27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) took the chair at 1.45 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that the Allied forces in Vietnam are prepared to spend about half a million dollars per capita for every Vietnamese man, woman and child they kill, will the Government give further consideration to its proposed payment of a paltry$ 15,000 for relief of victims of the Peruvian earthquake? How is it that we are prepared to spendless than 2c a head for relief of nearly one million refugees when we are prepared to spend half a million dollars a head to kill Vietnamese?
– The tragedy in Peru and the action taken by the Government in offering some relief, consistent with other countries and no doubt in some proportion, are matters that I consider to be completely unrelated to Australia’s participation in Vietnam. Asking this question may be a nice exercise in politics on one hand, but in my opinion it does not grace at all the situation in respect of the tragedy in Peru. In fact, I am rather disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition should so frame a question because the 2 matters are quite separate. I believe that everybody in Australia regrets profoundly the tragedy of what has happened in Peru. It is to be regretted that the Leader of the Opposition should try to link that to what, in this chamber at any rate, is a political question.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows along the lines of the one asked by Senator Murphy. I ask the Minister whether he is aware of widespread criticism of the grossly inadequate contribution of $15,000 by the Commonwealth Government for the relief of the tragic distress in earthquake-stricken Peru. Will he, on behalf of the people of Australia, make plans to fly volunteer doctors and nurses as well as medical supplies, blankets, clothing and children’s food into Peru? Is the Government thoroughly acquainted with the massive destruction that has taken place there and the call to humanity to assist the people there in their hour of need?
– The honourable Senator is suggesting that the magnitude of the tragedy that has happened in Peru would justify Australia’s participation in a wider way than we have indicated at the present time. The honourable senator suggests that the relief might take the form of an offer of medical assistance, medical supplies and so on. Having regard to the terms in which the honourable senator has posed his question, I thinkI should refer it to the Minister for External Affairs.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the Minister able toadvise me of the current position concerning the establishment of a DME - distance measuring equipment - beacon for aerial navigation purposes on the west coast of Tasmania?
-I do not have an accurate statement on what is being done or is proposed to be done about a DME beacon on the west coast of Tasmania. I think 1 had better request the Department of Civil Aviation to let me have information on the matter either today or tomorrow. I shall forward a letter to the honourable senator before the rising of the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
Bull)-I call Senator Mulvihill.
Honourable senators - Hear, hear!
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In view of the considerable delay in finalising the result of the Australian Capital Territory by-election due to the existing provisions of section 96 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, I ask: Has the Minister given consideration to fixing an earlier cut-off period for the lodgment of postal votes?
– Before referring to the honourable senator’s question. 1 thinkI should say how pleased we all are to see the honourable senator’s excellent form after his recent experiences. The honourable senator has asked a specific question. I think he will agree with me that I should direct it to the Minister for the Interior in order to obtain an appropriate answer.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Some time ago 1 asked the Minister whether the Government would give consideration to the preparation and presentation of a White Paper on the economic consequences to Australia of Britain’s probable, and probably imminent, entry into the European Economic Community, ls the Minister in a position to indicate whether the Government is so disposed? If it is. when will such a document be presented? ls it likely that it will be presented before the termination of this session or the commencement of the Budget session?
– I recall the honourable senator asking a qi.ies.ion in which he invited the Government to give some consideration to the preparation of a White Paper concerning the proposed entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. I am not in a position 10 give the honourable senator an answer in relation to the preparation of a White Paper. I am not quite certain whether a White Paper dealing not with the particular problems facing Australia as a result of such an entry but wilh the effects such an application might have as far as the United Kingdom Government is concerned is not something-
– 1 asked the Minister about the implications for Australia.
– My answer is just the same. But before one ascertains the implications to Australia one has to consider the hypothetical entry of the United Kingdom into the Community. I think it is highly unlikely, or improbable, that a White Paper could be produced in Australia until a deep study had been made of the United Kingdom’s position. The Government has not made any decision on the matter. I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister and when I obtain a reply I shall bring it into the Senate. But I should say it is most unlikely that I will be able to bring it into the Senate during this sitting. It all depends on the decision which the United Kingtom lakes.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will she request the Postmaster-General, on behalf of the postal clerks and telegraphists throughout Australia, to accept the principle of a 5-day working week, which has become accepted in so many industries and establishments throughout the nation, thereby doing something positive towards giving these employees justice? Will the Minister draw the Postmaster-General’s attention to the fact that the policy of treating them as second class employees by denying them the rights and justices to which they are entitled will result in further discontent and disruption in post offices throughout the Commonwealth?
– I shall place before the PostmasterGeneral 1 the points raised by the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it not a fact that the bushfire victims of Tasmania received more than S2m in relief from overseas? Does he not agree that this places in an extremely poor light Australia’s gift of $15,000 to the Peruvian victims?
– I am not aware of the contributions that were made or aid that came from overseas for the Tasmanian victims some time ago. I would not put under challenge the figures cited by the honourable senator because I do not know them. I can only add his representations to those made by Senator O’Byrne and undertake to refer the substance of the issue to the Minister for External Affairs.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that commerce and industry in Australia view with concern the Commonwealth’s action in reapplying turnover duty taxation on the sale of goods? Is he aware that many areas of business in Australia believe that not only turnover tax but also payroll tax are most inequitable forms of taxation? Is he aware that receipts duty taxation will apply to each and every firm or person irrespective of the ability of that firm or person to pay and that this type of taxation has an adverse multiplier effect on the whole of the economy? Does the Minister feel that the Commonwealth might reconsider the decision to support a continuation of the State tax when one recalls that the Commonwealth indicated not so long ago that there was sound reason to believe that income tax could be reduced by some $200m?
– The honourable senator reflects what might be regarded as an anticipated legislative programme in this place. To that extent I do not know that we need to go very far by way of a response at question time. There is no doubt in the world - everybody knows this, including the honourable senator - that the Commonwealth has undertaken to protect the States by way of legislation in relation to the collection of certain tax. To the extent that that is the receipts tax to which the honourable senator has referred, I think there is no doubt that the Commonwealth is entering into arrangements to meet the requirements of the States. We will have this legislation before the Senate before we rise and I would suggest that if the honourable senator has views that he wishes to express it might be appropriate for him to express them - with some regard to time - during the debate on that measure.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Government aware that problems associated with the rural crisis have caused many country storekeepers to notify farmers that they can no longer extend them credit and that future transactions will have to be upon an entirely cash basis? In view of the fact that this will occasion considerable inconvenience to people in rural areas and, in addition, will reduce the volume of buying, which obviously must have a snowballing effect on business in the main centres and also create unemployment throughout the community, will the Government give consideration to making credit available to country firms in order to tide them over for the period when we hope the crisis will be past?
– 1 think all of us are aware of the situation in country areas due, in many instances, to drought and dry seasons,, ‘Also, depressed wool prices and the introduction of wheat quotas have had their impact on rural dwellers. 1 have taken note of what the honourable senator has said in the remainder of h’s question. [ will take it up with the Minister for Primary Industry and obtain further information.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Under what circumstances and conditions does the Commonwealth Savings Bank make loans in excess of $8,000 available for home building and purchase? How many such loans have been made and over what period?
– Last week I gave an answer on behalf of the Treasurer in relation to this matter and said that there were certain circumstances in which loans in excess of $8,000 had been made. It is rather early to get the statistics on grants that have been made because this is only a recent decision. But I will seek the information and make it available to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of President Nixon’s announcement that 50,000 United States troops will be withdrawn from South Vietnam by 15th October can the Government now take this Parliament and the people of Australia into its confidence and tell us when Australian troops will be withdrawn from this futile and costly conflict?
– As I recall, the Prime Minister made a statement some time ago that a withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam would be made in the context of the overall situation, having regard to the decisions made by the United States. I would suggest that if the honourable senator wants a more particularised statement in relation to that it would be best to put the quest on on notice and I will obtain a considered reply for him.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to recent statements in the Press, especially in the last few days, concerning the introduction of synthetic meat to the Australian market? As the statement also mentions that $2,000m will be invested in synthetic meats in the United States in the near future will the Minister take steps to see that the subject of synthetic meat is put on the agenda for the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council so that a suitable policy on the subject as between the Commonwealth and the States can be formulated?
– I have seen reports of the matter mentioned by the honourable senator. I will most certainly take it up wilh the Minister for Primary Industry and see what he has to say about it.
Fill AND PHANTOM AIRCRAFT
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. In view of the uncertainty which has been shared by this Parliament and by members of the Minister’s own Service, the Royal Australian Air Force, about the question of whether we will get the Phantom aircraft and the final decision about the Fill, when does the Minister consider he can tell the Parliament the final decision in regard to this mailer?
– As I told the honourable senator last week, the evaluation team on this matter has returned from America and has made available to both the Minister for Defence and myself its completed report. Now, the Minister for Defence has to put this report before the Government. When that will happen I cannot say at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. By way of brief preface 1 refer to a question which 1 asked a short while ago relatng to the dumping of rubbish on the Nullarbor Plain from the Indian-Pacific Express. I ask: Has the Minister now any further information regarding the matter? If so, can he inform the Senate of it?
– Inquiries have been instituted but no details of the complaint referred to in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ of 3rd May can be established. Existing instructions to train crews concerning the disposal pf dry refuse provide that all such refuse shall be disposed of only at Port Pirie, Cook and Kalgoorlie, at which locations special receptacles are provided for this purpose. In addition, the throwing of any articles from moving trains is prohibited. The honourable senator will appreciate that it ;s not easy to control the disposal of rubbish from moving trains. But in view of the comments in the Press and of the honourable senator’s question, it has been arranged that instructions be issued to train crews to look for this kind of happening and to make recommendations, if they can, as to what might be done to overcome the problem.
– 1 direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the Government going to accept without protest the statement by VicePresident Ky that South Vietnamese troops will remain in action in Cambodia after the Americans withdraw? Is it not a fact that if this is permitted, the Australian withdrawal from Vietnam will be further delayed?
– The honourable senator asks a question regarding an alleged statement by Vice-President Ky that South Vietnamese troops will remain in Cambodia after the withdrawal of American troops. In the circumstances I think that the question should be placed on the notice paper. There is a consequential inference to bc drawn from his question, but 1 think that he should obtain an answer to the first part of his question before he starts to make judgments, as he did in the second part of his question.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, refers to allowances for widows with dependants who undertake full time studies. Can further action be considered to extend thi-se provisions to cater for students aged between 21 and 23 years?
– This question really refers to a matter of Government policy, but I appreciate the point which the honourable senator has raised, and if I can obtain some information for him I shall do it.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Army aware that because of the acute shortage of teachers in New South Wales some teachers in the employ of the New South Wales Department of Education who are members of the Citizen Military Forces are finding great difficulty in securing leave from the Department to enable them to do their 2 weeks annual training in camp with their CMF units? Indeed, is the Minister aware that even in cases where leave is granted the teachers are informed only at the last minute that they will be released for training purposes, thus causing them considerable difficulty in making their own personal arrangements? Will he take this matter up with the New South Wales Government to see whether the teachers concerned can be given reasonable notice as to whether or not leave will be granted to them to perform their CMF duties when their units go into camp?
– I am not aware of the situation to which the honourable senator refers. If the information that he has given is correct, then I am pleased that he has brought it to our attention. I will refer the matter to the Minister for the Army and ask him to investigate it and take it up with the authorities concerned.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware of the heavy erosion through inflation of the real value of child endowment payments? Can the Minister tell us how a mother depending on child endowment copes with the increase in costs through inflation and the fall in the real value of these payments? Will she make the strongest representations to the Minister for Social Services and to the Treasurer to obtain a restoration of the real values of child endowment in the next Budget?
– This, again, is a matter of government policy. I can assure the honourable senator that these matters are reviewed at Budget time, and I will place before the Minister for Social Services the point that he has raised.
– In addressing my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer I refer again to the proposed receipts tax or turnover tax. Is it a fact that, whilst Federal legislation as proposed will support the various States in their desire to maintain a receipts tax, where a sole trader, a company or a business operation of any type is registered in the Australian Capital Territory and has its turnover in the Australian Capital Territory no receipts tax will have to be paid?
– It would seem to me that the honourable senator is again bordering on the line of anticipating legislation in this place. For that reason I suggest that he put his question on notice.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Air. Notwithstanding the possibility of cancellation, is the Government satisfied that a firm final cost has now been established for the purchase of 24 F1I1C aircraft, spares, associated equipment and services? If so, what is the amount?
– I think that the Minister for Defence, in the statement he made following his visit to the United States, said that $US252m was the amount which had been authorised for this project, but at the same time he hinted that there could be further costs which have not been taken into consideration at this time. Therefore I cannot give the honourable senator a firm final cost.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen reports of statements made by a nuclear expert, Mr H. J. de Bruin, a former principal research scientist with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, to the effect that the Jervis Bay nuclear power station could not be justified on economic grounds?
Did he say that as a pilot plant for future nuclear development in Austral’ a the $130m installation at Jervis Bay would be utterly extravagant? As Mr de Bruin is only one of many persons whose voices have been raised against the economics, the possible danger of water pollution and other aspects of the proposed nuclear plant, will the Government delay acceptance of a lender until further expert investigation of all these contingencies has been carried out?
– lt is a matter of government policy to establish in Australia nuclear capacity for peaceful purposes. That decision has been taken. As to the suggestion of the honourable senator that because some professorial group has claimed that the project is not economic or may cause pollution in some form we should delay the matter, I would say that the Government would have had the advantage of all the expert knowledge, knowhow and technology available when it made its original decision. However, that is a matter of detail which would be more properly one for the Department of National Development. The Government’s decision for Australia to have nuclear capacity for peaceful purposes is a good decision, a sound decision and a decision consistent with the Government’s approach to the progress and development of this nation.
– My question to the Minister for Supply relates to the GAC100 aircraft. Since his announcement some months ago that parts of this aircraft were to be made in Australia has the Government received representations to the effect that the aircraft may be built jointly, Australia participating? If so, how current are these proposals? Is it possible that this matter is now under consideration by the Government or by his Department?
– It is true that Australia did enter into an agreement to supply the nacelles and part of the wing frame of an aircraft which was to be a 4-engine 36-passenger commercial aircraft known as the GAC100. This aircraft is in the design stage of study by the General Aircraft Corporation of the USA. Even though this aircraft was still in the design stage the condition governing Australia’s implementation of its contract was based upon the existence of a potential market. That market did not depend upon Australia’s requirements. A considerable delay has occurred because the company has not been able to satisfy that requirement.
More recently an alternative proposal has been put forward which suggests that Australia’s resources and finances should be used for the purpose of almost total manufacture of the aircraft in Australia. 1 am now in a position to say - I certainly was not when I spoke last week - that studies which have been made have come back to the basic problem again, and it is beyond doubt that there is not a significant requirement for that type of aircraft. Even at the design stage, which would be 3 or 4 years prior to the aircraft being put into the air, there would need to be a prime market for this aircraft in the United States, Europe or some other place for the proposal to be viable. Because that market has not been established, and having regard to the volume of likely sales, it has been decided not to proceed with this more recent proposition. If GAC entered into an arrangement with a substantial United States manufacturing company for the production of the aircraft we would naturally seek to re-negotiate the contract which we hold, under which wings and nacelles were to have been manufactured in Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities a question. Has any decision been made about a possible Government take-over of the Charles Kingsford-Smith exhibit in Kings Hall, or is any early decision likely to be made on that subject?
– The honourable senator refers to the exhibit of the historical record of Kingsford-Smith flights in association with Mr Ulm. I expect a decision to be made this week.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether she recalls the recent desperation which prompted nurses to demonstrate as a body to the Prime Minister here at
Parliament House? Can she confirm the announcement made over the radio that nurses in repatriation hospitals and in the Australian Capital Territory are to have their claims for improved terms and conditions of employment approved? If so, can the Minister say what are the actual improvements granted?
– I do know that members of the nursing profession saw the Prime Minister and also the Minister for Health. I cannot give the honourable senator details concerning the items which he has informed the Senate were announced over the radio. I will obtain what information I can from the Minister and I will give it to the honourable senator and the Senate.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development request that Minister to make a statement for presentation to Parliament on the plans which have been made, if any, to prevent pollution of the waters adjacent to the proposed nuclear plant at Jervis Bay? Will the Minister in this place request that the statement deal particularly with the depth of the water which will receive the waste water from the plant’s cooling system? Has consideration been given to finding ways of solving the problems which occurred at the Turkey Point power plant off Miami, Florida? Have reputable sources conducted an independent survey on this matter? If not, will the Government carry out such an independent survey before the tenders for the construction of the plant are finalised? Will interference with the marine ecology of the Jervis Bay waters be caused?
– If the honourable senator will put that question on the notice paper I will direct it to the Minister for National Development.
– I am asking whether a statement will be made.
– This is still a request that will need to be transmitted by me to the Minister. The honourable senator either can give the request to me in writing or put his question on the notice paper. I will ensure that the Minister receives it.
-I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether he is aware of regulation 37 of the Public Service Regulations, which reads:
No officer shall directly or indirectly solicit or accept gifts or presents from any member of the public concerned directly or indirectly with any matter concerned with the duties of the officer or in which the Commonwealth is interested.
Will he undertake to carry out investigations to see whether this regulation has been breached by the recent questionable issue of Comalco shares?
– I am generally aware of the substance of the regulation to which the honourable senator referred. It contains a primary condition for the maintenance of integrity with regard to the performance of public duties. As the honourable senator expressed his question, I have difficulty in seeing its application to the proposal for subscription to Comalco shares but I shall give the matter consideration and, if it is necessary to add further information, I shall take the opportunity of doing so at an early date.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- On Wed nesday last Senator Keeffe referred to questions he had raised relating to the possibility of the replies to questions on notice including the date of the question and the date of the reply. In the absence of the President, I have taken up this matter with the Leader of the Government in the Senate and a further reply will be made to Senator Keeffe as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the long service delays suffered by persons employed by the Commonwealth when having their claims for increased wages and salaries and better conditions of employment heard, will the Government consider establishing a second public service board to hear such claims and catch up with the huge backlog of claims now before the Public Service Board and not finalised?
– That matter would be within the responsibility of the
Prime Ministers Department, which has administrative control of the Public Service Board.I ask that the question be put on notice and I will obtain a reply.
(Question No. 30)
asked the Minister representingthe Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
What action has been taken by the Department of Trade and Industry onthe ninth finding of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in its 112th report relating to Commonwealth advertising.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The ninth finding of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in its 112th Report is stillunder study by the Department of Trade and Industry. The action taken by the Department as a result of its review will be notified to the Treasury for incorporation in a Treasury Minute to the Committee, and will be made public when the Minute is tabled by the Committee in both Houses of Parliament.
(Question No. 301)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 310)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is also a Branch Employment Office at Whyalla (South Australia). In addition to the above full-time offices the Commonwealth Employment Service at present operates part-time offices atKurri Kurri (New South Wales) and Collie (Western Australia) and several other part-time offices which are open only for particular periods of the year to cope with seasonal requirements. In all States, the Commonwealth Employment Service also has agencies in many country centres besides those in which Employment Offices are located.
(Question No. 314)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
How many copies of each issue of ‘Overseas Trading’ are produced, and what is the cost of production.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The print run for the May 1 edition of ‘Overseas Trading’ was 18,400. The number of copies varies slightly with each issue as amendments are made in the circulation list.
The cost of the May 1 issue was $2,275.86. This included the production of blocks for photographs. The average cost per issue of the last 6 issues was $2,041.05.
(Question No. 401)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Will the Minister instruct officers of the Fisheries Branch of the Department of Primary Industry to make a submission to the Royal Commission on the Great Barrier Reef, to assist in establishing the present and future economic value of the area and its present importance and likely future importance to the northern fishing industry.
Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
If the Royal Commission seeks information likely to assist the inquiry from the Fisheries Division of my Department: my officers have been instructed to provide whatever relevant data are available.
(Question No. 345)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
What is the current estimated cost of the introduction of colour television in Australia to (a) the Australian Broadcasting Commission; (b) commercial television stations; and (c) the Commonwealth Government, as distinct from the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 1 have indicated in reply to a number of questions recently that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be making a report to me on all the issues involved in the introduction of colour television. I indicated that the Board had sought by questionnaire the views of all facets of the television industry. When I receive the Hoard’s report, I will be making recommendations to the Government. The question of costs in regard to the respective services and the costs implications for the whole economy will be among the important, questions which the Board will examine in its report. Until such lime as I have received the report I am not in a position to furnish the information requested in the honourable member’s question.
(Question No. 346)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
What is the current cost of installing an additional radio channel for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in each of the capital cities.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I assume that the honourable senator has in mind the question of the provision of a third national broadcasting programme of the Australian Broadcasting Commission throughout the Commonwealth. This proposition has not to dale been costed for the reason that there are technical obstacles in the way of the institution of such a service. However, as the honourable senator will be aware I have announced an inquiry hy the Australian Broadcasting Control Board into frequency modulation broadcasting. The inquiry will have due regard to any shortcomings in the broadcasting services. Following this inquiry there may he some further information which I can supply to the honourable senator on the subject he has raised.
(Question No. 378)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer lo the honourable senator’s question:
Will the Postmaster-General give consideration to the installation of telephones, without rental charges, in all aged persons homes organisations? If these telephones were situated in group recreational areas it would mean that aged persons would not have to travel long distances to use public telephones.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
In accordance with the provisions of the Telephone Regulations, the Post Office is empowered to extend concession telephone rentals to certain persons such as age, invalid and widow pensioners under the Social Services Act and Service and TPI pensioners under the Repatriation Act. The concession comprises a one-third reduction in the basic rental for a telephone service.
Whilst the Department does not have the authority to provide telephone services without rental charges for orianisations conducting aged persons homes, a pensioner resident in such a home would be entitled to the one-third rental reduction in respect of a telephone service leased by him in his quarters.
(Question No. 389)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
Is there any truth in the report that the ABC is negotiating to dispose of its publication TV Times’ which has a circulation of about 250,000 copies a week to the Consolidated Press Group in Sydney.
Are some 40 people employed on the production of TV Times’, G3 of whom are journalists and 5 professional artists.
If the ABC disposes of its interest in this publication does that mean that the Commission will have no publication available to it for the promotion of its own programmes because TV Week’ which is owned and controlled by the Murdoch Group does not give publicity to the ABC.
Does the publication of ‘TV Times’ net to the Commission some $3,000 per week.
Will the Government ensure that this publication is nol disposed of to any outside commercial competitor.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The ABC is not negotiating to dispose of TV Times’ to Australian Consolidated Press Ltd. However, as ‘TV Times’ is produced under a long-standing agreement between the ABC and Australian Consolidated Press Ltd the future control of the magazine following the retirement of the present Managing Editor on 30th June next, is currently being discussed by the 2 organisations.
Forty-five ABC employees are engaged in the publication of ‘TV Times’ in all States, including 24 journalists and 4 artists.
I am informed that the magazine TV Week’ does give publicity to ABC television programmes, as well as commercial programmes.
No. TV Times’ is however currently operating on a profit-making basis.
The ABC is empowered to publish ‘TV Times’ under section 60 of the Broadcasting and Television Act. The future of the magazine is a matter for the ABC to determine.
The Post.master-General has now furnished me wilh the following information in reply:
I am aware that consideration is being given lo the introduction of television in South Africa but have seen no details about any efforts being made lo recruit Australian television personnel or the extent of interest by Australians in any such invitations. As to the remainder of the honourable senator’s question, he is aware that pursuant to section 114 of the Act the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has determined requirements for Australian content in television programmes. These are carefully policed by the Board. They have been responsible for an increase in Australian programmes on television and especially Australian drama. The requirements are regularly reviewed and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be making such a review shortly. I would nol agree with the honourable senator’s assertion regarding opportunities for Australian writers, artists, producers and technicians.
– J have an answer to a question without notice which was asked by Senator McClelland on 13th May. The question was in these terms:
My question is directed lo the Minister re presenting the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer lo the statement by the Minilster for Primary Industry yesterday that the rejection rate of Australian mutton exported lo the United Stales had amounted to about 1 million lb up to the middle of April and that Australian meat was not meeting the standards necessary for entry to the United Slates market. I ask: ls there a acute shortage of Commonwealth meat inspectors for the export market principally caused by low wages and poor working conditions and’ has this shortage thrown an extraordinary or, indeed, intolerable amount of work on to shoulders of existing meat inspectors? Will the Minister investigate this situation and see what steps can be taken as a matter of urgency to improve the salaries a’nd working conditions of Commonwealth meat inspectors in order to attract more people into the important work of Commonwealth meat inspection for the export market.
The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Department of Primary Industry has been unable to recruit sufficient meat inspectors, particularly in Victoria. Accordingly, meat inspectors recruited in other Stales have been temporarily transferred to Victoria, thus creating shortages in several States. The Department will continue ils efforts to recruit persons who have the necessary qualifications. lt must bc appreciated that the seasonal nature of the meat industry creates enormous problems throughout the Commonwealth for the Department in providing inspectors wherever and whenever meatworks’ managements decide to increase, or decrease throughput. The problem is further complicated because of the changes in procedures required by importing countries.
Officers of the Department of Primary Industry and of the Public Service Board are engaged on a comprehensive review of the meat inspection service and certain aspects of conditions of employment of meal inspectors. This review is nearing completion.
The Meat Inspectors Association has filed a pay claim with the Public Service Arbitrator. The claim is being examined bv the Public Service Board.
Debate resumed from 5 June (vide page 2119). on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) [2.27J - I wish briefly to conclude the speech I was making on this Bill when thu Senate adjourned on Friday. Honourable senators may recall that I had referred to some evidence given by Sir James Darling, former Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. I included (hat reference as part of the argument I was making on the importance of the film industry in giving Australia an opportunity to present herself to her neighbours, and more particularly to present herself to herself. I said that the essence of the Bill and the things related to it was to provide Australia with a situation in which she can not only present an adequate and comprehensive image of herself to her Asian neighbours but can also give an interpretation within the nation itself. I spoke in general terms.
Towards the close of my speech on Friday I referred to the necessity to say something specific. The only specific observation 1 want to make relates to the terms of the Bill before the Senate. It deals with the setting up of a corporation for a film industry. By the word ‘film’ we mean not only that shown in the cinema or the public audience type of film but also the film that is produced for and presented to the television audience, which represents people who live in smaller communities and who watch this kind of production in homes, clubs or some form of community association. It is important to observe that under the Bill public money will be set aside for this purpose.
We should draw a specific distinction between the cinema world on the one hand and the television world on the other. Having set out to define the distinction between the cinema world and the television world, it is almost a paradox to say that they are nevertheless twin branches of what may be described as the moving picture medium. They have in common the fact that they are a means of exhibiting, not only with sight but also with sound, a moving picture on a screen of a definite size and shape. The term ‘moving picture’, in the sense in which we know it, is rather inclined to be considered old fashioned. But it is important to observe that with the improvement of techniques and moving picture becomes a very potent force in conveying a message, whether it be in social terms, economic terms or national terms.
It is also important to note that these twin media are subject to laws of selection by those who watch them and also to laws relating to editing. It is also pertinent to say that these 2 branches of the medium will be able not only to exist side by side but also to serve different areas and to present the message either abroad or at home in different ways. For example, the cinema will never be able to match television in the continuous provision of programmes. The television programmes, whether they be live or prerecorded, can be of every conceivable kind and on every conceivable subject, and they are transmitted direct into people’s own homes. That means that any production made for television must have very strong overtones of social and community circumstances.
On the other hand, television will never be able to match, in terms of perfection, grandeur and display in both sight and sound, the films that are produced for the cinema audience. They are produced for an audience that is gathered together in a particular place in particular circumstances - we all know the cinema of today, with its luxury finishes and sophisticated appointments - for some kind of entertainment or to view something which is well finished and well produced and which has the advantages of splendour in terms of size, colour, sound and, more importantly, dramatic presentation. Although both media are far apart in many ways, they are both involved in the very important area of communication.
In summary, looking at the Bill which is before the Senate today, I wish to say that the encouragement of a local film industry, regardless of whether it contributes to the cinema or television or both, is of considerable importance to Australia, both internally and externally. This Bill reflects the growing and substantial opinion that Australia must project itself overseas. A local film industry is one of the best ways of doing this. I believe that it is one of the most effective ways. Indeed, I am led to believe from my studies that it is one of the cheapest ways of projecting ourselves overseas. In the earlier part of my speech 1 referred several times to our Asian neighbours. As their film and television industries develop there will be a splendid opportunity for us to present the Australian image to very large audiences. It seems to me that from a sociological, national and community aspect a local film industry could supplant a great deal of the imported material which is used in Australia. Perhaps 1 should not use the word ‘supplant’. Perhaps I should say that a greater quantity of Australian material could be used in cooperation with and complementary to imported material in terms of economic and artistic value. A film industry in Australia, together with the use of certain imported material, could reflect Australian attitudes and life. It could also encourage correct disciplines within Australian life and achieve a greater relevancy for Australian people.
As I said at the outset of my speech on Friday, although the Australian film-making industry may not be as important to our total growth as are some other areas of activity that we have been discussing during this session, I am sure that the consummation of this Bill and all that it stands for will not only give our quality of life a greater dimension but also will contribute to our intellectual development and give status and depth to our relations within Australia and overseas. I support the measure.
– lt is very reassuring to me, having sat through the debate in this chamber, to notice the interest which has been shown in the Bill by so many sections of the Senate. As I did not have the privilege of introducing the Bill in this chamber, I wish to offer a few contributions on my own account. 1 also have the responsibility of replying to the debate on the Bill on behalf of the Government. The Parliament is experiencing a rather special occasion, it is giving recognition to an industry in a manner which is unique. In supporting this measure the Parliament is recognising that a film industry in Australia is a potential means by which not only to promote our art and trade but also to reflect the image of Australia throughout the world.
– ls the Minister suggesting that previous parliaments have not done so?
– The honourable senator, who is most vigilant in regard lo many aspects of our public responsibility, provides by. his interjection an opportunity for me, as I had intended, to make reference - I hope not too tediously - to so much of the history of this matter as is within my knowledge, lt begins before the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, which is known as the Vincent Committee, lt begins with the report of the Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia which was presented on 26th April 1928. That royal commission was constituted by several members of this Parliament, lt indicated in its report that so far from Australia then relinquishing the idea that the film industry was a very prospectful area of development, it recognised that it was under attack from very many quarters in a very special degree. If honourable senators will permit me to do so 1 shall make a few references to this royal commission because 1 hope that ils report will now be studied as a beginning. 1 remind honourable senators that the report was presented in 1928. The Commission said in paragraph 80: ll is generally admitted that Australia, with its excellent and varied climatic conditions, its extended range of scenic beauty and its geographical situation is especially suited for the production of outdoor motion pictures.
To confine my references to the mere minimum I refer to paragraph 159 which states:
Your Commissioners are of the opinion that most of these companies arc virtually distributing branches of American concerns. lt points out that although good business has been done, no profit was shown under the turnover figure until the turnover figure reached a substantial amount and, even where a profit appeared, it was not a very large one. It referred to the fact that between 50% and 65% of the takings from cinemas in Australia were being transmitted to America, lt referred also lo the need for protection of the industry. But before referring to that, because of the emphasis placed by Senator Webster I refer to paragraph 185 and following where it is pointed out that the amount of duty collected was £134,310 for the year. The report went on to develop ‘.he idea that the customs duty might be devoted to the encouragement of the industry. All of that, I think, is a pregnant reminder to us that we can generate an enthusiasm for an occasion which often runs out into inaction, because 1928 is a long way from 1970. In the meantime we have been indebted greatly to the Vincent Commit leo for the examination that it made of the prospects of the film industry, particularly as it affected television. Tribute has already been paid to the Chairman of that Committee. I offer a tribute in very warm terms to the zeal and energy that the late Senator Vincent brought to the guidance of this Committee and to the report i hal the Senators who composed the Committee presented to this chamber in !963. In the report we set out:
The only way in which Australia can produce television programmes which can compete in price wilh their overseas counterpart* is for thi film industry to embark upon a programme of production for overseas export, so as lo spread the cost of production over an ever widening field. In no other way can prices to the television exhibitor be reduced.
Secondly, it states:
If Australia is lo export television programmes it is probable that the most acceptable reporting medium will be upon photographic film.
Then we referred to the voracious appetite of the industry which is getting larger in
North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. I am glad to notice that Senator Davidson has brought to our attention the arresting remarks that were made to that Committee by Dr Darling, who told us of the difficulty of communicating by language and the facility that Australia has for communicating with our South East Asian neighbours by means of film. From the point of view of everything that conduces to make us desire a proper understanding with Asia that was, in the opinion of the Committee, a very compelling circumstance that should make us look to the potential of film. Then we emphasised the need to substantially increase the Australian content of television dramatic programmes and to lessen the dependence of Australia upon foreign films.
The historical fact was recorded that after a somewhat promising beginning for this industry American interests took over in Australia and, as the Committee reported in paragraph 100, with the advent of sound and the take-over of Australian cinemas by American interests the industry virtually collapsed. The Committee put forward views adverting to those cost factors that Senator Webster referred to in the course of his speech whereby the actual cost of production on American film can be recovered before it leaves America and so it is sold at hugely discounted rates when it is offered to Australia and there provides a very disadvantageous competition with any Australian production. The Committee went on to consider quotas and loan schemes and adverted to the insufficiency of capital. In paragraph 110 it recommended a loan scheme of subsidy and noted the British experience to which I shall refer more fully. T want it put on record with complete candour that at that time I recorded an individual view that all the finance to assist the industry should come out of the industry. I am glad to be here with the opportunity to express the Government’s policy whereby a revolving fund of $lm is, under this Bill, being established to finance the production of Australian film. In that respect that is a proposal of the Government and of no one single member of the Government. In this context the Senate will permit me, I am sure, having recalled the contributions of Senator Vincent in this regard, to express the pleasure that his Committee’s objective although long delayed is now moving into achievement, just as in the next Bill Senator Laught’s efforts on the metric system are moving into acceptance, which just shows that it is not impetuosity all the time that is needed for a sustained legislative programme.
– One has to have patience.
– Often I become exasperated, as I know Senator McClelland does with his enthusiasm, but I just remind him of that fact. It is interesting to note that although the mills grind slowly, they do grind. Another source of information, for which I am greatly indebted, is the report of Lord Willis which was presented to a committee of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. It set out his views as to the potential of film development in Australia. He divided his report into 3 parts. The first deals with professional training for film and television production. That reference enables me to reply to Senator Webster’s query regarding the result of the Government’s announcement of the provision of assistance for the establishment of a training school. The interim council of that school met on 28th November 1969. It is carrying out an investigation with a view to reporting on the form and the most advantageous location of the school, lt has been agreed that a number of important activities be undertaken for this purpose, the first of which is to begin the process of detailed consultation with Australia’s tertiary institutions; the second is to consult with potential employers of students at the school; and the third is to make a study of similar institutions in other countries, and with the approval of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) members of the interim council have gone abroad to make that detailed study.
Lord Willis, after referring to professional training, referred in parts 2 and 3 to the development of television production, and in part 3 to the development of film production. I should like to make a brief reference to his report because he was good enough to take the opportunity to have an interview with me while he was in Australia. I thought that he showed a most practicable and opportune outlook and understanding of the Australian scene. I believe that we are, in no ordinary degree, indebted to him for his analysis of the Australian scene. J bypass his reference to training. Then he referred to the history of the development of the film industry and he said that Australia was experiencing the constant export of creative talent. He also said that this was a sad feature of the Australian scene.
He referred lo the need to develop our indigenous culture and create the conditions in which artists, by staying in their own land, could both extend their talents and enrich their country. He said that the role of television on the screen is to help to enlarge the sense of national identity and purpose, he said that it can draw Australia’s newcomers into a quicker understanding of their new homeland, its language, traditions, customs, wildlife and opportunities; and it can bridge the vast distances between the Stales bringing to the city dweller and the isolated homesteader alike an up to date picture of their country, its place in the world, its progress and its problems. That is a very good quotation in the atmosphere in which the term ‘centralism’ has been the only method of expressing these ideas in the last few days.
Lord Willis said that television can bring to all the essential relaxation that they need through the medium of the best entertainment of all kinds, lt can be a truly new national playhouse and it can provide the national anvil on which new ideas may be hammered out, drawing the ordinary citizen into a closer understanding of the process of decision making, narrowing the gap between people and the executive, and acting as a stimulant to democracy. It can help to give form, substance, hope and pride to the emergent Australian culture. That is language which, in my book, deserves quotation.
The author went on to tell us of the basic organisation of this industry as it was in Australia. He pointed out that in 1957 the number of receiving television licences was 74,000. At June 1968 the number of viewing licences and combined radio-viewing licences had jumped to almost 2.5 million out of a total population of 12 million. He said that the development of television in this country by any standards was a magnificent achievement. He went on then to refer to programmes appropriate for television and emphasised the extreme uniqueness of local subjects for programmes. Then he referred to overseas programmes and the cost factor, and mentioned the increasing cost of the cinema film at the present time. He quoted one Australian writer - I am sure this will appeal to Senator Webster - as saying:
In the important areas television in Australia is simply a branch office of American and British television just as the film industry here is an overseas department of Hollywood.
If we have a proper appreciation of all the aspects that make Australia capable of becoming a really national identity, one of the things to do is to lessen our country’s dependence upon the somewhat deteriorated presentation of overseas idiom and the saturation thereby of the Australian mind.
– Will you speak to that point in your address?
– I am confining myself to the utmost brevity and I shall make only such references as 1 think are appropriate to pui pegs in for interest.
– I should love you to speak to the particular point you have raised because it is the very cote of this matter.
– The honourable senator cannot incite me to speak to it because, as Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities, I have taken an interest in the potency of this as an instrument to transmit our image in the places from which visitors can be encouraged to come to this country so that Australian films will show a picture of purpose, quality and opportunity and make this an exciting destination for people beyond our shores to visit. Having referred lo our local television scene and our tourist potential and challenge one of the first considerations is how to enable interests here economically to produce film which can displace the huge importation of what, I say in inoffensive terms, is in a large measure of undesirable quality and then to produce films which can transmit our image abroad.
– Do you believe that some economic assistance can do that without some prohibition of restriction of overseas film. Surely you should mention that.
– Again I exhibit my extreme patience in these detailed matters because 1 paused after the last interjection from my worthy colleague only to say that one of the first considerations in the assistance of this industry would be the need to protect it either by the imposition of a quota as is done with commercials or by a tariff. I am sure it will bc of interest to the Senate to note that the terms in which the functions of this Corporation are expressed will enable it to make such reports and take such procedures as would invoke protection after an assessment has been made of some aspect of the industry and the need to obtain protection by way of tariff. It might be of interest to note that in Britain the cinemas must meet quotas for showing British films. A levy is imposed on the exhibitors. The British film corporation took its place by statutory enactment in 1949. Members of the corporation are appointed by the Board of Trade and its funds are limited by statute to £8m. The main objective of the corporation there was, during the 5 years beginning with the passing of the Act, to finance the production or distribution of cinematograph films by persons who in the judgment of the corporation, whilst having reasonable expectation of being able to arrange for the production or distribution of such films on a commercially successful basis, are not for the time being in a position otherwise to obtain adequate financial facilities for the purpose on reasonable terms from an appropriate source.
– ls that just the provision of financial assistance?
– I think only by way of loans. I want to bring to the Senate a summarised review of the experience of the corporation in Great Britain. It has put on record an accumulated deficit to 31st March 1969 of £5,158,564. I think it is fair to state that that deficit originated in the early years of the corporation’s experience, and in the main it is accounted for by one huge disadvantageous transaction. The deficit for 1968-69 was £149,239. Since the corporation was established 20 years ago it has financed over 700 feature films and several hundreds lesser productions. It has also approved loans totalling £28m. Due to limited financial resources the corporation financed only 11 films in 1968-69, and I believe its continuation is to be decided this year.
During the 20 years of the existence of the British corporation, annual cinema admissions have declined from 1,500 million to 250 million. This corporation has had to operate during the transition period from cinema to television and in post-war circumstances. I do not quote this financial experience as being in any way parallel to the possible experience of Australia’s Corporation but t thought it was relevant to refer to it. I see for our Corporation a real role in actively developing international tourism. I am greatly encouraged, by what has fallen from many of the speakers in the Senate, to think that a proper Australian film industry of quality could project a more worthwhile image abroad than would reliance upon foreign films which are all too difficult to understand.
It is well known that the Australian Council for the Arts has been active in advocating the method of establishing the industry. I think that, in general, the viewpoint of the Council for the Arts largely coincided or agreed with Lord Willis’s 3- pronged approach. One of the Council’s final propositions was the development of an Australian film and television development corporation. As I heard Senator McClelland’s speech 1 thought he did less than justice in referring to the degree to which the Government had accepted the Council’s general concept on this matter and, indeed, the interim report by the film committee of the Australian Council for the Arts. The Committee has gone on record as being extremely appreciative of tlx assistance given to the industry, the training schools, and the announcement of Government policy in this measure. The Council for the Arts said that it considered that a corporation might be set up with an initial capital provision of Sim. The criticism of the inadequacy of the initial financial provision was not very appropriate.
Another matter that was raised was that a particular provision in the Bill excluded from membership of the Corporation those who had an actual interest in the industry at present and that that provision was contrary to the Arts Council’s recommendation. In fact, the recommendation in the interim report was that the Government establish an Australian film and television development corporation consisting of 5 or 6 members of standing and varied experience but excluding persons with pecuniary interests in commercial film and television production.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I remind you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that I am not replying. I am making my original speech as well as replying. I beg to differ with you, Sir.
– This is quite an innovation.
– Exactly. That is because the Bill passed to my responsibility after its introduction. I am fulfilling a dual purpose. Therefore, I do not confine myself to replying. I am making the eighth speech on the Bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! In the light of that explanation, I call on the Minister to continue.
– I will not intrude myself many more minutes on the Senate. I was saying that the Arts Council Committee advocated the exclusion from the Corporation of persons with a pecuniary interest in commercial film and television production. The purpose of that exclusion is to ensure the establishment of the Corporation on a completely independent basis andto prevent it being crippled at birth by anybody who might have a financial interest contrary to the actual establishment and promotion of the industry. Establishing quality, producing films of a commercial export potential and producing an industry which will truly reflect the Australian people and their characteristics, this year we are giving a long delayed opportunity of taking this industry under the nurture of Government encouragement and cultivation with all theagencies of government for the interests of tourism, trade and our culture. It is sad to remind ourselves of the position of collapse in the industry in 1928. Despite various inquiries, nothing was done until 1970. It is reassuring that in the twentieth year of government an initiative so encouraging and exciting as this can be propounded by the Gorton Government.
– With the Prime Minister taking alarge responsibility for this.
-I single out no individual, but of course that is obvious. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4. (Interpretation).
– I refer to the definition of Australian film’ as set out in the Bill. It will be seen that clause 4 defines an Australian film as:
I emphasise the words ‘or substantially in Australia’ - . . and, in the opinion of the Corporation, has a significant Australian content;
The Opposition hopes that the Government’s principal intention in introducing this legislation is to encourage the development and growth of an indigenous Australian film industry rather than merely the production of films in Australia whether they be produced in Australia by overseas undertakings or on a conjoint basis between Australian undertakings and overseas companies.The definition, as it now stands in the Bill, seems to me to leave the way open to the Film Corporation, once it is established, to provide assistance to overseas producers who merely make films in Australia. The Australian Film Producers Association, which is an association of Australian film production companies and individual producers who are engaged in all aspects of film production, has told me that the Canadian Act establishing the Canadian Film Development Corporation defines a Candian film as follows:
I realise that the Bill provides that certain things will be taken into account by the Corporation, when it is established, in assessing whether the film has a significant Australian content. The matters are set out in clause 4 (2.) of the Bill. They include ownership of copyright in the film. There is a feeling expressed by the Australian Film Producers Association that perhaps the Film Corporation could interpret these provisions in such a way that would make money available to overseas producers making films in Australia, thus depriving some Australians who are seeking assistance from the Corporation of funds because of the limited amount made available to the Corporation. The Film Producers Association points out that in this regard English producers coming to this country to make a film on location come here with money from the National Film Finance Corporation of Great Britain under the Eadie plan. They are required by that British Film Corporation to employ in Australia, in the production of such films, a large number of English artists and technicians in key positions. The Association also points out that the employment of these artists and technicians prevents in some instances Australians filling such positions. It indicates that many of these English sources would not be available to an Australian producer making a film on location in England. It states that the Swedish film industry was not built by financing foreign producers and technicians to make films in Sweden. ] might add that the same is true of the film industries in the United States, Italy and France. If Australians want to visit the United States for film purposes or to develop their talents they must first obtain labour permits from the United States authorities in order to be able to work in that country. It appears to me that none of these things applies to overseas film people coming to Australia. Perhaps - I use the word ‘perhaps’ advisedly - in some instances this affects Australia detrimentally.
Having addressed myself to clause 4 (1.) i 1 invite the Minister to reply and to advise what protection will be available to Australian producers in respect of the availability from the Corporation of money, on a loan basis, as compared with the availability of finance from the Corporation to overseas producers who desire to produce a film in Australia.
– Of course, the circumstances of capital and enterprise in which any particular film would be promoted are infinitely various and the honourable senator might be interested in a statement in a review of the development of British films which appears in the8th March 1969 edition of the ‘Economist’. The writer refers to the whole creaking structure of the British film industry and states that American money now finances 90% of British film production.
The honourable senator has put to me the viewpoint of a British enterprise, with money from the National Film Finance Corporation, coming here and employing English artists and getting the benefit of the Australian Film Development Corporation. All I want to say in answer to that is that the definition in the Bill emphasises the Australian content in the subject matter of a film. The guarantee that it is purposeful is that the definition follows the recommendation of the Council for the Arts, which related to television programme makers and the production of quality films and programmes with a significant Australian content, eschewing any that might inhibit the benefit to a film with some degree of overseas enterprise. One of the things that Lord Willis pointed out was that in the initial stages overseas artists might be a great advantage for leadership and training. But in construing a definition with such authenticity as that from the Council for the Arts and not merely initiated by the Parliamentary Draftsman, I hope that the honourable senator will be reassured that the function of a corporation like this would not be used capriciously.
I would think that any corporation that gave the benefit of the funds established under this legislation to a substantially foreign film enterprise could expect to have no confidence from that time forward. I would think that the definition provided by the Draftsman expounding the idea of the Council for the Arts ought to be given a reasonable trial.
I think a number of matters to which Senator McClelland referred are covered in the Bill just below the clause dealing with interpretation. Clause 4 (2.) states:
In forming an opinion whether a film has or will have a significant Australian content, the Corporation shall have regard to la) the subject-matter of the film:
It appears to me that the matters to which Senator McClelland referred would be largely covered by that sub-clause. It may be that the representatives of Australian film interests with whom he has been consulting feel that there should be something definite, rather than that they should merely take cognisance of these matters. However, on a matter affecting the arts I do not know that things can be laid down in black and white or that it is possible to be definite in excluding overseas participation by artists and others. For that reason it appears to me that by slating that the Corporation is called upon to have regard to the matters I. have quoted, the Bill adequately covers the situation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
– On behalf of the Opposition I wish to move an amendment to sub-clause (3.) of clause 6. It is similar to an amendment that was moved in another place by the Opposition. I move:
The purpose of the proposed amendment is to ensure that there are members of the Corporation who are expert in many directions in the business of film development. 1 was interested in what the Minister said in his reply to the second reading debate in regard to the recommendation made to the Government by the Australian Council for the Arts. If I heard him correctly, he said that the Council suggested that no-one with a pecuniary interest should be appointed to the Australian Film Development Corporation.
In my speech in the second reading debate I mentioned that the Producers and Directors Guild of Australia had indicated in a publication issued by it on 9th February that the Australian Council for the Arts had submitted, in the interim report of the film committee made to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on 27th May 1969, a recommendation that the Government establish a corporation of this nature and that it consist of 5 or 6 members - to quote from the document issued by the Producers and Directors Guild of Australia - ‘with pecuniary interests in commercial film and television production’. If the Minister assures me that that is not to be so, I will not press what has been said by the Guild because it appeared to me from a statement made in another place by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) that what the Government had in mind and what was recommended to it was substantially different from what was publicised by the Guild.
Nonetheless, the Opposition presses this amendment. We say that this industry is a highly competitive one not only in the field of the production of films but also and more particularly in the field of the distribution of films. Australian film producers are up against the international cartel which has been developed and which exists throughout the world. As regards distribution, I am very pleased to note that this Corporation will be empowered to engage, with a person or company, in assisting in the world distribution of films. We would have considered it vital for people well versed and experienced in the industry - not only on the production side but also on the distribution side - to be appointed to this Corporation so that it would have the benefit of their knowledge and experience. We suggest that this has been done in other areas and that, when it has been done, the area or industry concerned has gained much from the background, training, experience and expertise of these people.
Under the Bill the situation is that a person cannot have a pecuniary interest before appointment, but apparently after appointment he can obtain a pecuniary interest and continue to sit on the Corporation in respect of matters not related to his interest until such time as the GovernorGeneral removes him from office. If my interpretation of that provision is incorrect, perhaps the Minister will explain where I am wrong. Clause 6 (3.) says that a person shall , not be appointed as a member of the Corporation if he has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest. Clause 12(l.)(c) provides that if a member, after his appointment, becomes a person who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest the GovernorGeneral shall remove the member from office.
Clause 13(1.) then provides that a member who becomes a person who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the film industry shall give written notice to the Minister that he has become such a person and of the nature of the interest. Clause 1 3 (3.) says that a disclosure of the nature of his interest at a meeting of the Corporation shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the Corporation and that the member shall not take part after the disclosure in any deliberation or decision of the Corporation with respect to that contract, and shall be disregarded for the purpose of constituting a quorum of the Corporation for any such deliberation or decision.
Therefore, it would appear to me that, as the legislation is framed, a person with a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in film production cannot be appointed to the Corporation: but, upon his appointment, if he acquires an interest, until such time as the Governor-General has removed him from office he can sit as a member of the Corporation and engage in the business of the Corporation other than in respect of a matter in connection with which he has a pecuniary interest.
In Great Britain, section 1 (3.) of the Cinematograph Film Production Special Laws Act of 1949 provides that the members of the corporation shall be appointed from among persons appearing to the
Board of Trade to be qualified as having had experience and shown capacity in matters relating to finance, industry, commerce, administration or law. The Schedule to that Act says that the only disqualification in respect of a person being appointed to the corporation is membership of the House of Commons. The Canadian legislation, admittedly, provides, as the Australian legislation is providing, that a person with a direct or indirect pecuniary interest shall not be a member of the Canadian corporation. But, having regard to the Australian situation, we believe that we would be far belter off to copy the situation in Great Britain rather than that in Canada.
I have already said that our experience has been that, when people have been experts in particular facets of industry and their background, training and experience have been acquired and used for the further development of industry, Australia has had much to gain. For instance, governmental advisory committees have been established from time to time. We have a defence advisory committee on which, I understand, are representatives of industry who meet from time to time for the purpose of giving advice to the Government on the purchase of defence equipment. From time to time those people must be interested in tendering for and supplying equipment. We have industrial advisory committees on which there are both employer representatives and employee representatives with direct interests in matters dealt with by those committees.
There was also the well remembered Vernon Committee on Economic Inquiry. No-one would suggest for one moment that Sir James Vernon should not have been appointed as Chairman of that Committee, which was established to inquire into the economic future of Australia, merely because he had large private business dealings. 1 believe that it is in the interests of the Australian film industry, the Australian nation and the Australian people thai this Film Development Corporation be guided by experts and not by people who may be seeking some sort of backwater for their retirement. The Australian Labor Party believes that if this Corporation is to be successful its members will have to be people who are experts in all facets of the industry. They will have to know how to promote film ventures. They will have to know, in particular, something about the distribution of films, lt is for these reasons that the Opposition has moved this amendment.
The Opposition believes that in its present proposals the Government is ignoring the recognised professional talents of a large number of outstanding Australians who, for the time being, shall remain nameless. Undoubtedly there are men of great professional ability in Australia who could contribute much to the more effective development of this Corporation. The Opposition believes that these men, who have wide experience, background and training in the industry, should be considered for appointment to the Corporation. The Opposition believes that this amendment is in the best interests of the efficient development of the Corporation. It is for this reason that I have moved this amendment on behalf of the Opposition.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party does not support the amendment. I was impressed, as Senator McClelland has been, with the need for expert opinion to be made available to the proposed Australian Film Development Corporation. Therefore, I was somewhat concerned about this clause. However, last week I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with a prominent member of the Australian Council for the Arts, who informed me that he understood that the procedure which the Corporation would follow would be to refer certain propositions to expert assessors in the industry for their advice. As a result, it appeared to me that it would not be as necessary as I had thought to have persons of expert knowledge of the industry on the Corporation. I should be very pleased if Senator McClelland would comment on this situation if 1 have been incorrectly informed. Having received such an assurance, I feel that the Corporation would be in a position to seek the expert advice of persons who could assess certain propositions. In the circumstances, I am of the opinion that it is perhaps desirable that the members of the Corporation should have no pecuniary interests. That is the way it has been put to me. I would be very pleased to hear Senator McClelland’s comments.
– I regret that, as a result of a misprint in the journal of the Producers and Directors Guild of Australia, Senator McClelland has been induced to misquote a recommendation of the Australian Council for the Arts. Senator McClelland referred to his speech in the second reading debate in which he queried whether he correctly interpreted the position. I want to say that the Council for the Arts recommended the exclusion from membership of the Corporation of persons with pecuniary interest in commercial film and television production. I would think that the Government adopted the Council’s recommendation because of its awareness of the extreme degree to which the industry has proved to be capable of becoming prey to financial interests. The Government has therefore regarded it as desirable to have a Corporation comprising people who have no financial interests in the industry.
The Corporation has certain financial functions to perform. It is not responsible for the producing of plays. As Senator McManus has said, and having regard to the instances which Senator McClelland has used by way of illustration, it is completely possible for the Corporation to constitute an advisory committee of various financial interests if it wishes or to consult any such interests in order to obtain an assessment by experienced persons. Senator McClelland has drawn an analogy between this matter and the committee of which Sir James Vernon was chairman. That was purely an investigatory and advisory committee. He referred also to the Defence Business Board. That is simply an advisory committee which has no executive function. It would be quite inappropriate if the function of the Defence Business Board were to make purchases for the Department of Defence and the Board included representatives of 4 or 5 different mercantile selling organisations.
Senator McClelland envisaged that under the provisions of the Bill members of the Corporation might acquire an interest after appointment. It is true that the Bill makes provision for this situation, but not completely in the sense referred to by Senator McClelland. Clause 6 (3.) states that a person shall not be appointed as a member if he has a business interest in the industry. Clause 12(l.)(c) states that, subject to this clause, if a member acquires an interest after his appointment the Governor-General, shall remove him. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 12 stales that where paragraph (c) of the clause applies to a member other than by reason of a voluntary act of the member the Governor-General is not required to remove the member from office unless the member fails to divest himself of the interest as soon as reasonably practicable. For instance, an involuntary acquisition by way of a will is catered for. This acquisition may be held until it is reasonably practicable to dispose of it. Therefore, the provisions of clause 13 are inserted in line with theother provisions which have become usual in statutory organisations.
Although the contrary view that the Corporation may consist of people who have a pecuniary interest and are subject to the statutory requirement that if a transaction of the Corporation came up which might affect their interests they would have to dispose of it is a view I can readily understand, having regard to the Australian experience and the specific recommendation of the Council for the Arts as well as the availability of persons as advisers, I would suggest that, even if they have an interest in a business, we would be well advised to set up the Corporation on the present basis. In other words,the members of the Corporation who have executive functions should not be permitted to have an interest in a business which it is the object of the Corporation to finance.
– I have one or two observations to make in relation to the comments of Senator McManus. Senator McManus said that he had a discussion last week with a member of the Australian Council for the Arts, which is a different organisation from the proposed Australian Film Development Corporation. I do not know whether a member of the Arts Council is qualified to speak on behalf of the Government in relation to a corporation which will be set up under ministerial control and responsibility. This is a matter upon which the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) may wish to comment. This is again just a matter of a difference in administration. The Government believes that no-one with a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter of this nature should be appointed to the Corporation. The industry being of the type and nature that it is. being one which has to face international competition and international cartels, members of the Corporation, if it is to be successful, must be men of ability, experience and expertise in all facets of film production. It is on that basis that we suggest that we should be able to use in the Corporation the great skills and talents of many outstanding citizens of Australia who know this industry thoroughly from their own experience.
That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator McClelland’s amendment).
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 - (1.) A member shall be paid such remuneration as the Governor-General determines. (2.) A member shall be paid such allowances for travelling expenses as the Minister determines.
– The Committee will recall that when we dealt with the Parliamentary Counsel Bill an attitude was taken during the discussions that salaries should be determined by Parliament and that expenses should be fixed by regulation. In the Metric Conversion Bill which has yet to come before the Senate the Opposition proposes to move an amendment to carry through this policy. For some reason this has not been adverted to, but on this occasion I should like to move, in line with what was done previously, that the clause be changed to provide that a member shall be paid such remuneration as the Parliament provides. This is consistent with what was done before. In order that no-one will suggest that this will delay the establishment of the Corporation, 1 propose to add the proviso, as was done before, that until 1st January 1971 the remuneration shall be as prescribed. That is in exactly the same terms as was moved before. Consequently I move as an amendment to clause 8(1.):
Leave out ‘as the Governor-General determines’; insert ‘as the Parliament provides but until the first day of January One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one that remuneration shall be as is prescribed’.
As an amendment to clause 8 (2.) I move:
The effect of that is that a member would be paid such allowances for travelling expenses as are prescribed. 1 have adapted at short notice the amendment to be moved in the next matter. I do not think I need to argue the mutter because there was a very full argument on it when it was discussed earlier by the Committee of the Senate. My Party has taken the view, consistent with the view that was taken by a large majority of senators, that unless there is some special reason this should be done in regard to all the measures, lt is in accordance with that view that I have moved this amendment.
– I rise because I think that the principle to which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) gave expression is a principle which previously has commended itself to the Senate. I certainly think it is proper that in relation to the appointment of a statutory office and provision for remuneration to be paid to the occupant of that office there should at least be some opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny as to what that remuneration is. As the Bill is worded at the present time the remuneration is to be determined by the GovernorGeneral by administrative act. Undoubtedly, if questions were asked that information could be obtained but I do not think that that is the appropriate way in which the remuneration of officers appointed by the Parliament should be made and I would indicate my general concurrence with the proposition which Senator Murphy has expressed. I think there are occasions when, in particular circumstances, a case may be made out that the remuneration ought not to be prescribed by regulation and it may be that such a case was made out in regard to the Australian Industry Development Corporation. Certainly the effort was there made to say that this was a corporation with such functions as required the most qualified personnel taken from a range of industry where high salaries were paid and where there was a need for a general flexibility because there may have to be bargaining for the positions and for the salaries which were paid. I am not sure whether that is in all cases an appropriate standard to apply but I can certainly see the merit of it in that case.
– Would you agree that even if we had that in these circumstances it ought to be done at least by regulation?
– I do not know that I would go that far. Certainly it was not the opinion of this Senate when this matter was before the Senate last week but I feel in the case of this Corporation that the principle to which expression has been given is a principle which ought to commend itself to the Committee for the reason that it will permit parliamentary scrutiny of the remuneration and travelling allowances and at any time the Senate can take appropriate action. I have said earlier that this relationship between Parliament and statutory corporations is a relationship requiring attention and a lot more study than has been given to it in the past, but at least in my opinion and judgment at the present time this is one area in which Parliament should be prepared to exercise a control. Accordingly I would support this amendment.
– The submissions that have been made to the Committee do not, of course, come lo me with any novelty. Not only in recent weeks but also in weeks far off these principles have been discussed by the Senate. Although 1 am not disposed to resist them I would suggest that the requirement of statutory fixation of salaries ought to be reserved for the officers of higher responsibility and that the members of this Corporation will be appropriately dealt with if we alter the present clause to make it provide that a member shall be paid such remuneration and such allowances for travelling expenses as are prescribed. The other was a form of words that we adopted due to the fact that we wished to appoint Parliamentary Counsel and we would not have any idea of the appropriate remuneration until January next. The form of words that Senator Murphy has proposed has been adopted from there and I would have thought that the purpose of the Committee would be met in the case of a corporation such as the Australian Film Development Corporation by simply altering the clause to make the remuneration and the allowances for travelling expenses such as are prescribed. I offer that suggestion to the Committee because I think that if we are to have a whole series of statutes that have to be amended each time there is a variation in salary we will be cluttering up the statute book with a whole lot of detail which might very well take its place in regulations. Therefore 1 would suggest that the provision in the form that Senator Murphy has moved might be reserved for officers of much higher responsibility than this and that the honourable senator might care to put his amendment in the form that I have suggested, in which case I would offer no resistance to it.
– I paid careful attention to what has been said by the Minister - and I am not unaware of provide - and it is not just for this body because wc are dealing, I think, with the principles that are to be applied to a lot or similar bodies - that it is to be done Dy Parliament when lt wl.1; con.e under direct parliamentary scrutiny. 1 do not think it will be necessary - and I do not think it will happen - that there will be separate Bills for ail of these. Obviously, as we get a collection of these there will be enactments made which will provide simply the salaries to be paid to the members of the various corporations and one will see at a lance the relativity and so on.
– They will be in a schedule.
– That is right. As in salaries Bills relating to higher officers one will see the interrelationship. 1 am concerned as a practical matter that if it is done simply by regulation we will have them coming in separately and also we will never see them. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee does a wonderful job but it looks at the regulations and ordinances according to certain standards and would not be concerned with the pay for officers and so forth because there is no question oi principle which would concern it unless there was some sudden or unexpected change in the character of the reumneration which excited its attention and caused it to think that this was a matter which ought to be done by substantial legislation. I would think, with respect to what the Minister has said, that we would be better ensuring parliamentary supervision over these matters by requiring that the provision of remuneration be done by Act and the expenses by regulation. The machinery has been put in the proposal to avoid any dislocation or any ho!d up at all. The Government has more than 6 months to do it by regulation and there is ample opportunity to get these things together and in a Bill at the end of this year have a schedule to provide for the salaries. So, taking into account what has been said by the Minister but it seems to me that if we the weight that it has lo be given - 1 nevertheless think that it is r referable that we adopt the general principle of having remuneration provided by Act and expenses by regulation. That is how it appears to me.
– I do not suppose anybody would deny my interest in having matters of this sort brought to the attention of the financial year until the passing of stance that I wish to put before the Committee is that the disadvantage wilh the method preferred by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) is that there will be strictly no statutory authority for the provision of these salaries from the end of the Parliament. The only other circumthe Appropriation Bill. I advance for the Committee’s consideration the point that prescription, by regulation, of salaries and allowances for the lesser agencies of the Crown would bring them sufficiently under the scrutiny of the Parliament for our purposes. But the matter is submitted to the Committee.
– Is it the will of the Committee that we consider both amendments together? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– There is one further consideration on which I should like to ask either the Minister or Senator Murphy to comment. I take a little further, if 1 may. the argument put by the Minister in relation lo prescribing salaries, by regulation, for some of the lesser officers. I ask whether perhaps it is not desirable that there should be more sporadic alterations to the salaries of officers in this position, rather than having alterations of salaries coming all at the one time, as will happen if they are contained in a general salaries Bill. I am by no means certain that this is a consideration which should weigh heavily. However. I think it is perhaps one to which some attention could be given, and I would be interested to hear any comments that may be made about it.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania- Minister for Works) 1.4. 12] - I am indebted to Senator Rae for drawing attention to this matter. I think it would be an advantage not to have all these matters coming in in one block. I should think that that would preclude a purposeful consideration by the Parliament and it would not allow the Government to give proper consideration to the salaries of these officers when the occasion warrants it.
– If the Government wants to bring in separate provisions relating to salaries, it can do so.
– Except there would be inconvenience and a cluttering up.
– Yes, but the reality of the situation - it is difficult to get away from it - is that if these salaries are determined by regulation we will not consider them at all. ls that not the practical reality? Amendments will be made to the regulations. Unless honourable senators sit down and go through ali the regulations, who is going to bring these matters to their attention? What kind of scrutiny will be given to these matters? Will an honourable senator make up his mind about a matter, without obtaining information about it, and come into the Senate and move a motion for disallowance of the regulation or something of that nature? I believe that if the Government wants to deal with these matters separately, it can do so. If it wants to deal with them together, it can deal with them in groups. If it wants to put them into a schedule and deal with them together under one Bill, as it probably would, it can do so, because relativity does arise between the various salaries. I think that probably that is what would be done. If that is not convenient, the Government can change its course. Whilst this is a matter to be considered, it should not be conclusive as against the importance of direct parliamentary oversight.
– It seems to me that one way to overcome Senator Murphy’s objection, that is that we should ensure that the principle of the Senate as observed on many occasions is fully implemented, would be for the appointment of a further small committee of the Senate which could have these matters placed before it as and when they come forward. One group of specialists could have the function to correlate these regulations as and when they come forward. The people in that group would be iti a much belter position to do the correlation. They could then report to the Senate and the report could be debated if the Senate s:iw fit. lt would seem to me that the problems which Senator Murphy and Senator Wright have raised would be overcome if a principle such as I have suggested were introduced.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 29 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
– I had intended lo raise a matter relating to clause 28, which refers to reports.
– ls it the wish of the Committee that .Senator McClelland bc given leave to raise this matter? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– 1 wish to raise a matter regarding the reports that will be presented by the Australian Film Development Corporation to the Minister and then subsequently to the Australian Parliament. 1 do so in order to make to the Corporation when it is established one or two suggestions concerning the degree of protection that should be extended to Australian film producers in the production, marketing and distribution of the products that will flow from assistance which might be forthcoming to Australians.
Clause 4 (2.) of the Bill provides that the Corporation will take certain matters into account in determining whether a film has or will have a significant Australian content. Reference has already been made to this question by Senator McManus. Then clause 21 of the Bill deals with the power of the Corporation concerning the making of loans, on such terms and conditions as the Corporation thinks fit, to producers of Australian films, to the guaranteeing of repayments of loans and matters of that nature. As I understood the Minister when he was closing the second reading debate, it will be the Corporation’s responsibility to make recommendations to the Minister on ancillary matters, other than the financial assistance that should be made available to Australians for the protection of the development of this industry. For instance, I have in mind the television industry. Under these arrangements it could well be that a person could come forward with a first class script, very good actors, highly competent technicians and highly skilled producers and seek a loan which might be granted. Then he would find that the extent of protection or assistance given to Australian film producers to get their product on the air within Australia in terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act did not go far enough. At the present time 50% allover across the board Australian content is required for productions shown on Australian television.
I suggest to the Minister hypothetical^ that the situation could arise in which a great number of people producing Australian television productions of high quality - of high technical and artistic standards, to use the expression in the Bill - could ensure that a larger amount than the 50% Australian content presently required could become available under this legislation for use on Australian television. I believe that matters of this nature should be mentioned in any report that the Corporation will make to the Minister and to the Parliament so that if it is felt by the Corporation that the cross the board quota as it now applies should be extended, the Parliament will be made aware of it and that more cognisance will bc taken of matters which at present are outside the ambit of the Corporation but nonetheless if not directly, then certainly indirectly, associated with it to ensure that more protection is given to Australian producers.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania- Minister for Works) 14.22] - 1 acknowledge Senator McCelland’s contribution. In provisions requiring a report to the Minister and to the Parliament it is not customary to empahsise any particular feature and I would be surprised indeed if the Board, in its interpretation of section 28 which requires it to prepare and furnish to the Minister a report of its operations during the year, omitted any adverse effect that might flow from the absence of tariff, a quota or any other circumstance which militated against the advancement of the industry. I simply wish to acknowledge the honourable senator’s purpose in those terms.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
Debate resumed from .13 May (vide page 1 399). on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time
– As mentioned by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) in his second reading speech, the object of this Bill is to bring about progressively the use of the metric system of measurement in Australia as the sole system of measurement of physical quantities and to this end to establish a Metric Conversion Board. This Bill has the support of the Opposition. Honourable senators will recall that the Bill is now before the Parliament as a result of recommendations made to the Government by the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures which was established under the chairmanship of the late Senator Laught in 1967. I express my regret that Senator Laught is not in the chamber to see the presentation of this Bill which provides for the establishment of the metric system of weights and measures in Australia because it is the culmination of the work which was carried out so well by himself, as Chairman, and by members of the Committee. He did a very fine job as did all members of the Committee and officers associated with it. I should like to remind the Senate that we were very fortunate to have Mr Alan Harper, a world authority on the metric system of weights and measures, as our adviser throughout the sittings of the Committee. 1 believe that the major reason why all recommendations submitted by the Committee virtually have been accepted by the Government is that his guidance was available on many matters with which the Committee had to deal.
We on this side of the House are rather disappointed that it took so long for the Government to get around to submitting legislation of this nature. One of the major recommendations of the Committee - the Committee, in fact, believed it to be the major recommendation - was to the effect that we should like an early intimation to the people of Australia of the Government’s intention because it was obvious from evidence presented to the Committee that each year of delay would increase greatly the cost of conversion. We were very strong in our views at that time that an early statement should be made but it was not until January this year that a statement of intention was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). We believe that it could have been made much earlier, ft would have saved a considerable amount of cost and would have assisted many industries which were in a situation of expansion in relation to the type of machinery that they would install, thus avoiding duplicating by conversion at a later stage. However, the Bill is now before us and we are pleased that the decisions of the Committee will be carried out.
It iis true that conversion to the metric system of weights and measures will be far more difficult than was the conversion to decimal currency, but we have provided for that by allowing some 8 to JO years for complete conversion. As indicated in the second reading speech, in some fields it will be many years before complete conversion takes place. This was foreseen by the Committee and indeed commented upon in the report that came before the Parliament. Obviously conversion will take much longer in some fields than in others, but in the main I believe that, from experience overseas and from information that was made available to the Committee, as well as from my own reading since, 8 to 10 years seems to be a pretty fair period to cover the main conversion to the metric system.
One of the major necessities for a reasonably smooth conversion is the appointment of the Metric Conversion Board for which this Bill now provides. The Board will have the major task of seeing that the conversion takes place as smoothly as possible. It falls into line with other boards which have been established in many countries in relation to conversion. Some countries are in the process of converting at the present time. England is a classic example. From my reading, and from information that I have been able to obtain, the conversion is going ahead rather more smoothly than people at first expected, lt is pleasing to note that conversion is taking place at less cost than was initially expected by persons in industry. The same evidence is emanating from South Africa, which is also going through a conversion period. In this country we are establishing a Board which, I understand, will create a number of committees to go into the finer details in various industries. Those committees will report back to the Board. This will allow the conversion to take place as smoothly as possible.
The Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures in its wisdom - I note this has been accepted by the Government - decided there should be no decision in relation to meeting costs and, in the main, these costs would not be met but the Board would have the right to recommend to the Government the meeting of certain costs in certain circumstances. To me this seems to be a very wise provision, lt is quite apparent that when other countries have faced up to the same position we are facing in Australia they have not met the total cost of conversion, nor could they, lt is equally apparent that in some fields a government may be prepared to meet the costs of conversion. This is provided for in this Bill. The Senate Select Committee has also made a recommendation in relation to the size of the Board. 1 hope the Government will take some note of that recommendation. The Committee recommended that a board of no more than 10 persons be appointed for this purpose. It thought it would be detrimental if a very large board was appointed to introduce this system. It fell that any further assistance could come through certain committees appointed by the Board in the various States and in separate fields such as primary industry. This is the type of thing I envisage in relation to this matter. 1 want to stress one or two matters in relation to the persons who will comprise the Board. Recommendation 5 in the report of the Senate Select Committee states at page 1 10:
That the members of the Board be drawn, amongst others, from manufacturing, commerce, education, rural industry, trade unions, the National Standards Commission and the Standards Association of Australia. There should also be a representative from the Commonwealth Government and one member as a direct representative of the State Governments. At least one member of the Board should be a woman. 1 want to stress the point in relation to trade union representation and the representation of women on this Board. One thing that concerned members of the Committee was the great impact the conversion would have at the level of workers within the community who throughout the years, have worked solely with the imperial system. We feel that we need and should welcome the full co-operation of the trade union movement over the conversion period of 8 to 10 years. Another matter which came forcefully before the Committee was that in Australia there are many skilled workers from Europe who are well acquainted with the metric system. They will be of valuable assistance in industry in assisting conversion and training employees in the fields of engineering, electronics and so on. We desire to see this training take place at many levels, and this can be done with the co-operation of the trade union movement. It can be done with the co-operation of the various States by adult education. Most States have indicated their approval of such a plan and have indicated their desire to co-operate in the field of adult education.
The Committee believe that a woman representative on the Board would greatly assist in presenting the point of view of females in the community and, what is probably far more important, would protect the consumer interests. The Committee recommended that consumer interests should be watched very carefully by the Board and that it should report to the Government in all cases where it considered that conversion was being taken advantage of to the detriment of the people in their everyday shopping. This is a very real fear of people in the streets in relation to the metric system. Evidence was given by the Decimal Currency Board that it believed there was no exploitation of people during the decimal currency conversion. Many people believed there was. Personally, I felt that in some fields advantage was taken of the changeover to decimal currency to enforce price rises which were not necessary. Members of the Senate Select Committee wanted this aspect watched extremely carefully by the Board. We would like some assurance from the Government that if the Board indicates that unfair advantage is being taken appropriate action will be taken to stop it.
In response to quite a number of requests from people who are probably tired of hearing me 1 have decided not to speak at great length on this Bill. The Australian Labor Party is supporting the principle. It has been debated on 2 previous occasions in this Parliament. The Labor Party and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) have seen the need for a conversion to the metric system for some considerable time. The late Senator Laught was the man who initiated action in the Senate for the appointment of a Senate Select Committee. In 1963 Senator Murphy raised this matter when he asked a question of the Minister representing the then Prime Minister seeking Government approval for the consideration of the introduction of the metric system of measurement. He was advised that the Government thought the job was far too big to attempt in association with a decimal currency conversion. Also in 1965 Senator Murphy asked whether this matter had been considered by the Government. This shows that there has been interest in this question on both sides of the House. This is one of the few matters which come before Parliament in which politics are not played.
Australia has joined the vast majority of nations in deciding to lake upon itself the metric system of weights and measures. The reasons for this decision are many, and it would lake too long to go into them; they have been canvassed before in this place. The United States will bethe only major trading nation which has not initiated a programme of conversion.I have seen Press reports emanating from the United States of America which makes it clear that the United States will eventually lake the same step as has been taken by the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia within the last 2 or 3 years. We believe that great advantages will flow to Australia, not only internally but externally.I sincerely hope the conversion will operate as smoothly as it is obviously operating in the United Kingdom and South Africa.I believe that with a Board at competent people as provided for in this Bill, and with theco-operation of many other people, including the public of Australia, the conversion can lead Australia into many savings in the future. This statement is borne out by the fact that many industries in England are saving money already as a result of conversion to the metric system. A report from which I had intended to quote indicates that many of the materials which these countries thought would be of no use to them in the metric field can be utilised and that the cost associated with the conversion is far lower than they anticipated. I,too, express the support of the Opposition to this Bill. Except for an amendment to clause 12, we will give it a speedy passage.
– I rise for 2 purposes. The first is to welcome the decision of the Government to lake the intial stepsto move to the metric system and, secondly, to express some concern about features of this Bill. In regard to the latter aspect,I will await with interest what the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) has to say.I think it is important that this Bill should not pass through the Senate without some recognition that the work done by a Senate committee has been a very positive facto, in the decision which is made now to adopt the metric system. These aspects have been canvassed by Senator Poyser. The Government’s decision, as indicated in the Minister’s second reading speech, was based, firstly, upon the decision of a body of inquiry -the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures. It was based also, as the Minister said, on the advice of Government departments and also, it would appear, on significant broad considerations of utility. It should enhance our ability to export; increase our efficiency; provide a rationalising and modernising of industrial practices: and, as was said, reduce diversification in manufactured products. It should provide a simplification of teaching of mathematics and science. The reasons broadly underlying these considerations were set out in the metric system report. I do not desire to read them.
It is significant to mention, in passing, that approximately 90% of the world’s population have the metric system. At the time the report was presented about 75% of Australian trade was conducted with countries which have the metric system. 1 would have thought that, with the decision which has been taken already to change over to decimal currency, it was inevitable that sooner or later the decision would be taken to move to the metric system. There are a variety of considerations, all of which have been well set out in the Metric Committee’s report.
The changeover to the metric system is a changeover of a greater complexitythan was involved in the earlier changeover to decimal currency. One would suppose that the costs would be more widespread but nevertheless that the costs would be less capable of identification than they were in the changeover to decimal currency. The Government’s decision is that the costs should lie where they fall. This is in accordance with the practice being adopted in the United Kingdom. I note that the Committee had various things to say on costs. At paragraph 458, for example, it was stated by the Committee:
It would seem the principal elements of cost are:
Replacement or modification of existing machinery, equipment and tools.
Training of personnel.
Loss of efficiency and wastage due tolack of familiarity with the system.
Replacement of trade literature, stationery, etc.
Replacement of text books, notes, etc.
The need to carry dual stock and to maintain dual facilities during the transitional period.
Conversion or replacement of specification.-., technical recordi, technical drawings, plan’s, deeds, computer programmes, etc. Accelerated obsolescence of equipment and designs.
The diversification of designs during the transitional period leading to smaller production runs and hence higher unit costs.
In the preceding paragraph the Committee said that it was unable to arrive at a meaningful answer as to what these costs would be. lt was equally difficult to estimate what, on the other hand, the savings might be. In regard to that the report illustrated that, whatever inquiries the Committee had made and whatever witnesses had come before it, the Committee had been unable to find from them any basis upon which an appropriate estimate should or could be made. I mention this because it appears to me that to some people the cost will be substantial but that to others it will not be so substantial. It will depend on the character of the programme that is adopted how the costs will be borne in particular cases.
The Committee expressed the view that experience overseas had shown that careful planning and utilisation of obsolescence would greatly reduce those conversion costs. The Committee expressly left to the Government to determine the question of whether compensation was to be paid. It pointed out that compensation was not paid in the United Kingdom or in Japan, although some limited compensation was paid in South Africa. As I would see the Government’s present intention, it is that if compensation is to be paid in particular cases that can be a matter of specific recommendation. I would have thought that at present, in the light of knowledge available, that was undoubtedly the proper course.
Having said that, I turn to aspects of what is proposed which, to me, raise questions of which, as I said earlier, I should be very grateful for the Minister’s consideration. With regard to the method of operation, the Committee said that there should be legislation to empower the Minister to facilitate and co-ordinate conversion and that there should be a Board which is responsible to the Minister. It stated specifically, at paragraphs 594 and 595: lt is recommended that legislation be passed to provide for conversion to the metric system and in particular to empower a Minister of the Commonwealth to facilitate and co-ordinate this conversion. It is proposed that the responsible Minister should be the Minister for Education and Science, who administers Commonwealth weights and measures legislation.
This Committee further recommends that a Metric Conversion Board be appointed to be the body responsible to the Minister for the conduct of the conversion.
What does the legislation provide? The crux of the legislation is to be found in clauses 5, 6 and 7. Clause 5 provides:
The object of this Act is to bring about progressively the use of the metric system of measurement in Australia as the sole system of measurement of physical quantities.
Clause 6 states:
The Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, do such things, make such arrangements and enter into such agreements as he thinks conducive to the attainment of the object of this Act.
That power is enormously wide in its import. It is as wide ranging as any power given to a Minister today. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that it is not those things ‘as are conducive’ but it is those things ‘as the Minister thinks conducive’ which make the power even wider. Clause 7 provides:
The Minister may, by instrument in writing, authorise the Board to exercise, subject to and in accordance with his directions, any of his powers under the latt preceding section.
There is a power of delegation by the Minister to the Board, which is exercised simply by an instrument in writing. This may amount to the conferring upon the Board of the wide powers which the Minister has. The function of the Board is purely advisory. That appears from clause 22 of the Bill. The functions of the Board are:
When one considers clause 6 of the Bill, the power given to the Minister is tremendously wide. In effect, it gives to the Minister a power almost as great, if not as great, as the whole of the Commonwealth’s power with respect to weights and measures contained in section 51 (15.) of the Commonwealth Constitution. The question arises in my mind, as suggested to the Senate, that there is a real problem in determining the real meaning and comprehension of the words ‘conducive to the attainment of the object of this Act”. Surely one meaning relates to whatever will help or tend to help the use of the metric system as the sole system of measurement of physical quantities. But this is uncertain, lt can cover a tremendously wide area and would involve a great variety of measures. For example: Does the teaching of metric measures conduce to the attainment of the object? If it does, what power does it give to the Minister in those circumstances to direct courses of teaching in State schools? What power does it give in the general field of education to determine how this object shall be attained? lt is to be noted that when the Committee indicated the areas where costs would be incurred, it suggested that amongst those areas were the provision of technical records, computer programmes, books and other requisites for schooling. Do the words permit requirements to be made fixing conditions of sale in weights and packaging which will be designed to help this object of consumer acceptance of the changeover? It appears to me that there is no limit to the steps which may be taken, the arrangements which may be made and the agreements which may bc entered into, lt also imposes powers which very directly enter into the field of State laws. I draw the attention of honourable senators to paragraphs 628, 629 and 630 of the report of the Senate Select Committee. At paragraph 628 the Committee said:
Specific problems would arise in regard lo the Slate weights and measures legislation, particularly in the field of standards, the sale of packaged goods and verification of instruments in use for trade. In all these fields a large measure of uniformity of legislative provision has been achieved in recent years through the aegis of annual conferences of weights and measures officers convened by the National Standards Commission and four conferences of Commonwealth and Slate Ministers concerned with weights and measures, convened by the Minister administering the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act. lt may be hoped, therefore, that amendments lo State legislation in these fields, consequential to a decision lo undertake metric conversion, could be agreed lo in the same way and made uniformly by the Slates (and Territories).
The Committee went on to state, in paragraph 629:
With regard to standards of measurement Stale legislation would need to be amended to provide for metric primary standards where this has not already been done. In many cases ibis would merely involve validating for State purposes standards already held which have been certified under the Commonwealth weights and measures legislation as standards of measurement.
In the light of the matters which the Committee suggested must be attended to. this legislation will permit the Minister to do such things in these fields as he thinks appropriate to the attainment of these objects. I mention this because it is a further example of the width of power given, and apparently this is a power given under no parliamentary restraint whatever. The Committee went on in paragraph 630:
All States provide that certain basic commodities such as buller, sugar and milk can only be packaged for sale in specified or standardised quantities, e.g. i lb, I lb and 2 lb butter. New standardised quantities would need to be specified legislatively for use under the metric system, with appropriate transitional provisions.
One can only suppose that at some stage legislation will be drafted to give effect to that paragraph. But that is a supposition on my part. Having regard to the power which has been given, I believe that the whole of the changeover to the metric system throughout this country could be based on one clause only in this Bill, and that is clause 6. I say with respect to the Minister, and I would be very interested to have his reply on this point, that if it was the policy lo give effect to the changeover to the metric system, no further legislation would be required by this Parliament. lt could all be done by virtue of the power conferred by clause 6. It is that width of power which I feel ought to command attention and some consideration by the Senate.
I have said that my views are to be considered in terms of what is meant by the words ‘conducive to the attainment of the object of this Act.’ I earlier said that the power which is given is even wider, lt is a power to enable the Minister to enter into all the arrangements and agreements and to do such things as he thinks are conducive. Obviously the Minister may think something to be conducive which in fact is not, and therefore it is a wider concept. Possibly it is an effective way for the Minister to exercise this power, but I draw attention to the fact that it does have this extra width. A lawyer might doubt how a challenge to an Act would fare in the High Court, but on a matter of legislation it is a discretionary power of enormous potential.
There is no effective limit to the discretion. There is no requirement as to the objective criteria that the Minister must observe, and there is no requirement that he must act in accordance with the regulations or under delegated legislation. Apart from the requirement that a report be presented each year, there is no parliamentary scrutiny which is capable of being effectively exercised, lt is, in a sense, a way of getting around the Constitution. I wish to refer to what is said - not in this particular connection, but in a connection which is remarkably apposite in the light of what is now happening - by Professor Geoffrey Sawer in an article which appeared in Public Administration’ in March last. Professor Sawer wrote, under the heading Getting Around The Constitution’, that so often conditions will be found - and he instances the conditions applicable in regard to the holding of shares in commercial television licences - which have no direct relationship to the power under which they are exercised. He went on:
Take for example the weights and measures power. 1 doubt whether the power would extend to a Commonwealth law which prohibited the sale of an article unless stamped with its true weight. There are however many State laws which validly impose such requirements. Now it would certainly be open to the Commonwealth to provide that no article may be stamped with its weight unless the methods and standards laid down in the Commonwealth law with respect to ascertaining the weight of the article are complied with. Perhaps the Commonwealth could then go further and require as a condition of permission to stamp articles with their weight not only compliance with the regulations about weighing, but also Commonwealth regulations as to the wages, hours, etc., of persons employed in the task of check weighing.
Accordingly, this legislation not only confers a wide power in terms of what is involved in weights and measures legislation, but also confers it upon the Minister. I think that these questions ought to be considered when reviewing this legislation. It may be that these matters have been adverted to by the Government and that there are sound and prudent reasons why all this should be done, that acknowledgement is made of the width of the power but still it is thought to be justified. I would be most interested to hear what the Minister has to say on this point.
In terms of the general object of the legislation, I welcome what the Government has decided to do. While it reflects willingness on the part of the Government to keep abreast of what is required to maintain Australia’s place in the world in which it exports and in the near world of which it is part, my only concern is whether these measures are in fact the measures which it is desired the Government should follow to give effect to a thoroughly commendable object.
– 1 will not delay the Senate for very long. I will try not to repeat the points raised by my colleagues. Just 2 years ago the late Senator Laught presented to this Parliament the report of the Senate Select Committee on Metric System of Weights and Measures. I agree with honourable senators who have said that it is a great pity that Senator Laught is not here with us and that he was prevented by his untimely death from witnessing the passing of this legislation. I believe that this is the first of the Bills that will have to be brought before the Parliament to implement the Committee’s report in favour of the adoption of the metric system of weights and measures in Australia. I am certain that it would have given Senator Laught a great deal of pleasure to be with us today to see this legislation introduced. As has been said, he did a great deal of work in helping the Committee to formulate its report.
The Bill is stated to be one to facilitate the adoption in Australia and in certain Territories of the Commonwealth of the metric system of measurement and for that purpose to establish a Metric Conversion Board. That was one of the recommendations of the Committee. I agree with Senator Greenwood that one of the main parts of the Bill is clause 5, which reads:
The object of this Act is to bring about progressively the use of the metric system of measurement in Australia as the sole system of measurement of physical quantities.
The Bill will allow the setting up the Metric Conversion Board, which will be similar to the one that was set up for the changeover from pounds, shillings and pence to the decimal currency system. As Senator Poyser and Senator Greenwood have pointed out, this changeover will have a far greater impact on Australia than did the setting up of the Decimal Currency Board and the adoption of decimal currency in Australia.
The Metric Conversion Board will have as its responsibility the co-ordination of metrication in the various parts of the economy. This will be a very big job. I believe that this changeover will affect more areas of the Australian way of life than did the decimal currency changeover. On page (iii) of the report of the Senate Select Committee there is an extract from the Report on Weights and Measures made by the Secretary of State of the United States of America, John Quincy Adams, to the American Senate on 22nd February 1821. With the concurrency of honourable senators, I incorporate it in Hansard.
Weights and measures may be ranked among the necessaries of life, to every individual of human society. They enter into the economical arrangements and daily concerns of every family. They are necessary to every occupation of human industry; to the distribution and security of every species of property; to every transaction of trade and commerce; lo the labors of the husbandman; to the ingenuity of the artificer; to the studies of the philosopher; to the researches of the antiquarian; lo the navigation of the mariner, and the marches of the soldier; to all the exchanges of peace, and all the operations of war. The knowledge of them, as in established use, is among the first elements of education, and is often learned by those who learn nothing else, not even lo read and write. This knowledge is riveted in the memory by the habitual application of it to the employments of men throughout life.
Since the presentation of the report of the Senate Select Committee a far greater interest has been taken in the possibility of a changeover to the metric system of weights and measures. I believe that that will have a good effect. In some fields there has already been a changeover to the metric system. Strangely enough, if one buys a medicine measuring glass now it is marked in milligrams instead of in the old fashioned teaspoons and tablespoon. Also in food and grocery stores one will see today many articles with the weight marked on them in the 2 systems, the old imperial system and the new metric system.
The report to the Parliament has created the necessity for industries and other people in Australia to take an interest in and perhaps to help with the phasing out of the old system and the phasing in of the new. 1 believe that this will help in regard to the cost of the phasing in and phasing out. If the people concerned in the various industries, including primary industry, the other forms of commerce and the professions know that when this Bill is passed the metric system of weights and measures will come about, they will take the opportunity, in the course of obsolescence, to phase out the old system and to commence the new. On page 35 of tha report it is stated that for each year during which the phasing out takes place there will be a cost increase of about 7%. That was given in evidence to the Committee.
So, all in all, although it is 3 years since the Senate Select Committee was set up and 2 years since its report was presented, I believe that the Government, now that it has taken this step, will do all it possibly can to facilitate the setting up of the Board and also to facilitate the gradual adoption of the metric system of weights and measures. With the rest of my colleagues, I support the Bill. I repeat that it is regrettable that Senator Laught is not here to see this legislation introduced.
– 1 join with members of other parties in welcoming this Bill, although like them I wish that the baby could have been born at least 12 months earlier. I also join with them in what they have said about Senator Laught. He was a most conscientious Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures. He was a lovable personality. We all have missed him since his death. We are sorry that he is not here today to see this legislation passed by the Senate. I also join in the tribute that has been paid to our expert adviser, Mr Harper. We found him most competent on all the occasions on which the Committee met and we found him most versatile on the social occasions between the deliberations of the Committee.
I am pleased to see the way in which the community in general has accepted the conversion to the metric system. Because it involv.es a considerable degree of change which could be expensive in some cases, one might have thought that strong reservations in regard to it would have been expressed by sections of industry. One or two minor suggestions have been made by sections of industry. They have suggested that the problems are greater than they would have liked. But generally the reception of the change to the metric system as proposed has been most gratifying. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, which I suppose is the biggest organisation in Australia, was one which pressed for the change and which pointed out the serious loss that accrued every year that we delayed.
I notice from the Press in Melbourne that the Chamber of Manufactures has set up a committee for the purpose of assisting the changeover to the metric system. 1 was interested to see that the Chamber, in giving its reasons for setting up the committee, said that it was satisfied that Australia’s export trade would be seriously handicapped unless measures for the changeover were initiated at once. In some cases the period of the changeover will be short: in other cases the changeover may take 8 to 10 years. But it is something that had to come; it is something that industry realises is inevitable. As 1 said before, I am delighted thai the proposal for the change has been received so well. My Party strongly supports the Bil!.
[5.I0 - in reply - I am grateful to the honourable senators who have contributed to the debate for the points they have made. Senator Poyser referred to the cost factor. Provision has been made for the cost factor in the Bill. The general position is that costs will lie where they fall, subject to special situations. 1 do not think any spend situations have been anticipated. The honourable senator also referred to the composition of the Metric Conversion Board. The Bill provides for the Board to consist of a chairman, a deputy chairman, an executive officer and such other members as the Government appoints from time to time. The provision for further members has been included in the Bill because it is considered that within the whole field which the conversion will cover it may be that at different times emphasis will be given to special areas. Therefore, it is undesirable to specify the number of members of the Board. But the present thinking of the Government is that the number of members will not be in any sense really different from the recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures. However, flexibility is desirable. I should think that, although no undertaking is given in the Bill, it would be obvious that trade union representation and representation of the interests of the female sec’ i hi of the community will be always at I1”’’ forefront of the Government’s concern.
Senator Greenwood raised a question in regard to the generality of the language of the Bill. He referred to clause 6, which slates:
The Minister may. on behalf of the Commonwealth, do such things, make such arrangement a’nn enter into such agreements us he thinks conducive lo the attainment of the object of this Act.
The object of the legislation is set out in clause 5, which states:
The object of this Act is to bring about progressively the use of the metric system of measurement in Australia as the sole system of measurement of physical quantities.
I turn to clause 22, which relates to the functions of the Board. In doing so, I should refer also to clause 7, which entitles the Minister to authorise the Board to carry out any of the powers granted to him under clause 6. Clause 22 provides that the functions of the Board are, in addition to the making of recommendations to the Minister with regard to the exercise of his powers, to exercise any power delegated to it and to carry out such other functions related to the attainment of the object of this legislation as the Minister determines. Clause 23 stales:
The Board has power to do ail things necessary or convenient lo be done in connection with, or as incidental lo, the performance of ils functions and, in particular, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Board may engage persons lo advise the Board upon any mailer related lo the functions of the Board.
I submit it is quite obvious thai the Board’s task be comprehensive. It will roam over all activities in which weights and measures are to be found, including the scientific, industrial and commercial fields. Therefore, I suggest to the Senate that it would be a great mistake to have the Board’s powers limited in such a way that attainment of the objective of the legislation, which is the overall conversion to a metric system of weights and measures as the exclusive method of measuring physical quantities, is restricted in any way. In a case such as this where the one specific object is to carry out a change progressively over a transition period of 10 years and the advice is sought of a board which has been specifically appointed to render available the knowledge it has gained, I do not think that it could be suggested that there is in the generality of the language used in this Bill an attempt to get around the provisions of the Constitution. As evidence of that, if one looks to the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960 it will be seen that when prescribing a system of standards for weights and measures an express effort was made to include in the Act a provision which prevented any intrusion by the Commonwealth upon fields which properly come within State jurisdiction. The Bill requires that the Board shall report to the Minister and that the Minister shall transmit that report to the Parliament from time to time. I should think that the Bill instances a situation where thz Minister is put in charge of a wide ranging administrative programme. He acts as the executive agent of the Parliament to effectuate the change.
J am indebted to the references which have been made by all honourable senators who have taken part in the debate to the work of our late colleague Senator Laught. I do not think that any honourable senator who knew the late Senator Laught failed to perceive his talents and devotion to duty in the report of the Senate Select Committee. The Senate is now enacting the recommendations which were very properly expressed in the report. 1 wish to put on record my very great appreciation of his work, particularly in this field. I think the Senate should derive some satisfaction from the fact that this Bill is the second piece of legislation today which effectuates recommendations which were expressed for the first time in this Parliament by a Senate select committee. I commend the Bill to the Senate,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 11 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 12- (1.) The members shall be paid such remuneration as the Governor-General determines. (2.) The members shall be paid such allowances as the Minister determines.
– I propose to move 2 amendments to clause 12 of the Bill. The amendments are identical to amendments which were moved to the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill, which was the last Bill before the
Senate. With the concurrence of the Senate I shall move both amendments together. I move:
These amendments were debated fairly fully in the Australian Film Development Corporation Bill, so I propose to make no further comment.
– I suggest to the Committee that it is quite obvious from clause 9 of the Bill, which states that the board shall consist of a chairman, a deputy chairman, an executive member and such number of other members as the Governor-General from time to time determines, that the board will consist of part-time people with an executive member and possibly a chairman in full-time employment with the board. It is obvious also that there will be 10 or 12 members from time to time from various situations in life. I suggest that it may be necessary to fix their remuneration for their part-time service to correspond with the profession, avocation or employment from which they come. 1 suggest that for part-time members of a board like that it would be much more appropriate to have as a form that the members shall be paid such remuneration and allowances as are prescribed than to have a situation in which we have to set out the actual figures against each member for the purposes of each appropriation bill.
I suggest that we will confuse a perfectly good principle if we insist upon the statutes being cluttered up by too much detail and if we require a statutory expression of the remuneration in relation to the less important officers of government, particularly when they are part-time, when there are as many as perhaps 10 officers ranging over various employments in the community. I suggest that if the Committee does not wish to retain what is printed in the Bill and if it proposes to provide for the remuneration and allowances to be as prescribed, it would be much belter advised to express the principle with which it shows concern by saying that the remuneration shall be as the Governor-General determines and allowances shall be such as the Minister determines. I invite Senator Poyser and those who are minded to support him to consider that alternative suggestion.
– What was said by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) again requires careful attention. There will be full-time members and parttime members and if we are going to exercise supervision over them the statute can surely state the principle, lt does not have to state an amount; it can provide in various ways for them to be paid.
– How do wc provide it without putting in amounts?
– We can provide for amounts on days when the board is silting in the same way as might have been done in respect of the Flight Crew Officers’ Industrial Tribunal although perhaps nol the same amounts. There arc a number of ways in which we can meet the problem. I do not think it is good to depart from the principle that we have set out. We should require the remuneration lo be included in an Act where we can consider it and the allowances can be fixed by regulation. 1 should think there would be no great difficulty in drafting legislation vo meet the problem. We have seen in every one of these measures an effort completely to sidetrack the Parliament. I appreciate that that is not what the Minister is suggesting. Nevertheless, we should be consistent. I do nol see any insuperable difficulties and I think we should adhere to what we have done.
Sen;:tor WRIGHT (Tasmania - Minister for Works) 5.25] - I regret having lo obi rude further upon the Committee, but I suggest that in relation to a board which has these various units of a part-time character it is an abuse of t he purpose of the Senate to require salaries of members of the board to be provided for by statute. I propose therefore that the matter be determined by a division. F indicate that if the amendment offered now is rejected I shall accept an amendment to the effect that the remuneration and allowances of members of the board shall be such as are prescribed.
That will give the Parliament an adequate opportunity in the case of each prescription by regulation to review the matter, unilaterally by this chamber if need be. I suggest that to have both the remuneration and allowances provided for by statute in relation to a board which varies in its composition and which is part-time is an abuse of the method that we wish to be established.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales - Leader of the Opposition) 5.27] - Although we are trying to get through the business quickly, may 1 suggest in answer to the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) that even if we do this by regulation it will still have to bc drafted mid we will have the same problem in a regulation as we would have in an Act. We are establishing a principle and it can be done by Act of Parliament. We had the unfortunate experience the other day of having to debate a motion for the disallowance of ;> regulation relating to the Flight Crew Officers’ Industrial Tribunal. We had required in thai castthat salaries be fixed by regulation, but nothing was done. The amounts had been paid but the regulation was not made until years later. Because of the difficulty that we met in relation to the other measure 1 am alive to difficulties that we may face if we have retrospective regulations. Under the present legislation I do not think the Government can be slopped from making reguations of thai kind and what was done the other day could probably be repeated.
-vill - A Bill is coming in.
– 1 know that, but my concern is that the retrospective procedure can be followed. Notwithstanding the disallowance of the regulations by the Senate, the provisions still operated validly in relation to payments. I should think that it would be much better for us to establish a principle, to pursue that principle and to bi consistent. Otherwise we will have an argument each lime the matter comes up as to what we are lo do. Why not let us set out the principle. As soon as it can be shown that there is some real difficulty wc can alter it. Let us be consistent.
Question put -
That the amendments (Senator Poyser’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 19 - by leave - taken together and agreed to.
Clause 20 (Person acting as member).
– I wish to raise a small point which has just occurred to me. Clause 20 (5.) states:
For the purposes of this section, a member acting in the office of another member shall be deemed to be absent.
This is after there has been provision earlier in the clause for a member to be appointed to the office of another member during a vacancy. It would seem to me that this will mean that unless under clause 15 (1.) (b) leave of the Minister is given we could have a situation where a member who is deemed to be absent falls within clause 15(l.)(b) and finds himself liable to have his. appointment terminated. It would simplify things if we added at the end of clause 20 (5.) with the consent of the Minister’. In other words, it would read:
For the purposes of this section, a member acting in the office of another member shall be deemed to be absent with the consent of the Minister.
This will obviate the necessity of people remembering to ensure that the Minister’s leave is given at any time when the provisions of clause 20 are exercised. It is only a very small point, but it is the sort of thing which cuts down a little bit of administrative detail and may remove the possibility of an unfortunate result from an oversight. I therefore move:
At the end of sub-clause (5.) add the words with the consent of the Minister’.
– I think the suggestion of the honourable senator has some advantage. I would accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 May (vide page 1402), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There can be no questioning the desirability of building a power house in the central Queensland region. By almost all economic indications, Queensland is badly in need of some such stimulus for industrial expansion. Queensland has the lowest average earnings per week of any State in Australia, being more than $7 a week behind the national average. Queensland has the highest percentageof people in receipt of unemployment benefits. For this the Commonwealth must accept a great deal of the blame simply because it has failed to give Queensland a fair share of its spending. While Sydney and Melbourne have tens of millions of dollars spent on their airports, Brisbane has tens of thousands of dollars spent on its airport. When other States have been obtaining $2 a day per patient under the Commonwealth health benefits scheme, Queensland has been handed a mere SOc a day. Perhaps this position will be altered in the near future. The Mount Gravatt university, due to a lack of Commonwealth money, is unlikely to be opened even by 1975, leaving the University of Queensland with the worst staff ratio in Australia.
In the important field of expenditure by the Department of Supply, more than 10 limes as much is purchased from South Australia as from Queensland. Queensland has not received a direct grant for railway development since the mid- 1 920s, and then it was only $2m for a standard gauge line lo the border of New South Wales. Since 1951-52 the other mainland States have received SI 14.34m in grants for railway projects. Of course, Queensland did receive a loan of $40m for the upgrading of the Mount Isa vo Townsville line at what was then regarded as the high interest rate of 5%. In the pas; 2 decades the Commonwealth has granted over S800m to the States for water conservation, irrigation and power. Of this, only $32. 6m has come to Queensland. An amount of $20m was provided for the Fairbairn Dam and SI 2.6m for the Kolan scheme. Nothing has been given for power, despite the promise in 1949 by the then Leader of the Australian Country Party. Sir Earle Page, to build the Burdekin D.:m and hydro-electricity scheme without delay. New South Wales and Victoria, of course, have the benefit of the massive Snowy Mountains scheme which was built with vast amounts of Commonwealth money. Now at last we find that Queensland is lo be given some help, but not as a grant. The Commonwealth is to lend $80m for the Gladstone power station. Note the similarity of our position in relation to grants for railway lines. The loan is at the crippling rate of interest of 6.4%.
From what I have said, it is clear that Queensland is sorely in need of assistance to develop its industrial base. But need the Commonwealth have taken advantage of such dire circumstances by imposing such an exorbitant rale of interest? Incidentally, the rate of interest is about the only fact that we have been given about the Gladstone power station. We do not know who is to build it. We do not know who is to operate it, or what will be the cost of production and the price charged for bulk supply. I understand that the Stale Government is still negotiating a price with 2 giant overseas firms which are likely to be customers. The 2 firms are Do.w Chemicals and the Queensland Alumina Comalco consortium. I contend - I say it clearly - that it is unwise for the Commonwealth to allow Mr Bjelke-Petersen and Mr Chalk to negotiate a loan on Queensland’s behalf, for I fear thai there is real danger that the Stale will end up by subsidising these wealthy giants, and indirectly the Commonwealth will do so. I said how unwise it would be to allow these 2 gentlemen to have sole control over the negotiations for the construction of this power station and for the supply of power, lt is with considerable astonishment that I read in this morning’s Agc’, under the heading ‘Cabinet men get Comalco shares’, the following statement: h igh-rank ing politicians in 3 States - including nearly half the Queensland Cabinet - arc being allotted thousands of shares in the controversial Comalco Lui share issue.
– I raise a point of order. I think that this is digressing considerably from the Bill. I do not think that Senator Georges is keeping to the terms of the Bill by referring to a report which appeared in a Melbourne newspaper.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Senator Georges, you will restrict your speech to the matter before the Senate. Thus far I can see no reason for sustaining the point of order raised.
– Thank you. I shall develop my theme a little further with your indulgence, Mr Acting Deputy President. 1 stated how unwise it was to allow Ministers of the Queensland Government to have the sole right to negotiate the loan on Queensland’s behalf, lt is obvious that these Ministers have abdicated their right and responsibility in this regard. I am questioning this matter only because we are to supply S80m for the construction of this power station, but we do not seem to be accepting any responsibility for the cost of the building, and we arc noi accepting any responsibility for thc price, at which power is lo be supplied. I am afraid that Queensland consumers will subsidise the price of power, coming from this power station. In other words, it is possible for the Queensland Government to arrange with the companies who need supply a rate below cost. If the
Government arranges a rate below cost by negotiation with the companies, and if this power house is tied in with the other power stations in Queensland, it is quite possible that the ordinary private consumers in Queensland will have to subsidise the operation of the Gladstone power station. One of the firms concerned in the project is Comalco, which - has made a special offer to leading people in this country, to politicians, to Cabinet Ministers. To the credit of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), he advised that no member of Federal Cabinet should accept this offer because, in effect, he understood it to be a gift. I cannot interpret it in any way other than as a gift. Now we see that half the Ministers of the Queensland Government, who are responsible for carrying out negotiations regarding the supply of power and the cost of power at the Gladstone power station, have accepted large parcels of shares.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order in fairness to members of another Parliament. Standing order 418 provides:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for ils repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
This is getting very close to a personal reflection. As I understand it - I have not read anything of the detail - these are allotments of shares offered to people. If it is improper for members of the Queensland Government to accept, is it equally improper for a former Governor-General to have accepted? I suggest with respect, Mr Acting Deputy President, that you recommend to Senator Georges that we are getting very close to a personal reflection on members of another Parliament.
– I ask you not to uphold the point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President, on the case submitted by the Minister. His last words were: ‘This is getting very close. . . .’ One does not break a standing order by getting close; one breaks a standing order by contravening it. If the Minister says that my colleague Senator Georges is getting very close to breaking a standing order, I suggest with respect that you say nothing except that he has not broken the standing order. Senator Georges should be allowed to continue his speech.
– It will be apparent, I think, to any fair minded person that what I am seeking to do is to avoid our getting ourselves into a situation which we all might have cause to regret.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! I took it from Senator Cotton’s remarks and the way in which he couched them that the reason he raised a point of order was his concern at an imputation which was near but not actually made. Senator’ Georges, will you continue with your speech?
– The imputation was near but not actually made. The Minister indicated that we might be undertaking a course which we might deeply regret. If he considers-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! Senator Georges, would you please not pursue the line which you have pursued thus far? I should be glad if you would confine your remarks now directly to the matter before the Senate, which is in direct reference to the Gladstone power station, without any irrelevant matter whatsoever.
– You stated, Mr Acting Deputy President, that I was being irrelevant. I dispute that. I merely used the word ‘unwise’ when I referred to the Commonwealth Government allowing the negotiations to rest solely in the hands of the Queensland Cabinet. I was about to proceed and say that it was unwise for members of the Queensland Cabinet - I am saying ‘unwise’ - to accept parcels of shares offered in such a preferential way from companies with which they were negotiating. That is fair comment for me to make.
– Not unwise - grossly indiscreet.
– Well, ‘grossly indiscreet’ has been used. I have used the word unwise’. I leave it to honourable senators to place their interpretation upon it within the category of unwisdom. The chief negotiator in the establishment of the power station was the Deputy Premier, Mr Chalk. He was the chief negotiator not only with the Commonwealth for the loan of $80m but also with the companies which were about to use the power. I say it was most unwise. It should be brought before this Senate that there is a possibility of the misuse of the $80m. I am making the point that far more information than has been given in this Bill should have been given. One of the reasons it should have been given is that one cannot accept the integrity - I use that word - of members of a Cabinet who accept shares in this way. They have prejuduced their right to make a decision in this field. I will not read the list-
– Mr Acting Deputy President. I consider that the word ‘integrity’ is a reflection on members of the Queensland Parliament and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Do you raise this point of order under standing order 4 1 8?
– May I read it again? It refers in part to:
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! I ask you, Senator Georges, lo withdraw the words which implied a lack of integrity.
– To permit me to proceed I will withdraw the phrase which questioned the integrity of the Queensland Ministers.
– There is nothing to stop you reflecting on the integrity of the company in offering them.
– The action of the company, to which Senator Little has referred, in offering these shares in the manner in which they were offered is highly questionable and is a matter which should be taken up by this Parliament.
– So is the acceptance.
– I have spoken about the acceptance and have said that it was unwise, and I have been asked to withdraw and I have withdrawn the inference tha: it put in question the integrity of certain State Ministers. The offer was highly questionable and I trust that this is the last lime that any overseas company, or a company which is owned almost entirely overseas, will make such an issue. I hope that this is the last time that any person in a position of responsibility will accept such a parcel of shares. lt just so happens that we are talking about the negotiations in relation to the Gladstone power station and the companies which are likely to be using the power from it. I emphasise the invidious position in which members of Parliament place themselves when they allow themselves to be compromised in this fashion. A few years ago after negotiating the details of a deal for the Peabody Mitsui organisation to export Moura coal, Mr Chalk claimed in the State Parliament that the company was providing funds to build the MouraGladstone railway line. This is another example of what can go on. As the Auditor-General’s Report showed later, and as Mr Chalk was forced to admit in answer to a question on notice, the State was paying for the railway line. There is a case in which a State Minister stated clearly that certain conditions were being met by a company which was to exploit the coal resources of Moura but when we gol down to investigating the situation wc found that it was not the company which was to pay, it was the people of Queensland.
Sitting suspended from f» to 8 p.m.
– I will continue from the point I made before the suspension of the sifting. In view of the pathetic negotiating skill of the Queensland Government and its Ministers and because they have compromised themselves as I indicated earlier by accepting preferential treatment from Comalco, a firm with which they had lo negotiate for the supply of power from the Gladstone power station-
– Who will gel the preferential treatment? lt will not be the Ministers, lt will be Comalco. What did they give the shares for?
– This is the point I am trying to make: The Queensland Cabinet ought not to have placed itself in this compromised position. The Minister who is negotiating the deal. Mr Chalk, is one of the men who has accepted a parcel of shares. As a matter of fact, the whole of his family has accepted parcels of shares. I heard earlier tonight that 2,100 shares were involved. According to a person I spoke to in Kings Hall the only one in the family who did not receive shares was the dog. The joke is going around now that the dog is upset about the situation. But let us not have any more facetious remarks.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I ask Senator Georges to come back to the Bill.
– This is a serious matter. I believe the Commonwealth Government should demand a guarantee that the price these firms pay for the power covers the cost. No guarantee is contained in the Bill. There is no guarantee that the Commonwealth will be involved in the arrangements, lt is of the utmost importance that we be given the price and the cost of production at this stage. Let me make it clear that I am not against anyone, by his more expert knowledge or skill or because of friends he knows, making a SI or $2. I am against such a situation when our national assets are involved. This is what 1 want explained to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). He remarked before that I was getting very close to questioning the behaviour of Ministers of another Government. I question their behaviour in purchasing shares in companies with which they have dealings, because it does concern a national asset.
Previously 1 have complained about the Premier of Queensland holding 500,000 shares in the Exoil company, which has leases on the Great Barrier Reef. I do not question Mr Bjelke- Petersen because I am afraid he will make $lm from a sudden upsurge in the price of the shares but because he has to make a decision which will affect the future of the Great Barrier Reef, lt is for this reason that I question his right to accept the purchase shares. A similar situation exists with this power station. I question the right pf 5 Ministers of the Queensland Government to accept preferential treatment from Comalco, one of the companies wilh which they have to deal in negotiating a price for the power supplied from this Gladstone power station. The Commonwealth Government is supplying S80m towards the cost of the power station. Recently in a similar situation I questioned the right of Mr Hodges, the
Queensland Minister for Works a/.id Housing to hold 500 shares in Mineral Deposits, which is one of the companies with an application before the Cabinet at this time. It has lodged an application to exploit the mineral sands at Cooloola. Cooloola is a national asset; it is an area which is unique in the world. If we succeed in preventing the lease from becoming operative, it is likely to become one of trie finest national parks in the world - indeed unique.
It is in this conflict of interest that the criticism is made, and it is made again here. It is not right for the Commonwealth to abdicate its right to be party to the negotiation when 5 Ministers of the Queensland Cabinet have bought shares in one of the companies which is closely involved in the deal. We are entitled to know the facts. It is simply hot good enough to leave the price in the hands of the State Government which, in the past, has shown its ineptitude in dealing with hard bargaining foreign investors. Comalco, one of the parties interested in obtaining power for an aluminium smelter- at Gladstone, managed to secure at Weipa from the Queensland Government the biggest and best bauxite lease in the world. The terms were 5c a t0:1 royalty for domestic use and 10c for export. Not lc is flowing back to the people in the area.
– What are you quoting from?
– I am quoting from my copious notes. 1 seldom use notes in this place. If you want me to deal with the situation without referring to these notes I might take longer than I should. A reliable commentator stales that Comalco is producing bauxite at Weipa at a total cost, including capital repayment, of $1.20 a lon. lt is obtaining over S5 a ton for the bauxite on the open market. There is considerable question about the company’s operation at Gladstone, lt has been stated that the treatmen t of bauxite al Gladstone is merely a service treatment, that the bauxite k treated at the lowest possible cost and is sold to overseas sections of the company, so evading Commonwealth tax. This is something that ought to be looked at. The same thing will happen with the Cooloola sands and in regard to all the mineral sands operations. The article is processed below cost and sold below cost. The profit is made overseas by the subsidiary companies or sister companies of the concern in Australia. It is about time the Treasurer (Mr Bury) had a good look at this. I say to the Commonwealth, which is making this loan of $SOm to the Queensland Government for the building of this power station, that it is’ suspected that power will be provided at below cost to the refinery and to Dow Chemicals. The Queensland consumer at large will have to meet the cost. This is the unhealthy situation that exists in Queensland at the present time.
While I welcome the expenditure of $80m on this power station and while I welcome the industrial development at Gladstone, I hope that that development not only will lead to further employment but that it will improve the facilities around Gladstone. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to look at the airport in that area so that it will not be necessary, as happened with a Friendship aircraft, for passengers to get out and actually push the aircraft into a position so that it can take off. I ask him to look at the airport so that it will not be necessary for over 50 people and sometimes visitors from overseas, as happened on one occasion when some American tourists were going to Heron Island, to stand out in the sun without any shelter. The facilities are very primitive. I welcome this power station and what it will mean to the people of Gladstone. I hope that those people who take part in the negotiations will make certain that the nation receives more from the whole of the operation in Gladstone than the tax on the workers’ wages as has happened in many places before. It has happened in Mount Morgan, in the northern areas, and at Moura where the only direct income which the Commonwealth Government is likely to receive is the income tax on the workers’ wages.
I conclude by saying that what I have said should made it clear that foreign investors and the Commonwealth Government will be the major beneficiaries from this power plant. The people of Queensland are likely to pay. My aim has been to see that they do not have to pay subsidies to these foreign investors, that they have the chance to own at least some part of the industries which will be set up as a result of the establishment of the power house, that the pollution problems in the area are not worsened - which is another aspect - and to persuade the Commonwealth to be more generous in the assistance it gives to this project by having another look at the interest rates now and when future loans of this type are made to Queensland. The 6.4% is far too high for any developmental project of this type. In future I think the Commonwealth Government ought to make money available to Queensland by way of grant - as it does to the other States, particularly in relation to the building of the nuclear power station at Jervis Bay. There $135m is to be provided by grant to build the nuclear power station which will serve no useful purpose in the production of power. Yet S80m is to be provided to Queensland at the rate of 6.4%.
– I support the Bill. I think it will mean wonderful development for that area of Queensland in which I live and to which its provisions are directed - the Gladstone area. I think the Bill presages big development in that area. I deprecate those who have no faith in Queensland and those who try to knock the scheme. An agreement was made before the Bill was introduced. Some time ago the negotiations were held. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), in her second reading speech, said:
The result of these negotiations is that the Queensland Government has satisfied the Commonwealth that major export oriented industries are likely to be attracted to central Queensland through the provision of the low cost power.
What has happened since then, I contend, has nothing to do with the case. We are debating an agreement that was made some time ago and a Bill that was brought in on the strength of the agreement. Again I deprecate those who try to knock the scheme. Mr Chalk has said already - and he must have some inside knowledge of the negotiations with the expert companies - that the power house is likely to be too small even before it is completed. That indicates how much development will take place. The power house must be designed in such a fashion that it can be added to and expanded easily. In that area of my home State development in recent years has been so fast that it is ahead of services. One of the services is electricity supply. With the construction of this power house we hope to catch up with that lag.
It has been made quite clear that the Federal help for the power house is not for ordinary expansion to supply domestic and industrial power that ordinarily applies to the normal expansion of power development in the various States. This offer to Queensland is on the condition that the Queensland Government attract major export oriented industries. The Queensland Government apparently has shown the Commonwealth Government that it can do that. The power must be produced at a low cost per unit - I do not suggest it will be produced at. a loss - otherwise industries will nol be attracted. That is only natural. I also understand that hig changes are forecast in Queensland’s electricity supply service. At present an area extending from Mackay to the north of Cairns and into a large part of the hinterland is connected in one grid. Other systems operate in the Wide Bay area, in the Capricornia area and in the area serviced by the Southern Electric Authority of Queensland. I understand that the proposal is that the whole of the southern area, except that area supplied by the North West County Council in New South Wales, is to bc put on one grid. That will mean that the proposed power house will be interconnected with the Wide Bay, Callide and Ipswich power stations. All will be interconnected into one big grid. The State Electricity Commission of Queensland will fake over the generation of power in Queensland, leaving the regional Boards to handle the distribution. Very large transmission lines are being built in the area. In the area in which I live a 415,000 volt transmission line is being surveyed to supply the central highlands area - the coalfields and the other places in that, area - wilh a view eventually to taking over what is known as the central western system which is based on Blackall, Barcaldine and Longreach. That system is proposed to be brought into the grid in the not too distant future.
The whole of the central Queensland area is rich in minerals. One of the richest goldmines in the world was at Mount Morgan. The biggest gold producer in Queensland today is in Cracow in Central Queensland. Steaming and coking coal underlies almost the whole area of the Dawson and Mackenzie River system. In fact, it extends from near Maryborough to Bowen. It is a very big coal area. One of the attractions of these coal seams is that white a large pari of the coal is coking coal suitable for slee making and export, a large part is steaming coal. In many places the steaming coal is superimposed on the coking coal. The people who mine the coking coal have to stockpile the steaming coal. They have no use for it. The power house will put to use that coal which is not sold. The power house will be able to purchase at a very low price the steaming coal which is on top of the coking coal for use in the power house and so keep down the cost of generation.
Other minerals in the area will be developed as time goes on. Already huge quantities of copper have been taken out of Mount Morgan. There is copper in other places. Quite a lot of prospecting for copper is going on. This will be affected bv the development of the power house. It may be possible lo mine an;i treat u much larger quantity of minerals than hitherio has been the case. Australians are lucky in 1hat a lot of our mineral deposits are in close proximity to or not far away from tidal waters. Bauxite, particularly at Weipa, as has been mentioned already, is close to the s-i-a and consequently a good deal of the transport problems are solved. It can be loaded directly into the ships and taken to the industrial areas for treatment. Large quantities of coking coal are in relatively the same position. The coal deposits are handy to the coast. We hope that major industrial development will take place in the area. The Fitzroy basin has many sites suitable for storing water. That includes not only the Fitzroy River but also its tributaries. Some storages have been established already. These will lead to the development of electricity and cheap power. There is a dam on the Callide Creek where the Callide power hour. is. Owing to the prevailing dry seasons this water scheme has noi been assuccessful as it could be because the dam has never overflowed. If normal seasons return there will be more water there. The Fitzroy River barrage at Rockhampton has been completed and will make available at a very low cost some of the largest quantities of water available for industrial purposes anywhere in Australia.
– That has nothing lo do with the power house.
– It is. senator, because I was linking ii with the power-house and industrial development.
– Are you going to run it down the river?
– The Emerald complex is under construction. It will have a lot to do with the powerhouse because it will use electric power in a big way in farm development there. The Minister in his second reading speech has referred to the value of aluminium - the finished product. - as against alumina which is produced at present. In the first stage of production by the refinery at Gladstone, about 240,000 tons will be produced wilh a value of about $126m. In the second stage production is expected to reach about 320,000 tons, with a value of about 165m. I consider this to be good value for a Commonwealth investment of $80m. Pyrites from the Mount Morgan mines and salt from the large deposits at Bajool are available and suitable for use by a fertiliser works. The Dow Chemicals organisation has been mentioned in connection with a fertiliser works in the Gladstone area.
Construction of the powerhouse, the subject of this legislation, must highlight the necessity for us as Australians to build in our national interest 2 steelworks, 1 on the Queensland coast and 1 on the Western Australian coast. It will be necessary to run a shuttle service of ships to take coking coal to Western Australia and iron ore pellets to Queensland. In this way we can export the finished steel products instead of the raw materials, as we do at present. I believe that that stage must come. It is part and parcel of our development After that stage has been reached, when a large quantity of cheap steel should be available, we could go on to establish heavy industries in the area.
The projected powerhouse complex must speed the development of central Queensland, through both secondary and primary industries, to the mutual benefit of all. Some of the towns which will benefit directly and indirectly from the project are Moura, Blackwater, Goonyella, and Emerald which is making rapid progress with the help of an irrigation scheme. Projects such as this bring population and money, along with development of the area. That development results from a combination of the factors I have mentioned. A major meat company has decided to build a meatworks at Emerald. This is all part of the development, but it is only a start of what is to follow. It will continue and will accelerate. It will make that part of Australia one of our great industrial areas and one of the most highly developed. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– The history of Queensland is spectacular. Many of the pages of its history are devoted to the mining ventures and projects that have been exploited there over the years. It appears that today Queensland has again reached an era of great development of the natural resources with which it has been blessed. It could be said with a great measure of safety that Queensland has produced all types of minerals and metals. During the gold rushes 2 great mining centres were established at Gympie and Charters Towers. Queensland has abundant supplies of copper at Mount Isa, where originally silver, lead and zinc were mined. Operations were converted to copper mining during the war years in response to an appeal by the nation for copper. Originally Mount Morgan was known for gold mining, in addition to Charters Towers and Gympie. It has also converted to copper mining. Queensland produces tin, rutile, zircon, ilmenite and all the metals that can be obtained from sand mining.
– And wolfram and molybdenite.
– Yes, and uranium and bauxite. Bauxite, of course, is closely connected with this legislation. All these resources are of immense value not only to Queensland, but to the nation. However, unless they can be mined and developed economically they are of little or no value on world markets. They have to be developed as economically as possible to compete on the markets of the world. Three factors are essential to economic production and exploitation of our mineral and metal deposits. I refer to low cost power, water and transport. Providing we can produce from these deposits at an economic price and have the facilities for export, such activities will prove invaluable to the Australian economy.
T commend the Commonwealth Government for responding to the appeal of the Queensland Government for a loan to enable it to establish a large powerhouse at Gladstone, which is the centre of great activity at present in the export of coal. Much has been done to improve the harbour facilities at Gladstone. Honourable senators will be aware that next to Sydney Harbour, the harbour at Gladstone is probably the best in Australia. Facilities at Gladstone and Port Alma have been expanded to raise them to a modern standard for the export of coal, and later of alumina or aluminium.
– And there is the saltworks.
– And. of course, salt is to be found in that district, lt is expected to play a part in a chemical industry that it is hoped to establish there. The response of me Commonwealth Government to the appeal by the Queensland Government for financial aid to enable it to carry out this project was nol received and granted without complete and thorough investigation as to the prospects of the establishment of further industries in the part of Queensland to bc served by the planned powerhouse. That is logical and common sense because the expenditure of SI 55m on a power station that would serve only one industry could not be justified. However, the Commonwealth Government has gone into all of that. We can b? sure that it went into the matter very thoroughly before the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made his announcement in September last year that the Commonwealth Government would provide a loan of $80m towards the cost of this project.
I only hope that the expectations of the present Government of Queensland will be realised and fulfilled. I believe that it is a little premature for Mr Chalk, the Deputy Premier, to be talking about the power station proving to be loo small, lt will be time enough for him to express that view when we have something more concrete with regard to the new industries, lt is stated that more details of these new industries cannot be disclosed at the present time and must be treated as confidential. lt is nol my intention lo question Mr Chalk’s statement in this connection. I only hope that his optimism will be justified because it will mean a great deal nol only to
Queensland but lo Australia to have export ing industries established in Queensland and operating successfully with the aid of the cheap power that will be available to them. As honourable senators know, Queensland has been blessed very bountifully with unlimited supplies of coal of a very high standard. Coking gas and steaming coal is available in great quantities. Much of it is being exported to Japan and other countries at the present time.
So I rise to support the Bill and to commend the Commonwealth Government for co-operating with the Queensland Government in this matter. “1 he great value of this project, in my view anyway, is that it is a very positive step towards the decentralisation of Australia’s industries which is so much desired. For too long we have had the concentration of our major industries in the 2 great cities of Sydney and Melbourne. There are many reasons why wc should not centralise our industries lo the extent that would make them great targets in time of war for any enemy who might endeavour to invade this country. The further we spread our industries me safer they will be. 1 am sure that it is not to he desired that all our industries should bc in I centre.
Reference has been made by Senator Georges to some shares that have been distributed lo members of the Cabinet in Queensland and to other important personages throughout Australia. In that connection I commend the Prime Minister on having advised his Ministers not lo accept these shares, which were being distributed al a preferential rate. He showed ‘ good judgment. He exercised wise discretion. 1 believe that it was highly improper, firstly, for the company concerned to offer these shares and, secondly, for people, particularly those in charge of government, to accept them.
– How docs the honourable senator know thai they have accepted them?
– According to the Press reports; thai is all I have to go on. The Courier-Mail” reported Mr Chalk as having said that he did not deny having received these shares. He justified his action by saying that his shareholding was a personal matter and he did not desire to comment on it. ! say that ii is unfortunate that this is taking place because the Comalco company is the company that will benefit under the legislation now before us. The Commonwealth Government is assisting the State to build this power station which is primarily for that company’s benefit. We cannot help people putting their own interpretations on these matters, as wrong as they may be. The deduction may be wrong, but the fact remains that there is a basis for people to come to the wrong deduction or conclusion that there is something improper about the matter because of the indiscretion of both the company and the recipients of these new shares.
I do not intend to suggest that there is anything improper about it, but at least it gives people room to arrive at a conclusion that there is something improper about it, and that should never be the position in respect of governments in their dealings with big companies which are establishing industries and engaging in the exploitation of the raw materials of Queensland, or any other State for that matter. I believe that members of governments themselves would be much happier and that it would be. better for their governments generally if they could say that they had no connection with these companies in any financial way at all. People would be satisfied that decisions arrived at by members of governments were based on the merits of the case and were not influenced by their own personal interest in the project concerned. To say the least, it is regrettable that this atmosphere has been created by what might be only an indiscretion at the worst. 1 was Premier of Queensland for many years. I was Minister for Mines in that State for some years, too. I cannot recollect more than 1 case in which any mining company or any oil company offered me shares on ground floor conditions. When that 1 case arose - the company concerned was Ampol Petroleum Ltd - the Brisbane manager called on me and said that he had been instructed to reserve me a package of shares in Ampol Petroleum Ltd at a ground floor price. I thanked him and informed him that it was my policy not to hold a share in any company whilst I held public office. 1 carried out that policy to the best, of my ability within the limits of my capacity as head of the Queensland Government, f endeavoured to see that other members of my Cabinet followed suit. However, I do not claim that T succeeded because subsequent events have shown that I did not succeed. In fact, I did not succeed by a long stretch. Let me say again before I sit down that members of governments have not only a responsibility to the government of which they are a member but also to the people whom they represent. I think members of governments are, in their own interests, unwise and indiscreet to hold shares in public companies, particularly when they are engaged in considering the applications of those companies for one thing or another. When I was a young parliamentarian a very successful business man in Queensland - he died 12 months ago or more leaving a lot of money - said to me: ‘I would sooner deal with your Government, although I do not support it, than with members of the Opposition for the reason that, in most cases, members of the Opposition are large shareholders in most of the big companies in this State whereas in your case, and in the case of most of your Ministers, you are not personally interested financially in any company and you reach your decisions uninfluenced by your own financial concern’.
– That was a Labour government.
– Yes, but we had weeds in the garden. J do not want to go into that aspect, but if the honourable senator prompts and provokes me I shall. I will content myself by saying that the Bill before the Senate which ratifies in a sense an agreement reached between the Commonwealth and State governments is a good one. This measure will prove to be of immense value to industry in Queensland. I hope that the power station will succeed in serving many new industries in that State, all of which, as exporting industries, will prove to be of great economic value not only to Queensland but also to Australia as a whole.
– I take pleasure also in supporting the Bill which is before the Senate tonight. This legislation is a milestone in the development of industrial power in Queensland, particularly in that area of central Queensland in which this power station is to be situated. The fact that the Commonwealth is prepared to provide a loan of S80m or, should I say, 80/155ths of the total cost of the project is certainly welcomed by all Queenslanders. Seine people have suggested that the assistance provided by the Commonwealth should be in the form of a grant, but I believe that the provision of it in the form of a loan, wilh interest being charged, is the right way to support development in this area. As a result, individuals who live in a certain area are not getting specific benefits. The money which is repaid will be available to help other needy areas which can be given the same son of assistance.
One should take into consideration the fact that, it is believed that 60% of the power generated will bc used by the Comalco organisation and chemical industries in the area. I do not think that any honourable senator would like to see the taxpayers of Australia providing a gift to this area of Queensland so that these industries can obtain power at a cheaper rate than anyone else can. I believe that the Government is approaching this matter in the right way. We want this development to take place and we want these industries to come to Australia in order that we can derive export income for Australia, but we also believe that the advantages should not be gained at the expense of other people in the community. I was very pleased to note that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said that when the time comes and further money is required for the development of other power stations in Queensland or the extension of this power station a sympathetic hearing will be given. J think this is important because great mineral discoveries have been made throughout the length and breadth of Queensland. However, two elements are required to develop our mineral resources fully. They are, as Senator Gair has mentioned, water and power. Queensland has adequate . quantities of water and it has the fuel in the form of unlimited quantities of steaming coal to generate the power.
I anticipate that in the not too distant future the Queensland Government will again be approaching the Commonwealth Government for assistance to extend the power station at Collinsville so that the Greenvale nickel deposits can be processed at Townsville. The State Government has entered into an agreement with the Utah Development Co. concerning the Goonyella coal field, which is not very far from Collinsville. The agreement is in relation to steaming coa!. 1 wish to quote from a document which outlines the advantages which will accrue to Queensland as a result of the agreement, lt slates:
Cheap steaming coal could become available for Queensland power stations. One provision in the agreement is that the Minister may require the companies to supply to the Government any steaming coal mined wilh the coking coal, for use in Stale power stations. The companies arc lo be paid only the cost of extracting and delivering the coal less what il would ha»e cost to have sent the coal lo waste.
In other words, the coal will be stockpiled for next lo nothing. The document continues:
In addition, the Government may require the companies lo stockpile washery rejects and then supply them for use in power stations.
This means that we will be able 10 generate very cheap power in other paris of Queensland. I am very keen on decentralisation. Apart from Tasmania. 1 would say that Queensland is the most decentralised Slate in Australia at this time.
– The Country Party has not been responsible.
– The Australian Country Party is doing a lot towards decentralisation. A lot has been done in the past 13 years. This is just one example. I believe that in the future we will see great development of industrial complexes spread throughout Queensland and well away Iron the major cities. 1 agree with Senator Gair that decentralisation is very important from a defence point of view if for no other reason. Decentralisation is also most essential if the Stale is to develop. One of the great problems we have had in Australia arises from the fact thai we have built up great cities and our raw materials have had to be carted hundreds of miles to bc processed or to be sold. This is a complete waste. Ft is necessary to have the population, reasonably close to the raw products and the markets. Queensland is certainly giving a lead in this direction. Honourable senators opposite have said that Comalco will get more benefits out of this proposal than anyone else. They have said thai this project is to be constructed at the expense of the ordinary people of Australia. I know the cost at. the moment of generating power in these areas. I think 1 mentioned in this chamber a few months ago that the cost of generating power in western Queensland is something like 2.6c a unit. The cost of generating electricity from the present power station in the Callide Valley is something over lc per unit, but it is envisaged that from the new power station at Gladstone we will be able to generate power at less than .5c per unit. This power can be transmitted to our central western areas of Queensland which are now producing power at 2.6c per unit and it can be sold to them for about 1.3c per unit. As a result the people of the area will benefit just as much as the big complexes will benefit by having cheaper industrial power.
It is most important that we do not merely sell our raw materials straight from the mines; we must process them to a stage whereby we can derive the maximum benefit from them. All honourable senators realise that a certain amount of bauxite is worth only so much as bauxite but is worth many times that amount if sold as aluminium. We have to compete with other power stations and with other production units about the world if we want to be able to produce aluminium and sell it at a competitive price. This is why power stations are so important, not only for the development of big industries and industrial complexes which are coming into the area but also for the benefit of people in the surrounding areas. There has been some mention by honourable senators opposite of the Government elected by people of Queensland being not fit to look after the interests of Queensland. In other words, honourable senators opposite suggest that people from other States should have some say in the running of the State of. Queensland because Queenslanders are not fit to do the job.
– They are corrupt.
– I have read the newspaper report also, but I have not had any confirmation of the report that some members of the Queensland Government have received shares. I know that it is a normal process for people to receive preference shares. Whether or not they should have them is another matter. Many people have preference shares offered to them, and they are offered as a normal thing to existing shareholders. I cannot see that this should have a detrimental effect on the running of the power station or that organisations like Comalco should receive special treatment as a result. Ail governments are answerable to the people and any government which gave preferential treatment to a particular company would soon be out of government. Consequently I suggest that we have no worries in this regard. The Queensland Government and the Queensland people have a very sound case for assistance from the Federal Government. I have every confidence in the Queensland Government.
– In addressing myself to this Bill I propose to be brief because I believe that sufficient has been said in applauding its provisions to indicate that honourable senators generally are in support of the measure. I believe that all honourable senators would support anything which will assist the country people of Australia - not only in Queensland. Most certainly this measure should assist the people of Queensland. However, at this stage I defy anybody to say which people in Queensland will derive benefit from this power station. We have heard a lot of airy-fairy talk about who will use power from the station. We have heard it suggested that the power house will have insufficient output to meet the requirements of that area in 10 years time. But at this stage I am unaware of anything positive which has been put before the people of Australia to say who will be the users of this power. I believe that it is wrong for the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland to enter into an agreement of the magnitude of the one referred to in the Bill and expect this Parliament merely to rubber stamp it. 1 concede that it would be necessary for the Commonwealth and State governments to negotiate on a project of this nature, but I believe that it is wrong that we in this place should have put before us an agreement which has been signed, sealed, and delivered, as a result of which any criticisms of the agreement that we may care to make would be futile. Nevertheless, let me say at this point that 1 object strenuously to the amount of interest that it is proposed to charge for the loan made under this Bill. It must be remembered that the money to be advanced comes from the people of Australia. I cannot for the life of me see why the Commonwealth Government should charge interest at the rate of 6.4% per annum. The interest alone will require a considerable amount of repayment to the Commonwealth
Government. I do not believe that the Commonwealth Government should treat the States in this way. If interest is to be charged I suggest, with respect, that it should be no more than a service charge for the services which are being rendered. lt must be remembered that the States make up the Commonwealth. I reiterate that for the life of me I cannot see why interest at the rate of 6.4% should be charged. This will impose a crippling burden on the people of Queensland and to a substantial extent will nullify the value of the measure. Clause 3 of the agreement states:
The Commonwealth shall not be required to make any payments under this agreement unless and until the State produces evidence satisfactory to the Minister that the Slate has entered into or proposes to enter into agreements, arrangements or options for the consumption of electrical power by organisations which will have in the aggregate a total requirement of installed generating capacity of approximately 600 megawatts of the proposed capacity of the said thermal station.
Can anybody say that they have been told who will qualify under that clause? It is true that negotiations between a State Government and overseas consortiums must be to some extent of a confidential nature, but I believe that when we are spending substantial amounts in this way the people of Australia should have some knowledge of whether the requirements of that clause have been complied with. So far 1 have not read anywhere of the requirements of that clause being met.
I revert now to the fact that this agreement was signed on 8th April 1970. It now comes before the Parliament, apparently merely so that we may approve of it and so that the Parliament can put its rubber stamp on the agreement. Whether we agree or disagree, we have had no opportunity to criticise any parts of the arrangement. I, for one, would have been most critical of the agreement if, before it was signed, it had come before us stating that interest at the rate of 6.4% was to be levied on the people of Queensland for the loan of this money. 1 can instance other cases - one was the Mount lsa railway project - where the people of Queensland have been taken for a ride by the Commonwealth Government. I do not believe that the Federal Government should take advantage of the weakness of negotiators on behalf of a State government. If a State government has not the capacity to negotiate properly, fairly and equitably, then it is not the function of the Federal Government to commit the State to liabilities of this nature. Again, it is most unfortunate that today - when this measure is before the Parliament - we read in the Press that members of the Queensland Cabinet have been issued with preferential shares. Like other honourable senators I am not suggesting anything sinister in that allocation of those shares but 1 say, with respect, that it is a most indiscreet action for Cabinet Ministers who have the inside running with these measures - they know the prospects of this power house - to be dabbling in shares associated with this company.
– Did any members of the Labor Party get them?
– As far as I know, no, but if members of the Labor Party did then I am most certain that they would not be privy to what has gone on in the negotiations between the Deputy Premier of Queensland and the overseas people who will use this power station. Most certainly they would not be privy to the negotiations that have gone on between the Queensland Cabinet and Comalco, one of the principals in this power station scheme. So do not, for goodness’ sake, bring anything connected with politics into it. The fact remains, and I defy anybody to say anything lo the contrary, that no Cabinet Minister should be dabbling in shares of this nature whilst this measure is before the Parliament. If honourable senators say anything to the contrary then, as usual, they are denying their own Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) because he is the very one who said: ‘No member of my Cabinet will have anything to do with the shares of this company.’ So if Senator Webster likes to continue to deny his own Prime Minister he is at liberty to do so. That is the state of disarray in which they find themselves today so we will not quarrel with it. However, for the purpose of the record I believe it should be made known precisely what has been alleged in the Press as to the number of shares held by Ministers of the Queensland Government.
In the first place, the Queensland Treasurer and Deputy Premier, Mr Chalk, has been allotted 1,500 shares. Dr Gregory Gordon Chalk, his son, received 300 shares;
Mrs Ellen Clare Chalk received 500 shares and Miss Meredith Clare Chalk received 200. That is all tor the Deputy Premier of Queensland and his family, but it goes much further than that because he is not the only one in the Cabinet who is involved. The other Queensland Cabinet Ministers to receive shares include the Minister for Industrial Development. Mr Campbell, 700 shares; the Minister for Works and Housing, Mr Hodges. 1.200 shares - I think he is also the Minister-in-Charge of Police; the Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Hewitt, 1,200 shares; the Minister for Local Government and Electricity, Mr Rae. 1,500 shares: and the Minister for Health, Dr Tooth, 1,200 shares. Thar is a fairly substantial parcel of shares that has been allocated to members of the Queensland Cabinet but apparently the Deputy Premier, Mr Chalk, sees absolutely nothing wrong with that because when he was approached for a comment he said: No comment. That is my business’. With respect to Cabinet Ministers I suggest that as he is the Deputy Premier of Queensland it is the business of the people of Australia and not his personal business.
– Why did they all not get them, I wonder?
– They may all have got them. Perhaps they have not had time to go through the share listings. We have indicated that we are not opposing this measure. However. I believe there is room for criticism and 1 have indicated that because of the percentage of interest that is being charged by the Commonwealth Government to the State Government the people of Queensland will eventually pay a substantial sum of money in interest charges. Let me conclude on the note that I hope that with all this talk of big business from the United Stales of America and other parts of the world establishing industries surrounding this power station those responsible for the power station will not forget the little people of Queensland. In the outback and in the more remote areas of Queensland they are called upon to pay extortionate electricity charges. They pay considerably more than anyone anywhere else in Australia and I trust that as a result of this measure they will receive the benefit of much more economical electricity charges.
– I want to make a few remarks on this matter and, as has been outlined by the previous speakers from this side of the chamber, the Labor Party is not opposing the Bill. But I did note that the Country Party supporters, particularly Senator Maunsell, when making excuses for some of the activities of the Queensland Government, went to very great pains to point out that Queensland is a decentralised Slate and that this has ail happened in the last 13 years. For the benefit of Senator Maunsell and other members of the Country Party from Queensland I want lo point out that in J 956 there were more towns and cities in Queensland than in any other State because of the policy of successive Labor Governments which endeavoured to carry out this decentralisation policy by establishing and encouraging the establishment of industries in provincial cities including Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay, Roma, Warwick and other places well removed from the coastal fringe so that the population could be held in those centres, so that youngsters would have the opportunity to follow a trade and so that young people could build their lives in country towns.
Al the end of 13 years of Country Party-Liberal rule every country electorate in Queensland - there are no exceptions - had seen a decline in local population. The people have moved to the larger provincial cities - and even these are now being stifled - or to the Brisbane metropolitan area. In extreme cases people have had to leave Queensland altogether so thai Queensland today, as it has done for a lengthy period now - the full 13 years referred to by my friend from the other side, Senator Maunsell - shows a decline in population. In other words, it shows the smallest population growth of any of the 6 States, including Tasmania. As my colleague, Senator Georges, pointed out earlier we also have the highest unemployment rate in Australia, particularly in the provincial cities and country towns, and we have some of the worst social conditions under which any State population has to live.
– I bet you would like to have the Gair Government back.
– We would like lo have a Labor Government, most certainly. If somebody wants to start an argument on this I suggest that it ought not be Senator Little because he usually comes off second best. Might I say that the $80m allocated for the Gladstone Power Station, as has been pointed out earlier by Senator Milliner, is the result of an election gimmick, a promise made during the last federal election campaign. We do not mind if we are given a loan or a grant - preferably a grant - even if it is an election gimmick by a government struggling to retain its electoral support. That is O.K. for our side of the court because we need this help as we get so little of it.
– It gets Sir Henry Bolte a little ruffled, though.
– If the honourable senator wants to export Sir Henry Bolte I suggest that he send him to the Antarctic. The interest rates that we have had to pay on any loan we have obtained in the. last 20 years are higher than for any other State and the interest rate on this loan has to be really seen to be believed. We will be paying this off over an indefinite period at an exorbitant rate of interest. The Mount Isa railway line which was spoken of by an Opposition senator recently is a prime example of this.
Only a short time ago in this chamber we criticised the. Government for the interest rate which it imposed on the loan to the Queensland Government for carrying out repairs on this line. The only people who made a fortune out of the line, apart from Mt lsa Mines Ltd were the contractors who carried out the construction work. There was quite shoddy work over hundreds of miles of the line. One does not have lo go far to find concrete examples of this. One recalls the famous Corella Creek disaster in which not only the bridge but also , the train fell into the creek. This accident should never have happened. The amount of supervision carried out on this type of work is infinitesimal. The State Government is not carrying out the supervision that it ought to be doing, although it is spending the people’s money. 1 hope that that does not happen with the Gladstone power station.
I shall refer briefly to some of the points made in the second reading speech of the
Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) when she introduced the Bill into this chamber. They are worth quoting because they have a bearing, firstly, on the way in which the money was obtained and, secondly, on the companies which will benefit from the construction of the power station and what appear to be some other sinister happenings in the handing out of shares in the company. The Minister said:
I should like to remind .members of the Australian Country Party who were so eloquent in their praise of this Bill earlier tonight that the only people who will benefit from the supply of cheap power will be the industrial complexes based on Gladstone. Nobody else will get cheap power as a result of the construction of this power station, and the Country Party Government in Queensland will ensure that other people will not receive cheap electricity because it is not interested in the little people who require domestic electricity. It is not interested in the small farmer. Maybe some of the bigger graziers with their large plants and what-have-you will get some concession, but nobody else will receive cheap electricity. Then the Minister stated: . . and, through it, attract a viable exportoriented industrial complex to central Queensland. The offer was conditional on the State being able to satisfy the Commonwealth that it could attract such special industrial development to the region.
May I interpose there to say that it was at about this time that 2 or 3 State Ministers, were flying backwards and forwards to America and Japan like homing pigeons, endeavouring to create interest among the industrial giants of other countries so that they in turn would establish industrial plants in this area of Queensland. I think that the Dow Chemicals organisation, amidst a great fanfare of political trumpets, has said now that it will set up a complex in the area. Comalco, is already established there at the Rio Tinto holding. In fact, part of this complex was already established there when the Government made this phony offer. In other words, the Government was prepared to make the offer as a political gimmick. As 1 said” a while ago. 1 am not prepared to quarrel with the fact that we a’e to obtain a power station by a political gimmick, but I exercise my right 10 criticise the circumstances in which the power station is being constructed. The Minister then went on to say:
Since that announcement, negotiation* have progressed between the Stale and organisations likely lo establish industries in the central Queensland region, and also between the Queensland Government and the Commonweatlh. The result of these negotiations is that the Queensland Government has satisfied the Commonwealth thai major export oriented industries are likely to be attracted to central Queensland through the provision of the low-cost power.
That was an established fact before the Commonwealth Government went through this appearance of pulling the hurd word on Queensland, lt had already been decided, as a mailer of political expediency, that Queensland would get a $80in loan at exorbitant rates of interest which would not be charged by some of the hire purchase companies in Australia.
I shall now refer lo what I suppose will become known in the annals of history, in the pages of Hansard, and in the corridors of power in i h is country as the Comalco scandal. Comalco intends,’ apparently, to dispose of 10% of its group activities. In other words, an overall shareholding of approximately SI 3m will be distributed between Australia and New Zealand. lt is significant that in this exportoriented industrial complex, Comalco and ils associated companies stood to gain most. The sum of Si Om will be disposed of in Australia. The people who are in on the ground floor will be able to obtain shares at about $1.40 a share - give or take a few cents - but by next Friday, when the shares are pui on the open market, these people will be able lo get $4 for each share, give or take a few cents. If people get carried away with Poseidon fever, probably the shares will be worth a lot more. So those who are privileged to be able to obtain shares at a bedrock price and to sell them at the lop of the scale obviously are so far in from that ii does noi matter.
I say quite clearly and unequivocally that never in my lifetime while I have been associated in any political activities or in any public office have 1 ever held a single share. Perhaps 1 should correct that; I” hold a share in Senator Georges’ credit union. But 1 have never held a commercial share, nor will I ever hold one. I heard my friend from the Australian Democratic Labor Party, Senator Gair, say earlier tonight that he also classified himself in this category. There have been times when I have been offered ground floor holdings at a price which would be templing to anyone who was weak enough 10 take them. While I continue 10 occupy a position of trust in public life, I will never hold a share. The SI 3m share offer will be spread over approximately 45.000 people. This will give an average holding of approximately 290 shares per person.
Earlier Senator Milliner told the Senate about some of the holdings of members of the Queensland Cabinet. In fact. 3,000 shares are to be distributed among the Chalk family. On Friday those 3.000 shares, which were obtained for $1.40 each, will be worth $4 each or more. This man is the Treasurer of the State of Queensland. He is also the Deputy Premier. There have been limes when the political pundits have said that Mr Chalk would leave politics and take up a big job in business. I am not launching a personal attack on anyone. But I think it is tremendously indiscreet for this sort of thing to take place when the person involved holds a high public office. I do not propose to attack anybody, hut I believe that these sorts of things ought lo be exposed to the public view, lt is no use members of the Country Party saying: ‘How do you know they are taking the shares?’ Reference to this matter has been published today in large sections of the Australian Press. If it was incorrect, by tonight one would have thought that writs for defamation would have been flying like doves around this country, hut I have no. heard of one yet. I assume that what the Press has primed in this matter is the truth and nothing but !he truth.
– What is defamatory about it?
– I am not being defamatory about anybody. If there is corruption in this country it needs io be exposed, and this is the place where it ought to be exposed. If Senator Prowse were indulging in share dealings in these circumstances, I would expose him. I am not saying that he is. But I suggest that he should not start to defend those who are doing this. I apologise for diverting from the Bill, but Senator Prowse provoked me a moment ago. Mr Campbell was mentioned by Senator Milliner. His issue of shares is comparatively small; it is only 700. Mr Hodges who is the Minister for Works and Housing and, I understand, will be the Minister-in-charge of Police, until the Queensland Police Union gets rid of him, holds 1,200 shares. This is the man whose name was mentioned in this chamber less than a week ago as having 500 shares in a consortium of mineral companies which is seeking to despoil and exploit the Cooloola sands area in southern Queensland. That is one of the greatest tourist areas of Queensland. These are the people who are making the laws of this country, the people whom honourable senators on the Government side defend for what I believe to be their corrupt attitude to the high office of government.
– Are you saying that noone on your side has any shares?
– I am not saying noone in the Labor Party has a share. I said that I did not have any. If that satisfies you, I hope you are happy. If it does not, that does not worry, me. Then there is Mr Hewitt, Minister for Conservation, Marine and Aboriginal Affairs. He has an allocation of 1,200 shares. This gentleman has been involved previously with Comalco. Comalco’s vast bauxite deposits at Weipa on the western edge of Cape York Peninsula, the very area where this development originally took place, was the centre of a large Aboriginal settlement. All kinds of false promises were made to the Aboriginal people when they were moved from this area to a more arid area on Cape York. Today this same Minister, now involved in the financial affairs of this company, is the man who has to make another decision. Where will the Aboriginals go this time? There are no more arid areas unless you take them to the Simpson Desert. They will be the people who will suffer most. On one occasion even the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) said that they could live under frangipanni and hibiscus trees and their housing was superb. That is not true. They are treated worse than any animal would be treated , in more primative countries. This is an area in which segregation is practised at its worst. This great company which was to employ these people has failed to do so. Instead it has helped us with the migrant problem because migrants with their lack of knowledge of the Australian language can be stood over and brow beaten but the Aboriginals cannot be treated in this way so they are not employed. There is even a segregated school in the area. This is a blot on the Queensland Government and on this Commonwealth Government with its concurrent Federal powers which should be protecting these people. What I say is the complete and utter truth. If anyone wants to find out these details for himself I am sure that Reg Ansett with his subsidised flight to Cape York would be delighted to take him there so that he can conduct a first hand inspection.
– You are giving a free plug.
– How does Senator Little travel - by Cessna? Then we have the Minister for Local Government and Elec.ricity. The project before us is an electric power station. That Minister will be helping to make decisions on the power station. He also is in on the ground floor with a parcel of 1,500 shares. Then there is the Minister for Health, that much maligned gentleman in the Queensland Government who is a school teacher, who apparently has never taken a first aid course, and who has been attacked by a doctor who is a rank and file back bencher with an expert knowledge of the Queensland hospital system. No doubt the Minister for Health will need a pickmeup after this public assault which is being directed towards him. I am delighted to see that the Sydney ‘Sun’ of today, 9th June, reported that the Leader of the State Parliamentary Labor Party in Queensland, Mr Jack Houston, said that he had been offered shares in this company and had refused to accept them. Today he made a public appeal for every Cabinet Minister in Queensland to make a public declaration of his shareholdings. This is the kind of’ activity that we want to see in public life.
Whilst I said at the outset that I am not opposed to the building of the power station, I am opposed to some of the unhappy things which are moving in the shadows of this great construction job. If this is the kind of way in which development takes place in Queensland in the future, I hope that the shadowy things moving on the edges will be moved out of sight for ali time. I hope that when development takes place the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to recognise Queensland as a State and will say: ‘Here is a development grant with which you can construct the power plants that you need, with which you can develop your State and with which you can keep your people living in Queensland’: If this amuses the Government’s advisers 1 am sorry about it. This is the kind of serious thing in which every Australian is involved. We need money for development. We are taking this money but we also exercise the right at the same time to be critical of the manner in which it has been granted.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) [9.25.1-1 do not propose to intrude unduly long upon the time of the Senate nor to impede Senator Cant’s presentation of his thoughts on this matter, but there are one or two incidental things that might well be canvassed during this debate. There has been tremendous criticism in Australia in recent years about the exploitation of mineral resources, using this cliche of ‘developing holes in the ground’ without any subsequent or permanent benefit to Australia. It is extremely comforting to see a project of this kind and of this magnitude which will do more than merely permit the taking of the primary resources out of the soil and exporting them elsewhere for treatment. This is one of those great developments which is ancillary to the production of our primary wealth, and provides for its treatment and fabrication and the creation of great secondary industries.
In a large measure, particularly in its early years, the economic history of Australia has been constructed on the basis of the export of primary industries. Those have been our primary rural industries except in that area of mining development towards the end of the last century when great mineral fields temporarily opened and then unfortunately worked out and have remained closed. In those days it was possible to start developing a modern economy by the export of primary products, that i§, primary in the field of rural products. But today the same position does not apply, and the economists will say that the mere development of primary resources and the export of the products of them is not sufficient to develop a great modern industrial society. They point above all to Japan’s industrial growth - what is called the ‘Japanese industrial and economic miracle’. Japan has few natural resources, yet what has been responsible for the tremendous upsurge of her national growth and economic strength has been the application of technology and of human resources to imported materials that come from this and other countries. In other words, it is human resources and the application of technology which is assuming a tremendously important role in the development of the modern industrial society.
Some may ask: ‘What is the significance of the modern industrial society? ls that something towards which we must aim with all its implications, complications and unsatisfactory social consequence*?’ I think we must accept that it is only in such societies that we are able to achieve the high standard of living which is desirable and to which we are all aspiring. Countries which are still basing their economics on primary production and the mere export of primary products never reach the high standard of living that the industrialised societies are able to achieve. Therefore, subject to certain qualifications and subject to the safeguards of proper industrial conditions, the proper distribution of wealth and the participation of the ordinary people in industries as they develop, we must accept that the aim of the modern industrial society is a desireable and worthwhile aim for this country. If we have the added advantage that we have the initial primary resources and the manpower and technology to apply, then the future of this country is unlimited. One of the comforting features of this project is that there is the coincidence of those 3 factors. Japan, for example, has no such coincidence. It has to import the products on which it operates and on which it fabricates. We have the primary resources that we are developing, and in large measure we already have the technology. One thing which may be absent is the supply of human resources. I think that is a matter which must occupy the firm consideration of this nation.
We hear suggestions about a limitation of the population of this country. When a government which should be considering the mere development of the human strength of this nation and the application of that human strength to our resources finds itself involved in the actual destruction of human life, which in a young nation like this is a national disaster, then one wonders whether the Government is going to take advantage of the coincidence of these 3 factors which can result in national growth. I raise that merely as a salutary thought as the Seriate considers a major project of this character. This is not a project which is only of value to the State in which it is located or of value to the specific area in the State in which it is located. It will have a very great consequence to the economic growth and life of Queensland and Australia. For this reason the Austraiian Democratic Labor Party in common with other honourable senators and honourable members in another place welcomes the development and the assistance which is now provided, though we may well deplore the terms and conditions under which it has been made available. I do not go into that as a matter of mathematical financial analysis. But it does seem this is another of the by-products of our most unsatisfactory Commonwealth and State financial relations.
Shortly we will debate in this place a Bill under which the Commonwealth will provide guarantees and insurance to assist our exports and our investments in other countries. Surely this investment in the Gladstone power station is an investment by Australia in the State of Queensland and therefore in the Commonwealth. It seems to be a matter for grave comment that the terms and conditions under which this project is to be embarked upon might well be those of an agreement between 2 strangers at a substantial rate of interest over a not unduly long term of years. I again query the whole of the, Commonwealth and State relationship and the necessity for a total overhaul of it. This is another exemplar of the unsatisfactory condition which can emerge from day to day, month to month and year to year as the States set about their constitutional task and responsibility of developing the Commonwealth. We hope that this will be only another illustration which will persuade, at an early date, a complete look at the infrastructure of the Commonwealth and State financial relations so they can be put on a proper basis.
Another thought which occurs to me is that this is a thermal power station. Senator Gair said that Queensland is blessed with great natural resources, not the least extensive of which are the major deposits of steaming coal, coking coal and gas coal. At a period of history when less fortunate nations are required to embark at great cost upon the generation of power from nuclear resources, from thermo-nuclear fusion, Australia and particularly Queensland does not find itself in that situation. Queensland has immense coal deposits spread from one end of the State to the other. It has high concentrations of suitable coal in the Gladstone area, lt is an economic proposition to exploit this natural resource for the generation of power at a thermal generating station in Gladstone. Those resources are vast and the economics of the extraction of coal and its treatment and application to power generation is at such a sound level that the possibilities of the extension, the duplication, the triplication and the quadruplication of this complex in the future is something which, quite logically and reasonably, can be foreseen.
We can contemplate the development of Gladstone, situated on a magnificent harbour with general availability to the sea routes of Asia, as one of the great industrial cities of the world. Tonight honourable senators may be witnessing what could very well be an historical occasion as this nation embarks upon the treatment in a major degree of one of its great natural resources, with all its implications. Although the specific manner in which this agreement has been brought about may be a subject for some criticism, it is a matter of considerable pride and considerable optimism that the nation should have embarked upon this project.
We of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, as Queenslanders, and going beyond our position as Queenslanders, commend the action of the Government in its fortification of this project. We trust that in a few years time we will be required to give similar support to a major extension of this undertaking and everything which flows from it. I anticipate great population growth in this area. But let us remember one thing: it is not possible to base a great project like this merely on the treatment of one major product. This is the self generating type of thing which happens with the treatment of a primary resource. We must and inevitably will get the ancillary industries. We will get the tertiary, chemical and scientific industries which arc great labour employing industries. For that reason Gladstone could become very quickly one of the great industrial cities in the Commonwealth. J commend this project. My Party looks forward with optimism to its continued growth and to its contribution to the industrial strength of the Commonwealth.
– 1 do not want to delay the Senate for very long. J was rather interested to hear Senator Byrne refer to the growth of the Japanese economy. [ remind him that Japan has few raw resources, particularly in the field of steel making. It imports all its raw resources. Most of ils coal and iron ore is imported from Australia. At the same time a monopoly creation, Broken Hill Pty Company Ltd, exists in Australia but we are an importer of steel. Australia is an importer of steel because BHP constantly under-estimates the growth of the Australian market so that it will be able to sell all its products. If we do not want to see this sort of thing growing up in this country then it is time there was a change of government so that we had one which would see thai the resources of Australia were used for the benefit of Australians. Australia is extremely rich in mineral resources. These mineral resources are being exploited not by Australians but by overseas companies, not for the benefit of Australia but lo benefit themselves and their shareholders. 1 do not want to go into all that Senator Keeffe, Senator Milliner and Senator Georges said about shareholdings today. I think it is a public disgrace that what they have mentioned should have happened. 1 leave it at that. I commend the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) for advising his Ministers not to have anything to do with such a shady deal.
These resources are of little value unless they are exploited economically. When I use the term ‘economically’ I do not talk about profits to companies, and shareholders; I talk about the development being economic lo the State, to the Commonwealth and to the exploiter. I think the State and the Commonwealth are the most important of the 3, because they are the 2 bodies which represent the people of Australia. This powerhouse is to be built to allow the exploitation of the raw resources which are found at Weipa. This project is highly commended by Queensland members of the Australian Country Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party in the Senate. Senator Byrne spoke about the interest rate that will be charged on the advance of $80m. He said that he did not want to go into the terms of the agreement. In my opinion, the terms of the agreement are most important and should be inquired into. Despite the fact that the agreement was signed previously, it provides that it does not come into force until the Bill is passed by this Parliament. This Parliament has a responsibility to see that such agreements are made in the interests of the Australian people. I disagree with Senator Byrne when he said that terms of the agreement should not be inquired into. I think that they should be inquired into.
When we talk about an interest rate on a loan of $80m repayable over 30 years we are talking about the fundamentals and not just the by-product of CommonwealthState financial relationships. The Commonwealth Government does nothing to earn its money other than to employ a few people in the Taxation Branch and in the Department of Customs and Excise. The Bill states specifically that the money will come out of Consolidated Revenue.. The Commonwealth has not had to borrow the money from overseas and therefore does not have to charge an interest rate plus a service charge, lt is money that the Commonwealth Government has obtained for only a collection fee. My opinion is that when money is lent to the States out of Consolidated Revenue it should not attract an interest rate which is greater than the service charge. Honourable senators have spoken about the great developmental project in Queensland. 1 want to see Queensland progress. I am a centralist. I believe in the Commonwealth of Australia, not in any particular part of it. 1 think Queensland is as important as any other part of Australia. 1 want to see it advance.
– What interest was paid on the money out of Consolidated Revenue that was expended on the Snowy Mountains scheme?
– A lot of the money that was expended on the Snowy Mountains scheme was borrowed money.
– A lot of it came out of Consolidated Revenue.
– A lot of it came out of Consolidated Revenue. 1 will tell the honourable senator a little story about money in a few moments if he will give me an opportunity. The Bill stales specifically that mC money will come out of Consolidated Revenue. Yet we find that the loan attracts an interest rate, of 6.4%. In my opinion, it is usury for the Commonwealth to do this. We talk about a great developmental project in Queensland and how Queensland must be developed. The Commonwealth Government, by charging an interest rate on the amount that it advances to the Slates to carry out the developmental works, makes a profit out of every developmental .project that is initiated in this country. The Commonwealth Government will get out of the developmental works-
– lt will get income tax from every employee on the job. lt will have its money back before the project is working.
– I think the honourable senator is trying lo anticipate me. He should have made a speech. The Commonwealth Government will receive income tax and company tax. As I said before, the project must be economically satisfactory to the State. The States have to get some profit out of these projects. I do not sec the profits going 10 the State. Large profits will flow to the Commonwealth, but very little will flow to the States. There will be employment and money earned by the State railways to cart goods backwards and forwards. The Australian National Line will freight cargo there by sea. The Commonwealth will make profits out of that, but not the State. Yet honourable senators have said what a great national project this is and will be. I think it is crazy for people to talk in that way.
– The Government might bc able to reduce income tax.
– The honourable senator would not know what this is all about. He might know something about shares, but that is all he would know. I think it would bc advisable ‘ for him lo keep out of the debate. I will give the Senate an illustration of what these interest rates mean. Only a few years ago, at the behest of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the Commonwealth Government decided that a standard gauge railway from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana should bc constructed, lt did not follow the general route that the. ordinary railway from Kalgoorlie to Perth followed because BHP wanted to take if through Koolyanobbing to Kwinana so that the iron ore from Koolyanobbing could be taken to the Kwinana works. Not all the railway that was to be constructed was to be constructed under the standard gauge agreement between the States and the Commonwealth under which the Commonwealth provides 70% and the State provides 30%). That part of it that was deemed to a standardisation project attracted that division of money between the States and the Commonwealth. The State had to pay for that which was regarded as capital works. I have not found out yet what the whole project cost, but the amount to be advanced originally for the project was £42m, part of which was to bc repaid over a period of 20 years and part of which was to be repaid over a period of 50 years. All of the loan attracted the long term bond interest rate. I took out some figures on this and examined them. Out of the £42m that the project was (o cost - bearing in mind that the Commonwealth was paying for 70% of the standard gauge and thai the State was paying for only 30% - the State was paying £38m and the Commonwealth was paying £4m. This is the vicious aspect of charging interest on money advanced to the Slates.
The matter goes a little further than that. At this point of time the Queensland project, not allowing for any increases in cost is estimated to cost $155m. Not only docs the Commonwealth, after the construction is finished and the project is producing, start to -claim repayments on the $80m that it advanced plus the interest rate at 6.4% but it also ties up the balance of $75ra of Queensland’s own money. Money that the Queensland Government should have free to invest in schools, hospitals, railways, roads or any other project that it wants to develop is tied up. These conditional grants that the Commonwealth makes to the States control the finances of the States. Honourable senators can not find anything more centralised than that. That is the policy of this Government. lt was not initiated by Mr Gorton.
It was initiated long, before he was in office. This is the central factor of control from Canberra. The Commonwealth is able to control the finances of the States by conditional grants, by charging interest on money advanced to the States and by making profits out of developmental projects. 1 could go on for weeks giving illustrations, but it is fundamental that conditional grants and interest on loans raised from Consolidated Revenue are the very centre of the bad financial relationships that exist between the Commonwealth and the States. It is remarkable that when we examine the proposition we find that the Commonwealth’s indebtedness is decreasing constantly while the States’ indebtedness is increasing constantly - to the extent that the Prime Minister has now told the States that in the next financial agreement that he makes with them some time this month, if ever Parliament rises - and I do not know when it will-
– The honourable senator is doing very well to detain us.
– I am doing my best to keep the Senate here. I hope to do a little more towards keeping it here. I am not afraid of the cold. The Prime Minister has already informed the Premiers that he is prepared to take over part of their debts in an attempt to relieve them of some of these problems. Honourable senators represent the States. Some of them call themselves State Rightists, but they are prepared to support a policy that embraces all the features that inhibit the growth of the States and constantly stimulate the trend to Commonwealth centralisation.
– Did you not say earlier that you are a centralist?
– I am, yes.
– This Bill concerns the provision of $80m for the establishment of a powerhouse estimated to cost about $150m. I do not think that either the Commonwealth. Government or the Queensland Government has been completely honest with members of this Parliament. This situation happens so frequently. Rarely do we have details submitted to us, either in the other place or here, which would justify making available extraordinarily large sums of money. The money to be provided under this legislation is for a major powerhouse but we do not know whether the Queensland Government has one customer to take the great quantity of power that will be available. Queensland Alumina Ltd has a refinery at Gladstone which has a present capacity to produce annually 900,000 tons of alumina, lt is visualised that ultimately the refinery will be able to produce annually nearly 2 million tons of alumina from about 4 million tons of bauxite. If that refinery had a smelter an extraordinary change could be brought about in the industrial development of that part of Queensland in particular and all of Queensland in general.
The bauxite refined at Gladstone comes from Weipa in Queensland. Millions of tons of raw bauxite are exported to Japan, France, Canada and other countries. Those bauxite exports attract a royalty of 10c a ton. When the bauxite is concentrated to alumina at the Gladstone works a royalty of 5c a ton is payable to the Queensland Government. This is one of the lowest royalties paid on commercial bauxite anywhere in the world. The Queensland bauxite deposits are among the largest in the world. They are particularly easy to mine, lying in a strip about 9 feet in width with an overburden of about 6 feet. The bauxite can be taken by conveyor belt direct from the deposits to ships.
For years I have been told in Queensland that power could not be produced there at a rate cheap enough to attract the establishment of a smelter at Gladstone to produce the end product. Incidentally, the value of aluminium in the Weipa deposits and the surrounding deposits held by Alcan Aluminium Ltd, the Canadian aluminium organisation, is estimated to be about $300,000m. Yet it has been said that power could not be produced at a cost which would attract the establishment of a smelter for an aluminium industry. Sir Henry Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, has available only brown coal deposits which are usually not as suitable as black coal for low cost production of power. No bauxite deposits have been found in Victoria and it is necessary to bring alumina from Kwinana in Western Australia, produced from bauxite found in the Darling Ranges in that State.
Sir Henry Bolte was able to attract Alcoa of Australia, in which Western Mining Corporation Ltd has an interest of one-third, lo establish a smeller at Port Henry in Victoria by subsidising the production of electricity to the extent of $3m over 3 years. The smelter al Pen Henry is producing raw aluminium and production is estimated at about 90 million ions a year. A couple of years ago bauxite was sold for about $5 a ton. Aluminium is sold for over §500 a ton. Honourable senators will appreciate the importance of the aluminium industry in producing a higher standard of living in places which fabricate the raw ore we now send overseas, in view of the price that is obtained for the metal thai is gained through the establishment of tertiary industry. Honourable senators will also appreciate the value of the powerhouse to the Gladstone area.
T think that the Queensland Government could have been more honest in dealing with the people of Queensland. The Commonwealth Government could have made submissions to senators and members of the other place advising just how the power to be produced in enormous quantities by the projected powerhouse is to be utilised and who the customers are likely to bc. Advise of the revenue that is likely to be made would help in justifying this tremendous expenditure. I do not propose to deal with the high interest rates to be charged. Senator Cant hits dealt with that subject. Other senators from Queensland have dealt with various aspects of this measure. Japan has practically no- raw materials or coal deposits, and practically no iron ore - or bauxite for an aluminium industry. But through technological advances, organisation of the labor force and finances, andcoordination between private industry and the Go vein ment, Japan has been able to establish itself as one of the 3 major industrial nations of the world.
In Australia wc have raw materials al our command but arc not able to establish tertiary industries. This seems to bc a ridiculous situation and is condemnatory of the Queensland Government in that it has not been able to devise and establish a powerhouse to provide power under conditions which would attract a refinery for bauxite operations. The refining of bauxite does not use great quantities of electricity. The Queensland Government was not able to attract a smelter to Gladstone. A smelter does utilise enormous quantities of electrical energy, but it produces the end product from the raw material which we have in such large quantities, and which can be so easily mined by mechanical methods and transported by cheap sea freight to Gladstone.
Gladstone has one of the best harbours in Australia, running second only to Sydney Harbour in its capacity to accommodate ships from overseas. However, these harbours are not now recognised as being of world standard because they do not have the depth to accommodate ships of the great tonnage which are now being built. Many harbours could be made larger to accommodate these ships. With the establishment of this powerhouse, not only will an aluminium smelter be possible but also an industrial chemical establishment. I believe that the Dow Chemicals organisation, an American company, is thinking of establishing a major complex at Gladstone. This could be of tremendous importance.
In the past New South Wales has been regarded as the great coal Slate of Australia, but Queensland rests on a bed of coal. Senator Byrne has pointed out that the coal of Queensland is of various types including coking coal, steaming coal and gas making coal. In view of the great coal deposits in Queensland there is no reason” why it should not have a multiplication of major powerhouses associated wilh a great expansion of industries of all types. Surely an approach can be made for the proper utilisation of these raw materials. Senator Cant mentioned that we have only one steel making firm in this country. There is no reason why a steel making complex cannot be established in the Gladstone area, using iron ore from Western Australia and Queensland coal. There is no reason why there could not. he a reverse freight transfer of the coal from Queensland to aid the establishment of a major steel making complex in -Western Australia where the iron ore deposits rank with the world’s largest.
Consequently I believe that this is just an advance long delayed. The Queensland Government apparently has not been able to put up a suitable case that will appeal to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealthhas been dilatory in its approach. Neither party to this Agreement has been honest with the people of Australia. Both parties have talked of this tremendous expenditure of money. They have talked of the possibilities of the utilisation of the major quantities of electrical energy that will be produced. But we have not yet heard of 1 major customer which, with certainty, will utilise the power that is to be produced. However, I suppose that we have to start somewhere. It is not a question of the chicken or the egg. I suppose that this is the way to start: If we have the power the industry will come. But it would have been much nicer to know that when the energy was available, as it will be in some years time, the industries would be there representing customers who would take the product, and the remuneration would be there to amortise the cost of this very large establishment.
I congratulate the Government. I commend it for making this money available. I condemn it for its dilatory approach. I also condemn it for the high interest rate, particularly when we realise that a large amount of this money will come not from the coffers of the Commonwealth in the form of loan raisings but from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and the Commonwealth pays no interest on that money. However, it will be made available to Queensland at a high rate of interest - 6.4%, I think it is. It was to be 6i%, but somehow it was whittled down by 0.1%. That amounts to nothing. So, we in Queensland are grateful for any grants that come to us, however late. We have been one of the States that have been long suffering, patient and waiting for a few of the crumbs that fall from the table at Canberra into the laps of the States. Queensland is possibly the best State in the Commonwealth. It is a State that can justify this expenditure and a State that has received so little but will return so much.
– We are dealing with the Gladstone Power Station Agreement Bill, the purpose of which is to ratify the Commonwealth and State Agreement concerned. As we have been told this evening, the Bill is not opposed by members of the Australian Labor Party. Sometimes I feel that I must be forgiven for wondering whether that is the position in fact But it has emerged as time has gone on that that is what they mean. They do not oppose it. They have many comments to make about it, but they do not oppose it. My colleagues in the Australian Democratic Labor Party are warmly in support of it. The Government itself is in support of it. So I imagine that the measure ought to be able to proceed, to the ultimate benefit of the people of Queensland.
As I read the second reading speech made by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin and some notes that I have been able to look through as I have been sitting here, this project has been in the planning by the State of Queensland for quite some time. This is a Queensland Government proposal, emanating from the authorities of that State and fundamentally thought out and planned by them. If I may say so, it does them a great deal of credit because it seems to me, looking at these notes, that in this gigantic power station project there is the beginning of what one day may well be an immense surge of development. It was said of Queensland in the second reading speech that one day the sleeping giant must awake. Queensland has always been a State that has had a lot of interest for me. I have always been very fond of it. But, quite apart from that, I can remember long ago looking at the State and its geography and planning and realising how it had been organised, with its railways going out to its ports on the coast, the attempts to keep the concentration of development away from any one major centre, the immense water supplies that were available in the State and its immense resources.
I always wondered why it had not had a higher rate of growth and a much greater surge of development than it had. I hope very much that this is about to begin now in the sense in which the people of Queensland want it to begin and in the sense in which every other Australian also wants it to begin. Generally in Australia there is the view that Queensland is an immense State which will be developed one day. Most of us believe that in the years to come the resources of Queensland will become far greater in development that many people now imagine. This is a piece of Australian folk lore. The potential of Queensland has taken a long time to be realised.
What is needed in most of these cases of development is a solid base of power. This is one of the reasons why a State such as Victoria has had tremendous development. It had the solid base of power provided in the years of Yallourn, when those power supplies were available to attract industry. If we are looking at Queensland’s potential for development we should look at the importance of a great and solid availability of reasonably priced power based upon a local fuel resource. We have the fascinating position that tremendous coal deposits have been discovered in Queensland. They were opened up on the basis of Japan’s great need for coking coal supplies. The export market developed on those fields, principally for coking coal, called for the removal of the overburden of steaming coal which, had we not had a fairly large power project for its utilisation, could well have been nol mu,h more valuable than ordinary country earth.
So, Weipa as a source of bauxite and the availability of huge supplies of very cheap steaming coal as a by-product of the exploitation of coking coal deposits make it possible to have enough thermal material to produce a very large amount of electricity. Once we can do that cheaply we can talk about conversion from bauxite to alumina. This is how Gladstone. Weipa and the coal deposits complex, as a triangle, come into being. This is one of the fascinating stories of an Australian development out of an Australian resource.
I note that throughout the exercise the Queensland Government - later wilh the help of the Commonwealth - has taken the advice of (he Snowy Mountains Authority people, lt is one of the most expert bodies in Australia on the handling of large power supplies. Its experience is based on a water resource. Nonetheless, much of the same kind of complexity of financing, construction and evaluation is brought into play in this field. It is a big station that is proposed for Gladstone, lt will produce 1,100 megawatts. About 54% of that is reserved for the development of industry on a reasonably priced power supply base, lt is reserved for use in central Queensland.
As 1 said earlier, here we have a proposal to convert bauxite info the next stage of the product in a smelter, lt is the beginning of a huge natural resource development. I will not develop at any length at all the prospects that flow out of this. Out of the raw material - bauxite - the availability of steaming coal that otherwise might be surplus and a huge amount of power, can be produced no! only the next stage of the product but also many other things in the form of by-products. Many other needs are called for in a scheme as great as this one. There is the prospect of the conversion of salt into chlorine. 1 imagine, although I am not sure. These arc the sorts of things that will How out of” this project. The one great power supply and the one great fundamental raw material concentrated in a big enough operation will produce all the second and third stages of activity in the general industrial development of the region.
I am given to understand that the export potential of this one operation alone is of the order of Si 65m per annum. So the annual sales value of one product alone will be more than the total cost of the power station. Whichever way we look at this. it is a romantic and dramatic thing for the people of Queensland and also for me people of Australia. We are all pan of each other in these matters. We are not remote from them. This is not Queensland money or Commonwealth money. This is Australian money and Australian resources being developed for Australian people, lt is an inter-connected system. So it will be beneficial [o the whole of the inter-connected system of Queensland. The power station will be able to supply back-up power and to draw upon the other parts of the system. This, of course, is modern electrical planning and is very wise. The total cost of the project, namely $155m, is being met by S80m coming from the Commonwealth on a basic formula of the Commonwealth providing 5 1 .6% . As the amount of money either rises or falls on that overall figure, the formula will continue to apply.
Those seem lo me to be the basic facts of the project. To some extent I have become rather enthusiastic about it in reading about it. I suppose that this is because of my wish always to see something more developing in Queensland out of its immense potential. We now see the reality of the matter in a situation in which there is no opposition to the measure - although there is a certain amount of querulousness - and there is enthusiasm for this development on the part of Queenslanders as a body of people in this place.
Several queries were raised as the debate proceeded. I have attempted to note them and I shall endeavour to answer them, but ] do not want to take up any more of the
Senate’s time than is justified. For instance, i’ was asked who would build and operate [isis power station. The answer is that it is a State matter. It is believed that the Southern Electric Authority of Queensland will build it, assisted by the State Electricity Commission of Queensland,’ but no decision has been announced by the State Government on the operator. It was asked what the price of the power would be. The pricing policy for domestic consumers is a State matter, as are negotiations with special industrial users. Under clause 12 of the agreement the State Government must supply full information to the Minister for National Development.
It was claimed by an honourable senator that an interest rate of 6.4% is too high. In fact, as is stated in the Bill,. there is provision for interest charges not to be payable during the early stages of the construction of the project. This would reduce the overall interest rate to something below 6.4%. I point out to Senator Georges, who raised this matter, that it would be hard to calculate this figure. One has to look at the project in its staging, during its financing and on its construction days as against the demands for money at the various stages reached. I think I have dealt with the source of coal. I think all honourable senators are aware of the source. It. does not add to the debate to repeat things which honourable senators have said, although I found their remarks most interesting.
The introduction into the debate of the fact that various people in Queensland have had allotted to them by underwriters various shares in the Comalco organisation seems to me, while it is interesting, to have little to do with the issue which is before the Senate. Perhaps I should mention that the number of shares involved seem to be quite minute when compared to the total issue of 13 million shares to something like 45,000 people. Different views may be taken on something of this nature, but it seems to me, as I said earlier, that we should be confining our remarks to the Bill which is before the Senate and not the business of sharebroking mercantile agents.
Senator Georges, who devoted quite a lot of time to this subject, wanted information about the charges which will be imposed on large scale industries for power. I said at the beginning- of my remarks that this project is a Queensland
Government operation. It has been planned for quite some time by the Queensland Government, which is to be assisted financially and advised by the Commonwealth Government. But it is very much a matter of concern only to the Queensland Government. No body of the Commonwealth Parliament should seek to intrude into what will be the domestic affairs of the Queensland State Parliament any more than I would wish to intrude into the financial problems or position of any individual in society. It is no affair of mine. The negotiations between the Queensland Government and the companies which will be established at Gladstone will be completely confidential. This fact has already been made clear by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). It was again made clear by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) in her second reading speech in this chamber.
Clause 3 of the agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland provides that the Commonwealth shall not be required to make any payments under this agreement unless and until the State produces evidence satisfactory to the Minister that the State has entered into or proposes to enter into agreements, arrangements or options for the consumption of electrical power by organisations which have in the aggregate a total requirement of installed generating capacity of approximately 600 megawatts, which is about 57% of the proposed capacity of the said thermal station. For the purposes of this clause ‘organisations’ means companies or persons who operate or control or plan to operate or control industrial enterprises in central Queensland which will export a substantial proportion of their products or will produce goods of a kind which will be supplied to industries producing goods predominantly for export. I think that is a satisfactory explanation of the interest which it might be thought that the Commonwealth ought to have in a project in which it is investing so much of the taxpayers money. As others have pointed out, this project is very much an export generating proposition. It is designed to produce export revenue.
– Why charge interest? Why not make it free?
– I do not want to get into an argument with Senator Georges on this aspect as it involves considerations of financial policy as between the Commonwealth and the States, as Senator Cant has very correctly said, which do not enter into the basis of this argument. If we are to pass this Bill, which will be to the benefit of the people of Queensland, we will be doing so within the general policy of financing that we have adopted in the past. If we are to engage in new financing arrangements in the future they will be considered having regard to the policy at the time they are raised. Someone commented that a form of tax avoidance had been engaged in by selling alumina overseas at a cheap price.. The comment was not supported with any substance. No evidence has been produced to show that this is indeed a fact.
– Have you looked?
– I am content to work on the proposition that some of the people in Commonwealth departments who spend their lives in these jobs are not only competent but are also bona fide and know a little about what they are talking about. lt has been alleged that the charge to the major companies for power will be below cost and will involve a subsidy by Queensland consumers. Once again no supporting evidence has been produced to substantiate such an allegation. My understanding is that the analyses of the Stale Government and the Department of National Development show that a large scale power station will be a viable proposition and the tariff structure will be equitable, as it is in all of these large stations, to those who draw upon ils supply.
Senator Gair was completely correct in saying that if this project is to be a big export income producer it will be necessary for it to be able to compete on the world market with others who seek access to this market. In order to do that it is necessary, as I said earlier, to have low cost power and low cost transport. This is what the agreement is all about. It involves generating a big enough job with enough combinations of resources to make this possible.
We have had an interesting debate on this subject. Obviously we could go on for a long time into the ramifications of how one should be financing projects in the Commonwealth, on the basis of interest or no interest, on the basis of free money, or on the basis of some kind of service charge. This does not really enter into the purpose of the debate. The Senate is debating the Gladstone Power Station Agreement Bill, lt seems to me that the Senate is in total agreement with the merit of this Bill, lt will be of great benefit to the people of Queensland and, with their skills, energies and resources, it will do a lot of good for the people of Australia and Australia’s export earning capacity. Having said that, I would prefer the matter to be now resolved by the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13 May (vide page 1404), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Senator DEVITT (Tasmania) [10.191- I wish to make a few brief observations on this piece of legislation, which is quite interesting and, I think, quite important. In other circumstances I would have appreciated the opportunity for a quite lengthy debate across the chamber on the attitude of honourable senators towards the proposals outlined in this Bill because I think it is the sort of legislation to which a chamber of this kind should be turning its attention with far greater frequency than circumstances permit it to do. There are some attitudes and underlying motives of a philosophical nature contained in this Bill. I think a great deal of benefit would be derived by the institution of Parliament and those embraced by the provisions of this Bill if circumstances would allow us to have a fuller debate than the present situation permits. I have regard for the fact that it is the intention of the Senate to dispose of a great deal of legislation within the next few days.
I have no wish to impede the progress of the business of the House by entering into a lengthy debate on a measure of tits kind, but I propose to refer to my original observation that this is important and very interesting legislation, the effects of which are far reaching. Perhaps its effects are more far reaching than many honourable senators who have not examined the matter closely would consider was the case. Perhaps I should say at the outset that the Bill proposes to do 4 things.
Perhaps if I were to refer to the second reading speech of the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), wherein the purpose and intentions of the Bill are spelt out in some detail, I may refresh the minds of honourable senators as to what is in fact proposed. Firstly, the Export Payments Inurance Corporation is provided through this Bill with an important broadening of its authority by enabling it to offer payments insurance on, and guarantees relating to, exports from Australia to the external Territories of the Commonwealth. The other amendments, which according to the Minister are of major importance, are as follows:
An increase of $100m in the maximum contingent liability which EPIC may accept under contracts of payments insurance under guarantees; and an increase of $60m in the maximum contingent liability which EPIC may accept under contracts of insurance on Australian investments abroad.
The next proposal in the Bill provides for an amendment of an administrative nature to meet a particular situation which has arisen concerning additional authorisation for the payment of salaries in excess of $7,000 per annum. This figure, incidentally, was set in 1964. It is now necessary to broaden the authorisation of the legislation to enable salaries in excess of that figure to be paid. That, broadly, outlines the 4 main purposes of the Bill.
– It is the current liability - the present liability - the liability at this time. That is my understanding and interpretation of it. In a booklet quite recently produced and entitled ‘Export Payments Insurance Corporation’ there is spelt out the main purposes of the Corporation. As it is a brief introduction which deals fairly specifically and lucidly with the purposes of the Corporation, perhaps I may take the opportunity to indicate to the Senate what its purposes are by reading from this pamphlet. It states:
The Export Payments Insurance Corporation (EPIC) was established by Act of Parliament in 1956. Its purpose is to encourage trade with overseas countries by offering protection to exporters against the risks of loss arising from non-payment of accounts by overseas buyers.
The Corporation is a Commonwealth instrumentality responsible to Parliament through the Minister for Trade. The affairs of the Corporation are directed by the Commissioner. A Consultative Council of ten members representative of a wide range of financial and business experience is available to give advice and assistance to the Corporation.
The business of the Corporation is run on commercial lines and on principles similar to those of any other form of insurance. In return for the payment of a premium, the exporter can claim on the Corporation if his overseas buyer fails to pay, or is prevented from paying, for any of the reasons set out in his policy. There is, however, no overlap with normal insurance facilities, since the risks covered by the Corporation are those which cannot normally be insured with commercial insurance.
The Corporation is a non-profit organisation which aims to secure only sufficient revenue to pay its way. Its liabilities are guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government.
The pamphlet then goes on to set out the types of risks insured. It states:
The main risks of loss against which the Corporation insures are:
the insolvency of the buyer;
protracted default on the part of the buyer, i.e., the buyers failure to pay the exporter within six months after due date for goods accepted by him;
the failure or refusal on the part of a solvent private buyer to accept goods
blockage of funds . . .;
the imposition of overseas government regulations which, in circumstances outside the control of the exporter and the buyer, prevent the import of the goods into the buyers country;
the cancellation, in circumstances outside the control of both the exporter and the buyer, of previously issued and currently valid import licences;
war between the buyer’s country and Australia;
war or revolution or civil disturbance in the buyer’s country;
any other cause not being within the control of the exporter or of the buyer which arises from the events occurring outside Australia; and
where a Government buyer is acceptable to the Corporation, the buyer’s failure or refusal to fulfill the terms of the contract in circumstances outside the control of the exporter.
The wide scope of cover thus provided is available to anyone carrying on business in Australia.
That is the reason why I said in my opening remarks that the Bill was most important and extremely interesting. It is one which in other circumstances might have provided this chamber with a very worthwhile exercise in a debate on Australia’s trade with other countries. The main purpose of the Bill is to broaden the basis of insurance and the sorts of guarantee. It is to broaden the provisions of the Act of Parliament passed in 1956 to take in now the Territories of the Commonwealth. This was prompted in the main by the quite dramatic developments which have taken place at Bougainville where there is a great copper deposit which has involved an expenditure of §300m. f was interested to read recently of a further discovery of minerals somewhere in the border region between New Guinea and West Irian in conditions similar to those now found to exist in Bougainville and that the development of a great industrial complex was likely to arise in tha! area.
It is certain that unless exporters and manufacturing interests in Australia supplying the needs of the Territories can have some sort of guarantee of payment it will be extremely difficult for them. I believe, as the Bill comprehends, that it would be very difficult to promote the sort of trade that we need to promote with interests of this kind. The difficulty arises that unless we provide some sort of insurance, guarantee or underwriting as this Bill proposes for Australian manufacturing interests we will be put at a very great disadvantage in trade against countries where similar provisions do exist. That, of itself, is sufficient to warrant the measure that we are now debating. The Bill will support and strengthen the position of Australian manufacturing industry.
We were discussing a few moments ago, and passed, a measure having roughly the same intentions as this Bill for the promotion of trade. The intention to which I refer is the development of Australia’s industrial complex and the policy of this country to export to other countries, to become an even greater export earner than Australia already is - bearing in mind that Australia ranks very high in the world of exporting countries. By this measure we proposed to extend the contingent liability by $10Om to a total of $300m to cover our external territories. This, as I say, relates particularly to Papua and New Guinea and to Bougainville. The Corporation will insure the payment for goods sold by Australia. Whereas the legislation previously was concerned mainly with virtually cash transactions, which would have to be confined to deals involving the payment of a small sum of money, the new provision will bring in the financing of transactions in which credit arrangements will have to be made available. There will be terms of 6 months for the payment of accounts and some guarantee will have to be provided for manufacturers. There are a great many manufacturing interests in this country which ought to be promoted, fostered, helped and encouraged in every way possible by Government intervention and by the application
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– 1 am appreciative of the fact that I am so interesting that the Senate wants me to go on. Because I feel in quite an accommodating mood I propose to do just that. I will be as brief as 1 can be because I understand it is the intention to get this Bill through tonight and 1 do not want to delay it any longer than is absolutely necessary. The proposal is not only to encourage those exporters who are already trading with these countries but also to promote additional trade in these areas. The payment to a manufacturer could be held up for any of the several reasons which I have mentioned and in the circumstances, bearing in mind the financial base of many of these organisations in Australia, it could be extremely embarrassing to them and it could quite seriously damage and impede their ability to continue their manufacturing interests and their trading operations. It is also, of course, helping to breach the tremendous difficulties being experienced by the developing countries. 1 believe there is a moral obligation on Australia as a country having quite a good and sound manufacturing base to assist those countries to our near north, to attempt to bridge the gap that exists between us, to attempt to foster the development of their industry and trade and to promote the growth of their own standards of living so that in turn there can be a very worth while and mutual benefit flowing from these transactions. I am sure every one of us wants to see not a situation where we are engaged in war with the very underprivileged people to our near north in their teeming millions, but by trading arrangements we want to build up an association and a friendship wilh those countries and some understanding and appreciation of their tremendous social and economic difficulties in developing as worthwhile countries. As a country with a responsibility in the world, particularly in this area of Asia, we need to do our level best to ensure the promotion of the highest interests of those countries so that we are engaged not in war with them but in trade.
One of the great difficulties that confronts Australia at the present time is in relation to our primary industries. In the past, because of the operations of the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation great benefit has flowed to primary industries. In a day and age when we are beset by all the problems that we are experiencing in primary industry anything to promote a situation that alleviates - even to a minimum extent - these problems ought to be encouraged and I believe that this Bill attempts to do that. The Government is entitled to credit for having foreseen the problem and having taken some positive action to meet it. lt would be in very poor taste indeed if we on this side of the chamber did not agree wilh this and did not do all that we possibly could to ensure that the measure was promoted and fostered and had as speedy a passage as possible through this chamber. Having regard to the fact that the Senate wishes to adjourn I will conclude my remarks. The Bill is a very worthwhile one and the benefits that will flow from legislation like this will not be confined to an immediate impact of an economic nature but may easily have farreaching beneficial effects upon both ourselves and those countries with whom we are attempting to promote trade in the future. Perhaps it will make a better world for us all to live in. I support the Bill.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) 1 10.35] - On behalf of the Democratic Labor Party I indicate to the Senate that we support the Bill, lt is rather like the quality of mercy; it blesses him that gives and him that takes. lt has been a stimulus to our own export industries and a stimulus to those countries that are potential customers but who, lacking credit or economic stability or for some other reason, may not otherwise be good trading partners. This is a great gesture from both points of view and my Party has pleasure in commending it to the Senate.
1 10.36] - I thank the Senate for the passage of the second reading stage of this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Senator DEVITT (Tasmania) 1 10.371 - On behalf of the Opposition I move:
I do not propose to speak at length on these amendments because they are consistent with an attitude which was taken by the Committee of the Senate earlier in the day and which in fact confirms and consolidates an attitude taken by this chamber on a number of occasions in similar circumstances. I do not propose to delay or to weary the Committee with tedious repetition because we have already - in fact, this very day - dealt with an issue of similar nature.
– The amending Bill is a general one and in the original Bill there is a provision for a Commissioner and an Acting Commissioner. These are the high officers and at the moment the provisions are that their salaries and allowances shall be as determined by the Governor-General and this simply brings the matter into line with what has been done in respect of other Bills.
– Do you think it is a good idea to be amending these Bills as they come along? Could we not commend a general amendment of those Bills in which these unsatisfactory provisions exist?
-If the Government would bring in a Bill to enable us to do that I would certainly adopt the honourable senator’s suggestion but we can only deal with matters as they are delivered to us. That is why it needs to be done this way.
– This proposal is consistent with what has happened with a number of other Bills, notably today. I do not think that it requires any great explanation from me. We take the view that it would be inhibiting in its application. Therefore we resist the amendments. I think that a vote should be taken and that that will resolve the question. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation is charged with the responsibility of operating its business in a commercial manner. It is therefore given, with safeguards, the responsibility and flexibility of fixing salaries which are suited to its commercial environment. So in a sense it is not on all fours with some of the other government organisations to which we have already referred.
There are 3 ways in which the Corporation’s responsibility in the setting of salaries is safeguarded. The salary of the head of the Corporation is to be fixed by the Governor-General. This is the one to which the amendments are directed. The salaries of the most senior officers must be approved by the Minister on the advice of the Public Service Board. With the great majority of staff the Corporation itself will fix the salaries subject to the approval of the Public Service Board. The point I make is that because of the very nature and the wide charter of the organisation in the commercial sense, to provide for the fixing of salaries by an Act of the Parliament would be to inhibit the flow of the conduct of the Corporation’s affairs. For that reason we resist the amendments. We suggest that the logical thing for the Committee to do is to vote on the amendments.
– Our amendment deals only with the Commissioner and the Acting Commissioner.
– I realise that.
– Is it the will of the Committee that both amendments be taken together? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
That the amendments (Senator Devitt’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed: Thai the Bill bc now read a third lime.
– 1 do not wish to prolong the deliberations of the Senate, but 1 have been concerned tonight, as 1 have been concerned on other occasions, about the principles that we are adopting in the determination of salaries. A number of Bills have come into the Senate in relation to which the Senate has seen fit to intrude and to say that certain salaries should be fixed by statute, and amendments or requests to that effect have been carried. I do not think that when a Bill comes in here to amend an Act it is a very good practice for us to go back to the principle Act and purport to amend it in relation to this principle. 1 could find, for example, situations in which only the Bills that happen to come before this chamber by way of amendment are subject lo this attitude of the Senate, but there is a host of Acts already existing where the other practice operates which may never come before the Senate. We are developing a discrimination in the method of fixing salaries of this nature. That is nol a good practice.
I had the opportunity during the division to have a couple of words with Senator Murphy and I have suggested that this is a principle which could be discussed calmly, with some recollection and more dispassionately during a later session of the Senate - not in this session but perhaps in the Budget session - when the Government might be good enough to supply a list of officers under various statutes whose salary fixation would come within or without this principle. This matter might be discussed as a general principle, the attitude of the Senate already being known. Senator Murphy suggested that this may come up in a Bill which will be before the Senate tomorrow. It may be possible to discuss it then or when we have more time at our disposal during a later session of the Parliament.
I am concerned, as I think are members of my Party, at the practice we are adopting and the discriminations that wc may be writing in. One officer will claim that his salary must come before the Parliament by statute, and a similar officer will say: ‘My salary is fixed by the Minister*. That is not a wise situation to be allowed to develop.
1 10.52] - The Senate must accept responsibility for its own actions. The Senate, 1 would assume, would have been aware at the lime when it set out lo amend a series of Acts in this way of the very point that Senator Byrne has mentioned. I suppose thai if you go through all of the statutes and Commonweatlh laws you will find that procedures which were followed in this Bill and in other Bills before the Senate today have been, more or less until this time, the accepted procedures in relation lo these matters. 1 would think that a fair amount of research would need to be clone. I think that what we have done in the past few days in relation to this Bill, which as to salary takes the common form of the Parliament rather than by being prescribed by regulation, would be the exception to the rule.
I come back to the po tnt that the Senate has to accept responsibility for its own actions. This new technique, shall we say, has emerged only in this session when Bills have been drafted and have come to us from another place, lt stands to reason that any government worthy of its salt must have some regard to a consistent repetitive type of amendment coming before it and must make a judgment in the future on whether it believes it desirable io take cognisance of what is happening. Meanwhile I finish where I started: The Senate has done it. The Senate will have to accept responsibility for it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at .10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 June 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700609_senate_27_s44/>.