18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Minister give to the House any further information about the dispute which has thrown the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited mines idle, and the con sequent decision of the company to close the steel works at Newcastle? If the right honorable gentleman has no further information to convey at the moment, will he confer with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel and make a statement later to-day about the position?
-Reference was made to this matter yesterday.. As the result of stoppages at the Lambton B., John Darling and Burwood mines, there is a shortage of coal. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, I understand, has been drawing some of the coke ovens, which will ultimately result in the partial closing down of the steel plant. I conferred with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel yesterday and the previous day about the position. The matter was also the subject of a conference this morning. I understand that the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, has intervened, and every endeavour is being made to overcome the trouble. In addition to the dispute involving the coal miners, difficulty has arisen regarding mechanics in another section of the mining industry.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state whether it is a fact that, owing to the lack of adequate coal stocks immediately before Christmas, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited had to reduce iron and steel production to 40 per cent of its capacity ? Will he also say whether the coal miners, since returning from their holidays, have gradually withdrawn from the three mines operated by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited? Were the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales aware of those circumstances? If they were, what action did either of them take to ensure the production of sufficient coal so that supplies of iron and steel which are vital for home building and industry generally would be maintained ? If the two Governments were aware of the position, and did not take any action, will the Minister explain to the House why they did not do so?
– I think that the honorable member for Wentworth originally intended to direct his question to the Prime Minister, but was shortcircuited, as it were, by the honorable member for Newcastle. I can only inform .the honorable gentleman that consultations took place continually before Christmas, and’ have proceeded since then between the Government of New South Wales and Minister for Shipping and Fuel. They were aware of all the circumstances surrounding the shortages of coal resulting either from shipping difficulties or actual output.
– The Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales should never have allowed the position to reach the present stage.
– Order ! The honorable member has asked a question, hut he is not entitled to answer it.
– The problem is being discussed daily by the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales.
– Having regard to the present shortage of coal in New South Wales, and its effects on Australia as a whole, and to the repeated requests of the Prime Minister for increased production, will the right honorable gentleman try to induce the Minister for Mines in New South Wales and the miners’ federation to allow the extraction of coal from pillars by mechanical means, thus enabling more coal to be won without making any additional demand on th, available labour?
– As the honorable member knows, the extraction of pillars by mechanical and other methods has been the subject of much argument over a number of years. This matter has been given close consideration by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel and the chairman of the Joint Coal Board. After the return of the honorable member for Hunter from abroad, he advocated mechanical extraction of pillars. He had had an opportunity to examine the methods of coal winning adopted in Germany. The matter is still under consideration. The honorable member for Deakin may rest assured that I shall do all I possibly can to expedite the increased production of coal. If has been estimated that mechanical pillar extraction would result in making available an additional 200,000,000 tons of coal. I remind the honorable member, however, that that is merely an estimate.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture «-hen the next payment is likely to be made on the 1947-48 wheat pool. Can he also say when a distribution will be made in respect of the oats pool which the Government conducted last year?
– An advance of a further 18d. a bushel has been approve-1 in respect of No. 11 Wheat Pool, which will effect a distribution of £15,000,000. This will make a total distribution for the pool of £119,000,000. With regard to the oats pool that was conducted by the Australian Government last year, a further payment of ls. 3d. a bushel has been made, which will absorb £1,800,000. The total advance to date is 6s. 7d. r bushel, less freight.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to a recent announcement that Britain has purchased, from the United States of America dried- fruits to the value of £2,000,000. Will the Minister say whether this means that there is’ a market for additional dried fruits in Britain? Is it an indication that we could successfully expand the industry in Australia?
– I have seen pres.* reports to the effect that Britain has purchased substantial quantities of dried fruits from the United States of America. I understand that the price to bc paid is substantially less than the contract price at which the Australian Government, acting through the Dried Fruits Board, has arranged to supply Australian dried fruits to the United Kingdom. I am not prepared to express an opinion upon whether that sale of fruit to the United Kingdom by the United States of America would justify an expansion of the Australian dried fruits industry. The honorable gentleman is aware that from time to time the Australian Agricultural Council, which is composed of the Ministers for Agriculture in each’ State and presided over by the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, has discussed the wisdom or otherwise of encouraging and allowing the expansion of the Australian dried fruits, canned fruits and allied industries. A plan has been evolved which allows for reasonable expansion. The consensus of opinion is that it would be unwise unduly to expand these industries and possibly flood the market. 1 should not be surprised if this question were discussed at the next meeting of the Agricultural Council. I desire to make it quite clear that the Australian Government has placed no restriction whatever on the expansion of these industries in Australia. We consult with and tender expert advice to the State governments. Those governments, which are responsible for controlling production in the areas administered by them, are the authorities to determine whether or not the production of Australian canned and dried fruits should be expanded.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform the House of the percentage increase of industrial activities in South Australia during and since the war?
– There has been a considerable increase of industrial activity in South Australia since the war. That increase is largely due to the disposal of Commonwealth factories and to the fact that many industries have been encouraged to establish themselves in South Australia. New capital to the amount of £12,000,000 has been invested in industries in South Australia since the war. Since 1939, the number of factories in the State has increased by 40 per cent., the number of factory workers has increased by 70 per cent., and the output of the factories has increased by 200 per cent.
– Has the Treasurer yet received the report of the AuditorGeneral for the year ended the 30th June, 1948? When will the report be tabled ?
– I have not yet received the report, but I shall make some inquiries during the day and endeavour to let the right honorable gentleman know to-morrow when it will be available to the House.
– I have received :i very large number of bitter complaint;from the Meat Inspectors Association about the attitude of the Public Service Board in not appointing to permanent positions as meat inspectors men who have had up to 18 years’ service. I know that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has been very sympathetic towards these men, and I should like to know whether he has been able to overcome the prejudice of the Public Service Board and have further permanent appointments made.
– I am pleased to be able to inform the honorable member that following repeated representations made by him and by other honorable members, particularly on this side of the House, the Public Service Board has informed me that it is now prepared to make an additional 94 permanent appointments of meat inspectors to serve in the Commonwealth Public Service. That follows the success achieved last year in having 75 of those very excellent men appointed permanently. I hope that in due course more men will be appointed to permanent positions thus putting the men on the same footing as the indoor and other excellent workers of the Public Service.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether it is correct that the act under which the Australian Meat Board was constituted provides for the establishment of .State advisory meat committees? Is it a fact that the Australian Meat Board recommended the establishment of such committees, but that the Minister disapproved of the recommendation? If so, what was the reason for his disapproval of it?
– I think that as the act was last amended - I speak subject to correction - it provided for the establishment of State advisory meat committees. The Australian Meat Board has been able to carry out its task exceedingly well without the assistance of such committees, and, so far, I have received no complaints from any source whatever about its operations. When the act was amended a proviso was inserted giving power to the Australian Meat Board to co-opt the services of experts in any particular matter on which the board needed :id vice. I believe that that proviso meets the situation reasonably well. I shall make inquiries and shall inform the honorable member fully in regard to the matter as early as practicable.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether financial transactions have been completed in connexion with the disposal of the 194S apple and pear crop under the acquisition scheme? If so, what is the final amount to be paid to growers? If not, when will these transactions be completed? Is it a fact that the Australian Government has accepted agreements signed by growers this year as representing SO per cent, of the crop and as adequate to cover the Commonwealth.Tasmanian agreement for 1949?
– The Apple and Pear Board still has some apple stocks on hand from last year’s crop. Pending disposal of these stocks it will not be possible to produce a final financial statement and declare a final dividend, but I can assure the honorable member that as soon as stocks have been sold a distribution of profits will be made to the growers who participated in the scheme. In answer to the second part of the question, the Australian Government has accepted the figures supplied by the Tasmanian Government, as representing SO per cent, of the total apple crop this year and as suitable to implement the agreement between Tasmania and the Commonwealth whereby the Apple and Pear Board will act as the marketing agent for that crop.
– Can the Minister for Immigration inform me whether it is the responsibility of the Australian Government or the State governments to provide accommodation for immi grants? Is it possible for anything to be done to see that homes that are provided for immigrants will be available to them for some reasonable period ? I have received a number of complaints from people who have come to Australia that, within a few months, and sometimes a few weeks of their taking up residence here, they have had to seek other accommodation. Can the Minister do anything to rectify that position?
– The responsibility for providing accommodation for immigrants rests upon the nominator and not upon either the Australian Government or the State governments. It is the responsibility of the Australian Government and State governments to see that the accommodation said to be existent in fact, existent, and that it is of suitable fair average Australian standard. We inspect the homes of nominators to see both that the accommodation is up to standard and that it is sufficient for the needs of those who have been nominated. In some instances, but not in many,, people who come here cannot get on with their relatives after they arrive. I suppose that is not confined to newcomers. Some Australians have difficulty in getting on with their relatives. Even members of a certain political party are fighting hard with one another.
– We are all finding it difficult to get on with “Uncle Joe”.
– Yes. and with others nearer home. Such disagreements are due to our human characteristics, and cannot be controlled. Some immigrants leave the homes of their relatives after a few days. The relatives, in some instances, have been in Australia for many years., and the newcomers cannot fit in with, the dear friends and relatives who nominated them. Therefore, the Government is proposing to build hostels for the reception of migrants without other accommodation, and for groups of migrants who cannot find ordinary nominators. That. however, is a different matter. The Government is trying to iron out all the difficulties that arise, and to satisfy the gregarious instincts of the new arrivals.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ascertain whether the manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Perth received a complaint that, in the commission’s State news service undue publicity was recently given to Communist party activities? Will the Minister inquire why, in the news broadcast, considerable publicity was given to a Communist brawl outside a Perth theatre on the 11th February when, I understand, the film, The Iron Curtain, was being featured; also, to an interview with Julie Marks, secretary of the Eureka League, on the 12th February; and to reports of speeches by Healy to a Communist party meeting on the 13th and 14th February? Will the Minister inquire who was responsible for the broadcasts, and will he table the scripts in this House on Tuesday next?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s complaints to the notice of the Postmaster-General, and ask that a full report be supplied at the earliest possible moment. I cannot guarantee that the scripts will be produced here on Tuesday next, or at all. That will be for the Postmaster-General to decide. No one wishes reports of brawls to be reported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, even brawls inside the Australian Country party.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation say whether it is true that ex-servicemen over 45 years of age, employed as orderlies in repatriation hospitals, are to be dismissed, and replaced by immigrants? Have some of the exservicemen already been told that they are to be put off? How many men will be affected if this is done? What plans has the Minister made for the reemployment of the men who are now working as hospital orderlies?
– Some reorganization of the staffs of repatriation hospitals is taking place, but I think I can say that no Australians, whether over or under the age of 45 years, are being displaced by immigrants. Indeed, our great difficulty has been to get enough staff. However,
I shall have inquiries made, and a complete answer will be furnished as soon as possible.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs. Three weeks ago I examined in Launceston a number of embossed and ordinary leather goods which had been imported by an exserviceman from India and supplied by a Delhi supplier, Jai Hind. The Indian firm had published advertisements in the Australian press seeking agents in Australia to operate on a commission basis. The ex-serviceman concerned forwarded to the firm £A.1S 16s. Sd. or £stg.l5. Customs duty on the goods amounted to £12 14s. 7d. His total outlay amounted to £31 lis. 3d. He is so disgusted-
– Order ! The House ir. not concerned about whether or not he is disgusted. What is the question?
– As these goods are of very inferior quality, can anything be done to restrict such importations into Australia in view of the inconvenience and financial loss incurred, especially if customs duty cannot be refunded? Can Australians be warned against such methods of securing agents and against misrepresentation with regard to the quality of such articles?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs and endeavour to obtain the information he desires.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to advise the House whether there is any immediate prospect of an increase of the petrol ration of private and- business consumers particularly.
– A sub-committee of Cabinet gave consideration to the matter recently. The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “.
– Does the Australian Government contemplate the appointment of a commission representing the Commonwealth and the governments of the States concerned to undertake the development and management of the waters of the Snowy, the Murray and the Mumimbidgee Rivers? If the Government has considered the appointment of such a commission, will it examine the advisability of giving to the people living in those regions a direct representation on that body, and a voice in the ultimate distribution, of the power generated?
– The Australian Government has submitted to the States of New South Wales and Victoria a proposition involving the appointment of a commission to develop the waters of the Snowy for hydro-electric purposes. Those waters, of course, would still be available “ for irrigation. So far as I am aware, the State governments have not submitted a proposal to the effect that people living in the regions affected should be given representation on the commission. However, the Government will consider the right honorable gentleman’s request.
Reconstruction Training Scheme - Compulsory Acquisition of Property
– On behalf of trainees under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is likely that the allowance paid to them, which is well below the basic wage, and which, through the rising cost of living, is proving most inadequate, will be increased shortly in order to reduce the hardship which the trainees are bearing?
– The question which the honorable member has asked involves a variety of matters. Certain increases of payments were made recently not only to those to which the honorable member has referred but also to a number of others. The Government does not propose at this stage to give further consideration to a general increase of allowances. There may be incidental matters which will require consideration from time to time, but the general position was covered recently by legislation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction or the Attorney-General, whoever is the appropriate MinisterUnder section 118 of the Re-establishment, and Employment Act, a member of the.forces is protected against the compulsory acquisition of his property, except for certain purposes and with the consent of the Attorney-General. The term “ a member of the forces “ doesnot include the widow of a member of the forces. There are instances’ in which it is possible that the Government may seek compulsorily to acquirethe property of widows of members of the forces. Will the Minister say whether he intends to protect these persons or whether they are not eligible for protection ?
– The section of the act that the honorable gentleman Lasquoted does give protection to exservicemen generally. That matter, however,, comes under the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Works and Housing, who is unavoidably absent to-day. I shall draw his attention to it and haveit examined.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs read a press statement to the effect that the United Nations Economic and Social Council is discussing a proposal by the United States of America that the International Labour Organization make an impartial investigation into allegations that between 8,000,000 and 14,000,000 persons are in slave labour camps in Russia? Will heinform the House whether any instructions have been given to the Australian representative on the Economic and’ Social Council regarding the motion, and whether that representative is to support the United States’ proposal or not?
– No instructions have been given to the Australian representative on that specific matter, but I shall examine the position and furnish a fuller answer to the question as soon as I possibly can.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether the Australian Government has any knowledge other than that obtained from information which has appeared in the ;press of the conditions reported to exist in Russia in regard to slave camps and concentration camps? If it is in possession of such knowledge, I ask, in view of the attitude that it has adopted on the subject of human rights, what action it has taken with the Russian Government by way, for instance, of remonstration ?
– This question is linked with a question that was asked by the honorable member for New England. We have no information other than that which has appeared in the press, but I expect to ascertain at the meeting of the Economic Council the nature of the allegations that have been made. I have no doubt that there will be an investigation.
– My question to the Minister for External Affairs arises out of a criticism made by an honorable member opposite recently of a legation that published and circulated propaganda to members of the Parliament and to other bodies and persons in this country. As there are legations in Australia which «.re publishing and circulating propaganda, some of which is of the most controversial nature, and liable to cause a certain degree of unnecessary discord here, I ask the Minister to ascertain whether such action by a foreign legation is correct? If it is not, are there any steps that the right honorable gentleman can take to discourage the publication and circulation of propaganda of that sort?
– I have no knowledge of the propaganda and documents to which the honorable member lias referred, but I shall examine the matter, because it does raise a general question. T shall ascertain the practice that should bc adopted instead of making legations the centre of propaganda which may be embarrassing not only to the governments concerned but also to other governments accredited to Australia.
– Recently, Mr. Eric Millhouse, K.C., who is president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia came to Canberra, and, with others, made representations to the Prime Minister for an increase of the pensions payable to exservice men and women along lines indicated by various honorable members in this chamber. Has the Prime Minister made a decision upon those representations, which were supplementary to the requests that had been made in this House? Will he indicate whether an increase of the pensions is likely to bv granted ?
- Mr. Erie Millhouse. K.C., and Mr. Nagel, who are president and secretary respectively of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, came to Canberra some time ago as the result of discussions with the Minister for Immigration in Queensland, and they submitted to me a 36-point request. The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, the Minister for Repatriation and I carefully examined the submissions. We discovered that they did not include any of the activities administered by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and, thereupon, the Minister for Repatriation and I dealt with the matters. Mr. Millhouse and Mr. Nagel found that some of their proposals had already been dealt with by the Government. The main point that they made was in relation to certain specific classes of pensions, and the Minister for Repatriation and I promised to examine the position. We did not make any promises about any increases of any kind.
– On the 14th December last, the Commonwealth Disposals Commission offered for sale on behalf of the Royal Australian Air Force a number of service aircraft, which buyers criticized as exhibiting evidence of shocking and scandalous neglect of Commonwealth property. Will the Minister for Air inform me whether those aircraft were in excellent condition eighteen months prior to the sale? Will he state whether three Ansons sold for £9 apiece, and five Mosquito bombers, which had cost £150,000, realized a total of £123? Is it a fact that twelve other aircraft, which cost £200,000, realized a total of £194? Does the Minister admit that most of those planes were almost total wrecks as the result of exposure at the Richmond airfield before they were sold ? Will he confirm the report that no persons bid for twenty aircraft, some with engines missing, including thirteen Mosquitoes, each of which had cost £30,000, representing in all a total of £390,000? Was there any necessity for the Royal Australian Air Force to allow those valuable aircraft to be so exposed before the sale, thus causing such wanton loss?
– Disregarding the criticism contained in the honorable member’s question, I remind him that I am not able to answer offhand a series of questions running almost from A to Z. It is probably quite true that a number of aircraft, which were useful during the war, have had to be scrapped. That position prevailed in every other country, and was not limited to Australia. The reason for the exposure of the machines was that there was no place to house them. However, I shall have inquiries made into the allegations contained in the honorable member’s questions, and ascertain whether there is any truth in them. I shall furnish an answer when I have had time to examine all the details.
– Will the Minister for Air say whether it is correct, as reported in cable messages, that the Royal Australian Air Force is advertising extensively in service technical journals in Britain for thousands of men in Great Britain to join the ground staff of the Royal Australian Air Force? If it is correct, does the publication of the advertisements mean that, notwithstanding earlier assurances to the contrary, the Royal Australian Air Force is not attracting the recruits that it needs for expansion to authorized establishment and that Australian air defences are seriously lagging? If recruits are being sought in the United Kingdom will the Minister inform the House of the terms and conditions on which accepted applicants are being brought to Australia?
– Attempts are being made to obtain recruits from overseas mainly, and I think I can say only, for ground staff purposes. The same procedure has been adopted by the Royal Australian Navy. The conditions of employment that are advertised thereare similar to those that are advertised here. The fact that recruits are being sought overseas indicates without a doubt that there is a lack of recruits for ground staff personnel offering in Australia. That can be well understood by any person who looks calmly at the situation. The attractions of industry in Australia at the present time are such that it is very difficult topersuade people to leave them, especially when they may be tied to a particular place and separated from their relatives and families. All countriesare experiencing the same difficulty. It was decided some time ago that wo should endeavour to give persons in England of the type we need who might desire to join the Royal Australian Air Force an opportunity to enlist into it under conditions similar to those which obtain here. I believe that many inquiries have been made and that already a number of recruits has been enlisted. I cannot state the exact figure off-hand. It is hoped that, as a result of the campaign overseas, a great many ground staff personnel, who are not easily obtainable in Australia, will be available for service in the Royal Australian Air Force.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral ascertain whether Royal Australian Air Force head-quarters made a request to his department in August last year for a legal ruling about payment in lieu of long service leave due to permanent members of the Air Force discharged as medically unfit ? Has such a request been received by his department, has it received attention, and when may the House be given some information about the matter? I communicated with the Attorney-General’s Department in this connexion on the 22nd December last and, up to date, have not received even an acknowledgment of my letter.
– I shall inquire about the matter from the head of the department immediately and give the honorable member an answer to-morrow.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction been directed to Commonwealth
Office of Education Discussion brief No. 27 which, after quoting statistics relative to houses, makes the following observations : -
Throughout the Commonwealth young couples wait almost in vain for the completion of houses.
The words “ wait almost in vain “ are underlined. Another observation is as follows : -
Construction figures show that Australia has reached little more than the 1938 level of construction of homes.
In view of those admissions that the Ch ifley Government’s muchtalked of housing scheme, of which we heard so much towards the end of and immediately after the war, has been an utter failure, will the Minister state what action the Government intends to take to rectify the present appalling housing shortage? The State governments have contracted to do a good deal of the building, but the Commonwealth is responsible for the supply position.
– I have seen the discussion brief to which the honorable member for Swan has referred. It sets out the facts of the housing situation generally. There is nothing wrong with the poster merely because it states the truth in regard to the matter. I believe it to be an excellent poster. If the honorable gentleman had read the whole of the brief he would have discovered that the number of houses per thousand of the population to-day is greater than it was in pre-war years. He would also have found set out in the brief some of the reasons why there is a shortage of houses to-day. One reason is that before the war anti-Labour governments completely failed to make houses available for the people.
– Will the Minis ter for the Interior say whether seven aboriginal children who attended the Darwin State school last year have been refused admission to the school this year on instructions from the Administrator of the Northern Territory? If this be so, will he say what is the reason for the decision and whether any principle is involved in it?
– It is true that seven aboriginal children have not been permitted to attend the Darwin State school this year. The policy is that where there are sufficient full-blooded aboriginal children to warrant the opening of a school for their exclusive use, such a school is opened and they are required to attend it at least until such time as they have had some education away from the wild life to which they have been accustomed. There are sufficient full-blooded aboriginal children in Darwin to warrant the opening of a school for their own use. The school has been established, and a certificated teacher has been put in charge of it.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation to press reports that certain buyers of aircraft have obtained permits from the Department of Civil Aviation to bring migrants to Australia from foreign places and that some of the aircraft which have left Australia for this purpose have not returned here. One of them, a Hudson light bomber, is reported as having been sighted at Tel Aviv. In view of the fact that Britain is under a definite obligation not to supply arms to the Arabs, and especially as permits have been given to the same buyer, who is not a flying man, for two more Hudson aircraft to leave Australia, will the Minister cause investigations to be made to see what truth there is in the reports so that if an illicit traffic in arms is going on, he may take steps to have it stopped?
– The honorable member for Balaclava informed me last night that he proposed to ask this question. I told him that if he would defer it until tomorrow I should endeavour to obtain the required information. Following the publication of articles in the press, I asked the Department of Civil Aviation to supply me with any data that might be helpful with regard to this matter. I have already partly answered a question of a similar kind. When I have been supplied with the information for which I have asked I shall be glad to answer the honorable gentleman’s question.
– My question is adil dressed to the Treasurer. If there were ;i merger of the Opposition parties - the Liberal party, the Australian Country party, and, perhaps, the Communist party - would there be a reduction of the cost of government and of the Parliament owing to a reduction of the number of leaders and deputy leaders of parties? Can the Treasurer give any indication of who would swallow whom in the process?
– Order ! I trust that honorable members will take a more serious view of question time and will not waste the time of the House by asking frivolous questions that have no relation to the Minister to whom they are addressed or to his department.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The increasing menace of the rabbit pest to production and the stability of the national economy, the extent to which the Government’s centralization policy is a contributing factor, the Government’s inability or unwillingness to recognize the extent of the danger, and the Government’s attitude of regarding the pest as an industry.
.- T move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– It is not my intention to take up the time of the House with statements of the obvious. Surely there cannot now be any one in the whole community who has not heard of the rabbit pest having reached plague proportions in Australia. Graziers’ associations, rural leagues and individual primary producers throughout Australia have asked that the Australian Government take adequate, practical action to combat the menace. Honorable members of the Australian Country party once again bring to the notice of the Government the seriousness of the position, which, has been caused chiefly by the delay in government action and the inadequacy of the Government’s present line of attack, on this pest. The Minister for Commerceand Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) hasannounced that it is expected that thegross value of Australian rural production for the year 1948-49 will be in thevicinity of £600,000,000. Even if those figures are misleading, as no doubt they are, since they represent money value andi not actual volume of production, it may still be safely said that the Australian, economy continues to rest firmly on. primary production. Unless the Government immediately takes action, that is more business-like than it is now taking to combat the pest in the western New South Wales, Victorian and-‘ the Riverina plague spots, there is not the slightest doubt that before very longthe impact of the damage caused byrabbits will make itself felt upon our standard of living.
Rabbits are not only eating crops and pastures, but are also menacing the channel banks and are leaving the country asif it had been subjected to the scorchedearth policy used by some countries during the war. Rabbits have long been,, and are now, to an alarming extent, thecause of soil erosion. An authority has stated that rabbits are at present causingmore soil erosion in 24 hours than is caused by wind and rain in twelvemonths.
I have included in my matter of urgency a reference to the Government’scentralization policy. I believe that theGovernment, by its neglect of primary industries, has contributed to theincrease of the rabbit pest in nouncertain manner. When I speak of the Government’s centralization policy,. I mean the centralization of population in metropolitan areas and of power and money at Canberra. On numerous occasions, during the last three years at least,, we have brought to the notice of the Government the deplorable drift of population to the cities, but I have neverheard that fact mentioned by any honorable member opposite. When we have- spoken about it, it bas been accepted lightly and there has been absolutely no action to combat it on the part of the Government. It is noteworthy that the majority of those who are being attracted to the city are young people who are at an age when they are ‘ most likely to be effective in destroying rabbits and increasing primary production. The Government claims that its policy has attracted large amounts of capital from overseas for the establishment of secondary industries in Australia. We know that it is not the policy of this Government that is responsible for that, but the fact that Australia is fortunate enough to possess necessary raw materials. The employees in many of those factories have no doubt moved from the country to the city, and this transfer through the consequent rabbit plague, may cause a lag in the provision of the very raw materials that are necessary to keep going the factories that they now work in. Thus, in what may be called a flanking movement, the Government is robbing these factories of their basic raw materials, and causing unemployment. At the same time, those men who have come from the country may be prevented from returning to their former rural occupations because they may have lost the art of primary production, and the soil that they have left will very probably have become barren, owing to the rabbit plague. Landholders complain that Crown lands are the breeding ground for rabbits. Of course, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said, when we spoke about Victoria on a previous occasion, that the State Government is entirely responsible for keeping rabbits in check. Naturally, State governments cannot do that without equipment. We know that if producers clean up their own lands rabbits come in by thousands from government holdings.
With the centralization of power and money at Canberra, the States have not been able to plan and finance the destruction of rabbits. Too much of the money centralized at Canberra is, we believe, :being spent in ways that we have objected to on many occasions in this Parliament.
T have also mentioned as a matter of urgency the Government’s inability or unwillingness to recognize the rabbit menace. I used the. word “ inability “ because most honorable members on the Government side of the House have not seen more than eight or ten rabbits together at one time. There are only a few exceptions to that on the Government side. One or two of the exceptions, especially the honorable member for Riverina, have expressed to the Government the seriousness of the rabbit plague, but they soon became silent. My charge that the Government is unwilling to recognize the danger cannot be easily set aside by the Prime Minister. It has been proved that a good station manager or a . property owner, when he knows the property thoroughly, can manage it efficiently without continually travelling over the whole of the run, but merely by taking note of the reports brought in by boundary riders. Members of the Australian Country party travel to many parts of the Commonwealth which are unseen by metropolitan representatives. They have repeatedly warned the Prime Minister of the increasing danger of the rabbit pest, but, although he has answered on each occasion that the position will be examined, nothing has been done to stem the advance of the rabbits. I charge the Government with not taking practical steps to ensure that there is available an adequate supply of rabbit netting, fumigants, rabbit traps, ammunition and other necessary equipment. Every member of the Australian Country party, and countless primary producers, will support me in making that charge. More manpower on the land is urgently needed, and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), or whoever was responsible - probably it was the Dutch Legation in Australia - should be complimented for having arranged for the arrival recently of over 600 Dutch rural workers in Australia. Wo can do with many more such immigrants, and it is pleasing to note that the Agent-General for Victoria in London, Sir Norman Martin, is taking a great personal interest in obtaining suitable rural workers as migrants.
The final matter of urgency that I have mentioned concerns the attitude of the Government, which seems tn regard the rabbit pest as an industry. It will be remembered that notwithstanding continued opposition from this side of the House, the Government, for a period each year, levied a tax of ls. 6d. per lb. on rabbit skins, its excuse being that the proceeds of the tax were devoted to keeping down the price of hats. The tax had the effect of reducing returns from the sale of rabbit skins, thus depriving rabbiters of an incentive to greater effort. The Prime Minister has said that, in certain circumstances, he favours incentive payments, but it would appear that the destruction of rabbits is an activity which has not found favour with him. What has happened during the last few years is deplorable, but we must now concern ourselves with the future. Immediate action must l>e taken on a Commonwealth-wide basis, because the rabbit is not parochial. It knows no State boundaries, and no political party. It is an expert at multiplication, and when present in large numbers is certainly a socialist because, if unchecked, it will bring everything down to its own level.
If trouble occurs in the coal mines, the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet hasten to overcome the difficulty, and the same is true of trouble on the wharfs. However, the Government’s method of treating the coal-miners and wharf-labourers will be of no avail against the rabbits, which demand no appearance money, and can be dealt with only by firm action, something of which the Government tins proved itself to be almost incapable. The primary industries cannot long remain prosperous while the rabbits nibble them at one end, and the Treasurer attacks them at the other with heavy taxation imposts. Because of the Government’s inaction, the rabbit plague has now become a national emergency, and the Government, to some extent at any rate, has come to realize that fact. What are its plans? Statements by Senator Courtice and others show that dollars for the purchase of wire netting will be made available at the rate of £400,000 a year, and that licences for imports from sterling countries have .been approved. As netting is available at a much lower price in the
United States of America, the proposed’ allotment of dollars is quite out of keeping with the requirements. Indeed, it is difficult to understand when considered’ in conjunction with the statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the 19th February, 1948, when he spoke in high praise of the rabbit as a dollar-earner. I quote his actual words from Ilansard -
Last year, rabbit skins exported to theUnited States of America, and other dollar areas, realized 0,000,000 dollars.
Again, speaking on the 23rd May, 1947, he said -
Last year, Australia exported rabbit skins to the value of £9,000,000: the average prewar figure was £600,000
His remarks can only be taken to indicate how he rejoiced in the growth of the industry. If the Government now really regards rabbits as a menace it should make a reasonable dollar allocation, something more in keeping with the number of dollars earned by the sale of rabbit, skins. The Prime Minister has said that the Government hoped to bring into Australia during 1949 a total of 185 tons of cyanogas and 127 tons of larvacide. Referring to this announcement, Mr. R. D. Bakewell, president of the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, said recently -
Although the rabbit population is greater than it has ever been, under the dollar imports announced recently Australia will be importing less cyanogas this year than it did during the war years, when 200 tons were imported annually.
The proposed importation of fumigants is quite inadequate and, as there are nostocks in Australia at present, only a very small amount will be available to each primary producer. The Government’s dollar allocation for the importation of fumigants constitutes a very feeble effort as an emergency measure against an undoubted menace, and I have yet to hear of the Government making, any special contribution in cash or kind for this purpose. Primary producersshould not be forced to pay overseas prices for equipment to be used in Australia for the ultimate benefit of the entire population. In support of that contention, let me quote the words of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, as published: in Hansard of the 23rd May, 1947, when lie said -
If Australia wore tu submit to the imposition upon its population of prices ruling in other parts of the world our own internal economy, as it affects both city and country dwellers, would crash.
The Government must assist primary, producers to bear the cost of materials necessary to destroy rabbits. In this connexion, I submit for the Government’s consideration a resolution from a league of rural associations, consisting of eight smaller similar organizations in northern Victoria, which recently met at Kerang. It is as follows : -
That having regard to thu enormous number nf rabbits, and the consequent loss by the whole (.’(immunity of Australia, this meeting, representing district organizations, recommends that producers with vulnerable crops and pastures he encouraged to wire-net same, and that thu Government import necessary requirements and make available to producers at prices equivalent to prices charged for the Australian product.
In the name of all the primary producers whom 1. represent politically, and of countless others whose opinions I am now expressing, I call upon the Government to assist, by providing finance and co-operating generally, in maintaining the assets which we have in grass crops and fertile lands, thus contributing to the greater production which is so sorely needed in Australia.
– Insofar as the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) stated facts his contribution was a. useful one in that it tended to bring home to honorable members and to the public the fact that rabbits can be on occasions a real plague, and a threat to the primary industries. I was astonished, however, at the language used by the honorable member in submitting his motion. He said that the rabbit pest and its increasing menace to production and to the stability of the national economy was of importance. Then he wont off at a tangent and said that another matter of public importance is the extent to which the Government’s centralization policy is a contributing factor. Not long afterwards he complimented the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) on the decentralization policy in making available 600 Baits for farm work. A decentralization policy has been maintained ever since Labour resumed governmental control in this country. One wonders where the controversy in the honorable member’s mind will lead him. The centralization policy which unfortunately prevailed in the past was entirely the responsibility of the opponents of Labour. Substantial improvements have been effected in Victoria since the Labour Government came into office in the Commonwealth sphere. I have not gone to a lot of trouble to ascertain the exact extent of the progress that has resulted from Labour’s decentralization policy, but I am able to remind the honorable member for Wimmera, who is a Victorian, that following upon the advent to office of the Curtin Labour Government the effect of that Government’s decentralization policy very rapidly became apparent in Victoria. As the result of the policy which was initiated by the Curtin Government and which has been continued by the Chifley Government; the drift from the country to the cities has been retarded. As the honorable member well knows it has been impossible entirely to stop the drift. That is difficult of achievement in these days of labour shortages. Though the drift has not been entirely stopped it has at least been retarded. Let us consider the position in Victoria. Along the Murray there was established during the war a vast munitions plant at Mulwala which employed hundreds of people. At Echuca there was established a ball-bearing factory. In the State sphere, the Cain Labour Government was responsible for the establishment at Mildura of a branch of the Melbourne University. It is somewhat doubtful whether the present Liberal-Country party administration in Victoria will allow that branch to remain in existence. Unfortunately forces are already at work in an attempt to destroy the work of the Cain Labour Government in establishing such an important institution in a country town. At Wangaratta, in the electorate of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), the Australian Labour Government established a vast aluminium extrusion factory for the purpose of producing one of the most important strategic war materials.
Mr. Rankin interjecting,
– Order ! Does the honorable member for Bendigo desire to speak to this motion?
– Then I remind him that if he does not remain silent now he will not have an opportunity to speak later.
– I understand that the aluminium factory at Wangaratta has now been taken over by Brucks Mills for the manufacture of textiles. At Bendigo, the department over which I preside, established, while it was under the jurisdiction of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), a large dehydration works, which is now utilized by the killing authorities, thus making possible the killing of many additional stock in that area. Let u3 cross the Murray and consider what has happened in New South Wales. At Leeton, the Labour Government was to a large extent involved in the establishment of a duplicate canning plant. Further north, at Orange, over the Blue Mountains, one of Sydney’s great manufacturing concerns, Metters Limited, is engaged in the manufacture of stoves and, I believe, refrigerators. What a contrast, with what happened under the centralization policy of anti-Labour governments! I know that honorable members opposite who follow me will say that the drift of population to the cities still continues. They are well aware, however, that, on many occasions recently, they have questioned me in this House about the impossibility of obtaining increased supplies of wire, steel, angle iron, plough shares and other basic requirements of the man on the land. On the one hand, they want labour to be assigned to the great industries -producing those requirements, many of which are established in the cities, and on the other hand they want men made available in country areas for the destruction of rabbits. They cannot have it both ways. While the shortage of labour continues, it will be impossible to provide labour for the destruction of rabbits and, at the same time, to staff the factories producing the wire, steel, agricultural implements and other urgently needed requirements of the farmers. It is a tragedy that our labour pool is noi sufficient to provide for all- the requirements of industry and at the same time enable us to combat the rabbit plague. There is another important factor which is responsible for the drift to the cities. In the southern States, particularly in Victoria, all the good Crown land is already occupied. That has prevented this Government, in association with the State governments, from proceeding with more extensive closer settlement schemes and the soldier land settlement scheme. Every State government, irrespective of its political complexion, is finding the greatest difficulty in finding sufficient land on which to place ex-servicemen who desire to go on the land.
– Because the best Crown land is already held by large landholders and because there is objection on the part of the people whom the honorable member represents to the breaking up of large estates. That attitude has accentuated the difficulty of implementing land settlement schemes in all States. If. in association with the Commonwealth, the States were able to push on with their land settlement schemes, the extent of the drift from the country to the cities would be rapidly diminished.
– Why doe9 not the Minister say something about rabbits?
– I have always regarded the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) as a rabbit, and I shall say something about him if he does not remain silent. I propose to make my speech in my own way. I am replying to the accusation that the Government has adopted a centralization policy. I am pointing out that its record shows beyond any shadow of doubt that it has been responsible for decentralization on a scale never previously known in this country. If the interests which honorable members opposite support had not resisted land resumption the harassed State governments would show more inclination to give effect to their land settlement schemes.
T have recently examined some most interesting figures relating to primary production. In respect of dairy products, we attained peak production in 1934-35, when the incidence of unemployment was very high. Dairy production reached its highest level in that year because dairy-farmers were then assisted by sturdy sons and daughters, many of iv horn were intended to be educated for the medical and legal professions and to become artisans, technicians and highly qualified workers in many other fields. But dairyfarmers could not then afford to give their sons and daughters the class of education that would enable them to utilize to the best advantage the gifts with which the Creator had endowed them. The financial position of dairy-farmers was bad because of shockingly low prices, for dairy products. Consequently, the sons and daughters had no alternative to remaining on the farm with mother and father, and mother and father had no alternative to providing the maximum number of cows for them to milk. There was no escape for them from that undesirable position. Even if the parents had been able to afford to give the children the benefits of a higher education, it would have been futile for them to go to the cities, because the incidence of unemployment was then between 15 per cent, and 20 per cent. The scene has changed to-day. Dairy-farmers are receiving satisfactory returns for their produce, and their sons and daughters, who are specially gifted, are able to attend universities and enter the professions of their choice. There is no unemployment on the land. Father and mother are no longer obliged to milk 50 cows if they are able to obtain a sufficient return from 40 cows. The bank manager is no longer on the door step, and does not ask them to call at his office to discuss a reduction of the overdraft.
I have now dealt with complaints that the Government has adopted a policy of centralization. I deny that it has done so. We have encouraged decentralization by every means in our power, and if any forces in this country are working for centralization, the honorable member for Wimmera is associated with them.
– What did the Commonwealth Statistician say?
– Never mind what the Commonwealth Statistician has said. I am telling the honorable member the full story. I shall now examine the problem of the rabbit plague. Of course, rabbit plagues in Australia are not a new experience.
– This Government has not taken any action to prevent the present plague.
– I listened in silence to the speech by the honorable member for Wimmera, and I ask the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) to allow me to proceed without interruption. If he is able to tell a better story than I am telling, he will have an opportunity to do so later. From time to time, the State governments, which are the production authorities, have found it necessary to pass legislation to deal with the rabbit pest. As far back as 1SS4, before there was a Commonwealth Government, protest meetings were held in Victoria against the rabbit plague, as the result of the ineffectiveness of control measures taken by the shires. One shire councillor was reported to have had a large number of rabbits on his own property. Control of the pest by the shires was not effective. Victoria had completely decentralized the system of controls by making the shires responsible for administering the act. Mr. James Matthams, who, for some years, was in charge of the Vermin Destruction Branch of the Lands Department of Victoria, reporting on this period, said that thousands of acres of wheat crop were destroyed by rabbits in 1885. Mr. Matthams remarked that the inspector for one shire estimated in a report that 25,000 bushels of wheat were destroyed within his particular area. In 1SS9, finding that decentralization was not a cure, Victorian shires asked to be relieved of their responsibility. Obviously the statement by the honorable member for Wimmera that the Labour Government’s policy of centralization has contributed to the occurrence of the present plague is ludicrous in the extreme. Long before the inception of federation the States were taking measures to check the spread of rabbits. In 1880 the Victorian Parliament passed the Vermin Destruction Act and the Queensland Parliament passed the Rabbit Destruction Act. In 1889, the New South Wales Parliament passed the Rabbit Act, providing for the payment of a bonus on the scalps of rabbits destroyed. At this point, I shall read to honorable members an interesting story about the payment of thebonus on rabbits. The extract, which is taken from James Mattham’s book, Rabbits and Other Field Pests Including Noxious Weeds, reads as follows : -
It will be noticed that the expenditureon subsidies increased from £30,206 in 1883 to £279,716 in1887, although the amount of bonuses paid by landholders for each scalp decreased in some cases from1s. to1d. It was at first necessary for the trappers to produce the tail, but as they were loth to destroy those that were to provide them with their future supply many a tailless bunny was seen moving about the landscape, little the worse for the surgical operation that had deprived him of his little white upturned appendage. Then the authorities demanded the production of the scalp. In addition to the bonus paid by landholders, threefourths of which was reimbursed by the Government, the skins which were in most cases retained by the trappers, were worth from about6d. to1s. per dozen. Between the bonus and skin money, it was indeed a most profitable calling. Ithas been recorded that some trappers were making £10 to £25 per week, and that on one occasion one ofthem boastfully tendered a cheque for over £1,000 to a publican in payment for refreshments. All the champagne procurable in one of the Riverina towns was purchased by a trapper, who emptied it into a tub, and then drove about the streets and served it out with a pannikin to every one he knew. A silver rabbit worn as a scarf pin or on the watch chain was the insignia of the craft, and Hash, elegantly harnessed horses, sometimes fourinhand, were driven about the country by rabbiters, who were the envy of many squatters who were fast drifting into a state of bankruptcy. It was a rollicking, riotous time for the trappers, but ruinous for the landholders.
That was the situation in 1887. I shall now proceed with my outline of the history of legislation which the States introduced to check the rabbit pest. The States recognized, without a shadow of doubt, that they were responsible for dealing with the problem. In 1887 the Governments of Victoria and South Australia took joint action to erect a wild dog and rabbitproof fence between the two States. As the honorable member for Wimmera has claimed that the shortage of rabbit traps has contributed to the present plague. I shall briefly examine the situa tion before the turn of the century. A commission of inquiry, which the New South Wales Government appointed to examine the merits of trapping com pared with other methods of destruction, reported that trapping was a failure as a method of control for the following reasons: - First, it did not pay trappers to remain long enough in one camp to do effectual work; secondly, where warrens were numerous, after the trappers had been at work for a short time, the rabbits left the locality and did not return for two or three weeks; thirdly, where no trapping was done, the rabbits accumulated in colonies and were much more easily dealt with; and, fourthly, after trapping, many does and young rabbits were left.
Statements have been made about the value of wire netting as a means of controlling the rabbit menace. Honorable members will be interested to hear of the early experiences of State governments, and, in particular, those of the Victorian Government in attempting to control the spread of rabbits to the area now represented by the honorable member for Wimmera. Between 1880 and 1890, vermin-proof fences were erected in many parts of Victoria. One fence extended from Swan Hill to Lake Alabacutya and thence to the South Australian border. It is recorded that many boundary riders were employed to supervise and repair the fence. In spite of netting fences, and the imposition of a penalty on landholders for neglect, rabbits broke through the fences, and the north-western portion of the State, which the honorable member for Wimmera represents, became badly infested. The South Australian and Victorian Governments, which erected a rabbit and wild dogproof fence between the two States, had a similar experience. Part of the plan was to use the border fence as a base and erect a number of connecting fences. It was believed that the Mallee would thereby be enclosed by a network of fences, which would prove an effective check. Recording this measure in his book, Mr. Mattham stated -
The fences did not accomplish all they were expected to do or anything approaching it.
In the area represented by the honorable member for Wimmera, drift sands piled up against the wire-netting fences until large sections became completely submerged. Similarly, the vermin-proof fence erected in 1886 between Queensland and New South Wales failed to prevent the spread of rabbits to the northern State. Those early experiences explain why State governments believe that the most successful means of checking the spread of rabbits is by simultaneous poisoning campaigns and destruction of warrens. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its courtesy. I have a tremendous volume of information to impart, and I appreciate the desire of honorable members to hear it. I have dealt with the historical position before the turn of the century, and the steps taken by State governments to prevent their territories from being completely overrun. T have also recounted how the general use of wire netting as an effective counter to rabbits was abandoned by earlier State governments because of disappointing results. Since the beginning of this century, there have been several major rabbit plagues. They invariably occurred in good seasons. In 1903 and 1917 the plagues occurred after millions of rabbits had been exterminated by the droughts of 1902 and 1914. Records of 1903 show that there was an abundance of labour, and so far as can be gathered, an adequate supply of poisoning materials, hut difficulty was experienced in combating the plague. I do not mention that fact as an alibi for the then Commonwealth Government, but as evidence of the magnitude of the problem facing the State governments, which are responsible for control measures. Records of 1917 show that the most serious difficulty in dealing with the plague was a shortage of poisoning materials. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was the Prime Minister at that time. So far as I can ascertain, the right honorable gentleman and his government were mct. subjected to attack because rabbits were in control of the countryside. But State governments were attacked and, in Victoria, if my memory serves me right, those attacks led to the resignation of one or two State government officials.
In 1919-20, there was an acute shortage of wire netting as the result of the effects of the war on industry and the. great demand arising from post-war prices for primary products. The right honorable member for North Sydney will recall the demands made on his government at that time foi- an increase in the supply of fencing materials. The country never overtook the back-lag in fencing. If honorable members have any doubt about the matter I suggest they peruse some of the reports of meetings which preceded the taking of evidence by the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry in 1935. If they do so, they will find that complaints of fences being down and in need of repair were almost general in some districts. The honorable member for Wimmera was not at that time so actively identified with primary industry as he is to-day, otherwise he would know those details. I suggest that he bring his reading up to date, and recognize where the responsibility lies.
I have emphasized that poisoning is the most effective method of dealing with the rabbit problem. From time to time evidence has been forthcoming that some land-owners oppose simultaneous poisoning campaigns undertaken by State instrumentalities. For instance the Age of the 10th January, 1920, carried both an advertisement proclaiming that day as the occasion for the “ simultaneous destruction of rabbits and a paragraph from Avoca stating that “many landowners are strongly opposed to the compulsory poisoning of rabbits this year”. It was stated in the paragraph that the high price of skins would lead to the speedy thinning out of rabbits by trappers. We all recognize the need for action by the farmers, graziers, local municipalities, and State governments, and, finally, the Australian Government, by making available, as far as lies within its power, adequate supplies of materials useful in the destruction of rabbits. At one time, rabbit leagues were formed in some States, notably in the Gippsland district of Victoria. Those leagues, which are now defunct, dealt with matters relating to rabbit destruction, wire netting, trapping and similar subjects. That those leagues then existed is further evidence of the fact that rabbit plagues have menaced this country from time to time, and that the present increase is by no means a unique feature in our agricultural- areas. The rabbit is also a serious factor in causing soil erosion. Country Life, on the 11th February last, reported an interview with a prominent grazier, who said -
No person should he eligible for election as a .Director of a Pastoral Protection Board unless his property has been first inspected and certified as reasonably free from rabbits.
The- grazier also stated -
As matters stand at present, many Pastoral Protection Boards appear to he . more or less indifferent to rabbits, and the money spent on the salaries of rabbit inspectors appears to be largely wasted because the boards in -many instances appear to be unwilling to carry out prosecutions in cases where men - have failed to destroy rabbits. They are the properties, too,’ which, in many cases, are a source of great monetary loss and annoyance to those who keep- down rabbits.
So far as I know, that newspaper has no tender feelings for either the Government or myself. There have been no shortages recently of materials required for poison to exterminate rabbits. Fumigators are plentiful. Fumigants also are now more plentiful. War influences have been a factor in this problem. Labour shortages during and following the war encouraged widespread neglect. ‘ I do not mean widespread neglect by this Government but, in- many instances, by land-holders. Perhaps there has also been some neglect by some of the State governments and shire councils, which have some responsibility in this connexion. Some blame must be attached to seasonal conditions. Climatic conditions in 194S provided plenty of feed for rabbits. This is the main factor. It has been proved clearly that during the period when high prices were paid for skins the land-holder was, in some degree, relieved of a responsibility which formerly he largely carried himself. He became somewhat careless. The demand for poisons and fumigants decreased, with the result that storekeepers in country towns and provincial centres were not disposed to stock poisons and fumigants that might not be called for by landholders in their districts except spasmodically. They could, of course, have been obtained from the cities. Then we have Mr. Pemberton’s testimonial. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) laughs. Mr. Pemberton is an officer of the Victorian Government. At the moment he is serving under theLiberal party Administration of Victoria. That is an administration that has unloaded from its back the colleagues of the honorable member for Bendigo. Mx;; Pemberton formerly served in Victoria under a coalition Liberal party- Australian Country party government. Is Mr. Pemberton’s opinion worthless? He is charged with the responsibility of eliminating the rabbit pest and prosecuting land-holders who allow rabbits to breed unduly on their properties. If Mr.’ Pemberton’s opinion is worthless, then the honorable gentleman’s political asso-ciates in Victoria must take some share of the responsibility. Mr. Pemberton said -
There has never been a shortage of poison, picks and shovels.
– He has never used a pick or shovel in his life.
– I do not know that the honorable member for Bendigo has used a pick or shovel in his life. Mr. J. C. Gorman is a respected grazier, a large land-holder in the Riverina and the. vice-president of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association. On the. 3rd February, he stated -
A flexible hose attached to the exhaust of a tractor or truck is a medium of forcing an extremely poisonous gas into rabbit harbours.’ A tractor is far cheaper than fumigants specially designed for the job.
That refers to the fact that some people-
– Where does he get the petrol from?
– I did not interject whilst the honorable member for Wimmera was speaking. I ask that honorable members opposite should not interrupt me.
– Order! The Minister must be heard in silence.
– As to strychnine, distributors usually carry only smallstocks. There is a heavy demand at present, but a shortage has not developed. A temporary shortage could develop with abnormal demand. Materials are freely available in India and the United Kingdom, and substantial supplies are on the water at the moment. By steady and continuous work, land-holders could maintain steady supplies and obviate sudden demand. Prepared phosphorus supplies appear to be adequate and manufacturers can meet the demand. I turn now to the fumigant supply position, about which honorable members opposite have been somewhat critical. The United States of America has been the sole source of supply of calcium cyanide, although a small trial consignment was recently received from France. The dollar position was difficult after September, 1947, but 85 tons was imported for rabbit destruction and an additional 47 tons was made available by the Australian Wheat Board. Consequently, there was no restriction on supply in 1947-48. For 1948-49, a total of 136 tons has been provided for in deliveries made already. The demand for carbon bisulphide has been abnormally high. Manufacturers can supply 150 tons. The use of chloropicrin or larvacide has been developed only during the last three years. State authorities regard it as effective, and many consider it to be superior to cyanogas. Prior to 1948-49 the United States of America was the sole exporter, but substantial quantities are now available from France. Sixtyseven tons have been made available from the United States of America. Seventy tons have been ordered from France, and more is available. A comparison reveals that a total quantity of fumigants equivalent to 770 tons of cyanogas has been arranged for to date. The average annual consumption has been approximately 170 tons for the past ten years. The highest consumption previously was in 1944-45, when the equivalent of 276 tons of cyanogas was consumed. This Government will make available this year more cyanogas, larvacide and chloropicrin than has hitherto been available in Australia. It is estimated that one ton of larvacide is equal to three tons of cyanogas in effectiveness.
I have instituted many inquiries regarding this matter, and I have also made my own personal observations. I have taken the trouble to examine a wide range of reports that have been submitted by pastoral officers in New South Wales.
They range from October, 1942, to 104S.
In only one instance was there any complaint regarding the availability of wire netting. The inspectors generally regarded any increase of the number of rabbits as due to negligence on the part of land-holders and they attributed any severe plague to the seasonal conditions that were being experienced. In 1942 they attributed one of the gravest problems that was then facing land-holders to the fact that the Menzies Government in 1940-41 had called up rabbit trappers and put them into the Army. This is what one inspector said regarding the land-holder’s responsibility -
At present I find it difficult to get graziers to destroy their rabbits. Skins are not worth much now. Excuses for evading the issue are very numerous, such as no labour, other work of more importance, the ground too hard &c. In some cases these are true enough, but I find that in the majority of the ones concerned they are usually men who never did have time or labour or incentive to get rid of their rabbits, and at present they are almost impossible to deal with. In any case, at present one must be satisfied to have the properties trapped. Digging out, except with the man who really values his land, is out of the question. Labour in many cases is not the problem so much as laziness. Whereas the persons concerned could once employ some one to do the work, now if it is to be done, they must do it themselves, and in many cases, they prefer to sit and complain of labour shortage.
Honorable members who are land-holders and who have any experience of rabbits and noxious weeds know that those remarks are substantially true. Many years ago a block of land, 5 acres in extent, not far from my property, was infested with a noxious weed known as gor3e. [Further extension of time granted.’] What applies to noxious weed applies with equal force to rabbits. This block of land was entirely covered with noxious weeds, 5 or 6 feet high. A person bought the estate. He put a bullock team into it and entirely eliminated the noxious weeds from it. I saw the railway reserve that adjoins my property gradually become infested, until to-day it is a mass of furze, gorse and blackberries. It is part of the Crown lands of the State of Victoria. For 30 years it has cost me in money, my own labour and hired labour hundreds of pounds to keep my paddock clear of the pest which comes from the Crown land.
One neighbour of mine keeps hia paddock entirely free. Owing to a variety of causes another neighbour, who lives further down the creek, has not tackled his problem. I am informed that recently it cost £28 for one day to employ a bulldozer and a diesel engine to bulldoze some of these noxious weeds off that paddock. The Crown lands authorities have not yet eliminated one-tenth of their infestation. What applies to noxious weeds applies with equal force to rabbits. Some men are careful. Some men will work on Saturdays and Sundays and go to any length to keep the rabbit pest down. Some men will shut their front gates and keep them wired. Other men are careless, with the result that the properties of their neighbours become infested, involving them in tremendous expense. Crown lands throughout the length and breadth of. Victoria are infested, as every one knows. It is purely political propaganda to try and put the responsibility for the rabbit menace on the shoulders of the Australian Government. The Australian Government has no control over land, it has no vermin and noxious weeds destruction legislation, and it does not maintain a staff of inspectors. If it did, honorable members opposite would call them bureaucrats and accuse us of employing too many officials. The report from which I have just quoted was made in 1942. Let us go to 1947. In that year, the number of rabbits was reported to have decreased at Forbes, It was said that at Dubbo they were increasing, but were not particularly numerous. It was reported that at Coonabarabran rabbits had been breeding since the breaking of the drought. There was no mention of a shortage of cyanogas and poisons or of a scarcity of wire netting. Going back to 1943, the following report was made with regard to Warialda: -
Rabbits have now been plentiful in this district for at least four years. While the price of rabbit skins is over 2e. 6d. per lb., a considerable number of skins are obtainable, but when the price falls below that level no one worries about trapping. Very little poisoning is done here at any time for skins. There has been a definite falling off in the number of skins coming forward lately, but it is considered that this is practically solely due to the price of skins. There is no noticeable difference in the number of rabbits in this district now to what were present at this time last year. If the rain which has just fallen had been general” over the district . . . and provided follow-up rains fall, the prospects of an abundance of feed are bright, and if such is the case there is every likelihood that there will be a considerable increase in rabbit numbers in six months time.
Let us consider some extracts from the inspectors’ reports for 1948. The following extract refers to Balranald : -
Rabbits are still breeding, but eradication campaign in February has produced good results.
Good land-holders, good local control, good organization and a good eradication campaign produce good results, and if some of those who are doing all the moaning and wailing did some practical work to bring more pressure to bear on the Victorian Government to clean up it3 own dirty lands-
– What about New South Wales?
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is more concerned with Victoria, but what applies to negligent land-owners in Victoria applies equally to negligent land-holders in New South Wales.
I have given practical examples of the problems facing the community, hut the responsibility really rests with those who hold land to keep it clean, and to find ways and means of doing so, even under difficulties. In my time I have worked on Saturdays and Sundays to solve the problems that confronted me. If some land-holders would spend more time on the job and less on other things the rabbit plague would not. be as serious as it is to-day-
– Crown lands are breeding grounds for rabbits, and there is a grave shortage of wire netting.
– We know that Crown lands are contributing factors to the rabbit pest and that there is a shortage of wire netting. But if all the wire netting in the United States of America was brought to Australia we could not end the rabbit plague, because it would take many years to erect it. Wire netting alone cannot overcome the plague. Poisoning, fumigating, digging out and trapping are also required. Honorable members opposite are indulging in nothing else but political propaganda in the belief that the people will be impressed by their earnestness to have the rabbit plague dealt with. Let us look at the allegation made by the honorable member for “Wimmera, that this Government regards the rabbit pest as an industry. “Whoever heard of such nonsense 1 By what manner of means, or by what stretch of imagination or mental obscurity, does the honorable gentleman consider that this Government considers the rabbit plague as an industry?
– The Minister boasted about it.
– The honorable gentleman is a perverter of the truth. What I did say, probably in response to a question, was that the rabbit industry had brought into Australia a sum of so many millions of pounds through the sale of rabbit skins overseas. It is not a question of considering a rabbit pest as an industry, or of encouraging it, or of boasting about it. The honorable member for Wimmera is guilty of downright misrepresentation when he said that 1 boasted that it was an industry. I know full well that if this Government had been negligent in exploiting the market that exists in the United States of America for rabbit skins, the sale of which brings in dollars, and in the United Kingdom, where our export of rabbit carcasses helped the food position, it would have been accused of being negligent and careless of the revenue of this country and of the interests of the people of the United Kingdom. It would have been further accused of not taking advantage of the high market value of rabbits to encourage people to go out and trap them. The honorable gentleman has no idea of logic or reasoning or anything else when he says blatantly that the Government has encouraged the rabbit industry and that I have boasted about it.
– The Minister’s boast is recorded in Hansard.
– Every intelligent man, even the honorable member himself, knows that eight rabbits eat as much as one sheep. If the revenue from eight rabbits is compared with the revenue from one sheep every one knows on which side the balance would rest. There is no question of the Government treating the rabbit menace as an industry and praising it. The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
Mr. Rankin interjecting,
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is miserable and mean. He is one of those who endeavour to put the responsibility for the rabbit menace where it does not belong, because it was those on his side of the political fence who urged the people during the referendum campaign last year not to give the Government further responsibilities.
The honorable member for Wimmera talked about the rabbit-skin tax and said that by virtue of that tax the Government had discouraged trappers. Let us look at the history of the rabbit-skin tax.
Mr. Rankin interjecting],
– Order! The honorable member for Bendigo is interrupting the House too frequently. I do not desire to have to deal with him on an issue of this nature.
– I spoke only once.
– Order ! The honorable member will not speak again to-day in the House if he does not keep quiet.
– The honorable member for Wimmera, in his blatant endeavour to indulge in political propaganda, blamed the Government for the imposition of the rabbit-skin tax. Most honorable members know that the imposition of that tax and the legislation providing for it were the work of the Opposition when it held office as the Government. The present Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, brought down that legislation. I was in Opposition at the time and was in charge of the debate on the bill for my party. All parties supported the legislation. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot blame the present Government for the legislation when his own colleagues and the Leader he sita behind supported it. As far as the tax to-day is concerned, the position is that the National Security Regulations under which some features of it were partly implemented, have lapsed. We have said quite clearly to the States that if they want a continuation of the arrangement, whereby they will levy a tax on rabbit-skins so as to subsidize the loc.il market on behalf of the consumer, and they indicate that fact to the Government, it will be prepared to implement the necessary legislation to assist them. I completely absolve this Government of responsibility regarding the skin tax. It is complete nonsense for the honorable member to say that with rabbit-skins selling at 138d. per lb. the imposition of a tax of lSd. per lb. is a deterrent to trappers. I point out, as others have pointed out, that if the whole of the Australian people were sent out with rabbit traps to trap rabbits the pest would not be overcome because rabbit trapping alone has never been the answer to it. The answer is poisoning, gassing and a combination of all the means that are helpful in combating the menace. It does not lie in any one of these means alone. But more than anything else the answer is for land-holders, especially the negligent ones, to shoulder their responsibilities.
.- Having listened to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) for the better part of an hour. I am more than ever convinced that the Government has completely failed to grasp the situation and that it is trying to evade its responsibilities. After all, the Minister has been associated with rabbits all his life and ought to know something of the practical problems of dealing with them. He started off by spending about a quarter of an hour talking about the drift of population to the city, which was mentioned merely in passing by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). It is perfectly true that during the term of office of the present Government there has been a drift to the cities of human population and also of rabbits. I saw in the press recently that Melbourne had had a plague of rabbits at Flemington racecourse. The problem of rabbits must be dealt with now in both the cities and the country, and it requires urgent atten tion on the part of the Government. It is quite clear that the Government has failed to give this menace the attention it should have.
The Minister went on to tell us something that we all know well - that the present rabbit plague is not the worst or the first in this country, and that rabbits increase every year we have a good season. But there is one difference between what is happening now and what has happened in former years. In former years the primary producers had the means to deal with rabbits. They had wire netting, poisons, fumigants and cartridges. The complaint that the mover of this motion mainly voices is that none of those materials is available in sufficient quantities. The Government must bear the responsibility for that, in some cases directly and in others indirectly. The Minister referred in a lackadaisical manner to wire netting, saying that it might be of some use, but not much. Anybody who grows a crop in an area where rabbits are prevalent will agree that the rabbits come in from neighbouring properties and eat his crop, perhaps destroying a whole season’s work. Wire netting could prevent that destruction. The Government has a direct and an indirect responsibility for the shortage of wire netting. It is indirectly responsible because steel is necessary for the manufacture of wire netting, and coal is necessary for the manufacture of steel, and the shortage of coal is the direct responsibility of the Government.
For a long time the Government has opposed the importation of any wire netting from abroad. As a result, as the Minister himself knows very well, there is practically no wire netting to be had in this country to-day. I have tried to buy it, as many others have done, and cannot do so. There is at present a great shortage of fumigants, particularly of cyanogas. Fumigants, as the Minister has explained, come from the United States of America. Because of dollar difficulties, cyanogas has not been imported because the Government decided, very shortsightedly, I believe, to cut down its importation and save dollars. The Minister mentioned the use of strychnine for the destruction of rabbits. Has he tried to buy strychnine in the last few years and been able to obtain as much as he required? Perhaps, being a Minister of the Crown, he can get what he wants, but private members and primary producers are unable to obtain enough.
– I take objection, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the honorable member’s remark. 1 have never used my official position to obtain preference in anything.
– The Minister objects to the honorable member’s remark and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the remark. Primary producers, however, have not been able to obtain enough strychnine. I have not been able to obtain strychnine
– Perhaps the honorable member is afraid that he would use it on himself.
– I should like to use it on some honorable members opposite. The Government also bears the responsibility for the shortage of cartridges. Their importation has been forbidden.
– That is not true.
– According to the information that I have had from the Government and from other sources, the importation of cartridges has been forbidden.
– Most of the materials which the land-owner requires to destroy rabbits are either unobtainable, or can be obtained only in such small quantities as to be comparatively useless. There is a substance known as atlacide, which is used, not to kill rabbits, but to kill blackberries which harbour rabbits. Large areas of Gippsland are infested with blackberry, which harbours a great many rabbits. Blackberry is very hard to kill, but the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research discovered a poison which has proved very effective against it. The trouble is that the ingredients can bc obtained only from the United States of America, and the Government will not allow them to be imported. I have previously brought this matter to the notice of the Minister, and I hope that something will be done about it. The Government should take the rabbit pest much more seriously. A thorough investigation should be made by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It did make one attempt to deal with the pest and it infected certain rabbits with a disease, but because the disease was not communicable from, one warren to another, this method proved ineffective. Further tests should be made in an effort to discover some other method of control. I cordially support the motion in the hope that the Government will take some positive action. At present, the Government seems inclined to leave the job to the land-holders and to the State governments. The Australian Government can do a great deal to help, and I hope it will do so.
.- We have had plenty of notice of this motion. About six weeks ago, I read in the newspapers that it was proposed to move the adjournment of the House to discuss the rabbit menace. It is a pity that those behind the agitation did not get a practical man to bring the matter forward. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), to whom it was entrusted, evinced lack of knowledge of the subject. He read out a few platitudes that any schoolboy could have told him. Listening to him, one might be led to believe that the rabbit pest has developed only since the advent of the Chifley Government. Indeed, I should not be surprised if the honorable member really believes that. He quoted statements by representatives of the Graziers Association. He always speaks for the big men with whom, probably, he comes in contact in his business as a stock and station agent. He does not meet the ordinary farmer. I can claim some knowledge of this subject, because I have had a lifelong fight with rabbits. Indeed, at one stage it was a toss-up which of us would win. I may be a bit battle-scarred, but I have survived. The situation was such that one of us had to go, and I was determined that I would stay. The Bruce-Page Government was in office at that time, and we took on the fight against the rabbits without running to it. We knew that it was our fight.
The honorable member for Wimmera, and those who support him, seem willing to lay all the blame for the rabbits on the Prime Minister, perhaps because he does not spend his week-ends digging out rabbit warrens.
First of all, let us inquire whether there is a plague of rabbits. I was born on the Murray, and after the first world war I took up a block of land which originally formed part of a sheep station of 30,000 acres, and it adjoined another station of about the same size. There was not even a wire netting fence .between the two stations, and my block was on the boundary. The rabbits had been breeding and increasing while we were fighting in France’, and they were as cunning as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). In some cases, there were warrens half a mile wide, and the rabbits were so numerous that one almost tripped over them. The honorable member for Wimmera has told us that the primary industries in some districts are on the verge of collapse, and that the wheat crops have been eaten. The country is threatened with disaster, he says, and the Chifley Government is responsible. Does the honorable member know what he is talking about? I quote from the Melbourne Sun the following account of an interview with Mr. Pemberton, the superintendent of the Vermin and Noxious Weeds Section of the Lands Department in Victoria: -
Mr. Pemberton yesterday ridiculed reports that rabbits in some districts were ripping wheat bags to feast on the grain. “ Our Ouyen inspector denies that rabbits in his district are in pest proportions.”
That is in the honorable member’s own electorate. This scare about the rabbits has been raised for political purposes only. Our political opponents realize that the Communist menace is getting a bit stale, and suddenly they thought of rabbits. They have sought to fix the responsibility on the Chifley Government, not, of course, on the Hollway Government of Victoria. The campaign has been supported by photographs in the newspapers. I have before me a copy of the Melbourne Herald, in which there is published what at first sight appears to be a very impressive picture showing rabbits trying to get over a wire netting fence. There is a dramatic caption to the picture, “Rabbits leap to get over netting “, and underneath the following words are printed : -
Dramatic proof of the rabbit plague in once-rich Riverina pastoral areas- cornered rabbits leaping fence-high in efforts to escape. Jumping and riding pick-a-back, hungry rabbits can sometimes surmount wire netting obstacles.
The suggestion seems to be that the Riverina is now a desert. Well, I flew over it the other day, and it is looking pretty well. I confess that the picture had me puzzled until I looked at it more closely. It shows one rabbit upside down with its hind legs stuck stiffly up into the air. No one ever saw a live rabbit in that position. Another of the rabbits shown in the picture has obviously been gutted, and the carcass was propped up against the wire netting for the purpose of being photographed. Crouching against the wire are a couple of timid rabbits, also put there for the purpose of the photograph. A free rabbit, if it knows where its burrow is, will always make a bee-line for it. In the same issue, there is another picture which shows a rabbit going for its life with a dog after it. It is a good action picture, but it proves nothing. In still another picture there is illustrated an old ewe which has been propped up for the purposes of the picture, and there are three rabbits nearby. Underneath the picture are the following words : -
This sheep, nearly too weak to walk, seems resigned to its fate in grassless country, eaten to the roots by rabbits. The pests do not look undernourished.
It is obvious to me that the sheep has every disease in the calendar of sheep complaints, plus old age. Even in the photograph I can see that it has scabby mouth, and looks as if it has fluke and swollen jaw. As I have said, there are also in the picture three little bunnies, which waited patiently until the camera man came up to take the photograph. The honorable member for Wimmera has made certain charges against the Government, and there is an obligation upon him to sustain them. I intend to turn those charges back against him. There was an anti-Labour government in office when I took up my land after the first world war, and my block was practically one big rabbit warren, but we did not receive any assistance in getting rid of the rabbits. Instead, after I had been on the block for eighteen months, I received a summons, and was prosecuted for not having destroyed the rabbits. The original owners of the land were wealthy men, but they had not even netted their properties. Let me point out here, by the way, that netting does not kill rabbits. Sometimes, there are more rabbits to be found inside the netted paddocks than outside. When we went on to the land we were penniless men, but we were prosecuted for not destroying the rabbits. While the squatters were there they were not interfered with. My neighbour and I laid a poison trail 5 miles long. We were too poor to employ labour. As a matter of fact,’ we could not even pay ourselves wages. After putting down the poison, we started at daylight with a spring cart to pick up the carcasses. When the cart was full, we dumped the carcasses where we could return later to skin them. It was a hot day, and we were picking up until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, by which time we had gathered over 5,000 rabbits. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) will know the state in which the carcasses were when we went back to skin them. We had no money with which to huy wire netting, and our problem was to keep the land clear. Extension of time granted.] I am convinced that fumigation is the best way to destroy rabbits. In that way one kills the old cunning ones, including the old does, that one can never catch in a trap - in that respect they resemble the honorable member for Bendigo. The Government has been charged with having failed to provide fumigants for the farmers. No government in the past provided me with fumigants for use on my farm. When antiLabour governments were in office I did not blame them for not having done so. In those days farmers did not think of approaching a government for help of that kind. I made a fumigator out of an old drum and operated it with a stirrup pump. I could not afford to buy cyanogas at 10s. a tin, and as I had plenty of sheep manure under the shed, I burnt that in my home-made fumigator. I must confess, however, that the effect on me was nearly as great as it was on the rabbits. Honorable members opposite have no justification for their complaint that cyanogas is unobtainable. As I have shown, there is no need to use it. Having a little more money since the Labour Government came into office, I was able to buy a fumigator, but I do not use cyanogas in it. As every practical man knows, it is possible to obtain a gas, which is equally as deadly as producer gas, by burning red gum chips or mallee roots in a drum. It would even pay farmers to buy red gum or mallee roots for that purpose. The apparatus is simple to operate. It is only necessary to turn a handle and direct the flow of gas given off by the burning chips into the rabbit burrow. The Government has been charged with having failed to provide adequate quantities of wire netting and it has been said that, to the extent that it has done so, it must accept responsibility for the rabbit plague. The installation of wire netting fences is only one of the preventive measures by which the rabbit pest may be eradicated.
It is equally necessary that farmers and graziers should do everything possible to keep their land thoroughly clean. Even where wire netting has been erected rabbits are prolific. They burrow under obstacles of that kind. The mere installation of wire netting fences will not get rid of rabbits. In pre-war years the annual production of wire netting amounted to 12,000 tons. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) should have made sure of his facte before he submitted a motion such as that now before the House. Last year the production of wire netting amounted to 11,000 tons, or almost the pre-war level. In addition, a quantity of wire netting was imported. It is true that the cost of the imported netting is prohibitive. Very few farmers could afford to pay £10 for 100 yards of imported wire netting compared with approximately £2 15s. for the Australian product. Those people who buy the imported wire netting, being wealthy, take the view that they may as well invest their money in wire netting as hand it over to “ Mr. Chifley “. Those who blame the Government for not having permitted large importations of wire netting are the wealthy graziers and not the little “ cockies “ like myself. Wealthy graziers are using wire netting for subdividing their properties. Dealing with the production of wire netting the secretary of the Victorian and Southern Riverina Graziers Associations, Mr. V. W. Officer, had this to say -
The hack-lag in wire netting during the war was considerably greater than the 40,000 tons quoted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice). The lag was nearer 300,000 tons. This excluded the additional fencing required to meet the present exceptional circumstances and for new subdivisions.
Only very wealthy graziers can afford to use imported wire netting to subdivide their properties. A farmer might think it worthwhile to enclose a small lucerne paddock with wire netting at that price, but it would be uneconomic for him to use such expensive material for subdividing his property. For that purpose, and for the purposes of the grazier a plain wire fence is sufficient. The honorable member for Wimmera, who is a supporter of the Graziers Association, told us what the secretary of the association had said about the shortage of cyanogas. According to Mr. Officer, some farmers would not buy it even if they could obtain it. Mr. Officer said -
A disquieting feature is that reports have reached 11s! saying that some small land-holders are doing nothing to kill the rabbit. They are looking to profit from winter skins.
The big graziers are blaming the small men for the rabbit plague. In my many years of experience as a farmer I have found that the cutting up of large estates and the implementation of closer land settlement schemes have had the greatest effect in combating the rabbit pest. I knew of two big stations with a total area of approximately 70,000 acres which are nothing but rabbit warrens. The farmers are now getting together in a concerted attempt to attack the rabbit menace. By no means can the rabbit plague be regarded as a responsibility of the Australian Government. This motion has been proposed solely for political purposes. My experience as a farmer who has suffered greatly from the rabbit pest leads me to believe that until scientists discover some more scientific method for combating the pest than is known at present, plagues of the kind we are now experiencing will re-occur. I understand that a scientist employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is conducting experiments in an endeavour to discover a virus which will exterminate rabbits. In the course of his work, he is undertaking extensive research into their habits. I am not optimistic enough to believe that rabbits will be completely exterminated unless some such discovery is made. ‘ The vermin destruction boards of the various States are doing their best to minimize the rabbit plague. They do everything possible to ensure that the laws which they administer are obeyed.- They are helpful to the farmers in every way and are in no way harsh in their treatment of the small men. It is ridiculous to blame the Government for the rabbit plague which now infests the country.
.- This afternoon we heard from Government spokesmen the most extraordinary defence ever advanced on behalf of any government for its inaction. The rabbit plague which is now raging in Australia is seriously jeopardizing the production of the greatest industries in the Commonwealth and hampering the export of foodstuffs much needed in overseas countries. The plague is affecting in particular the great Australian wool industry, which is the biggest dollar earner that the Commonwealth has. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and other Government spokesmen in this debate have talked only about the past. What may have happened under the administration of past governments has no relation to the present situation. The Government has utterly failed to realize the desperate plight which is facing this country to-day as the result of the depredations of this pest. The productive capacity of Lysaght’s at Chiswick, New South Wales, is 250 tons or 227 miles of wire netting a week, but the plant has not produced one ton of wire netting since 1945, when it was thrown out of operation as a result of a strike called by the Communist-controlled Iron
Workers Federation of Australia. Rylands’ works at Newcastle, which is capable of producing 200 tons a week, has not been able to reach full capacity because of the shortage of steel brought about by the failure of the coalminers of New South Wales to produce sufficient coal to keep the wheels of industry moving. In spite of that, the Government considers that it cannot be blamed in this matter, and that there is nothing wrong with its administration. It has shown a complete lack of sympathy for the man on the land by denying responsibility for ensuring that his requirements of wire netting are met.I am well aware that the mere installation of wire netting fences will not end this menace. Hundreds of thousands of farming properties throughout the Commonwealth were neglected during the war. Countless miles of fencing were allowed to get into a state of disrepair. But notwithstanding the fact that the war has been over for more than three years, the farmers are still unable to obtain their wirenetting requirements. For months the Government refused to allocate dollars for the importation of wire netting. I understand that at long last it has now decided to provide £100,000 a quarter for that purpose during the ensuing year. The expenditure of £400,000 will bring in only a negligible quantity of wire netting and will do little to assist the attack on the rabbit menace. The expenditure of such a sum will enable us to import approximately 730 miles of wire netting each quarter, or 2,920 miles a year. Such a quantity is totally inadequate to meet the requirements. Tens of thousands of miles of wire netting are needed immediately. Mr. Bayley, of the American Industrial Research Foundation, who made widespread inquiries into the wire netting position in Australia, estimates that at least 300,000 miles of 42inch and strip netting are required. The Government has demonstrated its complete lack of knowledge of the requirements of the man on the land by limiting production in Australia to netting of 1½inch mesh. Netting of that kind is completely useless for the control of “ kittens “. A. New South Wales grazier who acquired a property on which wire netting of 1½inch mesh had been installed, wrote to me as follows : -
Some fifteen months ago, the neighbour adjoining us was completely eaten out by rabbits. We keep a pack of dogs, and the dogman used to take them into the paddock fenced with 1½inch mesh and each morning used to kill between 400 and 500 kittens which had got through the 1½inch netting during the night.
My correspondent has had 45 years’ experience on the land. In last week’s issue of Country Life it is stated that 25,000 miles of wire netting are available in France for importation to this country. If the Government had been alive to its responsibilities in this matter it would have instructed its trade commissioners and Australian representatives in other countries to explore every possible means of securing for Australia the wire netting required by our farmers. Even though the cost of imported wire netting be very much higher than that of the local product it is much better for farmers and graziers to have effective fencing than to allow the rabbit plague to jeopardize our important primary industries. The Government is totally lacking in sympathy for farmers and graziers. The completion of boundary fences that have been onlypartly erected by the use of expensive netting would not add greatly to the overall fencing costs.
During this debate Government spokesmen have indulged in diatribes about what other governments have done or have failed to do. Not a word has been said by them about the Government’s obligations to our farmers and graziers. I propose to offer some suggestions for overcoming the disastrous difficulties which now exist as a result of the rabbit plague. I trust that the Government will closely examine them. First, I suggest that the embargo on the manufacture of wire netting of1¼inch mesh should be abolished. Secondly, the Treasurer should make more dollars available for the importation of wire netting from the United States of America. If the Government were able to make available 1,180,000 dollars for the purchase of second-hand cement making plant and 55,000 dollars for bottle labelling machinery, surely it could make dollars available for the purchase of wire netting to enable the primary producers of Australia, who are its best dollar winners, particularly the woolgrowers, to maintain production in their industries. Thirdly, the Government should import all available quantities of wire netting from France and other overseas countries. In 1947-48 Australia exported more than 2,500,000 tons of iron and steel. I agree with the secretary of the Newcastle Branch of the Australian Workers Union that such exports should be curtailed and that a large quantity of steel which is now exported should be used for the manufacture of wire netting. But this unsympathetic Government, which always plays up to the large industrial concerns, forgets the individual interests of small primary producers. It should assist the firm of Lysaght Brothers Limited to recommence manufacture. Mr. R. Champ, the manager of that organization, stated, in an interview published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 14th February last, that months ago he had asked the Government to supply immigrant labour to assist in reopening the works, which had a capacity of 250 tons of wire netting a week. The Government did not take any action to assist the company, because the works had been closed by its master, Mr. Ernest Thornton, of the Federated Ironworkers Association. The Government was afraid to offend its ruler. In the face of the present peril, the Government should lift the customs duty on importations of wire netting, regardless of the country where it was manufactured.
The Government should also act on the report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the use of the disease myxatomosis, which was developed at Wardung Island. The Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman), in reply to questions which I addressed to him recently, gave most misleading answers. He stated that the experiments with the disease had not been effective. The diseased rabbits, according to the Minister, had gone away on their own to burrows and not to those which were occupied by healthy rabbits, and, consequently, although the disease was fatal to rabbits, it did not spread among them. The Minister deliberately attempted to mislead primary producers, because he did not state that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had pointed out that myxatomosis should be tested with a view to determining whether it would kill rabbits when they were in plague proportions on large areas, which it was believed would happen. The Minister has repeatedly refused to make use of the disease on these areas, particularly in the west of New South Wales, where rabbitproof fences, because of the sand menace, are not so effective as are similar fences in other parts of the Commonwealth. The Minister has consistently refused to allow that experiment to be tried on a grand scale in parts of Australia where the disease might rapidly reduce the pests. [Extension of time granted.] The Government has not shown any desire to assist primary producers in their efforts to combat the rabbit menace.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) referred to a Mr. Pemberton. Until then, I had not heard of that gentleman, but 1 understand that he is an officer of the Department of Agriculture in Victoria. He has expressed certain views about rabbits, and the Minister quoted some of them, but conveniently forgot to mention others. For example, Mr. Pemberton is reported as having said -
The rabbit menace was real, and would be alleviated to a large extent if the Commonwealth Government would make more materials available for rabbit control.
That opinion is vastly different from the idea that the Minister endeavoured to convey to the House. Mr. Pemberton added -
No one realized the seriousness of the rabbit pest more than he did, and the Lands Department was doing everything possible to fight it.
The Lands Department in Victoria is a powerful organization, but neither that body nor the primary producers can effectively combat the rabbit plague if the Commonwealth is not prepared to do for the man on the land what it never hesitates to do for the big industrial concerns in the city. During the last three or four years, the honorable member for
Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and other honorable members opposite have demanded an increase of the manufacture of wire netting and the importation of rabbitproof netting and fumigants. The Government ha3 not heeded those requests. The Minister, in his speech this afternoon, dealt largely with the history of rabbit plagues in Australia. I remind him that we are not living in the dead past. We are living in the present, when the rabbits are in plague proportions and constitute a direct threat to the wool clip of the Commonwealth. This year, the value of the clip may total £200,000,000. Wool is the one great product of Australia that is acceptable to the people of the United States of America in large quantities. It is the greatest dollar-earner that we have. If the rabbit plague is not checked, our dollar-earning capacity in relation to wool will be seriously impaired.
I completely disagree with the statement by the Minister that the only effective way of getting rid of rabbits is by the method of poisoning. In my opinion, the only effective way is to erect a secure fence around an infested property, and dig the rabbits out. But primary producers realize that they cannot take those measures when the Government will not permit the importation of wire netting or take action to increase the production of coal which is required in the manufacture of steel rods from which wire netting is ultimately made. It is disgraceful that the works of Lysaght Brothers Limited, at Chiswick, have not been allowed to produce a ton of wire since 1945, although their capacity is 250 tons a week. The total capacity of wire netting works throughout Australia is 23,000 tons a year, and the output at present is less than 11,000 tons per annum. But some honorable members have the audacity to say that the production of wire netting is now greater than the output in 1938.
The rabbit plague is also a threat to our permanent pastures. Rabbits are largely responsible for soil erosion. Every person who has a knowledge of the land knows that the top 4 inches of soil produce the grasses and crops from which our primary products are obtained. If rabbits are allowed to multiply as they have done in the last few months, they will eat the roots of the grass, which is the best preserver of the land against soil erosion. When the roots have been eaten, the soil is left unprotected and when rain falls, sheet and gully erosion follows. The top 4 inches of soil, which is essential to Australian primary production, is then lost forever. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture devoted a considerable part of his speech to describing the rabbit plague in 188S or 1890, but he did not state that bitter experience is the best teacher of methods of combating rabbits. In the early 1920’s, wool prices were high and it was then possible to exterminate rabbits by confining them, within fences and digging them out of their burrows. That was long delayed, but after it had been made possible by the high wool prices it was soon found to be highly effective, especially in inland districts. This Government has given no encouragement to those who are willing to work for the destruction of rabbits. When the price of rabbit skins was high, it took 18d. per lb. from the trappers’ returns so that people in the cities could buy their felt hats cheaply and look smart. But now, when the average price of skins is only lSd. per lb. in many parts of Australia, -it is not doing anything to encourage the trappers. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has not proposed a subsidy equivalent to the levy of LSd. per lb. that was taken from the trappers previously, in order to increase the price to at least 3s. per lb., although that would be only an act of honesty.
The plague is moving from the western districts into the richest pasture lands of Australia and, unless it is fought with every weapon that can be devised by science, aided by netting with which farmers can enclose their properties in continuous lines of rabbit-proof fences, Australia will be struck by disaster as soon as a short, sharp dry spell occurs, because all feed will be eaten by vast hordes of rabbits and nothing will be left for our sheep and cattle. The result will be a great diminution of the volume of Australia’s primary production.
The price of wool may remain high, but there will be much less wool to sell than there is now, and the Government will find that its difficulties with dollar funds will become more acute. It is tragic that the Government should treat this matter as lightly as it has done. The Minister engaged in a long excursus about the number of factories that have been established by the Government in country districts for the manufacture of refrigerators and other commodities, but that will not convince the farmers that the ministry intends to deal with the menace of the rabbit plague. Our Prime Minister and Treasurer, who represents a rural constituency, has finally disgorged something for the salvation of Australia’s greatest industry, but his generosity has not extended beyond a niggardly amount of £400,000, which will be of scarcely any use in providing protection from the looming danger. He has completely failed to appreciate the vital importance of primary production to the nation. Apparently he does not realize that our rural industries create the nation’s wealth. I remind him and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that if our primary industries disappear before this menace, grass will grow in the streets of our cities, people will starve, and unemployment will be rife in the land. The matter is too serious for joking, and I am disgusted at the attitude of the Government. I hope that this debate, which was initiated by the honorable member for Wimmera, may at least have the effect of making the Government realize that the farmers are sick to death of being fobbed off with stories of what happened in the past, the histories of rabbit inspectors in the ‘eighties and criticisms of former governments. They want action and they want to get the goods that will enable them to save their properties from destruction so that they may continue to produce the exportable commodities that the world so badly needs.
.- The speech made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) was remarkable for its confusion and inaccuracy. One would think, after listening to the honorable gentleman, that there were no rabbits on any of the properties that are surrounded by wirenetting. I was amazed to hear a man of his knowledge and experience make such a ridiculous statement. I could take him to-morrow to a property that has been enclosed by netting for the last 40 years, and where the rabbits swarm, not in hundreds, but in hundreds of thousands. If the honorable member’s statements were true, there would be no rabbits at all on stations with netting fences. According to him, the only remedy for the rabbit plague is netting. Also one would think, after hearing the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), that we are now suffering from the first rabbit plague in Australia’s history. I am surprised that the honorable gentlemen did not blame the “ Commos “ for the plague. They blame Communists for everything else. Like the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), I am able to speak from a lifelong experience of rabbits. Rabbit plagues come and go and, whatever we may do, they will continue to occur while Australia exists as a continent. The plagues occur in regular waves.
In my opinion three main factors were responsible for the present scourge. The first of these was the war. Nobody can justly blame the Government for that. The second was the continued shortage of labour throughout Australia, which enabled rabbits to increase almost unchecked. The third was the effect of two recent good seasons, which caused the rate of multiplication of rabbits to accelerate. It does not take long for rabbits to increase their numbers from hundreds to millions, and they spread over the country very quickly. We had to neglect the pest during the war because our man-power was needed to defend the country. I am sure that even honorable members opposite would not prefer the Japanese to the rabbits. The necessity for maintaining our fighting forces and for manning our factories so that they could provide equipment for the services depleted our rural man-power and thus allowed the rabbits to spread without check in the first place. If 1,000 tons of wire netting could be distributer! to farmers in New South Wales tomorrow, not one rabbit would be killed as a direct result. The only purpose of netting is to enclose rabbits. It could not solve our immediate problem, whatever the honorable member for New England and his colleagues may say. We have had wire netting in this country since 1888 but, as honorable members arc painfully aware, we still have rabbits in Australia. I cannot recall the plague of 1888, but I have vivid recollections of the other plagues of 1893, 1917 and 1931. I remember seeing a station property between Hay and Griffith that was infested with hundreds of thousands of rabbits although it was securely netted and the owner assured me that the fences had not been broken in any places.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Debate resumed from the 15th February (vide page 263), on motion by M r. Dedman -
That the following paper be printed: -
Aluminium Industry Act - Third Annual Report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, for year 1947-48.
.- In order to give some semblance of continuity to my speech on the third report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, it will be necessary for me to recapitulate some of the points that I stressed when I began the speech last Tuesday. I particularly emphasized the fact that there is no precedent anywhere in the civilized world for a parliament meeting solemnly, passing legislation providing for the conduct of some enterprise, making money available for the purposes of that undertaking, and then appointing a commission to investigate the practicability of the scheme. I made the further point that, because of the difficulties which the commission encountered, it had adopted a certain expedient in order to justify the charge for which the Government had made it responsible. It discovered that it might be expedient to import raw material from overseas because, on the basis of normal consumption, the visible supply of raw material in Australia could not.be expected to last for more than 300 years. Because the commission could not find any reason why the reduction plant should not be located on the field containing, the greatest quantity of raw material, it discovered that it might be necessary to import raw material from foreign countries because it would be easier to unload a ship at a wharf than to handle the material at some inland place in New South Wales. I do not like to recapitulate, but it is necessary to do so in order to make sense of what I am saying. When the Aluminium Industry Bill was being debated in the Parliament it was claimed that the industry should be situated in Tasmania because cheap hydro-electric power was available in that State. Honorable members on this side of the House said at that time that no cheap hydro-electric power was available there. I said in my last speech on the subject that in point of fact there is still no cheap hydro-electric power available in Tasmania for this purpose. Mr. Cosgrove, the Premier of Tasmania, said that that statement was utterly ridiculous. In the report of the commission that was appointed to investigate this matter it is stated that there will be no hydro-electric power available for this purpose for another four years, or until 1953, which will be nine years after the Aluminium Industry Bill was passed by the Parliament. That fact is of no significance to me, because I anticipated it. I do not believe that it was ever the intention of the Government to act in accordance with the provisions of that legislation. Clause 9 of the bill as introduced read as follows : -
The sale ordisposition of the whole or any part of the undertaking of the Commission shall not be effected unless approved by resolution passedby both Houses of the Parliament.
That meant this Parliament. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) moved an amendment to that clause. The Government accepted the amendment. It is worth while to emphasize that the Government actually accepted an amendment moved by a member of the Opposition. Section 9 of the net, in consequence, now reads as follows : -
The sale or disposition of the whole or any part of the undertaking of the Commission shall not be effected unless approved by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament of the Common wealth and by resolution passed by both Houses of the Parliament of the State of Tasmania.
The amendment that was made to clause 9 was not made to the appropriate part of the schedule, probably more by accident than by design. Paragraph 3 (i) of the schedule to the act reads as follows: -
No action question or decision relating to or affecting. . .
any proposed sale or disposition of the whole or any part, of the undertakingof the Commission . . shall be taken determined or made without the consent of the Commonwealth as expressed through its representatives on the Commission.
It will be noted that while section 9 of the act has a reference to the Parliament of the State of Tasmania, the schedule does not. It is only necessary to obtain the consent of the Commonwealth’s representatives on the commission to discuss or approve of the sale of the undertaking to some other body. If it was ever the intention of the Australian Government to sell this undertaking or never to engage in it after the political value of the legislation had been thoroughly exploited, that intention was frustrated by the amendment to clause 9 that was moved by the honorable member for Darwin. From the very beginning the commission has had the task of trying to justify something against which all reason and logic rebels. The undertaking was never a practical proposition, and I do not believe that it was ever intended to be so. In my opinion, the four years’ delay that has occurred has occurred because of that amendment, which frustrated the Government’s intention. The State of Tasmania was not willing to lie down and refuse to go on with the proposition. What is the position of Tasmania? Under the schedule to the act, the Commonwealth can consent to the sale of the undertaking, but Tasmania may express disagreement with such a. course. Tasmania must apply to the Loan Council for the £1,500,000 that it is pledged to find. If Tasmania tries to “ buck “ the Commonwealth, what hope has it of getting £1,500,000 from the Loan Council? It has no hope at all.
I propose to anticipate some of the remarks that may be made by Government supporters, if they reply to me. The report contains nothing to justify any confidence on the part of those who expect this undertaking to go on. The line of defence of honorable members opposite will be that material is being landed on the banks of the Tamar to begin the building of the reduction plant. We shall be told that that is evidence of the Government’s bona fides. That fact does not affect the position. If it is the intention of the Government to sell the undertaking to the British aluminium interests with which the Prime Minister has had consultations with a view to manufacturing aluminium in Australia, the mere fact that a few pieces of machinery have been landed on an Australian coast will cause no embarrassment. I expected that a full-dress debate would take place regarding that company and the world aluminium cartel entering into this matter. I am Australian enough to resent a placard being put up on any industry, “ No Australians need apply” . In this instance it is a fact that no Australian company need apply. The Australian companies are not in the race. The commission has gone so far as to say that no Australian raw material is of any use and that it is going outside Australia to obtain raw material. The report reveals that the commission has examined the bauxite or raw material resources in all States of Australia. The commission has announced its intention of abandoning the field which contains the highest grade of material that has been discovered in Australia, although the material in that field is of a grade equal to that of the material which it is hoped to import. The Victorian deposits are to be passed over completely, ostensibly because they are held by private interests. Those interests are producing chemicals from the bauxite, and they arc willing to make the deposits available provided that they themselves are given the right also of manufacturing aluminium, but because the organization is an Australian company, that right has been denied it by the Australian
Government. The Government claims that the private organization does not have the capacity to do the job, but the. Government does not know anything about the company’s capacity. The Government is willing to surrender to the greatest combine that the world has ever known. Tracing events in their logical sequence since the Aluminium Industry Bill was. passed through this Parliament, one can see ample evidence of the lack of sincerity on the part of the Australian Government. The real purpose of that measure was to influence the electors of Tasmania to support Labour candidates at the 1943 election. The move succeeded, at least to the degree that Labour won the electorate of Denison, but now the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) is so disgusted with the whole show that he is resigning after six years’ service in the chamber. Therefore, as the Government has in fact gained nothing by its flaunting of the Aluminium Industry Act in Tasmania, ir might well consider giving Australian industry a chance to show what it can do in the manufacture of aluminium.
The Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s report is disappointing from beginning to end to all those who expected some tangible results. Unfortunately, I cannot deal with aluminium production in general terms because this debate is confined to the report of the commission. However, I refer honorable member^ to paragraph 40 of the report, which I regard as most interesting. In my opinion, the extent and quality of the bauxite deposits at Inverell in New South Wales warrant the installation of a reduction plant in that locality. Instead of establishing a plant, however, it is proposed to transport 20,000,000 tons of raw material to Tasmania, where the reduction plant is to be situated. If reduction and alumina plants were established at Inverell, it would be necessary to export to Tasmania only 5,000,000 tons of alumina instead of 20,000,000 tons of raw material. The proposal to pay the additional freight involved in shipping 20.000.000 tons of raw material to Tasmania instead of something less than 1.000.000 tons of bauxite from Tas mania to the mainland is so utterly foolish to any intelligent mind that it beggars description. I do not blame the commission because that body was hopelessly handicapped until the advent of the heaven-inspired thought that imported bauxite could be unloaded in Tasmania, whereas it could not be unloaded at Inverell. I hope that if the full proposals ever come before this chamber for discussion honorable members will give them the serious consideration that they deserve. The debate to-day on the report of the commission is merely a device to fill in time; yet aluminium production may be destined to be one of Australia’s major industries. If a Minister ever dares to introduce a bill to repeal or materially amend the Aluminium Industry Act, passed by this Parliament in 1944, I hope that all members of this House will be sufficiently Australian in their outlook to condemn the Government for its hypocrisy, humbug, and waste of public money over the last four years.
.- We have just listened to a gospel of pessimism the like of which I have not heard for some time. The criticism offered by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) of the report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is completely and utterly unjustified. The honorable member endeavoured to find something in the report, and because what he sought was not there, he condemned the entire report as inadequate and inaccurate. We all agree about the importance of aluminium in this century. Its uses are continually increasing as the result of research and experience, particularly in the United States of America. No one will question the vital importance of the aluminium industry to this country, not only in time of war, when, of course, its value is multiplied considerably, but also in time of peace. Research overseas convinces us that the future of the aluminium industry in this country will be assured whether or not war comes. The aim is to make Australia independent of overseas supplies of aluminium. The story of the formation of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is lengthy, and, as the honorable member for Gippsland has said; ‘ tantalizingly slow; but an undertaking of this importance cannot be established without considerable spadework, including research, and surveys throughout this vast continent. Perhaps, in the long run, by coming on the scene slowly, the aluminium industry will come more surely. Known deposits of economic grade bauxite in Australia amount to approximately 9,000,000 tons. The best site for the establishment of alumina and reduction works had been a matter of keen debate in this chamber, long before I came into it, and the controversy continues. It has been decided that Tasmania should have both the alumina and reduction works. The honorable member for Gippsland made a case in favour of Inverell in New South Wales, but, as I shall show in a moment, the commission, after a thorough investigation, decided, for reasons that it states in its report, that Tasmania offered the best facilities for the establishment of the industry. The honorable member for Gippsland criticized the commission’s report, but he did not quote from it. On page 9, the commission states -
The commission was also obliged to consider defence aspects, and noted that the Inverell scheme was vulnerable at several points and that in time of emergency the supply of alumina to the reduction works might be cut off. A combined plant at Native Point would permit the continuance Of production of alumina from Tasmanian bauxite held in reserve, even should interstate or foreign supplies of ore be stopped by enemy action.
In the final analysis, the survey showed that the local treatment of Inverell bauxite to produce alumina would be cheaper (in cost of ingot) than its treatment at a combined works at Native Point, but would have little or no advantage in point of cost over the treatment of other ores, Australian or foreign, at the Native Point site. The other aspects of defence, unity of plant and administration, flexibility of operations at a seaboard location, and future technical developments out-weighed any saving possible, on the most favorable estimates, through the placing of the alumina plant at Inverell.
The commission therefore confirmed its earlier decision that the alumina plant be combined with the reduction works at Native Point, its decision remaining subject to the proviso that should some major change of policy or economics, now unforeseen, make it necessary to use Inverell ore exclusively or principally, the production of alumina at Inverell would be reconsidered.
The door, of course, is not completely shut on the use of the Inverell, site. The reason, apart from defence considerations, why Tasmania was finally chosen. was that Tasmania has a good seaport on the east bank of the Tamar River not many miles from its mouth. Water is- being sought for there. Electric power and coal are also available cheaply, and that, perhaps, was also a very important factor in the decision that the site should be in Tasmania. A railway, the preliminary surveys for the construction of which are being made now, will run from Launceston to the eastern bank of the Tamar. We have had many anxious moments, both in Tasmania and on the mainland, about whether the industry would finally be located in Tasmania. The honorable member for Gippsland and I pressed the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for a decision on many occasions during the last nine months after w« had heard a rumour that the industry was not to come to Tasmania, that an overseas company would establish the industry, and that the site would perhaps be altered. I raised the matter in the House, only last week and I direct attention to the following question and answer as reported in Hansard: -
– In view of the doubt that still exists in the minds of many Tasmanians, about the ultimate base for the aluminium industry in this country, can the Prime Minister say whether the site on the east of the Tamar River in Tasmania has been definitely decided upon? Is it a fact that about 1,00(1 tons of machinery and plant are on their way to Tasmania from England and the Continent and whether the financial partnership between the Commonwealth, Tasmania and the British Aluminium Company has yet been finally decided upon?
– There has been no change with relation to the establishment of the aluminium industry in Tasmania, and the general intention of the legislation covering the operations of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. During the last six months proposals have been made with relation to the operation of the joint company proposed to be operated by the Australian and Tasmanian Governments in conjunction with the British A l ii m i 11 hun Company, for a very wide extension nf the production of aluminium in Australia, but to date fruition has not been reached in such negotiations, which are still the subject of discussions. I have already intimated by letter to the Premier of Tasmania, however, that the intended industrial activity in connexion with the aluminium industry in Tasmania would not be interfered with in any way. Whilst in Tasmania recently 1 discussed this matter at some length with the Premier of that State, and he intimated that if the negotiations with the British Aluminium Company succeeded and a decision was finally reached on this matter, the Tasmanian Government should like to join in the venture. He said that even if the present agreement was altered, his Government would like to join in any new arrangement. Progress has been made in connexion with the proposed production of aluminium in Tasmania, and last month plant was unloaded and work commenced in that State at the site mentioned by the honorable member for Wilmot. At the moment no change in the original proposal is contemplated.
To me, that answer seems to be very definite. I come now to the very important matter of controls. Last year we had definite indications that the British Aluminium Company intended to associate itself in the scheme with the Commonwealth, and at that time, of course, many of us wondered whether Tasmania would be left out of the agreement which had been ratified by this Parliament, but the Prime Minister, in the statement that I have quoted, indicated that there is no intention to push Tasmania out, and on the basis of the Prime Minister’s answer I am sure that Tasmania will be a welcome party to the agreement. What is this British company? Honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), have called it an international cartel. It is entirely a British concern, financed by British capital and solely controlled by British interests. It has sound technical knowledge and long experience in aluminium production. It is prepared to spend £12,000,000 on the industry in Australia, although the original plan was for a £3,000,000 project, the financing of which was to be shared on a 50-50 basis by Tasmania and the Commonwealth. That latter amount of capital is, of course, far too small for the establishment of such an industry. The British Aluminium Company has interests in Australia. It is a third shareholder in the Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, of Granville, New South Wales, in which the other shareholders are Canadian Alumina Limited, Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited and Metal Manufacturers Limited. It is probable that the participation of the Britsh Aluminium
Company would be through the Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, and the Government sees no objection to this Australian concern, in which the Canadian company has t only a part holding, becoming a shareholder in an organization in which the Government would have a majority of the shares and a majority on the directorate. There is no fear at all that the Government would by this means hand over the industry to a foreign or international cartel, an event which I, the honorable member for Gippsland and other honorable members, would strenuously oppose. Between the two world wars we heard long, sordid stories of cartels, and I am sure that the Government would not like to be a partner in such a cartel as that which operated in the aluminium industry before the war. The proposed organization is not an international cartel. Whether it could become so later on would depend solely on the the extent of Commonwealth control. If the Commonwealth has a holding interest on the directorate there is no fear of the company ever becoming an international cartel.
I propose now to say something concerning the site-testing that has gone on at Native Point, which is 16 miles north of Launceston, and about half-way between Launceston and Bass Strait, on the east bank of the Tamar. Test-boring at Native Point was recently completed, and it was found that the sub-soil was not suitable to carry the foundations for the heavy plant that will be required to be erected for the treatment of the ore. Two more sites are at present under examination in Tasmania. One is at Bell Bay, which is from 8 to 10 miles from the mouth of. the Tamar, and the other is at Windermere, which is nearer Launceston than Native Point. The latter place is located between Bell Bay and Windermere. Whilst we do not know which of the two new suggested sites may be chosen, my view is that Bell Bay would provide easily the best facilities for the establishment of the industry. It has a glorious harbour, which is large enough for an overseas vessel to turn around in without the assistance of tugs. It is already provided with a wharf,. so that it is evident that it has always been regarded as a potential port. The surroundings are also suitable for the erection of plant and houses to accommodate the employees.
– The bay also has a depth of 40 feet of water at low tide.
– That is so, and, in fact, it has everything to commend it as a site. One factor which might militate against the selection of Bell Bay, however, is its distance from Launceston, because railway connexion will have to be established with that city, and the electrical power required to operate the plant will also have to come from Launceston. It is obvious, however, that an important factor in selecting a site in Tasmania will be its proximity to Launceston. Unfortunately, Bell Bay is 28 or 30 miles from Launceston, and it will therefore cost more to construct a railway, and connect power lines, to that place from Launceston than it would to provide similar facilities to Native Point or Windermere. Nevertheless, I still consider that Bell Bay would be the best site, provided that the borings made on the bank prove that the ground is such that it can support the foundations of the plant that will require to be erected.
In considering the contending claims of various places in Australia for the establishment of the industry it is important to remember that Tasmania can provide the cheapest electrical power in Australia, and it is pleasing to know that a contract has now been signed between the Australian Aluminium Production Commission and the HydroElectric Commission of Tasmania. Preliminary work has already been commenced at Trevallyn, which is on the west hank of the Tamar near Launceston, for the generation of electrical power for the production of alumina and ingots at which ever site is chosen. Of course, that work will not be completed before 1953, but the Hydro-Electric Commission has guaranteed that limited power will be made available to start the plant before that time. The first consignment of between 1,000 and 1,500 tons of aluminium production plant is on the water but has not yet reached Tasmania. I understand that it will be landed and stored temporarily at Bell Bay pending the selection of a site for the establishment of the industry. Surveys have shown that 960,000 tons of bauxite ore are available in Tasmania against 6,940,000 (ons in New South Wales. Twenty thousand tons of bauxite were imported from the Netherlands East Indies during the war and were acquired by the commission. The third annual report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission contains two paragraphs relating to Tasmania, which are of special interest. They are -
No further discoveries of bauxite have been made in Tasmania since the Commission’s last Report, and the reserves remain as then stated, viz., 700,000 tons at Ouse, and 200,000 tons at St. Leonards. Approximately 200,000 tons of ore at Ouse is classified as of marginal grade, but will probably be mined with other ore when the deposits are worked.
In both districts, the Commission has initiated action to acquire the bauxite bearing lands by outright purchase, in preference to paying lease-hold rentals over an extended period of years. Acquisition of these lands, none of which is particularly valuable, is the more economic proposition. As the Tasmanian deposits are likely to be held as reserves for use under war-time emergency conditions when access to mainland or foreign deposits may be cut off, the Commission proposes to secure a return on its capital investment by leasing the acquired lands for suitable periods.
A great deal has been said about importing bauxite from Malaya, New Guinea and the Solomons, where there are reported to be substantial high-grade deposits, but the report of the commission explains that it proposes to conserve our supplies of bauxite in time of peace. Therefore, it is intended, “ while the going is good to import our requirements of bauxite from Malaya. Of course, as the honorable member foi1 Gippsland inferred in the course of his speech, it is easier to land bauxite at a seaport than to haul it long distances from an inland place such as Inverell in New South Wales. According to the report of the commission, the Australian ore is of low grade by comparison with world standards, so that it appears to be wise to commence the manufacture of aluminium in this country by importing highgrade ore.
In conclusion, I propose to refer briefly to the speech of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who is obviously obsessed by a fear of international cartels. He endeavoured to impress the House with the idea that the word “ cartel “ was written all over the Government’s proposals. He painted lurid pictures of sinister international financiers getting a deathgrip on the industry in Australia. “Whilst it might be as well to pay some attention to the honorable member’s warning of the dangers of an international cartel obtaining control of our industry, I certainly do not believe in the rest of the honorable member’s story. For one thing, I do not believe that the Government of which I am a supporter would countenance for a moment the introduction into this country of interests in this industry other than the British Aluminium Company. In any event, honorable members can rest assured that the Government will watch very closely the development of this project, and it certainly will not permit the situation that confronted us during the recent war to recur. If we can keep the scheme within the bounds of the British Empire, and allow the British Aluminium Company to control the ramifications of the industry outside Australia, I imagine that we shall be on safe ground. Everything depends on the control that the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government will exercise over the operation of the scheme. I hope that those governments will share control of the Australian end of the project with the British Aluminium Company, and that Australia will hold a majority of the shares and have a full voice on the directorate. Finance is important, and the company is prepared to invest £12,000,000 in the establishment of the industry. However, I trust that in this instance money will not speak all languages. I commend the report to the House and to the country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scully) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 16th February (vide page 415), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the following paper he printed: -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 9th February, 1949
. - in reply - In replying to this important debate, I desire to thank the House, and honorable members of all parties, for their references to myself, and especially to my appointment as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I greatly appreciate the remarks of honorable members, including those of the Opposition.
I do not think that any time should be lost in stating that the main propositions advanced by me on behalf of the Government have not been answered. They have, indeed, been broadly conceded. The basis of our foreign policy is not new. The policy which we have consistently pursued for many years has been, first of all, unwavering support of the United Nations. I do not mean halfhearted support, because we are pledged to the organization, and pledged to its objectives. Our foreign policy provides for the closest possible co-operation of Australia with the United Kingdom and other members of the British Commonwealth; the development of regional areas in SouthEast Asia and the Western Pacific, with both of which areas we are so closely allied; and, in relation to the Pacific in particular, very close co-operation with the United States of America. In regard to all international disputes, Australia, as a member of the United Nations General Assembly and its councils, must endeavour to pursue the plain objectives written into the Charter by which we are bound that is, the solution of each dispute, not in accordance with expediency and power, but according to the broad principles of justice. On the economic side, the side which is so important to our people and to all the peoples of the world, our policy provides for practical contributions not only in the way of actual relief but also by continually emphasizing the pledge of members of the United Nations to maintain full employment and increasing standards of living, so that we may, by removing the underlying causes of war, prevent war itself, or contribute to that great end. That, of course, is of extreme importance. My submission of these broad statements of policy has been very little contested.
I referred to the Australian Government’s support of the United Nations, its principles, its purposes, its objectives and its organization. Now, after many speeches have been delivered by honorable members opposite, I think I may fairly state that members of the Opposition accept the United Nations. It is very good of them, very generous of them, but they did accept it. However, I say with the greatest respect, that it seemed to me from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that his support was not unwavering or unfaltering, but rather grudging. He said, in effect, that the United Nations was all very well, that it represented an ideal which I, as Minister for External Affairs, too readily assumed to be practical. He further suggested that the approach of the Government and of myself to world problems was theoretical and legalistic, rather than practical. He agreed that we should all subscribe to the ultimate ideals of the United Nations, but then he added -
Our problems are not problems of the distant future.
He spoke of pious resolutions carried by the League of Nations, and of airy-fairy, legalistic ideals. He said that the United Nations represented an ideal of distant perfection and theory, which might turn out to he only marsh lights luring us to destruction, as they almost did in the period between the two wars. Those phrases represent his point of view fairly, I believe, but I entirely differ from that point of view. I do not think that what he said represents Australia’s attitude to the United Nations. We are a member of the United Nations. We are pledged to carry out its objectives, here and now. Australia is a member of the General Assembly, a member of the Trusteeship Council, and was a member of the Security Council. Australia is also a member of the Economic and Social Council.
For us, the United Nations is not something for the far-distant future. It is in order to prevent trouble in the fardistant future that we are pursuing the objectives of the United Nations here and now. I contrast with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition the very recent remark made by a distinguished gentleman who is now visiting Australia, the Right Honorable Mr. Anthony Eden. Discussing the duties of members towards the United Nations, he said -
It is of the first importance that the peoples of the world be brought to realize that .United Nations is no mere “ political arrangement “, but the only means by which peace can be Secured and prosperity enhanced. It is therefore essential that all who have the cause of peace at heart should be firm in their support of the United Nations and the principles for which it stands. If we lose sight of the principles, we shall forgo the prize. And the prize is the greatest that the human race has to win.
The Leader of the Opposition accepted the United Nations subject to certain qualifications, which rather suggested that for him the United Nations represented an ideal instead of a practical body to which we are pledged, and which has a membership of 58 nations. I do not accept his view, but suggest that Australia’s policy is the policy of all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations to-day. I emphasize now, as I did in my opening address, that in his speech to Congress after the inauguration of the United Nations, President Truman used the words “ unfaltering support of the United Nations “. He did not mean, nor did Mr. Eden or the recent conference of Prime Ministers mean, that some time in the future we should take another look at the United Nations which might eventually become a practical body. It is practical now. Nothing is gained by saying that the United Nations merely carries pious resolutions. Many of its resolutions have contributed to the preservation of world peace. Its record in this respect is excellent. In my opening speech, I referred to its work in connexion with Kashmir. The dispute over Kashmir was settled through the intervention of the United Nations, but hardly a word has been said about that, and hardly a single tribute has been paid to the United Nations in recognition of it? achievement. However, I believe that its intervention prevented the extension of a dispute which might have had the most serious consequences, including great loss of life. The United Nations wa? also completely successful in the Persian dispute.’ The United Nations is not a theoretical body. With great respect to the Leader of the Opposition, whose eloquence we all admire, I say that some people are getting into that frame of mind which became very prevalent during the period between the two wars, when support of the League of Nations wavered. Many governments preferred to handle matters outside the League of Nations, and the League weakened. It was not able to exercise its full jurisdiction in relation to disputes which arose after Hitler came into power in Germany in 1933. I think that if we are not careful, we are in danger of assuming that the proper method of dealing with international disputes is outside of the United Nations. We dispute that. We say that it is a practical object. I shall give a few illustrations in a moment. I gave quite a number in my opening address. I ask the House, irrespective of any question of party politics, to consider what is the real alternative to this world organization. Where else in the world is power to meet power, other than at the Assembly of the United Nations, at the Security Council, and at the meetings of its other councils and instrumentalities? There is no alternative to the United Nations. I have put before honorable members considerable documentation dealing with the meeting of the Assembly over which I presided. The subjectmatters cover an enormous field. Everything that the Australian delegation did at those meetings was set out frankly in the report. I have not heard a word of criticism of it. It dealt with subjects relating to Greece and Korea, which were of crucial significance to Australia. In the Korean dispute the United States of America, China and Australia joined together in a proposed solution of the Korean campaign, which was accepted by the United Nations Assembly. I have not heard a word of criticism of the work of the United Nations relative to the problem of atomic energy. I think that the House would accept broadly the view that the delegation took at Paris. One thing that we insisted upon was the continuance of the Atomic Energy Commission, not its liquidation, because in spite of its difficulties the duty of the United
Nations is to keep on endeavouring to lessen the area of disagreement between east and west, as was pointed out last night in a very important speech that was delivered by my colleague, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). So with disarmament: Australia and other countries suggested that the work should continue, not overstating what had been done, not regarding the position with supreme optimism, but insisting that the objective should not be abandoned. On the economic and social side, important work was done through the acceptance by all of the United Nations, without objection, of the conventions in regard to genocide and human rights. In these matters the test is not to pick out one matter and say “ I do not agree with that particular solution “, but to ask what should have been done. What is the alternative to the action that was taken by the Australian delegation in relation to any of these matters? From the beginning to the end of this debate there has not been one suggestion that in any particular matter, save one - the matter of Indonesia - we should have acted differently from the way we did in those matters. I think that there is a substantial admission by the members of the Opposition that, broadly speaking, the particular application of the Government’s policy in the individual casenot merely the general statement, of policy which I put before the House - was justified in the circumstances. It has been suggested that a particular solution was not favoured by one country or another, hut not one case has been referred to in trying t” prove that. During a speech by a member of the Opposition last night, an interjection was made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), who said “ It is of no use talking about generalities; point out a specific case in which Australia was in disagreement with the United States of America and Great Britain, and then prove that Australia acted incorrectly “. Not one case was pointed out. If honorable members were to read the reports they would find that without any collusion or prearrangements, members of the British Commonwealth act together. They would be convinced that there are to be found practically no examples of differences in the British Commonwealth. Independent nations applying the principles of the Charter tend to arrive at the same conclusion, if they are governed by United Nations principles and act in a democratic way. I have referred to a few illustrations of it. I point out to honorable members, and through them to the country, that apart from a general criticism of the United Nations there has hardly been one particular case cited in this important debate in which it is suggested that we omitted to do something that we should have done, or did something that we should not have done.
But the debate has revealed, I think, some misconceptions. Those misconceptions, or at any rate one of them, involved a great deal of argument by honorable members opposite. The tendency was to speak of the United Nations merely as an organization, or a machine. I point out that the United Nations is much more than an international organization. It constitutes, as I have endeavoured to prove to the House, a code of behaviour for nations in regard to each other. All members of the international community are bound by that code to act towards each other in accordance with the principles of the United Nations. Irrespective of how close they are geographically, they are to act towards each other as good neighhours. The organization is a means by which nations work together in carrying out agreed objectives and principles in accordance with the Charter by which they all are bound. The Opposition was at pains to stress that the United Nations has no military force to back its decisions. That is correct. It was intended that the Security Council should have military force. However, the great powers have not agreed upon the allocation of military force, which, in any case, would have to be approved by every nation contributing to the United Nations. It is suggested that because of that the United Nations cannot secure the observance of its principles or decisions. That is a proposition which is not supported. The International Court of Justice existed before the war. and the fact is that there was not one of its decisions which was not accepted by the parties to it, although there was no force to back up its decisions. Much the same applies to the decisions of the United Nations organization. Occasionally there have been attempts to defy its authority, but it is not merely military sanctions that can be applied; the United Nations organization can exercise diplomatic pressure upon those who do not observe its decisions, and even economic measures might be applied in a particular case. The truth is that the compelling power of the United Nations, and particularly the Assembly, depends upon something greater than force. I am not so sure, when the history of these times comes to be written, that it will not be said that it was a good thing for international organization that it was not agreed too early in the history of the United Nations to have military force at the disposal of the Security Council. I can imagine that a tremendous dispute might have arisen about the allocation of those forces in a particular case. As the Leader of the Opposition correctly pointed out, force could not have been used against a great power, although it might have been used on some occasion against a small power, with perhaps disastrous consequences to the United Nations. I am only suggesting for the consideration of honorable members that, important as military sanctions are, and important as is physical force, there is something in the world far more important than that, namely the public opinion of the world, and the fact that nations tend to obey decisions given by an international conference at which they are represented. I have seen that in operation. There have been departures from it in a few instances, but, except on very rare occasions, the members obey without question the decisions of the United Nations. I think that the Leader of the Opposition fell into an error in assuming that one has to liken the United Nations to an international tribunal with a sheriff always ready to carry out its decisions. The whole concept of the United Nations goes much deeper than that. We have reached a period in the history of the world when the decisions of the United Nations, those made in both the General Assembly and the Security Council, are readily obeyed without the application of physical force.
I want to refer at once to the one case which has assumed such great importance in the debate, namely, the case of Indonesia, and to the Australian Government’s action in connexion with Indonesia. I submit to the House that, from the beginning to the end, our action was correct and in accordance with the principles of the United Nations. The facts are very simple. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) made a brilliant analysis of those facts in answer to the Leader of the Opposition, and I greatly regret that his very important speech was given so little publicity in the press of Australia. He gave an effective answer to a great deal of the argument of the Leader of the Opposition, and it would have been very valuable to the people of Australia in forming a right judgment to have had the two statements together. Broadly speaking, the Australian Government’s attitude towards Indonesia was compelled by our membership of the United Nations. This dispute arose between the Dutch and the Indonesians long before Australia had anything to do with it. Two agreements were made between the Government of the Netherlands and the Indonesian Republic, first, the Linggadjati Agreement, and, secondly, the Renville Agreement, which was made on the United States cruiser Renville with the assistance of the Good Offices Committee, on which Australia, along with the United States and Belgium, was represented. I shall refer to the two agreements more specifically in a moment or two. All I want to do is to destroy, once and for all I hope, the ridiculous canard that the proposals of the United Nations which were made through the Security Council are aimed at excluding the Dutch from SouthEast Asia. Nothing could be further from the truth. Articles 8 and 9 of the Agreement of Linggadjati, which was made on the 15th November, 1946 and, broadly speaking, that is the arrangement that is still in force provided as follows: -
The King (Queen) of the Netherlands shall be at the head of the Netherlands-Indonesian
Union. The decrees and resolutions concerning the joint interests shall he issued by the organs of the Union in the King’s (Queen’s) name.
In order to promote the interests of the United States of Indonesia in the Netherlands, and of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Indonesia, High Commissioners shall be appointed by the respective Governments.
Broadly speaking, what was contemplated was a form of dominion self-government or dominion status, much the same as we know it in the British Commonwealth. High commissioners were to be appointed by the Netherlands and Indonesian governments. Article 10 provided as follows : -
The statute of the Netherlands-Indonesian Union shall furthermore contain provisions regarding -
the safeguarding of the rights of both parties towards one another and guarantees for the fulfilment of their mutual obligations;
the mutual exercise of civic rights by Netherlands and Indonesian citizens;
a regulation containing provisions in case no agreement can be reached by the organs of the Union;
a regulation of the manner and the conditions of the assistance to be given by the services of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United States of Indonesia as long as the services of the later are not or are insufficiently organized;
In the later agreement the Renville Agreement the position was restated. It was made by the Good Offices Committee consisting of representatives of the United States and Belgium under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Kirby, a member of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It states -
The following four principles are taken from the Linggadjati Agreement: -
Independence for the Indonesian peoples.
Co-operation between the people of the Netherlands and Indonesia.
A sovereign state on a federal basis under a constitution which will be arrived at by democratic processes.
A union between the United States of Indonesia and other parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands under the King of the Netherlands.
The word “ King “ would, of course, be deemed to cover the Queen of the Netherlands. As far as Indonesia was concerned nothing in any of these proposals was forced upon the Dutch Government. The agreements were freely made by conciliators representing the United Nations. That does not tend to show the exclusion of Dutch influence from Indonesia. On the contrary, it shows the integration of Netherlands selfgoverning Indonesia with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. That has never ceased. The Security Council in its recent decisions passed certain resolutions relating to the time for carrying the agreement into effect, but that is all. In other words, the agreement constitutes an arrangement under which co-operation between the two countries will continue and the enormous proprietary and economic interests of the Dutch in that part of the world will not be prejudicially affected. To say that this is an attempt by Australia to throw the Dutch out of Indonesia is quite false. This- agreement, which was made by the Dutch on the one hand, and by the Indonesian Republic on the other provided for the future government of the Indonesian territory under a system very analogous to, but different in some respects from, the system of dominion self-government which was enjoyed by many countries in the British Commonwealth and which has been modified from time to time by many statutes, including the Statute of Westminster. In other words, the agreement tended to perpetuate the influence of the Netherlands in this part of the world. Ear from being a United Nations decision to throw the Dutch out of this part of the world, it had quite the contrary intention. It was entered into by the Dutch Government voluntarily. That was the situation when the action took place on the 19th December last which gave rise to the recent dispute. We are convinced, and always have been, that for the safety of SouthEast Asia and the Indonesians themselves, co-operation by the Dutch in the establishment of the new self-governing unit is necessary. But that view is shared by the republican leaders. They have never hesitated to admit their need for assistance in the development of their territory, including the provision of capital.
Their attitude is similar to that of other, peoples who have obtained self-govern-: ment, or a measure of self-government, within the British Commonwealth under, the Crown - in this instance the Crown being the Crown of the Netherlands - and Indonesia will remain portion of the territory over, which the Queen of the Netherlands has jurisdiction as queen. Far from wishing to oust the Dutch from Indonesia, it has always been our thought, although it has not been a matter for our decision, or for the decision of the Security Council, that, they should remain on a basis of cooperation, of mutual help, which was freely sought by Indonesia rather than on theearlier basis of mere power exercised in relation to the Indonesians, that’ is, Government exercised without the consent of the governed. That is the situation.. That was the proposal made on the 19th December last. As I read the report in my earlier speech I shall not repeat the facte, but on that day the Dutch authorities, without giving notice either to the Security Council or to any othercountry in the world, when the matter was pending before the Security Council and when the Good Offices Committee was still engaged in endeavouring to clean up details under the Renville agreement, made their attack upon the capital of the Republic of Indonesia and imprisoned its leaders; and they are still holding those leaders in detention. It was then that the Security Council intervened, regarding that act as a deliberate breach of the United Nations Charter which, undoubtedly, it was.
Honorable members opposite have condemned what was said by Australian representatives. I shall not deal in detail with what was said by any representative, but I note the fact, as the honorable member for Fremantle told the House, that the Government of France said that that act, from the point of view of international law, was brutal; the British Government said that it was deplorable, and the Government of the United States of America said that it was disgusting. Those arecondemnations of the military forcecall it police action, or what you will - perpetrated by the Dutch in defiance of the United Nations. That has been
Australia’s interest in the matter as a member of the United Nations, loyally trying to assist the United Nations and doing our best to see that an agreement was made, not an agreement that would in the long run be prejudicial to the Dutch ; and the recent act of the Security Council and the conference at New Delhi were simply logical effects of that action. I understand from those who attended the conference at New Delhi that Mr. Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, said that it was impossible to secure the attendance of the Dutch. What that conference did was to support the United Nations action, that is action by the Security Council; and the Security Council’s resolution followed very closely along the lines of the suggestions made at New Delhi. Everything that Australia did followed logically from our obedience to the United Nations Charter. It was impossible to disguise the fact that action of that kind was calculated to upset the whole balance and stability of the area from Australia right up to Pakistan. I entirely repudiate the idea that this Government has any thought whatever that Australia should interfere with the interests of European countries such as those of Great Britain in Malaya or of the French, our close allies in the two wars, in relation to New Caledonia and other possessions in the Pacific. There is no such idea on our part at all. Nothing could be further from our thoughts, but that suggestion is put to the people in the hope of creating some prejudice. We acted as a loyal member of the United Nations. I shall not say one unnecessary word on the matter because all the harm that has already been done may be repaired by the Security Council’s decision. I trust that the result will vindicate the United Nations’ principles. In the long run that would be for the welfare of not only SouthEast Asia but also of the people of Indonesia itself.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) from concluding his speech without interruption.
– I am very much obliged to honorable members for their consideration. I have taken a little extra time on the matter with which I have been dealing because, again, I entirely repudiate the suggestion made by honorable members opposite. Any thought that the interests of other countries, for example, the interests of Great Britainin Malaya and those of the French, our allies and comrades, in the Pacific, should be interfered with in any way by Australia never entered our mind. We acted simply as a loyal member of the United. Nations in accordance with its purposes and principles; and no loyal member, under the Charter of the United Nations, can do what was done in that recent incident. That is all I have to say on the subject; but it is very important. J hope that the position will be repaired by appropriate action on the part of the Dutch authorities. I want to make it clear that I am not saying anything about the Republic of Indonesia. The Indonesians have been condemned by certain honorable members. They have been condemned as Communists. Such a charge is false because the position with respect to the Republic of Indonesia is the reverse. There was a Communist attempt to overthrow the Republic only a few months ago, and the Republic destroyed that attempt by force. I remind honorable members, as I said in my opening remarks, that when I visited Holland the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary expressed to me, as did the Secretary of State for the United States of America, Mr. Marshall, and the British Foreign Secretary, the view that that action by the Indonesian Republic was quite proper and that it might help to lead to an early settlement of the problem. We want to settle that problem. We do not want bloodshed occurring in any part of the world, particularly in any part so close to Australia. Nothing could be more calculated to set the whole of SouthEast Asia in a ferment. There is no reason why such incidents should occur when the United Nations is capable of handling the issues involved.
As Burma has been mentioned in this debate, I wish to inform the House that we are taking steps to send a representative to Burma, and we shall render it whatever assistance we possibly can because we believe that the SouthEast Asian region is of great importance to Australia. I have endeavoured to state the principles which have animated us right from the beginning in that area.
I now refer to another aspect of the debate. I was appalled to hear the references, made on the flimsiest evidence, to our relationships with certain countries. The first country which was mentioned in that respect was the United States of America. It was suggested that our relations with that country were detrimentally affected by the conduct of the Australian Government in relation to Manus Island.
– Quite right, too.
– It is one thing to hold a belief and to persist in it; but I presume that when the honorable member’s error in this instance is established he will admit that he is wrong. I shall now read to the House a leading article published in the Melboune Age yesterday. The information which it contains is true, as I shall show later. The article states -
Frequent challenges to the Federal Government for its policy in respect of Manus Island such as that gratuitously offered on Monday by Mr. Spender, M.P. are illbased, and while they may provide the natural ammunition for the political sniper, they do the country no good service abroad, particularly in the eyes of American critics.
– Does that article appear in the capitalist press?
– The Melbourne Age, which has published the article, is, I think, an independent newspaper. At any rate, I shall try to substantiate the accuracy of every detail upon which the comment is based. The article continues - it has been reported on numerous occasions since the war that America wished to retain a permanent interest in Manus Island because of its military potentialities and its strategic position in the Admiralty group as an advanced base for a Pacific defence network. It has been claimed that America, which developed this fine island strongpoint with amazing rapidity during the war years, had offered to maintain it during the peace. And while these stories have had currency the name of Manus has been bandied about by lowerlevel diplomats and politicians with little knowledge of the facts.
In my opinion, that is correct. The facts are not sufficiently known. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), as I pointed out in my opening address, has always put the view on Manus based largely-
– Upon the answers that the Minister has given to questions.
– Yes, and also upon the report of one of the committees of the American Congress. The newspaper quotation proceeds -
The sequence of events has been logical. When Japan was defeated, American troops were withdrawn, Australian sovereignty over the island continued -
It is a part of the Australian trust territory of New Guinea. It is just as much a part of Australia’s responsibility as is Finschaf en or Rabaul. It was part and parcel of our mandated territory before the war. It was granted to Australia in 1921, and the trust has been continued by the United Nations. The article proceeds - and as a matter of practical economy the Government purchased the American equipment that remained. If the inevitable discussions between Australia and America, made necessary by these transactions, are still to he misconstrued as an undisclosed quarrel between the two countries, the intention is obvious and should be dismissed as inconsequential.
The development of the base by Australia has already commenced with the arrival of a naval party, and when completed the island will become our strongest outpost in the South Pacific. If the future brought the tragedy of another war, Manus would be a key point in Australian strategy and one easily incorporated in any grand design arranged with Pacific allies. Carping critics should, therefore, cease to cry over milk that has never been spilt.
A long story attaches to Manus Island. In a few moments, I shall read to the House the two propositions which Admiral Denfeld put to the Australian Government on the subject. Admiral Denfeld, I remind the House, succeeded Admiral Nimitz as officer commanding the United States Navy at Hawaii. He was subsequently appointed to the highest position in the American Navy. However, before I inform the House of Admiral Denfeld’s opinions, I shall read the view of Sir Thomas Blarney, expressed on the 7th July, 1947-
The Commonwealth would be following a very short-sighted policy if it established joint control of Marius with the United States. Manns Island is vital to the defence of Australia and should be held solely under Australian control.
Certain discussions took place between the Australian Government and the American naval authorities in relation to Manus Island, and broadly speaking, the view of the United States of America was that after the United Nations had granted to America the control of bases north of the equator, extending to Okinawa, near Japan, and including such important naval bases as Truk and Guam, the whole of the Japanese mandated territories, including the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Mariana group of islands, came under the exclusive control, as a strategic trust, of the United States of America. “When Admiral Denfeld had conversations in Australia with the naval authorities and representatives of the Government, he expressed the view that the responsibility for looking after Manus Island should be an Australian responsibility, and that, in that sense, American interests were further north. In a communication, all of which I shall not read, Admiral Denfeld stated the following propositions : -
The United States of America and Australia both loyally support the United Nations and may be depended upon to support action in that organization against an aggressor.
In view of the identity of interests between the United States and Australia, and the excellent relations between the two countries, it would, of course, bc possible to make a special arrangement in an emergency at any time in the future that it became necessary.
It was never proposed that the expense of that base should he borne by the United States. The truth is that Australia has transferred its northernmost base at Dreger to Manus Island, which is a splendid naval base south of the equator. So far from representing any opposition between the interests, strategic or political, of the United States of America or Australia, that was, in substance, an arrangement acquiesced in with the utmost goodwill by the representatives of both countries on the occasion when the Second Task Force visited Australia under the command of Admiral Denfeld, some twelve or eighteen months ago. Therefore, the criticisms of the Government’s attitude regarding Manus Island ure without foundation. They are virtually the shadow of a shade. There is nothing to them. Australia’s relations with the United States are more intimate and comradely to-day than ever before in our history. The criticisms to which I have referred are constantly repeated in certain sections of the press. I have already referred to the manner in which the Melbourne Age has condemned them. I recall the time in 1942 when a former Prime Minister, the late Mr. John Curtin, was establishing the basis of comradeship between the United States of America and Australia. In one small section of the Australian press he was pilloried for eighteen months for having made that approach. I could quote many observations that numerous persons made upon the subject at that time. Mr. Curtin was condemned because it was said that he was disloyal to the British Commonwealth. The truth was that he, as the leader of the Government in that crisis, saw the extreme significance of the closest co-operation between the United States and Australia in thePacific. That co-operation has continued. It could not be closer.
I have referred to a naval base, and that is mainly a service matter. I do not pretend to be an authority on it in any way, but I have some knowledge of thepolitical relations between the American and Australian governments since Mr. Curtin sent me to meet President Roosevelt, and the Pacific War Council was established. President Roosevelt was succeeded by President Truman, and MrSecretary of State Cordell Hull was succeeded by other gentlemen, including Mr. Edward Stettinius, Mr. James Byrnes, General Marshall and Mr. Acheson. I say, without any equivocation, that thepolitical relations between the two countries are on a basis of complete frankness and close comradeship in every respectBut that does not mean that, in political matters, Australia is a satellite of the United States of America. The Government and the people of the United States would treat with contempt any country that was their satellite. I have explained our relationships. With great respect to certain members of the Opposition, I think that they did not fully appreciate the consequences of their words. What was really detrimental to Australia in some of their speeches was the suggestion that Australia had bad relationships with other countries because of the activities of Australian delegations abroad. No evidence was offered in support of that suggestion. I have dealt with their case in relation to the Dutch, which, prima facie, may have needed an answer. Australia’s conduct in that sphere has been determined by its duties as a member of the United Nations. Then, in relation to the United States, the case of Manus Island was dredged up. What is behind all this?
I read an article in the Manchester Guardian stating that there were bad relations between the United States and Australia. That article had a Melbourne date-line. At the same time, an article appeared .in the Melbourne Herald under the name of a certain newspaper gentleman who suggested the same thing. Later, of course, the Manchester Guardian article was republished in the Melbourne Herald, and then the Melbourne //erald cried, “ This is a very serious thing. Look at what the Manchester Guardian had to say “. That sort of thing is amusing .in a sense, but I think that anything that is published in Australia and sent abroad that is likely to damage the relationship between Australia and the United States is a very bad thing for Australia. Those who are responsible for publishinging such articles should be most careful before they make their suggestions. I can appreciate the views of certain members of the Opposition, especially those of the honorable member for New England, who raised this matter years ago. The Manus situation was dealt with not only amicably but also on the basis of frank and complete comradeship. I have said, and I repeat, having seen that island and knowing that the Royal Australian Navy intends to make it the northern .base of Australia, that I consider that it is a magnificent acquisition for the Australian Navy, and I look forward to the time when the base will be fully developed and will be a source of’ great pride to all Australians. In these matters, our attitude must be not only one of comradeship with the United
States, but also one of pride in our own achievements. Australian forces as well as United States forces participated in those great movements towards Japan from New Guinea during the war. That fact is recognized more in the United States than in certain parts of Australia. No other instances were cited of bad relations with other countries. The honorable member for Watson demanded particulars from the Opposition, but none was given. There are no other instances.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) suggested, in a very thoughtful and, in some respects, constructive speech, that there should bc closer economic co-operation between Australia and the British Commonwealth. lie said that sixteen years had elapsed since there had been a full-dress economic conference attended by representatives of all members of the British Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, every British Commonwealth conference now is also an economic conference. The last such meeting, a few months ago, was attended by Australian economic experts. The truth is that political matters cannot be severed from economic matters and foreign affairs. They tend to become integrated. I mention that fact because that was the only point that was developed on this subject.
Honorable members on both sides of the House pointed out, in one way or another, the fact that the great and vital problem prejudicing world peace to-day is the relationship between east and west. How is that problem to be solved? I submit that we cannot deal with it simply by support of blocs. It is very important in some cases to have arrangements in certain regions of the world. I have always believed, as I have stated here on many occasions, that it would be of advantage to Australia to have a defensive arrangement within the framework of the United Nations Charter. Articles 51 and 52 of the Charter deal with such arrangements; they do not fall quite outside the Charter. References have been made to the Atlantic Pact. That is a regional development of the Western Union and the Brussels Pact made between Great Britain, on one hand, and the Benelux countries - Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - and. France, on the other hand. I was criticized by some honorable members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition, because I said that such pacts should be regarded, not as substitutes for the United Nations, but as supplementary arrangements between the countries concerned. That, I submit, should be the true position. Such arrangements are not new. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), in dealing with defence policy, and I, in making reports in relation to the United Nations, have all pointed out that a situation could arise in which the support of the United Nations Security Council might not be forthcoming in case of aggression. In that event, we might be thrown back upon regional arrangements, such as an agreement with the United States of America in the Pacific and a pact with the British Commonwealth. That was all clearly stated in the defence policy enunciated by the Prime Minister after the 1946 conference of Empire Prime Ministers..
I do not regard such arrangements as being in conflict with the United Nations Charter. On the contrary, they can be regarded as being essential to it but rather subordinate to its main principles. What I tried to say to the House in my opening remarks was that if we had such arrangements alone, and nothing else, we should be putting the world in a position in which war might become almost inevitable. The United Nations is not merely a forum for discussing matters. The Security Council and the Assembly are its appointed bodies, and we have a situation in the world to-day in which, with acute differences between great powers, the influence to be exerted through the United Nations is often the influence, not of the great powers themselves, but of middle powers and smaller powers. I have seen that influence being exerted, and on some occasions it has undoubtedly had an effect upon great power relationships.
I quoted in my opening remarks that remarkable letter that Mr. Churchill wrote to Mr. Stalin in 1945. It is a letter of supreme importance, and I regret that no reference was made to it’ during the debate. In 1945, when he was still Prime Minister of Great Britain, Churchill wrote to Stalin.After relating the background, he said -
There is not much comfort in looking into a future where you ami the countries you dominate, plus the Communist parties in many other States, are all drawn up on one side and those who rally to the Englishspeaking nations and their associates or dominions are on the other. It is quite obvious that their quarrel would tear the world to pieces and that all of us leading men on cither side who had anything to do with thatwould be shamed before history. Even embarking upon a long period-
I think that that period is one that can be identified with what has occurred since 1945 - of suspicions, of abuse and counter-abuse and’ of opposing policies would be a disaster hampering the great developments of world prosperity for the masses which are obtainable only by our trinity.
That is the trinity of the British Commonwealth, Russia and the United States of America. When Mr. Churchill quoted from that letter only a few months agohe must have meant that he did not think the door was then closed to a solution of these problems. I was struck by the speech that was delivered by the honorable member for Wilmot last night. The honorable gentleman said that by taking certain positive steps the area of disagreement might be lessened. I believe that that is all that can be done. If dispute after dispute can be settled, the area of disagreement will be lessened.. It will take a long time to re-establish the comradeship that existed in war-time, but I think it can be re-established. We must struggle for the United Nations principles and must not lose heart because the outlook is disappointing at any given moment.
I referred to the Berlin dispute. I do not wish to characterize from the legal point of view the Russian action in imposing the blockade, but, in my opinion, it was contrary to the Potsdam agreement. The contribution that Russia could make to the solution of that particular dispute would be to lift the blockade.^ What the Leader of the Opposition said was quite correct. It is the physical aspect of the matter that is so dangerous. Thousands of airmen, including some of our men, are engaged in the air lift. Thea is a needless risk of life that could be terminated by one action, which should be taken immediately by Russia in accordance with its duty. Although the currency that is to be used in Berlin and tho discussion of other matters relating to Germany are important, they are subordinate in importance to the blockade. Everything is held up because of this East-West difference. The Japanese peace settlement is not being delayed because of difficulties in arriving at the settlement. Broadly, a settlement has been agreed to. Tu the Potsdam agreement, in the decisions of the Far Eastern Commission, which is still sitting in Washington, and in the directives that have been issued to and by General MacArthur, there are not only the principles but practically the details of a Japanese treaty. The treaty is ready to be signed, but it cannot be signed until these differences are healed. Doubtless, the Japanese peace settlement will be postponed until the European situation is dealt with satisfactorily to all parties concerned.
I was chided by several honourable members opposite, I thought unfairly, for putting forward propositions in relation to Australian foreign policy as though I had some proprietorial interest in them. Nothing could be further from my thoughts. As honorable members on both sides of the House know, I have worked very hard at this problem for many years. I do not want to see Australian foreign policy made a matter of electoral disputation when I believe that, in essence, there cannot be much dispute as to what is in the best interests of Australia and in the best interests of world peace. I have been Minister for External Affairs now for well over seven years. I have tried to compare the statements on foreign policy that have been made during that long period with those that were made during the seven previous years when the Opposition parties were in office to show what account had been given to the Parliament of the foreign policy of this nation. I respectfully challenge a comparison of the information that has been made available and the debates that have been held. It i6 not correct that the
Parliament is not consulted, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) suggested last night. Parliament cannot be consulted upon every particular application of policy, as the honorable gentleman must realize. Foreign policy is a matter on which decisions must he given day by day. It is impossible to call the Parliament together to decide all these questions. We have, however, put the broad outline of policy before the Parliament and given the House the fullest possible information. I am arranging with the External Affairs Department to provide a special officer whose duty will be to give information, not tq a few selected members on either side of the House, but to make information on these matters available to any and every honorable member. Many honorable members get that information now. I do not think it is ever refused. However, I want to make it actively available to them because of the importance of these questions. I want to convince honorable members, and I think they will be convinced, that the policy that, we have been pursuing is not a new one. I have referred to previous speeches in which the heads of this policy were declared. They were declared before the 1946 general election and also before the 1943 general election. In substance, they are the heads of policy that any Australian government must adopt. If I have to sum up the difference between us at this stage in the debate, I should say that it lies in the emphasis that is given to the United Nations, at any rate by some honorable members opposite. I think that we must give full emphasis to the United Nations. I believe that this titanic opposition between east and west is a threat to the peace of the world. The Leader of the Opposition used the phrase, “ Peace is hanging by a thread “. Can any one look, without desperate anxiety for his fellow men and the youth of the world, at such a catastrophe as would result from a war between east and west, no matter what the circumstances may be? I believe that this country, as a member of the United Nations carrying out the objectives of that organization, can contribute to the prevention of that catastrophe. That is what we are endeavouring to do in every aspect of our foreign policy. Our relations with every country in the world are most harmonious. We differ from some nations in debates, but it would be extraordinary if there were complete harmony in these matters. Instead of indulging in interjections, honorable members opposite should look at the reports of the General Assembly and see how the voting went. Several honorable gentlemen opposite criticized some of our delegates. Delegates must have some discretion when they are representing Australia, because events occur, day by day and hour by hour. E am not going to agree to the condemnation of the Australian delegates. They have done an excellent job. I was very pleased with a remark that was made by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), who took the trouble to come to the General Assembly of the United Nations at Paris to see how the Australian delegation was working. He said in his speech that they approached the problems from a. practical viewpoint, and he praised the work that they have done. We do not want to make this in any way a question of party politics.
In conclusion, I see no broad difference in principle between us except this emphasis on the United Nations. There is an attempt to dismiss its objectives as impracticable and as things of the future. I say they are things of the present. Unless we attend to them as things of the present there will be a catastrophe in the future. I have dealt with the question of Indonesia. There has been no serious challenge to any application of the foreign policy of this country. I do not claim that it is derived from any one man or group of men. I say it is a policy that every Australian should support, including the members of the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 469).
– I rise to comment on certain aspects of the report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission because I consider that it contains misleading information about the Inverell bauxite deposits. For instance, paragraph 15 states -
The substantial increase during the year in the ore reserves controlled by the Commission has been wholly due to developments in the Inverell district of northern New South Wales.
At the time of the last Report, deposits tested were estimated to contain 1.200,000 tons of bauxite of economic grade, but further surveys have increased this quantity to 5,220,000 tons at present date. The ore continues to maintain an average grade of 3S.5 per cent, total alumina and 3.1 per cent, silica, and while this is below the standard of bauxite generally used in the aluminium industry in other parts of the world, it is capable of treatment by Bayer method*, to produce alumina at an economic cost. The quantity of 5.2i>0.000 tons would represent about 75 year’s’ production at the rate of 10,000 tons of aluminium ingot per milium -. this rate, however, is unlikely to remain the scale of production for any considerable period after the industry is established.
The report then compares the relative claims of Tasmania and New South Wales for the establishment of the aluminium industry. I should like to make it quite clear that I do not oppose the establishment of the industry in Tasmania, nor do I wish to condemn in its entirety the report of the commission. The commission was set up to give effect to the agreement entered into between the Australian Government and the Government of Tasmania for the establishment of the aluminium industry in that State. I do not oppose that agreement. The function of the commission is to give effect to the provisions of the Aluminium Industry Act and it has no choice but to adhere to the terms of the agreement. However, I do take exception to the commission’s attempt to minimize the potentialities of the Inverell bauxite deposits and the suitability of that area for the production of aluminium. As I have said, the commission’s report is misleading in some respects, although I do not suggest it is intentionally so. Some time ago I visited Inverell with the Minister who was then acting for the Minister for Munitions. Representatives of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission were also in the party. Addressing a public gathering, one of the representatives of the commission claimed that proven deposits of bauxite at Inverell totalled only 5,000,000 tons. I was astounded to hear that statement because, some years ago, one of the leading geologists of New South “Wales, who had spent many years in the Inverell district, told a public gathering that there were between 20,000,000 tons and 26,000,000 tons of bauxite in that locality. When I heard the representative of the commission say that the deposits totalled only 5,000,000 tons, I immediately made further inquiries. Upon returning to Sydney I communicated with the New South Wales Department of Mines, and 1 have before me now the report of that department.
I remind the House that other huge deposits have not yet been surveyed. With the concurrence of honorable members 1 shall incorporate the report in Hansard. It reads -
Bauxite Deposits of TinghaInverellEmmaville District.
In the Tinga-Inverell-Emmaville district there is a total of about 20,000,000 tons of ferruginous bauxite in the deposits which have been surveyed.
The composition of the material varies over quite a wide range, the limits of the average values of the deposits and the average analysis for all the deposits being given below: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 February 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490217_reps_18_201/>.