20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Dalley undertook to supply me with a copy of a certain issue of the Sydney Sun newspaper. He has done so. ‘ He has marked certain passages which appear in that newspaper, and in my opinion those passages might properly be remitted for consideration to the Committee of Privileges.
Yesterday the honorable member for Yarra asked me certain questions in reference to the press in Parliament. No limit has ever been placed upon the number of journalists, news-letter writers, or party publicity, men who may use- the press galleries and- the facilities- ofl the: House.
I have been informed that the number of journals represented here, including overseas newspapers, is steadily increasing. Every honorable member of this House has entered it per medium of the ballotbox, and has received electoral approval. Press men are chosen, I presume, by their editors. So far as I can learn, no attempt has ever been made to examine the relationship of the press to this Parliament. The status of the press, and the freedom of pressmen within this building are matters within the control of the President of the Senate and of the Speaker, until the Parliament determines otherwise. I believe that the purpose of the press in Parliament is to report parliamentary proceedings fairly and accurately in order to enable the public to judge the facts. I believe that certain portions of this building, especially on sitting days, should be exclusively reserved for the use of members. I think that the House might well establish a committee to examine the relationships which exist between press and Parliament. I should be very happy to discuss the matter in detail with such a committee. I am not aware of any controversy between myself and the press.
– My question is directed tq the Prime Minister. In view of the statement made by you, Mr. Speaker, to the effect that the relations between this Parliament and the press are unregulated, I ask the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to adopt your suggestion that a committee should be appointed to examine the relationships which exist, between parliament and press.
– There are various matters which, in the opinion of myself and my colleagues, would be all the better for some, discussion between the Government, the presiding officers, and perhaps the joint House Committee, upon which the Opposition is represented. It is not merely a matter that relates to the problems that have arisen in connexion with the press, but there are other problems of which you, Mr. Speaker, are well aware; which, would- merit consideration of that kind. I intended at a later stage - but I do it now - to suggest, Mr. Speaker, that- you, the Leader of the Opposition and. myself might well. have, a discussion about this matter, to ascertain whether by some common discussion and action certain difficulties that may have arisen could be overcome.
– Will the press be present?
– I thought in the first instance of having a private meeting. If the honorable member for Melbourne is not there I am sure that there will be no report of it.
– Following a question that I addressed to the Prime Minister yesterday, I now ask him whether he can make any announcement about the suggestion which has been publicly made that there may be an early conference of British Commonwealth Prime Ministers to deal with the financial and economic position of the Commonwealth Will the Treasurer attend such a conference, or will it be on broader lines? Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to make any announcement ?
– I am not. I gather from the contents of the King’s speech which was delivered at Westminster yesterday, that a communication about this matter may soon be received.
– In view of the rapidly ‘ changing world conditions and their serious effect upon Australia’s secondary industries, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of appointing an all-States committee to examine any problems in relation to trade, tariffs and international agreements, and report direct to the Minister concerned?
– I shall be very glad to consider the honorable member’s suggestion. If he is able to elaborate it in any way, I shall be glad if he would do so to me.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the practice of the Commonwealth Scientific and Indus trial Research Organization of employing students, who are engaged in the biochemistry course at the Sydney University, in a temporary capacity, during the lengthy Christmas university vacation, thereby giving such students practical experience in laboratories which would not otherwise he available to them ? Does the right honorable gentleman know that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is being forced to deny such students the opportunity of gaining experience and rendering useful service during the coming Christmas vacation because the Government has denied to it the funds necessary to permit of biochemistry students being so engaged? Will the Prime Minister undertake to have this matter reviewed immediately with the object of providing an avenue through which practical experience may be gained by students? That would also ensure that those who may graduate next year would not be obliged to seek employment while they have only text-book knowledge.
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter that the honorable member has raised. I am not the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– I remind the PostmasterGeneral that some time ago his department promised to install an automatic telephone exchange at Brookfield, Brisbane. The present manual exchange at that centre is rapidly becoming inadequate to meet the requirements of that growing district. Will he examine the matter and endeavour to expedite the installation of an automatic exchange at that centre?
– T shall be pleased to comply with the request that the honorable member has made.
– I ask the Postmaster-General whether he will give instructions that telephone subscribers who desire to make long distance calls to their own homes may break into local telephone conversations which are- often of ]ong duration. Does the PostmasterGeneral agree that the present regulations which prohibit the adoption of the course which I suggest are a cause of great delay and a wastage of valuable paying time?
– Breaking in on a conversation is a matter which would have to be very seriously considered by the department, especially if the issue of a regulation were involved. Very often a conversation which is taking place through a local exchange may be of far more importance to the subscriber than a long-distance call. That is a matter completely within the judgment of the telephone subscriber. If a subscriber should give instructions that he want3 a local conversation to be broken in upon, we should see what can be done to meet his wishes.
– Some years ago, in order to cope with the higher cost of living in certain zones, which were defined for the purpose, deductions of £20 and £120 from assessable income were allowed to taxpayers. Will the Treasurer consider increasing those zonal concessions in order to meet present-day conditions?
– The matter that the honorable member has raised will be considered in due course when the next budget is being prepared.
– My question to the Treasurer refers to the request for the exemption from income tax of monetary gifts which are made to certain institutions, suc’h as educational bodies. Has a decision yet been reached about whether monetary gifts to those institutions may now be classified a3 deductions for income tax purposes?
– The lawhas not been changed since I replied to a similar question, that the honorable gentleman asked some time ago. Monetary gifts to the institutions that he has in mind arc not allowable deductions for the purposes of income tax.
– I refer to the confiscation by the Persian Government of the leases and refinery held by the Anglo-
Persia Oil Company in the Abadan oilfield, and I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, what steps have been taken to safeguard Australian interests under the 1920 agreement with that company?
– We have been in constant communication with the Government of the United Kingdom about the matter that the honorable member has raised. At the moment, I am not able to add anything to the remarks I made recently on the subject.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that Cabinet is now preparing plans for the reintroduction of petrol rationing?
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to the suggestion that a railway line should be built between Hay, New South Wales, and Ouyen, Victoria? Is he aware that the construction of this link would reduce railway travel between Sydney and Adelaide by over 200 miles and render unnecessary the haulage of heavy loads on steep grades? Has he examined the merit of this suggestion as a defence measure? If not, will he have the matter fully investigated?
– I, personally, have not examined the suggested rail link to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall be pleased to do so and to see whether it would have any defence significance.
– Is the Minister for Immigration satisfied that the methods of screening for security purposes in order to prevent Nazis from entering this country are effective? If he is satisfied with them, can he explain to me why the Nazi badge, which I have in my hand, was found in the clothing of a person who is employed in a factory in Melbourne? The badge was issued in 1934, and belongs to a member of the Volksdeutsch, and obviously was discovered when his clothes were being cleaned by the firm for which he works, because he is employed in a noxious industry. Will the Minister also ascertain why 5,000 photographs of Hitler’s statue, which were seized at the Bonegilla camp for immigrants, are now circulating among those Nazis who remain in Australia?
– I am quite satisfied that the screening methods which are adopted by the Commonwealth and are similar to those adopted by the previous Labour Government, of which the honorable member for Parkes was a supporter, are as adequate as we can make them. My opinion in that respect is confirmed by. representatives of the1 Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia who have been abroad in recent times. The federal president of that body, Mr. Holland, and the president of the Queensland branch, Mr. Huish, examined those screening methods thoroughly, and reported favorably upon them. I do not say that it is impossible for a Nazi, or a Communist for that matter, to get through the screen, but I contend that it is highly improbable that such a person would succeed hi doing so. I have pointed out to the House on a previous occasion that if people after their arrival here, reveal themselves as undesirable in the eyes of the Australian Government and the Department of In migration, we have ample ‘powers to deport them to the countries from which they came. Indeed, we have exercised those powers in recent times. If the honorable member for Parkes is in a position to give me any specific details of the matters to which he has referred, I shall see that they are thoroughly examined.
– The Minister for Immigration indicated recently that he was setting up a committee from the members of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council in order to investigate. the incidence of crime amongst immigrants. In view of the personnel of the committee and the nature of the inquiries that it is making, will he authorize it to co-opt trained criminologists or persons who have been trained to deal with child delinquency to assist it in its work?
– All the members of the committee were drawn from the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, because that body is not only very representative, but also has a detailed knowledge of all aspects of immigration as far as Australia is concerned. There is not a criminologist among the members of the committee, but one of the members is Mr. Dovey, K.C., who, if he is not a criminologist, is a man with extensive legal experience. No restriction has been imposed upon the committee regarding the specialists whom it may consult in order to become fully advised upon this problem.. The suggestion that has been made by the honorable gentleman is an interesting one, and I shall ensure that it is brought to the notice of th<> committee.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Immigration, arises from the fact that new Australians who are purchasing blocks of land in subdivisions do not appear to understand the local government laws and ordinances. Will the Minister ascertain whether some instructions can be given to new Australians to enable them to understand their responsibilities when they purchase blocks of land in subdivisions?
– I can assure the honorable member that not only has this matter been examined, but also a good deal of action has been taken about it. We have had discussions with local government organizations, we have published details from time to time in the publications of the Department of Immigration which circulate amongst immigrants, and we have caused to be printed instructions which can be made available to immigrants by local government bodies when inquiries are made. I do not think that there is much more that we can usefully do. If the honorable member has any concrete suggestion to make to me I shall be very glad to consider it;
– Can the Minister for Immigration say whether it is a fact that a ship has left Hamburg for Australia carrying 500 single Germans, most of whom openly admit that they were members of the Hitler Youth Movement? Is it a fact that these men have been selected for work on high priority projects, including the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme? If the Minister is not aware of the name of the vessel to which I refer, I shall give that information to him later. Will he ensure that a thorough security check is made of this vessel on its arrival in Australian waters, and will he invite members of the Parliament and representatives of the press to that ship-board screenings?
– I would say, unhestitatingly, that there would be no substance in any suggestion that a substantial number of men, who had been members of the Hitler youth movement, have embarked and are on their way to Australia under any immigration scheme over which the Government has control. Our screening in Germany is probably more thorough than are similar measures that are taken in any other country from which, immigrants are being drawn. That view has been Supported by security officers from such countries as the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The records that were kept in Germany by former German governments are so thorough that we have a better prospect of scrutinizing immigrants from Germany than we have of scrutinizing those from any other country. I can only repeat that responsible officers of representative organizations, such as the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, have examined our methods of screening immigrants and have reported most favorably on them. I am always prepared to examine any specific allegation to which my attention is directed, and I shall investigate the allegation that the honorable member has just made. However, I have every confidence that immigrants coming to Australia under the special projects scheme - such immigrants are not brought here by the Government, nor does the Government pay their passage - have been screened and that none would have been selected to come to Australia if there had been grounds for objecting to their entry.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air, and T point out by way of explanation that there is a grave danger of serious bush fires as the result of four wet years which have produced tinder-like conditions in forest litter and grass. Will the Minister consider the advisability of making Royal Australian Air Force aircraft available for reconnaissance and spotting fire outbreaks, particularly in response to requests by bodies such as the rescue intelligence centre? Will the honorable gentleman also place before his colleagues the need for the utmost co-operation by other Commonwealth services, such as was so generously forthcoming during the disastrous floods some time ago? My request refers to the eastern States in general, and to the critical position in the north-west and the thickly populated Blue Mountains area, in which the headquarters of the Royal Australian Air Force is located.
– I inform the honorable member for Macarthur, in reply to his first question, that the Government cannot make any firm commitments in the matters to which he has referred. I point out to him, in reply to his second question, that it is not necessary for me to bring those matters to the notice of my colleagues. The honorable gentleman is doubtless aware of this Government’s great interest in the bush fires problem. He knows that, in the main, it is a responsibility of the State governments and the State rescue intelligence centre. For this reason, I suggest that the proper course for him to take is to seek the help and co-operation of these authorities. The Department of Air, when an emergency has arisen in the past, has placed aircraft at the disposal of various bodies, and has organized rescue missions during periods of floods in the northern parts of New South Wales, and for similar purposes. I assure the honorable gentleman that, when emergencies arise in the future, we shall do our best to see that the Royal Australian Air Force carries out its task. However, I emphasize to him that reconnaissance and spotting bushfire outbreaks are responsibilities of the States, and I think that his question should be referred to the State governments.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that, in the Parliament of
New South Wales yesterday, the honorable member for Ryde, whose State electorate lies within the boundaries of the Commonwealth electorate that I represent, directed attention to the inexplicable neglect of the McGirr Government to provide adequately for tuberculosis sufferers in that State? Is it a fact that the Government of New South Wales is the only State government that has not taken full advantage of the assistance that is provided by the Commonwealth to deal with this dread disease? Has this Government any power to force the McGirr Government to do its duty and take urgent action in -this matter?
– The legislation that was enacted in 194S, during the regime of the Chifley Government, provided that the Commonwealth should assume all responsibility for extra expenditure incurred by the States in the campaign against tuberculosis above the amounts that they expended during the base year of 1947-4S. The Government of New South. Wales did not sign the agreement until May, 1950. Some other States signed it in 1949. Some of the States have notified this Government of the amounts that they expended during the base year and of the amounts that they have expended since then. The Government of New South Wales has not yet supplied such figures, and therefore it is impossible for me to say exactly how much money it has devoted to the campaign against tuberculosis. However, it has made a. request for the reimbursement of capital expenditure amounting to about £500,000, of which about £80,000 has already been laid out, and an application for the repayment of expenditure on mobile X-ray units that will be used in the anti-tuberculosis campaign has been approved. I have been able to obtain the use of X-ray equipment owned by the armed forces in order to deal with waterside workers in New South Wales, and the State Government is also taking advantage of the anti-tuberculosis organization’s equipment. One provision of the legislation that was enacted in 1948 relates to the compulsory notification of tuberculosis and the compulsory X-ray of citizens if necessary. That provision has not been applied in New South Wales, but four other States have put it into effect and another State is in the process of doing so. New South Wales has been provided with a substantial amount of money for capital equipment as I tried to inform honorable members last night above the uproar that was going on in committee.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman may not refer to the proceedings in committee last night.
– The Department of Health has made arrangements to hand over the Princess Juliana Hospital to the North Shore Hospital for tuberculosis work. Expenditure incurred in this way will be credited to the Government of New South Wales.
– In view of the failure of the Government to interest sufficient Australian subscribers in the last loan that it floated, I ask the Treasurer whether the Government will guarantee to subscribers to loans that have already been raised and to the loan that is at present being raised that nothing less than the amounts they have subscribed will be returned to them should they be obliged to redeem their bonds prior to the maturing dates.
– On behalf of the Australian Loan Council, which consists of representatives of the State governments and this Government, the answer is “ No “.
– In view of the fact that frequent assurances have been given that decisions of the Loan Council are majority decisions taken by the Premiers of the States, will the Treasurer explain why he was able to give such a prompt and emphatic answer, on behalf of the Loan Council, to the honorable member for Macquarie a few minutes ago?
– I was able to give a prompt answer to the honorable member for Macquarie because I happen to be chairman of the Loan Council. I accept responsibility for the answer that I gave.
– Will the Treasurer say whether it is a fact that certain country councils and municipalities in
New South Wales have been unable to obtain the finance necessary for the carrying out of extensions to electricity and water supply services because the normal sources of finance used by them have been withdrawn from them? Is it also a fact that a loan for this purpose had already been approved by the State Government concerned? What steps can the Treasurer suggest that these councils and municipalities should take to obtain this necessary finance?
– The local authorities to which the honorable member has referred are State instrumentalities and they must exert their own influence on their own State governments.
– My question to the Treasurer is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Farrer. Is there not a general belief current that the reason why local government bodies are not able to get money for construction works is that there is a directive to the banks that they are not to advance credit? If that is so, then is it not Commonwealth policy rather than State policy which prevents such councils from getting money?
– Borrowing by local authorities must be done through, and with the consent of, the relevant State instrumentality. The source of the borrowing must be approved by the State authorities and the extent to which local authorities can borrow must naturally be limited by the amount of money available.
– In view of the statement made by the Treasurer that, as chairman of the Loan Council, he can now make decisions on behalf of that council, why is it that he will n”t make n decision to give the Country party Premier of Victoria the loan money that he requires for developmental work in Victoria
Question not answered.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate when the West Reach aerodrome in South Australia is likely to be completed? Will the recent retrenchment of Commonwealth public servants have the effect of delaying the construction of the aerodrome ?
– I shall secure the information for which the honorable gentleman has asked, and shall supply him with it later.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines operated special flights yesterday to convey passengers to Melbourne, and that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was unable to do so owing to a shortage of aviation gasoline? Is there a shortage of aviation gasoline in Australia? If so, why were additional supplies made available to Trans-Australia Airlines?
– Aviation petrol is not rationed in Australia, and each airline company secures its own requirements of petrol. A short time ago, there was some concern about future supplies of high octane aviation petrol, but I am glad to say that the difficulties in that connexion have been overcome, at least for the present, and that future supplies appear to be assured. The matter having been referred to me, I caused inquiries to be made into special flights that were made by Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways to convey passengers to Melbourne on Melbourne Cup day. I ascertained that, two day? previously, Trans-Australia Airlines cancelled approximately a half dozen scheduled flights in order to make aircraft available for flights to Melbourne on Melbourne Cup day. I understand that both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways made 26 flights to Melbourne on that day. and that five of the flights by Trans-Australia Airlines and six of the flights by Australian National Airways were special flights. Therefore, there was not much difference between the position of the two companies in that connexion.
– My question is addressed to the Vice-President of the Executive Council in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Royal tour. By way of explanation, I refer to reports that details of the forthcoming Royal tour of Australia may be revised. If that be so, I ask the Minister whether attention has been given to the inference to be drawn from the Royal visit to Canada, which has resulted in a gruelling contest of civic receptions, official banquets and inspections? In view of the physical and mental strain that has been imposed upon the Royal visitors during their stay in Canada, is the Minister satisfied that the proposed Royal tour of Australia is a simple one, designed as a holiday visit and to give the Royal visitors an opportunity to see a clear picture of Australia and of the Australian people ?
– The answer to the last of the honorable gentleman’s questions is “ Yes “. There is nothing contained in the proposed itinerary which had not been approved by the Royal couple.
– Order ! The VicePresident of the Executive Council should address the Chair, and not turn his back on it.
– There is plenty of time for levelling down within the itinerary that has been approved by the Royal couple, the States having had a block of dates given to them for arrangement through the Deputy Director. Certain details of the programme have still to be approved by Their Royal Highnesses, and when approval has been granted they will be published.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question that arises from a previous question that I asked him on the 26th September. That question concerned a company in Utah, United States of America, which was proposing to spend £10,000,000 sterling in this country to develop the Greta seam of coal, and to attempt to conserve that seam. The right honorable gentleman answered me on the 23rd October. His answer stated, in effect, that further inquiries had to be made by the company before the project could be consummated. I then asked whether the Prime Minister had seen a report that the New South Wales Government had established a committee of inquiry, which included influential and expert mining authorities, to investigate conservation of the Greta coal seam in the interests of this nation. Has the Prime Minister seen that report? If so, why has it not been submitted to this Parliament? That report is of great importance for the simple reason that we require coal supplies not only for the maintenance of our industries but also for our transport.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman is going beyond the scope of a question without notice.
– Then I shall cut the question short. Has the Prime Minister given consideration to the proposal of the Utah company to spend an amount of money in an attempt to conserve the Greta coal seam for the good of this country? I particularly emphasize the fact that the company claims that it has a method to obviate spontaneous combustion in coal mines. Since I asked my question on the 26th September two more fires have occurred in coal mines, and it is time something was done to combat such dangers.
– I shall be very glad to ask the Minister for National Development to provide information on the matter to which the honorable member has referred.
– Will the Treasurer say whether a proposal was recently made for the establishment in Australia by American interests of an industry to manufacture containers for foodstuffs and other commodities, which would have involved bringing into this country 1,000,000 dollars worth of capital and equipment for the industry? Is it a fact that the interests which sought to establish the industry have been discouraged by government policy and restrictions, and that the sponsor of the proposal is leaving Australia this week disappointed and disillusioned at the treatment that has been meted out to. him in relation to the project? If so, will the Treasurer state the reason for such a policy, in view of the fact that both the capital and the profits of the industry would have remained here and that the industry would have stimulated local production and helped Australia’s export trade ?
– I am at a loss to understand to what the honorable member has referred but if he will give me the relevant particulars. I shall look into the matter.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service been informed that five pig-iron boats which were loaded at Whyalla with cargo for Melbourne have been held up by crew “trouble which has seriously embarrassed Melbourne foundries? Can he state whether this is another example of the application of Communist technique a3 a result of the recent referendum?
– I ‘have been advised that five ships belonging to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, engaged in the iron and steel trade, require complete crews and are therefore held up. One of them has been held up since the 30th of October. It is not clear that there is a dispute concerning most of these ships although I think it has been alleged that there is a dispute in connexion with one of them. On whether this is evidence of the use of Communist tactics, all I can say is that the Government has constantly alleged that there has been team work on the part of employees associated with these industries in order to obstruct or delay the movement of iron and steel cargoes. That view has been supported by Labour Ministers of the New South Wales Government. It is a remarkable fact that for the first time in twelve months, during the week prior to the referendum, not one ship on the Australian coast lacked a complete crew. Now, five ships, all of which are engaged in the vital iron and steel trade, have been held up. It is not easy to deal with this situation because no overt dispute exists and there is no overt direction from union officials or others which would bring the matter within the scope of existing Commonwealth legislation. It was in order to meet this kind of problem that the Government sought additional powers at the referendum which was recently rejected. 1 hope, in view of the professions that were made at the time by members of trade unions and members of the Labour party -
– Order ! The honorable member cannot refer to the Labour party.
– The reference to the Labour party is relevant in this sense that I express the hope-
– Order .’ I have ruled that the honorable gentleman may not refer to the Labour party in answer to the question.
– .Then I refer to those leaders of the trade unio’n movement who said that power was available–
– Order ! The honorable gentleman was not asked a question in regard to any powers. He was asked a question in regard to the stoppage of ships.
– I wish to explain, Mr. Speaker, that in order to cope with the stoppage of ships, which was implicit in the honorable member’s question, I hope that those who claimed that the Government had adequate power to deal with industrial stoppages will give us their support to enable us to deal with this type of problem.
– Some time ago
I asked the Treasurer whether the Government had made up its mind to honour its promise to provide assistance to the gold-mining industry. I asked that question following the appearance of a report that the International Monetary Fund would allow member countries some latitude to determine their own goldmining policies. The Treasurer said that the matter was being examined and that a decision would be made. I now ask him whether any decision has been made or whether the industry must go out of production until the Government makes up its mind to honour its promise.
– Representatives of the gold-mining industry throughout Australia waited upon me by deputation last Thursday. They put certain views before me and made certain representations which will presently go before Cabinet.
– At the time the 100,000,000 dollar loan was negotiated the Treasurer made a statement that a visit to Australia by a team of experts from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development had been planned. Can the right honorable gentleman now indicate when these experts are expected to arrive in Australia, whether they are to come at the invitation of the Australian Government, whether he has any information regarding the nature of the investigations to be carried out by this team of experts, whether they are to report directly to the bank, and whether the Australian Government will be furnished with a copy of their report?
– I have nothing further to add to the statement thatI made some time ago about this matter. The visit of the representatives of the bank is a matter for decision between the bank and the Australian Government. A decision will be reached in due course.
– Has it been brought to the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service that a union official intends to attend an overseas trade union conference, and has apparently received a passport from the Government? That conference is to be held behind what is known as the Iron Curtain. If such a passport has been issued, will it be cancelled if this official travels behind the Iron Curtain, and if so, in view of the failure of the method of cancellation in dealing with passports, will the Minister consider an alteration of his passport policy?
– In recent times some consideration has been given to this matter. When the policy was first announced by me, I indicated that it would be reviewed at the end of twelve months. Discussions about this matter have taken place lately betweenofficers of my department and senior officers of the security service. I expect soon to be able to make a statement to the House, and when I do so I think that the honorable member will find that the point that he has raised will be covered.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 6th November (vide page 1591).
Attorney-Genera l’s Department.
Proposed vote, £976,000.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £2,724,000.
Department of Works and Housing
Proposed vote, £2,064,000.
Department of Civil Aviation
Proposed vote, £9,564,000.
Department of Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £2,760,000.
Department of Health
Proposed vote, £864,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.-I wish to refer to three matters. First, I direct attention to the unsatisfactory accommodation that is provided in Melbourne for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Some honorable members have had experience in transacting affairs that come within the purview of the court in Melbourne. The present facilities are totally inadequate, and I strongly urge the Government either to build an entirely new structure to house the court or to effect extensive alterations to the building in which the court is now housed. The existing building is situated in Lonsdale-street. Formerly, it was the residence of a Dr. Fitzgerald, and I believe that it was constructed in either the late ‘seventies or the early ‘eighties. During World War I., the building was used for office purposes by the Department of the Navy, and I understand that in the early twenties the Attorney-General’s Department took it over. It now houses the office of the judges, the Principal Registrar and the officers of the Full Arbitration Court. The building is an old structure of stone and brick. It is of three stories, but it is not equipped with a lift. Access to the first and second floors is by two circular staircases that are exceedingly steep. The use of them presents a trial to persons of middle age or older, who are obliged to frequent the building in the course of their duties. I understand that some time ago it was proposed to build a new court building on land that had been acquired in Little Bourke-street. Although that proposal was mentioned for many years, it has now, apparently, been abandoned. Modern accommodation should be erected in Melbourne to enable the court itself and conciliation commissioners to carry out their functions more satisfactorily than they aru able to perform them in the existing building. If such accommodation were provided, the court would be enabled to operate more efficiently and the general result from the viewpoint of industry would be most beneficial.
The second matter to which I wish to refer relates to the amendments that were made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1.951. Those amendments were not sought by either employers or employees. [ emphasize that point because of the difficulty that is now being experienced in the interpretation of the amendments. I refer particularly to the amendment under which power was transferred from conciliation commissioners to the Pull Court of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to make provision for, or to alter a provision in respect of, annual leave or other periodical leave with pay, sick leave with pay or long service leave with pay. Previously, the court had power to deal with annual leave, but under the amendments to which T refer it was given additional power to deal with sick leave with pay or long service leave with pay. Previously that power had been exercised by conciliation commissioners only. Now that the amendments have been implemented, both the trade union movement and employers’ organizations are being put to considerable expense in their efforts to determine how those powers shou lcl be used. The particular amendment, to which I refer provides for power to make provision for sick leave with pay or long service leave with pay. The rather interesting jurisdictional question has been raised whether the court has power to prescribe conditions in respect of sick leave with pay or annual leave with pay, or whether its power is restricted solely to determining the duration of annual leave with pay or the duration of sick leave with pay. Has it power to prescribe restrictions or qualifications in respect of such matters? Can the powers that repose in conciliation commissioners in respect of provisions relating to annual leave, or sick leave, with pay, and those that repose in the court to award such leave be effectively co-ordinated in order to obviate confusion? The result is that proceedings in the form of a test case are now taking place before the court with a view to determining the exact powers of that tribunal. That procedure, of course, is the only way in which such matters can be determined. But the point which I desire to stress is that because the amending act has not made the powers of the court and of the conciliation commissioners clear, the tradeunion movement is faced with the considerable legal costs that will arise out of the test case. I suggest that the Government should meet the costs of both parties. I again emphasize that neither the employers nor the employees sought thai change of jurisdiction. Evidently the decision was made by the Government, and the parties in industrial arbitration matters are now subject to it. They are endeavouring to ascertain the precise position of the court, and, in the process, have now to foot the bill although they did not seek the amendments to the act. I hope that the Government will give favorable consideration to my request, that the legal costs in the case be mct by the Commonwealth.
The third matter which I desire to raise affects the administration of the medical scheme for pensioners. I assure the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) that the information which I propose to place before the committee in general, and himself in particular, has been supplied to me by a chemist who resides in my electorate and has had considerable experience of the operation of the scheme. He finds that certain difficulties have arisen which may easily be overcome by a more intelligent approach to the adminstration of the scheme. The advice which I have received from him is that, under the scheme as it relates to pensioners, medicines are limited to drugs that are contained in the British Pharmacopoeia, plus certain drugs.
– The free lifesaving drugs.
– That is so. The British Pharmacopoeia is the standard publication which is prescribed for that purpose. There are also other publications which are standard in character, but, apparently, they cannot be used in connexion with the scheme. One of them is the British Pharmacopoeia Codex, and another is the Australian Pharmaceutical Formula. The difficulty which some chemists are experiencing is that the latest issue of the British Pharmacopoeia is the 194S edition. In that issue, as in many earlier issues, slight variations occur which are not noticed unless a person makes close examination of a new edition when it is published. I am advised that glycerol, tri-nitrate or hydrobromide, which have been standard drugs in previous issues of the British Pharmacopoeia, are not incorporated in certain prescriptions in the 1948 edition. If a chemist makes up a prescription in which those particular drugs are included, his application for payment is rejected by the Department for Health when he submits bis bill to it. A further instance which has been given to me is that of the red cough mixture, which is often prescribed by doctors. The drugs that are used in that medicine are contained in the British Pharmacopoeia, but no provision is made in that formula for the inclusion of colouring matter. If colouring matter is placed in the red cough mixture, the application by the chemist for payment is rejected by the department. An account is passed when colouring matter is used in a medicine only when provision is made in the British Pharmacopoeia for its inclusion. If that provision is not made in the standard book, the department rejects the application for payment in respect of the whole prescription. Doctors frequently prescribe the inclusion of colouring matter in medicines.
– A doctor must be lacking in imagination if he cannot prescribe the correct ingredient to meet the case to which the honorable gentleman has referred.
– I am pointing out difficulties that have arisen in the operation of the medical scheme for pensioners. All honorable members are most eager that the free medicine scheme shall operate with the greatest efficiency and the minimum friction. The chemist who has given me my information assures me that accounts for prescriptions which are in accordance with editions of the British Pharmacopoeia prior to 1948 have been rejected because certain drugs have been omitted from that issue of the publication.
– That difficulty can be overcome by including the previous British Pharmacopoeias.
– Yes. Apparently, those officers who are responsible for authorizing the payment of a chemist’s account are interpreting the regulations in a rigid manner. The difficulty could be overcome by the use of a more intelligent, generous, or liberal interpretation of them. I ask the Minister for Health to investigate that matter. If he finds that accounts are being rejected merely because of an almost technical breach of regulations I hope that he will issue instructions to his department to administer them less rigidly.
Mr. DRURY (Ryan) [3.33 J. -I desire to make some brief comments on several matters. I was most interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), and it appears to me that there is some merit at least in his suggestion that. the costs of the parties in the test case before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should be met by the Government.
The system of conciliation and arbitration has been well established in Australia during the last half-century and has functioned, for the most part, very well. But the system is due for an overhaul in certain major respects. I have particularly in mind the judgment in the standard hours case in 1947, when the judges themselves expressed serious concern about the powers that are vested in the court. Those powers are so wide that they may be regarded as trespassing, to some degree, upon the powers of this Parliament. An excellent illustration of that fact was afforded last year when the court, on the day the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) presented his budget to the Parliament, announced its decision to increase the basic wage by £1 a week. Many people do not understand the relative functions of this Parliament and the court in relation to the fixing of the basic wage. They do not realize that, under existing legislation, this Parliament has no jurisdiction over the court. As the judges of the court have themselves expressed serious doubts about the extent of their powers, and as such wide powers might well be regarded as belonging properly to the Parliament, I suggest that the whole legislative basis on which the court is founded be reviewed and, if necessary, modified. I am very pleased to notice that the proposed expenditure on the Legal Service Bureau during the current financial year is substantially lower than the amount that was appropriated last year. The Legal Service Bureau was established some years ago by the Chifley Government with the object of making serious inroads on the legitimate legal profession. This Government has checked the growth of the bureau and it is now within reasonable limits which, I hope, will be preserved.
The other matters that I wish to discuss affect the Department of the Interior. I refer first to the staffing of electoral offices. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the staff arrangements for the various divisional returning officers have not been varied for many years although, according to my own observations, the work of divisional returning officers is very burdensome. Each divisional returning officer is allowed only one assistant and, when the assistant is absent on leave, he must manage as best he can without help. I have seen the divisional returning officer for the electorate that I represent doing his own typing. An official who is responsible for the electoral machinery of an entire division containing about 40,000 electors should not be obliged to do his own typing. These staff arrangements should be overhauled. The absolute minimum establishment should be a divisional returning officer, one permanent assistant and one typist. Additional assistance should be provided during election and referendum campaigns. It is unfortunate that temporary assistants necessarily are untrained, with the result that the divisional returning officer must devote some time to instructing them in their duties. Office accommodation for divisional returning officers is, in my opinion, inadequate. The office in my electorate is very little better than a dog box and I do not know how the divisional returning officer manages to cope with the volume of work that he must perform during election or referendum campaigns in such extremely cramped quarters. Polling hours also should be reviewed. Many sound arguments can be advanced in favour of reducing the present period of from 8 a.m. to S p.m. to from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most people could easily vote in the shorter period. I believe that many electors would wait until the last minute whatever hour might be set clown for the closing of the poll, and my experience suggests that the period from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. would be completely adequate.
I notice that the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior includes an item for the upkeep- and hire of motor vehicles. Last Sunday I saw no fewer than three Commonwealth vehicles being used for private purposes in the Brisbane area. A strict cheek should be maintained on the use of such vehicles, particularly at week-ends. The immediate responsibility for the supervision of the use of motor vehicles rests with officers in the various capital cities, but I suggest that the Minister for the Interior might find it well worth his while to investigate this matter in view of the fact that economy is of the utmost importance at the present time.
– The first subject that I wish to discuss relates to the administration of the Department of Health. During the last fey months I have received many representations from the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association of Queensland and from individual members of that organization urging that the wives of members be provided with the same medical benefits as are made available through the Department of Health to age and invalid pensioners. The disabilities of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are of such a nature that their living costs are necessarily higher than those of the average citizen. They claim, therefore, that the medical expenses that they incur when their wives become ill are a severe burden upon them. I ask the Minister for Health to consider the situation of these men with a view to providing for their wives the same benefits as are provided for invalid and age pensioners.
The honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) referred to the difficulties of divisional returning officers. I agree with the honorable gentleman that our electoral offices are under-staffed. That is certainly true in respect of the divisional returning office of Brisbane. Divisional returning officers have been working short-handed for many years, and have repeatedly asked for extra assistance without avail. The divisional returning officer of Brisbane at election times is required to deal, not only with the electoral business of the Brisbane division, but also with the requests of visitors to Queensland who are obliged to apply to him if they want to cast postal votes. It is time that the Government gave these overworked officers extra help, especially at election times. The honorable member for Ryan also discussed a matter that has received my attention for many years. I have often advocated, in this chamber and elsewhere, that polling hours should he reduced to ten instead of twelve. I believe that 6 o’clock would be a late enough closing hour to enable all electors to record their votes. I am convinced that, if polling booths were kept open until 11 p.m. instead of8 p.m., as at present, many voters would still arrive at the last minute. That tendency to delay until the eleventh hour was evident when late shopping was permitted. I often saw people walk around the streets until the shops were about to close before they hurried in to make their purchases. A similar last-minute rush always occurs at polling tooths. Streams of voters arrive during the final half-hour. Those people could vote between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The days of the horse and buggy have gone. Transport facilities are available to take people to polling booths, and the majority of people enjoy a full day off from work each Saturday.
– Order ! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of the Interior, the
Department of Works and Housing, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Trade and Customs, and the Department of Health, has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Commerce and Agriculture
Department of Social Services
Proposed vote, £2,021,000.
Department of Shipping and Transport
Proposed vote, £893,000.
Department of Territories
Proposed vote, £156,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I shall relate my remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. This afternoon, I directed to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) a question that related to a proposal by certain American interests to establish in this country a new industry for the packing of agricultural goods and other commodities. The right honorable gentleman said that he was at a loss to know what the proposal was about. Therefore, I shall give details of it in the hope that they will be brought to the notice of the Treasurer and of other Ministers who are concerned in the matter. Last Sunday, a full-page article was published in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph. It was written by a special reporter and was headed -
He tried to spend a million dollars here and failed.
The article reads as follows : -
There’s a lot of things you can do with a million dollars. But one of the things you’d find hardest to do is invest them in Australia.
That’s according to Mr. Edward Ball, visiting American businessman. And he should know.
On September 13, Mr. Ball landed in Sydney eager to invest one million dollars in Australia.
On November8, he will return to America - and the million willgo back with him.
Not unnaturally, Edward Ball has a few pointed remarks to make about Australia. “ IfI returned home and told my business associates thatI’d invested money in this country,” he said, “ they’d tell meI shouldn’t be allowed out in the wet any more.
Your whole economy is hamstrung by government controls.”
– Order ! With which department is the honorable member dealing?
– I am dealing with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which has to do with the establishment of new industries, especially those for the packing of agricultural products.
– The establishment of new industries is a matter for the Department of National Development.
– It would be appropriate to deal with this matter when the proposed vote for the Department of National Development is under consideration, but I submit that it is also appropriate to deal with it now, when the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is under consideration.
– I shall listen to the honorable gentleman’s argument with interest.
– I am glad to know that you will keep your weather eye upon me, Mr. Chairman. I am dealing with a matter that is very important, because we are eager to increase our production of primary products and to expand our export trade in them. The article continues as follows: - “ Look. You’re short of dollars: you’re a young and growing country still awaiting development. “ Back in America, I saw you had thrown out the Socialists and elected a conservative Government, so T say: “‘.Australia looks like a place for new enterprise and sound investment.’ “ Ro T come here, and what do I find? “ In many respects you’ve got more controls than Russia. “ I went to Melbourne with the idea, nf starting a new, modern, up-to-date plant ti manufacture cardboard containers such as we use in America for packing 90 per cent, of all consigned ponds. “ Everything looked promising. The climate was good, the quality of available labour was excellent, (he market was assured. “ All T had to do was import the machinery and ship the raw board material from my plant in Florida, where it is made out of native Florida pine trees. “Hut what happens? Your Government won’t give me an import licence to bring my own stuff over from America. “ I tell you, it’s not only mad. It’s bad business. “ 1 buy all the stuff with my own dollars in America, bring it here, convert it into a saleable commodity, and the Australian pound? I earn stay in this country to be re-invested.’”
– Order ! I cannot let the honorable gentleman continue. The matter with which he is dealing has no relation to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. He must raise it when the proposed vote for the Department of National Development is under consideration.
– I am dealing with a proposal by certain American interests that is of great importance to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. It. is a proposal to establish in this country a very important industry.
– I rule that this matter should be dealt with when the proposed vote for the Department of National Development is under consideration. The honorable gentleman is dealing with industries that should come under that department.
– I submit that the Department of National Development deals with the opening up and development of this country generally.
– The honorable gentleman must accept the ruling of the Chair.
– I rise to order. One section of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture deals with the establishment of new industries in Australia. I submit that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) is in order in discussing this matter as the proposed vote for that department is before the committee.
– Industries of the tyne with which the honorable member for Reid is dealing are the responsibility of the Department of National Development. I do not want to prevent the honorable gentleman from presenting hi? arguments to the committee, but the proceedings must be kept in order. I rule that this matter cannot be dealt with until the proposed vote for the Department of National Development is before the committee.
.- On a number of occasions, I have attempted to discuss in this chamber primary production in this country, especially the catastrophic decline that has occurred in all branches of primary production since this Government assumed office. 1 cannot introduce the subject in any better way than by quoting Professor Sir Stanton Hicks, one of the world’s leading food authorities. Last week he addressed a conference of the Australian Primary Producers Union in Albury.
– The break-away party.
– I suggest to the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) that he listen to the facts that were presented to that conference by Professor Sir Stanton Hicks. If he feels that he can challenge them, we shall be glad to listen to bini. A press report of the address of Professor Sir Stanton Hicks contains the following passage : -
Food producers would face their most crucial period during the next ten years. By 1000 Australia would have an estimated population of 11,000.000 to maintain, when beef and veal production would have to be increased by 40 per cent. (220,000 tons), mutton by 58 per cent. (105,000 tons), eggs by 31 .per cent. (04.000,000), and milk by 37 per cent. (430,000,000 gallons).
Those increases must be achieved to enable us to feed the population of this country during the next ten years if it continues to increase at the present rate. Professor Sir Stanton Hicks has given that warning to us. Surely we do not require any more warnings. This gentleman, who is one of the foremost food authorities in the world, has said quite plainly that unless during the next ten years primary production is increased in this country to the degree that he has indicated, we shall be unable to feed ourselves, let alone pay for the imports that we need from overseas, most of which are now being paid for from revenue derived from the export of primary products. His statement is supported by a former director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission, in its report on the applications made by the States of South Australia, “Western Australia and Tasmania for financial assistance in 1951-52, has published a statistical table, which shows the produc tion of various primary products in relation to the increases of our population. Our population has increased at a greater rate than has the production of every primary product, except wheat, and the position of wheat will be different next year from its position in the past. Primary production, instead of increasing at the same or a greater rate than our population, as it will need to do if we are to continue to be able to feed ourselves, has increased at a lesser rate or has decreased. The greatest decline has taken place sincethis Government assumed office. This is not a party political matter, but one which concerns every member of the Parliament, because we each represent some section of the community, and all sections have to be fed. The Government parties declared that they would solvethe problem of inflation and the other problems that beset this country by increasing production, but in regard to agriculture, which is a basic industry, they have failed dismally. According to the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, although the population of Australia has increased by 16 per cent, taking the average of the five years from 1934 to 1939 as the base, the production of wool has increased by only 11 per cent., leaving us worse off per capita than we were previously. The production of whole milk has increased by only 10 per cent., leaving us 6 per cent, worse than we were before. The production of butter has decreased by 12 per cent., and we all know the result of that decrease. The increase in the production of meat was only 8 per cent, compared with 16 per cent, increase of population. The production of sugar showed an increase of 17 per cent., or 1 per cent, more than the increase of population, so we are a little bit better off in respect to that commodity. Those figures are contained in a statistical table prepared by competent authorities who were appointed by the Commonwealth. The table is not a matter of opinion but is one of cold, hard fact.
I impress upon the Government and the people that, instead of the production of our basic industry, agriculture, increasing as it will have to do if we are to feed our growing population and pay for imports, the price of which is increasing every day, it is declining. Recently I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question in relation to this matter and he airily waved his hands and said that when the price of wool dropped primary producers would go back to the production of meat, wheat and other primary products. Apparently that is the only policy that the Government has on the matter, because I have continually questioned Ministers about it and I have heard nothing from them other than the reply from the Prime Minister that I have mentioned. That is not good enough. Does the Government intend to wait until food shortages afflict everybody in Australia and become so acute as to cause civil commotion? Will the Government, by inaction, allow the position in relation to the supply of potatoes, butter and some other food commodities that are difficult for the public to obtain, to extend to every item of food? That is the trend as the facts show. Bad as the food production position is in 1951, it will be worse in 1952 if the present trend continues. I mentioned wheat as one item which showed an increase of production up to 1950, but according to reports in the Sydney press recently the area of wheat harvested in New South Wales in 1950-51 declined by almost 2,000,000 acres compared with’ 1947-48. The decline in the acreage of oats harvested was from 009,000 in 1947-4S to 332,000 in 1950-51. The corresponding figures in relation to other primary products are - Maize, S7,000 acres to 52,000; barley, 23,400 to 8,302; potatoes, 22,000 to about 18,300.
Is it any wonder that the problem of agricultural production is becoming a. matter of concern not only to honorable members who represent rural constituencies but also to honorable members who represent industrial constituencies. The failure of the Government to undertake any real developmental plan to assist primary production has forced us to become concerned about the provision of food for our own people, let alone about sufficient production to pay for our imports of necessary commodities. Unless the Prime Minister and the Government can suggest some better solution of the problem than one that amounts to simply waiting for a fall in wool prices which will encourage primary producers to turn to the other forms of agricultural production, I am afraid that this country is heading for disaster. I hope that, as a result of the facts that have been disclosed by Professor Sir Stanton Hicks and those contained in official statistical reports, we shall have some action from the Government. I also hope that, in the discussions between the Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth that are foreshadowed in the newspapers this morning, the necessity for Australia to increase its primary production will be kept very much in mind. It is not just a question about the prices that are to be paid to us by Great Britain. If the United Kingdom intends to pay us, under a long-term contract, lower prices than can be obtained for our primary products in the open market, then we shall not be doing that country a good turn by selling it those products at low prices, because primary producers will not produce commodities for sale at low prices. They will produce only commodities for which they can obtain an adequate return. If they are to receive low prices for foodstuffs the tendency will be for them to turn from the production of foodstuffs to the production of wool, which commands a high price in the world’s markets. Obviously farmers will not continue to raise sheep just to sell mutton to the United Kingdom Government at low contract prices.
I have been amazed that in the discussions that have taken place in this Parliament in the two years that I have been .a member of it, I have not yet heard from the Government any clear, concise and properly conceived plan for the re-establishment of our agricultural industries and, above all, for the taking of steps to effect the increase of production of foodstuffs that is necessary if we are to be able to feed our own population in the future. “We have been told by Government members that the answer to inflation is increased production. According to the Commonwealth Statistician the most recent increase of the basic wage was primarily occasioned by the high prices of foodstuffs. Those high prices had,. themselves, been occasioned very largely by the failure of the Government to take any steps to assist primary producers to produce more of the food that we so urgently require. I hope that instead of airily waving the matter aside the Prime Minister and other members of the Government will do something about it. I understand that a rural “ ginger “ group has been formed within the Liberal party by discontented members who represent rural constituencies and who feel, as I do, that something must be done to check the terrific drift in our agricultural industries.
– The honorable member has a great imagination.
– All I can say is that if such a “ ginger “ group has not been formed I am very sorry to hear it.
– It is a demolition group that has been formed.
– There might be some hope if that is the case. It seems quite obvious that no action will be taken by members on the Government front benches to stem the agricultural drift. Since, unfortunately, we have a LiberalAustralian Country party Government in office for the time being, I had pinned my hope on this reported “ ginger “ group in the back benches forcing Ministers to do something about agriculture. However, to judge from an interjection a moment ago, not only Ministers on the front bench, but also the Government’s supporters on the back benches are blind to the seriousness of the problem. Not only are they allowing our agricultural production to head downwards at the alarming rate that I have mentioned, but they are also apparently prepared to shut their eyes to the gravity of the problem. [ had hoped, for the sake of Australia, that there were some vigorous back benchers who would force the Government to do something about the matter, but apparently that is not the case.
I rose to point out certain statistical facts. Any honorable member may draw his own conclusions from those facts, and no doubt honorable members opposite will draw all sorts of conclusions from them. However, one thing which cannot be denied is that in its every aspect, primary production, whether of meat, bacon, butter, or whole-milk has declined, and is declining, seriously. Next year our production will be less than it was last year.
– Is the honorable member just waking up to that?
– Not at all, but I am waking up to the fact that the Government has apparently no policy for the correction of the decline. It is quite obvious that if we have to depend on the former stockbrokers, accountants and stock and station agents in the Australian Country party to do anything, we shall have to wait for a very long time.
– We shall have to wait for a very long time if we wait for trade union secretaries to do anything about it.
– Government supporters have done a terrific amount of talking about the need for trade union secretaries to assist in achieving an increase of the production of coal. I notice that although the population has increased by only 16 per cent, since 1936-37 the production of coal has increased by 21 per cent. That is quite a different picture from that presented by the agricultural industries, no matter what honorable members opposite might say about Communists in the coal mines and the steel works., I hope that everybody knows my views on Communists in coal mines and steel works. However, such Communists apparently have not been able to sabotage production of coal and steel so . effectively as the Government has been able to sabotage production in the agricultural field. That is a matter of cold hard figures and not my opinion. I hope that the Government will evolve a rural policy. If we are not able to produce enough food to feed our people where shall we be able to buy it? We have been buying butter from New Zealand at about 6s. 6d. per lb. What will happen if we try to buy meat overseas? Our difficulty in that event would not only be in finding the money to pay for it. The main difficulty would be to find somebody to sell it to us. If we are to start importing food then Australia can forget any hope of future progress. If we are relying on this Government to get on the job-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- When the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) made his remarks on the very serious problem of the decline of food production in this country he said that it was not a matter of party politics, but he immediately proceeded to say that the greatest decline in production had occurred since this Government had taken office.
– He gave the honorable member food for thought.
– I shall give the honorable member food for thought, too. The honorable member for Yarra stated that he was discussing this matter from n purely non-party angle. He then said something about a “ ginger “ group which had been formed on this side of the chamber. A small committee has been formed to discuss this matter, but I suggest that the honorable member himself should pursue a non-political line in this connexion. He next alleged that a lot of talking had been done by honorable members on this side of the chamber. Government supporters have certainly spoken about this subject, but they have also endeavoured to do something. I remember, when I was a member of the Opposition, quoting a statement by Sir John Boyd Orr concerning food production in this country and throughout the world in which he compared the production with the rate of increase in the world’s population. It ill becomes the honorable member for Yarra to mention the talk that has been indulged in on this side of the chamber when he himself talked a lot recently about certain elements in this country who were endangering production. “When the acid test caine he was not game to vote against his dictators and support a “ Yes “ vote at the referendum.
In 1946, supporters of the present Government suggested that the then Labour government should use some of the army huts that were available to house people on the coal-field so that they could produce coal which, in turn, would produce steel and machinery. The then government laughed at the idea. Now that problem has to be tackled by the present Government, but unfortunately the huts are not available in the same quantity as they were then because the Labour Government allowed them to be used as scrap. A colleague of honorable members opposite in New South Wales was responsible for the introduction of the 40-hour week. A 40-hour week may have been all right but it was proved very shortly afterwards that men were only working 29 hours a week. Yet Opposition members wanted the milk producer to work 56 hours a week for £6 5s., plus £1 10s. for managerial expenses. The present shortage of foodstuffs has not been brought about during the last couple of months. It is the result of a state of affairs which has existed for years. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, accepted a minority report by government officials and placed butter producers on a wrong footing where they remained until the advent of the present Government. The present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) had a new scheme prepared which he submitted to the States. Who then stood in the way of increased production? It was the Labour Governments of New South Wales and Queensland. I understand that the
Acting Premier of Queensland wanted the dairy-farmers to receive the price for butter that had been recommended by the Commonwealth but his Cabinet disagreed with him.
What have Opposition members done to make such equipment as scarifiers and combines available to wheat-farmers in order that they may increase production? The farmer cannot be expected to produce with worn-out machinery. There is nothing more soul-destroying than trying to run a farm with machinery that is out of date and useless. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is reported in Hansard as having said that members of the Labour party would stand on the street-corners and go into the alley-ways and by-ways and encourage the working class not to co-operate with the Menzies Government. I suggest that, when Opposition members address those people, they should tell them that unless they want to starve in 1960 they should put a little extra weight behind the plough and make available the equipment that is needed by the farmers in order to increase food production. During the week-end I believe a suggestion was made to members of the Waterside Workers Federation in Fremantle that they should contribute 30s. from their pay in order to oust the Menzies Government and send somebody to Moscow.
– Order ! That subject does not concern the department under discussion.
– Instead of advocating the collection of money to send the unionists-
– Order ! The matter of general labour conditions comes under the Department of Labour and National Service and cannot be discussed now.
– Honorable members of the Opposition should advocate an increase in the production of farm machinery so that the farmers can increase food production which, I trust, can be discussed under the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have done everything possible to encourage an increase in food production. At present we are endeavouring to over come the problem of the production of wheat for stock feed, particularly in respect to the poultry industry so that the necessary quantity of eggs may be obtained to send to our kith and kin in England. Some of the trouble in the wheat industry can be laid at the door of the honorable member for Lalor who, when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, refused to accept a recommendation that 15 per cent, of the exportable surplus should be consumed in this country at the home-consumption price as stock feed.
– I have no apologies to make.
– No, but I know that some of the scouts of the Opposition went to Western Australia to influence the farmers when they had an opportunity to vote against this proposal. I deplore the fact that in 1948 many wheatfarmers fell into the trap and voted for the adoption of a Commonwealth scheme when they had quite a good State scheme. If their hands had not been forced by the Labour Government when the honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, they would never have done that. This Government is constantly consulting with every representative body of the wheat-farmers instead of taking dictatorial action such as was taken by the previous Government. While this Government has been in office it has taken positive action in an endeavour to rectify the situation that was brought into being by the maladministration of the Labour governments between 1946 and December, 1949. We cannot undo the harm caused by Labour governments in a few minutes, it will take some time.
The Opposition should do its job towards our primary producers. Instead of preaching non-co-operation as it has done continually in this chamber and outside it, it should change its tactics. Honorable members opposite should try to cooperate with the Government in its attempts to supply our primary producers with all those things which are necesary for them to maintain, and indeed, to increase their production. If the wherewithal is given to the man on the land he will produce all that we require.
.- It has been said that, if we would only treat our fellow men as some of us treat our dogs, the earth would be like a little bit of heaven. I suggest that we shall never get such treatment from the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton). He complained about the workers being given a 40-hour week so that they might enjoy a little leisure. He blamed the New South Wales Government for the introduction of a universal 40-hour week. The honorable member should remember that the Premier of New South Wales merely anticipated the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration by a few weeks when he awarded the 40-hour week to New South Wales workers. It does not become the honorable member for Canning to attack the decision of the learned judges of the Arbitration Court, who only delivered their judgment in favour of a 40-hour week after more than twelve months’ consideration. He criticized the previous Minister for Commerce and Agriculture because of what he called the plight of the wheat-farmers. I suggest that the wheatfarmers have never been better off in their lives, and that the reason for their prosperity must be attributed to’ the wise administration of Labour governments.
I now wish to refer to matters which enter into a consideration of the National Welfare Fund. I am glad that approximately £184,000,000 is to be expended on social services, but I believe that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) should give further consideration to the Social Services Consolidation Act with a view to extending its provisions to other worthy people in our community. At present a very small amount is being paid to the wives of invalid pensioners. These women receive only 30s. a week. From experience in my own electorate and others I know that these wives suffer great hardship because in many cases the husband’s invalidity makes it necessary for the wife not only to keep up the house but also to act as a nurse for her husband. These activities prevent the wife from supplementing in any way at all her income of 30s. a week. Therefore, her allowance should be increased.
Another matter which I know that the Minister has in his mind, but which should certainly be given further consideration, is the allowance made in respect of permanently crippled and spastic children between the ages of sixteen and 21 years. The fact that these children receive no social service payment is the only break in the continuity of the Government’s welfare payments. Endowment is paid in respect of them until they reach the age of sixteen years, then nothing is paid until they reach the age of 21 years, when they are allotted invalid pensions. Great hardship is experienced by the parents of these children, whose incomes are mainly in the lower brackets. Moreover, because they are not pensioners, these children are not able to obtain the benefits of free health and medical services.
A further matter which should be considered by the Minister relates to those persons who own a little property. Many such persons were once in comfortable circumstances, but because of inflation their incomes have been reduced below existence level. Many invalids and aged persons, as well as owning their own homes, own a little property from which they derive some income. The ownership of the property debars them from getting the pension. I am aware of persons who receive 25s. a week from a little property worth not much more than £1,000. I suggest that social services should be extended to every person who has an income of less than the invalid or age pension. The lowest standard of living that any one should be required to have is that of a pensioner. The people of whom I have been speaking are also deprived of health and medical assistance because they do not receive pensions.
The unemployed and sickness benefits scheme should be liberalized. When these benefits were first introduced in 1944 a person who was entitled to either was paid each week 25s. for himself, £1 for his wife, and 5s. for the first child. That gave him some degree of security. The deterioration of the value of the £1 has eliminated that security and made the unemployment and sickness benefits of very little value.
Under the Social Services Consolidation Act, £10 is allowed as a funeral benefit in respect of a pensioner. That allowance has not been increased since 1943 and is therefore very much out of date. If the National Welfare Fund is to be put to its best use all the matters that I have mentioned should receive early attention.
– I inform the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) that about £124,000,000 has been provided for expenditure this year under the Social Services Consolidation Act. The people of this country now face an annual bill of approximately £143,000,000 in respect of social services of all kinds. It has been suggested that social services should not be discussed in a party political spirit. I agree with that, but I also say that most of the improvements that have been made in our social services system have been suggested during debates in this chamber. Therefore, I do not subscribe to the view that social services should not be debated, and I welcome the suggestions made by the honorable member for Banks. However, I do not believe that all honorable members in this chamber realize how great is the problem involved in social services. One hundred and forty-three million pounds is a tremendous amount of money. The Estimates envisage apart from inescapable commitments for defence, the expenditure of 24.7 per cent, of our total revenue on social services. That represents a greater sum of money than has ever before been provided by the taxpayers.
The amount provided for social services can be spread thinly over many people or thickly over a few. Obviously in practice we have to arrive at some form of compromise. I point out to the honorable member for Banks that the Government has increased the invalid pensioner’s wife’s allowance from 24s. a week to 30s. a week, and his child’s allowance from 9s. a week to lis. 6d. Therefore, he will realize that the Government is taking steps in the right direction. The honorable member also mentioned the provision of an adequate maintenance allowance in respect of invalid children. He said that pensioners’ children between the ages of sixteen and 21 years should be entitled to receive all the benefits that this country can provide for them. Whilst I am in complete agreement with that statement, at the same time I point out that if we were to permit everybody, regardless of their means, to enjoy social services benefits of all kinds, we should discriminate against the most necessitous cases. For that reason a means test must be applied in respect of benefits payable for children between the ages of sixteen and 21 years.
– An allowance of £4 a week is not sufficient.
– The benefit amounts to £32 a week in respect of even one child. We are now making provision for children who previously have been prevented from benefiting under the community rehabilitation scheme. Honorable members who are familiar with that scheme will realize what it will mean to some of those children. Let us now consider the value of assets that persons of pensionable age are permitted to retain without being disqualified for a pension The value of property is being raised to £1,000, .or £2,000 in respect of a married couple. Pensioners may own the house in which they live, regardless of its value. They may also own personal effects, including furniture, and have a life insurance policy with a surrender value of up to £750, whilst an aged couple is permitted to have £219 in the bank. Pensioners can retain all those assets and still qualify for a pension of £3 a week, or £6 in respect of a married couple, and, at the same time, each pensioner couple, who are able to do so. may earn up to £3 a week. In addition, recipients of pension are provided with medical treatment and medicine free of charge. In the aggregate, that is not an ungenerous provision. Pensioners who own the house in which they live and have a life insurance policy with a surrender value of up to £750 and property to the value of £2,000, in the case of a married couple, should not have much cause to worry.
The real problem in this matter arises in respect of pensioners who have none of those advantages. Approximately 66 per cent, of persons in receipt of pensions in Australia have no income apart from the pension. Such persons present a problem entirely different from that which arises in respect of persons with comparatively adequate means. What are we going to do about that problem? In the course of the budget debate, one honorable member said that all that the pensioner needs is cold hard cash. I disagree with that view which, I believe, is completely erroneous. For instance, I know of an elderly woman who resided in a city in my electorate, who had plenty of hard cash, but was eaten by dogs and cats as she lay dying. They were the only companions she had in the world. On the other hand, there are settlements where pensioners are living comfortably at a cost of £1 10s. a week. Some months ago I visited such places, where I saw elderly people, who, on their own admission, were happily and adequately housed and fed. At one settlement the pensioners are charged £1 a week and at another, which is run privately, they are charged £1 10s. a week. This problem is not merely one of providing pensioners with cold hard cash. It involves the provision of housing. If we could ensure that every pensioner was adequately housed and fed at a cost of 30s. a week and had left 30s. pocket money out of the pension, we should go a long way towards solving this problem. However, housing is a State matter. Some of the States have accepted the obligation of providing houses for aged people. In Queensland the problem is being tackled effectively, although, of course, there is much yet to to be done. In that State, I visited two settlements in which, respectively, 140 and 170 pensioners were living comfortably and, at the same time, were enabled to retain a degree of independence.
– Where are those settlements situated ?
– At Rockhampton, where pensioners are charged £1 a week, and at Chermside, a suburb of Brisbane, where the charge is 30s. a week. I urge honorable members from other States to do their utmost to influence their State parliaments to introduce similar schemes. The housing of pensioners is probably the most urgent problem that confronts us in the sphere of social services. The provision of adequate housing for elderly people along the lines that I have indicated may prove to be a solution of the problem. Our expenditure on social services benefits is now approaching £150,000,000 a year, and governments in the future, regardless of party, will have to face up to this problem. Some solution of it must be evolved.
Much has been said about the necessity to remove the means test. It is absurd to continue indefinitely a system under which thrift can cause persons to lose benefits to which they would otherwise he entitled in their declining years. The means test must be removed. However, even if we were to remove it to-day we should not solve the great problem of the needy who have no private means. It is beyond the resources of the taxpayer as a whole to provide for pensioners all that they need in the form of money, but it is well within our means to provide adequate housing and food for pensioners in settlements of the kind that I have mentioned. Under such conditions, pensioners would retain a proportion of their benefit as pocket money. At the same time, they are entitled to receive medical treatment and medicine free of charge and thus be enabled to end their days in peace. Ir is a grave indictment of us that whilst provision is made in respect of the depreciation of a machine right from the time it is installed in a factory no similar provision is made in respect of human flesh and blood. It is easy to talk about pensioners as such, but in doing so we are inclined to forget that we speak about human beings - fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. I want to see a greater recognition of that principle on the part of the community as a whole. Economists talk about the accumulated national net profit, by which they mean the material assets of the community as a whole, such as footpaths, buildings, trams, buses, aeroplanes, &c, but they do not talk much about the accumulated national net loss of which pensioners and burnt-out workers are a part. We have to face up to our responsibilities in this matter. Generally, parents accept responsibilities for their children, but in how many instances, as the years go by, do children accept corresponding responsibilities for their parents? Unfortunately, there is now too much of a tendency merely to say that the Government should do this or that. Whilst the Government has an enormous responsibility for the aged and infirm, we must remember that the family also has certain responsibilities in this respect. Lord Beveridge expressed the view that a pension should be regarded as a national minimum to which the family, the church or public-minded citizens should make additional provision to meet the case of those who needed it. The community must recognize that responsibility.
– Where does the family’s responsibility end?
– Families must determine that point individually. Possibly, special education of the community is necessary. However, the fact remains that whilst parents accept responsibilities for children, only in rare instances do children accept responsibilities for their parents. Evidence is available on departmental files to prove the truth of that statement. Australians spend about £1.000,000,000 annually on fun and games, including liquor and horse-racing. When I say that, I do not speak in a condemnatory way. A proportion of that amount could be more profitably expended on the care and maintenance of our elderly citizens. The family and the community as a whole must awaken to their responsibility in this matter. I repeat that the Government, undoubtedly, has a responsibility up to a point. But there are responsibilities that must be accepted by others, too. This great problem of social services will become increasingly embarrassing to governments in the future unless the community changes its present outlook towards the provision of social services benefits of all kinds.
.- In the limited time available to honorable members, one cannot make a very extensive survey of the problems that arise in relation to the proposed votes that are now being considered by the committee. Therefore,. I shall be obliged to devote the few remarks that I shall be able to make to a reply to the speech that has been made by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) and to certain comments that have emanated from time to time from supporters of the Government. Whenever members of the Australian Country party deal with problems of production they invariably indicate most definitely that, although they claim to represent primary producers, they are opposed to the continuance of the 40-hour week. .1 hope that primary producers and workers of all classes will note that fact and will realize that that party is the most antisocial group in this country to-day. Those honorable members should realize that time marches on, and that to an increasing degree man is applying mechanics to the problem of production. As a consequence, the workers should be saved a corresponding degree of arduous toil and be given the opportunity to engage in occupations suited to their bent. All honorable members should recognize the advantages that have resulted from the application of science to industry. I quote the following from an advertisement for a grab transporter that was published in last month’s edition of the Western Australian Mining and Commercial Review : -
Saves £100 a week in Labor alone!
Before this transporter was installed 12 men had to work 24 hours a day in 3 shifts to keep the North Melbourne Locomotive asb pits clear. The transporter with its lj cubic yard grab is operated by one man and now does this job in less than 4 hours actual working time per day. Wages saving alone is over £100 a week and the services of 11 urgently needed men are released for important work in another section of the Victorian Railways.
At the annual shows of agricultural societies throughout this country one sees displayed labour-saving machines and appliances of all kinds that are available to primary producers. Such inventions should be utilized to shorten the hours of labour of not only workers in secondary industries but also those engaged in all phases of primary production. The dairy-farmer himself may work as many hours as he thinks fit. The occupation of dairy farming is his particular choice in life,, and he may please himself how long he works. The longer he works, the more he produces and the greater is his income. Members of the Australian Country party continually voice their objection to the granting of a 40-hour week to employees in the dairying industry. I sometimes think that those honorable gentlemen live in the dark ages - the bad old days when children hauled wagons in the coal mines, and women worked throughout the night.
The honorable member for Canning referred to the fact that the Chifley Labour Government, on the basis of the first assessment of the cost of production in the dairying industry, accepted 56 hours as the standard working week on dairy farms. But the honorable gentleman did not explain that, for the first time in the history of the dairying industry, the employees have been enjoying award conditions that were granted by the Labour Government under national security regulations. That award, which was made as a result of representations by employees in the dairying industry, prescribed a 56-hour working week for them. The Labour Government, when it was considering the recommendations of the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee, which inquired into the costs of production in that industry, was of the opinion that, if the dairy-farmer himself considered that Iris employees should work for 56 hours in a week, his own costs of production should be assessed upon that basis. Those employees were emancipated by the Labour Government, and, fortunately, the younger generation of dairy-farmers now recognizes that a 40-hour working week is fair. In fact, some dairymen’s organizations have advocated its introduction.
I shall reveal another motive behind the agitation in respect of the shorter working week in the dairying industry. Members of the Australian Country party claim that the costs of production in that industry should be assessed on the basis of a 40-hour week, and I, personally, am in favour of it; but those honorable gentlemen, including the honorable member for Canning, do not tell the public that only 3 per cent, of the labour in the dairying industry is .hired.
Therefore, dairy-farmers, in the assessment of their costs on the basis of a 40-hour week for themselves and their families who toil on the farms, are in a winning position, and rightly so. I point out that their purpose is to have their costs of production based upon the shorter working week.
The Postmaster - General (Mr. Anthony) has thrown some brick-bats at the Chifley Labour Government. The honorable gentleman, when he was a supporter of a conservative government in 193S, drew a harrowing picture of conditions in the dairying industry. I comment, in passing, that conservative governments, with the support of the Australian Country party, had then held office almost continuously for twenty years, yet conditions were so bad in the dairying industry in 193S that the honorable gentleman referred to them in the following words :- -
I am concerned with the position disclosed by this report of the Queensland Taxation Commissioner. Anybody who has had experience of the Queensland taxing system knows that the Commissioner in that State does not miss very much, yet he, for income tax purposes, could not assess more than 09 dairy-farmers in the whole of that Slate. Although, as I have shown, only 99 dairyfarmers in Queensland were called upon last year to pay income tax, no fewer than 5,288 dairy farm employers will be compelled to contribute to the Government’s scheme notwithstanding that they will get no benefit from it.
The honorable gentleman was grizzling because dairy-farmers, under the national health and pensions insurance scheme that was advocated by the then Treasurer, Mr. Casey, would be compelled to make a contribution in respect of the few persona whom they employed. I wonder what his attitude will be when a national health and pensions insurance scheme is introduced by the present Government shortly “before its term of office expires. The Minister was justified in speaking in that way of conditions in the dairying industry in 1938.
– He referred to the plight of dairy-farmers in Queensland, under a Labour government.
– The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) .has blamed
Labour governments in this Parliament for the plight of the dairying industry, yet he now seeks to lay the blame for the depressed conditions of dairyfarmers in Queensland in 193S upon the Labour Government which was in office in that State at that time. He cannot have it both ways. I can understand why the PostmasterGeneral complained about the plight of dairy-farmers in Queensland in 193S, and why they grizzled at the time at the mere idea of having to contribute to the national health and pensions insurance scheme in respect of their handful of employees. The honorable gentleman showed conclusively that although conservative governments had occupied the treasury bench in this Parliament for many years, only 99 dairy-farmers in Queensland had sufficient income to be required to pay income tax. I am positive that every dairy-farmer who has been in that industry continuously since before the outbreak of “World “War II., now pays a substantial sum in income tax. This Government, which promised to reduce taxes, will extract an even greater amount from him this year. In the circumstances that I have described, all the talk to the effect that the preceding Labour Government was responsible for the slight diminution of production in the dairying industry is nonsense.
The honorable member for Canning also referred to the wheat industry. I recall that he “ scabbed “ on the wheatgrowers of Western Australia-
– That is a nasty thing to say.
– I object to the use of such a word in this chamber, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– As the honorable member for Lyne has objected to the use of the word “scabbed”, I withdraw it readily. What are the facts about the wheat industry? For the first time in its history in an era of peace, that industry enjoys an organized system of marketing. The parties to that system are the Commonwealth, the six State governments and the wheat-growers of all the States. The honorable member for Canning said that when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I refused to exempt from the home-consumption price 15 per cent, of the wheat harvest. That assertion is correct.
– The honorable gentleman, when he was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, also refused to accept a recommendation of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
– I do not care what the Australian Wheat Growers Federation recommended at that time. No government can accede to all the requests that may be made to it by an organized section of producers, manufacturers or traders. A government that agreed to everything for which the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, or any other organized section of this community asked, could not do justice to other sections, and govern effectively for more than 24 hours. The honorable member for Canning is well aware of that fact. I said frankly to the representatives of the wheatgrowers, “If you are to have a scheme that is backed by a government guarantee, and enjoy a home-consumption price and the stability that will result from a plan of that kind, you, in turn, will provide at the home-consumption price the whole of Australia’s requirements of wheat for bread and stock feed “. With a full knowledge of that requirement, which was published in primary producers’ journals throughout the length and breadth of Australia, the wheat-growers, by a majority vote, accepted that plan, and have enjoyed the benefits of it ever since.
– They accepted it to their everlasting sorrow.
– Let me remind members of the Australian Country party, who are so voluble, that as a result of that plan the wheat-growers have been emancipated.
I shall now examine the plight of the wheat-growing industry when conservative governments were in office. As I shall show from evidence that was published in non-labour journals, those governments were completely inept, and frequently refused to grant the legitimate requests of wheat-growers. I have here an extract from the South Australian Wheatgrower of the 19th December, 1946.
Under the heading “ Bankruptcy “, the following statement appears: -
During thu eleven years from 1930 to 1940, 3,276 South Australian primary producers, the bulk of whom were wheat-growers, went bankrupt - an average of 298 a year. Under the stabilized prices ruling during the war, the number had fallen to 53 in 1943, 19 in 1944, and to seven only in 1945.
A statement in the same newspaper about the indebtedness of wheat-growers also makes interesting reading -
In 1934-35, the estimated indebtedness of wheat-growers in Australia was £151,495,270. Of this, £130,132,042 was owed to secured creditors, the iia lance, £15,450,270 being owed to unsecured creditors, who included machinery firms, oil and fertilizer companies, storekeepers, and wheat merchants (£42S,790).
– The indebtedness of wheat-growers has been reduced because of rising prices in the last few years.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) is endeavouring to put me “ off the track “. He claims that the high overseas price for wheat is the reason for the prosperity of farmers. ITe is perfectly well aware that under the stabilization scheme that was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government, wheatgrowers would have received, in a period of low prices, the full home-consumption price for every bushel of wheat that they produced.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) treated us to a most interesting speech in which he skated lightly over subjects, dates and events, and even the period during which he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He read an extract from the Ilansard report of a speech that I made in this chamber in 1938 about the plight of dairy-farmers in Queensland, and some of the statistics that he cited were in relation to the number of wheat-growers who went bankrupt in 1930. However, he told us little about what happened to farmers when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture from 1946 to 1949, and he had good reason for trying to divert the attention of the public from those years. T did not think that it was possible for a former Minister to claim credit to-day for the fact that wheat-growers, dairyfarmers and other primary producer’s are better off at the present time, because of high world prices for their commodities, than they were during the financial and economic depression of 1930-31, when a Labour government was in office. It is perfectly true that in 1938 I uttered the words that were read by the honorable gentleman. Indeed, I regard that speech as one of the best that I have ever made. I entered this House in 193S as a comparatively young and innocent member, and I recall that I directed attention at that time to a fact that the honorable member for Lalor has not underlined, namely, that in Queensland, which had been under Labour rule for 30 years, with the exception of one period of three years, dairy-farmers were so badly off that only 99 of 5,000 of them were in a. position to pay income tax. Under the administration of Mr. Forgan Smith and his colleagues, the dairying industry in Queensland reached an all-time low. The honorable member for Lalor doubtless noticed that I did not refer in 1938 to the condition of dairy-farmers in New South Wales or in Victoria, in which Liberal party-Country party governments had been in office for many years. But such matters are hardly relevant to this debate. World prices for primary products were much lower from 1930 until a considerable time after the beginning of World War II., than they are to-day. A great injustice was done to dairy-farmers who were compelled by world economic conditions to accept prices below the cost of production for many years. When the opportunity came to them, as a result of increased prices in war-time, to obtain a recompense for those lost years, they were denied it by price-fixing regulations and other impositions that were devised by a Labour government. They were pegged down-
– So were the workers’ wages.
– The wages of the workers were permitted to rise gradually, but the dairy-farmers’ returns were pegged down to depression levels. Wages were never held down to the 1931 figures as were the returns of dairy-farmers at a period when they should have been permitted to recoup some of the losses that they had. sustained during the years to which I referred in the speech that the honorable member quoted. The dairyfarmers were denied the opportunity to recover some of their losses as a result of the action of the honorable member for Lalor as Minister for Commerce and. Agriculture at the time.
The honorable gentleman also talked, about what he described as “the great wheat steal “. He claimed some credit for the fact that the wheat-farmers voted, for the stabilization scheme. So they did. But what alternative did they have?’ They had been pressing for a long time for the establishment of a scheme that, would guarantee a stabilized price over a period of years. The honorable member for Lalor, as the Minister of the day, threw his scheme in front of them and. said, “ Take it or leave it “.
– That is right. I did not promise them something that I could not give to them.
– The honorable member agrees that he said to them, in effect, “ Either give 30,000,000 bushels of wheat for stock feed at 7s. or 8s. a bushel when the free market price may be anything from 15s. to £1 a bushel, or do without a stabilization scheme “. That is. the price that he demanded.
– And the growers agreed to it!
– Like the man who handed over his watch to Ned Kelly at the point of a gun, they did what they were told ! Their alternative was to lose everything that they had worked to gain. One of the first actions of the present Government, which has been in power for almost two years-
– Too long !
– It must already seem like twenty years since the honorable gentleman was a Minister. It will seem like eternity to him before the position is altered. This Government has said to the wheat-growers, “ We will not hold a pistol at your heads. We believe that you are entitled to receive the free market price for wheat that is used for other purposes than the milling of flour for bread “.
Consequently the wheat-growers will benefit to the amount of £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 a year. They can rejoice in the fact that a Liberal party-Australian Country party government has made them better off collectively by that amount. Of course, £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 a year may not appear to be of much, consequence to the honorable member for Lalor, who was associated with Mr. Scully when that gentleman, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, virtually made a gift of £10,000,000 a year to New Zealand. That gift would have been made entirely at the expense of the Australian wheat-growers had the deal not been exposed.. The upshot was that the expense was borne by the Australian taxpayers as a whole. The Labour Government at that time sold wheat to New Zealand at 5s. 6d. a bushel when the market was rapidly rising to the level of £1 a bushel.
– The price was 9s. 6d. a bushel.
– It was 5s. 6d. a bushel. The honorable member does not know the facts.
The honorable member for Lalor discussed the 40-hour week and its effect on industry. The 40-hour week may or may not be good. Opinions vary according, to individual, points- of view-
– The honorable gentleman had better commit himself so that the workers will know where he stands.
– The workers know where Mr.. McGirr stands to-day. That gentleman told them that they could have, a 40-hour week without any increase of. costs, but every worker who travels on the trams or trains of New South Wales to-day knows that one of the consequences of the 40-hour week has been to double and even treble his fares. Every worker who posts a letter or makes a telephone call knows that the charges for those services have been increased as a result of the 40-hour week. This Government fa no more exempt from the consequences of the shorter working week than ia the Government of New South Wales. We have heard a great deal of talk about controlling the effects of the shorter working week by establishing a Commonwealth authority to fix prices. I remind honorable members opposite that the Commonwealth has sole control of postal and telegraph charges. This Government does not need the sanction of any State tribunal for the charges that it imposes, but I, as Postmaster-General, was compelled to fall into line with private organizations throughout Australia and raise prices so as to make them conform with costs. One of the principal causes of the increase of costs has been the 40-hour week.
The honorable member for Lalor glossed over many of the facts in relation to his treatment of the dairy-farmers. Let it never be forgotten that he was the associate of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who introduced a 56-hour week payment for the dairyfarmers. The honorable member says, of course, that this was done at the request of the dairy-farmers, who wanted their employees to work a 56-hour week.
– He has never said anything of the sort.
– He has used words to that effect. Mr. Scully wanted the price of butter to be based on a 56-hour week in the dairying industry. However, as the honorable member for Lalor has pointed out, only 3 per cent, of those who were engaged in the industry were employees. The remainder were farmers on their own account, and they were the victims of the decision to fix a price of 2s. per lb f ot butter, which was based on the assumption of a 56-hour week. The honorable member declares that the 40- hour -week has many virtues and he has asked us to declare our attitude towards it, but he holds the view that a 56-hour week is a fair working week for the man on the land! That glaring inconsistency demands some sort of explanation. I should be as pleased as anybody to support a 35-hour week or a 30-hour week so that everybody could have more opportunities for recreation. but the business of the nation requires that our man-power shall be employed more effectively than it is being employed to-day. We cannot do all the jobs that we have to do with a 40-hour week until - and this is the important qualification - we have developed the mechanical and technological resources that will enable us to do more work in less time. We must have machines to do what men now have to do with their hands. We must build such machines, and that process takes time. I believe, and I think: that most Australians agree, that the 40-hour week was introduced many years ahead of the proper time in Australia.
– Shame !
– The honorable member cries “ Shame ! “ now, but tomorrow he will probably complain of rising prices. Honorable members opposite, when they were in power, helped to establish a situation that rendered price rises inevitable, yet they now criticize this Government because it has not been able to check the spiral. Shorter hours of work and higher costs must result in rising prices. I have endeavoured to answer only a few of the observations of the honorable member for Lalor-
– And the honorable gentleman has made a mess of the job 1
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is always conscious of the fact that he is an ex-Minister. The plight of all the ex-Ministers on the Opposition side of the chamber is awful to behold. They sit in serried ranks hoping that a day will come when the fruits and sweets of office will be theirs again notwithstanding the fact that the fruits and sweets of office are very few. However, there is no law that can prevent them from hoping.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) referred with great glee to the fact that there are many ex-Ministers on this side of the chamber. I remind him of the old adage that be “who laughs last laughs best. I am sure that the ex-Ministers will again be Ministers in the not far distant future.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the Postmaster General have discussed the prices that have been paid for dairy products over the years and have referred to the treatment of dairy-farmers by governments of various political colours. The PostmasterGeneral said that dairy-farmers’ returns were pegged during World War LT. That statement was entirely incorrect. For ten years prior to the election of a Labour government early in the war, anti-Labour governments had failed to increase the price paid to dairy-farmers for their butter. “When Labour came into office, it immediately reviewed the position. Early in 1942, the Curtin Government granted price increases of Id. per lb. for butter and 1½d. per lb. for cheese. Those were the first increases that the dairy-farmers had received in ten years. In October, 1942, the Commonwealth decided to introduce legislation to subsidize the dairying industry at the rate of £2,000,000 a year. Dairying leaders made an intensive investigation of the industry, and effect was given to their recommendation when the Commonwealth provided a subsidy of £6,500,000 for the year that began in April, 3943. That gave to farmers a return equal to ls. 6d. per lb. commercial butter. All that was done in two years of rule by Labour. The object of the subsidy was to provide a price that leaders of the dairying industry considered to be commensurate with the needs of the industry. Later, the Government increased the subsidy to encourage production in winter months.
In April, 1944, the Commonwealth announced that the subsidy would be continued tentatively on a flat rate basis equal to 3½d. per lb. commercial butter. That substantial degree of assistance was given to the dairy-farmers in time of war. In May, 1944, it was announced that the subsidy would be increased to £7,500,000 a year as from the 1st April, 194.4. That was equal to a flat rate of 3d. per lb. commercial butter, with an additional payment for the “non-flush” period production equal to 2d. per lb. on 50 per cent, of output. The total subsidy was equal to an average of 4-Jd. per lb. It is right that the committee should be told of what was done for the dairy-farmers during the war years, when, according to the Postmaster-General, they were tied down and received no assistance.
The Postmaster-General asked why prices have risen. They have risen because the Commonwealth has no power to control them. The honorable gentleman strenuously opposed the continuation of prices control by the Commonwealth, although they can be controlled effectively only by that authority. He sowed the wind then, and to-day he is reaping the whirlwind. The prices that consumers pay for dairy products have increased because this Government’s policy is to pass on to the consumers additional costs of production. The prices of those products should be kept down by the payment of a subsidy which would offset, increased costs of production. The Government should collect from the people in taxes a sum equal to the increased cost of producing dairy products and should distribute it amongst the dairy-farmers. That would be the fairest way of keeping prices down, achieving a fairer distribution of the national income, and maintaining a stable price level. The Government, by its policy of pushing up the prices that people pay for dairy products, has accentuated the inflationary trend. That trend will be accentuated further if the Government gets away with its scheme under which farmers who use wheat for stock-feed purposes will be required to pay the full overseas price for it.
The effect of that scheme will be to force up the prices of bacon, eggs, and other dairy products. It will have a substantial effect upon the cost of living, because the prices of the items in the “ C “ series index, upon which the basic wage is determined, will rise. The bash wage will be increased accordingly, costs will increase again, and the basic wage will be further increased. The action? of the Government are accentuating inflation and are doing a great disservice to the people. If the Government desires to grant increased prices to wheat-growers, it can give effect to its desire by pegging the price of wheat used for stock-feed purposes at its present level and paying a subsidy to wheat-growers from general revenue. If that were done, increased costs would be borne by those who are best able to bear them, and those who are least able to bear them would receive the benefit of lower prices.
It has been estimated that the basic wage will be increased by approximately 25s. a week when the next quarterly adjustment is made. Possibly there will be an increase of a similar amount in each succeeding quarterly period. Therefore, persons in receipt of fixed incomes, age and invalid pensioners and persons in receipt of other social services benefits will have to endure much suffering, because prices will be increased considerably. The Government should take immediate action to make pensions and other social services benefits subject to an index figure, in order that they may be adjusted in accordance with fluctuations of the cost of living. It is unjust that, pensions and other social services payments having been increased in, say, September, concurrently with the presentation of the budget, pensioners and persons in similar positions should be required to exist for twelve months upon a miserable pittance notwithstanding that prices will increase by possibly 50 per cent, during that period.
It is probable that during the next twelve months the basic wage will be increased by £5 a week or more. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) frowns at that statement. If the next increase of the basie wage be 25s. a week, probably subsequent increases will be greater than that. Therefore, my estimate of the amount by which the basic wage will be increased during the next twelve months is a modest one. But during that period, pensioners will receive only the miserable pittances that they are receiving to-day. I urge the Government strongly to relieve the plight of pensioners by making pensions subject to an index figure in order that they may be increased as the cost of living rises. Although pensions were recently increased by 10s. a week, the basic wage has risen by more than that amount since then, and will continue to rise each quarter.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has used the phrase “ assistance to the dairy-farmers “. Unless the word “ assistance “ has come to mean interference or control, there can be no suggestion that assistance is being given to people who are accepting one-half of the world parity price for their products. How on earth can what is being done now be regarded as giving assistance to the dairy-farmers? We are saying to them, “You shall take a certain price for your product”, and that price is decided by the State price fixing authori ties. In addition, we are paying to them a subsidy, the effect of which has been virtually to destroy their industry. Let us not go on with the farce of using the word “ assistance “ to describe payments that are being made to the dairy-farmer3 to persuade them to accept a price for their products lower than that to which they are entitled. The use of the word “ assistance “ in that context is most unfair. It is typical of the actions of one section of the community, to which we must not refer now, which uses all kinds of terms in order to cloud the real issues.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard talked about some farmers having asked for the 40-hour week to be made applicable to their industry. The fact that they are doing so does not mean that they believe in the 40-hour week. They have enough sense to know that when we abandoned the 44-hour week and instituted the 40-hour week we introduced into this country hours and conditions of work that would not enable us to get out of the difficulties with which we were faced. Those farmers who have asked that the 40-hour week be applied to their industry, have done so only because they realize that, while the 40-hour week is operating in other industries, it would be dangerous for them to continue on the basis of a 56-hour week because, if they did so, they would lose the services not only of their ordinary employees but also of their sons, who are the most precious people in the farming community. That is the reason why the farmers have said that they want their costs to be based upon a 40-hour week, but they know very well that by so doing they will increase the burden that the 40-hour week has already imposed upon the people of this country.
Let me deal now with the agricultural . position of this country. The last four years have been extremely wet, and years of fairly high production. It is probable that we are now reaching the end of the wet spell. During the last four years there has been, to use meteorological terms, a high level current of moist, hot, tropical air flowing over the eastern’ States of Australia. Under those conditions, when any change of temperature occurred suddenly, rain fell. Now we are entering a period of drought and of bush fires. In a very few months, we shall feel, the effects of the change of climatic conditions, not only because without rain there can be no primary production except in irrigation areas or on rich river flats, but also because during the last four years there has been a very heavy dram upon the plant food in the soil. Now we face a famine. In a time of peace, but also in a time when we are being told that we must gear our economy for war, we face a decrease of agricultural production, the effects of which may be very serious.
I am not concerned very much about whether the price of wheat is 5s. a bushel or the price of butter is 2s. per lb. “What I am concerned about is the need to achieve some kind of balance. If men in the electorate of the honorable member for Darling receive a lead bonus of up to £20 a week, and also may buy butter for 3s. per lb., the butter-producing industry must be made efficient. A sufficiency of the goods and equipment that farmers need, both for production and for their ordinary living requirements must be produced if rural production is to be increased. Nobody can gainsay that farmers and their employees are doing the best they possibly can with the tools that they have. But how on earth can farmers, particularly in the older farming areas, increase production if they cannot get the necessary equipment and fertilizers and provide the facilities and amenities that affect the availability of labour? They cannot improve their production without the requisite quantity of lime and phosphate. They also need good transport. Even now criticism is being levelled against people who are attempting to obtain for the farmers a fair price for their products. “We shall be in a very serious position unless a balance is restored between primary and secondary industries.
Everybody in this country, except perhaps a few Communists, wishes to see Great Britain prosperous once more. We are very concerned because Great Britain is in economic trouble. The British need our help but we shall not help Great Britain by allowing the present unbalance in our economy to continue.
Men are being attracted away from the land to work in secondary industries, although the real wealth of this country lies in our primary industries. Over a number of years, under successive governments, we have been deliberately allowing the industry that produces our raw materials and food to languish and: secondary industry to expand. That process will not aid Great Britain. Theattitude of British investors is an illustration of the fact that our primary industries are not getting a sufficient return from the sale of their products. British capital does not flow into the channels of food production because British entrepreneurs recognize that, as things stand now, there is no decent financial return to be had from investment in rural industry.. So they invest capital in newspapers or broadcasting stations in Australia.
It is quite clear that we are approach) ing a crisis not only in respect of weather prospects and shortage of essential production, but also on the question oi whether we shall be able to continue tff. feed our own people, help the people of Great Britain, and earn sufficient income from our primary exports to be able to buy the capital equipment and other goods that we need. It behoves the Parliament, the Government, and, everybody in Australia, to take heed of the conditions in our rural industries,, especially as they relate to the production of food. We are asking farmers to produce more. If honorable members were to go into the so-called rich areas of the Illawarra district which have been farmed for a century they would findthat, where there should be a rich spring growth after six good years, there is no such rich growth for the reason that the farmers have been unable to obtain the lime and superphosphate necessary for the enrichment of the soil. This disease of lack of materials and equipment is a cumulative and progressive disease. When one farmer succeeds in obtaining lime and improves his land with it the neighbouring farmers also seek lime-
– What is the Government doing about it?
– The conditions that I have described are a legacy that1 we have inherited from the previous Government. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to laugh. Everybody knows that the dairying industry, for instance, is a long-term industry. The mistakes and failures of the Labour Government four years ago are affecting us now. For instance, there is the matter of the price of butter to which some comment has been directed to-day. The return to the butter producer was ls. 74d. per lb. on the 3rd August, 1945, and the distinguished Commissioner of Prices, Professor Copland, refused to accede to a .soundly-based proposal for an increase of 4d. per lb. The price was allowed to remain at ls. 7-Jd. per lb for two years. The failure to increase the price then is having an effect to-day. Likewise, the failure to provide the necessary lime and other fertilizers, and heavy equipment for the wheat industry, is also having its effect. We have inherited a smashed-up road system. The attraction of labour, capital and material into secondary production in this country is having a serious effect on primary industry.
To-day an honorable member asked a question in the House regarding the establishment of a committee to investigate the plight of secondary industry, which is facing a tremendous inrush of overseas goods at low prices. People have been coming to this Parliament during the last few weeks to seek tariff protection for secondary industries from the competition of cheap Japanese goods. Yet we have diverted available materials from our secure primary industries to secondary industries that need protection from competition. Obviously, this is a policy of madness. But at least the Government has recognized the position and as a result there has been a substantial increase of the price of butter, an attempt, at least, to raise the return from wheat to the producer, to improve conditions generally on the producing side and to attract people back onto the land. However, I doubt whether we shall ever get many men who have left the land to go into factories, to return to the land unless there is a tremendously strong attraction for them to do so.
One of the main attractions must, of course, be adequate housing. Houses now being built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are being built in areas’ away from essential industries. It is the policy of the State housing authorities to build houses in areas where there is a good return. They are not building houses near the seat of the rural and other industries. In addition, we do not make it attractive for farmers to build houses for themselves, their families and their employees. We passed a vote of £27,000,000 only last week for housebuilding in the States, but, as I have said, the houses are being built in the wrong places. If they were built in the right places, near coal mines, steelworks and farms, people would live in them there and would take work in the nearby industries. The Government has a grip on the situation through its control of the finances and should do something about it. In my own electorate four young men left a farm one after another-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I address my remarks to the subject of unemployment and sickness benefits. During the budget debate honorable members on this side of the committee complained that those benefits had not been increased since 1948. I am not so much concerned about the unemployment benefit, because there is at present very little unemployment, and no able-bodied person willing to work need be without a job. I am concerned more about the unfortunate people who are out of work as a result of illness. I am sure that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) knows very well that thousands of unfortunate people in every State are receiving the sickness benefit. If I remember aright a married man receives sickness benefit of £1 5s. a week. I regard the Minister as being one of the most sympathetic Ministers that we have had for some time, and I am disappointed that he has not seen his way clear to impress on the Government the necessity to increase the rate of unemployment and sickness benefits.
The funeral benefit also has not been increased for a number of years. The cost of burials has increased by probably 100 per cent, since the funeral benefit was introduced by a Labour government. Many unfortunate people in my electorate; particularly pensioners, complain that the cost of funerals is so high that widows and widowers often have to obtain assistance from charities to enable them to pay for the funeral of their departed spouses. The Government should have increased the paltry amount of funeral benefit from its present level of £10 to £20 or £30 at least.
I turn now to widows’ pensions, which were introduced by a Labour government. I have always advocated that widows of all classes should receive the same amount of pension, because the majority of widows have to depend on their pensions for their livelihood. I regret that no provision has been made for the increases thatI have mentioned.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Immigration
Proposed vote, £1,029,000.
Department of Labour and National Service
Proposed vote, £1,681,000.
Department of National Development
Proposed vote, £1,076,000.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
Proposed vote, £2,810,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I realize that this country needs population, but it must be of the right kind. It can afford to admit only that additional quota that can be adequately assimilated into the community under present conditions. Unfortunately, because of the type of immigrant that has come to Australia, the number admitted has accentuated, rather than diminished, the inflationary spiral. I do not agree with certain professors of economics that immigration necessarily adds to inflation. If the immigrants admitted to this country are capable of engaging in the production of essential commodities their contribution will restrict the inflationary tendency. Unfortunately, there has not been a sufficient number of immigrants of that type. Therefore I consider that when immigrants are examined in their country of origin the examiners should make sure that those whom they pass will be able to engage in the production of goods that are in short supply, such as timber, bricks, other building materials, and food. I understand that the immigration authorities examine intending immigrants in regard to character and general suitability from a citizenship stand-point rather than the stand-point of the contribution that they are capable of making to the Australian economy. It is possible that the department may not be in a good position to supervise the entrance into this country of unassisted immigrants who do not have to comply with the conditions that are applicable to assisted immigrants.
There is a growing racket in Australia in connexion with immigration. People from the southern parts of Europe are particularly affected by it. Certain agencies or individuals in Australia introduce people into this country as unassisted immigrants. They pay the fares of these immigrants and provide them with whatever money they may require in order to comply with the immigration laws. Having got them here, these agencies or individuals insist upon securing their pound of flesh and this is not, like the pound of flesh that Sherlock had to take, secured without the shedding of blood. They take also as many drops of blood as they can by exploiting these immigrants. They employ them in competition with Australians and deduct a proportion of their pay to defray the amount that they advanced to bring them from abroad. Shelters are provided into which are crowded as many immigrants as possible and they are charged as much as possible for that accommodation. I understand that those who nominate these people for entry to Australia have to sign an agreement that they will provide them with shelter and employment. The shelter provided is inadequate and, by means of the employment that they provide, the nominators exploit these people to the utmost.
– Is the shelter not checked when the nomination is made?
– A cursory check may be made but the shelter provided is not adequate. Probably some kinds of shelter provided are more suitable than others. I consider that the subject of unassisted immigration deserves the earnest consideration of the department, because the people who come here under those clrsumstances are not necessarily so desirable as immigrants as are the people who come as assisted immigrants. I hope that the department will carefully scrutinize the nomination of pepole from overseas, particularly when it finds that the nominator is nominating, not individuals, but legions of immigrants.
.- The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) raised two points, one of which I consider has some substance. The other has none. The honorable member mentioned the effect of the immigration policy on inflation. It cannot be questioned that immigration does have some small effect on inflation. However, very large numbers of immigrants have been directed into basic industries and they have made a very great contribution to production. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is fully conversant with the great work that such people have done.
– I have a paternal interest in them.
– They are some of the honorable member’s better children. They have enabled great developments to be made in our basic industries in the production of such materials as cement, bricks and timber. It is quite certain that this country would be far worse off than it is if these immigrants had not come here. I think the honorable member has forgotten that the sources from which this flow of workers came have now dried up and that, as the vast majority of immigrants are coming here by agreement with various countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland, and Italy, the Government has no power to direct them to any particular employment.
It is true that immigrants are selected on the other side of the world largely in the various categories of trade in which we need to employ them. For instance, a Dutch rural worker is given preference over, say, an accountant. But it is not possible to select only the people whom we want most, because they are not available. We require a large number of single tradesmen and should like to bring them from the United Kingdom, but they are not available there. The honorable member suggested that single immigrants would relieve the strain on our resources. From some countries we are obtaining an appreciable number of single men, but 1 believe it to be generally desired that the majority of immigrants shall come from the United Kingdom. 1 understand that for every productive worker who comes to this country from the United Kingdom four unproductive members of a family arrive. In respect of German immigrants the proportion of those who are productive is much higher. For every working immigrant who comes from Germany only two unproductive persons arrive.
– What is the proportion of Nazis?
– I should say about onehundredth part of 1 per cent.
– Where did the honorable member meet him?
– It is true, as the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has stated, that the screening of immigrants from Germany is most thorough, and the immigrants obtained from that country were better, on the whole, than those who came from any other foreign country.
– What evidence has the honorable member to support that statement?
– I can give to the honorable member evidence that will support my remarks. I do not expect to convince him, but I can at least tell him the facts of the case, and if he does not want to accept them that is his own fault.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to S p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was undertaking the almost superhuman task of attempting to inform the mind of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) of the manner in which German immigrants arc screened. I recommend that he should read and understand, if possible, the excellent report that was referred to to-day by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt). That report was furnished by Mr. Huish to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
– Did the honorable member say “Huish” or “Jewish”?
– I said “Huish”, and perhaps my remarks are pertinent to any that have been made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) because he has already dealt with objections that were raised by some Jewish association as well as those raised by himself. Mr. Huish’s report is a most valuable document. In it he states, quite impartially because he has no party political affiliations, that the information at the disposal of the Australian and Allied screening authorities in Germany is ample and accurate. He says that that is because of the voluminous records that were kept by the German Nazi party itself. Any German who was associated with the Nazi party during the pre-war years and the war years has his name on a certain list. This list is available to the security officers of the Australian and Allied services. Consequently, if a person wishes to emigrate from Germany to Australia it is a simple matter for the security officers to ascertain whether his name is on that list. There is also a large number of other sources of information available to Australian and Allied security officers. One or two wolves in sheep’s clothing may have slipped through the security screen and entered Australia from Germany. Perhaps one or two wolves in sheep’s clothing have also slipped into this Parliament. I do not know whether the screen is so fine as to eliminate any danger of undesirable people entering Australia, but it is certainly not so wide that they may enter in the numbers indicated by the honorable member for Burke.
The honorable member spoke about the security aspects of our immigration policy. He mentioned immigrants who, without being associated with any government immigration scheme, entered the country. I presume that he was referring to those persons who are nominated by relatives in Australia.
– Those who are nominated by exploiters in Australia.
– I shall deal with that matter later. It is possible that the honorable member is not well acquainted with the security arrangements that operate in our Department of Immigration. No person who enters this country as a nominated person escapes the supervision and investigation of the security authorities. Every person who is nominated, other than those from the United Kingdom, no matter who the nominator is, can enter Australia only if he has a landing permit. That permit is issued only after his antecedents and the whole of the security aspects of his admission have been thoroughly investigated by the appropriate authorities. One or two undesirables may slip through, but this committee need have no fear that under the present system they are entering Australia in large numbers.
The honorable member referred to what he called a “ racket “ being carried on by certain nominators.
– The honorable member has correctly understood that part of my speech.
– I am glad that the honorable member approves of something that I have said. I suggest that he should produce his evidence of a nominator’s racket, if he has any. Nobody else, including the Department of Immigration and the Immigration Advisory Council - of which I have the honour to be chairman has heard anything about such a racket. If the honorable member has any evidence it is pertinent to ask him why he has not brought it to the notice of the proper authorities.
– I have not done so because I thought that the ‘ authorities were at least as vigilant as I am.
– I am sure that the honorable member is mistaken. One or two agencies have endeavoured to introduce unsuitable immigrants. They have tried to induce respectable nominators, presumably for a consideration, to nominate certain persons. I assure the honorable member that if a racket such as he mentioned did exist at one time it was certainly not very extensive and does not exist at all at the present time.
– There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in the honorable member’s philosophy.
– That may be, but I submit that my philosophy is more practical than is that of the honorable member. The honorable member spoke about the miserable “ shelter “ provided for immigrants. I prefer to use the word “ housing “. The honorable member contended that they were exploited in being offered unsatisfactory accommodation at high rents. Again T ask him to produce his evidence.
– There is an abundance of evidence.
– The conception of evidence which is held by the honorable member for East Sydney is far different from that held by other people. If the honorable member for Burke has evidence he should produce it; but there is no evidence of his allegations of which I am aware.
– The honorable member would be amazed if he were informed of it.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Burke would not be labouring under such a sense of amazement if he knew more about this subject. He has no right to make such accusations without knowing more about the matter. No nominator can bring his nominee to this country until the accommodation that he proposes to provide has been proved satisfactory by departmental inspection. I have known of people who had been nominated and had been refused a permit to enter because the accommodation arranged for them had been proved unsatisfactory. I assure the honorable member for Burke that his accusation in that regard is completely unfounded.
The honorable member also spoke about the exploitation of immigrants. They are exploited in one way, which is the same way in which our own Australian people are being exploited; that is, by the rapacious demands of tenants of buildings -who have accommodation to sub-let. That is a racket which should be stopped. How it is to be done I do not know, but perhaps it is a matter for the State authorities. I know of a man with a wife and two children, who pays £5 10s. a week for one room.
– And that happens under the administration of a Liberal government.
– It certainly does not. That man is living in a State that is controlled by a Labour government. As this matter concerns the States and their munipicalities, it would be desirable to have on the Immigration Advisory Council a representative of municipal organizations who would know more about such things and might be able to solve the problem. In the meantime I say to the honorable member for Burke that he is not very well acquainted with the real facts of this matter and that what he has said constitutes a series of rather wild exaggerations.
– I desire to make a few observations about our immigration policy, which in the light of developments in the last two or three years requires some review. The policy of feverishly attempting to build up a population at any price must be changed to one of sober investigation of population possibilities. , Since the war ended, between 500,000 and 600,000 people have entered Australia as immigrants. About one half of those are of British descent. The present annual intake is about 200,000, and together with our excess of births over deaths Australia is gaining population at the rate of approximately 250,000 a year. Whilst we might experience a sense of elation because of those figures, there are some disquieting features about our population which should be considered by this Parliament. At the present time the majority of the immigrants who come to Australia are helping to swell the population of our already overcrowded coastal cities. I realize that the immigration policy adopted by the Chifley Government after the last war was based primarily upon the necessity to increase our population for defence purposes. Whilst increased population is eminently desirable from a theoretical point of view, a number of other factors have since arisin which must be taken into our calculations.
For its defence Australia needs to disperse its present population and to decentralize its industries. Unfortunately that is not being done. Large numbers of immigrants congregate in or round our capital cities and add to the stress and strain that are so characteristic of metropolitan areas in these days. The influx of immigrants to Melbourne and Sydney is extending the prevailing pattern of industrialization and is tending more and more to make these cities danger spots of the future. The experience of other countries should convince us of the truth of that assertion. Because of the prevailing shortage of labour factories need far more employees than they have, and the Department of Immigration is endeavouring to help industry by providing recruits for the factories. From the standpoint of owners and managers of factories, and possibly from that of the public who are suffering because of shortages, that might appear to be a good positive policy. However, in the long run, it will certainly prove to be to the detriment of Australia. The Department of Immigration would be well advised to settle large groups of immigrants in farming communities rather than in the cities.
Much has been said in this chamber during recent weeks about the need to increase primary production and the daily press has devoted considerable space to articles on the subject. Unfortunately, we must admit that the future for primary production in Australia is very bleak; and it is generally realized that the position is continuing to deteriorate. In order to solve this problem, we must increase our rural population. However, the relevant statistics are somewhat alarming. Our rural population decreased from 37 per cent, in 1921 to 31 per cent, in 1947 and it has continued to decrease since the latter year. If we are to have any hope of producing sufficient foodstuffs to meet our own requirements and to have available a surplus for export Ave must adjust the rural population to that of the capital cities. Of course, it is easier to advocate that immigrants be diverted to primary industries than it is to devise means of doing so.
The two primary requisites of success in agricultural pursuits are training and inherited instinct. Any scheme that is designed merely to transfer city dwellers direct to a life on the land is doomed to failure. We must approach this problem on scientific lines. The number of immigrants now coming to this country is estimated at 200,000 annually, which reflects credit on those responsible for the recruitment of immigrants. The Government should implement specific plans to attract a greater proportion of immigrants who have had experience in rural industry. I know that it will be said that that is already being done. However, the results achieved up to date have not been satisfactory. The Government must intensify its efforts in this direction. In the past, Australians have solved graver problems, and I can see no reason why we should not be able to solve this problem. Our immigration authorities overseas must give more attention to the recruitment of a greater proportion of farm workers. Admittedly, such a policy would result in a decrease of the total number of immigrants entering this country during, say, the next five years, but in the long run it would be of greater benefit to Australia. We must also ensure that immigrants shall he permanently absorbed in essential industry. For instance, better results would be obtained if preference were given to immigrants who had had experience in rural industry than are likely to accrue from the acceptance of city dwellers and their allocation to agricultural pursuits. Naturally, persons will remain only temporarily in an industry to which they are not suited. The problem that arises from the great disparity between our urban and our rural populations presents a challenge to the Parliament and it should not be beyond the combined ingenuity of all parties to remedy the present position.
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has said on previous occasions that we must take advantage of the next twenty years as a breathing space in order to increase our population sufficiently to enable us to meet a possible challenge from Asian countries within the next two, or three, decades. We shall not achieve that objective merely by bringing hundreds of thousands of immigrants to this country and allowing them to concentrate in the larger cities. Under present conditions, it is not difficult to place immigrants in positions in secondary industries. “We must face the harder task of placing a far greater proportion of them in rural industries. It has been frequently said in this chamber that the present inflow of immigrants to this country is not reacting to the detriment of the native Australians because immigrants are making a substantial contribution to our industrial effort. I am now referring solely to assisted nonBritish immigrants who enter into contracts to engage in certain work for a period of two years. Unfortunately, such immigrants, immediately the period of their contract has elapsed, abandon the industry in which they have worked for that period. There are many reasons for that tendency, but possibly the principal one is that immigrants, naturally, will transfer to less arduous occupations. This tendency is so pronounced that it threatens to defeat the primary purpose of our immigration policy, which is to swell the labour force in essential industries and thereby help to check inflation. Unfortunately, many non-British immigrants, when their contracts expire, enter unproductive occupations, such as, middlemen’s jobs. The Government should endeavour to stem that undesirable trend. Otherwise, the real usefulness of immigrants to Australia will be limited to the work that they perform under their initial two-year contract.
The impact of immigration upon the housing problem cannot be disregarded. Whilst it is said that immigrant labour is making a substantial contribution to the production of building materials, the fact remains that after immigrants complete their two-year contract and engage in unessential production they compete with native Australians for the limited housing that is available. It is estimated that 90,000 new houses a year are required to meet the needs of our increasing population and of newly-married couples. That does not take into account the lag of 200,000 houses that resulted from the cessation of housing programmes during World War II. However, wo are now constructing only 60,000 new houses annually. Thus, we are going from bad to worse.
This aspect bears upon the establishment of friendly relations between the non-British immigrant and the native Australian, because the increasingly bitter competition for houses is having a bad affect upon the morale of the community. It is essential that a mutual bond of friendship be established between the native population and immigrants of all classes. I have noticed that three-quarters of the people who attend auction sales of houses in my electorate are non-British immigrants and that in the great majority of cases they manage to out-bid native Australians. In addition, numerous Australians have been forced to vacate houses which have subsequently been occupied by non-British immigrants. Something practical must be done to establish good relations between immigrants and native Australians. We shall not be able to continue to. bring anything like 200,000 immigrants annually to this country unless we can manage to provide adequate accommodation to meet the needs of the community as a whole. Therefore, the Government must either devise ways and means of building houses more rapidly than we are doing at present or reduce the present intake of immigrants.
– In many respects, supporters of the Government are in agreement with what the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has said about the necessity to increase rural production. That problem involves not merely the settlement of more people on the land but also obtaining efficient production from those who are already on the land. I am pleased to note that the sum proposed to be allocated in respect of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been increased to £3,100,000, compared with an actual expenditure of £2.700,000 under that heading last year. However, in view of the valuable work that that organization is doing, particularly in respect of pasture and crop improvement, I wonder whether the proposed allocation will be adequate.
In the time available to me I shall not have an opportunity to speak about more than one aspect of this matter. It may well be that the most important work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research
Organization in respect of primary industry relates to pasture improvement and the remedying of mineral deficiencies in the soil. I wish to speak particularly about feed grain crops. Australia, as an agricultural nation, is particularly lacking in that respect. It may not be generally known that whereas in this country the corn crop is only onethirtieth of the wheat crop, the whole of the agricultural economy of the United States of America is founded on the corn crop, the volume of which is three times that of the wheat crop. The quantity of corn that is harvested in the United States of America is from 3,000,000,000 to 3,500,000,000 bushels a year, compared with 1,000,000,000 bushels of wheat. I admit that physical conditions in the United States of America differ in many respects from those in Australia. In the United States of America there are large areas of very fertile flat land with not only a reasonable but also an assured and well-distributed rainfall. That fact is of particular importance in the production of corn because if the humidity is nol sufficient at tasseling time satisfactory pollination will not result. However, in spite of our considerable difficulties, there seems to be room for increasing our corn crop. The area under corn in Australia has decreased from 400,000 acres in 1937-38 to 200,000 acres to-day. I emphasize that the United States of America has revolutionized its industry during the last ten, or twelve, years by the introduction on a large scale of hybrid corn, which is formed by breeding out very pure strains by self-fertilization and crossing them in accordance with a predetermined plan. That is only a fairly recent development in the United States of America. I find, for example, that in 1939, only 20 per cent, of the acreage under corn in that country was put to hybrid corn. The corresponding figure to-day is approximately 95 per cent. Almost a complete revolution has occurred in that respect in a period of twelve years. But a similar development is not evident in Australia. Certain departments of agriculture, particularly those of Queensland and New South Wales, have taken some steps to introduce hybrid corn, which have not been very successful to date, although it may be said that the area put to hybrid corn, as a percentage of the total area under corn, is continuing to increase. It is hoped that 25 per cent, of the total acreage under corn in Queensland this year will be put to hybrid corn. In New South Wales, the percentage is probably lower. Although I must pay tribute to the work that has been done by State Departments of Agriculture in that matter, I had hoped that it would produce results more quickly than has been the case.
The advantages of hybrid corn are threefold, and are most important. First, the crop is increased by approximately 25 per cent. Secondly, owing to the uniformity of maturity of the grain, it becomes possible to introduce methods of mechanical harvesting that are not so easily applicable to the ordinary crosspollinated corn. The introduction of cornharvesting machinery, the use of which iii now almost general in the United States of America, is made possible by that hybridization process. Yet there is virtually no corn-harvesting machinery in Australia. Of course, there is some, but only a little. The third advantage is that, by means of the corn-breeding programme, it is possible to grow grains that are suitable for various localities and climates. The breeding of specific strains of corn has lagged - unaccountably perhaps - for many years in the world. It was not until fifteen or twenty years ago that the breeding of selected strains of corn was seriously and scientifically taken in hand in the United States of America. We in Australia were fortunate in having Farrer, who did with wheat what should also have been done with corn. He produced strains of wheat that were suitable to certain climates. I believe that something of that kind can be done over a number of years with the corn crop. Because of differences of soil, climate and configuration, Ave cannot hope to rival the United States of America, but it may well be that corn will provide the cheap feed grain that we need to sustain our poultry and pig-raising industries.
Corn is not the only grain. It is cheering to know that since the beginning of World War II., the area under sorghum in Australia has increased from the negligible figure of 6,000 or 7,000 acres to 200,000 acres. Such a development, I believe, may well be of great benefit, because sorghum is more resistant to drought, and more suitable to Australian conditions, than is corn. Those two grains may give to Australia the cheap feed that is required by the poultry industry and the pig-raising industry. The development of both those grains has been retarded since the beginning of World War II., because wheat has been available to stock-feeders at approximately one-half or one-quarter of the world price. Because of that, we have used the cheap wheat, and have not bothered to grow substitute cheap grains on which we could rely. I am glad that a change will be made in that regard, but I hope that it will not be made too drastically. It will be of no use simply to raise the price of wheat if wheat is not available, or if we do not attempt to grow alternative grains and fodder crops.
– Order! The vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has already been agreed to. The honorable gentleman must relate his remarks to the research side of the grain industry.
– I am dealing with matters to which our research should be directed. Research has been retarded by artificial interference with the relative prices of grains, which should be related primarily to the price of wheat. In the United States of America the price of wheat is generally, though not universally, found by adding 50 per cent, to the price of corn. Are honorable members aware that corn constitutes a most important factor in the agricultural economy of the United States of America? It is a vital item of diet in the pig-raising and allied stock-raising industries. I believe that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should have the full support of this Parliament, and that if it requires additional funds for the advancement of its fully remunerative activities, we should not be reluctant to provide them. Research of that kind is Australia-wide. Our principal species of grains know no artificial State boundaries. I believe that scope exists for decentralization, and that the work of the State Departments of Agriculture must receive full recognition, but I also consider that, on the Australia-wide basis, no better use of our money could be made than its investment in an organization such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which can assist to increase primary production in accordance with the wishes of honorable members on both sides of the chamber.
.- For many years, I represented in the Parliament of Queensland an electorate in which the number of British people was much larger in relation to the population than it was in any other part of Australia. Those people were good settlers, and became an asset, not only to Queensland, but also to Australia as i whole. The British immigrants who came to Australia years ago were landed indiscriminately at any port, and were obliged to accept work at the wages thatwere offered to them by employers. They had none of the amenities that are provided for immigrants at the present time. When I make that statement, I do not imply that immigrants who come to Australia now should live and work under the same conditions as existed in earlier days, but I say, with all due respect to Mr. Speaker, that the development of a nation is like the breeding of a thoroughbred horse. Upon the British population that settled in Queensland were superimposed people from the Mediterranean countries, principally Italians. I believe that the proper balance between the (northern European and the southern European peoples who live in Queensland, must be preserved. An infusion of British blood, or northern European blood, is now required in order that the Australian nation, which we wish to see, may develop.
Reference is made from time to time in this chamber to the need to “ open up “ the country. Thousands of square miles of country in Queensland and Western Australia is virtually unpopulated. It should be our objective to establish small communities in that vast area, and that may be achieved in giving effect to a plan that I have in mind. Engineers and Australian bushmen, who thoroughly understand the country, could take groups of land-minded immigrants into that undeveloped country. Temporary camps consisting of log cabins with bark roofs, which would provide secure shelter, could be established at various places. The surrounding areas could then be surveyed, and the various uses to which the land could be put could be classified. Upon the completion of that work, the immigrants could be told, “ You may take up areas of this land free of cost for five years. Later, you may acquire it upon terms that will encourage you to settle here.” The immigrants could be supplied with the necessary tools and other equipment, and could be offered the opportunity to earn some money by building roads of access from more populous areas to the new settlements. If such a plan were put into operation, large areas in northern Queensland, which are now virtually unpopulated, or held by big cattle interests, could be used for various profitable purposes. Not thousands, but millions of people could be settled in that area. A similar policy could be adopted in Western Australia, the area of which is approximately equal to that of Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales combined, and its soil also is similar to that on the eastern seaboard.
Some persons erroneously refer to Australia as a drought-stricken country. Our rainfall is ample, but that water must be conserved. With adequate water conservation and irrigation projects, large areas that are now subject to drought conditions from time to time may be made permanently productive. The scheme that I have outlined should be associated with our immigration policy. I regard such a plan of settlement as an important way in which to develop the country and increase the population., If it were put into operation, Australia would have a population of 20,000.000 people in a much shorter time than is predicted by the experts. Prior to the outbreak of World War I., immigrants were streaming from Great Britain to Australia, and employers awaited them on the wharfs. Had World War I. not occurred, Australia would now have a population of 20,000,000. Unfortunately, hostilities broke out, and many of those young Englishmen enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, or returned to Great Britain with the object of joining the British forces.
Australia has everything that men require. It needs only the application of the labour of man in order to become one of the greatest nations in the world. The present system of directing immigrants mainly to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane is entirely wrong; it is providing us with more waiters than farmers. There are tens of thousands of men and women in all parts of Great Britain and Europe who want to come to Australia and settle on the land. They are land-minded and they know that, when they are established on the land, their livelihood is secure. They cannot obtain land in their own countries and they are prepared to suffer hardship in order to become established on the land in Australia. I know many Italian families in Queensland that have borrowed so largely in order to buy land that they will not be able to pay off their debts in less than three generations because they know the real value of land and they look forward to the time when the properties that they have purchased from loans will be owned by their descendants.
North America’s agricultural regions were developed originally by men and women of British stock. Eventually, those families sold their land for about £3 an acre to Europeans who could not buy land in their own countries but who realized what was the true value of land. The British people transferred to industry, and the descendants of European immigrants now supply the metropolitan markets of the United States with their primary products. We have vast areas of land in Australia on which Europeans could settle, and our immigration scheme would be really worthwhile if, as I have suggested, immigrants were first allowed to work on the land and later were given the opportunity to settle permanently.
Another criticism of our immigration plan recalls the racehorse analogy that I mentioned earlier. At least two shiploads of immigrants were of such a low standard that only after generations of breeding could the country benefit substantially from their importation. Those people were of a low standard through no fault of their own. They had lived under conditions of semi-starvation and social oppression that had prevented them from raising themselves much above the level of animals. Even Turkey would not accept them as immigrants, but som-.i bright lad decided to send them to Australia. We know that individuals can be degraded to a very low standard when they are not properly fed and clothed and are deprived of their natural liberties. However, we should ensure in future that immigrants shall conform to reasonable standards so that their children of the first generation at any rate can become good Australians. Many of the younger members of the large population of Italian origin in northern Queensland served in our armed forces during World War II. and new occupy important positions in the professional and business community. Those who were born in Australia are first-class Australians.
It is laughable to hear talk of making good. Australians of new Australians. The English, Irish and Scots who came to Australia in the early days remained English, Irish, and Scots until they died if they were over 25 years of age when they arrived. But their children became good Australians. We shall reap the full benefit of our immigration scheme only when the first generation of children is reared in Australia. This subject is of great significance. Although the present flow o: immigrants is fairly satisfactory, it should he increased, and greater efforts should be made to establish new arrivals on the land. We shall merely encourage the development of national groups in our cities if we continue with the present system, and eventually there will be distinct national settlements in which undesirable organization^ of the kind that have been formed in New York and other American cities will flourish. The idea of providing homes for new Australians is commendable, but we must not lose sight of the fact that thousands of Australians, including ex-servicemen who have fought for their country, are unable to get homes at present. They live in single rooms and half houses, or share accommodation with relatives. They deserve consideration in preference to immigrants. Every honorable member must know of Australian families who are living unhappily under the most difficult conditions. They should definitely have preference over new Australians for such amenities as houses.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) dealt at length with the important subject of immigration, but 1 had difficulty in discerning the purpose of his remarks. He seemed to be uttering some sort of mild but general condemnation of immigrants of the types that have been attracted to Australia. Nobody is likely to attempt to deny that mistakes have been made and that some immigrants of an undesirable type have been brought to Australia, or that it is of the utmost importance that we should try to bring men and women of the best available types for the various classes of work that they will be required to perform. However, I point out to the honorable member for Leichhardt that responsibility in this matter rests with State governments as well as with this Government. There should be full cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth in order that we may obtain the best results from the immigration scheme. The States should submit their requirements for the information of the Commonwealth authorities. I know from discussions that I have had with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) regarding the supply of labour for the sugar industry that he is willing to listen to the views of State governments and other interested bodies and to do all that he can do to satisfy them. We should take care not to make this matter merely a party political issue because that would be the surest way to ensure partial or even complete failure of the immigration project.
My main purpose in speaking at this stage is to deal with the equally important subject of national development. The significance of this subject has changed considerably during the last two or three years. Various factors that applied a few years ago still apply under present conditions, but another major factor must now be taken into consideration. The scarcity of materials and the shortage of man-power still have an important bearing on any plan that is devised for the purposes of national development. Increased primary production also remains an essential factor. But the defence factor has assumed greater significance than it had previously and it must be taken into account at all times. The two prime considerations in relation to plans for national development now are, first, that any scheme must have a definite and valuable defence significance, and, secondly, that it must be of such a nature as to promote the most rapid development of production that is possible from the expenditure that is incurred. With that situation as a background, I propose to press the claim that greater attention should be paid to the potentialities and requirements of central and northern Queensland. I realize that, for a long time past, it has been popular to declare that the potentialities of Queensland are greater than those of any other State and that something must be done about them. Many Queenslanders are becoming tired of hearing such statements because, up to date, they have been productive of little result. Honorable members opposite who may be moved to applaud my comment at this stage might be well advised to forbear, because I intend to point out later the various quarters where blame for this neglect should be placed.
Two main proposals in relation to the development of central and northern Queensland should be given particular attention. Both of them have been discussed previously in this chamber, but I shall mention them once more because that is the only way in which we can hope to stir the authorities to take action. The first of these is a proposal that was made some time ago by a committee representative of Queensland members of this Parliament. It relates to the urgent need for the construction of an allweather road along the Queensland coast. I believe that that work would conform with the two requirements that I have specified. First, it would have defence significance and, secondly, it would help in the development of primary production.
Let us try to assess its defence -value in the light of the experience that we gained in north Queensland during the last ‘ war. The traffic that supplied the requirements of our armed forces that were then stationed in north Queensland assumed enormous proportions. It is most likely that that state of affairs would occur again if Australia were called upon to defend itself in another war. As I see the position, it would be necessary in that event to undertake that defence outside Australia. North Queensland would again be a jumping-off point and a forward base not only for our own forces but also for those of our Allies. It is reasonable to assume that again we should need reliable lines of communication with the southern areas, from which our supplies would be drawn. I believe it would be much more important to have thoroughly sound and reliable lines of communication by land then than it was during the last war, because we know that our potential allies have made a point of developing their submarine forces and that, if another war occurred, shipping along our coasts would suffer much more grievously than it did during the last war. Our forces in north Queensland during that war depended for their supplies upon a narrow gauge railway, which did an amazingly good job but was always in danger of breaking down completely. If we visualize similar conditions obtaining in another war and fail to profit from our experience by neglecting to provide a system of transportation alternative to and safer than that which exists already, we shall have fallen down upon our job. The construction of this road, which would have a great defence significance, is not a task that should be left to the Queensland Government. It is a national task, in which the State and Federal authorities should co-operate.
The road would also be of great value from the stand-point of the development of production in the north of Australia. Many parts of the existing road are impassable at certain times of the year. If there is to be any significant development of production in north Queensland, an alternative to the present railway is essential. Already the delays in the handling of normal traffic by that railway are such that goods despatched from
Brisbane take- weeks to reach, their destinations in north Queensland. The defence road would fulfill the second requirement of any developmental proposal in’ that it would assist immediately in the development of primary production.
The. second project that I believe should be given such attention as will take it out of the realm of talk and party political sparring into the realm of actuality is that for the development of the latent coal resources of central Queensland. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has often stressed the need for positive action to develop those resources. In the electorates of Capricornia and Dawson, and extending into the electorate of Kennedy, there is a vast belt of coal. Much of the coal lies very close to the surface and is capable of being, extracted by open-cut methods. The names Callide and Blair Athol are well known, but there are many other proved coal deposits which, if they were developed properly on national lines, would obviate the necessity to import foreign coal and to pay subsidies in respect of it. A certain amount of exploratory drilling work has already been done in central Queensland by the State, assisted by the federal authorities, but a great deal of work remains to be done. I believe that that work should be proceeded with immediately. For too long have we been talking and achieving nothing. In the Nebo area near Mackay there is a belt of coal, which has already been proved to the extent of at least 50,000,000 tons. The coal is of good quality and is capable of being worked by open-cut methods. The overburden is approximately eight to one. The belt could be served by a railway line of less than 50 miles in length, running over easy gradients, and connected with the existing railway system in the Mackay district.
These are proposals which, need immediate investigation. Before they can be implemented, two requirements must be satisfied. The first is the completion of a thorough investigation by the State authorities, assisted, if necessary, by the Department of National Development, which has funds available for expenditure upon exploratory drilling. The second requirement is the submission of definte proposals by the State government to the Commonwealth and a request for financial assistance. No one contends that projects of this kind can be carried to completion by a State government. If those requirements were satisfied, the ground would be prepared for the proper co-operation between State and Federal authorities which is essential for the success of any developmental proposal.
There has been too much sparring for political advantage in the discussion of these proposals and, as a result, no proposal has been brought to fruition. The Burdekin Valley development scheme is an outstanding example of how developmental work can be held up by sparring for political advantage. We must attempt to ensure that that shall not happen in relation to these proposals. I understand that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is conferring with the Queensland authorities, is ascertaining the results of their investigations and has stated that he is prepared to co-operate with the State authorities in the development of the coal resources to which I have referred, which the honorable senator has seen and which have impressed him considerably.
I conclude by inviting a careful study of the suggestions that I have made. In the brief time at my disposal, I have barely scratched the surface of the possibilities. The point that I want to make is that there must be co-operation between State and Federal authorities, and that there must be an end of political sparring, which can result only in further delays that we cannot afford.
.- I want to say a few words about the Government’s non-existent policy of national development. After the present Government parties had been elected to office in 1949 with, so to speak, a flourish of trumpets, we were told in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that there would be a vigorous policy of national development and that a Ministry of National Development would be established. A Minister was appointed and placed in charge of the new department. Subsequently, be was transferred to another position, and nowadays spends most of his time overseas. The Government’s national development policy has been quietly shelved, or has vanished into thin air.
According to the Estimates, the only activities of a national character in which the Commonwealth is now interested are those of the Joint Coal Board, the Snowy Mountains Authority and the Glen Davis project - which has been scrapped. Doubtless the other two bodies are under suspended sentence. The Government has no policy of national development in relation either to governmental activities or to activities by private enterprise. We know that, through the Loan Council, it is curtailing the developmental schemes of the States, but it doe3 not appear to have any plans for national developmental work by private enterprise, although it is pledged to encourage and sponsor such enterprise. To-day I referred to a proposal by an American businessman to establish a new 1,000,000 dollar industry in this country. He had his own capital, and would have imported his own equipment in order to establish in this country an industy for the manufacture of containers for various commodities. We have felt the lack of such an industry very much in the past, especially in connexion with our export trade, because bad packing has resulted in some of our exports not being accepted by other countries. This American businessman is about to pack up and leave Australia because of the treatment that has been meted out to him. Ho said in a press interview a few days ago -
I toll you. it’s not only mad. It’s bad business. T buy all the stuff with my own dollars in America, bring it here, convert it into a saleable commodity, and the Australian pounds I earn stay in this country to bc reinvested. From Australia’s point of view, that’s a profitable deal. But I guess your Government doesn’t look at it that way. I can’t start a business, and my dollars go back to the U.S.”.
According to a press article, he has wide business interests, “ including a railway system, a chain of trading banks, a large number of luxury hotels, real estate, cattle raising properties, afforestation and paper board manufacturing “. He is representative of the kind of person who is prepared to come into this country if he receives some encouragement to do so. One would think that this Government, having regard to its much-vaunted policy of encouraging private enterprise and opening up and developing this country, would, if it had any policy at all, encourage people of that type to come here. He may be a keen businessman and an entrepreneur, but there is room for people of all types in this country. If they attempt to exploit the country unduly, there are ways and means of curbing their activities. What we require for the development of this country is capital, especially from dollar areas, and people with initiative, energy and enterprise.
The Government’s treatment of this American businessman was referred to in the leading article of a newspaper that supported the Government during the recent general election campaign. Apparently it has altered its views now, because of the Government’s record. The leading article in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph of the 4th November stated -
How free, really, is this Australia which, under a Federal Liberal Government, presents to the world a front of free enterprise?
A forthright American visitor tells you, in an article on this page, that it is a disappointingly false front.
He tells you that behind the facade there are barriers of red tape which discourage overseas investment here, even dollar investment!
The American came here prepared to invest £A. 500.000 (around one million dollars) in an industrial enterprise for which he would obtain raw materials from the U.S. with other dollars of his own.
Now, as soon as he disentangles himself from the red tape which tripped him at every inquiry desk, he is turning his back on Australia and leaving in quest of a freer and more commonsense land which places fewer obstacles in the way of business. Briefly, he is leaving in disgust because the powers that be refuse him a licence to import his requirements from the U.S. even thou aft they would be paid for with dollars from his own account over there.
The authorities refuse to distinguish between the ca.se of this man. with his OWN dollar pool, and others whose activities, if sanctioned, would oat into the precious Australian national dollar pool.
They even refuse, under penalty of a fi. 000 bond, to permit him to sell here his American car bought with his own dollars.
He must they say, take it away (perhaps to South America, where the U.S. industrialist hopes to find more practical appreciation of dollar investment).
It is evident that in relation to national development, whether by governmental or private enterprise, this Government is completely barren. It seems to me that there is something rather weird and screwy about the whole situation. I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) about the matter to-day and he did not have the slightest knowledge of it. Some responsible Minister should intervene and the Government should acquaint itself with what is apparently being done in its name.
I turn now to the subject of immigration. I commend the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) for his remarks on the matter. I agree entirely with his contention that there is too much concentration of immigrants in our already overcrowded cities. Mostly those immigrants have been displaced persons from Europe and the way has been made easy for them in their new country. Everything possible has been done for them. Their passages to this country were arranged, hostels were provided for them, jobs were found for them and their meals were provided. That is a great contrast to the efforts that the pioneers of this nation had to make. In contrast to the advantageous positions enjoyed by immigrants from foreign countries, British immigrants have to make their own arrangements to come to this country. Not only have they to arrange their own passages but they also have to arrange for accommodation for themselves. Before they come to this country some of them have to contact Australians who, in many instances, are complete strangers to them, in order to arrange passages and accommodation. Such an arrangement does not work very satisfactorily in practice. British immigrants often have to scrounge round for accommodation after they have arrived here, and also have to find employment for themselves.
The concentration of immigrants in our capital cities is leading to increased competition by immigrants with the existing population for housing and other facilities. It is time there was some re-orientation of our immigration policy. I realize that this country must increase its population so as to enable it to develop itself and be capable of defending itself in the future, but I submit that the decentralization policy which is avowed by all major political parties should be put into practical operation. We now have a golden opportunity to do so in combination with our immigration programme. New cities and ports could be established at places like Jervis Bay, Twofold Bay, Port Stephens, and in the far north of Queensland. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) has reminded us that the well-known Queensland economist, Mr. Colin Clark, has stated that we could place a population of 5,000,000 in the far north of Queensland alone. Surely it is to such areas that immigrants should be* sent, to open up the country as the early pioneers did. They should not be placed in big centres of population which are already overcrowded and where they compete with the existing population for accommodation and services. They could be housed for the time being in hutments or tents. Our own railway workers at the present time have to live in tents near their work. The pioneers of this country were not spoonfed as many immigrants are. Immigrants should be prepared to blaze their way into the hush. They are in a happier position to carry out such a task than the pioneers were. It is only by following such a policy that we shall be able to co-ordinate our development schemes and our immigration programme.
Professor Marcus Oliphant pointed out only a few days ago that Australia would be expendable in a future war. We may be left out on a limb, as we nearly were during the last war. Honorable members will recall the remarks of Mr. Winston Churchill at one stage of the war when he said that Australia might be lost, but ultimately would be recovered. The prospect of Australia being recovered after years of foreign domination would have given little satisfaction to the population of this country. During the next war we must be prepared to stand self.reliantly on our own feet. We must develop into a self-supporting nation with a population sufficiently numerous to defend itself.
– I do not wish to take up much time in a very limited debate, but I consider that the committee is entitled, in view of the speeches that have been made, to hear something from the Department of Immigration and from the Minister who, according to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), is temporarily in charge of it. First, I should like to express to all sections of the committee my appreciation, which I am sure is shared by the Government, and by the loyal and enthusiastic body of men in the Department of Immigration who have been engaged for years under one government or another on this tremendously important job of nation building, of the co-operative and constructive approach that has been made by honorable members on both sides of the chamber to this matter. One happy circumstance for Australia has been that this national policy of immigration has been treated throughout as being above the level of party politics. It has been accorded a national approach by public men inside and outside of the Parliament. I should like to think that the kind of advisory conferences that was established by my predecessor, the honorable member for Melbourne, and has been continued by me, represents a pattern of co-operative endeavour in Australia that will be repeated in other fields where national policies are concerned and where our interests as Australians should rise above any petty differences that might separate us on political grounds.
My predecessor launched a programme the true worth of which in relation to the development of this country will, I consider, be capable of assessment only by those who come after us. It is rarely recognized in Australia that we have embarked on what has proved to be the greatest, most imaginative and most practical peace-time programme that Australia has ever attempted. I should like to remind the committee that in the years that have passed since the end of the war several important things have happened. In the first place, immediately after the war ended, we did not gain from immigration. On the contrary, we actually lost population. It is not generally realized that in 1945-46 more people left Australia permanently than came to settle here permanently. It was at that time that the government of the day seized the opportunity to attract people to Australia from Britain, which has always enjoyed our first priority for immigrants, and from European countries, in order to give to us the population that we needed for our development and defence. We could not look to our own natural increase for that result, because our relatively low birthrate in previous years had added very little to our working force. We had a tremendous programme of development ahead of us and we also had very vivid recollections of the Asian challenge to our security that we had faced during the war. Members of all political parties and thoughtful public men and women throughout Australia recognize the need for a practical programme of immigration which will add to the increase of population that we derive from our own resources. I am proud to be able to report that, as a result of our joint efforts, irrespective of party and of individual interests, we have added more than 500,000 people from overseas to our population since the end of the war, with so little friction and embarrassment. Let us ignore any small blemishes and minor pin-pricks that may accompany the working of our immigration programme. Such things occur in relation to any scheme of this magnitude. Let us, instead, pause at least once a year, on an occasion such as this when we examine the scape of the work of the Department of Immigration, and rejoice as fellow Australians in the job that we have been able to do in concert. Trade union leaders, employers, governments of all States, parties of all political beliefs, and the people as a whole have joined in assisting in this task of good neighbourliness, assimilation and fellowship. It makes my heart expand with pride as, day by day, I see the evidences of how this scheme is working and of what a constructive job is being done. I believe it to be proper to make that statement at this time, because not often do we pause in our onward rush to examine just where we have reached in a scheme of this magnitude.
Some honorable members who have spoken to-night have raised questions that should be answered. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), for example, raised the question of the effect of the contract system which applies to immigrants from foreign countries. Whatever criticisms may have been justly levelled in the past at a system which tied foreign immigrants down for two years to jobs to which they had been directed by the Government, it is obvious now, on looking at the results, that nobody could doubt that the system has proved a success. It has operated during a time when immigrants did not know their way about the country, and literally did not know in what parts of Australia they wanted to live. Under the system immigrants have enjoyed the security of full employment at Australian wages and conditions, and have had an opportunity to study the climate and conditions in various parts of Australia. At the end of their contractual terms they have been free to move into whatever occupation or part of Australia they might choose.
In view of the remarks of some honorable members, and the questions that others have raised, it is interesting to know that about 50 per cent, of the immigrants who have completed their two-year contract have stayed on in the jobs to which they had been directed by the Government. That fact has been of great assistance to us. I regard the percentage as a very high one, particularly in relation to displaced persons, many of whom were directed to employment that was at first uncongenial to them and to which they were not accustomed. We believe that, under our revised scheme for the future, a higher percentage of immigrants will remain in the occupations to which they have been directed, because, whereas in the past we took the material that came to us and placed it to the best advantage possible, henceforth we shall select men who are engaged in particular industries in their own countries to come here to work in similar occupations in this country. If such workers enter into a two-year engagement here, under the revised scheme, we may rightly assume that a very much bigger proportion of immigrants will remain in the occupations for which they were chosen.
The honorable member for Batman raised another very important point in relation to the need to place immigrant labour in rural areas. I am sure that we all agree with his statement that we do not want our immigration programme to add to the concentration of population in our capital cities. On the contrary, anybody who has examined what has happened to our rural industries in recent years will be impressed with the urgency of getting a movement of labour back to the land, not only from among our own population by means of proper inducements, but also from among the tens of thousands of immigrants who will be coming to this country. I need cite only one illustration to support my contention. At present, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, the total number of people engaged in rural occupations is about 420,000, or 40,000 persons fewer than the number that was so engaged when our population was 1,500,000 less than it is to-day. In other words, when Australia’s population was 1,500,000 less than it is to-day we had 40,000 more people on the land. We cannot go on in that way indefinitely. The existence of the problem is recognized by the Government, which has been working actively on it, and I hope to be able to demonstrate in the years ahead that by placement and inducement we shall succeed in having a greater proportion of immigrants go on the land. The Government recognizes the need for that to take place and has succeeded in relieving the position in certain places. Much timber is being felled by immigrant labour, and seasonal crops such as sugar and dried fruits have been harvested by immigrants. This has been done in the Shepparton district as well as in other parts of the Commonwealth where immigrant labour has been used for harvesting and canning purposes. It has also been used in the production of items such as superphosphate, agricultural implements, coal, iron and steel, all of which are absolutely basic to many rural needs. The Government has placed the labour where it has been needed and has built houses there.
I mentioned that the Government had not approached this task on a purely party political basis. It has avoided that approach as the previous Government avoided it. I wish to record the appreciation of this Government of the work done by very influential and representative advisory bodies such as the Immigration Planning Council, of which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) is chairman, and of which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was chairman under the previous Government. The Immigration Planning Council has done extremely valuable work for Australia. All sections of the community which the Government considered could make a real contribution to the solution of the problems in hand have been represented on these bodies. They include representatives of the unions, employers’ organizations, welfare bodies and organizations of ex-servicemen. The Government has continued the procedure inaugurated by the former Minister for Immigration of holding a citizenship convention in Canberra at which is considered what has been done during the year and the problems ahead. Those who attend such conventions leave them with a revived enthusiasm for good neighbourliness and the successful assimilation of immigrants.
I believe the honorable member for leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) mentioned results in northern Queensland. All honorable members would be well repaid if they were to study those results because in them may be seen the effects, not of the immediate immigration programme, which is a little too close to be fully valued, but of the intermingling of British people with those of other European countries over the years. I have been in those areas and if any one has any doubt as to our capacity successfully to blend the British people with the people of other European countries, he should go to northern Queensland where he will see second and third generation Australians of Italian descent who are virtually indistinguishable from people of British stock, playing a major role in civic and national affairs. Nowhere in Australia can be found a greater feeling of good fellowship and neighbourliness than in north Queensland. I was tremendously heartened by that experience and I believe that this state of affairs can exist throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
The problem of defence was also raised. No one imagines that Australia will be able so to increase its population in a few years that it could, by using its own resources, meet any challenge which might come during the next generation or so. But we might add very materially to our capacity to defend ourselves. An attacking force needs to have about three times the strength of the defenders. Australia is an island continent and those who would attack us must come by sea or air, and they would need very powerful industrial resources to do that in strength. Consequently, to the degree to which we develop our own potential to defend ourselves we make the task of any potential aggressor proportionately harder. However, if we in Australia are to remain secure we shall need friends who will be prepared to rally to us as we shall be prepared to rally to them should they be challenged. We shall need friends who have the same democratic ideals as we hold. I mention, as an illustration, the United States of America. But it should never be forgotten that despite our encouragement of immigration we maintain a restrictive policy. If as. a result of that policy resentment develops to such a degree in one or more countries of Asia that they decide to challenge it by force of arms and we in our peril look to friends such as the United States of America, do honorable members consider that we should receive very much sympathy from them if, over the years, we had exhibited laziness, selfishness, and a refusal to increase our population by our own efforts ?
Since 1810, when the United States of America had a population less than our own, it has increased its population by its own efforts to one of 150,000,000. The Civil War left the United States of America devastated and virtually bankrupt, with a population of 30.000,000, but it added more than 30,000,000 to its population during the next 50 years by immigration alone. If the United States of America is capable of these feats so also is Australia. We may not think that we can develop on that scale but we should be less than I believe we are if we were to acknowledge that we are incapable of developing and defending this country from our own resources. We have a moral obligation to other countries of the world and a national obligation to ourselves to develop this country while we have the opportunity to do so. We cannot expect this opportunity to la3t for ever. Other countries want to re-build their devastated areas and they will not willingly allow their citizens to emigrate to other parts of the world as the years go by., Australia is experiencing a time of expanding development, and there are more jobs than men to fill them. Its present constructional need is unparalleled in its history. These are the years of opportunity to build up Australia - to increase the population and make our country great - and we should have no answer to make to posterity if we refused to grasp that opportunity. I am happy to think that we are doing a job of which posterity will be proud, by the co-operative endeavours which ail members of this Parliament and all sections of the community are making in this great work of nation building.
.- Nothing that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has said has changed my opinion that the present policy of the Government is runious. The Opposition does not believe that a wall should be built around this country in order that nobody may be admitted to it, but it must be recognized that the Government has not tackled the problem of immigration in a planned way. It has merely set out to obtain numbers, regardless of quality, and regardless of the consequence to our economy. The Minister for Immigration has said that this subject should be approached on a national, not a party basis. Unfortunately, the Minister has tried to convey the impression that there has been no dissatisfaction with the present policy of the Government. I can tell him that there has been, despite reports that he may have received from interested officers of his department averring that the screening of immigrants is satisfactory. The Minister said that the screening was more satisfactory in Germany than elsewhere. If that be so, I hate to think what it has been like in other parts of the world. One of the officers engaged in the screening of immigrants in Germany has communicated with me. He has told me that he has heard other members of the so-called “ screening staff “ boast that they had not rejected one applicant in six months. I ask the Minister to let honorable members know how many applications have been received for migration to Australia from Germany and the number rejected by this very “ effective “ screening. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) tried to convey the impression that Nazis were not encouraged by the Government to come to this country, and that if during the screening process they were discovered to be former members of the Nazi organization they were disqualified. That is not so. I challenge the Minister to produce the statement of Sir John Storey, the chairman of the Immigration Planning Council, who made a survey in Europe of the immigration position. The honorable gentleman has mentioned the “great” work that has been done by the Immigration Planning Council, and doubtless will endorse the statement of its chairman that former membership of the Nazi party did not necessarily disqualify an applicant for selection by the authorities. Can the Minister deny that the Liberal party has established branches in various immigration centres and has been encouraging those immigrants who have Nazi and fascist tendencies to become members of its organization? Honorable members in this chamber have produced Nazi emblems such as badges of prominent Nazis which have been discovered in various camps in Australia. I do not dispute that a great number of immigrants who have been brought to this country are of good type, but we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that too many of them are not. The State police authorities have complained continuously about the extra work that has been imposed on their forces because of the great wave of crime that has accurred since the introduction of a lot of immigrants of bad type from overseas. I am not prepared to accept unquestioned statements in general terms as evidence of the quality of the people who have been brought to this country. The Australian people daily find reports in the press concerning the most violent crimes that have been committed by some of the immigrants who have been brought into this country. That is in no way intended to be an attack on decent immigrants who no doubt have the same feeling about this matter as I have.
Let us now consider the alleged advantage to Australia of a big influx of new settlers. Everybody must be aware of the great strain that is being imposed on the Australian economy by bringing in immigrants at a rate greater than that at which they can be absorbed. The Minister for Immigration will not deny that a survey was made, by men who were associated with the last Labour Government, to. ascertain the number of immigrants that could be absorbed into Australia without vitally affecting the structure of our economy. That investigation proved that the increase of our population both by natural increase and by the introduction of immigrants should be no more than 2 per cent, each year. At present the Government is introducing immigrants into the country at a rate which approaches 3^ per cent, each year. Such an increase of population is beyond the absorptive capacity of the country. Immigration cannot be continued on such a scale, along with the vast war preparations that this Government is making, without a reduction of the living standards of the people. “When immigrants are brought to the country, unless the Government wants forcibly to reduce our living standards there must be a large capital outlay in order that the immigrants shall have the same amenities as are enjoyed by the Australian people.
The Minister said that immigrants will increase our production. It may be true that there has been some increase of production as the result of the introduction of additional labour in various industries, but it is also true, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) pointed out, that a considerable number of immigrants do not find their way into productive work at all. The Minister spoke of encouraging immigrants to enter rural industry. He mentioned a “ back to the land “ programme. Surely he knows that there are thousands of our own Australianborn people who are anxious to become farmers but cannot secure any land to farm. Every time a block of Crown land becomes available hundreds, in some cases thousands, of people signify their readiness to enter a ballot for the possession of it. In the light of that fact how can it be said that immigrants can take part in a “ back to the land “ movement? Moreover, the great State works that have been designed to develop rural industry and make it possible to increase our primary production are being retarded because the Government is denying to the States the opportunity to proceed with developmental works. The States want to proceed with water conservation and electrification schemes in country areas, but are forced to restrict such activities because of the Government’s financial policy.
Just what does the Government want for our rural areas? It probably wants European serfs to come to this country. It wants a reservoir of cheap labour for the rural master to exploit. Both the Minister for Immigration and the Government are not talking in terms of providing people with an opportunity to become tenant farmers, they only want cheap farm labour.
The Minister spoke glibly about the action of the Government in calling citizenship conventions. However, when the immigrants begin to find out how difficult conditions are in this country and then attempt to approach the Government to make some protest, no Minister will see them. When they send a delegation to Canberra the Government begins to talk about its being a Communist-inspired delegation. To-day a delegation arrived in Canberra from the. south coast of New South Wales, where many immigrants are established. One member of it, a British immigrant, told me that he had come here specifically to try to see the Minister for Immigration, or any other member of the Government, because he wanted to place certain matters before him. He said that he was unable to secure admission to see any Minister. Let us examine this man’s problem.
– What is the man’s name ?
– The Minister asks for his name. Probably he wants to victimize him. This man is a coal-miner and works in a mine on the south coast of New South Wales. The Government has provided him, and others in similar circumstances, with shanties - not homes. They are prefabricated dwellings of a poor type. The Government charges this British miner, who is a married man with three dependent children, a rent of £3 19s. 6d. a week. He told me that a great number of British immigrants are disillusioned because of the conditions in this country, and that the only reason they do not return to their homeland is that they have not sufficient money to do so. If the Government argues that the British immigrants are satisfied with conditions here, let it meet the expense of returning disillusioned immigrants to their own countries in cases where they desire to do so.
Now let us examine how immigration affects our own people. The Minister spoke about the large number of houses that are being erected in the States. The fact is that the lag in the building of houses in Australia is greater now than it was when the war ended. There are emergency housing settlements in the various States. The Government maintains that the housing of the people is a State responsibility, yet it is restricting finance to the States and so is preventing them from carrying out their housing programmes. How can the States be blamed if their housing programmes are lagging while the Australian Government, which is responsible for our immigration policy, is aggravating the shortage by bringing out many more people than it should? In the States people are lined up waiting for emergency accommodation. They have lost all hope of getting permanent homes, and thousands of Australian families, including those of ex-servicemen, are doomed to live under intolerable conditons in emergency housing settlements. Thousands more are waiting to enter these settlements. Therefore, it is apparent that the Government is failing to fulfil its obligations to the people. This country cannot afford to take the number of people that the Government desires to bring in.
The belief that mere numbers mean strength is fallacious. The Minister for Immigration recently told a citizenship convention that was held in Canberra that this country was not likely to be threatened during the next war with actual physical invasion. In the light of that statement why all this talk of bringing in people to strengthen our defences? If numbers mean strength, India, Malaya and Indonesia should all have been strong enough to prevent invasion in the past. The fact is that in order to be strong a country must have a well-balanced economy. It must have well developed industries and a prosperous and contented community before it can make an effective defence effort. This Government is not capable of carrying out a national defence policy, therefore it adopts tha pretext of bringing immigrants in and saying that the more people we have the stronger we shall be. The policy now being applied by the Government is completely different from that of the last Labour Government. The time has arrived when the Government should pause and review the situation that is facing it to-day. Let us have a complete survey of our actual position.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) uttered one or two correct words during the course of his speech. He said that the Australian people are intelligent. Honorable members on this side agree with that observation, and I am sure that the Australian people recognize in our immigration policy one of the soundest policies ever introduced for the benefit of Australia. They also recognize that the honorable member for East Sydney is completely out of touch with the real Australian feeling about this matter. One could deal with many of the allegations that he made in a speech that was typical of all his utterances in this chamber, but I want to deal with only one or two of his references. He said that country people want only serf labour. As an honorable member of this Parliament, he should know that the Department of Immigration arranges where immigrants are to be employed, and for their engagement at award or standard rates of pay and conditions. Therefore, there is no truth in his allegation that immigrants lower the standard of living throughout the nation. In making such a reckless statement, the honorable member merely indicated how warped is his view of great national problems.
Much has been said to-day about the need for increased production of food and for rural development. Immigration has a great bearing on such matters. However, one matter that has not been mentioned, but is of great importance to all our activities in Australia, is reafforestation. In past years we have seriously depleted our timber resources, and at the present time we are neglecting the need to restore our forests. Very little is being done to restore our old forests and grow new forests because of the lack of suitable labour. Our primary production cannot be increased unless more labour is made available. Such labour should be made available, and chat conditions should be made so attractive that it will not be dissipated during a seasonal shortage of work.
This Parliament should be gravely concerned about rural labour supplies. We should endeavour to arrange a conference of the State Ministers who control forests and endeavour to devise a plan for reafforestation in conjunction with our immigration programme. Housing should be provided in our forest areas for immigrants who could work at rural occupations when such employment was available, and could be employed by the State governments in re-afforestation work in the off-seasons. This scheme would have the advantage of keeping workmen permanently available in various districts for work on farms and forests. I repeat that re-afforestation is of urgent national importance at the present time. I bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) because we must maintain and where possible increase our forest areas. Reafforestation could he combined with other rural work so that men would not need to leave the country but would always bp sure of employment in their own districts.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed vote, £611,000.
Department of the Navy.
Proposed vote, £34,444,000.
Department of the Army.
Proposed vote, £47,411,000.
Department of AIr.
Proposed vote, £48,446,000.
Department of Supply.
Proposed vote, £43,066,000.
Department of Defence Production.
Proposed vote, £7,725,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– The magnitude of the proposed votes in respect of the defence services gives an indication of the Government’s approach to the present international situation. No honorable member, regardless of party, can peruse them without experiencing some misgiving about the future. The more one studies these Estimates the more is one astonished at the inability of the Government to prepare our defences effectively. It is merely living in the hope that in some way it will be able to escape its full obligations in respect of defence. It is useless for the Government to incur this proposed expenditure without giving proper attention to our defence requirements as a whole. The Government proposes to incur this expenditure and to commandeer man-power for purposes that will not enable Australia to play an effective part in co-operation with other members of the United Nations should another war actually occur.
– Should we wait until after war has broken out?
– If the Government really believes that war is imminent, the inadequate preparations that it now proposes to undertake brands it as the most impotent government that has ever held office in this Parliament. This country cannot be effectively defended unless our transport systems are modernized; but the Government does not propose to do anything in that direction. Apparently, its supporters have not read recent press reports concerning the anxiety of the western democracies about the present world oil position as the result of recent events in Persia.
– Your mate Attlee did that.
– That interjection is an indication of the intelligence of Government supporters. They hope that now that Mr. Churchill is the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Liberals will be able to make a better bargain with the Communists than the British Labour Government was able to make with them. That is the principle upon which the Government appears to be acting. It has aroused fear of another war in the minds of the people, but its policy will leave this country practically defenceless should another war occur. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) said this afternoon that Australia was somewhat fortunate in having sufficient oil to meet the requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force for a while. It may be true that Australia is one of the few favoured countries that have sufficient oil to meet their requirements for the time being. However, the Government fails to realize that, as a result of recent events in Persia, the Western democracies are now denied their previous supplies of oil, which amounted to one-quarter of the world’s production. One is astonished at the present attitude of the Government when one realizes what it could and should be doing if its talk about the need for preparing our defences were sincere. In this respect Australia should follow the example of South Africa. During the last three months that country has let a contract to an American firm to construct a plant for the production of oil from coal and it is estimated that, by the end of 1955 South Africa will be capable of producing 60 per cent, of its oil requirements. The Government is incapable of looking further ahead than to-morrow. It is hoping against hope that it will not bc obliged to face up to this problem. Its abandonment of the production of oil from shale at Glen Davis is typical of its approach to the grave problems that confront the nation. The Government has decided to transfer the plant at Glen Davis to Tasmania with the object of refining crude oil because by that process it will be able to produce coke of the; type that is required in the production of aluminium. The degree to which oil supplies to the Western democracies is decreasing has been described in the daily press as “ dangerous and ominous “.
– What was the capacity of the plant at Glen Davis?
– A million barrels of oil may mean the difference between danger point and the minimum allowance that will enable the Western democracies barely to carry on. Unlike supporters of the Government, I do not accept the view that when the screw is really put on the United States of America will ration petrol in that country in order to make supplies available to Australia. History shows that in times of shortages countries look after their own requirements at all costs. To-day, Great Britain is rationing petrol and the United States of America is considering whether it should do likewise. Obviously, the Government is hoping that Mr. Churchill, now that he is again Prime Minister of Great Britain, will co-operate to a greater degree with the Communists than Labour governments in Great Britain, or Australia, were prepared to do. Surely the Government realizes that on the basis of the limited expenditure now proposed for defence purposes, Australia will not be enabled to make any worthwhile contribution in the event of another war. On the contrary, the Government is discouraging the making of a real war effort on the part of the community as a whole. When the existing war fever was generated throughout the world, 5,500,000 persons in the United States of America were unemployed, and, having regard to the American way of life, we know that it is much easier to keep the American people in line by putting as many of them as possible in the armed forces. The Government ignores the fundamental fact that the United States of America has a surplus of manpower and that, should another war occur, Australia could help the Western democracies most effectively in the production field. If Mr. Churchill is able to influence Mr. Stalin, the world will be much better off as a result of such cooperation between the Liberals and the Communists. Instead of throwing this money down the drain, the Government should concentrate upon enabling Australia to produce the vital materials that are required by the Western democracies and to supply foodstuffs to the starving peoples of Asian countries. Action along those lines would help to avert war. But suppose war does occur and the millions again start to march. Would any honorable member be so foolish as to suggest that the forces that Australia could put in the field would be capable of influencing the outcome of the struggle ?
– Australia made a worthwhile contribution to victory in the two world wars.
– The approach of the Labour party to those conflicts differed from that of other parties in this country. Labour was able to organize this country so effectively after 1941 that American experts declared that our transport system was one of the most efficient of any country in tha world.
– Where was this?
– The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) has been stuck out in the country for so long that he would not be aware of that fact.
– In 1941 we were actually fighting a war.
– And if it had not been for a Labour Government, the honorable member would have been fighting in that war with his hands tied behind his back. The Government ha? failed to make any plans at all in relation to our internal capacity to meet our defence requirements. Tt would be better advised to devote at least one-half of the proposed votes in respect of the defence services, and the man-power that will be involved in the expenditure of this money, to the modernization of our transport system, the efficiency of which is vital to defence. The Government’s proposals will be absolutely useless because they will not enable this country either to wage war in the field or to produce adequate quantities of the materials that will be required tomaintain the armies of our allies.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Members of the Labour party have onetrack minds or rather, what they call their minds, on the subject of defence. They contend whenever expenditure for defence purposes, or a recruiting campaign, is under consideration, that the duty of Australia in war-time is to produce food. But do they assist the Government to conduct a recruiting campaign? Certainly not! The attitude that was adopted by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) - and, incidentally, I was astonished to hear him in such a role - was consistent with that taken up by the Labour party since 1916, when its one-time leader, the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), was expelled because of his defence policy. Before the outbreak of World War II., members of the Labour party opposed the preparations that were being undertaken by the government of the clay to defend this country. That defence effort was carried on by the Labour party when it assumed office in 1941; but I believe that it was not until Japan struck at Pearl Harbour and Malaya that members of that party really came in on the side of the Allies. Of course, their own hides were then in danger. They constantly speak of their wonderful war effort, which was merely that of carrying on the job that had been commenced so successfully by the preceding Government. They do not pay any tribute to the troops who were prepared to sacrifice their lives, and to the fathers and mothers who upheld the morale of this country while their sons were engaged in battle.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– I ask the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) to remain silent for a little while, because his interjections become tedious. If he persists in making them, he may be written up in the Century again.
Australia is virtually out on a limb. Professor Marcus Oliphant, in an address to a sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Canberra last week-end, issued a warning that should give even members of the Labour party cause for serious thought. The professor said that, in the event of a war with Russia, the United States of America and the United Kingdom might be obliged to regard this country as expendable, and that it might be by-passed. In other words, we may have to look after ourselves. In my opinion, the greatest crime that we can commit against the youth of this country is to make no preparations for defence, as many members of the Labour party appear to advocate.
– I direct attention to the state of the committee.
– Opposition members protested that the allotment of time for the consideration of the Estimates was inadequate, and would curtail discussion to an unnecessary degree, yet they are not present in the chamber when the important votes for defence are before the committee.
– The honorable member should have a big audience.
– I shall give the honorable member some shock treatment. [Quorum formed.]
– When I was so rudely interrupted, I was about to deal with the national service scheme. In my opinion, the Government has adopted the proper course that should have been followed for many years. However, as only boys of IS years of age are being trained, the system will be of little use should war break out during the next few years. If we are fortunate enough to be spared from war within the next five years, the national service scheme will produce a solid reserve of trained personnel for our armed forces.
– There is not even an artillery range in South Australia.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), like other members of the Labour party, pours cold water on defence proposals. The position, as 1 see it, is that our defences are in a deplorable condition. The numbers in the militia are smaller than they have been for many years. Much of the blame for that condition of affairs may be laid with justification at the door of the Labour party. Opposition members declined the invitation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to assist in the recruiting campaign. They represent only approximately 48 per cent, of the people, but, unfortunately, many persons like to indulge in wishful thinking. Although the Labour party is so completely irresponsible as to decry the need for defence preparations, many people are willing to listen to anything that will give them some reason for evading their responsibilities.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– The honorable gentleman is not in order in interjecting from a seat other than his own. I am now able to understand how he has earned his nick-name. I urge some members of the Opposition to repeat in this chamber statements that they have made privately about the necessity for defence preparations. If they will do so, the people will realize that the need to strengthen our defences is urgent, and the ranks of our militia will be filled much more quickly than they are being filled at the present time. The apathy of many people to-day is dangerous, and I attribute it principally to statements by persons such as Opposition members who will not accept their responsibilities, and are prepared to appeal to all the worst instincts of human nature. The majority of the people are loyal, and willing to do their duty, but if they are misled by public mcn who will not accept their responsibility, we can hardly blame them for their apathy. Such binnie rests fairly and squarely on Opposition members.
I had an opportunity to visit the Ingleburn and Holdsworthy camps, where national service trainees are receiving instruction, and I was greatly impressed with the method of training, the general bearing of the troops, and Hip way in which officers and non-commissioned officers had inspired them and brought out the best traditions of the 1st Australian Imperial Force and the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. These youths were keen, and I feel that, at the expiration of the period of their training, they will become enthusiastic members of the Militia, and large numbers of them will join the permanent forces. When they become of age, they will be prepared to take their places with Australian troops who are now serving in Korea.
A visitor who hears Opposition members attack the proposed expenditure for defence purposes may be excused for thinking that they have completely forgotten that Australians are fighting in Korea. As members of the United Nations forces, those troops are doing a splendid job. Let the Opposition remember that Australians are dying in Korea to preserve freedom. I appeal to members of the Labour party to realize their responsibilities. Many of them read the Intelligence Digest, but they do not utilize wisely the knowledge that they gain from it. They should endeavour, by their influence, to awaken enthusiasm in the people, so that our defences may be put in proper order. The Opposition accuses Government supporters of being war mongers. In my opinion, the biggest war monger is the person who encourages people to be completely unprepared, so that their country will fall like an overripe plum into the hands of an aggressor. Like the other western democracies, Australia is preparing, not to fight a war of aggression, but to prevent war. The best way in which a country can achieve that objective is by making itself strong enough to convince a potential aggressor that, although he may snatch a vistory, he will reveive a good hiding in the process. I am of the opinion that, had the Kaiser realized in 1914 that the British Empire was strong and as united as it proved itself to be, and that it was prepared to make great sacrifices for a just cause, hostilities would not have occurred. I also believe that, had we not allowed our defences to become weak in the 1930’s, World War II. would have been averted. It was only because Hitler considered that he could gain a quick, decisive victory that the world was plunged into that great struggle. I prophesy that war with Russia will be averted if Stalin is made to realize that the western democracies are sufficiently strong to defend themselves adequately, and to cause terrific havoc in Russia, similar to that which was wrought in Germany in World War II. War can be prevented in that way. I believe that this Government is adopting the right policy in strengthening our defences, but its task is made more difficult by the general apathy of the Labour party.
.-! cannot accept the proposition that has been advanced by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) that the Opposition, because it is prepared to contest certain proposals for the expenditure of money on defence, must of necessity be disloyal. His speech revealed his irritation with Opposition members because he considered that they were not loyally abiding by decisions of the Government in relation to defence. The honorable gentleman produced a number of loose arguments about the ability of a Labour government to organize a war effort or to strengthen the defences -of the country. Yet, the whole weight of current history and of contemporary thought is against him in those matters. In 1941, a Labour government was thrust into the position of conducting a war, because a government of the same kidney as he now supports, was unable, through dissension in its own ranks, to bear such a responsibility. That, of course, is history. As the honorable member has said, the master plans of the allied countries were used, but the fact is that the reins were in the hands of the Labour Government, which discharged its job honorably. To speak in terms of contempt about the contribution to the defence of Australia of the Labour party generally, and the Opposition in this chamber specifically, is to open a dangerous split in the national unity that is so important at present, particularly in view of the fact that S6 per cent, of the soldiers of the line, using the term in its general application to all branches of the services, are, if not Labour men, at any rate trade unionists. That figure was cited by the late Field Marshal Blarney. The truth is that the division of opinion between the Government and the Opposition concerns only the best way of defending Australia. There is nothing disloyal, subversive or shocking about it. In 1947, the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Chifley, attended a conference of service chiefs from all parts of the democratic world and later made announcements, which were recorded in the Intelligence Digest and in Hansard, in relation to the plan that had been evolved.
All sorts of imponderable problems bad to be taken into account at that conference. The final decision was that Australia should be an unsinkable aircraft carrier, a settled position with strong secondary industries that could be used as the last rampart of the democracies if the fight were to take place to the north of us. The basis of that decision is contained in the Pacific Pact with the United States of America, which has been tentatively initialled on behalf of Australia. It envisaged a particular role for Australia and that role, of course, is that of a holding base, a unit of development, a supply centre for the armies that may come here. It is a classic role which the Labour Administration developed during its successful prosecution of Australia’s effort in World War II. To say that the Labour party is utterly wrong because it does not want to have marching armies and therefore does not want to hurl bodies into training camps when Australia has not enough man-power to go round, is to be unrealistic. That attitude may be all right for the United States of America, with its population of 160,000,000, or for the European countries, in which there is no shortage of man-power, but our intolerable problem is to decide how to make one man do two jobs - to remain at his lathe making guns, aircraft and munitions and to wear a uniform and fight as well. That problem has kept the lamps burning at night in Canberra and in the planning councils of the services, and it has not yet been solved. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) realizes to the full the perplexities of the problem. We must be realistic in our approach to it and not just decide to do what we did last time.
The warnings that have been issued by the Labour party do not mean that it does not support the adequate defence of Australia. The Government is charged by the people with the responsibility of defending the nation, and any valid move that it makes to discharge that responsibility will have the full support of all Australians, and particularly of honorable members on this side of the chamber, who represent the people. Individual points of view concerning the best way of providing for defence are the only points of dispute. The question that we have to decide is whether we are to have strong secondary industries in a highly geared war effort to produce all the articles that are required right on the spot in a strong isolated base, or whether we are to enlist all the available men to march them up a very high hill and then march them down again. The whole strategy of war has been blown to shreds by the a tom bomb and the “ H “ bomb. We must decide whether it is better to hold thousands of men in reserve against an invasion or to send out fleets of ships and aircraft and establish bases in the distant north in order to intercept attack by atom bombs. The old soldier’s idea of obtaining all available money from the Treasury and then lolling back and saying, “ Give me all the bodies you have “, is dangerously out of date. The Opposition still leans towards the plan that was agreed upon at the 1947 discussions with the British and United States authorities. Our own chiefs of staff concurred in that plan. All honorable members are aware of its nature. The Opposition knows, perhaps better than does the Government, of the difficulties that arise from manpower shortages in this country because it had experience of those difficulties when it was in power during the war and the post-war reconstruction period. A compromise had to be worked out so as to provide for strength in our secondary industries as well as reasonable force of arms in the field.
To say that we reject out of hand all the plans of this Government is to talk sheer nonsense. I remind honorable members on the Government side of the chamber that the Labour Administration discharged its task efficiently in a time of emergency. On the basis of performance, the Opposition has the right to criticize the Government’s plans and to suggest better means of conducting the nation’s defence preparations. We have been given no evidence to show that the Government is not pursuing old fashioned methods, and we have reason to believe that it is trying to salve its own conscience and to soothe the fears of the nation by putting soldiers into camps and tipping immigrants out of them. Many serious problems are involved in preparation for defence and we must not go blindly along without paying regard to the possible consequences of our actions.
We have developed a fine immigration scheme that is to be commended in every way, except in relation to the admittance of Nazis, which I contest bitterly. Former defence camps that the Government now proposes to use for the same purpose again have been rendered largely inefficient for the use of soldiers because they have been converted for the housing of immigrants. The work of reconstruction and repair will be slow and it would be foolish to march soldiers into them immediately. In the meantime, as the defence programme develops, we must realize that a too-liberal use of man-power for defence training will seriously interfere with industrial and professional training. The extravagant expenditure of money without regard to such facts will bring us to a worse state than we are in now. It has been said that although the vote for defence is a big one, actual expenditure has been small. This has been due to shortages of essential materials.
Two distinct points of view in relation to defence are represented in this scheme and, in my humble opinion, both are valid. The merits and demerits of those views must be battered out by our chiefs of staff and the service departments in order to determine which is the better. I believe that, the conception of Australia as an unsinkable aircraft carrier in an isolated position is immeasurably superior to the opposing theory of men and money without any plan for the use of either. Admittedly, it will not allow us to have strength in terms of men, but the fact is that, if we called up every male of eligible age, we still could not have an army of any significance in relation to the armies of other nations. However, we have a significant force of secondary industries that could be of incalculable benefit to any war effort.
– Do not forget our primary industries.
– They are of outstanding importance, of course. I had thought that it was generally recognized that one of our tasks would be to help to feed our Allies as well as ourselves. But we have taken on much more onerous commitments than that alone. During World War II. we also insisted on clothing our own troops and American troops and on mounting a tremendous industrial effort with the limited man-power resources that were available to us. The great restricting factor is the shortage of man-power. The grandiloquent nonsense talked in this Parliament will not withstand the cold analysis of the planner who asks, “ Where are the men for war production, for the Army, for the Navy, and for the Air Force?”
The Government’s training plan is sound provided it is not allowed to drain man-power away from other vital projects. Two essential undertakings must be co-ordinated if we are to have a solid defence plan. I strongly deprecate the atmosphere of political hatred that certain honorable members on the Government side of the chamber have sought to generate on this issue. Defence is one subject that must be lifted above the level of the political gutter. The fact that the Opposition has the intelligence and the initiative to develop an independent policy, which is sometimes antagonistic to that of the Government, is for the benefit of the nation. It is of no use to hold post-mortems after a war has been lost. Faults must be eliminated before the danger is upon us. The only point on which I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir is his assertion that a display of strength is the best way to deter an enemy from launching an attack. However, I hesitate to believe that our defence effort can be anything but supplementary to that of our Allies. We must get away from tall thinking and come down to hard, on-the-floor, basic facts. Our effort can be only supplementary to that of the western democracies and it must be based on an integrated plan for the intelligent use of our man-power. Therefore, it must provide for the most effective exploitation of our secondary industries.
The Government should realize that all criticism that is expressed by the Opposition is of a constructive nature. All the argument about who did the most during World War I. or World War II. is beside the point. We have an overwhelming duty to the people, who are facing new terrors of modern warfare such as the atom bomb and guided atomic projectiles. Those horrifying scientific developments are the cause of all the frustration of military planning to-day. Plans for war can become obsolete overnight as a result of new discoveries. In the meantime, we must make reasonable preparations for our defence as best we can. Those preparations should fall into two categories. We must preserve an even balance between the needs of our secondary industries, which will be called upon to produce arms and equipment, and those of the forces., which are already crying out for man-power. We all agree that we must provide for defence to the best of our ability. The cost will be heavy, but nobody seriously objects to that. Our disagreement arises only in relation to the method of planning our defence. Let us not be mealy-mouthed with each other. When we find cause for criticism, let us express our objections strenuously for the eventual benefit of the people, whom it is our duty to protect.
.- One event that could render futile all our efforts to provide for the defence of Australia would be the liquidation of the British Empire, to use the old-fashioned term in preference to “ British Commonwealth “. Therefore, I was shocked to hear the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) declare tonight that the present Prime Minister of Great Britain is a friend and ally of the enemy that threatens the whole of civilization to-day from behind the Iron Curtain. The one fact that raises our hopes for the security of this nation and the other free peoples of the world is that the individuals in Great Britain who were working for the liquidation of the British Empire, as their actions very plainly showed, have been removed from office in favour of a Government that has at its head that great old warrior who saved the democracies by leading the British people through their dark days of despair during World War II. It is deplorable that a member of this Parliament should describe Mr. Churchill as an ally of communism. Such accusations come very strangely from a member of the Opposition who, with his colleagues, did Australia’s defences the greatest possible harm not long ago when, by means of lying and mischievous propaganda, they misled the people into refusing to give to the Government the power that it needed in order to deal with enemy agents inside Australia.
– What utter rubbish!
– The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) played his part in the referendum campaign, but no doubt he will live to regret the fact, if he has any decency left in him when that time arrives. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) spoke of the Labour party’s policy on defence and pleaded for co-operation. He appealed to us to raise this issue above the throes of political hatred. But the sorry fact is that the present Government parties found, in 1949, that the defeated Labour Government had not pursued a defence policy of any kind. It had made no attempt to organize the nation so that it would have the strength to withstand the attack of an enemy. That ghastly fact forced itself upon the attention of the present Government as soon as it assumed office, and it had to start at once from behind scratch to cope with the neglected job. One would think, from what the honorable member for Parkes said, that the atom bomb had been discovered yesterday instead of years ago. The obvious truth is that the Labour party has not kept itself informed of scientific developments in the field of war. It was not in line with modern theory on warfare when it was in power. Such provision as it had made for the defence of Australia would have proved futile against any sudden attack. No doubt its neglect was due to the stated belief of the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that the democracies bad nothing to fear from Russia.
During the first fifteen months of the life of the Nineteenth Parliament, the Labour Opposition tried, by every means at its disposal, to frustrate the Government’s attempts to re-establish the national economy on a sound footing and to strengthen our defences. Eventually a double dissolution was forced upon it as a result of its tactics. “When we talk about the policy of the Labour party upon this matter, let us bear in mind what it is ‘and what it has been since the late John Curtin laid down the reins of office. It is a policy under which, either wittingly or unwittingly, they do in Australia the very things that the potential enemies of Australia, the Communists, want them to do.
– I rise to order. 1 resent bitterly and absolutely the statement by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) that the Labour party has, wittingly or unwittingly, assisted the enemies of this country.
– The honorable member for Capricornia has not made any statement different from statements that have been made by honorable gentlemen on the Opposition side of the chamber. He said “ wittingly “ or “ unwittingly “. You can take your choice.
– I rise to order. If an honorable gentleman says that any honorable member or group of members has helped an enemy, and if another honorable member takes objection to that statement as be:ng offensive to him, I suggest that, under the Standing Orders, the remark must be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Capricornia has not accused the Opposition of assisting the enemy.
– This Government is faced with the tremendous task of reorganizing the defences of this nation. I am sorry if I have offended honorable gentlemen opposite, hut if the caps fit they will know it. If there was ever a time when there should be plain speaking it is now, before we reach the point at which we cannot turn back. We are living in the most perilous period of modern history. An attack may be made upon us at any time, at a day or hour to be decided, not by the democracies but by the enemies of democracy. If we are not prepared to meet the attack, we shall lose not only our civilization but also every phase of personal freedom that we now enjoy, lt is time that we indulged in plain speaking about this matter, faced facts, and recognized the dangers that confront us.
Australia has for too long been acting like an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand and blinding itself to the dangers without. We must re-organize the nation and insure that its resources are used to safeguard our security in the years that lie ahead. I am certain that every loyal Australian agrees with the Government’s policy in this connexion. The Government is planning for the survival of the human race in this continent. It is time that we put an end to the mad holiday that we have been enjoying for years, and recognized that the golden era about which so much has been said in the propaganda of the Labour party does not in fact exist. We are in a dangerous position. We should not only be fighting mad but we should also be working mad. We should be working madly to ensure the safety of our people.
The honorable member for Blaxland referred to the transport system of this country. I agree with him that, our railways are in a deplorable condition. The railway systems upon which the heaviest demands would be made in defending this nation are those of New South Wales and Queensland. I agree with the honorable member for Blaxland that those two railway systems, especially the sections of them that would be used most in defending this continent, are in a shocking and deplorable condition. The blame for that state of affairs must be laid at the door of the State governments that control the systems. It is clear that it would take at least twelve months to put the Queensland railway system into a condition to do the job that it did during the last war. I suggest that the Commonwealth should call together the transport Ministers of each of the States on the eastern seaboard of Australia and ensure that everything that can be done to bring our railways to the highest pitch of efficiency shall be done. We rely upon our railways, and we must do all that can be done to make them efficient.
We must also consider the needs of transport systems other than railways. For the greater part of the distance between Brisbane and Cairns there is only a single railway track. If anything happened to any of the railway bridges over the great rivers along that route, that railway would be out of commission for years. Work upon the bridge across the Fitzroy River, which is the biggest river in Queensland, was commenced in 1945 and it will not be finished until 3 955. If there were a railway bridge alongside it and that bridge were destroyed by bombs, it would take approximately ten years to rebuild it. The road from Brisbane to Cooktown must be reconstructed as a defence road before Queensland will be in a position to play anything like the part that it played in the last war.
I join with the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) in pleading with the Government to do something about the road that runs along the Queensland coast. We are asking for something to be done not for Queensland, but for Australia. The potential enemies of Australia are to the north of us. If any concentrations of troops were required to be made in places close to the enemy, they would be made in the central and northern areas of Queensland. While we have only a single-track railway along the coast of Queensland and while the only road there is out of commission during wet seasons and is not even trafficable for heavy vehicles during dry seasons, that part of Australia will remain in a most vulnerable position. I urge the Government, first to call together the railway authorities of the States in order to formulate a policy for placing our railways at the highest pitch of efficiency; and secondly, to declare the road from Brisbane to Cooktown a defence highway and to make it a first-class all weather road that will help us to maintain the safety and security of this nation.
We must have regard also to port facilities in Australia. If a war occurred, great quantities of cargo would be brought to this country by sea and would be moved from one part of the country to another by sea. In the main, port facilities in this country are very poor. In establishing our defences upon an adequate basis, we must ensure that, in the event of a war, ships that come to Australia can be loaded and unloaded quickly. Therefore, it is necessary for our ports to be at the highest pitch of efficiency. I suggest to the Government that the best brains in this country should be given the task of examining our port facilities and ensuring that, in an emergency, we shall be able to turn ships round quickly. If our ports are left in their present condition, and a war should occur, they would be full of ships waiting to be loaded or unloaded, and those ships would present an easy target for long range enemy aircraft. It is important from the viewpoint of defence that we should have available adequate supplies of sulphur for the manufacture of sulphuric acid. I believe that almost unlimited quantities of pyrities are available throughout the Commonwealth in tailings on gold-mines.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- It has been made clear by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) that many honorable gentlemen opposite believe that the members of the Opposition are not in favour of Australia having adequate defence forces. I want to make it perfectly clear that every member of the Opposition is just as patriotic and just as interested in. the defence of Australia as is any honorable gentleman opposite.
I shall deal briefly with the voluntary militia forces. I speak as onn who served for many years in the militia forces and who did a great deal of training that was of some use in war. I, at any rate, believe that it was of some use. The slow rate of recruiting for the militia forces is a great disappointment to me. Some honorable members opposite have attributed the lack of recruits to the activities of the Labour party, but they, like the honorable member for Capricornia, have their heads buried in the sand. They have not wakened up. They have no realism. They have not examined the voluntary militia system in order to ascertain the fundamental unsoundness of it, and the reason for so few recruits being enlisted.
Our militia system was based upon the principle that recruits undertook to be trained in order to be useful to their country in time of war. Originally there was no suggestion that members of the militia forces should be obliged to serve overseas. It was left to them to decide whether they would do so when volunteers were called for. But to-day, if a young man voluntarily enlists in the militia forces he is required to sign a document in which he states that he is prepared to serve in any part of the world. He does not know what part of the world he will be required to serve in, and he does not know when or where a war will occur. He is required to indicate his willingness to serve in any part of the world. If honorable gentlemen opposite think that that is a realistic system, they should think again. It is the reason why so few recruits are being enlisted at the present time. If a man wishes to undergo training in order to be prepared to assist in the defence of his country, he should be allowed to do so. He should not be asked whether he is willing to serve overseas until Australian forces are required to serve overseas. There is no doubt that many honorable members on both sides of the chamber would be willing, having enlisted in the forces, to agree to serve in any part of the world. I have no doubt that there are many people in Australia who would also bo perfectly happy to do so. Many young men are doing it. I know that I myself, my son, and probably the sons of other honorable members would do it. But it is just as true to say that there are many people who are not prepared to agree to serve anywhere in the world. But that fact is not sufficient reason why they should be denied a proper opportunity to prepare themselves to defend their country if it is necessary for them to do so. Yet if they seek to join the volunteer forces they are required to sign a declaration that they are willing to serve anywhere in the world. If they do not choose to do so they are denied the opportunity to train. Lest anybody should think that I do not know what I am talking about, I point out that some days ago I had a ring on the telephone from the parents of a young man in Melbourne who wished to do his national service training in the Navy. He took home a paper to his parents and asked them to sign it. The paper stated that the young man would be obliged, if he joined the Navy, to serve in any part of the world. His father and mother thought that they would like to know a hit more about the matter before signing the paper, and they asked me whether, if he joined the Army, he would be obliged to serve in any part of the world. I told them that, according to my information, that was not the case. So his parents said that they would not sign the paper and that their son would do his training in the Army. Is not that incident proof that people are not prepared to sign up for service in any part of the world, although they are willing and would be happy to undertake training to fight for the defence of this country? Such incidents make it clear that the Government i« not being realistic in regard to its training schemes and it should overhaul thiem. I believe that if the Government overhauls these schemes it will get a better defence system.
Much of the proposed expenditure on defence is in relation to the acquisition of sites for buildings, the cost of erecting buildings, and the provision of furnishings and fittings for them. I have no doubt that honorable members know that a great deal of this money is to be expended on houses for the permanent staff of our permanent forces. No doubt many honorable members have seen prefabricated houses being erected near military establishments in their own electorates. I went tn Puckapunyal last Monday at the invitation of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) and saw prefabricated houses to accommodate the permanent staff being erected on the land adjacent to the camp. I have no doubt that honorable members have no objection to such expenditure on houses for servicemen, because it is a very good thing for the community. It will release accommodation for other people who need houses, it will improve morale in the Services by allowing servicemen to have their families near them, and it will save the time and trouble that servicemen would otherwise have in visiting their homes. So there is everything to commend a practice of expending money in the construction of houses for the permanent staff of the defence forces. I believe that honorable members will agree that many advantages will accrue to the Services from such expenditure. I was very astonished, however, when I made inquiries, to find that the rentals of some of those homes will be £3 Ss. 9d. a week. That is the kind of rental that one would expect to be charged to a person who was entitled eventually to purchase the home by instalments, but I cannot see that it is a just rental to charge members of the permanent forces. First of all, the homes are not in ideal locations, as any one who is familiar with Puckapunyal will agree, [n addition, the tenants will not be allowed to buy their homes as the tenants of a housing commission home may do. I consider, therefore, that, the rentals to be charged arc too high, and J hope that the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) will call together the Ministers for the armed services and go into the matter, with a view to ensuring that servicemen will not be required to pay high rentals, but only nominal rentals for such homes. After all, the money to build the homes is to come out of revenue, so there is no question of interest or repayments of capital to be met.
– There are only two matters to which I wish to draw the attention of the committee. The first is the remarkable proposition that has been advanced by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), that recruiting for the armed forces would be more successful if those who were asked to volunteer were guaranteed that they would not hare to serve overseas. Are we asked to believe that the spirit of Australia is so miserable that more men will be attracted to our volunteer forces if they receive a guarantee that they will not have to go overseas to fight? The whole history of our country is directly to the contrary. If Ave compare the Militia of to-day with the Militia before the Avar Ave shall find that it is a far better and more efficient and more numerous militia force than before. I believe that this is due, in part, to the introduction of the principle that members of the Citizen Military Forces shall bo eligible for service anywhere in the world.
The second point that I wish to deal with has relation to just where the defence of Australia is to be conducted. It it time that Ave got out of our heads the idea that the defence of Australia means the defence of Australia in Australia. Where has the defence of Australia ever been conducted? Not in Australia, I am glad to say. It has been conducted in Gallipoli, France, on the high seas, in the Western Desert, in Malaya and New Guinea, but not in Australia. If Ave have come to the position that the defence of Australia means the defence of Australia in Australia, then Ave have come to » sorry pass. The only real defence of Australia Will be conducted by Australians fighting outside Australia, anywhere in the world where the British Empire is fighting - because it is only by common action with our brothers of the British Empire and our American allies, and by our being ready to fight actively any.where. instead of being ready merely to defend ourselves passively in Australia, that we shall really be able to defend ourselves. Who has ever heard of a boxer winning a fight by staying in his own corner of the ring? Fights are Avon by going out and attacking. The best defence is attack and counter attack.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– I shall draw an analogy between the defence of Australia, about which the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) know£ nothing, and the defence of Great Britain. The defence of Great Britain has been conducted since 1066, not in Great Britain but throughout the world. The British
Navy and the British Army, fighting anywhere in the world - in the Middle East or in India or wherever they were sent - have been the defence of Great Britain. The result was the Pax Brittannica which ensured not only the safety of Great Britain but the peace of the world between 1815 and 1914.
– What does the honorable member think of “ the Brisbane line “?
– Not very much, and not very much of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) either. If the defence of Australia is to be a real defence it has to bc conducted on similar lines to British defence - not here in Australia, not by a militia engaged to fight only in Australia, but by a real Australian Army, Navy and Air Force linked with those of our allies and ready to fight wherever it is necessary for them to fight. The sooner we realize that we must be prepared to defend Australia outside Australia, the more real and effective will our defence bc.
– I was interested in the speech of the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron). It seems to me that the Government desires to curtail unnecessary manufacturing and to concentrate on the manufacture of things that will be helpful for defence purposes. In my electorate there is situated what are known as the Finsbury works, which were established during the war. At the present time various firms have taken over government factories in my electorate. They include English firms such as Rubery Owen and Kemsley (Proprietary) Limited, which has put in more than £1,000.000 worth of plant. A number of industries are expending from £250,000 up to £1,500,000 on establishing themselves. I have here a telegram which reads -
Aggregate meeting of all employees rolling mills Finsbury carried a resolution unanimously to-day railing on all South Australian members of Parliament to rise and make an issue of the closing of the rolling mills on the 31st Jam ary.
According to to-day’s Adelaide Advertiser a number of other industries are very concerned about this matter, and from what I can gather from newspaper articles the position arises from the shortage of copper. I understand that about 8,000 or 9,000 tons of copper is allotted in Australia every quarter, whereas Australia’s real need is about 60,000 tons of copper a year. I understand that this mill is to be closed because of the lack of copper. I have not sufficient information to be definite about whether the mill is a wholly government concern, but I take it that it is. The sheet metal that is being rolled there is being made available to different manufacturing interests. I feel very concerned-
– Order! Will the honorable member indicate which department he is discussing?
– The Department of Defence Production. I received this telegram only within the last hour and I considered that this debate would provide a better opportunity to raise the matter than the asking of a question in the House. I do not know whether the Minister has any information concerning the closing down of these rolling mills on the 31st January and the effect that it will have on the industries which use the sheet copper and brass. If the Government is concerned about the future defence of the country it should see that mills that are making raw material for use in defense equipment are not closed down.
I ask the Government to give earnest consideration to this matter. I believe that a statement has been made in the South Australian Parliament that even if more copper were produced in South Australia it would make no difference to the allocation of copper for Australian industries. If the- Government has an arrangement with other nations under which it is to receive about half the amount of copper required for our industries I think that that position should be altered. If the Minister cannot immediately supply me with the information that, 1 have requested I ask that he should go very carefully into the matter. The closing of these mills will not only mean that the men who are employed there will lose their positions, but also that other industries which require the type of materials that the mills produce will be affected. Consequently, if it lias been decided to close down the mills on the 31st January, I ask the Minister to ascertain whether other industries will bc able to get supplies of these materials elsewhere. I agree that the defences of this country must be prepared. I consider that Australia should work in co-operation with other units of the British Commonwealth of Nations and with America and with others who support the allied cause. I do not raise any objection to adequate defence preparations. I agree with much that the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) has put forward. If anybody wanted to break into my house I would not wait until he had got inside but would get him before he got in if I could. Australia must have a system of defence which will not only stop an enemy who has gained admission to this country but which will also effectively keep an attacker out of this country.
Labour supporters generally ari! anxious to ensure the adequate defence of the country. Those honorable members who have complained bitterly from the Government side by insinuation and reflection on Opposition members have not done much good. Very often they have inferred that sacrifices have been made only by Government supporters and that they alone are prepared to do their part in the defence of the country. Even if many Opposition members have not been able to take an active part in the last two wars many of their very near and dear ones have done so. Although I was not able to join the expeditionary forces, I served in the Volunteer Defence Corps and was prepared to do all that was required of me. I was not called upon to go where others went, but many of my own family and relatives took a very active part and some lost their lives in fighting for this country. We on this side of the chamber are just as anxious as are honorable members opposite to secure the defence of Australia. I do not desire to question whether everything that the Government has done is right or wrong because whether it be a. Liberal government or a Labour government somebody will always say that it has not adopted the right procedure.
I felt sorry to hear one honorable member say something about the lack of defence preparedness prior to the last war. I think that it was in 1936 at the annual conference of the Labour party in Adelaide, to which I was a delegate, that the late Mr. Curtin put forward as a defence proposal the establishment of a really efficient air force. He advocated that course three years before war broke out. He considered that Australia was not able to build a big navy nor to form great armies, but he considered that it was in a position to establish an adequate air force which could serve very efficiently. I hope, therefore, that in this debate honorable members opposite will refrain from making the type of critical statement that they have made concerning the Labour party. Individuals in the Labour movement and the trade union movement may have opposed preparation for war in the past, in 1936-
– -What about 193S?
– In 1938, there was not a Labour government. Honorable members opposite must realize that when they have a majority in both Houses and fail to do what they should do they cannot legitimately complain when somebody else objects to their course of action. A government that has the numbers in both Houses and does not do what it believes to be essential in the interest of the country, has not the courage that it should have. Therefore, if there was any danger in 193S because of the inadequacy of our defences it was the full responsibility of those who were in government at that time. Honorable members sitting opposite may say that the Opposition was not prepared to support the Government. I point out that if the Government knew what was required to be done it was its duty to go ahead and do the joh regardless of the fact that the Opposition did not support it. I remind honorable members opposite that the members of the Australian Labour party and the great mass of people who support that party are as keenly interested in the defence of this country as are honorable members on the Government side of the committee. I do not wish to continue discussion of this matter, but I hope that the Government will do everything that it considers essential for the defence of the country. If it does so,I am sure that the people generally will applaud its efforts. However, I implore the Government not to take action similar to that which was taken during the last war and about which a person recently complained to me. The complaint was made against a Labour government. The man to whom I refer informed me that his four sons had been called up for service in the forces while the sons of wealthy men with big properties nearby were allowed to remain behind. We must be careful to ensure that young men who do ordinary work shall not be called upon to bear the full responsibility of compulsory military training. The sons of wealthy men must also bear their fair share.
Motion (by Mr. McBride) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to the shortage of potatoes which at present exists in the Australian Capital Territory. It is almost impossible at the present time to buy potatoes in Canberra. Those that are available have not been procured, in most instances, through regular channels and are sold at prices that are above the fixed price. The conditions concerning the sale of potatoes in Canberra are chaotic. Local potato-growers are able to produce sufficient to supply the needs of the Territory for three months of the year. I understand that when the bridge over the Goodradigbee River is built and the Brindabella country is opened up, more potatoes will be available. Local growers favour the establishment of organized marketing, and the local potato growers association seeks the establishment in the Territory of a potato marketing board similar to those which function in the States. I ask the Minister, to whom I understand representa tions have already been made, to consider the promulgation of an ordinance to provide for the establishment of such a board, which should be grower controlled and on which there should be representatives of the Government and the merchants who are responsible for retailing potatoes.
The present position is that the local potato growers association is unable to obtain sufficient potatoes to keep the market supplied. It has sought to deal with potato marketing boards in the exporting States, but those bodies have refused to deal with it because it has no statutory authority. I suggest that if a potato marketing board is established and is given statutory authority it will be able to deal directly with exporting States, such as Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria, and even Western Australia, from which potatoes are being brought at present. I hope that the Minister will take the course that I have suggested and which, I understand, has also been suggested by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council.
– I shall consider the suggestion of the honorable member, but I remind him that the potato marketing board in Victoria recently prevented New South Wales from obtaining Victorian potatoes. As far as I am able to see. the establishment of another board will mean that there will be less potatoes available in the Territory than there are at the present time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.33 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Actual reductions effected to date are -
z asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 23rd October, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) asked the following question : -
I ask the Prime Minister, through the VicePresident of the Executive Council, whether he will consider sending a ministerial envoy to North America and to Scandinavian countries with a view to negotiating for the purchase of softwood timbers and for shipping space to bring timbers here? Will he also investigate the effect of import duties on importation of timber, builders’ hardware, baths and other fittings so important to the home builders?
I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
The Government does not propose at this stage to send a ministerial envoy to either North America or Scandinavia to negotiate for the purchase of softwood timbers and for shipping space to bring the timbers here. It is not the policy of the Government to purchase essential goods for subsequent sale to commercial users even though they may be in short supply as the Government prefers to rely upon the initiative of private enterprise to obtain the requisite goods. The Government is at all times prepared to assist when difficulties arise by whatever means are appropriate to the particular transactions. In line with this policy the Government recently agreed to licence the more important types of softwood timbers from the dollar area on the production of evidence of the acceptance of firm orders at reasonable prices. Timbers from the dollar area are therefore accorded more favorable treatment than many lines of essential goods from the United States of America in respect of which licensing is operated within the system of budget control. The Government has obtained under the Sweden-Australia trade arrangement an assurance from the Swedish Government that a stated quantity of softwood timber would be available to Australian importers who have the right to arrange their own purchases. As regards shipping space for softwood timber, the Government is fully aware of the shortage of shipping and the matter is being kept under constant surveillance. The High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom has, over the past few months, made representations to the Shipping Conference and, although the shipping position is still not satisfactory, some improvement has resulted. The effect of import duties on the importation of timber, builders’ hardware, baths and all other goods used in the building and allied industries is under constant observation. As the imposition of customs duties has the effect of inflating the cost of these goods to the ultimate purchaser, the Government has followed the practice of admitting them cither free of duty or at reduced rates of duty where this action is possible consistent with the policy of affording tariff protection to efficiently conducted Australian industries and our obligations under trade agreements. The following figures regarding the importation of softwood timbers are furnished to indicate that there has been a considerable increase over the last three years in the quantity of timber imported: -
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
e. - The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) Production of steel ingots and castings was higher in 1950 relative to that in 1939 in all countries listed. The percentage increase was as follows : -
These figures exclude tinplate. As prices vary considerably from country to country and as between different categories and qualities of steel the value of the imports divided by the tonnage will not give a realistic average price per ton of steel. Prices of imported steel by country and by category are not available for the years 1938-39 or 1945-46. Current prices (or one category of steel (merchant bar) from four major sources of supply are given in £A. C.T.F.B. as follows:-
lt is mentioned that present prices of steel from overseas are fluid.
t.- On the 16th October, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) asked the following question: -
I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in the absence of the Minister for Immigration, a question concerning the inefficiency at Australia House, London, and the need for some alteration to bc made there so as to assist British immigrants seeking information regarding settlement in Australia. Is the Minister aware that large numbers of people in Britain who are the very cream of that country are anxious to immigrate to Australia if the proper approach is made to them and the right advice given to them! Is it a fact that many British people who wish to immigrate to Australia have been attempting to do so for more than three years and have not yet received- any satisfaction concerning the matter, although they are continually in touch with Australia House? In view of the urgency of this matter will the Minister have an investigation made at once with a view to effecting an improvement at Australia House?
My colleague, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, assured the honorable member of the staff of the Department of Immigration in Australia House is highly efficient and informed him that the aspect of policy would be referred to me for reply. I now furnish, the following information : -
I would definitely say that it is not a fact that many British people who wish to imigrate to Australia have been attempting to do so for more than three years and have not received any satisfaction from Australia House. An analysis of the 469,000 persons who immigrated from the United Kingdom to Commonwealth countries over the years 1047-50 shows that Australia easily headed the Hat of receiving countries with 154,700 or 33 per cent, of the total. Over the flame period Canada received 91,600, South Africa 71,800, New Zealand 32,600, India and Pakistan 23,900, Southern Rhodesia 11,200 and all other countries 83,200. There are three main schemes operated by the Commonwealth Government under which British migrants from the United Kingdom are brought to Australia for settlement. Under the personal nomination scheme protectivemigrants in the United Kingdom may be nominated by a friend or relative who is able toprovide accommodation for them on arrival. For those who have no friends or relatives in Australia it is open to them to be included in group nominations lodged with the Common wealth by Government authorities, private organizations and individuals in Australia in respect of particular classes of workers which they require and for whom they undertake to provide accommodation. In addition, with a view to ensuring a continued high intake of British migrants, the Commonwealth Government in 1950 introduced a new scheme under which skilled and other workers required for essential industry were provided both for themselves and their families with accommodation erected by the Commonwealth. It will be seen that the various kinds of nominations cover a wide field and that various opportunities exist for potential migrants to settle in Australia so long as they have tile trade skills or other qualifications we require. Clearly if would be inadvisable to recruit British migrants, especially families, whose occupations are of a non-essential character and who could not be found accommodation on arrival. That such people cannot be accepted under the free and assisted passage schemes does nol denote any inefficiency at Australia House. If every person who sought to settle in Australia, not only from the United Kingdom but elsewhere, was accepted we would nut have immigration planned in accordance with our capacity to absorb newcomers. Accommodation and other problems of an economic i ha’. acter would quickly arise which would soon create serious difficulties in ‘ Australia prejudicial to the success of the immigration programme. As the selection of migrants by the Department of Immigration at Australia House is being carried nut in accordance with the Government’s policy, and there, is no reason to believe that it is being di no other than efficiently. I do not propose to have an investigation made along the lines the honorable member suggests.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
t. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511107_reps_20_215/>.