21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The question that I address to the Treasurer arises from the judgment recently given in a case in Melbourne, in which a person was acquitted of a charge of having counterfeited coins because, in his defence, he said that the counterfeit coins would bc used in the manufacture of jewellery. Is it possible for the Government to protect the genuine sovereign by causing an amendment to be made to the law so as to make the counterfeiting of gold coinage a punishable offence ?
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN. This matter is at present the Subject of inquiry by officers of the Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department. As soon as a report is received from the- Attorney-General’s Department, it will be considered by the Government, which realises that the counterfeiting of gold coins is a most important matter that affects not only Australia but also Other members df the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– I remind the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that a representative meeting of berry fruit interests and members of Parila- ment was held at Hobart on the 28th June last in order to prepare a case in favour of the granting of assistance to the berry fruit industry in Tasmania; which is threatened with extinction. Can the right honorable gentleman tell me whether any progress is being made in response to representations that have been made to him for the revival and stabilization of the industry, as well as for the discovery of new markets for berry fruits at economic prices? The farmers want to know what plans to make for the future.
– Many representations have been made to the Government on behalf of the berry fruits industry. In fact, I can recall offhand three deputations of Government supported S ff om both Houses that have been introduced to me. The Government some time ago gave consideration to specific proposals that were made to it that, having regard to the problems of certain berry growers, a subsidy Should be paid to them. The Government does not consider that problems of this kind can be solved merely by the payment of a subsidy to those who are in need. Therefore, a close study was made of the possibility of devising a commercial solution of the general problem. As a result of the activities of the Government’s trade commissioner service, am interested party was discovered in
London and persuaded to come to Aus- tralia. Last year he bought the whole of the black currant crop. This has opened a completely new vista for the industry. The policy that I have mentioned must continue to apply to the growers of other berries in respect of which a commercial solution has not yet been discovered. However-, the person to whom I have referred will shortly visit Australia again, I understand, and I am confident that, as a result of the activities of the trade commissioner service, there will bc an opportunity for the expansion of our black currant industry at least.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I draw attention to a- misleading report of a question that I asked in this House yesterday, which appears in the Sydney Daily Telegraph to-day. I shall read first the question that I asked the Postmaster-General yesterday. It was as follows: -
Is it practicable, without interfering with the democratic privilege of the Austraiian people to hear the proceedings of the Parlia- incut broadcast without the distortion and selective suppression that vitiates other media of public information, to transfer the whole or part of the Parliamentary broadcasts over New South Wales radio stations either to a third channel, if this is technically practicable, or to a station or stations other than station 2BL, many of whose listeners, I understand, prefer culture to controversy!
A leading article in this morning’s Daily Telegraph, under the heading “ Too gassy ! “, in which parliamentary broadcasts were attacked, contains the following paragraph: -
Parliamentary broadcasts originally were an interesting experiment: but it was an experiment that failed. . As Mr. turner (Lib., X.S.W.) said yesterday the people prefer culture to controversy.
I do not need to add anything to my question to show that the leading article in the Daily Telegraph is completely misleading. I wont out of my way to indicate that, fis far as I was concerned, parliamentary proceedings should be broadcast, but I pointed out that this should be done through a third channel, or a station or stations other than 2BL. There could be no better example of the very thing of which I complained, that is, selective suppression that vitiates other media df pu’blic information - in this instance, the press - than the . paragraph of the. leading article in this morning’s Daily Telegraph which I have read to the House.
– I preface a question to the Minister for External Affairs by reminding Mm that the Department of External Affairs acquired from the Indian Government a perpetual lease of approximately twelve acres of land in the diplomatic area in New Delhi, India, for the erection of offices and residences for the Australian High Commissioner and his staff. A premium of £95,000 was paid for the lease. “Will the Minister inform me of the progress that has been made in the erection of the buildings, the present position in this matter, and the expenditure to date?
– Speaking from memory, houses for three of the staff of the Australian High Commissioner in India have been substantially completed. A fourth house is in course of construction. I do not think that a residence and offices for the High Commissioner have yet been begun. I shall ascertain the amount of expenditure to date, and advise the honorable member of particulars of it as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister, for Health. Reports have appeared in our newspapers from time to time of the activities of sexual perverts, and the custom of treating them as ordinary offenders and then letting them loose on the community. I refer particularly to attacks ‘by perverts on young children. Will the Minister inform the House whether any consideration has been given either by himself or the Department of Health, to the institution of a concerted attempt to remove this blot upon our social system and our record as a civilized nation, so that these offenders may be treated as mentally diseased persons, not as persons who should be dealt with under the penal code.
– The honorable member should know quite well that, except in relation to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, the matter that he has raised is within the control of the State governments and I understand that considerable attention has been given to this problem in the States, but without a proper solution of it having been found.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is true that many clients of the Commonwealth Bank are transferring their business accounts to private banks because the Commonwealth Bank is refusing to give loan and overdraft accommodation for legitimate business dealings. Is it also true that people who seek from the Commonwealth Bank financial aid for home building are turned away, and advised to apply to private banks for it whilst, conversely, the Commonwealth Bank is prepared to lend the same people money for the purchase of Holden motor cars? If these are facts, will the Treasurer instruct the management of the Commonwealth Bank to cease this unwise practice, and see that the people’s bank performs the proper function for which it was founded by the Fisher Labour Government?
– I should be surprised if the circumstances stated by the honorable gentleman are based on fact. However, I shall inquire into the matter and let him know the position.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs comment on the request made by the Government of Indonesia that the problem of the sovereignty of West New Guinea be discussed by the General Assembly of the United Nations? Is he of the opinion that a satisfactory solution of the problem can be found in that way? Does he consider that the extensive economic and administrative difficulties with which the Government of Indonesia is already confronted will permit that government to exercise over West New Guinea a sovereignty that will be conducive to political stability in that area, or indeed, to the best interests of the native inhabitants of it? Does the Minister agree that, whilst Australia desires to have the most friendly relations with Indonesia, we are bound, in the interests of our own security to be concerned about the sovereignty of that area?
– The Australian Government’s attitude towards Dutch New Guinea has been frequently the subject of precise and distinct expression by me, on behalf of the Government, the last occasion, I think, being in a chapter of a book which I wrote and published only a few months ago, which dealt with, I believe, every point of view on this matter, I hope, in a fair way. On many occasions previous to that one, I had stated, on behalf of the Government, Australia’s view of the matter. I said on these occasions that it was the clear and distinct view of the Australian Government that sovereignty in Dutch New Guinea resides in the Government of the Netherlands. In saying so, I expressed, and still express the firm opinion of the Government and the opinion of the whole of the Australian people, as frequently reflected in the press when this matter becomes a live issue. I fail to see that any good purpose could be served by this matter being taken to the United Nations, and I think I forecast the attitude of the Government by saying that we shall resist the matter being included in the agenda for the forthcoming meeting of the General Assembly. However, it may be beyond Australia’s power to prevent it from being discussed at the United Nations. If and when it is discussed we shall again, with force but, I hope, without heat, express our view of it. Dutch New Guinea is of very great strategic importance to Australia. We believe that the legal facts of the case, going right back to the sittings of the round table conference a number of years ago, are that the Dutch made their position completely clear and that Dutch New Guinea was excluded from what was then the Netherlands East Indies, in connexion with the transfer of the sovereignty of those islands from the Dutch to the Indonesians. However, I do not wish to canvass, in answer to a question, or even attempt to canvass, everything that could be said about this issue. I think one could say, without any disrespect to the
Indonesian Government, that the interests of the native population would be very much better served under Dutch administration than under Indonesian administration. I hasten to add that I express that opinion without intending disrespect to the Indonesian Government. I base it on the existence of the great series of problems with which the Indonesian Government is faced throughout its territory.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question on Dutch Kew Guinea that is supplementary to the question addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. Will the Prime Minister make a bold statement of Australia’s policy in relation to Dutch New Guinea, pointing out that the Australian people have no interest in non-existent problems of self-determination, colonialism and ethnology? The Minister for External Affairs, in answer to the earlier question, said that the matter will not be referred to the United Nations. In view of that answer, I ask whether the Government has considered purchasing Dutch New Guinea in the manner in which the United States of America negotiated what is known as the Louisiana purchase, and the acquisition of Alaska and Florida, payment to the Dutch to be made in goods and services for the rehabilitation of the East Indies?
– I appreciate and welcome the Opposition’s new-found solicitude for the position of the Dutch. The honorable member’s question is supplementary to one addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, who repeatedly has stated the Australian Government’s attitude in unequivocal terms. The Cabinet entirely subscribes to the statement my right honorable colleague has made.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, since the establishment of the Commonwealth Security Service, it has been the practice for both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to be kept fully and promptly informed, of any important developments affecting national security? If so, has the practice been invariably followed? If there have been any departures from it will the Prime Minister state whether they were made by his direction, approval, or knowledge?
– I have not failed to observe that a royal commission has been invited to consider some matters of this kind. I propose to adopt the practice of not discussing on the floor of this House matters which are the concern of that royal commission. I hope that the House will agree with that view because if 1 have to depart from it I shall not be the one to be sorry.
– Oan the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the telephone conversations of reputable citizens of this country are still being tapped by officers of the Commonwealth security service? If that is so, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to limit this totalitarian practice to persons whom a Supreme Court judge is satisfied may be engaged in espionage activities ?
– I do not know-
– What does the right honorable gentleman know?
– If I said everything I knew, the honorable member for Watson would not be here. In answer to the question, I offer the observation that counter espionage is not a simple matter and is not one to be discussed in public while espionage goes on in private. I shall be no party to its public discussion.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs state the generally accepted meaning of the word “ containment “ as used by the United States authorities in relation to their policy towards the Soviet Union?
– I think that the term, “ policy of containment “, arose six or seven years ago in the United States of America. I believe it to mean that the United States of America would seek to resist any further incursions by international communism into the territories of the democracies. I believe it reflects a policy of “ thus far and no farther “. I do not want to be led into an attempt to interpret the foreign policy of any other country, but I think that one can say that fine policy of? “ containment “ occupied1 the - mind’s and influenced-‘ the thinking of the1 Truman, Administration1 in the United States’; I should not’ be surprised1 if. i£ also influenced1 the. thinking of the United States, present- administration.
– I should like’ to preface* a question tfr the Minister for Supply b.y- reading, from paragraphs’ 40. a-nd. 42. of” the annual- report of the: Australian Aluminium Production- Committee in connexion, with* bauxite: supplies, which, reads: as follows;: -
Om the scale, of production, of aluminium at present contemplated,, the discovery of Marchinbar Island is sufficient to maintain’ the industry for 1’50 years’ and allow a- substantial margin- foc expansion.
Marchinbar is’ off the coast’ of the Northern Territory. The report continues -
As tHe development of the. proved bauxite deposit’s! fir. Slits Northern- Territory cannot be under-taken: for some considerable: time, the Commission, has. continued with its plan- to commence operations at Bell Bay with imported bauxite of the highest grade that can be obtained economically;, and’ of. a type, the characteristics, of which under operating conditions aru- well known to it’s technical consultants;
– The plant, at Bell. Bay is- expected to. be ready for aluminium production early next yeas.
– The Minister said that last year.
– That rs quite right. And7, indeed”, it already would- have gone into production but for the difficulties’ of the Tasmanian Government in supplying the requisite.- electrical power. With regard to the remainder’ of the honorable member’s question, I point out that a survey of the Marchinbar area wai not conducted’ purely for the purpose of discovering bauxite reserves foi: the Bell Bay plant. That, no doubt, was in the minds’ of the commission when it decided to undertake the survey, but also in its mind’ was< the’ f act’ that if it. could> be proved that there was1 a. large- reserve of high-grade- Bauxite in Australian territory; that would’ be’ of great strategic, importance, not merely for- the. Bell Bay plant, but’ also1 for the Australian economy generally; Moreover,, it’ might. well, attract financial and: other interests, to- Australia, who. would like to. see other aluminium production elsewhere in. Australia or. its territories.. All that X Gan say is. that, already wei have; a substantial reserve, of imported bauxite’ in- Australia, for. the purpose of beginning production at. Bell Bay, and we propose to use that up before we take up, the question- whether we will use Australian bauxite’.
– -My, question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I” understand’ that at: a recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, problems associated’ with the marketing- of potatoes- in- Australia were- discussed’, and it1 was- decided that a further meeting of representatives’ of all the- States who- were- interested1, would’ be held- iii. order to reach some finality about the- matter: Was- Queensland! whose potato-growers are vitally interested in this matter included in the- second meeting, and. what, waa the. result, of.’ the meeting!
– Recently the potato exporting’ States; of Victoria and Tasmania have really been in-, trouble1 about the reduction of value of their potatoes: In1 recent previous’ years it; has1 been a matter of the importing States- being in trouble. As so. outcome- of this situation a, discussion, was arranged a* the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, held about four weeks ago’ and a conclusion was reached that the States which regarded themselves, as being concerned should: hold: a meeting under’ the convention of the- Victorian Minister for Agriculture,. Mr. Stoneham-. I agreed, on behalf of the- ‘Commonwealth-, to make available an officer who had had experience of the complex problems of potato marketing during- the war years. That meeting, at which Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania were represented, took place in Melbourne last Monday, and; certain recommendations were made. The Commonwealth officer gave advice when it was sought from him. The Queensland Government, or its officers, were not represented at the meeting. That Government certainly would have had every opportunity had its Minister, who attended the previous Australian Agricultural Council meeting, exhibited a desire to be represented at the Melbourne meeting. I cannot explain exactly why it was so except that Queensland is not a major customer or a major marketing State, although it has a potato problem.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation investigate the charge made by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited of a shilling a loaf on bread sent from Cooktown to Coen? Will he also investigate the company’s charge of fi a cwt. for carrying food supplies to assist the development of the north, from Cairns to northern towns? Further, will he make a complete investigation into freight rates charged by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for carrying goods between Cairns and Thursday Island and to towns between those two points?
– I shall be pleased to look into the matters to which the honorable member has referred. I point out, however, that we fix the ceiling freight rates and it is a matter for the airline operators to decide how far under the ceiling their charges will be. They make their own arrangements. I shall be pleased to let the honorable member have the rates on specific items if he asks for them.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question that is supplementary to a question asked by the honorable member for Leichhardt. I preface my question by pointing out that I have received a number of telegrams of protest against the drastic action of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in substantially increasing the air freight on newspapers carried from Brisbane to centres in northern and western Queensland. In consequence, there has been a substantial increase of the price of newspapers to residents in those districts. Will the Minister have the matter investigated with a view to a restoration of the freight charges to their former level as the new impost is another penalty on the longsuffering public of northern and western Queensland and amounts to exploitation.
– The suggestion that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is responsible for the increased charges is wrong and the honorable member’s statement, therefore, gives a false impression. Both the airlines concerned impose the same scale of charges. My department has had access to the books of both companies, and it is satisfied that the rise of 5 per cent, was justified. Newspapers are regarded as freight, and they are transported by air at the same freight rates as those that are charged for other cargo. The department is satisfied that the charges are just and equitable and both companies are in agreement upon them.
– Does the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation agree that the helicopter has now established itself as a practicable instrument for certain purposes, in both peace and war? Has the honorable gentleman had ari opportunity of perusing a recent statement by the British Minister for War in relation to the increasing reliance by the British defence forces upon this form of aviation? Does the Minister agree that in Australia helicopters should be considered for two special uses - for defence against submarines operating off the coast, and in prospecting for uranium? Is it a fact that very few helicopters are available in Australia at present, and that for some technical reason the few available machines are usually grounded ? If that is so, will the Minister consider the whole matter and, if necessary; confer upon it with his colleagues, the Minister for the Navy and Minister for the Army, and the Minister for Supply, and ascertain whether Australian policy should be re-orientated with a view to increasing the use of helicopters for the purposes that I have mentioned ?
– The honorable member’s questions have covered a tremendous amount of ground. The helicopter, as I think every one will agree, has an enormous potential, but at present the machine is still in the experimental stage. Australia has had a small number of helicopters for service evaluation, and experience “of them has not been happy. Their use in searching for mineral deposits, as the honorable member has suggested, would probably be a matter for the State governments, except in relation to Commonwealth territories. We must appreciate the many limitations of the helicopter. It is a short-range machine, which cannot be flown in cloud. In bad weather it becomes very hazardous and consequently almost useless. The helicopter is very costly and its maintenance expense is almost prohibitive. In spite of these shortcomings, there is much merit in the suggestions that may be inferred from the honorable member’s questions, and I shall be pleased to discuss the matter in detail with technical officers of the Department of Air and the Department of Civil Aviation.
– Can the Minister for Territories inform the House of the position that will exist under the new ordinances in the Northern Territory when a person who was granted a 99 years’ lease as a resident owner, desires to sell his lease? Will companies be permitted to purchase such leases? If not, will this not destroy the value of the asset and deter banks from advancing loans to such lessees ?
– The condition contained in the Crown Lands Ordinance in respect of pastoral homestead leases is that they can be transferred only to an approved person. More favorable conditions are given to the resident owner than to the non-resident owner, and to retain those conditions it is necessary that the terms on which they are granted should be continued. The point which the honorable member for Farrer obviously has in mind concerns the situation which might arise if a person who held a pastoral homestead lease were to die or retire from the lease for a less drastic cause and if the value of his estate were affected by the fact that it could be transferred only to an approved person. That problem is engaging the attention of our advisers at the present time. We wish to make sure that the ordinance will have the effect which it is intended to have, which is to give more favorable conditions to the resident owner and that in doing so it will not in any way penalize him or reduce the value of his security in comparison with the value of the security which a company would have.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to a statement made by the president of the Chamber of Manufactures, Mr. Vine, in the course of which, when referring to certain industries-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman should not use the name of a person when asking a question. That has become out of order since he was previously a member of the House.
– I wish to know whether there is any truth in the statement of the president of the Chamber of Manufactures that our defence industries are in. a condition that is frightening and may not be able to meet the requirements of the country in the event of another war. Has the Minister a reassuring statement to make to the House and the country generally on this matter ?
– I did not see the statement referred to by the honorable member, but I am positive that any suggestion that the condition of our industries is bad can be disproved by the facts. I state as one example the iron and steel industries which, after all, are the basis of our defence activities. It is necessary only to look at the recent balance sheets of organizations which produce iron and steel for proof that such a statement as that to which the honorable member has referred is not correct.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that, although approximately half of the last New South Wales crop of broom millet remains unsold, it has been reported that broom millet of European origin is being imported ? Does the Minister know of the danger of importing ‘-the European ‘corn-borer, and can he ‘say whether these millet imports are being adequately checked against the introduction of this ‘borer ?
-PAGE. - There is a complete embargo against the use of millet that nas corn-borer ‘in it. I take it that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is attending to the matter .and is ensuring that no such millet is brought .in.
– ‘Oan the Minister for External Affairs give the House any information in relation to the work of the Australian surgical demonstration team that was sent to Malaya several months ago under the Colombo plan? Does the Minister think that this “kind of aid can be extended to other countries in ‘South-East Asia?
– Jil. B. K. Bank, :a distinguished plastic : facial surgeon, of Melbourne, was kind enough to .accede to .my request, a few months ago, .that he should go to Singapore and Malaya to perform a series of demonstration operations mostly on young people whose .faces had been wholly or partially -destroyed by some of the dreadful diseases that .exist in that part’ of the world. The visit arose from the fact ‘that a young Malayan boy had been sent, as the result of a public subscription, to Australia ‘to have his face restored. The operation was very successful, and it had a wonderful effect on the local population in Malaya. It was following a “large number of requests for the performance of ‘similar operations that I asked Mr. Rank to go “to Malaya. He was given “his expenses for i;he journey, but -otherwise ‘he received no remuneration. He took, as an assistant, a young surgeon from the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Mr. .Bank held ‘approximately 75 consultations and ^performed on selected patients nearly 4’G demonstration operations, at which a number of local surgeons were present to study -the technique. The visit was an outstanding success. I have received fervent letters of thanks from Mr. ‘Malcolm Macdonald, General Templer and eminent .medical people in that coun’try. I hope that we shall be able to extend further ‘similar help to Malaya and perhaps other ‘Colombo plan countries.
– In view of the fact that on former occasions -complete .and accurate details of budget provisions have been published in evening newspapers several hours before the information has beer released to the Parliament, will :the Treasurer assure the House . that every precaution is being taken .to protect the secrecy of the budget that will .be presented to-night? If a remarkably .accurate forecast is .made by .the press on ‘this occasion, will the Treasurer .take .steps to investigate the leakage?
– .The [budget is kept a very close .secret. ‘That secret will be revealed to-night.
– Is the .Minister for Commence and Agriculture aware .that orders that lave been placed .for superphosphate on a cash with order basis over the past three months .have been returned because, as .the distributors have -explained, it is impossible to . fulfil those orders until next year?
– My understanding’ of the situation is that that position obtains only in New South Wales. I .believe that im all the other States “there are adequate .supplies of superphosphate to meet the demand. In .New South Wales there has been such a large increase of .the demand for .superphosphate, which .doubtless is -due to the prosperity , of the primary producers .as a result of the policy the Government has pursued, that although the quantity manufactured has .more than doubled, the demand still exceeds the supply. The Government is doing .every- thing that is possible to assist “the companies that are trying to improve their production facilities, and will continue to do so. We are very glad .to :see the measure of demand that exists.
– As n new instrument has been designed for using gamma rays emitted from isotopes for ‘the purpose of taking pictures on X-ray film of castings and other industrial materials, will the Minister for Air -and Minister fm Civil Aviation inform the House whether, the use of. such instruments lias? been, considered by. the departments* under, his: administration fox the inspection of aircraf t frames and other materials, used. in. aircraft?. If. those instruments, have. been, used in Australia, have the; results: obtained proved satisfacr tory? If the instruments have not been used, will the Minister consider a full investigation of” this- new development ?
-! know that work has been done, with radio-active isotopes as the honorable member, has indicated, but the problem is a fairly technical one. I believe that the isotopes that are. now available are more useful in connexion with the construction of aircraft than in the. routine inspections, for. airworthiness and’ similar tests. In addition, most aircraft are constructed either of aluminium, or magnesium alloys, and the conventional X-ra>y or gamma ray has been found to be more suitable for tests of those metals than the new radio-active isotopes. The use of isotopes is. principally confined to iron and steel and similar metals. Aircraft are complex structures and cannot be pulled to pieces and’ put together again. Radio-active isotopes cannot be used in, a practical way* for the examination of the riveting and welding of an aircraft. Australian airlines have a record for freedom from accidents that is the envy of every other country,’ and’ the’ indications are that our standards of inspection are very high. Those standards are not fixed by the companies who fly the aircraft but by the Department of Civil Aviation and the maintenance routines and schedules are very strict., The aeronautical research laboratories are doing, some work on the radio-active isotope theory. I shall make inquiries about this work and* furnish any further information that is available to the honorable member.
– Has- the Minister for External’ Affairs anything to add to the statement he made in reply to a question asked by me recently with regard to the need for immediate and urgent assistance to anti-Communist refugees, in Indo-China? If nothing has been done in., this. matter, will the Government treat it as urgent?
– Yes;, the. matter, is: definitely in hand.
– It. aught to be. The people concerned are* starving;,
Ma-: CASE.Y.r- The? Government acted some days- ago in respect of this- matter: r have no. statement of a definitive nature to make, 011 it at. the moment, but I shall make such, a statement, at an early date. I assure the honorable member that’ the Government had not; been idle on the subject even* before ha asked1 his question.
– Is the. Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of the circumstances in. which the representative of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board at Port. Kembla recently resigned his office? Has. the Minister received, complaints from other employees of. tha board that this man was treated so unfairly that he was. forced to resign? Will the Minister have the matter investigated in order to ascertain’ whether those com-* plaints are justified?.
-.; - At the moment, I have no information- about the subject that the honorable member, has raised, but I shall have an investigation made and convey to him any facts: inwhich I believe he would be interested.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison’) agreed to -
That so- ranch of the Standing, Orders- be suspended as would, prevent the faking of all’ necessary steps, for the: introduction! of the budget and. resolutions, and bills, consequent thereon, and’ motions for the first and second readings’ of such bills.
Motions, (by Sir Eric Harrison). agreed to -
That the House will”, at. a’ later hour thisday, resolve itself, into a committee to. consider the. Supply to be granted, to Her Majesty:
That the House will, at a later hour this. day., resolve itself into a committee, to consider the- Ways and1 Means for raising the Supply to be granted1- to Her Majesty…
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration in the Committee of Ways and Means of resolutions relating to Wine Grapes Charges and a Meat Export Charge, and the introduction and motions for the first and second readings of the following bills: -
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wine Overseas Marketing Act. 1929-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to authorize the Australian Wine Board to expend part of its funds on the advertising of wine and brandy in Australia. The board is the statutory authority set up under the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1953 to supervise and regulate the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of Australian wine. It derives its funds from the industry itself by means of a levy paid by wineries and distilleries on grapes delivered to them for use in producing wine, brandy and distillation spirit. The levy is collected by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture under the provisions of the Wine Grapes Charges Act and is paid to the board for administrative expenditure, research and overseas publicity. The board, with the support of the Federal Viticultural Council, has now sought amending legislation to increase the maximum rates of levy to be collected under the Wine Grapes Charges Act. With such additional funds the board would be in a position to carry out intensive marketing publicity in Australia and overseas. However, it is first necessary to amend the Wine Overseas Marketing Act to place beyond doubt the constitutional power of the board to conduct publicity activities within Australia.
There is no doubt that a properly co-ordinated publicity drive in Australia and overseas would help the wine industry. Sales in Australia have contracted in recent years and efforts to expand the overseas trade have been severely handicapped by the high United Kingdom tariff on wine, and by other factors. At the same time, production has been steadily increasing. Stocks of Australian wines held here and in the United Kingdom have reached a very high level and it is clear that a heavy vintage next year could create a very real storage problem. Prices of wine grapes fell sharply in the last two seasons, and this led to requests for Australian Government intervention and assistance. The industry believes that expansion of sales can be achieved by a national publicity campaign to supplement brand advertising by individual winemakers. The amendment of the act proposed in this bill will authorize the board to use moneys collected under the Wine Grapes Charges Act for publicity purposes within Australia. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means :
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That in lieu of the maximum rate imposed by the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929-194.1, the maximum rate of charge be -
in respect of fresh grapes, Ten shillings per ton; and
in respect of dried grapes, One pound ten shillings per ton.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. McEwen and Mr. Hasluck do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929-1941 to authorize an increase in the maximum rates of levy that may be collected on grapes delivered to wineries and distilleries. The Wine Grapes Charges Act now provides for the collection from winemakers and distillers of levies up to a maximum of 5s. a ton in respect of fresh grapes and 15s. a ton in respect of dried grapes. The actual rates, within those maximum levels, are prescribed by regulation. The present prescribed rates are 4s. and 12s. a ton respectively. The funds derived from those levies are used by the Australian Wine Board for administrative expenditure, overseas advertising and research. This bill seeks to raise the existing maximum rates from 5s. to 10s. a ton in respect of fresh grapes, and from 15s. to 30s. a ton in respect of dried grapes.
The proposal has been advanced by the Australian Wine Board with the strong support of the Federal Viticultural Council, which is the federal voluntary organization of Australian wine-makers and distillers. Stocks are accumulating, and if the production of Australian wine and brandy is to continue at the level of the quantities produced in recent years, active sales promotion and publicity campaigns to be promoted by the Australian Wine Board, and involving increased expenditure, will be necessary in Australia and overseas. The maximum rates of levy prescribed in the act at the present time were fixed as far back as 1929, and increases are now necessary to enable sufficient funds to be collected for the purposes of the board. The Wine Grapes Charges Act is complementary in its operation to the Wine Overseas Marketing Act. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That, in lieu of the charges at the rates provided by the Meat Export Charges Act 1935, a charge be imposed at a rate or rates in accordance with this resolution, but otherwise in accordance with that Act.
That, subject to the next succeeding paragraph, the rate of the charge be one-tenth of a penny for each pound of meat exported.
That regulations under the Meat Export Charges Act 1935, as amended by the Act passed to give effect to this resolution, may, after report to the Minister by the Australian Meat Board constituted under the Meat Export Control Act 1935-1953-
prescribe the rate of the charge; or
prescribe different rates of the charge for different classes of meat, but so that no rate specified in the regulations shall exceed the rate specified in the last preceding paragraph.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. McEwen and Mr. Hasluck do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
Mr. McEWEN (Murray - Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture) [3.28]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is for the purpose of amending the rate of levy chargeable on meat exported from Australia in pursuance of the provisions of the Meat Export Charges Act 1935. Until May, 1947, export levies were collected under the authority of that act, paid into Consolidated Revenue, appropriated out of revenue and paid to the Australian Meat Board. The board financed its activities from the funds so obtained. The Australian Meat Board was reconstituted in 1946, when it was given added powers to act as a buyer and seller of meat on behalf of the Commonwealth for the purpose of carrying out the Commonwealth’s obligations under the bulk meat contracts with the United Kingdom Government. Then the government of the day decided that it would be more appropriate for the board to finance its activities by withholding from its suppliers a small percentage of the United
Kingdomcontractprice, instead of imposing a charge onexports. As a result ofthis decision,the operationof the MeatExport ChargesAct was suspended in May,1947,by a generalexemption order made under section4oftheprincipal act. “Honorablemembers are a warethatbulk trading in meatbetween Australia and the BritishMinistry of Foodunderthe Government-to-Government contractwill cease completely onthe 30th September, l954, followingthedecisionofthe British Government todecontrolthe meattrade inthe UnitedKingdom.As a result, the Australian Meat Boardwillbeno longer ina position to finance its operations from trading activities. After reviewing the situation, theboardhas recommended unanimously that the levy under the Meat
Export Charges Act be reimposed and that the maximum rateof levy be increased. The boardhas statedthatthe maximum rates of charge prescribed by the 1935 act wouldbemuch too low to finance the operating costs of the board under present conditions. As the act now stands, the maximum charge permitted onbeef, for example, which is the most important meat exportcommodity, is only½d. a quarter, or about1/80d per lb. The newmaximum rate recommended by the board for all meat exported is one-tenth of one penny per lb. The board has estimated that the maximum rates of charge existingat present, if applied for a full year, would give arevenue of about £22,000 on : an export of about 208,000 tons. In 1 9 52-53, theboard spent approximately that amount on contributions to special projects, including trade exhibitions, carcass competitions and extension services.
The cessation of bulk trading will decrease the administrative activities of the board and, consequently, its actual administrative expenses. However, the return to private trading and the cessation ofrationing and distribution controls in the United Kingdom have placed emphasis on the need to publicize meat, particularly Australian meat, in our overseas markets, and on the importance of such publicity. This work will be a major responsibilityof the board, which is giving active consideration to the matter.
At the present time,the boardhas reserve funds in the Meat Industry Advancement Trust Account. This account comprises moneys made available to the boardby the Commonwealthfrom profits made bythe Commonwealth Meat (Controller during the war years. The transfer of these moneys to the board was conditional on their being reserved for research work ‘and similar projects. ‘Originally., thetrust accountwasin creditto the extent ofabout £500,000,’butalready the board has used asubstantial partofthis sumto purchase properties inQueensland for useby theCommonwealth Scientific andIndustrialResearch Organization and theQueensland Departmentof Agriculture for research work. Ithas committed itself also toa grant of £50,000 tothe Faculty ofVeterinaryScience ofthe University ofSydney. Thereare alsoreservefunds inthe board’s general accounts amounting to approximately £500,000. These funds were built upmostly fromprofits made by the board on stocks in store atthe end ofa contract yearwhichwere subsequently sold to the Ministry of Food at increased contract prices in the ‘following contract year. The other source of the reserves held in the board’s general accounts was theprofit made in trading with North America in1951-52and 1953-53. The reasonswhy theboard entered thisfield of tradingwere fully explained at the time.
The board paid the Australian meatworks a fair price for the meat, including appropriate allowances for treatment, wrapping and other special services. In 1951-52, the board made a profit of about £66,000 from this trade. However, in the following year the market situation deteriorated, and losses of about £35,000 were incurred, thus leaving a net profit of about £31,000 from two years’ trading. Since 1952-53 this trade has reverted to normal business channels.
It is emphasized that these funds are producers funds to be held for their benefit. The Australian Meat Board is strongly of the opinion that they should not be used to finance current administrative expenses while the industry is enjoying buoyantconditions. Within the maximum fixed by the act. the actual export charge may be varied for the different classes of meat and will be a rate or rates prescribed by regulation on the receipt of a recommendation from the board, which will have regard to the circumstances of the industry at the time. It is expected that a recommendation from the board will he received in time for the regulation prescribing the new rate8 of charge to become operative from approximately the 1st October, 1954. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. POLLARD’ adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That leave be given to bT-ing in a bill for an act to facilitate the -borrowing of money by the holders of certain Crown leases of land in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make it -easier for the resident pastoralist in the Northern Territory to obtain credit for the development of his property. The bill marks another stage in the actions which the Government has been taking both to build up the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory and to bring about the desirable social effect of ensuring that the development of the resources of the Territory is accompanied by an increase in the number of permanent residents -establishing their homes and their families in the Territory.
One of the earliest steps which the Government took in that direction was to amend the land tenure system in the Northern Territory so as to give a more favorable tenure to the resident owner. We are hoping that, as a result of th«! passage of the Crown Lands Ordinance of the Northern Territory, pastoralists will convert their leaseholds to the form of perpetual leasehold known as the pastoral homestead lease. We are also hoping that, as more land becomes available for application in the Northern Territory, we may be able to attract to the Territory young, energetic and practical people who will make the Territory their home. In order to promote that objective, we not only have to make the land available but we also should try to see that those “who obtain the pastoral homestead leaseholds will have the capital resources necessity to develop them.
A cattle station in the Northern Territory -requires a large capital expenditure spread over a number of years in order to bring it into a full state of economic development. There may be differences of opinion as to the amount of capitalization which it is economic for a pastoral property to bear, and the figure varies considerably from property to property according to such factors as the type of country, access to markets, the type of cattle which can be turned off, and the price likely to be received. As a broad indication to the House of the sort of expenditure that is involved, I may mention that some cattle stations of moderate size in the Northern Territory carry a capital expenditure, spread over a number of years, up to £120,000. Expenditure is required on the provision of waters at a cost of possibly £4,000 each, some miles of fencing at a cost up to £400 a mile, homestead, staff quarters and other station buildings at a bare minimum cost of £15,000, and the building of yards and dips, quite apart from expenditure on the herd.
Broadly speaking, there is not a great number of young settlers who have that kind of capital at their disposal. In many cases their assets are their knowledge, their physical stamina and their pioneering spirit, plus enough capital to acquire a herd of a few thousand head and to give them their first dwelling. If they go on to new land, the Government provides the first two Waters for them so that they can move their cattle on to the run straight away. Most of those who go on to properties, either new or developed, find themselves limited in the early developmental period by the need for more capital. To some extent they can obtain finance through the existing institutions, but their leaseholds are seldom accepted as security for ah amount sufficient, in the early stages of development, to make progress possible and, if they give a lien over their stock, the terms are seldom sufficient to do more than meet their running expenses as an offset to their anticipated sales in each year.
In any land development, while the need for capital is clear, it is also necessary to watch carefully against two unintended results that could impair the final good result. One is the possibility of overcapitalization, or the spending of more on the land than the prospective returns from the land would justify. It is necessary to ensure that .expenditure on a property will give an economic return. The other is the possibility that, if credit is too easily obtainable, there will be an inflation of land values, which will also tend, over the years, to impede the economic use of the land. Thus, the administrative problem before the Government is to make credit available for the development of leaseholds, and, at the same time, to see that the availability of credit is closely related to all other factors. After careful consideration, the Government also decided that the existing financial institutions should be used, that it was neither necessary nor desirable to establish any new governmental instrumentality to achieve its purpose or to serve the needs of the prospective beneficiaries under the scheme in the Northern Territory. The bill, therefore, proposes to add to the credit facilities available to settlers of the Northern Territory by providing a guarantee to ‘the bank’s for advances additional to those which banks might be expected to make in the ordinary course of business and in the absence of a guarantee from the Commonwealth Treasury. In the definitions clause of the bill it is made clear that all banks doing this class of business can assist in the scheme. The upper limit of advances will be the value of leases plus permanent improvements, or a total of £30,000, whichever is the lesser. In effect, this means that a lease-holder will be able to obtain credit up to 100 per cent, of the value of his security, exclusive of his herd, subject to the provision that his total advance, at any time, shall not exceed £30,000. In the absence of a guarantee, the banks customarily grant credit only up to about 60 per cent, of the value of the security.
The best way for me to illustrate to the House how the scheme will operate is to take three examples from successive stages in the development of leaseholds. If a lease were in a relatively early stage of development, and the land and permanent improvements were valued at £20,000, a bank might be expected, in the norma) course of business, to advance £12,000. The Treasury will guarantee a further advance of £8,000, making available to the lease-holder a total credit of £20,000. If the lease had been developed to a stage where the land plus permanent improvements were valued at £30,000, the bank might be expected to advance £18,000. The Treasury will guarantee a further advance of £12,000, making a total credit of £30,000 available to the lease-holder for developmental purposes. If the lease had reached a stage of development where the land plus permanent improvements were valued at. £60,000, a bank might, in the normal course of business, be expected to advance, without guarantee, up to £36,000, if its officers were convinced that the property warranted such further expenditure. From these examples honorable members will see that the aim of the bill is that the Treasury shall back settlers until they can stand on their own financial feet and that the normal methods of obtaining credit will then be followed.
The bill provides that guaranteed advances may be made for the purpose of effecting permanent improvements to land the subject of leases, or partly for that purpose and partly for the purpose of discharging prior encumbrances in order to enable new first mortgages to be given as security. In other words, the bill will help a lease-holder so to improve his position as to be able to obtain credit in the normal way. It should induce a considerable increase of the amount of credit available in the Northern Territory. The increase will be probably far greater than the amount actually guaranteed by the Commonwealth. The granting of advances to pastoralists for purposes mentioned in the bill should become more attractive to the banks than’ in- the past. Therefore, the measure should stimulate their interest in the development of the Northern Territory and reduce the conservatism that they have previously evinced in the making of advances to settlers. It is confidently expected that the hill will he instrumental in bringing about a considerable improvement of the standard of pastoral properties. By this measure the Government is demonstrating its confidence in the future of the Northern Territory. It is hoped that this will stimulate the interest of business institutions in that development. The Government has had no direct experience of this kind of assistant to settlers in the Northern Territory, and consequently we shall watch very closely the application of the provisions of the bill. If necessary, in future, other steps will” be taken to help to ensure that the measures are adequate to achieve the result desired. The scheme can be adjusted to meet new needs or new opportunities. At the same time it must be watched closely. Although we want to encourage development, we do not want to reach that stage of careless expenditure and financial light-heartedness as a prelude to financial misery which characterized some of the earlier scheme of assisted settlement in Australia.
The conditions that I have mentioned in relation to pastoral homestead leases will apply, also, to agricultural leases in the Northern Territory. The limits to agriculture in the Territory are determined not only by the fact that most of the land is in a low rainfall area, but also that, in the areas of relatively higher rainfall, normally regarded as most suitable for agriculture, there is every year a rainless period of seven or eight months. Only a few rivers in the Northern Territory carry enough water to enable the establishment of irrigation schemes, within the conventional meaning of the term. In view of this seasonal situation, our problem is to find the crops that can be raised profitably in the Northern Territory. During the last three years much new work - totally new, as far as the Territory is concerned - has been carried out under the direction of the Administrator, Mr. Wise, in experimenting with various crops under field conditions. For a number of years, also, the Administration and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have co-operated in various experiments and trials at the Katherine experiment farm. More recently, we have begun investigations into water supplies, the best way of using the available water, and the problem of water control in the higher rainfall areas near Darwin. Those studies are continuing. With the help of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, extensive soil surveys have been carried out. Most of the soils with possible agricultural value have been already mapped, with a good deal of exactness. In addition, a few pioneer settlers have embarked on the production of foodstuffs for local consumption and, to a limited extent, bananas and peanuts for export.
The credit facilities provided by the bill will be available not only to the existing farmers in the Northern Territory, but also to persons who, as a result of the experimental work that is being carried out by the Government, may be encouraged to enter the agricultural industry in the Territory.
In passing, although it is not related to this bill, I might point out that, for some time, a scheme of advances to primary producers - mostly small men growing fresh foodstuffs in the vicinity of Darwin - has been administered locally by a primary producers’ board. Hitherto, the limit of advances by the board has been £600 to each settler. The Government has decided to raise that limit to £3,000. The purpose of the scheme administered by the board is mainly to assist small producers to obtain implements and equipment. That scheme is quite different from the scheme envisaged in the bill and was created to serve a different purpose.
In order that the proposals in this bill may be seen in relation to the background it might interest the House If I were to indicate, broadly the present scope of the pastoral and agricultural industries in the Northern Territory. They are far more extensive than is generally recognized by persons living in the southern States. Cattle are produced on 407 pastoral leases having a total area of 215,355 square miles. Not acres, mind you, but square miles. At first scrutiny, approximately 318 of those leases would appear to be held in a way that might qualify, them for’ conversion to pastoral, homestead leases; with perpetual tenure;, aud about. 89 held by companies would! qualify for conversion to leases with a 50-year tenure. Definite improvement conditions will be written into all. new leases granted under the Crown Land Ordinances. It is expected that some lease-holders may surrender areas on which they expect that they will be unable to maintain the required level of improvements. As an example of the way the policy will be applied in the Northern Territory, I refer honorable members to the statement that I made in- the House on the 7th April, when I pointed out that Vestey’s, in negotiating new leases under the new ordinances, had surrendered 8,493 square miles of leasehold,, and 5,351 square miles held under grazing licence and’ had accepted improvement conditions on their remaining leases in the form of firm obligations with specific requirements that they make an expenditure of £2’50,000 during the next fi ve years.
On all the Territory holdings there is a cattle population of a little over 1,000,000 head and an average annual turn-off of 115,000 head, some going straight to the meatworks and some going as stores, mainly to Queensland. The estimated annual value is about £2,720,000. In spite of a most severe and widespread drought in 1951-52 and some rather indifferent seasons since in some parts of the Territory, the cattle industry is progressing. The approximate turn-off over the past seven years has totalled 800,000 head and the annual turn-off has varied, between 146,000 in a good year and S1,000 in a bad, the turn-off necessarily fluctuating according to seasonal conditions. It is estimated that in the past four years there has been a private investment in improvements on cattle stations in the Northern Territory of more than £1,000,000 - a heartening sign of the confidence of cattlemen in the future of the country they occupy.
The Government’s own officers estimate that the potential for development, of the industry is an increase of about 50 per cent, in the carrying capacity of land already occupied and a doubling of the annual turn-off. We believe that that improvement can- take place without any. revolutionary change in the traditional; methods of raising- cattle in the Territory. If, by one means or another, through the aid of science, completely different methods were to be developedin the Northern Territory, the change may be even greater.
The present state of agriculture is that production of foodstuffs, such as vegetables and eggs, i.; undertaken on a small scale, for local consumption, and, as I have said:, some fruit and peanut production is undertaken for export to southern Australian, markets. The potential development that is in sight is large-scale rice-growing, a considerable expansion of peanut cultivation and establishment of tobacco-growing. These look like being our main export possibilities. It also includes the establishment of mixed farming for the sake of local food supply and as au adjunct to stock raising. However, continued’ experimentation is necessary to demonstrate with reasonable certainty farm systems which can be applied to the land with reasonable prospects of providing » satisfactory living for the farmers.
Jil conclusion, I stress that the only way in which any of our visions of progress in the north can be realized - and I think most honorable members have a vision of progress there - is through the efforts of individual settlers. The end of government policy, as exemplified by this bill find by other measures, is to help the individual Australian in the Northern Territory to do his job for the nation in the Northern Territory. That is the purpose of the attempts we have made and will continue to make to improve the basic services of education, health and communications and to add to the amenities of life, so that people can live at a proper standard in the Territory. That is also the purpose of the. various investigations and experiments we are carrying, out into the ways in which people can earn a living, in the Territory. That is the purpose of our revision of the land laws. It is the purpose behind the increased provision we have made to assist various industries, for example, by the veterinary services, the stock routes and roads which are being provided for the pastoral industry. It is the purpose behind our attempts to encourage a new idea of the standard of living in the tropics, as exemplified by the housing and community services constructed by Territory Enterprises at Batchelor. It is to the purpose of a relatively small measure such as the present bill. Some people believe that settlers who go to live in the Northern Territory ought to live in humpies. Those days are past. The nation has to accept the idea that the people in the Northern. Territory are to live in good homes at a standard of living comparable with the best standards enjoyed by people anywhere in Australia. We hope that this bill will make it more easily possible for the residents of the Territory to develop the land that they can obtain, and make their contribution to the progress of the Territory. We believe that the Northern Territory, like any other part of Australia, will grow by the efforts of its people. The role of government, in the liberal view, is to help the people to get on with the job. I trust that this bill will serve that purpose in the pastoral and agricultural industries in the Northern Territory and, in that, faith, commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nelson) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-1950-.
Bill presented’, and road a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under this bill it is proposed to make several small amendments to the Papua and New Guinea Act, which was passed by this Parliament in 1949 to provide for the administration of the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea in an administrative union. Only two of the amendments involvedecisions on any matter of. substance. It is proposed to amend section 73 of the principal act in order to make it clear that the prerogative of mercy is exercised by the GovernorGeneral. Section 73, as it stands, confers on the Administrator of the Territory power to grant to any offender convicted by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction in the Territory, a pardon, either free or conditional, or a remission or commutation of sentence, or a respite for such period as he thinks fit, of the execution of sentence. The Government considers, and I am sure the House will agree, that it is inappropriate for an official to be required to exercise such powers in regard to a sentence of death. A sentence of death is clearly in a wholly different category from a sentence of imprisonment and, whereas we see no objection to the Administrator, who is a government official, continuing to have the authority to remit or commute sentences that involve lesser penalties, we do not think the prerogative of mercy should be exercised except at the very highest levels of government. Some time ago an instruction to that effect was given to the Administrator by the Government and this bill, giving effect to administrative practice over the past three years, will exclude death sentences from the section dealing with the Administrator’s powers and will insert a new sub-section as follows : -
The Governor-General may, by warrant under his hand, grant to an offender sentenced to death by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction in the Territory a pardon, either free or conditional, or a remission or commutation of sentence, or a, respite for such period as he thinks fit, of the execution of sentence.
If any death sentence is passed in Papua and New Guinea the procedure will be to refer it to Canberra where the GovernorGeneral acting in Executive Council will decide whether or not it is to be carried out. I may mention in passing that this proposed amendment does not arise out of, or have any direct relation to, any recent events in the Territory. The decision was made early last year and, in fact, the present bill has been in draft form for many months. It will, of course, be applicable to any death sentences recently passed in the Territory, but the idea of presenting this bill to the House did not arise out of any recent incident in the Territory.
– Was it touched up afterwards ?
– No. No change has been made. The bill reads as it was drafted twelve months ago.
The other substantial decision to which effect is given in this bill, is to change the title of Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the Territory to Chief Justice. This is in keeping with the usage in the supreme courts of the States of Australia. The change in title is accompanied by a provision to appoint the present Chief Judge, Mr. Justice Phillips, as Chief Justice with continuity of office.
As it was necessary to introduce an amending bill to make the changes mentioned above, advantage was taken of the opportunity to make other minor changes the need for which had become apparent in the working of the principal act. All references to native village councils in the principal act will be replaced by the words “native local government councils “, because, in practice, the majority of councils established have not been set up in relation to individual villages but have been formed to represent several groups of villages. No change will be made in respect of the nature and functions of these councils.
An amendment is proposed to clause 10 to enable an official member of the Legislative Council to resign his seat. Previously if an official member wished to resign for any reason whatsoever there was no legal provision by which he could do so. The resignation will not, however, become effective unless and until accepted by the Governor-General, by whom the appointment of official members is made and subject to whose pleasure such appointments are held. A further amendment will also make it clear that resignation by a non-official member becomes effective when it is received by the Administrator. These proposed amendments are similar to amendments made during 1953 to the Northern Territory (Administration) Act.
Section 52 of the Papua and New Guinea Act requires that certain ordinances of the Legislative Council foi Papua and New Guinea shall be reserved for the Governor-General’s pleasure, but the Governor-General has power only. to assent or withhold assent to the ordinance in its entirety. Instances have occurred where it would have been of advantage for the Governor-General to be able te withhold assent to part, only, of an ordinance. In the absence of such power, it has been necessary for assent to the whole of an ordinance to be withheld when part only of it was not acceptable. Clause 11 of the bill proposes an amendment which will enable the GovernorGeneral to assent either to the whole or part of an ordinance reserved for his pleasure. The new section departs from the existing section by providing that the Governor-General’s declaration as to assent or otherwise, and not the Gazette notification, must take place within one year and also that, if the GovernorGeneral’s assent is not to be given, he shall expressly declare that he withholds assent. The first departure is intended to avoid the difficulties that could arise as to publication within twelve months if assent were not given until near the end of the expiration of that period. The second departure is to enable the GovernorGeneral to declare forthwith that he withholds assent to an Ordinance and thus avoid the uncertainty as to his intention that would otherwise exist until the period of one year has elapsed.
Consequent on the inauguration of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea it was clear that that part of the principal act relating to the interim legislative powers of the Governor-General was unnecessary. It is now possible to repeal the whole of the division of the act relating to the interim legislative powers of the Governor-General. As laws are now made by the Legislative Council, the need for these provisions no longer exists. Appropriate provision is contained in the bill to ensure the continuance in force of all ordinances made by the Governor-General during such interim period which still remain in force, as well as to provide enabling power for the Legislative Council to amend or repeal such ordinances as the necessity may arise from time to time. I repeat that only two decisions on matters of substance are involved in this bill. The other amendments may properly be described as tidying-up amendments, designed to make the present act clearer and more easily workable.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 10th August, (vide page 122), on motion by Mr. Lindsay -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Pt,ease Your EXCELLENCY :
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- When this debate was adjourned I was pressing the Government to pay some attention to the very controversial subject of margins for skill. The trade union movement has made up its mind that what was tolerable during the immediate post-war period is no longer tolerable. The long-suffering tradesmen are becoming uneasy at the procrastination of the gentlemen of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. If the Government does not take action quickly in relation to margins for skill, very grave industrial unrest will occur and the blame will be laid at the door of this incompetent Government.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has indicated that the Government will undertake large defence expenditure. This expenditure will require much technical equipment and we shall need more technicians to operate that equipment. Where does the Prime Minister think that he will get the technicians to do essential work in connexion with the defence programme? The Government has negated all claims for simple justice by skilled workers. It has killed the incentive that the average lad needs to induce him to embark on a career as a skilled tradesman. The Government should give deep consideration to this subject when it is considering its defence programme. We must not forget the position in which we were left when war broke out in 1939. All sorts of committees had to be set up in order to find men with varying degrees of skill to carry on the work that was necessary at that time. Recently, the secretary of the Brisbane branch of the Boilermakers Union made the following statement in court : -
Two hundred boilermakers are needed in Queensland . . . We have had appeals from the Railways Department and private industry to recruit staff for them. In one instance alone, a private employer in Brisbane could place more than 100 boilermakers. One of the prime factors in the shortage was lack of inducement for lads to enter the trade as apprentices.
The shortage had caused a considerable amount of overtime work and to protect the health of members, the society had limited overtime to twelve hours a week.
That assertion was replied to by the secretary of the Queensland Employers’ Federation, a Mr. P. Self. This bright boy said -
There is no truth in the suggestion that boilermakers were scarce because of a lack of inducement to youths to enter the trade . . .
He added -
In dealings with ‘unions our experience has been that youths and men will avoid a trade where union leaders regularly call stoppages and strikes.
Such a statement shows that this gentleman is unfit to hold the position that he occupies. Apprentices are not allowed to strike, and unions place severe restrictions on apprentices in that regard. Mr. Self continued -
Instead, they prefer continuity of work in a trade which is not upset by union leaders.
All trade unions have leaders, and the people who employ Mr. Self to give his opinions in regard to incentives should seriously consider removing him from his position because his statements are very provocative indeed. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), in a speech that he delivered on the 29th June about margins for skill, said that the Government would support claims for higher margins for really skilled men, as long as they were not submerged in a general claim for higher margins for all workers. Of course, he was just creating a smoke-screen in order to set up some sort of caste system among skilled workers. If the Minister had taken sufficient trouble to analyse the quality of the skills possessed by many workers, he would not have made a statement such as that. For example, no one can doubt that a rigger is a highly skilled man. A man needs to have fifteen or twenty years’ experience before he can become a fully qualified rigger. The shearer has to use his knowledge and skill as well as have excellent physical development. The timber-getter, besides being a skilled man, has to take great risks in his occupation. The builder’s labourer is a most essential member of the community. The brickmaker, the ironworker, the wharflabourer and the tilemaker are all skilled workmen, and yet the Minister for Labour and National Service apparently does not recognize their skill. I suggest that statements such as that made by the Minister merely provoke our trade unions into action. Margins for skill have not increased since 1945, and skilled workmen are now determined to be heard. If the Justices of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and the Government, will not listen to them, they will take some action which will not be to the advantage of this Government or the community in general.
– What action?
– Let us be realistic about it. They will threaten to strike and withhold their labour, just as primary producers among the members of the Australian Country party withhold their products from the markets. The Australian Country party has claimed that the farmer is justified in withholding his produce when he pleases, and therefore it must admit that highly skilled workmen are justified in withholding their labour in certain circumstances. Such men, especially those in defence production industries, should be looked after by this Government, which should intervene before the court when they make applications for increased margins for skill. Shipwrights, engineers, boilermakers and moulders are not going to be trifled with any longer. They intend to ensure that they shall get a just reward for their skill. Indeed, the Australian Council of Trades Unions has now decided upon a certain policy which has been endorsed by the Federal Conference of the Australian Labour party. I am speaking on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions when I claim that this very important matter cannot be trifled with any longer. If the1 Government, thinks that it can continue to so trifle with skilled men, it is completely wrongs At present an industrial pattern is beginning to take shape which is similar to the pattern that was woven before the 1917 upheaval.
– Order 1 The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I was more than amused a few moments ago to hear the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) say that primary producers in the Australian Country party had, from time to time, threatened to withhold their produce from the market. That statement should not be given any serious attention at all, and I can say from long experience, as an active primary producer and as a member of primary producers’ organizations* that the statement is quite incorrect. Primary producers are the greatest wealth producers in this country, because of the sale of their products overseas, and they have too great a sense of responsibility for the well-being of the Australian people even to consider withholding their produce. It is unfortunate that the bodies represented by the honorable member for Watson do not have a similar sense of responsibility.
His Excellency, in the Speech that he delivered at the opening of this Parliament, made two important references to the intention of the Government with regard to national development. First, he said -
My Government will closely examine the extent to which additional transport links, including rail links, are desirable for the development of beef production in north Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Secondly, he said -
In the Territories of the Commonwealth, on the foundations laid in the past three years, further progress may be confidently expected both in the advancement of the welfare of the people and in the development of resources.
In Papua and New Guinea the rate of investigation and classification of land and water resources and agricultural output will be increased. Expanded services will improve the health, education and social statu:) of the natives.
I welcome those two statements, of Government policy with regard to national development, and I propose to comment on. both of them. The first statement applies< to the development, of the northern portion of Australia, which .includes the north-west of Western Australia, the northern part of the Northern Territory and the Northwestern and northern parts of Queensland. That great area of land, which stretches across the north of our continent, is very sparsely settled and sadly in need of development. For many years most people have realized that it should be developed, but there has been a lack of positive action in that direction. The result is that that great area is still crying aloud for a concerted plan of development by both State and Federal governments. The nation can no longer afford to pay only lip service to the cause of development nor can it rely on spasmodic investigations by committees. We must move rapidly towards the practical development of that area-
It is generally known, I think, that the main source of wealth and, therefore, the most important factor in the development of this area, is the meat industry. It is true that mineral discoveries in recent years indicate that there is a certain future for the northern parts of Australia in mineral production, and it is also true, as the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) stated a few moments ago, that the area may he suitable for small farms. In the main, however, we must apply ourselves to the production of beef. Although such production has been carried on for many years, the ceiling rate of production was reached, under prevailing conditions, some time ago. We must try to ascertain the reasons for the existence of that ceiling. Immediately we undertake such an investigation, I suggest that the most cogent reason will be found to lie in the inadequate transport facilities. His Excellency the Governor-General, in the Speech which he made in this House recently, stated that the Government had committed itself closely to examine the extent to which additional transport links, including rail links, were necessary in this area. To my way of thinking, that was a very important aspect of the Speech. Of course, there are other factors involved in the failure to expand the beef industry in recent years, but it seems to me that those factors are largely associated with agricultural and pastoral practice. It would be idle for us to provide, say, better watering facilities and better management, with a view to increasing beef production, unless we also improved transport facilities, because the provision of the other facilities to which I have referred would merely serve to accentuate the inadequacy of the transport system.
Under present conditions, cattlemen are forced to walk their cattle for hundreds of miles before they arrive at the rail head. Such journeys are generally through inhospitable and badlywatered country, with the result that the graziers are not able to dispose of their stock until they are at least four years’ old. Young cattle cannot stand up to the strenuous journeys which are necessary. For that reason, graziers are compelled to keep their stock far beyond the time when they would produce young, good quality beef. In addition, even when the stock arrive at the railhead, they still have to face long jolting journeys over rough railway systems. The result of all this is that second quality beef is being produced from that area.
The markets available to our been industry have an important bearing on the points I wish to make. There is, of course, our home market. One frequently hears criticism by housewives and others that, despite the fact that Australia claims to be one of the major beef-producing countries of the world, the beef they purchase in the butchers’ shops is often of very poor quality. Then, we have the market provided for us under the recently arranged contract with Great Britain. If we are to retain that market we must produce beef of the highest quality. The British people made it very plain recently that they require good quality meat and will no longer be satisfied, as they were in the past, with the second-grade beef which we produced because we killed rattle which were too old and which had been subjected to rigorous conditions while being brought to market.
The plan to develop our northern areas must concern itself not only with the provision of extra transport facilities, but’ also with means to enable the meat industry to turn out the highest quality beef that is possible. All the remedies that have been suggested for the present difficulties rely on the provision of more railways. During the last year or so, the proposals most generally considered have included the extension of one of the Queensland railway lines into the west, from Dajarra to a point on the Barkly Tableland. The phrase “the Dajarra railway “ has come into common use, particularly in Queensland. Another proposal is that the railway line should be extended from Darwin, through Central Australia, to link up with Alice Springs. E am not satisfied that either of those two proposed rail links, or any other rail link, would be the best method of developing our northern areas, but if we are to pin our faith to railway lines, it is necessary for us to consider what the provision of an adequate service for the whole area would involve. I submit that this Government must concern itself not only with a portion of the total area, such as the Barkly Tableland, but with the whole of the northern portion of the Commonwealth. If that area is to be provided with adequate rail links, railway lines must be provided from the back country to the northern parts, Derby, Wyndham and Darwin, and from the Barkly Tableland to the Queensland rail termini. Further, the Queensland termini must be connected to the Channel country and north-western New South Wales. Only by means of such a rail system could we deal adequately with the present situation.
Now we must consider the cost of such an undertaking in relation to the benefits that it would provide. The cost would be enormous, and it would take many years to complete the work. It has been estimated that the cost of extending the line from Dajarra to Newcastle Waters would be at least £20,000,000. That is the most conservative estimate I have seen. Some estimates are as high as £40,000,000. Since the cost of only a small extension would be so great, it can be appreciated that the cost of the network which I consider essential would be hundreds of millions of pounds. I concede that the provision of such railways would improve conditions and enable graziers to shift their store cattle from drought areas. The railways would enable cattle to be brought down to the Channel country, possibly even to the coastal areas of Queensland, for fattening, and weaners and young, stock could be moved, which is not possible at the present time. But the provision of those railways would not result in the production of good quality young beef. The graziers still would be obliged to place the stock on rail and to subject them to rough railway travel for a week or more. There would still be an enormous loss from bruising. That loss is estimated to amount to more than £1,000,000 per annum in Queensland alone. There would still be the loss of weight, the value of which in Queensland also is estimated to be more than £1,000,000 per annum. In my opinion, the expenditure of a large amount of money for the provision of railways would not overcome the difficulties, and we would not attain the final objective of good quality young beef.
In recent years, the movement of beef by air transport has been developed. Although that system has not yet proved to be completely successful, it is worthy of trial by the Government. For some years a small company, assisted by government subsidy, has been transporting beef by air from Glenroy to Wyndham on the north-western coast of Western Australia. The operations of that company have proved that a large-scale introduction of this method of transport throughout Australia would be accompanied by an element of success. Many people have denounced the scheme. Such a scheme, to be successful, must be conducted in association with relatively small inland abattoirs each of which would serve an area within a radius of 50 miles. It would be necessary for those abattoirs to be serviced by freighter aircraft which would take the chilled beef direct to the railhead or seaport. The grazier, after walking his cattle for only 50 miles, could bring them in as prime quality two-year-olds without any loss of weight. The scheme has also demonstrated that the grazier need not keep a large herd of scrubbers on his property because he cannot afford to move them. In other words, the grazier is enabled to double his carrying capacity.
The airlift scheme has proved that it is worthy of wider experimentation by the Government. I hope that His Excellency’s statement means that further con- sideration will be given to the problem and that the Government will test the scheme, not by seeking a report, but by experimentation, with the result that within a short space of time it will be able to ascertain whether it is worthwhile saying to the industry, “ We are prepared to subsidize air beef by so much per lb. and leave it to private enterprise to supply the abattoirs and the freighter aircraft with which to inaugurate the scheme “. If the scheme proved to be successful, within a period of five years we would see a marked difference in the development of the northern areas of Australia. If the Government were to apply itself only to an extension of the railway line beyond Dajarra, the line would not be completed within at least five years.
I refer now to a somewhat similar problem in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I call it a somewhat similar problem, because it is associated with the development of that Territory, but of course it differs in certain respects from the one to which I have just referred. Papua is an Australian possession, but the Territory of New Guinea is held by Australia under a trusteeship. There are difficult problems associated with the civilizing of the natives, and we have to be guided, not only by our own humanitarian principles, but also by certain general principles which are laid down in the United Nations Charter under which we hold the trusteeship. We must ensure that we lift the natives from a somewhat primitive state to a state in which they are capable of governing themselves. We must also ensure that their inalienable rights to the land on which they live are preserved. Those are tasks of great magnitude, and tasks in relation to which a great deal of experience, tolerance and determination must be exercised if they are to be performed satisfactorily. Associated with that problem is the problem of the economic development of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Australia is tackling the problem, but it is important that we should proceed more rapidly than we have been proceeding because of the importance of the Territory to Australia, not only from the economic point of view, but also from the defence point of view.
The majority of people realize that a rapid development of Papua and New Guinea is vital to Australia. The problem of the economic development of Papua and New Guinea is one that calls for the bringing into production of vast areas that are virgin jungle country. Any one who has been there knows that a lot of the country is what i3 commonly described as tiger country and that it cannot be developed easily. Although it cannot be developed easily, it is country that would handsomely repay the expenditure of capital and effort. The extensive use of machinery is necessary for its rapid development. J. do not know whether the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) agrees with me, but I believe that there is not available in Papua or New Guinea a pool of cheap native labour upon which we can draw in order to service the projects upon which we wish to embark.
– That is quite correct.
– Therefore, any plan under which, the Government seeks to develop the Territory, or under which it seeks to assist private enterprise, depends, not only upon the acquisition of the land from the natives on just and proper terms, but also upon the expenditure of a large amount of capital for the provision of mechanical equipment. The Government could play an important part by providing capital on suitable terms. There is also a need for large-scale experimentation. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture has made a valuable contribution in the solving of agricultural problems, in the provision of better varieties of rubber trees, in the development of cocoa production and the production of other agricultural items such as kenaf fibre. That assistance requires the expenditure of money. For that reason, I was pleased to hear the reference by His Excellency to the fact that the rate of investigation and classification of land and water resources would be increased. I sincerely hope that the Government realizes that the fulfilment of the undertaking will require the expenditure of more money. Increased expenditure on an expansion of the work at present being undertaken by the Papua and New Guinea Administration and the Australian Government not only will accelerate .development of the- Territory, but. also will return good, dividends to Australia. The flow of exports from any area, particularly from a new country such as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, is a reliable indication of the manner in which development is proceedinc. The latest reports available reveal nhat exports from Papua in 1948-49 amounted to £934,112. In 1952-53, Papuan exports totalled £2,322,905. In four years the value of exports from this Territory- increased by £1,388,793. This i.s an indication of the rate at which the Territory is developing. In the same period exports from New Guinea increased from £4,234,978 to £8,491,396.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) were of great interest to the House, because they followed practical lines. Thoughts expressed in this manner are encouraging to the entire community. I am sure that the honorable member will agree that if. Australia is to receive the full benefit of such developments as the transport of prime beef by air, we must make certain organizational changes, and it is to that aspect of our affairs that I wish to address myself. When I was elected to this House in 1951, the Australian Commonwealth was celebrating its jubilee after 50 years of federation, and it was not necessary for any one then to say that the old idea, of Empire had gone* and that Australia was well established as an independent nation.. The entire country resounded with speeches expressing those sentiments. Since 1951 our national objectives, have become obscure. Australia has faltered in its progress towards its goal, which should have been stated in the strongest possible terms in the Governor-General’s Speech-. The omission to do that caused me much disappointment. Australia’s economic and. military independence must be sought with, the utmost vigour, but the- Government seems, to have neglected the need for vigorous action.. Certainly, economicand military independence are being, sought, but not with vigour. I do not want any one to think that my reference tO’ military independence is. intended to convey that in my view Australia can, be so well armed and powerful- that it cas defeat any adversary. That is not SOl I mean that Australia must become Com,pletely independent, of other countries for its supplies in, the event of its having to take part in any conflict. I believe that we can enjoy the full benefits’ of our natural resources, and of much of the progress of which the honorable member for Dawson spoke, by looking more to our economic independence than to basing our economy on overseas markets.
– What does the honorable member mean by that remark?’
– The honorable member will understand as I proceed. The Governor-General’s Speech stated Australia’s goal in loose, vague and easygoing terms. In fact, one cannot learn from it what our goal is. The GovernorGeneral said, at page 1 of the printed’ copy of the Speech. -
My advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to be thestrengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, thedevelopment of. our national, resources, and’ the social welfare of the Australian people-
That sounds pleasant, but it might be said? about any new nation. There is- nothing new in that part of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The Governor-General said also, at page 2 of the printed copy of his Speech -
My Government is undertaking a reorganization of the defence programme to achieve themaximum security-
He does not say “ independent security “ - that the country can provide for a long period, having regard t’o the needs not only of defencebut also of economic stability, a steady develops ment of population and resources, and highlevels of production and employment.
That sort of thing lulled some honorable members- off to sleep. I noticed, while the Governor-General was delivering his Speech, that, in spite of his efforts to make it sound interesting, a number of honorable members nodded their heads and went to sleep. Their slumber seemed; to become even more- deep- when, at page 3 of the printed copy of the Speech, the Governor-General observed -
It is a fundamental’ part of the policy of my Government that the” development of Australia should, proceed at- the highest practicable’ rate. This requires an adequate supply of (labour aird materials-; sound policies for encouraging private investment and an inflow of capital; . , .
These declarations sound encouraging, but they really mean little. A clear and definite statement of Australia’s goal as a .nation and of measures to achieve and maintain .economic and military independence is clearly necessary, and should have been .given on this occasion. One might have taken a little comfort had the Speech promised action to achieve Australia’s national goal. The Government -will be judged in the future on its present actions, but the Governor.General’s Speech contained no promise of action. All that is proposed is merely the sidestepping of the Government’s responsibilities, as the Governor-General clearly revealed, when he said at page 4 o’f the printed copy of his Speech -
The manufacturing industries of Australia, it is hoped, will continue their development, so ‘vital %o the nationa/1 strength. My Government will -continue to accord adequate .protection to efficient and economic Australian industries. In doing so, it will rely for advice on the ‘Tariff Board.
The Speech, of course, is made on the advice of .the Prime Minister. I do not throw stones at the Tariff Board, which, to the best of its ability, has done valuable work for Australian industries. However, at present the board is clearly floundering and wondering what its objectives really are, because the Government has failed to give to it a clear statement of the goal at which it should aim. The Government has no ideas of its own, but will look for advice to the Tariff Board, a subsidiary body that is dependent mi the Government for its instructions. The board, at page 8 of its report for fire year ended on the 3’0’th June, 1953, reported, under the heading The Board’s Policy - “The Board does not subscribe to the view . . -that the Tariff harrier should be the first line of . defence against overseas competition. T3ie adjustments necessary to strengthen our internal economy automatically strengthen defences against aggressive imports, and these adjustments can bc made ait present without rceuour.se to heroic measures. A relatively small reduction in all the clements in the prices of ‘commodities 3s all that is needed to reverse current ‘tendencies and to create a stable basis for further effort.
That is a lamentable statement. It is completely unrealistic to say that a ‘small adjustment of the prices of Australian commodities and a small improvement in business efficiency is all that is necessary to enable Australian industries to compete with .those of other countries. Big improvements in efficiency and a considerable measure of protection are necessary. The Tariff Board s report referred also to the need for increased managerial efficiency, greater efficiency on the part of the workers, the avoidance of lost time, and the like. The highest possible efficiency should be encouraged at all times, and no .special comment on this aspect of the economy should be necessary. Management should at all times strive for the highest possible efficiency, just as the workers .should always make their best efforts and bear their responsibilities in mind, as they usually do. The points emphasized .by the ‘Tariff Board are trivial and by no means constitute a solution of the difficulties that confront Australia at present. The Government showed that it was relying upon the advice of the Tariff Board hy putting into the Governor-General’s Speech a paraphrase of the board’s words. His Excellency stated -
My Government regards it as essential, bow ever, to the healthy and permanent development of manufacturing industries in’ Australia that there .should be a continuing drive by all concerned to increase efficiency :and production and reduce costs. All the techniques of modern management need to be brought v< bear on the problem.; concurrently the trade unions must realize that higher standards nf living will bc achieved through greater productivity, which will come from greater teamwork between employers and employees.
The word productivity is the real key to the situation. The Government is lacking in ideas and its acceptance of the ideas that are put forward by the Tariff Board as a basis for the organization of Australia is lamentable indeed. We have to consider productivity because another tribunal, a great judicial tribunal, nas pointed to the need for closer examination of the productivity of Australia. If the Government proposes to make -use of various judicial bodies and boards that are appointed by it, it should set out clearly the functions ‘of those instrumentalities, and arrange matters, so far as it is -aMe, to ensure that they are not faced with great -difficulties. The Tariff Board, which has been increased in size, is now preparing to make a tariff recommendation which will affect practically every industry in Australia, and in order to ensure its successful implementation a high rate of protection will have to be afforded. I believe that the Tariff Board is faced with a difficult situation. It is wondering about its objectives and where its functions will end.
The Tariff Board is only one of a number of boards and tribunals of which, the Government makes use and behind which it hides at times. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is an organization behind which the Government is particularly fond of hiding. The court fixes the wages of the workers in the community. The absence of any wage policy from the Governor-General’s Speech is even more lamentable than the Government’s failure to set out the goal of Australia in precise and strong terms. The court has made very far-reaching decisions. A highly important judgment was issued by it in 1953. In my opinion, that judgment definitely threw into the court of this Parliament the responsibility for deciding what the Australian wages future will be. At the same time, the Arbitration Court rejected any responsibility for the results. In its reasons for the judgment it made in 1953, the court set out precisely its functions, and it showed in definite terms that the Government would be responsible in future for happenings resulting from its actions or lack of actions. At page 29 of the judgment the court stated -
It is not the function of the Court to aim at such social and economic changes as may seem to be desirable to the members of the tribunal. The functions of the Court must be exercised in the social and economic setting of the time at which it makes its decision. It must settle industrial disputes upon terms which seem to it to be just, having regard to conditions which exist at the time of its decision. A just decision is not made if the Court refuses action which is shown to be proper in the hope or expectation that some other authority will move; on the other hand, the Court will not make an award which will become just only if another authority moves to correct the injustice. To the best of its ability, the Court should . . . view the whole picture of the national economy as presented for its consideration.
That statement throws into the court of this Parliament the responsibility for ensuring that matters are arranged so that the court’s decision will afford justice to the whole community. It throws on to the shoulders of the Government responsibility to make such arrangements before the court reaches its decision. The court made another very important decision. It abolished the whole idea that wages in Australia in future would be decided on the needs of the people. It stated most emphatically that in future the productivity of Australia would be the basis upon which wages would be decided. The court was very precise in its terms. It said, virtually, that after consideration of some matters, wages would be decided, in the main, by assessing the productivity of Australia in Austraiian pounds. The court would take the figures for the whole of Australian consumption and value it in Australian pounds. It would then consider all Australian exports and value them in Australian pounds. The two added together would be divided roughly by the population and some idea of the productivity of the nation would thus be gained. When other matters are taken into consideration, that was one of the most important declarations ever made by the court. Its decision and its declaration of future procedure ‘showed clearly that the Government had great responsibilities.
The Government’s lack of a policy on wages may cause great hardship to the people despite a marked increase in their efforts which should be suitably rewarded. Agricultural exports are the main substance of our overseas trade. Very little of our secondary industry manufactures are exported. Our agricultural exports are declining. Markets are disappearing. Wheat is our second largest export, but the future of the wheat market is most uncertain, and the Governor-General stated in his Speech that sales of wheat had been very slow. The butter market overseas is deteriorating and that applies also to cheese. The sugar market does not give us any great hope and the price that is paid for our sugar overseas is very much lower than the Australian price. A similar position applies in relation to dried fruits and wines. The prices for many of our products that are sold overseas are falling. If our production increases, we must expect the markets to decline still further.
What effect will that situation have upon the Australian wage level in view of the fact that it will be assessed in the manner that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has indicated? It is clear that Australian consumption will be easily ascertained. If that were all that had to be considered, our volume of production could be easily ascertained, but it is not so. The productivity of the nation will be the value of Australian consumption plus the price received for the goods that are exported overseas. While wheat and dairy farmers and, indeed, all primary producers are working their fingers to the bone and Australian workers are actively producing goods, prices may be so low that the combined yield will show a decline in productivity. As a result the court will reduce wages. There is no indication of a wage policy in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Government has no wage policy. If there is a further serious decline in overseas markets, which is a strong possibility, the result will be a reduction of wages. That would not be so bad if such a reduction were accompanied by increased ability on the part of the workers to buy the results of their labours, but that will not be so, because we shall find that the goods produced by Australians will not be available to them at the reduced prices at which they will be offered overseas. According to the degree of protection that is given to secondary industry, they will be obliged to pay high prices, not only for manufactured articles, but also for bread, which is directly affected by the long-term wheat industry stabilization plan, butter, sugar, and many other primary products. The average Australian’s wages will be reduced, but he will be obliged to pay increased taxes and, therefore, will not derive any benefit from his increased productivity.
This position is fraught with grave consequences. The absence of a statement of the Government’s policy in respect of it was a grave omission from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. That Speech should have been more dynamic. It should have contained some forceful indication that the Government has at its hand, and intends to use, means to put these matters right. For instance, the Speech should have mentioned the Government’s power to alter the exchange rate if circumstances arose to warrant such action. The present exchange rate has been fixed since 1931; that is over twenty years ago, and nearly every one appears to think that it will always remain so fixed whilst many see no reason why it should be altered. However, if our overseas markets should deteriorate, the Government, by altering the exchange rate, could ensure that justice shall be done to the Australian people and that they shall receive some benefit from their increased productivity. Every one is prepared to increase his or her productivity in secondary and primary industries. Let us not be content to work for something that we shall never really attain; rather let us work for something from which we shall gain real benefit. If our overseas markets deteriorated, an alteration of the exchange rate would be of enormous advantage to Australia. First, it would relieve the pressure , that is now being exerted upon the Tariff Board for higher levels’ of protection. This could be done by effecting appropriate economic adjustments, and, I suggest, such an adjustment could be made by altering the exchange rate.
– Up or down ?
– By further depreciating the Australian £1 in relation to sterling and dollars. The Australian £1 must be depreciated further if we are to safeguard ourselves against the ravages that any deterioration of our overseas markets must cause. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) is shaking his head. No doubt he is thinking solely of existing circumstances. I suggest that within a brief period he may be nodding his head very emphatically in agreement, with that statement. We recall the advantages that accrued to Australia when the Australian £1 was drastically depreciated in 1931. That action resulted in the disposal of large surpluses of our primary products and, at the same time, discouraged imports. Import restrictions that have been operative for some time and will, I believe, be continued for a further considerable period, could be dispensed with if the Government had recourse to other means of economic adjustment.
– By how much does the honorable member suggest that the Australian £1 should be further depreciated?
– Under the terms of our arrangement with the International Rank for Reconstruction and Development we would be permitted to depreciate it by another 10 per cent., that is £2 10s. per centum; but I think that that amount would be insufficient. We should depreciate our currency if signs appear that our overseas markets are deteriorating: We should implement a programme designed to offset any serious dislocation of Australian industry. The banking system offers adequate facilities for buying forward. Such action would not increase the prices of Australian manufactured goods. Those prices have been increased artificially as a result of high tariff protection. At the same time, Australians would be able to buy butter, bread and other necessaries of life, at the prices that prevail for such products at present. Further depreciation of the Australian £1 would afford greater protection to our secondary industries and, in due course, with careful planning, provide relief to our primary producers. Above all, such action would stabilize Australian wage levels. It would be of great benefit to the people as a whole. Finally, it would enable us to attain our great goal, by making us less dependent upon imported: products and more dependent upon our own manufactures.
-Order!1 The honorable member’s time lias expired.
Mr.. GULLETT (Henty) [5.10).- I congratulate the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) upon the moderation of his speech, which was in marked contrast to the usual tone of speeches-, made .by honorable members opposite. Whilst I agree with many of the things that he said,, I do not agree with his suggestion that, we should further depreciate the Australian £1 or that such action would not have evil, effects, upon our economy. The very instant we, took such a step, it would result in further inflation, in this country. It is all. very well to talk about, being able to sell more of our products abroad. But what, would such action, enable us to buy? What would be its effect upon the cost of Australian manufactures?. How much more would’ our industries be obliged’ to pay for plant and raw material’s which they must import ? Not one- section of secondary industry would favour such a step After all, we are getting to a stage at which we are able to consume in Australia a very great proportion of our own manufactured goods, such as processed foodstuffs, including tinned meat and fruit, in the manufacture of which there is an increasingly large labour content. If the prices of such commodities should increase further, what, hope should we have of selling them on overseas markets at competitive prices? The kind of argument that the honorable member has advanced in this instance is quite thoughtless.
The Governor-General’s Speech afforded great satisfaction to supporters of the Government. However, I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat that it was not an inspiring document. It lacked, as he said, a. statement of. certain, national objectives. Nevertheless, the S Speech detailed, certain solid achievements in this country during the post-war years. For example^ it was delivered at a time: of unparalleled national prosperity. There has not previously been a time when the average . Australian was so well off as he is to-day. It is. all very well to speak about wages being pegged, and inflation, aicd to say that sections of. the community are hard done by; but, judging the Governor-General’s Speech by any material yardstick, the* fact remains, that, to-day more Australiana own motor cars, refrigerators and other things that, were once, regarded as luxuries, but are now considered to. be necessaries. That fact, gives- an accurate picture; of conditions in this, country to-day. There is work for all who want, to work, and! it is available at ‘extraordinarily remanera.tive wages.. Speaking of wages,. I agree that, a. revaluation- o£ margins for skill is overdue. In that respect, this. Government must, take some responsibility. However, it is1 also true t&at honorable members opposite,: likewise, are responsible- in great measure for the fact that such action has not yet been taken. After all,; honorable members opposite claim to represent, the trade unions’,, and those organizations real.lv control national! policy in relation to labour’ and its reward’s. Honorable members opposite, are the voice of labour. They sst on the treasury bench for eight years, but they preferred to introduce a 4’0-hour week instead of increasing margins for skill. They are the people who propound Labour policy in this country, but only in the last year or perhaps less, have the unions come out in favour of increased margins for skill. Until then, the accent was consistently on raising the remuneration of the lowest wage-earner. I do not necessarily quarrel with that. I do not agree with it, but I do not criticize them for having taken that attitude. But it is of no use for them to try to convince us now that for years they have been eating their hearts out and battling for increased margins for skilled workers. On the contrary, a little research will reveal dozens of statements opposing any increased reward for skilled work. I do not wish to pursue this argument indefinitely. I merely utter this word of warning : It is of no use to regard every worker in the community as a skilled worker.
– Why not?
– Because he is not skilled. Many trades which already receive a considerable loading for skill are skilled only to a slight degree. By that I mean that honorable members of this chamber could learn them in a few months, and I do not believe that that represents a very high degree of skill. I, like the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), have many industrial concerns in my electorate, and I daresay I know as much about them as he knows about the undertakings in his constituency. Probably I see mine more often than he sees his. I have found that, in most factories, both the management and the employees agree that the most skilled workers are under-paid to-day. They receive anything up to £5 above the basic wage. In few instances is the margin greater than that, as honorable members opposite arc well aware. Take, for example, the toolmaker. He is a highly skilled man who is required to serve a full apprenticeship and also to expend considerable sums of money on tools, books and other requirements. A skilled toolmaker in this country should be rewarded as he is in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In those countries he gets a margin which brings his remuneration up to that of the well salaried man.
-How much does he get?
– The honorable member will appreciate that it is not easy topluck a figure out of the air in dollars that will mean anything much; but the toolmaker in the United States of America certainly gets up to three or four times the basic wage.
– In this country hismargin over the basic wage is £2 10s. a week.
– That is not correct in relation to the award about which thehonorable member is supposed to know something. If the honorable memberwill look at that award he will find out that he is wrong. I agree with the honorable member in principle that the present margin is insufficient; but it is of no useto use the skilled worker such as the toolmaker or the shearer as a peg by which to pull up the wages of everybody else. If” the honorable member really feels so deeply for the riveters, boilermakers and’ others in whom he is interested, by all means let him champion their cause, but they will not be helped if they are to beforced to carry unskilled persons with them in their claims for increased’ margins. A margin means a difference, and a claim for an increased margin doesnot mean a claim for a general increaseof wage levels. That is my warning on. this subject. If the claim for increased margins for skilled workers is to be used” to attempt to increase the whole scale of wages generally, regardless of skill, the whole object will be defeated, and the skilled worker will not benefit. With that sole proviso, I am prepared to gojust as far as any honorable member opposite, and so is everybody else on this side of the chamber, because we all realizethat as our economy becomes more complex, we become more dependent upon the skilled worker. I say without fear of” contradiction that if it were not for skilled workers we should not be sitting here to-day.
– No, the skilled workerswould be sitting here.
– It would be a changeto have some skilled workers. We aresick of your type.
I propose to speak now of some thingsthat were in the GovernorGeneral’sSpeech itself, and then of some opinions- which His Excellency has expressed - as it is desirable he should - on other public occasions. The whole Speech was based, of course, on the belief of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies”) and his advisers, which they have made clear in this House, that the danger to this country is increasing and is now very great, and that, therefore, we must all be prepared to make sacrifices in the interests of a greater security effort. To my way of thinking, a greater defence effort does not mean only the pouring of money into armed forces. It means also a greater effort to establish our home security. His Excellency said that there would be an all-round increase of our defence effort and, in particular, that there would be a greatly increased effort in respect of the Air Force and the Navy. We may take it, I think, without reading anything into the Speech which was not there, that the Army is to be somewhat played down, while the other services are to be advanced. No doubt that decision was taken on expert advice, and it illbecomes people who cannot possibly know rauch about the subject as the advisers of the Prime Minister know, to question that advice. Of course, any advice which stresses the need for increased technical services rather than the training of men for war would be welcomed by any government because we are faced with a very acute man-power shortage. Therefore, I believe that the Government is more ready to accept that advice than advice to the contrary. Insofar as one has been able to gather Labour’s defence policy from speeches of honorable members opposite in this debate, it appears that they are not in favour of training large numbers of men. Without seeking to refute the views of the experts, I merely wish to utter a word of warning. Campaigns and wars in which we have been involved since the end of World War II. have not shown that a greater accent is needed on the support weapons of the Air Force and the Navy. On the contrary, we were unable to force a decision iri’ Korea because our purely military strength was not overwhelming com oared with that of the North Koreans. It was not weakness in the air, because we had overwhelming superiority in that department. It was not weakness on the seas, because there was no comparison between the strength of our naval forces and that of the enemy. Exactly the same course of events may be observed in Indo-China. The defeat of the French was due to lack of sufficient highly trained and skilled troops, and to insufficient modern armaments. The French had overwhelming superiority in the other departments.
I am bound to say, too, that any proposal for a slackening of our armed effort will find no favour with me, because I believe that the national service training scheme is of great benefit to this country. One does not need to be a 4 ft. 2 in. jackbooted Prussian to hold these views, and all honorable members have probably had similar experiences of these matters. Many young men went into national service training camps without a very clear idea of their duty to the country. Some, perhaps, came from towns, and had little contact with country boys, and vice versa. Others were born with silver spoons in their mouths, and had no contact with boys who sold newspapers on street corners, and so on. The difference in the young men drawn from various classes, after three months’ national service training, is marvellous. This is a real asset to Australia. The young men leave the camps, after they have performed a service for their country, and they feel that they have a greater stake in it. I introduce this matter only to illustrate the point that the national service training scheme, quite apart from the purely military virtues that it possesses of maintaining our army at maximum strength, has the great virtue also of instilling the spirit of citizenship.
Since the Parliament re-assembled, many honorable members on both sides of the chamber have made statements on passive defence. I do not know whether defence is possible against the atomic bomb, but this I do know, that London, Coventry, Berlin and other cities which were heavily bombed in World War II., stood up to the ordeal because of the inherent discipline of their people. That discipline was born as the result of military service, or association with military service, or a kindred organization. I cannot emphasize too strongly my belief in the extent to which our national character is developed by sacrifices made by individuals in one or other of the forces, and not necessarily the armed forces ; but, unfortunately, in these time, the armed forces constitute almost the only outlet of activity of that kind in which our young people may serve. I shall not proceed with a discussion of those matters.
The Governor-General has referred from time to time quite publicly to our military effort, and not precisely in the same terms as those used in his Speech to the Parliament on the 4th August, last. I noticed, on one occasion, that His Excellency said that, so far, we had been just playing with the national service scheme. I think he used that phrase. Whatever our personal opinions may be on this matter, it must be borne in mind that we have in Sir William Slim a GovernorGeneral who was one of the first captains of his age. On military matters, he is as good an adviser as any government in the world may hope to get at the present time. We are indeed fortunate to have him-
– I rise to order. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled in the past that an honorable member may not praise or condemn the Queen’s representative. I agree with everything that the honorable member for Henty has said about His Excellency the GovernorGeneral but I point out that if license is given honorable members to praise His Excellency, it may also be given to them to blame him. Therefore, the introduction of His Excellency’s name into the debate is a dangerous practice.
– Order ! The Standing Orders provide that the name of the Governor-General shall not be introduced into a debate.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I shall make no further reference to that matter. I thought that the manner of my reference to His Excellency would excuse the lapse.
The Prime Minister has spoken of the gravity of the international situation and of the necessity for an increased defence effort. Where is that increased effort to come from? What is the defence effort based on now? As we all know, the defence of this country consists, in a sense, of ‘two parts. We have the hard core of permanent sailors, soldiers and airmen, without whom, in peace or war, no organization of effort is possible. In addition,
Ave have seen, since the advent of this Government, the establishment in Australia of three permanent battalions and at least part of an up-to-date armoured regiment. Those are great assets, and they provide the hard core around which everything, in a sense, must be built. But alongside them we have the voluntary forces which are known as the Citizen Military Forces. The members of those forces take charge of the national service trainees after three months’ basic training.
I do not believe that this country is capable of supporting a large permanent army, and even if it were, I do not consider that we could enlist a large permanent army. Our army advisers tell us to-day that the number of our permanent troops, so far from increasing, is constantly on the decline. The answer to that problem is deep-seated. We may be described as a martial people, but we are not in any sense a military people. Australians do not like service in the armed forces merely for the sake of being in them. If there is a war, a camp or a trip of some kind, Australians will be in it, but they have no desire, in the main, to serve in the forces in peace-time. Therefore, I consider that it is futile to speak of the establishment of a large permanent armed force, however attractive the idea may be.
There is no more comfortable theory than that the defence of the country can be left to a permanent force of 20,000, 30,000 or even 50,000 men, and the rest of us citizens have no responsibilities other than to pay our taxes. Such a theory will not work in these times unless we are prepared to conscript our citizens for service in the permanent army. I do not think that any one will, advocate such a course. The only way, then, in which we can rapidly increase our effective effort is through the voluntary system, that is to say, the Citizen Military Forces. In that department, a great deal can be done. From time to time honorable members on this side of the House have risen in their places and recommended to the Government the adoption of certain steps in relation to the Citizen Military Forces. I firmly believe that if the claim that much more must be done to increase our defence effort is sincere, it is time that notice was taken of some of the matters that have been raised.
At the moment, the voluntary forces Are dependent almost entirely on a relatively . small number of men, most of whom served in the last war. I say most of them served in the last war, because some young men, who have graduated from the national service training scheme, are becoming available. They are the ones on whom our hopes for the future must be built. The burden now falls on the officers and noncommissioned officers, and it is a great burden. I am sure that the House and the country have not a proper conception of the great sacrifices made by those men, and the splendid work performed by them in a voluntary capacity. For their services, they should be suitably rewarded. Their militia pay, as I have said repeatedly in the past, should not be subject to tax. One of these men may be in receipt of a wage or salary of £15 or £20 a week. He may receive, for his part-time army service, £50 or £’70 per annum. The additional money places him in a higher income bracket, and when he pays tax, he is not much better off than he would have been if he had not received payment for his services in the forces. It must also be remembered that such a service involves a man in certain expenditure on uniforms, fares, clothing and the like. There is always a credit and debit side, particularly for officer? and non-commissioned officers, and many of these men are badly off as the result of the service that they render to the country. If anything can be done to assist this group of men, it should be done. It is not good enough to say that consideration will be given to the matter, that we shall look into it thoroughly or that we shall submit it to the Treasury. The time has come for action.
In the main, the British defence scheme has been built on much the same basis as -ours, but whereas we have lost almost all of our volunteers since the introduction of compulsory training, the British have retained theirs. The reason is that they have put so much more into their scheme that we have put into ours. They give their young men extra facilities and privileges. I hope we shall do the same.
.- The Speech of the Governor-General, in the main, is an insipid document, containing a collection of vague platitudes and generalities. It is remarkable, not so much, for its contents as for its omissions. 1 propose to deal with a few of the statements in it. Among other things, His Excellency said -
My Government will continue, with other nations, its practical contribution to the welfare! of thu South and South-East Asian area through the Colombo Plan. Such measures of help encourage sympathetic understanding and goodwill.
I am a great supporter of the Colombo plan because I believe that if it achieves what its sponsors intended it will have a far-reaching effect on our relations with Asian countries. The Colombo plan was born early in 1950, because conditions in Asia demanded a new approach to the problems there. The majority of the 600,000,000 people in South-East Asia were undernourished, their housing facilities were notoriously inadequate, illiteracy was the lot of SO per cent, of them, and their expectation of life was less than 30 years. Therefore, the countries of the British Commonwealth in the area got together and decided that they ought to make an endeavour to raise the standards of living of those people, not only as a humanitarian action, but also, I suggest seriously, as a means to counter the spread of communism there. It can be said safely that, at any rate theoretically, the plan is a co-operative enterprise by which the more highly developed countries of the area will help the less developed countries by giving them financial aid and technical assistance. If one accepts the statements in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral, it seems that the Australian Government is satisfied with the progress of the plan. But I am by no means satisfied with it. There are a number of aspects that give no cause for complacency or self-satisfaction.
I base my opinion on the second annual report of the Consultative Committee of the Colombo plan, issued in New Delhi in October of last year. Any one who reads the report, at length, as I have done, will find that it gives scant satisfaction to ardent supporters of the plan. The contents of the report lead one to believe that the Colombo plan, which came in with a bang, will go out with a whimper. Three and a half years have elapsed since the foreign ministers of the countries responsible for the plan inaugurated what I thought would lbc a new era of international relations, an era that could well alter the destiny of mankind. The ministers met in :an atmosphere of apparent urgency and the scheme was initiated and put under way quickly. Since then, the Consultative Committee has met in London, Colombo, Karachi and New Delhi. I understand it will meet in Ottawa in October of this year. When the Australian representative goes’ to Ottawa, I hope he will not be imbued with the smug satisfaction with which apparently the Government was imbued when it prepared the Governor-General’s Speech. The second annual report of the committee contains a number of disquieting statements about the progress of the plan. It reveals that the difficulties faced by many countries have become formidable. In view of the nature of the report, we have no cause to be jubilant about the progress achieved so far. The report states -
The Colombo Plan programmes are reaching a crucial stage. The countries of the area have shown their determination to carry them through., and the decline in export earnings, while it has added greatly to the difficulty of the task has made it more than ever necessary to press ahead with the developmental programmes . . . The present flow ‘of external financial aid must he continued and, if possible, increased. The difficulties are indeed formidable.
I am concerned about the reaction that difficulties and failures will have on the minds of the people of Asia, whose friendship we are trying to win through the operation of the plan. Dealing with the national incomes of the less developed countries of the area, the report states -
The fall in export earnings led to a fall in national incomes. This caused rather widespread economic distress and the contrast with the previous high expectations produced a general feeling of frustration and bewilderment.
To me, those are ominous words. It appears that the sponsors of the plan are preparing the ground for an announcement that we have failed to carry out the original concept. In 1950, it was envisaged that assistance would be given to the less developed countries of South and South-East Asia in the fields of agriculture, power and communications. We were told that more land would be placed under cultivation and irrigation, more food would be produced and power generating capacity would be increased. The sponsors of the plan realized, as they stated in the preamble to it, that because the population of the area was increasing at the rate of -8,000,000 a year, the programme envisaged would do little more than maintain existing standards of living, which were lamentably low. The report of the Consultative Committee reveals that, although development has proceeded on those lines, it has not reached anywhere near the stage contemplated when the plan was formulated. According to the report, statistics show that, although there has been some development in certain fields, development generally has not reached the stage it should have reached after three years of activity. I say incidentally that the Government has given the Parliament but little opportunity to discuss the plan. Is there any significance in the improvements that have been made? What are the prospects for the immediate future? Are the living standards of the Asian peoples being raised enough to compensate for increases of population ? If not, the plan is not doing what was originally intended. The .report makes no attempt to answer those questions. In the main, the committee has been content to give an account of material achievements. But the report barely touches the vital questions whether those achievements have contributed significantly to an increase of living standards or have made further progress possible.
In order to assess the real progress that has been achieved and the prospects for the future, it is appropriate to examine the salient features of the plan. We were told that, in order to provide for economic growth and the maintenance of present standards of living in a rapidly increasing population, it would be necessary to increase output, and that, in order to increase output, it would be necessary to increase investment. But the nations of Asia, because of their poverty-stricken state, were unable to attract capital from overseas until productivity had been increased. In other words, their economy needed to be primed to enable them to increase production and then attract capital from other countries. The aid contributed under the Colombo plan was intended to act as a detonator to set this process in train. Unfortunately, the purpose of the plan has not been achieved because productivity has not been increased to any appreciable degree. There has been very little investment of foreign capital in Asia since the plan came into operation, and it seems to me that, unless the contributing countries are prepared to increase the scale of their financial aid, the scheme will die on its feet.
Australia, which has acknowledged its obligation to assist in the development of these backward countries, has more reason to fear the failure of the scheme than has any other contributing nation. Our future is irrevocably linked with our relationships with Asian countries, and the collapse of the Colombo plan would re-act much more unfavorably upon us than upon any other country. “We must in all circumstances try to prevent the disillusionment of the peoples of Asia as a result of the failure of the plan. The prosperity of Asia is of the utmost importance to us. It is obvious to me that the volume of aid provided under the scheme has been altogether inadequate. “We are spending money hand over fist in other directions, and we should divert some of that expenditure to the more valuable investment that is represented by our contributions to the Colombo plan. The promotion of goodwill in Asia promotes our own security. If the plan is to achieve a significant success, it must produce quick and lasting results. Therefore, the representatives of the Government who attend the meeting at Ottawa in October should take the first opportunity to bring to the notice of the consultative committee the obvious flaws that have developed already in the structure of the plan. These faults, though they were not readily discernible in the initial stages of the scheme, have assumed immense proportions and now threaten to destroy the efficacy of the whole project.
Immigration was also mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Government has announced that it is content to continue with its present immigration policy. Most honorable members will agree, I am sure, that the Department of Immigration has done good work, but the effectiveness of its programme will be endangered if it cannot organize a smoother assimilation of immigrants than is possible under the present system. Much closer working arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States must be evolved because, up to the present, there has been constant irritation between State and Commonwealth departments in relation to various aspects of immigration. In my opinion, immigration involves much more than the procurement of immigrants in other countries, their transport to Australia, and their accommodation for limited periods in hostels. The arrival of large numbers of new citizens requires a rapid extension of social amenities and essential services. We need more schools, hospitals, houses, water, electricity, transport and other public services. The obligation of supplying those services falls at present on State governments. This division of responsibility is one of the major weaknesses of the immigration scheme. Undeniably, the major defect of the plan is the lack of effective co-operation between the Commonwealth, which organizes the inflow of immigrants. and the States, which provide the services needed by the increased population. There appears to be a total lack of appreciation by this Government of the financial strain that this obligation places upon the States. They must have substantial additional financial aid if immigrants are to be assimilated satisfactorily. In the early stages of the immigration programme, the process of assimilation was given far less attention than was that of recruiting immigrants overseas. The prime impulse of both the former Government and this Government was to bring as many immigrants as possible to Australia and make light of the difficulties that would arise from the rapid population increase.
The State governments are eager to establish new arrivals satisfactorily, but they are emphatic that their task cannot bc carried out successfully unless this
Government acknowledges their need for increased financial aid. They have been called upon to shoulder great responsibilities, and these, unfortunately, have assumed formidable proportions. I am sorry to say that this Government has adopted an airy attitude towards the States. It seems to imagine that they will be able to muddle through and solve their problems without help. Its optimism is ill-founded. They cannot.be expected to continue to assume such great liabilities unless provision is made for adequate financial compensation. I know that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) met State Ministers at a conference on immigration early this year. However, the discussion at that conference produced a lot of airy platitudes without giving rise to any practical decisions. It is not enough for the Commonwealth merely to provide hostel accommodation and find opportunities for the employment of new Australians. Its responsibility goes much further than that. The plain truth is that the prolonged influx of immigrants has vastly increased the demand for public services, the cost of providing which should be reckoned as n part of the cost of a successful immigration scheme. Until the Government acknowledges and accepts its responsibilities in this direction, our immigration programme will not be completely successful.
For reasons of national security, it is essential for Australia to treble its population within a reasonable space of time. But, in order to achieve our purpose, we must adjust the machinery of immigration to enable it to cope with the situation. That machinery can easily break down if the Government fails to realize that its obligations do not cease as soon as immigrants land on Australian soil. In fact, at that stage, the Commonwealth’s responsibility is not even onequarter discharged. Unfortunately, the Government has adopted the attitude that its worries end when the immigrants arrive and that the task of arranging for their assimilation should fall upon the States. However, the State governments, because of their limited financial resources are unable to do the job adequately.
I come now to a consideration of the process of naturalization. It is only natural for immigrants to this country to look forward to attaining the status of Australian citizenship, and the Government should exert every influence to encourage them to apply for naturalization as soon as they become eligible to do so. On the 11th August, I asked the Minister who is . acting for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Beale) whether the naturalization figures in relation to non-British immigrants indicated a reluctance by those people to become Australian citizens. From the Minister’s reply, it was evident that tens of thousands of immigrants entitled to seek the privilege of Australian nationality have not done so. That is a deplorable state of affairs, with which, according to the Minister, the Government is not satisfied. I consider that we do not fulfil the purpose of bringing people to this country until they are naturalized. This matter demands urgent consideration.
Why are not applications for naturalization being received from immigrants in greater numbers? We should consider whether the requirements of the law in relation to naturalization are too stringent. Is too high a fee charged ? Does the nature of the naturalization ceremony act as a deterrent? In recent years major changes have been made in order to enhance the dignity of the naturalization ceremony and remove unnecessary deterrents to naturalization. To-day, although the naturalization ceremony is brighter and more dignified than the former procedure, the result has not been all that could be desired. I hoped that the decision of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) some time ago to hold future naturalization ceremonies at town halls, in a congenial atmosphere, would encourage large numbers of eligible immigrants to apply for naturalization. Unfortunately, that has not resulted. According to the Minister’s reply to my question, only 1,100 applications were received from non-British immigrants for naturalization in the first six months of this year. There were 1,770 applications last month. Those figures are relatively small, compared with the tens of thousands of immigrants who are entitled to seek the status of Australian citizenship. A fee of £5 is charged for naturalization papers. I consider thai this deters many immigrants from seeking naturalization. No fee was charged for 30 years after federation. There are two points of view about the matter. Some people contend that it is well worth £5 to an immigrant to become an Australian citizen- Others believe that there can be no correlation of citizenship to money. An immigrant should not be debarred from naturalization only because he is unable to pay this fee.
Immigrants who intend to apply for naturalization are required to advertise that fact in two newspapers circulating in the districts in which they live. The object of this legal requirement is to afford to persons who consider the advertiser should not be naturalized, an opportunity to lodge an objection with the Department of Immigration. However, during the last 36 years fewer than half a dozen such protests have been made to the department. Therefore it is obvious that this requirement serves no worthwhile purpose. I point out that, frequently, such an advertisement in a newspaper results in the singling out of an alien when he is about to become an Australian citizen. The advertisement pinpoints the fact that he has not already been naturalized. An intending applicant for naturalization is required to notify the department of his intention four years before lodging an application. Why is such lengthy notice required? Our procedure is very complex. In conclusion. I point out that it is the bounden duty of the Government to use every endeavour to encourage nonBritish immigrants to become naturalized. The naturalization procedure should be simplified to obviate unnecessary expense to immigrants.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Dean) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-It has been reported to me that there is somebody in the gallery with a camera. I wish it to be clearly understood that the taking of photographs in this chamber to-night has been prohibited, and that if anybody takes a photograph he can be dealt with.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and Other Services involving. Capital Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1955, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
– I desire to place before the House to-night estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 1954-55 and to explain the financial proposals which accompany these estimates. I desire also to speak briefly on the broad considerations of national policy which have guided the Government in framing its budget for this year.
The State of the Economy.
During the financial year just closed we had in Australia stability of general economic conditions, combined in remarkable degree with real and substantial material progress. On the one hand, retail and wholesale prices were generally steady throughout the year, and so too were wage rates and the other main elements which determine costs. On the other hand, civilian employment increased by no less than 90,000 persons. National income rose by 5 per cent, and, since the price level did not rise, this was a real gain in terms of goods and services. Total wages and salaries paid increased by nearly 7 per cent. Total farm income, it is true, fell by 8 per cent. ; but this was a fall from a relatively high level of income in the previous year. There was a rise of nearly 6 per cent, in business and professional income. Personal consumption expenditure was 10 per cent, greater than in 1952-53.
Over a wide range of industries levels of production ran high. Output of iron and steel, coal, copper, and zinc approached or passed previous record figures and the same is. true of many building materials. There was a. notable increase . in the manufacture of such: diverse articles, as domestic, refrigerators, rayon fabrics, hosiery and motor bodies. Generation of electricity rose above its previous highest point.
The volume of retail trade increased considerably and that increase was shared by most branches of business. In particular, sales of motor cars and housebold appliances showed an almost spectacular growth. Although there was a large increase in supplies, obtained from both local production and imports, there d’oes not seem to have been any excessive building-up of stocks.
The value of imports for the year was £682,000,000’. That was £171,000,000 greater than the value of imports in the previous year. Exports for 1953-54 amounted to £816,000,000 and although this was £30,000,000 less than exports in 1952-53 is was still a relatively high figure. It has in fact been exceeded in only two other years.
During. 1953-54 the Government made further relaxations of import controls and imports are now running at a comparatively high level. Until the woolselling season opens it will not be possible to gauge with any confidence what export prospects for the year are likely to be. It is reasonable to expect some net capital inflow during the year but it is not possible- at. this, stage to estimate the importance of this factor.
At the peak of the last export season our international reserves reached £620,000,000. After that there was a moderate’ decline and at 30th June last the reserves stood at £571,000,000, which represented a net addition of £10,000,000 during the year.
Altogether 1953-54 was a period of stable, genuine and widely-spread prosperity. Perhaps never before in our history have we had a year to equal it.
As we: turn to prospects for the coming year’ it is natural to ask whether we cannot do as well again, whether we cannot again enjoy balanced and stable economic conditions and yet make at least as great an advance in national development.
Cannot these two great objectives of policy again be combined?
Conditions necessarily differ from year to year; and last year conditions happened to be, on the whole, favorable to us. Despite the decline in the United States, it remained’ a fairly prosperous year foi” the world at large and our overseas trading position continued relatively strong. Internally, we had largely recovered from the setback of 1952-53 even before the year began, and although there was then a small amount of unemployment and some idle plant, those resources were soon absorbed into production and the whole economy ran along smoothly at or very near full employment.
I venture to say that the key to our success in 1953-54 lies in just that fact. We were able to bring all our physical resources into employment and yet, for the greater .part of the year at any rate, we did not over-strain them. Whilst industrial activity grew and a good rate of development was maintained there was, for the most part, enough labour and materials and enough power and other facilities to meet requirements. That h the chief lesson of 1953-54. It is indeed the chief lesson of the whole post-war period. If we keep a balance between available resources and the demand for those resources we will generally have not only stability of prices and costs but rising output, improving efficiency and sound progress in development. Allow demand for resources to outrun supply and we will almost certainly have dislocation, waste and a cutting-back of real output and the rate of development. We had a grim experience of those things in the period up to 1952 and I should not need to recall them here.
We should not need to be taught that lesson again, learnt as it was in years of disruption and futility; and, as things are, it is, I believe, a lesson that should be very active in our minds. We have tasted the fruits of stable progress and, rightly, for our own sakes, we want it. to go on.. We have, nationally, a tremendous task to people and develop this continent; but we can only hope to perform, that task if we go about it in an orderly and: effective way.. We have ahead of us,, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has related to the House, the prospect of major political and strategic commitments abroad, commitments which may call for much greater defence efforts and preparations. This last consideration is, perhaps, the strongest and most insistent reason of all why we must seek to combine the maximum employment of our resources with a balanced and effective distribution of those resources.
Good though recent times have been, there can be no mistaking the signs that stresses are again threatening to develop in our economy. During recent months shortages of labour have increased, particularly in the basic industries, such as iron and steel and building, and in the basic services, such as railways. Some supplies have also become scarce, amongst them steel and certain building materials. Meanwhile, numerous industries and public undertakings, not actually short of labour and materials for current purposes, have been strenuously trying to get more of both in order to expand their activities. Again, demand for consumption goods is still tending to increase; as it does so, it provides a stimulus for still further industrial expansion and still further demands for resources. There is a degree of unhealthy financial speculation going on, though so far it is limited mainly to certain sections of the market.
I do not want to exaggerate the portents as seen at this time. The current shortages of labour and materials are not to be compared with the bottlenecks which had such a crippling effect on our economy in the period before 1952. There is no longer any coal shortage. Power supplies appear adequate for the time being and more capacity is rapidly being built. There has been a fairly general improvement during the past three years in the basic facilities available to us and this should stand us in good stead in the future.
Nor would I exclude altogether the possibility of changes in some directions during the year which may run counter to the present general trend towards expansion of demand. For example, whilst export prospects on the whole may be reasonably good, it is possible that total export earnings this year will be appre- ciably less than last year. If this proves to be so it could have some offsetting effect on internal demand and business activity.
Nevertheless, the most significant fact at the present time is that pressure upon resources has again appeared in our economy and on present indications seems likely to grow. We will obtain some additional labour as the year goes on, partly from local sources and partly from immigration, and there should be some increase in the supply of goods from local output and from imports. If, however, the present general quest for labour continues, and if demand for goods keeps rising, these additional resources may well be swallowed up, leaving demands still unsatisfied. Labour will tend to shift away from the basic industries and key materials will become scarcer. The defence effort and developmental projects will be retarded and industrial productivity will fall. All this could happen even though, on the face of things, the economy might appear active and business thriving. Such a situation would clearly not be avoided by indiscriminate mass immigration; recent experience has taught us that the immediate effect of large-scale immigration is to add at least as much to the demand for labour as it does to the supply of labour.
Were inflationary conditions to return we could expect at a fairly early stage the beginning of a new upward thrust of prices and costs. That, I suggest, is about the last thing any of us wishes to see. During the inflation years our general level of costs was raised inordinately high-far too high for a country like ours which, on the one hand, depends upon selling so much of its products in markets abroad and which, on the other hand, has been rapidly establishing new industries to compete in our own markets with the products of other countries. Furthermore, the success or failure of some of the greatest developmental projects now being undertaken in Australia - the Snowy Mountains scheme, for example - depend fundamentally upon one question, the question whether costs can be kept at economic levels.
The first thing to do about the problem of costs is, obviously, to ensure that costs rise no higher. If the general forces which influence costs can be kept stable, then the particular factors which normally work towards the reduction of costs will have a chance to operate. It is through these factors that higher national productivity will be achieved - and the obverse of higher productivity is lower cost levels. Those factors, however, thrive and find play only in the conditions of a stable and balanced. economy. “We have had these conditions for the past year or so and, unquestionably for that reason, there are signs that some ground has been won in the attack on costs. Not a few industries have been able to report increasing output from the capital and labour they employ. Such promising tendencies will, however, quickly be overborne if a scramble for resources gets under way again, if business goes out to chase the ephemeral profits of inflation rather than the profits of efficiency and if labour falls again for the delusion of so-called “ attraction “ wage rates.
To say this is to say again - it cannot bc too often repeated - that the cost problem is the responsibility of every one. Governments and other public authorities have an important share in that responsibility. It is for them to lighten taxes and charges, to avoid undue competition for resources and to use their powers and conduct their operations in a way that will promote a state of economic balance. But it is labouring the obvious to say that industry and trade and those who work and share in them also have responsibility as great as, if not greater than, that of governments.
Such broadly is the context within which the budget for the current year has been prepared. The Government has had to weigh carefully the various elements in this rather complex situation. It has had to consider where and how far restraint should be exercised and where and how far encouragement should be given. The problem has been by no means exclusively an economic and financial one. We have had very much in our minds the international prospect - a prospect which plainly decrees that we should, as far as possible, husband our strength, financially and otherwise, against the burdens and stresses which may well lie just ahead of us.
On the expenditure side the right policy must obviously be one of firm control. That some branches of expenditure should increase is, under present circumstances, inevitable. Defence and social services are examples. Where, again, works projects subject to contracts are making headway, additional provision for expenditure cannot be avoided. Subject to considerations like these, however, it would be wrong, at a time when community spending as a whole is on the rise, to make large additions to public expenditure. One of the most important factors making for general stability in the past two years has been the overall restraint upon governmental spending. This is certainly no time to abandon that restraint.
On the revenue side the Government is in a position to make further tax reductions as it foreshadowed in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. It proposes to reduce taxes up to the limit of budget capacity after making provision for essential expenditure and having regard to the commitments Australia may soon have to face: and it has devised the tax reductions in a way that will ensure the maximum incentive to effort while making wherever possible a direct reduction in costs. At the same time it has taken care to ensure that the budget for the year will balance; for there could be no thought at a time like this of adding to the volume of spending power by the process of deficit-financing.
This year the Government has given no undertaking to assist Loan Council borrowing programmes from revenue as it had to do on a large scale in the last three years, when public loan raisings fell far short of borrowing requirements. Since, however, the Commonwealth has agreed with the States that the full amount of loan money raised this year, either from local or overseas sources, will be applied towards the Loan Council programmes, the whole of its own expenditures, including capital expenditures, will have to be met from its own resources. This is not something we are doing willingly. We would in fact be very glad to finance a large part, if not the whole, of our capital works from loan moneys. .But since sufficient loan money is not yet available for all the capital requirements of the Commonwealth and the States, the only alternative to financing our capital works from sources other than loan funds would be to take a part of the money which is now being made available for State works programmes. I might point out, however, that thanks to the notable revival in the loan market in the past year, a rauch larger proportion of Australian works expenditure is now being financed from loan moneys than was the case two or three years ago. A survey of Loan Transactions and Pub.lic Debt in 1953-54 is given in Statement No. 2 which is a supplement to this speech.
As the Prime Minister ha.” already announced, the budget appropriation for defence this year will be ?200,000,000. In addition, there is the Defence Equipment and Supplies Trust Account of ?12,000,000 which was set up during 1953-54 and which will be held available in the Treasury as a reserve from which to meet any additional commitments. Thus funds that can be made available for defence purposes this year will be nearly ?35,000,000 greater than the amount of ?177,000,000 which was the total of cash expenditure on defence during 1953-54.
The Government has decided to increase general rate war pensions under the Repatriation Act by 7s. 6d. per week, thus making the 100 per cent, general rate ?4 10s. a week.
The rate of war widows’ pensions will also be increased by 7s. 6d. per week, so raising it to ?4 a week.
The new rates will be paid from the first pension pay-day after the necessary legislation has been passed.
The cost of these increases is expected to be about ?1,900,000 in a full year and about ?1,400,000 in 1954-55.
In accordance with the undertakings it gave in the policy speech the Government proposes to raise the permissible income for age, invalid and widows’ pensions from ?2 to ?3 10s. a week.
The property limit will be raised to ?1,750 and the property exemption will be raised from ?150 to ?200. Income from property will in future be disregarded in applying the income test. This provision will assist particularly those pensioners who own houses, but, while unable to obtain possession, are receiving rent from tenants. The legislation already provides the DirectorGeneral of Social Services with discretionary power to exclude from the property test the value of houses belonging to pensioners in this position, and the discretion will be exercised freely in future.
Blind persons eligible for pension will in future be paid the full pension of ?3 10s. a week free of the means test.
Sr.:n:i 90,000 pensioners will receive increases in their pensions as a result of the liberalized means test. In addition, many thousands of pensioners will be brought into the pensions field and receive part pensions.
The increases (including those for blind pensioners) will be paid from the first pension pay-day after the necessary legislation has been passed.
When these measures have been brought into account and provision made for the normal increases in the numbers of social service beneficiaries and the expansion of health, medical and other services, the expenditure from the National Welfare Fund is expected to be ?16,800,000 greater than in 1953-54. Details of the National Welfare Fund are contained in Statement No. 5.
Homes for the A.ged.
In the policy speech the Government undertook to provide, on a ?l-for-?l basis, money towards capital costs incurred by churches and recognized charitable institutions for building homes for the aged, up to a total Commonwealth contribution of ?1,500,000 a year. Provision has been made in the budget for this amount and details of a scheme are at present being formulated.
Payments to the States.
Total payments to the States this year are estimated to be £198,665,000 compared with £194,248,000 in 1953-54.
The tax reimbursement grant payable to the .States under the formula laid down in existing legislation is estimated at £130,500,000. Because this would clearly fall short of the States’ requirements, the Government proposes again this year to pay the States’ a special assistance grant sufficient to bring the total tax reimbursement payments for the year to- £150,000,000, or about £7,600,000 more than last year. Legislation will be introduced shortly to authorize the payment of this special financial assistance grant of approximately £19,500,000.
Special grants to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania will amount to £12,300.000 compared with £15,400,000 last year. This follows the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Legislation authorizing the grants will be introduced shortly.
Payments for Commonwealth Aid Roads purposes are expected to reach £24,000,000 this year, or nearly £7,000,000 more than last year. This substantial increase arises because the Government proposes to introduce new legislation to provide a much more generous basis for Commonwealth assistance for roads during the next five years. Pending the passage of the new legislation, payments will be made from the Commonwealth Aid Roads (Supplementary) Trust Account in order that the new basis of roads payments may become effective as from the 1st July. Since the payments from this trust account in 1954-55 are estimated at £2,000,000, an amount of £22,000.000 is being provided in the budget.
The estimates for capital works and services this year amount to £104,633,000 compared with an appropriation last year of .£101,543,000 and actual expenditure of £94,080,000.
In accordance with the policy speech, £30.000,000 is being provided for war service hoi leS as compared with expenditure in 1953-54 of £26,846,00.0. The maximum: advance available for the pur chase of existing homes under the War Service Homes Act is to be increased from £2,000 to £2,750.
An amount of £14,200,000 is being provided for the Snowy Mountains scheme: as compared with, expenditure of £13,170,000 last year. Substantial payments will be necessary during the year on the contracts which have been lot for a large section of the scheme.
Total expenditure on Post Office works and equipment is estimated at £27,265,000 compared with expenditure of nearly £26,000,000 in 1953-54.
Six million, seven hundred and sixtysix thousand pounds is being provided for works in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, this representing an increase of £2,672,000 over actual expenditure last year.
Departmental expenditure is estimated at £49,173,000, an increase of £1,945,000 over expenditure last year. The greater part of the increase will go to authorities such as Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the Atomic Energy Commission, and to the1 technical branches of departments such as Civil Aviation and Interior.
Provision has been made this year for increased expenditure in the Northern Territory and for a much larger grant to the Administration of Papua and. New Guinea. The Government has approved ][11 principle an expanding programme of development in these territories. Theestimate for ordinary services in the territories is £13,679,000 compared with expenditure last year of £11,133,000. As. I have already mentioned, additional provision has also been made foi’- capital works in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, whilst a substantial part of the grant, of £7.560,000 to Papua and New Guinea, will be used for works purposes.
Expenditure on immigration is estimated! to be £2,165,000 greater than last year, mainly because of the- larger inflow of assisted-passage migrants.
Total subsidy payments are expected to be £820,000 less than in 1953-54 although provision is being made for higher bounty or subsidy payments on cotton, tractors, dairy products and tea.
Five million five hundred thousand pounds has been provided for expenditure on international development and relief. Last year expenditure on this item was £3,574,000. The greater part of this increase of nearly £2,000,000 is intended to provide for additional expenditure under the Colombo plan.
In total, expenditure in 1954-55 is estimated at £1,014,849,000 compared with actual expenditure of £960,428,000 in 1953-54. Details of actual revenue and expenditure last year are given in Statement No. 1 attached to this speech, while details of the expenditure estimates for 1954-55 are given in Statement No. 4.
On the basis of present rates of taxation, it is estimated that total revenue in 1954-55 would reach £1,050,100,000. This includes revenue from taxation £936,856,000, and other revenue £113,244,000, and is approximately £33,000,000 greater than actual revenue in 1953-54.
Although incomes of both individuals and companies upon which income tax is currently being assessed were larger last year than in the year before, and although wages and salary payments, imports and sales can be expected to increase again this year, it has to be remembered that revenue in 1954-55 will bear a full year’s cost of the largo and comprehensive tax reductions made in the 1953-54 budget. That full year cost was estimated at £118,000,000 on the basis of conditions at the time. It would be substantially greater on the basis of current conditions and prospects. The revenue estimates for 1954-55 are set out and explained in detail in Statement No. 3 attached to this speech.
If revenue were to stand at £1.050,100,000 andexpenditure at £l,014,849,000 there would be a budget surplus of £35,251,000. The Government proposes to make tax reductions worth £46,600,000 a year to taxpayers, and it is estimated that the cost of these tax reductions in 1954-55 will be £35,000,000.
Having this amount of scope for tax reductions, the Government has considered very carefully the form such reductions could most appropriately take under present circumstances. It has decided that, as in last year’s budget, the greatest weight should be given to reductions of income tax on individual’s. By so doing, the benefits will be spread most widely and the greatest number of people will receive a further incentive to work and to save.
The Government has, however, explored the possibilities of reducing indirect taxation and it is proposing some very useful reductions in that field. Some of these reductions will make an important direct contribution to the problem of reducing costs. Others, again, will be very helpful to the householder and the family man. The Government has also examined at great length the vexed question of depreciation allowances, and I shall have something to say on that important subject presently.
Meanwhile, I wish to give the main details of our tax proposals.
It is proposed to reduce the rates of individual income tax and social services contribution as from the 1st July, 1954. The reduction will be graduated over all income ranges and will represent an overall decrease of 9 per cent. on existing rates. Statement No. 6 illustrates the reductions for taxpayers at selected income levels and with various family responsibilities. The reductions in tax range from approximately 20 per cent. on the lower incomes to about 8 per cent. for taxpayers with incomes between £8,000 and £16,000. On the excess of income over £16,000 the new rates scale will terminate at a maximum rate of 13s. 4d. in the £1 instead of the present 14s.
The rates of instalment deductions will be reduced as from the 1st October, 1954, which is the earliest date by which it will be possible to prepare and distribute the new instalment schedules. In the case of taxpayers who are subject to provisional tax, the reductions will be reflected in decreased amounts of provisional tax for 1954-55.
The reductions in the individual rates will cost revenue £31,250,000 in a full year and £23,200,000 in the current year.
Successive tax reductions effected by this Government have very substantially reduced the burden of income tax on all classes of taxpayers. It is significant that the new rates represent an overall reduction of almost 30 per cent, on the rates in force when the Government came into office. Statement No. 7 compares income tax in Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand and shows that income taxpayers in Australia are paying considerably less than those in the other two countries.
It is proposed to allow deductions of gifts of £1 or more to the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, the Australian Academy of Science and to public funds for the acquisition, construction and maintenance of school and college buildings used by non-profit organizations. These concessions will cost revenue about £200,000 in a full year, but there will be no cost in 1954-55.
Amounts received for the grant, assignment or surrender of mining leases are, at present, assessable income of the recipients and deductible in the assessments of the payers. Assessability of the amounts received has, it is thought, proved a deterrent in some cases to mining development. It is proposed, accordingly, to place these transactions outside the income tax field unless the parties to a transaction agree that such payments should continue to be assessable on the one hand and deductible on the other.
Under the existing legislation, income is exempt from tax if it is derived by a bona fide prospector from the sale of rights to mine for gold and certain other metals and minerals which are prescribed by regulation. This exemption applies to a company which has itself carried out the major part of the field work of prospecting, but it does not extend to dividends paid by the company out of the exempt income. It is proposed that, where dividends are paid wholly and exclusively out of the exempt income, the shareholders shall be free from income tax on those dividends.
It is further proposed to extend the list of metals and minerals prescribed for the purpose of the foregoing exemption.
It is estimated that the cost in a full year will be £15,000. There will be no cost to revenue in 1954-55.
At present, an annual allowance is made, in the annuitant’s assessment, for the purchase price paid by him for an annuity for life, but this allowance ceases when he has attained his expectation of life as actuarially calculated. The loss of this allowance increases the tax payable by the annuitant at a time when he may be least able to bear an increased tax burden. It is proposed to remove this limitation so that the annuitant will be entitled to the allowance throughout his lifetime.
The cost in a full year will be about £15,000. In this year there will be no cost to revenue.
At present, United Kingdom pensions payable to disabled servicemen resident in Australia are exempt from Australian income tax. It is proposed to extend this exemption, as from the 1st July, 1954, to the widows and other dependants of deceased United Kindom servicemen. The exemption will then be in conformity with the exemption of pensions paid by the Commonwealth to widows and other dependants of Australian servicemen.
In a full year there will be a cost to revenue of about £20,000 but no cost in this financial year.
The rate of tax on furniture and certain household equipment, including crockery, cutlery, floor coverings and household appliances, will be reduced from 12^ per cent, to 10 per cent. This reduction, which is expected to cost £4,376,000 in a full year and £3,400,000 in the current year, should be particularly useful to people setting up homes.
It is also proposed to reduce from 16f per cent, to 12-J per cent, the rate of sales tax on toys, fireworks, amusement equipment, musical instruments, confectionery and ice-cream. These reductions are expected to cost £1,714,000 in a full year and £1,333,000 -in 1954-‘5’5.
A number of important items will be wholly exempted from sales tax. Amongst these items are several which have a direct bearing on the costs of industry or constructional work.
For example, hand tools, are to be exempted at a cost to revenue of £2,530,000 in a full year and £1,800,000 in the current year.
Certain types of industrial machinery and equipment are also to be exempted, amongst them being machinery for the r pair and maintenance of manufacturing plant, repair plant used in the mining industry, machinery for use by contractors engaged in building and the construction of roads, dams and similar works. The cost of revenue of exempting this group is expected to be £1,210,000 in a full year and £9,00,000 in the current year.
Aircraft and aircraft parts will be exempted at a cost to revenue of £869,000 in a full year and ‘£800,000 in the current year.
Paper bags, wrapping paper and string will :be exempted at a cost of £1,800,000 in ,a full year and £1,400,000 in 1954-55.
Exemption is also proposed for ‘bottles and cases used in the soft drink industry, for clock system’s and time recorders for business and industrial use ‘and for a number of miscellaneous items which at present constitute anomalies in the administration of sales tax. The cost to revenue of these exemptions is estimated at £3.23,000 in :a full year and ,£259,000 in the current year.
All told the sales tax concessions I have just outlined are expected to have a value to taxpayers of £12,822,000 in a full year and £9,892,000 in 1954-55. Pull details of these proposals will be given when amending legislation is brought down later this evening .and the amendments will become effective as from the start of business to-morrow.
It is proposed to raise the annual exemption from £4,160 to £6,240. On a weekly basis, this is an increase from £80 per week to £120 per week. The higher exemption will operate in respect of wages payable on or after the 1st September, 1954.’ Tax will be payable only on the excess of wages over the amount of £120 per week. This amendment will exempt a further 10,50( employers from pay-roll tax and reduce the amount of tax payable by those still subject to this tax.
It is .also proposed to exempt wages paid by non-profit private hospitals, thus bringing the pay-roll tax law into line with the income tax and sales tax laws, which already allow concessions to such hospitals. Up to the present, tie pay-roll tax exemption in respect of hospitals has been limited to public hospitals.
The loss of revenue resulting from these concessions will be £1,810,000 in a full year and £1,508,000 in 1954-55.
To assist the grape-growing industry it is .proposed to reduce Customs and Excise on brandy by 30s. per proof gallon. ‘The estimated cost to revenue is £468,000 in a full year and £400,000 in the current financial year.
The estimated cost to revenue of the taxation concessions I have just outlined may be summarized as follows.:-
As I Iia ve already said, the Government has considered very closely the question of income tax allowances in respect of depreciation. The subject has been widely discussed publicly and we have had many representations on it from various sections of industry. We nave also obtained a wealth of expert advice and we have examined the measures taken in a number of other countries. I could not hope to discuss the subject in all its ramifications here, but there are a few relevant considerations which I think should be stated at this point.
There is, without doubt, an extraordinary range and diversity of opinion on this issue. Much of the diversity seems to spring from the fact that people who put particular proposals forward have different objects in view. Some, for example, are concerned with the problem of what has come to be called “ capital erosion “ which arises when, as a result of the increase in costs during a period of inflation, the replacement of plant requires a capital expenditure rauch higher than the original cost of the plant. Others are concerned not so much with the problem of financing the replacement of old plant as with the active stimulation of investment in new plant in existing and in entirely new enterprises. Others, again, direct their minds to the replacement of plant in the future, this with a view to promoting a more rapid scrapping of plant, whether already installed or to be installed in the future.
Many of the proposals that have been put forward contemplate adjustments of the depreciation provisions of the income tax laws which, while leaving taxpayers liable eventually to more or less the same amount of taxation, would permit them to re-arrange their capital programmes so as to ease their particular problems of financing plant -installation or replacement. Other proposals, however, go beyond this and suggest what, in fact, if not in form, would be a subsidy (in the shape of tax remissions) to purchasers of new plant, this at the expense of revenue.
Of this type are proposals based on the system of investment allowance recently adopted in the United Kingdom. The Government has given particular attention to these proposals which have a number of advocates- in Australia, and has found that they have features which are not acceptable under our conditions. In the first place, such allowances would apply only to new plant and would therefore be of no benefit to firms which have already set up their establishments and are net likely to extend them. Secondly, while an attempt might be made to confine such a. subsidy to certain types of capital assets or certain sectors of industry, in practice this would prove so difficult as to be well-nigh impossible. The result in that case would be to give an indiscriminate stimulus to all types of newcapital investment and the cost to revenue would become extremely high. For these and other reasons the Government cannot accept proposals of this type.
Another proposal which has had many - though a decreasing number of - advocates is the special initial depreciation allowance, of which we had experience in earlier post-war years. The particular feature of this method is that it produces ti large tax saving to the taxpayer in the first year after new plant is acquired, and therefore it too gives a strong but indiscriminate stimulus to new investment. It was largely for this reason that the system was abandoned under the inflationary conditions of 1951. With pressure upon resources again developing in our economy, this would hardly be an opportune time to restore that system even if it were acceptable on other grounds. In. any case it has proved in practice, both here and elsewhere, to have other defects as a. normal feature of an. income tax system.
I have cited investment allowances and special initial depreciation allowances as particular proposals which have been prominent in recent discussions. I cannot here review the many other schemes which have been brought under notice, but I do wish to make a comment on the existing depreciation provisions of the taxation law.
In the opinion of some authorities these provisions contain certain defects and anomalies, although it is conceded that generally they provide a basis upon which a reasonably satisfactory system of depreciation allowances can be built. These authorities at least believe that, insofar as the end sought should be provision for a more rapid writing-off of plant on account of obsolescence or for other reasons, the existing provisions could be used and adapted satisfactorily.
It does not seem to be appreciated as widely as it might, even by the more sober opinion to which I have just referred, that although ‘the present rates of depreciation provided in the act are based on what is called the effective life of an asset, it is nevertheless possible for the owner of the asset to scrap it at an earlier date and then claim the amount by which the realization price falls short of the written-down value as a deduction for income tax purposes.
Notwithstanding this little-understood provision of the existing law, criticism seems to concentrate mainly on the rates of depreciation allowed for various types of assets. Without saying whether such criticism is justified or not, I think this is a matter upon which the public mind ought to be set at ease and with this in view the Government has decided to refer this aspect of the matter to a special committee for independent inquiry and report. It seems to us that such an inquiry is a necessary first step if we are to consider this question from the point of view of national interest. To accept blindly the pleas of sectional advocates in such a highly technical field would endanger that high purpose, and this Government will be no party to it.
The Government has decided that a parliamentarian should be chairman of the committee and it has chosen Mr. Alan Hulme, the honorable member for Petrie, to undertake that assignment. Four other members will be chosen from men actively engaged respectively in manufacturing,’ commerce, primary industry and the accountancy profession.
To bring together the revenue and expenditure proposals I have outlined, the budget for 1954-55 may be summarized as follows : -
Outside the budget proper, finance will be required for war service land settlement, estimated at £5,000,000 and for redemption of savings certificates, also estimated at £5,000,000. It is proposed to charge these two items to Loan Fund.
At the Loan Council meeting in June approval was given to borrowing programmes for Commonwealth and State governments in 1954-55 totalling £200,000,000. Pending the raising of loans the Commonwealth has offered to make advances to the States for the first six months of the financial year at the rate of £180,000,000 a year.
During 1954-55, securities totalling £286,000,000 fall due in Australia. Arrangements for conversion of these securities will be considered as the loans mature.
In surveying the outlook, the Government has found some grounds for caution and some reason to stress the approach of weightier national responsibilities for Australia. But the caution we suggest is in the main a caution against overexuberance; the responsibilities we foresee should be well within our strength. All in all, conditions are favorable to further sound progress in the year ahead. The main thing is for the various elements in our economy to keep in step and not try, each individually, to thrust itself forward at the expense of the others.
In this budget we have observed the essential principle that, during times when the nation’s capacity is almost fully extended, revenue should at least balance expenditure. We have been able to do this while providing not only for certain necessarily larger commitments but also for active encouragement through tax reductions to effort, saving and enterprise. If there is a similar determination throughout the whole economy to consolidate stability without the sacrifice of initiative, we can face the future with firm confidence.
In 1953-54, revenue (excluding self-balancing items) was estimated at £982,145,000 and expenditure, at £981,930,000, leaving an estimated budget surplus of £215,000.
While actual revenue for the year exceeded the budget estimate by £34,554,000, expenditure fell short of the estimate by £21,502,000. The excess of revenue over ordinary expenditure therefore amounted to £5(i,271,000. This amount was transferred to the Debt Redemption Reserve. After this transfer, the Consolidated Revenue Fund was balanced in 1.953-54.
The main items of revenue which exceeded the budget estimates were Customs,. Excise, Sales Tax and Miscellaneous Revenue.
Customs collections in 1953-54 were assisted considerably by the progressive relaxations, of import controls during the year. Actual collections exceeded the budget estimate, by £11,957,000. Excise collections were £4.,860,00« higher than the budget estimate, the increase being due mainly to increased local manufacture of ‘ cigarettes and increased refining, of. petrol in Australia.
Revenue from Sales Tax exceeded the estimate by £7,949,000. During 1953-5.4 there was a considerable increase in sales of goods subject to Sales Tas - particularly motor vehicles and household and electrical appliances.
Income Tax collections (including Social Services Contribution and Wool Deduction) amounted to £528,181,000. These collections fell short of the budget estimate by £4,399,000.
Miscellaneous Revenue waa £9,784,000 higher than estimated in the Budget. This was due largely to the transfer to Consolidated Revenue from the War Gratuity Trust Account of a balance of £4,000,000 which was not required for war gratuity payments. Repayments of advances by the Joint Coal Board were £1,092,000 higher than .estimated, while payments to revenue of the net. profits arising from coinage and the note issue exceeded the estimate by £957,000. Details of Miscellaneous Revenue collections in 1953-54 are. included in Statement No. 3.
Excluding’ the transfer to the Debt Redemption Reserve total expenditure from Consolidated Revenue in 1953-54 amounted to £960,428,000. This was £21,502,000 less than the Budget estimate. Savings were effected in most items of expenditure but the main items which fell short of the estimates were Defence Services, payments to National Welfare Fund, Capital Works and Services,. Departmental,. Bounties and Subsidies and Miscellaneous Services. The only major items which exceeded the expenditure estimates were Payments to the States and War and Repatriation Services.
Expenditure on Defence Services was. £10,275,000 less than the Defence vote of £200,000,000. Unexpected delays occurred during 1953-54 in the fulfilment of orders for defence equipment and supplies. An amount of £12,000,000 was therefore set aside during the year to ensure that the Defence votes in subsequent years would not be burdened unduly by commitments outstanding in 1953-54.
Expenditure on War and Repatriation Services was £4,212,000 higher than estimated. This increase was due largely to the fact that redemptions of Savings Certificates amounting to £5,292,000 were met from. Consolidated Revenue instead of from Loan Fund. War Pensions also exceeded the estimate by £538,000. These increases were offset in part by lower expenditure on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation and by increased recoveries from the United Kingdom. Government and other Administrations.
Payments from the National Welfare Fund were £7,487,000 less than estimated. This enabled a corresponding saving to be made in the transfer to the Fund from Consolidated Revenue. The main items falling below the estimate were Unemployment and Sickness Benefits, Medical Benefits and Age and Invalid Pensions. A reduction of £2,457,000 in respect of Unemployment and Sickness Benefits reflected the fall during the year in the numbers receiving unemployment benefits. Expenditure under the Medical Benefits Scheme was £2,066,000 less than estimated, whilst expenditure on Age and Invalid Pensions fell short of the estimate by £1,793,000.
The provision during the year for Payments to the States exceeded the Budget estimate by £5,297,000. This was due mainly to the transfer of £5,000,000 to the Commonwealth Aid Roads (Supplementary) Trust Account for use, as required, in supplementing the payments under . Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation. Apart from this transfer, the normal Commonwealth Aid Roads payments in 1953-54 exceeded the estimate by £857,000. This increase was due to higher petrol tax collections than had been expected.
Departmental expenditure was £1,474,000 less than estimated. The savings were spread over a large number of Departments and reflected stability in costs and strict control over expenditure during the year.
Expenditure on Bounties and Subsidies was £1,510,000 lower than the Budget figure.. The principal savings were in the tea subsidy (due to a decline in the landed cost of tea in the early part of the financial year)’, in the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilizers, and in the tractor bounty.
Expenditure on Miscellaneous Services fell short of the Budget estimate by £2,028,000. The main reductions were in Immigration (£1,197,000) and in International Development and Relief (£676,000).
Expenditure on Capital Works and Services was £7,468,000 less than the Budget estimate. There were reductions in respect of War Service Homes (£1,154,000), Stirling North-Leigh Creek railway (£1,254,000), construction of merchant ships in Australia (£167,000), Civil Aviation works (£419,000), Commonwealth Railways (£665,000) and Territories (£1,393,000). The only major addition to capital expenditures was the purchase for £1,000,000 of United Kingdom and New Zealand shareholdings in B.C.P.A.
At a meeting in May,. 1953, the Loan Council approved a total governmental borrowing programme of £231,000,000 for 1953-54. At that meeting the Commonwealth expressed the view that such an amount could not be raised on reasonable terms and conditions and indicated that it could not support a borrowing programme for 1953-54 greater than £200,000,000.
At the same meeting, the Commonwealth agreed to assist the States by arranging during 1953-54 for special subscriptions to Commonwealth loans up to an amount of £95,000,000 and indicated that this special assistance would be reduced below £95,000,000 to the extent that public loans and State domestic raisings exceeded £105,000,000. The amount actually provided by the Commonweal th was £74.353,000 which, with the amount of £125,647,000 from publicloans and domestic raisings, made actual borrowings for the year £200,000,000. This sum has since been agreed to as the borrowing programme for 1953-54.
The Commonwealth approached the market twice, on each occasion with a cash loan and a conversion offer. In each instance, four and one-half per cent. securities for thirteen years were offered at par. Three per cent. securities were also offered in each case, for two years at par in September-October, 1953, and for three years at £98 10s. in March, 1954.
In the new cash loans, a total amount of £85,000,000 was sought and subscriptions amounted to £118,390,000 (face value) or £118,172,000 in terms of net cash proceeds. In addition, State domestic raising amounted to £7,475,000.
Maturing securities totalling £48,114,000 were offered for conversion of which £43,171,000 was converted, leaving £4,943,000 to be redeemed from the National Debt Sinking Fund.
Details of public loans raisings in Australia in 1953-54 are set out in the following table: -
Since public loan raisings in 1953-54 provided net cash proceeds of £118,172,000 and State domestic raisings amounted to £7,475,000 - a total of £125,647,000 - it was necessary for the Commonwealth to arrange special assistance amounting to £74,353,000 to meet its undertaking to assist the Loan Council pro gramme for 1953-54. For this purpose (and to provide finance also for advances to the three agent States for War Service Land Settlement) the Commonwealth floated a special loan of £80,000,000 in June, 1954.
The special loan was issued on the same terms as the public loan floated in March, 1954. Subscriptions came from the following sources: -
Finance for the . approved Loan Council borrowing programme of £200,000,000 in 1953-54 was therefore provided as follows: -
During 1953-54 the receipts of the National
Debt Sinking Fund were £68,828.000. As a balance of £23,782,000 was carried forward from the previous year, a total of £92,61.0,000 was available for sinking fund purposes. Of this amount £46,443,000 was used for the redemption of debt (including redemption of unconverted securities) and £18,000,000 (representing funds accruing from International Bank loans) was invested in Commonwealth securities.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 August 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540818_reps_21_hor4/>.