18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Ant Crash NEAR Townsville.
– Yesterday, 1 asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Air to state whether, as had been reported, it was not intended to make available to the press the finding of the inquiry into the crash of a Mosquito bomber into Saddle Mountain, near Townsville. The honorable gentleman promised to consider the matter. To-day’s press reports that the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Jones, has informed the Air Staff that he regards this crash, and a recent fatal crash in Japan, as a reflection on the command, and that commanding officers must accept some responsibility for crashes that ar.e not due to mechanical faults or similar reasons. In view of these very grave statements, and in the interests of serving members of the Royal Australian Air Force whose lives may be at stake, as well as of the general public, will the Minister ensure that the finding of the inquiry shall be made available to the House ?
– Yesterday, when a question on this matter was asked by the honorable gentleman, I promised to investigate it personally at the week-end, and to decide what portion if any of the report of the inquiry in connexion with this unfortunate action should ‘be made public.
– The matter has now gone a step further; Air Marshal Jones has made a statement in regard to it.
– Order ! Air Marshal Jones’s statement does not concern this House.
– I said yesterday that I proposed to have a look at the file on Monday, when I shall be in Melbourne and then decide what action should be taken and how much of the report, if any, should be made public, bearing in mind the maintenance of the morale of the service. If a statement should be made to allay public fears, it will be made, and any other action that may be necessary will be taken.
– In view of the pressing representations that I have made to the Postmaster-General from time to time for the provision of a modern post office at South Brisbane, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state whether a site for a new building has been secured? If it has, where is it located, what is the value of the land, what is the estimated cost of the proposed building, when is the work likely to commence, and when is completion of it expected ?
– The PostmasterGeneral has advised me that close consideration has been given to the repeated representations by the honorable member for the erection of a new post office building in South Brisbane to replace the existing office, which does not provide adequate accommodation or the facilities that are needed for the public and the staff. Unfortunately, it has not been practicable to proceed with the proposal because of the abnormal conditions that arose out of war. A suitable site has now been acquired, however, at the corner of Russell and Grey streets, the cost of which was approximately £4,150. It is proposed to erect a modern* post office building which will afford adequate and satisfactory accommodation for all purposes. The estimated cost of the building is £14,005, plans of which have been prepared, and a requisition is being placed with the Department of “Works and Housing for the work to be undertaken as a matter of urgency. It is hoped that it will be practicable to commence the project early in the next financial year. The progress of the work will depend upon the tenders accepted, and the availability of the requisite materials. Every endeavour will be made to ensure that the new building is completed at the earliest possible date. I compliment the honorable member on his assiduity in this matter.
Expenditure from Loans and Revenue.
– Can the Treasurer say whether capital expenditure incur-red in connexion with the Australian National Airlines Commission has been met from loan funds or from the Consolidated Revenue Fund? From which fund was paid the Government’s expenditure on the latest acquisition of shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited ?
– The Government has tried, as a general rule, to meet expenditure of this kind out of revenue. I cannot give the exact figures offhand ; but I will supply the right honorable member with the information later regarding the exact amounts which have been paid out of revenue and out of loan funds in regard to capital expenditure on the Australian National Airlines Commission and the ‘acquisition of the shares of the British Overseas Airways Corporation in Qantas Empire Airways.
– Many wage-earners, who have to submit to weekly deductions of income tax are compelled at the end of the year to make substantial additional payments to the Income Tax Department. Can the Treasurer, now that we are approaching the end of the financial year, consider methods to eliminate this necessity? There is to be a substantial reduction of taxation as from the 1st July, and I ask. whether, when the new scale of weekly deductions is being drawn up, it could be arranged so as to exclude provision for anticipated expenditure by the taxpayer on such items as medical benefits, insurance payments, union fees, &c, because the man who does not incur such expenditure during the year is required to make an additional cash payment to the department at the end of the year. I suggest that the scale be fixed on the basis that the taxpayer has to support a wife and child, without taking cognizance of other possible expenditure. I also ask whether consideration can be given to the revision of the present method of grouping incomes. For instance, tax deductions are now calculated on an amount arrived at by averaging all those incomes between £5 a week and £5 15s. a week. Could not the deductions be made on the basis of the higher income, so that all taxpayers would, at the end of the year, have paid at least the full tax due, while a refund would be payable to those who had paid something more?
– The subject raised by the honorable member is very important and one with which many difficulties are associated. As the honorable member has stated, in calculating tax deductions from salaries and wages, provision has been made for amounts which the average taxpayer might expend on union fees, life insurance, and payments of that kind. Some taxpayers incur expenditure of that description and others do not, and in some instances the amount allowed in the calculation is not expended and in others a greater amount is expended. It will be realized that it is difficult to make precise adjustments in regard to such expenditure. Experience has shown that approximately 50 per cent, of the taxpayers obtain refunds of tax when their assessments are issued, the remainder having to pay something in addition to the total amounts deducted from their wages and salaries. The system in operation in the United Kingdom, which we have examined from time to time, is one in which the employer attempts to keep tax deductions in line with the anticipated tax assessment of each employee. Such a system is difficult to administer and imposes a great deal of additional work on employers. If the brackets of income in the instalment deduction chart were made smaller it would be possible to get a closer approximation of the amount of deduction to be made in respect of each taxpayer, but that would necessitate the preparation of a chart of enormous size containing a great number of ranges of salaries and wages. The chart at present in use is, in the circumstances, the best that can be provided at present. An endeavour has been made to compile the new chart in such a way as to ensure that more taxpayers will be entitled to refunds and fewer will be required to make additional payments when assessments are issued. I assure the honorable member that this matter has been given very careful thought. The department is constantly attempting to devise a better system. The honorable member has suggested that the deductions should be so computed as to ensure that no taxpayer will be required to make additional payments on receipt of his assessment. If that were done, people would probably say that the department was taking money from them and holding it during the. year without paying interest on it. I assure the honorable member that the aspects of the problem mentioned b.v him are not being overlooked.
– Is it a fact, as reported in the press, that representatives of the Dominions have been examining the details of Great Britain’s new social security scheme? Has the Prime Minister seen a statement of the British Minister for National Insurance that similar schemes might eventually be established throughout the Empire? Can the right honorable gentleman give the House any information regarding the British scheme referred to, and has the Government considered it in relation to social security in Australia ?
– I have not seen the press statement referred to by the honorable member, but one representative of the Treasury and two representatives of the Department of Social Services are in
London conferring with representatives of the United Kingdom and the other dominions with the object of reciprocal social services throughout the Empire. That matter was raised in !he House yesterday. We have completed reciprocal arrangements with New Zealand, but we are not yet able to place the necessary legislation before the Parliament because of delay in New Zealand owing, I understand, to the Parliament of New Zealand not being in session. We are endeavouring to make reciprocal arrangements with the United Kingdom, that being more necessary now than before because we hope to attract to Australia a considerable number of migrants from Great Britain. All Empire social service benefit schemes are being examined with a view to reciprocity between the United Kingdom and all the Dominions. Our experts in the United Kingdom are examining all features of the British scheme in order that they may supply their Ministers with everything they can learn about it and associated proposals.
– Recently the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked a question about the planting of fruit vines. He asked me to make a statement on the matter. I am ready to make a statement if the House will give me leave to do so.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
– Recently the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) asked me a question about subterranean clover. I am prepared to make a most interesting statement about it if the House will give me leave to do so.
-Is leave granted?
Opposition Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
– Rabbit-trappers have brought to my notice the fact that they are being charged a tax of ls. 6d. per lb. by local skin-buyers. Is that tax payable bv the local skin-buyers? If not, are they wrongfully collecting the tax from the sellers? Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider making the export levy on rabbit-skins payable on value instead of on weight, because in western areas of New South Wales rabbit-skins bring only 3s. per lb. compared with 10s. or 12s. in other districts. Sellers at the lower prices are unduly taxed on the skins they dispose of.
– I have heard that some buyers of rabbit-skins are imposing a tax on the purchase of skins. If that is true, they are acting illegally. I will direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to that matter. Rabbit-trappers and other persons with rabbit-skins to dispose of could overcome the difficulty of the so-called charge imposed by buyers by sending their rabbit-skins to reputable firms, which will auction them and will not and cannot impose any levy. The levy, so-called, is collectable only at the point of export, from the exporter, and it is not legal for any other person to attempt to collect it. I shall be glad to investigate the second matter which the honorable member raised. It seems to be an unfair method of taxing rabbit-skins on weight instead of monetary value.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me whether any service personnel of the United States of America are now stationed on Manus Island? Is it a fact that an amount of 71,246,000 dollars was expended on this and outlying islands for naval base installations by the American Navy? This is stated in the report of the Sub-committee on Pacific Bases of the Naval Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives of Congress. What action, if any, has the Australian Government taken to maintain those installations?
– So far as I know, some United States personnel are still stationed on Manus Island. I am not . aware of the exact amount which the United States of America expended on the construction of aerodromes and installations there. Regarding the third question, the Australian Government’s policy will be announced in due course.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that during the war good bores for water were established at reasonable distances over the route from Tennant Creek toCamooweal, a distance of approximately 300 miles? What is the present condition of those bores, and the pumping machinery? Have tenders been called for the removal of the pumping machinery? If so, does the Minister consider that in that desolate and distant area the means of obtaining water for travellers should be removed after the cost and effort of providing it?
– I shall answer the honorable member’s questions. In connexion with military operations in the north of Australia good bores were established to supply water for the use of those engaged in the defence of this country. Some of the equipment, I understand, has been, or is being removed, but an ample number of bores, I am informed, have been left to meet the needs of that particular route. In addition, the Government is also agreeing to assist in the establishment of bores in that region. Where boring has proved a failure, the Government has agreed, in general principle, to bear most of the cost, and assist in other ways to provide bores throughout that area, notonly on roads but also in other portions of the country. I cannot give the honorable member any exact information regarding the pumping machinery associated with the bores. The Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior is now presiding over a meeting of the River Murray Waters Commission, but I shall endeavour to obtain the information which the honorable member requires.
Supplies for South Australia
– I am informed that South Australia faces restrictions on tram and rail services and the use of gas, and a tie up of industry, if a coal ship does not leave Newcastle before to-morrow. Can the Prime Minister inform me whether a coal shim has left that port, or whether he knows when it will leave ?
– I have not seen a report stating that restrictions will be imposed upon transport services and the use of gas in South Australia, but periodically representations are made regarding supplies of coal for Victoria and South Australia. A few days ago I conferred with the Minister for Supply and Shipping concerning the supplies of coal going forward to those States and it appeared, at that time, that they were adequate to meet requirements. I heard only last night that there had been a slight hitch in the shipping arrangements. I have nothad time this morning to investigate the matter, but I have asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping to inquire into it and I shall try to convey to the honorable member later to-day any information that I receive.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is corrrectly stated in the press that the Minister for Immigration, while in London, proposes to re-organize immigration representation abroad. Will the right honorable gentleman also indicate whether officials in London of the Departments of Immigration and Information are to be controlled in future by the High Commissioner for Australia in London, or from Australia. Will the Government consider co-ordinating Australian representation abroad to ensure that there will he no conflict between departments ?
– The Minister for Immigration will reply to the question.
Mr.CALWELL.- It is indeed touching to see the concern of the honorable member for Reid regarding the position of the Australian High Commissioner in London. Mr. Beasley has certain powers under the High Commissioner Act to engage either permanent or temporary officers. Such appointments do not confer any rights on the persons concerned under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. In the
Department of Immigration in London to-day there are fourteen permanent members of the Commonwealth Public Service who have been transferred there from Australia, and they work in association with 120 other persons, all of them English-born, I believe, who are employed under the High Commissioner Act. These persons were appointed either by the former High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, or by the present High Commissioner, Mr. Beasley. In the Department of Information in London there are six permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who have been transferred there from Australia and they work in association with 27 permanent or temporary officers appointed under the High Commissioner Act. I do not know where the elderly gentleman from. Reid obtained his information that I propose to re-organize the departments in London. I am perfectly satisfied with the work my officers are doing and I do not intend to disturb them while I am abroad. I intend by. my presence to try to get ships for Australia and to do certain other work which cannot be clone by the staff at present in London. I am proceeding to London under the authority of the Prime Minister to try to do those tilings which we are most anxious to see accomplished for the good of Australia.
Reconstruction’ Training Courses
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he will discuss with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the removal of anomalies in the reconstruction training scheme. I refer, in particular, to the case of a young man who, before he went to the war six years ago, was apprenticed to a butcher. When he returned to civil life, he desired to complete his apprenticeship, but was told that there was no course in butchering. He was subsequently put to boot repairing. Now there is a course in butchering, and he desires to transfer to butchering. He has been learning boot-repairing for four or five months, and has been refused a transfer to butchering on the ground that he is 40 per cent, efficient in. boot-repairing. If he had no efficiency whatever in boot-repairing he would be permitted to resume his training as a butcher. I ask that the regulations be amended to remove such anomalies as this.
– If I understand the question correctly, the right honorable gentleman wishes me to discuss with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction certain anomalies which are said to a fleet trainees. ‘So far as it is within my province, I shall be happy to assist in any way to remove anomalies. But I point out to the right honorable gentleman that, although the scheme may not have been absolutely perfect, it has been a mighty good thing for the people of this country.
High Commissioner in Australia.
– In the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, T direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the time that has elapsed since Sir George Knowles took up the appointment of Australian High Commissioner in the Union of South Africa, can the Prime Minister say whether any intimation has yet been received from that dominion as to when it will establish an office for its High Commissioner in Australia?
– Communications on this matter have passed between the Government of the Union of South Africa and the Australian Government. When I discussed the matter recently, there had. been no definite proposal as to when a representative of South Africa would come to Australia. If there has been any development during the last week or so, I shall ascertain what it is and let the honorable member know of it.
Visit of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery
– In view of the impending visit to Australia of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, and its great importance to the defence of not only Australia but also the Empire as a whole, will the Prime Minister advise the Parliament as to whether he intends to make n statement on Australia’s future defence policy, and whether an opportunity will be afforded for the discussion of it before the rising of the Parliament, which I believe will take place next week?
– I presume that Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, during his forthcoming visit to Australia and New Zealand, will discuss with chiefs of staff and service Ministers, at least, perhaps also with the Cabinet, any problems or suggestions that he may care to place before them. Recently, I was asked whether Field Marshal Lord Montgomery would be given an opportunity to address a secret sitting of the Parliament. I have given thought to that matter. I consider that it would be quite improper to suggest that Field Marshal Lord Montgomery should discuss in any other parliament defence proposals of the Government of the United Kingdom, with which he is intimately associated. Consequently, I do not propose to adopt that suggestion. I am hopeful that the Minister for Defence will be able to make a statement in broad terms in relation to post-war proposals before he leaves Australia next week. If the statement cannot be prepared in time to enable him to do that, it will be ready for publication within a week or two.
Trans- Australia Airlines: Convair Aircraft
– According to overseas reports, the first of the five Convair aircraft ordered by Trans-Australian Airlines has completed its tests. Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate when it will arrive in Australia ?
– The plan for the importation . of these machines is fairly well advanced; but I do not think that the arrival in Australia of the first of them can be expected earlier than three or four months hence.
– I have received from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) an intima tion that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance namely -
The necessity for the transfer of the shortwave service known as Radio Australia from the Department of Information to the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– The Parliament should immediately review the operations of the short-wave station service known as “ The Voice of Australia “, which at present is under the control of the Department of Information. During last week, advertisments appeared in the press in Melbourne, headed “ Radio Australia. Commonwealth Department of Information. Staff urgently required for the programmes, talks and newsroom staff of the short-wave station service”. The existing control of short-wave broadcasting in Australia is entirely contrary to the recommendations that were submitted to the Parliament by the Broadcasting Committee when the present Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) was its chairman, is a flagrant waste of public money, and is a wasteful duplication of expenditure. It is also a violation of the principle that the short-wave service should be under the control of an independent authority. That was the recommendation of the Committee, of which the Minister for Information was chairman. Under the control of the Minister, the short-wave service has been a tragic joke. It is described as “ The Voice of Australia “, but should be described as “ The Voice of Calwell “. On a notorious occasion, the Minister went on to the short-wave service for the purpose of broadcasting a vicious attack on the appointment of His Eminence, Cardinal Gilroy, to his present post. He regarded this great public utility as a medium for broadcasting to the world not the views of the people, but his personal views. All the evidence goes to show that the views and opinions expressed on the short-wave station are those, not of the Department of Information, not of the Department of External Affairs, but of the Minister for Information. This service should be removed from the control of the Department of Information, and should be restored to the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to which it rightly belongs. It should be taken away from the amateurs, and handed back to the competent experts. The attitude of the Minister himself has been completely inconsistent. When he was a private member, he was a most bitter critic of the Menzies Government for handing the short-wave service over to the Department of Information. Sir Keith Murdoch had had it incorporated in that department. In 1941, the Parliament set up what has come to be known as the Gibson committee to report on broadcasting, and the present Minister for Information was one of the most vocal members of it. The committee recommended that the shortwave service should be taken away from the Department of Information, and handed back to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Gibson committee, in March, 1942, reported to this Parliament as follows: -
If the Government has in mind the permanent development in the Pacific of an allround Australian short-wave service, including the broadcasting of music, drama and other cultural items, it appears that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should control the programmes in order to avoid great duplication and expense. We consider that there is no justification for two organizations on broadcasting, and that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is best qualified to build up an all-round service which can compete with leading countries abroad.
That report was signed by Arthur A. Calwell, S. K. Amour and W. J. F. Riordan. When the present Minister for Information became chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, he again recommended that the short-wave service should be taken away from the Department of Information. The Calwell committee reported that the short-wave station cost about £400,000 to build, and £80,000 a year to operate, even when it had the use of studios, music libraries, field equipment and recordings owned by the Australian Broadcasting Commis sion. This committee, presided over by the present Minister for Information, declared in its report -
We endorse the imported principle emphasized by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that its bona fides as a national, independent authority should be preserved overseas, so that audiences abroad will be conscious of receiving news and other services which are not operated by a government.
That report was signed by Arthur A. Calwell, H. C. Barnard, H. V. Johnson, W. J. F. Riordan and S. K. Amour - four present Ministers of this Government, and the present chairman of the Broadcasting Committee! The Curtin Government accepted the recommendations of the Calwell committee, and handed the short-wave services back to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Then the chairman of the committee became the Minister for Information, and it was not long before he was out to “ body-snatch “ the short-wave service from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Government decided that the Minister for External Affairs should be responsible for policy, and that the Department of Information should be responsible only for information. The Australian Broadcasting Commission shortly faded out of the picture. The Minister for Information put his own organization into the short-wave service. He appointed his own announcers. He prepared his own programmes. For a time during the war there was a tussle between the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Information, but the short-wave men were all Calwell men, and not Evatt men. So, bit by bit, it became the personal property of the Minister for Information. Certainly, the Department of External Affairs would not like, any more than would any other department, to be responsible for the drivel that is going out from the short-wave station. Instead of broadcasting the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service, the short-wave station at Shepparton broadcasts a news service from the Department of Information, or rather, it broadcasts propaganda served up as news? What good is being achieved by this service, with its costly duplication? Entertainment should be the basis of any broadcasting service. The Australian
Broadcasting Commission has a huge staff of entertainment experts. We have heard the Minister for Information, on many occasions, talk of the need to encourage Australian talent and Australian music, but the only bright spot in the short-wave service is the American hillbilly session from imported records. The Minister has talked about how the broadcasting stations should be run. He sets himself up as qualified to tell broadcasters how they should conduct their business. He set himself up as a broadcasting expert, but when it came to putting his theories into practice, he became, not only the most costly, but also the most dismal failure. It would be difficult to imagine even the most backward races in the Pacific listening to his programmes. Under the present management, the fewer listeners he has the better for Australia and the better for Australia’s reputation abroad. A sub-committee of Cabinet has been examining the problem of the finances of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Who, I ask, pays for the shortwave service?
– Who does the honorable member think pays for it?
– The answer is very simple. So far as I can see, there is no provision in the budget for defraying the cost of this service.
– Yes, there is. Mr. LANG. - I have examined the budget and I can see no item under the heading of the Department of Information relating to the cost of the short-wave service. Does it come out of the listeners’ licence-fees paid to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? There should also be an inquiry into the short-wave news service. It already has a separate representative in Canberra. So, in addition to the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service we shall soon have a Department of Information news staff scattered throughout the Commonwealth for short-wave service exclusively, broadcasting the voice of Calwell. The Government tells us that the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service is to be independent from the 1st June; but the Department of Information is not satisfied with that independent service. Parliament should be told whether the Minister has any arrangement with the newspapers for the material which he uses in his short-wave service, and if he has, how much of the short-wave news comas from the newspapers.
– None of it comes from the Century.
– How much does he pay them? How much is supplied by the short-wave division’s own staff? It is high time the Government got out of the propaganda business. Instead of propaganda, let us put good Australian entertainment over the short-wave. That is a job for the Australian Broadcasting Commission; it would justify a substantial vote to the commission which would help solve its financial problems.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has described Radio Australia as a tragic joke. There was nothing more tragic or more foolish than the performance of the honorable member this morning in trying to asperse the work of very good Commonwealth public servants. The history of Radio Australia is well known to many honorable members of this House. Radio Australia was established as a part of the war-time Department of Information created by the Menzies Government. It remained under the control of the Department of Information until some time in 1942, when it was transferred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Australian Broadcasting Commission retained control of its activities until early in 1944, when it was transferred to my control after I had become Minister for Information. The transfer was made on very good and satisfactory grounds. Since I have been responsible for it, Radio Australia has not been a. costly activity; it has cost much less than it would have cost had it continued to remain under the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The estimates of expenditure for Radio Australia for 1943-44, as prepared by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, amounted to £58,800. The expenditure actually reached £67,746. During nine months of that year Radio Australia operated under the Australian Broadcasting Commission. At that time the service was on the air for approximately fourteen hours of programme time a day. The estimate for 1946-47 was £53,800, much less than when the organization was controlled by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and in spite of the fact that Radio Australia is now on the air for 23 hours of programme time each day. The figures for the portion of the present financial year already passed indicate that the expenditure will be at the rate of £51,000 for the year. Not only are the estimates lower now for a bigger and more efficient service, but also expenditure is being kept within the estimates instead of, as in 1943-44, considerably exceeding the estimates. Everybody knows that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a very costly undertaking. As the honorable member himself has remarked, the Government has felt impelled to appoint a committee of experts to examine the financial activities of the commission, because it is notsatisfied with the way in which the undertaking is being managed at the present time. To hand over an organization like this, which is being run efficiently and economically, to a body that wastes a lot of money in other directions, would be merely throwing more money away. There is more than meets the eye in the motion submitted by the honorable member for Reid. I connect it up with certain recent activities on behalf of people connected with two radio stations, both of which are owned by the honorable member for Reid, namely, 2KA and 2KM in New South Wales, and which were bought out of the “ slush “ fund created by the honorable member when he was Premier of New South Wales. Only a few weeks ago, Mr. Moses, general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. A. C. Paddison, of 2KA, and a gentleman named Rigley or Wrigley, who represented the station at Orange, owned by the Graziers Association of New South Wales, came to this House importuning-
– That is a lie.
– It is not a lie.
– Order ! In any ca.se it is not parliamentary language.
– I am telling the story of a deputation which only a few weeks ago importuned the Attorney-. General (Dr. Evatt) to secure an amendment of the Copyright Act in order to secure an unfair advantage over the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited in regard to charges for recorded music. As part of that “ pay-off “ the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) this morning tries to force Radio Australia back into the hands of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has never been happy since it lost Radio Australia. In 1945 I received a letter from Mr. Boyer, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, a very honorable man, suggesting that Radio Australia should go back to the control of the commission, and on two occasions the commission itself, in its annual report to the Parliament, has suggested that Radio Australia should again be placed under its control. The Government, however, believes otherwise ; it regards Radio Australia as the “ Voice of Australia which tells the world of the policies of the Australian government of the day and of the Australian people. The Australian Broadcasting Commission controls a service on the medium-wave band and is bound by .its constitution to take no part in politics and to have no prejudices in favour of any one section of the community. It generally does its own work very well; but there have been occasions when talks have been broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission which, had they been broadcast to the world over Radio Australia, would have caused international complications and rendered grave disservice to this country. I have had occasion myself to protest to the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, against- a very unfair attack by Professor Julius Stone, on General MacArthur that may have caused great damage to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the SouthWest Pacific if it had gone out as an Australian national world broadcast. Information broadcast over Radio Australia is broadcast, not at the will of the Minister for Information, but as the result of determinations made from day to day by an inter-departmental committee on which the Department of External Affairs is fittingly represented.
– It is purely a government propaganda machine.
– It is not a government propaganda machine, as the disordered mind of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) would suggest. It is an instrumentality that tells the world the policy of the Australian people.
– The policy of the Australian Labour party.
– The honorable member can twist that and call it a propaganda machine if he likes; but it is an instrumentality that has never brought Australia into disrepute and never aired any internal grievances for the disedification of the world. The policy on wool, the policy on wheat, whatever policy is determined as Australia’s policy on any matter is broadcast as the policy of the Australian people. We try to buy goodwill for Australia through the information disseminated by this station. Immigration policy concerns me as Minister for Immigration. Policies that affect our attitude to the world, concern the Minister for External Affairs. Not one critic of the activities of Radio Australia has been able to produce a tittle of evidence that any wrong doing has been indulged in by any officer or myself as Minister.
– What departments are represented on the committee?
– The Department of External Affairs, the Department of Immigration, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Department of External Territories, are the departments that generally confer to determine policy.
– What about the Department of Information?
– The Department of Information operates the station and is therefore represented. This committee unanimously recommended immediately the war ended that Radio Australia should continue to be used to its fullest extent in peace-time under the direction of the Department of Information. It is not true for any one to say that I have gone on the air over Radio Australia at any time. I did not make any statement about the appointment of Cardinal Gilroy of Sydney. The opinions that I uttered were those of a private citizen. They were transmitted over the air as a news item, as was the criticism of my opinions on the next day. I did not ask any one to transmit anything, and I did not know until some days later that what L had said had been broadcast over Radio Australia.
– Was the wheat deal with New Zealand broadcast over Radio Australia ?
– The honorable member may look at all the broadcasts made over Radio Australia for weeks past. I have with me a typical bundle of scripts covering a week or a fortnight. The honorable member may read through them or examine them carefully. I made the same offer to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) some time ago.
– I have read them and may have something to say about them.
– The honorable mem ber may have something to say ; but I hope he will stick nearer to the truth than he did early this morning. As I said in reply to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), one of Radio Australia’s most important functions is the broadcasting of factual information, about government policy generally. I have naturally been interested, as the Minister for Immigration, in telling the world just what this country offers to new citizens. Radio Australia broadcasts from Shepparton, which is in the electorate of the honorable member for Indi. It is the most up-to-date and most powerful station in the southern hemisphere. To entrust immigration broadcasts to the Australian Broadcasting Commission would, in my opinion, be a tragic error. Not so long ago, 1 was compelled to demand - and incidentally I received - an apology from the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for a most mischievous broadcast in the most appallingly bad taste which ridiculed European immigrants to Australia.
– Whose broadcast was it?
– It was arranged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the chairman of the commission told me that he was concerned at the manner in which that feature was being used.
– Was the broadcaster Professor Julius Stone?
– No, the broadcast was a feature conducted by the commission. The enormous flood of mail which reaches both the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and my Department of Information proves conclusively that Radio Australia’s signal is just as strong throughout the world as that of the wealthy British Broadcasting Corporation and the lavish “ Voice of America “. That is a marvellous tribute to the Postmaster-General’s Department, which can claim equal credit with the Department of Information for the amazing peace-time success of Radio Australia. If honorable members needed further evidence of the success of this undertaking, I could read tributes paid by some of the most influential journals in America and Great Britain, but I do hot propose to take up the time of the House by doing that. There is a great volume of evidence on our files to prove that the signal of our station is received with clarity, that the matter is of great import and is much appreciated, particularly by troops in Japan. I have a copy of a report made by the Press Relations Officer of the Minister for the Army after his return from Tokyo, in which he said -
Accompanying the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) on his recent inspection tour of areas in which Australian troops are stationed in Japan, I had the opportunity to discuss with army personnel and others certain aspects of the short-wave broadcasts by Radio Australia.
As requested by you, I endeavoured to obtain a picture of the soldiers’ attitude towards these broadcasts. ‘ I have summarized some of my observations and these may be of value to you in your work associated with this service.
Generally speaking, I found troops keenly interested in Radio Australia broadcasts as per this medium they are kept informed on current events and happenings in Australia.
The advent of the service, they pointed out, overcomes the lag in receipt of home news experienced through ordinary mail channels and provides a daily resumé of affairs in which most troops are interested. This applies particularly to troops stationed in devastated and isolated areas where, apart from amenities and entertainment provided by the army, there is little opportunity for them to occupy their spare time to advantage. News on a wide variety of subjects is eagerly sought by the troops in all areas and regular bulletins in brief form are always welcome. Troops are particularly interested in items relating to their own welfare, living conditions in Australia, the cost of living, prospects for future employment on their return to civil life, &c. They point out that if they have a fair idea of what is going on at home, this alleviate; in some way the feeling of isolation that their environment creates. In some instances unit surroundings are almost completely devoid of the atmosphere of western civilization.
In many instances troops enthusiastically praised the broadcasts and their interest was manifest at leave centres and hostels where troops gathered in groups to listen-in. News invariably took No. 1 priority in their choice.
Troops stated that by listening to news sessions they could get an idea of post-war conditions in Australia. In certain cases this was important to their future decisions on re-enlistment for further terms of service with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force as against discharge.
Cultural topics and carefully selected musical programmes are highly desirable as outside Army establishments there is little in the Japanese way of life to take the place of these essentials so commonplace in every day life at home. Housing, political activities, sporting items and rehabilitation are other subjects of interest to listeners.
The report continues with further praise of the work of Radio Australia, and concludes with this paragraph -
If the excellent service already rendered by Radio Australia can be extended and troops1, enlightened on foreign policy, home affairs, &c, much will be achieved towards making every member of the Australian component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force an ambassador for his country overseas.
I state that in contradistinction to the nauseating drivel talked by the elderly and senile gentleman from Reid. I could cite a number of other incidents to show that this attack this morning is a complete tie-up with other activities of the honorable, member for Reid and his broadcasting station associates. I quoted in this House, in the dying session of the seventeenth Parliament, from several documents that I had seen and handled and told the House that A. C. Paddison, who was here to secure an amendment of the Copyright Act, if he could get it. signed receipts for £3,400 on the notepaper of the Century newspaper, Sydney. to the Australian Constitutional League. That money was paid for the activities of the Century and the honorable member for Reid against the referendum which this Government conducted in 1944. All this activity this morning is just a part of the big conspiracy to try to destroy a governmental station, and hand it over temporarily to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If the station reverted to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, these people would try to destroy that organization, take the short-wave station over themselves, and commercialize it, so that the cupboard would not continue to be hare, if it is bare at .all.
I do not need to convince honorable members any more of the truth of what I have said in respect of all the matters canvassed by the honorable member for Reid. It is not a question of taking the station away from amateurs and giving it to experts. It is a question of leaving it with experts, particularly expert journalists, many of whom were appointed to their position by the Menzies Government. These men have done a good joh for Australia, and should not he traduced. In any case, I accept the opinion of the young men of Australia on service in Japan in preference to the opinion of the honorable member for Reid. I try to glimpse the future of this country through the clean eyes of Australia’s radiant youth. I refuse to see it through the eyes of a disgruntled and discredited septuagenarian.
.- The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has launched an attack upon the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), and suggested that he has special motives in submitting this motion. I hope that he will not ascribe similar motives to me, because I raised this matter in the House some months ago. I became suspicious as the result of a newspaper paragraph, and I asked the Minister certain questions. That put me on the trail of the subject that has now been raised. As the result of my questions, the Minister told me that the scripts of Radio Australia were to be found in the Parliamentary Library. After that, I spent some time during recent months reading the scripts broadcast by Radio Australia, and, in. the process, had an .acute attack of mental indigestion. I shall return to that aspect in a moment. I do not care what the Minister says about the honorable member for Reid; but I assure the House that I approach this problem purely from one angle, namely, freedom of expression, and the danger to which it may he subjected in Australia at present.. I remind honorable members that Radio Australia is controlled by the Department of Information. The Menzies Government established this department during the war under the defence power, and no other. The Labour party, which was then in Opposition, was extremely suspicious of this department. Honorable gentlemen who were then members of this Parliament will recall that the Labour party obtained from the Menzies Government an undertaking that the department would not cost more than approximately £45,000 per annum. “When the Labour Government came into office, the department was greatly expanded, and has gone from strength to strength. I asked how much the department expended last year. The answer was £200,000, which included the cost of Radio Australia. The Minister himself said that so far this financial year Radio Australia has cost £51,000. If my memory serves me aright, in the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and not the estimates for the Department of Information, which were recently pre.sented to the Parliament, the cost was shown as £80,000 last year. I speak subject to correction.
Radio Australia, as I understand it, is controlled by men some of whom are most competent, some of whom are deliberate, straight out left wing propagandists of an obvious type, and some of whom are very trashy men who should not be in the department. They should be doing a more useful job.
– With a pick and shovel.
– That is the judgment which I formed when trying to wade through this mass of roneoed material - the scripts of Radio Australia. I want to be fair. Some of this material is reasonably good. Honorable members on both sides of the House are entitled to look at this matter from the stand-point of literary quality as well as other grounds. Approaching the subject in that way, I would not object to some of the material, but I take the most bitter possible objection to other material on the grounds that I have stated.
– The honorable member never wrote to me about the subject.
– I was so busy wading through this rubbish that I had no time to write to the Minister about it, but I shall read some of it to him. So far as I am concerned, .this is a premature debate. I did not know that the honorable member for Reid intended to raise this matter. I should have liked more time to prepare my case, and then initiate the debate. I hope that, if I had done so, the Minister would not have accused me of having ulterior motives. He may have done so, because he is inclined, when on the defensive, to grovel in the muck heap, and throw things about.
– I never get down to the honorable member’s level.
– The Minister certainly never reaches it in other respects. Radio Australia is unnecessary, because the Australian Broadcasting Commission has offered to do this work, and desires to do it. Radio Australia was taken from the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the Minister because he wants to have it in his own hands as an instrument of propaganda. That is the great danger, because the Minister has often said that he is no believer in the freedom of the press, and if he can control this instrument of propaganda, he is well on the way to achieving his objective of silencing every other opinion in Australia except his own.
The dominating feature of a great deal of the stuff in these broadcasts - I have here a few scripts which I extracted from a great stack of them - is the poor literary and intellectual quality. Yet this material is being broadcast to the world in the name of the Commonwealth of Australia! Honorable members on both sides of the House should read the scripts. T do not believe that the Minister has read them. I hope for his own sake that he has not read some of them, or his burdens would be even greater than they are at present. The poor quality of the material of these broadcasts is one of . the things to which I object. Some of the so-called Australian drama, and the method of presentation are just nauseating. People abroad, and those who are travelling by sea to and from Australia, have protested many times recently about the quality of these broadcasts. It is not a part of the function of the Commonwealth of Australia to put out material of this sort. Let this job be undertaken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which, I suggest, will do it much better, because of its wider experience. In the scripts, there are references to Bern-borough anc! Phar Lap - the “two wonder horses”. Who wants the Commonwealth of Australia to expend 80,000 “ smackers “ a year to tell the people of the world about. Bernborough and Phar Lap? Cannot that be clone by others?. Another script contains a story of goats in a Melbourne suburb eating kerosene tins and rubbish. The suburb must be one of those which the Minister represents. But why is the Commonwealth of Australia engaged in activities of that sort? These broadcasts reach short-wave listeners all over the world-, and the stuff does not bear listening to. Why should the great Commonwealth of Australia be engaged in an activity of this sort?
The second feature which I find so highly objectionable is the political propaganda which is being “ pushed out” through Radio Australia either by some left wing propagandist, or by some “stooge” of a Minister. Take the motion of want of confidence which the’ Opposition launched against the Government some months ago. The broadcast of this was completely “ cock-eyed “ and “ one-eyed “. It does not contain any of the facts on which we attacked the Government. This propaganda was either inspired by a Minister or written by some one who either wanted to write it. that way, or was obliged to write it in that way. Then there is the fawning adulation in the scripts of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) which occurs again and again. Every one knows that the right honorable gentleman is an able man, but is it a. part of the service of Radio Australia to boost and boom up an Australian Minister of the Crown? I have also, in my hand, a most fullsome and glowing boost of another gentleman named William John McKell. A good deal of it consists of misstatements about that gentleman, and it is completely onesided. I do not desire to awaken old controversies, but some of the statements in this transcript are plain untruths, which have been given the necessary twist to satisfy left wing propagandists. This is the pattern of dictatorship, of which the first step is always to colour propaganda, and that is what the Minister has done. He has said that he desires freedom of expression, but apparently he does not desire it except to meet his own particular ends. This Parliament should do everything possible to ensure that the radio, as well as the press, is kept free.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Roseveab.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1920-1938, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Riordan do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In this bill, it is proposed to make provision for an increase of the parliamentary allowance to each senator and each member of the House of Representatives, from £1,000 to £1,500 per annum, as from the 1st July next. The measure is amply justified by changes in. economic conditions, and by the increasing responsibilities that are now shouldered by members of the Commonwealth Parliament. Except for the reductions that were made in accordance with financial emergency legislation, parliamentary allowances have remained unaltered for 27 years, the last adjustment having been made in 1920. In the meantime, however, there has been a substantial rise in incomes generally. Average wage rates have increased by about 50 per cent., whilst comparable increases have also taken place in the general range of salaries paid in the community.
As a result of Australia’s development as a nation, the Commonwealth has undertaken vastly greater responsibilities in recent years in the sphere of international relations, both economic and political, and in connexion with such matters as social services, the maintenance of full employment, and the general stability and prosperity of the Australian economy. For these reasons, the functions of members of the Commonwealth Parliament have increased greatly, in both extent and significance. If these functions are to be adequately discharged, it is essential that the allowances received by members of the Commonwealth Parliament shall be commensurate with the scope and importance of their responsibilities.
The principal act, passed in 1920, provided that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate should be paid an allowance of £200 per annum, and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives an allowance of £400 per annum. Since, for a number of years, it has been obvious that the duties of those two leaders have become far more onerous and exacting than they were formerly, the present opportunity is being taken to increase their allowances to £300 and £600, respectively.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide certain benefits for members of the Interim Forces by reason of their service with such forces, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
[3.14J. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is to define the benefits which will be available upon discharge to members of the Interim Forces who enlist after the 30th June, 1947. Demobilization of the armed forces has been successfully accomplished and reestablishment of ex-service men and women in civil life has also been achieved to a great degree. Associated with reestablishment is the recognition of the services of those men who, though unable it should recognize these services in some from a full-war to a normal peace-time economy. The Government believes that for various reasons to have served in the forces prior to the cessation of- hostilities, are none the less offering their services to the country in the transitional period tangible form, and the bill is intended to achieve that end.
Honorable members will agree that the services of these men can hardly be placed on the same footing as those of the men who enlisted, or were called up, for active service when the enemy was actively campaigning against us. Nor is it appropriate to apply the many special provisions which operate under existing legislation, dealing, principally, with the re-establishment and employment, repatriation and war service homes for men who served in World War II., to men who have decided to make a career in one of the services.
Honorable members will recall that on Friday, the 16th May, I tabled details of the new conditions of service which will apply as from the 1st July to men who enlist in, or are appointed to, the Permanent Forces on a long-term basis. These are the men whom we may fairly regard as making a career in the fighting services. Provision was not made for the men whose intended service is for a short period only, say, for two years in the Interim Forces, after the 30th June. next. It is to these men that the bill is specially directed, and its provisions made may be summarized under three headings: Re-establishment leave, legal assistance and repatriation pensions and other benefits where appropriate. In respect of re-establishment leave, 30 days is provided where a member has been engaged for a period of not less than six months. In other cases the leave is fifteen days. With respect to legal assistance, the intention is to make- the present service to servicemen, ex-servicemen and their dependants available also to enlistees after the 30th June, 1947. Benefits under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act include war pensions for members and dependants where a member is injured or dies on service.
Honorable members will observe that provisions is also made in the bill for prescribing certain benefits by regulation.
The intention is to provide some of the benefits prescribed under the repatriation regulations, examples of which are medical treatment for members under certain conditions, gifts of furniture, tools of trade and education of children. The bill expresses the Government’s view of what is reasonable recognition for services rendered in the Interim Forces.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the protection of approved defence projects, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Barnard through Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to authorize the execution, by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, of an agreement for the purpose of establishing, operating and developing trans-Pacific air services between Australia and North America and between New Zealand and North America, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a secondtime.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the execution of an agreement between the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand for the establishment of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited, a tripartite organization for establishing, operating and developing trans-Pacific air services between Australia and North America and between New Zealand and North America, under arrangements to be agreed between the three governments. The organization has already been registered in Sydney as a company with an authorized capital of £A1,000,000 and an initial subscribed and paid up capital of £10,000. The contributions by the
Government are in the following ratio : - Australia 50 per cent., New Zealand 30 per cent., United Kingdom 20 per cent. These proportions were agreed upon by the three governments as representing the degree of general interest which each country had in the services to be operated by the company. The operation of the air services concerned will be governed by directions given as necessary to the company by or on behalf of the three governments. The bill also provides for the appropriation of such amounts as are required to be paid by the Commonwealth under the inter-governmental agreement.
Honorable members will recall that on the 10th April, 1946, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), in a statement to this House on civil aviation, referred to the bilateral agreement with the United States of America, which would confer reciprocal commercial rights, in the United States of America and Australia respectively, upon the scheduled airline operators of the two countries. That agreement was signed on the 3rd December, 1946. The United States Government, as forecast in the Minister’s statement, designated PanAmerican Airways to operate a service between the United States of America and Australia, and Australia has designated the tripartite organization, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited, to operate such a service on behalf of Australia. Each country has approved the operation of the service by the designated airline of the other country, and the services are in operation. The British Commonwealth services goes on to Vancouver, in Canada, under agreement with that country. Until such time as British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited is in a position to operate the service itself, approval has been given by the three governments for an interim service to be operated under contract to the company. At the Chicago International Air Conference the Australian Government advanced the view that international air transport should be under international ownership and control. This view did not receive full support, but the tripartite organization set up to operate the service to North America is a step in this direction.
I point out that the delay in presenting this bill was due to the fact that three governments are involved in the agreement. The arrangement of final details in a proposal of this character necessarily occupies a great deal of time. In the meantime, of course,, the organization has been created and is now operating. The bill was presented to the Parliament at the first opportunity.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 29th May (vide page 3191).
Clause 111 (Aboriginal natives).
– This clause relates to people who, like myself, have no vote. Further, they are more or less pushed into the background, because they have not even a voice in national affairs. It provides -
An aboriginal native of Australia shall not bo qualified to receive an unemployment benefit or a sickness benefit unless the DirectorGeneral is satisfied that, by reason of the character and of the standard of intelligence and social development of that native, it is desirable that this section should not apply.
I preface my remarks by inquiring of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) as to what is the definition of an aboriginal native in the southern areas of Australia, compared with that which is applied to an aboriginal native in the far north, specifically in the Northern Territory, which I represent. In the southern areas, even a slightly coloured man is described as an aboriginal. But there is a clear line of demarcation in the north, where an aboriginal native is a pure-blooded native of Australia, which was captured from him, and is gradually being occupied, by white people, whilst he is being driven out, or is being assimilated into the white population. I cannot understand why the clause has been drafted as it has been. I should be interested to learn who is to be the qualified person who will nominate an aboriginal native as being qualified to receive an unemployment benefit or a sickness benefit. I must presume that the clause will regard as an aboriginal native the half-caste in the southern areas. Once the aboriginal native has been detribalized, either as the result of his own curiosity having led him to visit the white man’s settlements, or by the penetration of the white man for developmental purposes deeply into his areas, as has happened since 178S, when the white man first landed at Sydney Harbour, whether he be black or brindle, he has every right to receive the same treatment as is accorded to white people. We know that in the far northern areas of Arnhem Land, the aboriginal natives are still in their myalls and are not yet detribalized.
I wish to refer specifically to the religious missions in the Northern Territory. Every religious denomination is doing remarkable work up there. In the last four or five years, I have had an opportunity to visit only one - the mission at Bathurst Island that is conducted by the Roman Catholic Church. Previously, I had visited most of the other missions, including the Church of England mission at Oenpelli, near the East Alligator river, the Methodist missions at Millingimbi and Groote Eylandt, and the Presbyterian missions in central Australia. The area in which th« stations are situated came into prominence during the war. Honorable members need not be reminded by me that it was the missioner, Father McGrath, stationed on Groote Eylandt, who gave the earliest warning of the approach of Japanese aeroplanes on the occasion of the first Darwin raid. His warning was not heeded, and the subsequent tragedy was much worse than it need have been. I draw attention to the native children on the island who, under the scheme initiated by Monsignor Gsell now Catholic Bishop of Darwin, are becoming numerous. I visited the mission last year, and saw something of the work being done for the natives. The mission authorities are paid an allowance - I think it is 7s. 6d. a week - for the maintenance of each native child. They made no request to me to have the amount increased; but it has occurred to me that the Government might well increase the allowance, seeing that all social service benefits have been, or are about to be, increased. The natives on the island are all of one tribe, but there are many totems among them, including the Alligator Totem, the Flowering Gum Totem and others. These sub-divisions of the tribes into various totems make an interesting study in themselves. The mission authorities send in a requisition to the department every month showing the number of persons being maintained, but much of the work of the mission is financed by voluntary contributions from people living in the southern parts of Australia.
– What is being done for the myall tribes?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for asking that question. There is at present a conflict of opinion as to who should dominate native affairs, the pseudo-scientists, who call themselves anthropologists, or the missions.
– I suggest that the honorable member return to the matter under discussion.
– In the language of surveyors, I was lead on to a different traverse by the interjection of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy).
– Then let the honorable ‘ member make another traverse, and get back to the right track.
– The Greek philosophers used to maintain that it did not matter what traverse one followed, so long as the general line was correct. I am now speaking for those unfortunate persons who are unable to speak for themselves, and I am putting a case for the missioners who are engaged voluntarily upon a splendid work. I repeat that they have not asked for an increased allowance, but I think that it should be given to them in order to help them maintain those native children whose parents have been de-tribalized. They are our responsibility; we stole their country. Before the missionaries went into this island and to Arnhem Land the natives were myalls, and the piccaninnies were born under a bush. Many of them died because of the vagaries of the season, and the barbarous conditions under which the people lived. Conditions are very different at the mission station to which I have referred. There, the nuns have established a hospital. One of them is a fully trained and certificated nurse. The native babies; instead of being born in the mysterious and inhospitable bush, are born in a hospital ward. I have had a good deal . of experience of hospitals, both as a patient and a visitor, but it was a unique experience for me, when I visited the island in October last, to see native babies being cared for under such excellent conditions. I ask the Minister to define the term “ aboriginal “ in such a way as to place it beyond doubt that natives living in the Northern Territory will be eligible to receive sickness benefit. The mere fact that they come into contact with white people when they are sick is in itself an indication that they have been de-tribalized. This benefit should not be denied to anyone, whether he be black, white or brindle, once he has made contact with white people.
– I support the request of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). I recognize that the provision in this clause is open to abuse. There is nothing in the clause itself to say what natives or native groups are eligible for sickness benefit. Some of them may receive it and some may not, but I suggest that all of them are as deserving as white people to receive sickness benefit when they are ill, or relief when they are in difficulties. Where the natives live in contact with white people, it has been shown that they require sickness benefit more than most people.
– It is the very persons to whom reference have been made by the preceding speakers who will receive the benefits of this provision. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) knows more about the tribal life of the natives than I do, although I spent several months in Central Australia, where I visited the institutions for halfcastes, and also, in the company of police officers, I visited the camps of aborigines. No line of demarcation has been drawn, and it makes no difference whether these persons are full-blooded natives, halfcastes, or quarter-castes. They are regarded as natives of Australia and Australian citizens, whether they be black. brown or brindle, and they become eligible for social service benefits provided it can be established that they have had sufficient contact with civilization to know how to use money.
– How is that to be decided?
– The DirectorGeneral obtains evidence from those who employ them, and also from the police and those in charge of institutions for half-castes.
– But the missions are doing their work voluntarily.
– In some instances, a lump sum is paid to missions if the administration is satisfied with their work, and the missions distribute the money. In all cases, the benefit cannot be paid direct to the individual, but it is paid direct to aborigines who are working among white people. Full-blood, half-caste or quarter-caste aborigines are entitled to all benefits provided’ under this measure. Where the benefit cannot be paid direct to the individuals, it is paid to some one on their behalf. No distinction is drawn between full-blood, halfcaste or quarter-caste aborigines.
.- I am glad to hear the explanation given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). However, his explanation appeared to be directed specifically to the position of aborigines in the Northern Territory. As the provision of these benefits will, to some degree, affect native administration in the States,, which is in the hands of State authorities, [ should like to know whether the Minister’s remarks apply equally to aborigines in the States.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 112 and 113 agreed to.
Clause 114 (Means test).
.- I had intended to move an amendment in order to exclude war pension from the application of the means test. However, this principle was fully debated in the early hours of this morning in respect of another clause, and honorable members on all sides expressed their opinions on the matter. I again recall that three years ago, when debating the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill, the Minister (Mr. Holloway) gave an undertaking to the Opposition that our proposal that war pensions should be excluded from the application of the means test would be fully considered, and said that both he and the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) were in sympathy with that proposal. However, the Government has not yet taken steps to act upon that proposal. When I raise this matter some honorable members opposite may be inclined to exclaim “ What, again ! “ I shall raise this matter at every opportunity until this request, which is fair and just, is granted by the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in his message to the Australian people on the occasion of last Anzac Day, said -
This day commemorates in the hearts and minds of all Australians the sacrifices and heroism of so many of our men in two world wars. It crystallizes in one national observance the deeds of our men and those of New Zealand of 30 years ago and those who only such a little while ago stirred the world.
This clause gives to the committee its last opportunity to discuss the Opposition’s request in this’ matter and I trust that in the near future we shall hear that the Government has given favorable consideration to it. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to give lipservice in this matter; but ex-servicemen who are suffering war disabilities need practical evidence of the Government’s desire to help them.
Clause agreed to.
Remaining clauses - by leave - considered together.
– It seems to me to be pitiful from the point of view of draftsmanship to allow clause 133, which deals with the cancellation of benefit in certain circumstances to stand as drafted. It should be possible to make separate provision in respect of a beneficiary who becomes imprisoned following upon his conviction for an offence and a beneficiary who becomes an inmate of a hospital for the insane. As the latter is in no way responsible for his misfortune, it does not seem to me to be quite fair to cover these two classes in the one clause. On the other point which
I raised earlier, I should like an assurance from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) that benefits will be paid in respect of dependants of these two groups.
– The two classes of beneficiaries to whom the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) refers are covered in the same clause because they are the only categories which will not be covered. On previous occasions the honorable member, and other honorable members, have raised the subject of providing benefits for the wives and dependants of these two classes of persons. A wife of n person who is imprisoned for more than six months, or the wife of an inmate of a hospital for the insane will be classified as a widow, and will thus qualify for the widow’s pension. That means that a wife of an inmate of a hospital for the insane and has no children and is 50 years, or over, or if she has children and has not reached the age of 50 years, or if she he in necessitous circumstances, will be eligible for special benefits as provided under clause 124 in the form of a widow’s pension. That provision covers the wife of a man who is imprisoned, as well as the wife of a man who becomes an inmate of a hospital for the insane. Persons, upon entering a benevolent asylum, remain eligible for pension, one-third of which is paid to the individual, and the remaining two-thirds to the institution for the upkeep of that individual. I point out that hitherto the wife of a person who became an inmate of a hospital for the insane was not eligible for pension.
– I should like to know whether benefit is payable in respect of a child who becomes an inmate of a hospital for the insane and whose upkeep in the institution must be borne by the parents. The widows’ pension covers only the mother or the wife and the first child. An inmate of a hospital for the insane may be a child of parents who cannot afford to pay for the upkeep of the child in the asylum. What provision is made for a mother, father, sister, or brother so circumstanced?
– The upkeep of such a. child is the responsibility of the father if his circumstances are such that he is not eligible for a pension. In such a. case the only payment that could be made would be child endowment which is paid to a person who has the care and custody of a child. If the child be permanently committed to an institution - and I do not know whether such cases exist - the institution would receive the child endowment payment.
– What would be the position if the young person were over the age of sixteen years and had no father, sisters or brothers?
– Such a person would be entitled to the ivalid pension.
Clauses agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill he now read a third time.
.- I desire to correct a misstatement made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) during the debate on this bill. The honorable member said that I was incorrect in stating that the original New South Wales widows’ pensions legislation contained provisions for a means test.
– Order ! The honorable member may not at this stage refer to what obviously took place during the committee debate. He must deal directly with the motion before the Chair.
– I am referring to what, transpired, not during the committee debate, but during the debate on the second reading of the .bill. Under this bill, provision is made for the payment after the 1st July of a pension of £2 2s. Gd. a week to a widow with one child. The New South Wales Widows’ Pensions Act provided that a widow should receive only £1, plus 10s. a week for each child. The contention of the honorable member for Reid that the measure now before us is not as liberal as was the New South Wales legislation was entirely erroneous.
The honorable member further stated that provision for the means test was inserted in the New South Wales legislation not by the Government of which he was a leader but by the Stevens-Spooner Government. I have before me the original Widows’ Pensions Act passed by the New South Wales Parliament and assented to on the 24th December, 1925. It contains many provisions which impose a means test including one which prescribes that 25 percent. of the earnings of a child or children over the age of fourteen years shall be deemed to be the income of a widow in assessing her eligibility for a pension.
– Order ! The honorable member is obviously discussing a State act and not the third reading of this bill.
– I merely desired to correct the misstatements of the honorable member for Reid.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time. Sitting suspended from to 2.15.
SUPPLY BILL (No 1) 1947-48. Second Reading.
Debate resumed from the 27th May (vide page 2925), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– It is appropriate that I should emphasize that no money can be drawn from the Federal Treasury except under appropriation made by law. Parliament has supreme control over every penny expended by government instrumentalities. Therefore, Parliament must accept full responsibility for the way in which it spends moneys raised by taxes, duties and loans. Labour took office about two years after the war commenced and has been in office continuously since the war ended. When it assumed office, even though it was in wartime, prices were stable, the nation had been geared to capacity for war-time production, the financial position was extremely sound, and the treasury-bill issue was no more than a few millions. Now, in peace-time, almost two years after the war, prices are rising alarmingly, Aus tralia has not yet been brought back to a reasonable peace-time footing, and the effects of inflation are being felt on every side. Prices of the ordinary staple commodities continue to rise. The latest advance is in household soap. This followed a steep rise of the price of tea and a further sharp rise of the price of this necessity will occur soon. Earlier this year, the subsidy on tobacco was withdrawn and the price rose accordingly, to an extent appreciable enough to be felt by workers, old-age pensioners and the general smoking public. Despite attempts to control the prices of real estate, values have soared, and it is impossible for the worker to either build or purchase a home at a reasonable economic price. Attempts to control the exchange of chattels such as motor cars at other than an inflationary price have also been abortive. Each of these trends indicates that the return to peace-time conditions is as far off as ever, notwithstanding that the Post-war Reconstruction Department had some years before the war’s end to plan for a return to peace. Even now that department is still seeking’ more economists and theorists, who no doubt will be as unpractical and devoid of results as the department is at present.
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) recently gave a long and reasoned analysis of the fate which awaits the Australian people unless the present alarming population trends are arrested. It was the most effective indictment of the Labour Government’s policy ever issued and it was issued by one of its Ministers. What else could be expected from a government which loads its taxation tables heavily against the family man? The Government is crying out for population, yet it lumps children’s confectionery and contraceptives in the same sales tax category. It exempts such articles as Tom Bailey’s dog soap from sales tax. Yet, in the same act, it charges a heavy sales tax on Johnson’s baby soap. Poodles cost nothing in tax to bath, but the Treasury exacts its toll from the privilege of bathing a baby. This Government, which is fearful that it will not have sufficient human beings to occupy its territories in the next few decades, can still divert wheat from starving humans to make dog biscuits so that racing greyhounds can be kept in good fettle. About the same time, the International Emergency Food Council was declaring that the world deficiency in cereals for 1947 would be 7 per cent.
The fertility of our population is obviously declining, as is the fertility of the land itself. Because we lack a realistic decentralization policy, there is a drift to the cities, which is not being arrested appreciably and country towns are not expanding as rapidly as they should. Consequently, the rural population which, in the past, has been noted for its higher fertility rate than its counterpart in the city, is drifting from the land into employment in manufacturing and other secondary industries. This, in itself, is precipitating a serious state of disequilibrium in Australia’s economy. Coupled with it is the even more serious problem of declining fertility and productive capacity of the land itself due to erosion in its various forms.
The Government has frequently referred to plans for national development to cost about £200,000,000, every penny of which will ultimately be a charge against Australians. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to ensure that such expenditure shall be as widespread and useful as possible.
The land is the keystone of Australia’s economy, and primary industries are the foundation on which secondary industries . are developed. The Australian Country party is especially interested in the development of Australia as a balanced economic unit, based on the solid foundations of the soil. The incidence of wind erosion in Australia has already caused startling transformations in vast areas of land that were previously productive. Last year, thousands of tons of vital tapsoil were blown into the sea, and the conditions of the notorious American “dustbowl “ were reproduced here. These conditions, largely man-made, must be arrested by all available means. A peculiar physical feature of this continent is the number of fast-flowing coastal streams which water the fertile alluvial plains lying between the mountains and the sea. These have created their own problems of stream bank erosion, and the losses of soil caused by this type of erosion are mounting every year. Much study and experiment will be needed to combat this menace.
However, the most serious problem is the loss of fertility by sheet erosion and gullying. Partial surveys made in Queensland have established that water erosion has caused irreparable damage to much valuable agricultural land. The problem is not peculiar to Queensland alone, and soil losses in every State from this cause are increasing. A recent official survey shows that within a relatively short time extensive damage was done by gully and sheet erosion, especially to undulating land, which usually becomes unusable for years afterwards, and is of little value even for grazing. Unless active control measures are applied, the productivity of greater and greater areas will be seriously impaired or completely lost. The effects of damage caused by erosion is not limited to the land. The accumulation of deposits of eroded soil has reduced the capacity of most watercourses, and this, in turn, affects the supply of surface water and tends to increase the speed of flood waters and to divert streams from their normal channels, often to the detriment of valuable agricultural land.
The problems presented by all types of soil erosion are of first-class importance because they affect every State, and they emphasize the need for Commonwealth action as a co-ordinating authority. Coupled with this problem is that of water conservation. About 30 per cent, of the Commonwealth has an annual rainfall of 10 inches or less, which is the main reason why so much of Australia is completely undeveloped, and explains why we can establish a guided-weapons testing range in an area of nearly 1,000,000 square miles without even trespassing on a grazing lease.
The implementation of planned water storage schemes, coupled with the establishment of hydro-electric systems on a semi-national scale, would result in vast areas being brought into productive development. The war was responsible for the importation into Australia of engineering and earth-moving equipment on an unprecedented scale, and the immense expenditure of the Allied Works Council should have resulted in the training of sufficient men to undertake the work. Unfortunately, there are too many Australians concentrated in the capital cities, who think that water is merely something that one drinks. There 13 little realization of the fact that water is the lifeblood of the primary industries, and that those industries are the real productive core around which Australia’s whole economy must be developed. In the past we have neglected our natural heritage, but the adoption of a more vigorous policy of water conservation even now would tend to solve the problem of soil erosion, because the two subjects are inter-related. It is to be hoped that the hundreds of millions of pounds to be spent on public works will be directed into channels which will produce national dividends, rather than on half-baked schemes such as the standardization of railway gauges.
Another matter which 1 wish to mention is the unsatisfactory nature of the replies furnished by Ministers in regard to allegations concerning a sale of agricultural machinery and equipment which was conducted by the Disposals Commission at Cowra on the 16th and 17th October last, and I ask that a further inquiry be made into the whole of the circumstances. I was informed that, before the sale commenced, an officer of the commission stated that price controls would not be observed and that the machinery was to be sold at whatever price was offered. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), on behalf of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), denied that any such statement had been made. However, the Cowra Guardian, in an editorial on the 13th December, 1946, said that the statement was definitely made by an officer of the commission and was heard by hundreds of buyers. Furthermore, I asked whether it was a fact that second-hand barbed wire sold averaged approximately £33 a ton, whereas the price of new wire, when available, is approximately £22 10s. a ton. The Minister replied to my question as follows : -
There is a possibility that, the auctioneer disregarded the commission’s instructions regarding adherence to ceiling prices. This matter is being investigated, and in any sale where the ceiling has been exceeded the purchaser will be given an appropriate refund.
I shall have more to say on this aspect at a later stage, but additional support of my contention that there should be a further investigation is- provided by an article in the issue of December, 1946, of the publication Power Farming in Australia. This article states that the twenty-page printed catalogue of tractors, farm machinery, farm implements and equipment issued by the auctioneers, acting for the commission at the Cowra sale, read :
In the event of a maximum or ceiling price fixed by the National Security (Prices) Regulations being reached by two or more bidders, the ultimate purchaser shall be determined by the auctioneer, whose decision shall be final and binding.
I might point out, however, that there is a slight discrepancy between my informant’s account, that an officer of the commission had declared that all price controls were to be ignored “ and the sky was to be the limit” and the article in Power Farming, which stated that before the sale began the auctioneer announced that a special dispensation had been granted by the Prices Branch to allow bids of any amount to be accepted, regardless of pegged prices. The article further stated that two McCormickDeering W.6 tractors were knocked down at £650 each, although the list price of such tractors, new, was at that time only £599. It pointed out that the prices order governing the sale of second-hand tractors and similar machinery, provided that not more than 75 per cent, of the list price at the date when the tractors were originally purchased could legally be paid, subject to allowance for the cost of repairs and replacements, if the actual price paid was not more than 90 per cent, of the list price at the date of original purchase.
Power Farming claimed that, without going into close calculations, the price paid was about 80 per cent, over the pegged price. The journal stated also that a Farmall H went to a bidder at £560, though the present list price, with the equipment specified, was £515 18s. 6d. A 40-horse-power crawler tractor was sold at £1,300. Even more startling was the acceptance of a bid of £35 a ton for used barbed wire - in a somewhat rusty state, it was said - against the present list price for new barbed wire of £24 a ton. These facts prove conclusively the necessity for something more than brushing aside statements or allegations made in this House by honorable members, who should disclose them when the opportunity occurs. The whole of the circumstances surrounding the sale of farm implements at Cowra requires close attention.
The buoyancy of Commonwealth revenues at the present time is due to heavy direct and indirect taxes. The money comes from the pockets of the taxpayers, and the degree of buoyancy of Commonwealth revenues is a startling indictment of the financial policy of the Government. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has disclosed a surplus of £43,000,000. .This is probably the minimum figure, because the Treasurer, replying to a question which I asked to-day, stated that, as far as possible, the Government had pursued a policy of providing for capital expenditure, including the acquisition of shares in holding companies, out of revenue, as against the utilization of loan money. That method of finance can be followed only because the taxpaying community is paying more than a reasonable and wise amount of taxes. The surplus of £43,000,000 is a reflection of the heavy rates of tax and provides evidence, if evidence were required, of the degree to which taxes may l)e further reduced in the interests of rehabilitation, wise development and the encouragement of initiative in and for Australia.
– I take this opportunity to say a few words about the payment of the war gratuity to necessitous eases. I freely admit the sensible nature of the plan to defer this payment, and agree with the views of the special parliamentary committee, consisting of ex-servicemen, which devised the plan that the Government afterwards adopted in relation to the payment of the war gratuity. However, as time passes, certain anomalies are created, and the committee should now examine them. If possible, the committee should meet more frequently than it has. I understand that it has not met since it submitted to the Government its final report on which the War Gratuity Act was based. If the committee can be reconstituted, some aspects in relation to the payment of the war gratuity, which have a serious bearing on the welfare of the ex-servicemen concerned, could be considered. In my electorate during the last few months, I have been deluged with letters from ex-servicemen about their inability to settle in the homes which they have won in ballots in the New South Wales housing scheme, because they cannot use their war gratuity for the purchase of furniture. One particularly glaring case is that of an exserviceman who served in the Middle East and later in New Guinea. He is a widower and while he was in the armed forces his two young children went to a boarding school. Immediately he was discharged from the Army, he resumed his parental duties and acquired two furnished rooms. During the period of his service, which extended over five years, he had been purchasing from a timepayment organization in Sydney furniture to the value of £300. When he returned to civilian life, he had various financial set-backs, including illnesses, and defaulted in these payments. Last week his furniture was repossessed and he received a refund of £80. Thanks to the legislation of New South Wales, he did not lose the whole of his payments, but the amount of £80 was his sole solatium for having paid upwards of £200 for furniture. It had been on exhibition in a showroom in .Sydney, and had been marked “ not for sale “.
About the same time, his bad luck broke, and he won in a ballot conducted by the New South Wales Housing Commission a house in my electorate. Then he was faced with moving into the house, with his two young children, without any furniture, because on the death of his wife, while he was on active service, the estate had been sold and he did not have even a straw broom to take into his new home. Under the War Gratuity Act, he could not be regarded as a necessitous case, and, therefore, could not be granted his gratuity. The payment may be made in advance for the purchase of a home but not for the purchase of furniture. Honorable members will readily see that this probably is one of the greatest times of crisis in his life. He is attempting to re-establish himself in a home, but he has no furniture to place in the dwelling. His only asset is a deferred one - his war gratuity of approximately £150. This is an instance of extreme hardship. As the act provides that the gratuity may be paid “ for other purposes “, sympathetic consideration should be given to the claims of this man. What was sound policy twelve months ago is not necessarily sound policy to-day. Honorable members will agree with me that most of the letters of distress which they receive from ex-servicemen who contend that they should be paid their gratuity now, are concerned with housing. After a manful struggle to obtain accommodation, many of these men find that the furniture problem is very real. The price of furniture is inflated, and it is sad to think that if ex-servicemen should be paid the gratuity now, it must be absorbed in purchasing furniture on an inflated market. Nevertheless, the urgency is such nhat the Parliamentary Committee, which examined and recommended the payment of the war gratuity should give further consideration to this subject. Perhaps (he committee could recommend that exservicemen, who are suffering hardships of this nature, may be paid their war gratuity now. I agree that the recommendations of the committee were originally sound. There have been no “sharks in the bay “ to snap up the war gratuity of ex-servicemen after World War II. fis there were after World War I. Money lenders and others cannot deprive exservicemen of their war gratuity. The committee did its job thoroughly, but now it should examine the anomalies which have arisen, and recommend ways in which they can be overcome. There should be a quickly accessible authority in the capital cities to whom exservicemen in distress could submit their claims for consideration. Under the present system, correspondence passes from the ex-serviceman to his parliamentary representative, to the Treasurer and to the Chairman of the Gratuity Board, and the reply retraces that course until it reaches the ex-serviceman. The process is long and tortuous, and ultimately results in a sense of frustration. In the circumstances, my suggestion should .be con sidered seriously. The committee should again examine anomalies that have arisen in the payment of the war gratuity to what may be described as necessitous cases other than those who require the gratuity to meet the cost of illness ot for housing purposes.
– The tremendous commitments of Australia, as shown by this bill, the Social Services Consolidation Bill, the amount necessary to pay interest on defence debts and our developmental needs can be met only by greatly increasing production, and by ensuring that the goods and commodities produced shall be marketable as to variety, quality and price. The threat to civilization and human progress comes from the machine, from such developments as the atom bomb and other means of destruction, and also from the failure to organize out communities on sound and healthy lines to combat the subversive organizations which would destroy modern civilization. For humanity to survive man must conquer the machine. The International Trade and Employment Conference at Geneva has an extraordinary opportunity to do something constructive by approaching the problems to be considered from the point of view of attacking the root of the troubles afflicting humanity instead of dealing with surface symptoms. From press reports of the discussions that have taken place at Geneva, it would appear that attempts are being made to restore the old prewar world economy; every nation is trying to secure certain modifications of the tariffs which existed before the war. Nevertheless, it is obvious that if the world is to be properly fed and nourished, and if there is to be a great expansion of international trade, there must be a new perspective. We must seek a new geographical distribution of industry along lines which will ensure that industries shall be established in the countries most naturally suited to them. The aim should be the lowest productive costs, and therefore the lowest possible selling price, so that the highest possible standard of living and the greatest volume of international trade shall result. When we consider the geographical distribution of industry throughout the world, and particularly in Australia, we realize to what degree accident and circumstance have been the deciding factors. Production in this country, as, indeed, in most countries, has still to be worked out rationally in terms of world resources and the resettlement of population in the areas most favourable for human living.
I suggest, as a preliminary step towards those ends, that representatives of British Empire countries should meet in order to devise a definite plan by which industries and investments might be transferred from one Empire country to another. If that were done, we should know what to press for at Geneva and how the discussion of matters of no vital importance could be avoided. “We must understand that the changes which have occurred since September, 1939, and the new factors which have now to be taken into account, have made the big cities, with their large aggregation of people the most dangerous places in which to live in the event of war. As one atom bomb could destroy hundreds of thousands of people, the decentralization of industries would enable production to be maintained even if some cities were .destroyed. In the past, the distribution, of a country’s population has largely been determined by the location and distribution of coal supplies and the existence of suitable harbours and ports. More than half of the population in. Australia is situated in the various capital cities. That is due, in a large measure, to the location of coal supplies and the lack of decentralized control of transport. But the greater use of electrical power has given new concepts of economic regionalism, and it is now possible to provide a better balance between town arid country, between farm and factory, between congested suburbs and green fields. If proper consideration be given to these factors, we shall be able to reverse the process that has been so characteristic of world development during the last 50 or 60 years. The census of 1890 revealed that only about 10 per cent, of the working population in Australia was engaged in transportation. The number so engaged in 1920 was from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent. The 1933 census showed that the proportion of those so em-
Sir Earle Page. ployed had increased to about 33 per cent. Despite that tremendous growth of transport facilities, hundreds of thousands of women to-day have to carry vegetables and groceries from the shops where they are sold to their homes. Something should be done to remedy that state of affairs.
As reforms should begin at home, we in Australia should consider such fundamental matters as production, distribution and consumption. The enormous increase of the population of many countries during the last 150 years has been due almost entirely to increases of the quantity of food produced, especially in new countries such as the United States of America, Canada and Australia. That great increase of population took place before there was any great mechanization of agriculture. What, has been accomplished in India during the last twenty or 30 years proves conclusively that my belief is right. Just on 100 years ago. there was as well an enormous increase of the total production, as the result of the development of mechanical power in England and Europe. This enabled the people of England to live under bet tei’ conditions than Queen Be3S had enjoyed 200 or 300 years earlier. Even those who earned only £4 or £5 a week could purchase foods which in those days were regarded as luxuries, and garments which their forebears had never in their wildest flights of imagination imagined that they could have, because of their high cost. To-day, tinopportunity exists for an industrial revolution of equal magnitude throughout the world, by making water and power available to countries which at present are not properly developed. India, 100 years ago, before it had any irrigation to speak of, had a population of only about 200,000,000, one-half of whom were starved. To-day, because of the increased production of food, even though its distribution is haphazard and the quantity available is not always sufficient, it is able to carry a. population of abour 400,000,000. According to Australian ideas, it is over-populated. The problem which immediately confronts us is that of ensuring that our land industries, upon which we are dependent for food, shall be made profitable; that the returns winch they receive shall enable country people to have living conditions as good as those that are enjoyed by persons who ure employed in factories, shops and offices. If they cannot have the same :i mount of leisure, they should at least be provided with equal amenities.
One is struck by the fact that Australia, in proportion to its area, has less water than any other continent. From what I have been able to gather, the total river flow of Australia is 60,000,000 acre feet a year. The Rhine has a bigger flow than that, and rivers in Asiatic countries, for instance, the Ganges in India, have a flow three times as great. The YangtseKiang has a flow fifteen times as great. The Amazon and Mississippi rivers have a flow many times greater than that of the rivers of Australia. If we are to produce food in sufficient volume to enable us to take our place properly in the new sphere, in which food production, handling and transport will be’ one of the great activities, we shall have to conserve and develop our waterways. I agree wholeheartedly with the remarks of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), which were right to the point, and dealt with the most important matters that could be considered in Australia at the present time. The 60,000,000 acre feet of river flow is divided roughly into four almost equal parts. A little less than one-third is derived from the Queensland coastal rivers north of the Mary River. One-quarter of it is derived from the rivers from the Mary River south to the Hunter River in New South Wales. About one-ninth or one-tenth of it is obtained from rivers such as the Hawkesbury, Shoalhaven and Snowy rivers, and Victorian rivers, which supply Sydney and Melbourne with their requirements of water. About one-fifth comes from Darling-Murray sources. The portion of the continent which all those rivers serve contains wonderful flat country, which can be profitably developed by irrigation. The rest of Australia has probably about one-tenth or one-twelfth of the total. That portion of the continent can be developed internally only in a piecemeal fashion, and where good water supplies are available.
The four areas that I have mentioned could be developed on a regional basis.
The areas between the Mary and Hunter rivers, the Hunter River and the rivers of Victoria, and in the Darling-Murray system, have a temperate climate which is fairly tolerable, and are handy to the big markets of Australia. The area in the northern parts of Queensland has a tremendous volume of water, which could be conserved and used for the development of power. It also contains extensive coal deposits. Amenities could be provided which would make the living conditions there very tolerable. Its immense resources could be developed by a white population, whose energies could be devoted not merely to growing sugar cane but also to manufacturing all sorts of commodities from the raw materials that are produced on the spot. If we are to make any progress with this new development, we shall have to ensure the establishment of manufacturing industries in close proximity to sources of raw materials and power. The area between the Mary and Hunter rivers has, I suppose, the largest hardwood and softwood timber belt in Australia. Those timbers could he used in the various technological processes of the future. The establishment of huge industries right on the spot would reduce transportation to the minimum. I have already shown that one of the greatest wastes in modern civilization is to be found in the increases of transport charges and man-power charges, due solely to faulty planning and the building up of great cities, instead of dealing with problems on the spot. The time has come to revise our ideas, because we are lagging hopelessly behind the rest of the world. Prior to World War II., Australia had developed approximately one electrical horsepower to every five persons. During the war, electrical generating capacity was increased by 16 per cent., from 1,407,000 kilowatts to 1,639,000 kilowatts, an increase of about 239,000 kilowatts. In Canada, there is about one electric horsepower to every two persons. During the war, the total capacity of that dominion was increased by no less than 26 per cent, from 5.100.000 kilowatts to 6,540,000 kilowatts. Canada actually brought into use during that period practically as much electrical generating capacity as the total in Australia, and since the termination of the war its activities have been greatly enlarged. In another debate, I pointed out that the United States had more than 1,100,000 casualties in the war and had produced a tremendous quantity of munitions. That country was able to increase its electrical capacity during the war by no less than 30 per” cent., from 38,863,000 kilowatts to 49,901,000 kilowatts; that is to say, the additional power generated in America during the six or seven years of war was six or seven times as great as the total power generated in Australia.
That shows of course that if we are to become competitive with these countries in the manufacture and sale of products, we must have the same percentage of electrical power. In the United States of America, there is one electrical horsepower to every two and a half persons. What disturbs me about the huge amount that we are asked to vote is that no part of it seems to be allocated to worthwhile research into the matters I am discussing. After my return from England in 1942, I urged that before we demobilized our servicemen competent engineers and surveyors among them who wished to make a career of engineering or surveying should be employed on a survey of our natural power resources. This year, the Treasurer expects a surplus of £43,000,000. Had that survey been made and all plans prepared, some of the surplus could be u3ed immediately on the construction of some of the schemes for the production of power. In the United States of America, all the rivers and other potential power resources have been surveyed, and plans have been prepared for their use. Whether a project is capable of producing 1,000,000 horsepower, 5,000 horse-power or 100 horsepower is known, and the relative merits of the various projects have been assessed. When the Congress votes the necessary money the work can be begun immediately.
We need in Australia two things above everything else : first, a very substantial reduction of taxation to improve the psychology of the people, and to create in them a will to work, and secondly, mechanical power to enable them to develop our industries in order that they may compete with those of other countries. All our power-producing resources, whether hydro-electric or coal, should bp linked up in one great scheme to provide the maximum power that the country can produce. When the Clarence River hydro-electric project is in full operation, it will save 500,000 tons of coal a year, allowing that quantity of coal to be used for the production of extra power. With the development of similar schemes, especially on the Snowy River, it should be possible to so increase our production of hydro-electric power that more than 1,000,000 tons of coal would be saved, which is more than Victoria uses in the production of power.. That, would bc a great relief to the overpressed Yallourn scheme. The Burdekin River in north Queensland is a great potential source of hydro-electric power and irrigation. Why should it. be necessary to wait three, four or five years to find out its power-producing capacity? We should be armed to-day with all the facts. Physical facts of this kind do not vary. “ All the necessary data should be on record.
The Government is attempting. to take, control of State governmental instrumentalities and institutions such as hospitals. Ultimately, if they are to be operated efficiently, they will have to be conducted by the local people themselves. A doctor’s treatment of his patient is strictly individual, and should not be brought under government control. Such control has always caused discontent. We know that there have been strikes among the staffs of many hospitals. The Government’s hospital scheme is a retrograde step, and I am sure that all medical men agree with, me in this. If the Government has money to spare, let it make grants for the building of hospitals. Let it provide beds. We want more beds, rather than free beds. At the present time, sick people are being operated on in private houses because they cannot get into hospitals. When this matter was discussed in caucus I have no doubt that my medical confrere on the other .side was of the same opinion as I am. As I have said, if the Government has millions of pounds to spare, let it expend the money on something that will make for increased production, so that the people may enjoy more leisure, and so that the cost of production may be reduced, thus reducing the margin between the producer and the consumer. In this waywe shall be able to develop the resources of the country, and show the world what we can really do. Let us make full use of our resources, so many of which have, until now, been lying fallow. We are not making full use of the water resources of Australia.
– The right honorable member has not been to Tasmania ?
– I have, andI have always said that Tasmania is setting an example to the rest of us regarding what should be done. In northern New South Wales, we are servicing with hydro-electric power an area practically half the size of Tasmania, and we have done it all without a. shilling of government money. Just now, however, we are unable to get copper wire and other commodities necessary for the further development of the scheme. If we had these commodities it would be possible to bring power to the country people, so that cost of production could be reduced and living conditions improved. If the Government were to spend its surplus revenue in the way I have suggested, it would make for more happiness, more prosperity and more contentment than could be achieved by spending the money on hospital schemes. The Government should not diffuse its energy over a multitude of activities which take up the time of Parliament and of Ministers and which’ could be undertaken better by the States. It should allow the Parliament to devote its attention to matters of really national import.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Fraser) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Bill 1947.
Coinage Bill 1947.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Deter- mination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
Postal Telecommunication Technicians’
Association( Australia ) .
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - J. M. Giroud.
Postmaster-General - W. R. Baker, R.
Buring, R. Frankel, L. T. Garrioch.
A. Gray, R. K. Heathcote, J. K.
Lynch, F. J. Norman, O: A. Pierotti.
Pitkethly, J.. H. Reen,. H. J. Thoro- good, F. D. Wilkinson.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 62 ( Parliamentary Officers ) .
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Prices) Regulations -
Orders- Nos. 2934-2955, 2957-2965.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No.
Superannuation Act - Superannuation Board -Twenty-fourthAnnual Report, for year
House adjourned at 3.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
United Kingdom Government: Proposedagricultural Act.
Mr.fadden asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Has the department yet completed its examination of British legislation to give effect to a policy of stability to agricultural industry which on the 16th April the Minister said was being carried out?
If so, will he make a statement to the House as to whether the terms of the legislation or any of them are applicable to Australian conditions?
If the examinationhas not yet been com- pleted, will he make a statement before Pariament rises?
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470530_reps_18_192/>.