20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct to the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration a question relative to the agreement with West Germany which the Minister for Immigration has apparently signed recently while abroad. I understand that it covers the immigration into Australia of 10,000 Germans. I ask the Minister whether that is the correct figure, and, if it is not, to indicate the correct figure. Are the German immigrants to be brought to Australia to be additional to, or part of, the estimated 80,000 immigrants which the Government has already announced will be the intake next year?
– The agreement which has been signed by the Minister for Immigration, mentions no number. The figure of 10,000 which has been repeatedly stated in the press is false.
– Then what is the estimated figure ?
– There is no estimated figure. The number of West Germans to arrive in Australia will depend entirely upon Australia’s needs from time to time. The number of. immigrants to come to Australia under the agreement is intended to form part of the reduced programme of 80,000 for next year. ‘
– Will .the Minister acting for Minister for Immigration indicate how many unemployed Italian immigrants have been brought into the Australian Capital Territory and .the employment that has been found for them here?
– I cannot answer that question off hand. I shall have the figures examined and provide the honorable member with an answer if I can ‘do so.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration tell me the functions and powers of immigraLION officers and agents throughout Australia who are not paid officials but are appointees of the Department of Immigration 1
– I shall have inquiries made and provide the honorable member with an answer as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether, in view of the fact that nil the States except Queensland have indicated their acceptance of the Commonwealth’s hospital benefit scheme, he will consider the launching of an extensive publicity campaign so that every person in the Commonwealth may be made aware if the grea t. benefit available to them and the conditions to bo followed, with emphasis on the fact that they will require to insure with approved organizations in order to gain the full advantages df the scheme. Will the Minister also ensure that the people of Queensland are made aware of the scheme in the hope that they will prevail on the Queensland Government not to deprive them of the benefits enjoyed by other Australians.
– I am pleased to be able to say that the State governments which have agreed to participate in the hospital benefit scheme are already themselves undertaking substantial publicity in connexion with the matter. It has been, pointed out to me, however, that a great deal of doubt exists about the identities of the organizations that are approved and will he associated with the scheme, and L am in process of preparing an advertisement, which will be published in every State, which will indicate clearly and exactly the names and addresses of the approved organizations and the measures necessary to insure under the scheme. I hope that that will, by a process of exclusion, keep other undesirable organizations out. There are practically 200,000 people in Queensland who are insured members of various organizations and as they are enjoying in intermediate wards of public hospitals and also in private hospitals throughout Queensland the benefits of the Government’s hospitals plans, I shall undoubtedly carry out an intensive publicity campaign in Queensland.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. Will persons who join hospital insurance societies under the Government’s new scheme and. subsequently become unemployed be obliged to continue to pay their subscriptions to such societies while they are unemployed, or will the Government pay their subscriptions on their behalf during such periods? Alternatively, will the agreement with the States provide that -embers of hospital insurance societies, when they are unemployed, be admitted to hospitals free of charge?
– I understand that quite liberal conditions have been made to permit such people being carried for a certain time. They have been especially designed to overcome difficulties caused by unemployment.
– Will the Minister for the Interior consider introducing amendments to the Electoral Act to bring it into line with present day conditions? Will he consider the advisability of’ increasing the deposit required from a candidate, which has remained unaltered since 1903, with the object of reducing the number of “ no hopers “, particularly at Senate elections? Will he also consider reducing the hours of polling, which also have remained unaltered since 1903 despite enormous improvements in transport? Further, will the Minister consider altering the permissible expenditure by candidates and banning the handing out of “ How to vote “ cards on election day?
– The Electoral Act always provides a subject for heated discussion because almost every individual, and certainly every political party, seems to have different ideas about the rules that should operate at elections. I assure the honorable member for Farrer that I have received from many sources numerous suggestions for the revision of the Electoral Act. Those suggestions are now the subject of discussion with electoral officers. However, 1 am not prepared to say at present which suggestions will be adopted and which will not be adopted.
– Can the Minister for Social Services say whether there has been any change of policy with regard to plana and specifications for war service homes ? If there has been a change, what are the present requirements, and why has the change been necessary?
– The’ War Service Homes Division has standard plans which it supplies to ex-servicemen who need them. It has also, of course, standard specifications for the buildings but quite naturally, many ex-servicemen, want to submit their own plans for their own homes. We have no objection to that whatever, provided the specifications meet our requirements. Unfortunately, so many private specifications have required considerable alteration that a substantial part of the time of our skilled staff has been taken Tip in checking those specifications. Therefore, we have been forced to ask that specifications shall come either from the division itself or from a recognized and registered architect. The reason is obvious. It is to speed up the provision of homes for ex-servicemen.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Health to the plight of wives and dependants of wage-earners who have contracted that dreaded disease tuberculosis. Has the Minister any plans to overcome the financial difficulties in which many such Australian taxpayers are finding themselves? By way of explanation, I point out that in the electorate of Phillip at present there is a man whose wife is in hospital with tuberculosis. He has been refused assistance from the Department of Social Services because his income exceeds £14 a week, which is just £2 more than the basic wage. He is receiving no assistance from the New South Wales Hospitals Contribution Fund although he has been a contributor. He is in a private hospital and therefore does not receive the assistance to which he would be entitled if he were in a public hospital. He has to meet medical, pharmaceutical and other expenses.
– Order ! The honorable member is making a long statement of facts. He should be seeking information and not giving it.
– Will the Minister indicate how he proposes to overcome this grave injustice?
– I can scarcely believe the position as stated by the honorable member reallys exists because, under the tuberculosis plans of the present Government, sufferers from the disease who are actively infectious to other people are given very generous pensions. The amount paid to them i? the highest pension of its kind in thE world.
– If their income exceeds £14 a week they are ineligible for the pension.
– -Order! The honorable member must not debate the matter.
– The Parliament has approved of the rate of pension payable in these cases. If the honorable member will furnish particulars in cases of actual hardship, they will be investigated.
– In view of th* difficulties that face the authorities in Malaya, not only in the military field, but also in their other efforts to settle the disturbed conditions of that country, will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether Australia i-= giving assistance to Malaya in what might be described as the social field, in order to help to restore peaceful conditions in the territory of one of our near neighbours in the north?
– Yes; we are giving to Malaya all the assistance that is within our compass. In addition to the military aid provided by the Royal Australian Air Force squadron that has been located in Malaya for a considerable time, we are aiding that country under the Colombo plan. Considerable technical assistance has been given. Off hand
I am unable to state the precise figure relating to that aspect of Australian aid. We also have offered a number pi scholarships and fellowships under the Colombo plan to Malayan citizens to enable them to come to Australia for training. Recently, the Australian Red Cross Society called for applications from young women to fill twelve positions as nurses and social workers in the new resettlement areas for Chinese. I have been in constant correspondence with General Templer in Kuala Lumpur. We are endeavouring in every possible way to meet his requests in a wide variety of directions. I assure the honorable member . that everything is being done that can possibly be done to aid General Templer in his extremely difficult task of restoring law and order to that most important British colony.
– As the Government ha3 failed to implement the regulations gazetted by the Chifley Government relating to the labelling of textiles, and as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has announced that it is the intention of the Government not to implement those regulations, but to draft others in lieu thereof, will the Minister state the date upon which it is expected the proposed new regulations will be enforced on the importing trade? Is he aware that in the drafting of the regulations gazetted by t>» Labour Government, Sir Douglas Boyd, the chairman of the Australian Wool Board-*-‘ -
– Order ! The honorable member must not mention the name of a person in asking a question.
– Is the Minister aware that the chairman of the Australian Wool Board played a very important part in the drafting of the regulations that were promulgated by the .Chifley Government? Is he aware that approval of those regulations was expressed and will he ensure that the chairman of the Australian Wool Board shall be consulted with respect to the suitability of any new regulations that the Government proposes to introduce?
Mr- McEWEN”. - I am not administratively responsible for regulations of the kind to which the honorable memtor has referred and am not able to say when such regulations are likely to be introduced. That is the responsibility of the Minister for Trade and Customs. However, I know something about the Australian Wool Board, which Gomes’ under my administration.
– Officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture will have some say ‘in the preparation of any new regulations.
– I realize that the advice of officers of my department will weigh quite substantially with the Minister for Trade and Customs. The position is that the Labour Government promulgated certain textile labelling regulations, which required the declaration on every article of its content of virgin wool, re-processed wool, or re-used wool. The Government’s technical and scientific advisers are of opinion that it would not be possible to identify these three different types of wool in fabricated wool.
– They did not give that advice when the regulations were promulgated.
– I do not know what advice those officers offered to the Labour Government at that time; I am informing the House of the opinion they hold now. This Government will not attempt to put into operation a law which could not be enforced. It is not prepared to bring the law into disrepute by making such an attempt, and it will not be a party to bringing about the ludicrous situation of having one standard of textile labelling in respect of imported goods and a different standard in respect of locally manufactured woollen goods. The Government has been in constant consultation with the appropriate State authorities, and it has also consulted with the Australian Wool Board with a view to reaching agreement with the State authorities for the establishment of a uniform standard of textile labelling. The Minister for Trade and Customs had a. conference with the appropriate State Ministers on this matter last May, but only two days ago, when it was again referred to them, they asked for time to consider’ the matter. Tf e Minister for Trade and Customs has been asked to offer Ms advice on the position, but he prefers not to’ do so> for the time being.
Mr. Brown having ashed a disallowed question,
– I rise to order. The honorable member for McMillan,, in asking his question, mentioned the name of a gentleman who is now deceased’; but I interpret his question to refer directly to the office of chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. Would you permit me, Mr. Speaker, to give information in that respect?
– Order! I have already called the honorable member for Reid.
– I advise the honorable member for McMillan that the regretted death of Mr. G. Howie, the former chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, has rendered it necessary for the Government to appoint a new chairman. That will be done as soon as practicable, allowing due. time for the appropriate consideration of so important an appointment. The law provides that the Australian Dairy Produce Board may itself, in such an eventuality, appoint an acting chairman. I am informed that the board will meet in about ten days’ time, and that it will then, in its own judgment, appoint from its own members an acting chairman. However, I was. advised yesterday that certain business la proceeding which requires for its validation almost the daily signature of the chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. Therefore, I have been confronted with the issue of whether I should myself appoint an acting chairman from amongst the members of the board. As I consider that that would prejudge the board’s selection, I have decided that, for the ten days until the board meets, I shall appoint as acting chairman a senior officer of the Department of Commerce, and Agriculture, Mr. Stevenson, who is located in Melbourne, which is the headquarters of the board. He will be acting chairman until the board has its next meeting in about ten days’ time, and for no longer.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether it is a fact that for some years the Commonwealth provided a pool of machinery to assist primary producers who. were unable to obtain machinery of their own? If that arrangement did exist, is the machinery still available? If it is not available, what is the reason? If the machinery is still available, will the Government consider reintroducing this form of assistance to farmers in order to encourage a greater production of primary commodities?
– During war-time, when the Commonwealth, under its defence powers, had authority in relation to, as well as responsibility for primary production, agricultural machinery pools were established by my predecessors in office, the honorable member for Lalor and a former honorable member for Gwydir. That situation related to the conduct of the war. At the end of the war the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture made appropriate arrangements to dispose of the machinery. I think that first preference was given to groups of primary producers. The situation in which those pools were established does not exist to-day.
– Oan the Prime Minister inform the House whether the recent discussions between the Ministers for Civil Aviation of New Zealand and Australia, and the Under-Secretary of Civil Aviation in the United Kingdom, about air routes, indicate that the respective governments of those countries have decided, or are giving consideration to. the merging of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, Tasman Empire Airways Limited and the British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited? If consideration is being given to this matter, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the progress of the discussions and the Government’s attitude to the proposal?
– I have not yet seen any report of such discussions and, therefore, I cannot say anything about them.
– Will the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization inform the House whether any approach has been made by the Tasmanian Government for supplies of myxomatosis virus to assist in the eradication of the rabbit pest in Tasmania? Has the Premier of Tasmania been assured by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization that it will affect rabbits only? Is Tasmania the only State that has banned myxomatosis?
– Tasmania is the only State that has banned the use of the myxomatosis virus. Tasmanian authorities have been given full information about the use of the virus, its effect upon rabbits, and its lack of effect upon birds and animals other than rabbits. I do not believe that there can be any misapprehension on that score. In view of the increasing evidence of the effectiveness of the myxomatosis virus and its lack of bad effects, I hope that the Tasmanian Government will reconsider its decision on this matter, and fall into line with the other States. If the Premier of Tasmania requires any further assurance on the matter, I am willing to give it to him, and also to supply him with any details that will help him to resolve the doubts that still remain in his mind, if those doubts are other than political.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services to give deep consideration to the desirability of making a grant of 10 to age and invalid pensioners as a Christmas gift. If the Government would make such a gift it would follow the example of the New Zealand Government and brins- a little happiness and comfort to our old people during the forthcoming festive season.
– Under the social services legislation, I have no discretionary power to make such a grant. The legislation makes no provision for the payment of a grant of that kind, which has not been paid by any government. I point out to the honorable member that the recent increases of pensions will make a difference of over £20 a year to age and invalid pensioners.
– My question isaddressed to the Minister for Supply. Some time ago, in a question directed to the Minister, I suggested that , goods, machinery, &c.r destined for the Mallee’, the Wimmera, the western districts of Victoria and thesoutheastern districts of South Australia should be unshipped at Portland in Victoria, and that exports from those areasshould be despatched from that port. The Minister stated then that he viewed my suggestion favorably. I now ask whether there is any prospect of this port becomingmoro active?
– =-The honorable gentleman has taken an active interest in this matter, on behalf of the people of the area that he represents. I am sorry that he has not yet received a detailed reply to his question. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and ensure that a reply is furnished as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for theNavy say whether, in recent months, a number of employees of the Garden’ Island naval establishment, including qualified fitters and turners, have been retrenched, and that, since the dismissal of those men, overtime has been worked at the establishment? If that be so, will the Minister state the reasons for thedismissals ?
– It is totally wrong to say that, in recent months, there have been reductions of the number of technical personnel employed at the Garden Island naval establishment. In the course of the last few days, I have had investigations made to ascertain the number of employees at Garden Island, technical and otherwise. I am pleased to be able tosay, first, that the graph of the number of employees shows a steady upward curve, and, secondly, that the rate of absenteeism at the establishment has decreased significantly during the last six or twelve months.
– Can the Minister for Territories give the House any information about the extent and possibilities of the bauxite deposits that have been discovered in “Wessell Island, off the coast of the Northern Territory? Will bauxite won from those deposits be used as the raw material for the Government’s aluminium project in Tasmania?
– It has been established chat there are substantial bauxite deposits in the Wessell Island group, off the northern coast of Australia. Already, a number of geologists and other experts are exploring the possibilities of the deposits. We hope that Australia will be able to produce first-grade bauxite for its aluminium project and, ultimately, have some available for export from that source.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question, relative to the provision of radio telephone facilities for people in the outback areas of New South Wales. The Postmaster-General promised that those services would be installed in the near future. Will r,he Minister indicate the policy of the department in relation ro the early provision of the services?
– I have not the necessary information in my possession, but I shall attempt to obtain it in time for the debate on the Estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department in Committee of Supply later to-day.
– In directing a question to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, I refer to the right honorable gentleman’s recent practice of moving the gag immediately the motion for the adjournment of the House is moved at night. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government is adopting this practice only for the period during which ‘the Estimates are being debated, or whether we are to regard it as normal practice for the future.
– The fact that I have been called upon to move the gag at 11 o’clock every evening-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman should use the correct term, which is “ closure “.
– I referred to it as the gag, Mr. Speaker, because you had permitted the honorable member for Fremantle to referto it by that word, and I merely followed his use of it. A total of 4.4 hours has been spent so far on the discussion of the Estimates. During thai time, honorable members have been permitted to speak on any subject under the sun, and the Chair has been very lenient in allowing them to deal with matter? that they have considered important. It is because of that fact that I have moved the closure at 11 o’clock each evening. .7 hope to revert to more normal practices after the debate on the Estimates ha? been completed, but I also hope that in future some common sense will be introduced or injected into the proceedings after the motion for the adjournment of the House has been moved.
– I wish to make available to the House a ministerial statement on the first meeting of the ANZUS Council held at Honolulu from the 4th August to the 6th August last. As the House is about to go into Committee of Supply on the Estimates, which are being treated as urgent, I do not desire to takeup time by reading my statement, yet J desire to give the House the opportunity to debate it later. I propose, therefore, with your concurrence, Mr. Speaker, and with that of the House, to have it incorporated in Hansard. If leave to do so is granted I shall move that the paper be printed.
– (Hon. Archie Cameron). Before I proceed further in this matter I direct the attention of the House to the fact that the proposal of the Minister for External Affairs is unusual and may have certain awkward repercussions in the near future if it should be accepted as a precedent that other Ministers and honorable members could follow. I wish to make it quite clear that the House is the absolute master of its own business, but I put it to honorable members that the incorporation of this statement, unread, in Hansard, which is the record of parliamentary debates, will mean that we shall have in Hansard a statement that honorable members have not had the opportunity to hear, but on which, apparently, a debate will ensue at a later date. I am not, under any circumstances, challenging the good faith of the Minister, whom £ have known for a very long time, but there may arise circumstances in which the House may give leave for the incorporation of unread matters in somewhat similar circumstances and afterwards have cause to regret it. The House has given leave on this occasion for the incorporation of the matter, but I hope that there will be an understanding that this, is not to be regarded as a precedent for the future. I recognize that the House has the right to make precedents and to follow precedents, but when it rnakes a precedent, it should be fully aware of the implications inherent in its own act.
Statement by the Right Honorable II. G. Casey, Minister for External Aff airs - by leave - incorporated, unread:
I want to report briefly to the Howe on the first meeting of the ANZUS Council established under the terms of the three-power treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.
The meeting took place at the Kaneohe Marine Air Base, 20 miles from Honolulu on the 4th to 6th August. The United States of America was represented by Mr. .Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State, whose advisers included Admiral Arthur W. Radford (United States Commander-in-Chief, Pacific) Ambassador Philip Jessup, Mr. Acheson’s special adviser, and two Assistant Secretaries of State, Mr. Perkins and Mr. Allison. New Zealand was represented by Mr. Clifton Webb, its Minister for External Affairs, who had with him the New Zealand Ambassador in Washington, Mr. Munro, the New Zealand Chief of the General Staff, Major-Genera Gentry, and senior officers of his department. I had with me, the Australian Ambassador at Washington, the permanent, heads of the
Departments of External Affairs and of Defence, and other appropriate officers of thitwo departments.
The council’s first task wa« to set up its machinery and to decide on the procedures tr govern its meetings in the future. It wac decided that the machinery should be a.simple as possible, and that maximum useshould be made of existing: channels and agencies. The intention is that the full council should meet once a year, with thethree Foreign Ministers present. In principle., meetings are to rotate among the threecapitals, on the basis of one year in theUnited States of America and the alternate year in either Australia or New Zealand. However, it was recognized that practical considerations might make it necessary to vary the date and place of the annual meetings.
In addition to the regular annual meetings, provision is made for meetings of deputies to be held in Washington as and when required. At these meetings the three countries will he represented by the United States UnderSecretary of State and the Ambassadors in Washington of Australia and of New Zealand’.
Tt wa« agreed that the council’s secretariat should he confined to a working arrangement among designated officers of the State Department and of the Australian and New Zealand Embassies in Washington. Records and other formal council documents are to be kept to a minimum. It is not intended that the council shou’d supersede normal diplomatic inter course between the three Governments.
On the military side it was agreed that each country would nominate a military representative to be accredited . to the council. These representatives will meet periodically as required, either independently of the council itself, or in conjunction with regular council meetings. It is likely that arrangements will lie made to establish permanent military liaison between the throe countries by the mutual assignment of officers to Pearl Ha’-hour, Melbourne and Wellington.
The first meeting on the military side will take place at Pearl Harbour on the 22nd September The Minister for Defence hap nominated as Australian representative at this5 initial meeting the Chief of the General Staff (Lieutenant-General Rowell), who is chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He will be accompanied by senior planning officers of each of the three fighting services, and Air Commodore A. L. Walters, who will shortly take up the appointment of head of the Australian Joint Service Staff in Washington. The New Zealand representative at the forthcoming meeting will be Major-General W. C. Gentry, Chief of the New Zealand General Staff. Admiral Radford will bo the United States military representative.
The House will recollect that Article 8 of the treaty deals with the relationship to be established between the council and’ - I quotethe words of the article - “ States, regional organizations, associations of States or other authorities in the Pacific area in a position tofurther the purposes of this Treaty and to- contribute to the security of that ‘ area “. Here we were in something of a dilemma. We nil had in mind the intimate and special relationship between Australia and New Zealand and- other members of the British Commonwealth, particularly the United Kingdom. It was obvious to all of us that in view of this special relationship, which assumes tangible form iri the present close co-operation among Commonwealth countries in Korea and Malaya and in military planning generally, the United Kingdom add in particular must be kept in close touch with council matters. We had also to take account of the special treaty relationships between the United States and i he Philippines, and between the United States and Japan; and of the direct interest of France and other countries in the broad fabric of mutual co-operation in the Pacific area. At the ANZUS Council meeting held in Honolulu, however, we came to the conclusion ti l at the difficulties, including that of discriminating among the claims of various countries for some form of association with the council, were such as to outweigh the advantages; and that at that very early stage of the ANZUS Council’s existence, when its machinery had not even begun to Work, it would have been premature to try to establish formal relationships with other States or regional organizations. We felt that the first task waa lit concentrate on making the treaty work with its original limited membership. After all, the United States of America. Australia and New Zealand do not claim any exclusive responsibility for settling the affairs of the Pacific. This responsibility could only devolve upon a much more broadly based organization, which can only be a gradual creation, I need scarcely assure the House that we will keep under continuous review the question of relationships, between the ANZUS Council and other States and organizations - particularly relationships with the United Kingdom.
Honorable members will remember that this ANZUS .Treaty is only one of three treaties in the Pacific area - the others ‘being thi; United States-Philippines Treaty, which is very -similar in its aims and in its phraseology to the ANZUS Treaty-and the Security Treaty between the United States and Japan. In each nf these three treaties, the United States of America is a member, and of course by far the most powerful member. This fact means that the United States of America has a special position in respect of Pacific defence.
So much for the machinery. I come now i« the most significant and valuable part of the Honolulu meeting - the opportunity that it gave for an intimate and unfettered survey of a very wide range of cm-rent matters. We covered not only the whole Pacific and adjacent areas, but also situations elsewhere in the world which inevitably impinge in one way or another on the Pacific It was of the greatest value in particular to learn the views of the United States Government, and to have an opportunity of commenting freely on them. Naturally, a large part of our discussions was concerned With the dark threat from Com munist imperialism in the Pacific and else where. As honorable members know, thitreaty calls for consultation between the three parties whenever there is a threat to security. As 1 have said at the council meeting, there is clearly a threat now existing - in that we are all helping to cope with open aggression in Korea and Communist forces are militant and active in other Asian countries.
Coming closest to home, I am glad to be able to say that there was complete agreement on the importance of South-East Asia and on the need for every possible effort to save it from Communist aggression. In this regard I am satisfied that what I have said about’ South-East Asia during the past year does noi need any modification as a result of what passed at the ANZUS Con neil meeting.
I should like to end by expressing my appreciation and gratitude for the hospitality given to us by our American hosts, and for the great care and trouble they took to ensure that this meeting would be a success. In particular the Australian Government is most appreciative of the fact that the American Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Acheson, gave a week to this conference out of a very busy life, which was a measure of the importance that the United States of America places on this treaty.
Our grateful thanks are also due to Admiral Radford, who throughout our time in Honolulu made himself available at all times for dis cussion. The Governor of Honolulu and hie officials, and the officers and men of the Marine air base at Kaneohe, showed us all possible courtesy and assistance.
This treaty helps substantially to close what has been a gap in the regional machinery for mutual defence in an important area of the world. I believe that it has got off to a good start - and that the security of a large area including Australia is much enhanced.
This treaty had already established a sub stantially improved working relationship between the three countries concerned which it will be our aim to maintain and develop to the advantage of all the free countries in this part of the world.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
ANZUS Council - First Meeting, Honolulu. 4th to 6th August, 1952 - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 4th September (vide page 1044).
Proposed vote, £3,862,000.
Proposed vote, £69,895,000.
Proposed vote, £4,533,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I wish to make some observations regarding some of the shortcomings that exist at present in the Postmaster-General’s Department. I refer first to the administration of the engineering branch of the department, particularly in relation to its activities in the provision of telephone services to intending telephone subscribers. I know that the department has been faced with grave difficulties in its attempt to meet the greatly increased post-war demand for telephone services, but excuses about lack of materials and shortage of manpower being responsible for the lag in the provision of telephones, which were valid during and immediately after the war, no longer bold good. The position in relation to the provision of telephones is becoming more desperate with each succeeding year, and appears to be worse now than it was during the worst period of the war and early post-war years. Constituents repeatedly make representations to me to assist them to obtain a telephone service. Some of them complain that they have been awaiting the installation of a telephone for periods of up to ten years. [ contend that such delays are unreasonable. Funds have been provided for the provision of the equipment and labour necessary for the installation of new services, yet, according to information that I have received, there are many stores in the vicinity ‘ of Melbourne, as one example only, in which essential telephone equipment has been lying unused for years instead of having been put into operation.
I shall cite some of the cases that have been brought to my notice. In one instance a woman applied for a telephone service more than six years ago. The excuse given by the department for its failure to provide the service was the usual one that the necessary equipment was not available. It was accompanied by an assurance that the matter would receive consideration at the appropriate time. She has continually made representations since then. She was told in reply to one letter that she wrote that no cable was available and therefore a service could not be installed to her house. Later she was informed that the cable had become available but that the exchange equipment was not available and that the existing exchange was already in use to full capacity. Some years after she had made her first application, a new telephone exchange was installed in the area, which enabled the department to connect some thousands of new telephone lines. It would be na tural to expect that when the exchange had been installed provision wouldbe made for people who had already applied for telephone services. Now, when further application has been made, the cable is again available, but there is no exchange equipment. There are several reasons for this. One is that the equipment that is available for installation is not being installed.
Another case brought to my notice concerns an ex-serviceman of “World War II. who is entitled to a very high priority. He applied for a telephone service for use in the establishment of a new business. He set up in business as a cartage contractor, and applied for a telephone five years ago. He bought a truck and began working for himself, carrying sand, screenings, and similar materials. He was able to expand his business and to buy a second truck. In a business of that kind, however, orders are usually placed by telephone because they must be fulfilled at short notice. He has been trying unsuccessfully for five years to obtain a telephone service. He is still trying to get one. There has been no cable available in his street for five years, although cable mains have been laid in nearby streets. As the result of his inability to secure a telephone, this unfortunate ex-serviceman was forceda month or two ago to sell one of his trucks because of lack of business. He is now running only one truck, andis finding difficulty in keeping even that vehicle going: His clients have told him that if he can be reached by telephonethey will place orders with him, otherwise they will have to take their business elsewhere. To-day, instead of being successfully established in business, this ex-serviceman is finding his means of livelihood gradually slipping away from him.
My attention has been directed to another case which concerns an existing subscriber who wishes to have his telephone transferred. He has been a subscriber for year3. There is cable available, but there is no exchange equipment, although the exchange concerned has been built for less than three years. The equipment is available in stores, but the department is not installing it. I am not blaming the employees of the Postal Department, because I know that, over the years, thi, huge undertaking has been most efficient. L do know, however, that in accordance with the Government’s decision last year to dismiss- 10,000 Commonwealth servants. approximately 4,500 employees of the Postal Department lost their jobs. The officials of the department had no say in whether those men should be dismissed or not. They were merely instructed, “You will sack so many thousand men. You must reduce your staffs “. Included in the 4,500 men dismissed were a large number of linemen and technicians, who, up to that time, had been engaged on the installation of telephone services. Because those men were sacked, this important work has now been held up. I place the responsibility for that, not upon the shoulders of the permanent departmental officials, but on the shoulders of the Government. It is time that the Government investigated this matter and took steps to ensure thatthe Postal Department, which is proably the biggest business undertaking in the Commonwealth, shall be given an opportunity to do its job efficiently. That will necessitate the provision of sufficient funds to employ an adequate skilled staff. The telephone branch is a revenue producer for the Commonwealth. Equipment is available for installation. It has been paid for, but is lying idle while it could be earning money. Responsibility for that rests upon this Government. ‘ By ordering a reduction of postal staffs by 4.500, the Government has deliberately prevented the Postal Department from carrying out its duties in the efficient manner expected by the general public.
I shall also refer briefly to mail services. For many years the Postal Depart ment boasted about the promptness of its mail deliveries. Unfortunately, owing to staff reductions, that boast can no longer be made and unless steps are taken to restore the efficiency of the Mail Services by providing adequate staffs the deterioration will continue. I was an employee of the Postal Department for many years and I know how efficiently the department was managed. I have had personal experience of postal deliveries. At one time, there was a rule in the department that the first letter delivery in the suburban areas of capital cities should be completed by 10.30 a.m. If it was not completed by that time, inquiries were made, and, if necessary, action was taken to ensure that no delay would occur in future. The service has now deteriorated to such a degree that the first delivery of letters in some suburban areas of capital cities is frequently not completed until 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
– What is the cause of that?
– The cause is the shortage of staff clue to the Government’s decision to reduce the Public Service by 10,000 employees. Men were sacked regardless of whether they were performing useful work or not. That is the chief reason for the deterioration of postal services generally. In the suburb in which I live, there are supposed to be about eighteen postmen, but the staff is continuously below strength. Sometimes a postman is called upon to do his own round and then another round in addition. I know, too, although the department will not admit it, that frequently the second delivery of letters is cut out altogether on certain days. That is due, not to the inefficiency of the employees, but to the fact that staffs are as much as 50 per cent, below their proper strength. That is the situation in one suburb. I have no doubtthat a similar position exists in other suburbs throughout Melbourne. Officials who are responsible for mail delivery services in Melbourne are endeavouring constantly to obtain sufficient staff to carry out their work. Because of staff shortages and the resulting conditions of employment, men and women are leaving the Postal Department. In some areas the first, mail delivery is. starting at 6.30 a.m., and is’, not being- completed until perhaps 5.30- p.m. Employees are refusing- to> continue’ to work milder slave conditions, and they cannot be blamed for that. If sufficient staffs were provided to carry on. these-. services, the job would be done as efficiently as it was done in the pre-war years. There is- no reason whatever why twelve men should be called upon to-day t& do the- work of eighteen men, and there is no- reason why mail deliveries should have so- deteriorated that morning deliveries are still being carried out in the afternoon-. We are back to normal times. Labour is available and the administrative officials of the Postal Department should be permitted to employ it. The Government’s decision to reduce the Public Service by J0,000 was merely a grandiose gesture. It has destroyed the efficiency of the Postal Department. Possibly some other Commonwealth departments are overstaffed but the Postal Department is not overstaffed. Even a superficial investigation would reveal very quickly that this big business organization is hopelessly understaffed, and cannot do its job efficiently. I pay a tribute to the employees of the department who are carrying out. their duties under such adverse conditions, and I appeal to the Government to have the employment situation in the department investigated at the earliest possible moment so that this undertaking which is one of the most efficient business organizations in the Commonwealth, may be brought back to full strength. Skilled men are available for that purpose. Telephone equipment is on hand but no attempt has been made to use it. Large stocks of equipment held in store should have been installed twelve months ago. When I questioned the PostmasterGeneral on this matter some- time ago the honorable gentleman attempted to explain hia failure to use it by the lame excuse that the whole of the equipment necessary to construct exchanges was not available and that no good purpose would be served by installing only a part of it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable mem bers time has expired.
– I propose to discuss the proposed votes for- the Commonwealth Railways. Recently I asked several questions in this, chamber regarding, the attitude, of the Government to. the proposal that & rail link be constructed from Birdum. in the. Northern Territory,, to the Queensland border,, and that, the Queensland; system be extended from its north-western terminal at Dajarra to the Northern Territory border, for the purpose, of providing rail transport for beef cattle from the Northern Territory through the Barkly Tableland in times of drought. I received, very encouraging replies from the. Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister, for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). This important, rail link should be constructed immediately in order to avoid heavy losses of stock in the Northern Territory during drought periods. Every Australian is aware of the vast numbers of cattle that were lost in the recent disastrous, drought. Those who have witnessed the misery of drought-stricken cattle must be deeply moved. If this rail link were constructed countless thousands, of beef cattle would be saved in drought periods to the benefit, of one of our principal primary industries. Store, bullocks could then be transported from the- Northern Territory- to the lush fattening pastures in north-western Queensland.. Honorable members will, perhaps, agree that the Northern Terri tory is the, beat cattle-breeding area in Australia and that Queensland contains our best fattening pastures. The opening up of the lush pastures of the Barkly Tableland would give a fillip to the beef industry. With the assistance of the Queensland Government a line should also he constructed from the Northern Territory border to the Channel country, where some of our best beef-fattening areas axe located.
Honorable members are aware that proposals have been made by the South Australian Government to construct a rail link between Alice Springs and Birdum. No great advantage would flow to the beef industry from the construction of such a link because in the main, it would traverse desert country which is useless for cattle grazing. It would be a more economic proposition to construct a line to give access to the rich pastures of the
Barkly Tableland and the Channel country. It does -not seem likely that the construction of a rail link .between Alice Springs and Birdum will be of any great economic value for generations to come.
The Clapp report on the ‘standardization of railway gauges, which was adopted bv the Labour Government, contains the following recommendation: -
Construction of a new standard gauge lino from Dajarra, Queensland, to Birdum, Northern Territory, via Camooweal and at. a point approximately J.4 miles north of Newcastle Waters.
For the reasons that I have stated such a project is highly ‘commendable as it would enable rich grazing areas to be developed and utilized. The report presents statistics to substantiate that point. Whilst I do not believe that the proposals which the Labour Government evolved for the standardization of railway gauges should be proceeded with at present, I point out that the gauge of the railway from Birdum to Darwin is 3 ft. 6 in., which is the gauge of the Queensland railway system. Consequently, if a railway of that gauge were constructed to link Dajarra with Birdum, Darwin would be connected with the Port of Townsville by a line of the same gauge for the whole of its length. It is obvious that the Queensland Government will not even consider any proposal that would involve the conversion of its railway system to the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. In these circumstances, the Commonwealth should make an immediate start on thi3 project. The construction of such a link would obviate the trans-shipment of cattle. Any one who knows anything about the handling of cattle will realize the value of such an improvement, because trans-shipment not only involves loss of condition, but also entails waste of valuable time in transit. A railway from Dajarra to Birdum would also be of considerable value from a defence point of view. During World War II., owing to the lack of that link, we were obliged to construct roads from Dajarra te the Northern Territory.. Much has been said in this debate about our undefended north. The construction of this link would soon pay dividends after the work had been com- pleted. According to the Clapp report it Would take four years to survey and construct this line. However, that report was presented in March, 1945. Improved equipment of all kinds, that has been evolved in the meantime, would enable that line to be constructed within at least two years, provided that the Government pressed on with the job. This line would also be of great value for the transport of minerals from the Northern Territory for treatment at centres in northern Queensland. I regret that the Labour Government did not undertake this work when it was recommended to do so in the Clapp report in 1945. Had it acted on that recommendation, we should now be reaping considerable benefits.
The provision of suitable railways is essential for the development of this country. We should follow the example of the United States of America in that respect. Although it might not be possible to run the line itself at a profit, its existence would pay substantial dividends from the point of view of the Australian economy as a whole. Some people might ask where the requisite labour could be obtained. I do not consider that difficulty to be very great. Sufficient immigrant labour could be obtained for that purpose. In addition, having regard to the claims that honorable members opposite make that considerable unemployment now exists in the community, other sources of man-power should be available. I can see no reason why this project should not be undertaken immediately. I shall do everything in my power to see that it is. The distance from Birdum to the Queensland border is 640 miles, which is only 20 miles longer than the distance from Birdum to Alice Springs. In any comparison between the merits of the two links, consideration must be given to the fact that it would be cheaper to construct the link from Birdum to Dajarra because the terrain presents fewer constructional problems.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– No doubt, honorable members generally will recall that on many occasions I have advocated the construction of a new General Post Office in Brisbane. Indeed, for a number of years that was considered to be a hardy annual with me. I have raised this matter on every budget that has been presented for very many years past, and in doing so I have had the backing of the people of Brisbane as a whole, particularly the business community in that city. The existing General Post Office in Bribsane is a disgrace to any capital city. In tho past, both Labour and. non-Labour governments promised that they would put in hand immediately the construction of a new General Post Office. On many occasions. I have inspected conditions at the existing building, and I have marvelled how employees have worked under them without suffering impairment of their health. The parcels post office is in an old building that was once used as stables when it was the practice to deliver telegrams on horseback. Conditions under which employees work in that section of the building are intolerable, particularly during the . summer months. Conditions in other parts of the building are almost as bad. When the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments were in office, certain improvements were effected and various amenities were provided for employees in order to give them a measure of immediate relief. When Mr. Speaker was Postmaster-General in 1939, he inspected the Brisbane General Post Office, and he agreed that the building was a disgrace to any capital city, apart from the fact that it was totally out of keeping with the magnificent structures that adjoin it. We also agreed that the employees should be provided with amenities to enable them to carry out their work in reasonable comfort. The Estimates for 1939-40 included the provision of £50,000 for the construction of . the first section of a new Brisbane General Post Office. It was intended to demolish the old building, known as the parcels post office, to which I have already referred. However, this work was not proceeded with. Of course, as honorable members know, following the outbreak of World War II. in 1939 it became necessary for the Government to abandon projected public works of this nature.
I understand that the Estimates for 1946-47 included a vote of £170,000 for the construction of the first section of the proposed new building, and the then Postmaster-General stated that an immediate commencement would be made. However, I regret to say that a start has not yet been made. I wonder whether the Government has forgotten all about the matter, or whether it has decided to abandon the project? At least three sets of plans were drawn up. I understand that the plans that were prepared in 193S or 1939 were approved by the then Government, and that they are still in existence. I cannot see why the work should not be proceeded with. New post offices have been built in other capital cities and in many of our country towns. The provision of a new General Post Office in Brisbane is an urgent necessity. I should like the Minister who is acting for the Postmaster-General to inform me whether provision has been made in the proposed vote for the carrying out of this work.
In 1949 or 1950 the PostmasterGeneral’s Department purchased Denham’s Building in Roma-street, Brisbane, with the intention to transfer to it a section of the work from the existing General Post Office, so as to enable work to be commenced on the proposed new building. But a start has still not been made. Conditions are vastly different now from those that existed during the war and in the immediate post-war period. Plenty of man-power and materials are available, and there appears to be no earthly reason why a commencement should not be made with this essential project. As I have said before, it stands to the credit of former Labour governments that considerable improvements have been effected to the interior of the existing building. The modernized sections will ultimately he incorporated in the new structure. A very fine cafe was installed, which has proved a boon to, and is much appreciated by, the postal employees. During the last twenty years I have consistently urged the erection of a new General Post Office in Brisbane. The existing building cannot cone with the tremendous growth of postal business in Brisbane, and it is not in keeping with the modern buildings of that city. The citizens of Brisbane, particularly the business community, consider that the provision of a new General Post Office in that city is long overdue.
The honorable member for “Wills (Mr. Bryson) has voiced a complaint about mail deliveries. I remind the committee that, as a result of the dismissal of many postal employees, the conditions that the honorable member has mentioned are common to all States. The greater proportion of the 10,000 public servants who were dismissed by the present Government were employees - chiefly temporary employees - -o£ the Postal Department. The majority of postmen are temporary employees. Obviously, therefore, the general public can not now receive as high a standard of service as was provided when the department was fully staffed. Although there is still plenty of room for improvement and extension of the telephone service in Queensland, on the whole I consider that the department is doing a good job under difficulties. As I mentioned during the debate on the Estimates last year, neither I nor the people whom I represent have very much to complain about in relation to other postal facilities.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute ro employees of the Postal Department in Queensland. They are performing excellent service. That department is perhaps the most efficient of our government departments. The members of the public always receive the utmost civility and courtesy from the employees of every branch of the Postal Department. I ask the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral to brins to the notice of his colleague the fact that I have again complained, on behalf of the citizens of Brisbane, about the failure of successive governments to honour a promise that was made about twenty years ago to provide a new General Post Office in Brisbane. I hope that the present Government will honour that promise at an early date.
ril.50].- .With regard to the Brisbane General Post Office, I am pleased to inform the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) that plans are now being prepared for a building of limit height on the old parcels post office site in Elizabeth-street. This will be the first stage of the rebuilding of the General Post Office. It has been estimated that the building will cost approximately £1,000,000. The project will be investigated by the Public Works Committee as soon as plans have been prepared. The new building will house the new city telephone exchange and other associated equipment.
During question time, I promised the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) that I would give him some information about radio-telephone services in outback areas. For some timepast, the Postal Department has been conducting tests in the Broken Hill district, under actual service conditions, with a new type of radio-telephone system that will enable residents of outback areas, where the cost of erecting physical lines is prohibitive, to be provided with telephone services capable of connexion with the Commonwealth telephone network generally. During the comprehensive trials of the new radio equipment, a number of operational difficulties have been encountered, such as interruptions caused by difficult atmospheric conditions and interference with the operating frequencies of the service by local and international stations. Therefore, it has been necessary to modify or to replace various sections and parts of the apparatus from time to time in order to provide a reliable service which can be incorporated into the general telephone system. For this reason, out-station radio facilities have been provided initially only at certain post offices, where the operation of the apparatus can be undertaken by and under the guidance of the staff of the post office.
The major operational difficulties that have been experienced have been eliminated, and now the department is considering tenders for the supply of radio base station equipment, including additional receivers, with a view to extending the service to subscribers’ premises in the Broken Hill area, and to establishing similar networks in other outback areas of the Commonwealth. I am certain that the radio telephone system will be successful. The department has performed work of extraordinary value with equipment of this kind in issuing flood warnings, especially to people who live near the rivers’ in the north-eastern part of New South Wales.
The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has suggested that the efficiency of the Postal Department has diminished, but, as the honorable member for Brisbane has said, its efficiency is still very high. The department has earned the gratitude of every one in Australia for the job that it is doing. During the last two and a half years, substantial progress has been made with the development of services. During that period, a record was achieved when 164,866 telephone subscribers’ lines were added, compared with 114,531 in the corresponding period prior to December, 1949, and with 57,619 in the two and a half years prior to the war. The addition of 66,298 country subscribers since December, 1949, is easily an all-time record. Since 1949, the Postal Department has also reduced the number of persons awaiting services from :l 25,114 to fewer than 80,000; installed 224 rural automatic exchanges, or 44 more than the total number previously in operation; increased hours of service at 408 manual telephone exchanges; provided 1,481 additional trunk-lin( channels; opened 543 new post offices; established 236 new road mail services, increased the frequency of 120, and extended the area served in 544 cases; installed 2,474 public telephones; and introduced a more liberal basis for the provision of country telephone services, In view of the difficulties with which the department has been confronted during the last twelve or eighteen months in connexion with finance, labour and materials, that is an extraordinarily creditable record..
.- In the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department, provision is made for expenditure upon the printing of postage stamps, postal notes, postal guides and telephone directories. I note that the proposed appropriation for that purpose this year is approximately 20 per cent, greater than the sum that was voted for it last year. I want to raise a matter which I raised sometime ago and which is, as it were, in a state of suspended animation. In June, 1951, 1 made some allegations about excessive charges by advertising contractors for the insertion of advertisements in the section of a telephone directory which is colloquially known as the “ pink page “ section, or, more properly, as the classified section. I shall repeat the allegations that I made then, because I have not received a satisfactory reply to them and this racket continues to operate, to the detriment of advertisers principally and, indirectly, of persons who buy articles that are advertised in a classified section.
For the benefit of honorable members who were not present when I made my charges some time ago, let me summarize what I said then. I supplied substantiated data about charges for advertisements in the classified section which indicated that publicity agents were receiving an enormous revenue from those advertisements, and I asked the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) to inform me of the revenue that the Postal Department derived from them. To refresh the minds of honorable members, I direct attention to a page that I have taken at random from the classified section of a telephone directory. It contains approximately 296 advertisements in small print, .fourteen -£-in. advertisements and seven J-in,. advertisements. On the information that was supplied to me by the Postmaster-General himself, I have estimated that, in respect of that one page alone, the revenue to the advertising contractors is at least £1,650. That is a very modest estimate. If we multiply £1,650 by the number of pages in the classified sections of the telephone directories for Sydney and Melbourne, we find that the revenue to the publicity agents in respect of those pases is astonishingly large - about £600.000 in Sydney and about £560,000 in Melbourne. If we add to those sums the revenue that private publicity agents receive from the classified sections of telephone directories for the other capital cities of the Commonwealth, we find that, on a conservative estimate, the aggregate revenue is over £1,000.000. The return to the department from the publicity agents for the right to- solicit advertisements for the classified section aggregates only £143>500 which is derived from the various States as follows: - New South Wales, £65,000; Victoria, £55,000; Queensland, £11,000; South Australia, £7,000; Western Australia, £5,000; Tasmania, £500. That seems to be a most inadequate return when compared with the enormous revenue received by the agents who solicit advertisements throughout the Commonwealth. To the sum of more than £1,000,000 to which I have referred may be added the cost of the “ scatter “ advertisements on the pages of the official section of the directory. I consider that all this points to the fact that a terrific imposition is being levied on the advertising public and, in the final analysis, on the general public which pays, in the price of the articles and services that it buys, the cost of the advertisements. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is either innocently or directly conniving at this vast imposition. One of a series of questions which I asked the PostmasterGeneral some time ago was whether he would produce the relevant file in the House. I asked it because my statements on this matter had- not been successfully controverted and because the PostmasterGeneral had replied to a previous question about those charges by stating that they were deemed to be reasonable. As well as asking him to .produce the file I asked him whether he would favour me with information about the method of computation on which his department had based the claim that the charges were moderate and that the return to the department was reasonable. He told me that no good purpose would be served by the production of the file. I wish to be fair in relation to the matter, and I admit that the department’s practice, which, amounts to conniving at a racket, has been followed, not only during this Government’s regime but also during the term of office of previous governments. I challenge the Postmaster-General, who is not at present in the chamber because departmental matters have taken him abroad, to produce the ‘departmental file in which it is stated that the return to the department was deemed to be reasonable. I again ask him, or the Minister who represents him, whether he will favour me with information about the method of computation on which -the department based its opinion that that return was reasonable. I also ask any honorable member to make calculations, based on whatever principles he may devise, and if he does not agree with me that the charges, which are £4 4s. a half year for small advertisements and £6 6s. a half year for larger advertisements in black type, are extortionate, then I do not understand what extortion is.
It is significant that in 1950 the prevailing charges for those entries were increased by 100 per cent. I wish to point out a fact of which honorable members may -perhaps not be aware, and which might shed a little light on the matter. That is that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department itself prints telephone directories, including the classified section, so that the advertising agencies are merely the vehicle which receives the advertisements, collates and classifies them, and then submits them to the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– They have doubled the contract prices recently.
– In 1950, the charges imposed on the advertisers were doubled. When one realizes that the -classified section of the Melbourne directory is .almost equal in size to the official section of the directory, and when the value of the advertisements on each page is computed, it is easy to understand what a marvellous thing this is for the advertising contractors. Other honorable members share my opinion that the department should establish an advertising section of its own so that telephone subscribers-
– Why did not the government that the honorable memher supported when it was in office adjust this matter?
– It does not prove anything to ask why we did not do it when we were in office. If a racket is exposed in the Parliament it does not matter what government has allowed it to flourish in the past, the point is that the government of the day, having had its attention directed to an evil, has the duty to abolish that evil. As I said before the Vice-President of the Executive
Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) entered the chamber, 1 do not blame this Government any more than I blame any
Other government that has connived a* this imposition of an unfair levy on the advertising public during the past twenty years or so, but even the august presence of the Vice-President of the Executive Council will not deter me from saying that this might be the time to prevent this evil from continuing. I suggest, with great sincerity, that the PostmasterGeneral should seriously consider the establishment of an advertising section. Advertisers who desire their names to bc included in the advertising section as well as in the official directory could pay for the latter privilege. I am confident that, in such circumstances, if these charges were properly based they would be much less than they are to-day. I repeat that no adequate reply has been given to the questions that I asked on a former occasion, and although I am an ordinary member of the Opposition I challenge the Postmaster-General, or the Minister representing him, to lay on the table of the House the departmental file which shows the method of calculation on which was based the Minister’s reply to my first allegation, in which he said that the charges were not unduly disproportionate. I believe that, if the Department handled its own classified advertising these estimates would be lower.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- During the debate on the PostmasterGeneral’s Estimates last year, I spoke on the subject of television and advocated an early decision in regard to its inauguration in Australia. I do so again, not because I am over-enthusiastic about the programme possibilities that it might have, but simply because I regard television as a short cut to a deeper knowledge of the principles of electronics that underlie modern defence methods and believe that this young and isolated country cannot afford to be left behind in this defence field of electronic science. Nothing has happened in the period since I raised the matter to limit in any way the views that I then expressed, but a good deal has happened to pin-point the urgency of the need to act along the lines that I indicated. One of the matters to which attention has recently been directed in this chamber is the fact that employment in the Australian radio industry has been reduced by one-third in comparison with its previous total. It may be said, as indeed it has been said in this chamber, that the radio industry should be assisted by defence orders. That is not practicable because the rate of obsolescence of defence equipment in the electronic field is such that tremendous wastage would be involved if we were to follow that plan. The important objective, I believe, is that we should maintain thi3 industry in a position from which it can readily be converted to the production of defence electronic equipment. There is, of course, always .the great danger that, in a community which reads only the magazine sections of Sunday newspapers and other similar literature, television will be regarded merely as another amenity for the general public, and that the close affinity between television and the defence application of electronic principles will be completely overlooked as indeed will be the influence of television on industry. When the eminent American physicist, Dr. Zworykin, whose name will always be remembered in connexion with the invention and development of the camera tube, the heart and core of television, visited Australia recently, he said that he paid greater attention to the use of television in the education and industrial fields. He regarded television broadcasting as only a minor use of the television principle. Throughout America to-day television has many industrial applications. It is being used in steel foundries and in mills for the control of smoke from chimneys, for the remote operation of all kinds of production equipment, for the supervision of entire manufacturing plants, and ‘ of certain processes involved in the atomic energy programme. We should also bear in mind the fact, that, in time of war, television and electronics generally will enjoy a high priority. As aircraft become more complex and their speeds rise, so the powers of the pilot to operate them alone diminish. It is quite safe to say that, to-day no high speed military aircraft can leave the ground without its full complement of electronic aids, and all of these exist and. operate in the same field as does television. It is interesting to note that the modern fighter aircraft uses, in its electronic equipment, approximately 250 radio valves whereas the modern bomber may well employ 2,000 or 2,500 radio valves in its basic operating equipment. In a recent statement, the vice-chairman of the United States Defence Research Development Board pointed out that, whereas in 1937 a destroyer of the American fleet used about 60 radio valves in its entire equipment, by 1944 that figure had risen to 840, and by 1952 no less than 3,200 valves were necessary to operate the control, navigation, signalling and general defence equipment of those vessels.
Already television principles are so closely allied to defence that we cannot have adequate defence without widespread use of them. I do not think that we in this country dare contemplate a situation in which we would be. forced to undertake the kind of defence to which we almost certainly shall be committed, without widespread knowledge of the electronic arts of defence. It would cost millions of pounds and occupy considerable time of which we should certainly not have a surplus in an emergency, to train the broad pool of skilled artisans that would be needed to design, manufacture, install, service, and even operate the electronic equipment that our defences would need. This is not mere theory. It is the result of practical experience during “World War IT. Only the wide civil application of electronic principles can possibly provide for this country the pool of skilled ‘technicians that we urgently need. Recently, we had a distinguished visitor from overseas in the person of Sir Edward Appleton who, for many years, was Chief of the British counterpart of our Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Opening a conference in Sydney, he offered the opinion that Britain’s progressive move in the development of monochrome television on ultra-short waves before the war had been a very important factor in conditioning the British radio- industry for the vital task of manufacturing entirely new radar equipment before and during the second world war. No one who has read the records of that war can have any doubt about the decisive role that was played by radar. However, looking beyond the entertainment and defence aspects of television, I believe that we must have regard to the level of scientific development that is going on in Australia. It should be the responsibility of this Government, and of succeeding administrations, to ensure that no obstacle shall be placed in the way of our more advanced sciences.
Australia has every right to be proud of its scientists in the radio and electronic fields. To-day, radio meteorology is playing an important part in the conduet of this country’s affairs. In Sydney and at various other places, very advanced work is being carried out in the field of radio astronomy, again with our own engineers and technicians in charge. The process of ionospheric recording whereby it is possible to predict what conditions will operate in telecommunications circuits as far as three months in advance, is a field in which our engineers are well to the fore. Sir Edward Appleton has also said that Australia’s record of discovery in the field of radio science is a brilliant one, and that our scientists are well known abroad. Addressing the International Scientific Radio Union Conference in Sydney recently, Sir Edward said that the conference was being held in this country to express the union’s admiration of the fine work that had been done in Australia during the last quarter of a century in the radio field, and to give members of the union a chance to see the many researches that were’ known to be in progress here. The people who are conducting those researches are the ones to whom we should have to look in the event of an emergency in which the rapid production of electronic tools of defence would be required. Unfortunately, at the very time when our need for these people and their services is greatest, the membership of the scientific institution which represents the hard core of this industry and of this science - the Institute of Radio Engineers of Australia - rs static and has been static for many years. Surely that fact tells its own story of limitation of opportunities for people who would otherwise enter this important scientific field. If we are to deny to our Australian scientists the right of entry to the field of advanced electronics we shall be doing them and this country a great disservice. It is not right that the valuable research that is being carried out to-day should end up merely in technical papers presented to scientific institutions. The time has come when we should apply our knowledge of the principles of electronics, and I believe that the field of application which lies nearest to hand is the field of television.
I urge the Government to reconsider its views on television. Circumstances have changed. The material supply position has altered considerably in the last few months. Any advantage that could possibly have accrued to this country from a “ wait and see “ policy on television has now been reaped. Nothing is to be gained from further waiting. A start should be made now. The Government should reach a decision on the installation of television as soon as possible so that the radio trade may carry out its own designing and engineering simultaneously with the establishment of the broadcasting stations. There will be no immediate reaction in the radio industry as far as employment is concerned. About twelve or fifteen months will elapse before it will be able to complete its designing and tooling for television. The time has come when the Government should give the green light to the industry and to our radio scientists. I urge it to reconsider its views on television and make an early decision on the matter.
.- I propose to confine my remarks on the proposed votes now before the committee to the introduction of contract work in the Postmaster-General’s Department. For very many years it was the practice of- the department to use its own employees for all telephone and telegraph work, including the laying of conduits. As- a consequence of that practice an exceedingly efficient engineering branch of the department was developed and staffed by trained personnel. The department purchased the most modern machinery for the purpose. In Septem ber last, the Government decided to dispense with the services of 10,000 employees in the Commonwealth Public Service. In the Postal Department the great bulk of the employees whose services were dispensed with consisted of linemen and line labourers and as a consequence grave delays have occurred in the carrying out of important telegraph and telephone works. As honorable members know from replies given by Ministers to questions asked in this chamber from representations made to them by their constituents, there is a tremendous lag in the installation of telephones, the extension of trunk-line services and other postal works. Honorable members learned with great regret that, at a time when so much important work remained to be done, the services of skilled and efficient employees of the department were to be terminated. Subsequent events indicated that the dismissals were merely a preliminary to the adoption of a new policy by the department under which work that had previously been carried out by day labour would be done by contract. Last year, the department accepted a tender for the supply, delivery and installation of a trunk-line system between Melbourne and Sydney. This year, it has called tenders for conduit work in the Pennant Hills district of Sydney. The calling for and acceptance of tenders such as these is a clear indication that the requisite funds are available to finance these works. I suggest to the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Earle Page) that in the national interest it is highly desirable that works of this kind should be carried out by the department. In recent years the department has purchased modern machinery, including trench-digging and excavating machinery, for the express purpose of enabling works of this kind to be carried out by its own employees. As a consequence of the re-introduction of the contract system at least some of that machinery will be left idle. It is .unbusinesslike for the department to dismiss skilled employees when adequate funds and modern machinery are available to it to undertake projects of. this kind. Another undesirable effect of the adoption by the contract system is that it distorts the statistics relating to government employment. If the Government dismisses employees and at the same time lets contracts for government works to outside contractors who have to engage large staffs, it cannot claim that it has effectively reduced the number of government employees. When the contract system, was originally introduced it immediately became evident that conduit and line-laying work could not be performed as efficiently and expeditiously by private contractors as by efficient and skilled departmental employees. Many unsatisfactory feaures of contract work were revealed. The work performed was often not up to departmental standards, and the wages, and conditions enjoyed by the employees were. not comparable with those observed by the Postal Department. Further, a great deal of contract work was found to have been unsatisfactorily carried out and the department was involved in unnecessarily high maintenance costs. Conduit laying by the department under the day-labour system is the subject of an award of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator which includes provisions for wages and sick and longservice leave that are more liberal than are those applicable to the employees of outside organizations.
Strong protests against the reintroduction of the contract system were made to the department by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. The reply by the Postmaster-General, and senior departmental officers indicated that the Government, in deciding to re-introduce the contract system was actuated by two motives. First, it was said that the system had been introduced in order to gain experience of its use for conduit work, so that a comparison could be made with normal departmental methods, and, secondly, that extensive installation and underground work for the British postal authorities had been carried out by contract with highly satisfactory results. The first reason given for the change seems to me to be a very strange one. To-day, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) and the Minister representing the Postmaster-General both paid a high tribute to the standard of efficiency exhibited by the Postal Depart ment in the installation of telephone and telegraph equipment. The contract, system was discarded in the past because the department learned that postal works could be most efficiently and expeditiously carried out by its own employees. At a time when the need for economy is being preached by government spokesmen it is strange that a more costly system for carrying out postal works should be instituted. Under the contract system, the department foots the hill in respect of not only the cost of labour and material, but also depreciation of the machinery that is used. In addition, it commits itself to an expenditure that includes a substantial profit for the contractor. At the same time, it has no guarantee that the contractor will observe employment conditions and pay wages identical with those that it applies in respect of its employees who are engaged on similar work. The contention that the Postal Department is justified’ in adopting certain methods merely because the British postal authorities have adopted similar methods does not conform to the department’s practice in the past. In any event, the British authorities are confronted with conditions which differ in many respects from those that exist in Australia. For’instance, the numerical strength of the staff of the British Postal Department has been pegged for many years by the British Treasury. Consequently, it has not been the practice of the British authorities to carry out work that is done by the Postal Department in this country. However, even in this respect, the British authorities recently changed their methods. Engineering Department Letter No. 7-50, issued by the British postal authorities, prescribed that certain classes of conduit work previously carried out by contract,, must be done by the department itself. Apparently, the British postal authorities found, as a result of experience, that it was more economical and satisfactory to do certain classes of conduit laying themselves instead of by contract.
In this instance, the Government is going to extremes in pushing its policy of supporting private enterprise. Governments, in the great majority of countries, recognize that the provision and conduct of postal, telephonic and telegraphic facilities is a governmental responsibility and, consequently, they retain complete control of such services. The experience that the Postal Department in Australia has had of the day-labour system over many years has enabled it not only to train specialists, but also to impart to its employees the “ know-how “ to enable them to meet departmental requirements efficiently and expeditiously. We shall not be acting in the best interests of Australia if . we permit the contract system, with its many disturbing characteristics, to be reintroduced into the Postal Department. Can any one, who has had experience in respect of the contract system, particularly in relation to the construction of buildings for governmental purposes, say that it has always proved to be satisfactory? At one time, I was a member of the Council of the University of Melbourne and I know that from 1936 to 193S that body was obliged to expend thousands of pounds in remedying the constructional faults in a building that had been built by contract in 1928. By the time the faults became apparent the contractor had gone out of business and could not be traced. One of the worst features of the contract system is that, owing to the desire of the contractor to make as much profit as possible,- much of the work is skimped. Consequently, in many instances, those employed on the job are not allowed to perform their work to the best of their ability. Maintenance costs are increased and-, very often, extensive alterations have to be made because contractors do not carry out their work properly. I sincerely trust the Government will not encourage the contract system in respect of Postal Department work, but will give every consideration to the representations that have been made to it and decide that, in future, conduit work and similar work shall he carried out by day labour.
– I wish to refer briefly to some remarks that were made by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) in respect of the development of railway transport in the northern part of Australia. Honorable members are familiar with his constant advocacy of this particular development and also of the interests of Queensland, in which State his electorate is situated. I believe that honorable members generally appreciate the service that he has done in directing attention to these matters. I shall make only one comment regarding the substance of what he said, and that is that whilst I agree completely with his advocacy of the construction of a railway from Birdum to the Queensland border and thence to Dajarra, I think he was, perhaps, influenced by his keenness for Queensland interests rather to belittle other elements in railway development which also require attention. He went so far as to suggest that a railway from Alice Springs north to Newcastle Waters would not be of much value. I dispute that contention. When we think of railway development in the north we cannot think of a single line ; rather, we must think of a system. And when we are thinking of a railway system for the north and centre of Australia we have to think in terms not of a particular State, or even of a particular Commonwealth territory, but of northern development in the most comprehensive sense. The boundary lines between the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland are artificial, and have no basis in geography at all. The natural regions of that area extend across those artificial boundaries. When we think of the development of a railway system in that area we should think of the needs of the area as a whole and not stop at the boundaries of a particular jurisdiction. We must think of a railway as a part of a system that will serve the whole of the north.
Honorable members are aware that for some months past the Government has been investigating the possibilities of northern railway development. Last year, I set up a body which assembled a good deal of information that already existed and made fresh inquiries, and presented to the Government a mass of information regarding the practical aspects of the constructional and economic problems involved. The Government has before it comprehensive material on the subject. It has also available to it the advice of its experts. Thus, it will be enabled to make a clear determination on the matter. However, before we can say that a particular railway should be built, we have to keep our feet on the earth. We have to realize that railways do not materialize simply because we wish them to do so; they can be constructed only when it is possible for us to find the requisite labour, finance, timber and steel. That is the key to railway development. Although one might criticize the previous Government for having failed to give attention to this problem, I believe that, in fairness, we must recognize that that Government could not have done anything in that direction even if it had been disposed to take such action. It was not until this Government had brought about a new situation with respect to the supply of steel, and had accomplished some of the tasks which had prior claims on available timber supplies, and in addition, had brought about a different, attitude towards the employment of labour and its continuation of immigra-tion had given it some prospect of obtaining labour for such big construction jobs, that it was enabled to face the real problem of railway development in the north. Because of the changes in those respects we are now in a much happier position in which to tackle the problem of the development of our railways. Apart from assembling material resources, however, we cannot go ahead with railway development until several decisions in relation to principle have been made. Important considerations in relation to gauge must be resolved in co-operation with the States concerned. The different gauges of .the existing railway systems are one of the biggest obstacles that will have to be overcome in the north, if we are to bring about the maximum development of our northern areas. These matters are receiving attention. The Government is giving attention also to other forms of transport in our northern areas. There has been an amazing improvement of stock routes, particularly in the Northern Territory during the last two years. It is now possible to move stock from those areas to the markets with much greater facility than formerly. We have also1 given attention to the related problemof Darwin Harbour, with the object of providing immediately at least one safe berth in that port.
The proposed vote for the Commonwealth Railways, Division No. 46, includes the provision of £1,257,000 for the Central Australia Railway, and £260,000 for the North Australia Railway. These amounts are far greater than amounts that have been provided for those railways in recent years. They will be expended principally in the purchase of new rolling stock. My colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), has recently announced the intention of his department to purchase new rolling stock and locomotives for these railways, in order to improve the service. I assure the committee that this Government is fully conscious of the importance of transport in the development of the northern parts of Australia. We believe that development should continue, not on the basis of only a single track, but of a railway system. We shall continue to give this matter very close attention.
– I want to say a. few words about the excessive delay in the provision of private telephones. There are more than 42,000 applications for telephones in New South Wales outstanding. About 2 per cent, of the applicants have been waiting for installations for longer than seven years. In view of the large number of complaints that I have received about this delay, it seems to me that the majority of the applicants comprising that 2 per cent, reside in my electorate. It appears that they have little prospect of receiving telephones for some considerable time to come.
– Apparently they waited for five years during Labour’s term of office.
– In the provision of telephones, as well as putting value back into the £1, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is still the title holder for delay. We well remember the lengthy waiting periods for telephones during the period that he was Postmaster-General some years ago. It is time that improved telephone services were provided, particularly in our busy metropolitan areas. I should like the Minister acting for the. PostmasterGeneral (Sir Earle Page) to inform me when it is expected that the lag in the installation of telephones will be overtaken, and particularly when applicants for telephones in my electorate who have been on the waitinglist for lengthy periods are likely to receive them.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the. proposed votes for Commonwealth Railways, the Postmaster-General’s Department and Broadcasting Services has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Proposed vote, £2,498,000.
Proposed vote, £1,967,000.
Proposed vote, £15,300:
Proposed vote,. £5,634,700. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I shall direct my remarks to that portion of the, Estimates that relates to the Australian Capital Territory, in particular to cultural and. community activities and grants in aid of social services. There is a need for the establishment in this capital city of community centres in the best sense of those words. Canberra is vastly different from any other community in Australia. It is a planned community. It is not a community which grew because of usual economic reasons. Had there not been a decision to establish the National Capital of the. Commonwealth here, there would never have been a city in this place. It. is: doubtful whether there would ever have been more than a small hamlet or village. Because it is a planned city, and because it has not had the natural growth of other communities of this size in Australia, the differences between it and them have been per petuated. For example, Canberra’s populace has been brought from the various cities of the Commonwealth. People have been transferred here only for the reason that they were to be employed here. This city has not the ordinary daybyday activities of other cities of its size. Here there is no buying or selling of land. All the land is owned by the Government. There is here no buying and selling of stock. No farmers bring in produce to sell to the community. There are not in this city the ordinary day-by-day contacts of commerce and community interest that exist in a town which has grown gradually from economic necessity. Consequently, there is not the same community of interest among the people of this capital city that is found in other towns. Most of its people came from suburban homes to this area and this is the first time that many of them have lived in what might be regarded as a country town.
There is no common ground on which the people of the capital city can meet and exchange their views apart from the clubs and sporting bodies that have been established, and the departmental activities that bring many of them together. There is no main street in Canberra. There are shopping centres - planned shopping centres, sited where the administration of the day decided that shopping centres should be. It has not a main street, developed according to the needs of the community. Consequently there is a lack of common ground on which people can meet to discuss day-by-day affairs because there is a lack of the business activity which occupies the ordinary town of this size. There are here no shire and municipal councils. There is no pastures protection board and no grazier’s association or farmers and settlers’ association.In other words, there are none of those usual country town activities that bring people together and give to them a common interest. An interrelationship develops among the people of the average country town which is surrounded by a farming or grazing hinterland. It has been suggested, over the years, that the Government, should undertake the establishment of a centre which would compensate for Canberra’s, lack of a main street. Some two years ago the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council suggested that at least two large community centres should be established, one on each side of the river, in order to take the place of a main street and provide the common ground on which people, whether departmental employees, employees of private enterprise, or men who were working temporarily in the Territory, could meet and come to know each other and develop that community of interest which alone can make a city great. The Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council suggested that each of these centres should have a large hall with a good dance floor and stage and that provision should be made for the amplifying of music, either from records or radio, so that there would always be facilities for dancing. Any organization that organized- a dance there could hire an orchestra if it desired to have one. It was suggested that each centre should also have a milk bar and cafeteria, a reading room, a well-stocked popular library, a billiard room, a table tennis room, a badminton court, a wide glassed-in verandah with tables and chairs, and a band rotunda and promenade with lawns. “When the suggestion was made, the then Minister for the Interior, who is now the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), wrote to the Advisory Council stating -
The requirements of individual community centres may differ according Jo the interests of the residents, but most of the features mentioned in the council’s resolution are those which would commonly be regarded as essential or desirable portions of any scheme.
So, although the scheme was ambitious, the Government recognized that these features should- be provided. In this city of about 23,000 people, 23.5 per cent., according to the figures of the Department of the Interior for 1951, live in hotels, hostels or guest houses. They have not the same opportunities for community life as have people who live in houses. From time to time ministers of religion and others have expressed concern regarding conditions which they believe exist in hostels in this Territory. T. have lived in a hostel here for at least two and a half years and I have found no evidence that would substantiate the fears that have been expressed to me by these reverend gentlemen and others.
But I believe that a proper opportunity should be provided, not only for young people in hostels, but also for new-comers into this community, to foregather and develop those friendships that should bt developed in order to make life as full as it can be. I believe that community centres would be revenue-producing, if not profit-making. In most country towns after the evening meal, people can walk down the main street and go to the school of arts for mental relaxation or to a cafe for a cup of tea, but these opportunities for getting together do not exist in Canberra. Community centres would provide the meeting ground which the city at present lacks and I hope that they will be established.
I tura now to the subject of assistance for the old people of this community. “When I spoke during the debate on the Estimates last week I mentioned the very fine work that the Government had done in caring for the children of this territory. I spoke with warm appreciation of the work that had been done in the kindergarten centres for children of pre-school age. Those centres are truly magnificent, and the school facilities provided in Canberra for the primary and secondary education of children are also excellent. However, the children upon whom such great care is lavished ultimately face the problem of growing old, and in Canberra the Government provides no facilities for the care of aged people. From time to time the Twilight Homes Committee and other public organizations have propounded schemes designed to provide homes for aged people, not of the institution type, but cottage homes that will provide for all their accommodation needs. So far it has been found not possible to provide such accommodation, although the need is more pressing than, ever before. When I spoke previously of the facilities for the care of pre-school age children and school children, I omitted to mention the excellent work that is being done by the citizens of Canberra who support those institutions. That work is extensive and valuable, and I believe that the citizens of our community are just as eager to help to finance and maintain homes for old people as they are to help in the education of the children.
Honorable members who do not see much of Canberra should, on some occasion, travel by car to Russell Hill or to the camp to the east of Duntroon, or to Westlake, where they can see how some old people of this community are forced by economic circumstances to live. I believe that the Government should do everything possible to make homes available for the aged, and I am sure that the community will give to the Government every possible support if it will only take the initial step. A start could be made by setting aside from the next group of cottages that becomes available for allocation to tenants, one, two or perhaps three houses for aged people. Members of the National Council of Women in the Australian Capital Territory have devoted much time to sponsoring and fostering an appeal for homes for old people. They have also performed a magnificent task in supporting the old people’s own organization, the “Thursday Club. The women members of the National Council of Women, with the assistance of the members of other organizations in Canberra, will rally to the support of the Government once it takes the initial step to help old people. They will do their best to maintain the homes allotted to old people and will continue their care of the aged.
.- It has been said too frequently that the main problems to be solved in the development of the Northern Territory are lack of water and inadequate transport. Whilst that is true to a degree, the real difficulty to be faced in developing the territory is its isolation from the rest of the community. There are about 12,000 people in the Northern Territory, and in the remaining part of Australia about 8,500,000. The people of the territory know the problems that they have to face but they hope to achieve much more progress in the next few years than has been achieved in the territory since the Commonwealth assumed responsibility for it. It is true to say that the Northern Territory at present needs not so much an examination of detail by the Parliament, and not so much an examination of high policy, but rather a completely new approach. I ask honorable members to consider the economical and geographical facts of the whole problem of the’ development of the territory. The territory itself is about 523,000 square miles larger than the combined areas of New South Wales and Victoria. The territory is capable of immense development, but it is the part of our continent that i3 closest to the 1,000,000,000 people to our near north. Those northern peoples are both land hungry and food hungry, and it is significant that the northern part of the Northern Territory offers immense possibilities for the production of vast quantities of food. The territory as a whole has great mineral resources, but for years there has been little, if any, development of its huge area. In that connexion I desire to quote from an article that appeared in the Commonwealth Tear-Book of 1931. It is headed “ Production, Agriculture “, and reads -
Up tn the present agriculture has made little progress in the Territory although it hae been proved that rice, tobacco, coconuts, mangoes, bananas, cotton, various fibre plants and peanuts can be successfully grown. Expensive harvesting is at present an obstacle to the economic production of rice, and until laboursaving machinery is procured it cannot be produced with profit.
The present position of agriculture in the territory is little different from its position in 193.1. It is true that the main problems that face any scheme to increase agricultural production are lack of water and transport, but if we consider the territory from the viewpoint that its development, is essential, not only to the few people living there but also to the future security of Australia, then the problem of water supply will not appear to be so difficult of solution as has been frequently suggested. In the northern part of the Northern Territory there is no lack of water, although, in order to distribute the water to the land, engineering and irrigation problems must be solved. In the southern part of the territory much more can be done to conserve the water that flows down many of the rivers for from two to four months of the rainy season, and to develop bore water supplies.
The necessity for increased transport facilities in the territory has been mentioned in this chamber on occasions. I therefore do not want to mention it in detail and shall merely say that the difficulty can be overcome by the supply of men, machinery and labour. Since all Government expenditure must be accompanied by a weighing of the importance of the projects upon which the money is to be expended and their relation to the general demands of the community, I am optimistic that in the fairly near future the cost of supplying transport to the territory will not loom so largely as it has done in our consideration. It has been a matter for debate whether, if the railways system of the territory is to be enlarged, a railway should be built from Darwin to Birdum and then to Alice Springs, or the Queensland railways system should be linked with the Channel country through Dajarra and Camooweal. I have not sufficient technical knowledge to be able to say which of those suggestions is the better, but I believe that both systems of railways are necessary for the full development of the territory. I am sure that, considering what has been done to the present, we can look forward with confidence in the near future to some sort of progress along the lines that I have mentioned.
Another matter that has not been referred to so frequently is not connected with the natural features of the territory; it is concerned with its administration. It is the problem that has arisen because of the difficulty of administering a huge territory that lies 2,000 miles or 2,500 miles from Canberra. I do not suggest that any government has endeavoured to delay the development of the territory or to restrict the activities of its residents. It is a self-evident fact that, because of the great distance that separates the territory from Canberra, where its administrators work, its people have not received the sympathetic understanding that they should receive. Fortunately, there is evidence of an improvement in this direction. 1 hope the realistic outlook that has been adopted bv the present Minister for Territories (“Mr. Hasluck) will set a new standard for the public servants who are responsible for the affairs of the territory. The ultimate responsibility for the development of the “Northern Territory, of course, lies with this Parliament.
Pastoral development has been in the forefront of the many subjects that have spasmodically occupied the attention of those who have been interested in the territory over the last 40 years. The present Minister is to be congratulated on the practical approach that he has made te the problems of land settlement and pastoral development. It is easy to generalize and be dogmatic on this subject, but it is extremely difficult to frame a policy that will meet the needs of the residents of such a large area, in which conditions vary so considerably. I congratulate the Minister on the way ir. which he has encouraged resident ownership of stock property. Many cattle holdings in Northern Australia, cover an area of 5.000 square miles. One of them exceeds 10,000 square miles. These are enormous areas by comparison with holdings in the southern part of the continent. It is an outstanding fa.ct that, in the main, resident owners have done a far better job and have accepted a far greater degree of responsibility to the Government that has made the land available to them than have the managers who work for absentee landlords. There are exceptions, but that is generally true. One of the chief problems of administration is that of making laws that encourage the useful and hardworking land-holders without, being unduly lenient towards those who are not doing a good job. I hope that the Minister will give some consideration to the possibility of promoting further agricultural development in some of the areas that are now under pastoral lease. Provision should be made in the terms of the leases for areas to be resumed for agricultural purposes under reasonable conditions. I understand that, proposals for the extension of railways in the Northern Territory have already bec:i under investigation. I hope that, when new rail services are provided, consideration will be given to the fact that the values of leasehold areas served by the new lines will be enormously enhanced.
The vital factor in all plans for the development of the Northern Territory is cost, and we must realize that the funds must be provided by the millions of people who live in the other parts of Australia. Therefore, we must endeavour to enlist the sympathetic interest of those- people’. No government can develop tile’’ Northern Territory without the support’ of the people generally. Therefore, all. honorable members who have any knowledge of the territory should do their bes’t to interest- the electors in the task 6f opening’ up that potentially rich area. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is engaged in research work that is of the first importance to the Northern Territory. Its work on fodder conservation and the development of grasses of types that are suitable to the Northern Territory is of inestimable value. This research at Katherine. I understand, is being sadly hampered by the lack of finance. Its importance is so great that false economy cannot be excused. It is not applicable in many ways to the more closely settled areas of the south, but it may have a vital bearing on the future prosperity of the Northern Territory. Therefore, the Government should make sure that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization shall not be forced to curtail its programme at Katherine.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. -The glorious history of Australia is studded with unparalleled examples of courage and endurance. The Northern Territory has been the scene of some of the finest acts associated with the pioneering of ‘our continent.
– By private enterprise !
M.i LUCHETTI.- That is a most unfortunate interjection. The Government supporters who recently visited the Northern Territory can testify to the tragic results of the activities of private enterprise - there. Avarice overcame the desire of private enterprise to serve Australia and to provide beef for Great Britain in its time of need. The people of the Northern Territory look to this Parliament ‘ for leadership. They look for statesmanship, not politics. I pay a tribute to them for the part that they have played in the development of that vast region and, in particular, I pay a high tribute to their women folk. The
Northern Territory can be developed only if people are; able’ to make permanent homes there’.- The residents of the Northern1 Territory should feel that they have roots in’ t-he territory. They should think, “ This is our home. This- is where we belong”. We cannot evade responsibility for the welfare’ and development of the Northern Territory. This is not a matter for State governments, and ] hope that no supporters of the Government will attempt to blame them for shortcomings for which this Parliament has been responsible. It is not my purpose in this debate to delve into the pa’st, apportion blame, and condemn some people for having failed to do all that might have been done to develop the Northern Territory; but I appeal to honorable members to consider this problem in a patriotic way as an Australian p’ro’blem, with a view to determining what can be done for the development of this vast, area in the interests of the people 0i8 live’ there, and for the advancement and preservation of the security df the nation. The responsibility for those matters undoubtedly devolves upon the Austraiian Government. The States cannot be blamed for the lack of development in the Northern Territory. The immediate task of developing and peopling the north is a national responsibility, and an awakened, public conscience demands prompt action.
While 1 am discussing the proposed vote for the Northern Territory, I should like to acknowledge the work_ of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who,-. I believe, _ is interested in the development of that vast area, and has shown on a number of occasions his awareness of the existence of its problems. I pay a tribute to the honorablemember for the Northern Territory (Mr. Kelson) and to the Administrator, Mr. F. J. S. Wise, whom I regard as an excellent man for that position. The Government chose wisely when it selected him for the office of Administrator, and deserves praise .for its decision. We are fortunate, too, that in the main, the Commonwealth officers in the Northern Territory, with one or two exceptions, are enthusiastic about their work. They could be filling positions in the southern
States,- where they would earn considerably more money and have a more congenial time than is the case in the Northern Territory, but have dedicated themselves to the task of developing this pari of Australia. I pay a tribute to th’em, and I regard their enthusiasm as most important.
I greatly deplore the fact that tha Minister for Territories does not possess more authority than- is vested in him at the present time. It is regrettable that the responsibility for all those matters associated with the territory should be divided among a number of Ministers. I also deplore the fact that the Administrator himself lacks authority to make decisions that should be made immediately for the advancement and development of that area. The Minister is the proper person in this Parliament to accept responsibility for all those matters. It was brought forcibly to my notice during my recent visit to the Northern Territory that many of the problems that arise in that vast area must be referred to Canberra, which is situated approximately 2,000 miles away, before a decision cun bc reached.
Unfortunately, there are interdepartmental rivalries and jealousies that are not assisting the development of the north. The Department of the Interior and the Department of Works, which are under the control .of the same Minister, may be singled out more than any other department for retarding the development of the territory. The divided control which now Exists .should, be coordinated, and vested, in the Minister for Territories and the Administrator, The need for co-ordination is urgent. Delays are irritating to those in the territory who desire to do a good job. The Legislative Council for the Northern Territory is frustrated on many occasions. I agree with the members of that legislature when they claim that they are the most under-paid body of legislators or administrators in this country, and I appeal, on their behalf, to this Parliament to review the payment that they now receive. Their remuneration for their legislative duties should be in keeping with the services that they render to a vast area of Australia.
Before any plan of land settlement in the Northern Territory is considered as a piecemeal and sectional matter, am overall plan for the development of that area should be formulated. The problems of land settlement and mining, and the need for a balanced economy should be examined. An ordinance that is to be considered by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory provides that the area of leases shall be restricted to 5,000 square miles. I support the statement of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), who made a just and able comment on this matter, about the need for developing’ the area by the resident landowner and not the absentee land-owner. 1 have met some of the pioneers of the Northern Territory, including Mr. Chalmers, of McDonald Downs, Mr. Chambers, of the Barkly Tableland, the Messrs. Courtholds, of Kulgera, and Mr. Schultz, of the Humbert River, all of wham have developed reasonably small areas. If such holdings can be developed by enthusiastic, hard-working, pioneering sons of toil in spite of all the disabilities now associated with land settlement in the territory, I believe that, when the essential railways have been constructed, land settlement should be regarded in an entirely new way. Agriculture, and its association with pastoral pursuits, should also receive careful consideration. We are also obliged to examine mining, with a view to ascertaining how it will affect land development in that area. i pay a tribute to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for its activities in the territory, and particularly to Dr. Ian Clunies-Ross, Mr. Christian, and others who have played a most important part in surveying and classifying the soils and have shown, on the demonstration farms, what can be accomplished in the area. Developmental work of that kind is necessary, and should be continued. The provision of water and transportation is a “ must “, and such works should be undertaken without delay.
I belong to the school of thought, regarding land settlement, that considers it to be absolutely unwise and foolish, despite the glorious examples of pioneering in the past, to expect people to go on to virgin country, and immediately begin to earn money from the sale of products. A grave responsibility rests upon this Parliament and the Crown to ensure that pastoral and farming areas shall be improved to such a degree that settlers will have a reasonable hope of success from the beginning. If such a policy be adopted, a farmer who takes a virgin block can succeed. If that policy be not adopted, only wealthy people will be able to settle on the land. It is freely stated to-day that a person, before he can hope to succeed on the land in the Northern Territory, must have a capital of £30,000. How many persons who have a knowledge of land conditions are prepared to invest such a sum in order that they may settle in the territory? Very few indeed! Yet there are thousands of young men in this country, some of whom hold degrees from the Hawkesbury Agricultural College - drovers, station managers, and the like - who would be prepared to settle on and work the land, provided they had some hope of succeeding from the beginning.
If this country seriously desires to increase food production and people the north, finance should not be an impediment. The best settlers, of course, are our own Australian people. We know from practical experience gained in a recent survey of the Northern Territory that many absentee companies are doing as two honorable members have suggested in newspaper articles, namely merely mining and destroying the territory. I travelled for some hundreds of miles across one area and the only stock I saw were scrub bulls. I was informed that no fewer than 17,000 scrub bulls had been shot in three years. Actually, there could have been, and should have been, 17,000 bullocks or 17,000 carcasses of beef for export to Great Britain. Such a consignment would have strengthened our export trade and earned valuable sterling for Australia. But because of the policy of laisser-faire. to which the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) referred, in accordance with which the development of the territory has been left to private enterprise, such a state of affairs has been permitted.
In the limited time at my disposal, I must deal hurriedly with the other matters that I wish to discuss. I regard gold-mining as the sick industry of the territory. It is even more sick than is the pastoral industry. Gold-mining is in the doldrums because this Parliament, this Government and this nation have not done enough to encourage it. I shall not lay blame specifically on the Minister for Territories or the Administrator, but I consider that more batteries should be operating so that the small prospectors and gougers can have their ore treated. At Tennant Creek we found that one battery had been dismantled, another was not working and the third had been completely destroyed in removal. That state of affairs is scandalous and should be corrected without delay. There is room for further activity in wolfram production. In the tin area, because there is only one battery and a treatment plant that is incapable of treating the ore efficiently, the men who are engaged in gouging tin are working only the very richest section of the lode, and even then they can arrange for battery treatment, only once in two, three or four months. Some enterprising young men have decided to get timber in their spare time. The Maranboy tin area offers the greatest possibility of earning money and savingimports, but development is being delayed. The men are mining only the best of the lode and then they find that the treatment plant loses from 45 to 50 per cent, of the concentrates that pass through it. The mining situation in that area badly needs reviewing.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The departmental vote that the committee is considering is one of great importance to the economy of Australia in view of the need for the development of this country and of the territories that come under its control. Previous speakers in the debate, including the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) and the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), have referred properly to the problems that. are involved in the development of the Northern Territory. I propose to address myself to an equally important problem -the development of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Honorable members may recall that yesterday f applied myself to the defence aspect of this matter. I make no apology now for addressing my remarks to another problem of the territory because it is desirable that the work shall be advanced There and Australia has a duty to ensure that the development shall be conducted urgently and properly. Immediate attention to the problem is highly desirable, first, because of Australia’s honorable commitments to the native population, and secondly, because we have solemn commitments under the mandate that we bold from the United Nations organization. The necessity for dealing with the problem urgently is emphasized by the value that such development could have in the near future and by its importance in the overall plan for the defence of Australia and its territory.
One of the principal factors that is involved in the development of Papua and New Guinea is the great need for agricultural development. I realize fully that the prime responsibility for such agricultural development rests with the administration of the territory, but I regard the matter in so far as it applies to the Australian Government, as comparable with the problem that the Government faces in dealing with the development of the Australian States. We are rapidly approaching a point in the history of the Commonwealth where the Territory of Papua and New Guinea must be regarded as the seventh State of Australia. The time is net far distant, and I hope that we shall reach it soon, when the territory will be given the status of the seventh State. If the matter is approached from that angle, the problem does not involve simply the determination of a basic policy on agricultural and other developments. It calls, also, for assistance to the administration that is already carrying out that task. I shall approach the subject from that point of view. Information that I obtained during a recent visit to the territory convinced me that the Department of Agriculture in the territory is already doing valuable work in developing to the full the agricultural potentialities of the area. But I was also convinced that a great and urgent need wrists for the utmost assistance to be given to that department by the Government. Under the leadership of the Director, Mr. Dwyer, the Department of Agriculture in the territory is performing fine work, but it is hampered by the lack of adequate finance and sufficient technical assistance to deal adequately with the problems that exist. I wish to direct the attention of the committee to the urgent need for further assistance, both financial and technical, so that the rapid development of agriculture in the territory may be accomplished. The territory can play an important role in the overall development of Australia in the spere of argriculture. Timber and mining must be considered also, but agriculture offers a field that is ready for development now. With regard to technical assistance it might be possible to second the services of competent men who are at present working with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia, or to provide technical staff for the investigation of agricultural problems.
In order to drive home the claim that I am making for this additional assistance, I propose to (led with some of the avenues along which the agricultural development of the territroy could be furthered and some of the problems that are facing- the agricultural industry. It is not enough to make a general statement about the need to help in the development of the territory. We should make some concrete suggestions as to how the Commonwealth can render material assistance. We should concentrate on fostering agricultural production, particularly of such commodities as rubber, cocoa, copra, coffee, tea, rice and kenaf. Rubber has been produced in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for a considerable time, but an appreciable percentage of the rubber trees have now passed beyond the stage of maximum production, and are due for replacement. It cannot be claimed that rubber production from the areas at present planted is really satisfactory. In fact, production per acre is at least 25 per cent, lower than in Malaya, chiefly because an inferior variety of rubber tree has been planted. The Malayan Research Institute found that, by a process of selecting clones as they are called, from the best young plants, the standard of productivity could be raised. These selected plants are developed in an isolated area, and by their means rubber production has been materially increased. Before the last war, the rubber planters of Malaya applied much the same policy in regard to rubber trees as we have applied in regard to Merino rams. They refused to make available the best plants and the latest information to the planters of Papua and New Guinea. That policy has now been reversed, and the latest information is available, but it can be applied only with the help of a staff of technicians, who would be qualified to perform budding operations on the trees. The administration has acquired a large area in which to carry out experiments with a view to improving the strain of rubber trees, and I suggest that this Government can help by making available additional technicians. The number at present in the territory is not sufficient.
Cocoa has been produced in Papua and New Guinea to a limited extent for some time past. The price is at present about £300 a ton, and the income derived from the sale of this product is a valuable adjunct to the economy of the territory. All sorts of technical problems are involved in the production of cocoa, such as the development of the best varieties of plants, and the discovery of methods to deal with’ pests. Here, again, the best technical assistance should be afforded to the planters if the industry, which could be worth millions of pounds a year, is to be fully developed.
For many years past, copra has been the most valuable product of Papua and New Guinea. The crop is at present worth about £6,000,000 a year, but production is only 75 per cent, of what it was before the war. One reason for the decline is to be found in the ravages of a “wog” known as the elephant beetle, which attacks the trees. One planter told me that the industry had “been losing about 10,000 trees a year partly because older trees are going out of production, and partly because the new plantings are being attacked and destroyed by the elephant beetle. So far, no effective method of control has been discovered. In some of the islands, the elephant beetle has been attacked by a wasp, and planters believe that it might be possible to introduce the wasp to New Guinea. However, it would first be necessary to conduct experiments in order to make sure that the wasp would not itself become a pest. Research of that kind is beyond the present capacity of the administration, and here is another direction in which the Government could help.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory) 3. 12]. - All honorable members who have discussed the Northern Territory have agreed that its effective development depends upon the evolution of a satisfactory government policy for the immediate and distant future. i make no apology for directing the attention of honorable members to the fact that such a policy has been lacking in the past. If there has been. any sort of policy in the past, it has been spasmodic and disjointed. Hitherto, governments have always held the view, it would seem, that money expended in the Northern Territory has been money thrown down the drain. Their attitude has been that the territory is a white elephant, and a burden to the rest of Australia. However, what do we find to-day? Recent developments .in the discovery and use of minerals, and in agriculture, have altered the prospects of the territory. Visits by “members of this Parliament have made them acutely aware of the need to develop the area. So much is evident from, the speeches that they have made in the Parliament since their return. Not long ago, a delegation of members of the Parliament visited the territory by courtesy of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), and the visit has proved to be a great success. I believe that all honorable members should avail themselves of the opportunity to visit the Northern Territory so that they might become convinced of the part that it is destined to play in the future of Australia.
I urge the Government to develop a long-range policy for the territory. For the sake of national security and for the benefits of our economy, let us treat this matter as urgent. The Government and the people of Australia must face the obligation to provide both a positive policy for the development of the north and the finance necessary to implement such a policy. That point has been stressed also by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis). I assure the committee that if the nation is prepared to implement such a policy it will reap a handsome dividend in the form of security, both financial and physical. The initial expenditure will be soon repaid. In order to bolster the national, economy and to ensure the security of Australia, we must hurry ahead with the policy that I have outlined.
Certain basic industries which have been established within the Northern Territory during the last few years provide a sound basis for a positive developmental policy. For instance, the mining, agricultural and pastoral industries already exist there. Recent discoveries have indicated that the world’s most promising deposits of uranium exist in the Northern Territory. Rum Jungle was the site of the original discovery, and another discovery was made recently at Edith River. To use the words of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale),, the Edith River discovery may prove to be the most important find of all. That view is shared by the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States of America, as expressed in a recent report of its activities. The tin deposits at Maranboy, which have been referred to by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), have also aroused a great deal of interest. The biggest tinmining company in Australia has taken an option on the entire lode. The Bureau of Mineral Resources considers this lode to be the best and most promising in Australia. The development of the tin-mining industry, in the Northern Territory could eventually provide a considerable addition to the population of the north. The silver, lead and zinc discoveries in Arnhem Land have aroused so much interest that I understand one of our most important mining organiza tions intends to prospect their development as soon as possible.
Only a few hours ago the Minister for Supply stated in this chamber that the bauxite deposits at Wessel Island are of the most outstanding importance. The honorable gentleman considers that not only will those deposits supply Australia’s future domestic requirements of bauxite, including, for instance, the needs of the aluminium plant at Bell Bay, Tasmania, but may also provide a considerable surplus for export overseas. By exporting this metal we shall be able to earn dollars which are so urgently needed for our developmental projects.
It has been common knowledge in the Northern Territory for a number of years that the most extensive fields of mica exist in that area. The finest quality mica can be produced. Mining operations have been carried on, but certain difficulties exist, and I suggest that the Government, in conjunction with those interested in this industry, should attempt to work out a scheme under which the industry will be placed on a sound footing. At the present time the Northern Territory mica fields supply most of the needs of the Australian market, but if they were put on a proper basis they could also ‘supply considerable quantities for export, and so contribute to our credit balances overseas. Of the remaining minerals which are found in the Northern Territory, gold, tin, copper and wolfram are the most important. Those metals are being mined in commercial quantities at the present time, hut the mining operations could be placed on a sounder basis by sympathetic assistance in the way of freight and tax concessions.
I concede that any agricultural policy which is worked out for the Northern Territory must be based on the export of crops. Because of the remoteness of the territory from the southern parts of the Commonwealth, it is not practicable for many crops to be grown and marketed in competition with the southern growers. However, large areas of country are available for cultivation and for the growing of crops such as rice, tobacco, peanuts and cotton. There is a market right at our door, in the islands adjacent to Australia, for every ton of rice which Australia can produce. It has been authoritatively stated by the Northern Territory administration that there are at least 1,500,000 acres of land in the territory suitable for rice cultivation. A wonderful opportunity thus exists for closer settlement. Ample supplies of water are available. The only difficulty lies in controlling the water which covers the ground from time to time.
Most honorable members will agree that the small population of the north of Australia is one of our most important problems at the present time. That problem should have first priority in our defence plans. The ricegrowing possibilities of the Northern Territory present a means of establishing a permanent population in the north. Every effort must be made by this Government to encourage people to go to the northern part of Australia and to get on with the job of producing food. The sale of rice would add considerably to our overseas balances and at the same time make rice which is grown in the south available for internal consumption.
The cattle industry is of great importance to Austraia. Within the next two years, it is possible that people who live in the southern parts of the continent will have to go without some of the beef to which they have been accustomed in the past. That will be the unfortunate result of the drought which has occurred in the north. The development of the mi nine. agricultural and pastoral industries of the north are all tied up with the policy that is adapted in relation to communications. The Government will have to formulate a policy upon railway communications and shipping services for the Northern Territory. I believe that a railway from Queensland to the Barkly Tableland is essential, as also is the standardization of the gauge of the line from Leigh Creek to Alice Springs. The railway line from Port Augusta to Leigh Creek is being converted to the standard gauge at present, and it would be folly to permit the standardization to stop at Leigh Creek, because that would involve another break of gauge in the already chaotic railway system of this country. While the men, materials and plant are assembled, the standard gauge line should be taken at least to Alice Springs, and eventually it should be extended from there to link with the existing line at Birdum. I believe such a link to be essential, because, ultimately, uranium ore from the Northern Territory will be refined in South Australia, not only because there are uranium projects in that State, but also because a central refining plant situated there would be most secure from the viewpoint of defence. However, I urge the Government to ensure that as much as possible of the work upon the processing of uranium ore will be done in the Northern Territory, because the people there want to derive as much benefit from uranium deposits as they can get. The establishment and maintenance of a considerable permanent population in the north of Australia is essential to the future welfare and defence not only of that part of the country but also of Australia generally.
Policy on railways is linked with land policy. Legislation in connexion with land tenure has been passed by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. 1 ask the Government to stay its hand-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order I The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) about policy.
– ls the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) still Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Department of the Interior?
– I am not an ape to anybody. Before the Northern Territory can be developed in the way in which all Australians desire, the Government must formulate a policy for such development. Because that policy will involve the expenditure of millions of pounds, it must not be of such a nature as to be likely to be altered if a change of Government occurs. It must provide for a sound and continuing policy. Since a sound policy has appeared to be in operation in the Northern Territory, I have noticed a considerable change in the attitude of the people there, especially those in Darwin.
In my opinion, Darwin and Alice Springs are the two centres that speak for the territory.
Despite the activities of this Government and other governments in investigating the potentialities of the Northern Territory and in seeking to expand work that is being done there, I believe that the problem is being attacked from the wrong angle. There are no real means of entrance to or exit from the territory. I believe that the kernel of the problem is Darwin harbour. Over the years, all kinds of suggestions have been made for improving the harbour, but so far nothing has really been done.
– I could tell the honorable gentleman why; but, unfortunately, he would not understand. Darwin harbour facilities are iri such a condition that it is almost impossible for ships to use them. Something is being done to improve the position, but recently a few more feet of what is called the Neptunia jetty disappeared into the water. At the present time, I arwin i3 served by small ships from Western Australia - Kabbarli and Dorrigo, which are vessels of 2,500 tons; Koolinda, which is somewhat larger; and Culcairn, a vessel of between 4,000 and 4,500 tons. They are the largest vessels that can be taken into Darwin harbour in its present condition, and the passage into the jetties is dangerous even for them, in some instances.
The existing timber jetty is being repaired, and I must say that a really good poh is being made of it. It is expected that the jetty will be ready for use at the end of October or some time in November. But, unfortunately, provision is being made for a head only 300 feet long. That would barely accommodate one of the very small ships from Western Australia, and even a ship of that size would have to be moved continually to permit cargo to be unloaded from its various holds. A jetty, to serve the port of Darwin adequately, should have a head at least 1,000 feet long, extending from the Boom jetty to the Neptunia jetty, or the Town jetty, as it is com monly called. That latter jetty must be destroyed eventually, and the sooner it is destroyed the better it will be for the safety of shipping that uses the harbour.
Mr. Clyde Cameron interjecting,
– Let me tell the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) if he does not know it already, that the present unsatisfactory state of affairs in Darwin harbour is due to maladministration by the previous Government. If the honorable gentleman wishes to start an argument upon this matter, I can, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Chairman, deal with him.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The Chair is quite capable of dealing with the honorable gentleman if that becomes necessary.
– Darwin port is arc shaped, with two hills behind it. If those hills were razed and the earth were pushed into the water, the area between the jetties could be reclaimed, and a proper sea wall could be built. That would give Darwin a semblance of permanency, and would be in accord with the desire of the people of this country that it shall progress.
– That is essential.
– I am glad that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) agrees with me. At the moment, we are dealing with the problem piece-meal. The various interested parties must get down to brass tacks, and some authority must be charged with the task of going ahead with the necessary work. The jetty in the harbour requires a much longer head, as I have said. I think every honorable, member would desire that, in the years ahead of us, vessels from overseas shall load and unload cargo in the north of Australia. If we wish to expand the mining, agricultural and pastoral industries of the Northern Territory, suitable transport facilities must be provided to bring into the territory the things that those industries need and to take their products out. The first matter that must he settled is the plan for the port of Darwin. When I was a young man, the
Minister for Railways in the Western Australian Government decided that trams should run over what was known as the Horseshoe bridge in Perth. Immediately, there was an outcry, lt was said that the trams would crack the foundations of the bridge, and would fall through it, that people would be killed, and that there would be a terrible calamity. But he stuck to his guns, and eventually trams ran across the bridge. They are still doing so, and the foundations of the bridge have not cracked. That gentleman went ahead with his plan. Similarly, we need to invest somebody with power to proceed with improvements of the port of Tarwin.
I ‘ turn now to the handling of cargo in Darwin. The lumpers there belong to the waterside workers’ section of the North Australian Workers Union. The section has an arrangement with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and the ship-owners that waterside workers shall be made available ro handle cargo when a ship enters the port. Not many ships ply to Darwin. Culcairn, makes a trip to Darwin about once a month, and there is one ship from Western Australia roughly every fortnight. At certain times of the year there may be about three ships every month or five weeks. While those men are not working on the ships they are drawing £3 12s. a week appearance money, which is paid, I believe, by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. When a ship comes into port waterside workers are engaged at the hourly rate applicable to their trade. I suppose most of them are married and have families and it is only common sense for them to take the opportunity to make each job last as long as possible.
– Does the honorable member believe that they deliberately go slow on the job?’
– I say it is only common sense to expect the men to make each job last as long as they possibly can, because they will then draw the higher rate of pay for a longer period. In the long run, however, they suffer because the increased costs of loading and unloading vessels are reflected in the cost of living, theirs as well as everybody elses, and they are actually worse off than they would be if they worked harder. Truck drivers who carry freight to and from ships are not paid on a hourly basis, as the honorable member for Northern Territory knows, but are paid out of a pool which is fixed in relation to the cost of moving the cargo. The money available is divided among truck-owners, irrespective of the size of the truck they are operating. The whole position seems to be wrong, right from the beginning. I had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who informed me that some discussions on it had taken place. I asked a wharf labourer at Darwin how much he earned, a year in actual .wages and appearance money. These men have an arrangement under which they do not take any other job although, in fact,’ I believe that there are not many other jobs available that they could do in their idle time. The waterside worker told me that he received £750 a year. I suggested that he would be much better off if he were guaranteed a wage of that amount and he agreed with me. If we could devise a scheme under which those men would receive a regular weekly wage similar to the amount they now earn from wages and appearance money combined, it is obvious that they would work harder so as to have more idle time for which they would be paid. The rate of loading and unloading ships would thereby be increased. That would be of benefit to the whole community, and would reduce the cost of the subsidy paid to the Western Australian Government for trading to Darwin. By guaranteeing them a certain income a year we should overcome this natural tendency, for which neither I nor any one else could blame them, to make a job last as long as possible so that they will earn the 15s. hourly rate for a longer period instead of going back to the daily rate of 12s. It is not uncommon to see a gang of eight men who are supposed to be working on a ship taking turns to work four at a time. Half of them work while the other half are idle. Then they change over, and the four men who have not been working as they should have been,, work while the other four do nothing. The effect of that is that the gang is working only an effective four hours in an eight-hour day, although it is paid for working an eight-hour day. Neither the men nor other people are contented, because the cost of living in Darwin is increased by this stupid arrangement. Perhaps the position cannot be altered, but if it can be, then the Government should give serious consideration to an alteration of it. I rose to mention Darwin harbour only because I consider that conditions there are responsible, to a great degree for so many of the problems of the Northern Territory. I was in the Northern Territory two years ago when an inaugural meeting of citizens was held in order to establish a body to foster civic pride in Darwin. I recently visited the town again, during convalescence from an illness, and found it transformed. I pay a tribute to the people of Darwin for their achievements in that direction.
– That has happened since the election of the new honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson).
– It has happened since the election of this Government.
– That has had no effect on it.
–I say in all sincerity that Darwin has undergone a transformation, and I found it a pleasure to be in the town, especially when I compared present conditions with the conditions that I saw there in war-time and again two years ago last July when I visited Darwin while I was carrying out some work for the then Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride). I hope that the people of Darwin continue with this good work.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I welcome this opportunity to speak, even if only for a short period, on that portion of the Estimates which relates to territories. My strong belief is that the greatest difficulty that is experienced in the territories, particularly the Northern Territory, is lack of proper transport. That position could be remedied if a far-seeing government were to seize the opportunity that now presents itself. However, before dealing with that matter I shall refer to a statement made by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) about the allegedly slow rate of discharging ships in the port of Darwin. I agree with him that the port facilities of Darwin are inadequate. Some ships visit there only once in three months and yet, as a result of bad timetabling, frequently ships arrive in Darwin at the same time as other ships. Some of those ships have to wait round before being able to discharge their cargoes. I do not accept the view that waterside workers deliberately go slow on the job, because I understand that a captain of a vessel which frequently visits Darwin has said openly that the rate of discharge there is as good as it is at any other port in Australia. His statement answers the allegation frequently made that the heavy costs of commodities in the Northern Territory is the result of waterside workers going slow on the job. Heavy costs do occur, but they are the result of the inadequate port facilities that the honorable member for Canning has mentioned. I had an opportunity to visit Darwin during the war. shortly after the town had been damaged by bombing. I visited it again some years later and found that no progress had been made since my previous visit in the direction of remedying the deficiencies of the port.
As a person who has been associated with the workers for a long time I have a strong objection to people continually alleging that the costs at any port are high because of go-slow tactics by workers, when it is well known that a big factor in high costs is a lack of enterprise on the part of people who have goods to unload. I do not believe that any waterside worker deliberately endeavours to waste time on the job, and I consider that any suggestion of that kind that comes from the other side of the chamber should be on a much more moderate tone. Perhaps we all are prone to believe press reports that emanate from inspired quarters. I inquired into the matter during a visit to Alice Springs which I made independently and not as a member of the parliamentary delegation that went there. L was glad to see that two honorable members from the other side of the chamber went there for the same purpose. They have stated their views. One need not agree with ail that they have said but, at least notice has been attracted to the Northern Territory. The territory is now news. Centres such as Alice Springs are growing rapidly. I first visited Alice Springs in 1928 when only 70 people lived there. That was before the railway line was built. Having seen what a, fine town it is to-day I say that the development that has been carried out is ;i credit to overy one concerned. I hope that honorable members from both sides of the chamber will take the earliestpossible opportunity to acquaint themselves with the disabilities that the Northern Territory suffers, particularly in relation to administration through having constantly to refer to Canberra. The inadequacy of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory has been criticized in this chamber. It may not be all that r:ould be desired, but at least it is a step in the direction of local government, and we should make every effort to improve upon it. One honorable member has suggested that the honorable member for the Northern Territory in this chamber should be a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. I do not know whether that would be constitutionally possible, but at least thi proposal should be examined. I do not know of any one who would be of more value to the council than the present honorable member for the Northern Territory, who has an intimate knowledge of territory affairs.
While I was Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation, I had some association with the development of air services in the Northern Territory. Mr. Cone’lan of Conellan Airways Proprietary Limited has done a splendid job by providing air transport services in areas where no other form of transport is possible. “ These services have greatly improved living conditions, particularly for women and children. Residents of remote Northern Territory communities are now able to enjoy such essential foods as fresh fruit and vegetables. The establishment of air services in the Northern
Territory was possible only with the assistance of a government subsidy. Most honorable members will recall also that Mr. Nelson Lemmon introduced a scheme for the development of the Northern Territory when he was Minister for Works and Housing. Unfortunately we were not able to implement that scheme because of the swing in Australian public opinion, but we may have an opportunity to do so at a later date. Possibly the present Minister for Territories may be able to do something. Although I do not share his political outlook, I wish him well in his efforts to make the Northern Territory not only an attractive gateway to this country, but also a valuable and well populated area of the Commonwealth.
By now the Government is probably in possession of the report of the royal commission, presided over by Judge Wolfe, which inquired into the differences of opinion between the Commonwealth and South Australia on the question of whether the standard gauge railway line that is to be built to Leigh Creek, and, I hope, further north still, should go through Stirling or Quorn. As a railway man who knows something of the conditions under which men work on outback railways in this country, I believe that it should not go through Quorn. By going through Stirling - the route which I believe the royal commission’s report will recommend - the grades will be easier and the tonnage that the locomotives will be able to haul will be correspondingly greater. The line will also be going to a coal-field where it will be possible to load coal straight onto the locomotives as well as the trucks. I have not seen the royal commission’s report, but I am most eager to obtain a copy of it. I hope that when the line to Leigh Creek has been completed, the labour and equipment that have been assembled will be used, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory has suggested, to extend the standard gauge line to Alice Springs. I have been over the present line both with the engine crews and as a passenger, and I know the high maintenance costs that are involved. In pertain regions, prevailing winds continually blow sand across the line. For 25 years the clearing of this sand in the region of Incapatana, on the Alice Springs line, to enable trains to pass has been a constant job. There is something radically wrong there. A new line could eliminate that high expense. Strangely enough, the 3-ft. 6-in. railway now in use is paying operating costs. It is extraordinary indeed that two railway lines operating in remote parts of this continent, where population is sparse, are paying operating expenses, while lines in the more closely settled parts of the Commonwealth are losing money heavily. The report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for 1950-51 points out that, in that year, the central Australian, railway showed a surplus, exclusive of interest, over operating expenses, and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has announced through the press recently that the profit on the Trans-Australian line in the. first six months of this year was £151,000, compared with a deficit of more than £152,000 in the corresponding period of last year. But for the long railway strike in Western Australia, the profit on the Trans-Australian line would have been considerably more. Those figures show that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and his staff are doing a very fine job. The commissioner has done much to make the conditions of railway employees more bearable.
I hope that if it is decided that Port Augusta and not Quorn shall be the head-quarters of the new railway line that is to run into the Northern Territory, the men who have been at Quorn for many years will -be compensated and provided with accommodation at the new location. Such adjustments have been made many times in the United States of America, although Australian railway authorities have not been very enthusiastic about the idea. I believe that the introduction of diesel locomotives would have beneficial effects on operating costs on the central Australian line in spite of the fact that there is a coal-field at Leigh Creek ; but a properly constructed permanent way will be required. We should then have a standard gauge line to Alice Springs, and I hope that, before long, it would be carried to Birdum and ultimately to Darwin.
Much has been said about the mineral resources of central Australia. I agree with the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who said yesterday that we should not make too much of our discoveries. The value of the mineral deposits have not yet been proven. However, if there is to be a quick influx of population into the Northern Territory, transport facilities will have to be improved considerably. I wish to refer briefly in the few minutes that still remain to me to “ air beef “ - the transport of beef carcasses from Glenroy to Wyndham. This may not be regarded as a national transport undertaking in the ordinary sense, but while I was Minister for Air I was asked whether the Commonwealth would supply an aircraft for this work. It did so and the service was inaugurated by the MacRobertson Miller Aviation Company Proprietary Limited. I am glad to say that it has been successful. Activities of that kind should be subsidized by the Government.
– The air-beef lift is still being subsidized.
– It is likely to require a subsidy for a considerable time to come. Services of that kind should be extended as a means of developing our export beef trade. At present, these f=ervices are being conducted more or less on an experimental basis, but because of their importance every effort should be made to extend them, if necessary, by payment of subsidies. Great credit is due to those who instituted them. But for the assistance of Conellan Airways Proprietary Limited and the MacRobertson Miller Aviation Company Proprietary Limited, these services would not have been provided. Honorable members opposite who are the great protagonists of private enterprise are well aware that private enterprise is not willing to risk its capital in ventures of this kind unless it receives the backing by the Government. When the Government engages in such ventures honorable members opposite condemn them as socialistic enterprises. They support the principle of socialism when it is used to develop private enterprise but not when it is used for the benefit of the people as a whole.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory has presented a very strong case for a more liberal developmental policy in the territory. I regret that he did not have sufficient time to elaborate it in greater detail. My visits to the Northern Territory have convinced me of the wonderful opportunities that exist there. I trust that honorable members generally will take advantage of their opportunity to make frequent visits to the territory.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Most honorable members who have discussed the proposed votes for the territories of the Commonwealth have confined their remarks to the Northern Territory. It is significant that nearly all of them have visited the territory either recently or in past years. That fact serves to illustrate to the people and to the Parliament that honorable members have widened their knowledge as the result of visits to our empty north. Those who have not visited the Northern Territory should take the opportunity to see for themselves how necessary the development of the territory is, if only for defence purposes. Reference has been made to the teeming millions in countries to our north who have cast covetous eyes on the Northern Territory and will undoubtedly seek to gain a foothold there if we do not ensure its security by developing it.
I propose to introduce a new topic into the debate - the dingo menace.
– There are still a few dingoes about.
– I agree with the honorable member and some of them are in this Parliament. The proposed vote for the destruction of dingoes has been reduced from £14,400 to £12,000. It is difficult to understand why such a reduction should be made having regard to the fact that local government associations and graziers’ associations have approached the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth for assistance in the eradication of this pest. Those who know something of the depredations of dingoes are well aware that dingoes are equally as destructive as rabbits. If appropriate action is not taken in the near future dingoes will eat out the country, and all our grandiose schemes for the building of new railways and roads in the north will come to naught.
Before I became a member of this Parliament I frequently listened to debates broadcast from this chamber on the subject of the rabbit menace.
– We have got rid of that menace.
– The honorable member speaks of conditions in his own electorate. I remind him that not all the rabbits in Australia were in his electorate.
– We have cleaned them out of the Mallee.
– Dingoes are now invading some of the plain country of Queensland in which they have not previously been seen. South Australia and the Northern Territory are a natural breeding ground for them. The menace has been more serious this year than it has in the past because dingoes have migrated to the south. Like other animals, they know no boundaries. In order to illustrate the extent to which dingoes are damaging grazing lands in Queensland, I propose to read a short extract from the Pastoral Review and Graziers Record, an important journal which circulates throughout Australia. Dealing with the effect of the dingomenace on sheep-farmers, the journal had this to say -
From great properties in the Winton, Boulia,. Cloncurry, and Diamantina districts dogs have swarmed eastwards into the sheeplands at such a rate that flock numbers have dropped from 1,000,000 to 200,000 within twelve years.
That statement discloses the seriousnessof the position. Graziers in the north are now paying a bonus of as much as £3 each for dingo scalps. The seriousness with which they view this menace is shown by the record sales of strychnine in northern Queensland. On that subject the Pastoral Review and Graziers Record stated-
Longreach agents last month reported that more than 250 ounces of strychnine had been. sold in the district since 1st April - an all-time record and mare than four times normal sales. As one ounce will poison more than 300 baits the intensification of the campaign against dingoes and foxes is apparent. i appeal to the Government to discuss this matter with the officers of the Commonwealth Scientific a.nd Industrial Research Organization with a view to ascertaining whether it is possible to institute a system of biological control of this pest. I. understand that investigations along those lines are already being made. It may be possible to discover a virus for the eradication of dingoes that would be equally as effective as myxomatosis in rabbits. If it is possible to do so, millions of pounds will be saved to the graziers of this country. One of the undesirable features of the spread of myxomatosis in rabbits in Queensland is that it has resulted in foxes being denied the rabbit as their natural food and transferring to sheep and lambs. Provision should be made for experiments in the biological control of these pests, and in view of the seriousness of their depredations immediate action should he taken.
.- I shall direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who was recently responsible for arranging for a delegation for members of Parliament to visit the territory will, perhaps, be interested to hear some comments from members of that delegation in regard to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the islands included in, the itinerary. I shall discuss the agricultural development of the territory. I am aware that Australia faces an enormous problem in that regard. That ‘is the Government’s responsibility. There can be no doubt about the fertility of the territory.” I believe that under proper guidance it will achieve economic independence within a comparatively short period. Many factors will tend to help it to do so. When other honorable members and I visited the territory recently, we found ourselves in a somewhat unusual position for parliamentarians in that we had to do the listening not the talking and we did so in good measure because the people took full opportunity of our presence to inform us of conditions in the territory. As a farmer, I was forcibly struck by the fact that in spite of the fertility of the soil, the territory imports most of its foodstuffs from Australia. There are very few dairy farms, even near Port Moresby. Under local labour ordinances, the natives must be provided with a certain quantity of meat. The territory is importing’ its requirements of tinned meat and tinned butter and all kinds of provisions. I believe that if it were developed properly it could be enabled to show a favorable trade balance with Australia within a few years.
I am aware, as I have no doubt the Minister himself is, that lack of transport facilities is the great obstacle to production. Many young men are prepared to settle permanently in the territory and to plough back any profits that they may make. The Government should foster the settlement of men of that type. In the course of my visit, I met a young man who had been employed in a trade in Port Moresby but who, owing to ill health, had decided to establish a dairy farm. It was apparent that, he had the initiative and was prepared to risk substantial capital in the venture. He told me that he purchased six dairy cows from a district near Sydney for £45, but that when they were landed at Port Moresby their cost amounted to £150 each.
– Were they transported to the territory by air?
– No. I should like the Minister to have a look at matters of that kind. That young man ran the risk that some of the cows might have died or been fatally injured in transit. The Government should set up a stud farm in the territory with the . object of making available well-bred cattle for sale to local settlers. The Government could do much immediately to foster dairying by instituting a system of freight rebates in respect of the carriage of well-bred stock and various requisites. A system of freight concessions similar to that which operates in Victoria, should be applied to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. We wish to develop the territory, and many men are prepared to settle there permanently provided that they are given reasonable encouragement along the lines that I have suggested. The Government should also arrange to transport stock to areas like the Bulolo Valley and make them available for sale to local settlers. I believe that it would be a good thing for the territory if its inhabitants were represented in this Parliament so that the difficulties that confront them could be effectively ventilated. However, when I made that suggestion to a young man whom I met in the course of my visit he replied, “ Oh, no ! We would then have to pay taxes “. I replied that if a system of freight rebates were instituted, settlers in the territory would probably receive greater monetary benefits under it than they would be obliged to pay in taxation.
Most of the provisions that are required by settlers in the Bulolo Valley have to be flown in. A lady who is engaged in growing coffee in that area told me that she had to pay £12 air freight for a 4 gallon tin of weedicide. I am aware, of course, that coffee at present is bringing a high price. However, that is indicative of freight rates which, perhaps, represent the largest proportion of costs of production. Mr. Leahy, a settler in the Bulolo Valley told me that that area is suitable for cattle-raising. He said that one beast that he had killed weighed 900 lb.
– What breeds of cattle arc established there?
– They are the same breeds as we have in Australia. I emphasize that transport is the great obstacle to increasing production in the territory. The terrain, in many instances, makes the construction of roads difficult and; settlers must rely upon air transport for the time being. We flew over the Ramu Valley, which is a magnificent tract of fertile chocolate soil that would gladden the heart of any farmer. One has only to see the products of native gardens to realize the fertility of the soil. Cattle are also being raised in the Baiyer River district. A lad there told me that the soil was most suitable for the growing of oats. He complained that he had been supplied with only nine bushels of seed. Naturally,
I replied that he was lucky to get that quantity owing to the high freight charges.
I was also informed that Romney Marsh sheep had developed worms after they had been landed in the territory. Having regard to the class of soil, the elimination of that pest presents a serious problem.
– Some of those parasites are probably of local origin.
– When I visited the Kwata mission station in the tropics, I was surprised to see several sheep there. The officer in charge told me that during the war there were two or three sheep and a ram there, but when the American troops visited, that area they- received permission to remove a gland from the ram. Subsequently the ram died. Upon inquiry I was informed that the sheep had been at the mission since before the war. The natives had tried to shear one, but the others had not been shorn for about six years. I had difficulty in up-ending one of the sheep. It was in perfect condition and its wool was thickly matted. Obviously the parasite I have mentioned was not indigenous to tha.t part of the world. There is something lacking in the soil there - probably a trace element. Sheep could be in good condition there until after lambing. Perhaps there is a lack of calcium in the feed. I consider that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should establish observation posts in those areas, and introduce corrective methods to obviate mistakes in future. The loss incurred by each individual amounts to a considerable loss in terms of the national economy.
About four years ago there was a severe shortage of jute in Australia. The primary producers were afraid that they would be unable to obtain sufficient sacks for their requirements. In the past, the fibre of the Kenaf grass has been sent to the mainland from the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and it has been successfully treated.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired
– I take this opportunity to express my thanks to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), for facilitating my recent visit to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The field officers and patrol officers have not received sufficient credit for the very valuable service they have rendered in the territory. They work in most primative conditions. I pay tribute, also, to the War Graves Commission. I had an opportunity to visit the war cemeteries at Bomana, Lae, and Bitapaki. The members of the fighting forces who are buried there are certainly resting in beautiful surroundings. The War Graves Commission is doing a splendid job.
The proposed vote includes the provision of £5,634,700 for ordinary services for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and. £38,000 for capital works and services. I consider that the proposed votes are inadequate. However, if the Government cannot see its way clear to increase the amounts, the money should be expended wisely.
According to the report to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea for the year 1950-51, the expenditure out of revenue during that year amounted to £620.123. There was an extraordinarily high expenditure on contingencies. For instance, the salaries paid to the Government Secretary and his staff amounted to £11,973, and the expenditure on contingencies was £8,536. There was an expenditure of £35,524 on the salaries of police, and £3S2,937 on contingencies. The committee should be informed explicitly of the nature of the contingencies. The present conditions in the Territory of Parma and New Guinea are probably similar to those that existed on the mainland of Australia 75 years ago. In the main, the territory is primitive and undeveloped. On looking through records relating to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea I found that the Commonwealth had not made a special grant to New Guinea prior to 1947. Up till 1940, when the Civil Administration ceased, the Commonwealth had granted only £42,500 yearly to the territory of Papua. This is one of the reasons why it has not been developed to a greater extent. In this connexion I am pleased to be able to say that the territory was not administered by Labour governments for an appreciable time prior to 1941. Had previous Australian governments administered the territory as it should have been administered when unemployment was rife in this country, I am sure that greater headway would have been made.
The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) has stated that in time the Territory of Papua and New Guinea should become the seventh State of the Commonwealth. I believe that the people living in the territory are looking forward to that time. Although my friend the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has stated that some people who live in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are opposed to direct taxes being imposed on them by the Commonwealth, I believe that people who are prepared to make their permanent homes there are quite willing to submit to taxation provided the Commonwealth gives them the services that they need. I consider that we should expend far greater amounts on the development of the territory than we have done to date. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that we should develop the Northern Territory. However, if we do not protect and look after the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, possibly in time we shall not have the. Northern Territory to develop. Australia is responsible for the development of about 1,000,000 square miles of country in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. One has to fly over the territory, as I did, in order to realize its vastness. In addition, there are about 600 islands adjacent to the territory, and I believe that it would be quite possible for long-range submarines to operate in the contiguous waters undetected. If honorable members remember what happened in Rabaul during the war they will realize what to expect from an enemy in the future. Additional finance must be provided for the development and rehabilitation of Rabaul. Along the coast from Rabaul the Japanese built an almost impregnable system of tunnels where they landed from deep-sea landing craft and barges and put them under the mountains for protection. That system of tunnels and subways should be destroyed, because it would be a potential danger in the event of a future invasion. The huge air-raid shelters which were built by the Japanese in many part of Rabaul should also be destroyed instead of being merely filled in and covered over. The Japanese pillboxes there should be destroyed completely. If this work were carried out we could rest more contented, because in the event of a future conflict at least the Japanese would not be able to use the fortifications that they constructed during the last war.
Communications will play a major part in the development of the territory. At the present time the system of communications there is most primitive. There are few roads considering the expanse of the area. I do not think that the road from Moresby extends more than 50 miles in the direction of Samarai. The road to Kikori is most primitive. In the Port Moresby area the hydro-electric scheme should be rapidly proceeded with so that the people will be able to use more electric power than they have at present. The huge rivers of the territory could be utilized to a greater extent than at present. More shipping should be provided and wharfs constructed in the deep parts of the rivers. Then land could be made available for closer settlement. At the present time, the tenure of land in the territories is most vague. No lessee knows the tenure of his holding. Certain lands are the property of the natives, but in New Britain, for instance, there are hundreds of square miles of land across which the natives do not move. In the Warrengoe Valley in New Britain there is beautiful virgin country, which has some very good timber, including coach wood and teak. It is an ideal place for soldier settlement. It has been proven at the experimental station at Creveat in New Britain that cocoa, coffee, spices and various classes of edible vegetable oils can be produced there in abundance. This area is suitable for soldier settlement.
It is essential that action should be taken in relation to the tenure of the land. I do not believe that the land should be taken from the natives. It should be used on a co-operative basis by soldier settlers and the natives. I understand that some natives have been known to have sold their land and that when they have spent their money they have wanted it back again. If we are to develop this important outpost of Australia its system of communications must be improved as quickly as possible. I am disappointed that there is very little provision in the proposed appropriation for the building of roads. The administration is endeavouring to build a bridge over the Markham River in order to connect the Bulolo timber area and the gold-mining area with Wau and Lae. I consider that roads should be put through the mountains in other directions, even at great cost, because in time of war roads will be badly needed. I was shocked when we flew over Milne Bay to see the whole of the roads in that area practically covered and the bridges that the Americans had built washed away and destroyed. Naturally, the Americans did not build permanent structures, but we should have tried to strengthen them, after the war in order to make them permanent. In the Milne Bay area copra production is considerable. I was told by residents that prior vo the war natives were expected to plant a certain number of copra trees in order to replace those that were killed. They have not done that during the last few years. I was informed that more than 10,000 copra trees a year are being lost to the territory. If that is so it is a shame. I noticed that various classes of nuts, some of them the best known for eating, grew prolificacy in the territories. They also could be grown on a commercial scale. In the Goraka district the beautiful soil will grow anything. I do not think I saw any area; in the territory which could not produce something, of value.
Housing seemed to present a difficulty in the territory. I should like the Minister to give consideration to allowing the permanent residents and officials to. purchase their homes.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
]. - I think that this debate has -been quite remarkable inasmuch as it has demonstrated the value of the recent visit to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the Northern Territory by the two joint parliamentary delegations. The honorable members who made the most notable contributions to this debate were members of those parties. Many interesting and, for the most part, valid comments have been m’ade from both sides of the chamber. I do not propose, in the short time left to me, to deal with each of those comments in detail, but [ assure the honorable members who have contributed to the debate that I shall study the Hansard report of these proceedings carefully, examine each point in turn, and let them have the information that they have requested by way of a circulated memorandum. There is one general comment which I should like to make because it seems to me that those who have spoken have overlooked a most important fact. The really effective work to develop the territories is being done by those Australians who are living and working in the territories. We should recognize that fact as basic to everything that we may say or do. All the wishes and hopes that may be expressed in this Parliament, or all the money voted by this Parliament, will be of no account unless we have, engaged day by day in faithful service on behalf of the Government or on their own account, young and vigorous Australians who by their own energy and the work of their own hands will carry out the task of development both in the Northern Territory and in Papua and New Guinea.
I desire now to say something about the administration of the territories. I pay a public tribute to the devoted and valuable service that is being rendered to Australia by the administrators of the territories and their officers. My own interpretation of the function of a Minister for Territories is that as far as possible he should encourage the local administrators of the territories to do as much as they can on the spot. There are certain constitutional limitations to their power, hut, subject only to such restrictions, i believe that the whole trend of our policy should .be to encourage the local officers to do more and more on their Own initiative.
With that end in view the present Government has concentrated a .good deal, in a painstaking and routine way, to try to bring about two or three simple results. We have attempted tb raise- administrative efficiency in the territories by new recruitment to the services, by improving the conditions of officers and by generally encouraging local initiative. We have also taken measures to ensure that Australia shall get value for the money voted by this Parliament. When the Australian Parliament votes money for the territories, it must be assured that it will get full value for the money expended from those votes.
We are trying to make conditions in the territory more congenial and acceptable to those who are serving there. Another of our major responsibilities is to ensure that ‘the development of the territories -shall bring good social results in its train. I am not speaking of social benefits that may be received by individuals ; I am concerned that the kind of community that will be built up in these territories will be one that will be happy in itself and useful to Australia. A very wise remark was made by one of the honorable members who contributed to this debate. He said: “It is the Community in the territory that really does matter It is not until we make people want to establish their homes and live in the territories that we shall be able to see any real and satisfactory development of these areas. There are various reasons for which people go to our territories, whether it be the Northern Territory or New Guinea. One reason is simply to exploit the country. Some people are prepared to undergo wretched conditions for a few years in order to make a large amount of money. It is possible for people to go to our territories with a sense of exile and come back and enjoy the results of their exile. This Government does not think that that motive alone will lead to good results in the territory. The end to which this Government will direct its activities is .to establish in these territories a well grounded, happy and stable condition of living that will conform with the best standards of Australian society. No matter what development may take place and what riches may be taken out of the territories, unless the result of our efforts is the establishment of a happy community of Australians in the territories, living a life satisfactory to themselves and conforming to the best standards of Australia, our efforts will be of no value. When we put that ideal before ourselves we must recognize that an economic basis is required to sustain a local community. Various contributors to the debate have indicated the possibilities of mining, of the pastoral industry and of agriculture, and have mentioned some of the advantages and disadvantages which are attendant on each of these industries. I remind honorable members, because it may have been overlooked in the debate, that at present our Australian territories number four. There is the Northern Territory, which is a part of the mainland of Australia; Norfolk island, which is one of the most ancient outposts of Australia; Papua and New Guinea, which joins in an administrative union a possession and a trust territory; and finally, Nauru. In Norfolk Island and Nauru there are only small communities, and the territories themselves are isolated. However, they are important enough to be taken into the general pucture of our Australian territories.
In this debate, most honorable members have spoken of the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea. In speaking of the future, some honorable members have spoken, perhaps optimistically, of the creation of a seventh State of the Commonwealth. I believe that that is a realistic hope when it is applied to the Northern Territory. We can perceive quite clearly that if the Northern Territory develops in the way in which we hope it will develop, and if the population increases sufficiently, it will become another State of the Commonwealth. Honorable members usually think of the population of the Northern Territory, both coloured and white, as having common destinies. In the future, the two races will merge with one another, they will have the same future and will enjoy the same conditions. Even at the present time, when we talk of 15,000 or 10,000 people in the Northern Territory, ivp. must not overlook the fact that there are also 12,000 native people there who are making their own very solid contribution to thb winning of the territory’s wealth. It is not solely the European population that is concerned with the development of the Northern Territory: the native population also has great significance. In time the Northern Territory will no doubt develop as a single community and become another State of the Commonwealth.
However, when we consider Papua aud New Guinea, I do not think that we can look forward to its future inclusion in the Commonwealth. At present approximately 1,500,000 natives in Papua-New Guinea occupy their own land, and a minority of approximately 10,000 Europeans also live there. The European settlement will increase, and development of that territory will be mainly the result of European enterprise in the years immediately ahead. Nevertheless, we cannot foresee a future in which the territory will be populated by one single community. In Papua and New Guinea there will always be two communities - the indigenous peoples and the immigrant Australian population. The problem in that land is not one of the Europeans absorbing the natives or of the natives absorbing the Europeans; it is the problem of finding a way in. which the native inhabitants and the European immigrants will be able to live side by side to their mutual advantage in a happy relationship. We cannot consider together the futures of the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea because their futures although linked closely with Western Australia, must, of necessity, be quite different. With the permission of the Chair, I should like to refer to some remarks made on an earlier division of the Estimates, by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) concerning the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. I do so because other honorable members have referred to the same subject tu-day. The suggestion behind the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar was that the Legistlative Council for the Northern Territory should not be turned into an instrument of dictatorship by any government at any time. He described the position clearly and accurately. However, the honorable member suggested the wrong remedy. The remedy is not to draw back into this Parliament any of the powers that it has delegated to the Legislative Council; it is to make the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory a more effectively independent legislative body.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Norfolk Island, and Papua and New Guinea, has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for inch services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £425,532,000 to defray charges for the services of the year 1952-53, viz.: -
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee of Ways and M.eans.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1952-53, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £276,504,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Eric J. Harrison and Mr. Kent Hughes do prepare and bring in a hill to carry out the foregoing resolution..
Bill presented by Mr. Eric j. Harrison, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. WARD (East Sydney) r4.51’.I direct attention again to the misrepresentation that is being indulged in by Australian officials overseas in their endeavours to attract increasing numbers of immigrants to Australia, All people except those who refuse to see the truth must be aware now that unemployment is increasing rapidly in Australia. Important public organizations, including trade unions, are directing attention to the necessity for restricting immigration in view of the seriousness of the employment situation. But the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) is now overseas arranging new immigration agreements! According to the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Beale), the Government intends to bring rural workers to Australia under these agreements. Already it has in its immigrant camps, and registered with the employment service, large numbers of new Australians who are experienced rural workers and many others who are capable of undertaking farm work but cannot be provided with such jobs. I am convinced that it is endeavouring to bolster the immigration programme by misrepresenting the position to unfortunate workers overseas who are led to believe that they can improve their lot by coming to this country. I have here a copy of the A berdeen Bon-Accord and Northern Pictorial of the 3rd July, which contains the following advertisement published on behalf of the Australian Government: -
Have honorable members ever heard such rubbish! The Government not only has failed to provide accommodation for unfortunate immigrants but also has revealed its incapacity to provide accom modation for many Australian families. It has been inundated with complaints and protests, both in this House and elsewhere, about conditions at immigrant hostels..
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security(Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and Designs (2).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Tottenham, Victoria.
Public Service Act -Appointments Department -
Defence- W. V. Butler.
SocialServices - M. L. Habib.
Supply - (G. L. Green,W.B.Johnson.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinance - 1952 - No.8 - Supreme Court.
Regulations - 1952 -
No. 13 (Public Health Ordinance).
No. 14 (Motor Traffic Ordinance’.).
House adjourned at 5.2 p.m.
The following answers toquestions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister acting for the MinisterforImmigration, upon notice -
Mr.Beale. -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Ward askedthe Minister acting for the Ministerfor Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Malta. - The entire intake under the AustraliaMalta assisted passage agreement is on the basis of personal nominations submitted by friends or relatives already in Australia. The principles involved and the conclusions reached are similar to those referred to in connexion with the United Kingdom assisted passage agreement. The agreement provides for extension for two-yearly periods. The most recent extension expires on the 30th June, 1953.
The Netherlands and Italy. - The agreements between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the. Netherlands and
Italy for assisted migration do not specify actual numbers of migrants to be received but provide that selection will be in accordance with Australia’s stated requirements, which generally are to be advised from time to time. In the ease of Italy, the agreement specifically provides that close estimates of our requirements in respect of each twelve months are to be supplied six mouths in advance, lt also provides that detailed group nominations are to be lodged with the Italian Government three months before it is desired that the workers specified should leave Italy. Kach agreement provides that the scheme shall operate for a period of five years, commencing upon a date to be fixed, and that it may be continued thereafter by mutual agreement. The operative date in respect of the Netherlands is the 1st April, 1951, and in respect of Italy, the 1st August, 1951.
n asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration, upon notice--* . What number of immigrants, assisted or otherwise, has contracted tuberculosis each year since the inception of mass immigration!
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The information asked for by the honorable member is not available in the form required, as in general the State authorities, who are responsible for the treatment and control of tuberculosis, have not distinguished in their records between new Australians and the nativeborn population. The importance of such statistics is recognized, however, and the Commonwealth Department of Health is at present examining a scheme whereby reliable information concerning tuberculosis sufferers amongst the resident immigrant population will be available by liaison through the Commonwealth Deputy-Director of Tuberculosis in each State and the State authorities. It is intended that in the first instance this information will be based on records in each State dating from the 1st January, 1952, and that these statistics will be kept current by an amendment to the monthly returns at present furnished to Canberra by each State Director of Tuberculosis. Representations in regard to tuberculosis amongst the immigrant population have been received from interested persons and organizations in Australia, who have showna keen appreciation of the difficulties involved.Each report or suggestion has been fully examined by officers of the Department of Immigration with the officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health. Action which can be taken on prevention of the tuberculosis problem amongst immigrants must, however, necessarily be directed towards effective screening in the immigrant’s country of origin to ensure that only those whose health is clear are approved for admission. For this reason, since the inception of post-war immigration, special precautions have been taken to ensure that prospective immigrants are examined in their country of origin for any sign of lung abnormality, before they have been permitted to proceed to Australia under Commonwealth immigration schemes. These precautions, especially in the case of former displaced persons whose way of life in the immediately preceding years was such that an unusually high incidence of tuberculosis might reasonably have been expected, were followed by a further clinical examination and lung radiography immediately after the immigrant’s arrival in Australia. The results of these post-arrival examinations have been a tribute to the effectiveness of Australia’s overseas screening methods. The limited number of active or doubtful cases, which have come to notice in this way, have been almost entirely amongst former displaced persons. As that scheme, which was based largely on humanitarian grounds as Australia’s contribution towards the solution of a world problem, has now terminated, it can be assumed that the possibility of tuberculosis suspects being included in future immigrant intakes will be at an absolute minimum. From the records of postarrival examinations and information of admissions to Commonwealth institutions, the Department of Health made, in 1940, an analysis in respectof the immigrant intake under the displaced persons scheme from November, 1947, to September, 1950. Of the 139,507 displaced persons who arrived during this period, it was found that 416 had received or were receiving hospital treatment for tuberculosis. Whilst no subsequent surveys of this kind havebeen made, it could be expected that a similar analysis in respect of later arrivals under the same scheme would have disclosed a lower incidence following improvements in screening technique as a result of earlier experience. It will happen that immigrants who are free of infection at the time of their examination overseas may subsequently contract tuberculosis after they have become established in the Australian community. However effective the screening methods are, these cases must be expected and it is their incidence rate which will be recorded in the statistics which I have referred to earlier in this reply.
d asked the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
July, 1952. 3SR Shepparton - Twelve months from 4th October, 1952. 2LF Young - Three months from 16th October, 1952. 3AW Melbourne - Twelve months from 23rd October, 1952. 3YB Warrnambool - Twelve months from 25th October, 1952. 2GB Sydney - Three months from 13th May, 1952, and further renewal for three months from 13th August, 1952. 2CA Canberra - Three months from 27th August, 1952. 2MG Mudgee - Three months from 28th September, 1952. 3UL Warragul - Twelve months from 14th April, 1952. 2PK Parkes - Twelve months from 19th April, 1952. 2LT Lithgow - Twelve months from 7th June, 1952. 2HR Lochinvar - Twelve months from 2nd September, 1952.
d asked the Minister anting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The: answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The annual charges varied from £123 to £1,312’ according to distance. The- present uniform rate is £52 yearly.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister- for National -Development has supplied the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 September 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520905_reps_20_218/>.