20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House of the presence -within this chamber of an unusually great number of visitors from overseas and from within the Commonwealth of Australia, who have been invited to visit Canberra by the Government of Australia. We have from New Zealand a delegation headed by the Prime Minister of that dominion, Mr. S. G. Holland, and which includes the brother of the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann). We have from the United Kingdom of Great Britain Viscount Alexander, leader of the delegation, and Lord Lawson. We have from South Africa Mr. Stephen Le Roux Minister for Agriculture in that Union. We have from the United States of America a Congressional delegation to the Commonwealth headed .by Mr. A. S. Carnahan. We also have the Premiers of certain of the States of the Commonwealth. They are Mr. T. Playford, of South Australia, whose record of service is greater than that of any other Premier in point of time, and in other ways ;. Mr. E. Cosgrove, of Tasmania ; and Mr. E. M. Hanlon, of Queensland. . Western Australia is represented by Mr. Watt, the Deputy Premier of that State. We also have with us the Speaker of the House of Assembly of South Australia, Sir Robert Nicholls, who has held that office for over eighteen years and who at one time presided over me when I was a member of that body. We ‘ have with us too, the Speaker of the House, of Assembly of Tasmania, Mr. L. T. Spurr, who was once a member of this House. With the concurrence of honorable members, and as our seating accommodation is very limited, I shall invite Mr. Holland, Viscount Alexander, Lord Lawson, Mr. Be Roux, and Mr. Carnahan to take seats on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear I
Mr. Holland, Viscount Alexander, Lord Lawson, Mr. Le Row and Mr. Carnahan thereupon entered the chamber, and were seated accordingly.
– By a very old practice in this Parliament the most signal honour that we can do to a distinguished visitor from abroad is to offer -him a seat on the floor of this House in which, by ancient practice, he remains silent and listens to us at work. It has not been the practice on those occasions for any particular speech to be made. But I think that, on the remarkable occasion of this jubilee year, it would be a misfortune if I did not, on behalf of the Government and, I am sure, of the House, say just a few words about the very distinguished visitors who are now seated on the floor of the House.
I would begin by referring to our sole visiting Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Holland. He had an opportunity last night to hear what we think about him and about our sister dominion. No words are needed to establish the extraordinarily close, brother hood that exists between this British nation and the British nation of New Zealand. We are in every way brothers. Indeed, last night it was pointed out that but for some error of judgment on the part of somebody or other - fortunately I escape ‘blame on this occasion - New Zealand might have been a part of Australasia. I do not need to say in the presence of Mr. Holland how warmly a representative of his country is always received in this country.
We have also here with us two very distinguished representatives from the Mother Country of this great British Commonwealth. Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough was, as we should recall at all times, the First Lord of the Admiralty in Winston Churchill’s war cabinet and I know, as several other honorable members of this House know from first-hand experience, of the quality of the service that he rendered, not only to Great Britain but also to the entire world, in that capacity. I should like to make it clear to him that he, in his own right, and as representing his great people, has an abundant welcome in this assembly. The truth is that, although we may discuss other matters at other times, we in Australia, whatever our political party, may have a relationship to the people of Great Britain which marks it from all other relationships on earth. We are the children of that race, and every Australian knows and remembers with pride how twice in this century the people of Great Britain, wisely led, have stood between us and indeed between the rest of the world, and imminent disaster. For their courage, their tenacity, and their character, we have an unqualified regard and the deepest affection. Consequently, it is a great honour to have among us to-day such a distinguished Englishman a3 Viscount Alexander. With him is his distinguished colleague, Lord Lawson, who, if I may say so in his presence, is the most perfect example of that marvellous democratic growth which exists in our race. Here is a man who sits in the House of Lords, who has received the highest of honours, and who can yet remember working in the mine; a man whose whole life has been a life of service to people who needed service and who needed friends and guides. I hope that Viscount Alexander and Lord Lawson will take back with them to- Great Britain a clear expression of the fact that in Australia we have no ambiguities on this matter. Whenever we think outside our own country we think in terms of a great British family and we think with particular affection of the great mother of the British family.
We have from the Union of South Africa the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Le Roux. I sometimes feel, in spite of the fact that we have had most distinguished visitors from that country, that, our contacts with the Union of South Africa are perhaps not as complete as we should like them to be. South Africa is a country with its own problems and a country which excites the interest of Australians and it is a great pleasure to me and my colleagues and to every honorable member of this House to feel that we have among us a man who, in the most perfect way, can serve as spokesman for a great Commonwealth country which has played a great part in the history of the British Commonwealth and which will, no doubt, play a greater part in the future.
It is entirely appropriate that there should be on the floor of the House the leader of the delegation from the United States of America, Mr. Carnahan. .It is sometimes thought by people who have merely observed casually that the warm friendship which unquestionably exists in this country for the people of the United States of America, and the friendship which exists in the United States of America for the people of this country, is inconsistent with our deep affection for our Mother Country and sister nations. I hope that nobody will think that for one moment. All members of the British Commonwealth, whether they are from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, or Great Britain, know that in the world as it is now, friendship, understanding, mutual tolerance and mutual determination between the peoples of the British Commonwealth and the people of the United States of America are vital to the world’s peace and are, therefore, essential elements for the future happiness of mankind. Although our guests occupy seats on the floor of this House, they are. perforce, under an oath of silence and cannot answer my remarks. However. I assure them that what I have said has been said not on behalf of one man or one party, but on behalf of all members of this Parliament and of the people of Australia.
– I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in extending to our visitors avery warm welcome and I endorse the remarks which the right honorable gentleman has so ably made on behalf of all honorable members. Honorable members of the Opposition join most cordially in the greetings which the right honorable gentleman has extended to our visitors who have been good enough to come so far to join with the people of this young nation on the occasion of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of our federation.
I feel that the personal contacts that are made on such visits as these are of great value because, after all, human relationships still remain one of the most potent factors in the life of mankind. I should like the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the representatives of Great Britain, South Africa and the United States of America to accept my expression of the appreciation of honorable members of the Opposition of their visit to Australia.
The Prime Minister has expressed the warmth of feeling of the people of Australia for the people of the United States of America. I had a very close association with many Americans who were associated with the war effort when General MacArthur’s army was in Australia. If wrong impressions have been created that our sentiments towards the American people are not as warm as they were during the war, I hope that the representatives of the United States who are now with us will take back to America an assurance that nothing is further from the truth. The warmth of feeling that existed in those days between the representatives of the people of Australia and those of the American Government has not diminished in the intervening years. We greatly appreciate the services rendered by the United States of America to this country and to the world in the cause of liberty and freedom. The Prime Minister did not extend any welcome to the State Premiers who have come to visit us. However, I suppose he will save that greeting until he meets the Premiers in conference. Perhap3 he does not wish to become too deeply committed before he hears their views at that conference. I join the Prime Minister in expressing appreciation of the view of all government representatives who have visited Canberra for the jubilee celebrations. I have had the opportunity of meeting Mr. Atlee, President Truman, and Dr. Malan, theleaders of the overseas governments represented in the chamber to-day. I have also met Mr. Holland on a previous occasion when he visited this country as Prime Minister of New Zealand. I hope that he will take home with him the best wishes of the Australian people for success in meeting the problems that the people of New Zealand have to face.
– I have to inform the House that on the evening of the 8th May, I received a cablegram from Some, an official translation of which was supplied by the Department of External Affairs. The message reads as follows : -
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the first Federal Parliament of Australia, I desire most sincerely to convey to that honorable assembly expressions of democratic goodwill from this country and salutations from the Italian Chamber of Deputies, which expresses the earnest hope that the Commonwealth may enjoy ever greater good fortune and the Australian people ever greater prosperity.
The President of the Chamber of Deputies. (Signed)Groucht.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - agreed to -
That this House thanks the President and the members of the Italian Chamber of Deputies most sincerely for the message of good wishes sent on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Commonwealth Parliament, and reciprocates the sentiments contained in that message.
– On Monday of this week I also received a cablegram from the President of the Belgian House of Representatives, a translation of which reads as follows: -
The Belgian House of Representatives associates itself with the legitimate joy and pride of your House on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of your Commonwealth Constitution.
It congratulates the Australian nation on the remarkable progress made during the course of this half century under the protection of this constitution which you are celebrating.
Remembering with gratitude and admiration the heroic sacrifices suffered in two world wars by the people of Australia in the defence of the right and fundamental liberties of Democratic Nations, our Assembly earnestly hopes Unit they will advance in lasting peace towards a great and prosperous future.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - agreed to -
That this House thanks the President and members of the Belgian House of Representatives most sincerely for their message of congratulation on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Commonwealth Constitution and reciprocates their expressions of goodwill. It is our earnest hope that the bonds of friendship established in the past between the people of our two countries will continue to be strengthened.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table the document of the advisings and communications that passed from himself and his Government to His Excellency the Governor-General in connexion with the application that the Government made recently under section 57 of the Constitution? I remind the right honorable gentleman that it has been the practice in the past to make such documents public as guides to constitutional practice.
– As the question that the right honorable gentleman has asked will involve some consideration, not on the matter of substance, but in respect of time, I shall treat it as having been placed on the notice-paper and shall give it consideration.
– I point out to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development that the serious shortage of homes in rural areas is a contributing factor not only in reducing the production of primary industries but also in preventing farmers and others from sponsoring British family immigrants who would be prepared to come to Australia and settle on the land. Will the Minister give consideration to the allocation of imported homes to rural areas on a liberal basis and to the remission of duty on such homes in order to enable farmers to provide the necessary accommodation for British immigrants?
Mr.CASEY. - I could answer the honorable gentleman’s question, but as I am not now responsible for the Department of National Development I shall submit the inquiry to my colleague and obtain a reply.
– In view of the increase of the cost of war service homes, will the Minister for Social Services give urgent consideration to increasing the maximum loan available to ex-servicemen in relation to the purchase of such homes, and to reducing the necessary deposit to a maximum of 10 per cent. ?
– I should just like to say that I am replying to questions and not taking part in a debate on the Address-in-Reply. I know that the honorable member for Sturt is very interested in all matters pertaining to ex-servicemen. It was obvious, when the basic wage was increased last year, that there would of necessity need to be an increase in the amount of loans provided for under the War Service Homes Act. The present Minister for External Affairs took this matter up, and it was also investigated by my immediate predecessor, Senator Spooner. The proposal for an increase of the maximum loan available in relation to war service homes is now under consideration, and we hope to be able to make an announcement about it at an early date.
– Can the Minister for Supply say whether Australia’s allocation of American tinplate for the third quarter of this year has been cut by approximately 50 per cent? If this is a fact, is he aware that the reduction will seriously interfere with Australia in fulfilling its obligations to the British Ministry ofFood in respect of corned beef, tie quotas for which were based on our tinplate allocation for the preceding quarters ? The shortage of tinplate will adversely affect the number of cattle that can be killed for the production of canned meats and, consequently, will reduce employment in the industry.
– It is true that the American authorities have made a substantial cut in the allocation of tinplate to be exported to Australia for the third and fourth quarter rollings for this year. The cut is not 50 per cent., or anything like it. The relevant figures, I think, are as follows: - 2,000 tons for the third quarter and 2,000 tons for the fourth quarter, plus another 4,500 tons back lag from, earlier quarters. That reduction, although it is less than 50 per- cent., is still substantial. I agree with the honorable member that such a cut could have a serious effect upon our food producing and canning industries. I inform the House that immediately the cable was received which advised us of the intention of the American Government to make thai alteration, we took up the matter at a very high level, and strong representations are at present being made about it. The House may rest assured that we shall do our utmost to prevent this difficult situation developing.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has given consideration to the making of a special grant to pensioners as a jubilee gesture? If not, will the Government give consideration to the plight in which so many pensioners find themselves as the result of the increasing cost of living and make such a grant available to them not merely as a jubilee gesture but also to help them surmount, to some decree, the great hardships that they are undergoing.
– I cannot say that I have given consideration to the matter that the honorable member has raised, hut T shall discuss it with the Minister for Social Services.
– I remind the Minister for Social Services of the hardship that is being caused by the “ adequate maintenance “ provision, of the social service* legislation. Will he consider an imme diate adjustment of that provision? 1 point out, by way of explanation, that spastic or crippled children, or invalid children of 85 per cent, incapacity, are deprived of the invalid pension or any other social services if their parents are in receipt of £312 per annum, or £6 a week. That provision represents the only break in the continuity of our social services legislation. Child endowment is payable in respect of a boy or girl from birth until the age of sixteen years. But if a child happens to be an invalid, and the parent has an income of £6 a week, no other social services are payable. I think that the Minister will agree that it is wellnigh impossible for parents who are in receipt of only the basic wage of approximately £9 a week to maintain an invalid child from .16 to 21 years of age. Will the Minister consider the advisability of doubling the amount specified at present in the act, or better still, will he delete the means test in respect of the persons in the category to which I have referred ‘s
– The question which the honorable member for Banks has asked presumably deals with the invalid pension provisions of the social services legislation. There is definitely some anomaly in the treatment of invalids between the ages of 16 and 21 years, for whom no provisions are made at present in the act under discussion. That position has been under review for some time. No one has ever said in the past what adequate maintenance entails, but that matter, and other things which bear on the subject, are now under examination, and I hope to be able to make an announcement about them shortly.
– Will the Minister for Social Services give consideration to dating from the 30th June next any alleviation of the conditions of the means test for pensioners which may be included in the forthcoming budget? Is the Minister aware of the provisions in the United Kingdom social services system which, in certain circumstances, exempt the income of age pensioners for the purpose of computing the applicability of the means test? Will he give consideration to the inclusion of corresponding provisions in the Australian system ? Can lie make available information -concerning the numbers of men and women in each age group who are in receipt of age pensions in Australia ?
– The honorable member’s somewhat lengthy questions deal mainly with policy, and the Government’s policy on this subject will be revealed at the appropriate time. However, I shall be pleased to communicate to the honorable gentleman precise answers to those parts of the questions which do not involve matters of policy.
– I direct the attention nf the Minister for Social Services to the plight of large numbers of pensioners who are struggling to exist on a weekly allowance of £2 10s. in the face of rapidly increasing prices. Is it a fact that the purchasing power of the pension to-day is less than it ever was because of the enormous increase of the cost of living? Is it a fact that, with every increase of the basic wage, there is a more than corresponding increase of the cost of living, which leaves the pensioner, whose allowance is static, worse off every time? Will the Minister review the rate of pension and grant an increase based on present living costs, with provision for quarterly adjustments thereafter in the same manner as the basic wage is adjusted so that pensioners may have a chance to live as decent citizens in a. civilized community ?
– This Government is acutely aware of the conditions of our pensioners, and all matters in relation to them are now under review. I am sure that the honorable member will find that the Government will deal very liberally with the pensioners in the future as it has done in the past.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Social Services by offering him my personal congratulations on his appointment to his office. I suppose that the Minister is aware that the Social Services Consolidation Act contains a clause which deprives people of the right to a pension if they have made certain gifts to relatives. I should like the Minister to examine that particular aspect of the act, because it operates very viciously in relation to some people who, up to five years ago, made gifts to rela tives and who now find themselves almost penniless, but yet are disqualified from obtaining a pension.
– I express my appreciation to the honorable member for Wilmot for his congratulations to me on my appointment. As far as the matter that he has raised is concerned, there is something in what he says. Occasionally people who have been disqualified from receiving a pension because of property or other ownership come to the Department of Social Services. It has been the practice of many people to give amounts of money away to relatives: Sometimes such gifts have been genuine, but sometimes we consider that the gifts have been made with the deliberate end in view of “ beating the act “. However, I can assure the honorable member that I shall bear in mind the point that he has put to me. The matter will be reviewed at the time of the general review of pensions.
– A serious production crisis is now being experienced in the dairying industry with a resultant shortage of butter and other dairy products for Australian requirements. That crisis largely arises from the inadequate reward which is received by producers for the number of hours worked by them weekly, and which is insufficient to enable them to compete for labour with more remunerative industries’. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make a statement to the House about any early action which the Government proposes to take to provide more adequate remuneration for dairy producers to encourage them to increase the production of butter throughout Australia?
– The present shortage of butter’ is seasonal, but it is revealing itself in a more acute form this year than it has done in the past, although it has been a traditional experience to have regional shortages of butter, notably in New South Wales, for many years at this time of the year. It is the policy and the intention of the Government to take such stews as= will ensure an adequate increase of the production of butter. and expansion of the dairying industry generally. To that end, I have conferred recently with representatives of the dairying industry, the statutory bodies associated with the industry and the Ministers for Agriculture of the six States. Within the next month, the Government will make certain decisions which, on the narrowest level, will be related to the making of the annual adjustment of returns to dairyfarmers which is the basis of the guaranteed price arrangement, but 1 hope that it may be possible at the same time to take certain steps on a wider scale to bring about a more general, and lasting, measure of stability within the industry.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Works and Housing concerning the introduction of wood pests in timber that is being brought to Australia from Europe. I have raised the matter in this House on a number of occasions previously, [s the Minister aware that a cargo of timber from Central Europe, which arrived in Melbourne early in April, caused great concern to quarantine officials who discovered that it was infested with the world’s worst timber pest? Will the Minister reconsider the attitude of his predecessor in office and ascertain whether it is possible to have a proper inspection of such timbers made before they leave the country of origin for Australia or, alternatively, on their arrival in Australia, with the object of preventing the landing of timber containing pests which might menace the whole home building programme of the Governments of Australia.
– With the indulgence of my colleague, I shall intervene at this stage because the subject of the honorable member’s question does not fall entirely within the domain of the Minister for Works and Housing. The matter has received attention from me recently and I hope to be able to announce some Darticular action in relation to it at a fairly early date.
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE: Mr. FALKINDER- Will the Minister for Air give consideration to the inclusion of Australia in the system of exchange of Air Training Corps cadets which now operates between the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom?
– The Government, will give consideration to the subjectmatter of the honorable member’s question.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for National Development aware of the reported decision of the Government of Western Australia to close the railway connecting Port Hedland and Marble Bar in the northwest of Western Australia? In the interests of encouraging development and urgently needed expansion of population in that area, will the Minister communicate with the appropriate State Minister and, if need be at the expense of t ho Commonwealth, prevent the taking of this most retrograde step? Will tinMinister be prepared to hear my personal views, as the representative of the area in this Parliament, in order to assist him in arriving at a decision in relation to intervention by this Government ?
– The Government can intervene in developmental and other in titters within a State only on the invitation of the Government of the .State. I inn not aware that any representations on this matter have been made by the Premier of Western Australia during the last eighteen months, but I shall ha vo inquiries made and will inform the honorable member more precisely. I am sure that the Minister for National Development will be ready and willing to avail himself of the offer of the honorable member’s personal advice on .the matter.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact, that the Institute of Anatomy contains a. number of plaques which commemorate the work of great surgeons. Amongst them is a plaque in honour of Professor John Hunter who, I understand, laid the foundations of modern surgery about 150 years ago. However, these memorials do not include any tribute to another Professor John Hunter, the brilliant young
Australian who, I understand, gave a great impetus to the science of healing by hia discovery of the theory of nerve surgery. Will the Prime Minister have this unfortunate oversight rectified during the Jubilee year by the erection of a memorial plaque alongside those already placed in the Institute of Anatomy to commemorate the work, of this other illustrious scientist?
– I shall certainly discuss the matter with the appropriate authorities.
– I address to. the Treasurer a question which relates to the hardship provisions of the Wool Sales Deduction Act which was recently enacted by this Parliament. Will the Treasurer inform me of the number of applications for exemption from the operation of the act that have been lodged under the hardship provisions; the number of such applications that have been approved; and the total amount of moneys deducted from the wool-growers under the act?
– I shall obtain the information and supply it to the honorable member.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by stating, by way of explanation, that meetings are being held throughout Australia at which speakers are advocating either an affirmative or a negative vote in connexion with the reserve price wool scheme. In view of the holding of such meetings, which have developed into a campaign, it would be an advantage if it were known when the vote will be taken. Can the Minister now supply that information?
– I cannot name the date of the ballot with exactitude, for two reasons which I shall explain. The plan, which has been worked out by four governments and five wool-growers organizations in three dominions, only reached its final form about two or three weeks ago. Within 24t hours of finality being achieved on the principles of the plan, T issued to the press a very full summary of the plan. Since then the plan, in its full form and legal text, has been placed with printers for printing. No government printer in Australia was able to undertake to print the plan for a considerable period of time. The work has therefore been placed with a contract printer who has undertaken to endeavour to make approximately 100,000 copies of the fully printed form available in about three to five weeks from now. Because it is the determination of the Government that the growers shall, have the full form in their possession for an adequate period of time before the vote is taken, I am not able to state the date upon which the Commonwealth” Electoral Officer will close the ballot, but it will be about four or five weeks after he has distributed the ballot papers and copies of the full text of the plan to the growers. In short, if that is to be in about four weeks’ time, then the ballot will be held about four or five weeks after that. A full text of the plan will be released within a few days to such newspapers as feel able to print it.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say what prospect there is of an early improvement in the supply of additional telephone facilities, particularly in Queensland ?
– To-day I gave notice of a bill that will provide additional finance for the Postmaster-General’s Department. The provisions of that measure will assist us in the supply of telephone facilities. Telephone facilities will be apportioned to Queensland in ratio to the supply of telephones to the other States. The honorable member may be assured that there will be no discrepancy in relation to the supply of telephone facilities to Queensland.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that an alarmingly high percentage of child immigrants from displaced persons camps in Italy and Germany, who were examined recently at the Bathurst reception centre in New South Wales by two doctors of the Department of Health, were found to be suffering from tuberculosis? If that is a fact will the Minister issue instructions for a tightening-up of the medical screening of immigrants from Europe in order to ensure that new arrivals in this country do not become public liabilities from a health and monetary point of view?
– I am very happy to be be able to inform the honorable member that the statement that he has made is quite inaccurate. In point of fact, there is a very close medical screening of immigrants who have come into Australia under schemes of Commonwealth assistance
– That is not the general opinion of the medical profession.
– I can assure the honorable member that I am giving the House the facts. They are not only the opinions of the medical profession, but are confirmed by the Australian Government’s own adviser on tuberculosis, Dr. Wunderly. The medical screening to which I have referred has the effect of disclosing anything of the nature of tuberculosis while the immigrant is in . Europe. What has been mistaken for tuberculosis by sections of, the press, has been a positive reaction to the test that has been applied as a security or precautionary measure when the immigrants have subsequently come to Australia. Members of this Parliament will recall that when a similar test was applied to many of us in this place some time ago, some of us showed a positive reaction, which indicated that, at some stage of our life, the tuberculosis germ had been in our systems and had been repulsed. The figures supplied to me indicate that the incidence of tuberculosis among immigrants who have come to Australia under the Governmentassisted scheme is lower, in terms of percentage, than is to be found in the Australian community generally.
– I remind the Treasurer of representations that were made by the Queensland Government and others who were seeking financial assistance for the development of the Burdekin Valley. I remind him also that on the last occasion on which this question was raised in the House he informed us that the applications had had to be rejected on the ground that the Queensland Government had not supplied all the necessary details. In view of the statements reported to have been made by the Minister for External Affairs to the effect that at long last the Queensland Government had supplied the details and that progress could be made, I ask whether progress has been made, whether the matter has been reviewed by the Australian Government and whether financial assistance is to be given to the Queensland Government or whether the position is now as it was when this matter was last raised.
– At this moment I can only state that I do not know whether the proposal has reached such a stage that the financial aspects can be considered. I shall endeavour to obtain the information and supply it to the honorable member.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following items : -
Tractors over60 b.h.p. - Question of assistance to the Australian industry.
Meters, mechanically operated, for recording the flow of petrol and oil and other liquids.
Elastic, 1 inch and 2 inches, inclusive.
The Government has adopted the recommendations of the board in each instance. No change is involved in the present tariff treatment of the goods concerned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, the following members be appointed members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings: - Mr. Speaker, Mr. Jeff Bate, Mr. Davidson, Mr. Allan Fraser, Mr. Gullett and Mr.Rosevear.
Mr. Bland, for the Committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech (vide page 12), presented the proposed Address, which was read by the Clerk.
Mr.BLAND (Warringah) [3.54].- I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General he agreed to: -
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to” thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Before I address myself to the subjectmatter of the motion I should like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for extending to me your protection and, as I shall be talking against time, I should like to crave the indulgence of honorable members as I undertake the task that the Prime Minister Mr. Menzies) has given me. Had I consulted my own feelings, I should have preferred to choose my own time for my plunge into the parliamentary pool, but it may be that the Prime Minister was kinder than honorable members may think when he pushed me over the edge. I am in this position to-day, by the grace of God, and by a vote of the electors of Warringah that any one might envy. I have never undertaken a task with greater misgivings. My misgivings are not reduced by considering your obiter dicta that men do not improve after they reach the age of 50 years. Nor are they reduced when I recall that I succeed to a line of highly distinguished representatives, who have accustomed the people of Warringah to high standards of public service, and not least to a sturdy and vigorous independence of thought and action.
Turning now to the motion, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that every one in this chamber would wish to add his prayers to those of His Excellency that His Gracious Majesty may be so completely restored to health, that he may be able to make the visit to Australia that everyone is looking forward to with such joyful expectation.
I am also sure that honorable members will share the sentiments of His Excellency about the achievements of this Commonwealth in the past, and the implication that, if we are to match that progress in the future we must not - we cannot -afford to rest indolently content with what we have done or the way we have done it. Indeed our progress in many matters has been in spite of rather than because of what we have consciously done to accomplish it. It is for that reason that, while I endorse everything that His Excellency has said in this regard, I should like at the very beginning of my remarks to insinuate the idea that if we are to make the progress we should make during the next two or three decades, we must have a clearer idea of the means by which we shall achieve it. We should examine our constitutional machinery in order to ascertain whether it provides opportunities for making the progress that we want to make. I have long cherished the hope that these jubilee celebrations might have been used as the occasion to hold a constitutional convention. Such a convention might have resolved the conflict of opinion about the most suitable system of government for our future development. We cannot indefinitely continue to linger between two opinions. We must make up our minds. I am convinced that we should set about restoring the substance of federalism, and a preliminary step to a redistribution of powers and functions would be the calling of a constitutional convention, which would enable us to know precisely what functions are to be discharged by the Commonwealth and what functions are to be discharged by the States.
I believe that there will be general satisfaction with the references in His Excellency’s Speech to the determination of the Government to take action against subversive elements, and at the same time to seek such an improvement in industrial relations as will provide an effective basis for the increased production that the defence programme, on the one hand, and domestic requirements on the other, demand. I suggest that whatever differences of opinion we may have upon the wisdom of particular measures for minimizing industrial strife, there is nut any possible shadow of doubt, that the Government has been given an unequivocal mandate to do everything that is possible to ensure that the well-being of Australians is not jeopardized by industrial disruption. I think it would be heartening if the general body of trade union leaders accepted the verdict of the people given in 1949 and again in 1951. If they did that, it would be much to their credit, and would save the country a considerable amount of trouble. It would also help greatly if they would look forward to 1957 instead of backward to 1917. If they adopted that attitude the Government and the people could avoid many of the difficulties which now beset them. For example, the Government would be relieved of the necessity for introducing some of its proposed industrial legislation.
His Excellency said that in default of the Government being able to find any ether way in which it could overcome the difficulties with which it is confronted in dealing with subversive elements, it would have recourse to seeking constitutional alterations. No one would be temerarious enough at this juncture to comment upon any proposal for seeking popular approved of additional constitutional powers. I suggest that no one could decide here and now what should be done about the Constitution. At present, when Australians are dying in Korea for a world order of peace and security, who would be rash enough to suggest that in the near future the present defence power will not be. sufficient to deal with subversive elements, or who would suggest that the States will never realize their constitutional responsibilities and meet this threat to our security and prosperity on their own plane? It is worth while, as we look into the future of constitutional change, to remember just what has been our experience in the immediate past. That experience has suggested that people are opposed to piecemeal constitutional change. These remarks link up with the proposal that there should be a constitutional convention, because I am quite sure that the only way in which we shall be able to get full approval of constitutional change is by a complete revision of the Constitution so that the functions of the States and the powers of the Commonwealth will be clearly defined. I mention those matters for the earnest consideration of the House.
I shall now refer to two other sections of His Excellency’s Speech. In one he stressed the pride that we have in our parliamentary heritage, and in the other he detailed the functional and organizational changes in the government departments and mentioned the decision to increase the number of Ministers. It has always seemed to me that Australians have been lacking in curiosity about the working of our parliamentary system. They are proud of it, as His Excellency has said, but there has been a tendency to take things for granted and to be indifferent to the effects of certain changes upon the prestige and privilege of the Parliament. There has been a tendency to concentrate in the hands of the Executive more and more of the power that rightly belongs to the Parliament. That has been the result of a long development and the Parliament, instead of resenting it, seems to be prepared to accept the role thrust upon it of a mere instrument to give effect to the intentions of the Government. That has lessened the prestige and authority of the Parliament.
This lack of interest in parliamentary government in Australia contrasts strangely with the attitude of people elsewhere in the world. In the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom, during the last two or three decades a series of comprehensive investigations has been made by committees and commissions of the highest competence concerning the effect of modern political and administrative developments upon the parliamentary system. Those investigations have been very valuable and have yielded important information upon the matter. One has only to mention the report of the President’s Committee on Administrative
Management and the massive reports of the Hoover Commission in the United States to illustrate this point. Those commissions covered, among other things, matters that in England were investigated by Haldane’s Machinery of Government Committee, by the report upon Ministers’ powers, and by the Blanesburgh and other committees upon the political activities of public servants.
In Australia during the war there was an extraordinary growth of the volume and character of delegated legislation, which not only made dangerous inroads into the liberties of the people but also seriously restricted the- authority and reduced’ the prestige of the- Parliament. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt)’ realized the force of the. popular alarm and. appointed a committee whose duty it was to restrain, abuses. There was also a. parliamentary select committee which functioned between 1930- and 1942 in an attempt to- keep track of administrative excesses. However, instead of there having been an. anxiety to preserve the authority of the Parliament and thereby te protect popular liberties, the dominating: thought has seemed to be how best and how completely could these investigators be silenced. I hope to see re-established in this’ Parliament the parliamentary, committee on. regulations and’ ordinances that was. abolished in 1942. I welcome, the assurance of His Excellency that the. Government intends to. revive the Parliamentary Standing Committee; on Public. Accounts that has been, out- of. action since. 1932.. Only by having standing committees on. legislation.,, accounts, and foreign affairs, will the Parliament be able to maintain its authority and prestige in any conflict with the. Government. I was. glad to hear that action will be taken in this direction.
Another development that has’ seriously restricted the authority o£ the Parliament has been the establishment- of a proliferation of statutory corporations without any proper consideration of the relationship that, should exist between them and the Parliament,, or- their consistency with the doctrines and principles, of ministerial responsibility. Some, of these corporations: have been the administrative instruments for the application of. the doctrines of socialization,, the high, water mark of which was reached during the last decade. It is- a matter for regret that socialization still floods many fields that are showing signs of clogging under rigid bureaucratic administration.
I turn finally to the administrative changes referred to by His Excellency. They of themselves’ emphasize the character of the political,, administrative and economic revolution that has taken place during the last decade. The appointment of another1 Minister’ must have caused the Prime Minister some concern, for it will make more difficult his future task of securing the redistribution of Federal and State powers. Every addition, to the Cabinet gives rise to fresh problems. It adds another voice to the Cabinet discussions,, it increases: the size of the- agenda, it raises’ new difficulties of collective’ ministerial responsibility and it poses new problems of determination and co-ordination of Government policy. It also causes difficulties’ in Public Service management. The magnitude of the administrative and political- changes and their rate- of development can best be realized by noting that during the last- decade the size of the> Ministry has been almost doubled, the number of departments has been almost trebled and the Public Service has become- four or five, times as large as’ it was. Roughly, there have- been changes of three types. There are those like the uniform income tax legislation of 1942 that have gone far towards destroying the substance of federalism. That system of taxation has provided the States with easy and plentiful supplies of money without the States’ suffering any of the odium associated with the raising; of it ; and that is lending to encourage political irresponsibility at the State level. The several ways in which this situation can be altered have been frequently canvassed in this House and I do not propose to traverse them at this juncture. However, I hope that the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers which is to be held, later this month will make some progress towards ending this, wholly unsatisfactory <tate of affairs.
Other changes also have tended to upset the administrative balance between the Commonwealth and the States. The addition of several scores of new members to this Parliament will inevitably add so many more voices to advance reasons why the Commonwealth should undertake new functions or expand existing ones. Notwithstanding all such tendencies, the Government of the Commonwealth would be wise to divest itself of as many as possible of the functions that it has assumed during the last decade. It should decide what functions it should retain and what functions should be returned to the States. Remembering the federal principle, that is another reason why a constitutional convention should be held as soon as possible.
Lastly, there has been the consequential growth of the number and cost of officials. f.L is a well-established fact that every addition to the army of officials carries with it a potential threat to the liberties of the individual. That that threat has not been lessened in recent years is realized when one studies the trend on the part of officials to engage actively in party politics. No one has been more alive to that trend than has the Prime Minister, who, since he assumed office, has been either personally directing investigations of such matters r>r stimulating thought on them by his several pronouncements. However, these problems are far too exacting to be left to the care of the head of the Government in the interstices of time that remain available to him in the course of all his other activities. I wish to see him relieved of that responsibility. The time has arrived when the Parliament should have completely independent advice upon the suitability of the existing organization for the management of the Public Service. I do not know, and I do not believe that anybody really knows, whether the existing management is satisfactory. However, we must inform ourselves upon the subject and we could well follow the example of Great Britain and the United States of America, in which countries numbers of commissions have been appointed during the last fifteen years for the purpose of overhauling their respective public services. I should like to see the Government do likewise. In conclusion, I thank you, Mr. Speaker and honorable members, for your forbearance and patience in listening to my remarks.
– I second the motion which hasbeen so ably made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), and I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for having given me the opportunity, to doso. I also thank those people who elected me to the Parliament. I assure them that I fully realize the responsibilities that they have placed upon me. I shall endeavour at all times to bring common sense and tolerance to bear upon thetasks that may confront me.
The most important feature associated, with the opening of this the twentieth Parliament is the celebration of 50 years of federation. On the 1st January, 1901, the States united in a federation under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia. Federation was conceived in the minds of farseeing patriots, foremost amongst whom was Sir Henry Parkes who suggested the name, “ the Commonwealth of Australia “.. On that great day in 1901 we became one nation under one flag with a common destiny. During the last 50 years Australia hasgenerously and loyally played its part in world affairs as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. To-day, it is taking part in international life as an active member of the United NationsAustralia has justified its nationhood in the eyes of the world. Its soldiers, sailors and airmen have fought in two world wars and to-day our forces are again fighting in Korea in an endeavour to preserve world peace. Australia has not only played its part in the field of war ; it is recognized, too, for the contributions that have been made by its singers, writers,, scientists and men of sterling worth in the spheres of economics, law and international affairs. May our achievements during the next 50 years be as great as those that illumine the chapter of our history that has just closed.
We are a democracy; and never before have democracies been called upon to remind their own citizens and those of other countries that the democratic system oi government offers to the individual not only a high degree of bodily comfort but also the opportunity to pursue, unhindered, those things of the mind and spirit without which they will be unfulfilled as human beings. I emphasize that the machinery of government - parliament, the courts, the Constitution and adult suffrage - does not alone constitute democracy. Those things are merely instruments of expression. Democracy is a way of life, an attitude of mind ; it is a dynamic force within a country. It cannot be imposed upon people through the machinery of government. All the people - not merely a few - in a democracy must be well-informed, responsible, critical citizens who take an active part in their trade, professional and social organizations and, most important of all, in their parliaments. This Parliament can carry on the fight against totalitarianism only if it has the support of citizens of that type. During the last 50 years we have had that support, and I trust that we may have it during the next 50 years.
Nothing was said or done during the recent general election campaign to alter the fact that communism is the main issue that confronts the Australian people to-day. There is a general realization of the deadly injury that Communist saboteurs have done to the Australian economy. But many people are insufficiently aware of how directly Communist world policy is reacting against us. Inflation to-day is world wide, and the greatest single cause of it is the need for the great nations, particularly the Western Powers, to devote huge sums of money and vast quantities of materials to defence purposes. The result is a sky-rocketing of prices in the markets of the world, and acute shortages of goods and services. As. Communist policy develops, Australia is denied reasonable production from its own key industries, and is subject to the additional penalties of the drying up of the sources from which we have imported goods, and a terrific increase of prices. Nothing much has been done in the past to combat the Communist influence that is felt in the country to-day. Some people entertain the belief that the reintroduction of Commonwealth prices control could off-set the work of the Communists, but, in my opinion, such thinking is childishly unreal.
Turning to defence, I believe that every Australian should be proud to be able to defend his country at all times. But he cannot do so efficiently unless he is properly trained in the use of modern weapons and machines of war. The evil forces that are abroad to-day have caused great nations like Great Britain and the United States of America, to train huge armies, and maintain them in a condition of preparedness, for the purpose of resisting aggression. Such circumstances provide ample evidence to convince u? that we should take, similar action, commensurate with our resources. Every Australian has a duty to share that responsibility; and it must be shared equally. When we think of defence, we must be realistic. We must be prepared to face facts. The world political and economic situation to-day is uncertain. We live in the shadow of the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb. Those are grim facts, but the potential danger will not be so great if we are prepared. By being prepared, we shall have the best chance of maintaining peace.
As a farmer, I am particularly interested in the rural policy and the land settlement policy of the Government. Primary production is the first essential. Defence and other major projects automatically follow. The production potential of Northern Australia is enormous, and those vast, sparsely-populated areas must be peopled and developed. The task is huge, and requires planning, capital, equipment, and hard work. Successful development cannot be accomplished by States, individuals or companies alone. All of them must be given assistance. Production must be increased in order to feed our ever-increasing population, and Australia must be peopled to prevent invasion by the northern races, who view our empty spaces with envious eyes. During 1949 the population of Australia increased by 3£ per cent., and in 1950 by approximately the same proportion. If that rate is maintained by natural increase and by immigration, the estimated population of 25,000,000 should be reached by the end of the century. How are those people to be fed?
Obviously, our rural areas must be developed in conformity with the increase of the population. A vigorous policy of land settlement must be pursued to encourage people to stay on the land, and to attract additional people to settle on it. The drift to the cities must be stopped. To ensure the production of basic necessities, more amenities such as are enjoyed by the people who reside in the large cities should be provided. Such amenities include improved roads, adequate rail and air services, better medical and hospital services, and better educational facilities. Communications are of supreme importance. When they are adequate and efficient, people have an incentive to settle on the land. Modern and efficient transport is a real necessity. Primarily, such provision is the responsibility of the States, but they have not given to the matter the attention that it should rightly receive. As a consequence, transport systems and methods are hopelessly inadequate. Certain funds have been made available by the Commonwealth, but have not been used by the States to the best advantage. The Commonwealth must co-operate with the States to an even greater degree than it lias in the past for products, when available, must be conveyed to the markets.
In the electorate of Maranoa, which [ represent, the conditions reflect in varying degrees the national trend. Maranoa is an area of approximately 150,000 square miles, and f-he production (-.herefrom is nearly 100 per cent, primary. Although a vigorous approach has been made to land settlement, the population has increased by only 5,000 in the last 27 years. This increase has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase of production. In fact, according to the latest statistical returns, only the wheat industry and the pig raising industry have increased their output. The ‘production of wheat increased from 1.500,000 bushels in 1943-44 to 4,500,000 bushels in 1949-50. All other primary industries have decreased their output. The increase of wheat production has been achieved at the expense of fat lamb raising and the dairying industry. For instance, the number of sheep decreased from 10,409,236 in 1943-44 to 9,604,157 in 1949-50, and the number of cattle de- creased from 974,787 to 880,829 over the same period. Queensland is the major meat producing State of Australia. It has a huge potential breeding area in the north and a vast fattening area in the south. But those areas cannot be used to the best advantage under existing conditions. We must have better means of transporting cattle from the north to the south, particularly when seasons break.
The decrease of production should not bc attributed to droughts alone. It has been due mainly to the shortage of labour, which has been caused by the drift of population from country areas to the more densely settled regions. An examination of population statistics for the division of Maranoa shows that, although population has increased by 7,000 in the eastern part of the electorate, which is devoted mainly to agricultural cultivation, there has been a general decrease throughout the central and south-western areas. It is a striking fact that a greater proportion of thepopulation now lives in the towns than was previously the case. For instancy, 66 per cent, of the population of the Dalby district lived in the township in 1933, but the proportion has increased to 77 per cent. The situation is oven worse in the Roma and Charleville districts because the slight increase of population there nas been accompanied by a relatively much more marked decrease of the number of persons living on grazing properties and elsewhere in the outlying districts.
Those figures confirm the fact that residents of the remote areas are moving to the cities and country towns. They are doing ?o chiefly because young men and women can earn livelihoods mon easily, and at the same time enjoy a full social life, in the centres of population. Parents are attracted to the towns and cities by the superior educational facilities that are available in them for children. This is a most important factor. Its significance has increased because responsible parents have come to realize that their children must be well educated if they are to lead successful lives in this modern world. Many families move from outback areas to the towns and cities where good educational facilities are readily accessible. “Unfortunately, the children of such families rarely return to the country when they strike out in life for themselves. Therefore, our country areas are losing a great volume of potential labour. This loss is replaced only in part by newly married couples who settle in rural areas. Furthermore, many such couples eventually return to the towns and cities when they have children approaching school agc.
The . Governor-General’s Speech contained an excellent summary of the Government’s policy and outlined the programme of legislation that will be presented to the Parliament for ratification. I am happy to second the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to the Speech and am proud to be able to assist in giving effect to the policy that was so clearly stated.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired fur Postal purposes - Cuthbert, Western Australia.
Public Service. Act - Appointments - Department of the Parliamentary Library - C. Ti. Mattingley, B. J. Millen, T. D. Sprod, C. L. Taylor.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1951 -
No. 43 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia, and Federated Miscellaneous Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 44 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 45 - Non-official Postmasters’ Association of Australia.
No. 46 - Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 47 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
No. 48 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia and others.
Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act - First Annual Report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for period ended 30th June, 1950.
House adjourned at 4.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 June 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510613_reps_20_213/>.