20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. PETERS presented a petition from certain employees of the Commonwealth Public Service praying that this House will give further consideration to amending the Commonwealth’ Employees’ Furlough Act so that temporary employees may enjoy a right which in justice should be theirs.
Petition received and read.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Why is the Government not replacing conciliation commissioners when they retire,’ and why have some conciliation commissioners been given new assignments by the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that cover such a wide scope as to render quickacting, flexible conciliation and arbitration an utter impossibility? In the light of these facts, is not the Government following a policy that is likely to cause industrial discontent, and ‘ an industrial upheaval during the remainder of the life of this Parliament, with the possibility that the Communist bogy will again be used to advantage by some political forces in Australia?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service will answer the question.
– The Attorney-General and I have examined the matter fully and carefully. Having regard to the business that conciliation commissioners would be required to conduct in the performance of their duties, we are of the opinion that the number of commissioners now available is quite’ adequate for the performance of their functions. The honorable member also .referred to the. possibility of industrial discontent and subsequent upheavals. I. am happy, to inform him that the state of industrial relations in Australia has shown a steady and marked improvement in recent years, and I am confident that it, will continue.
– Can the Prime Minister tell me what would be the cost to revenue in the next financial year of restoring the 40 per cent, initial depreciation as has been promised by the Leader of the Labour party? If this concession were granted, and the budget were to be kept in balance, would it involve a cutting down of social services or other items of expenditure or increasing income tax or other taxes in order to compensate for the loss of revenue ?
– I am advised that the cost to revenue of the restoration of the special initial depreciation of 40 per cent., or alternatively introducing a reduction of 20 per cent, per annum, would be ;i ^proximately £20,000,000. That, of course, may not be the end of it, because if this were done in relation to industrial equipment, there would be a powerful argument for doing it in relation to rural equipment. It is quite clear that if £20,000,000 had to be found out of the present budget, it would mean either unbalancing the budget, or deducting the amount from expenditure, and, therefore, in particular, from social services expenditure, or it must be found by additional taxation. That, I think, is perfectly clear. The Government gave great thought to this matter, and decided that the position of businesses generally was affected by the rate of tax imposed on them, or by the receipt of concessions of this order on special initial depreciation, or by the problem of depreciation generally. After a full examination of the facts, the Government decided that the greatest practical measure of relief, the greatest encouragement to reserves and replacement of plant, and, therefore, the greatest encouragement to stability of employment, could be given by a. reduction of the company tax, broadly, by 2s. in the £1. That is why the Government adopted that policy.
– My question follows upon the question asked by the honorable member for Sturt. Is it a fact that the budget to which the Prime Minister referred in his reply charges far more than £100,000,000 of capital expenditure against the revenue of the present year, making the whole of that vast sum a charge on taxation or ineligible for the financing of social services? Does the right honorable gentleman approve of that way of presenting a budget, which is contrary to all business principles?
– I regret, in fact I am disappointed, that the Leader of the Opposition did not hear the very carefully considered remarks that I made on this matter in the course of the budget debate.
– Order ! The budget debate has finished.
– That is so, and 1 would not presume to refer to it in terms. However, as the question has been put to me, may I reply to it in another form? I have offered some observations on this matter and have referred also to views entirely contrary to those of the Leader of the Opposition, which were expressed by his own leader when lie was the Deputy Prime Minister.
– Not at all.
– Memory is an imperfect vehicle and I recommend the right honorable gentleman to .read the Hansard reports on that point. It is always amusing to me to hear the Leader of the Opposition talking, with all the novelty of a new discovery, about the desirability of financing capital works with capital money. One problem that he has not faced up to is that of obtaining the capital money. If one cannot get it from loan, then one must either discontinue these Commonwealth works or pay for them out of revenue. This elementary truth was understood even by the Labour Government, though apparently the right honorable gentleman was unaware of the fact at the time.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the fact that the Tasmanian Treasurer in budgeting for a deficit of £395,000 on a revenue of £13,000,000, claimed that this deficit was due to the Commonwealth’s refusal to pay adequate tax reimbursement ? Can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether or not the Tasmanian budget was redrafted following the announced transfer of Tattersalls to Victoria, and that this major influence is the real reason for tho Tasmanian budgetary deficit?
– I have no knowledge of the time-table of events in connexion with the drafting of the Tasmanian budget, but I might make a shrewd guess that the honorable member’s guess is a good guess.
– The question that I wish to ask the Prime Minister relates to the urgent necessity for some positive plan for the development of the northwestern area of “Western Australia. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I preface the question by remarking that this area, with its valuable mineral resources and fertile country adjacent to the Ord and Fitzroy Rivers, presents a ‘ challenge to this nation which cannot be neglected any longer. In view of the growing need for the development and population of the northern area of Western Australia, particularly that region north of the 26th parallel of latitude, will the Prime Minister consider the appointment of a subcommittee of Cabinet to confer with a similar sub-committee of the Western Australian Government with a view to arranging a joint developmental programme for this valuable and vital area to commence at an early date?
– This matter, I agree, is one of very great importance. I assure the honorable gentleman at once that much consideration has been given to a number of the issues involved, both by sub-committees of Cabinet and by the full Cabinet. I have observed that certain representations are to he made in respect of the incidence of taxation on the development of such areas of Australia. Those representations have not reached me, and therefore have not yet received the attention of the Government. However, I assure the honorable member, whose interest in this matter I appreciate, that the Government regards the subject as one of great importance and will give the closest possible .attention to it.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the strong opposition shown by the Australian Dried Fruits Association to the recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council that an additional 3,200 acres of dried vine fruits be planted? Can the Minister say whether the Government, within the limits of its jurisdiction, will accept the council’s recommendation, or will heed the warnings of the industry about the dangers of over-expansion in a falling price market?
– I am fully aware of the strong protests that have been made by the Australian Dried Fruits Association on the matter to which the honorable member has referred. Those protests have prompted me to make a very close study of the problem. I should like it to be generally understood that the Commonwealth has only a limited status in respect of dried fruit plantings. Its authority is confined to plantings connected with war service land settlement. It has no status in respect of plantings sponsored by a State government, other than those for the purposes of war service land settlement. It certainly has no status in respect of ordinary civilian plantings. The Commonwealth, in view of its limited status in this matter, has trodden very carefully in considering the acreages in which it will involve itself connexion with war service land settlement. I point out that settlement projects cannot be, and are never attempted to be, initiated by the Commonwealth. They are initiated by the State governments. In 1946, after a close study had been made of the problem, a conference on a premiers level decided to limit war service land settlement plantings of dried fruits to 6,000 acres. In 1949, after further study by the Australian Agricultural Council and the Irrigation Production Advisory Committee, a joint Commonwealth and State body, the approved acreage was increased by 3,500 acres. In 1952, as the result of a request by the South Australian Government, and after further study of the situation, the total permitted acreage was increased to 12,700 acres. The whole of that acreage has not been planted. To date, only 5,520 acres have been planted and, under projects already approved, 300 acres will be added in South Australia. I assure the honorable member that I am conscious of the dangers with which we are faced. If the market prospects deteriorate seriously, I shall direct the attention of all the State governments to the situation and request that the problem be reexamined completely. At the present time, expert opinion is that plantings already made or projected are within safe limits.
– In view- of recent developments in the uranium sphere, will the Minister for Supply cause to be prepared as early as possible a miners’ handbook on uranium, setting out in plain and simple language for the guidance of prospectors information about awards for the discovery of uranium, titles to holdings and the various government aids that are now available?
– I am obliged to the honorable member for reminding me of this matter, about which he spoke to me privately some time ago. He has made a first-class suggestion. Steps have already been taken to prepare such a handbook, which should not be confused with the booklet on radio active minerals issued some time ago by the Department of National Development. The honorable member has in mind a much simpler book that would explain to ordinary people, in simple language, how to go about the business of mining and prospecting for uranium. Such a book is in course of preparation, and I hope that it will be available to the public in the not too far distant future.
– I direct to the Minister for Social Services a question that relates to the degree of incapacity necessary for a person to be deemed eligible for an invalid pension. The Social Services Consolidation Act provides that a person must not be less than 85 per cent, incapacitated. Could the Minister say if there is any flexibility about this rule ? Is he aware that in some cases applications are rejected on the grounds that the applicants are 100 per cent, physically fit, although their mental unfitness has not been properly assessed or is not understood, and they have been rejected for employment? Will the Minister examine this section of the act closely to see whether some improvement could be effected in it?
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! I must ask that conversation at the table cease. I can hear it over my microphone.
– I shall be very pleased to examine the honorable member’s suggestion. There was a time when the invalid pension was paid only to persons who were 100 per cent, incapacitated. The percentage of incapacitation necessary for payment of a pension was reduced to 85 per cent, in order to provide a certain amount of flexibility. I can assure the honorable member that in practice the relevant section of the act is administered with great sympathy.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any information to give to the House concerning the alleged purchase by New Zealand of 300,000 bushels of Canadian wheat? Will this be the first occasion in 35 years on which New Zealand has bought wheat from any country other than Australia? Have the Government and people of New Zealand forgotten the secret sale of wheat to New Zealand by the Chifley Government, which involved the people of this country in losses, over the entire delivery period, that amounted to millions of pounds ?
– I have no current knowledge of the wheat-selling activities of the Australian Wheat Board because, as honorable members know, it is the Government’s policy that the board shall operate with complete freedom in relation to its export sales.
– Does not the Minister road the minutes of the board’s meetings ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is out of order.
– The Minister evidently does not read the minutes.
– The answer is that I do not.
– That is why the Minister is in a muddle now.
-Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must cease interjecting.
– I have communicated with the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board as a result of something to which my attention was drawn this morning. He has told me that he has no knowledge of any sale of wheat made by Canada to New Zealand. He has also told me that for every inquiry that the board has had from New Zealand in recent times a sale has been effected. He states that as recently as the 22nd September the board had an inquiry from New Zealand and, as a result, sold 500,000 bushels of wheat to that country at 18s. a bushel f.o.b. Australian ports. He believes that contact between the board and New Zealand is so close and constant that there is every reason to expect a continuation of satisfactory business with New Zealand.
– A few minutes ago, I answered a question by the honorable member for Riverina concerning the reported purchase of Canadian wheat by New Zealand. I have since been informed by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board that he has official advice from the manager of the New Zealand Wheat Board to the effect that no purchase of wheat has been made from Canada.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position .to answer the question that I asked him yesterday regarding the visit of the Vice-President of the United States of America, Senator Nixon, to Canberra ?
– The honorable member asked me yesterday whether the Government had arranged any function of welcome to the Vice-President of the United States of America during his forthcoming visit to Canberra. I advise the honorable member, and other honorable members, that the Government has arranged for a luncheon party at Parliament House to be given in honour of the
Vice-President, to which senators and members of the House of Representatives will be invited. This will provide an opportunity for the Parliament to welcome the Vice-President, and will also provide an opportunity for the VicePresident to speak to members of the Parliament.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the differences has taken action to overcome differences that may have existed between tobacco-growers and manufacturers. Are the percentage figures used by the Department of Trade and Customs for duty rebate based on import statistics and Australian production figures? Can tobacco-growers present a case to the Tariff Board if they so desire, and is a special committee investigating proposals for long-term stability of the Australian tobacco industry?
– There has been the closest and most constant consultation for a period of more than a year between myself, the officers of my department, the Queensland tobacco-growers’ representatives and the tobacco manufacturers. Some forward steps have been taken as a result of that consultation. The percentage prescribed to entitle the duty rebate on Australian tobacco leaf used in blending, is decided in the light of the availability of Australian leaf and the total Australian demand. The complexity of this problem makes it very difficult to solve with complete finality, but I have confidence that the efforts and goodwill of the officials, growers and manufacturers will finally satisfactorily solve it.
– Can the Minister for Immigration tell me whether it is true that during the first six months of this year 18,461 British people entered Australia and 12,567 left permanently for British countries ? Those figures indicate a loss to this country of 60 per cent, of such immigrants. Do the figures, which were cited by the secretary of the United Kingdom Services and Ex-Services Welfare Association have any relation to the official immigration, intake? If- they do refer to immigration figures a loss of 60 per cent, of British immigrants represents a great waste of the public funds that have been spent on immigration:
– I advise the honorable iri ember to treat with, considerable caution the figures that he cited. I have already answered a question about this matter, and I have pointed out that in the early part of this year a considerable number of people went to the United Kingdom and have been classified as having permanently departed from- this country because their intention was to be away from here for more than twelve months. Many of those persons are Australian citizens who were going to England for the coronation festivities, and who prolonged their visit abroad for more than twelve months. Not only does British immigration remain the top immigration priority, but Australia has had the good fortune to attract to this country in the post-war years far more British immigrants than did any of the other dominions, and I believe that four of them combined have received fewer settlers in that period than has Australia.
– “Will the Minister fo* Immigration state whether it is a fact that departmental witnesses in a case which was heard in the Special Federal Court yesterday-
– Has the case been concluded ?
– As far as I know, it has.
-If it has not been concluded, the question is out of order.
– As far as I know, the case has been concluded.
– Has judgment been given ?
– As far as I know, it Las.
– The honorable member vouches for the fact that the case is finished and that judgment has been given?
– As far as I know from what I have read in the newspapers, that is so.
– I also read the newspapers. I may not be quite as innocent as I look about these matters. 1 did not notice a report that the case had been concluded and that judgment had been given. Until that has been done the honorable member might hold his question in reserve.
– I shall state the question without referring to the case.
– Very well.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is not a face that an official departmental file concerning an alien who, it is alleged, entered Australia under a forged document-
– I rise to order. You have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that in the absence of a clear statement that some litigation has concluded no question mav be asked in relation to the subject-matte, of the litigation. It is an obvious subterfuge for the honorable member to say that he will not mention the case and then proceed to ask the same question as ho had originally intended to ask.
– I think that the matter should be held over until tin.honorable member for East Sydney can satisfy the House that the case has been concluded and a judgment upon it habeen given. In accordance with the customary procedure of the House I must, lay down that condition.
– My question to the Prime Minister arises from an answer given by the Leader of the Opposition to a question that I put to him recently concerning compulsory unionism. Is it not a fact that legislation passed by any Australian parliament to compel any person to join a trade union would be an infringement of Article 20 of the Declaration of . Human Rights, which reads -
Everyone lias the right to freedom o’f peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Is it not true that the Leader of the Opposition, as the then representative of the Australian Government at the United Nations in 194S, was a signatory to that declaration and a very strong protagonist of its acceptance? Will the Prime Minister take up this matter with the Leader of the Opposition and draw his attention to his obvious duty to the people, which is to endeavour to persuade the Government of New South Wales to honour this country’s international obligations, and not, as the right honorable gentleman did yesterday, to encourage it to flout them.
– I shall certainly take an opportunity to convey to the Leader of the Opposition the terms of the honorable member’s question.
– That is a very different thing.
– That is item No. 1. Item No. 2 is that the terms of the Declaration of Human Rights, which are quite clear, hardly deal with the case of Queensland, the legislation of which State on the subject of compulsory unionism preceded the Declaration of Human Rights with which the name of the Leader of the Opposition is associated. But I should have thought that for future purposes, including the now current dispute in New South Wales, there was grave conflict between what the right honorable gentleman has stood for and what he has done regarding the Declaration of Human Rights, and what is now proposed in the State of New South Wales. But there, these conflicts are a part of political life. This is not the first occasion on which the Leader of the Opposition has been in conflict with the trade union movement or with the Labour party.
– My question is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Evans. Has the Prime Minister seen the report -of a statement attributed to the leader of the Government in another place dealing with compulsory unionism in Queensland, in the course of which the Minister said-
-Order! If the honorable gentleman is making any reference to proceedings in the Senate, he is clearly out of order.
– I was dealing with a statement attributed to Senator O’sullivan.
-Order ! The honorable member is now out of order in mentioning his name.
– Oan the PostmasterGeneral inform me when his department proposes to proceed with the construction of post offices at Batlow and Boorowa, in the electorate of Hume, particularly in view of the inadequacy of the existing buildings to meet the needs of the growing communities in those important centres?
Mri ANTHONY.- I cannot tell tho honorable member when it is proposed to erect new post offices at the centres to which he has referred. The provision of new premises is an important matter to the residents of those centres, but new post offices are also required in many other parts of Australia.
– Not as urgently as at Batlow.
– The requirements of Batlow and Boorowa will receive attention in proper order.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that two Russian couriers travelled to Australia this week aboard the same aircraft as the British Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations? Is there any significance in the arrival of these Russians on the eve of the Woomera atomic test, or is their visit merely one of the normal scheduled trips to Australia to deliver and collect diplomatic despatches? Alternatively, has this trip been expressly timed for other reasons in order to be present in this country during the test ?
– I have not heard of the two Russian couriers to whom the honorable member has referred, nor do I know what their business is. If it was with any thought that they might have got at the mind of the British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, I can assure the honorable member that they did not have a hope of so doing.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement on the refusal of the Capital Issues Board to approve of a capital issue by a coal company in the Lithgow district which desires to mechanize and extend its operations? If the Prime Minister is not now in a position to make a statement on the matter, will he cause inquiries to be made with the object of providing an adequate answer to the charge that coal development in the western New South Wales district is being retarded by lack of finance ?
– As the honorable member will appreciate, this matter has not come before me. Capital issues matters do not come to me. In the absence of the Treasurer, I shall be glad if, later, the honorable member will give me the name of the applicant company so that I can see what can be said about the matter.
– Does the Prime Minister detect any conflicting financial principle in an attitude of mind which proposes on the one hand to restore the 40 per cent. depreciation allowance and on the other attacks the Government for having reduced company taxation?
– You, Mr. Speaker, would not know about this because you were not here. But those who were here, other than yourself, will be familiar with the grave inconsistency I found on another occasion, in what is technically another place, between those two points.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has satisfied itself that compulsion to -belong to a friendly society as a condition to receiving Commonwealth hospital benefits is in accord with the terms of the provisions of the Declaration of Human Rights?
– It must be some time since I heard a more inaccurate use of language. Any objection to compulsion to join a friendly society as a condition to obtaining a service is the oddest thing in the world. One cannot get whatever “benefits flow from membership of the Oddfellows unless one joins the Oddfellows. I have never heard it said that a person must be an odd fellow, but then the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is not compelled to be an odd fellow - he just became one.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that there is considerable dissatisfaction with the exclusion of aged and chronically ill persons from the Government’s medical benefits scheme? Is he aware that some friendly societies have indicated that they are prepared to accept these persons if the Governmentprovides some assistance to help meet the added costs? Has the Government taken any action to explore the prospect of improving -its inadequate health scheme?
– I notice that a gallup poll last week suggested that 90 per cent, of the people of Australia, regardless of whether they were supporters of the Labour party, the Liberal party or the Australian Country party, approved the medical benefits scheme. I understand that none of the approved organizations now debars people from membership on account of age. Many of the organizations include persons who are chronically ill. In fact, most of the friendly society organizations accept such persons and completely ignore chronic illness, if the sufferers have been insured for a year. The removal of other bars to insurance has been discussed frequently between the various insurance organizations and’ the Government, and great progress has been made in the matter. In fact, organizations associated with certain trade unions in New South Wales have completely removed all bars.
– Can the Minister for Supply inform me whether agreement has yet been reached between the L. J. Hartnett Motor Company Limited and the Commonwealth Engineering Company? If not, when does the Minister expect that an agreement will be reached between them?
– I think that I indicated to the House on a previous occasion that this matter really does not fall within my administrative responsibility. However, I shall have some inquiries made with a view to ascertaining the present position. When I last heard of the matter, litigation was proceeding between the two organizations. So far as I know, that litigation is still in progress.
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform me whether any official approach has ever been made to the Commonwealth by the Queensland Government with a view to becoming an agent State under the war service land settlement agreement, similar to the position of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania?
– The reply to the honorable gentleman’s question is “ No “. The main trouble was that any proposals that were made on that subject differed from the standard agreements made with the agent States. Those differences have not yet been settled.
– ‘Have the New South Wales and Queensland Governments on several occasions since the ministerial conference on the 31st March, lust, asked this Government to take part in a further conference on war service land settlement? Has this Government replied to the New South Wales Government that no change can be made in the arrangements for this financial year? Will this Government give a similar reply to the Queensland Government? Does the Government propose to take part in any further conferences on this subject during the current financial year?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, No ; 2, 3 and 4, Yes.
– Will the Minister for Health indicate whether arrangements have been completed for the provision of free milk for school children at the three remaining centres in Queensland which have not been included so far in the scheme ?
– Milk for school children in the various States is provided by the State governments iis agents of the Commonwealth. In other words, the States undertake the whole administrative work in this matter. However, some difficulty has arisen by reason of the fact that various dairy organizations and milk vendors, in certain localities have been prepared to supply milk to school children for 5s. 4d. a gallon, but in other localities, particularly the metropolis, they have insisted on a price of 5s. Sd. a gallon, which is about ls. a gallon more than is charged to Queensland governmental institutions. The Commonwealth desires to know the reason for these extraordinary discrepancies, and, therefore, any delay that occurs in the provision of milk to school children is due entirely to the activities and actions of the Queensland Government.
….. THE PARLIAMENT.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) asked me a question regarding the contents of petitions presented to this House. I have examined the matter fairly closely. I do not want to refer at length to the history of the presentation of petitions, and I shall deal with it as briefly and conveniently as I can. The position is that so long as a petition, is respectfully worded, is addressed to this House and concludes with a prayer, there is very little on which an elector is not entitled to petition this House. If honorable gentlemen like to refer to May’s Parliamentary Practice, the fifteenth edition, commencing at page 811, they will see that the history of this matter dates back to 16S9. According to a Declaration of the House of Commons, the effect ‘ of which is still in force in Australia, any individual elector, not being a member of this House, has a right to petition the Parliament. That is reinforced by the very procedure that we adopt. ‘ The first matter that is called every day after prayers is petitions - the right of an elector to approach the Parliament.
– Nuts in May.
– Order ! The Standing Orders provide that Mr. Speaker shall be heard in silence when he is on his feet. I may add that the first responsibility in regard to petitions rests on those who get them up and sign them. A distinctresponsibility rests on their shoulders to see that a petition complies with the Standing Orders. In certain instanceslately, petitions have not complied with the Standing Orders. I point out that the Standing Orders of this House aremuch more lenient to a petitioner tha it
Are the Standing Orders of the House of
Commons, which provide that the original petition must be writtenby hand on parchment or very strong paper and may not have any erasures or additions or any interpolations of any kind. We accept a printed or typewritten petition, but the document must not have any erasures or the like. If honorable members will make themselves familiar with the chapter of the Standing Orders dealing with petitions, they will be in a position to give useful advice to persons in their electorates who wish to approach the House by that means.
– You have mentioned, Mr. Speaker, that a number of petitions which have been received recently, have not been strictly in accordance with the Standing Orders. I should like to know whether any petitions other than one placed in my hands were out of order, or were ruled out of order, not because they were not respectfully worded, but because they were not in accordance with the forms of the House. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that I wanted to present a petition from 38,000 signatories on behalf of the Teachers Federation asking for an additional education grant from the Commonwealth.
– I can assure the honorable member for East Sydney that there were other petitions which were out of order and that not all of them were in the hands of honorable members on the Opposition side of the chamber. Certain honorable members who desired to present petitions are now in the House. Those petitions were different from that sent to the honorable member for East Sydney, and were ruled out of order for different reasons. I. think that the honorable gentleman appreciates the reasons why they were out of order. Whenever a petition is out of order, the Clerks and I are quite willing to inform the honorable member concerned of the reasons. A petition must comply with the Standing Orders.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Yarra asked me a question about the interruption of an Australian Broadcasting Commission commentary. I have received the following reply from the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Reference your telegram the commentary mentioned by Mr. Keon was arranged by us and scheduled for national relay in the normal manner. No bookings were cancelled and there was no question whatever of A.B.C. intervention to limit transmission. The nonrelay from Victoria was an error by Post Office technician operating the channels by switching the wrong programme to station’s outside Victoria. Our studio supervisors in other States who expected the commentary reported the error to Melbourne but it was then too late for alteration as the four minute commentary was reaching its conclusion. Technicians are not under A. B.C. control.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J.Harrison) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 29th September (vide page 788).
Department of Immigration
Proposed vote, £1,267,000.
Department of Labour and National Service
Proposed vote, £1,860,000.
Department of National Development
Proposed vote, £906,000.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
Proposed vote, £3,660,000.
Australian Atomic Energy Commission
Proposed vote, £368,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I wish to discuss a matter that affects the Department of Immigration. I have read in some of the daily newspapers allegations that investigations made by representatives of the newspapers have disclosed evidence of a racket involving trading in permits for aliens to enter and remain in Australia. These allegations are of a most serious nature. It has come to my knowledge also that an official file of the Department of Immigration is missing from the department and that inquiries that have been in progress for about two months have failed to trace it. Apparently it has been established beyond doubt that some of the malpractices of the ring which is engaged in the racket are carried on within the department itself. How long has the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) been aware that an important official file in relation to this matter has been missing from his department?
Conversation being audible,
– - Order! There is too much conversation. I ask honorable members to desist.
– I cannot hear.
– Order! The honorable member for Burke (Mr.
Peters) must not interject.
– I was just complaining.
– Order ! The honorable member will apologize to the Chair for having interjected.
– I apologize to the Chair for having complained that I could not hear the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– I again ask how long the Minister for Immigration has known that an official file has been missing from his department. The honorable gentleman has given a number of assurances in this Chamber recently that he is satisfied that there is no cause for complaint on the score of the surveillance that is exercised by departmental officers over the entry of aliens. My purpose in raising this matter originally was to protect some of these unfortunate foreigners against exploitation in Australia, both by the persons who nominated them to come here and by their employers in this country. The Minister assured me, with reference to a particular case that I mentioned, that investigations were being made. Is he yet in a position to announce exactly what those investigations have disclosed ?
It is rather significant that, although certain gentlemen have claimed that the allegations of a racket in relation to the admittance of aliens to Australia are fantastic, added evidence has been produced in the last few days to support the idea that many unfortunate foreigners have been illegally charged exorbitant fees for entry permits and that they have been brought to Australia for the purpose of being exploited by unscrupulous employers who do not observe award conditions and do not pay proper wages to them. My remarks do not refer to employers who nominate aliens for. entry in accordance with the law and who observe all the numerous conditions that apply to the issuance of such documents. It must be evident to the Minister now, if he was not convinced previously, that there is ample justification for the suggestion that there is trafficking in entry permits for aliens. I have heard from persons who travel about the world that it is easy for a person in the East to obtain a permit to come to Australia if that person is ready to pay the high fee that is charged by the racketeers, who apparently operate inside Australia and overseas. This is a most serious matter. No doubt some of the unfortunate aliens who have been victimized sincerely believe that the documents that they have secured are legal. They may have been convinced that it is the normal practice to make a charge for such documents.
The Minister should tell us how many aliens have been found in possession of forged entry permits recently. When these people are discovered with forged papers in their possession, they are taken to court, prosecuted and, when convicted, imprisoned or fined and then deported even though their intentions may have been perfectly honest. Evidently no action has been taken to expose the racket and those who engage in it. The fact that an important file in relation to the matter is missing from the Department of Immigration indicates that malpractices have been committed by officers of the department. I should like the Minister to state exactly what form of investigation is being conducted. Is it being carried out by officers of his department, by the security service, or by the Commonwealth Investigation Branch? For exactly how long have these inquiries been proceeding, and what results have been obtained up to date? Finally, I ask the honorable gentleman -whether, when he said in this chamber that there was no basis for allegations about racketeering, he actually knew that investigations of this kind were being carried out in the department? If he was aware that investigations were proceeding .and that an official file was missing, all I can say is that he deliberately misled us.
– Invariably I find it very difficult to deal objectively with matters brought before the Parliament by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). No one is more keen than I am to present to the Parliament at all times facts relating to the work of the two departments for which I am responsible, and which I feel should be disclosed in the public interest. But. when statements about the work of those departments contain perversions of facts and misstatements of my own remarks, it is exceedingly difficult to deal with them in the manner in which I desire to deal with all matters affecting the departments. The honorable member for East Sydney knows that the only previous occasions on which I dealt with the issues he has raised were when I answered questions about them and when I made a speech on the adjournment recently. Questions were directed to me about the discovery that certain Chinese aliens in this country were in possession of forged registration certificates. In my replies to those questions, I stated that the forged certificates were the subject of proceedings before a court and, therefore, that it was not appropriate to deal with the matter in the Parliament at that stage. Recently, speaking on the adjournment, I made some remarks of a fairly general character and sought to persuade honorable members that there was no cause for serious concern about the movement to Australia in recent years of aliens, particularly Chinese aliens.
I shall try to deal with the various matters that have been raised this afternoon by the honorable member for East Sydney. They were dealt with in a lurid, intemperate and sensational manner by one section of the press last week-end. Norm’ally, I would not take much notice of sensational press statements from that source, but apparently a vendetta is being waged against officers of the Public Service, who I believe to be men of ability, conscientiousness and efficiency - men who have rendered able and devoted service, not only to this Government but also to the Labour Administration that preceded it. It is desirable to state clearly for the information of the committee certain procedures in this connexion that are followed by my department. I shall try to shift the discussion to a more edifying realm of controversy. Certain facts have been disclosed. Some of them have been referred to publicly, although not necessary with complete accuracy. The point that 1 want to make at the outset is that not one fact that was disclosed publicly or brought to my notice by anybody outside the department had not already been uncovered by my officers in the course of their duties. The press hullabaloo and the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney relate to matters that were brought to light in the course of investigations conducted by my departmental officers. As a result of those investigations, in the course of which the officers examined records of alien registration certificates in addition to making other normal checks, we found that eighteen alien registration certificates had been issued in an irregular manner. It was clearly established that they had been issued irregularly. The honorablemember for East Sydney has said that it appears they were issued by officers of the department, acting improperly. I agree with him on that point. I think that is a fair deduction to make. That is the view of the head of the department and his senior officers. Taking that view, they did what I believe was proper in the circumstances. They placed the matter in the hands of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, and inquiries have been proceeding for more than a month. So far no information has been placed before me that would enable me to take action against any officer of the department. However, the inquiries are still proceeding.
It is interesting to note that six of the eighteen registration certificates that were issued improperly have been located. Court proceedings against some of the persons in possession of such certificates have concluded, and proceedings against other persons are pending. Obviously, I cannot say very much at this stage about the cases that have still to come before the court, but I emphasize that already six persons have been discovered in possession of these certificates. Allegations made outside the Parliament suggest that the method of issuing alien registration certificates is lax, that supervision in the department is inadequate, and that the department has been unable effectively to trace aliens who have entered this country illegally. Let me give the committee some information on that matter. It is by no means as easy as the honorable member for East Sydney has suggested for an alien to enter Australia illegally. An entry permit has on it a photograph and the finger prints of the nominee. I do not wish to be offensive to the Chinese race, but I point out that perhaps it would be rather difficult for us in this country, on a photograph alone, to distinguish between Chinese. I have no doubt that the Chinese experience similar difficulties as far as we are concerned. In addition to a photograph, the finger prints of the person to whom the entry permit has been issued must appear on the document. The finger prints are checked before the permit is handed over to ensure that there has been no substitution. The permit must be produced on arrival in Australia, when the finger prints of the holder are again taken and checked against those appearing on the document.
It has been suggested that Chinese aliens have been brought to this country and exploited. All I can say about that allegation is that the department does all that it can do to prevent breaches of our industrial laws. Every Chinese business employing Chinese under exemption is required to furnish an annual return giving particulars of its employees, their occupations and their wages. Prom time to time, a check is made of the books of the employers. If an apparent breach of an industrial award is revealed, the case is brought by us to the notice of the appropriate industrial authority. It has been suggested also that illegal entry can be achieved by procuring a birth certificate illegally or improperly. As I have already pointed out, the purchase of a birth certificate would not enable a Chinese to enter this country illegally and remain here. An Australian-born Chinese about to proceed abroad may have his birth certificate suitably endorsed. That is done by affixing hisphotograph and his thumb or hand prints to the back of the document. AnyChinese who endeavoured to secure entry to this . country on an unendorsed birth certificate would be refused admittance unless he could establish to the completesatisfaction of the boarding officer that, he was the person named on the certificate. Numerous applications for admission to this country by Chinese residing abroad and claiming Australian birth, have been refused because of the inability of the persons concerned to establish theiridentity beyond doubt. Attempts by Chinese to secure entry on birth certificates are now very rare. It is customary to adopt the other procedure to which. I have referred. It was also suggested in the press that illicit use had been madeof duplicate registration certificates, and that the department had issued duplicate certificates when it was claimed that original certificates had been lost. The facts of the matter are that the annual rate of replacement of certificates is less than 1 in 300. Most duplicate certificates have been issued on the initiative of the department in order to keep its own records straight. On these numbers alone it can be seen that there is not much scope for illegal entry by the use -of duplicate certificates.
The press report suggested that therewere three methods by which Chinese immigrants enter the country. Onemethod was entry under an Immigration Department quota system. Thereference to the quota system is a very loose one. There is no quota, as such, for the immigration of Chinese into thiscountry. The rules which apply to-day are the rules which were prescribed, as a modification of the then existing provisions, by my predecessor, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), when he was Minister for Immigration in the Labour Government. These provisions have not been, changed in substance. Indeed, as I pointed out to the . House when we were discussing this matter before, the rateof entry of Chinese who come into Australia, under these exemption provisions is, under this Government, about half the rate that obtained during the Labour Government’s term of office. It was also suggested that Chinese might enter the country as stowaways, and that we have not been active enough in preventing them from entering the country in that way. It is always possible for people to stow away and smuggle themselves into a country. That is true not only of Australia, but of any country that has a sea coast. Australia, in common with other countries to which a large tonnage of overseas shipping operates, has its share of deserters, both- Asians and Europeans. I shall cite to the committee some figures that will demonstrate that, far from being lax in our methods of control in this country, we have been remarkably active, and that’ our record contrasts favorably with that of the United States of America, to which similar types of shipping regularly ply. The annual report of the United States Immigration and Nationalization Service discloses that in 1951, which is the latest year for which a report is available in Canberra, a total of 197 Chinese seamen deserted their ships in America. Deportations of these nationals on all counts during the same period totalled 33. The comparable Australian figures show that from January, .1951, to August, 1953, a period of about two and a half years, 141 Chinese deserted their ships, and that in the same period 142 deserters had been picked up by the department and 12!) were deported. Those figures are a reflection of the commendable zeal shown by the department in this particular direction. Wo caught in that period one more Chinese than had actually deserted, but. some of the cases related to earlier desertions. At least, we were not slipping behind in numbers. I repeat that illegal entry is common to all maritime countries despite all the precautions that may be taken. The report of the United States Department of Justice for 1951 discloses that 7,615 persons were found to have gained entry to the United States of America in that year without proper documents or by means of false statements. j was concerned when I read a press statement that the records of the Department of Immigration were in a chaotic condition. I did not for a moment believe that statement. I share the view of the Department of Immigration that was expressed to me by the honorable member for Melbourne when he handed over its administration to me. He said, “ I hand to you a department in first-class working order, and I expect to get it back in the same condition “. So far as I am concerned the department has been improved, if anything. It has certainly not receded from the highly efficient condition in which, I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne, it was handed over to me. I made my own check departmentally as to the manner in which the records were conducted, and I was not astonished to learn that the Sydney office of the department is used by the Public Service Board as a model- to other departments of the way in W 1 i l l ; 1 records can be satisfactorily kept. Far from there being an absence of cooperation with other departments and with the State instrumentalities, as was also suggested in the press article, on numerous occasions security officials, the Commonwealth Investigation Service, Army Intelligence, officials of the Department of Trade and Customs, and the State police have expressed their appreciation for the co-operation that they have received from the Sydney office. I know that this view is shared by other Commonwealth departments. I had inquiries made of the Chairman of the Public Service Board, Mr.- Dunk, to confirm these conclusions. Mr. Dunk has authorized me to say that, in his judgment, the alien records in the department, and the Sydney office, are adequate for their purposes .and are well maintained.
There is only one other point that 1 wish to mention before I conclude. It was stated that the raids that the department’s officers make in the course of their investigations into illegal entry are conducted in such a manner, and at such a time of the day, as to make detection difficult. There is some ground for that, criticism, but there are reasons for the procedure followed, which seemed satisfactory to this Parliament in the past. I found, on inquiry, that a provision in the Immigration Act requires that searches’ for prohibited immigrants shall be carried out “ at any reasonable hour in the daytime “. I think that that provision was included in the act many years ago, before the Department of Immigration was established in its present form. I can only assume that those who included the provision, upon which all subsequent governments have acted, took the view that, whilst it was proper and desirable that reasonable checks should be made on illegal entry, powers were not to be given to the department to make raids on private households and other places at times that would make them a serious embarrassment, or might cause nuisance, or make them capable of abuse. There may be arguments which run both ways on that matter. Perhaps the legislature, in its desire to safeguard people against improper bureaucratic intrusion, has denied the department opportunities for detection that would make its methods even more efficient than they are to-day.
– Is there a file missing from the department?
– I shall come to that matter in a moment. So far as I am concerned the provision regarding raids is a matter for this legislature. If the Parliament considered that the national interests required that this provision be altered in order to give the department increased powers, that is a matter for it. I am certain that the department has an open mind on the matter. The will of the legislature is the deciding factor. I merely make the comment, in passing, that that provision is in the act; it has been there for many -years and other governments have acted on it.
The honorable member for East Sydney asked me whether a file was missing from the department. I can only say that, so far as my information goes, that is a reasonable assumption. I do not disguise my own belief that an officer of the department has acted improperly in relation to these matters, and the . head of the department, the other senior officers and I myself will do everything that we can to uncover this improper duty or departure from duty. I am certain that I can rely on the good sense of honorable members of the committee to lead them to agree with me that a department which has Australia- wide ramifications and em ploys a great number of people, is not to be condemned because of the misconduct of one of its employees. I hope that the honorable member for East Sydney will not regard me as being offensive if I say that -he himself has cause to know that even the most trusted of employees can turn out to have conducted himself improperly. I do not claim that my departments are beyond that risk; all I can claim is that I believe with good cause that they are administered in a highly efficient manner by senior and trusted officers who can be relied on in this matter, as in others, to give their best service to the Government, the Parliament, and the country.
– I agree with the Minister.
– I am glad to hear that interjection by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and I do not consider that there will be any dispute about that matter. However, I am glad to have had this opportunity of setting out these facts, because I believe that they demonstrate that the methods of the department are thorough. When such matters have to be dealt with, my department is no less active in dealing with them than are the authorities in the United States of America which have all the facilities for detection and the aid of an efficient police force. When these episodes do occur from time to time, they should be considered against the background that I have presented to the committee.
– I am gratified that the Minister for National Service (Mr. Holt) is present in the committee, because I wish to discuss some of the problems associated with the call-up of farmers’ sons for national service. I know that the Government has decided that no exemption should be granted on occupational grounds, and while I believe that a reasonable case could be made out in the national interest for the exemption of sons of primary producers from this obligation to perform national service, that is not the point to which I wish to draw the Minister’s attention. There are some cases where an. extraordinary amount of hardship is involved because of the call-up of a young man who is working solely on a small property and whose father, either through invalidity or advancing years, is incapable of doing the work required. I know that the Minister must be aware of many such cases, and quite a number has come to my attention in my own electorate. Of course, it is obvious that they must also exist in other rural electorates.
The procedure in such cases is that the lad may apply to the court for a deferment, and if he makes out a case of severe hardship the court may grant the deferment; usually for a period of three months. However, that does not solve the problem. If the father’s condition of health is such that he cannot work the property in any circumstances, or if the lad working the property has no father and is supporting a widowed mother, a deferment for three months merely shelves the problem. The tension, and the fear of the likelihood of a call-up a few months later, completely disrupts the working of the property, and in some cases causes the parent to decide to sell it and live in the nearest town. It has been argued that this problem could be solved by hiring labour to work the property during the time the lad is performing his national service. However, on a small property of a few hundred acres situated in an isolated area, that solution, while practicable on paper is not practicable in reality. It is not possible, at short notice, to obtain and house suitable labour which can be relied upon to look after stock and manage the property while the lad is away. In some of the cases of which I am aware, very serious losses of stock have occurred - not serious in relation to the national economy, but almost ruinous to those dependent upon small properties. Those losses have occurred during the period of national service of the lad after one or two periods of deferment have been granted.
The only solution of that problem is for the Department of Labour and National Service, or the court, to be able to give an assurance to the people concerned that where a lad’s services are continuously required to maintain a property, and where no other suitable labour is available, and where considerable loss would be involved by calling up the lad, he will not be called upon to perform his national service while such conditions obtain. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to this matter. I understand from him that he is at present contemplating an amendment of the law in regard to conditions of call-up for national service, and that he is prepared to give consideration in those amendments to the position of farmers’ sons. I ask him to give particular consideration to the matter that I have mentioned.
– We are considering the situation which is developing out of the fact that more men are becoming available for national service training than can be coped with in the regular intakes that have been conducted over a number of years. That position will be before the Government shortly, and when it is, the matter raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) will be considered in relation to the future policy of the Government on the whole matter. We shall investigate whether some of the categories, such as those mentioned by the honorable member, can be dealt with under that machinery.
– I thank the Minister for his very satisfactory assurance, and will not pursue that point. Another matter relates to the difficulty which sometimes arises where the health of the father, or the person conducting the farm, deteriorates after the time the lad has become a registered person. In a recent amendment of the regulations, according to the definition of registered persons, there is no way in which an appeal can be made to the court or the department to defer the call-up of such a lad. The law, therefore, creates a disastrous situation in certain cases. In these circumstances the only appeal that can be made is to the military authorities. The department has handed the body over to the military authorities and can no longer grant a deferment. The willingness of the military authorities to defer service in these circumstances seems to be very limited indeed. I know of a case in my own electorate where exactly that position has arisen. Since the passing of the time within which a lad could have appealed to the court for a deferment of service his father’s health has deteriorated so seriously that he is incapable of working his property. There is no possibility of appeal to the court for deferment of the lad’s service. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has personally interested himself in the case. I appreciate the fact that the lad has already been granted some deferment, but there will he a further call up for service next January and the father’s state of health is such that he will not be able to carry on in the absence of his son. If the son is called up for military service the loss of production and stock resulting from his absence will be particularly serious. I ask the Minister to examine the possibility of amending the regulations so that in circumstances such as I have outlined a. fresh opportunity will be given for appeals to the court.
– The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) mentioned a similar case and other matters of a similar kind when the Parliament was discussing the National Service legislation. I then told him that I would look into the representations that he had made. When we ave considering them - I am not endeavouring to forecast the decision that will be made - I can assure the honorable member that every consideration will be given to problems ‘of the kind to which he has directed attention.
– I thank the Minister for that assurance. I remind him again that I am referring to cases in which the time for lodging an appeal has already gone by and that urgent action is needed.
.- I propose to devote the limited time at my disposal to the discussion of matters which relate to the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. At the outset I wish to pay a tribute to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the direction and research work that it has carried out. in connexion with primary industries. The country must be grateful that a Liberal Government should have established this instrumentality for the purpose of making some technical contribution both to primary and .secondary industries. I wish to confine my remarks to research that is being carried out in the citrus industry under the heading, “ Investigations “. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in conjunction with the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, has carried out work in the citrus industry with signal success. As a father and a grandfather, you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, will appreciate the therapeutic value of citrus fruits and citrus juices. The high vitamin content of citrus fruits has long been recognized by the medical profession. It may be safely said that much of the pioneering work nf the citrus industry in New South Wales took place in my electorate. There, hardy settlers took up grants of land in the early days and by the slow process of hand grubbing, cleared land and established orchards in what had been virgin forest areas. From there travelled many pioneers into other districts, particularly to the Gosford district, a large citrus-producing area which is so ably represented by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean). Land in many parts of my electorate has been worked since the early colonial days. Despite resoiling and cover crops, more has been taken out of the soil than has been put back into it. That is true also largely of the whole of the County of Cumberland, which has been an important food-producing area since the founding of the colony of New South Wales. Science has made possible the revitalization of this worn out land. Accordingly it is to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization that we may look forward with some hope for the future. The use of trace elements; the correction of acidity in soils; soil deficiencies, particularly in light soils; the correct use of fertilizers, and the control of weeds, have engaged the attention of Federal and State officers. Dr. Vickery, the Chief Officer of the Division of Food Preservation and Transport of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the team of nien who work under him, deserve high praise for the work they have done in connexion with these matters.
In a spirit of comradeship, scientific: officers of the Commonwealth and the
State engaged in research into the citrus industry have made a happy approach to problems that confront it. Similar cooperation and co-ordination could well be sought in other spheres of administration. In the budget which the Treasurer recently presented, the Government has given great encouragement to the industry by making provision for the exemption from sales tax of fruit juice cordials consisting of not less than 25 per cent, of Australian fruit juice. The benefit to the industry of that exemption will be of tremendous value and I hope, may eventually be extended to cover carbonated fruit juice beverages. I am glad to say that the improvement of the quality of canned orange juice has also been made the subject of investigation by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in association with the ‘New South Wales Department of Agriculture. The bitterness of canned citrus fruit juice had a serious effect on sales.
It has been found that qualityprocessed orange products depend to a great degree on the root stock that is used. Recent research has shown that bitterness is not so pronounced in canned juice extracted from both Washington navels and valencias that have been grafted on trifoliata stock. Interesting experiments have been carried out in this matter in Richmond and Windsor, in my electorate. Three orchards were found, at Hawkesbury Agricultural College, at Cornwallis and Wilberforce, where uniform plots of Washington navels were grown on different stock. Each of the orchards shared common conditions of soil, climate and methods of production. Tests were made on juice extracted from fruit taken from trees grown on nine different varieties of stock. The general result was that juice from navel orange fruit grown on trifoliata stock lost its bitterness early in the season, but that navels on rough lemon stock never lost it. Tests of juice from valencia oranges also favoured the trifoliata stock. Both navels and valencias grown on trifoliata stock have yielded canned juices free from bitterness and of good quality. In contrast, rough lemon stock; on which over 00 per cent. of Australian citrus is worked, had a most unfavorable influence on the quality of juice. The result of this research will be recognized in the future. The industry will be indebted to Messrs J. J. Kefford, B. V. Chandler and L. J . Lynch, of the Division of Pood Preservation and Transport of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization at Homebush for their work on canned juice. Quite frequently the work carried out by officers of the various departments aud instrumentalities of the Commonwealth is not fully recognized. The work of these gentlemen who are associated with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will be fully appreciated by citrus-growers, as it is by myself as a member of Parliament who represents a. citrus-growing area.
Another aspect of research has been the attention -devoted to the control of fruit fly pest, the methods of combating the pest, and treating fruit which has been infected. This is a real problem in New South Wales, and has been an indirect means of depriving the coastal citrusgrower of a market for his products. Some years ago, the coastal area of New South Wales enjoyed a favorable export market in New Zealand. In order to save the potato-growers in Tasmania^ an embargo was placed on the importation of New Zealand potatoes. As a result, the New South Wales coastal citrus-growers suffered as the innocent victims when, in retaliation, the New Zealand Government placed an embargo on the importation of New South Wales citrus. It did this on the ground that coastal citrus might be infected with fruit fly, and its importation result in the introduction of the pest into New Zealand. When I visited New Zealand in 1951 and investigated the position, I found that the danger was mostly imaginary. The embargo had developed into a protection to low-class fruit grown in small quantities in the northern part of that dominion. The embargo on the importation of New South Wales coastal citrus still remains, despite the fact that consignments of citrus are brought into New Zealand from Victoria, South Australia and even from South Africa, where the fruit fly pest is prevalent. It is hoped that scientific research both by the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the New South Wales Department of Agriculture may find a solution to this problem.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has also advanced the study of the investigation of the keeping quality of citrus fruit at its Citrus Wastage Research Laboratory at Gosford. Valuable research is also being carried out at Gosford on the keeping quality of New South Wales coastal oranges. Experience in selling indicated that the keeping quality of New South Wales coastal oranges was inferior to that of oranges grown in other districts, such as the Murrumbidgee irrigation area, Narromine and the Murray Valley. It was also claimed that the keeping quality of coastal oranges was higher prior to 1939 than in recent years. Investigations are proceeding on the handling and processing of citrus, and the control of wastage caused by green mould. Here again. Commonwealth and State officers are carrying out valuable experimental work. Although the research station was established only in 1948, its work for the industry has been most encouraging. All these activities, and the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in other directions, show that money spent in this class of investigation is well spent. The result may not have an immediate benefit, but the future will show the wisdom of providing these funds.
More intensive methods of cultivation hit ve brought in their train many diseases. In addition, transport by air, for instance, has presented a problem of diseasecarrying that was never visualized by the pioneers of our primary industries. To-day, the primary producer not only has to display all the ability and husbandry of the men of the past, but also is required to combine with it the skill and knowledge of an industrial chemist. This is beyond the capacity of the average producer. He must look to some organization to pursue scientific research. Private enterprise, such as chemical undertakings, can carry out their sphere of investigation with a view to selling proprietary preparations. There remains a large field for research by such bodies as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Re- search Organization. It is to be hoped that at all times sufficient funds will be provided for that class of work.
.-I propose to discuss matters that relate to the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration. In particular, I wish to direct attention to the practice of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, in evicting persons from hostels for immigrants. That practice has been followed so that the Government may avoid its obligations to the immigrants. The Government has adopted a policy of “out of sight, out of mind “. At the Bunnerong Hostel, it has succeeded in giving effect to that policy, despite the protestations and representations made by the member of this Parliament who represents that area, and by the Acting Premier of New South Wales, both of whom have asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) to stay their hands in connexion with these evictions. Something must be done about this matter. It seems that Commonwealth Hostels Limited was established for the purpose of enabling the Government to pass the buck to the chairman of the organization. The Minister himself is adept at passing the buck. The first move by the organization was to relieve the Treasury of the burden imposed upon it by the immigration programme, and transfer the load to the shoulders of the immigrants. The organization set about this matter by various ways and means. One of the ways to which I object most strongly, was fixing the charges for accommodation at the nominal rate. This method is contrary to the Australian way of life. The Government pays lip service to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Ministers are firm believers in the decisions of the court when the judgments please them, but the Government has departed from the great Australian principle that the basic wage is to be determined by the court from time to time. The chairman of Commonwealth Hostels Limited has had a new idea. He says, in effect, “We can base the charges on the nominal rate. We shall depart from the established Australian principle of having the basic rate as the basis of our charges, and make our own principles “.
This high and mighty chairman took it upon himself to depart from this basic principle, and determined that charges for accommodation should be based on the nominal rate. We hear from time to time that this Government places great emphasis on incentives, such as the incentive to produce, to earn more money, and to become independent by working harder and increasing production.
– What incentive can we offer the honorable member to talk sense?
– The incentive that I offer the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to improve -himself is to sit, listen and learn a little. What incentive was given to immigrants when their charges were based on the nominal rate ? The more money a skilled immigrant could earn, the more he had to pay for accommodation. Otherwise he would be evicted by Commonwealth Hostels Limited. If his wife went to work, he would pay an additional charge for that privilege. That fact has not occurred to the Vice-President of the Executive Council. In any event, he would not have anything to worry about. I wish to place the facts before honorable members here. The Minister has placed great emphasis on the fact that a committee was appointed to inquire into the whole matter. The Minister also takes pride in the personnel of that committee. He says that Mr. Broadby, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, was a member of it. The Minister did not tell the committee that there were two representatives of the security service present at all times when the committee met.
– That is completely untrue.
– I have the report of the committee here.
– -The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) was .the chairman of that committee.
– I am perfectly well aware that the honorable member for McMillan presided over the meetings of the committee. The report states that security intelligence men were there to answer questions when and where they were wanted. The Minister also did not tell us that secretaries were allowed to remain in the committee while these people were being questioned, and that the immigrants themselves and their representatives were told that they could not remain. The Minister was challenged on this point at a meeting of the committee. The personal secretary of the Minister was waiting in another room for the two secretaries who were present at the meeting of the committee to come out after the questioning of the members of the intelligence service, and they passed the information that had been procured on to the Minister. The Minister was ready next morning with all the questions and answers. That was denied to the immigrants, who were not allowed to be present while those members of the security service were being questioned. Strong emphasis was laid upon that aspect by immigrants themselves. I want to know why it was necessary to have members of the security service at a meeting of a committee which was inquiring whether or not the hostel charges were reasonable. The Trades and Labour Council of NewSouth Wales views this particular matter with great concern, and so do I. It seems that this Government was trying all along the line to smear the immigrants by implying that they had some connexion with the Communist party. In doing so, the Government has failed miserably. The committee over which the honorable member for McMillan presided went to great pains with the conduct of its inquiries. Many investigations were made. Men were followed to see who they were consorting with from time to time, where they were going, and what they were doing. The committee, at. the finish of its investigations, was forced to admit that there was not a stain on the character of the men concerned. That fact was published in the report. The honorable member for McMillan may or may not deny this fact, but it is printed in the report, which bears his signature.
I am concerned about other matters in regard to the hostels. What is to become of the staffs of the hostels when all these immigrants are evicted ? The immigrants who have remained in the Bunnerong hostel were told that they could stay pending an investigation by the chairman of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, who would examine the position in the various hostels, and change the inmates from one place to another. The immigrants to whom I refer are faced with the threat of removal. Their employers who are in close proximity to the hostel have been in touch with me, and have asked me to do everything I can to see that the immigrants are allowed to remain in the hostel. Approximately 50 of them are left in the Bunnerong hostel. Most of them are up to their ears in debs as the result of trying to meet the charges which the Government has imposed on them for accommodation. Those people are to go from Bunnerong.
A question which I asked in the House last week was designed to elicit whether Dutch immigrants are to occupy the Bunnerong hostel in the place of the British immigrants. I want to know whether any instruction has been given to certain people in the vicinity of the Bunnerong hostel to prepare for an influx of hundreds of immigrants into the hostel. Those immigrants will not he British people. I have also information that the Caltex oil refinery is to be erected, in part, by Dutch contractors. A clause in the contract allows the Dutch contractors to bring their own workmen, and this Government, very obliging as usual te the big shots, has decided to make Bunnerong hostel available to the Dutch immigrants. In consequence, the whole hostel has been re-wired electrically. In addition, new meters have been placed in each flat. This installation was denied to our kith and kin, the British immigrants. Power points to allow kitchen utensils to be connected and carry a higher power, load than before, have already been installed for the express purpose of allowing the Dutch immigrants to do what the British immigrants were not allowed to do, and that is to cook their own meals. I challenge contradiction when I say that members of the staff who are now working at the hostel are allowed the privilege of cooking their own meals, despite the protestations of the Minister that there was a fire hazard and that the authorities concerned in New South Wales had made representations to him to prevent, at all costs, any danger of fire. Great emphasis was laid on that matter by the chairman of Common- wealth Hostels Limited. Yet staff members are allowed to cook their own meals. I have found that the British immigrants are a. fine body of people.
– I wonder how they found the honorable member?
– They find that I have more courage to put their case to the Parliament than the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) possesses.
I am also concerned about the endeavours of the chairman of Commonwealth Hostels Limited to smear British immigrants with the red taint of Communist affiliation. I shall lay this bogy once and for all. Mr. Boreham, who is the president of the British Migrants’ Hostel Federation was a Dunkirk veteran. . While he was trudging the beach at Dunkirk for seven days, waiting to be taken home to England, his house with all his belongings suffered a direct hit from a German bomber. He lost everything, and his- wife and their two children were forced to live in an air-raid shelter for three years. That information should give a complete answer to the chairman of Commonwealth Hostels Limited. Most of the other British immigrants at the Bunnerong hostel were members of the North African forces, but some of them served with General Wingate’s army in Burma. What heroes they were in 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 ! But in 1952 and 1953 they are smeared with the taint of communism by the very people who extolled their virtues as warriors when they were fighting to protect the hides of their present critics. It is high time that this matter was ventilated in the Australian Parliament, and that the Minister told the chairman of Commonwealth Hostels Limited that he has a job to do.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As is customary, we have heard more inaccurate nonsense from the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) than we can ever expect to hear from any other honorable member. He has made some extraordinary and stupid statements about the position of the British immigrants, and has referred to completely irrelevant matters, such as Dutchmen, the wiring of the Bunnerong hostel, and, indeed, the wiring of every other hostel, which has taken place at the same time. He has suggested that the committee of which I was the chairman and to which Mr. Broadby, Mr. Neagle and Mrs. Kumm were appointed from the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, arranged for security officers to watch these people, that it had them followed, and that it arranged for private secretaries to wait outside the places where the committee met and take notes of what they said. Let me tell honorable members what actually happened. The immigrants were told that they could have two observers present at all hearings of the committee. Mr. Boreham and Mr. Sceats said that they would present the case for the immigrants but would not act as observers. I asked them whether they would like to go and arrange for two other representatives of the immigrants to listen to the entire discussions. They rejected my suggestion but asked whether I would let them attend meetings of the committee when I thought it was reasonable to do so. I agreed, and they were present whenever they wanted to attend. Certain suspicious circumstances attached to a demonstration by British immigrants that occurred in Melbourne about that time. The demonstrators assembled at Unity Hall, which is Communistcontrolled, their solicitors were well-known Communists, and the barrister whom they briefed to represent them in the High Court was an admitted and practising Communist. Therefore, the committee asked security officers whether they had any evidence that Communists were active in immigrant hostels. Security officers were examined for about one hour, and were not present again. It did not accuse either of the persons who submitted the case for the immigrants of being Communists. All it asked was whether Communists were showing great activity in the hostels. In fact, Communists were active in those establishments because, at a State election, a scrutineer who was sent to the hostel at Williamstown on behalf of the Labour party, and it was reported that 43 per cent, of the votes cast at that booth were Communist votes.
The simple fact that underlies this issue is that an Australian trade unionist who does not pay his rent is evicted because civilized life cannot continue unless people meet their liabilities. Hundreds of Australians are evicted from their homes for failure to pay their rent, but nobody takes any notice of that. It is a normal part of civilized life. Apparently, in the view of the honorable member for Watson, the Australian worker should be responsible for the upkeep of British immigrants who will not pay their bills although they are perfectly capable of doing so. The honorable member referred vigorously to Mr. Boreham. Mr. Boreham came to Australia as an employee of the Postal Department but in a very short time obtained for himself a full-time job as president of the British Migrants Welfare Association.
– At £13 a week.
– He could have earned a great deal more if he had stayed with the department. Most of the charges made by the honorable member are not worth dealing with, but I repeat emphatically the view of the investigating committee that British immigrants should not be given privileges that are not available to Australian workers. If an Australian worker does not pay his rent, he is put out in the street. The British immigrants who were evicted had the opportunity to pay their rent. In no case was an unemployed man evicted or severe financial hardship imposed upon people who paid their rent.
The committee agreed before it began its investigations that, regardless of the number of children in a family, the bread-winner should have in his pocket, after paying his rent, a minimum sum of £2 12s. 6d. a week. As honorable members will recall, that figure was varied to a minimum of £3, £3 10s., £4 or £5, according to the number of children in a family. We have passed 36,000 British immigrants through our hostels, but only about 200 or 300 have made the charges that have been repeated by the honorable member for Watson. Those people would make trouble wherever they were. The honorable member for Watson has talked of what he has seen at Bunnerong. I have visited almost every British immigrant hostel in Australia, and I know that almost all British immigrants have settled down well. They are not perfectly happy, of course, because people never can be happy in community settlements. Difficulties always will arise in such places. The turnover when the committee made its inquiries was about 2 per cent, a week. The rate has increased since then, but at that time it represented 104 per cent, of the capacity of the hostels in twelve months. The trouble was caused by a group of people who had lived at the hostels for two or three years, or even longer, and who earned good wages. One man there said that he and his wife had earned £1,500 in the previous year. They had not troubled to save a penny, but they said that they had had a glorious time. They had been to the races and had enjoyed themselves thoroughly. I shall not weary honorable members further. The story told by the honorable member for Watson is completely stupid. The only principle to which the inquiry committee bound itself was that British immigrants should be treated on exactly the same basis as Australian workers. An Australian worker who refuses to pay his rent is evicted, and nobody complains about that. The same principle should apply to immigrants, but apparently the honorable member for Watson argues that they should be allowed to continue to live in hostels at the expense of the Australian people.
.- I, too, wish to direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service, with particular reference to the administration of Commonwealth Hostels Limited. First, however, I shall comment briefly on an answer that was given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to a question that was asked in this chamber earlier to-day about conciliation commissioners. It is significant that, although the right honorable gentleman now argues that the number of conciliation commissioners appointed to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is “sufficient to deal with the work of the court in the various branches to which they are directed, he did not point out that the Estimates provide for a diminution of that number. The sum appropriated for conciliation commissioners last year was £32,850, and the actual expenditure was £28,131. This shows that the number of conciliation commissioners was reduced by two below the number provided for at the beginning of the year. In the current year, the total will be further diminished by two conciliation commissioners, as the proposed vote of £23,850 shows. It is plain that the Government is gradually easing the conciliation commissioners out of the work of the court. The fact becomes more noticeable when it is pointed out that this is the only case of a reduction of salaries and allowances for which the special appropriations in the Estimates are intended to provide. It becomes even more marked when one considers the provision for judges of the court, the number of which has been doubled during the present Government’s regime. Had a Labour government increased the number of High Court justices, or Arbitration Court judges, in that way, it would have been accused of stacking the court.
I refer now to the administration of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, to which the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown), have already directed their remarks. The subject of immigration must be considered in the light of the number of immigrants who have entered Australia since the end of World War II. and the reduction of the rate of intake during the last two years. I refresh the recollection of the committee by pointing out that immigrants have entered Australia annually in the numbers shown in the following table: -
The reduction of the rate of intake indicated by the figures for 1951 and 1952 becomes even more clearly apparent if we consider the quarterly figures since the beginning of last year. In round figures, the intake in the successive quarters since then has been 29,000, 28,000, 25,000, 16,000, 13,000 and 9,000 respectively. The trend is also shown by the figures for the various racial groups. In the first quarter of this year, there were 10,197 British immigrants. In the second quarter, there were only 8,264. I do not wish to arouse any diplomatic unpleasantness over this matter, but I point out that Irish are included with British immigrants for the purposes of the figures supplied by the Department of Immigration. The next largest national group is Italian. The intake of Italians declined from 3,941 in the first quarter to 3,432 in the second quarter. That of Dutchmen declined from 3,623 to 1,270, and that of Germans declined from 1,626 to 1,572.
Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not differentiate between these nationalities. We believe that there is no reason why a Dutch family should not do as well in Australia as the Roosevelts did in the United States of America and the Bentincks did in the United Kingdom, and that there is no reason why Germans should not become patriots in the same way as General Kruger and General Eichelberger, who served the countries of their adoption with gallantry and distinction, the latter serving with the United States forces in the Pacific.
I have obtained the figures for net immigration that I have cited by taking the excess of permanent arrivals over permanent departures as listed in the Monthly Australian Demographic Review published by the Commonwealth Statistician. The term “ permanent “ is used for those people who are staying in Australia or remaining away for one year or longer. I have carefully refrained from including the figures for “ temporary “ arrivals and departures. These are deceptive, because the Minister and his entourage have gone in and out of this country at least twice a year during this Government’s term of office. Two bogies should be set at rest at once. If any people are to be put beyond the pale in this country, the technique is to call them Communists or, better still, to hint that they are Communists. I shall quote passages from the report of the committee of which the honorable member for McMillan was the chairman - a very temperate report. It states -
The committee does not suggest that the representatives of the British Migrants’ Wel fare Association who appeared before it are Communists or even sympathetic towards communism.
It also states elsewhere -
The committee desires to emphasize again that nothing that has been said in this section of the committee’s report is intended to convey the impression that Communists hold official posts in the British Migrants’ Welfare Association.
That was the view of the honorable member for McMillan and of the three distinguished persons who sat on the committee with him in December, 1952. The honorable gentleman has not said that he has changed his opinion since then.
A great deal has been said about cooking in immigrant hostels. The plain fact is that, although the committee referred to that issue and expressed an opinion on it, it was not one of the matters that the committee was empowered to investigate or report upon. The first complaint that it was required to investigate and report upon was -
That the tariffs chargeable in Commonwealth hostels are not reasonable.
It decided that the charges were reasonable, and, with respect, I agree with its finding. The second complaint was - ,
That British, migrants are required to liv« in hostels which- accommodate also nonBritish European migrants.
The committee decided that this complaint was trivial, and, again with respect, I agree with its decision. The honorable member for McMillan referred to the fact that some of the British immigrants would not pay their bills although they were perfectly capable of doing so. I have read press reports of statements to that effect by the chairman of Commonwealth Hostels Limited. I do not think any honorable member is happy about the remarks that that gentleman makes sometimes. They are neither diplomatic nor conciliatory. He is not as judicious as a man in that position should be. I agree that he has an invidious job because, as the committee stated, the policy of the company is determined by the department. It has been said that these people have motor cars. From what I have been able to gather, they bought them with their capital, very often with their .deferred pay. Let us remember that most of these British immigrants served in the British forces. They are as loyal as other Australians are. We take the pick of the British people. We pick only those who are healthy and skilled. I believe that the British immigrants are as healthy, as skilled and as patriotic as are the other Australian citizens among whom they are now living. Do we expect them to live on their capital ? Do we expect them to use their deferred pay to keep themselves ?
Let me read to the committee an extract from a letter that I have received from the secretary of a welfare committee composed of British immigrants in the Cabramatta hostel. It is as follows: -
It must be pointed out ‘that the residents . . . are those who are regarded by the Federal Government and by Commonwealth Hostels Limited as co-operating with the authorities. It is our considered opinion that the real truth about the current situation is being misrepresented to the Australian public. The consequence is that public opinion is steadily being swung against the British people who have come to this country as settlers since 1950. Only two points of view arc being published. From the present Federal Government comes the view that British families are living on the bounty of the Australian taxpayer and that the accommodation and meals provided are better than those enjoyed by the average Australian family. An opposite view is published from the British Migrants Association; viz., that the British families are grossly overcharged, forced to live in sub-standard accommodation and given bad and uncooked meals.
While we believe neither of these two views to be the real truth, we are bitterly disappointed to find that the public has no choice but to accept one or the other. It appears that the first of these views is that which is generally accepted. We consider that this misrepresentation has an adverse effect on our genuine efforts to settle permanently in this country and could easily lead to a complete breakdown in Australia’s immigration programme.
After I received that letter, I arranged for a survey to be made in the hostels at Cabramatta and Williams’ Creek to ascertain the opinions of immigrants living in those places. I conveyed the results of the survey to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who was then acting for the Minister for Immigration during one of his frequent visits overseas. The result of the survey was conveyed to me in the form of a petition signed by the husband or the wife in each flat, and by any self-supporting children. It expresses the views of citizens who were prepared to sign their names. Of the families in the Cabramatta hostel who were obeying the rules and paying the tariff, fifteen wished to cook in their flats, eight wished to pay only for meals that they had, none wanted to live under the present tariff conditions, and fourteen wished to be sent back to Great Britain. Of the families in the Cabramatta hostel who were not cooperating, 39 wished to cook in their flats and five wanted to go back to Great Britain. In No. 4 hostel at Williams’ Creek, 27 families wished to cook in their flats, ten wished to pay only for meals they had, none wanted a continuation of present conditions, and fourteen wanted to be sent back to Great Britain. In No. 5 hostel at Williams’ Creek, the figures were 70, 33, 10 and 10. In No. 4 hostel, six persons abstained from expressing an opinion, and in No. 5 hostel, two abstained. It is clear that even the immigrants who are obeying the rules and paying the tariff are not happy about present conditions. They find it more congenial and economical to let the housewife prepare their meals than to pay others to do so.
The pretext of this Government and, consequently, of the company is that it would be dangerous and unhealthy for people to cook in these flats. I suggest respectfully that that contention does not cut any ice, because, first, British families cook in similar structures - Nissen huts - at Gepp’s Cross in South Australia; secondly, tenants cook in 30 similar structures at Helensburgh in my electorate; thirdly, the managers of the hostels at Cabramatta and Williams’ Creek cook in similar structures ; and, fourthly, hundreds of families at the Hargrave Park housing settlement, which is just over the Cabramatta Creek from the Cabramatta hostel, and is passed every day by breadwinners from Williams’ Creek hostel, cook in structures that are more inflammable and more dilapidated. There is no suggestion that there is a fire or health hazard at Hargrave Park, because families there cook in their flats.
It is clear that it would be possible to install the stoves and sinks for which the British immigrants are asking, but, far from proposing to expend the sum of £400,000 which would he adequate for that purpose, the Government is reducing the appropriation in respect of capital works for the Department of Immigration. Last year, £170,000 was appropriated for expenditure on the acquisition of sites and buildings for migrant hostels, and- £70,611 of that sum was expended. The proposed vote for those purposes this year is £90,000. The vote last year in respect of reception, training and holding centres for the accommodation of immigrants was £285,000, oi which £181,685 was expended. The proposed vote for that purpose this year is only £70,000. The vote last year for hostels for migrant workers was £2,273,000, of which £2,016,567 was expended. This year, the proposed vote for that purpose is only £370,000. Immigrant hostels are only one example of the reduced expenditure on housing under this Government during the year and a half; immigrants are only some of the victims of its restrictive policy.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to direct my remarks to a very real problem that exists now and has been in evidence from the inception of the immigration scheme. It is the problem of language. I see from the Estimates that it is proposed that a sum of £260,000 shall be set aside this year for expenditure on the education of non-British immigrants in the English language. I believe that language difficulties have been experienced, not only by new Australians, as I shall call them, but also by old Australians who have been brought into close contact with immigrants by virtue of their occupations. The experience of a friend of mine will illustrate clearly what I have in mind. He is a school teacher in an industrial suburb of Melbourne. In the course of a lesson he failed to make a little girl understand what he was talking about. In desperation, he asked, “ Can’t you understand all this ? I’m not talking Greek to you”. The little girl replied, in broken English, “ Please, sir, I would understand you if you did speak Greek to me “. . Those of us who travel in buses in Canberra realize the multi plicity of languages spoken in Australia to-day. Australians have always been a monolingual people. Those of us who gained a smattering of languages such as French and German in the course of our studies at school, have forgotten nearly all that we learned because we have not had an opportunity to converse with Frenchmen and Germans in their own languages.
I want to pay tribute to the Department of Immigration for what it has done to help immigrants to understand our language. It has been able to do much through the avenue of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. But, although much has been done in this connexion by means of broadcasts, lectures and correspondence classes, real difficulties are still being experienced by new Australians. I know that some new Australians who have gone into industry have found it difficult to understand their Australian foremen, and, therefore, have had to leave their employment and seek other jobs. I believe that language difficulties have been the cause of much distress and unhappiness among immigrants. Some of them, owing to their inability to understand English, have a feeling of great loneliness. That is one of the reasons why new Australians tend to form groups rather than to mix with old Australians. I know that all honorable members deplore the fact that new Australians keep in groups. I am certain that the reason is that their lack of knowledge of our language makes them hesitate to join in our activities. The Good Neighbour Council is doing much to help to solve this problem. I believe it is the duty of the Department of Immigration to cooperate with all the organizations that are trying to overcome the difficulties caused by lack of knowledge of the English language. I want to thank particularly organizations such as the Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, Country Women’s Association, Girl Guides and the host of church organizations interested in this problem.
As every day passes, the need for a simple means by which people of different languages can make themselves understood to each other becomes more obvious. The telegraph, telephone and radio have made next door neighbours of people separated by half a world. Any one who has taken part in international conferences, where as many as eight or ten languages may be spoken, will readily understand that the simplest thought can be distorted or made impossible of expression by the barrier of language. In an attempt to surmount this very real and practical obstacle to the smooth conduct of the business and daily life of the world, efforts have been made to establish a universal language, but they have not been very successful. Esperanto has been tried, but the result has been disappointing.
I believe that the solution of this problem is to be found in what is known as basic English. Pidgin English is the original basic English. In fact, the parallel between pidgin English and basic English is so close that it is impossible to analyse either without beingimpressed by their remarkable similarity. Basic English is a scientific language of 850 words which can be learned quickly and easily by any one. Most children in Australia, even before they attend school, understand and use about 2,000 words. The 850 words which constitute basic English have been so carefully selected that the collective result represents a complete method of saying everything required for everyday purposes. An analysis of basic English shows that slightly more than 70 per cent, of the words are nouns and that about 18 per cent, are adjectives and adverbs. Verbs represent 2 per cent, of the total, and the remaining 10 per cent, consists of grammatical sundries.
Honorable members may wonder what this has to do with the Department of Immigration. I believe that basic English should be taught to all new Australians as an introduction to standard English. The beauty of basic English is that any one who learns its 850 words can make himself understood to anybody who speaks English, and that when he begins to learn standard English it is not necessary for him to unlearn any of his basic English. Sir Winston Churchill, speaking at Harvard University on the 6th September, 1943, stirred the imagination of his millions of radio listeners by referring to basic English as “ A very carefully wrought plan for an international language, capable of very wide transactions of practical business and of interchange of ideas, a medium of intercourse and understanding to many races and an aid to the building of our new structure for preserving peace “. I had hoped to prepare this speech entirely in basic English so that honorable members would be able to see just how like standard English basic English is. I should have had difficulty in doing so, because I cannot speak basic English. I have, therefore, selected the first line of Abraham Lincoln’s- Gettysburg Address to demonstrate the similarity of standard English and basic English. The Gettysburg Address in standard English reads -
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Here is the same passage in basic English -
Eighty-seven years back our fathers gave birth on this land to a new nation designed to be free and given to the theory that all men are to their Maker equal.
I conclude by suggesting, first, to the Department of Immigration that instructions regarding our naturalization requirements be printed in basic English or in both standard English and basic English. I believe that when immigrants board a vessel to come here they should commence training in basic English. They would be able to learn the 850 words of basic English in the four or five weeks of the voyage. Secondly, I suggest to the Postmaster-General’s Department that it print directions regarding the use of the telephone and telegraph services in both standard English and basic English. Thirdly, I suggest that safety-first signs be printed in basic English to enable immigrants to overcome their ignorance of our traffic codes, which are different from those of the countries of origin of immigrants.
– What about the Standing Orders of this House?
– That is a very good idea. I welcome the honorable member’s suggestion. The Standing Orders of this House could well be produced in basic English so that even the simplest people, like the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), would be able to understand them. I believe that the suggestions I have made could well be the foundation for the full instruction of immigrants in basic English, which could revolutionize the absorption of new Australians into our way of life.
– I refer to the vote for the Department of National Development, the activities of which are so important for the future of this country. It has been said that everybody’s business is nobody’s business. That statement applies aptly to the Department of National Development, the actions of which have recently come under scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee. After the committee had reviewed certain of the department’s activities, it had this to say in its fourth report -
The foregoing illustrations present a common pattern. In each case, an approved project has produced results quite different from what the Department expected. Some members of the Committee feel that the attitude with which the Department approached these projects showed a lack of realism, and savoured too much of an expectation that something would turn up to justify the expenditure involved.
The nature of the work of national development is such that vast expenditure can so easily fail to produce any commensurate return. For this reason, the Committee recommends that the Government should give close attention to the activities of the Department.
The report goes on to suggest, on behalf of certain members of the committee, that an advisory body be established to -
Help to provide a reconciliation between the demands of efficient and economical administration, and the claims of scientific expansion.
It seems a great pity that such an important department as this is should have gone so far astray so early in its activities, particularly in view of the great programme of national development that was bequeathed, already blueprinted, to this Government by the Chifley Labour Government. It appears that the department has got into deep water because of a misapprehension about its true functions. Instead of worrying about the buying and selling of plant and other equipment connected with various works and industrial undertakings, it should apply itself more to its real job of developing this great country. After all, Australia’s future as a British country depends on rapid development. We must populate before we shall be able to develop properly, and we cannot populate unless we do develop. Attention should be given to that matter now while millions of suitable immigrants are available overseas for this country, and while we of British stock are still in control of Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in a reply to a question about certain aspects of national development, particularly in the north-west of Western Australia, which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) asked him to-day that he would give consideration to the mater. The time for consideration has passed. This is the time for action. Delays in national development are stated to be a matter of finance. What is physically possible is financially possible. Our methods of financing development by way of revenue and loans are completely outmoded. The national debt has already risen to more than £3,000,000,000. It has increased by £605,000,000 during the four years that this Government has been in office. In that period the interest bill on the debt has increased from £83,000,000 to £100,000,000. That is a burden that this country cannot bear. In this young and developing nation the resources of the Commonwealth Bank and the national credit could well be utilized for the purposes of national development. The Government has the power necessary to issue credit. It has the whole of. the resources of the nation available to it. It can use them either by issuing treasurybills or by establishing a special department of the Commonwealth Bank, which is the finest institution of its kind in the world. It is a feasible proposition for the Government to finance development on the basis of the nation’s credit, without using loans or revenue to do so. It should not rely on horse and buggy methods of finance. It is impossible to pay for the development of a country which has under 9,000,000 people out of our current savings or out of revenue. Australia has a potential to support 100,000,000 people according to overseas authorities who have visited the country. Mr. Gordon Donkin, who came here from the United States of America, expressed such an opinion when he was addressing the Australian-American Association last August. He said -
Nine million Australians live in a continent which is one-eighteenth of the land surface of the globe.
Eight million of them live in one-sixth of the continent, in the south-eastern corner.
He said that there was a good deal of water in Australia’s dead heart, and that new areas could be developed quickly. He illustrated his address with 175 colour photographs. A newspaper report of the address says -
During the last three years he has travelled ‘25,000 miles in central, northern and western Australia and taken more than 12,000 colour photographs.
Among those which he chose . . . were strikingly beautiful scenes in the Geike Gorge in the Kimberleys and along the Katherine saud Roper Rivers.
These are the observations of an expert. It is a pity that some honorable members and many people outside this Parliament do not seem to appreciate this country’s potentialities. During a visit by a party of honorable members to north Queensland recently the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) is reported to have said that although he was a native of Queensland he had never before been to the northern part of that State. He said that he was convinced that people in the southern States had little realization of the possibilities of the northern part of this continent. Apparently, there are many people in Queensland itself who do not realize the potentialities of that part of their State. We have also the opinions of economists, like Mr. Colin Clark, who has said that Queensland alone could hold a population of 5,000,000 people. It is estimated that 1,000,000 people could be settled in the Cape York Peninsula area. Areas such as the Barkly Tableland, and other parts of northern, central and northwestern Australia are crying out to be opened up. I understand that in the Kimberley area no fewer than 5,000,000 acres of good country is awaiting development. Only last year the Western Australian Government asked this Government for a mere £15,000 with which to finance a survey of that country, with a view to opening it up and developing it. That simple request was refused. The refusal seems to show a very oneeyed and short-sighted policy on the part of the Government.
Associated with development is the provision of adequate and efficient transport services. The Commonwealth’s own ships could well be utilized for the purposes of development. Aerodromes could be established in remote areas. When I was on Cape York Peninsula recently I was staggered to find a first-class aerodrome, which had been established, within eight miles of Cape York, by the Americans at a cost of millions of pounds, being allowed to go back to the jungle. Huge quantities of first-class food could be produced in that area. I saw excellent fruit and vegetables and other products produced by the natives of the settlement in that area. It is an absolute tragedy that such areas are not” being, developed properly. Apparently the Government lacks the vision and enterprise to seize the opportunity to cope with the many problems that face this country.
Australia is. a vast land with a sparse population. Not far from our northern coastline live hungry millions who comprise half of the world’s population. Twelve hundred million people live to the north of us, compared with our population of fewer than 9,000,000 people. I have in my hand a map which was published in the Commonwealth Year-Booh, 1953, which speaks volumes. It shows that when the last census was taken in 1947 the population of this country was about 7,500,000, of which 4,000,000 were concentrated in the capital and other major cities, including Canberra and Newcastle. The density of. dots on the map shows the concentration of population in our cities. I ask for leave to incorporate this map in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
– There are printing difficulties associated with the publication of such matter in Hansard. The map could only be accepted for publication with qualification. In any event, the Minister for the Army objects to its incorporation in Hansard.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Reid make a reference in his speech to identify the map and show where it may be found in the Commonwealth Year-Booh, so that people who may be interested will be able to find it for themselves.
– The map appears at page 541 of the Commonwealth YearBooh, 1953. People who are concerned about the future of this country should study it, because it will bring the facts home to them. I am astonished that the Minister for the Army objects to incorporation of the map in Mansard. The Minister passed through Darwin recently, though he stayed for only a matter of a couple of hours ; yet he was reported as having said that he was satisfied with our defences in the north. He is the only person who is.
– That statement is entirely untrue.
– It was published in a number of newspapers. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if we do not fill the population vacuum in our north it will be quickly filled for us by somebody else. That matter was recently stressed in a Japanese newspaper, which reported that Australia had a population of only about 8,000,000 people and therefore did not count much in the general political scheme of the world. National development and defence are complementary factors in this country, and as the Government intends to expend about £200,000,000 on defence during this financial year, surely some portion of that large sum should be allocated to national development and regarded as bona fide defence expenditure. The .development of this country is an urgent matter, and perhaps if it is put in hand in the near future we shall have a chance of survival. “We should act while there are some millions of our own kith and kin in Great Britain and Europe willing to emigrate to this country. Then we could employ those people on works which would increase our population and our military effectiveness.
We should be engaged in building new towns and cities in order to decentralize and disperse the population. In this era of atomic weapons it is essential that our population should be dispersed, both for our defence and even for our survival. The fact that Australia is over-centralized was recently brought home to us by Sir Thomas Bennett, a British architect and well-known town-planner, who was brought to this country by the Australian Government to report on our decentralization problems. No doubt his report, like many other similar reports, has been shelved. That gentleman said -
Expansion is taking place without control in much the same way as the British population gathered in large towns in the nineteenth century.
It may well be that Australia could profit from the failure of Great Britain and stem this movement by formulating immediately a strong policy of settlement in new or expanded towns in different parts of the country.
We have also been warned by atomic energy experts like Professor Oliphant, and by economists like Mr. Colin Clark, that over-centralization of population is most dangerous in this atomic age. Mr. Colin Clark said -
Australia is more vulnerable to an atom bomb attack than any other country in the world.
He then claimed that this was because the State and Federal governments had become completely obsessed by the idea of concentrating secondary industries around the cities.
– Order I The honorable member’s time has expired,
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar? [5.18]. - I desire to deal with the Atomic Energy Commission, and in doing so I shall mention two important subjects. They are, first, the scale of the development of the Atomic Energy Commission and its operations; and, secondly, the matter whether or not the concept of secrecy in regard to its operations has been over-emphasized. Reference to the budget papers at page 103 will show honorable members that last financial year the Atomic Energy Commission expended £1,085,000. Only about £11,000 of that sum was expended in connexion with the operations of the commission, the great bulk of it having been spent at Rum Jungle. The activities at Rum Jungle are referred to in the budget papers summary at page 17. About £1,100,000 was received as capital advances from overseas and applied by the commission to the development of Rum Jungle. In the present financial year,’ £2,000,000 has been allocated for the development of Rum Jungle, and £606,000 for the maintenance of the relevant department. They are encouraging “figures, and I am glad that the commission is getting under way. However, the question is whether it is getting under way - quickly enough. Prom what I hear, and I do not know all the facts of the matter, the development at. Rum Jungle is very satisfactory and is proceeding at a reasonable rate. That field will probably be a major producer of uranium within a measurable time. Therefore, one has no criticism to offer of the major part of the activities of the Atomic Energy Commission. However, it is debatable whether the amount to be devoted to exploration for other uranium deposits is sufficient. I notice on page 64 of the Estimates that £271,000 is to be allocated this year for exploration for uranium, and no doubt some part of the £176,000 to be used for capital plant, which is also provided for, should he added to that figure. But I do not consider that that is an adequate sum in relation to Australia’s opportunities.
There are two reasons why we should “produce as much uranium as we can as quickly as we can. The first is the defence reason, which relates not only to the interests of Australia but also to the interests of the whole free world. For that reason uranium; is required this year rather than next year, and next year rather than the year after. Time is of the essence in this matter. However, one must also keep a lesser matter in mind. That is, that it is not likely that the high price at present being paid for uranium will continue to., be paid indefinitely. In saying that, . I do not think in ‘terms of the next one or two decades, because the price seems to be assured for twenty or thirty years. When one looks at the figures involved, there seems to be no reason for thinking that the price will remain high after that time. I remind the committee that an announcement made in the United States of America last June has rather changed the world picture of supplies and prices of uranium. It was then announced that breeding of fissionable material had been achieved. Of course, it had been done on a laboratory scale, but these projects have a habit of going into mass production rather quickly. If fissionable material can be bred, that will multiply by 140 the amount of energy, which can be extracted from uranium, because the whole of the uranium becomes usable instead of only a small fissionable fragment of uranium 235. Because of the availability of thorium a substitute atomic fuel has also become available. All of this means that when the present processes have been perfected - and they will be perfected although they are not at present commercially operable - the amount of uranium required for a good power output will ultimately he divided by a number somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200.
At the present time the world’s total energy requirements, in all forms, would be satisfied by the annual burning of about 3,000,000,000 tons of black coal. The same energy requirement would be satisfied by the fission of about 1,000 ton? of uranium. It is true that before tha 1,000 tons could be used, we should require a vastly greater stock; because the uranium cannot be used in small quantities. It is also true that the world’s energy requirements will increase, although it is unlikely that at any stage the whole of the requirement will be satisfied by atomic fission. Ultimately, some time after the next 30 years, uranium will not be needed in large quantities because the annual consumption of 1,000 tons is not big in comparison with the order of magnitude even of the present world production, let alone the future world production. While we are collecting the necessary large stocks of uranium for fission purposes, and while we are increasing our small stocks of active fissionable material, . uranium, apart from its preponderating defence significance, will be in heavy demand. But some time in the foreseeable and relatively near future uranium will not be nearly as avidly sought, even for peace-time purposes, as it is now. For that reason, the policy of going slow with our uranium production is almost exactly wrong. Whether it may be from the defence viewpoint or from the purely commercial viewpoint, it is most necessary to speed up our production as much as possible and as soon as possible.
In view of the really great opportunities that Australia has, I am not sure whether the proposed allocation of £271,000 for exploration is in fact sufficient. I know that there are difficulties in getting the necessary technical resources, but I do not think that they are insuperable difficulties. The Atomic Energy Commission has two survey aircraft. Both of those planes are excellent. The equipment in them is adequate, but it is adapted for highgrade surveys, which should come later in our exploration policy. At the present time, with the urgency of defence and commercial power production before us, we should be using numbers of small, non-specialized planes to carry instruments to discover the areas which might later be amenable to the kind of survey which is being carried out at present, well and skilfully, by the two aircraft with their more elaborate instruments. I suggest that that is a practicable thing that could be done in conjunction with the training of the Royal Australian Air Force. The instruments necessary to be carried weigh only a couple of hundred pounds and cost about £5,000 a set. They will go easily into a small aeroplane. There is no reason why 50 or 60 of those sets of instruments should not be fitted into aircraft and used to-day. Then, if indications of uranium should be discovered, such survey aircraft could be followed by investigations with more elaborate instruments. The 50 or so smaller aeroplanes could obtain the rough indications and then the more highly equipped aircraft could follow on. That would divert some of the immense sums of money that are available from overseas sources for uranium investment. It should be remembered that South Africa will obtain at least £50,000,000 for expenditure on its uranium treatment plants, and that that large sum of money will be all overseas capital. However, South Africa’s opportunities do not seem to be one tithe of ours when considered from the geological angle. Admittedly our uranium resources are undeveloped and admittedly some of them are almost unknown. I believe that there is a call to enlarge rapidly our exploration programme. I have shown one practical way in which it could be enlarged, but I do not think that that is the only way. I have suggested, not the only thing that can be done, but an example of one of the multitudinous things that should be done. I regard the programme of the Atomic Energy Commission as excellent except that it is too small and that it is being carried out too slowly. For example, I understand that at present temporary anomaly maps of various portions of the Northern Territory are published for the information of prospectors. That is good, but they might well have been published six months ago. I do not know why that was not done, because quite a large number of the surveys were completed more than a year ago. The maps should be published as they are completed because time is of the essence of this contract.
I turn now to the aspect of secrecy. T believe that where we can have effective security we should have it, and that if information is unknown to our enemies we should try by all means to keep it unknown to them. Nobody could accuse me of not being sufficiently securityminded, but I think that security is made a laughing-stock when we try to conceal from the Russians something which we know that they themselves well know. For example, there is no point in maintaining secrecy about the price of uranium. This is not a. charge against the Government in any sense because it has to act as a part of a team with the British and American governments. The Government can in no sense take unilateral action without the consent of the remaining members of the team. I believe that the policy of the team might well be changed.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The group of proposed votes which we are now discussing embraces a fairly comprehensive range of aspects of Australian development including immigration, labour and national service and national development, and the new plaything of speculation, atomic energy, to which previous speakers have referred. The Department of Labour and National
Service is charged, among other things with the very important functions of collecting information about employment in Australia and of endeavouring to improve industrial relations. I direct attention to Item 3, Division No. 9S - Commonwealth-State Apprenticeship Inquiry - under the heading “ Miscellaneous “. I understand that investigations were commenced more than two years ago and that the investigating officers have now completed their investigations and are about to present a report. It is to be hoped that when the report is presented an opportunity will be given to honorable members to discuss the very important matters which it will no doubt contain. There is no need to explain the importance to an industrial community such as ours of the apprenticeship system. We all know that, during the war and in the immediate post-war years, normal apprenticeship arrangements were, to some degree, disturbed. A boy, instead of being apprenticed to a trade for three, four or five years, and being paid a low wage while he was learning a trade, was often induced by the higher wages offered to follow some other occupation which subsequently became a dead-end occupation. We are suffering to-day from the consequential shortage of skilled tradesmen. The whole set-up of industry has been disturbed. The number of trained tradesmen who enter the various trades by medium of the apprenticeship system is totally inadequate. I understand’ that the inquiry was intended to embrace all aspects of this very important matter. I hope that when the report is presented within the next month or so the Government will give honorable members an adequate opportunity to study it, and if need be, to discuss the matters that are dealt with in it.
Another matter which arises out of the administration of the Department of Labour and National Service is the need for the development of more selective statistical material about employment in Australian industries. The department publishes monthly details which relate to total employment in Australia. Bearing in mind the addition to our population through immigration and the natural increase, certain disquieting features are revealed in the monthly figures of total employment. According to the figures for July, 1953, which are the latest available, the total number of persons employed in Australia is less than it was eighteen months ago despite the fact that in the intervening period the working population should have increased by approximately 200,000 persons. There is need, and I believe that this is a responsibility of the Department of Labour and National Service, for the development of more selective material about employment in Australian industries. It is interesting to note one development that is taking place. I quote from the Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics No. 140, July, 1953, at page 9, as follows : -
By joint arrangement between the secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service and the Acting Commonwealth Statistician a regular monthly survey of employment in the larger privately-owned factories of New South Wales and Victoria was instituted in January, 1952.
The bulletin states that since then the system of selective statistics has been extended to cover five States and that factories which employ more than 50 persons account for approximately more than one-half of the total private factory employment in the Commonwealth. These statistics contain the disquietinginformation that during the last eighteen months or so there has been no significant increase in total employment in Australia. Less than eighteen months ago, as a result of a policy which was deliberately initiated by the Government there was a minor recession in Australia and the total number of persons in employment declined. One of the arguments used by the Government to justify the application of that policy was that it would divert employment from certain industries in Australia which it regarded as unessential. It believed that whilst the application of the policy might result in transitional unemployment it would have ultimate beneficial advantages in that it would bring about the transfer of workers from less essential to more essential industries. The Government is taking credit to itself that total employment in Australia is again beginning to increase, but an examination of the figures discloses that where increased employment has been achieved it has resulted from the re-employment of workers in jobs which they had previously lost. In other words, the policy which was adopted by the Government, deliberately or otherwise, seems to have been very ineffective despite the fact that for twelve months or more considerable numbers of persons were out of employment and suffered economic hardship in consequence of it. No good purpose was served by the policy and it caused a certain amount of inconvenience to ordinary people in the community. I suggest that the fact that a situation such as that occurred points to the need for the Government to make the Department of Labour and National Service function more effectively and certainly more smoothly insofar as the effect of decisions upon industry is concerned. It is difficult to glean from the Estimates the kind of work that is performed by the department. The schedule of salaries and allowances shows that it employs more than 1,200 persons. The department must have at its disposal the necessary administrative machinery to help it iron out some of the problems that occur from time to time in our economy. The latest figures available from the Commonwealth Statistician show that in 1951-52 the total value of factory production in secondary industries was £1,024,000,000. In other words approximately one-third of the total national income of Australia was derived from factory operations. The figures published in the bulletins issued by the department show that more than 700,000 persons are employed in secondary industries in Australia. It seems that year after year the majority of the increased population of Australia must find employment in secondary industries.
The suggestion is sometimes made that our economy is unbalanced in the sense that there is too much development of factory production and too little development of primary production. It may be true that there is need to stimulate primary production in Australia, but I think it can be seriously argued that the fact that primary production is languishing is not due to the development of secondary industries. The problems of primary and secondary production are integrated and each has certain dis tinct features. We must make a realistic approach to the problem of total employment in Australia bearing in mind the annual enlargement of our population as the result of immigration and natural increase by 200,000 persons. The total number of employees, as distinct from the owners of properties, who are engaged in primary production is not much more than 300,000, yet 100,000 new jobs have to be found every year. Consequently, the bulk of those jobs must be found in secondary industries. The Australian people will have to face this problem. Sometimes, it is easy to hide behind glib slogans about increasing production, or non-essential industries, without attempting to make a systematic evaluation of the situation.- I suggest that the Department of Labour and National Service should make a more systematic survey than is made at present of employment in particular industries, and of the potential for the new Australian population which seeks employment year by year. The three political parties represented in this chamber support or ostensibly support the policy of full employment, which means that everybody who is able and willing to work- should be given an opportunity to do so. But we need more than slogans. We need a systematic approach to this problem.
I am glad that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has come into the chamber. He may be able to enlighten me about the item in the Estimates, to which I referred earlier, relative to the stage reached by the Commonwealth-State apprenticeship inquiry. I understand that the inquiry has been completed, and I ask that honorable members be given an adequate opportunity to discuss the report. It deals with an important aspect of the development of industry in the future, and all honorable members are keenly interested in it.
– I shall deal with that matter later.
– I want to make a few observations on the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and, in particular, some reference to the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr.
Wentworth) who is deeply interested in the subject of uranium and atomic energy, and has made some useful observations on those matters. The honorable member referred to Rum Jungle, and was kind enough to say that, as the result of his observations and reading, he had formed the conclusion that the development there is very good. An examination of the time-table set for the development of uranium in Australia reveals the way in which this matter has been accelerated in recent months, and, in the circumstances, the Government is justly entitled to claim that it has proceeded with great vigour.
The Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act was passed in 1946, no doubt for good reasons at the time, because it was thought that there were prospects of the discovery of uraniumbearing materials in the Northern Territory, or the other territories controlled by the Commonwealth. However, nothing happened- until October, 1949, when Mr. White discovered, not of a mine, a lode or a seam, but a surface indication of uranium-bearing metals. This discovery was partly the result of, and, of course, it was assisted by, a booklet published by the Bureau of Mineral Resources in the Department of National Development. That booklet gave some guidance to prospectors,” and Mr. White had obtained some information from it that enabled him to identify the materials. He took them to the appropriate mining authority in October, 1949.
Nothing happened from that time until February, 1950, when the Bureau of Mineral Resources, acting under the instructions of the new Government, sent a team, of men into the area to make a more detailed examination of what appeared to be a promising prospect. The team worked with the best materials and man-power they could obtain, through difficult seasonal, geographical and geological conditions until about October, 1951. More than once, they were discouraged to the point of thinking of giving up the whole venture. The happenings between February, 1950, and October, 1951, are a good illustration of the difficulties with which this sort of venture is encompassed, and explain, in part, some of the matters upon which the honorable member for Mackellar has commented.
Prospecting for uranium, and the discovery of uranium, are most difficult and complex matters. The geological formations in which uranium is found, are extremely complex, and the rock formations in the Northern Territory are much more difficult than those in other parts of Australia, as, for instance, those that carry uranium in South Australia. However, the bureau was doing good work under the instructions of the Government. 1 mention this matter, because the bureau has been criticized sometimes on the ground that it did not progress with the job with sufficient rapidity, or wisdom. The bureau persisted, in the face of great disappointment, until the surface prospect was proved in October, 1951, to have beneath it a lode or seam of valuable ore.
From that time, events moved quickly. By the end of 1951, we had some experts from abroad to advise us. Before many months had passed, the bureau, under the instructions of the Government, was pushing forward with the development of the discovery of Mr. White’s deposit, and was doing additional prospecting in other areas. During the new year, agreements were signed between the governments of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America for the sale of uranium and the development of those areas. The Government also made an agreement to develop the Rum Jungle field, which is in an area of between 160 and 170 square miles, and is usually known as the Hundred of Goyder, the local government description of the area. We made an agreement with that great mining corporation as quickly as possible on behalf poration to develop the area as quickly as possible on behalf of the Commonwealth.
I mention that fact, because some nonsense is sometimes talked in this chamber about a great capitalistic octopus, and mining corporations with headquarters overseas having a monopoly in the area. Such statements are the veriest nonsense. AH that happened was that a very competent company with Australian personnel, including officers and directors and all the rest of it, very generously agreed to make a contract with the Government to act as the Government’s agent for the rapid development of the area. I am grateful for two things. I am grateful that the honorable member for Mackellar, who has some knowledge of these matters, has applauded the way in which Territories Enterprises Limited is going about this job. If that were not enough, I am pleased to notice that the press, which has not always. been without criticism of these matters, has published in the last few days, with a good deal of detail, praise of the work of the company. These references are the result of a visit by journalists to the area recently.
I shall describe what has happened. The company was due to produce uranium oxide by the end of 1954, but I am now able to inform honorable members that uranium oxide will be produced in substantial quantities by July next. In other words, the production of uranium oxide at Rum Jungle will not be many weeks, or months, behind production at Radium Hill, which has been most vigorously developed by the Premier of South Australia, and was going ahead for years before the Commonwealth started its venture in the Northern Territory. That is all to the good. It indicates that the Government has seen this project almost as a turning point, or certainly as a point of great historic significance, in Australia’s life, and has sought to take time by the forelock and develop the deposits as quickly as possible.
But that is not all. I mention this matter in answer to some implied point of criticism, or comment, by the honorable member for Mackellar. Territories Enterprises Limited is not merely digging ore out of a hole in the ground at Rum Jungle at the present time. In that respect, the company is working most vigorously and large reserves of ore in the area await the erection and completion of plant, which is now being built, and will be in production by the middle of next year. In addition, the company, backed by able management and fortified by a wealth of mining experience acquired over half a century, is also pursuing drilling and prospecting operations elsewhere in the Hundred of Goyder. Honorable members may be interested to know that the company has come across other encouraging prospects in the area.
I have said in this chamber many times that a prospect is one thing, and a mine is another. A mine is the only thing upon which we can bet, or count. I can hear the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) mumbling something about the owner. I am sure that he must also have used the word “ capitalist “. But whatever he has said, he has the facts all jumbled, in the same way as he jumbled a question yesterday about the Combined Development Agency. This project is owned by the Commonwealth of Australia, and nobody else, and we have no intention that it shall be owned by anybody else. The company is going ahead vigorously with other prospecting operations. We have some most encouraging prospects, which, we hope, will prove to be actual mines that can be inured and developed so as to provide great wealth and be of great benefit to Australia.
However, this development is not merely a matter of mining. I hope that honorable members will he able to visit the area in the not distant future. I shall facilitate their visit to that part of Australia to the best of my ability. Those honorable gentlemen who go there will see, in addition to actual mining operations and plant, machinery and buildings, a most interesting housing and civic experiment. There are many houses, and hundreds of men, many of whom are admirably, accommodated in an area which was formerly tropical jungle. Luckily, the area is near a main road, a railway and water. Honorable members who visit the area will see a greattransformation from tropical jungle into a permanent town, which will not be just a jumble of shacks, like an old-fashioned mining town, but a modern model village which every one can be proud of, and be happy to live in for the rest of his life. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; progress reported.
– by leave - At the conference of Prime Ministers in London at the time of the Coronation of Her Majesty, it was agreed that it would be desirable to hold a further meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers about the turn of the year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer undertook to communicate with the Finance Ministers in the other Commonwealth countries about arrangements for the meeting. Before I left London I invited the Chancellor to consider holding the meeting in Australia, for it is my belief that we do well as a Commonwealth to hold our important meetings not only in the United Kingdom, but from time to time in the other Commonwealth countries as well.
I have pleasure now in informing the House that it has been agreed amongst all the Commonwealth countries to hold a meeting of Finance Ministers in Australia between the dates of the 8th and the 15th January, 1954. The main purposes of the meeting will be to enable the Finance Ministers to review together such subjects as the balance of payments prospects for the sterling area in 1954, progress with the plans for moving towards a system of freer trade and payments covering the widest possible area and co-operation in development of the economic resources of the Commonwealth. A meeting of officials from each of the countries will precede the conference. The officials will meet on the 4th January, 1954.
The Government has decided that the conference will take place in Sydney. Arrangements are already well in hand, both for accommodation and for meeting facilities. Consideration was given to the desirability of having the meeting in Canberra. There would, in any case, be difficulties on the accommodation side, but firm arrangements of long standing had been made for the reservation of all hotel accommodation in Canberra over the period concerned for an important conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science. Delegates from all the Aus tralian States and many people from overseas have arranged to come to Canberra for this conference, and the Government decided that it should not interfere with these arrangements. Indeed, it could not do so without imperilling the holding of the Advancement of Science Conference. Equally, we could not alter the dates of the Finance Ministers conference, which were arrived at after much discussion and mutual adjustment.
In addition to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Right Honorable R. A. Butler, we look forward to seeing the following Commonwealth Finance Ministers at this quite historic meeting: - Canada, the Honorable D. C. Abbott; South Africa, the Honorable N. C. Havenga; India,- Sir Chinataman Deshmukh; Pakistan, the Honorable Choudhuri Mohammad Ali; Ceylon, the Honorable J. R. Jayewardene.
For New Zealand the meeting poses special difficulties, as it coincides with the time when Her Majesty will be in Wellington and will be opening a special session of the New Zealand Parliament. In this circumstance it is, of course, impossible for the Prime Minister, Mr. Holland, who is also Minister for Finance, to attend. Despite these difficulties Mr. Holland will be represented at the meeting, and we all are extremely grateful to the New Zealand Government for its cooperation, clearly at great inconvenience to itself. The newly formed Central African Federation will also be represented. I extend a very warm invitation and welcome to the very distinguished Ministers from other Commonwealth countries who will attend the meeting.
– by leave - First, I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the welcome that he has extended to the distinguished Finance Ministers from other parts of the British Commonwealth who will attend the conference. It is very satisfactory, from one point of view, that the conference should be held in Sydney, but I consider that a conference of this nature should be held at the seat of government. It is a great mistake to hold such meetings elsewhere, and I hope that my suggestion for this minor change will be considered by the
Government. The last conference of this character that I can remember took place in 1947, when there was a conference of Foreign Ministers at Canberra to deal with the proposed peace treaty with Japan. A conference of that kind would require less documentation than will be necessary at the finance conference in January. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision in relation to the meeting place, because I think it would be physically possible to make arrangements for the conference to take place in Canberra.
– Should we cancel the conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science?
– I submit that it would not be necessary to do so, because there is enough room in Canberra to provide for the accommodation of both conferences. The finance conference should be hold at Parliament House. That is where such conferences have been held previously. I do not know where the Government intends to hold the conference in Sydney. However, the business of the conference is the most important consideration.
The main purposes of the meeting, according to the Prime Minister, will be-
To enable the Finance Ministers to review together such subjects as the balance of payments prospects for the sterling area in 1954, progress with the plans’ for moving towards a system of freer trade and payments covering the widest possible area and cooperation in development of the economic resources of the Commonwealth.
These are similar to the purposes of the two previous conferences of British Commonwealth Finance Ministers, which were held in January last and June last respectively. A communique was issued after each conference, but we have had no detailed report on either meeting from the Prime Minister. I think that such reports should be made to this Parliament and that the House should have an opportunity to debate them. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) reminded me just before I obtained a copy of this statement by the Prime Minister, that all we had from the first conference in London, which was built up to enormous proportions, was, according to the Times of London, “ A communique containing platitudes without explanation, aims without methods, principles without practice “. The Parliament is entitled to debate the decisions of these conferences and to be informed of the Government’s plans in relation to British Commonwealth cooperation. The welfare of Australian industries will be integrally involved in the forthcoming conference, and we should know whether any assistance is to be given to Australian primary and secondary industries. I have mentioned these points because, with all ‘ respect to the Prime Minister, it is not enough for the right honorable gentleman to say that it will be an important conference to deal with certain vague subjects without stating the Government’s policy on these matters. This will be the third of these conferences, and I hope that the Government will not, on this occasion, adopt the procedure that it adopted in relation to the first two, although, of course, I shall welcome the distinguished visitors from other parts of the Commonwealth.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed (vide page 825).
– When consideration of the Estimates was adjourned before dinner, I was in the process of replying to some very useful observations that had been made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in relation to uranium production in Australia. I mentioned the work that had been done by Territory Enterprises Limited in the very dramatic and rapid extension of uranium mining and prospecting in the Northern Territory within the last year. That company, which is operating on behalf of the Government, will commence production by July, 1954, which will be six months earlier than was originally proposed. Furthermore, I am pleased to be able to inform honorable members that its rate of production will be twice the rate that was estimated only a year ago. The honorable member for Mackellar spoke of the need for further prospecting and drilling in the Northern
Territory. I concede that the proposed vote for the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is only a few hundred thousand pounds, but I point out that Territory Enterprises Limited, as agent for the Government, will expend this year an additional amount of £624,000 on drilling operations in the search for fresh deposits of uranium-bearing metals. The honorable member for Mackellar said, in effect, that time was not on our side in the matter of selling uranium products because scientific developments would lead, at some time in the future, to the construction of “ fast “ or breeder reactors capable .of producing radio-active substances. The development of such reactors, he suggested, would make it unnecessary to mine large quantities of uranium. This is theoretically and scientifically possible, and there is not much doubt that some development of this kind will occur within the next generation. The Government has not lost sight of the possibility, but it is somewhat outside the realm of immediate affairs. We have been advised by the best brains in this country-
– And we have plenty of them.
– Indeed we have, at least on one-side of this chamber. The Government has been advised by Australian and overseas experts that very large quantities of uranium-bearing metal will be required, in the foreseeable future, so that Australia need have no anxiety lest the market for uranium should fall off. The honorable member for Mackellar also spoke of the need to press on with surveys throughout the Northern Territory in order to discover new reserves of uranium. However, our problems are not associated with surveys. Work carried out in this field already has indicated that there are most encouraging prospects for the discovery of new uranium deposits. Our problems are associated with the drilling that must be done laboriously and painfully in the train of the survey work. That work is going on as fast as we can permit it to go on. This week we are throwing open areas in the territory and inviting private enterprise to go in, not so much to mine, because at the moment there is nothing for them to mine, as to conduct surveys and, if the results of the surveys are encouraging, to make application for mining leases. Something can be done by the Government, but we believe that much more can be done by private enterprise, with its accumulation of experience, its capital and its willingness to take the risk of failure.
– Private enterprise built Australia.
– We must never forget that. In the long run, the development of this country depends, not upon governments, but upon people who are prepared to risk the loss of their money in the hope of gaining substantial rewards.
On this aspect of the matter, a warning note must be sounded. The honorable member for Mackellar, with great moderation and considerable perspicuity, has said that we should release the results of the scintillometer surveys as soon as possible in order to indicate to outside interests what resources we think we have. That is true, but it might be dangerous to release the results too soon. If we encourage private mining companies in Australia and, if necessary, in other countries to go into these areas and prospect and mine on their own, we want to avoid, as far as possible, a risk of failure. Therefore, we have let the Bureau of Mineral Resources go on steadily gathering more and more information and data about existing areas, so that, when the time come3 to throw those areas open, there will be a more than reasonable chance of success for those who go into them. That is, I think, the answer to the comment that some of these maps and some of this information should have been made available to the public months ago. So much for uranium development generally. I believe that during the last twelve months we have witnessed a spectacular and encouraging degree of development in this field of activity. It holds out to this country great hope for new resources, especially in arid areas such as the Northern Territory, which, a few years ago, we did not dream that we possessed.
Let me turn for a moment to another subject which has been referred to a good deal by the press during the last few weeks. I refer to the price that Australia is obtaining for uranium. I understand that the origin of the press campaign was a statement published in the London Financial Times and attributed to Lord Bracken, who, I understand, is a contributor to that journal or is connected with it in some way. At one time he was an active member of the House of Commons. He said that Australia was selling its uranium to Great Britain and the United States of America for 16s. 3d. a unit, according to one newspaper, and for £1 0s. 3f d., according to another newspaper report published the following day. He went on to say that our price was about a half of the price at which Canada was selling its uranium. He described our price as a bargain price. He is reported to have said also that Australia should’ not sell its uranium at that price. After the publication of those reports, several questions were asked on the matter in this Parliament. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. “W. M. Bourke) put his hand in the hat and picked out, not the 16s. 3d. figure but the £1 0s. 3¾d. figure. He appeared to prefer that figure. Nobody seems to have made up his mind about what the figure really is. I do not know whether Lord Bracken has been able to make up his mind on the matter. The honorable member for Fawkner, having picked the 16s. 3d. figure, asked some questions about it.
It should be said in this Parliament - I say it with restraint, because I am referring to somebody outside this country - that the statement by Lord Bracken was extraordinarily unwise, illtimed and ill-formed. I should not be doing my duty as a member of this Government if I did not say at least that much about the statement. Lord Bracken’s statement was an attack upon the British Government and also, in effect, upon the Australian Government. It was utterly incorrect. There is no such figure as 16s. 3d. a unit or £1 0s. 3d. a unit. There never has been such a figure. Lord Bracken said that Canada was being paid almost double the price that we were being paid. The figures that he cited for Canadian uranium - again honorable members can take their pick; it does not matter which figure they choose, because all were wrong - were £1 19s. 3#d a unit, £1 19s. Of d. a unit and £1 lis. 3d. a unit. In various organs of the press, each of those figures was attributed to Lord Bracken. The price that Australia is obtaining for uranium has never been disclosed. The price that Canada is obtaining has never been disclosed. The price that South Africa is obtaining has never been disclosed. The price that the Belgian Congo is obtaining has never been disclosed. The price that South Australia is obtaining has never been disclosed. We publish the prices at which we buy uranium from producers in Australia, but we have not disclosed, and never will, except with the consent of other parties, disclose the price at which we are selling it.
– I replied to the statements that had been made on this matter, but, despite my explanations, a hoo-ha developed in certain sections of the Australian press. I can understand the reason for the interjection by the honorable member for East Sydney just now. The Communists want to know the price that we are getting for our uranium. Therefore, it follows, as night follows day, that the honorable member for East Sydney wants us to disclose that price. As a result of the observations that were made, a great fuss was made by the press. I have taken the trouble to collect some of the adumbrations - shall I say? - on the subject by certain sections of the press, which, notwithstanding my explanations, have continued to peddle their story. Of course, one cannot win against certain newspapers. Let me give the committee an illustration of what I mean by. that remark. On a recent Tuesday morning, before I left Sydney for Canberra, a reporter presented to me a series of questions arising from Lord Bracken’s statement about so-called bargain prices. I told the reporter that, as I was just going to the aerodrome, it was not convenient to answer the questions then, but I was pressed to answer them immediately on the ground that the afternoon edition of his newspaper was just going to the press and it was necessary to have the answers straight away. Not without inconvenience, I gave the best answers that I could give. Nevertheless, in the following day’s edition of the Sydney Daily Mirror - that was the Sydney newspaper involved - a statement appeared to the effect that -
The haste with which the Minister for Supply, Mr. Beale, rushes in to deny that he is selling at bargain prices is a clear indication that he has something to conceal.
If a Minister tries to do the decent thing, his action is twisted and used against him. That newspaper, ignoring the explanations that have been made in this Parliament, continues to peddle its story. So I say that one cannot win. Fortunately, all sections of the Australian press do not act in that way. Some honorable members on the other side of the chamber have had similar experiences. They know perfectly well that if a newspaper is disposed to behave in that way, nothing that one can say will make any difference, and it will continue to run its story. Fortunately, we have the right to make our explanations in the Parliament, an J I am making my explanation now.
Another newspaper, in a not unfriendly criticism, said that failure to disclose the prices obtained for uranium was discouraging industry. That statement reveals a confusion of thought. The industrial interests that we want to go into the Northern Territory to prospect for, mine and sell us uranium will not be discouraged because they do not know tha price at which Australia is selling uranium. They will be discouraged only if they do not know the prices that they will get for uranium. Weeks ago we published in the press, in the Gazette and in other journals a firm set of prices for uranium, ranging upwards from 36s. per lb. We indicated that, for a guaranteed period, the Australian Government would pay certain prices for uranium ore, varying with the content of uranium oxide in the ore. Those prices will apply for the next five years, and possibly that period will be extended. That is the kind of thing that will encourage industry. Those who have any knowledge of this matter realize that the prices we have fixed are good prices, and are somewhat higher than corresponding prices paid in other parts of the world.
Even Professor Messell, of Sydney, was brought into this matter and quoted as having denounced the Government for its failure to disclose the price received for uranium. I could not believe that Professor Messell had really said that, so I made inquiries to find out whether he had said it. I have received a message from him in which he states definitely, “ I have been grossly misrepresented in the press article referred to “.
– What else did he say?
– The honorable member for East Sydney wants to know the truth. That is unusual for him. Professor Messell said he would like to know the price, but he did not know it. As far as he was concerned, it might be a fair price. That was as far as he was prepared to go, but he was quoted as having said that it was not a fair price but a bargain price, and that the Australian Government was at fault in not obtaining a higher price. The charge that Australia is selling its uranium at a bad price falls to the ground, because the premise on which the charge is based, that is, that the price is X shillings per lb. has been shown to be false. Therefore, from one point of view it might be held that there was nothing further to be said about it. Then it is said by certain people, ever resourceful, and by certain other people who are anxious, on behalf of their friends, to find out the price to the detriment of Australia, “ Tell us what the price is “. As to that, I say that. Canada has not seen fit to disclose its price. Neither South Africa nor any other country in the free world has seen fit to disclose the price. It is easy to see by the kind of interjection that is being made during my speech that at least some honorable members opposite are not concerned with this as a matter that affects the vital security of this country, but regard it as something out of which they will be able to make political capital. There is very good reason indeed why the price should not be disclosed. That reason is based on the fact that the” Communists want to know what production of uranium in the free world is.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– One is very patient with the honorable member for Watson, because of his limitations but he should just shut up for a bit. This is a serious matter.
– Order ! I ask the committee to maintain more order, and to keep quieter.
– The Communists want to know the free world’s production of uranium.
– Do not tell them.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) need not be worried. We are not going to tell them. I know that he would not tell them, but I cannot say the same for some of his colleagues. Australia is one of the three or four countries of the free world that are major producers of uranium. As we know, a substantial proportion of our production of uranium is going to Britain and the United States of America for defence purposes. Bluntly, if the enemies of this country knew the volume of uranium that is sent to our friends they could form a fair estimate of the number of bombs that are being manufactured. It is as simple as that. It is too simple for some of the members of the Labour party. I remind the committee that the Communists are not telling us what their uranium production is. Why should we tell them what ours is?
I shall recount the history of this matter. The British and American governments approached Australia, to buy uranium from this country. I remind the committee that the only uranium that Australia is selling is being sold to those two governments for defence. As part of an arrangement they offered the Commonwealth and also the South Australian Government - I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition, who is engrossed in conversation with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), wants to listen to my statement or not-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask the committee to keep quiet. If it does not do so I shall have to take action.
– The British and United States governments offered to buy uranium ore from us. They offered us, as part of an arrangement, substantial loans and assistance for development on a substantial scale, including equipment. They also offeredus guaranteed markets.
I am talking, not about any octopus private interest, but about the British and American governments. They offered us all these things, in addition to safeguards in respect of our resources of uranium, so that they would not be depleted to the detriment of Australia’s interests. They offered us a certain price. We undertook, in the agreement that we signed with them, not to disclose the price.
– If the Minister says much more we shall begin to think he has something very important to say.
– I have. The two governments told us that, in the nature of things, some of the facts would have to bo disclosed, as would be the case in any democratic country. For instance, some facts would be disclosed in statements tabled in the Parliament. They also said, however, that if we disclosed the price that we were receiving, that information, together with other facts, would enable anybody who was so inclined to calculate the amount of uranium produced. We detailed officials to test the validity of that argument. We examined the balance-sheet of one great mining corporation, which works on behalf of another government, and learned the amount that it had borrowed from the Combined Development Agency and also the amount of its profits. We were able to calculate, assuming that the price it received for uranium was the same as we were obtaining, almost to a ton the amount of uranium it was producing. Anybody who had access to similar documents emanating from this country, and knew the price we were obtaining could gain a fair idea of the volume of our uranium production. We thought that was, prime facie, a reasonable proposition, but we did not let it stand at that. We sought the advice of some eminent people, including the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, General Stephens, who is a distinguished civil servant, another member of the commission, Professor Baxter, who is one of the three top men on nuclear energy in the world, and Dr. Raggatt, who is a geologist of great distinction, and is also head of the Department of National Development. All these gentlemen, and others, gave us advice that was exactly in line with the advice and requests that we had received from the British and American Governments. In the face of the requests of the two governments with which we were dealing, backed by the opinion of the eminent officials I have mentioned, it would have taken a good deal of hardihood for the Government to have overridden that advice and those requests, and to have refused to agree not to disclose the price. But we did not stop there. We made our own inquiries right round the world. We sent officials abroad, and we satisfied ourselves that the request not to disclose the price Australia is receiving was not just a Macchiavellian stratagem to conceal that Australia was not receiving a fair price. We also satisfied ourselves by means of these researches abroad that Australia was making a very favorable bargain as far as price was concerned.
– Is it the same price as Canada is getting?
– To hear honorable members opposite, anybody would assume that all this investigation took about five minutes. It took many weeks, and it involved trips round the world and many discussions. Finally, we were satisfied that not only was the request reasonable, but also that it was irresistible. We were satisfied also that the price “was at least as good as any other country was getting. So we agreed to that condition and signed the agreement. Unless I am provoked by the Leader of the Opposition, which is highly likely, my last word on this subject is that the charge foolishly and carelessly made about bargain prices falls to the ground, because the figures mentioned in the press are nothing short of silly. The Government, having satisfied itself that its contracting friends and partners were only making a reasonable and sensible request, and that the price we were getting was a very good price, it signed the agreement. I do not believe that any government, or any honorable member opposite, with the possible exception of the honorable member for East Sydney and a few of his peculiar friends, would have dared to do anything else.
– I might almost say that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) was tearing a passion to tatters as far as this question of price is concerned. He has not, as he suggested, said the last word to be said on the matter. I have in my hand a document which a colleague has handed to me. It was issued under the authority of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), and it deals with one aspect of the problem of price, knowledge of which the Minister for Supply, if I understood him correctly, wishes to prevent the committee from having.
– That document refers to the price that we pay in Australia.
– I know it does. We are interested in whether Australia is receiving for its uranium as good a price as other countries receive for uranium of the same quality.
– The price referred to in the document is a price for ore.
– I know that, but we are concerned, not only with the quantity of ore, but also the grade. What the committee is interested in is whether Australia is receiving a fair price according to the quality of the ore produced here relative to the price paid for ore of the same quality sold by other countries to similar purchasers. That question has nothing on earth to do with security. How could security be affected if the Minister were to make a statement regarding the relative prices paid for ore of the same quality as is produced in this country? How could such a statement bear on the question of what knowledge another country might gain? I do not see any connexion between the two. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), whom the Minister would not expect to give an opinion on this matter that was not carefully considered, said that there was no point in continued secrecy about the price of uranium.
– That is what we say. Who said that?
– The honorable member for Mackellar.
– But he is always wrong.
– I do not say that he is always wrong. The Labour party, and especially the North Australian committee of the Labour party, which is presided over by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) wants to know whether the price obtained overseas is reasonable, having regard to the quality of the ore sold. Such information would not involve any precise disclosure that would be of value to an enemy. The Minister has undertaken the big task of trying to discredit, in a few minutes, the opinion of Lord Bracken, who was one of the leading Ministers in Great Britain during the last war, and was also one of the closest supporters and associates of the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, during bad times as well as good. The Minister has characterized Lord Bracken’s statements as ill-timed and illinformed. In view of the knowledge and experience that Lord Bracken has gained, I should think that the Minister is possibly quite wrong. I notice that if the two figures that he gave are expressed in a different form the proportions are approximately the same. The people of this country want to be assured that this product, so vital to Australia and, in a sense, so dangerous to us, because the possession of uranium naturally adds to the security risk of the country possessing it, is being sold at a fair price. The Northern Territory is entitled to claim that a fair market price, not an extortionate price, having regard to the quality of the product, should be obtained. What in the world is wrong with that? There is too much mystery attached to all these matters by the Minister. That is the view expressed by the London Times in connexion with even the Woomera project. We should not be the slave of an instrument or of a bomb. We are getting, into the absurd- position over these matters that was mentioned by the honorable member for Mackellar, who analysed the whole matter and reached the conclusion that there is no point in continued secrecy about the price. We support that view. Those of my colleagues who know more of the importance of this mineral to the Northern Territory than I know certainly support it. Could not the Minister reconsider his decision and, without giving information about the exact price, tell us whether the price we are receiving, having regard to the transport and other con siderations involved, is fairly equivalent to the price Canada is receiving for ore of the same quality?
– I have twice said that. And it is a very good price.
– Is it commensurate with the price that Canada is obtaining? Lord Bracken indicated otherwise. The Minister for Supply has said that Lord Bracken has some connexion with the Financial Times. So he has. That paper is probably one of the most authoritative publications in Great Britain, and its views would be accepted by the press in London and by at least a section of the press in Australia. The Minister can deal with this matter without disclosing any information at all that would be of any value to a possible enemy to Australia or its allies. I believe that some day all the information about uranium prices will be published in some ordinary public document that has been filed among hundreds of thousands of others in a United States public office. The only thing that would prevent the Minister from disclosing that information, and I agree that in such circumstances he should not disclose it, would be an obligation placed upon him by the other parties to the contract. However, all countries concerned should now try to ascertain whether it is possible to give some information to the people, especially after this statement that has been made in England, and which seems to carry some weight. The statement referred to is in the Pamphlet of Radio-active Mineral Deposits 1951 at pages 39-41. I admit that this is not precisely the same matter that we are concerned with, but it refers to an overseas transaction and we would like to know whether our overseas uranium transactions are being conducted in the commercial interests of Australia.
I now draw the attention of the Minister and honorable members to a statement made by Professor Titterton, who is a well-known atomic scientist at the Australian National University. He said -
Australia should receive processed nuclear materials and the knowledge for development of atomic power stations in exchange for her export of uranium.
Australia must supply her allies - particularly the United Kingdom - hut local uranium resources must be carefully guarded with a view to the future benefit Australia could derive from them.
– We all agree with that statement.
– The Minister for Supply might agree with it, but is he doing anything about it? The professor further said that he hoped the nations receiving uranium from Australia would help Australia to develop atomic power stations which could bring great changes.
Now I approach the greatest matter of all; that is the use of atomic power and the ultimate functions of bodies like the Atomic Energy Commission. I suggest that we are thinking ourselves into becoming slaves to atomic energy. We know that a great amount of information about atomic energy is possessed by a nation which could become our enemy, but a veil of secrecy hangs over matters which seem to have no relation at all to any public benefit or security. We have recently been told that the bombs which will be exploded in Australia will be detonated only in the event of there being a steady wind blowing from a certain direction, because if the wind blows from the opposite direction danger may threaten one of our cities. I read that statement in the local press. I have read a good deal about atomic energy, because I was a member of the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations when it tried to control atomic and nuclear power so that it could be used only for peaceful purposes. However, like the, honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), when he tried to have a motion accepted by the committee recently, we failed. Our failure, of course, was due to the intransigence of Russia. I recently read an article in the New Yorker which deeply impressed me. It is as follows: -
Eisenhower is our first H-bomb President, the first President of the United States to be clearly charged with the task of saving sea., sky, and land for a habitat group. Man, if he’s to live and love and fight and die, must have an uncontaminated atmosphere All we know about the H-bomb is what wo read in the papers, but the information seems adequate, if undigested. Even if only a twentieth part of what we’ve read should be true, our conclusion would be the same. The thing that has not been perceived, we think, is that competitive scientific work, here and behind the Curtain, can and will knock out the planet even without our engaging in a war. The damage can be done in sufficient quantity merely by ‘exploding the bombs experimentally.
To Mr. Stalin and his crowd, the rock and the rain are just as indispensable as they are to President Eisenhower and our crowd. What both sides will have to do is come off their, high horse, quit pretending that a man is bigger than a bayberry bush, and settle for weapons that make some sense, insofar as any device that spills human blood can be said to make sense.
Prom one view-point the honorable member for Mackellar has adopted a similar view to that expressed in the article. Time is not in our favour while we are endeavouring to control the bomb, and have atomic power used only for peaceful purposes. Of course, I know that we cannot give up a weapon while a similar weapon is possessed by our enemy, but I believe that there are signs which indicate a certain trend. Sir Winston Churchill has made statements similar to those that I have made repeatedly in this chamber. There have also been pronouncements by the United Nations to the effect that parallel to its development for war we must develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes, while keeping up our guard in case war should break out.
They are all much more important matters than the price that we are getting for our uranium, but I suggest that the Minister has taken too rigid a view of this matter and I believe that it is perfectly feasible to tell the people of Australia whether we have made a good deal from a commercial viewpoint, having regard to what Professor Titterton has said and what other countries are doing. The people of the Northern Territory are entitled to be assured about the price of uranium, because the uranium deposits there are an asset of great value to them, and, indeed, to the people of Australia generally. I hope that the Minister will reconsider his previous statement and give us a definite and satisfactory assurance. If he should do that it would clear up much of the mystery surrounding uranium. The Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations rejected the submission of Russia that all atomic bombs should be destroyed because that would have solved nothing. As I said before, it was only because of the intransigence of Russia that atomic energy was not brought under international control years ago.
– Order ! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
, - I was astonished to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who held a position on the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations, say that Russia had sought to prevent us from developing atomic weapons while not being prepared to enter into like obligations, and then to discover the right honorable gentleman trying, ‘for purely political purposes, to wring from the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) a statement about the prices that we are obtaining for uranium or uranium oxide. If the Minister should make such a disclosure, the information would become available to the very nation that prevented atomic energy from being properly controlled when the right honorable gentleman was a member of the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations. I had intended to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition for having at last developed a practical sense of politics, but I now perceive that he is merely seeking to take a party political advantage. He knows that this Government must not make public the price, or any information with regard to uranium that might benefit a country that we know is our enemy. He knows that we must not do that because it would endanger the security of the free world. Yet, because he seeks some party political advantage and wants to create in the minds of the people the feeling that this Government is withholding information that it should make public, he is setting pounds, shillings and pence against the lives of free people. If the right honorable gentleman should create that impression by a political trick, because it is nothing more or less- than a political trick, more shame upon him, because he held an important position in the United Nations’ organization. He has developed an extraordinary thirst for knowledge, but he has shown that when he obtains the knowledge that he thirsts for he does not know what to do with it. I shall give the committee one or two examples to illustrate that statement. The right honorable gentleman sought to obtain knowledge with regard to the budget. When he got it he made such an unholy mess of attacking this Government about it that his party had to take him to pieces in the party room.
– Order ! The right honorable member cannot develop that argument.
– I do not propose to deal with the budget, I am merely giving an example of the actions of the Leader of the Opposition.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable members of the Opposition will not give the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) the same consideration that they gave to the last speaker I shall take action.
– The Leader of the Opposition spoke of Lord Bracken, a Minister in a previous United Kingdom Government, and suggested forsooth, that he should, therefore, have a knowledge of everything that happened in government circles. There was once a gentleman in a cabinet of which the right honorable gentleman was a member, who later became High Commissioner for Canada. Indeed, that gentleman was once a former Prime Minister of this country. Yet, I ask what does Mr. Forde know with regard to the slush fund exposed in his own party recently ?
– I rise to order. The Vice-President of the Executive Council knows that he should behave himself much better than is indicated in the performance he is putting on this evening. He knows that he is distinctly out of order and is not discussing the point before the committee.
– Order! I have already called the Vice-President of the Executive Council to order.
– The Leader of the Opposition sought to establish that because Lord Bracken was a former Minister in the United Kingdom Government he must have some knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the price of uranium paid by the United Kingdom in Australia. That is the impression which the right honorable gentleman sought to convey. I am merely illustrating the point that when members of Parliament cease to be executive councilllors under commission they have no right to obtain secret information from the 1 Government. I have revealed the political tricks in which the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to indulge in an attempt to score a point. Let me trace the pattern of the right honorable gentleman’s attack on the Government in this matter. First, he dealt in caustic vein with the fact that the Minister for Supply had refused to reveal the price at which uranium is sold in Australia. The fact that the Minister had said clearly that all other British Commonwealth countries had concealed the price of uranium oxide was not sufficient for the right honorable gentleman, who said, in effect, “ You must give us information that all the other nations of the world are not prepared to give to Russia or we shall brand you as a Government which is selling the uranium resources of Australia at a bargain price “. Does the right honorable gentleman contend that Russia should obtain the information ?
– That is quite unworthy of the right honorable gentleman.
– I recollect the history of the Leader of the Opposition in that regard. The weight of an argument must be assessed on the basis of the standing of the person who uses it. A great deal of scaremongering has been indulged in by Opposition members with regard to the impending tests at Woomera. Only a few days ago honorable members opposite were trying to create a scare about the cobalt bomb. That horse was displaced by a more likely horse to run against the Government and now we hear nothing about it. Now, the Leader of the Opposition, with fear in his voice, says, “I am an authority on the United Nations. You should disclose full information about the price you receive for uranium so that it shall be universally known “. I see no difference between that suggestion and the suggestion by Fuchs that he was entitled to reveal scientific data relating to the atomic bomb on the ground that science is free and scientific knowledge should be made universal. The Leader of the Opposition likewise says, in effect, “ The price at which uranium is sold in Australia should be universally known and accordingly you should reveal it in this Parliament”. That is the whole basis of his argument.
– He did not say that at all.
– The right honorable gentleman repeated what honorable members opposite have been repeatedly saying in the press. That is the only way in which the right honorable gentleman’s remarks can be interpreted. The Minister for Supply has made a complete, factual and nonpolitical statement on this matter in the interests of Australia and of the free world. He has made it clear that Australia is working jointly with the other producers of uranium in the British Commonwealth * solely in the interests of the free world and that the secrecy provisions that bind the other members of the British Commonwealth equally bind Australia. There are matters on which the Opposition can score political points; I appeal to it not to attempt to score a political point which may well endanger the liberty and the way of life of Australians and of the peoples of the free world. Party politics have reached a low ebb when Opposition members resort to such tactics as have been used by them to-night. The Leader of the Opposition is thirsting for knowledge. I hope that if he obtains it he will remain silent about it and not use it for political purposes.
– I propose to confine my remarks to the Atomic Energy Commission. We have just listened to a speech on that subject by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) in which he tried to pull wool over the eyes of the electors by making a bitter attack on the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Nobody was fooled by the speech except perhaps the right honorable gentleman himself and a few of his supporters. The Vice-President of the Executive Council knows as well as do other honorable members that the Atomic Energy Commission had its genesis in the legislation that was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government. That legislation has made possible the discovery and development of the uranium fields. Uranium was discovered in the Northern Territory during the regime of that government which immediately introduced legislation to control the exploitation of the uranium fields. That legislation was subsequently extended to provide for the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission. I agree that it was essential that a body such as the Atomic Energy Commission should be established to develop and control the vast potential uranium resources that are known to exist in the Northern Territory and probably exist in other parts of Australia. The development and control of uranium production could not be safely entrusted to private interprise because of the unparalleled importance of this metal to the future wellbeing and safety of Australia.
The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has praised the work done by Territory Enterprises Limited in the development of the Bum Jungle field. Credit must also be given to those who discovered the field and carried out the initial developmental work. The Labour Government did the spadework by introducing appropriate legislation. Later Mr. John White discovered uranium at Rum Jungle. Mr. White’s discovery has earned him the gratitude of his country. No doubt in future years a monument will be erected to mark his great discovery and to perpetuate his memory. Later the Northern Territory Mines Department assisted in the development of the field by the provision of equipment, labour and finance. Later still, the Bureau of Mineral Resources did marvellous work there with very little equipment, notwithstanding the fact that it was hampered by lack of funds. On one occasion its officers had to borrow an engine from a nearby station to generate power for the pneumatic drills used in the opening up of the mine. The pioneers in the development of uranium had to contend with adverse weather and primitive bush conditions. All those who were associated with the initial development of the field should be honoured for the work which they have done. Finally, the Rum Jungle deposits were taken over by Territory Enterprises Limited, which has since done wonderful work on the field. Although the pro gress made during the last twelve months has been astounding, it must be remembered that Territory Enterprises Limited has worked under, conditions that are favorable to speed and efficiency.
I am greatly concerned at the fact that Territory Enterprises Limited may be working without any check on its expenditure.
– That is not correct.
– I am pleased to have that assurance from the Minister. Territory Enterprises Limited seems to be spending money lavishly. I am concerned that the taxpayers should get value from this expenditure of their money. The Minister has indicated that a treatment plant is being erected at Rum Jungle and that it is expected to be in operation by the middle of next year. The plant will be used to treat uranium ore to the oxide stage. I invite the Minister to state whether treatment facilities will also be made available at Rum Jungle for the recovery of minerals associated with uranium, such as copper, cobalt and nickel, and, perhaps, gold. The Minister has indicated that a plant for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, which is one of the byproducts of uranium ore, is to be established at Rum Jungle. I should like to know who will benefit from the production of these associated ores.
– Australia will benefit.
– Honorable members will recall that the Atomic Energy Commission paid to Mr. White a reward of £20,000 for his discovery of the Rum Jungle deposits. Will a reward be paid for the discovery of metals associated with uranium? Is it the intention of the Government to acquire these associated ores or will they be returned by way of royalties to the original discoverers of uranium deposits? In my opinion, the discoverers of uranium deposits are entitled to the residual ores after the uranium has been extracted. The Government is interested only in the production of uranium and residual ores should rightfully become the property of the discoverers of the deposits. The Government should state its policy in regard to this matter so that prospectors may know exactly where they stand.
The Minister has indicated that private enterprise will be allowed io prospect for and treat uranium ores. I warn him that the history of private mining companies in the Northern Territory is far from satisfactory. Over the years, the Northern Territory has been a happy hunting ground for getrichquick and wildcat-mining promoters. Our uranium resources must not be exploited in the same way merely for the profits and gains that can be made on the share market by wildcat companies. I ask the Minister to ensure, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, that rules and regulations will be made to control these companies so that their bona fides may be checked. I see no harm in allowing approved companies to prospect in the Northern Territory, but so many companies in the past have played the stock ex-change and exploited the mineral possibilities of the territory for their own gain that we are heartily sick of them.
What does this Government intend to do with the revenues that will accrue from the sale of uranium ore ? It appears at the present time that such, revenues will be paid into Consolidated Revenue. Recently the Mines Department of the Northern Territory released a report on the production of minerals in that part of Australia, and I noticed that uranium was specifically excluded from the list. Therefore, it appears that the Northern Territory will not get credit for the uranium production. Apparently, the proceeds of the sale of uranium ore will be paid into Consolidated Revenue and no benefit from it will accrue to the Northern Territory. The sums involved will be substantial because the published figures show that advances already made against the sales of uranium amount to £1,173,000 and the estimated provisions for the current financial year is £2,000,000. In other words, more than £3,000,000 is provided for this purpose, and we have not yet started production. Tn those circumstances, honorable members can readily understand that considerable sums of money will be involved in the sale of this ore.
Australia has a glorious opportunity to make the Northern Territory selfsupporting in respect of expenditure. In the past, the plea has always been that the Northern Territory has been a burden on the back of the Australian taxpayer. Here is our chance to do something with our own resources. Give us back the money that is obtained from the sale of uranium, and we shall look after our own development. The revenue from the sale of uranium ore is not required by the southern States, or the taxpayers who reside in them. In the past, they have been accustomed to financing their own commitments out of revenue and loan moneys, so that if revenue from the sale of uranium is allocated for the development of the Northern Territory, the southern taxpayers will not be Id. the worse. In the meantime, we shall not experience a repetition of the wrangle that occurs from time to time on the raising of money for the development of the north. Given the revenue from the sale of uranium, we can go ahead with a sound and energetic policy of development.
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I am glad that the Government has continued to increase the amount of money for the conduct of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The amount that will be available to that organization this year, together with amounts recoverable by way of grant from outside sources and organizations will be approximately £4,500,000. Last year, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization did not expend the whole of its vote. In fact, its expenditure fell short of the financial provision by approximately £100,000, and that indicates probably that the men of the right type and the right mind and training were not available. However, I believe that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will have available to it this year some of the best brains in the world from Rothamsted and -Texas, who will be granted fellowships of approximately five years’ duration.
The organization has made tremendous contributions to the Australian economy. The spectacular ones are myxomatosis and soil improvement. The value of the contributions in respect of wool, mutton, hides, lamb and the like is probably £100,000,000. The quality of pastures has been greatly improved. If the rural multiplier is set at four to one, myxomatosis has contributed no less than £400,000,000 to the national economy. With the pastoral cheque at about £700,000,000 and taking into account the tremendous improvement in the use of fertilizers with subterranean clover and the increased wool, lamb and hide yield, it is not too much to say that the soil improvement programme of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in the wool country would be worth not less than an additional £100,000,000. With the rural multiplier set at four to one, there is a further contribution of £400,000,000 to the national economy, which may well account for the buoyancy that has made possible this welcome budget.
Those two important contributions undoubtedly dwarf some of the lesser known experiments which are taking place. Many men in the organization are working on unspectacular tasks in the performance of which they have to prove that certain things will not happen. They are seldom heard of, but they work with the same devotion as the more distinguished and spectacular members of the organization. Approximately 50 per cent, of our timber is wasted. Sawdust is one of the wasted by-products. About 600,000 tons of sawdust are burned annually. The full utilization of this byproduct is economically impossible in the present unco-ordinated state of the industry, but many uses have already been found for it. With the addition of cement or resins, sawdust can be manufactured into various building materials. When ground into wood flour, sawdust has an outlet in the production of linoleum, explosives and plastics. Offcuts and other waste pieces can be used to make fibre building boards. Longrange preservation tests at the Division of Forest Products have demonstrated that pinus radiata sleepers, pressure treated with a preservative oil, are in good condition after seventeen years’ service, and may possibly outlast untreated jarrah sleepers used in the same test as controls. Australian timbers are also being used for battery separators, following research in the Division of Forest Products. The Australian battery industry imports 10,000,000 square feet of veneer for separators which can now be supplied from Australian sources.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Oredressing Laboratories and the Division of Industrial Chemistry are working on the commercial exploitation of the heavy beach sand deposits of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland which are valuable sources of the minerals zircon, rutile and monazite, containing the rare metals zirconium, titanium, cerium, thorium and lanthanum. Experiments have also been conducted with heat-resistant paints. The New South Wales Department of Railways has used the paint in an extended test for the protection of locomotive fire doors. The tests show that the fire doors can be made to last much longer than a door which has. not been so treated.
Australian minerals can now be used in the manufacture of electric batteries. Experiments conducted by the Division of Industrial Chemistry have shown that both manganese dioxide and graphite for electric dry-cell manufacture can be obtained from sources within Australia. Previously these materials were imported, since minerals from local sources contained impurities which rendered them unacceptable in relation to overseas specifications.
The Division of Building Research has evolved a simple means to overcome the unsoundness of limes, which is due to a high magnesia content. This research has overcome building troubles such as spalling and blistering of plaster coats and the like. The division has also developed light-weight aggregates from local clays. Investigations have shown that in the metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney there are large deposits of clays and shales which can be expanded to make satisfactory lightweight aggregate. We can use these precast building materials.
The National Standards Laboratory in Sydney is the custodian of the Commonwealth legal standards of measurement under the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1948. The work of this laboratory is basic to the development of our modern precision engineering industries. Fifty years ago, working to one-thousandth of an inch was high-grade machining practice. To-day, many industries depend for their success upon interchangeable components with tolerances of one ten-thousandth of an inch.
A survey has been made of gas-making coal. This work has already established that coal in the Singleton district of New South Wales is suitable for gas manufacture, and there is every hope that these deposits, when they are developed, will represent a significant addition to Australia’s limited reserves of gas making coal. Methods for the carbonization and complete gasification of brown coal in Victoria have been extremely successful.
The Division of Radiophysics has developed three new radio navigational aids for aircraft. Distance measuring equipment enables a pilot to read on a dial the exact distance that his aircraft is from the airport he is approaching. This invention increases the safety of aviation in Australia.
One of the most important jobs undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is an examination of overseas plants similar to subterranean clover and phalaris tuberosa, and perhaps paspalum. More than 4,000 samples of seeds and living plants have been obtained, and are being planted and acclimatized. Already some promising discoveries have been made. The Land Research and Regional Survey Section has surveyed nearly a quarter of a million square miles of country in the Katherine-Darwin region, the TownsvilleBowen region and the Barkly Tablelands region. These surveys are primarily con.cerned with agricultural and pastoral possibilities, but they include a reconnaissance study of the geology of the regions which will provide a basis for subsequent detailed examination of mineral resources.
The canning of vegetables has been examined. A new technique known as the pea maturometer has been developed for predicting the best harvest time for canning peas and other vegetables. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has developed an inclined axis frost fan which can be installed in orchards. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) is most interested in this matter. If a sudden frost which will destroy a fruit crop threatens, the fan will bring warm air down to the ground layer and protect the plants from the freezing temperatures.
The Dairy Research Section, in Melbourne, is developing methods for the use of surplus quantities of nutritionally valuable skim milk. The section has now developed from skim milk a successful egg substitute which will shortly be produced commercially and which in some baking recipes can replace up to 80 per cent, of the egg. The section has also established techniques for adding dried skim milk to flour in order to improve our loaf, and the resultant bread has much better keeping quality ami a much higher nutritive value. Finally, I mention that the Argentine ant has been defeated by the use of a material called chlordane, which is a tribute to the Division of Entomology.
Myxomatosis was first released in November, 1950, with some disappointing results, but it got under way in the following month. The results have been staggering. Probably 80 per cent, of the rabbits in Australia have been wiped out. It is interesting to note that myxomatosis has been released in France with results that have brought down the disapproval of the French people. The unfortunate doctor who introduced the virus, according to European papers, has been threatened with law suits by Frenchmen of various classes. The makers of shooting equipment, shooting enthusiasts who have been accustomed to spend their Sunday afternoons in pursuit of rabbits, rabbit-skin vendors, felt hatters, and even the manufacturers of ladies’ fur coats have objected to the extermination of the rabbit population. Even the makers of raincoats and rubber boots are thinking of suing the doctor. The destruction of rabbits by myxomatosis has led to a great improvement in our pastures, with consequent benefits to primary production. We should pay a tribute to the devoted officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization who tested themselves with the virus in order to make sure that it would not have adverse effects upon human beings. The devotion of “Mr. Ratcliffe and the officers who worked with him has been invaluable to Australia.
The scientific work that is carried on by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is leading to the development of purely Australian technologies. We began with traditions that were brought from Europe, and, at first, anything that did not comply with European standards was discarded. But to-day, through the work of our own scientists, we have developed new techniques suited to Australian conditions. For example, areas that once were regarded as deserts because the soil was deficient in certain minerals are now beginning to blossom. With the aid of scientists, and at very little expense, we can increase the area of land suitable for primary production from 140,000,000 acres to 280,000,000 acres. The distinguished contribution of these scientists to our national welfare must not be allowed to pass unnoticed. Like true scientists, they work without hope of special reward or recognition, but at least this Parliament should place on record its approbation and its sense of debt to these men. Under Dr. Clunies Ross, we have such capable scientists as Dr. Frankel and Dr. Ball, who have taken tremendous pains to achieve a successful liaison between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and State Departments of Agriculture notwithstanding the lack of help from extension officers, of whom there are far too few in Australia. Extension services take the results of scientific investigations direct from the laboratories to the farms and the factories. We are entering upon a new era.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
, - I direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration and to certain items of proposed expenditure on capital works and services. Expenditure on capital works and services in 1953-54 is estimated to be £101,548,000, which is £1,374,000 less than was expended in 1952-53. I should like to know where the Government proposes to effect economies. In my opinion, any reduction of expenditure on capital works will have a serious effect upon our national welfare. I have three projects particularly in mind. The first is thu aluminium industry in Tasmania, for which the proposed appropriation for this year is £2,500,000. The second is the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project, for which the Government plans an expenditure in the current year of £13,600,000. The third is the scheme for the construction of a standard gauge railway line in South Australia between Leigh Creek and Port Augusta. The proposed expenditure on this undertaking for the current year is £750,285. I do not object to the allocation of funds for these important works, because they are of a national character and will benefit the Australian people as a whole. In fact, I should like to know why the Government proposes to restrict expenditure on capital works to these three projects only. After all, they will principally benefit the State of Tasmania through the development of the aluminium industry, the States of Victoria and New South Wales through the Snowy Mountains project, and South Australia through the Leigh Creek-Port Augusta railway line. What about the development of Queensland? Various urgently needed developmental works have been commenced in Queensland, but, unfortunately, some of them are practically at a standstill as a result of the failure of this Government to make sufficient loan funds available to the Stale Government.
– We have made a record amount available to Queensland.
– That may be true in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but it is not true in terms of actual value received by the State.
The first big public work in Queensland to which I refer is the Burdekin Rivet irrigation scheme. This is of importance to the whole of Australia. I well recall the occasion when the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, entered into an agreement, which I admit was only verbal, to help the Queensland Government to finance this great undertaking. Unfortunately, this Government has repudiated that agreement, although, during the 1949 election campaign and previously, the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) promised in north Queensland that, if the present Government parties were elected to power, finance would bc provided to assist the State to carry on with such developmental works. Those promises, too, have been dishonoured. Other important public works projects, in Queensland are the hydro-electric flood mitigation scheme, and, last but not least, the plan for a railway link between Dajarra and Newcastle Waters. This Government has done nothing to promote these works. If it were to do its duty in Queensland, as it has done in other States, it would whole-heartedly support tho Queensland Government to carry out such works, which would encourage the growth of population and be of benefit from a defence point of view. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures reveal that the rate of population increase in Queensland is less than in other States. This is due to the fact that Queensland is an undeveloped State, although its potentialities, I venture to say, are greater than those of any other part of Australia. Surely this Government does not expect the Queensland Government, which it has starved of funds, to finance and carry out such important national works entirely without assistance. I am pleased to be able to say that, although the Queensland Government has not been provided with the funds that it needs for tho Burdekin River irrigation scheme, it; is still proceeding with the undertaking. When that work is finished it will provide water to irrigate at least 300.000 acres, with the result that it will bp possible to settle on the land thousands of men, including ex-servicemen, who are pager to go into primary production.
– Queensland has a good government.
– Yes, and it has achieved magnificent results with the inadequate funds at its disposal.
The construction of a. rail link between Dajarra and Newcastle Waters is regarded in Queensland as an undertaking nf first-class importance. I understand that negotiations on this subject have been in progress between the Queensland Government and the Menzies-Fadden Government and that a report has been submitted to this Government. However, according to my information, this Government has not even dealt with the report yet, and the Queensland Government does not know where it stands in the matter. The cost of that rail link between Queensland and the Northern Territory is expected to be £19,000,000, and the people of Queensland argue, with justification, that a portion of that sum should be provided by the Commonwealth. But this Government has not told the Queensland Government whether it is in favour of the work or not. Anybody who is acquainted with the country through which the line will pass, if it is constructed, knows that it is unproductive at present. Hundreds of thousands of cattle are lost there in time of drought. This is not a new idea. In fact, the project has been in mind for many years. The Queensland press is eager for this Government to assist the State Government to do the job. A few weeks ago, the editor of a Sunday newspaper wrote to every Queensland federal member asking for his views on this very important rail link, from the stand-point, not only of closer settlement, but also of defence. Almost every one of the Queensland federal members, replied to that invitation. If I remember rightly, each one who replied said he believed that the construction of the line was essential, but some qualified their answers by saying that much depended upon whether the Commonwealth or Queensland had the money to undertake the project.
The proposal to build this line is not new. Since 1922, several reports on it have been submitted to the Queensland Government and the Federal Government. During World War II., when the Japanese were, so to speak, knocking at our door, the Americans spoke very favorably about the construction of the line for defence purposes. In 1922, the Public Works Committee recommended that the line be built. Similar recommendations were made by a royal commission, in 1.927 and by the North Australia Commission in 1928. In 1936, the Queensland Public Works Commission urged that, the line be built. The PayneFletcher report, published in 1937, stressed the need for the construction of the line. The proposal was recommended again in 1939 by the Administrator of the Northern Territory, Mr. Abbott, a former Minister for the Interior. It was supported by Sir Harold Clapp in 1945,- in his report on the unification of railway systems. Although, the line has been advocated for a number of years, this Government is doing nothing to assist the Queensland Government to build it, notwithstanding that it would assist in the development of a vast tract of country and help the defence of Australia. I shall say no more on this matter except that T hope this Government will let the Queensland Government know just where it stands on the construction of the line. This project is not only of national importance but also of international importance.
– -Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Unfortunately, time will not permit me to reply to all the points raised by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson). I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to the fact that the tax reimbursement grant to Queensland this year has been increased, substantially. I remind him that the allocation of loan moneys to Queensland by the Australian Loan Council this year is substantially greater than last year, and that the Com’monwealth has undertaken to underwrite any deficiency in loan raisings to the degree of £90,000,000. I remind him also that allocations by the Australian Loan Council to any State are not made by the Commonwealth, because the Council is controlled by the States, which have a majority on it. That fact is vo-ry relevant to some of the points that lie has raised to-night.
The subject to which I wish to refer is the development of rice-growing in northern Australia. In some respects, rice is the key to Asian affairs. The political importance of rice policies cannot be over-emphasized at the present time. Bice is a commodity that is becoming increasingly important in Aus tralia, although up to the present our place in the world rice picture as a ricegrowing community has been relatively insignificant. The rice-growing areas of South-East Asia are vulnerable, both politically and militarily. Therefore, it has become important to develop significant new rice-producing areas within the British Commonwealth in order to provide a certain source of rice supplies if serious disturbances occur again in SouthEast Asia. There is a growing recognition that intensive agricultural settlement and development in the northern areas of Australia are bound up closely with, first, the rice outlook, secondly, the strategic outlook, and thirdly, the growth of crops environmentally best suited to the region. .The rice outlook is most important in that regard.
Rice production possibilities in northern Australia were examined by Mr. W. Poggendorff, of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. In his publication Rice Production Possibilities in the Kimberleys and Northern Australia, he stated -
Subject to the use of varieties suited to tin1 particular climatic conditions, and the application of phosphatic and nitrogenous fertilizers, it would appear possible to grow virion a very extensive scale in certain localities, which are regularly flooded every year. Careful preliminary observations arc needed on the actual incidence and depth of flood waters, also the type and degree of control of both water and natural vegetation, necessary tn achieve economic production, with a minimum expenditure of labour and equipment. Pilot plots in selected localities, chosen as a result of these observations, should be used to test the effect of variety, fertilizers and various methods of treatment, with a view to later employment of modern large-scale techniques such as airplane spraying for weed control and for sowing and bulk handling.
The major tasks involved in the development of large-scale rice production in northern Australia are, first, the discovery and development of suitablevarieties; secondly, the development of the best techniques for land preparation, watering, sowing, weed control, harvesting, possible rotations’ and systems of management; and thirdly, a study of water supplies, both natural and artificial, including water conservation. Already commercial scale rice production is being attempted on the scanty information available, using either varieties known to be relatively unsuitable but available in bulk, or possibly suitable but available from overseas only in small quantities, due to necessary quarantine restrictions. On the Fitzroy River in the Kimberleys, Northern Developments Limited is attempting to grow rice on 200 acres of naturally flooded plain lands. Difficulties have arisen in crop establishment and watering, but at least one variety is showing early promise, and suitable techniques are being evolved by the hard experience of trial and error. The trials were seriously hampered during the last two years by drought conditions that extended over the Kimberleys. At the Kimberley Research Station near Wyndham, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is conducting research work, including varietral introduction and testing and the development of practical rotations, including pastures and other crops. Destruction of the crop by birds and damage by ground pests has presented problems in this area, but experiments indicate that these difficulties could be overcome and controlled in large areas.
– -I rise to order. I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to Standing Order 61, which states that an honorable member shall not read his speech. Recently, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) read a speech on the dairying industry. Tonight he is reading, word for word, a speech on the rice industry. Last night I directed your attention to the fact that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) was reading, word for word, as a speech on the wheat industry, an article that had appeared in an agricultural journal.
– I have ruled that honorable members may make use of notes. I treat honorable members on both sides of the chamber alike. A similar point of order was taken against the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who appeared to be reading every word of his speech, but I allowed him to proceed. I shall extend the same latitude to all honorable members. I rule that the honorable member for Darling Downs is in order.
– I have already referred to Standing Order 61, which states specifically that an honorable member shall not read his speech. I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that if you were to ask the honorable member for Darling Downs whether he was reading his speech, he could give only one answer to the question.
– I know that the honorable member for Darling Downs has not read every word of his speech, because at the beginning of his remarks I heard him refer to statements made by the previous speaker. An honorable member is entitled to make use of copious notes, and I rule accordingly.
– I am astonished that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is not sufficiently interested to follow a statement of a semi-technical nature that deals with an industry that is very important to the development of northern Australia. Members of the Opposition should take a greater interest in the development of our northern areas. The attitude of the honorable member for Lalor is indicative of the lack of interest that the Labour party showed in northern Australia during the eight years it was in office.
At a place in the Northern Territory called Humpty-Doo, approximately 40 miles south of Darwin, experiments are being conducted by the Northern Territory administration. An area of approximately 50 acres is being utilized for the introduction and testing of certain promising varieties of rice. At a place known as the , Sixty Mile, which is 60 miles south of Darwin, just west of the Stuart Highway, experiments are being conducted with a view to finding techniques of production applicable to large areas of reasonably flooded plains. In conjunction with those experiments, a study is being made of the incidence and extent of seasonal flooding. This area is’ representative of the sub-coastal plains on our northern and western coasts, extending inland along the major rivers of northern Australia. The soils are heavy and fertile. Rice production is dependent on natural flooding by the river systems, in addition to normal rainfall. It is estimated that there is an area of land of a similar type, approximately 1,<500,000 acres to 2,000,000 acres in size, that offers tremendous possibilities for’ the development of rice-growing in the Northern Territory. Similar experiments are also being conducted in other parts of the Northern Territory, where there are large areas suitable for the production of rice that could be developed and cultivated.
Further preliminary investigations have been made of the hydrological and engineering possibilities of water storage and flood control of the Adelaide River system, just south of Darwin. It is understood that the Department of Territories is at present completing arrangements for detailed surveys of these aspects to be undertaken, so that if agronomic problems can be. solved, full details will be available of the practicability and likely cost of water storage and controlled distribution in the area. Another area in which rice could become an economic proposition is the Burdekin River district of north Queensland. About 600,000 acres of land that would be served by the full Burdekin scheme should be suitable for rice-growing. There are also possibilities for rice-growing on a commercial basis in other higher rainfall areas in the coastal belt of North Queensland. Small scale rice-growing has been undertaken successfully near Mossman, and there are many thousands of acres of similar country, that could possibly be developed with suitable varieties, under properly controlled conditions. Vigorous research into the possibilities of ricegrowing in these areas would be highly desirable, from a national point of view.
Whilst long-term prospects for ricegrowing in north Australia appear promising, it is evident that the problems will not be resolved in a short space of time. The testing of varieties and bulking up of seed is only likely to be achieved over a period of two or three years, whilst hydrological and cultural investigations are also likely to require several years’ work. Only when these matters are satisfactorily resolved, can settlement and production be considered. However, the indications are that rice production will play a big part in the future development of northern Australia.
.- We are discussing the proposed vote “for the Department of National Development, and all of us understand what the word development means. Apparently, however, the Government does not understand the meaning of the word “ national “, because it has entirely failed to recognize the necessity to develop the northern part of this continent, which has probably more potential wealth in it than have other parts of Australia on which vast sums of money have been expended. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) mentioned a number of projects that .involve irrigation. There are similar projects in, Queensland which also require irrigation. The Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project is an excellent project, and will be of great benefit to Victoria and New South Wales in particular. The Bell Bay aluminium project will be of great benefit to Tasmania, and the Leigh Creek project will be of great benefit to South Australia. These are all excellent projects, and all of them are subsidized by the Commonwealth. But not one project in the northern part of Australia is subsidized by the Commonwealth. That is why I say that the Government apparently is ignorant of the meaning of the word “ national “. National development means development of the whole of the nation. It does not mean- merely development of one part of the nation.
Not only is the Government failing to assist in the development of the northern part of Australia, but it is even scrapping many installations that came into being during the war, that would be of great value for national development and in time of war. I protest against the destruction of certain facilities in that part of the country, destruction which could be prevented by ministerial action. All the facilities required for national development must be provided, and facilities that are already in existence, and could be used for development, should not be scrapped. Queensland projects include the Tinaroo Dam and the Burdekin Dam scheme. The Commonwealth apparently does not think that Queensland is part of the nation, because it seems not to think that Queensland should share in national development. Queenslanders do not know why that should be so, because this Government has more electoral support in Queensland than it has in any other part of the Commonwealth. I suppose that the Government thinks that the people of Queeusland who support it will accept any treatment from it. I hope that is not the ease, and that Queenslanders will not accept any sort of treatment from the Government, which has deliberately refused, as long as it has been in cffi.ee, to carry out any national development in Queensland.
Australia has wonderful prospects. It undoubtedly could become one of the greatest countries in the world, because it lias everything that mankind requires. Before it can reach its true greatness, however, money must be expended on development. Our uranium can be used, not only for war or defence purposes, but also as a substitute source of power in place of imported petrol, and other fuels. Properly handled, our uranium could do wonders in stabilizing our industries. We are not allowed to have any information about the price at which we are selling this commodity to Great Britain and the United States of America. The reason given for the withholding of the information is security, but apparently the United States of America and Great Britain can have all the information they require. That sounds ridiculous.
– Quite! Perfectly ridiculous.
– America merely has to send a couple of planes over, and wc invite it to gather scientific data regarding the forthcoming tests at the Woomera long-range weapons establishment. Great Britain can obtain information about uranium, but apparently we in Australia ure still colonials in the minds of those “ imperial johnnies “ overseas who control things at present and who believe that we are not sufficiently intelligent to be given information about our own uranium. That is absurd. We must be the laughing-stock of the world because we cannot get information, when the British and American people can have all the information they require. It makes us look a small, frightened, and timid race of people. We should be more independent and should develop our country. We bay.e .the resources, the men and the money to enable us to do it. To-day, however, there is no sound planning for long-term loans to enable the people, not only of this generation but also of future generations, to assist to pay for the things thatfuture generations as well as this generation will use. Very often revenue is used for capital works when long-term loan moneys should be used. We have the ability to finance projects that would be well worthwhile. Fortunately, private enterprise has done a little towards the development of north Queensland. I refer, for instance, to the Mount Isa mine. Another prospector like White, who made the great uranium discovery, discovered the Mount Isa lode, about which has grown a mighty industry.
North Queensland, the north-west pari, of Western Australia, and the Northern Territory, have not received from this Government the consideration they are entitled to. I hope that the Government will make a concerted attack on a national scale on the problems of development and increased production. Production by private enterprise is sound and solid, but if we are to produce more of the goods for which the world is clamouring we must develop our natural resources on a national scale. Natural resources are no good in their natural state. The establishment and development, of the sugar industry in Queensland is an example of how an industry can be used for the purposes of development and the settlement of population. By the establishment of such industries in the Northern Territory and in the north of Western Australia, we can settle a virile white population in those areas, as has been done in the north of Queensland as the result of the development of the sugar industry.
Among the projects mentioned by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) was rice-growing. Another crop that can be grown in the north of Queensland, and has been grown there, is cotton. Peanuts, rice and a number of other commodities that we require can also be produced in that area, and could become assets, as our wheat is at present. Foodstuffs will be required on a greater and greater scale throughout the world, and Australia could be the granary for a great part of the world. The money that it earned from its primary products could he used to develop this country and to produce a sound race and a sound social system. We are a young country, and we have an opportunity that no other country has ever had. We can benefit by the mistakes of the older nations. We have all the natural assets that are required. All we need is the application ofintelligence and finance, and the proper use of our man-power, to enable us to develop our assets properly. Nothing is more important to this country than the development of its natural resources, and we should let nothing prevent us from developing them.’ The nation has shown itself to be capable of financing various projects, a number of which are, in my opinion, not nearly so important as the production of more food and goods, because it is on the increased production of goods that are saleable on the world’s markets that the amenities the Australians of the future will enjoy will be based. I repeat that up to date the Government has overlooked the importance of the word “national” in the term national development. Consequently, parts of Australia have been greatly helped, and other parts have been practically forgotten.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) has shown once again that the Labour party believes that money does not need to be earned and is not the product of hard work, but that it can be procured from some unspecified place and expended as lavishly as anybody could wish. However, I desire to address my remarks to immigration. Because of its political significance, immigration has been made something of a political football, and from time to time statements have been made both inside and outside this chamber by persons who have been intent on criticizing the food and the conditions generally in Commonwealth hostels. Those criticisms have been made with such a semblance of authenticity, and with such a degree of confidence that those who have no knowledge of conditions in the hostels have accepted them as factual. That has caused trouble in the community generally, and among immigrants in particular.
Charges were recently made by certain members of the Victorian Parliament about the conditions in hostels in my own electorate. Some of the phrases used in those charges were “ Concentration camps “, “ Immigrants forced to eat food not fit for pigs “, “ Food would have made me sick to eat it”, and “Paper peeling from the walls of the hostels “. Many similar exaggerated statements have been made by some politicians in this House under the privilege of Parliament. Last year the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt)set up a committee composed of the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown), Mr. R. R. Broadby, secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mrs. F. G. Coombe, president of the International Young Women’s Christian Association, and Mr. Nagle, the general secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. That committee, in response to public agitation, was given the duty to inquire into the conditions at Commonwealth hostels. The committee made widespread and thorough inspections of hostels, including some in my own electorate, and reported favorably upon the whole hostel system. Much of the criticism of hostels was directed to the Belmont hostel in my electorate. The location for that hostel was selected during the regime of the Chifiey Government, and although that Government was advised against building in that particular place, it went ahead and constructed the hostel. Because the situation was low, the hostel was subjected to two floodings which caused considerable inconvenience to tenants. The water-marks left by those floods may even now be seen on the fibro-cement walls of the hostel, and consequently the exterior fibro-cement does not present a pleasing appearance. The flood damage was repaired, and now the condition ofthe hostel is quite satisfactory.
I made an inspection of that hostel on Monday last, and the time of my visit was completely unknown to the management. I found that the exterior was as clean and neat as any military camp. The huts for the accommodation of single men were comfortable and tidy, and the allegation that paper was peeling from the walls was highly exaggerated. Complaints have been made from time to time that the fibro-cement walls are broken. I discovered that they are broken because of the negligence of the occupants. For example a number of the immigrants play their national game of association football, and their inaccuracy with the ball results in damage to the fibrocement. That is not the fault of the hostel authorities.
The reason for ‘ dissatisfaction among some immigrants is wholly mental. Honorable members who have had military service know that when they entered camp for the first time they were depressed by their new surroundings and circumstances, but after they got used to them they developed quite an affection for the place. No doubt a similar process takes place in the minds of the immigrants who are far from their homelands, living under new conditions in a strange country. Persons who go on long sea voyages experience similar feelings. They are very enthusiastic about the accommodation and food at the beginning of the voyage, but after they have lived in their confined quarters together with many other people for some weeks, they are only too pleased to get off the ship and leave the accommodation and the food that they previously thought so good. Moreover, I have been informed that the complaints of the immigrants, and particularly the Germans, reached their highest pitch during the time of a potato shortage which was indirectly caused by the Victorian Government. No doubt such typical cases affected the minds of the immigrants.
From time to time the tariff at Commonwealth hostels has been said to be too high. I draw honorable members attention to the fact that the charge for a single man is £4 7s. 6d. a week. For that sum he gets good clean comfortable accommodation as well as his food. I contacted three families at Belmont, each consisting of a husband, wife and five children. Each family paid only £8 18s 6d. a week for full board. For that sum they got all their meals, their accommodation, free hot water, laundry facilities and a certain amount of electricity. Surely honorable members will agree that they paid a reasonable price for all those services. One family of a husband, wife and four children has been paying £10 a week for accommodation, and has been able to retain more than £5 a week out of the weekly family income. A Dutch family of a man, wife and three children have lived at the hostel for nine months and paid the government tariff. During that time the family has been able to save enough money to buy land and erect a small house. Soon they will leave the hostel and live in their own home.
There will always be people whose sense of values is not particularly well developed, and no doubt quite a number of families who have left Australia for England would now be glad to come back to this country. I thoroughly inspected the accommodation provided at Belmont, and tasted the food that was supposed to be fit only for pigs. I discovered that the soup particularly was very palatable, and that a dish known as goulash which resembles a good Australian stew was provided for lunch. The potatoes and carrots were also very good and tasty. I am quite sure that 99 per cent, of the criticisms of Commonwealth hostels are completely without any factual foundation, and are deliberately put forward to make the immigrants believe that they have grievances and to give some advantage to Labour politicians. Those criticisms are made without any regard for the feelings of hostel managers and administrators, who have great practical experience of the management of hostels as well as a good knowledge of languages and the temperaments of the people of different nationalities who enter their hostels. The qualities of the hostel managers are seldom all found in the one individual, and their work is a great credit to them all. Theirs is not an easy task, and it is made all the harder by continual sniping by outsiders.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Recently I wrote to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) about certain resignations from the staff of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay, Tasmania. In reply to my letter the Minister informed me that during the last twelve months 49 officers of the administrative staff of 190 officers had resigned.
– I rise to order. I suggest that this is the wrong time for the honorable member to raise this matter.
– Does the Minister for Supply intend to be difficult?
– No; but I should like to have my documents before me when I deal with the matter which the honorable member wishes to raise. The matter should be dealt with when the proposed votes for Capital Works and Services arc under consideration. I shall be pleased to deal with it at the appropriate time. The honorable member is on the wrong track in raising it at this stage.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I was about to point that out to the honorable member.
– The other matter which I propose to discuss relates to the secret ballot legislation which was introduced by the Chifley Government and amended by the present Administration and which is administered to a certain degree by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). As honorable members know, in recent months there has been a concerted campaign against the secret ballot legislation and against members of trade unions who desire the Government to supervise trade union elections. I am glad to notice that the Australian Council of Trades Unions, at its recent congress, refused to deal with resolutions condemning court-controlled ballots, thereby affirming the action of its executive in supporting unionists who desired a court-controlled ballot in order to prevent malpractice in the election of their union officials.
– Has the Australian Council of Trades Unions yet endorsed the secret ballot legislation?
– It has directed the Australian Engineering Union to comply with the court order to make all relevant papers available to the court and to the electoral officer for the conduct of an election. Obviously, a direction to the union to comply with the court’s requirement indicates that the Australian Council of Trades Unions has not rejected court-controlled ballots. At the moment there is a concerted campaign against controlled ballots. As the Minister knows, there has been a tremendous barrage of pamphlet propaganda, statements from public platforms and in the press by people who are opposed to controlled ballots. My attitude and that of all fair-minded people as well as of the Chifley Government when this legislation was first introduced was that no one had anything to fear from a properly controlled court-ballot except those who wished to practice fraud or engage in’ malpractice. I am disappointed to find that although this campaign is being waged with relentless vigour the Government is taking no action in regard to it. The electoral officers who have been directed to conduct trade union ballots have been the victims of all manner of slanderous and libellous statements. They have been calumniated in every possible way. They have been accused of fraud, malpractice, bribery and corruption, and the Government has taken no action to protect them. I should be the last to suggest that government officials should be free from criticism both inside and outside this Parliament. That is a national sport which should be preserved for the people. Nobody questions the right of the people to criticize government officials whose salaries they pay, but wholesome criticism of government officials is very different from the campaign of vituperation and calumny that has been launched against the returning officers who have supervised these controlled ballots. Every honorable member has seen pamphlets alleging, for instance, that Mr. Nance, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Victoria, is a stooge of the security service, that he has been a party to interference with ballots, that ballots he has supervised have been wrongly counted and that, in short, he is a fascist reactionary who has done everything possible to prevent rank-and-file members of unions from having the kind of officials they really want. I regret that the Government has not taken action to protect these officials, thus preserving in the minds of trade unionists that confidence in controlled ballots which is so necessary. I do not suggest that special legislation should be introduced to protect them from criticism because I do not believe that government officials are entitled to protection from legitimate criticism, but when a campaign of calumny has reached the proportions of the campaign against Mr. Nance and other electoral officers in recent months action is called for on the part of the Government. If the Government cannot deal with the problem legislatively - I admit that there would be danger in any attempt to do so - at least it should be prepared to stand by these officers when they initiate action against those who have slandered and libelled them. I understand that the matter was placed before the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and the Minister for Labour and National Service, but that the Government declined to support the electoral officers if they took action to protect their good names and their administration from, these calumnious attacks.
– That is clearly not true as has been publicly stated by the AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister. The officers concerned were so advised.
– The reports on the matter which I read in the press indicated that the Government was not prepared to take action to assist the officers to preserve their good name.
– The honorable member 9urely does not believe what he reads in the press.
– No one would do so.
– I shall be happy to let the honorable member have a copy of the Prime Minister’s statement on the matter.
– In the event of Mr. Nance or any other electoral officer taking action for libel against persons who have made libellous statements against them, will the Government be prepared to stand behind the officers and assist them in their defence ?
– That has already been made clear to the officers concerned.
– I am pleased to have that assurance from the Minister. That is not clear from the reports which have appeared in the press. I hope that the officers will take action against those who have attacked them. Indeed, it should not be left to them to take the initiative. Had similar attacks been made upon the Commissioner of Taxation, the Government would of necessity have taken action against the persons concerned.
– The Government cannot stand in the position of a slandered party. It is for the slandered party to initiate action. The Government can give suitable assurances that it will support financially and otherwise action taken by the officers concerned, but it cannot initiate action.
– The Government has given them such assurances?
– I am glad to hear that. I regret that this campaign has been permitted to be waged without any answer on the part of responsible authorities and that as a result, among rank-and-file members of trade unionists there has grown a doubt as to the efficacy of the safeguards that the Government has taken to ensure that controlled ballots shall protect them from fraud and malpractice. Because of the inaction of the Government the Communist majority in the Commonwealth Council of the Australian Engineering Union has, as the Minister knows, carried a resolution declaring that it will defy the court’s decision to grant a controlled ballot in response to petitions lodged by many hundreds of members pf the union. As the Minister knows, there are on the Commonwealth Council of the Australian Engineering Union three voting members, and two non-voting members both of whom are supporters of the Labour party. One of the voting members is a supporter of the Labour party and the other two are supporters of the Communist party - one a declared Communist and the other a person who does not deny his association with the Communist party. The two Communist voting members have carried a resolution defying the law in relation to secret ballots and declaring that the council will not comply with the direction of the court that a controlled ballot shall be held.
– Did the honorabe member support the Communist Party Dissolution .Bill?
– That question should more properly be directed, to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– What is the purpose of that comment?
– I say that simply to indicate that the Minister did not support the referendum proposals on communism and the Communist party.
– I do not know what the honorable member means when he says that I did not support the referendum proposals. If speaking in. support of the proposals on every night during the referendum campaign means that I did not support the Government’s proposals, then 1 did not support them.
– The Minister made only one speech during the whole of the campaign.
– That is not true.
– I am concerned that one of the largest and best trade unions of Australia, as a result of certain action by its Communist-dominated majority on its Commonwealth council, is prepared to defy the law of the land in relation to the election of trade union officials. Because of the failure of the Government -to take steps to counter propaganda alleging fraud and malpractices in court-controlled ballots it is likely that the Communists will gain a great deal more support from rankandfile members of the union than they are entitled to expect.
Although the ballots have been conducted with the greatest care, and allegations made about them could be blown out by any person who cared to examine the facts, the statements made by those who are opposed to clean ballots have been allowed to go unanswered by the Government. It is of no use to say that these allegations have been made for Communist propaganda purposes and that they can be ignored. The vehemence with which they have been made and the extent of the propaganda is such that they cannot be ignored. Because of the failure of the Government to take proper action against these people it has considerably strengthened their hand. Thousands of good members of a» excellent trade union are being led by their Communist-dominated Commonwealth council into a clash with the law of the land which will react to the advantage of this Government electorally, but which will detrimentally affect the Australian economy and the trade union movement.
I appeal to the Minister to examine this matter carefully. If these people are allowed to get their way, there will bs a major industrial clash in which sensible, sincere and genuine trade unionists, who do not believe in communism and who have no sympathy with Communist aims, will be involved. They will be used as. a screen by the Communist party in its attack upon the secret ballot legislation. The Minister has an obligation to examine the situation now with a view to ascertaining whether action can be taken to prevent the evils which I have mentioned, and which seem likely to happen at any moment.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Like the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), I wish to draw the attention of the committee to some industrial matters, but I hope that my remarks will not be so ill-founded on misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the Government’s attitude as his were. The honorable member has made a great song and dance about the attack made on some officials of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by certain Communists who are displeased with the operation of the legislation which authorizes courtcontrolled ballots. In my recollection, the servants of a government have not been unduly sensitive in the past regarding remarks made about them by disaffected persons. In any event, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has informed the honorable member for Yarra that the Prime Minister has made it quite plain to the House that if any one of those officers wishes to take action to protect his name, he will be supported. The Government cannot bring an action for libel against an individual. The person concerned has to take the action to protect himself, and if an official, in this instance, wishes to do so, he has the plain offer of support from the Government. The honorable member for Yarra admitted that he did not bother to find out the facts, or read the report of the Prime Minister’s statement. 1 believe that it was his first obligation to this chamber to find out whether anything had been done before he blamed the Government for inaction. However, my time is limited to-night, and I shall now devote my remarks to the particular subject that I had in mind.
I believe that an urgent need exists for the wholesale reform and amendment of our arbitration system. Our Australian wage-fixing system is complex, technical and difficult. It has certain peculiarities which, so far as I am aware, are not shared by the arbitration system of any other country. It is also complicated, as are most of our administrative processes, by our system of federation. Each State has its own arbitration tribunals, but each of them generally conforms to the same judicial pattern. In any event, the State systems are dependent on the federal system, because all of them rely on it for the basic wage. There has been an increasing tendency in recent years for industries to seek Commonwealth awards and come into the federal system. The result is that the federal system is of paramount importance in the arbitration sphere generally of this country. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has a bearing on the industrial activities of the community, and the whole economy, to a degree that defies exaggeration.
Our arbitration system is unique in several respects, and is complicated by the fact that this Parliament has very limited powers to legislate on the subject of industrial affairs. Its legislative authority is limited to the power to make laws for conciliation and arbitration in industrial disputes extending beyond the boundaries of any one State. In pursuance of this arbitration power, this
Parliament established the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to ‘exercise such powers of arbitration as it has. The whole structure of federal arbitration, including the basic wage and the machinery for the automatic quarterly variation, which have recently been suspended by the court itself, is built on the artificial and almost fictional basis that the court is settling a dispute or series of disputes.
– I rise to order. The honorable member is discussing the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which is administered by the Attorney-General’s Department. I submit that the honorable gentleman is not entitled to discuss conciliation and arbitration matters under the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service.
– If the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) will take the trouble to examine the Estimates, he will see that a special appropriation is made under the heading of the Department of Labour and National Service for the salaries of judges.
– Order! The remarks of the honorable member for Evans are in order, and he may proceed.
– I took the trouble to anticipate an objection to my remarks. The whole structure of the Commonwealth arbitration system is built on the largely fictional basis that the court is settling a particular dispute when it makes awards that affect the whole economy. It is generally accepted that this Parliament cannot legislate directly on the subject of wages or industrial conditions. It has also been accepted that the Parliament can legislate with respect to the machinery by which the court carries out its functions.
– I rise to order. I did not hear your ruling clearly, Mr. Temporary Chairman, on whether the honorable member for Evans is in order in discussing conciliation and arbitration on the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair has ruled that the remarks of the honorable member for Evans are in order.
– The proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service appears on page 57 of thu Estimates, and no reference is made therein to the salaries of judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– Order ! The honorable member for Evans may proceed.
– It has been accepted for a long time that the Parliament cannot legislate directly on wages and industrial conditions. It has also been accepted that the Parliament can legislate on the machinery by which the court carries out its functions. Since 1904, when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was established, our arbitration legislation has been largely a series of directions to the court by the Parliament on how the tribunal is to do* its work. It has been a long story of limitations on the discretion of the court on how it is to deal with disputes, the fixation of wages, and the like. This legislative interference with the discretion and freedom of the court reached its upper limit in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1948, which was placed on the statute-book by the wish of the previous Government. That act introduced the so-called stream-lined arbitration, established a group of conciliation commissioners with certain defined powers, and left other defined powers to the judges of the court.
That legislation enacted a cardinal error in that it laid down that the judges should deal with the basic wage, and the conciliation commissioners should deal with margins. In my opinion, this division of powers between the court and the conciliation commissioners is a fundamental error of enormous proportions, because it has led to the absurd result that there is no single body which has to deal with the whole wages bill of the community. The court declares the basic wage, and deals with standard hours, but has no responsibility for fixing margins for skill in an industry. Margins for skill are fixed by conciliation commissioners, who have no responsibility for the determination of the basic wage. Thus there are two separate authorities who, between them, fix the total wages bill of the community, yet neither of the two authorities has any responsibility to take notice of the decision of the other.
This system has led to the unfortunate situation which has been made notorious by the award of Mr. Commissioner Galvin, who, when presented with claims by the metal trades for margins for skill which would have increased the wages bill by more than £100,000,000 decided that the economy of the country could not stand the additional cost. The basic wage had been increased only a short time previously and Mr. Galvin considered, for the reasons that he stated, that the economy could not stand an increase of the margin. Therefore, in that group of industries the margins for skill were further reduced in proportion to the unskilled wage. All members of this House agree that it is not in the national interest that margins for skill should be whittled down, yet that process has been the inevitable result of this division of powers. The obvious solution of the problem is to restore to the court the whole power over wages by removing the division of authority contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1948. I tell the committee that the margins problem will not be solved until that amendment is made. This removal of the division of powers and the transference of the whole arbitration power back to the court would have other beneficial results.
– The process would take too long.
– It need not take too long. It could lead to streamlined arbitration in the real sense. The change could be done in this way: If the whole arbitral power vested in the Parliament by the Constitution is handed over to the court without limitation as to how the power is to be exercised, then the court could at once make its own regulations and orders on how its own officials should carry out the work. The court would have complete flexibility to decide from time to time - month to month if it liked - how its work should be divided among the judges and the conciliation commissioners.
I turn now from wage-fixing to conciliation matters. Other advantages would flow if the court itself could decide how it would use the judges and the conciliation commissioners. One obvious fault of the present system arises from the fact that the same individuals are charged with the functions of conciliation and arbitration, which are mutually exclusive functions, for reasons that I have not timo to state now. The whole work of conciliation commissioners and judges should 1 c re-organized and the reorganization should be left to the committee itself. The commissioners could be used for fact-finding and conciliation only. If a commissioner failed to produce an agreement among the parties, it would be a simple matter for him to find the facts and issues, and refer them to a judge. So, the commissioner would be left with the function of conciliation only, and would not be burdened with the knowledge that he would have to arbitrate on a matter if his conciliation (.(forts should fail. On another occasion I hope to develop these arguments at “eater length.
A great advantage could be gained by 1e i. living from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 194S, this vital division of powers between judges and conciliation commissioners. Flexibility would be returned to the activities of the court, proceedings before the court would be shortened, and the whole arbitration system would be free to operate under the changing circumstances that prevail everywhere to-day. Our industrial relations are undergoing rapid change at the present time. There has been a notable and very welcome change of front on the part of unions in their attitude to incentives. If the matter of incentives were brought before the court to-day, it could not be handled with speed and expedition, because the machinery of the court is already so limited and defined by the act of 1.948. If the court is to be free to adopt new ideas and systems, it needs to be at liberty to re-organize its own machinery. F believe that if the provisions of the act of 1948 were repealed and a simple measure were enacted by this Parliament to vest in the court the widest powers of arbitration and conciliation which the Parliament can give it, the system would be infinitely improved. In my opinion, the act of 1948 nas a tragic mistake. It has led, not to streamlined arbitration, but to constant delay, litigation, a mis-handling of the wage-fixing system of the court and an encumbrance on the court’s work of conciliation. If that act were repealed, the whole situation would become easier.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who has insisted upon the necessity for amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I agree with him. Radical amendments are urgently needed, but those suggested by the honorable member would not load to expedition or economy of administration. Recently, an application was made to Conciliation Commissioner Findlay by the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. ‘ The commissioner was ready to hear the case, but, because of amendments to the arbitration law enacted during the regime of the present Government, the employers affected had the right to appeal against Commissioner Findlay dealing with the application. They exercised that right, but the court upheld the submissions of the union. Commissioner Findlay thereupon had the right to determine the issue and he did so. But, again because of legislation introduced by this Government, the employers were able to appeal against his decision, which was in favour of the union. They lodged an appeal, of course, because, regardless of their chances of success, the process delayed the application of wage increases to members of the clerical profession. Already the union has expended large sums in fighting this matter. That is why I agree with the honorable member for Evans that radical amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are needed, though not amendments of the kind that he has in iti hid.
My main purpose in rising to speak was to discuss immigration. Earlier to-day I heard the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) refer to the illicit introduction into Australia of Chinese. The honorable member suggested that they were brought here to be exploited either by Australians or by compatriots already in this country. The
Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) was so impressed by the honorable member’s criticism that he rose immediately to reply to it. He said that, although there were some illicit entries by Chinese and other foreigners, these people were not subjected to exploitation to any great degree. I disagree with the honorable gentleman on that issue. In every Australian capital city there are organizations, which have been in existence for many years, whose object is to bring to Australia, particularly from southern Europe, foreigners who are unable to pay their own fares. They enter the country as nominated immigrants. Accommodation is provided for them in Australia, and a guarantee is given that they will be employed. Jobs certainly are provided for them, but they are exploited by their sponsors to the detriment not only of themselves but also of Australian workers. The sponsors recover the cost of bringing them to the country under the terms of the. employment that they provide. I assume that in other large cities throughcut Australia, as in Melbourne, there are places where large numbers of these persons, who are classified as unassisted immigrants in order to distinguish them from persons who are brought to Australia at government expense, are domiciled in dormitories, for which they are charged exorbitant fees. In this way their sponsors obtain large sums of money with which, in Melbourne at any rate, they are able to buy properties throughout the metropolitan area. I suggest to the Minister that all immigrants, whether they be assisted or unassisted, should be watched over by his officers in order to protect them against exploitation, either in their accommodation or in their work.
I understand that there are large numbers of immigration agents throughout Australia. These individuals are not officials of the Department of Immigration and are not paid by the department. I am not aware of the precise nature of their responsibilities, but I believe that they are vested with certain powers in relation to immigrants. They certainly do not prevent the introduction of unassisted immigrants for the purposes of exploitation by unscrupulous employers. Most of the exploiters came to Australia originally from other countries. They know that in the districts from which they came there are other people who want to come to Australia. They communicate with these people and arrange to sponsor their entry to Australia. I ask the Minister to take action to prevent this kind of traffic in the future. Some time ago I asked the honorable gentleman how many people had come to Australia since the cessation of hostilities in World War II, both as assisted immigrants and. as unassisted immigrants, and how many in both categories had returned to their countries of origin. The Minister replied that, he was not in a position to supply the information in relation to unassisted immigrants. I maintain that his department should be in a position to answer such inquiries. Such statistics are of great importance. The department should maintain records of the occupations normally followed by immigrants and keep a check on the numbers that arrive and the numbers that return to their home countries.
I have seen reports that the Government proposes to continue with its immigration programme. I believe in immigration. But I also believe that anybody who is likely to displace somebody else from employment, or who is in danger of being unemployed here, should not be allowed to enter the country. The selection system of the Department of Immigration should be carefully tightened in the future in order to ensure that only people who can help in the development of Australia shall be accepted as immigrants. They should belong to occupations in which there are vacancies for employment. Many immigrants are rural workers. Not long ago more than 1,000 immigrants at Bonegilla could not obtain employment anywhere in Australia. The press reports, which were the chief source of our information at that time, stated that these men had been employed on farms in the countries from which they came. No primary producer anywhere in Australia wanted to employ any of these workers. Therefore, I suggest to the Government that, if it brings more rural workers to the country, it will find that, they are not wanted on. farms. All of us agree that primary production should be increased, but we can stimulate rural production successfully only if we place on the land, as proprietary farmers, Australians who are already here, including the numerous ex-servicemen who are eager to settle on the land, or immigrants. Food production cannot be stimulated merely by bringing to this country men to be employed as paid workers. Such men simply are not wanted to-day, as was proved by the situation that developed at Bonegilla Camp earlier in the term of office of the Minister for Immigration, who will not continue to grace that office for very long. Personally, of course, I regard him as an estimable individual, as far as any member of this Government can be considered to be estimable.
The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) discussed immigrant hostels earlier to-night and said that such hostels were conducted in a most satisfactory manner. I agree that much of the criticism of immigrant hostels is greatly exaggerated, but I consider also that the Government should do its best to enable immigrants to move out of those institutions as quickly as possible. Furthermore, I consider that immigrants should be given the right to prepare their own meals while they live in hostels so that they may continue to live in family units. An employee of the Postal Department, who received £13 16s. a week and had to pay 15s. a week superannuation, taxation and the cost of transport to and from his job-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Many honorable members have raised matters that relate to the two departments that I administer. In the very limited time available to me, I do not propose to discuss those that relate to the Department of Immigration. They have been noted and will receive every consideration by the officers of the department. Fortunately, as far as matters affecting our immigration policy are concerned, we have a number of representative bodies func tioning in this country on which the viewpoints of the trade union movement and the Labour party can be discussed and expressed. We have the Immigration Planning Council, the Immigration Advisory Council and the very representative Citizenship Convention that meets in January of each year. Next Monday, I shall have a meeting with State Ministers responsible for immigration, and, doubtless, some of the matters that have been raised in the course of this debate will come before us then. I propose to touch briefly upon some of the matters that have been raised in relation to the Department of Labour and National Service. In that connexion, I make the general remark that the statements made about that department will receive due consideration by myself and my officers.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) referred to the apprenticeship inquiry which has been proceeding for the better part of eighteen months. Like the honorable member, I attach importance to the work of the committee of inquiry. I think the members were wise not to try to cover a very involved and important subject too hurriedly. Evidence was taken in each State from employers, trade unions, apprenticeship bodies and State Departments of Labour. I understand that the hearings have been completed and that the members of the committee are considering their report. The committee was established under the auspices, not only of this Government, but also of the State governments. Consequently, it will he necessary to submit the report to both this Government and the State governments, but my desire is that when it is submitted to the State governments copies shall be made available to members of this Parliament so that they will have every chance to study it.
A number of honorable members have referred to the need for some amendment of our arbitration legislation. That is a matter which the Government has constantly under review. From time to time, we receive from various bodies recommendations about amendments of the legislation that they wish to be made. Those recommendations are examined carefully. Already this Government has secured amendments of the arbitration legislation which we believe have contributed, to some degree, to the more tranquil state of industrial relations in this country, have assisted us to increase the production of many of our basic commodities, and, in my perhaps optimistic belief, are helping to establish a better relationship between management and labour. No arbitration system devised by this or any other Government is likely to function perfectly. It is very unlikely to do so when, unfortunately, we still have in the industries of this country certain people who do not want it to function satisfactorily and who will do all they can to sabotage it. I believe that, generally speaking, our present arbitration system will work satisfactorily enough if those who come within its jurisdiction are willing that the processes of conciliation and arbitration shall apply to them. If they approach the system in that spirit, it will work satisfactorily. If they do not approach it in that spirit, then, no matter what amendments are made, it will not work.
I want to refer in some detail to a question raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). It is the question of the secret ballot legislation and the attitude of this Government to it. I do not quite know how to assess the attitude of the honorable member for Yarra to this issue. I have no doubt that in this, as in many other matters, he disagrees profoundly with many of his colleagues. We have watched his obvious discomfiture and embarrassment from time to time when policy issues have been debated. T recall that when wc debated the secret ballot legislation in this Parliament, he wanted our proposals to be adopted, and was obviously uncomfortable when the official attitude of his party and his colleagues was one of bitter opposition to them. Now, he tries to present the official attitude of the Labour party and the trade union movement as one of support for our secret ballot legislation.
Let me remind the honorable member of what we found when we came into office. We found a state of affairs bordering on industrial anarchy, with Communists firmly entrenched in key industries and shortages of the commodities that were so necessary for the increased productivity which we were all seeking. We set out immediately to come to grips with the problem. When the Labour party was in power, we sought to persuade them to adopt our secret ballot proposals, but the most that we could get them to do, after months of argument on our part, was to introduce a half-hearted measure that was quite inneffective and did not secure the desired results. When we came into power, we sought to improve the position, but we found that our proposals were bitterly opposed by the Labour party. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) described the bill as a “ provocative and pettifogging measure “. The former Minister for Civil Aviation, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), said that we had introduced the bill only in order to injure the trade unions. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) described it as an endeavour to harass and destroy the trade union movement. The ever-voluble honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) could not be kept out of the debate. He described us as a bunch of union haters, and said that the bill was. an outrageous measure. The Labour party voted and spoke against the bill at every stage. Frustrated at that time in the Senate, we had to wait until a double dissolution put us in a position to get our legislation through the Parliament. Although we were returned with a clear mandate for the legislation, again the Labour party attacked it. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who was the official spokesman for the Labour party when the bill was discussed, said that it could be regarded only as an attack on the trade unions. He went on to say -
It will grossly and unnecessarily interfere with the control and administration of the trade unions and take the first step towards the destruction of a free trade union movement. It is a provocative measure and will cause further deterioration of industrial relations, with a tragic effect on the economy of this country. It will be bound to cause the greatest of ill-feeling. The proposals are bad from every stand-point. They will bring disaster on the economy of Australia.
Those were the words used by honorable gentlemen opposite at that time. But now the honorable member for Yarra tells us that he and his colleagues support this legislation whole-heartedly and that they have the organized forces of the trades union movement behind them. The honorable member must believe that on this issue our memories are very short. Surely he knows that as recently as J anu.ary this year, at the biennial conference of the Labour party held in Adelaide, the Leader of the Opposition and his followers rejected a motion by the industrial groups for the support of our secret ballot procedure. Mr. Short, the secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association, who lias been acclaimed in, at any rate, some sections of the Labour party, described’ the rebuff that he and others received from the Leader of the Opposition and his followers as “ a victory for communism “. Now, when honorable members opposite see that our legislation has been remarkably successful in ridding the ranks of the trade unions of the Communist menace, and that union after union is seeking, by this democratic method, to rid itself of the encumbrance of communism, some of them have developed a new-found enthusiasm for our proposals. I invite the honorable member for Yarra to say whether the official trade union movement, through its resolutions, lias yet decided to support the secret ballot legislation of this Government. I say that it has not done so. It is quite clear that the honorable member for East Sydney does not support our legislation. Now, with the Communists attacking it, the Opposition says that we have lost enthusiasm for the legislation and that it has been left to the Labour party to uphold it. Where is the Labour party upholding the legislation to-night? How many members of the Opposition are on the side of the “ honorable member for Yarra, and how many are on the side of the honorable member for East Sydney? I leave honorable members opposite to sort that out amongst themselves. I say that our enthusiasm for this legislation has never wavered. Our confidence that it would prove to be successful has been completely justified. We are determined to stand by our officers, who can rely on our unwavering support at any time they want it.
The honorable member for Yarra, who claims to be so interested in these matters, apparently is not aware that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in a public statement made on the 27th August, dealt with them in some detail. Speaking of the position of Mr. Nance and Mr. Martin, he said that they were beyond re:proach and that no one seriously believed otherwise. He explained that that had been made plain already in statements by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) and myself. The AttorneyGeneral’s Department came to the conclusion, however, that civil proceedings promoted by the officers concerned was the only remaining remedy. The AttorneyGeneral and an officer of his department communicated several weeks ago with Mr. Nance and Mr. Martin, and asked them if they wished to initiate civil proceedings. Both officers expressly indicated their disinclination to do so. They considered that, coming from so tainted a source, the attacks carried no weight among people whose opinion was of any value. If Mr. Nance and Mr. Martin had wished to initiate civil proceedings, they could have relied upon the full support of this Government.
– It was a rotten scandal.
– The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) will withdraw those unparliamentary words.
– I said-
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw those words.
– What were they?
– Order ! The honorable member knows quite well the words he used.
– I said it was a scandal.
– The honorable member will withdraw the words that he used.
– The word “ scandal “ is not unparliamentary. I refuse to withdraw it.
– I shall give the honorable member another chance to withdraw the words that he used. If he does not do so, I shall name him. The onus is on him.
– Do you rule, Mr. Chairman, that the word “ scandal “ is unparliamentary ?
– I have asked for a withdrawal of the words “ rotten scandal “. I give the honorable member a last chance to withdraw them.
– Very well, I withdraw them.
– I hope that the Labour party will resolve the differences within its own ranks and at last give full support to the secret ballot legislation of this Government.
– Order! The time allotted for the discussion of the proposed votes for the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and. National Service, the Department of National Development, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr.Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr.Eric J.. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr.speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Explosives Act - Regulations - Order - Berthing of a Vessel.
Pearl Fisheries Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1053, No.84.
Services Trust Fund Act - Services Canteen Trust Fund - Report for 1952.
Whaling Industry Act - Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Whaling Commission, for period 1st April, 1952, to 31st March, 1953.
House adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 September 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530930_reps_20_hor1/>.