27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on Thursday, 22nd October 1970 I shall move:
That rules 5 and 6 of the Bankruptcy (Offences) Rules, contained in Statutory Rules 1970, No. 87, and made under the Bankruptcy Act 1966 to 1969 be disallowed.
I ask leave to make a statement in connection with this matter.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances is at present preparing a report setting out its views on these provisions of the Bankruptcy (Offences) Rules, and this report will be tabled in the Senate as soon as practicable for the guidance of honourable senators.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I refer to the announcement made by the Attorney-General of South Australia that he would be introducing legislation complementary to the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act in order to remove any doubts or difficulties about the application of the Act in the State of South Australia. I remind the Minister that when the Trade Practices Bill was passed the then Attorney-General of the Commonwealth indicated that it was highly desirable that the States pass such complementary legislation. In view of this, if the Government really desires to combat rising prices and inflation, will the Minister take up with the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth the question of pressing the Liberal and Country Party Governments in the States of Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland to introduce such complementary legislation in order to deal with those restrictive trade practices which, on all hands, are acknowledged as being a factor in the’ .increase of prices and a cause of inflation?
– The occasion of the announcement to which the honourable senator referred may be an appropriate time to renew representations to the other State governments to introduce complementary legislation. I am obliged to the honourable senator for the suggestion. I shall convey it to the Attorney-General for his consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. It could also attract the attention of the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, ls the Minister aware that inexcusable and gross exploitation of air travellers and others attending airports is taking place in the licensed refreshment rooms situated at commercial airports? Is he aware that the bar known as the Backbench at Canberra Airport is charging double the price charged in normal hotel bars for Scotch whisky. Is he aware that the Melbourne Airport bar on the ground floor at Essendon Airport charges 30c a nip for Australian whisky which is only 19c a nip in normal hotel bars? Has the Minister any jurisdiction over the prices charged by licensees at airports? If so, will he initiate a full investigation into prices charged by licensees who hold a franchise for the sale of liquor at commercial airports and, if he considers that the public is being exploited, direct those concerned to lower their prices to near normal hotel charges?
– There appears to be unanimity on both sides of the Senate about the price of Scotch whisky and Australian whisky. Senator Poyser has referred to the price of Scotch whisky at the Backbench Bar at Canberra and the price of Australian whisky in the bar at Essendon Airport. I have not drunk at either of those bars but I shall take up this inquiry to see how the prices in them relate to prices for comparable products in adjoining cities. I shall also look into the area of my jurisdiction; I do not know how wide it is or whether it can be exercised in any sense. But, as I have said, I shall certainly find out. I have the general impression that the desire was that prices charged at facilities provided at airport terminals would approximate as nearly as possible the prices charged in adjoining cities for comparable products. Having regard to the fact that the prices quoted by the honourable senator are very high 1 shall certainly look into the matter.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General advise the Government’s intentions io regard to the former overseas telecommunications centre at Fiskville, near Ballan, Victoria, which was vacated recently? Will the centre be disposed of by auction or by some other method?
– All that I can tell the honourable senator concerning this matter is that 1 am aware that the Fiskville centre is surplus to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission’s requirements. I cannot go any further than that. I shall endeavour to get whatever information I can for him.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report in today’s Issue of the Melbourne Sun’ that there have been 923 increases in prices in the first half of this year, and that every week there have been increases in the prices of SO lines of foodstuffs? Will the Minister responsible consider urgently ways and means of stabilising prices so that the consumers of Australia can be relieved of such grave exploitation?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have not seen the report to which the honourable senator has referred. 1 do not walk away from the situation that there have been increases in the prices of commodities. I do not know the order of magnitude of those increases. I think that the burden of the honourable senator’s point is that there is an inordinate number of increases and that something should be done about it. I do not know whether he is suggesting, for instance, that there should be price control. He did not seem to me to get himself into that position. All I can say to him is that in my speech on the Budget there was reference to an increase in the consumer price index to the time the speech was made. The figures that I quoted - they were supplied by the Bureau of Census and Statistics - indicated that the consumer price index had not risen to the extent that wages had risen. I think that is the classic situation. Provided that increased productivity continues and provided that the average weekly earnings increase at a higher rate than that at which the prices- of commodities increase, the situation is not critical. However, I think the question rates an answer from the Treasurer so 1 will put it to him for a considered reply.
– Does the Minister representing the Prime Minister recall my question last Thursday regarding Australian assistance for the victims of the recent fighting in Jordan and his assurance that he would refer the matter to the Prime Minister? Can he now advise me of the Prime Minister’s reply?
– 1 am sure the honourable senator will realise that when I make statements such as that my staff, which has thousands of other things to do, has to process the questions that are asked by honourable senators and then refer them to the department concerned. Without checking with my staff T have no doubt that that would have been done. I have not yet received a reply for the honourable senator. As soon as t receive it T will certainly put it down in the Senate and send him a copy.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Was Charles Martin, a 20-year-old carpenter of Adelaide, sentenced last Friday to 2 years gaol for refusal to serve in the military forces? Did he last year receive a degree in building technology? If so, would this not indicate that he is highly skilled in a trade for which tradesmen are in short supply in Adelaide? Would it not be in the national interest for this highly skilled tradesman to apply his skill to building construction for the next 2 years rather than gardening or doing other menial jobs at Yatala Labour Prison? Will the Government act in the national interest in this matter?
– I saw some reference to the case which the honourable senator identifies. We all recognise that prison service is a waste of time which otherwise could be employed usefully. But that observation is made in the superior context that national security and national defence require a system of defence. At the present time the Government’s system of defence is national service which requires that every individual, irrespective of occupation, status or qualifications, should take an equal turn in the ballot for national service. The lack of discrimination in that respect outweighs any consideration of selectivity of service. We believe that this system is the only fair and equitable one to be maintained in the present circumstances of Australia’s defence.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report in the South Australian ‘Advertiser’ to the effect that Radio Hanoi has referred to the practical support being given by the anti-war movement in Australia and that trade union leaders in North Vietnam have expressed their sincere thanks to the organisers of recent anti-war demonstrations in Australia for their support? Is this not a clear confirmation of the importance to the plans of the Communist forces of North Vietnam for domination of Indo-China played by the Communist inspired Moratorium movement in Australia? Could this not also be taken as a North Vietnam thank you’ to all those who organised, led and spoke in support of the Moratorium, including those leaders and members of the Australian . Labor Party who spoke?
I was thinking of the expression that one often hears in private life: Spare me from my friends. I am sure that receiving the accolade from Hanoi or from North Vietnam would be rather a source of embarrassment to the not so many people in this country who have been associated with the activities of North Vietnam in relation to Vietnam. I have not had an opportunity to read the statement made in the Press so I do not want to go beyond that.
– It was very good. We all appreciate it.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIf Senator Cavanagh, by way of interjection, wants to embrace it, that is his responsibility and certainly not mine.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Health. On 5th June, nearly 4 months ago, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether she was in a position to advise what action had been taken by the Government and the Commonwealth Department of Health to further Professor J. Bronstein’s treatment for diabetics which had been acclaimed in medical circles as a breakthrough and a better and safer treatment than insulin. As there are an estimated 250,000 diabetics in Australia I asked whether the Minister would regard this investigation as one of great urgency. She said at that time that she recognised the seriousness of this matter and would advise me as soon as possible. I ask her whether she is now in a position to advise the Senate of what action the Department or the Government has taken in regard to this investigation.
– I well recall the question the honourable senator asked me. I promised that I would take it up with the Minister for Health. That has been done. I have not yet received the reply the honourable senator wishes, but I will see whether I can hasten something along.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to a report that the twelfth national service ballot was opened in its entirety to the mass media in Australia for the first time and that, again for the first time, the lists of the birthdays drawn were published? Was the Minister for Labour and National Service correctly reported as having described the witnessing of the ballot as ‘awesome’? If the Government did decide to publish the drawn birthdays because, as reported, it is considered to be a matter of great importance to the young men involved, why is it that future ballots will not be made in public?
– I have not been informed as to the comment made by the Minister for Labour and National Service at the drawing of the ballot. All I know is that the Government decided that future ballots would be publicised as far as disclosing the birthdays drawn was concerned. I have no knowledge that there is any intention not to publish the results of future ballots. That is entirely contrary to my understanding of the position. The reason why the Government decided to make the birthdays public and available to all concerned was that it was thought that the interest of the young men concerned in knowing the dates selected by the ballot overrode any possible interest to the contrary in that previously the view had been taken that it would enable defaulters to contrive excuses after the event.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, refers to the increase in aircraft accidents over the last 2 years which appears to be related to the increase in private flying and the growth of charter aircraft operations. Has the Minister or his Department been able to identify and relate the growing accident rate since 1968-69 to any specific cause and to recommend new safety measures likely to reduce aircraft accidents and fatalities?
– Honourable senators will be quite well aware of my permanent concern about aircraft accidents. I am sure that they would be quite conscious that we would be doing everything we possibly could to try to see that aircraft accidents were minimised. I believe that a comparison between last year or the year before and this year is probably not as valid as one over a longer period. I think I might help Senator Bishop and, perhaps, the Senate as a whole by giving some figures that indicate the’ overall run of accidents in the field of general aviation over a longer period. A comparison between earlier years and last year shows that the figures are improving, not getting worse. On a comparison between the calendar year 1969 and the calendar year 1968, the figures for the calendar year 1969 look a little worse.
We as a department have been examining this matter quite critically. We have in mind certain actions that we believe could lead to an improvement. One of the things we have considered doing quite seriously is to direct the attention of every licensed pilot in Australia to the need to maintain the highest possible care and concern. No distinct pattern is showing up. No one reason why these accidents are occurring is showing up. Of course, there is a big expansion in general aviation. There has been no decline in any way in safety standards or in the standard of training. But the honourable senator may be sure that we are watching this matter very carefully. If there is anything that I believe can usefully be done in the aviation industry in this sense in general, it will be done, and I shall report it to the honourable senator by letter.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI hope this is not intended to be a takeover bid because all honouable senators recognise the tremendous and sustained interest over many years that Senator Kennelly has taken in the future of Albert Park. I think the question needs to be sent to the Department of Defence in order to get a comprehensive answer. There is a history relating to Albert Park, as we all know, and I think it is proper that the Defence complex prepare a considered answer on the points raised by the honourable senator.
– The Ministerin.Charge of Tourist Activities will recall that last year he indicated that he was having talks with State highway authorities with a view to removing or camouflaging some of the unsightly car dumps that loom with increasing largeness on some of our major highways. Has any material progress been achieved in this matter?
– I believe that material progress has been made in New South Wales but I am not up to date with particular steps taken by State Ministers. I shall take an early opportunity of advising myself and the honourable senator in this respect.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It is reported in today’s edition of the Australian ‘Financial Review’ that the net profit of the Rural Bank of New South Wales rose by 22 per cent in the year ended 30th June last, that total assets rose by $2 1.7m to $426.2m, and that loans and advances increased by $29. 8m to $27 1.5m during the same period. Are these reported transactions and results of the Rural Bank of New South Wales characteristic of those of banks in other States operating in the same field of banking? In view of the acknowledged depressed economic state of rural industries throughout Australia, how is it that financial institutions which service these industries accumulate such astronomical profits and assets?
This is primarily a State matter but I think it is proper to point out to the honourable senator that the name Rural Bank of New South Wales is perhaps not indicative of its banking role. One can go into the city of Sydney, to the inner and outer suburbs and to other cities in New South Wales and find that the Rural Bank is open for business. The short answer to the question is that this is a classic example of how a bank can succeed when there is a proper and suitable Liberal Government in office in that State.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he saw in today’s ‘Canberra Times’ a copy of a photograph taken by a News and Information Bureau photographer at the Moratorium rally outside Parliament House on 18th September in- which a telephoto lens was used to falsify a picture to be used for the purpose of deceiving the Australian public? In view of the gravity of such a practice-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. The point of order I take in relation to the question being asked is that the Standing Orders of the Senate and Mr Odgers’ ‘Australian
Senate Practice’ say that a senator asking a question and quoting from a newspaper must give an undertaking that the allegation made is true. I ask you to rule the question out of order.
– I could not rule that way because so many questions are based on newspaper reports, but there is a responsibility on* an honourable senator to make sure that the information he gives to the Senate is correct. If it is found that the information is not correct then the individual senator will be in trouble. That is the interpretation we have followed for a number of years.
– The information I am giving the Senate is correct. In view of the gravity of such a practice where the credibility of a government department is involved and is placed in jeopardy by this information photography, will the Minister give the Senate an assurance and have an inquiry made by the head of the News and Information Bureau to ascertain who was responsible for his organisation being brought into discredit and ridicule as the result of such blatantly transparent deception?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not accept the basis of the question at all. It is one thing for the honourable senator to read a newspaper and to come into the Senate and certify that something is true, but I suggest to him that that is a very - I will not use the word ‘questionable’, as I do not want to use it in that sense - unwise thing for him to do. The facts are, as I understand them, that a whole series- of photographs has been issued. I would not know whether the photograph referred to by the honourable senator is the one I have seen. A whole series of photographs has been issued in relation to a Moratorium demonstration that took place outside this Parliament last week. Frankly, I do not see anything unique in that. I would have thought that every time there is a gathering together of people outside Parliament there would bc photographers there. For that reason I do not see that there is any point in the honourable senator’s question. I am certainly not prepared to ask the News and Information Bureau not to continue to take photographs whenever it feels that in its judgment it should do so.
– My question, which I address to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows on the question asked by Senator O’Byrne. I ask: In view of the divergence of opinion as to whether the photographs are authentic-
– Senator. O’Byrne has said that they are authentic.
– Wait a minute. Earlier, my friend at the back who interjects asked a question about Albert Park, about which he knows nothing. Perhaps he knows no more about this matter. I will ask my question in my own way and in my own time, and the only person who will say that I am incorrect is the President. My question follows on the question asked by Senator O’Byrne and the answer he received. As there is a very great divergence of opinion as to the authenticity of the photographs, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate set all our minds at rest by asking the head of the News and Information Bureau to breast the Bar of the House so that he can satisfy members of this Parliament on whether the photograph published is an authentic one?
– There is nothing very original in the question because we all know that a debate on this issue is at present proceeding in the other place. 1 have nothing to add to what I have already said on this matter. Many photographs were taken in front of Parliament House. I do not believe that it is a proper part of parliamentary procedure to request the News and Information Bureau to cease that practice. Whatever photographs officers of the Bureau took were taken in good faith. They were not the only people who took photographs out there on the day of the Moratorium.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether any endeavour has been made to establish the identity of the persons who were bearing the Vietcong flag on the occasion referred to in previous questions today. If so, is the Leader of the Government in a position to advise the Senate of the identity of those persons since it has been alleged that they are members of the Liberal Party? If no attempt has been made, why has it not been made?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not know whether the honourable senator realises the significance of the way he framed his question, as it acknowledges that the flags were in fact there. I do not want question time to degenerate into . a situation that has had-
– It is a serious question.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have no intention of seeking to identify who was responsible for the carrying of this flag. The fact of the matter is that the photographs show that a Vietcong flag was to be seen at the demonstration.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Has the Leader of the Government seen today’s issue of the Brisbane ‘Courier Mail’, which has the doctored photograph of the Moratorium demonstration superimposed on the original photograph? Can he explain to the Senate why the original photograph was doctored in any way?
– I do not have any great skills in relation to photography and I do not think that
Senator Keeffe has either. The honourable senator has made a categorical statement about the original photograph being doctored. I am amazed that the honourable senator should assume that it was. I repeat that I am sorry that we have got to this point during question time. It is becoming obvious that a concentrated effort is being made to divert our attention from the issues of substance which were debated in the other place last week and which are being debated there at present
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary .Industry. I ask: Is the Minister aware of the concern which has been expressed by the Associated Poultry Farmers of Australia and other poultry farmer organisations about the future of their industry and the fact that their industry is threatened with being taken over by a few large groups? Will the Minister request the Minister for Primary Industry to reconsider the French plan to introduce a controlled production scheme or some other similar scheme and inform the Senate whether the French plan or any other scheme will be implemented to prevent this sector of primary industry from being swallowed in the same manner as its products?
– I do not have any information on this matter. I will have to seek.it from the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I would like to ask a question of you, Mr President. Would you be prepared to seek for me the leave of the Senate to have the photographs which are under discussion laid on the table of the Senate?
– No photographs have been produced.
– I ask leave of the Senate to table the photographs which appear in this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ relating to this matter.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister seen the Press report in today’s issue of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ which quotes the President of the United States of America as saying that the United States intends to maintain the necessary strength in the Mediterranean to keep the peace? The President was referring to the deployment of the naval fleet of the United States. Will the Minister agree that in most places where forces of the United States are stationed to keep the peace war breaks out which invariably involves other nations that are tied - mainly on economic grounds - to the policy of the United States?
I do not accept and I am sure the world at large - certainly those honourable senators who sit on this side of the chamber - does not accept the proposition which has been put forward by the honourable senator. However, I do accept the proposition that Australia was on the brink of disaster during World War II when the great United States of America came to our aid and defended us. We should not ever forget that. I am surprised that the honourable senator does not have that in his mind. In postwar years the United States has a magnificent record of aiding reconstruction in Europe and in Asia following the depredations of the Second World War. I hope the honourable senator will not forget that. Whatever the situation in Europe today, the really great factor in the recovery of Europe after the War was the help that the United States Government gave. We should remember that to our dying day, as we should remember what the United States did for us in our hour of trial.
Having said that and having put that on the line as a starting point, I also make the point that the United States has been effective and will continue to be effective in keeping peace in the free world. Whilst I saw the article - and I have not had a chance to read it in depth - I accepted it on the premise on which the President of the United States of America made it and that is that the United States contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and to the peace of the world is probably the most significant contribution of any nation.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As all meetings of Senate Estimates Committees are held in locations that are not normally accessible to the public and as they necessitate entry through closed glass doors or through doors with signs Members Only’ on them, are Senate Estimates Committees in fact open to the public? As it was intended that such committees should be open to the public, will the Government ensure that all future meetings are held in rooms accessible to the public and without prohibition signs on the doors?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONlt is true, as the honourable senator indicated in his question, that the venues for the Senate Estimates Committees are not the best in terms of accommodation. I think all of us would recognise that. We should remember what was said when we debated the system of Estimates Committees. It was pointed out that there would be difficulties. The difficulty of finding suitable accommodation is a very real one. At the first sitting of Estimate Committee A there was considerable overcrowding. Committee meetings were held last week. The situation was better. 1 say to Senator Cavanagh that the commitees are open to the public. I gather that any notices on the doors stating ‘Members Only’ have been removed, on instructions. Not only are the meetings open to the public but to the extent that there is accommodaion in the rooms I think it would be very desirable that the public be encouraged to see the committees at. work. We all know the accommodation difficulties members of the Press had at our initial meetings. I believe we have overcome those difficulties. We have to go into this system with an attitude of goodwill. Senator Cavanagh pointed out something which obviously was misunderstood. He has brought it: to our notice. Prior to bis mentioning it, it bad been brought to the notice of other people. The matter has been rectified. These com mitees are open to the public. We should encourage interested members of the public to attend metings of the committees.
– Last Thursday during question time Senator Greenwood asked me whether, if a point of order was raised during an answer to a question, that question and answer would be excluded from the re-broadcast. Under the rules laid down by the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, points of order and other extraneous matter are eliminated from the re-broadcast of questions and answers. The practice is that, if the points of order can be removed without destroying the sense of the question and answer, then the question and answer will be re-broadcast.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. The Minister will recall that in reply to question No. 463 last week she informed me that an Aboriginal at Yarrabah Reserve was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment for consuming intoxicating liquor on the Reserve and that an additional 56 days imprisonment was imposed for 6 additional charges. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the details of the 6 additional charges, including the nature of the alleged offences and the imprisonment imposed for each?
– I recall well the reply I gave to Senator Keeffe last week on behalf of my colleague the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. I cannot give the honourable senator the information he requires concerning the other 6 charges.
– My question to the Minister for Supply relates to a question that I asked him on 27th August in relation to the redundancy of staff which might occur as a result of European Launcher Development Organisation changes, whether the staff had been reemployed and also the future work load of specialists and the scientific staff at Woomera and at Salisbury. Is the Minister in a position to give further information?
– I am grateful to Senator Bishop for asking me about this matter. On 27th August 1970 the honourable senator asked me about the future work load at Woomera and the current position relating to the redeployment of the staff as a result of the ELDO withdrawal. On 2nd September 1970 I presented to the Senate and had incorporated in Hansard a statement on satellite technology in Australia. In addition to the broad picture which I gave on that occasion in response to a question from Senator Murphy I covered also the matters now raised by Senator Bishop’s question. I shall arrange for a copy of that statement to be sent to the honourable senator this afternoon.
– Does that deal with the work load?
– The statement which I put down in the Senate refers to the work load and the abolition of that work load.
– I address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation who represents the Minister for the Interior in this place. Will the Minister inform his colleague, the Minister for the Interior, that there is deep resentment among the staff of the News and Information Bureau over the Government’s political direction given to the Director of the Bureau that Mr Whitlam should be photographed near a Vietcong flag? Who asked the Director of the News and Information Bureau to photograph the Canberra Moratorium proceedings?
– I know of the work of the News and Information Bureau, both in Australia and overseas, and I have a very high regard for the quality of its work and for the people involved. I cannot say anything more than that. The honourable senator has asked me to direct a question and a request to the Minister for the Interior and I shall do that.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science seen a statement attributed to the New South Wales Minister for Health that whereas shortly after the second World War medical graduates from the University of Sydney were of the order of 300 a year, now, despite the increased population and increased expenditure on education, the number of graduates in medicine from the University has shrunk to about 200 a year? Is the Minister aware that outside the inner city of Sydney there is no major teaching hospital throughout the whole of New South Wales? Will the Minister agree that medical education is not only a State matter but also one of national importance? Therefore, will the Commonwealth take these matters into sympathetic consideration so far as New South Wales is concerned when an allocation is made of Australian Universities Commission grants for medical education?
– The figures which have been quoted by the honourable senator give cause for real concern. I shall have pleasure in referring them to the Minister for special consideration. With regard to the last part of his question, as he will know the organisation of university studies and the extent of university training are matters for recommendation by the Australian Universities Commission each triennium. It would be equally appropriate that the matter to which he has referred be brought to that Commission. I have no doubt that that view will recommend itself to the Minister.
– Does the Minister representing the Attorney-General agree with the Leader of the Opposition., Mr Whitlam, that members of the Australian armed forces who have not availed themselves of the opportunity of service with the Citizen Military Forces or have succeeded in showing themselves to be conscientious objectors should be able to pick and choose the areas in which they are prepared to serve? Does the Whitlam doctrine, as it has been named by the Press, mean that anyone who thinks he would rather serve in the pleasant surroundings of Singapore than in the jungles of Vietnam should just notify his commanding officer that he objects to the Vietnam war and expect a transfer? Would that doctrine govern the use of the armed forces under a Labor government if such a government ever came to power?
– Since the debate in this Parliament last Thursday, marked attempts have been made by the public news media to divert attention from the serious aspect of the matter to which Senator Rae refers, to a matter of a Press photograph. It is, I think, appropriate to remind the Senate that Mr Whitlam’s statement was this:
I told the Caucus that it I were asked by a man who objected to the Vietnam war as to the course he should take I would give this advice: He should register and at the time of doing so give written advice that if he was inducted and ordered to go to Vietnam he would not obey that order.
Disobedience of a military order is subversive to the whole idea of defence.
– I raise a point of order. The Minister is transgressing standing order 418 which is in these terms:
No senator shall use offensive words against . . any Member of such House.
Mr Whitlam is a member of the other House. The Standing Order continues: and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
The Minister is using the word ‘subversive’ in relation to the Leader of the Opposition in the other House. I submit that is clearly an infringement of standing order 418.
– I do not consider that Senator Wright has, up to this point, infringed the standing order. The point of order is not upheld.
– 1 wish to make my own meaning quite clear and not have it obscured by an intervention by the honourable senator. I was saying that disobedience of a military order is completely subversive to all discipline that underlies effective defence. I would agree with the observation of the Deputy Prime Minister that advice of this sort is treachery to. this country.
– I again take a point of order and ask that that statement be withdrawn. I insist that the Minister withdraw that statement. It is out of order. It is contrary to standing order 418. The Minister has deliberately infringed that standing order and I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– I submit the point of order should not be upheld. If the point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition is considered to have any validity it would mean surely that a person could say, in words, that he advocates treachery towards this country. He should not be criticised for so doing because to criticise him would amount to the use of offensive words against him. I am not saying, of course, that that is what has been said, but I am submitting that all that Senator Wright did was to refer to words which were actually used in order to indicate that the use of those words amounted to the holding of an attitude or of the giving of advice which would be subversive to all that underlies military discipline. The Minister went on to say that he would categorise that sort of advice as treachery. In my submission, it would be a comment which he is making on the advice which was given. It does not come within the standing orders to which Senator Murphy has referred.
– 1 can assure you I will not allow the word ‘treachery’ to be used in direct application. I think that if you are going to accuse a man of treachery you should charge him with treason and deal with him. Senator Wright has not done this up to date. He may be making an essay along that road, and I would suggest to him that he keep in mind my feeling that I do not believe anyone should be accused of treachery.
– I remind the Senate that what Mr Whitlam said in another place was that if a man were inducted and ordered to go to Vietnam his advice to that man would be that he should not obey that order. That would be disobedience of a military order and, of course, if joined in by 2 or more persons would amount to mutiny. The gravity of that situation has only to be stated for it to be realised what a serious subversion would be effected against the armed forces of this country. If people in responsible positions give, advice of that sort to the armed Services of this country it is seriously subversive.
– I submit.. Mr President, that the honourable senator is deliberately disobeying your instructions. He has deliberately brought Mr Whitlam’s name into the matter again. He has linked Mr Whitlam’s name with the statement and has said that it is subversive and amounts to treachery. I suggest that you require him to withdraw the statements which reflected on the Leader of the - Opposition in the other House, otherwise standing order 418 is meaningless.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr President, the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition has now become totally obscured and I require that he write out the objectionable words so that the Senate may form a proper judgment.
– I shall do so.
– Order! I want to make it clear that I listened very carefully to what Senator Wright was saying in case he transgressed my previous ruling. In my opinion he did not transgress my previous ruling and I do not rule him out of order. Senator Wright knows exactly how far I will allow him to go on this.
– Mr President, I move:
I further move:
That the matter be dealt with forthwith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Standing order 418 is intended to protect the members of both Houses. It has special application in regard to members of the other House who are not here to protect themselves. However he attempted thinly to disguise it, the Minister has deliberately set out, in answer to a question from a member of his own Party, to accuse the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives of treachery. He has said that the advice in question would be subversive and would amount to treachery. In any man’s terms that is an allegation against the Leader of the Opposition of subversion and of treachery. It is as simple as that, and I would ask that the Senate support the proposition that the Minister should be required to withdraw the reflections upon the Leader of the Opposition. If the Minister wants to move some substantive motion, as we do in a matter of censure, he is entitled to do so. If a substantive motion of censure is raised, an attack can be made against a man. He can be accused of being a liar, of being treacherous or of anything you like, but it is a perversion of the rules and proceedings of this Senate for the Minister, in answer to a question when there can be no opportunity for anyone else to deal with it, to accuse the Leader of the Opposition who is not here of subversion and of treachery. That is what he has done, lt is idle to suggest that that is not what he has done because he has done it in the plainest terms. In fact, at the end he again connected the name of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representative with what he was saying. In unmistakable terms he was reflecting upon the Leader of the Opposition and imputing to him motives of treason, treachery and subversion which are improper motives. That clearly amounts to a personal reflection upon him.
– It is the height of folly to propose this motion to the Senate. I ask honourable senators to consider the nature of question time so far today. We have heard from the other side questions about people in another place allegedly doctoring or falsifying photographs. If those questions relating to malpractice are justified, this is the place to ventilate them. No-one on this side proffered an objection to them although they went extraordinarily further than anything that would be in a proper sense the responsibility of this House. But, Mr President, the words I used were that advice of this sort was seriously subversive to the discipline which alone in the armed forces could create effective defence. Now, if you please, Mr President, we are asked to consider that as an offensive reference to the honourable gentleman, Mr Whitlam, whom I mention because no other person should be confused either with his folly or his attitude. I make it quite clear that I am referring to subversive statements by Mr Whitlam.
What is objected to is that I should not have the right in this place to characterise advice which he would give, that a person ordered under military discipline to go to Vietnam should disobey that order. If there is anything more subversive of military discipline I would like to know it. We have had the effrontery of the Leader of the Opposition -in this House (Senator Murphy) in attempting to support the insupportable which, after vigorous debate in another place last week, nobody would support either in the Parliament or within the country as consistent with any parliamentarian’s duty towards the orders that apply to the military services. He then offered the puerile suggestion that I should be precluded by some standing order of this House from saying that that is seriously subversive of the discipline that underlies the effectiveness of the armed forces. Is this a kindergarten? Is this a place in which only the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate should make allegations? Is this a place where his sole function this afternoon should be to try to exculpate from criticism a leader in the other place? I refer to Mr Whitlam to make it plain that I am not referring to Senator Murphy because often he has called our attention to the necessity for making it plain which Leader of the Opposition we are referring to. I read from a public statement which Mr Whitlam made:
I told the Caucus that if I were asked by a man who objected to the Vietnam war as to the course he should take 1 would give this advice: He should register and at the time of doing so give written advice that if he was inducted and ordered to go to Vietnam he would not obey that order.
I have yet to see anything more discreditable on the part of a high parliamentarian with the potential of an alternative Prime Minister in circumstances where this country is engaged in hostilities in Vietnam. I do not go on to argue.
– I rise to order. The Minister is not entitled to use the occasion of this debate to indulge in further reflections on Mr Whitlam, a member Of the other House. The Minister is clearly reflecting upon him. To say that something is discreditable is to make a clear reflection upon him. I ask, Mr President, that you require the Minister to withdraw that statement - and now.
– Speaking on that point of order, it should be quite clear, if the term I have just ut.ee! is applicable, as I suggest it is, how moderate I was in confining myself to it when referring to activities which are seriously subversive.
– I think it is alarming that Senator Murphy should raise this point of order-
– Order! Is the honourable senator speaking to the point of order?
– I am speaking to the motion that has been moved.
– The motion of dissent?
– Yes, that is what I desire to speak to.
– Order! A point of order has been raised. Are there any further speakers on the point cf order? There being no further speakers, let me say that it is fairly clear that, whilst I had powers prior to the moving of the motion of dissent from my ruling and I was watching those powers very carefully, as my ruling has been dissented from I cannot see that I can join very much in the proceedings that follow, because if I were to do so it would appear that I was only protecting myself. The point of order is not upheld.
– Everyone will see the significance of how touchy the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is over this matter. Now that he has put in issue the question whether this advice by Mr Whitlam is properly characterised as seriously subversive to the armed forces, let him now enter upon a debate on that issue from an objective point of view and from the point of view of considerations that are relevant in the country. The proposition must be maintained that, when a man says that he would advise a man under military discipline and ordered to go to Vietnam to disobey that order, the question is whether anybody in this House of Parliament is entitled to say that that is seriously subversive to the discipline of our armed forces. To me, the mere statement of the proposition answers the objection. If that were not to be the position, the Senate would be an utter futility.
– In 21 years I have never seen such an amazing situation as that which arises today. Standing order 418 is completely clear, as also are the authoritative works that guide us in this place. It is always held that it adds to the dignity of this place to withdraw such imputations. On balance, senators have always had enough dignity and enough decency to do that. I have been listening to every word of this debate in my office, while preparing a speech on the post and telegraph legislation. Senator Wright not only has said things about Mr Whitlam, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, in complete violation of standing order 418 but also has repeated them and then has stood up, under the subterfuge of dealing with the motion of dissent which we
On this side have moved very reluctantly
– Ha, Ha!
– A giggling and laughing Minister of the Crown; an inane, giggling and laughing man. Goodness me, how you sit on the front bench amazes me. The only thing is the amazing change from the back bench to the front bench.
– Who is being offensive now?
– Government senators yell and scream. They have been smearing all the week and they do not like to get it back. The smears in which they have engaged in this place over the last few days are a complete disgrace and they know it.
– Just read Hansard and see who was smearing last week.
– Senator Rae, a young man who recently came into this place, shows complete inability to understand Parliament and resorts to the smear and the slur every time he stands to speak. He is doing it today. I have not been so disappointed in a young man in the years I have been a senator. Here again we see Senator Wright giggling and laughing. I just wonder. The fact is, Mr President, that Senator Wright has deliberately offended against this standing order. He has repeated the offence several times. Then, under the guise of protecting you, Mr President, in this motion of dissent, he has gone into the depths so common to him in order to malign again. And he says he worries about this place. He talks about the dignity and decorum of it. The fact is that if he had any respect for the Senate at all he would immediately have made it quite clear and would have withdrawn any imputations made against Mr Whitlam. But because of the political atmosphere at present, nothing is too strong to bend. The Standing Orders can go overboard, decency can go overboard and the smear and the slur can come to the top of the Liberal Party.
– Mr President, 1 am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has used standing order 418 on this occasion because I sense that if one reads Hansard in due course it will be shown that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) was very careful about the words he used. No occasion arises for the use of standing order 418. What does standing order 418 say? It states:
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 pur- . pose of moving for its repeat, and a’t imputations of improper motives and ail personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
What did the Minister say? Remember that it was in response to a question. He referred with precision to the words which were used by Mr Whitlam in a statement he made last week. The Minister then indicated that it was a statement which in his opinion was subversive of that which underlies discipline in the military forces. That is a fair comment and one at which 1 do not think any reasonable person would cavil. Then the Minister went on to say that in his view advice so given to a young man amounted to treachery. At that point of time a point of order was taken which you, Mr President, did not uphold. Thereafter the Minister again referred to precise words which were used by Mr Whitlarn and he indicated again that those words were subversive. My recollection is that it was at that point that the Leader of the Opposition rose. The Minister did not say, as the Leader of the Opposition has alleged in support of the motion before us, that be accused Mr Whitlam of treachery. Those were words which were used by the Leader of the Opposition and, with all respect to him, that is not what the Minister said. I hope this debate is not categorised as a de- : bate in the terms in which the Leader of the Opposition raised it. What the Minister said, with respect, Mr President, was that the words used by Mr Whitlam fairly lent themselves to the comment which he imposed upon them. I would have thought that no-one in his right mind could say otherwise.
If we go back 25 or 30 years, and somebody advised young men in the Services during the war against Germany and Japan-
– But we declared war then.
– Just a minute. Suppose someone advised young men at that time that if they did not like fighting against Japan they should say to their commanding officer, and should also put it in writing: ‘I am prepared to fight against Germany but I am not prepared to fight against Japan’. What would members of the Labor Party at that time, who were in Government, say of persons who gave that advice? I would suppose that they would categorise that sort of advice as treachery to Australia.
The Opposition cannot have it both ways. Some people may not regard the language used as properly to be described as treacherous advice but 1 certainly believe that people could so regard it because it is the sort of advice which involves letting down your country, and if you give a wide meaning to treachery then that is what is involved. The outcry which comes from the Opposition when I suggest that they apply the facts to the situation of the war 25 or 30 years ago indicates that the point f am trying to make is well made.
I also sense that the Senate should not take a one-sided view with regard to the issue which has been raised. For the best part of three-quarters of an hour today we have listened to the imputation of improper motives to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and those persons who have control of the News and Information Bureau. There has been an imputation of improper motives and personal reflection, but there has been no request by Senator Murphy or by any honourable senator opposite that the persons who used those expressions be brought to order. Other expressions have been used in the Senate from time to time by honourable senators opposite and no objection has been raised by the Opposition to those expressions. I ought to know, because I have had flung at me from many honourable senators opposite expressions which are far more offensive than expressions used in respect of any other person in this place in the time I have been a senator.
In those circumstances it is hollow for the Opposition to raise this particular point at this particular time. It indicates remarkable sensitivity to the facts. It is to avoid those facts that diversionary tactics of the character we have seen today have been employed in the first three-quarters of an hour of question time. I suggest that what is happening now is also a diversionary tactic. It appears to me that in Parliament persons ought to be able to use robust lan.uage and to categorise for what they are statements which are made. We ought to be able to stand up and either attack or defend ourselves, according to what is said. I think it is a namby-pamby attitude now to raise points of order and to move a motion of dissent from a ruling of the President, at the same time alleging what is not a fact - that Senator Wright had accused Mr Whitlam of treachery. As I said before, he had not done so.
A third point is that advice was given by Mr Whitlam last Wednesday. The advice he gave indicated that he would advise young men objecting to going to Vietnam, to register and enter the Army and then to refuse to obey orders to go to Vietnam. All I say is that that is one kind of advice he could give. It is advice which, as Senator Wright said, is subversive of military discipline. It involves a young man in acting unlawfully. There was other advice which could have been given but was nol given. That advice is that a young man could join the Citizen Military Forces, which is a perfectly proper course to take. It is a course that I would advise, and have advised, young persons to take when they approach me as to their options. I fail to see why the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives could not have given that advice along with the other advice that he gave. Taking all those facts into account it is my view that the motion of dissent should not be accepted. What Senator Wright said was fair comment on the facts which he meticulously stated and which permitted the broad comment he gave to them.
– I wish to say a few words on a matter arising out of what Senator Greenwood has said. Senator Greenwood seemed to imply that if Senator Wright had said when answering the question that he accused Mr Whitlam of treachery it would have been an offence under standing order 418. Of course, in reply the Minister said that Mr Whitlam said he would give certain advice to trainees, and this in effect was treachery. Where the distinction lies, I do not know. 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 its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly. if 1 said that what Senator Greenwood had stated was treacherous to the country he would be entitled to ask that I withdraw it. What happened on this occasion? The advice that Mr Whitlam had given was repeated and it was said that it, in effect, constituted treachery. Where does the distinction fie? Was Senator Wright in breach of standing order 418 when he described what was said as treachery? Obviously if a statement constitutes treachery, the person who uttered it must have been treacherous. One cannot get away from this fact. Therefore the remark is offensive. lt may be argued by some people that Mr Whitlam’s remarks were not in the best interests of the nation, but consideration must be given to Mr Whitlam’s motive. It is not in order to imply improper motives. Mr Whitlam was, of course, implying that certain people have a conscience. No doubt as a jurist be recognised the principles laid down at the Nuremberg trials -
When you take a sword and draw it, And go stick a fellow through, Iiic Government ain’t to answer for it, God will send the bill to you.
The Nuremberg trials established that a man has to respond to his conscience. Mr Whitlam went out of his way - further than 1 would have gone - to emphasise that a national serviceman should obey the law in every degree possible until it conflicted with his conscience. Under international law one has a responsibility to one’s conscience. If there were a real alternative form of service Mr Whitlam would have advised a prospective trainee of it; but the Citizen Military Forces is no real alternative The Government has tried to put up a smoke screen by claiming that it is. A recruit who joins the CMF has to undertake to serve wherever directed by the Commonwealth Government for a period of six years and he has no guarantee that he will not be sent to Vietnam. The same conditions which apply to national service personnel apply to CMF personnel if the Government so directs.
– Not at the present time and the honourable senator knows it.
– At present the Government does not. require CMF personnel to serve in Vietnam, but it is wrong to say that the CMF is an alternative. A CMF soldier takes an oath which commits him to serve, wherever directed by the Commonwealth Government, for a period of 6 years. Although his conscience might dictate that he should not serve in Vietnam he would have to do so if the occasion arose because he had taken an oath to accept military discipline. A man has a responsibility to his own conscience. The Leader of the Australian Labor Party has upheld that responsibility. He has bent over backwards to indicate to prospective trainees that they should obey the law until it conflicts with their consciences. To prospective national servicemen 1 have always stated the law and the penalty for breaking it and told them that it is for them to make a decision in accordance with their consciences. I have also told them that they will have my support if they decide not to serve in the military forces. This is my position and I make no apologies for it. I submit that it is clear from the wording of standing order 418 that to describe something said by a member of another place as treacherous Ls a contravention of that Standing Order. To suggest otherwise is to do violence to the language.
– I was amazed by the statements made by Senator Wright I admit that he has had a change of heart. However, I will forget that for the moment. I will be kind to him i in advancing my argument. Senator Wright said that Mr Whitlam used words which were subversive.
– To military discipline. Do not take it out of its context.
– I do not want to do that. Does the honourable senator want to make a speech now? If so I will sit down and speak after the honourable senator. I would not mind. I am a very accommodating person at times.
– Is the honourable senator afraid to speak before Senator Withers?
– No, I am not. The honourable senator should not talk about me being frightened. Having regard to his views on Vietnam and his age the honourable senator should be the last person in the world to say that somebody is frightened. I do noi want to say anything further about that subject. I do not want to be unkind to the honourable senator. I may have been a wee bit hard at times, but I want to be kind on this occasion. Senator Webster is trying to interject. He is in the same age group as Senator Greenwood. Senator Wright, replying to a question asked by Senator Rae, said that Mr Whitlam had used subversive words. Senator Wright said that Mr Whitlam’s words were treacherous. Let us examine standing order 418. I shall read it slowly and precisely. It states:
No honourable senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House . . .
Surely no honourable senator can say that the words used by Senator Wright are not offensive. It is amazing to me to think that anybody, irrespective of whether he is high or low in the law, could say that such words could not be considered as being offensive. I believe that they are offensive.
– But what if they are true?
– It does not matter whether they are true. Standing order 418 does not say anything about the words used being true or false. If my friend opposite is ever called upon to defend me, which I hope he will not be because I do not want to get into any trouble-
– The honourable senator is far too shrewd.
– I think I am. I am more concerned about the people who follow the same profession as the honour able senator than I am about the man who sits on the bench because after the members of the honourable senator’s profession have finished with me as far as expenses are concerned I will not have any money left to pay the fine which is imposed. I shall advance my argument a little further. In Australian Senate Practice’, Mr J. R. Odgers states:
The Commons rule is that reflections must not be cast in debate upon the conduct of members of either House, unless the discussion is based upon a substantive motion drawn in proper terms.
I say with respect that to use the words subversive’ and ‘treacherous’, tacked on to what Senator Withers said - and I do not want to be unfair, God forbid, and misquote him, but I forget his words - is offensive. If I said that Senator Wright used subversive words or words that one could consider to be subversive, I believe that you, Mr President, would be quite in order in pulling me up, because if I used those words I would be contravening standing order 418. Standing order 418 also states: . . all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
How can anyone argue that the words used by the Minister for Works are not a personal reflection? I like the Minister and his present attitude, but I think of the past. I will say no more. I am in a very good mood today. I will forget the past. How can anyone argue that the words used by Senator Wright do not conflict with what standing order 418 states? I admit that I am not gifted with degrees or anything like that, but a person with only an ordinary education - whether it be in school or out in the word-
– Or in kindergarten.
– As there were no kindergartens in my time I will forget that. I do not think there is any shadow of doubt-
– Only if the honourable senator says that truth is no defence.
– This is not a court of law. Senator Greenwood does not have to baffle JPs and so on. The standing order says nothing about whether the words used are truthful. It says nothing about what is imputed being true or otherwise. The only way in which the honourable senator can make his position secure and for the matter to be debatable, I suggest, is to get the Standing Orders Committee to alter standing order 418. At the moment all I am considering are the words as they stand. I say, with great respect and in a very kindly way, that the words used by Senator Wright were, in my mind, contrary to what we are governed by so far as standing order 418 is concerned.
(4.28) - I think we have to cast our minds back to the actual motion which is one of dissent from a ruling which you, Mr President, gave. Since the moving of the motion of dissent there has been some canvassing of the background of the reply given by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) to a question. As I understand the situation, Senator Wright was giving an answer to a question and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) raised a point of order. You, Sir, gave a ruling on the point of order. Indeed, you gave an interpretation of what you believed should be the area in which expressions could be used. That disposed of that part of the answer up to that point of time. Senator Murphy again took a point of order in relation to what was said subsequently by Senator Wright. You ruled against that point of order. Like you and everybody else here, I listened carefully to what Senator Wright said. He read the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place (Mr Whitlam). It is in the Hansard of the other place. It was made by Mr Whitlam. He put it into Hansard. Senator Wright said that in his view it was seriously subversive to military discipline. That is my understanding of what you, Mr President, have ruled on. You have ruled that it is not in conflct with standing order 418. I believe that it is not in conflict with standing order 418. I believe that the sooner we come to a vote on the issue and the sooner we dispose of the matter the better.
– Perhaps I should clear up one point in case there is any doubt about it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) never said that a man serving in Vietnam should not obey orders. He never suggested that at any time. The other matters of importance are these: The Senate has procedures under which a reflection can be made against a member. It can be done by way of a censure motion or by similar motions, as has been done here. I recall that in the debate on the VIP aircraft issue honourable senators, in the course of a debate on a motion of disapproval of the then Prime Minister, made what were clearly reflections upon him. That motion was a substantive one or an amendment dealing with that topic. Reflections can be cast here in appropriate circumstances. Standing order 418 gives way in the face of a deliberate motion or amendment directed towards such an issue. Here the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), without launching any substantive motion or amendment designed to reflect upon the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, has chosen to reflect upon him in the course of answering a question. That must be deplored because no-one has a chance to answer on his behalf.
Senator Greenwood said that here he has been accused of various things. At least he had the opportunity to demand a withdrawal or to make a personal explanation if he saw fit. The manner in which the question was answered leaves no redress to the Leader of the Opposition in the other place or to any other member in the other place. That is why it is important to have a standing order such as standing order 418, which protects members of the other place from such reflections. We are indebted to Senator Greenwood for the observation which he made about the truth of such reflections. He said that surely an honourable senator is entitled to make a personal reflection and use offensive words if they are truthful. Perhaps the matter may be tested in this way. That cannot ite right. The purpose of the standing order is to protect persons from the use of offensive words, to protect them from imputations of improper motives and to protect them from personal reflections, whether they are truthful or not. if we could make such reflections, we could say that a person was drunk or we could make all kinds of allegations. If the matter were decided on the basis that the statements made were truthful, the proceedings of this chamber would be destroyed so far as any dignity or any proper conduct is concerned.
– Does the honourable senator see a likeness between this and what has been said by Opposition senators in attacking the Premier of Queensland?
– If what was said was in relation to a particular motion that had been moved, this could be done. If it were a reflection otherwise, that is a matter for the Chair to deal with. It is no answer to say that reflections have been made on other people at other times. The suggestion is that earlier during question time reflections were made on the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). I do not recall the Prime Minister being mentioned. I suggest through you, Mr President, that if Senator Greenwood were to reflect upon this he would agree that it would be an impossible situation if any honourable senator could make a reflection on or be offensive to another honourable senator and attempt to justify it by saying that it was true. This is a clear and salutary power to be used summarily to prevent these offensive expressions being used. If one wants to make such a charge one has a way of doing it, by bringing some kind of substantive motion on the issue which can be debated. Quite clearly the truth or otherwise of reflections or offensive words cannot be entered into otherwise.
The other argument was not Senator Greenwood’s argument really, but the suggestion was that offensive words were not used because it was the advice which was described as treachery. On one occasion the statements were described as subversive of army discipline and on a later occasion, when I intervened, as I clearly recall it, there was reference to the statement by Mr Whitlam as being clearly subversive. As I recall it the honourable senator did not even go on to add the qualification ‘Subversive to military discipline’ but said that it was a subversive statement. That must be a reflection on Mr Whitlam. It would be just as idle to suggest that if one were to say that a judgment of the High Court was dishonest, that would not be a reflection on the judges, but that it would be necessary to say that the judges were dishonest or that the court was dishonest in order to reflect upon them. If one said that a judgment was dishonest, clearly that would be a reflection on the court and the judges. Clearly here, in the same way, to describe a statement as subversive is to make a reflection on the person named as having made the statement.
– The same as suggesting that someone falsified a photograph?
– The answer to that is that as I recall it no-one has suggested that a member of the other House doctored a photograph.
– As a matter of fact, during question time this afternoon the Prime Minister tabled 2 photographs in the other place. So much for the diversionary tactic.
– No such suggestion was made earlier and in any event that is not the point that we are dealing with. We are dealing with the question whether this was a reflection. I suggest with respect that whatever the politics involved in this, this is far too serious a matter to be allowed to go. This was a deliberate use of offensive words and personal reflections on a member of another House. It was done in a way in which it could not even be debated and it was not for the purpose of any substantive motion against that member. I ask that the Senate decide that the ruling by the President of the Senate was in error and that the Minister be required to withdraw any personal reflection against the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives.
That the ruling be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir A lister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– My question to the Leader of the Government follows his reference to the free world. Does the Minister recall that Winston Churchill, in attacking the Nazi police state under the dictator Hitler, referred to one of its worst features as being the practice of sending officials to photograph citizens who attended political meetings not favoured by the government? In view of the practice of this Government of sending such officials to photograph events at meetings which are not favoured by the Government, and in view of other erosions of civil liberties, will the Government take stock of itself before going still further along the road to a police state of the kind described by George Orwell in his book ‘Nineteen EightyFour’?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Leader of the Opposition, in what was a statement rather than a question, has talked about people . going along to take photographs and to pick up events on television. The whole pattern of the Moratorium campaign is that the first thing to be done by the organisers is to ring up broadcasting stations and point out that a meeting will be held so that those stations will be represented at the meeting. The second move is to ring up the other media so that they will have representatives there. The third thing is for one special fellow to go along with all the placards and to distribute them with certain instructions that people stand in certain positions in relation to television cameras and display their placards. This is the classic practice of those who would try to destroy our democratic way of life. I deplore, and I am sure that we all deplore, that certain broadcasting stations, one of them in particular, respond to this. One can always be certain if he sees representatives of that broadcasting station outside his office that there will be a demonstration, because that broadcasting station always seems to be first on the scene with its representatives. Then after the demonstration has been held we will probably see it on television at 7 o’clock that night or at sometime afterwards.
I am not so impressed with this story about photography. I said earlier today during question time that there would be no gatherings outside Parliament House, whether to express loyalty and affection to individuals, whether to welcome some head of State arriving here, or whether to exercise a right to express an opinion by using a megaphone on the other Side of the street outside this place, at which photographers would not be present. As I say, I am not impressed by this argument. I would not like it to be thought that I was not impressed with anything the late Winston Churchill said, but what we must understand is that things are said in a certain context. T am sure that Senator Murphy is not so immature that he does not know the context in which certain things are said. I do not think this question shows much serious thought on the part of the Leader of the Opposition. We have freedom in this country. We are all very proud of it. We all agree that people should be given the right to express their points of view. We give people an opportunity to assemble and to dissent. All we ever ask of them is that it be done within the framework of the law because to do otherwise, as I said to Senator Devitt about 5 months ago, is anarchy.
– My question is to the Leader of the Government and it follows Senator Murphy’s question. Is it true as reported in the Press that the Prime Minister’s Secretary, Mr Eggleton, stated that this was the first occasion to his knowledge on which a request had gone from the Prime Minister to the News and Information Bureau to take photos of a demonstration? Is it true also, as Was reported in the Press, that Mr Eggleton has said that the negative of the photograph in question is in the hands of the Prime Minister’s officials and that this negative had been enlarged in part? Is it a fact that normally a request to the News and Information Bureau would not come from the Prime Minister but from the Minister in charge of that Bureau, Mr Nixon?
– Some of the questions I cannot answer because I would have to get the necessary information in order to answer them. But a note has been handed to me during question time today that the Prime Minister himself - and he had no inhibitions about it - actually tabled the photographs in the other place this afternoon and since we started question time in this chamber. He made it abundantly clear that the suggestions, imputations and inferences that were made in the other place - and which certainly were directed to me during question time - are completely without foundation of any shape or form.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I simply ask this: Does he know whether accusations have been made that photographs taken with a telephoto lens of sporting events and numerous other activities in our ordinary everyday life have been doctored? Are they not accepted as normal photographs taken by normal photographic means?
– We have to look at the circumstances in which the words are used. There is no doubt about the implications in relation to photography, but anybody who has had even an old box Brownie camera and taken some photographs with it and who has then gone into a bathroom to develop them knows that certain things are required in photographic activities. One does not have to be a mental giant to work that out. But we should not move away from the implications clearly made by the Opposition in relation to the events at the Moratorium demonstration outside Parliament House last week. I suggest with great respect that the Prime Minister has completely resolved any doubts by tabling the photographs for everybody to see. Any honourable senator can see those photo graphs because they have been tabled in the other House at the other end of this building.
– 1 ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. What is the normal function of the News and Information Bureau which is under the control of the Department of the Interior? How many photographers does that Bureau employ? Do their normal duties include the photographing of demonstrations of the kind we have been discussing? How many photographers were employed in taking photographs of the Moratorium demonstration outside Parliament House? For what time were they engaged on such activity?
– I have some information here on the general activities of the Australian News and Information Bureau. It does not cover all the questions asked by Senator Cavanagh but it does cover the functions and operations of the Bureau. The Australian News and Information Bureau is the official overseas publicity and public relations agency of the Australian Commonwealth Government. By popular usage in a number of countries, particularly in Australia, it has become better known as the Australian Information Service. The Bureau was established by Cabinet on 8th March 1950 to replace the Department of Information which had been formed at the outbreak of the war in 1939. The Bureau was incorporated in the Department of the Interior. That would be about as much as would be useful on this occasion. I ask that the rest of the question be placed on the notice paper so that I can obtain some information.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I preface it by reminding him that certain Government departments issued instructions to departmental employees not to take part in Moratorium demonstrations in Canberra. Can the Minister inform the Parliament which Ministers or departmental heads were responsible for the issue of such instructions?
– I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper. I will see whether I can get some information for him.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In view of the grave concern expressed by the Cook Nature Reserve Committee at the rapid deterioration of the Mount Painter Hill Reserve due to uncontrolled civic vandalism, when can a favourable decision be expected proclaiming this area a natural reserve with an extensive programme of regeneration of the slopes with native trees?
– This is obviously a very proper question for the Minister for the Interior. I do not know the Mount Painter Hill Reserve in the Cook area, but I shall certainly try to obtain some information and let the honourable senator have the answer.
(Question No. 515)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Are child endowment payments only made to the mother of a child, or, where the child is not in the custody of the mother, to an approved guardian or approved institution.
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Under the Social Services Act, endowment is payable to a person having the custody, care and control of a child - in practice this is usually the mother - or to an institution of which the child is an inmate.
The benefit is paid in the manner determined by the Director-General, which may be to the credit of a bank account, to the endowee (including an institution), to a person appointed by the endowee or to a person, institution or authority, on behalf of the endowee.
(Question No. 540)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Will the Minister make a comprehensive statement on discussions he had with Canadian Immigration Minister, Mr Allan MacEachen, on their renewed gentlemen’s agreement not to poach settlers from one another.
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
During my recent visit to Canada I had wide ranging confidential discussions on immigration matters with the Canadian Minister for Manpower and Immigration, Mr MacEachen, and his officers.
There was a very useful exchange of ideas and experience on methods of improving immigration reception and settlement, with particular reference to housing, language training, technical courses, employment assistance, financial assistance and associated research.
Because of the similarity of the problems facing each country we arranged for a continuing interchange of the material resulting from one another’s research projects and agreed on the exchange of specialist officers between Canada and Australia when this would be of advantage.
In the course of these discussions the nature of the movement of people between the two countries received specific attention, as did the existing understanding between Australia and Canada that neither would actively recruit migrants in the country of the other. As a result, this understanding will continue in force for the present.
(Question No. 550)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 576)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
Mr Justice ElseMitchell, when sentencing a soldier found guilty of manslaughter, that the Army was greatly to blame for the actions of the accused.
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 589)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
With regard to information given to Mr Jones, M.P., by the Minister for Customs and Excise in reply to Question No. 1263 appearing in House of Representatives Hansard of 26th August at page 568: will the Minister analyse the list of tankers shown and show which tankers are covered by TOVALOP membership in the event of an oil spillage and those that have no such indemnification cover.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd, the organisation which administers TOVALOP, publishes lists of participating owners and the tankers which they own or bareboat charter. These publications, containing lengthy lists of owners and tankers, are available in the Parliamentary Library.
(Question No. 596)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Hill is the officer responsible for the administration of the Wave Hill residential centre.
His duties concern only the area encompassed by the residential centre and its immediate vicinity and do not extend to Aboriginal communities on cattle stations in the general area.
(Question No. 599)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Is the Cattle Station Industry (Northern Territory) Award applicable to all aborigines employed by pastoralists, or does it apply only to those aboriginal stockmen who are members of the appropriate unions.
– TheMinister for Labour and National Service has provide the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Cattle Station Industry (Northern . Territory) Award binds employers in the industry in respect of the employment by them of members of the North Australian Workers Union.
(Question No. 621)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Port Hedland, Western Australia) covered by the appropriate pastoral workers’ award; if so, will the Minister take appropriate action to recover wages for two Aborigines who claim to have been employed on that property and to have received only$25 per week, plus keep, for a working week of seven days and hours ranging from 11 to 12 hours per day.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 629)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 646)
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
When can a decision on the proposed establishment of an army base in Western Australia be expected.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Many factors must be taken into account in the present overall review of the requirements for additional accommodation for Army battalions after Vietnam. Some aspects of the review have been completed but others are still under study. A decision will be made as soon as possible after completion of the full review.
(Qnestion No. 697)
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:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONPursuant to section 27 of the National Library Act 1960-1967 I present the Tenth Annual Report of the Council of the
National Library of Australia for the year ended 30th June 1970, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s Report on those statements.
(Question No. 613)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The applications were considered in conjunction and were refused as stated in the Senate on 3rd September 1970.
Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral aware that there are delays in the installation of telephones in Tasmania, especially in the Devonport area,of up to 18 months from the time of application? Will the Minister inquire into this matter with a view to obviating such a long period of inconvenience.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
A recent check disclosed that between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of applications for telephone service in Tasmania are being satisfied within 4 weeks. Where additional exchange equipment and/or installed cable needs to be provided before the new services can be installed, the delay is greater depending upon the extent of the work involved and the availability of the necessary resources.
In the Devonport area, the high level of demand for telephone services has temporarily exhaused available network cable and the Post
Office is therebyinhibited in effecting immediate installations for all applicants. At present there are 100 applications deferred for this reason, 83 of which have been waiting for less than6 months, 14 for a period of from 6 to 12 months, and the remaining 3 applications (which involve the provision of comparatively long lines) for a greater period.
Planned relief arrangements should be completed within the next few weeks to enable 50 of these deferred applications to be satisfied, while a further 40 will be met following the completion of relief engineering projects in the latter half of the current financial year. At this stage it is not possible to say definitely when the remaining 10 applications will be satisfied but action will be taken to meet the engineering needs involved as quickly as practicable.
In view of the savage charges to be imposed by the Government on a number of organisations by the proposed increase in postal charges, which will cost the National Roads and Motorists Association an additional $100,000 per annum and the Australian Workers Union more than $26,000 per annum to post their free newspapers to their members, as well as adding to the cost of numerous other religious organisations, friendly societies and trade unions which will be similarly affected but which are too numerous to mention individually, will the Postmaster-General reconsider the huge increase in charges to be made on journals or newspapers which are posted free to members of such organisations?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
The annua] loss on registered newspapers and periodicals posted in bulk is about $9m, half the estimated Postal loss in 1969-70. Almost half of the 158 million publications posted annually are charged only½c to lc postage per copy at present which is well below cost. While the activities of the many organisations helped by the concession rates may be useful, it is not the role of the Post Office to support organisations such as those referred to by the honourable senator. The Government believes, therefore, that the substantia] loss on registered newspapers and periodicals should be reduced and that those using Post Office facilities should pay an appropriate postage rate. Even the rates proposed are well below normal printed matter rates and represent a substantial concession.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930-1963, 1 present a statement of moneys received and expended during the year ended 30th June 197.0 by the Commonwealth in the administration and development of the Australian Capital Territory.
Senator LAUCKE (South Australia - On behalf of Senator Branson and in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Primary School at Wagaman. Northern Territory; Sleeping, Messing and Amenities Facilities for Chiefs and Petty Officers at HMAS ‘Cerberus’, Westernport, Victoria.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1970) Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1970 Seamen’s War . Pensions and Allowances Bill 1970
Debate resumed from 24 September (vide page 887). on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle. Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate at the moment is debating the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill the purpose of which is to amend regulations. I hope the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who in this chamber represents the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) will explain later why a Bill has to be introduced to amend the regulations. Some administrative changes are to be made- This all adds up to the swingeing increases which have been indicated in the Budget as part of the general indirect taxation scale which the Government has looked at. This is a rather inexplicable way of increasing postal charges. Mr President, to the motion That the Bill be now read a second time’, I move:
That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the Bill be withdrawn and that in the opinion of the Senate a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to manage the business of the Post Office’.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I want the Senate to be clear on what the amendment means. If the Senate decides to carry the amendment it will mean that the Bill is defeated. The Senate expression of opinion regarding examination of the desirability of a public corporation being set up would be given effect, provided that the House of Representatives agreed. As I do not know whether the Bill will be completely rejected 1 cannot give the Senate any prior knowledge of the amendments which the Australian Labor Party may move- at the Committee stage. We will certainly be moving amendments but their nature will depend on what happens during the second reading debate. Honourable senators might ask why we are opposing the Bill and why we have moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading. We oppose the Bill for 2 reasons. Firstly we believe that the proposed increases are not necessary. They ‘are haphazard and obviously have not been thought right through. The Government tends more than ever before to use the Post Office as a taxing machine and not an important business providing services for the Commonwealth. The second reason we oppose the Bill is, as we said at the time we opposed the Budget, that this also is a means of opposing the Budget. It would have been farcical in this place to vote against the motion to take note of the Budget Papers. We indicated that we opposed the Budget and we challenged the Government to have an election on Budget issues.
Now we are taking that opposition a step further. The machinery legislation arising from the Budget is coming before the Senate and the Australian Labor Party is taking the first step by giving honourable senators an opportunity to live up to some of the criticisms which were made of the Budget and to throw out this taxing measure - although the Government does not describe the Bill in that way, that is what it amounts to - and to go to the people on it. Why did we move an amendment? The Post Office for 70 years has been under Commonwealth administration. Prior to that it was under State administration. At the time df federation the Post Office was taken over holus-bolus. The Australian Labor Party suggests that it is time to examine where the Post ‘ Office stands. A little later I will deal with the tremendous pressures under which it is working. Why in our amendment do we suggest that a public corporation be established to manage, the business of the Post Office? We are not firmly wedded to the form that such a statutory authority would take. We are not yet even wedded to a statutory authority. What we want the Government to do is to consider the matter. The Commonwealth Government and also the State governments have had quite a deal of experience of statutory authorities of various kinds.
This Bill is tremendously important. Honourable senators may say that it merely seeks to amend some of the postal rates to provide a little more revenue for the Commonwealth Government and that it is a part of the system of giving direct taxation relief in the high income brackets and recovering that by way of indirect taxation. -Honourable senators must realise that we are dealing with one of the biggest businesses in Australia. Certainly it is the biggest service business in Australia. I do not think there is any doubt that it is the greatest employer of labour. The Post Office employs 107,164 people which works out at about 2 per cent of Australia’s work force. Whenever one is dealing with the Post Office one is dealing with big business. It is. by far the biggest Commonwealth Government agency. This is why the Australian Labor Party is so concerned with the Post Office. Quite frankly I cannot follow the way in which the Government has arrived at its method of increasing charges. The Post Office has assets worth $2,173m. The larger part of that amount is on the telecommunications side. I think that about 90 per cent of the fixed assets are on the telecommunications side and the rest are on the postal side. The turnover is in the ratio of about one-quarter postal and threequarters telecommunications.
I underline this to encourage some honourable senators not to close their minds at this stage to the question of an inquiry into the development of the Post Office but to look at one or two alternatives. The Government says that without these increases the loss in the coming year would amount to $llm. That figure is arrived at by allowing for a loss of $30m on postal operations and a telecommunications profit of $19m, the difference being a loss of Slim. The profit is high where there is technical equipment, that is, on the technological side. Where the labour component is high and there is less technical equipment, although not absent altogether, the loss occurs. The result of these increases will be not to reduce the already profitable side or to leave it as it is and do something about the loss. The result will be to make the profitable side, the telecommunications side and particularly the telephonic side - the telegraphic side is not a great profit earner - more profitable. There will be less loss on the postal side which is the losing side. On the telecommunications side the profit will rise from $ 19m to $39m, and on the postal side the loss will be reduced from $30m to $9m.
I do not want to go into the question of interest at great length. It has been thrashed out here many times before and the Government is quite adamant on it. But in any assessment of Post Office profits it cannot be ignored. There is no doubt that there is a concealed profit in the interest, which will rise from $94im to $106im in the next year. We must appreciate that the money that is used in the Post Office is taken from the taxpayers, to whom the Government does not pay any interest, and the Government then puts into the Post Office as a business proposition and demands that the Post Office pay 6 per cent interest on it.
Also, I was interested to learn the other day that the Department of Works charges the Post Office for services it carries out but does not charge other government departments. The amount involved in this regard in the coming year will be approximately $46m. I say ‘approximately’ because it is a little difficult to be certain as the Department of Works will charge for its services in respect of a contract, say, for the building of a post office-
– I think you have quite misunderstood that figure.
– 1 said approximately’. 1 would be pleased to hear the Minister in reply. Whatever the figure is. the Minister told me the other day that bis Department charges the Post Office and does not charge other departments. I have him on record on that.
– That is right. The Department charges the Post Office and other Commonwealth instrumentalities.
– Yes. 1 worked out the figure at about $46m. 1 said ‘approximately because some of the small works that are carried out by the Department of Works could be mixed up in that and 1 found it impossible to separate them from the others. In any case, that is another charge which has been loaded on to the back of the Postmaster-General’s Department and which is not loaded on to the backs of the other departments. Because Senator Wright indicates that my figure in that regard is wrong. 1 will not take it into my calculations at this stage. So, we have all those charges before these increases are made. lt is difficult to say what the real profit of the Post Office is. Very few people realise the tremendous complexity or the tremendous size of the Post Office. 1 would not be surprised if the total figure was very, much higher than anything 1 indicate, even adding the interest charge. So, J ask the Minister why on the telephone side, which is already making a lot of money, the Government is increasing the charges. Incidentally, 1 notice that it is also increasing the charges to blind persons and pensioners. In justification of this in the second reading speech the Government gives only 3 lines. Surely the Parliament is entitled to something better than that. A section of this Department is running at a fairly good profit and the Government intends to increase that profit; but it gives only 3 lines of explanation in which it says something about things still costing the Department more to deliver than it is actually being paid. 1 have said 1hat these increases are haphazard. 1 have said that they are not thought through. I believe that to be correct. 1 believe that the reason for it is that the Government has the Post Office tied up in the overall procedure that it adopted in the Budget, namely, of increasing indirect taxation wherever it could and making refunds to people in some of the taxation ranges. 1 know that I will not be telling the Minister anything new, but I want to put into the record the situation of the printing industry and the trade unions on the question of bulk postage. I suggest that this is not a case of some business people coming along, complaining and saying: ‘We do not want the rates to go up’. The people who came to see me about this matter said: ‘We realise that if there are to be increases, there should be increases along the line’.
I propose to quote some of the figures involved. I will not quote them all. I will ask for some to be incorporated in Hansard. If the references to categories A and B are not taken out of the Bill by the action we are taking, we certainly will have to look at the matter in the Committee stage. The annual charge for the newspaper called The Australian Bank Officer’ will rise from $2,190 to $6,800,’ representing an increase of $4,610 in a year. This presents all sorts of problems for organisations such as the Australian Bank Officials Association, which has a triennial conference to which it presents estimates for the next 3 years and suddenly finds itself in this situation. The annual charge for the Savings Weekly’ will rise by 200 per cent from $1,300 to $3,900. An increase of S2,600 a year is a lot. Those are a couple of publications of the white collar unions which have been brought to my notice.
Before I ask leave to have this information incorporated in Hansard, let me mention some of the journals involved and the percentage increases in the postal charges for them as a result of this Bill. The annual postage bill for the ‘Australian Hardware Journal’ will increase by 100 per cent to $5,208. The annual postage bill for Mingays Electrical News’ will rise by 140 per cent, that for ‘Club Management in Australia’ by 110 per cent, that for the Journalist’ - this little bit of a newspaper - by 300 per cent; and that for the ‘Printing Trades Journal’ by 140 per cent. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard that and other information relevant to the matter about which I am speaking.
I suggest that these increases are haphazard. I suggest that they could not possibly have been thought right through because I do not believe that, even with the inflation which we grow used to, anybody would suggest that any organisation should be asked to bear an increase of 300 per cent in any item of expenditure. If this is the ultimate aim of the Postmaster-General, I do not know why he does not do as the Government does with air navigation charges, and give a guarantee that the charges will not rise by more than a certain percentage although over the course of time the ultimate aim will be reached. At least that would give people a chance to adjust their businesses.
I do not want to overplay this point; but the printing industry people who came to see me pointed out that these sums were not insignificant in the whole turnover or the whole net profit of their business. The printing industry in Australia is not held in large hands or in the hands of overseas companies. Printing businesses are more middle type businesses. The printing industry people say that these increases can have 2 very dire effects. I questioned them fairly closely on this matter and I am convinced that there is at. least something in their argument. One is that they could be pushed into takeovers, particularly by overseas printing bodies. The other is that printing could move into the very cheap printing zones in the South East Asian area. Honourable senators will recall a little while ago we gave a subsidy on book printing. I believe that if these and other charges forced people to print in the Asian area the Government ultimately would be faced with a situation in which it would have to do something. I do not think any government would like to see the whole of the country’s printing trade starting to move out into cheap labour areas and being shipped back into the country. I do not think any government would be able to let that go on for any length of time because the result could be very bad.
I think it is undeniable that the Post Office is a taxing machine. Whatever is said about profits and whatever is said about whether or not it is legitimate to charge interest, the fact is that about $140m - or the figure of over $100m which Senator Wright put forward by interjection - is coming into the Post Office. If that money did not flow into the Government coffers then obviously it would have to be raised by some other means.
I have dealt with the. Post Office side. 1 shall now deal with the amendment. We have opposed these measures for 2 reasons. The first is that we believe they are unnecessary and haphazard. Secondly, they are budgetary proposals which we of the Opposition said that we were going to knock back if we could as a challenge to the Government. I want to read again the amendment the Opposition has moved. It states:
That the Bill bc . withdrawn and that in the opinion of the Senate a Joint Select Committee be’ appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to manage the business of the Post Office.
I want to refer to the desirability and practicability of adopting this suggestion. The Government could very well set up such a committee. We would hope it would consist of all sections of the Parliament. It could well be found that a corporation was not desirable or practicable. At least we could find out, after 70 years of development of the Australian Post Office., whether this was desirable or practicable and we could lay the matter to rest. We would know exactly where we stood. There would be no great problem about the Government’s widening the terms of reference if that was its wish. The amendment merely represents a basis for discussion suggested before by the Opposition. After 70 years the Post Office has just grown up. Along the way it has become a bit like Topsy. Even if no alterations were made as a result of this examination, I believe it could do nothing but help the great Australian Post Office and this Government or any future government which has to administer it.
Let us consider the history of post offices throughout the” world. They arose out of necessity in the very early developing days of any country. A post office was a necessity of government. In those days it was not a necessity for businesses although nowadays the business community uses it more than do governments. In the very early days governments had to have communications. Without communications there was no government. This practice was followed by governments in every country. In Australia we followed the course adopted by governments in every pan of the world during the time of the early settlers. The situation today is a far cry from the days when communications made government possible. Governments in the early days had to communicate with far flung areas. They used camels, horses, boats, donkey teams and then later sulkies and buggies; Then the stage coach and similar things developed. A spider web developed which linked all the outback areas. This applied to countries such as Canada and. America as well as to Australia. Then there was a period of evolution when Morse and Bell by their magic introduced a new form of communications. This, too, came within the realm of the Australian Post Office. This was not the case in other countries, Canada and America particularly, where these forms of communications are operated by private individuals and not by governments.
Then there developed the idea of allowing special rates for newspapers. This is a matter to be dealt with in another debate to be held today. We find even today that Press telegrams and Press cables have special rates. This principle developed when the Post Office moved from being merely a government service and spread into cultural and business areas. Over a period we have seen refinements made to the telegraph service. We saw the development of the old Morse line. There followed duplexes, quadriplexes and multiplexes and that sort of thing. Today we have satellites and the coaxial cable. The present communication system is far different from having communications carried on foot and by donkey teams in various parts of Australia. Today we have very sophisticated means of bouncing signals off satellites. The next move probably will be to control them virtually in invisible tubes.
All these developments, with 2 exceptions, have been handled all along the line by the Australian Post Office. The first exception came about in the early 1920s, T think, when the Government of the day hived off radio. The second was the establishment of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. Both radio and overseas telecommunications could well have remained within the Post Office but it was decided to set up other government bodies.
Today the Post Office is not only large; it is also a taxing authority. If the suggested inquiry established that it should be a taxing authority and the Government found that the amount required was not $100m or $140m but was $200m or $250m, there may still be nothing wrong with this. If this fact were established, if this operation became part of Government administration and were honestly revealed, then there might be nothing wrong with the idea. It might be a very good idea if the Government said: ‘There, the Australian Post Office is a taxing authority and we are going to take that sum of money from it.’
Why does the Opposition suggest a statutory body or a corporation? The reason, Mr Deputy President, is that Australian parliaments have had pretty wide experience with some bodies of this sort. I have jotted down the names of a number of them. They include the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Railways, the Australian National Airlines Commission, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, the Australian Whaling Commission - I included that even though it is now defunct, because of the particular job that it did so efficiently - the Snowy Moun tains Hydro-electric Authority, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. I notice that in another place the Postmaster-General asked: ‘What sort of corporation do you want?’ He threw up all the hurdles in the world without examining the proposition. AH that the Opposition seeks is an examination of the Post Office. I mentioned 9 organisations and if honourable senators look into them they will find that all sorts of strings were attached in different ways. In some there was more direct ministerial control and in others there was less. I think it is a false argument to say: ‘Lay down on parchment in black and white the type of commission you want!’
We run into a lot of arguments when we talk about the efficiency or inefficiency of the Post Office. Frankly, I am not arguing along those lines. This is a tremendous technological age. It is estimated that in the next 30 years we will advance more technologically than we have since the dawn of history, and the Post Office is right in the middle of this development. The Post Office has changed its telephone system to the crossbar type. It is using coaxial cables. It has gone through the gamut of telegraph communications and has entered into all sorts of weird and wonderful things. We say that there should be an inquiry after all these years. Efficiency and inefficiency are relative terms and I do not think they are a good basis for argument. One person will say something is efficient and another will say that it is inefficient. I have had a lifetime of interest in the Post Office and I can point to some sections of it which are highly efficient. I can point to other sections where I can see efficiency declining. Again, using my own argument against myself, I immediately say that this is a matter of opinion. Other people may say that they disagree by reversing the polarities I have mentioned.
What are some of the advantages of a corporation? Firstly, there would be a very great advantage in removing the Post Office from direct ministerial control because of the political situation. I want to mention 4 general headings which could apply to an examination. There is the question of direct ministerial responsibility for a department or whether die Government should do what has been done in other areas, that is, to set up a body which would work under the general aegis of the Minister or the Government. There is no doubt that a Postmaster-General is under pressure in respect of certain Post Office activities. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. Let us go back and consider what has happened in borderline electorates during the 70 years that this Commonwealth Parliament has been in existence. When the question of the building of a post office in a suburb or country area is raised there is pressure on the Postmaster-General to give certain priorities. A post office building carries some form of prestige.
I have wondered for many years whether we ought to be building suburban post offices. F believe that a very much more efficient basis could be established than the construction of big post offices in the suburbs. We have a highly efficient telephone system. The telegraph system is not used very much in the suburbs and has become just about non-existent. Mechanisation has been introduced into letter sorting and deliveries to certain points. Pensions and other social service payments can be made by cheque. Stamps are sold through machines. 1 think this question should be examined, and probably it is being examined. My point is that political pressures are applied.
There are administrative advantages to be gained through a corporation. A personnel force can be built up in any bodies that are set up. The Post Office has been the recruiter for the Public Service for as long as we can remember, lt has been drained of many of its employees. I will not say that it has been drained of all its key personnel because we have some Post Office advisers with us today. Many postal people have been taken by other branches of the Public Service. This has happened mainly because the Post Office operates on such a wide base.
Some people who have resigned from very senior positions in the Postal Department have indicated that ils planning could be very much improved and a greater long range view could be taken by the establishment of a corporation. It does not take very much thought to realise that senior departmental officers concerned with long term development may see that it is possibly not in the broad area of normal postal development. They might say: “‘We are going to look 7 years ahead. In that time we face 2 general elections and there may be a change of government. If there is a change of government, we are doubtful that the new government will agree to this plan.’ In that way it is possible to hamstring a government department at that level.
The greatest illustration I can give of my point is the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. I remember attending briefings and lectures in 1950. lt was a most amazing situation. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was ordering equipment never before made. Its switching problems had not even been solved, lt was known that low power could be carried successfully over long lines and that high power could be carried over short lines. Never before in the field of electricity had high voltages such as those to bc produced by the Authority been carried over such long distances. Had the switching gear been built without advanced technical knowledge, not previously gained, the throwing of the first switch would have blown up the whole box and dice of the section operated by that switch. The Authority was confident that it could plan many years ahead to overcome such problems.
The Authority ordered trucks - earth moving equipment at that stage was not even being built. There is a tremendous advantage to be gained by such bodies iri the planning field. Representation varies on the boards of corporations. I have not produced a breakdown in respect of the Australian Post Office, but I have for the United States Post Office. The business to business work done by the United States Post Office, through letters and telecommunications, consists of about 75 per cent to 80 per cent of its activities. In any reorganisation of the Australian Post Office the voice of the business world has a right to be heard, and it can be heard and the advice of the business world can be sought through the establishment of a corporation.
The trade unions have a vital interest in the Post Office because it is the greatest employer of labour in Australia. The voices of the unions of white collar workers as well as blue collar workers should be heard. Much greater advances could be made in the technical field. This is always true in respect of boards as against government departments. Some outstanding people have set up boards in Australia. One immediately thinks of the establishment of the Australian National Airlines Commission. Sir Arthur Coles was asked to set it up and he did it without salary. At the end of every 3 months he wrote a cheque to return his travelling allowance because he did not want to accept any payment for his service to Australia. He set up a very efficient body. When considering such people it is necessary to ask whether we should not at least inquire whether such abilities that are available in Australia could not be brought to bear on the biggest organisation of the Commonwealth Government.
In the field of Post Office accounts, 1 just about throw up my hands in despair when I try to wade through them. I have not been able to establish what is the real profit of the Post Office. I suspect that it is very much higher than we at present believe. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) was very worried about the sort of corporation that the Labor Party would like to set up to conduct the Post Office, and what sort of link it would have with the Parliament. I have listed corporations, and there are several I have not listed, which have been set up and are working efficiently and well in Australia today. I suggest to the Minister that a similar corporation or a combination of such bodies would be adequate for the job and would give very good service to the Post Office. The voice of the business world has a right to be heard in this respect. The Postmaster-General pointed out that one union of post office employees is opposed to the establishment of a corporation. I point out to him that the rest of the unions covering post office employees - at least those of which I am aware - are all for the move. It would be a good idea to hear both sides. Nobody is prejudging this matter. I was interested in some remarks of the Postmaster-General when he was dealing with this Bill. He said:
If we were to cut out interest and reduce telecommunication charges, there would be an increased demand for telephones which it would be impossible to meet.
This is very interesting. He went on:
The Labor Party may say that it is only because of a lack of ability to manage the affairs of the Post Office. With overfull employment in Australia, we just do not go out onto the highways and byways and seek technical people to work in the Australian Post Office. I am bound to say to the House that at the present time it is almost impossible for the Post Office to meet the demand which is being made on its services because it is impossible to get technical people to do installation work and the cabb work associated with it. If we were to increase the demand for telephones 1 believe that we would get into a terrific mess in a comparatively short time.
Is that the real reason why telephone charges were increased? The Minister cannot have it both ways. Either the reason is that he does not want a greater demand for telephones - and if that is so it is not an honest statement in his second reading speech - or if his second reading speech is an honest statement on the position, the statement I have just quoted is not honest. I wish he would make the position clear. If the Post Office is increasing its telephone charges, even though it is making a profit, in order to keep down the demand, the Postmaster-General should have said so in his second reading speech. He should not have been forced to say it in the situation that arose.
I wonder to what extent the Post Office has sought technicians overseas. In the early days of the Post office many great postal people were brought from overseas. Brown was brought from overseas. Just after World War I there was a great demand for technicians because of the expansion of the telephone system of that time. Many engineers were brought from England, and some of their names have been very well known in the last few years. If the demand is being kept down by increasing telephone charges, contrary to what Mr Hulme said in his second reading speech, it is a completely negative approach. He is saying: ‘Here is technical development which is one of the great wonders of our age. We will keep prices up so that people will not be able to buy our product.’ Staffing poses a very great problem for the Post Office. I believe the setting up of a corporation would help to solve the staffing problem. Engineers of the type employed by the Post Office are a bit unique in their profession in that they are rarely self employed; they are largely employed by the Post Office. It is possible that if a corporation were set up it could train engineers and have a surplus of them. 1 do nol think anybody would be very worried if this were to happen. If engineers are placed in a position where they do not think that there is any future for them there is a danger of losing them.
The point I am making about the establishment of a corporation is that we have come a long way from the time when the Post Office was concerned only with delivering a few letters. Some marvellous technological developments, have occurred in recent times and we are going to see a lot more of them. The Post Office is moving into new fields. It may be argued that the overseas and internal communications aspect of the Post Office’s activities should be separated from the postal aspect and that one should be under the control of a corporation and the other should be under the control of the Government. After all, these activities were hived off many years ago. However, f think a prima facie case has been established for communication to be placed under the control of one body and the postal aspect to be placed under the control of another. The Opposition puts this suggestion forward to the Government. The Opposition challenges this Bill, which will give effect to the proposals outlined by the Government in the Budget, because it believes that the increased charges which have been proposed are unnecessary. The Opposition believes that the increases have been imposed in a haphazard manner, lt believes that because of the technological developments which have been made in recent times the Government should consider the possibility of setting up a corporation to perform some of the functions which are at present performed by the Post Office.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
– There are numerous aspects of the 2 Bills now being debated in this chamber. Increased charges which apply to any government service, I believe, are neither wanted nor welcomed by Opposition or Government senators. Cost increases indicated in the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill and the regulations which will attend the 2 Bills bring little joy to individuals or to business in Australia. The problems of rising costs in many areas of business today apparently have shown themselves in and have been forced upon the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is apparent that the Department requires substantially increased income. 1 have no doubt that the basis for the increases and the level of the increases have been studied very carefully by the Department and certainly by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who represents in this chamber the Postmaster-General indicated to the Senate that Post Office trading in 1970-71 will show a loss of about Slim. In postal trading there is expected to be a $30ni loss and in telecommunications facilities and handling there is expected to be a profit of approximately $19m.
The Minister’s second reading speech suggested that wage rises have created an increase of about $58m in expenses in the Department in this past year. Many trading organisations must have experienced simitar increases. We see a similar comment being made in many of the company reports in the financial pages of the daily newspapers. When the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill is in force, it will increase income to the Department by an estimated $53m in a full year. Increases are proposed in the telegraph services. Perhaps they will not affect greatly many people in the community, but the telephone service which is to be increased appears to have a considerable amount of impact. The connection fee will rise for the first time in approximately 6 years, from $30 to $40. There is good reason for the Department to be proud of the record it has shown in being able to hold its figures where they are. I remember on the last occasion that a similar Bill was before the Senate. I was able to congratulate the Postmaster-General for bringing about a profit within his Department. At that stage there were very few congratulatory remarks from the Opposition, but this year Senator Willesee certainly made some condemnatory remarks.
It is interesting to note that after the increase in connection fee we compare more than favourably with some other countries. I know that in Great Britain the present cost is in the vicinity of $43. It is expected that it will rise to $54. I take it that the rise will occur within a very short period. One may suggest that, whatever the administration of the British Post Office may be, although Britain has to. service so many more people than we have and with areas of connection much more simple than in Australia, it was impossible, either under the shade of government which was experienced in Britain over the last few years or under the present Government, for costs to be controlled. Now their figure will exceed ours by at least one-third even after allowing for the increase provided in the present Bill.
One point of concern is that postal charges will rise. I convey congratulations to the Minister for her. second reading speech on the Bill, lt explains all these matters. I know of no other second reading speech which has set out not only the reasons for the rises and the costs which attach to. the various areas of charge by the PMG but also instances of overseas charges as a comparison with Australian charges. The cost of the first ounce of a letter posted will increase by 20 per cent. The cost we are to pay to post a letter is not unreasonable or unreal when compared with overseas charges. By comparison, the Australian Post Office is giving to Australians a service which compares more than favourably with that given in other countries. In most of the areas of its service, it is far beyond that which is given in other countries.
I am heartened that the Minister’s second reading speech indicated that in the past year the number of staff has increased by approximately 1.1 per cent. Last year I made a point during my speech on the Budget - and again this year 1 hope to make some comment about this - about the proposed increases in the number of public servants on the Commonwealth pay roll. This has concerned me greatly. But the Postmaster-General’s Department has established some kind of record. By some means or another the Department has kept its staff rise to only l.l per cent. I shall seek the permission of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a table showing increases in staff in the Public Service over the past 5 years, lt will be of interest to many honourable senators to note that the percentage increase in stiff throughout the Public Service over previous years. Wilh the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate in Hansard this short table.
This table indicates that in 1970 stall in the Public Service rose by 4.8 per cent over the previous year. In 1969 the figure rose by 3.4 per cent over the previous year. In 1968 it rose by 4.4 per cent over the previous year. The table shows the position for a further 1 or 2 years. Surely we must be quite proud that the Postmaster-General’s Department - perhaps the largest business undertaking of the Commonwealth and with the enormous problems that it has in relation to postage facilities, telegraph facilities and telecommunications facilities - must have taken advantage of every opportunity to have its handling mechanised, to have its facilities computerised and to have all the modern techniques which have been available for its type of operation incorporated in the Australian Post Office. I say that because of some knowledge I have of the system which apparently is in operation in other countries, particularly the United States of America at this time in relation to its type of telephone service. The benefits that the Australian public has received have not been applicable in some overseas countries.
As with other honourable senators, my desk has been perhaps not inundated but certainly has had placed on it many letters which have expressed objection to the costs which will be incurred due to the rise expected in sending publications registered at the GPO. I note that the Minister says that half the loss that the Post Office has suffered in its trading is attributable to the handling of these publications. The Minister has indicated that half the loss can be attributed to the handling of 158 million articles for some 7,600 registered newspapers and periodicals. It can be fairly said, I believe, that in many instances involving the catalogue type publications where the costs of handling have been high, the Government in fact has been subsidising some of the advertising space because many of the magazines which come across our desks are full of advertising. No doubt the charges for advertising space in these publications have been much less because of this cheap method of distribution.
I feel that the Post Office is right in suggesting that some increase in postal charges should occur. I am inclined . to agree with some of the comments contained in letters that I have received which suggest that the increase is far too steep at the present stage. The comment made by Senator Willesee has been reflected in at least half a dozen letters which f have received. The costs of postage of a publication in which 1 am intensely interested may increase by at least 100 per cent in a year as a result of the proposed increase. This seems to me to be entirely unfair when an increase of this nature is brought in in one step. Many associations distribute a publication to their members and in the past year have struck a rate of subscription which would enable them to provide members with the facilities offered by the association. But there is no opportunity for an association to recover from members the increases which will be incurred as a result of this rise in postal charges.
The letters that I have received reflect the fact that directors of such publications feel that they have been posting their magazines on the cheap and that postal charges should rise, but there have been many suggestions to show how the increase could be brought about in a different form. I am confident that the Minister is proposing an increase which should be made, but I should like to quote comments that appear in some of the letters that have been sent to me. One letter is from the Australian Association of Business Publications. The letter indicates that a submission has been made to a Senate sub-committee on postal charges. I do not happen to be a member of that sub-committee - I do not know whether it is a Government members subcommittee or an Opposition sub-committee . on postal charges - but no doubt a submission has been made to somebody.
– It is probably a DLP committee.
– That may be so, but the suggestion in this letter is that the cost to this association will be enormous.
The letter states:
In the submission to the Postmaster-General it was suggested that the present minimum rate of ic, which is obviously uneconomical, be increased to a minimum of 3c for any newspaper or periodical not exceeding 3 oz. Such a decision immediately would bring into the economic service arrangement many lightweight publications which are now being serviced uneconomical^.
There seems to me to be some wisdom in that comment. It indicates that a quite large organisation is willing to say that a rise is quite justified. Another letter is from Pacific Publications (Australia) Pty Ltd. That company writes:
The new postal charges for registered and nonregistered publications represent increases of approximately 100 per cent and will cripple the Australian publishing industry. In our own case postage constitutes around 10.8 per cent of our costs.
Another tetter which came from the Building Publishing Co. Pty Ltd states:
In the case of my company the proposed new postal rates would increase our postal bill by something in excesss of 81 per cent.
I refer to another letter which came from K. G. Murray Publishing Co. Pty Ltd which states that this was the first time that it had ever complained in its 34 years as a wholly owned Australian company, and that it was the first occasion on which it had ever written to a parliamentary member. The letter goes on to indicate that as the increase in postal charges to be borne by that company will be in excess of 100 per cent it might be necessary to find another means of distributing its publications. The letter states:
Some Australian publications which are contemplating printing in New Zealand may be mailed from there at 3c against 17c if printed and distributed in Australia.
That also verifies the comment made by Senator Willesee.
– If there is to be a book bounty the thing to do is to give a bounty to those publishers, is it not?
– The honourable senator knows how much opposed some of us are to bounties. The Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales indicates in a letter that the mailing charges borne by the chamber for the distribution of its registered publications will increase by 72 per cent. Thomson Publications (Australia) Pty Ltd, which is. another company which has written to me, indicates that it realises that the cost increases are unavoidable, but it suggests that there should be some method of bringing into account more slowly the cost increases which are proposed. I know that in the case of a newspaper with which I . am connected the total cost to be imposed by the measure that we are now considering will be $6,800 in 1 year. That amount would be sufficient to put the newspaper out of business.
The point I am making is that many publishing companies in Victoria are in the same position. I reiterate that where a subscription has already been struck by an association during the past year and the association is faced with a 100 per cent increase in postal costs it will be unable to recover that: cost during this year of operation. In the case of small organisations, if the cost is to increase by $6,000, $7,000 or $8,000, it may have to go out of business. I do not think it is the Government’s wish that this should happen, and I think it would be overstating the position to suggest that that was so. I suggest that in this regard the Minister should give consideration to a deferment of these charges, perhaps until the beginning of 1971. I do not think it would be unreasonable to do that. As I see the position, there is no other area of cost increase which brings with it such a high percentage increase as does this measure. Ff it is not possible to defer the extra charges until the beginning of the coming year I suggest that it would not be unreasonable to ask for the implementation of a graduated scale of increases over a period of 12 months or 18 months. Perhaps this would remove the problem which is besetting many of those who are in the business of publishing and distributing publications in Australia.
– The Government is biting the hand that has fed it - its propaganda medium.
– -No, senator, I do not think that is correct. 1 have mentioned to the Senate that most of those who have written to me agree that a cost rise is necessary. They accept that this is so because they have had a very free run for many years, but I think we would all agree that on the surface the implementation of the new charges appears to be a little harsh at present.
Of all the provisions that we see in this Bill and the associated Bills which are now being discussed by the Senate, there is one particular provision which has received recognition and in respect of which F wish to pay great credit to the Government. Indeed it is one for which honourable senators - certainly those on the Government side of the chamber - have been fighting for many years. I have raised the matter myself on many occasions. It is interesting to note that one of the first letters received by Senator Greenwood after becoming a senator for Victoria in place of Senator Gorton was a request from one of his rural constituents to fight for some change in the charge for connection of telephones for country subscribers.
– It is a pity he did not concentrate on that matter.
– The fact is that the honourable senator, along with other honourable senators including Senator Laucke and Senator Young from South Australia, did concentrate on this matter. They have often mentioned it in this place. I would not say that it was only Government senators who took part in this fight because senators on the Opposition side also saw that costs to rural subscribers were absolutely inequitable. V congratulate the Government on what it has clone in relation to this matter. It has made a wonderful achievement. We find that connection fees for rural supplies will now be calculated on radial distance from an RAX unit or whatever it is now called, and any subscriber living within a J 5-mile radius of that exchange will have his telephone connected free of charge. This is a wonderful achievement. I know that it has brought much joy to a lol of people. 1 know that you, Mr Deputy President, are delighted with it. Senator Branson asks whether the service is taken on to the particular property, and the answer is yes, if the properly is within a radius of 15 miles of the RAX unit.
But even better than that, the charges for services extending beyond that 15-mile radius are quite reasonable. The cost incurred by people living outside the 15-mi!e radius will be $40 per radial quarter mile for the laying of the line. After that initial capital payment by the subscriber, the Post Office will maintain, uphold and upgrade the line as is necessary. The quarter-mile provision applies to people outside the 15-mile radius, and it affects a great number of people. Tt is very important to all rural people. The interesting point is that this new arrangement will be retrospective to January 1969. Many people who have incurred substantial costs since that date will be reimbursed. 1 remember outlining one particular case in this Senate, but I doubt that the gentleman concerned will get his money back. I think he incurred the expense before the operative date, lt amazed me at the time that 2 brother farmers who lived within a 40-mile radius of the Melbourne GPO incurred a cost of $2,400 to have a telephone installed. This seemed to me to be entirely unreasonable.
– What would it cost a farmer 20 miles from the exchange today?
– If the honourable senator is able to multiply $40 by 4 times 5 he will have the answer.
– Can the honourable senator justify it?
– I can justify it only by saying that the cost to the Australian Post Office must be far in excess of that fee. While I would like to see all telephone connections throughout Australia made entirely free, 1 can see the ridiculous aspect of the present situation in which a mining company may start up at some place a thousand miles from Perth and when it wants a telephone connected it receives a considerable subsidy towards the cost of installing the line.
– Obviously the honourable senator considers it just that a farmer should pay more than the city dweller.
– That is a stupid comment. There is no comparison between the 2 cases. If a person is within 15 miles of Melbourne he can have the telephone installed for a $40 fee.
– And men are penalised for living in the country. The honourable senator supports that proposition.
– I am very pleased that all honourable senators in this chamber want to see the cost to rural dwellers reduced. Although Senator Cavanagh may have complaints about this, other senators are delighted that this has been done. I would like to thank the Australian Post Office, the Postmaster-General and the departmental men for giving consideration to this matter. One should consider whether there is wisdom in the Opposition’s suggestion. It is not a new suggestion in the Senate, lt is not new to hear an amendment from the Labor Party in these terms: the Bill be withdrawn and that in the opinion of the Senate a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Host Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to manage the business of the Post Office’.
I listened very closely to the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) ‘in relation to this matter. Whilst Senator Willesee made quite a good speech, I do not believe I heard him put forward anything positive other than to suggest that a public corporation would do better than the existing Australian Post Office. Actually we have the Opposition saying firstly that we should change this organisation.
– Read the amendment again. Read it right through.
– I was here and heard it being moved. I do nol have to read it. If the honourable senator had been here he would agree that there was no suggestion as to how the public corporation could manage the affairs of the Australian Post Office to make a profit, which I take it is what the Opposition wants to sec. If 1 had confidence that all large corporations, be they private, government or public, were the ultimate in efficiency, I would say that this is a good idea. But the largest of public companies in Australia in many instances are very inefficient. We will find that there are areas within the Australian Post Office that are inefficient, but it is a great difficulty for a large organisation such as this to be entirely efficient. I suppose some of the comments made by honourable senators opposite are worthy to be noted by the Post Office, because it should seek to bring about greater efficiency in certain areas. At limes one hears criticisms of public servants in relation to their attitude, and perhaps this criticism has been levelled at: the Post Office. Whether the Opposition believes that a corporation or a statutory authority would bring about more efficiency in this regard, I do not know. For the benefit of the Minister I will quote a letter, which I received within the last week relating to the Post Office. I do not mean this as a criticism of any individual but 1 believe that the Opposition, by its proposed amendment, surely must be implying: ‘We, the Opposition, say that if this body were structured as a public corporation there would be increased efficiency and greater profitability’.
I have received a letter from an elector in another State. Apparently he had noted the statement, that I had made in this place relating to the increase in the number of public servants and my endeavour to see that we gained the greatest efficiency out of the number of people that the Commonwealth employed. There is a demand by private industry, as well as by the Government, for the manpower that is available so there is a great increase in the wage structure within the community. The elector to whom I have referred had this to say:
There are devoted and dedicated officers in government service. I find this in our State Department of Agriculture, but many officers just coast along with the knowledge that they cannot be sacked and no particular interest in getting things done efficiently and quickly. “The PMG’s Department is a classic case of this attitude, and because of its size the money wastage must be immense. It has a potential to be extremely profitable, but you know, it barely breaks even in most years.
Our home is very close to a rural automatic exchange and I have seen on many occasions technicians allegedly there to service the unit picking mushrooms, practising golf and shooting rabbits. I do not like to report them as I feel that the malaise extends downwards … but I asked one how the Department could pay if they went on in that way and he said: ‘It does not have to pay. It is a public utility’. This is a wrong attitude but I cannot see any way to correct it except to introduce a hire and fire concept as in private business.
I take it that that is what is suggested by the Opposition in its proposal for a public corporation. The Opposition wants to get away from the Public Service concept and, like the writer of that letter who feels in his heart that there is a problem, the
Opposition believes that there should be a greater restriction on those employed in the service of the Government. If the Post Office were a public corporation it would have freedom from the Public Service Board and the ability to hire and fire. The Government is not taking that attitude and I am not taking that attitude. I believe that under the structure of our Commonwealth Public Service Board there is great benefit to be derived from the various wage levels in the community.
If there are problems in the post Office arising from increased costs in the community which have an effect on the Australian Post Office, despite the management of the Post Office to which great credit must be given, [ believe that those problems have been caused by the Government which has introduced certain factors into the financial affairs of the Australian Post Office which are completely unfair. I refer to the interest commitment that this utility has to meet. In 1968-69 the interest charged to the Post Office by the Government was S94.8m. In 1969-70 it had risen to $ 106.4m and it is estimated that in 1970-71 it will be $ 123.6m. My simple understanding is that most of the money which is provided to the Post Office is taxpayers’ money, and because the Government is attempting to place the Post Office on a businesslike basis and make it pay interest the organisation is finding it pretty difficult to meets its commitment.
As to the matter of efficiency, I have mentioned that the Postmaster-General’s Department apparently has taken full account of what it can do with computers and mechanisation, lt has set up, as I understand it, efficiency sections, within the telecommunications branch certainly, to advise business and other organisations of the way in which they may take advantage of the services which the Post Office provides. There is supervisory efficiency throughout the Department which has done much to bring about increased efficiency in most of the postal services and certainly in the telecommunications branch, but I believe that something is required by the Department in relation to its overall administration. Perhaps it can come by a further breaking up into sections of those very difficult areas which it controls. For instance, the television services which are provided under the auspices of the Postmaster-General’s Department could well become a section on their own. The Post Office is an enormous business and perhaps it could be depart.mentalised to a greater extent than it is at present.
In general one must say that the Australian Post Office, compared with similar organisations overseas, is bringing great credit to Australia. Overseas technicians wish to come here to see the way in which we handle our affairs and achieve our present high level of efficiency. Big business in itself is a problem. Efficiency within big business in an affluent society is a problem. The Australian Post Office has been doing a particularly good job in the services that it has brought to the Australian people. 1 support the 2 Bills which have been presented by the Minister and oppose the amendment which has been proposed by Senator Willesee.
– As has been stated by Senator Webster, we are debating 2 Bills together although we will be voting on them separately. These Bills seek to increase charges for postal and telephone services and to amend the regulations, where necessary, to permit that to be done. We are dealing this evening with one of the largest, if not the largest, business undertakings in Australia. Many people looking at the amount being allocated to the Post Office in the Budget would get the impression that we were dealing with an amount of $240m for this year. That is wrong. The Post Office functions under its own trust account on the income that it receives from the services that it provides, and it uses that income legitimately in the provision of those services. According to the records. Post Office earnings in 1969-70 amounted to $162m and the telecommunications services earned $464m, a total of $626m. If we add to that the amount which was given to the Post Office by the Government to meet the cost of capital works and so on- some $233m - we find that the Post Office handled $859m last year. This year it is estimated that the amount will be $963m made up of $240m which is being allocated by the Budget, S I 89m representing Post office income and §534m from the provision of telecommunications services. We are dealing with big business.
Senator Webster in supporting the Minister’s second reading speech has suggested that because this service is being given and the costs are so great, charges have to be increased in order to meet those costs. My contention is that in our approach to the problem we are assuming that the costs with which we are faced are legitimate charges on the Post Office. Over a number of years now I have said that I object to the way in which all the activity of the Post Office is classed as postal activity. The Post Office is involved in minor matters such as banking and handling age pensions and social service payments which are not really the concern of the Post Office. These are matters of executive work carried out for the Government for which the Post Office receives no payment; yet, acting as the agent of the Government, it provides this service for the public. The services of the Post Office are used in many other and much more diverse ways for the benefit of other departments. Honourable senators will recall that on a previous occasion I mentioned the coaxial cable which has been laid to Carnarvon at considerable cost. The number of telephone services provided on this coaxial cable would enable most of the people in Carnarvon to talk at the same time to people in Perth. This of course is quite ridiculous and is not the reason why the coaxial cable was introduced to Carnarvon. Carnarvon happens to be on the route to the Exmouth Gulf communications centre which needs these extra communication channels. Carnarvon also demands a television service.
Again this is a service which is not essential but we use the coaxial cable to give this service to the people there. It seems to me that portion of this cost should be borne by the departments concerned. I know the Exmouth Gulf communications centre does pay rent for the lines it uses but is it paying sufficient of the capital cost to meet the service which is being rendered? The same principle applies when one looks at the television channel which is being provided to Carnarvon. Up to a point it is a legitimate Post Office expense. But what about the educational programmes which are telecast over this channel for schools in the area? fs this not a charge on the Department of Education and Science? Why should this service be paid for by the Post Office? I shall go a little further on this matter of broadcasting. The Post Office provides an overseas service through Radio Australia on all short wave stations in Australia. With very few exceptions the people in Australia do nol listen to these broadcasts which are for the purpose of disseminating propaganda and giving information to people overseas. Should not this cost be borne by the Department of External Affairs or a department which gives information about Australia to the world?
I ask honourable senators to consider one of the points raised by Senator Webster. I refer to the provision of telephone services at no cost to people who are within a 15-mile radius of an exchange. I. am very pleased to see this provision which will help a considerable number of farmers. Why should this necessarily be a cost to the Post Office? Why should the Post Office pay for it? If we want to run a railway service to pick up farm produce and provide farmers with superphosphate for their farms to what do we charge the capital cost of the railway? We charge h to the Government.
– Not every railway does that.
– In Australia the railways charge that cost to the Government: The losses are paid for by the Government. 1 do not know of any private company with the exception of the Mount Newman mine company which pays its own costs. The railways are run by Government concerns and these losses are paid for by the Government.
– ft is not a subsidy.
– This is a service which is given by the Government to the farmers. Why should the Post Office pay for the service? Ft means that the people generally, the subscribers generally, are going to pay. If the Government wants the farmers to have this service the Government should pay for it and not the Post Office. Reference was made by Senator Webster to the more than one hundred million newspapers and publications which are sent out at a loss of S9m a year. The honourable senator could have gone further and pointed out that the Post Office loses quite a lot of money on inland telegrams but not on overseas telegrams - - there is money in those. This is a service which we demand should be given by the Post Office, If we are demanding this service the Post Office is not offering it. It is being told to provide the service. We should be paying something for it.
This attitude was adopted by the commissioners in England when they set up a Post Office commission. They pointed out that in their case they had very carefully studied the cost of telegrams and had found that as soon as someone wrote a telegram and passed it across the counter the Post Office lost 5s. They said that they did not propose to continue this situation because the Post Office could not charge people who wanted to send a telegram the amount that it cost to transmit that telegram. If the Government wanted this service for the public it had to subsidise it. This attitude was agreed to. The same situation obtains when one looks at the sending of publications and newspapers. If the cost to send the paper which Senator Webster is interested in is increased - perhaps this is one reason why we might be grateful for the increase in charges - he might have to close it down. I do not know, but I understand it will cost 1.7c for a copy to be distributed. Because of this, some of these publishers have said that they will need lo have their publications printed overseas. The Australian Labor Party has been complaining about books being printed in Hong Kong. In New Zealand publications can be published - some already are being published - and sent lo Australia for 3c. not 17c. But what happens when they get here? Our organisation distributes them. The Post Office receives them, but it is not being paid more for the service.
These publications are going to flood in from overseas and the Post Office is still going to distribute them. They will still go to everybody in exactly the same way. The Post Office is still going to foot the bill. What are we going to do? Are we to increase the rate on first, class .postage and on telephones? Are we to make the Post Office the sort of unit we want? The suggestion that there should be an inquiry into the establishment of a corporation has been considered for many years by organisations connected with the Post Office because they are concerned that the Post Office should be a well run, efficient and businesslike enterprise. In present circumstances the officers of the Postal Department find themselves continually up against the difficulties of being under ministerial control. They are told: ‘You ought to be doing something in one line and not something in another’. This is said with the best will in the world. I am not complaining that this does happen under the present set up.
I think honourable senators know because of what 1 have said on a previous occasion that 1 was once engaged in Post Office planning. We would be planning telecommunications development for Australia as a whole, both rural and metropolitan. Then, with plans that we could see ahead of us. we would be instructed - this would be a ministerial instruction - that it was important that we should do more for country areas because there had been many complaints that the country areas were not receiving the attention they should receive. That is fairly reasonable.
But. of course, in the Post Office we were limited as to funds. So the emphasis was then pushed over on to the rural sector. That meant that we had to order equipment that would be suitable for rural development work. Then, before that equipment arrived - it takes about 18 months to arrive - we found that the city people, including the business houses, were complaining (hat they did not have enough lines or enough exchanges in the city. So an endeavour was made to put the emphasis in the Post Office on to providing that sort of facility before it had the material to do the country work. So the people in the Post Office were frustrated; they did not know where they were half the time.
The organisations connected with the Post Office - both the white collar organisations and trade unions - have looked at this matter very deeply. They feel that some sort of a corporation similar to that which is now functioning in England should be set up in Australia. Such a corporation would provide the Post Office with the opportunities to function as a businesslike concern. I hoped that we were going to do that when we introduced the trust account. I thought that would give the Post Office the opportunity to float its own loans; but that was not the intention, as honourable senators know.
– Can you point out where Britain-
– The Post Office in Britain has floated its own loans. What we did here in Australia was only to remove the Post Office account No. 1 and the Post Office account No. 2, which were quite separate accounts, and to combine them in one trust account so that the money did not go from the Treasury into the Post Office to enable it to carry out its day to day functions and all the receipts of the Post. Office did not go into Consolidated Revenue through account No. 1. What we did was to introduce a trust account which just means that the receipts stay with the Post Office. We did not give the Post Office the opportunity to float its own loans and to develop in the way it should. That is the important difference.
– What difference would floating its own loans have made?
– lt would mean that the Post Office would not have to call on the Government for S240m this year. If it could float its own loans, this $240m would be available for other work that the Government considers ought to be done. That is the important difference. The Post Office would bc able to obtain the money. All around Australia we have electricity commissions which are doing exactly that. They arc going through the public sector and obtaining funds for the development that they want to carry out in their areas. They are run very successfully. If honourable senators like to look at any of them, they will see that there is no doubt about tha;. That is what should be done. There should be an inquiry to see who this system can be introduced in Australia.
– Menzies said that he could not understand why the Post Office should be required to pay interest on loans.
– 1 did not catch all of that interjection; but, if it refers to the question of interest. I point out that nobody is objecting to the Post Office paying interest.
– 1 said that Sir Robert Menzies stated publicly that he could not understand why the Post Office should be required to pay interest on loans.
– On loans from the government?
– That is right. I do not agree with it either; but if the Post Office has to pay interest on such loans J contend that it should be able to float its own loans at the interest rate in operation in the public market. When we are talking about interest, let us remember another factor which is always lost sight of, namely, the matter of superannuation. Very few people seem to realise that the Post Office is paying for the majority of the superannuation payments that are made every year. The people who are on superannuation from the Post Office always feel that the Government is providing 67 per cent of the superannuation payments that they receive each fortnight. That is absolutely wrong. The amount is paid by the Post Office.
If honourable senators look up the annual report of the Australian Post Office for 1968-69 - it is the latest one available - they will find that the amount charged to the postal service for superannuation was $20,371,862 and the amount charged to the telecommunications service for superannuation was $12,690,404. So, a total of about $33m was paid out on superannuation. That is something about which everybody forgets, but it is an important factor that should be brought out. There is no question that we should be paying for superannuation. I am not objecting to that. But we should remember what the Post Office is doing with all the funds that are at its disposal.
– That was the 1968-69 figure.
– Yes; the amount is much more now. The current figures are not available. ‘That is one of the matters about which I complain. The Post Office never produces its reports until after the Budget has been dealt with. We do not know where we are. We cannot analyse the current situation as we can analyse this annual report for 1968-69. I have not yet seen the annual report for 1969-70. 1 have asked for it. All 1 can obtain is a proposal for 1970-71. I had it here somewhere, but I threw it away because it was no good.
– A White Paper.
– It is a White Paper. I thought I had it here. But it is no good, anyway. It does not give these sorts of details which are what we want.
– The PostmasterGeneral has said that they will not be available for another couple of weeks.
– That is far too long. In my opinion, the question of establishing a corporation or commission demands that we thoroughly examine the proposition in order to see what is involved and what advantages there would be in it. I am saying not that we should set up a commission immediately but that we should have an inquiry. As Senator Willesee pointed but, Mr F. P. O’Grady, who was a great friend of mine personally and still is, knew exactly what was going on in the Post Office when he was DirectorGeneral, and since he retired he has pointed out that we should have this sort of change in Post Office administration in order to enable the Post Office to perform the sort of functions that the people of Australia want in their telecommunications and postal services.
Every union of which 1 know, with the exception of one, is in favour of an inquiry. The only one that is not in favour is one that represents white collar workers. That union is the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. It has not really examined the situation. It thinks that under a commission its members would lose the opportunity to move from one part of the government service to another. That would be a legitimate complaint if if. were true. But in Great Britain this matter was considered and the relevant legislation there gives a person the right to move from the post office commission into another sector of the government service. That difficulty has been overcome. So the objection that was raised by the ACOA is not valid.
With reference to the cost increases which are now proposed to be imposed on the public of Australia, I believe that it is far too early for such increases to be introduced, bearing in mind that the last increases in telephone and postal charges were introduced in 1967. Now is not the time to do this. We should be examining whether there are any other methods of overcoming the present problem. I believe that asking the people of Australia again to pay increased charges for a service that they consider is not up to the standard they require is an affront to them. I hope that we will see value from this tremendous organisation which this year will handle something like SI. 000m. That sum does not include the capital involved. We should see that this organisation is taken out of the reaim of control of a Minister. lt should be placed in the hands of directors who can ensure that it functions adequately and efficiently, having proper regard to the money involved; who can obtain good rates of interest and ensure that it functions in the interests of the people. I hope, Mr Acting Deputy President, that the Opposition receives support for the amendment we have moved in order to bc able to proceed further with this particular matter.
– Like all people I am concerned about the necessity for an increase in postage and telegraph rates. Prices are rising in many sectors today because of the increase in costs. These increases are necessary because of the general cost factor, lt is estimated that the loss incurred by the Post Office this year could be in the vicinity of $19m. The projection is that in the period 1970-71 if the Post Office continued to operate according to the present charges and tariffs the loss could be some Slim. This shows that there is every need to have some increases in postal charges and telegraphic rates. It is estimated that without an increase the postal side could lose some $30m in the year. At the same time, on the telecommunications side there could be a profit of some $19m.
One might question why there is a great loss in one area and a profit in another area. The reason is that the postal side is a labour intensive area. We know that today the cost of labour is getting higher. This is because of wage increases. In this area of labour intensity it is necessary to counter projected wage increases and therefore there should be increases in the tariffs charged. The telecommunications side is a capital intensive area in which we do not face the same recurrent costs. There are high capital costs in this area but these reflect profitability. Hence one can set the projected loss on the postal side against the profit in the telecommunications area. The proposed increased charges before us in this Bill could result in an increase of some $53m in a full year. In real terms this could mean an estimated profit of about $30m for the Post Office generally. lt might be said that this is an excessive profit but let us reflect upon the activities of the Post Office and the service given to the country generally. In modern society one can refer to many areas of great importance and significance for the welfare and needs of our people but possibly there is no greater area than that of communications, whether within densely populated cities or in sparsely settled areas, whether intrastate, interstate or international. Today communications play not just an important part but an essential part in our lives.
With so much reliance being placed upon communications today it is essential that we have a very efficient service, lt is necessary to operate at a profit in order to keep up with the new technologies which are coming to pass every day. Australia must remain at the forefront of developments in postal and telegraphic services, ft has done so in the past and I am certain this will continue to be the case in the future. No country is better served in the field of communications than is Australia today and if we are looking for profitability in the Post Office we will have to continue to adapt to the latest technological advances made. We must have a service equal to the best in the world.
Criticism has been levelled at the Government because of the increases proposed this year. Senator Wilkinson said a few moments ago that it is only 3 years since the last increase in postal charges. However, we can point to many other areas in the commercial world where there have been increases in charges more recently than the last increase in postal charges. In that 3-year period there have been increases in costs which have been absorbed by the Post Office. I referred earlier to the fact that the postal side is labour intensive. During that 3-year period wage rates have increased by some 29 per cent. I am not critical of those increases; I am merely being factual in stating that the increase has been at the rate of about 29 per cent. It is impossible to avoid these increased costs in areas which are labour intensive because there is such a great requirement for personal handling in the delivery and sorting of mail. We appreciate that some 70 per cent of the costs of the postal services are associated with this labour factor.
– We are paying a lot more for less service.
– This might be the point. This might be one area in which people might say that efficiency has been reduced in order to counter rising costs. This could be a legitimate argument in some spheres of activity. Nevertheless it is a fact of life that there have been these great increases in wages in a labour intensive area - an area in which higher costs cannot be avoided. It is not impossible but highly improbable that we can go too far with mechanisation of mail sorting. Since 1959 the postal rates overall have risen by only some 45 per cent while wages have increased by 100 per cent. These figures clearly show that there has been considerable efficiency and research directed towards greater productivity within the Post Office. If we look for areas in which this increased cost factor has been countered we see that productivity has shown a great increase. Recently there was a 1 per cent increase in labour while there was a 6 per cent increase in the amount of business. This does show that productivity has increased within the Post Office.
Turning to the telecommunications side we see that the exchange and service rentals and connection fees have not been readjusted since 1954, which is a considerable time. Even though these charges are to be increased now we must realise that there have been great improvements in services provided not only to city areas but also to country areas. It is essential that more services be extended to these people. All responsible people, whether in Government or in Opposition, In this chamber or in the other place, have urged that all possible steps be taken to encourage decentralisation and improve the lot of those people who are prepared to live in the country.
Senator Webster tonight referred to the new telephone service that is being extended to country people. Telephone lines are to be constructed by the Post Office to areas within 15 radial miles of a local telephone exchange. The significance of this move is that people who possibly could noi afford a telephone service previously will be given an opportunity to have that service. The fact that the provision applies to areas within 15 radial miles of a local telephone exchange is also very significant, ft does not matter that the line may go for 25 miles or 30 miles, so long as it is within a 15 miles radius of the local exchange.
It is also pleasing to note that the assistance to be given for upgrading or reconstructing private sections of existing subscribers’ lines is to be reviewed. Many country people have telephone lines today that need reconstruction. Other country people have difficulty in meeting the maintenance costs of their telephone lines. I have referred to the services given to people living in country areas. Last year I had long discussions with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) about a particular area of my home State of South Australia. In that area 15 or 20 farmers developed property and invested all their money in it. They could not afford to pay for the installation of telephpne services themselves, and the closest telephone to them was 9 miles away. In times of sickness and urgent business, and for many other reasons, people living in country areas should have the same services as people who live closer to or within cities. T am pleased to say that the Postmaster-General has decided to’ extend telephone services to people living in such outlying areas. In considering the increased charges of the Post Office we should examine the other side of the coin and appreciate that extended services are being given to people who are in need of them and deserve them.
I turn now to consider the very costly field of automatic telephone services that are being installed in many country areas. Quite a few honourable senators have been served by a manual exchange in small country towns. The local postmasters and postmistresses give wonderful service, but they are only human beings and they cannot be expected to operate a little exchange for 24 hours a day. Some such services operate for an hour or two in the morning and again in the afternoon, perhaps an hour at night, close at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and do not open at all on Sundays.
This creates many difficulties for the people who are provided with what is in reality an inefficient service. Following the provision of an automatic exchange people in the area can ring anywhere for 24 hours a day. They are given a great feeling of security. I commend the PostmasterGeneral and his Department for extending automatic services to people in rural areas. They are essential in such areas. 1 also appreciate the cost factor involved within the overall ambit of the Postmaster-General. I repeat that in examining increased charges we should appreciate that all benefits involve a cost factor. So far as I am concerned, the extended services to be given by the Post Office are well worth while, even though they may necessitate some increases in costs.
Tonight Senator Cavanagh criticised or questioned the extension of telephone services to people living within 15 radial miles of a local exchange. He said that the services should be extended beyond that distance. 1 ask whether any honourable senator can. indicate to me many areas in this country where subscribers in any number live further than 20 miles from a post office or exchange. 1 am not referring to pastoral areas but to general rural areas. 1 will be interested to learn the numbers of subscribers living further than .15 radial miles from an exchange or post office. 1 doubt, that there are many such areas. T. cannot think of any, other than pastoral areas. There is a great difference between pastoralists and people living in general rural production areas. If any senator opposite can put a factual case to me in this respect I would very much like to hear it.
asked why the costs for these telephone lines should be paid by the Postal Department. Unfortunately, by interjection 1 was not able to get through to the honourable senator to ascertain from him his alternative suggestion as to payment. 1 presume he would say that the Government should pay. Should not subscribers pay for these lines in preference to payment by the taxpayers, or does Senator
Wilkinson suggest that all taxpayers should be contributing to assist the development of postal and telegraph services in those rural areas? As a subscriber I am willing to contribute for the services extended to me and for the use of such necessary services as the telegraph service.
Much has been said tonight about the establishment of a statutory authority to conduct (he Post Office in Australia. Although there has not been open criticism of the Postal Department in this country, it has been implied. In those circumstances it may be a good idea for me to quote the words of the Postmaster-General in the other place in the debate on this measure. He said:
Recently, in March last approximately, the British Host Office decided that it would require a 10 per cent return on capital invested in telecommunications in lieu of the Hi per cent return which had been the earlier rate, If we apply a return of 10 per cent on $2. 1 90m which is the amount invested in the Australian Post Office in the telecommunications field, we arrive at a figure of $2l9m as representing that interest return. If we apply the British Post Office basis of 2 pei cent on expenses in relation to the postal services, which in Australia totals $173m, the figure is $3.5ni. So, the target of the Australian Post Office in the financial year which we have just ended would bc a surplus of 5220.5m . . . May I indicate what has happened in the Australian Post Office in the last financial year. Interest was $ 106m and the profit achieved was $2ni. This means that SI 08m is the amount which we have received in return on money invested or, in the case of the postal services, turnover. So the figure under the basis laid down by the British Post Office is more than twice what we in fact obtained in Australia.
In the light of that statement by the Postmaster-General I ask members of the Opposition: Do they want increased costs in return for a statutory body? This is basically what happens. In Britain recently the telephone rental was increased from $34 to $52. but the projected increase in the telephone rental in Australia is $7, making the rental $47. This charge is well below the charge which is imposed by the Corporation in the United Kingdom. The service connection fee in the United Kingdom has risen from $A43 to SA54 whereas the fee in Australia is to increase from $30 to $40. Once again the charge in Australia is well below the charge which is imposed by the Corporation in the United Kingdom.
The losses which are incurred in Australia are of concern to all of us. 1 wish to draw comparisons between the positions in other countries and the position in Australia in order that an accurate assessment can be made. If one further examines the situation in the United Kingdom one will find that its postal service lost $A37m in 1969-70. The deficit incurred by the Post Office in the United States of America exceeds$A1.6 billion annually. The loss of the Post Office of our Canadian cousins was somewhere in the vicinity of $A47m last year. Therefore, it is not something which is peculiar to the Post Office in Australia to incur a loss in the postal services it provides. A significant point I wish to make is that if we were to work on the same basis and with the same returns as the Corporation in the United Kingdom we would find that we would have to increase our charges greatly in order to obtain the same returns on the capital invested. In other words, the users of postal and telegraph services in Australia would have to pay amounts far in excess of what they are paying at present for the services provided if the results of the operations of the Corporation in the United Kingdom in its infancy are any guide. Therefore, let us be very careful when we start talking about the establishment of corporations.
– Without a Corporation the charges in the United Kingdom might be even higher.
– Senator Gair could be correct because the Post Office in the United Kingdom was inaladministered for so many years. We have in Australia at present a postal service equal to that of any nation in the world. It is also as cheap as the service provided by any nation. Let me draw some comparisons between the charges in Australia and the charges in other countries. I will give the overseas rates in their Australian currency equivalent. The postage rate in the United Kingdom is to increase from 4.5c to somewhere in the vicinity of 6.3c; in Germany it is 7.3c; in Canada it is5c. in the United States of America it is to be increased to 7.1c; in France it is 6.4c; and in Sweden it is 9.5c.
In conclusion I would like to say that, like all honourable senators, I am con cerned about the fact that there is any need to increase both postal and telegraph rates. I hoped that there would be no need for any increase, but the facts and figures are such that rises are necessary. However, when one relates the charges for the services which are provided in Australia to the charges imposed for similar services in so many other countries one will appreciate that we are very fortunate to have such an efficient service at such a cheap price.
-I wish to address myself to the measures outlined in this Bill in 3 directions. However, before doing so, I would like to ask some questions of the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber, concerning her second reading speech. As the Minister is busy at the moment, I will comment upon what I believe were most unusual speeches by Senator Webster and Senator Young tonight. It appeared to me that both Senator Webster and Senator Young were most critical of the legislation, but each said that he would support it. They may have been critical of the legislation for political purposes. It may be their intention to say to their constituents that they were critical of the legislation. However, when the testing time comes I am sure we will find that they will support the Government and vote against the amendment which has been moved by Senator Willesee on behalf of the Opposition. There are one or two matters in the second reading speech of the Minister to which I wish to refer. The Minister said:
It is anticipated that the Post Office trading results for 1970-71 would show a loss of $11m if no adjustment to charges were made. This would result from a postal loss of $30m and a telecommunications profit of $19m and is largely the result of increased wages totalling$58m, of which $45m will be a charge against trading operations.
I ask: Will the Minister indicate how the anticipated loss of $11m would have occurred if no adjustments to charges were made? How did the Minister arrive at the fact that wages increases in 1970-71 would total $58m? It would appear to me as though some explanation is necessary, particularly in relation to the forecast of an increase of $58m in wages. MightI say at this stage that 1 am rather disappointed that the annual report of the
Postmaster-General’s Department for the current year has not been .tabled. 1 accept the fact that the Minister has said in all sincerity that a loss of Slim was anticipated if no adjustment to charges were made. Nevertheless, I believe that the Senate should investigate this figure to determine whether it is factual. The Post Office showed a profit of §4m last year. Certain services have been reduced since then and it has been alleged that there is greater efficiency in the Post Office. Computers have been introduced, too. When one takes all of these factors into account it is difficult to understand how a profit of $4m could turn into an anticipated loss of Slim. I believe that unless the Senate has the full details it is most difficult for it to determine its attitude to the anticipated loss of Slim. I hope that the Minister will be able to correct this situation prior to the conclusion of the debate on this Bill so that honourable senators will be in possession of the figures and will be better able to analyse the situation.
I have had some difficulty in trying to determine how it could be anticipated that there would be a loss of $11 m if no adjustments to charges were made. It may be that included in the amount of the estimated loss is money which the Post Office would pay to the Department of Works for buildings which have been constructed. Information on this aspect was made available to one of the estimates committees the other day. I do not think I am divulging anything I should not divulge when 1 say that I know that other members of the committee as well as myself were a little surprised to learn that the Post Office paid the Department of Works for erecting its buildings whereas, for instance, the Department of Education and Science did not. There may be a reasonable explanation for this, but none has been forthcoming at this stage as far as I am concerned.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) Order! It is quite proper for the honourable senator to refer to matters that took place at a meeting of an estimates committee. It has been printed in the Hansard of the estimates committees.
– I did not think I was divulging anything I should not divulge. I repeat that I find it hard to reconcile the fact that the Department made a profit of S4m one year and next year it anticipates making a loss of $llm. I repeat that I would have to have the figures before me before I could be convinced that this loss will eventuate. There has been a deterioration in services to the public in that there is now only one delivery of letters a day. The modernised methods employed in the Post Office by way of computerisation should have reflected a decrease in expenditure or. put the other way, an increased profit. In those circumstances I believe that the Senate is entitled to further information other than that a loss is anticipated. It is anticipated, I expect, by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), but 1 do not think that is sufficient for Parliament to accept that statement at face value. The Minister said:
Again it is not the role of the 1’ost Office to support religious denominations, charitable bodies, educational, scientific and technical institutions and the lite, however desirable helping the activities of these organisations may be.
Whose role is it to assist these worthy organisations? We accept that they are worthy organisations in the community. The Post Office will not accept the responsibility. It will place additional imposts on them. Who will help these organisations? I suggest with respect that the approach referred to in the Minister’s speech is a fairly cynical one. 1 question whether the Government is conscious of the effect that increased postal charges will have on 3 areas to which I shall refer specifically. I refer to the trade union movement, to charitable and religious organisations and to the general public.
– What about pensioners, too?
– My colleague asks about the pensioners. In my speech on the Budget 1 addressed myself to the plight of pensioners. On this occasion I will include them in the category of general public. I do not believe the Government is conscious of the result these increased postal charges will have. A Queensland trade union estimates that the increased charges will cost it an additional $16,000 a year to post its trade union journal. The situation is a fairly serious one. One union will have to find a further $16,000 to meet the cost of posting its journal. At present it pays $9,552. That figure will be increased to $25,462.
– Has it considered any alternate method of distribution such as distribution at places of employment?
– Our experience is that distribution at places of work is a most unsatisfactory method of distribution of trade union journals. They go to a firm’s premises and are deposited in the front office. Goodness knows who would get them. The employer may get them. If he is an uncharitable employer he may see that the journals do not get to the employees. If that risk is overcome, a clerk or somebody in the front office has to be relied upon for the distribution of the journals to the workers at the back of the office. That is another risk. Then the shop delegate has to be relied upon to distribute them in the establishment. Assuming they have been distributed by the shop delegate to the workers in the shop, there is a further difficulty. The journals will be left lying around the shop. Some people who may not be entitled to read them may read them.
– The workers can read them just as they usually do.
– Senator Rae said that the workers can read them the same as they usually do, but I disagree. I think they are factors which mitigate against mass distribution on a shop basis. I speak with some experience when I say that. There are 284,000 workers in Queensland, the vast majority of whom would receive trade union journals. The increased postage charges on these journals will impose a burden on a substantial number of trade unions. We estimate that the increase will be in the vicinity of $70,000. If the figure for the rest of Australia is added to that, it is a conservative estimate that the total increase to the trade union movement will be in the vicinity of $500,000. If the further administrative costs to the trade union movement are added - and I refer to increased telephone rentals and to the increased cost of letter postage - on a conservative estimate it will cost the trade union movement, the workers of Australia, about Sim a year to meet the increased charges contained in these Bills. 1. question whether the Government is aware of the staggering figure that it will cost workers in industry.
– How does the honourable senator think the trade union movement would cope with that kind of increase in costs?
– There are 2 ways in which the trade union movement can do it. Firstly, it can reduce the size or frequency of publication of the journal or eliminate it. Secondly, it can increase its membership fees. They are at a fairly substantial level now. It costs me, and all the members of the Union to which I belong, $1.7 a half year for union contributions. The fees we pay are not the highest. It is a little difficult to ask workers to pay more than that.
– lt is the same old case. Anyone who has a service or a commodity to sell, when he is faced with cost increases, has to raise the price.
– I will underline that statement. The next time Senator Greenwood criticises workers for increasing the price of the commodity they sell, I will suggest to him that he should take a different attitude from the one he has taken tonight. I will underline his words. Any time he is critical of workers for trying to sell their labour at a higher price, I will remember what he said and remind him of it.
– The honourable senator has not heard me say that yet. 1 do nol know that he will hear me say thai in the future.
– Do not try io squirm out of it. 1 have said that I will remember it. I will cut out the report of what was said and post it in my diary. I referred to the fact that the cost to one union will increase from the present $9,552 to $25,462. In its own way, the Government has seen fit to try to help the printing industry by imposing a bounty in respect of books printed overseas. Its actions in increasing postal charges will destroy immediately some of the journals that have been printed here in the past. Nol only will the Post Office eliminate some of the work that normally would be done by the printing industry but the Post Office itself will lose revenue because publications will go out of existence. Consequently, there will be 2 losses. Quite frankly, I doubt whether the Government is really conscious of what it is doing in increasing postal charges.
What is the object of a trade union journal? lt is to educate, enlighten and influence union members to take an interest in the affairs of the union to which they belong. Surely that is an object which should be encouraged rather than discouraged. 1 propose to refer now to the Printing Trades Journal of which I can speak with some little authority. This publication has a circulation of 45,000. lt is posted free to all male members of the Printing and Kindred Industries Union throughout Australia, if they request that it be sent to them. The additional cost to the union of posting this journal will be in the vicinity of $1,250, on our estimate. I propose to point out to the Senate some of the matter contained in the journal and to refer to the educational nature of this publication. The first page contains a leading article which criticises the Government for its strange logic in wage fixation. That is very educational. The second page reports on some of the important events in the union, such as the fact that there will be a council meeting held in Adelaide this year. It mentions that the printing of the journal is to be changed to a new modern method. Next is an article relating to an ink making agreement between the employers and the union. Next is a reference to a new president coining- into office and the past president’s thanks for the support given to him during the year.
The next page deals with news of the month in the printing industry, lt refers to retrospectivity being granted by Mr Commissioner Gough in increases awarded in the pulp and paper industry award case. An article on that page mentions that a fraternal delegate from New Zealand is in Australia and it asks our members to make themselves known to him when he visits the shops. The next article deals with paper making safety and the welfare of those engaged in the industry. It provides instructions on safety and welfare to members of the union. The next page is a miscellany of the current happenings of interest to union members, including a report on the sickness of the Victorian branch secretary and also a reference to rules of printed English. The article states:
Members generally, particularly compositors and proof readers, will find ‘rules of printed English’ to be a handy reference book. Written by Herbert Rees and published by Darton, Longman and Todd (England), this 164 page hard-covered book is available in Australia, through Cassell Australia Ltd, at $3.55 a copy.
The article goes on to show how members, particularly in one section of the industry, can improve themselves. The next items deal with the question of who will represent the New South Wales and Western Australian branches of the union at the council meeting this year. In the next column we find a reference to the death in Hobart on 14th March of Mr L. R. Benjamin. C.B.E., who was a great pioneer in the paper making industry in that State. The next page reports on a visit to Perth by the federal secretary to attend to union matters. Then each branch of the union has its own page which is of interest to members throughout Australia. Last but not least, on the back page is an advertisement inserted by the Commonwealth Government Printer advertising for staff. This journal has educational value, but the distribution of it to members will cost the union an additional $1,250 a year.
– How often is it published? ls it weekly or monthly?
– It is a monthly journal. If the Minister would like a copy I would be happy to supply her with one.
– What will the increased postal charges mean per copy - about 20c a year?
– We send them by bulk postage.
– But how much will it increase the cost for each copy?
– It will cost the union $1,250.
– But how much per copy? That is the relativity, is it not?
– I do not think so. 1 think we have to take into consideration how much the increased charges will cost the union.
– Do you know what the circulation is?
– It is 40,000. 1 have referred to the Printing Trades Journal lo show the function of trade union journals. I question whether the. unions should be penalised to the extent that will be the case if this legislation is passed. Other organisations within the trade union movement can speak for themselves about the information contained in their journals, but J have read quite a number of them and the aim of all is to try to educate union members, to try to encourage members to take an interest in the activities of the union. Surely these are worthy motives.
– I take it that they do not have any doctored photographs in them.
– I can speak with authority for my own union’s journal; we do not have doctored photographs in that. I know that the Minister for Housing has the highest regard for the work performed by charitable and religious organisations in the social welfare field and in looking after people who perhaps are not so fortunate as we are. It seems ironical that these organisations are to be asked to pay increased postal charges. For the life of me I cannot understand how we can regard the Budget as being a good measure when people in the community will have to suffer fairly heavily as a result of provisions contained in the Budget. I ask honourable senators to consider, for example, the Blue Nursing Service and what increased postal charges will cost that organisation each year.
– Would that organisation have heavy postage costs?
– Yes, and a heavy telephone account. The situation will not be easy for organisations of this kind. Consider also some of the charitable organisations in Queensland. It will be difficult for an organisation such as the hospital for the aged at South Brisbane to meet these increased charges. There is nobody to whom it can pass on the increased charges, with the exception perhaps of inmates of the hospital. I think all honourable senators would agree that when people are sick and old that is not a time when they should have to worry about paying increased hospital fees. The Royal Brisbane Hospital is run by the Queensland Government, as is also the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane. Just imagine what it will cost them in additional postage and telephone charges. These organisations must continue to function and they must, have finance, so I suppose the Queensland State Government will have to meet the increases. Why should the public generally have to pay more for what they regard as an inferior service.
I was interested to hear Senator Young say tonight that he had heard no criticism of the Post Office. All 1 can say of the honourable senator is that he must be a Robinson Crusoe. He would be the only person of whom I know who has heard no criticism of the services provided by the Post Office. He would be unique in Australia. I have heard several complaints about there being one delivery a day. I do not know whether the Minister has ever bad this experience, but again I speak from personal experience when i say that I have had to wait 3 minutes - J am not exaggerating - when trying to make a trunk line call in Brisbane from my private telephone, before anybody has answered the phone. If Senator Young believes that is a good service to the community, it is not my understanding of a good service. I repeat that there has been criticism and if Senator Young has not heard any criticism voiced then I repeat that he would be one of the few in Australia who have not been told of the inadequacies of the service.
The general public, including age pensioners, will pay additional postage and this is added to the high cost of living that has been forced upon them as a result of the inflationary trend. I am just waiting for Senator Greenwood to say: ‘That is because of high wages.’ Unfortunately he is not here. I would like to debate that point with him on some occasion. The fact is that as a result of this legislation people will be asked to pay - and firms will be asked also - additional amounts for postage and telephone charges. We are not so much children of nature surely that we will expect firms to accept those charges and not pass them on to the public. They will be passed on to the public in some form or other. Quite likely the firms will estimate that it will cost them an extra, say, $50,000 a year for postage and telephone charges, so they will increase the price of their goods so that they gather an extra $100,000 a year to ensure that they are not on the losing end.
– The only alternative to that seems to be to freeze wages, prices and everything else.
– Wages are frozen now. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has frozen wages by having only an annual review. I do not want to digress into that field, other than to answer your comment. The situation is that firms will pass these increased charges on. To whom will they pass on the charges? It can only be the general public and so the public will have to pay those increased charges. Other measures in the Budget will force companies to increase the prices of their goods and commodities. Again these charges will be passed on to the public. So it is useless to say that these added costs will be of assistance to the public. 1 have approached the criticism of this legislation on those 3 planes. Other honourable senators have spoken on other fields, but I have contented myself with those 3 areas of disagreement. I repeat that I do not think that the Government is fully conscious of the effect these increased postal charges will have on the organisations to which I referred. I repeat that I think it is most unfair that we should have to debate a measure which increases charges to the community generally without having before us the profit made or the toss incurred by the Post Office for the preceding 12 months. It is unfortunate, to say the least. If we can take into consideration the fact that the Post Office made a profit of $4m in the previous year then I cannot for the life of me understand how it can be turned into an anticipated loss of $llm when we have been told of the efficiency of the Post Office in this direction. I content myself with those observations and support the amendment moved by Senator Willesee.
– Noone likes to see an increase in costs, except perhaps the recipient of that increase. No-one likes to be in the -position in which senators on this side of the chamber have found themselves this afternoon and this evening of getting up to support a Bill which increases charges to the public, charges to business and charges to people generally. But there are facts of life which members of the Parliament have to accept and have to deal with. One of those facts of life is that in relation to the Postal Department, the Post Office - Senator Milliner may be interested to hear the figures I am about to quote - there has been a very substantial increase in its cost of operation. The estimated loss, to which the honourable senator has made reference, for the year 1970-71 is Slim. I understand that that figure includes an estimated postal loss of N S3 Om. So it is not very hard to see where a substantial part of the estimated loss comes in. I understand that this is largely due to increased wages totalling $58m, of which $45m is a charge against operations and $l3m a charge against capital.
I will quote a few more figures for the interest of Senator Milliner and any other honourable senator who would like some more detail. I understand that there was an increase in postal charges in .1967. Since that time wages paid by the Postal Department have increased by 29 per cent. This is particularly adverse to the profitability of this Department, because 70 per cent of the costs of the Department are associated with labour. So there has been a 29 per cent increase in the field which constitutes 70 per cent of overall expenses. On my calculations the increase due lo increased wages payments works out at about 21 per cent of total costs.
– I do not question that. I question the anticipated $58m.
– I am telling the honourable senator how this anticipated loss is calculated, lt is because of the increases in wages payments which had taken place during this period of time. I also understand that some of these increases have been absorbed by productivity improvements. For instance, although there was a 6 per cent increase in business last year there was an increase in staff of only 1.1 per cent. That is obviously the sort of economy which can be practised by any organisation such as this, and is one of the economies which has in fact been practised. I think perhaps Senator Milliner and other honourable senators may be interested to know that the labour cost component in handling an ordinary letter for the year 1969-70 was 4.66c. In 1967, when the last increase was made, it was 3.58c.
– Those figures are given in the Minister’s second reading speech.
– These arc just some of the figures which I thought were of interest because Senator Milliner said he was not able to obtain any figures. I am sorry if I am repeating things he already knows. I will not indulge in any further repetition but will get on to some other matters. The honourable senator spoke about some union that will have to pay an extra $12,000 or so to post its journals. He said that there were about 40,000 to 45,000 copies per annum to be posted. Those figures show that the extra cost will bc about 25c per annum for each recipient. He also mentioned that the union dues at present are $34 a year. An increase of 25c on $34 is not a huge imposition. 1 would not have thought it was one which warranted the expenditure of such an amount of time as has been given to it. I therefore make no further comment on that matter.
Senator Willesee said something which 1 thought was somewhat extraordinary. He talked about the Post Office being operated as a faxing authority or possibly being operated as a taxing authority. He said that maybe it would be all right if this were done. Apparently his only objection is that he regards it as being carried out by some sleight of hand and he therefore believes that the increases would be justifiable if they are imposed on an open basis of increasing taxation. Apparently because it is not done with the open and avowed intention of increasing taxes he believes that we should support the amendment that he has moved to the effect that we should consider the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to manage the business. 1 do not know whether he thinks that it would act then as a tax gathering agency, but if it did. that would be all right because it was to be somehow separated from the Public Service Board.
He went on to say that we have many examples of commissions and corporations already set up by the Commonwealth. He cited the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth Railways, the Australian Whaling Commission, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and others. It is of interest to note that almost all of those are not divorced from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board. There is a system of formal consultation and concurrence between most of them and the Public Service Board in relation to the fixation ot salaries, the determination of conditions of employment, including disciplinary conditions, and the qualifications necessary for appointment to the permanent staff of the particular commission or corporation. What will be achieved by the divorcement that he has suggested? He has suggested that if the Post Office were divorced suddenly it somehow magically would become more efficient in its administration. However, as 1 have pointed out, the other organisations which he has suggested as models are still tied to an extent to the Public Service Board.
Then he suggested that if the Post Office were a separate corporation it would not have to pay interest on the loans it received. That is a commonly expressed argument, an argument which suggests that by some means the Commonwealth Government is engaging in sleight of hand by charging interest on funds it makes available to the Post Office. Senator Wilkinson said that the Opposition did not object to the idea that a corporation or a department such as the Post Office should pay interest, so presumably we can dismiss entirely that argument as providing any support for the amendment which has been moved by Senator Willesee.
The only argument that I could gather from what was said by Senator Willesee or any of the other Opposition members who took part in the debate was that somehow or other commissions have a tremendous advantage in planning. T think those were Senator Willesee’s words. I am delighted to hear him, or any Opposition member, suggest that the freedom of private enterprise is something which should be applauded and something which makes it desirable to take away from the control of the Government the administration of a department such as this. Perhaps one of the troubles with commissions or corporations is that they tend to have the disadvantages of both private enterprise and Public Service or government departments without really achieving in full the advantages of either. I do not think it is necessary to go into any great detail in answering further Senator Willesee’s amendment. No additional arguments have been advanced to support it.
Senator Wilkinson said that the proposed increased charges will lead to more publications being printed and posted overseas, that we will still have to handle them and that this will increase the costs of the poSt Office in Australia without gaining any revenue. Perhaps he is not aware of the work which has been done by the Postmaster-General’s Department through the Universal Postal Union in countering the possibility of that kind of thing happening. Perhaps he is not aware either of the fact that some 3 years ago the Australian Post Office was responsible for ensuring that printers and publishers in Australia were protected. Tt had become common for magazines and periodicals to be published and posted in other parts of the world and then distributed in Australia. Many of those periodicals and journals contained reply paid cards as a means of advertising and of increasing their own business. The Australian Post Office provided that no journal which included a reply paid business card could be distributed in Australia through the postal service unless it had been posted in Australia. The net effect was the protection of the Australian printing industry and the Australian Post Office against the vast increase of business from journals published and posted overseas and distributed in Australia. That is something which has not been recognised so far in the debate, something which was a compensating factor for any of the disadvantages which might flow to the printing and publishing industry as a result of the proposed increases. lt is also of interest to point out to Senator Wilkinson who expressed concern about this aspect that an agreement has been negotiated through the Universal Postal Union that 7c per lb will be paid from the middle of next year in respect of that part of the postage between countries which is being carried by the country which receives more than it sends out. Australia receives about 3 times as much from overseas as it sends overseas. This arrangement which has been negotiated by the Australian Post Office through the Universal Postal Union will compensate the
Australian Post Office and therefore the Australian users of the Post Office and the Australian taxpayers. That is one of the steps that the Post Office is taking to safeguard Australia and Australia’s interests, something for which it should be congratulated rather than condemned.
As I mentioned earlier, Senator Wilkinson said tha; if the Post Office became an independent public corporation no-one would object to its paying interest on loans. He went on to say that if it were a separate corporation it could float its own loans. If it were to float a loan for $240m in 1 year one can imagine that some competition could develop between local commissions and Commonwealth commissions concerned with raising their own funds. One can imagine that the net result of competition between the new commission wishing to raise $240m this yearprobably more next year - and the Commonwealth Government seeking to raise loans on behalf of the Commonwealth and the States would be an almost inevitable forcing up of interest rates to the detriment of all who have to fund those interest rates; - basically, the taxpayers of Australia.
I refer now to the proposed increase in the cost of special category mail, the matter Which seems to have received the greatest amount of attention both outside and inside this chamber. A number of people in writing letters to members of Parliament and in making statements in the Press have said how terrible it is that they were given no indication whatever that this was to happen. To my knowledge on a number of occasions the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has previously indicated that this section of the Post Office was running at a severe loss, that that loss could not continue and that the general users of the Post Office could not be expected to continue the loss indefinitely.
As has been mentioned by a number of people, the increase in charges this year will raise an additional $2£m in a full year but it will still leave a loss on that section of the postal services of $6im to be carried by other people. I wonder whether it is fair to suggest that other people should have to carry that loss of S6im? Certainly it would be unfair to say that they should have to carry the whole loss of $9m. If it is necessary to bring the charges up to a realistic figure then it becomes quite interesting for any honourable senator to look through the correspondence he has received in the past few- weeks since the Budget was brought down and to read the multitude of letters which have flowed in from the various organisations and businesses. J have found it interesting to read them. I have been concerned on behalf of a number of the writers. They have my sympathy in the problems they have to deal with. But the inconsistencies which appear in quite a number of them are worthy of comment.
It really boils down to a matter of opinion as to what is necessary and the degree to which it is reasonable to increase the income in order to overcome the loss and bring the postage rate up to an economic rate. The Australian Association of Business Publications suggested in its submissions to the Postmaster-General that postage rates on lightweight publications should be increased 6 times: that is, from ic to 3c. The Association appeared to be quite happy that that should happen. One can only gather from the remainder of the submissions that it is not concerned with the lightweight publications. They do not come into the Association’s category so its attitude seems to be: Up it on somebody else but do not up it on us. It depends on how one looks at the matter. Another publisher in writing to members of the House of Representatives and honourable senators said that the increase in relation to journals was unfair and excessive. But he said he would be quite happy to sacrifice what he describes as associations, clubs or other parochial publications. In other words his altitude was: Let them go and pay the increase as long as I do not have to pay it. So this attitude goes on. As one goes from category to category one finds that everybody believes that he has the best case for paying virtually no postage and receiving a complete subsidy from everybody else. 1 would like to make a few comments in relation to some of those publications which may fall into the business journal, business publication or business circular category. I do not want anybody to think that I am referring to all the business journals and all the scientific and educational journals. Many of them are most worth while and are conducted by people who give voluntary service to try to achieve a worth while end. But others, and a consid erable number of them, have inundated the postal services with unadulterated nonsense, stuff which is absolutely worthless and which only increases the paper warfare battle with which everyone has to contend. Anyone in business or anyone living at home expects to receive in his mail almost every day a lot of unwanted articles through the post from people who are engaged in a hard sell, gimmicky circular, type of transaction. They are making as much use as they possibly can of the postal services and of whatever low rates are available to them. I can cite but one example of a publisher who posts me 3 copies of everything he sends out. He sends a copy to me as a senator, he sends a copy to me as a partner in a legal firm and he sends a copy to me at my former home address. Just for good measure in case I have missed those 3 copies he sends one to my wife at my new home address to make sure that 1 have seen it. I can tell him that every copy goes straight into the rubbish bin.
– All uninvited?
– Not one of them is invited. On a number of occasions 1 have written to this publisher asking him to stop sending these articles to all four addresses but nothing whatever happened except a continuation of these unwanted, unusable articles cluttering up the post and cluttering up the desk or wherever it may be that one tries to engage in the modern paper warfare. This is a typical example of things which, in my view, could be reduced substantially without any loss to the community. If those things were not done there would be an obvious saving in the cost of production of the articles which are sold. Anything which is sold by this hard sell method of sending a fantastic number of publications, a shotgun method of trying to obtain a market, obviously has a large component which is comprised of the cost of that method of marketing.
I think it would not do the Post Office any harm if it did not have to bear the weight of so much of that type of material. It certainly would not do the average business person or home owner any harm if he did not receive the articles. Why should people be inundated with that type of material? If they want something why should they not be able to go somewhere, find out what is available and then select for themselves rather than have the posts inundated with this type of unwanted material.
– The concessional rates for periodicals do not apply to those articles which are primarily for advertising.
– I realise that. I qualified what 1 said by saying that insofar as they can, people endeavour to make use of whatever concessions are available through the postal services for this type of operation. Various kinds of concessions enable this type of operation to be carried out. That is what I said. I did not say that they came into the category, wholly and completely, of the concessions for certain types of business journals. But I am sure that the honourable senator in his experience will agree that a lawyer receives many articles through the post which are quite unwanted and quite unnecessary. One wastes an awful lot of time in receiving and dealing with them because they are sen i out by people who are trying to engage in a bit of hard sell, not for the benefit of the recipient but for the benefit of themselves. If they have to bear added cost perhaps they will show a little discretion about whom they send these articles to and when they send them. Perhaps it will be to the general advantage of everybody if the postal service increases achieve that little exercise of discretion. Maybe this is a compensating factor to which we can look forward against all the disadvantage which inevitably will arise - I do not deny it for a moment - as a result of these increases in costs.
– What kind of disadvantage?
– The obvious disadvantage that every person who has to pay for a postal service will be paying a little more. Whatever effect that has on that person is a disadvantage in the same way that it is a disadvantage if he has to pay more for cigarettes or icecreams.
– Have you thought also of the large section of the printing industry being driven out of the country?
– If the honourable senator had been present and heard what I had to say instead of walking in 2 or 3 minutes ago he would have heard me explain about that and the steps that were taken.
– I was listening.
– The honourable senator indicates to me that he was listening. Perhaps he was listening outside and heard me say that 3 years ago the Post Office took considerable steps to overcome that problem. I understand that it is still a problem which is receiving careful attention from the Post Office to make sure that it continues the policy which it has adopted in the past, that is, of protecting the Australian printing industry by taking such measures as it can to ensure that the publications which receive the benefit of special rates in Australia are posted in Australia. If one has to post an article in Australia then one is more likely to print it in Australia. I understand that these are the steps which the Post Office is taking, has taken and will continue to take. I do not think honourable senators can say that the Post Office is taking irresponsible action in endeavouring to balance its budget and to maintain a situation in which the taxpayers generally do not have to pay the cost of all these incidental things.
I point out to Senator Murphy, as I did earlier in the evening, that many of the publications concerned - be they club, association, trade union or any other sorts of journals - are worthwhile in themselves but are sent out to quite a number of people who never read them. They are sent out to everyone who is a member of the organisation concerned. The net effect of that is an awful waste of money in respect of printing them and also in respect of posting them. It may very well be that an increase in postal charges could be offset by requiring each member of the organisation to specify at the time of renewal of his subscription whether he wishes to receive the club journal, or whatever it may be. The people who will bother to put a tick in the tick box, presumably, will be the people who will obtain some benefit from receiving the journal. The large., number of people who receive a journal - be it a motoring, union or other sort of journal - open it and turf it straight into the rubbish bin will probably be eliminated.
– You think that the answer might be to have a limited circulation carefully controlled.
– I am not suggesting that it should be, as Senator Murphy put it, a limited circulation carefully controlled. What I am suggesting is that it be a circulation to those people who are interested and are likely to read the journal, and that those people are the ones who signify that they wish to receive it.
I have no doubt that there are many organisations of which every honourable senator is a member, in which he is not particularly interested and to which he pays a subscription as a donation or a form of assistance to the organisation, but he does not pay - he has not the time to pay - a great deal of attention to every work that is written in the journal of the organisation. It may be that, if the sending out of monthly, fortnightly or weekly papers to the people who are not interested was eliminated, the club or association would he better off rather than worse off, even taking into account the increases in charges. 1 oppose the amendment because, as I mentioned earlier, no case has been made out as to why we should have this matter investigated or as to what advantages could accrue from such an investigation. Tn fact, the only points that have been mentioned in support of it have been demonstrated to be inaccurate. So, at this stage there is no purpose in supporting the amendment, but there is a situation in which I reluctantly but accepting the necessity support the Bill.
– These Bills- the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill and the Post and Telegraph Bill - give effect to the budgetary provisions of the Government for the Australian Post Office. In the Budget this year 8240m is provided to the Post Office from Consolidated Revenue for its financial operations. That amount is S7m more than was provided from Consolidated Revenue last year. In addition to the S240m, the Post Office expects to provide SI 68m from internal sources - mainly by way of depreciation funds - making a total for the capital requirements of the Australian Post Office of $40Sm. During the Budget Speech presented to the Parliament by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) on I8t:h August, under the heading ‘Post Office’ he had this to say:
To avoid a Post Office loss this year, and to enable the Post Office. to make its contribution to financing the desired capital programme, it is proposed to raise charges to increase receipts by about $42m in 1970-71 and about $53m in a full year. The proposed increases cover postal charges, telephone rentals, the telephone connection fee and charges for certain other services. The Postmaster-General will presently give further details.
Even with the increased charges proposed it is expected that postal services will incur a loss this year. Telecommunications services are expected to produce a profit, of which part will offset the loss on postal services and part will help to finance capital expenditures.
In short. I suggest Chat this legislation makes a complete and utter farce of the niggardly 50c awarded by this Government to pensioners in the recent Budget and makes a mockery of the reduction in direct taxation given to lower and middle income earners. This legislation will add to the inflationary spiral which has been occurring and recurring year after year during the 21 years for which this country has been governed bv a conservative administration.
These Bills give effect to the budgetary provisions in respect of the Post Office. Telegraph service charges, telephone service charges and postal charges generally are to be increased in order to offset what would be a loss of $l.lm if no adjustments to postal charges were made. It is interesting to observe that, to a very large degree, telecommunications activities are carrying or offsetting a substantial part of the loss incurred on postal activities. According to the second reading speech made by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) on behalf of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), but for the proposed increases in charges there would be a loss of S30m on postal activities and a profit on telecommunications activities. Of course, by these increases in charges the Government is providing for a profit on postal activities. The Minister said in her second reading speech that the proposals now before the Senate are expected to bring in about S42m in the remainder of this financial year and S53m in a full year. She went on to say:
There would then be an overall profit of S30m for 1970-71 as a result of an estimated $39m telecommunications profit offset against an estimated $9m postal loss.
Surely telecommunications and postal services all operate within the framework of the Postmaster-General’s Department. As far as the Australian community is concerned, this financial year the Department will make a profit of $30m and in a full financial year a profit of $53m. This aspect of the matter cannot be overlooked in a consideration of the Opposition’s proposition, namely: . .the Bill be withdrawn and that in the opinion of the Senate a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board unci of establishing a public corporation to manage (he business of the Post Office.
– What is the significance of the phrase ‘the administrative influence of the Public Service Board’?
– I suppose that it relates to a very large degree to industrial relations matters, when the unions have negotiations with the industrial section of the Postmaster-General’s Department and it, as a matter of administration and to keep pace with all aspects of other government departments and to keep in line with the like with like industrial principle, refers the industrial matter to the Commonwealth Public Service Board. But I do not want to be diverted from the argument that I was about to propound, namely, that one cannot overlook the fact that on the one hand the telecommunications service is operating at a profit and on the other the postal service is operating at a loss. Just by way of illustration, let us consider the Overseas Telecommunications Commission which to all intents and purposes is a public corporation which operates at a substantial profit.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– 1 crave the indulgence of the Senate for a few moments to pursue a matter that has worried me for quite some time. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) is aware of it. I refer to the role of the Commonwealth Government, and particularly the Department of Civil Aviation, in endeavouring to see that organisations or firms which hold Commonwealth concessions as a result of tender endeavour to maintain adequate wage standards. Honourable senators are aware that I made allegations against a Mr W. H. Bondy who holds a concession at the Trans-Australia Airlines terminal in Sydney. I took the point that in this year of 1970 any female employees, particularly those v/ho worked beyond or after the spread of hours between 7.30 a.m. and 5 p.m. obviously should have some adequate compensation for the hours they work.
In my initial overtures to the Minister for Civil Aviation 1 received a general assurance that things were reasonably good. I pursued my inquiries and the result was that L made general complaints to the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service and to the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry, f might point out that I had been approached by Mr O’Neill, the industrial officer of the New South Wales branch of the Shop Assistants and Warehouse Employees Federation of Australia who said that his union was having difficulty in getting a conference with Mr Bondy. My main bone of contention relates to the fact that I raised this matter at an Estimates Committee meeting last week. Under the new system we were dealing with the estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation. At that time I quoted from a letter signed by Mr Kangan, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service. He said that there was no Commonwealth award applying to persons employed by W. H. Bondy Pty Ltd at the TAA terminal. The last paragraph of his letter left hope in my mind that there was some irregularity because he said:
There are certain aspects of this matter, however, which I am having examined further.
That was the situation at the time of the Estimates Committee meeting. I put a series of questions to the Minister for Civil Aviation and to his senior officers. One of the witnesses, Mr Lewis, said:
Mr Bondy’s operation at Sydney in the TAA terminal is almost unique. He operates really in a TAA terminal, though we have some supervision of it.
He went on to stale:
We did take it up willi the company and Mr Bondy agreed to meet the terms and conditions of the State Act as they apply.
At that stage I was awaiting information from the State Department of Labour and Industry because it was obvious that the employees were not within the Commonwealth field. At the same time, irrespective of which award operated, I felt that the Commonwealth instrumentality or the Minister or his officers should look at the tender and if the tenderer did not meet his obligations they should consider whether the concession could be terminated. As a matter of fact, in the months during which I have been ventilating this matter I have not been able to get specific details of the tender, not even in the dialogue with the Minister and his advisers at the Estimates Committee meeting.
However, in my mail on Monday I received a copy of a letter signed by Mr T. J. Kearney, Under Secretary of the Department of Labour and Industry in New South Wales, dated - mark you - 3rd January 1970, addressed to the husband of a woman concerned in this case. It referred to Mr Bondy and it stated:
From an investigation carried out by an Inspector of this Department it appears that your wife was covered by the Shop Employees’ (State) Award and examination of the time and wages book showed a back-payment for a sum of $82 was necessary-
The point is that if one breach involving a sum of $82 was detected it is reasonable to assume that there are others, particularly as I have not yet received any reply to my specific complaints to the Department. What mystifies me is that although there is a letter dated 3rd January 1970 which states that breaches have occurred, the Minister’s top advisers could appear before a Committee and vaguely tell me that they have had talks with Mr Bondy and everything is all right. They should have admitted that there had been breaches revealed as far back as January or that they had been hoodwinked.
I am vitally concerned that I have not received the information I sought. My mind goes back to a certain tussle which Senator Keeffe had, not with the Minister for Civil Aviation but with other Ministers, to get certain information. He obtained the information he desired after a series of evening filibusters. I have believed always in using the velvet glove rather than the mailed fist but 1 can assure the Minister that 1 think it is time his officers were a little more frank with me. lt was only out of deference to Senator Marriott, who was steering a new ship, as it were, so far as that Committee was concerned, that I did not fire another broadside of questions. At that time I did not have the information contained in this vital exhibit from the State Department dated January and referring to a breach. In any case, it is quite apparent that the Commonwealth people must be dissatisfied with some of Mr Bondy ‘s performances.
I think 1 am entitled to have this information either here in this Chamber or by letter. I should have received it at the Committee hearing. I should have received information about the terms of Mr Bondy’s tender. I believe he is like a lot of other people who undercut competitors and then do a little bit of neo-swindling in order to pick up the difference. I use that word being full aware of its implications. I know that Mr Bondy has a gentleman named Keith Cohen, Q.C., who has openly boasted in legal circles in Sydney that they can get around anything that the Department of Civil Aviation puts up. It is to the credit of the State Department of Labour and Industry that at least one woman obtained economic justice.
I want to know in detail how much Mr Bondy pays for his concession. I have said here on many occasions as has my colleague Senator Bishop, that if the trade union movement in Australia has to appear before an arbitration court and answer questions about how many shirts a bloke uses in a particular industry in 12 months, or what cosmetics are bought by his wife - and other matters of this type - I am entitled to know how much Mr Bondy pays for his concession. I also want to know why senior officers of the Department said on oath - as I interpret it - before this particular inquiry that so far as they knew the State Act had been complied with. They should have said that there were- breaches previously. Instead there was a cover up; it never happened. I wind up on this note. Perhaps the Minister for Civil Aviation does not have all the answers with him now but I particularly want to know how Jong Mr Bondy’s concession has to run. I also want to know whether it was renewed since I commenced my agitation. If it has been renewed then I think it ought to be suspended immediately. In the course of my investigations I wrote to a lot of other people who hold concessions. They wrote back to me promptly and assured me that everything was in order. I then cross-checked with the appropriate union. 1 do not believe in using the Senate as a coward’s castle. I have posted Mr Bondy a copy of everything I said in criticising him. I have sent extracts to him the next morning and asked him - what he had had to say about the matter. A copy of everything I have said tonight in criticism of him will be sent to him in the morning. I assure the Minister that I am going to maintain this vendetta night after night until 1 get this information. I want to know why concessions go to these semi-crook people. In the United Slates of America the Senate exercises pretty close vigilance on people who try to circumvent the law in depressed areas or depressed industries.
I did assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) that I would not speak for more than 10 minutes. I notice that Senator Lillico is not present: I did mention it to him on a previous occasion. 1 think I have spelt out loudly and clearly that the information 1 received at the estimates Committee meeting was not adequate. I hope that the Minister will give me all the answers even if he cannot provide them this evening. I will certainly have them. A lot of people are talking about law and order. The particular officer of the union concerned who came to see me endeavoured to negotiate. We are told to be law abiding, yet Mr Bondy and his colleagues have given the union officer and me the run around. It is true that we have gained $80 for one woman but i believe that a lot of industrial wrongdoing remains unanswered. I have in mind wrongdoing by Mr Bondy. I leave the matter in the Minister’s court.
– I do not particularly care to be threatened by anybody’s mailed fist, although that was not the honourable senator’s intention. I can assure him he will get from me all the help I can possibly give to him, without the need to threaten me. Do not do that. I made a general note following a discussion with Senator Mulvihill on 21st May. on the information I then had. I just say that it appears to me that to some extent we in the Senate are being asked to involve ourselves in the affairs of the trade union movement generally and the Shop Assistants Union in particular. There is a general attempt to get industrial justice through a Minister whose responsibility it is to look after civil aviation in the total sense. I ask Senator Mulvihill to understand that he will get from me all the help I can give to him. willingly and without threats being made to me, at any time.
I shall now refer to the notes I made at the time of my discussion with Senator Mulvihill. The lease agreement is between Trans-Australia Airlines and the Department of Civil Aviation. Bondy, the man to whom Senator Mulvihill referred, is a tenant. Awards of the New South Wales Industrial Court do apply to the tenant. The Shop Assistants Union wishes to organise employees of Bondy who come under its control. Bondy is not agreeable to that being done in trading hours, and in that sense he is within his rights. Perhaps I should add that if I were involved I would be a little more flexible, but Bondy is involved and I am not. The Union claims that Bondy is trading outside State trading hours. I could not establish whether that is accurate.
Trans-Australia Airlines, the head lessee, states that Bondy is trading within the terms of the sub-leasing agreement; that he is paying employees according to the appropriate award; and that working conditions comply with awards. After having more work done in relation to this matter 1 wrote to Senator Mulvihill on 6th August. That letter states: 1 have tor reply your letter of 23rd June 1970 about industrial conditions applying to employees of W. H. Bondy Pty Ltd which operates the refreshment services and gift shop facilities in the TAA terminal at Sydney Airport . . . W. H. Bondy Pty Ltd occupies premises in the TAA terminal under a sub-leasing arrangement with TAA. The parties to the head lease of the building ure the Commonwealth and TAA.
The Commonwealth is represented by the Department of Civil Aviation. My letter went on:
In addition, my predecessor granted to W. H. Bondy Pty Ltd authority under the Airports (Business Concessions) Act to sell and supply liquor, meals, newspapers and other articles in the premises occupied by it. Under the terms of this authority, the company is required to keep the buffet and restaurant open for periods suitable for the convenience of the travelling public.
As a condition of the sub-lease, W. H. Bondy Pty Ltd must observe all applicable State laws, rules, regulations, etc. which would include, of course, awards of the State Industrial Court. The High Court has recently decided that the provisions of certain State acts, if passed later than when land in the State was acquired for Commonwealth purposes, do not apply in relation to that land. It may well be the case, as a result of this decision, that the provisions of the State Shop Employees Award do not apply to the company’s employees at the airport.
This is a legal quibble. It is not an attempt by the Department of Civil Aviation to avoid its responsibility or that of anybody else. My letter continued:
The company tells me, however, it is paying wages to its employees at rates in excess of those obtaining under this award and overtime rates are paid for time worked outside normal shifts.
Because of these things, it seems to me that the question of the conditions of the employment of the employees of W. H. Bondy Pty Ltd is a matter for discussion between those employees -
Represented by their unions - and the company. It also appears to me that should those employees consider that W. H. Bondy Pty Ltd is in breach of the awards of the Slate Industrial Court they should approach the State Courts to establish whether those awards do, in fact, applyto the company’s premises at the airport.
– But they got a prosecution.
– Back in January. It seems to me that all that that establishes is the bona fides of the approach to the State department under the State award which, it is said, covers the employees. My letter went on:
It is a condition of every tender invited by my Department for the conduct of businesses on airports that the tenderer, if successful, will observe Federal and State laws, rules and regulations which are applicable.
Senator Mulvihill also referred to proceedings of Estimates Committee D. I have read the report of those proceedings and it seems to me that the evidence given there is not inconsistent in any way with the letter written to the honourable senator. In no sense can I detect an attempt by anybody not to give the honourable senator information, to delude him or not to help him or anything of that kind whatsoever. However, I do detect considerable confusion in somebody’s mind - not mine at the moment - as to where the real authority lies, whether under a State award administered by the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry, or under a Commonwealth award.
Senator Mulvihill has also had a letter from the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service. As I see the proposition, although the honourable senator did not make it clear in his reference, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service has said that there are certain aspects of this matter which he is examining further. If the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service discovers something that may help the honourable senator, well and good, but that is not my obligation as Minister for Civil Aviation. All that the honourable senator has from me is my assurance that at all times in the future as in the past, he will get all the help I can give him without the need to threaten me.
Because of my general concern about the confusion that appeared to exist and what seemed to be a gap in responsibility, although it is not my responsibility, I have taken the matter seriously. These concessions came up for renewal at the end of June but they have been extended for 6 months only in order that the whole matter can be examined and reviewed. The honourable senator has my assurance that this will be done, but I do not think he can fairly expect me, my Department, or any of its officers, to go beyond that in his general welfare.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 September 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700929_senate_27_s45/>.