthy letter from the Attorney-General. I might say that 1 asked him to receive a deputation from the responsible section of the Yugoslav community to pinpoint these cases. In the past I have quoted the infamous Lesic incident. I have referred to the fact that David Jones Ltd, Canberra, capitulated to these pressure groups and removed certain Slav exhibitions because these people threatened to smash their windows. Nothing happened in the way of the upholding of law and order - not a thing. The final incident is the one I have mentioned about station 2WL. I think the manager of the station is virtually a spineless individual to give in in that sort of thing. I say it again: He was completely spineless. If he lacked a little bit of guts it was up to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to tell him he had to continue to broadcast the programme.
I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by me seeing any particular group within the Yugoslav community.
He concludes with this sentence: l assure you that 1 am fully alive to the problem that is causing you concern and that I am kept informed.
I imagine Mr Barber., the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Commonwealth Police have all fed reports to Mr Hughes. There is another aspect to this. Somebody might say: ‘Well, this is just an internal Slav conflict.’ The first answer I. give is that I am sick of trying to apologise for the Australian system of government and law and order. Moderate Slav people, people who, incidentally, happen to have sons in Vietnam meeting military obligations, say: ‘Why do we have to cop this abuse and be called neo-leftists and all this sort of thing when the people to the far right go on with this?’
But I return to the point I am making. Is it just a question of inter-Slav dispute?
The plain fact of the matter is that amongst the honorary members of the Australian Translators’ Association Ltd are no lesser people than the Prime Minister’s wife, Mrs Gorton, and myself. I do not say that in a boastful manner. But I want to give the lie to the statement that this is some internal squabble. If I give my approval to the Association, as did Mrs Gorton, then 1 feel that if the Security Service thinks it is a far left group let it say so. On numerous occasions I have bowled Security out on its false evaluations. It is true they have admitted they have been wrong on naturalisation applications. But 1 am dealing with the wider field of law and order. I repeat there have been no answers given to the question why moderate sections of the Slav community have to tolerate this sort of thing and why Australians in high positions refuse to stand up to the situation. I make this very strong plea to the Minister for Housing who. in this chamber represents the Postmaster-General and to Senator Wright himself. I repeat this challenge and they can convey it to Mr Tom Hughes, the Attorney-General. Does he stand in his ivory tower on this decision or is he prepared to let me take a deputation to Sydney and repeat all I have said in chapter and verse?
There is a significant thing about this. We had another case when this infamous Lesic stood outside this Parliament House and made some fictitious complaint about the Government on social services Nobody criticised him. I do not necessarily underwrite every cause that comes forward but I am talking about double standards. 1 would like to see in the next few days, as would Captain Dezelin and the other office bearers of the Association, some action taken to direct this station not to give in to this particular pressure group and restore this radio programme. As a matter of fact, I would give this advice to Mr Hughes, to ASIO and to the Commonwealth Security Police. When the Lesic case occurred the Government was something like the football referee when there has been a bit of a punch-up. It did not warn the individuals concerned; it warned both teams, lt could do it again. It could send people to Wollongong tomorrow. If the Commonwealth Police were doing their job they could call in the leaders of these groups and say: ‘If you do not toe the line this is going to happen.’
Believe me, the Government has never been backward - and I am indicting Mr McMahon and Mr Snedden - in telling the trade union movement that it was on a collision course in an industrial dispute. Let us be consistent. These people should be called in and the facts should be spelt out loud and clear to them. When one talks about political intelligence, I could look at the columns of the ‘Canberra Times’ and give the names of people who espoused Pavelic. If I was in the Attorney-General’s place I would have this group fronting up to me tomorrow and I would say: ‘If you do not line up and follow the law you are in serious trouble.’ They would go to water. But the Minister never does this and he has never done it. In fact, when Lesic blew himself up he was put on a pension. He was on a pension until the Government found out he was obtaining additional money and then the pension was cut off. These are the people the Government panders to. The Government has an agreement with the particular country concerned and it talks about law and order, but let us deal with these neo-Fascists. I repeat that I hope that within a week Mr Hughes will take me up and he will let me lead a deputation to him. We will see who is telling the truth. I say that very definitely. This thing has gone on for too long and these people are allowed to get away wilh any sort of pressure at all at a time when the Government is persistently talking about trade unions and other groups issuing ultimatums to the Government. If the Government wants respect for the law it will have to deal with this running, festering sore.
There is another matter involving double standards. On 8th April I received an answer to question No. 138 dealing with the redress available to an individual if he feels he has been defamed by a broadcasting or television station. At the time in question Senator McClelland had a question on notice in similar terms and therefore the answer, in general terms, was. quite clear. My question was asked at the request of the Brisbane Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. It had a brush with a Queensland compere named O’Dwyer in Brisbane about something that was said about waterside workers. The Minister’s reply, in essence, was that the aggrieved person had to set in train some legal process to git access to a transcript. That was one side of the story.
On the Kurnell Peninsula - this is rather appropriate at this time of the Captain Cook bi-centenary celebrations - a small group has been formed which calls itself the Kurnell Community Progress Association. The Secretary of the Association is Mr Gulpers. The group has some excellent plans for conservation in the area. In his capacity as an ordinary citizen Mr Gulpers appeared on television station Channel 10 and indicated a number of people among whom were sand miners. Later he received letter from the Hooker-Rex organisation pointing out that he should appear again on Channel 10 and retract his statements or publish a retraction. That is a matter on a different plane. The point of my complaint is that the Minister told me on 8th April that an aggrieved person had to take legal action to get access to a transcript. I should like an inquiry to be made of Channel 10 to ascertain whether it gave a special dispensation to the Hooker-Rex organisation and granted it access to the television station’s records. It is obvious that such access would have been denied Mr Gulpers if he had been defamed, because he does not represent big business. I am not asking for an immediate judgment on this matter but I think it merits a reply from the Minister.
I have tried tonight to direct attention to what I feel is a double standard of behaviour. In the first case to which I referred - that relating to radio station 2WL Wollongong - I think it is time that the Attorney-General either saw me and the deputation or wrote me a letter to this effect: ‘We have stood up these people who are trying to intimidate other sections of the community’. In the other case relating to Mr Gulpers I have had advice from my leader, Senator Murphy, and as far as we are concerned the Hooker-Rex organisation can jump in the lake. Mr Gulpers will not be intimidated when he criticises the organisation for what is going on along the Kurnell Peninsula. In the State Parliament very soon one of our colleagues, the Hon. C. Healy, M.L.C:, ‘ will be taking up the question whether sand mining on the Kurnell Peninsula will create some convulsion in the ocean surrounding it. It is a sorry day when people can be intimidated.
I leave that parting shot with the Minister. I am sure she realises that there is nothing personal in my approach. This is a matter for the Postmaster-General and the Minister for Immigration whom she represents in this chamber. I am sure that she will come up with an answer on the questionsI have raised on the broadcasting aspect. I am sure also that Senator Wright who has listened so intently tonight will go into conference tomorrow morning with the Attorney-General.
[10.43] - I have listened with great attention to the points that the honourable senator has raised relating to matters which are the concern of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) whom I represent. I will place those points before them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 May 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700505_senate_27_s43/>.