21st Parliament · 1st Session
Ms. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In addressing a question to the Prime Minis- ter I refer to a statement that was mads by the Minister for Labour arid National
Service on the 28th June last, when he stated -
It is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to emphasize before the Arbitration Court when it resumes the hearings on the margins application, the . Government’s view of the importance of maintaining a sufficient disparity between the wage rates of skilled workers and relatively unskilled workers.
Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the real intention of the Government in this matter? What is the Government’s view of the importance of maintaining, “ a sufficient disparity between the wage rates’ of skilled workers and! relatively unskilled workers?’’ la it’ the Government’s intention to emphasize that the. margins of skilled workers’ should be increased or conversely, that the margins of the “ relatively unskilled workers “ should be reduced in order to ensure a “‘sufficient disparity”? Finally, what does the term “relatively unskilled worker “ mean in view of the Government, and what margin for skill will it suggest to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.?
– It is obvious that 1. would not endeavour to state at this interval of time ahead what view will be stated by the Government in court and in what terms, it will be expressed.
– Will the Minister for Territories inform, the House whether work has been . commenced on the European and native hospitals at. Lae and Port Moresby, and if so, when, the work will be completed ? Will the Minister also give the details of the full hospital construction programme for Papua and New Guinea, resulting from the survey that Has been conducted by his department ?
– Work on the new European and native hospitals at Lae was started, some time ago and I believe that it. must be nearing completion. The. plan for Port Moresby is to build a base hospital which will include European and native hospitals. The first stage provides for the- construction- of the native hospital, aicd some time, ago funds were made, available for that purpose. Speaking’ from memory, I believe that tenders are now being- called for the work. Funds’ have also been made available, for the European hospital, and’ the plan is to complete the European and native hospitals on the new site by about the end of 1956. The. work will be done in. two stages.. The complete hospital scheme involves the construction of hospitals of various kinds’ of a total value of £7,00^000 over’ a period of years. During the debate on the Estimates, I shall be- in a- position to give the House more precise information as. to the stage of the scheme’ that will be undertaken in1 the current financial year.
– In view of the heavy cost of replacing carpenters’ tools* will the Treasurer consider increasing the amount of £10 that is now an allowable income tax. deduction foa? that purpose:? Will the Treasurer also- consider increasing the allowable tax deduction for the replacement of other tradesmen’s tools?
– The honorable member’s question, obviously, involves a matter of policy that has. been considered by the Government. It. was also considered by previous governments, which made no alteration along the lines that the honorable member has indicated. This Government sees no reason to make such an. alteration at present.
– Further to- representations that I made personally to the Minister for Social Services a little while ago, I should like to know whether any’ action has been taken to remove from Kingshome Rehabilitation Residential Centre at Taringa, Brisbane,, dairy cattle which, have been a source of. annoyance1, to residents in that area.
– News travels pretty fast in this world. A few days ago, I wrote, to the honorable member explaining, the position that exists in respect of the matter that he has raised.: Some time- ago, the Department of Social- Services took over a dairy herd from an ex-servicemen’s organization with, a view to. utilizing it in rehabilitation work that is being carried out at Kingshome. However, as .the experiment, was. found to- be inefficient and too costly,, it was decided a few days ago to dispose of the herd. At the same time, rehabilitation work will be continued. Expenditure on rehabilitation work will not be reduced as a result of the failure of the experiment to- which I have referred.
– My question to addressed to the Minister for Social, Services. Has consideration been given to a suggestion; made by the honorable member for Macarthur regarding the necessity for the inclusion of up-to-date details on the information sheets con”tained in the pension application forms;?:
The suggestion of the honourable member was: that forms be. recalled and new details sheets inserted in them. If the matter has. not yet. been considered’, will the Minister give thought, to an alternative proposal that special magistrates be supplied) with np-to-date information sheets, and that applicants be provided with a. copy at; the. magisterial! examination! of new claims.? Would not this alternative, proposal obviate the. recalling of. present, claim papers, the insertion ot’ correct detail’ sheets in them and the re-wrapping and forwarding of such new supplies to post offices? -
– It was not until the Treasurer delivered his Budget Speech last night that- the Department of Social Services was1 able to take action to send out notices’ with the new formulas contained1 in them. I understand that the department itself had anticipated the Budget, and was preparing the new forms so that they could1 be sent out quickly: I had not. heard the suggestion made by. the honorable1 member for Batman,, but I shall certainly bring it to the notice of the Director-General of Social Services and. see; that, it is thoroughly considered.
– Will the Minister foa’ Social Services inform me of the progress, that has been made with the plan to acquire new offices in< Newcastle for the Department of Social Services ? Is- it the intention of the department to keep in Newcastle: pensions- records for the northern area of New South Wales? When the new offices have- been acquired!, will pensions be paid from that centre?
– During the last few weeks, one of my colleagues has made constant representations to the- effect that Newcastle be- made- a regional directorate for’ social services purposes^ and; that a greater part of ‘the activities’ of the, department be conducted* from there so that all documents will not have to be sent to Sydney or Melbourne for final considera-tiran. We have obtained an option for the purchase of a building in Hunter-street; Newcastle. During the last few days, the Treasurer has agreed te the purchase of the building; provided’ vacant possession can be given to the department by the 1st January of next year;
Negotiations are proceeding: It is hoped that a regional directorate with somewhat greater powers’ will be established in Newcastle1 m the- near future and that we- shall be able to- simplify pensions procedure.
– As the. Government, accumulated a huge, surplus, of i £56,0.00,0,00 during, the last financial, year, will the Minister for Social Services; take it upon himself to advise his colleagues in Cabinet of the- contemptuous reaction , of the Australian people to the. failure’ of the Government, to do- justice to the most needy/ sections, of the. community - aged ‘ people, invalid’s: and widows on. base pensions,?. In the- interests of decency, will he do- everything possible to- secure immediately an increase, of the miserable pen- 1sions paid to these people? ,
– The speech made by the honorable member was both ‘ debatable and provocative. A decision has been made on this matter, and it was announced last night in the budget, which we all agree is a very wise and’ prudent j budget.
– Not. a penny more is 1 to> be given to base, pensioners.
– The honorable , member will have plenty of opportunities to debate this’ matter at the appropriate time. He can express his views then if he wishes to do so and have them discussed. I, personally, and those who- have expressed their opinions’ to me, consider that, in the circumstances, the budget for . 1954-5-5 is a very- wise budget, and’ will be of benefit; to the Australian people.
– Is the Minister for. 1 Commerce and Agriculture aware that , large areas of valuable pastoral land throughout Australia are infested by a noxious plant, known as Nasella tussock ? [f; he is aware of this- growing threat to . our primary industries, will he confer with the Treasurer and1 the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization with, the object of having made available financial and scientific aid in order to combat this pest?
– Whilst I have heard about the noxious weed to which the honorable member has referred, I, personally, have no knowledge of it. Primarily, the control of noxious weeds falls within the jurisdiction of the State governments, which have always discharged that responsibility in the past. If a State government, or a primary industry organization, makes representations to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, I am sure that the council will direct its attention to the problem if it is found that a study of the pest falls within the ambit of its normal activities. However, I repeat that the control and extermination of noxious weeds is primarily the responsibility, not of the Australian Government, but of the State government.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs heard reports that are circulating in this country to the effect that large numbers of Chinese Communist troops, including parachutists, are massed on the Chinese coast opposite Formosa? If the Government has information that would indicate that an invasion of Formosa by those troops is imminent, does it subscribe to the view that such an invasion would be calamitous to the cause of all who are opposed to the spread of communism in Asia?
– I have heard reports of the kind to which the honorable member has referred, and they have caused me a great deal of concern, particularly as they coincide with a marked stepping up of propaganda and threats by the Chinese Communist Government against the Chinese Nationalist Government now located in Formosa. I do not think that it is an unwise prediction to say that any threat of invasion of Formosa would quite certainly, in public knowledge, have very grave results. All I can say at the moment is that this matter is being very carefully watched, and not alone by the Australian Government.
– I understand that the Tariff Board will shortly inquire into the protection that is afforded to Australian manufacturers of tractors, agricultural machinery, and agricultural implements. Complaints have been made by various people who are interested in such inquiries that insufficient publicity is given to the date, time and place of the hearings. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs convey to his colleague a request that greater publicity be given to that information? Will he also arrange for members of this chamber to be advised of those particulars so that we shall be able to inform organizations in our electorates which are interested in the inquiries and wish to make representations to the Tariff Board ?
– I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the honorable member’s request, and I am sure that ii; will be given due consideration.
– Will the Minister for Territories recommend to the Government that the standardization of the railway gauge, now being effected from Stirling North to Leigh Creek, be extended from Leigh Creek to AliceSprings ?
– This is obviously a question of government policy which requires consideration of all factors affecting the matter. In general principle, of course, it would be of great advantage to the Northern Territory and to South Australia if the standard gauge line were so extended, but desirability is not the whole end of the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture about the difficulties of the poultry industry. A large meeting of about 400 poultry farmers at Campbelltown last night pointed out that while prices of poultry products here and overseas are falling, there is documentary evidence to show that overall production costs have trebled in the last three years. Will the Government consider requests, first for the highest possible egg subsidy, and secondly for a long term scheme to stabilize the industry?
– Following representations by the poultry industry, the pig meat industry, and by many members of the Government parties in this House, the Prime Minister has given an assurance to the Premiers that there will be an investigation by the appropriate governments officials as a preliminary to serious consideration by the Government of what can best be done to help the Australian poultry industry. However, I remind the honorable member for Macarthur that when, some years ago, the Government proposed to grant a subsidy on eggs, almost mass meetings of protest were held by the poultry farmers. We were told that they wanted a subsidy on feed wheat and not on eggs. So, it is not simply a matter of accepting the first suggestion that comes along. An intensive study of the problems of the industry is now proceeding and consultations are being held with the industry itself and with the State governments. There will be no avoidable delay before the Government considers the matter, and reaches a decision.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that discontent is still widespread in Melbourne over the long periods that members of some approved hospital and medical benefits societies are expected to wait before they receive the moneys due to them under the National Health Act? Will the right honorable gentleman exercise the power vested in him under the act to insist that members of such societies shall receive the amounts due to them promptly?
– At the beginning of the insurance scheme, payments were delayed to members because of the extraordinary rush on the part of people to insure and also because the societies had difficulty in obtaining assessors to deal with claims. I understand that the position has now greatly improved, and that the waiting time is much less than before. In many cases, payments of all small claims are being made over the counter.
– The delay in making payment in Melbourne is about 6 weeks.
– Small claims i are being paid over the counter.
– Is the ‘ Minister for Health prepared to consider , amending the regulations governing medical benefits societies so as to make it compulsory for them to supply free of charge to all of their members a schedule of the benefits to which the members are entitled by law, so that the members will know whether the reimbursements they receive are in accordance with the regulations, and also to ensure that tie amount that the Government guarantees is paid, 1 subsidized, at least, on a pound for pound basis by the society?
– Every citizen of the Commonwealth can ascertain easily for himself or herself the information mentioned by the honorable gentleman, by ‘ purchasing a copy of the Gazette containing the National Health Act. 1
– Can the Vice- ‘ President of the Executive Council inform me whether any restriction is placed on the reproduction for . sale to the public of records of speeches made by Her Majesty the Queen during her recent < visit to Australia?
– So far as ‘ I am aware, no restriction is placed upon the sale of records of Her Majesty’s speeches during her visit to Australia. Indeed, authority has been given for the profits obtained from the sale of such , recordings to be paid into the Coronation Fund.
– I ask th* Minister for External Affairs whether i there is any truth in the reports that have been received of the inordinate size of the Soviet Legation in Djakarta, which, apparently, is quite out of propor-i tion to any legitimate Soviet interest in that country? Is it thought that this is . part of a scheme of Communist infiltra-‘ tion in Indonesia, which would be particularly dangerous to Australia in view of the inclusion of certain proCommunist elements in the Indonesian Government? Would this pose a threat to Australia if any Communist plot in
Indonesia were to ‘succeed, both because it would bring the menace nearer Ito us and because it might have prejudicial effects on the situation regarding Dutch New Guinea^ Will ‘the Minister “investigate those matters, and inform me whether there is any truth in the reports about the inordinate size of the Soviet Legation and inform me of any point that may arise in relation to the other connected matters’?
– The honorable .gentleman has asked whether I have .any knowledge of the inordinate size, as he has described it, of the Soviet diplomatic post in Djakarta and its possible effect on the situation in Australia. That concerns two governments - a government with which we are not in active and current diplomatic contact and a government with which We have the most friendly relations. So at least one avenue of inquiry is denied to us at present. However, I think (the size of the (Soviet diplomatic post in Djakarta is a matter of common knowledge. I .shall probably be able to discover -the size .of it without tapping improper sources of information. There is every reason to believe that the Indonesian Government is fully aware of the Communist menace inside that country. I expect it has taken all proper steps to protect Indonesia against what the honorable member has suggested might occur there. We in Australia have shown, at least in recent years, that we are well able to protect iOurselv.es against underground threats to our security. The Government will not be remiss in its future efforts to maintain this ability to protect ourselves.
– My question concerns the administration of the War Service Homes Act. I want to make clear that I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Social Services on three occasions during the last three months, and that it ‘has no ‘relation to the question as*ked by the honorable member for Franklin. It has been announced that the maximum loan for the purchase of a house under the “War Service Homes Act is now £2,7’5’0. Previously, when the maximum loan was £2/000, it was pro vided that the purchase ‘price of the house should not ‘exceed £3,500. Has this figure been increased, or has the limitation .been abolished’’?
– As was announced by the Prime Minister in “his policy speech, and by the Treasurer when he presented the budget last night, approval has been given for the maximum, .loan for a war service home .to be raised to £2,750. I think that, as .a consequence, approval has been given also .for the price limit to be raised beyond £3,50.0. When the War Service Homes Act is amended, either a new limit will Le specified or the restriction will be abolished.
– My question refers to the decision of the Minister .for Immigration to reopen the immigrant holding centre at Stuart, in Queensland, for which everybody concerned is very grateful. Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration give any indication of the date when the centre will be reopened ? If not, will he endeavour to expedite the reopening in order that immigrants working in northern Queensland may be reunited with their ‘wives and families as ,-soon as possible-?
– I cannot offhand give the honorable member the information for which he has ‘asked, ‘but I shall have the matter investigated and - Will write to him as Boon as I have obtained it.
– In view of the conflicting nature of reports on the food situation in Asian countries, one report asserting that the great majority of Asians are existing at semi-starvation level whilst another claims that there have been abundant harvests of wheat and rice in most Asian countries this year with consequent surpluses of those grains, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture have prepared a factual statement on the situation and indicate also whether the Government is prepared, as a humanitarian Christian gesture, to donate Australian wheat in order to save the lives of starving people who live near
Australia, if the. first report I have mentioned’ is found to be true, so that the evil propaganda, of Communist agents may be counteracted and those countries saved from Communist conquest?
– I see no reason why the Australian Government should set itself up as a judge of the needs of other countries. I can think of no occasion on which this Government has not taken action when other countries have asked it for assistance of the kind that, the honorable member has suggested. I recall an occasion two or three years ago when there, was reported to be a terrible drought in India. Millions of Indians were supposed to be starving to death. The Australian Wheat Board had sold all the available Australian wheat to India in the course of ordinary transactions, and, under the pressure of public clamour at that time, the Government directed pre to offer to the Government of India free of charge every available bushel of maize, oats, barley, grain sorghum and other grain foods other than wheat. The Government of India said, “ Thank you very much. We do not want it “.
– In view of the statement made earlier this week by the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service in praise of the Government’s drive to encourage the employment of aged workers, and his declaration that “ employing the older worker is sheer good business “, can the honorable gentleman explain why this Government continues in Canberra to retire its employees compulsorily at the age of 65 years and to refuse to employ men even temporarily in quite lowly positions after they have reached that age? Is there any answer other than the one usually given that the Commonwealth might be involved in heavy compensation payments if it employed old people and they suffered injury or death while at work?
– This, of course, is a matter of Government policy. It is administered by the Public Service Board. I do not propose to make any comment on it.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is- a fact that the Queensland authorities have decided that they will never again make available a i judge to sit on a royal commission appointed by the Commonwealth? Did that decision arise from the affront that was given to the Chief Justice of that , State by the Prime Minister in refusing to accept the judge that he had nominated for the Royal Commission on Espionage? Is it also a fact that the Prime Minister has stated as’ his reason for refusing to accept the nomination of the Chief Justice of Queensland, that ho . wanted a balanced commission? If so. will the right honorable gentleman state what he meant by a “ balanced Commission “ ? In what way would it have been ! unbalanced had he accepted the* judge nominated by the Chief Justice of Queensland?
– I made a perfectly plain statement on this matter in the 1 House the other evening. Since then,, I have observed that what I had to say has ‘ been much criticized in Communist publications.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs now able to add to ‘ answers that he has given to questions that I have asked about Indo-China and the unfortunate people who desire to 1 escape from the Communist terror in that ‘ country ?
– The honorable member . has raised this matter on more than one occasion. In the past, I have not been able to give him a specific reply. I can now say that the Government has decided to ask the Australian Red Cross Society ‘ to send Mr. A. G- Brown, its Chief Commissioner in Australia, to Saigon as ‘ quickly as he can get there; he will probably leave Australia next week. Mr. Brown will make a quick survey of the principal necessities of the unfortunate refugees flooding into Saigon from the north, and will inform the Government of the commodities that they need most. We will then consider the extent to which we can meet those needs. I must say, while giving the honorable member every credit for raising this subject on two previous occasions, that the Government has had this matter under active consideration for the last fortnight.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether the Government is purchasing uranium mined by private enterprise in Australia? If so, in what form is it being purchased ? Is the world parity price being paid for it?
– I seem to recall the honorable member asking me this question with others recently. In case I did not reply fully to him then, I now inform him that the Government has offered to huy uranium at fixed prices for a period of years. The prices have been published, but subject, always, to the grade of ore. The prices fixed by the Government were published last year. They are somewhat better than the prices abroad. There is a world parity price for uranium; our prices are a little better than that. We are buying ore at prices based on the uranium content. We expect to refine it and, on the sale of the oxide, to make a profit for the Australian taxpayers.
Debate resumed from 18th August, 1954 (vide page 433), on motion by Mr.
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General lie agreed to: -
May it PLEASE Youn 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.
– I understand that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) wishes to speak now.
– If the honorable member for Maranoa does not wish to speak now, his decision will leave his lights unimpaired.
– If the Minister for the Army would like to take the call now, and you would grant me the privilege of taking the next call on this side of the House, I am prepared to surrender my right to speak now.
– Does the Minister for the Army wish to speak ?
– I should like to speak now.
Opposition Members. - No !
– Order ! The position is that the motion for the adjournment of the debate was moved at the last sitting by the honorable member for Maranoa, who has priority to speak this morning. If he wishes to use that priority he may do so. If he does not wish to use it, he may speak at some later stage. A decision on his part to surrender his priority now will not impair his right to speak later.
– I desire to exercise my privilege of taking the call now. First, I wish to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your election to your high office for the third time in succession. I congratulate also the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) on his election as Chairman of Committees for a third term.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it ia in order for honorable members to leave the chamber immediately the honorable member for Maranoa congratulates you upon your election to the Speakership?
– Order! The honorable gentleman is entitled to leave with the others.
– I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you and the Chairman of Committees will carry out your duties in the impartial manner which has marked your tenure of office.
– What about congratulating me ?
– I was only asking for congratulations from the honorable member for Maranoa.
– Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) can congratulate himself.
– Among several important matters referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech with which I wish to deal is the problem of reducing Australian costs of production. That subject has been discussed freely in this chamber and in the press. I believe that in the last three years the Government has shown itself to be fully cognizant of the need to reduce such costs in order to enable our products to compete on the world’s markets with the products of other countries, and thereby earn Australia income overseas. That contention has been borne out by the Deputy Premier of Queensland, who was recently reported in the press as follows : -
Sooner or ‘ later in Australia every one would have to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, the Acting Premier (Mr. Duggan ) said, last night. “ If we are to hold Australia it will be necessary for us to be conscious of our obligations to the rest of the world,” Mr. Duggan said. “ We must not only be cost-conscious, but recognize also that work is honourable and cannot be avoided “.
The cost of production of all our export commodities is a vital matter. Ninety per cent, of the costs of production in primary industry are out of the producers’ control. The producer cannot reduce wages which are fixed by the Arbitration Court, ho cannot reduce shearing rates nor the cost of fencing wire, nor the cost of petrol or oil or spare parts for his car; he cannot reduce the cost of education for his children; he cannot reduce overdraft rates, rentals, sales tax, nor the other taxes that he has to pay. The Government has given incentive to the primary producer to produce. It has also encouraged him to reduce costs by reducing some of the taxes that have been imposed on him in the past, such as the land tax. But immediately the Government ha* lifted a tax, some of the State governments have reimposed it, thereby showing their lack of sympathy in connexion with the vital problem of costs.
Recently, new unimproved land valuations were made in Queensland. In Wambo Shire with which I am familiar there was an average increase of unimproved land valuations of 222 per cent. In individual cases, the increase was as high as 600 per cent. Revaluations in that shire have increased total land valuations from £2,410,357 to £7,736,103. Those increased valuations will have a direct effect on costs. They will increase our land tax, our rentals and our probate duties. These revaluations have affected farmers throughout the grain growing areas from the Darling Downs to Maranoa. Honorable members know that the prospects of the grain industry are not bright. The producers are becoming worried about how to meet the additional , costs resulting from the revaluations. A member of my electorate has had the unimproved valuation of his land increased from £5,000 to £20,000. That man has to pay a rent of at least 3 per cent, of the capital value of his perpetual lease, and because of its high value his rates ar<- i increased accordingly. I suggest thai, that is a terrific load for one person to ; carry. That state of affairs does not ! apply only to the shire in which I live; it also applies to other shires throughout the whole of Queensland. Such an ! imposition is outrageous in view of the uncertain future of our markets f«r primary products. 1
The increased death duties is also a very serious matter for the man on th<.: land. Because of the great increases of the official valuations of rural properties, 1 death duties have also greatly increased. ‘ In 1944, the collections of Queensland probate duties amounted to £746,629, but in 1953, those collections had increased 1 to £2,302,299. I venture to say that the > latest increase of the values of rural properties will cause an increase of probate duty in the one year equivalent to ‘ the increase from 1944 to 1953. None of the circumstances that I have enumerated give much encouragement to country families who are working properties as family units. They do not feel disposed to build up an estate by hard work, because they now realize that when the . head of the family dies the whole of the estate will be thrown on to the market in order to pay probate and death duties. 1 We appear to have reached a situation in which a man cannot afford to die. 1 Land-holders who do die, leave such ti burden to those who follow them that in ‘ many cases their properties have to be broken up.
I appeal to the Government to try to do something to alleviate this state of affairs, because I understand that federal probate duties represent about 1 per cent, of the Commonwealth revenue. I honestly believe that this Government should seriously consider the total abolition of death duties, particularly in view of the effect that they have on the man on the land. By working long hours, primary producing families may build up an estate. They do not work 40 hours a week, .as the men in industry work; they work much longer, and in many cases much harder. Moreover, they do not enjoy the amenities that the people in the towns have, and although life on the land is a wonderful life, it is made really worth while only if some amenitie.3 are available. People will not remain on the land if burdens are to be continually piled upon them as has been done in the past, and as is still being done, by the Queensland Government.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) drew the attention of the House to what they called excessive freight rates charged by certain air line companies in Queensland on goods carried between certain towns. I point out to them that before they bring a complaint to the Federal Government, they should approach the Queensland Government and ask it what it is doing to assist the people living in remote places in Queensland. On the coastal route from Brisbane to Cairns, the Queensland Government’s taxes on fares and freights represents 10 per cent, of the gross revenue of the operating air lines. For the information of the House I cite the following rates of tax: -
The passenger air fare between Brisbane and Cairns is £18 12s., but it is subject to a 10 per cent, tax, so that the amount payable by the passenger is £19 18s.
Recently, when the Premier of Queensland finished what he referred to as a fact-finding tour, he stated that some of the air fares and freights being charged by airlines were too high and should be subsidized. Of course, he did not say whoshould subsidize them, but he promised that his government would look into the matter. The total collection of such taxes in Queensland last year amounted to £150,000. The Queensland Government is the only government in Australia which collects taxes on air fares and freights. 1 suggest that if the Queensland Government is sincere in its desire to assist thepeople in these northern areas, it will remove such iniquitous charges.
Yesterday, the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) referred to the need to develop the beef industry in Queensland. I do not propose to repeat his arguments, but I ask other honorablemembers to study his speech and give some thought to this important industry. I hope to say something on the subject during the budget debate. At this stage, T make the comment that the people of Australia do not fully appreciate how dependent we are on our primary industries. If they did, they would realize that between 80 and 90 per cent, of our overseas balances are derived from the export of primary products, 60 per cent, coming from exports of wool alone. At the present time, we are living on the sheep’s back. The country is being carried by the rustics to whom the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) referred in the House recently. Our primary producers have had the benefit of good prices for their products during the last few years. Fortunately, prospect? for the wool and meat industries are very good, although they are not overpromising for the grain industry. I shall not panic, however, because I do not think that the grain market will crash. The prices that are paid for Australian primary produce constitute the only truebarometer of Australia’s economic position. Low prices have forced more people off the land than have all the floods, droughts and bush fires combined. I have seen many heartbreaks that I do not wish to see again. I know that the Government is aware of those heartbreaks and that it is doing its best to see that they do not recur.
.- The debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency, the Governor-General, provides each honorable member with a fairly extensive range of subjects. I do not intend to address my remarks so much to sins of commission as to what I consider are sins of omission by the Government. Before I proceed with those remarks, I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Webb) upon their contributions to the debate. Judging by those contributions, I am sure that the .House will benefit considerably from their presence.
The first criticism that I propose to direct against the Government in general, and against the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in particular, is the failure of the right honorable gentleman to inform the House of the reasons that were given by a former Governor-General, Sir William McKell, when he acceded to the request of the Government in 1951 for the granting of a double dissolution. The Prime Minister’s reluctance to state those reasons is disturbing. Surely that discourtesy cannot be countenanced any longer. His delay in giving the House that information has raised questions in the minds of those people who believe in the .supremacy of Parliament in relation to such matters. The history of the matter reveals that the Prime Minister, in taking the course that he did, set a precedent and that he displayed what almost amounts to contempt of the Parliament. I draw the attention of honorable members to the following question that was asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on the 26th September, 1951, which is reported in Hansard volume 214, page 37 : -
I remind the Prime Minister that some months ago, on behalf of the Opposition, I requested that the ordinary procedure be followed .in connexion with the grant by His Majesty’s representative .in Australia of a double dissolution of the Nineteenth Parliament under section 57 of the Constitution, and that the official papers and the advisings of the Prime Minister or his Ministers, or Government officials, to the Governor-General be placed on the table of the House because of the importance of the constitutional precedent, that was involved. The Prime Minister then, undertook to treat my request as a question! asked upon notice, but to-day I have read in the newspapers that the request is to be’ refused because otherwise the Governor-General, might be embarrassed. I ask the Prime Minister whether that is a correct statement ofl the position. If so, will the right honorable gentleman reconsider his decision, because i neither I nor any other member of the Opposition is in the slightest degree interested in anything except the assertions of fact or of; constitutional law or practice that were made by responsible Ministers in the documents that passed from them, or on their behalf, to the Governor-General. It is on that basis that1 constitutional practice in this country is established and, without the information that 1 seek nobody can say what the constitutional! practice is. I assure the Prime Minister that embarrassment to the Governor-General would’ be hi no sense involved.
The Prime Minister replied as follows : -
I have given consideration to this matter. I agree that the communications that passed between myself and the Governor-General and between His Excellency and myself on the, occasion of the request for a double dissolution and the granting of it are of first-class historic and constitutional importance. They must,’ therefore, be tabled at a proper time. I do1 not propose to table them at a time when they would give rise to discussions in which tha present -occupant of the position of GovernorGeneral would lie involved.
The Prime Minister’s reply was completely contrary to the precedent -set by a previous Prime Minister, who,! on the 10th day following the granting of a double dissolution, made public the: reasons for which the Governor-General’ granted his request for a double dissolution. The double dissolution granted; by Sir William McKell occurred in 1951, and this House and the people are still not acquainted with the reasons for it. In view of the lapse of time, surely one is entitled to ask how much longer we must wait to ascertain those reasons. The Prime Minister said at the time that, during Sir William McKell’s term of office, he would not lay on the table of the House the reasons given by the Governor-General for the granting of the double dissolution. The Prime Minister’s refusal to reveal the reasons has set a precedent at variance with established practice. Sir William McKell’s term as Governor-General expired on the 8th May, 1953, and we are still awaiting knowledge of his reasons for granting the double dissolution. At this juncture those reasons do not interest me. Obviously, they cannot do so because I do not know them. I strongly criticize the attitude of the Prime Minister which in this instance amounts almost to cavalier treatment of this Parliament, shows very clearly its limited authority, and proves conclusively the extent to which authority is vested in the executice or Cabinet. In view of the grounds upon which the Prime Minister refused to make public the reasons why his request for a double dissolution was granted by Sir William McKell, it is not unreasonable to think that he would have made them available soon after Sir William McKell’s retirement from the office of Governor-General. But that was not done. The Prime Minister’s attitude is very difficult to defend. It shows clearly how small a part this Parliament plays in the government of Australia. The Prime Minister must appreciate the important issues that are involved in this matter, and I sincerely trust that, in the immediate future, the reasons for which Sir William McKell granted the double dissolution in 1951 will be made available to the people.
Side by side with the Prime Minister’s scant regard for Parliament, the influence of certain high-ranking public servants is extending. Public servants are supposed to act in advisory capacities, but I regret to say that, in recent times, some of them have taken it upon themselves to enter into public controversies and defend Government policy. Obviously, they must have the Government’s support in that attitude, and I express criticism of, and opposition to, the fartoofrequent excursions of important public officials into the political arena. During the period when this Government’s controversial import restrictions were most sever, a Treasury official, at a dinner given in Melbourne by the electrical trade manufacturers, strongly defended the Government’s policy on imports, which was under heavy fire. To my knowledge, that official set a precedent as a highranking public servant publicly defending controversial government policy.
The Government has never condemned his action. Both the Administration and its official are to be condemned - the Government because it permitted a public servant at one and the same time to act as its adviser and the defender of its policy ; and the official because he so acted as a public servant. Public policy is a matter for members of Parliament - in that instance, particularly for supporters, of the Government. In particular, it is a matter for Government members in this instance. Immediately a public servant enters a state of controversy, not only does he leave himself open to be criticized but also he brings the Public Service under criticism by his action.
The Public Service of Australia occupies a privileged position in some ways. Its position is somewhat unique. The Public Service Board is the supreme power in all things. It is a situation with which I disagree. The position of the public servant is safeguarded under the Public Service Act. That is as it’ should be. No one would agree with, or be happy about, a position that did not afford our PublicService some protection. It is unthinkable that public servants could be placed in a position where they depended upon the whims and fancies of Ministers of State. That position cannot occur in Australia, because the public servants are protected, as is their right. Speaking in a general sense, however, I am not very happy about the position that the Public Service Board occupies and the power and authority that it wields. In prevailing conditions, as they affect top ranking public servants and the Public Service Board, in many cases an appeal from one to the other is merely an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. The time is long overdue when somebody should study the whole set-up as it applies to our Public Service. There are many ways in which employees could be affected. A cursory knowledge of how similar services in other countries operate shows clearly that the authority, power and influence that stems from the set-up in Australia does not exist in many other countries.
I believe that there should be periodic reviews of the working of our own Public Service by an outside authority as is done in Great Britain. No one will argue that the public service of the United Kingdom has suffered by that procedure and in Australia it should be given a trial. The Public Service Board in Australia reviews itself. It cannot be denied that the board has done much good for the Public Service and the country in the past, but the position does not appeal to me and I hope that some day we shall have periodic reports upon the functions of the Public Service by an independent authority and not by the Public .Service itself as is the position to-day.
All governments appoint high-ranking public servants to various boards and committees. I have no quarrel with that arrangement. Obviously, that is the correct thing to do. Those appointments have proved invaluable and those who have been placed in them have proved to be persons of capacity and integrity. Occasionally, however, they bring to the discussions of those organizations an attitude that I consider to be wrong. One such case is related to the appointment by . this Government of a Treasury official to the Commonwealth Bank Board. In the past, that board has given a bonus at different times to its employees. Since the appointment to the board of the Treasury official whom I have mentioned, the granting of bonuses has ceased to be part of the board’s policy. This officer argued that since public servants do not enjoy such a benefit, it would be wrong to grant it to employees of the Commonwealth Bank. If ever an institution could or should permit its employees to participate in some of its profits, surely the Commonwealth Bank could and should do so. In the year that I have in mind, the Commonwealth Bank made a profit of £10,700,000 on the year’s trading operations. I emphasize that that was the revealed profit. The true profit of the bank is known to only a few people. It is not difficult to understand the disappointment and the feelings of the employees of the Commonwealth Bank when they learned that they were not to receive a bonus. The decision affected officers of all gradings. The employees of the Commonwealth Bank are not covered by the Public Service Act and it was quite wrong for the Treasury officer . concerned to bring to the discussions on the matter a point of view that I consider to be irrelevant. The 1 conditions of the Public Service are not , in question. Because members of the Public Service cannot receive a benefit, is it to be withheld from persons who are . outside the Public Service? The Treasury official to whom I have referred is of that opinion and unfortunately he has been able to prevail upon a majority of , the board to agree with him. The bank employees have taken a dim view of this attitude and in my opinion they are more than justified in doing so. If ever an injustice was inflicted upon employees ‘ it was so in this case.
I have given the House an instance of public servants who have publicly defended Government policy. I now direct ‘ attention to a case of a public servant > who announced a policy. Some weeks ago the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, told the wheat- 1 growers of Australia that they should decrease the acreage under wheat. As a , result of a storm that followed his announcement, the Minister for Commerce , and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) on be- , half of the Government repudiated that suggestion, and told the wheat-farmers to ignore it. Because of the major policy involved, it is difficult to believe that the 1 Government was not implicated. If it was not involved, what action has been taken against Sir John Teasdale? This ‘ was not a minor matter, but a major one, and for that reason some action should have been taken against the chairman of i the board. The fact that the Government lias not taken any action again reveals very clearly that it was implicated. The dismissal of the previous chairman and the appointment of Sir John Teasdale to the Australian Wheat Board were accomplished in a very shabby atmosphere. The Minister for Commerce and . Agriculture cut rather a pathetic figure in defending the appointment, but all his blandishments could not conceal its ‘ sordid political character. In many ways we are blessed in Australia. That becomes more obvious when we realize that half the population of the world goes to 1 bed hungry each night. In the light of that situation, could there ever be a more catastrophic policy than the one suggested by Sir John Teasdale?
To recapitulate briefly, X emphasize that this House is entitled to know from #he Prime Minister when honorable members are to be given the reasons for the granting of the double dissolution of the Parliament in 1951. I have shown conclusively that the attitude of the Prime Minister in this’ matter was completely at variance with the precedent that was established on another occasion. The Prime Minister’s statement that he would not or could not table the reasons for the dissolution because he preferred not to involve the Governor-General of the day in controversy, is rather difficult to understand or appreciate when we recall some of the humiliating situations’ that- were forced upon the Governor-General of that time by some of the present Cabinet Ministers: When the present Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition, he was not involved in any of those incidents. That is’ to his credit. But when other Ministers were sitting on a different side of the House, some of them, did not object to taking advantage of every possible opportunity to try to force upon the GovernorGeneral of the day humiliations in many forms. The reasons that have been given by the Prime Minister for bis refusal to give the grounds for the’ double dissolution are completely untenable. This House is entitled to know the reasons why the double dissolution was granted. If the explanation that has been given by the Prime Minister is taken to its logical conclusion, ten- or twelve years might elapse before the people of Australia are acquainted with the reasons why the Governor-General granted the double dissolution. Let us assume that a GovernorGeneral accedes to a request by his Ministers that he should grant a double dis, solution in the first month of his first term of office and, at the end of five years, the Government re-appoints him for a second term. Would the reasons that have been given by the Prime Minister then hold? If they did, the country could possibly wait ten or twelve years before the people heard the reasons why the double dissolution had been granted. The Prime Minister admitted, in reply* to the Leader of the Opposition, that this question was of historic and of great constitutional importance. Over eighteen, months have elapsed since Sir William McKell relin- quished the office of Governor-General, but the Prime Minister has not honoured his promise to table the papers relating to that matter. I again urge him to da so, having regard to the factors that he himself stated were involved. I have shown that the delay that has occurred cannot be justified.
I repeat that public servants’ have established an undesirable precedent by entering spheres which are outside, the proper domain of a public service. I sincerely trust that the Government will rectify the position in which we- find public servants defending government policy, and in which the Public Service Board is operating on a scale that cannot be justified. I have given instances of ways in which I believe the Public Service could be improved, and I trust that the Government will consider the. suggestions that I have made.
– I take this opportunity to congratulate the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) and the honorable member.for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand.) on their maiden speeches, which they made as the mover and seconder, respectively, of the Address-in-Reply . Those speeches indicated that those honorable members will render useful and valuable service to the Parliament.
There are many observations- that 1 should like to make with respect to the activities of the Department of the Army. I shall take the opportunity to do so during the debate on the budget. At this juncture I propose to reply to the remarks that were made last night by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths).. Whilst some of those remarks were flippant, others were of considerable importance; Several of his statements were entirely unworthy of him. For instance, he declared -
Many of the brass hats of the. Army are not fitted to- hold their high positions; their services should be dispensed, with:
Without exception, senior officers of the Army are carrying out important administrative duties to their own credit and to the benefit of the Army as a whole. All of those officers led forces during World War II., while some of them were also officers during1 World War I.; andinthose conflicts they served with distinction and won many decorations. In their present positions, they have proved their administrative capacity in co-operating with theGovernment in building up the finest Army that this country has yet had in peacetime. The results of their work speak for themselves, and the Government is highly appreciativeof their services. Those men are doing their jobs thoroughly.
The honorable member made another absurd statement when he said that national service trainees will not join the regular army because the camp food is bad , and lacks variety, whilst, sometimes, butter is not provided. That is sheer piffle. Such , a statement was nonsensical and irresponsible. The honorable member then proceeded to make a vicious attack upon the coroner and police officers inNew South Wales who conducted the investigation into the accident which occurred at Stockton Bight in which three servicemen were drowned. When the honorable member declares that the food provided for national service trainees is below standard and lacks variety, it is obvious that he has not investigated this matter at first hand. I say, definitely, thatthefood served to the trainees is of better quality than that which issupplied in any other comparable establishment in thiscountry. The utmost care is taken to ensure that the best food is purchased and thatcooks are adequately trained to prepare food in bulk under camp conditions. Special warrant officers and non-commissioned officers supervise the preparation, cooking and serving of the food. I make ita practice to speak to men in the camps, both on and off parade, and I have not heard any complaint from them about the food that is supplied for them. Invariably, they have expressed satisfaction in that respect. The honorable member’s statements show that he is out not to help the trainees ‘but to do all the harm that he possibly can to the Army as a whole. . The accident to which he directed attention occurred six months ago. Its circumstanceswere properly investigated, and the official finding completely exonerated Army personnel. Yet, the honorable member has seen fit to drag up the matter again. I can only conclude that his purpose in doing so is to gain some party political advantage, regardless of the effect that his action may have upon the relatives of the unfortunate men who lost their lives.
My task as Minister for the Army is to ensure that the Army shall be thoroughly efficient and that every member of it shall do his job. I have never sought to protect, or to apologize for, any member of the armed forces who is inefficient or who fails in any way to do his job properly. Whenever instances of that kind have occurred in the past, I have taken appropriate action against the persons concerned. Every one associated with the Army is eager to make it as efficientas possible.Special instructional courses are provided forjunior officers and noncommissioned officers. For this purpose, each command conducts schools at each of the State head-quarters. Army headquarters conducts schools for all ranks as does each unit. As the result, the Army is most efficient. Proof ofthat fact is provided by thesplendidwork that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions have done in Korea, and the work that has been done by Australian servicemen in Malaya. Apparently, the honorable member is unaware of the fact that our servicemen have been described as the finest troops underthe American command in Korea. When I visited that country, General Ridgway told me that Australian servicemen were second to none and that on many occasionsthey had stopped a breakthrough by the enemy. He said to me, “ My only complaint is that there are not enough of themhere “. Similar tributes have been paid to Australian servicemen by General Van Fleet, General West, General Sir HoraceRobertson and General Wells, all of whom have led forces in the field. The Australian officers, whom I have mentioned, were practically boys when they commenced their course of training at Duntroon. Unfortunately, some senior officers who had experience in both world wars, and to whom much of the creditfor the present efficiency of the Army is due, are about to retire. The Army was never more efficient than it is to-day, yet the honorable member for Shortland spenthalf of his time last night trying to discredit its leaders. ‘The 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, received a citation from the president of the United States of America for its splendid work in Korea. Unfortunately, the limitation of time prevents me from dealing with this matter in more detail.
I know the unit that was involved in the accident at Stockton Bight. It was the 14th New South Wales Lancers. I had the pleasure and privilege of going with that unit on one of its exercises.
– Where did you go?
– I left Gan Gan Bay at Port Stephens, and went to Broughton Island. I then went 40 miles further north to Seal Rocks. I transhipped from a Fairmile to a duck on the high seas. We went ashore and then travelled for some time in an Alligator, which, as the honorable member knows, is an amphibious tank which can fire its guns in the water. I travelled many miles in the course of that exercise.
– Did the Minister stay at sea with the troops?
– I did.
– That is not true.
– -It is true, and I think the honorable member for Shortland should withdraw and apologize. As I have said, I transferred from the Fairmile to a duck on the high seas. I returned at night on the duck, boarded the Fairmile, and came right back to Port Stephens.
– What was the water like?
– It was very rough, at times. Some time later the Chief of the General Staff went out on another exercise. We both agreed that these officers and other ranks are highly efficient and I have the utmost regard for the splendid job they are doing, leading the men who risk their lives again and again in time of flood. These are the men who dashed through the night to Grafton, Murwillumbah and Casino when the Clarence, Richmond and Tweed rivers were in flood. They risked their lives to rescue people trapped by the floods; but all that the honorable member for Shortland can do is to criticize them. They have engaged in hazardous flood rescue work wherever they have been called upon to do so. I regard this unit as most efficient indeed. It is operating on a beach that was selected by the Americans when they co-operated with us to defend this country during World War II. Units of the American Navy trained there for their operations in the South- West Pacific.
– It did. The honorable member doe3 not know what he is talking about. He is not awake. The Royal Australian Navy has trained on that beach, too. Since 1947, this unit has gone on these exercises every year and there has never before been an accident. What are the circumstances in this instance?
– Did the commander have his son on board?
– I shall deal with all those points to the ultimate sorrow of the honorable member. These men are not the “brass hats” to which the honorable gentleman referred. They are civilian soldiers. Lieutenant-Colonel James is in charge of the unit and the officers and non-commissioned officers give their time voluntarily to the Army. They are helping to develop the national service training programme, and they have done a splendid job as the coroner himself said. I repeat that this type of training has been carried out since 1947 without any trouble. I come now to the circumstances in which the accident happened. After making all the inquiries necessary to ensure that the operation could be conducted, the lieutenantcolonel took his own craft out to examine the waters. He was out for half an hour or more and he made up his mind that it was safe to carry out the exercise.
– He could not have reached the sea in half an hour.
– Order ! The honorable .member for Shortland has already made his speech. He must listen to the Minister in silence.
– Had it not been for a local squall, this accident would never have occurred. The honorable member for Shortland has suggested that there kas been some husk-hush about the incident.
– So there has.
– He now repeats the allegation. My answer is that the circumstances of the investigation were unique. As soon as the accident happened, the authorities communicated with me. I told Army head-quarters in New South Wales that our public relations officer was to accompany the senior officer who was . to go to the scene. They took with them reporters from all the leading New South Wales newspapers. The pressmen conferred on the beach and then moved to the north and to the south to converse with the troops as they had been invited to do. They mutually arranged a rendezvous at the centre of the beach at 4 p.m. to correlate all the information they had obtained in the course of their inquiries right along the beach where the men were scattered. Pressmen had never before been permitted to make inquiries in this way. I am not seeking to defend any shortcomings or failings. I am merely emphasizing that the pressmen were taken to the scene of the accident and were able to make all the inquiries they wanted to make. In addition, two policemen who had done a splendid job when the men were being brought in, two doctors, and a group of surf life-savers were all available to give evidence. They had all conversed with the lads of the unit.
– Were the surf lifesavers called at the coroner’s inquiry?
-Order ! The Minister will resume his seat. I will not permit this dialogue to go on any longer. The. honorable member for Shortland has made his speech, and I understand that his colleague beside him is next on the list. The Minister must be heard in silence.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. All those people were available to give evidence. The inquiry was conducted not by a Commonwealth officer but by a New South Wales coroner. In addition, the New South Wales police conducted an investigation. I issued instructions that the Army was to give every possible assistance to the New South Wales police in conducting that inquiry and the police have expressed appreciation of the Army’s co-operation. They were given all the evidence that was available.
Reference has been made to a refrigerator. This unit was moving up to establish a camp. They had work boats to carry all the camp equipment they required. All the innuendoes that have been1 made about the carrying of a refrigerator ‘, - references to alcohol and the like - are unworthy. It is six months since this, incident occurred; yet last night was the first time the honorable member said anything about a refrigerator. In view of’ the attitude he has taken ever since the accident occurred, I am certain that he would not have hesitated to bring this, matter up before. For six months ap-, parently he has kept the secret that there1 was a refrigerator in the outfit. To-day! a refrigerator is part and parcel of camp equipment. 1
I shall say a word or two now on the general subject of accidents. We have 162,000 men and youths in the Army including the Permanent Army, the Citizen Military Forces, the national service trainees and cadets. There are thousands of men in camps all over Australia all the year round; yet the percentage of accidents in the Army is less than it is in civilian life. That is due to the efficiency of the Army. One would expect, because of all the possibilities due to the use of explosives and the like, substantially more accidents. I believe that even one death, one accident, is too many, but the accident rate among the 162,000 men in camp is less than the accident rate in civil life. I leave the issue at that for the time being.
I now propose to read to the House the coroner’s findings. That official heart! evidence collected by New South Wales police officers, and given at a public inquiry conducted by the State of New South Wales. His findings were as follows : -
This very regrettable accident happened on the morning of March 8th on military manoeuvres under the command of LieutenantColonel James, who is very well known in the district and is very capable and experienced officer in charge of the only unit of this type. He made a test first which showed everything was likely to be satisfactory. To make sure of the weather and the seas he had contact with the Meteorological Department where he was told it was quite satisfactory and safe.
All the evidence that the coroner could, possibly have was offered to him. The report continues -
The seas were calm and the wind negligible. He decided it was in order to carry out the expedition
We have heard vet evidence that the watt were serviced regularly and were in. thoroughly serviceable, condition. A. terrific amount of criticism has been directed about a cyclone and about serviceability-.
The evidence; here to-day excludes that
T&att was’ contradicted1 by the honorable member for Shortland, among, others, and repudiates it -
Some time after they left harbour, apparently the* wind sprang up and the- seas became rough. On. other occasions, however, they had. been in rough seas also:. In this district, we: have seen the DUKW’s in use. I think they are safe enough. It was the last heavy wave that caused the trouble.
That was the official finding of the coroner.
The’ loss of these- two- young people- is severe. The relatives might, be excused for thinking there was carelessness. I do not. think there was- carelessness. I think it was: a very regrettable accident’. T convey the sympathy of the court to the relatives- and hope: time- will help to* bring; some- comfort to them.
I, too, extend’ my sympathy to- the relatives of the deceased, and1 pray that time will Bring them comfort. But I do not consider that the action, of the honorable member for Shortland will help the relatives at all. The finding continues -
This- was a most difficult case and in- the preparation Detective-Sergeant Duffel’ was ai tower ot strength and I thank him. I think. Lieutenant-Colonel James did all that was possible to avert this kind of thing happening, and it was very bad luck it came to pass-.
The honorable member for Shortland will not accept that, either -
The only report which was so much- talked about has. nothing to do with’ us.
The, reference is to the report of the Army Court of Inquiry -
The evidence- here to-day was quite enough to show what happened. I find that on 8th March,. 1954,. off Stockton. Bight,, Moran- and Mornement were, accidentally drowned when amphibious, craft sank during military manoeuvres’.
In view of the. observations, of Mr. Priddle* the’ coroner. I suggest that the. honorable member for Shortland1, if he ifr. Francis. reads and analyses the findings, will realize that he is doing a great disservice. This is an attack on the New South “Wales police for the way in which they conducted the inquiry, and an improper attack on the coroner who gave those findings. It is not an attack upon the Army, which is completely cleared by the coroner’s- findings..
– That is what the Minister thinks..
– Then I shall read to the honorable member some opinions that have been expressed’ by others about the matter. The Sydney Morning’ Herald,, m its issue of the 14th April1 last”, stated -
No blame could be attached to the Army for the Newcastle amphibious convoy disaster in which two men were drowned and th* body ot a. third was not recovered..
The Argus, in a leading article published on the same day, stated1 -
A N.S.W. coroner’ after a meticulous inquest lias found that- the amphibious convoy disaster in which, two soldiers, were- drowned and another serviceman’s- body was not- recovered was not attributable to Army laxity. . . The normal processes of the civil law have now been invoked and full’ explanations have been given.
The public; and particularly parents of the many thousands- of National Service Trainees under service conditions, are: re-assured! that secret tribunals, do not have- any part of our Defence, organisation.
The Age, on. the same, day, published the following item -
Officers in charge of the Army amphibious exercise in Stockton Bight on March 8, today were exonerated of blame for- the deaths: of two soldiers drowned when eight vehicles were, swamped and sunk.
Those views, and comments were published by newspapers, whose task it. is to examine matters, that are taking place in public. Those forthright comments repudiate and destroy all that the honorable member for Shortland tried to do last, night. I assure him that a. more thorough investigation of an accident, has. never been undertaken. This Army is singularly free from accidents of this; type, and this unit is also singularly free from them. This is the first accident, that the unit has suffered since: it was launched- in 194.7.
– Order* The Minister’s tiona has- expired.
– -I had not intended to take part in this debate, hut after the House refused to grant the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) an extension of time last night to allow him to complete his case, and after having listened to the speech of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) this morning, I feel that I must change my mind. It is well for the House to keep cool and calm about a matter of this kind. For honorable members who have only a scant knowledge of the facts, I shall endeavour to paint a mental picture of what happened early on the morning of the 8th March last.
It is true that the commanding officer took a workboat out allegedly to have a look at the state of the seas, but he went no further than the end of the breakwater. From where he went, it was impossible for him to gauge the state of the seas. He came back within the breakwater, and signalled to the shore that the seas were safe for the operation, and that it was all right to carry out the exercises. T invite honorable members to endeavour to visualize the scene on the beach inside, the harbour. The ducks and tanks were lined, up, and young men, new trainees, who had never been to sea before, were asked to take part in an exercise in the middle of a very dark night, some of them in open craft and others in amphibious tanks. Honorable members who have any knowledge of the coast of New South Wales are well aware that the state of the seas is not the only factor to be taken into consideration when a marine operation is planned. Along the Stockton Bight, and to the north of it, the wind, when it blows from a certain quarter, can make rips and currents, and small craft operating there are vulnerable to bomboras.
The orders given to the men in charge of each craft engaged in this exercise were, in effect, to follow the leader. Each craft was supposed to have a tail light, and each craft was supposed to follow the tail light ahead of it. Can honorable members imagine anything more ridiculous than that arrangement? Anybody who knows anything at all about the sea understands that the occupants of a craft, when it is in a trough, and the surrounding waves are 10 feet, 15 feet or 20 feet high, find it impossible to follow the tail light on the craft ahead of them. The whole idea is ridiculous. Yet that was the order given. Again, anybody with any knowledge of the sea and boats knows that the weight of a tank would not increase its buoyancy, and that the tank itself would not ride the waves, but would go straight through them. On this occasion, the water came aboard the tanks, and caused the electrical equipment to fail. Once the engines stopped, the bilge pumps stopped, and down went the tanks. This is not a heresy hunt as far as I am concerned. After this unfortunate accident, the honorable member for Shortland and I were inundated with inquiries from worried parents. Our phones hardly stopped ringing. In view of the upsurge of resentment by people whose sons had been involved in the tragedy, we sent a wire to the Minister for the Army and asked that a full and open inquiry be held into the matter. The reply from the Minister was to the effect that there was no need for an open inquiry. That reply was sent before he knew the findings of the military court. How could the Minister know there was no need for an open inquiry before the military court had sat or announced its findings ?
The officer commanding the exercise indicated to the signal station that the troops were going to sea on secret amphibious exercises, but no arrangement was made between him and the signal station about distress signals if the Army got into trouble. I suppose we can say that, in effect, the signal officers were told to mind their own business, because the troops were engaged in secret exercises and information about the exercise was taboo. If an arrangement had been made between the signal station and the officer commanding the amphibious exercise, it is probable that the pilot steamer Bimbi would have gone out earlier than it did and prevented a lot of the confusion that occurred. Honorable members must remember that at one time well over 100 young soldiers were swimming about in the surf and in the open sea,, in darkness in the early hours of the morning. It is very fortunate that there was not a greater tragedy. As I said earlier, this is not a heresy hunt. At the time, the Minister for the Army accused the honorable member for Shortland and myself of trying to make political capital out of the tragedy. I think I have served in this Parliament long enough for honorable members to know that I do not play what may be referred to as dirty politics. I think the Minister for the Army knows me well enough to know that I never have done so.
The’ Minister wandered all round the world in his reply this morning. But I am concerned with nothing more and nothing less than a restoration of the confidence of the people in the control of the Army. If this kind of thing is permitted to occur again, that confidence will not be restored. Whoever authorized this exercise was terribly wrong. As the honorable member for Shortland said last night, on the afternoon before the tragedy about 340 people were rescued from the surf between Sydney and Newcastle. Does that indicate that the seas were calm? The pilot steamer Bimbi came into Newcastle harbour a little after midnight. I asked one of the men on the steamer, a responsible man, what the state of the sea was then. He told me that the wind velocity was approximately 15 miles an hour and that the sea was rising. Later, the wind velocity increased from 15 to 25 miles an hour. Does that indicate that the seas were calm? Any one who has experience of amphibious vehicles knows that they are ship-to-shore vehicles used for landing troops and other purposes. They are not designed for open-sea warfare. There was no need to hold an exercise of this type in the open sea. It was absolutely ridiculous to take inexperienced youths - boys who could not swim or had never been to sea before - out to sea in these conditions in open craft with a freeboard of 18 inches to 2 feet. If this exercise had to take place, why did it take place in the darkness at 2 a.m.? It could have been held in the calm waters of Lake Macquarie or Port Stephens, where satisfactory results could have been obtained.
– It is not nonsense. I regret very much that it is necessary to raise this matter at this stage. I said what I wanted to say at the time of the tragedy, and I conveyed my sympathy to the people concerned. The honorable member for Shortland and I attended the funeral service for the two boys at the cathedral in Newcastle. The Minister for the Army sent army representatives to the funeral, but the Government, as a Government, was not represented.
Another aspect of this matter is the treatment of the families concerned by the Department of the Army since the tragedy. The Army has shown a lack of interest in their welfare. It has not advised them how to claim compensation. Personal belongings of the boys were lost in the tragedy, but nothing has been done about that matter.
– That is entirely untrue.
– Order! The Minister has already spoken.
– It is not untrue. There has been a definite lack of interest in the families of the boys who lost their lives and those who lost personal belongings. We are all concerned with the defence of this country and with training our young men to defend it. If we. want men to enlist in the Army, we must ensure that the Australian people will have greater admiration for and greater confidence in the men who are in control of it. If anybody were to tell me in all seriousness that it was necessary to hold this exercise at that time, in those conditions and with craft of that type, I should say he was not right in the head. The Minister was wrong when he accused the honorable member for Shortland and me of attempting to make political capital out of the tragedy. At the time, we were concerned with the effect that it would have on the confidence of the people in those who control the Army. We are still concerned about that. If the Minister wants to restore that confidence, he must hold a full and open inquiry into the tragedy. I believe the proceedings of the military court of inquiry opened on the Monday or Tuesday after the disaster. The court adjourned on the Wednesday so that officers and other ranks could attend the funeral of the boys who lost their lives. On the Thursday, there was an investigation of the scene of the tragedy. The court of inquiry finished on the Friday afternoon. Over 100 boys were concerned in the incident. In those circumstances, can it be said that that was a full and proper inquiry? I do not know how many witnesses were called, but there were over 100 available. Then a coronial inquiry was held. That was concluded in one day. With due respect to the gentlemen who conducted it, can that be regarded as a full and proper inquiry into the whole of the circumstances of the tragedy? A coroner is concerned primarily with the cause of death. The coroner in this case did not inquire into the need for the exercise or try to find out whether, in the circumstances, it could have been carried out properly. Nothing of that nature was investigated at the coronial inquiry.
I conclude on the note that confidence in the Army must be restored. The people who lost their sons in such tragic circumstances must be compensated. Even now it is not too late to conduct a full and open inquiry into the disaster in order to satisfy everybody who is concerned about it. I have conveyed my sympathy to the relatives of the young men who died and I regret very much that I have had to raise the matter in the House at this late stage, thus perhaps reopening grievous wounds and reviving their sorrow. The Minister, if he is a wise man, will arrange for a further inquiry to be made into the whole matter.
.-I am glad that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has adopted a more moderate tone in dealing with the tragedy at Stockton than did previous speakers on the Opposition side of the House, notably the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), who was assisted by the interjections of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). I do not think that the introduction of this subject into the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor General’s Speech has done any good. It has done nothing for the parents of the unfortunate young soldiers who were drowned. It has done nothing to assist the cause of Australian Army training. It has merely aroused further ill feeling and difficulty and has harmed the cause of recruitment in the Citizen Military Forces. The honorable member for Shortland has not increased hu stature in this Parliament or elsewhere one whit by his intervention or by the acrimonious tone that he has adopted. One can well understand the anxiety and distress of the parents of the young men whose lives were lost in the exercise, and their anger at what they may believe to have been inadequate arrangements for it. Such emotions are perfectly natural human feelings. But we in this House have a responsibility to use the resources of the Parliament and the great publicity that is attached to parliamentary debate with care and due regard for the effect of our statements. I repeat ray belief that no good purpose has been served by the introduction of the subject into this debate.
I have some interest in this matter because for a long time I have been interested in the problems of amphibious warfare. Therefore, after this unfortunate tragedy had occurred, I made it my business to learn the facts of the whole exercise from a source which, I am confident, is well informed and reliable. In the first place, the exercise was fully authorized, not only by the officer in charge of the unit which took part in it, but also by officers senior to him up through the chain of Army Command. The exercise was carefully planned. Exercise orders were laid down and were approved by the brigade. A much more ambitious amphibious exercise had been planned earlier, but it was not approved ! because of the cost of such an under- , taking. Therefore, an exercise on a , reduced scale was eventually planned and authorized. Great care was taken by. those in charge of the operation to find out the state of the weather. The, exercise began in the early hours of a’ Monday morning. A weather report had . been obtained from the Commonwealth’ meteorological station at Williamtown about 7 o’clock on the previous night. Those in charge of the exercise were informed . that the weather was expected to he calm and clear. Lieutenant-Colonel J ames, the officer in charge, put to sea in hia own vehicle, which was a duck and not a work boat, about two hours before the exercise was due to begin. He left, about 1.30 a.m. and was at sea - not within the breakwater only, but actually at sea - for over an hour before he ordered the convoy to proceed, which he did about 3.30 a.m. It seems to me that the officer in charge took complete and adequate measures to satisfy himself that the weather would be suitable for the exercise and would remain so.
Anybody who knows anything about the weather on the New South Wales coast must be aware that it is not always predictable and is subject to sudden gales which cannot be foreseen and which are sometimes extremely severe. The unfortunate fact is that that part of the New South Wales coast did experience such a gale in the early hours of the Monday morning on which the exercise took place. The convoy had proceeded north along the coast for about 45 minutes in accordance with its orders, when a southerly gale began to blow. One vehicle immediately, or very soon afterwards, had engine trouble and the senior officer’s vehicle took it in tow and took off all but its driver. He then ordered the convoy to land, passing the order down the column through his second in command, and the vehicles landed through heavy surf, which at that time was running out about 200 yards from the beach. Honorable members opposite who have spoken on this subject have made much of their assertion that the sea must have been very rough on the day before the exercise because over 300 surfers had been rescued along the coast between Sydney and Newcastle during the day. The day before was a Sunday, and the fact that over 300 people were rescued from the surf then indicates to me that the surf was not very rough. Otherwise, such large numbers of people would not have been in the surf on a Sunday afternoon. Anybody who knows anything about surfing knows that large numbers of people do not go into the water when very heavy seas are running. Rescues on that scale occur generally when numbers of people enter the water during north- easterly weather when the seas are not heavy, with the result that many inexperienced surfers have to be helped out. Thus, the argument that people had to be rescued on the Sunday afternoon before the exercise indicates that the saa was reasonably calm then, or at any rate that heavy seas were not running.
The purpose of army exercises is to train for war, and, if it is to be an effective army, it must train under conditions as near to service conditions as can be simulated. Honorable members opposite have asked why the exercise was not conducted in the calm waters of Port Stephens. In other words, they want to know why it was not held under conditions in which there could not possibly be any danger. The simple answer is that an exercise of that sort would not be effective training for war. The fact is that training involves risks of this sort.
– Why did the officer-in-charge take his son with him if he went beyond the breakwater?
– Much has been made of the fact, by interjection but not by direct statement, that the senior officer ia said to have had his son with him. I should have thought that this would indicate that he was convinced of the safety of the exercise. Would he have taken hisson to sea if he had not taken due precautions ? I do not know that he did take his son to sea. All I can say is that noargument can be developed from thai assertion to demonstrate that the exercise was dangerous.
– He would not have risked his son if he had expected any danger,
Mr. OSBORNE__ That is the point.
We all know of the seriousness of the present state of world tension, and we all appreciate the regrettable fact that Australians of our generation may have tofight again for the safety of this country. In these circumstances, what serviceis done to the country by making a bitter party political issue of an unfortunate incident of this sort? A full coroner’s inquiry has been held. A coroner’s inquiry is conducted for the purpose of determining the cause of death, and theresponsibility for death if such responsibility exists. The coroner, as the
Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has pointed out, is an officer of the New South Wales law services and is not responsible in any way to the Government of the Commonwealth, or under its control or restraint. He had full authority to call such witnesses as he thought fit in order to find the truth, and he had the unqualified assistance of the New South Wales police in carrying out his inquiry. What good purpose could be served by taking the matter beyond the coroner’s inquiry? Nothing but harm can be done to the efficiency of the Army by continuing to debate this unfortunate and unhappy accident.
– A comparison of the statements contained in the Governor-General’s Speech with the glowing promises and extravagant claims that were made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other Government supporters during the campaign which preceded the recent election for this House shows that the Government followed the traditional line of anti-La bour forces in all elections by covering up its real intentions with catch-cries and bogys. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) claimed that we were enjoying a period of unprecedented prosperity and economic stability, to which the Government had contributed. They did not say that they had bled many deserving sections of the community in order to bring about that state of affairs. One would have thought that those people would indeed be given a share of the so-called prosperity, but their expectations were shattered by both His Excellency’s Speech and the speech that the Treasurer delivered last night. In particular, age and invalid pensioners, widows, and the wives and dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen were entitled to expect a share of the so-called prosperity. We were told that the 1954-55 budget would be a prosperity budget, but it has turned out to be a calamity budget. The inference to be drawn from it is that conditions are not so good in this country after all. We were told by the Governor-General that the budget would .be designed to consolidate our present prosperity - not to share it. What does that mean? Apparently prosperity is to be put into cold storage. That is a very bleak outlook for the pensioners and other unfortun’ate sections of the community who were misled by the Government’s promises. After all, many of the pensioners, unfortunately, will not be with us when the Government finally thaws out. There has been a complete sell-out in relation to the glowing promises that were made to the electors during the recent election campaign. > Why is there so much calamity howling . and warnings of dire things to come, if, ‘ in fact, we are passing through a period of unprecedented prosperity? Under , cover of the usual smokescreen, the old red issue, the Government has attacked the standards of living in this country. . The Treasurer stated last night-
– Order ! The honor-‘ able member may not discuss the Trea.surer’s statement. That may be debated only in Committee of Supply.
– The Governor- General’3 Speech was very doleful. The , Government’s intentions are now abundantly clear. During the election cam- 1paign, there was a repetition of the old ] story that has been told at election times down the years. I recall its use many ! years ago, in order to mislead and gull 1 the people into supporting the forces ‘ of reaction. The constituency that I represent was named after a gentleman who, in days gone by, always trotted out ‘ the old socialist bogy at election time.
I first had the honour to receive the , endorsement of the Australian Labour party in 1925, when I stood for the electorate of Eden-Monaro. At that time the . Nationalist party - a forerunner of the Liberal party - issued a pamphlet which contained a cartoon based on the attitude of the three wise monkeys. It depicted the then Premier of New South Wales in three different positions. The respective captions read -
I see no communism; I hear no communism;1 and I acknowledge no communism.
In the words of the pamphlet the cartoon ‘ had been suggested - . . by the .strange attitude of a certain ‘ State Premier, who is blind and deaf to the rampant communism which is all around him’ and which has now “ white-anted “ the Australian Labour party organization from which he takes his instructions.
That gentleman is well known to honorable members and I suppose that he is regarded as one of the greatest Communist haters in the community. I do not think that honorable members opposite, particularly as the gentleman to whom I refer subsequently left the Labour party, would suggest that he was, earlier in his career, linked with communism. Yet, that cartoon was typical of the kind of propaganda that has always been disseminated at election time by the anti-Labour forces. On the occasion of the recent election, the practice was brought up to date by the Treasurer’s enunciation of thirteen points in relation to our leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). After all, that was in keeping with the current line of attack on Labour and democratic forces in other parts of the world, as represented by the activities of Senator McCarthy in - the United States of America, which arc designed to exploit the issue of anticommunism. It is time that we gave credit to those to whom it is due. Credit should be given to the right honorable member for Barton for the work that he did to help this country to victory during World War II., and also for his great contribution to world peace, when he was president of the United Nations. The constant aim of the forces of reaction is to destroy the current leader of the Australian Labour party if he remains loyal to the cause of Labour. We have only to recall the attacks that were made on former Labour Prime Ministers, including Mr. Watson, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Scullin, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley. But, if the leader of the Labour party crosses the Rubicon and joins the forces of reaction, he has honours heaped on him. Otherwise, he is finally destroyed and driven into the grave. The great qualities of former leaders of Labour were, after their death, extolled by the press propagandists, whose poisonous pens had helped to drive them to destruction. It is sickening to compare the mordant articles published in the press after a Labour leader has passed on, with the cartoons and other hostile propaganda published during his lifetime. This practice has persisted during the 2,000 years of Christian civiliza- tion, and it will continue unless, following an attack from some other planet, human beings decide to pull together. History does, in fact, repeat itself.
By a strange coincidence the campaign for the general election in 1925, to which I referred earlier, was fought on an issue concerning a couple of individuals who were being hustled out of the country by the government of that day. We were told by the then Prime Minister, Mr., now Lord, Bruce, that if the Government was returned to office those persons would soon be on the high seas. Unfortunately, the people were carried away on that occasion, and, in a wave of hysteria, returned the BrucePage Government to office. What happened to the gentlemen who were to be deported ?
Sitting suspended from IS J/5 to S.l-5 p.m.
– Not long after the return of the Bruce-Page Government to office these men were released. They had served their purpose, and were never heard of again. They had served the Government’s purpose. Each was paid £25 compensation, which was a lot of money in those days. I suppose if the same thing happened now they would be paid £5,000 each. After that incident the issue of communism promptly went back into cold storage, as always happens, ready to be brought out at subsequent election campaigns. I often wonder what would happen to the anti-Labour forces if Communists disappeared from the face of the earth. They would have nothing with which to mislead the people into electing them into office. If the Government were really sincere about combating communism, it has plenty of power to do so by administrative action, without either an amendment of the Constitution or new legislation being necessary. As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has pointed out, the Postmaster-General has full power to deregister Communist publications so that they cannot be sent through the mail at concessional rates, as the Communist journal Tribune, published in Sydney, is sent through the mail every week. Administrative action only would be required to prevent that treasonable publication from circulating, and the
Government would take such action if its expressed desire to combat communism were really sincere.
Just as the Bruce-Page Government, after its re-election to office for the term 1925-28, came out in its true colours, so also this Government is now showing itself without its disguise. Its real purpose is now easily discernible as an attack on the Australian standard of living. As soon as the BrucePage Government was returned to office in 1928 it introduced legislation to abolish the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, so that all federal awards covering wages and conditions would have gone by the board, and industrial relations would have gone back to the jungle law, with the workers at the mercy of the most harsh and unconscionable employers. It was that action which led to that Government’s downfall, because many of its own members could not stomach its actions.
If the Government’s real purpose is not an attack on the standard of living, why all the calamity howling and dire warnings of things to come that we hear from it? I admit that the anti-Labour forces in 1929 were more blatant than this Government is in the way they went about things. The present coalition is adopting more subtle methods, in the light of the Bruce-Page Government’s experience in 1929, when it was hurled from office by the people. On the one hand the Government tacitly supports the freezing of wages and margins by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said during the last election campaign that the Government, if returned to office, would not intervene to see that the full facts were put before the court on behalf of the employees. Since then, however, we have been told that the Government will intervene to the point at which it will support a case on behalf of skilled tradesmen only. On the other hand, the Government is harping about the cost level, and giving a straight tip to the court about what it really wants the court to do. The Bruce-Page Government fell when it started tinkering at the economy. Its actions sowed the seeds of the great depression. This Government is starting to do the same kind of thing, and may touch off explosions that it will ultimately be unable to control. One of the root causes of depressions, apart from the existence of certain weaknesses in financial machinery, is the tampering by governments with economic forces. The psychological factor also has a part in starting a depression. Once a government starts fiddling with ecornomic forces the psychological effect is that employers begin to curtail product tion and dismiss employees, shopkeepers lay out less of their capital in goods, and business firms stop building new premises or enlarging their present premises and so on. Finally the whole thing snowballs into a first-class depression. It is then left to the Labour party to take office and get the country out of the mess the anti-Labour forces have put it in. The Labour party, unfortunately, is a crisis party. It is always elected to office to clean up the mess left by others, and is forced to do hard and unpleasant things in order to put the economy on its feet again.
The Government is continuing with its policy of artificial credit restriction which it adopted in the 1951 horror budget, and which resulted in many industries closing down, wholly or partly. They included timber mills, brickworks and other industries ancillary to the building industry. Some of the workers put off were able to find places in other industries, but many of them were not able to do so. Now we find that, with the easing of credit restrictions last year, the remaining potential, such as it was, has been quickly absorbed. Now that we are again involved in the vicious cycle the Government will no doubt have to deal with this artificial credit restriction by a succession of horror budgets. The Government has no sooner been returned to office than it continues with its policy of credit restrictions. Homebuilding, which is the index and the key to economic prosperity, is being gravely affected by this policy. The Government, acting through the Commonwealth Bank, is curtailing finance for home-building. The bank, which previously had been providing £7,000,000 in New South Wales alone in home-building credit, and £10,000,000 in the Commonwealth as a whole, kas in recent weeks curtailed its1 outlay in that regard to £5,000,000., The Governor of the bank told a deputation representing building societies in New South Wales, only a week ago-, that this financial year the Commonwealth Bank intended to reduce its- allocation for home-building loans to £5,000,000. How does this figure square with the figure of £36,000,000 which home-building societies in New South Wales alone require in finance? The excuse given for this further restriction is the prevention of further inflation and black marketing.
The Government is creating a vicious cycle, because these loan restrictions mean that more and more industries, particularly those engaged in building, will have to curtail their expansion. The Government is only staving off the evil day, because the demand for homes is continually mounting. So far from coping with the present demands for homes the Government is not even keeping pace with arrears. That is a grave social and economic problem. One serious effect of the lag in home-building is shown in figures recently issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, which show that many young people who wish to get married are not marrying because they know they will be unable to find homes for themselves. That is a matter of vital concern to this nation, which so badly needs population. The statistician’s figures also show that in the last year 74 per cent, of children born to mothers under the age of 21 were conceived out of wedlock. Recently the New South Wales Minister for Education received a report that 45 per cent, of girls and women under 21 who became mothers are unmarried. This Government should act in conjunction with State Governments to provide the finance necessary to grapple with the cause of this problem, which is, the shortage of housing. It might well follow the worthy example of New Zealand in that regard during the great depression. At that time the Labour Government of New Zealand had the enterprise and foresight to bring from this country thousands of skilled workers, particularly in the building trade, who had been thrown out of work here. It provided finance for home-building at the rate of 1-J per- cent. This Government should show similar acumen and foresight, instead of continuing with its policy of credit restriction. In addition to restricting finance for home-building, the Government has handed back to the private financial institutions: a sum of between £300,000,000 and £400,000,000 previously held on their behalf by the Commonwealth Bank as special deposits. The Government might well have reserved part of that money, even if only 10 per cent, of it, for the purposes of home-building, and on long terms. At present the private banks are not interested in long-term, finance. They are only concerned with short-term finance on an overdraft basis so that they can call up the overdraft at any time. That is the type of situation that helps to precipitate a depression.
It is also necessary to have an orderly immigration scheme in order to bring skilled workers into Australia. Money is only a measure of the availability of man-power and materials. We have the raw materials that we need in this country and thousands of skilled workers in Great Britain and elsewhere could be brought here if the Government had a progressive policy for national development. But, like Micawber, the Government is waiting for something to turn up. The Government is in a position similar to that in which a previous Minister for the Army, Mr. E. M. Forde, found himself. He said at the time that one section of the high command was telling him that he should proceed immediately with the construction of strategic roads, particularly in the north of Australia, whilst the other section was telling him not to make any roads through the jungle but to leave it as it was so that the enemy might bog down. It seems that the Government has reverted to that policy. It is suffering from a variation of the “Brisbane line” mentality. An enemy could live off the country in the north of Australia, particularly around the mission stations of Cape York Peninsula. We should populate and develop this country at once. Time is running out. The Government should proceed with some of the post-war developmental schemes that were recommended by the various post-war rural reconstruction committees. One of these committees recommended the Snowy Mountains scheme to which, a Labour government gave effect when the present honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) was Minister for Development. The members of the anti-Labour Opposition of the time criticized that project.
– They boycotted it
– Yes. I did not think that they would carry their prejudices as far as that. Now this Government has :adopted the scheme, but is proceeding with it slowly, using horse and buggy methods of finance. A committee also recommended that some investigation should be made into what has been called the Bradfield scheme for harnessing the waters of northern and central Queensland and diverting them in order to overcome the difficulties of the drought areas of the hinterland. A newspaper article concerning a recent visit of the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair. to. those areas, reads as follows: -
Weakened cattle are staying close to water
At Bore holes as drought closes in on Hie Barkly Tableland. Tens of thousands of head of stock cannot be moved to the Dajarra railhead because of lack of water along stock routes. The Premier (Mr. Gair) saw evidence and heard of this in a 250-mile drive through drought stricken areas. The Tableland is experiencing its third drought in four years with little prospect of rain before October.
The Government might well consider following the example of the United States of America which set up the Tennessee Valley Authority in order to harness the waters of the Mississippi. The Tennessee Valley Authority developed great sources of power. It made possible the establishment of munitions industries and many primary industries all of which played a vital part in bringing the war to a successful conclusion. The Government is hamstrung by the orthodox methods finance that it is continuing to use. The Daily Telegraph, which was rather fretful at one stage concerning the anticipated results of the election said the Government could reduce taxation by £100,000,000 by using other methods of financing capital works.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- In the course of his Speech on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament, the Governor-General said -
My advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to be the strengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.
By that statement the Governor-General meant that all the resources of Australia should be developed and that we should be a very happy and prosperous people. I am sure that all honorable members and all true Australians will subscribe to the truth of a statement of that nature. I want to encompass in my speech, one or two of the industries in my electorate. Some people may say that a speech on such a subject represents parish pump politics. But if every honorable member in the Parliament were ready to ensure that the industries in his own electorate were highly productive and that the people employed in them were prosperous and happy, then the whole of Australia, would benefit.
My electorate grows approximately 70 per cent, of the products of the dried fruits industry. There is some concern in this industry at the turn that events have taken during the last twelve months. This industry has never had to ask the Government for assistance. The selling of dried fruits by the Dried Fruits Marketing Control Board has been cited on many occasions as a classical example of good marketing. But conditions have changed somewhat and, as I said recently, in asking a question in this House, the industry desires to participate in the general Australian industrial standard. For that reason I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to give the requests of the industry urgent attention. When an honorable member asks a question in this House he must put it into the shortest possible terms. The Minister uses his knowledge of the subject when he replies to the question. Many honorable members are not conversant with what has been happening in the dried fruits industry just as many others are not conversant with what has been happening, for instance, in the Boilermakers Union. In asking my question, I said -
Is the Minister aware that cost of production in the industry is almost wholly dictated by award wages and equipment costs over which the growers have absolutely no control?
The dried fruits industry does not lend itself to modern mechanical means of harvesting. I know a man who took 10,000 bags of wheat off his property with a big machine, employing only one man. But a man with a fairly large dried-fruit block, in this scientific age, still has to have his fruit picked by hand. The wage level in Australia has increased tremendously over the last few years. Therefore, the dried-fruit producer has to face a cost of production that is dictated by outside sources. He has no control over industrial awards which may increase the price of a tractor or some other equipment which he uses for his block or packing house. As a result, his costs of production have risen continually although the price that he is securing in certain world markets is not sufficient to meet those costs. My next question to the Minister was -
Does the Minister know that export sales competition with highly subsidized dried fruit, and also fruit produced in low wage standard countries, has caused net returns to be lower than the Australian cost of production?
Some countries have ways of overcoming the effect of their internal economies on certain industries. America overcomes its trouble in the dried fruit industry by subsidizing dried fruit. That appears to be a fairly easy way out of the difficulty. The subsidy on American fruit marketed in the United Kingdom is quite substantial, and amounts to about £A20 a ton. Turkey also subsidizes its fruit, to an amount of £A28 2s. 6d. a ton. Therefore, honorable members will see that the dried fruits industry of Australia, with no government help at all, is facing a very difficult time.
For many years Australian dried fruits have been sold to the United Kingdom under contract to the British Ministry of Food, at prices which have been negotiated annually. From this year, arrangements will revert to a tradertotrader basis, with the difference that sports from the 1954 pack will have the benefit of a support price from the United Kingdom Government. That price will expire on the 31st March, 1955f and the great difficulty is that our fruit is selling very slowly in the United Kingdom. It is very strange to note that the amount of dried fruit now being consumed in the United Kingdom each year, is less than before the last war. Of course, as in other countries, the consumption of many other pro.ducts has increased tremendously. When the support price system of the dried fruits industry expires on the 31st March, 1955, certain indications make it probable that the 1954 dried fruit crop will not have been wholly sold by then. Therefore, it will have to go on to the open market without any support price at all. Of course there are dangers in such a situation. If the market should suffer from chaotic conditions and something should happen to put the dried fruits industry in a very bad financial position, the growers could easily sell their fruit at a lower price. By doing so they would make sure of selling the whole pack, and receive the support price for it. But that would be a suicidal policy because it would ruin, for years to come, the market for dried fruits in the United Kingdom.
What is the industry to do to extricate itself from its difficulties? The growers at present are able to obtain finance according to the amount of their fruit being sold overseas. Such finance is made available on a monthly basis. Because the position is now unstable, due to the prospective termination of the support price system, and the fact that dried fruit cannot be readily sold, financial concerns are loth to finance the industry on a real price basis. The Ministry of Food in the United Kingdom could extend the support price plan to cover the whole of the 1954 dried fruits crop. That would be a most beneficial move, and I have already put that proposition to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture as also has the Australian Dried Fruits Association, and at present negotiations are proceeding along those lines. If the whole dried fruit crop could be .<old at the support prices, we should then know exactly what the crop would bring, and be able to obtain finance against that figure so that the growers could continue satisfactorily in production.
The dried fruits industry is not like the wool industry, because it has no great reserves. The growers’ blocks are mainly from 12 to 16. acres in area, and the growers themselves proceed from year to year without large capital reserves. However, it is necessary, for many reasons, that the industry should be preserved. One reason is that perhaps more people are dependent upon a small area of country in this industry than in any other primary industry in Australia. Another reason is that there are more exservicemen in the dried fruits industry than in any other primary industry, and the Government must give those men all the help possible. Ex-servicemen have been settled on fruit-growing blocks in Victoria, South Australia, the Murray Valley district of New South Wales and even in the electorate of Moore in Western Australia. Those men must get the best possible deal from the Government. Moreover, it should be remembered that the dried fruits industry has never before had to come to the Government for assistance. Now it has discovered that our internal economy has forced it to do so, because costs have been so greatly increased that growers are unable to sell their products in lower wage standard countries like the United Kingdom.
If the support price were to be continued to cover the 1954 crop we should be in a position next year similar to our position this year, because we have to sell our fruit year by year and we have to finance the industry year by year. Finance is not coming in quickly enough, and so I believe that this difficulty can only be overcome by a stabilizing plan for the dried fruits industry. About 80 per cent, of our dried fruits are sold overseas, and about 20 per cent, at fairly profitable prices within Australia. We cannot continue to sell that 80 per cent, overseas if our costs of production are greater than the market price of the fruitIf we had a stabilization scheme “witu guaranteed prices, those prices and limits could be based on the actual cost of production. Whether the payment to be made would be a first payment equal to the cost of production or not, would not matter as long as the payment were made in quarterly instalments over each year and at least covered the full production cost. Then the industry would know that it was getting a certain amount of money, and would have a stable basis on which to work out its financing. In making these statements to-day I ant. foreshadowing further action, because -i can see quite clearly that before long 3 shall have to advance the problems of the 1 dried fruits industry again.
Honorable members will recall that in 1 1948, 1949 and 1950 I suggested that’ myxomatosis should be tested out in the j Murray River area, in the vicinity of Kerang. Actually this virus was tested , out not far from there and its ultimate great success has meant millions of pounds , to Australian primary industries. While I was advocating the use of myxomatosis, i I spoke about rabbits so often that honorable member opposite used to call out i “ rabbits “ when I rose to speak. However, I continued to press for recognitio u of myxomatosis and appealed to the Com ‘monwealth Scientific and Industrial R=j- , search Organization to continue its experiments. Honorable members may now read in Hansard that many thousands . of pounds have been spent in these experiments, and many millions of pounds > saved through their success. Indeed, I had a chart incorporated in Hansard which i showed where the tests had taken place ‘ and why they had not been a success; then I made the suggestions that I have ‘ already mentioned. Now honorable members opposite no longer call “rabbits “. Indeed, their interjections in that regard have almost ceased. I wish to make the . position clear so that if, in the future, I speak a great deal about dried fruits in . this House, I shall accept it as a com- ‘pliment if honorable members choose to refer to me as a currant, a lexia, or even a sultana.
As honorable members are aware, the Mallee electorate includes a great wheat-growing industry. Wherever one travels in Australia people refer to the wheat-growing capacity of the Wimmera plains. When first elected in February, 1946, I was the member for Wimmera, ; and although I do not now represent an acre that I did not represent then, people still say to me, “ Why did you leave the Wimmera ? “ My answer always is, “ I did not leave it - but the name “ Wimmera” left me, for the simple reason that in the 1949 redistribution they took a little from the bottom of my electorate, together with parts of Bendigo, Wannon and Corangamite, formed a composite electorate and called it Wimmera.” I remind the House that, in recent years, the Mallee has produced more wheat than has the Wimmera or my other Australian electorate. The wheat industry has been up and down luring the last eight years, although, as the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) remarked, it has been more up than down. Recently, the Premier of Victoria agreed to a wheat stabilization plan, and a ballot of wheat-growers will be taken to decide whether the proposed five-year stabilization plan is wanted by the industry. I notice that even spokesmen of the wheat-growers’ organizations have said stabilization would mean that the home consumption price for the next .five years could not fall below 14s. a bushel. Nothing could be further from the truth. The price could fall to 10s. or lis. a bushel or lower. The position is that the home-consumption price will be 14s. a bushel or the export price, whichever is the lower, but it will not fall below the cost of production.
If people agitate for margins for skilled labour, they must expect primary producers also to seek margins. Of course, the skilled primary producer receives a margin by way of greater returns for his products, whereas the unskilled farmer produces less and, accordingly, receives less. It is the opinion of honorable members on this side of the House that that principle should also apply to industry, so that the man who produces more is paid more for his efforts. The man who does not know his job and is not skilled should receive less. Only by rewarding those who help to increase production can we build this country into the great nation that we all visualize.
Mx. J. H. FRASER (Australian Capital Territory) [2.49]. - I enjoyed the speech of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). On such subjects he speaks as a realist and also, if I may say so, as one who advocates a sensible policy of socialization. He appreciates that the skilful farmer receives a margin for has skill, and suggests that that course should be adopted in industry. I think that every one on this side of the House will agree with that contention.
I propose to address my remarks to that section of the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General which referred tothe policy of development of Canberra as the centre of Commonwealth administration. The honorable member for Mallee achieved, in past years, a nickname because of his constant advocacy of a certain policy. I shall have no apologiesto offer if I also achieve a nickname for constantly advocating the development of the National Capital. That is the great task and responsibility of thi* Parliament, not merely this Government. It is a task which must be faced not only with the requirements of to-day and the immediate future in mind, but also with an eye to the distant future. This Parliament is responsible, not only to the present citizens of the National Capital and the nation, but also to Australians who will live and die in the hundreds of years to come. Let us hope that the years of development will bc years of peace and prosperity.
I have suggested previously in this House, and I hope that the suggestion will be adopted, that the Parliament should appoint an all-party committee of both Houses to oversee the development of the National Capital. Such a course has been followed in America in respect of the District of Columbia. It is a pity that a great many members of the Parliament have very little knowledge of the National Capital and even less knowledge of the Australian Capital Territory, which is much more extensive than many honorable members appreciate. The Territory comprises approximately- 900 square miles. At its greatest length, it is more than 54 miles long, and at its greatest width, more than 33 miles wide. It embraces a considerable tract of grazing, farming and forest land. Little villages and settlements of people who earn their living from the soil or the forest are scattered throughout the area. In my opinion, the appointment of an all-party committee of both Houses, which would interest itself in the development and planning of the- National Capital, would be of great benefit to the Parliament and also to the people of the capital. Such a responsibility belongs to this Parliament and should not be delegated to another authority.
There is a constant succession of Ministers for the Interior charged with the administration of the Territory. The sole representative of the Territory in this Parliament may speak on any matter or move any motion, but, by virtue of the provisions of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act, is not allowed the privilege of supporting his views with his vote except in relation to ordinances that concern the Territory. However, I do not intend to develop that theme at this juncture. I merely suggest to the Government that it should consider the introduction of an amendment of the act in order to remove that limitation on the only parliamentary representative of a territory which has no State government or municipal body. As this Parliament is responsible for the administration, it must take the part of both a State government and a municipal authority. It seems to me that because of the way in which the Territory is administered, and because of the absence of close oversight by the Parliament, very often planning for the future gives way to the expedients of to-day. Probably most honorable members have noticed and have deprecated the erection of a large number of temporary structures in this city. I know that you, Mr. “Speaker, have an extensive knowledge of the Territory and in particular of the National Capital, because you are one of those honorable members who spend a -considerable amount of time in Canberra and who utilize that time to see the Territory. Quite a number of honorable members are now resident in the Territory. I should like to see a greater number reside here.
– Provided they do not live in houses ?
– Provided they do not receive any undue advantage from “living in the houses.
– Let us keep the debate clean.
– I propose to keep the debate clean. Interjections may provoke me temporarily, but not per]manently. I think that more Ministers . of the Crown should live in the Terri-. tory. I have been informed that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is seeking a house in the Territory for his occupation. The Government should provide living quarters in’ the Territory for members of the Ministry because they, and as many other honorable members as possible, should reside here.
– Not the members!
– I think that as; many as possible should reside here. 1 have been wrong on many occasions and’ I may be wrong on this occasion, but that, is my opinion. Honorable members, should spend more time in the National Capital, because it is the centre of administration. Within a few years Canberra will be the head-quarters of all’ the federal departments, and I suggest, that it is the duty of honorable members to familiarize themselves with the capital and with its planning and development. In; the past there has been a tendency towards expedience rather than towards planning and development. I do not know whether the recommendations of the National Capital Planning and Development Committee have been overlooked. That is « committee of experienced men with very high qualifications who are competent to advise but who are not empowered to. direct. Their advice may be disregarded.. Canberra is confronted with the transfer, within the next few years,, of departments from Melbourne and with the transfer of approximately 2,000 public servants and their wives and families. That transfer will necessitate the provision of homes, schools and other: facilities for those people. Moreover, the present lag in the building programme must be overcome, because there are now 2,650 people in the Territory who are waiting for homes. I do not here propose to lay the blame for that state of affairs in any particular quarter, as I have done so on many other occasions. The provision of homes for those people who are now waiting for them and for those who will be transferred is the responsibility of the Parliament. Not only must it accept the responsibility of providing homes, but it must also provide all the other facilities that are required in a modern community.
Although it may be unfortunate, in, some respects, from the point of view of immediate requirements, Canberra is a planned city. Of course, from a farsighted point of view, it must be a planned city. It has been developed as ii garden city, and a considerable standard of beauty has been attained. However, there are problems associated with the development of a garden city. The distance from the northern suburbs to the southern suburbs of Canberra is more than seven miles. If we continue to provide the ideal type of family cottage, the present area of development will be extended. If we continue to develop Canberra as a garden city, the cost will be very great, because we have wide avenues, open parklands and wide home frontages. The provision of services such as sewerage, water supply, electricity, kerbing and guttering, footpath construction, suburban streets and telephone services becomes more costly as the erection of cottages extends into the outer areas. I do not wish to see the development of small allotments. I am aware of the costs that are involved in the provision of larger allotments, but I do not wish to see the development of slum, or at least overcrowded, areas. That is only one of the problems with which we are faced in the development of the National Capital.
If the Parliament does not play its proper part in the planning and development of Canberra, those activities will be left to departmental officials who may or may not take a far-sighted view in relation to the development of the city. I suggest that the development of the National Capital is as much a national responsibility as is the development of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. It is a development for which the nation must pay and for which I believe it is prepared to pay. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to my suggestion for the appointment of an all-party committee of members of both Houses of the Parliament so that there shall be a quickening of interest in the Parliament towards the development of the capital as the centre of administration and as the home city of those people who are engaged in the service of the Government. I understand that recently a supporter of the Government suggested that the development of Canberra raised the question of the establishment of some form of industrial undertaking other than purely government undertakings. It would be a tragedy if we developed in Canberra merely a race of public servants. I hope that Canberra will not become merely a centre of public administration which will produce successive generations of public servants who eventually will be completely out of touch with the realities of the Australian way of life as they are expressed in other localities.
– Can we attract industry here?
– Doubtless industries could be established in the area, but I suggest that it would be quite wrong to establish an industry here merely for the sake of establishing an industry that would absorb the youth of the community. If an industry is established, it must be established on an economic basis. It would be quite wrong to establish an industry the raw materials for which had to be transported from distant parts of the Commonwealth and the finished products of which had to be marketed in distant places. We could establish industries that are subsidiary to the fruit-growing industry, the grazing industry, the wheatgrowing industry or forestry activities. Perhaps there could be established a factory for the manufacture of corn flakes or similar breakfast foods. I suggest that the possibilities of establishing industries should not be considered exclusively by departmental officers individually, or perhaps collectively to a small degree, but that they should be considered by an allparty parliamentary committee. Unless industries are developed, successive generations of public servants will live in Canberra perhaps knowing nothing except the business of government and probably believing that all Australian citizens live under conditions similar to those that exist here. People should live in Canberra under conditions similar to those under which their fellow citizens in other parts of Australia live, so that they will have a real knowledge of the problems of Australians generally. . The suggestion of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) for the development of industries in Canberra is worthy of the support of all honorable members.
– What land title is available in the Australian Capital Territory?
– Land is available on 99 years’ lease. This is a satisfactory land tenure. I have acquired an allotment on these terms, and as I should be 144£ years of age when it becomes due for renewal the term is wholly adequate for my purposes. It is immaterial whether freehold ownership of land is available. The lack of it should not limit the development of industry in the Australian Capital Territory. Let us look beyond the boundaries of the Territory across the Goodradigbee River to the rich country in the direction of Tumut, which is well able to produce any type of crop to meet the demands of the citizens of Canberra. My colleague, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), could tell the House of the rich potential of that area, which is contiguous to the Territory, and on which the Territory could draw for the satisfaction of its needs. ‘ The Government should give serious consideration to the obligation of the Parliament to encourage the development of the National Capital, not just for the next 100 years, but for all time. No one can say how long Canberra’s history will extend. I trust that honorable members will acknowledge the Parliament’s obligations towards the National Capital, and will support a committee such as I have proposed.
I turn now to a consideration of the development of the isolated portion of the Australian Capital Territory about the shores of Jervis Bay, comprising approximately 57 square miles of both sea and land, of which about 18,000 acres are land. It was suggested at one time that the Royal Australian Naval College, which, in 1930, was transferred from Jervis Bay to Flinders, would return to Jervis Bay, but recent statements have made it clear that the Government no longer intends to make the transfer. I support the Government’s decision, but I believe that it should make a clear announcement upon the matter, and that it should then take the logical action of providing for the proper civilian development of the Jervis Bay area. Adequate areas of land for residential purposes are available beyond the confines of the existing settlement, and blocks’ could be made available on 99 years’ lease. The citizens who now live at Jervis Bay should be afforded the opportunity to purchase the dwellings that they occupy and the buildings in which they conduct their businesses. If this were permitted the proper civilian development of the area 1 would be promoted. Jervis Bay might then be acknowledged widely as one of ‘ the most delightful areas along the . eastern sea-board of Australia. I ask the Government to make a clear and definite statement of its intentions in rela-! tion to the Royal Australian Naval College, so that the residents of Jervis Bay may know at once where their future lies, and I trust that the Government will i immediately encourage the civilian development of the area.
The proper development of Australia’s National Capital, as has been suggested in this House previously, cannot be properly embarked upon on a yearly budget. We should revert to the procedure that was adopted in the days of the Federal Capital Commission, when plans were made and expenditure was budgeted, for five years ahead. The National Capital will never be properly developed as such while we adhere to annual planning and budgeting for the development of Canberra. We must plan five years ahead and budget’ at the beginning of the five-year period for the necessary expenditure. I trust that the Government will seek the advice of the best available technical experts in planning and development, and that it will give the Parliament an opportunity of discussing the development of the, Australian Capital Territory by appointing a committee of members of this Parliament to consider the problems and’ make recommendations to the Parliament.,
– I, listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the honorable member for’ the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). The honorable member fights a single-handed battle. He acts as shire council president or municipal mayor, as well as local member, in representing the needs of the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory. It is fair to say that generally the needs of the Territory are not of immediate interest to other honorable members, who are busy thinking about their own electorates elsewhere in Australia. The honorable member. early in his remarks, made an important observation - that residential accommodation for Ministers .should be provided in Canberra. I support the honorable member’s suggestion. For some time I have believed that if the work of members of the Parliament, particularly of those honorable members who represent electorates at great distances from Canberra, is to be satisfactorily done, the Government would be well advised to provide flats or similar residential accommodation that could be occupied in rotation by members, so that it would not be necessary for them so often to make immensely tiring journeys to Queensland. Western Australia. Tasmania, and some parts of Victoria and South Australia.
The suggestions made by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory for the development of Canberra are much more important than they will probably be acknowledged to be. In this materialistic age, Australia, perhaps more than any other country in a materialistic world, needs a central shrine at which it can realize its nationhood. At every available opportunity I encourage Australians to visit Canberra in the spring or the autumn so that they may see it in all its beauty and acquire some conception of its importance as the National Capital of a large country. It is in the interests of all Australians that Canberra shall be fully developed. Many remnants of the curious State jealousies that for some years prevented the achievement of federation still exist. They can largely lie removed by the intelligent development of thu capital as the seat of the National Government, and as a centre of culture, and to some degree, of education. Any development that will help to achie ve this objective should be fostered.
I congratulate the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory on a thoughtful speech. His advocacy of the interests of citizens of the Australian
Capital Territory generally receives little support or encouragement from other honorable members, because he is concerned, among other things, with matters such as the guttering of the streets, and it is common for other honorable members to think, “What has such a small matter to do with the National Parliament? Let us get on with the business that concerns our own electorates “.
I do not know whether any honorable member will agree with me, but I am not sure that the Australian Parliament is the proper place to discuss the details of the development of the Australian Capital Territory. I have no clear ideas on the subject at the moment, but I believe that the development problems of the Territory probably could be better considered by an all-party parliamentary committee, such as that which the honorable member has proposed, which could make recommendations to Parliament, by which, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, any proposals for the development of the Territory would have to be approved. A body of 123 honorable members collected in this chamber from all parts of Australia is hardly the appropriate organization to deal with the detailed development of the important cultural mission that can be fulfilled by the Australian Capital Territory. I am not so certain about the prospects for the development of industry in this Territory. That matter will have . to be examined by an appropriate authority and’ I do not express an opinion about it. I believe that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory served’ a useful purpose with his speech and I support the views that he has expressed.. I believe that the development of the Australian Capital Territory is an important national duty.
I have many other ideas upon the subject that I have not yet been able toformulate and I have risen to speak in particular of several matters to which; reference was made in the GovernorGeneral “3 Speech. I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and congratulate the newly elected honorable members of this House upon their maiden speches. In my opinion, the quality of the debating in this chamber has been well maintained by them. I have a close personal interest in international affairs, and regret that I waa not able ito speak during the debate upon that subject because of pre-occupation with work on behalf of my electorate. I was interested, however, in the references to international affairs that were made by the Governor-General. Much of the time of the House has been devoted to the consideration of the development of nationalism in Asia. I had some experience of a similar development in West Africa where I was engaged in colonial work for the British Government.
Honorable members and the people of Australia generally would be wise if they considered this upsurge of nationalism seriously. Following the movement of troops through Asian and African countries in recent wars, the people of those areas discovered that they had not had the best of deals from the world. Compared with people in the more civilized Western nations, their standard of living and the quality of food they had to eat was low. Their immediate reaction, which was not always correct, was that they had been placed in that position by some brutal form of colonialism. They believed that if they could free themselves from that colonial tutelage, they would be able to improve their lot. It has often been said that self-government, however had, is preferable to the most paternal government from outside. In the final analysis, that is true, but in speaking of the freeing of Asian and African colonies by Great Britain, the great British Labour leader, Mr. Herbert Morrison, made a wise statement when he suggested that the granting of selfgovernment to some of the more backward races was like giving a child of ten yeaTs a latch-key and a cheque book.
The practice of self-government as we understand it is the practice, however imperfect, of democracy. The practice of democracy is an art, and many generations of experience are required before it can be performed successfully. It does not follow necessarily that when the people of a nation are told that they may elect their own leaders and make their own decisions, they will be able to do immediately all the things that they hope to do politically. While it may be true, as I have said, that any form of selfgovernment is regarded as better than government from outside, an inexperienced form of self-government may result in the loss of any pretence toselfgovernment, the loss of the right to seek the goal of self-government and,, eventually, to colonization in another form by somebody else from outside. That is probably happening in parts of Asia at present.
The British people’s greatest gift to the world as a whole has been the dissemina-tion of the ideal of democracy. TheBritish can say with truth that they have understood self-government and have been able to maintain a kindly tolerance and good nature in their processes of government. That has been a valuable gift tothe world. A study of the colonial history of the British Empire shows clearly that in every ease, the decision to found colonies was vigorously opposed by the British people themselves. Most of our colonization in Africa was done as a result of David Livingstone’s work as a missionary and was followed by trade.. All that was done in India originally was undertaken at the request of the people toprotect them from predatory invasions by others. I was associated with the British Colonial Service in Nigeria and I believe that everything we have done in the colonies, as a result of our training and beliefs, was based on the dominant idea that we would help the people concerned to become capable of governing themselves. Probably, we have done it fairly successfully. The experiment in India is immensely brave. I trust that we shall not regard it as having been made by a particular party in Great Britain in order to gain some party political advantage. That experiment was undertaken at the will of the British people. It is a very brave experiment on the part of the Indian people also, because, at present, real democracy, as we understand it, is far from firm in the saddle in tha.t country. That observation applies to other countries as well. I have a sneaking affection - perhaps, it is an old affection - for West Africa. In that area there are racial difficulties, but the indigenous people, who make their living there, are more kindly and more tolerant than Asians are. I think that the experiment in West Africa will be successful.
In our discussions of these matters we have been inclined to attack as something evil and as something which the world is glad to be rid of, the colonial tutelage of the British people for immense numbers of backward people in the world. I believe that we can always be immensely proud of the British record in that respect. I do not suggest that it was faultless. But if we remain proud of what we did at that time, we shall get some inspiration in the difficult part that we in Australia must play in helping to develop democratic ideas in the countries immediately to our north. The Colombo plan is a development of the same idea. It involves the acceptance of higher standards of living - I do not suggest higher standards of intelligence - and an acceptance on our part of our clear responsibility. If democracy is to be successful in the countries close to us, we must accept our responsibility to make democracy understood and to make it work in those countries. That is the foreign policy that was announced in the Governor-General’s Speech. It involves real understanding, in the countries to the north of us, of the immensely difficult problem of democratic thought. Unfortunately, at present, we must add to that an acceptance of military preparedness to protect them and ourselves from an infinitely worse type of colonialism than the world has hitherto known. Our foreign policy is just that - relations with our neighbours that will enable them to accept the ideas which, we believe, will build democracy and, consequently, win for us faithful friends to our north and an alliance with strong and powerful friends who will help us to protect the ideal that we are trying to serve.
It is appropriate to add that machinery exists in this Parliament to enable us to make a thorough and competent study of the problems to which I have referred. I have in mind the Foreign Affairs Committee, which was set up some time ago. Because of some technical difficulty in respect of the subject-matters to be re- ferred to that committee, honorable members opposite felt that they could not be represented on that body. I do not criticize that decision. However, the important work that such a committee can do, and the immense service that trained thought can render to the people of South-East Asia at present, far transcends any party political loss, or gain, that may result from the acceptance of this task and the study of this problem jointly by all parties in the Parliament. I appeal most urgently to the Opposition to view the work of the Foreign Affairs Committee in that light, and to nominate representatives on it, so that as a result there will be on both sides of the chamber a group of honorable members having the opportunity to make a complete study of this immense problem.
I shall now refer briefly to immigration. I shall not labour the subject at this juncture, because I intend to deal with it fully in the course of the debate on the budget. It is essential from the viewpoint of our foreign relations that we must rapidly increase our population. With a population of only 9,000,000 people, have we a moral right to hold this continent of 3,000,000 square miles? I believe that if we had to argue that question before an international court of justice we should have considerable difficulty in proving that we had such a right. It is absolutely essential, in the interests of both the development and defence of this country, that we must vigorously increase our population by immigration as well as by natural increase. It has been suggested to me by persons who have studied this problem that our goal should be to increase our population by 3£ per cent, per annum. As the increase due to births is now about li per cent, per annum, we should require an annual intake of immigrants equal to 2 per cent, of our population. That would increase the 100,000 immigrants, whom we expect to receive this year, to approximately 180,000. Thoughtful people who have a firm belief in the future of Australia have suggested that we should go as far as that if we are to justify our moral right to determine the future of this massive continent.
I should like to correct an impression that is conveyed by people who, perhaps,
Lave not studied this problem as much as they might. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) said that thousands of skilled workers in Great Britain and in other countries would be only too ready to emigrate to Australia if developmenetal schemes were underway in this country to guarantee them employment. I assure the honorable member that it is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade the British Government, or any other overseas government, to encourage, in any way whatever, emigration of skilled workers from their countries. The world is becoming short of skilled workers. The older countries in Europe are becoming short of young people. Those in the older age groups in Great Britain are becoming disproportionately numerous in relation to the population of that country as a whole. In those circumstances, we shall require to put up a very good case if we are to succeed in attracting skilled workers, particularly younger people, to this country. At present, we could attract a great number of unskilled workers.
– We are in need of unskilled labour.
– That may be so; but we must maintain a reasonable balance between unskilled and skilled workers. I do not say it is impossible or that we will not try to get them.
– Order !
.- The Governor-General’s Speech. was most disappointing. It was delivered in a colourful setting. We on this side of the House were, of course, pleased to note the substantial increase of our numbers since we listened to the previous Speech of the Governor-General. But the contents of the Speech held out no hope for the people of Australia, and subsequent events that have flowed from that Speech clearly show that the people of Australia, had good cause for disappointment. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) has complained that only labourers are available for immigration to this country and has indicated that the Government does not want to bring them here.
– That is not so.
– It is true that he tried to modify his statement when the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. [ Andrews) tackled him on that point, but his views are clear enough. I contend that we need both skilled and unskilled immigrants, and that the unskilled men are needed almost as urgently as are the skilled men.
– They are not.
– I beg to differ with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. 1 Gullett). I suggest that he should try to do some of the dirty work - and I do . not mean in the Parliament - that labourers have to do.
– Or that soldiers have to do.
– I am speaking of the unskilled labour that it urgently required in this country.
– In the brick-making 1 industry, for instance. ,
– That is true. Our brickyards require skilled and unskilled labour ; but even brickyard labourers re- 1 quire a certain degree of skill, and wei should be combing the Old Country to find immigrants who have that skill. It is all very well for the honorable member for Henty, who has never done a hard , day’s work in his life, to sneer at these jobs, but I assure him that the job of a brickyard labourer demands both skill and hard work. We should endeavour to bring to this country immigrants who1 have had some experience in that class of work. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, ‘ South Australian brickyards are crying out for labour. They are finding it difficult to attract men to such jobs. Possibly, if the question of margins had been dealt with seriously by the industrial courts of this country, and justice done to, labourers and tradesmen alike, there would not be such a scarcity of labour in many of these jobs. However, it was not my intention to speak on that subject. I have referred to it merely in reply! to the honorable member for McMillan.
Last week, I asked the Minister acting; for the Minister for Immigration a question about the delay that occurs between; the completion of the legal formalities in . connexion with an immigrant’s application for naturalization, and the holding of the naturalization ceremony. I am pleased to say that the Minister dealt with this matter quickly and has promised to investigate it. In South Australia at least, many immigrants who wish to become naturalized and have complied with all the formalities, are disappointed to find that they have to wait six months or more for the ceremony to take place. The present practice is for such ceremonies to be carried out where possible by local governing authorities which, after conducting the official procedure, hold a social gathering at which cups of tea and so on are provided. I. contend that most new Australians would prefer quick naturalization to a wait of six months for the privilege of drinking sl cup of tea and listening to addresses by members of Parliament. I urge the Government to arrange for naturalization ceremonies to take place as soon as immigrants’ papers are in order. Immigration officials in each of the States could easily perform naturalization ceremonies. The Minister for Immigration has power to delegate authority for this purpose, and indeed he has already delegated that authority to local government officials. If the naturalization ceremonies were carried out by immigration officials as I have suggested, the local governing authorities could still, at intervals of, say, six months or twelve months, hold social gatherings to which all newly-naturalized immigrants in the district could be invited. Most new Australians are settling in well, but when they are eager to be naturalized as soon as possible, there is an obligation on the Government to see that there is no undue delay in holding naturalization ceremonies.
The Governor-General spoke of the housing problem. He said -
My Government will continue to undertake * large housing programme both directly and in conjunction with the States.
I hope that the Commonwealth will embark on a large housing programme. If is poor consolation for people who are waiting for homes to be told that so many thousands of houses have been built. The housing shortage in South Australia is more acute than it has been for many years. The Premier himself has disclosed that there are 7,000 applicants for emergency homes - not permanent homes constructed by the South Australian Housing Trust, but emergency dwellings for people who have been evicted from their homes, or whose circumstances warrant special treatment. But those applications are there in vain, because the Government is not building any more emergency homes. Daily, South Australian members are receiving representations from persons who have been evicted from dwellings. In my electorate, which embraces Glenelg, many people who have lived in cottages there for seventeen or twenty years are now being evicted, and the South Australian Housing Trust, when they apply to it for dwellings, tells them that nothing can be done for them. Parents are being separated from their children, and sometimes, this is the direct result of the policy of the Liberal Government in South Australia. It erected a number of prefabricated timber-framed dwellings-
– Imported dwellings.
– Yes, they are imported structures, and, due to bungling, were not sold. They are left on the Government’s hands, and have been made available for letting at rents ranging from £3 to £3 5s. a week. Some people can manage to pay those rents “ at a pinch “, but before they can obtain possession, they are required to fulfil a condition that is well known, though not stated. Briefly, an applicant’s family must have an income of at least £15 a week. When a young husband with a family applies for one of these homes, the first question he is asked is, “How much do you earn a week ? “ The husband may receive £1 or so more than the basic wage. If so. he will not be allotted one of these dwellings. But if he sends his wife out to work and the children to their grandparents, the Playford Government will allow him to rent one of its timber-framed houses. In other words, the Playford Government says, “ We believe that a wife should go to work in industry to bring in enough money to increase the family income at least to the amount that we prescribe before we shall allot one of these homes to her husband”.
I believe that the wife’s place is in the home, rearing children who will be the good Australians of the future. It is the duty of the Liberal Government in South Australia, to allot homes to couples with young families, and it is the responsibility of the Menzies Government here to embark upona vigorous housing programme. Let this Government show the Premier of. South Australia that it does not endorse his policy of forcing, wives to. go to work. We believe that these homes should be made available to the people who urgently need them. Why should a certain income be the deciding factor in the allocation of homes for letting,?. Some husbands do not earn £15 a week, but their parents or other relatives are prepared to assist themto meet high rents charged by the Playford Government. Nevertheless, this does not satisfy the South Australian Housing Trust; which declares that the income of the applicant must be at least, £15 a week. A family that is fortunate enough to have children at work, and a combined income of at least £15 a week, is able to obtain a home. This penalty which is inflicted upon a young couple with children, is harsh, and the Playford Government stand’s condemned for its policy in this matter. The Menzies Government should’ immediately put into operation the housing programme to which the Governor-General refers in his Speech. However, one can be forgiven the suspicions that such a programme will not eventuate.
His Excellency also stated in his Speech -
My Government will continue its policyof improving social services.
– That will be a change.
– Indeed, it will ! Many pensioners are wondering what is to be done to improve their lot, to assist them to cope with everincreasing costs, and to alleviate the hardships that they are now suffering:
– Nothing at all.
– No doubt, that is what the pensioners will get. The totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners and other pensioners are suffering greatly as a result of the policy of this Government. The contents of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech’ are most misleading, and are a great disappointment to the people.
I shall now refer to the administration of the Repatriation Department.. Honorable members who represent; South, Australian electorates know that over the last few years a series; of. “Cooper’s tours “ has taken place that almost, provide opposition for Cook’s tours: South Australia has had six deputy commissioners: of repatriation: in three; years. Honorable members and. ex-servicemen’s. organizations are unable to keep track of the rapid changes. One telephones the department and asks to speak to the deputy commissioner. He: is told, “ I am sorry., He is not with us any more. Mr. so-and-so is now acting in the position “. One then, asks, “ Is he there ? “ and is informed, “ No, he has just. gone to Western Australia “. On another occasion, the inquirer learns that the deputy commissioner has just gone to Queensland. No wonder it is said in South Australia that the deputy commissioners go on Cooper’s tours. The cost of those administrative changes must beconsiderable. The people whose claims are “knocked back.” by the Repatriation Department may rightly wonder whether the rejection of them is necessary, in order to pay for the travelling facilities afforded to the deputy commissioners. The classical example was in connexion with the appointment of a Mr. O’Brien as deputy commissioner. He was a young capable man, and we all looked forward to a long period of his administration. Within a few weeks, an appeal against his appointment to that position was upheld. The successful appellant was a capable man who had been in the department for many years, but he was due to retire from the Public Service about two and a half months later.
– His appointment would be in conformity with the provisions of the Public Service Act.
– I agree, but I consider that it would have been better if the department had appointed him to the position of deputy commissioner for the period until his retirement. The department must have been aware’ that Mr. O’Brien would lose his promotion on appeal. However, that matter did not worry the department. The situation was met with the appointment of Mr: O’Brien as assistant commissioner in the department, which is a higher position than that of deputy commissioner. I hope that the Government will ensure in future that the Repatriation Department and the responsible Minister shall not be allowed to send deputy commissioners and other officers in high positions on tours of Australia about every six months. I agree that officers should be transferred from time to time, but not in such rapid manner as in the last few years.
In South Australia, as in other States, the lack of hospital accommodation is a worrying problem. Mental hospitals are overcrowded. They are full, not of mental patients but of old people whose only ailment - it is almost a crime - is that they have grown old in the service of Australia. There is nothing wrong with them mentally, but because no houses or beds in ordinary hospitals are available for them, they have to be accommodated in mental hospitals. The superintendent of mental hospitals in South Australia has complained to the Playford Government year after year in his reports that mental wards in hospitals are overcrowded because they are used to accommodate aged people. The Governor-General spoke about what this Government intends to do to help religious organizations and charitable bodies to provide accommodation for elderly people. That is commendable, but the responsibility of this Government and of the State governments is to take some action themselves to provide accommodation, rather than ask religious organizations to do the job for them.
– Those organizations can do it better.
– If we judge their ability in the light of the ability of this Government, there is no doubt that they can do it better. The Governor-General’s Speech holds out no hope for the people of Australia in either foreign affairs or domestic affairs. The only encouragement that the people have is that the number of members on this side of the House has increased greatly. The end is in sight for this Government. Before very long, many of the members of the Government parties who are smiling now, including the “ Red Dean “, the honorable member for Robertson, will be miss ing from the House. A Labour government will take over and embark on a programme to provide decent housing, decent hospital facilities and decent working conditions for the Australian people.
.- The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) concluded his speech, not with a prayer, as a petition concludes, but with a threat. However, I do not think his threat has disturbed the members of the Government parties very much. The honorable gentleman made a rather bitter attack on the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown). He placed an interpretation on the remarks that the honorable member for McMillan made about immigration that was quite contrary to what the honorable member said. It was also quite contrary to what the honorable member for Kingston knows to be the facts. He suggested that the honorable member for McMillan did not support immigration to this country. Quite apart from what the honorable member for McMillan may have said, the Government announced some weeks ago that the intake of immigrants will be increased. Those of us who listened to the speech of the honorable member for McMillan realized that he was by no means condemning immigration. On the contrary, he was supporting it. But he was supporting it as it applied to a certain section or a certain class of immigrants. The Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Beale) has told the House that there is likely to be an expansion of the immigration programme to such a degree that a drill hall and other buildings in the Mallee electorate will be fully occupied by immigrants.
The honorable member for Kingston suggested that the only immigrants brought to this country should be unskilled people, who could do the dirty work. I have the greatest difficulty in finding words to condemn such a suggestion. I am sure it is not the desire of anybody in Australia who is engaged in labouring work that somebody else should be brought here to do the dirty work for him. The Australian labourer is prepared to do his share of any dirty work that falls to his lot in the occupation in which he is engaged. Members of the Government parties are not more free than other honorable members from a necessity to do dirty work at times. Any one who has served his time in country districts knows that country people take in their stride everything that comes along. While I am speaking in the comparative comfort of Parliament House, with its central heating and electric lighting, some of my electors are out in a bitter wind, doing some most unpleasant jobs in a corner of a paddock. It ill-becomes the honorable member for Kingston to suggest that only one section of the community has to do unpleasant jobs. We all do what comes our way.
A point that intrigued me about the honorable member’s speech was his confusion of the terms “ skilled workers “ and “ unskilled workers “. Unless I misunderstood him, he suggested that people who work in brickyards are unskilled workers.
– He did not say that.
– He suggested that the people the brickyards want but cannot get are the people who do what he called the dirty work. He referred to unskilled workers. He went on to say that if the margins case had been dealt with satisfactorily by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court - he realized that that matter had nothing to do with this Parliament and was entirely a matter for the court - there would be plenty of those people available in the brickyards. In the mind of the honorable member for Kingston, who is a skilled worker and who is an unskilled worker? His remarks form part of a pattern. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) said yesterday that there was growing discontent about the margins case. It seems that honorable members opposite maintain that anybody who does any kind of work is a skilled worker and is entitled to a special margin. The honorable member for Watson went so far as to say that if the workers did not get what he considered to be justice, there would be a strike. I wonder whether the honorable member had some inside information. When I looked at my newspaper this morning, I found that that was exactly what had happened. There is a strike in progress. It is a part of the rolling strike that is designed to upset the transport system in
New South Wales. A strike begins in one place and goes on for a time. Then it is settled, but immediately another strike begins somewhere else.
– Some wheat-farmers say they will not grow wheat. They are on strike.
– The honorable mem- ber for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) says that some wheat-farmers will not grow wheat and he suggests that that is a form of rolling strike. He has overlooked the fact that one of the reasons why the wheat industry is in the doldrums, is that his contemporaries in the New South Wales Parliament have raised freight charges to , such a degree as to make some forms of primary production unprofitable.
– Rubbish !
– The honorable member : for Lalor, as an ex-Minister for Com- ,merce and Agriculture, knows the condition of the wheat industry. He knows that people in country districts are suffer- ‘ ing as a result of rolling strikes in the transport industry. He knows that the cost of such strikes is borne ultimately by the people who use our transport systems. . He knows that if there is a strike of transport workers in Sydney, the cost of the strike is borne in the end by people in > country districts who pay freight on the f goods they purchase from the cities and on the produce that they send to the cities. Let him remember that if a strike occurs , in Australia, it is the man on the land who pays for it in the long run.
The Governor-General’s Speech was , described by a member of the Opposition as a very dreary performance, during which some members went to sleep. I know that the honorable gentleman referred, not to the Governor-General, but to the subject-matter of the Speech. I can only imagine that the honorable gentleman himself must have been having forty winks at the time, because the Speech was crammed full of good, solid, progressive programmes, which will lead to the improvement of the national economy and increased production in 1 both primary and secondary industries, so that we shall be able to maintain the prosperity that we have enjoyed under the regime of the Menzies Government. :One -of -the first paragraphs <of the Speech contained the following statement : -
My advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to be the strengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.
– That is the right idea.
– Yes, and it is an idea that will be carried out. The people know from the record of this Government that it will -carry out its ideas and honour its promises. That is the reason why we are again sitting on the Government side of the House. The Governor-General’s Speech dealt with foreign affairs, defence, the national economy, the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, Commonwealth grants for roads -
– They are inadequate.
– Granted! I suppose everybody considers that the Commonwealth does not give enough financial assistance to the States for the construction and maintenance of roads even though this Government has tremendously increased the amount of such assistance since it first came to office. According to my recollection, when the Menzies Government took office in 1949 the annual allocation to the States for roads was only about £8.000,000. Last year, the amount was £16,000,000, and I believe that the Government proposes to increase the allocation to £20,000,000 during the current year. Honorable members will appreciate the fact that I have difficulty in discussing this subject without transgressing the Standing Orders because the budget was presented to the House last night. I do not wish to anticipate discussion of its provisions. Although the amount allocated to the States for road works is inadequate, we know that this form of financial aid has been increased considerably by the present Government. Careful consideration of the altered incidence of the petrol tax as a result of the establishment of oil refineries in Australia will enable the States to continue to receive ‘financial aid for road works on a ‘large scale. Had the Government carried on under the old ‘system, the States would have suffered severely as soon as the refineries commenced production.
The Governor-General’s Speech stressed the ‘Government’s realization of the importance of maintaining close financial collaboration with the States, which are responsible for most public works.
– Hear, hear!
– I say “Hear, hear!” too, because it is necessary for the Commonwealth to maintain the closest possible co-Operation with the States in the distribution and expenditure of funds for public works. Unfortunately, the States are not co-operating as freely as we have a right to expect in return for the assistance that the Commonwealth gives to them. For example, I refer honorable members to a remarkable statement that was made recently by no less an authority than the New .South Wales Minister for Lands. It demonstrates the way in which State Ministers try to mislead the people. Mr. Hawkins said that between June, 1951, and June, 1953, the . New South Wales doan -allocation had been reduced by 20 per cent, and that this had affected many State loan activities, including war service land settlement. He added that, despite a restricted loan allocation for 1953-.54, the New South Wales Government had expended £3,500,000 on war service land settlement.
– Hear., hear !
– Good gracious, the State government expended 22 per cent, less on war service land settlement in 1953-54 than it expended a few years previously, when it received considerably less money from the Commonwealth. Yet Mr. Hawkins :had the audacity to tell the people that allocations to the States -had been reduced, and to try to claim credit for his miserable allocation for war service land settlement.
Let us examine the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. -I do not want to confine my remarks solely to land settlement, so I shall discuss the overall -situation .and the way in which the State governments expend the money that they -obtain from various sources. Payments to the States in 1953-54, including the special Commonwealth grant of £22,000,000, totalled £140,000,000, of which the New .South Wales Government received £48,000,000
Loan moneys received by the States in the same year amounted to . £200,000,000, of which £125,647,000 was provided by public subscription and domestic loans. An amount of £74,35 3,000 was added by the Commonwealth. When the Commonwealth makes funds available to the States in such large amounts, it is essential, in my opinion, for the State governments to co-operate with it to the greatest possible degree by expending the money in ways that will be of benefit to the whole of Australia. No longer should the States expend money merely to suit their own domestic purposes. ‘They should give consideration to the necessity for strengthening Australia’s security, maintaining a healthy economy, and developing our national resources, to which particular reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
– Those problems should be settled by the Australian Loan Council.
Mr.FAILES. - The honorable member has raised an important point. The Australian Loan Council should insist that the States expend the money allocated to them on works of national importance. In the electorate of Lawson alone there are two major ‘public works upon which work has been discontinued by the State government. This hascreated serious discontent amongst the people, who not only subscribe to loans raised for the purpose offinancing public works, but also pay their share of taxes. I have no doubt that other honorable members can point to similar instances of wasted effort by State governments. Never let it be forgotten that, although the Commonwealth collects taxes, much of the revenue is handed over to the States and expended by them.
In 1939, when a member of the Country party was the New South Wales Minister in charge of transport, work was begun on the Sandy Hollow-Maryvale railway line, which was designed to link the great western rail system with the northern system in New South Wales. It was intended to eliminate the big haul over the Blue Mountains and to follow a reasonable grade to the coast at Newcastle. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond,) and I, who are deeply interested in this project, have discussed its neglectby the StateGovernment frequently in this chamber. The railway was almost completed, and some millions of pounds hadbeen spent on it, before work ceased during World War II. Little more than the laying of sleepers and rails, needed to be done. Telephone lines had been connected over a great part of its’ length. However, no attempt has been made to resume work on the undertaking < since the war,, with the result that earthworks are falling into disrepair and vandals have stolen the wire from the telephone lines and broken the insulators. Much of the work that had been done before the project was dropped will have to be done over again at considerable cost. We havebeen unable to persuade the State Governmentto resumethe work, although its Ministers promised the people at the last State general election that the project would be started again when money was made available for it. Notwithstanding that promise, not a.sod has been turned on the project from that day to this. Another example of wastefulness and inefficiency is the BurrendongDam project.
What is the use of the Australian Government trying to stabilize the economy, and of this Parliament trying to promote prosperity, increased production and the , strengthening of our security, if such big public works, for which the State governments obtain money through the Australian Loan Council and from this Government in the form of tax reimbursements, are not completedexpeditiously? The work of damming the Macquarie River, into which run two other rivers, the result ofwhich would be to establish an irrigation scheme to serve the rich Macnuarie Valley, including the towns, of Wellington, Dubbo, Narromine and Trangie, as well as the western plains, was commenced some years ago, but work was stopped after a considerable amount of money had been expended on it. I recently accompanied a deputation which waited on the New South Wales Minister for Conservation and pleaded with him to complete the project, work on which was suspended about Christmas-time. The men were paid off, and some ofthe machinery was packed away. Some items of machinery weresent to other works and others were just left standing. When the deputation pointed out to the Minister that the project could be completed by the expenditure of another few million pounds, he replied, “ If the Commonwealth will let us have that amount out of the defence vote, we will complete the work “. He considered, apparently, that work could be resumed on that project only if money were made available out of the defence vote, despite the fact that money for the purpose had already been provided out of another fund. How can we get any further ahead without co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth in relation to works of great national importance? As another honorable member has pointed out during this debate, it is of no use our worrying about increasing the strength of our armed services, and assembling war materiel, unless we ensure that, in time of war, there shall be available ample supplies of food to maintain the forces ? In times of peace, we should complete projects which would enable us to swing over to a war footing and produce enough food in the event of war breaking out. The two matters that I have mentioned are vital to the fulfilment by this Government of its objectives, many of which some honorable members opposite support. I emphasize that it is necessary for the State governments to cooperate with the Commonwealth, instead of concentrating only on their own domestic affairs, regardless of what would be the consequences of a breakdown of the national economy.
The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) applauded the Government’s proposal to provide financial assistance in connexion with the provision of housing for aged people, but criticized the Government for not providing all the money required for that purpose. I think it is generally conceded by honorable members on both sides of the House that when people become old they should have comfortable housing, irrespective of the fact that financial provision may have been made for them. Aged couples may be able to get along all right, by boarding, but many aged people are obliged to live by themselves. I emphasize that people require more attention and better housing in their old age than at an earlier stage of their lives. It is in recognition of that fact that the Government has decided to provide assistance to churches and other charitable bodies which, over the years, have performed very valuable work in this connexion. Only last week charitable bodies handed over homes that they had built for aged people. The object of the assistance proposed by the Government is to enable such charitable bodies to continue their activities in that direction. The Government has decided to sub,sidize, on a £1 for £1 basis, with an upper limit of £1,500,000 a year, capital costs incurred by churches and recognized charitable bodies and institutions in building homes for the aged.
– The offer is qualified.
– The only qualification is that the money shall be genuinely expended by recognized charitable bodies in the provision of homes for aged people who need them.
– That is an insult to the aged.
– It is not. Charitable bodies will have no difficulty in obtaining assistance from this Government for that purpose. The proposition is a novel one. It has been readily accepted by churches and charitable institutions. Already, several such organizations in my electorate have informed me that they are eager to hear the details of the proposal, because they have not the financial resources to carry out the work unaided. Unlike the honorable member for Kingston, who finished his speech with a threat, I shall conclude by assuring the House that the Government will honour the promises contained in His Excellency’s Speech, as it has honoured its previous promises. Already, the Government has introduced a bill to give effect to one of its pre-election promises, and as the session proceeds steps will be taken to honour the remainder. ~Quorum formed.’]
.- I direct my remarks to a paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech which reads -
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.
I was astonished by the speech made last night by the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson), who referred to what has come to be known as the Dajarra rail link, the great western railway or the Kitchener route in western Queensland, and to the development of the beef industry. If I heard him correctly he said that he was noi satisfied that rail links from Dajarra in Queensland, or the Northern Territory, to Alice Springs or, for that matter, any rail link, would give us the type of cattle that are required. Towards the end of his speech he said that railways would not obtain for us good quality young beef.
Until recently all beef sold overseas has ‘been sold on a governmenttogovernment basis. A trader-to-trader basis is now to operate and, in consequence, beef producers have been inforced that quality will have to be improved, and younger beasts will have to bc marketed. We all know that, due to the inadequacy of the transport available to Northern Territory beef producers, cattle from the Northern Territory are at least four years of age by the time they reach the meatworks in Queensland. Between 90,000 and 100,000 head of cattle are sent from the Northern Territory to Queensland each year. Most of these cattle are taken down into the Channel country by the Kitchener route. Some of them are taken to special fattening areas on the coast. This year I was in Camooweal, where arrangements had been made for the droving of 90,000 head of cattle from, the Northern Territory to the railhead in Queenland. The drovers were there with nothing to do, because droving contracts had been cancelled as a result of drought conditions on the stock routes to the railheads and consequent inability to ship the cattle available. Those cattle which should be coming into Queeusland for treatment next year, have been left on the properties in the Northern Territory, and it is natural to assume that few of those 90,000 head of cattle will come into Queensland after the next wet season, because of age and also because of the inauguration of a trader-to-trader basis for the marketing of beef. The statements made by the honorable member for Dawson astonished me because he, of all people, should know something about Queensland. The facts that he adduced in his speech indicated that he has some knowledge of the transport requirements of the cattle industry and of western Queensland. But he ended his speech by saying that he did not think that railways would assist in increasing ; our supplies of young beef.
As I have said, because of the fact that rail transport is not available, the producers of beef in the Northern Territory are not able to market their young beef. Adequate rail transport is essential if we are to develop the Northern Territory , and western Queensland properly. I have made references to this matter on previous j occasions, and I did not intend to raise it now. However, I have been forced to do so by the astonishing statements made 1 last night by the honorable member for Dawson. I recall that prior to the general elections that were held on the 29th May the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that railways were not the answer to the problem, but that the development of the air beef system was the answer. In common with, other honorable members, I have received a brochure dealing with air beef. A statement was made by a. Mir. Gunn, president of an organization representing graziers, , turning the air beef suggestion down. I have in my hand a copy of Queensland Country Life, a newspaper that does not. subscribe to, or support, the Labour party. Honorable members opposite who represent country electorates have seen this newspaper. Under the heading “ Federal Election Issue and the date line “ Brisbane, Thursday, April 8th, 1954 “, this journal publishes a leading article which, amongst other things, has this to say -
While there may be no urgency about the Burdekin scheme., there are three vital reasons for building a railway into the Northern Territory: (1) Defence; (2) Development; (3) Beef industry expansion.
Politicians say that such a line will never pay its way and that freight charges will bc so heavy that cattlemen will never be able, to use it.
But such arguments presuppose that, the North has no. future.. It has no future in thu. hands of people who cannot, or will not, develop it. It has no future if it remains under the control- of people who have- no faith in it, and who will not risk a few millions to develop its resources.
Railways have always been the forerunners of development. Some pay; some don’t, hut they justify their existence, where they are conducted efficiently, by the service they give in conveying the settlers’ needs in one direction while taking his produce to market in the other. However, few railways, or, projected railways, have the strategic value of the Queensland-Northern Territory link - which, if it were built, could be a strong link in our chain of defence if ever we were attacked.
It has been forecast that the Government will sidestep the Northern Territory railway by including in its policy speech a plan for air transport of beef. Wc believe that the air transport of beef, as distinct from the airtransport of cattle, can play an important pa.rt in the development of the North, but complementary to the railway., not as a substitute for it.
So to talk of air beef, without at the same time making provision for a railway which must’ be built sooner or later, in the interests of national defence, is sheer political humbug.
Those are the words, not of a member of the Labour party, but of the editor of Queensland Country Life.. The honorable member for Dawson apparently does not agree with the Government’s policy, in respect of additional transport links, because, he said, he is not satisfied that railways would provide the answer to the problem. Instead, he wants an investigation of air beef. “We on this side of the House have offered no objection to such an investigation. We are concerned not only with whether the proposed railway will provide an outlet for store cattle coming to the fattening paddocks.- in Queensland, but also about the fact that,, had. this railway been operating three years ago, the greater part of £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 worth of cattle lost in the Northern Territory as a result of .a drought, Gould have been saved. Not only will this railway have value from the- point of. view of production! and the conservation of millions- of pounds worth of cattle normally lost in time of drought in the Northern Territory,, as the editor of Queensland Country Life has pointed out, it will also have a defence value. During the last war a bitumen road was built from Mount Isa to Darwin* by Civil Construction Corps- labour. There is no railway linking, up. Camooweal or Dajarra with Darwin.
Two years, ago, the Minister for Transport in. Queensland wanted- the Australian Government to co-operate with the Queensland Government in building strategic railways which were vital, not only from the economic point of view, but also from the point of view of defence. In 19’37, when the late Mr. Lyons was Prime Minister, Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier of Queensland, suggested that the Australian Government should build a railway from Birdum to the Northern Territory boundary, and that the Queensland Government should build a railway to that boundary from the Queensland railhead. The suggestion was. rejected. The building of such a railway would have been of great value during the last war, and it would have been valuablesince then from the economic point of view. From Camooweal to Birdum, across the Barkly Tableland, is a distance of 487 miles and a railway between those two points has been estimated to cost £15,000,000. There would be- no- engineering difficulties in the construction of such a railway. It has been estimated’ that the cost of constructing a railway from Dajarra to Camooweal, a distance of 158 miles, would be £5,688,000: That figure corresponds with the figure mentioned by the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson)- for the construction of a line through the Channel country. In the latter days of the war, when, beef was needed, the Australian Government, in- collaboration with the Queensland Government and the Government of Western Australia, formulated a schemeof road* construction in order to assist the settlers in the Northern Territory to market their produce. The- constructionof a road into1 the Channel country was commenced..
It has been estimated that’ a railway from Dajarra to Boulia would’ cost £3’,240,000. In addition-, a- railway from Yaraka, the end of the branch line from Rockhampton, to Windorah,, at the northeastern end of the Channel country, a distance of 102 miles; has been estimated to> cost £3;672,000. Another line into the centre of the Channel country from the existing rail terminal at’ Quilpie to
Eromanga, a distance of 62 miles, has been estimated to cost £2,232,000. Those who have any knowledge of the Channel country know that, each year, cattle come into that area from North Queensland and the Northern Territory for fattening. In the course of a broadcast which he made last year, Mr. Arthur E. Bell, Under-Secretary for Agriculture and Stock, and chairman of the Bureau of Investigation on Land and Water Resources in Queensland, made the following statement.: -
Over the past 20 years the turn off of fat cattle from the Cooper has averaged about 21,000 per year, but it has been estimated by the Bureau that with reasonable rail facilities this could be increased to an average of at least 80,000 with a maximum in a big flood of about 200,000. If the productive capacity of the Diamantina and Georgina be taken as together equal to that of the Cooper, the total average turn off would be in the vicinity of 160,000 a year with a maximum of 400,000.
By virtue of his position, Mr. Bell has at least some knowledge of the capacity of the Channel country to turn off fat cattle.
I now wish to speak on a matter which concerns the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley). Up to twelve months ago, the Department of Civil Aviation was operating direction-finding equipment at Cloncurry from which aircraft flying between Brisbane and Darwin in bad weather could obtain a bearing. That station has been closed. Some of the men who fly aircraft, particularly passenger craft, in western Queensland, have told me that they fear electrical storms midway between Brisbane and Darwin because the Cloncurry equipment is not operating. Last year an ambulance aircraft from Cairns was lost north-east of Townsville. The pilot was dependent upon Townsville for hisbearings. If the equipment at Cloncurry had been operating he could have got a bearing from that town. Electrical storms have an adverse effect on the reception by aircraft of electrical impulses and it is a tremendous distance from Brisbane to Darwin. The direction-finding station at Cloncurry should be reopened in the interests of the department itself, and in the interests of Trans-Australia Airlines and the passengers who fly in these aircraft.
I understand that as Vickers Viscount aircraftbecome available Trans- Australia Airlines propose to sell their DC3 aircraft. I ask that they be not sold but used in western Queensland. As the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm), knows, this matter is related to the flying of the DH84 aircraft which are owned by Trans-Australia Airlines. These aircraft are flown when the Drover aircraft, which normally conveys the flying doctor, is being overhauled. Those aircraft are obsolete, and according to information that I have received Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited of Sydney has one, but its certificate of airworthiness to carry passengers has been suspended. Yet aircraft such as that operate in western Queensland when the Drover aircraft are not available. I suggest that the DC3 aircraft should not be sold, but should be retained and made available for service in those places where obsolete aircraft are at present being operated.
As the honorable member for Bowman knows, probably better than I do, the Drover aircraft was originally equipped with a variable-pitch propeller. That has been replaced by a fixed-pitch propeller, and consequently the performance of the Drover is not now as good as it was originally. I understand that the manufacturers of these air craft are conducting some research in connexion with the type of airscrew to be used, and it is true that the Drover can land in places where the DC3 cannot land. However, the greater carrying capacity of the DC3 in comparison with that of the Drover gives it a favorable advantage. When the flying doctor wants to take a patient to hospital, it is usual for the patient to desire to have a relative or a friend go along with him. But when there are three persons in the, Drover aircraft its capacity is taxed to the limit. Therefore, if DCS aircraft are, available, they should not be sold by Trans- Australia Airlines, but -should be, used for the flying doctor service in western Queensland. Ihave no doubt that the station-owners,selectors and others who have air-strips for the con-, venience of themselves,theirrelatives andtheir employees, will find it in their owninterests tolengthen those strips.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Speech of His Excellency, delivered on the opening of this -Parliament, properly referred to the visit to Australia of Her Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. The Queen’s visit was an historic occasion for this country, and I believe that it welded our people together and gave us the imprimatur of nationhood. His Excellency referred to the following very appropriate words used by Her Majesty upon her return to the United Kingdom: -
We return with our faith in the high destiny of our Commonwealth and Empire even stronger than when we set out.
I suggest that those words are very appropriate at this stage of the history of the world. His Excellency also referred to the Government’s responsibilities and intentions. His words in this regard summarize the contents of the whole of his Speech. He said -
My Advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to tie thu strengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.
That sentence indicates all that the Government expects to do. Our security was recently discussed in this House, and that debate showed that the Government is fully alive to the important matter of strengthening our defences. The Government is also aware of the need to maintain a healthy economy, as was indicated last night by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The development of our national resources is a challenge to this nation, but I propose to speak not so much about our national resources as about certain factors which are impeding their development. In this democracy of ours we must ever be on our guard to ensure that we shall give social justice to our people.
Earlier in this debate some very well informed speakers dealt with the need for a revision of the Constitution, and I suggest that that is a most appropriate matter with which to deal at the present time. No doubt others can put forward the details of this matter much better than I can, but I desire to consider certain aspects of the great need for constitutional reform in Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred to this need in his policy speech delivered before the last general election. It is, of course one of the dry subjects of politics to which the man in the street pays little attention. I hope that the Prime Minister will prosecute the matter of constitutional reform, and that in this regard we shall ultimately arrive at a common basis of understanding between the Government and the Opposition. Such a reform is essential for the orderly national .growth of this country. For 54 years we have worked under the present Constitution, and although we have had 21. parliaments, only four minor alterations of the Constitution have been approved by the people. I suggest that the State and Commonwealth governments of Australia, at present do not constitute a proper and efficient form of government. Moreover, our governments are too costly for the results that they achieve.
Since federation, 54 years ago, this country has grown tq nationhood. Today, we are accepted in the councils of the great nations of the earth, not as a federation of States, not as a group of States, but as the nation of Australia. Ours is a new nation, and it has within itself the seeds of a very great nation. Australia is a. young country, with a population of only 9,000,000 people. It is the last great continent of the world “that can be developed into a great nation. We are situated in the eastern hemisphere, where more than half the people of the world are concentrated, and those people are now changing their old attitudes and attempting to determine their future ways of life. Our way of life is that of the Western democracies, yet we are situated on the boundary fence between Western and Eastern civilizations. A great deal depends upon the approach of Australians to international affairs at this present time. Our 9.000,000 people have a tremendous responsibility, and one that should be willingly accepted, because it is an opportunity to build the foundation upon which a future great nation may be erected. We have all the qualities, foundations and material wealth that are required to build national strength. This is a relatively new community, with no inhibitions. Nevertheless, we have derived great benefit from the traditions of our British way of life, from “Western civilization and the Commonwealth of Nations. In those circumstances, it is incongruous that we should not face the fact that our Constitution is preventing the proper national growth of Australia. We have not attempted to put our house in order, despite the fact that we all know the reason for the frustration of our national growth. The three major political parties have avoided that task, although politicians often speak, with tongue in cheek, of the need for something to be done about it. All party political differences should be subjugated to this major need, so that we may be able to cure the ills which are so obvious in our Constitution. It is well known that, at times, political parties use the very defects of the Constitution to divide the people. Of course, many Australian citizens are not aware of the immense implications of this subject and, for that reason, do not inquire into the matter. It seems to me a terrible thing that our political parties, in whose leadership the people trust, should not be prepared to face the difficulties which flow from the state of the Constitution. This is the only country in the world which is inhibited in this way.
It could be claimed, in my opinion with truth, that the cost of government in Australia to-day is too great, and that the taxpayers are not receiving value for their money. It might also be said that the resultant duplication and confusion is a deterrent to the efficient functioning of the nation, and that national development is not being undertaken in order of priority with a view to achieving the best results for the country as a whole. There are many glaring examples of the confusion that exists. It is only necessary to think of the difficulties that arise from the Financial Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth bears the odium which the collection of taxes and borrowing involves, whilst the representatives of the States approach the annual carving of the chicken with an almost utter lack of responsibility. The Australian people surely must wonder where our financial policy is leading us as they witness the annual dog-fight at Canberra when the . Australian Loan Council meets. On such occasions, the State Premiers attempt to discredit the Australian Government by demanding countless millions of pounds for all kinds of projects though these may have no claim at all for consideration from a national point of view, and consistently refuse the Common-1 wealth any right of inquiry.
This afternoon, I heard the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) refer to certain unfinished works in the elec1torate which he represents, and I also heard the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) speak of conflict between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government in regard to certain develop-, mental works. As honorable members are, aware, many of our industrial laws are a source of great conflict. There is no need for me to give details in this respect; all, honorable members should be able to call instances to mind. Even in relation to1 housing the people, differences of opinion arise between the various States and the Commonwealth on fundamental matters. There is also conflict of power concerning our mineral resources, such as coal, oil and uranium. In the field of education, the Commonwealth has met demands from the States to assume financial response bility. There is also conflict in the fields of transport, shipping, and commerce and agriculture. Much of this conflict and confusion is due to the need for alteration of the Constitution.
No nation can survive as a divided force. A nation must be indivisible if its strength and productive capacity are not to be lost. Each section of the community must fit neatly into its proper place. It is impossible to build a nation without planning. Only this afternoon, I heard the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) addressing the House on the need to develop the National Capital. Canberra, no doubt, is a fine place in which to live for those who work here, but I suggest that it is not so fine for those who do not work here all the time. It seems to me that its isolation from the big areas of population is its only justification. It should not be thought that I wish: to disparage, Canberra. 0n> the contrary, I agree that it should be: developed as the National Capital,, butI suggest that until, Australians! acquire a national outlook, Canberra1 will serve, no: great purpose. “We- need clear thinking and unbiasedplanning on a national basis. There isi no doubt that our progress has been retarded because of State jealousies; I admit that it is difficult for the people of New South Wales to acknowledgethat Victoria is the greatest State of the Commonwealth because financial and political! interests have- been concentrated in that- State for years past. Such jealousies! must: be; suppressed, however; if sectional, interests arc not to impede the development of the country. The- conflicts: to which I have- referred, with consequent duplication, of energy, lead to. enormous waste of money. Ib is absurd, that, whenever- an attempt is made to alter the Constitution-,, thevarious political parties’ should confuse the people by their differences’ of opinion.. Mostly the people- play safe by taking the view that it is- best to leave the Constitution as it is, although to do so is plainly not in our national interests.
At various, times the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has appealed to the- States to draw u-p> an order of priority for the construction- of- developmental works; but the States have declined’ to do so. They insist on- rigid adherence to their sovereign rights. Whilst I think thatthe States should have sovereign rights; I do not agree that those rights should be used to excuse State governments from shouldering their responsibilities. We all know that many developmental works have- been commenced and not finished, so that great national effort and millions of pounds have been wasted. Before the Joint Coal Board could be established,, it was necessary for at leastone State to agree to its being set up. I understand that the Commonwealth,. New South- Wales, and Queensland are parties to the agreement. It is common knowledge: that the best coal in. Australia is to be found in New South Wales. No other State produces coal of the* same quality, but, because of the attitude of the miners and political interference, New South Wales has’ lost its markets; in Victoria, South’ Australia and Western Australia. In- Victoria, South Australia and Western. Australia, millions of pounds. have been spent- in- the development of. mines- which, having regard to the cost at which New South: Wales coal caro be- imported, are uneconomic. On the- other hand, WesternAustralia can import goods from- the United! Kingdom at- freight, rates- that are much lower than the rates at which it can import goods’ from the eastern States of Australia. ‘ That is an example of the anomalies that exist in relation to Australia’s growth which are. not considered from- a national point of view. One can cite other uneconomic industries that have been established all over- Australia. I do not suggest that they will always- be uneconomic, but that they should have taken their- place in the orderly development of Australia.
I hope honorable members do not imagine that I am advocating, the abolition of the States and’ the establishment of a centralized form of government.. A few years ago that was a very popular political, cry,, and many people still think, that the proposal has merit. The Australian labour party was responsible for adopting a. policy of unification, but, if Australia were to have a centralized form of government, without, decentralized, forms of government, taking their proper place, it would become a. completely socialist state. In the interests of selfpreservation, the people have clung to the protection that is afforded by the retention of State governments.. The- time has arrived when the political parties of Aust tralia should co-operate in the holding of a constitutional convention to define clearly the powers of the Australian Government and to determine the proper areas for State government, even thoughthat might, mean the forming of new States as has. been advocated by at least one political party in. the: House. I. am not saying that such a proposal is not good ; it probably is good. local government is the Aunt Sallyof all forms of government in. Australia.. I suggest to the, House, m all seriousness? that local government is- mot an insignificant form of government. However;, it. is. not given” its rightful place in the, proper planning and development of Australia. We have municipalities and. shires, regional councils, and county councils; all of which could contributevery much, to the. development, of Australia, if. they received adequate finance. We have, the spectacle of the Australian Government and the State governments, acquiring, more and more property, and of the financial difficulties of the local government bodies because those governments do not pay taxes on their- properties.. As a. result of the adoption of the socialist, system by the Australian. Labour party, incentive to the private individual to invest in property ownership has been destroyed. The property owners are the people who have provided the rates and taxes by means of which local government has been maintained over the years. I hope that honorable members and the people of Australia will not forget that the domestic or local form of government constitutes the basis of British, democracy. Let us see that that form of government is given an opportunity to play its part in making Australia a great nation. Local government is nearer to the hearts of the people and to their needs than is any other form of government. We come into this chamber and speak in grandiose terms about big’ projects, but the average citizen in his little home town thinks of the things with which he is associated from day to day but which are important also in a national sense. They must not be disregarded merely because the Parliament is dealing with major matters. We must remember the part that they play in the growth of the nation.
– But we must act.
– Yes, we must act in relation to those matters. Something must be done in relation to the provision of financial help for local government bodies, otherwise that form of government will cease to exist. Let me refer to the petrol tax. Thirty-five per cent, of that tax is applied to the provision and maintenance of rural roads. The remainder is passed to the State governments, which in turn give most of it to the main roads boards. The municipalities, whose roads carry most of the traffic from the larger centres of population, do not. receive any contribution-. The provision of money for that purpose becomes the responsibility of the -property-owners, who are taxed on a- municipal basis. Thatalone emphasizes the necessity’ of brushing aside the differences of party politics and of holding a national convention with the object of building, a nation that can take its place among the great nations of’ the1 world and which will retain its democratic outlook. Honorable members have referred to many other subjects during the debate, but I believe that the holding of a national convention in relation to the Constitution is the most important.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I ! listened with much interest to the speech 1 of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) and I felt like adding 1 “ Hear,, hear !’ “ to his suggestion in rela-1 tion to a truly national form of government in Australia. I thought that, for the first time possibly, the honorable member and I were in agreement. How- , ever, as the honorable member continued, he referred to the difficulties that are being experienced because of an outmoded Constitution. I entirely agree with his suggestion that those difficulties should be removed. The Constitution should be brought up to date. In Aus- ‘ tralia, which we describe as being a nation, we need a parliament that has complete national power. In time of war the Parliament has that power and 1 has not abused it. The Constitution provides that, in a national emergency, the Commonwealth Parliament shall be all powerful and may legislate as it pleases’ in the interests of thi? great nation, but as soon as the period of national emergency passes we fall back upon a horse-and-buggy constitution,, which was drafted in the nineteenth’ century, and will prevent any national government from legislating effectively for the benefit of all Australians.
I welcome these remarks on this subject’ by the honorable member for Bennelong. However, after a few preliminary observations, the honorable member began to hedge,, and he said that the States must’ be sovereign States. But while the States have those powers the Commonwealth Parliament cannot have sovereign powers. Only one or the other can have them. The honorable member for Bennelong then hedged even more and suggested that additional States be established. Naturally, those additional States also, in his view, must have sovereign powers. If additional States were formed they and the existing States would have to rely on powers more limited than those now held by the States. The honorable member then turned to local government. I agree with him that it plays an important part in our affairs and that it has a proper place in the scheme of administration. Under a truly national form of government with a truly national parliament, we should be able to get local and State, or provincial, administrations into their proper perspective, and State governments and local authorities could function much more efficiently than they do to-day. The Australian Government, as early as possible, should convene a national convention to consider every aspect of the Constitution, because, under the present system of government, both State and Commonwealth administrations are inefficient, largely because their powers are restricted by a hopelessly outmoded constitution. We must acknowledge that Australia is now a nation and that it should be governed as a nation. If we do so many of our present difficulties will be resolved. In particular, we shall no longer have any necessity for annual wrangles at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers and at Australian Loan Council meetings over the allocation of loan funds, and governments will not be able to shelter from their own misdeeds and shortcomings behind the Loan Council. We shall have truly national government of a great nation by a truly national parliament.
– And priority for national development.
– We should then have priority for national development, as the honorable member has suggested. The State governments have undertaken various developmental schemes for the conservation of water, the provision of transport facilities and the generation of electric power. In the beginning, adequate loan funds were available for these projects, and the States have been dependent upon the Loan Council and the Australian Government for the provision of the capital necessary for those developmental works. We all know how miser-, ably the Government and the Loan Council have failed the States by refusing to make available enough money for the “projects that the States had in hand, many of which, consequently, have, been delayed or terminated. Under a proper organization of government, with ultimate responsibility for development vested in a central administration, such a condition of affairs would not arise, and many millions of pounds worth of equipment would not be lying idle solely because funds cannot be found to pay for labour and material to enable it to be put to productive use for the conservation of water, the generation of power, and the production of fuel and other needs.
Many Government supporters have congratulated the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Government and themselves upon “ a wonderful victory “ at the recent general election. A large number of electors and. I will be happy to congratulate members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties on another such “ victory “ after the next general election. Another election result similar to the last one will place those parties where they belong - in opposition. The Government is merely a compromise coalition of two parties whose members represent a minority of the voters of Australia.
– The honorable member cannot count correctly. He should work it out again.
– There is no need to do so. The Commonwealth Electoral Officer has worked it out for us. The figures compiled by him. show clearly that the Government was returned to office on a minority vote. If the honorable member can prove that statement to be wrong I shall be happy to apologize to him, but I am certain that I shall not have to apologize, because I know that my observation cannot be proved to be incorrect.
– The honorable member cannot prove it to be correct !
– I am content to rely on the figures compiled by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, who is under the supervision and control of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes). I trust that the honorable member does not suggest that the Minister cannot add figures. I give the Minister credit for ability at arithmetic, as I do the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, but I do not expect the rank-and-file members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties to be able to add figures correctly, because their education, especially in political matters, has been sadly neglected. The Governor-General’s Speech was a statement of the Government’s policy. At page 5 of the printed copy of the Speech we read -
My Government will continue to undertake a large housing programme both directly and in conjunction with the States. The provision of War Service Homes will be vigorously pursued.
– The Government will be pursuing it, but it will never catch it.
– It has been pursuing it for years.
– We have caught it !
– Is the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) aware that applicants for advances from the War Service Homes Division since early in March of this year have been told that their applications will be considered in approximately twelve months’ time because no money is available at present for war service homes ?
– The Government will pass legislation.
Mr. Edmonds. - I rise to order. In view of a ruling that you, Mr. Speaker, have given in this chamber repeatedly, I ask whether the honorable member for Canning is in order in interjecting from a seat other than his own.
-The honorable member for Canning is entirely out of order.
– I have made representations on behalf of one ex-serviceman, who made written application to the War Service Homes Division for a. loan for the construction of a new home. The official reply from the Melbourne office of the War Service Homes Division advised that the applicant would probably be able to obtain a loan in twelve months’ time. , Apparently we are to understand that that advice means that the Government will vigorously pursue the provision of war. service homes. I want the Government to do more than vigorously pursue the provision of war service homes. It has been doing that for years. Each year, when the budget and estimates are presented, the lag in the provision of war service homes is shown to be greater. Ex-servicemen must wait now for twelve months before they can get a loan.
– That is not right.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) thinks he knows more about it than I do.
– Order ! ;
– I must correct the honorable member for Mallee, Mr.. Speaker, and tell him that he does not’ know what he is talking about. I cam give him proof.
– Order! These exchanges are distinctly out of order.
– I ask you to control! the honorable member for Mallee, Mr. Speaker. I do not appear to be able to! do so.
-Order! It is not! the business of the honorable member for Wills to keep the. honorable member for, Mallee under control. The honorable member is supposed to be addressing, the Chair.
– I direct the attention of the House to the provision in the budget-
-Order ! The honor, able member may not discuss anything that is in the budget. That is a matter for debate in Committee of Supply.
– I do not intend to discuss the budget, but the Government has announced that £30,000,000 will be available for war service homes.
-Order ! The honorable member for Wills may not refer to anything that is in the budget.
– Last year the amount of money that was provided in the budget for war service homes was about -£27,500,’000. Not much -more is provided this year, and in saying that, I am not referring to the budget. If the Government intends to pursue vigorously the provision of war service homes, considerably -more money -will have to be provided in the next twelve months than the Government allocated last year. In 1953-54, the delay in the provision of loans to exservicemen was about twelve months. In correspondence, the War Service Homes Division has informed me that a year later, the delay in the provision of loan money is still one year. Therefore, unless a considerably larger sum of money is provided in 1954-55, the waiting time for loans at the end of the next twelve months will still be the same. That is not a vigorous pursuit of this matter.
If justice is to be done to ex-servicemen in the provision of homes, the Government must become more vigorous and not only talk about what it intends to do. It should provide sufficient funds. In many instances it is not being asked to build homes. Many ex-servicemen are prepared to find a block of land and a builder and ito make all arrangements. All they require is a loan. In many other cases, ex-servicemen are endeavouring to buy houses that are already built. Their main problem is the provision of money. This Government has never faced that problem adequately during the four and a half years that it has been in office. It is time the Government really took vigorous action to help the ex-servicemen. The Governor-General also .stated in his Speech -
My Government now proposes that it should be made possible under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement for tenants to purchase on liberal terms the homes in which they live.
That is a laudable objective and one that I should like the Government to achieve. I would give it every support to that end, but what does the Government propose? According to speeches that have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Government proposes to alter the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which prevented tenants of Housing Commission homes from buying them. Under the
Government’s proposal, the tenants will be able to buy their homes with a deposit of 10 per (cent, and the balance will ,be payable over 40 years at 4£ per cent, interest. Those conditions will make it impossible for 90 per cent, of the occupants of Housing Commission homes in Victoria to purchase them. .The majority of the people who live in Housing Commission homes earn low wages. They cannot find a large deposit or pay 4£ per cent, interest on a loan of £2,500 to £3,000. If the Government proposes to provide for such persons to buy the homes that they are occupying, it will have to modify the proposed terms considerably. The amount of money that is to be required as .a deposit must be reduced below 10 per cent, of the price, and the interest rate must be lower than 4£ per cent. The money that the Australian Government has been providing to the States for housing purposes has been lent at 3 per cent, interest. An interest rate of about 3 per cent, is as much as the tenants of Housing Commission homes could possibly pay. The Government must reconsider the proposals that it has .submitted to the State governments because they are unworkable. I hope that the Government will consider a new proposition that will be acceptable to the tenants.
In many speeches that have been made in this House, certain honorable members on the Government side have referred to honorable members on the Opposition side in terms that smear and cast slurs upon them. They have done so in references to communism. I refer to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) in particular, and to several others in general. I am prepared to stand up to any fair criticism, but when criticism that is unfair and untruthful includes me, and those who are making the criticism are well aware that it is not true. I rise to object.
– Nobody said a word against the honorable member for Wills.
– Perhaps they have not said anything against me personally,. but they have made statements against the party of which Iam a member. When a smear is cast at the Labour party, it iscast at me. I object to that form of criticism. The honorable member for Mackellar is the worst of thelot. I understand that he has conducted research into communism and communistic activities over along period,and honorable members on the Government side claim that he has more knowledge of communism and its activities than the great majority of people in this country. That may be so. If the honorable member has such a close knowledge of these matters, he should know about the activities of the Australian Labour party with regardto communism. He should know that the Communist party was outlawed by the Labour party as far back as 1922. The Labour party has successfully countered all the infiltration tactics of theCommunist party over the years. It has always fought against the Communist party and communism. The honorable member for Mackellar should know the great success that has been achieved by the Labour party’s industrial groups in the fight against communism within the trade unions. He has given the Labour party no credit for those achievements. Instead he has cast slurs and innuendoes at the Labour party and has stated that honorable members on the Opposition side are affiliated with communism.
– I rise to a point of order. In spite of the statement? that have been made by the honorable member for Wills . (Mr. Bryson), I have made it perfectly clear in the pastthat I realize that there are honorable members on the Opposition side who are not affiliated with Communists, but not all of them. The honorable member should not misrepresent me as he has done.
-Order ! The honorable ‘member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) may make a personal explanation later if he considers that he has been misrepresented.
– I know that the honorable member for Mackellar has admitted that there are honorable members on the Opposition side of the chamber who are not affiliated with communism.But that qualification does not excuse the honorable member’s be- haviour. It does not give him licence to say, by innuendo, that members of the Australian Labour party are members of , the Communist party. He knows that that charge is unfounded, but he deliberately misrepresents the facts.
– I rise to order. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. I accuse the honorable member of misrepresenting the position, though he may not do so deliberately. He has carried on his campaign of slander and smear ever since he became a member of this House. I query his bona fides; I doubt whether he is as violent an anti-Communist as he represents himself to be. We know that Communists infiltrate every political party. The honorable member may be that kind of a Communist. That is quite possible, and I suggest that honorable members opposite should investigate not only his bona fides but also those of other persons who are associated with the Liberal pary. Communists are debarred from membership of the Australian Labour party, but they can become members of the Liberal party. Ifthe honorable member for Mackellar is not an under-cover Communist, I suggest that he should make an investigation in order to assure himself whether some of his colleagues do not come within that category.
I quote the following paragraph from a commentator’s column in Muster, the journal of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales, of the 17th August last -
Danger:I don’t like Communism; I don’t like Fascism; and I certainly don’t like the techniques of either of them masquerading under the disguise of Liberalism.
This outburst is brought on by last week’s abortive effort on the part of Mr. W. C. Wentworth, M.H.R., to have the Government deregister the Communist paper “ Tribune “.
Mr. Wentworth is bidding fair to become ; if he has not already become ; one of Communism’s few assets in Australia; even the people who detest it react violently against the totalitarian methods he would like to see . used to combat.it.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Mr.Daly - Mr. Speaker, I call attention to the state of the House.
– There are eighteen members on my right, and 25 on my left. A quorum is present. I suspend the honorable member for Grayndler for the remainder of the. sitting. The honorable member will leave the building forthwith.
The honorable member for Grayndler thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– I have been interested to hear many honorable members opposite in the course of this debate frantically endeavouring to console themselves with the result of the recent election. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), who preceded me, joined in the chorus by suggesting that Labour really won the election because, according to some calculation, it had received a majority of votes. I wonder whether honorable members opposite realize exactly the kind of contest they were in. Was their objective merely to poll more votes than the candidates of the Government parties, or were they really in the contest to see which parties would win the most seats in the Parliament? It is rather like John Landy suggesting to Hector Hogan that he could run faster than Hogan because he could run a mile whereas Hogan could only run 100 yards at top speed. If members of the Opposition had a sense of reality they would have some regard for the true nature of the contest, and they would abandon this stupid and childish attempt to console themselves with the belief that they won some different and entirely hypothetical contest.
There are two passages in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to which I shall direct attention. The first deals with our relations with the people of Asia. His Excellency said -
Our relations with the people of Asia and with the United States of America are deeply important for Australia’s future.
This Government is aware of that, but unfortunately, so critical has the position become, that there is a tendency in Australia to overlook the real issues. People talk, as honorable members on both sides of this chamber have talked, about building up goodwill between Australia and Asia at all costs. If we extend that to its logical conclusion, we accept all the propositions that have been advanced towards that end. We accept, for instance, the proposition that we must send food to the countries of Asia. We accept also the proposition that we must abandon all policies and objectives which may meet with distaste in Asian countries. I should like to bring members of this chamber and the people of Australia back to a sense of reality. We cannot afford to lose sight of our own national objectives. We cannot afford to strip ourselves of everything in a frantic effort to appease the Asian peoples and to win their goodwill by buying peace. Idealists in our community who say, “ Let us abandon our White Australia policy. Let us send all our surplus food to the Asiatic countries “, have no true appreciation of the objectives that govern this country or of the objectives that govern the policies of the Asian countries.
We have ideals, standards and objec tives which we must try to impress on the Asian world. They, in turn, have ideals, standards and objectives which we must try to recognize. Consider, for instance, the suggestion that we should send all our surplus foodstuffs as gifts to the Asian people. How far would such gifts go? If Australia and New Zealand together were to send all their surplus butter to India, it would not provide one pound per head per year for the people of India. I say, therefore, that if we were to export all our surplus food to Asia the position of the Asian people would be only slightly and very temporarily relieved. Objections to our White Australia policy have been expressed from time to time in various terms. Sometimes, the objection is merely in point of principle. It is an objection to the fact that we have a policy which is loosely termed the White Australia policy. Sometimes it is the more practical objection that we have a vast but slightly populated country which has an abundance of resources and which provides us with a very high standard of living, whereas, in Asian countries, there are what are popularly referred to time and time again, if I may use a cliche, as teeming millions. It is suggested that we should make room here for some portion of those teeming millions. But if we look at the figures realistically we must admit that, whatever population we could allow to enter this country, we could not offer a living to more than a mere f raction of the millions of Asia.
It is claimed that Australia imposes a colour ban. But nowhere in our legislation is there any reference to a colour ban. We have no White Australia policy in reality. What we say is simply that we believe in a strongly united Australia. We look to those things which go to bind a nation when we admit immigrants to this country. One may ask what those things are. Very often the qualities that go to bind a nation escape complete analysis. At least, they escape legislative analysis. They cannot be put in an act of parliament. There is a community of ideas, a community of religion, a community of culture, and other communities which bring a nation together as one. If an Indian were asked why his nation was separate from Pakistan - there are many different religions, races and colours in India - he would say proudly that the people of India had a common background of 2,000 years of culture. We Australians have a common heritage in the Christian religion, and European culture and tradition, and we are engaged at this very moment in expanding this country to the maximum of our resources. The suggestion has been made that we should modify our White Australia policy. Again, I point out that apart from the susceptibilities of some Asians, it is extremely difficult to modify that policy and yet proceed towards the realization of our objectives. It could be urged that we should admit some people who were bound to us by a common religion. Do we admit Asians who are Christians ? I suggest that our nation has a community of interests which is even greater than its community of religion. Some people might suggest that we should be prepared to admit to citizenship persons who show, by their living standards abroad, that they can conform to our idea of a high standard of living. But whether we act on the ground of religion, standard of living, or any other simple basis, the charge of exclusiveness will still be levelled at us.
– What point is the honorable member trying to make ?
– Order ! All interjections are disorderly, and the offence of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is aggravated because he is interjecting from a seat other than his own.
– The only points that the honorable member for East Sydney tries to make are political points. He is interested in the problems which I am discussing only insofar as he can give a political slant to them.
We must closely examine our national < objectives in relation to Asia. Do we wish to abandon the standards and objec1tives which we have had, in an effort to , appease at all costs any demands that the growing national aspirations of the ‘ Asiatic countries may make on Australia? I believe that we do not. I suggest that we should firmly retain the idea 1 that we have our own objective in building an Australian nation, and that we are 1 entitled to retain that objective. We ‘ should make it clearly understood that our immigration policy does not depend on any distinction of colour which, after all, is only what some people might term an accident of pigmentation. We should treat with sympathy occasional claims, 1 on strong grounds, for the admission of Asians to our citizenship in order to ‘ show that those thoughts are in our minds. We admit to Australia students, visitors and traders from Asian countries, and we treat them with the greatest civility and respect. There is no sugges-tion of discrimination against them on , the ground of colour.
In those circumstances, I think it is fair to issue a word of warning to those persons who, with the best intentions in ‘ the world, desire to lower our standards and national objectives. The problems of Asia cannot be solved by letting down all the barriers of trade and .immigration, so that there is a common levelling off throughout the world. If honorable members will consider that point as a logical outcome of the many suggestions we have heard in this debate, they will realize that we have something that is worthy of protection. It may be better, to say that we have a policy of. restricted or selective immigration. Perhaps the term White Australia policy is unnecessarily offensive to Asians. The administration of our immigration policy by this Government has shown that ifr is not intended1 to be an offensive policy. I should like the expression White Australia, which has persisted for so long, to be abandoned and that we should tait about our restricted or selective immigration policy.
I now wish to say a few words about another matter in the Governor-General’s Speech in which I have a great interest and which, I hope, will be investigated shortly. His Excellency said -
A proposal will .be submitted to the Parliament for the appointment of a Committee of the Parliament, representing both Houses and all Parties, to review certain aspects of the working of the Constitution, and to make recommendations for its amendment.
During the 53 years this Parliament has been in existence, many suggestions have been made for the amendment of the Constitution. That matter is not easy. The typical British approach to such a question is to patch, and compromise, and settle problems as they arise and become increasingly urgent. It must be remembered that this Constitution was not drafted in a day. Long delays occurred, and many drafts were considered before the Constitution was finally adopted’. The two immediate- problems which require urgent attention are the question of the Senate elections, and the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. I confess that I have some doubts’ whether an all-party committee of this Parliament will prove workable in recommending amendments of the Constitution. If there are any purists in the Labour party to-day, and1 the- conduct of the. party on various, occasions leave- me in some: doubt- about it, they believe fundamentally, as part of their policy that the. present federal arrangement should be changed in favour of the establishment of an. all-powerful central government, with- subordinate State governments. They also advocate1 the abolition of the Senate-, if one- is to believe the platform of the Labour party rather, than the Labour- party’s performance. In view. of those- practical difficulties, it is doubtful whether a sound solution, of. the. problems, can be- reached by an all-party committee: One can. only hope for the best.,
The urgency of the: problem of the Senate is clear. Under the present system of proportional representation, regardless of the political party in power in the House of. Representatives, there is always the danger, of. an equally divided Senate,, or. of a Senate hostile: to the government of the day. That danger has existed since 1949, and still exists,, in. spite of the fact that there, have been two. Senate elections and two elections for the House of Representatives in the meantime. The Constitution provides for a deadlock between the two Houses to be solved by a double dissolution. The second danger that exists to stable government in this country to-day arises from the possibility of a deadlock, following a double dissolution. The third immediate and urgent problem in relation to the Senate is that elections for the .Senate now occur at different dates from elections, from the House of. Representatives. In other words, alternate elections for- the House of Representatives and the Senate will occur about every eighteen months. I am quite sure that honorable members opposite, while they are- in- Opposition, welcome- an opportunity to- attack the Government half-way through its- period’ of office. I see &> happy; anticipatory gleam in- the eye of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward)-. But if ever they occupied the. Government benches again, I do not think they, would be: too eager for. a Senate election to-be held before their three-year’ term had expired. A government that has been elected for- three years to> implement a certain policy in that period should, have a reasonable opportunity to do so. Therefore,. I suggest that the simplest, solution of this problem would be for a half of the Senate to retire at each, election for the House of Representatives. That proposal has several rather interesting side lights: The incoming half of the Senate, having been elected at the- same time as the House of Representatives, would tend to favour, although it’ would not necessarily do so, the- winning- side in the House of Representatives. That would remove to some degree- the existing danger of : a deadlock or a- hostile’ Senate.
In, those circumstances, a. hostile- Senate would! hesitate, to engage in purely obstructive oi; party political tactics, because: the Prime. Minister of the day, if he thought, his. legislative objectives,, were being frustrated, could ask. the- GovernorGeneral, for. a dissolution, of the Parliament. If the. dissolution were granted, a. half of. the Senates - it would be1 the olderhalf - would have to retire with the House of Repr-esentativ.es. That system would give, a closer interlocking of the two. Houses. It would make, them more responsible to each other. A Prime Minister’ would not seek a. dissolution unless he were satisfied that his legislative, programme was being frustrated, completely. On the other hand, the Senate would not lightly precipitate a dissolution that would” require a half of its members to retire. I believe that system, would overcome the difficulty of having these frustrating alternate elections.
It may be suggested that. the. Senate* being a house of review, should be elected, at a different point of time from the House of Representatives. If my suggestion were adopted, the Senate would, so to speak, represent a different period of time, because when the incoming par.t. was elected, the older part would have been in already for three years. It would still be quite practicable to retain proportional representation under such a system. It: has been suggested also that in the event of a deadlock it would! be easier to have, a joint session, of the two Houses. I say respectfully that if we adopted that suggestion, we should play into the. hands of those who wish to abolish the Senate. They may be quite right in their view, but I happen to be prejudiced in favour of a bi-cameral system. I think it is generally agreed., even by honorable members opposite, that it would be quite impracticable to abolish the Senate while there is such a great disparity of populations in the various States: Itwould be very difficult to persuade smaller States such as Western. Australia to abandon a substantial representation in the Parliament. When the majority in the Senate is- so. nearly equal to the minority, the powers! of (he Senate would be frustrated if the two Houses sat together lin the event: of a deadlock. That procedure1, would-, not. remove a hostile. Senate.. It would leave it there to obstruct and frus- trate the. Government. It. would strengthen the arguments advanced, in favour of the abolition of- the Senate-. Those are some thoughts, on. a very urgent problem which I hope the. House- will, consider in the very, near future.,
– Serjeant-at-Arms, re-admit the- honorable member fo” Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
The Honorable member for Grayndler having re-entered the chamber,
– I. regret, Mr. Speaker, that when I counted the number of honorable . members present in the chamber before I called, for a- quorum,. I made a mistake. Several, honorable members came in while I was counting. I apologize for the. inconvenience X caused the. House.. I > throw myself: on your mercy and ask to be permitted to remain in the chamber., !
– Thank you. It is a , pleasure to re-admit the honorable member.
.^-! desire to. express^ my very deep gratitude ‘ to the Labour party of. Tasmania, which. . endorsed me. as a Labour candidate at the last genera] election, and to, the people, of Bass, who elected me; to this. House. I assure them that I realize, the grave responsibilities that devolve on a member of the National Parliament.. I rise with a. great deal of pleasure to make my first speech in this House.. I remember with pride that the. Bass electorate was represented by my father, Claude Barnard,, for the record period of fifteen and. a half years. For three years he held the. portfolio of Minister for Repatriation in the last Chifley Administration. I believe he discharged the, duties of that high office: with loyalty, enthusiasm and. justice to the ex-service men, and women of two world wars. I point out that he held the office, at. a-, time when repatriation services were a most pressing and urgent, need, as indeed they are still, for the people who served their country so faithfully during a great crisis. I hope my term- in this Parliament will ensure for me the- co-operation, and goodwill which I know existed between, him and honorable members on. both, sides of the Ho.useas well as the; people he represented so ably
I turn to the housing position in this country. Despite the great housing programmes of various State authorities and private enterprise, I believe housing is still one of our most urgent needs. During the last great conflict, labour and materials were directed from housing to serve the task of winning a lasting peace. It was expected that there would be a shortage of houses in the immediate postwar years. At the conclusion of hostilities, government housing authorities and private enterprise were faced with a huge shortage of building materials of all types. That shortage was a result of nearly six years of conflict, during which the manufacture of these essential materials was seriously curtailed. To-day, however, there is no real evidence of a shortage of either man-power or materials. “We have overcome one problem only to be faced with others which are equally difficult and depressing for prospective home builders. I refer to finance and fantastic building costs. The problems confronting potential home-builders to-day are almost insoluble. I reiterate that housing is still one of our most urgent needs. Incidentally, it was given a great deal of attention by the British Medical Association. “When the association submitted certain proposals on health to the government of the day, it pointed to the tens of thousands of young Australians who cannot hope to marry and raise families, because they cannot find houses. The association referred to the housing shortage as one of our greatest social evils. ‘ I agree with it that we have an obligation to do all we can to provide a decent, separate home for every family in the land. Let us ensure that we shall never return to those pre-war conditions in which poverty, or the fear of poverty, put a separate home beyond the hopes, let alone the reach, of many people.
Unfortunately, there are several factors that seriously affect our home-building programme. The first is the high rate of interest chargeable on bank mortgages. “Whilst I make no attempt to apportion the blame, I feel bound to point out that, during the last three or four years, interest rates in Australia have risen from 3-J per cent, to 4£ per cent., and even, in many instances, as high as 5 per cent. This greatly increases the cost of a home over the normal period of purchase of, say, 30 years. To-day it is estimated that there are 250,000 Australian families in need of houses, and that a further 200,000 families are committed to rents which they cannot afford. It is safe to say that a vast majority of those 450,000 families want to purchase or build houses. Moreover, I believe they have sufficient faith in the future of Australia to give effect to that desire if they can acquire sufficient finance. The average cost of a weatherboard house to-day is from £3,000 to £3,500, and that of a brick house is £4,000 and upwards. Those are the figures for Tasmania, and I have no doubt that they apply generally in most of the other .States.
The second factor that seriously affects the home-building programme is the refusal of the Commonwealth Bank, the State Savings Banks, and the private banks to provide finance on low deposits. It is virtually impossible for men in the lower income brackets, particularly those who have large family responsibilities, to find sums, often in excess of £1,500, with which to pay deposits for the construction of family homes. Therefore, I urge the Government to give immediate consideration to a reduction of the deposits required to a reasonable and commonsense level. The cost of building to-day is far too high, and a searching inquiry should be made into the building industry by an official working party with the ultimate objective of lowering costs by achieving higher productivity in the industry. The efficiency of the building materials industry also must be raised. In one outstanding instance - that of galvanized iron manufacture - the industry is controlled by a tightly operated private monopoly. More research and more effective standardization are required in this industry, which must expand to meet demands not only at home but also in other countries that require extensive economic development.
Many of our most important industries are looking for buyers to-day, and the Government should give urgent consideration to this unsatisfactory state of affairs. Industries already established should be encouraged to expand, and at the same time we must encourage, as well as we can, in the light of our limited resources, the establishment of new industries. After all, industrial expansion is one means whereby we can hope to absorb the millions of new settlers whom we wish to assimilate into our community during the next two or three decades. The future prospects of our agricultural industries are that, instead of having healthy surpluses of food for export, there will not be a sufficient production of food to meet the needs of a rapidly increasing population, unless, of course, we are prepared to consider a scheme whereby large tracts of land can be broken up and brought into production by the encouragement of more and more new settlers. To this end, I believe the Government should give immediate consideration to the extension of existing road and rail facilities, which can no longer be regarded as solely the responsibility of State authorities. The Government can take one immediate step along the lines I have indicated by the redirection of activity into the building industry.
I refer now to another problem of grave, and indeed extreme, importance - that of shipping generally, with particular attention to its effects on Tasmania’s economy. Although the Government is reported to have reversed its decision to dispose of the Commonwealth line of ships, there is nothing convincing about the report. The Government has announced that it believes shipping to be properly an industry to be carried on by private enterprise, but that it is not prepared to dispose of the Commonwealth line unless it can secure the full market value of the ships. A further condition of sale that it has announced is that the ships must continue to operate on the Australian coast. I believe that, should the line be sold to private ship-owners, Tasmania would be deprived immediately of its regular shipping services and many of its island services would be jeopardized. During the last two months I have been approached by representatives of two large organizations of primary producers which are frankly alarmed, by the present trend of shipping services to Tasmania. They argue, and I agree with them, that the Commonwealth line of ships can be a vital factor in securing cheaper freight rates for Tasmanian fruit, potatoes, timber and other products. Moreover, the line could be used for the purpose, of forcing down freight charges in such instances as the present refusal of the! overseas shipping combines to reduce, rates following a reduction of the stevedoring industry charge.
There is also the very important factor of Australia’s ship-building industry to, be considered. That industry employs thousands of men who, I submit, are! dependent to a certain degree upon the; maintenance and expansion of the Commonwealth line of ships. Only the private ship-owners could benefit from the sale of the Commonwealth line. Whilst I agree that such a sale would provide an excellent opportunity for private1 owners to replace some of their obsolete ships quickly and cheaply, I remind the House that Australia, with its long’ coast line and vast distances between’ centres of population, is definitely ai maritime nation. We must not forget that fact. Australia’s economy, its industries, and its defence depend largely ‘ upon shipping, and, therefore, instead of selling the Commonwealth line of ships,, we should be buying and building more ships for the line. During a recent tour of Tasmania, the responsible Minister promised to have an immediate inquiry conducted into the disabilities and 1 requirements of that State in relation to shipping. I sincerely hope that the inquiry will be exhaustive and that it1 will produce far better results than previous inquiries that have been conducted in recent years. I ask the Government to place the Commonwealth line of ships on the same basis as Trans-Australia Airlines and put its control and operation in the hands of its own executive staff so that it can be conducted in fair competition with private shipping interests.
I have listened with great interest during the last two weeks to the debate on current affairs in South-East Asia, and I am left with no doubt in my mind of the gravity of our situation. The greatest, contribution that this or any other Government can make to our future defence can be made by means of a pro’gressive policy of immigration in the first instance, and a programme for the development of our national resources in the second instance. But what is the state of our immigration .programme to-day;? .T.he policy -appears to :be ‘so.und, for -although the intake .of immigrants ;has been drastically ^reduced following the serious economic recession which developed in Australia during .1951-52, the original immigration plan is still in existence. The frustrations .of the Department of Immigration .appear to ,nave ‘ended because immigrant ships are still .coming to .Australia, though .not .at frequent intervals.
Are ‘our national resources being developed .’adequately ? Despite the fact that the present -Government has been in office -since 1949, .we have seen no real evidence that it is eager to push ahead with ‘development in the energetic way that was characteristic of the former Labour Government. Certainly projects commenced during the life of the Chifley Administra.tion have been continued ;by this Government, but I do not believe that development has been accepted to *be a national responsibility and :aim. I submit that Australia has largely been developed toy private enterprise. “While one man has engaged in primary production, another has concerned himself with the manufacture of our basic requirements, but both have done so largely with a profit motive. I do not, of course, suggest that private -enterprise is not fulfilling a normal and -responsible function, but it is concerned primarily with the making of profit. It lis true that private enterprise contributes, in ;a large -measure, to our national economy, and I agree that its excellent organization made possible a speedy transition of many,ot our most important industries from a peace-time to .a war-time basis during “World War II. Therefore, I have no ‘quarrel at all with private enterprise. I realize that it has a definite place in our future -prosperity. However, I -am bound to point out that it has not been responsible for activities such as those of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission in Tasmania, the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, or .the long range weapons establishment at Woomera. All of those undertakings are, quite rightly, the functions .of government. Previous governments -recognized the .necessity to establish them, and. I hope that the -present Government will extend that policy. Successive Australian governments have launched and continued (great -social programmes, including the provision of ‘housing, education facilities, preventive medicine and. research services, -but -they have -not displayed sufficient energy in their approach to ‘agr’icultural problems and the development of new industries. Local governing authorities have been encouraged to extend the -field of public enterprise, to the advantage of the people. We must encourage the extension of local government -services over a far greater range in order to advance the prosperity .of the ‘nation.
The problems of the world are grave, land ‘the perils which surround us are numerous. No easy escape is possible, but I believe that we are sufficiently advanced “to assist socially, economically, and politically in this great task. The curse o’f poverty is only too obvious among many of ‘our near neighbours. Perhaps ‘that is due largely to climate, disease, soil erosion, and -other factors, but, clearly, (neglect, and the application of selfish, shortsighted policies has contributed to the distress of many of those unfortunate people.
Communism was the basis of a great deal of debate in this House recently. I am sure that many honorable members will agree with my contention that several factors which are inherent in our system of government -have encouraged its cancerous .growth. It would not be difficult to enumerate nations, not only of the East, .but also of the West, into which the ‘Communist doctrine has infiltrated, due ;to the low standard of their living conditions. The people of those countries have been’. quite prepared to accept the Communist doctrine, or any other doctrine which offered to them decent amenities of life, and amenities, moreover, -which they expected under the United Nations Charter. The greatest error that those of ‘us who ;a-re opposed to the Communist doctrine could commit would be to -repeat the mistakes of the past. I believe that Australia should help to lead the nations of the world to direct their attention to many of the economic evils which -contribute ;so largely to our universal problems. Lasting world peace can only be ensured by ‘a spirit of goodwill .among all nations. I -believe that ‘no nation is serving this cause more devotedly than is Great Britain. We, for our part, could have, no greater task than to stand steadfastly behind Great Britain in that great enterprise.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), on his first speech in this House. He has a good voice and plenty of confidence, and I am sure that we will never doubt his sincerity of purpose. His father was a respected member of this House for many years. I assure the honorable member that, only because we disagree with Labour’s policy, we shall do our best to see that he does not represent the Division of Bass for as long as his father did. In my capacity as Chairman of Committees, I shall give to the honorable member all the assistance that I can.
I come now to the subject-matters to which the honorable member for Bass directed his attention. I agree with him that the provision of housing is an urgent necessity. The honorable member referred to the high cost of housing, and high interest -charges, but he did not attempt to allocate the blame in that connexion. I am sure that he realizes that interest rates are determined from time to time by the Australian Loan Council, which is dominated by five. Labour State Premiers. They must accept their share of the responsibility. This Government has an excellent record in relation to housing. During the last, three years 227,565 houses have been built, compared with 76,111 during the last three years of the previous Labour. Government’s term of office. Furthermore, since coming to office in 1949 this Government has provided more war service homes than were provided by all previous governments in the whole of the preceding twenty-six and a half years. I believe that the electors of Bass will soon realize that this Government is a government of action, and that the socialist policy advocated by the honorable member for Bass contains no plan for development. I am confident that they will soon alter their representation in this House.
The honorable member for Bass stated that we had undertaken nothing in the way of development. I advise him to have anotherlook at the figures, which reveal that during our term of office we have expended £646,000,000 on development by the Commonwealth and the States. That is an excellent achievement which Labour, with its socialistic pro- . gramme, has no hope of equalling. The honorable member for Bass expressed fear that our agricultural production would not meet our needs. Apparently he is not familiar with the Government’s programme for agriculture, which has been brought to fruition in that almost every agricultural industry has not only lived up to the desires of the Government regarding expansion, but in many cases has far exceeded the aim; so much so that 92 per cent of our overseas credits to-day are earned by our agricultural products.
I wish now to deal with two matters to which reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The first relates to payments made under the Common- . wealth Aid Roads and Works Act. His Excellency stated that the current act is not due to expire until the 30th June, 1955, but, because of the effect of increased refining of petrol in Australia, the amount paid to the States might be less than it has been in the past. He said, however, that the States will not lose as a result of the development of oil refining in Australia, because the Government has made up the payment and proposes to. amend the act. It is because of that projected amendment that I wish to comment on these payments and to express the hope that the Government will take action to institute stricter supervision over their distribution. The act as it stands provides that local authorities are entitled to 35 per cent of the payments after a sum of £650,000 has been set. aside for road safety purposes and some of the Commonwealth’s road needs. An examination of the relevant figures shows how Queensland’s share of the tax is distributed. The figures that. I shall cite now were given by the present Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, to a State member, when Mr. Gair was the Treasurer of Queensland. They show that since 1950-51 - I am confining my remarks to the years covered by the present act - Queensland received sums of £2,683,000 for the first year under the act and £3,141,000 for the second year. These are round figures. I question the figures given by Mr. Gair for the third year. He told the State member concerned that the payment for the third was reduced to £2,168,000. The Queensland Main Roads Commission’s report for that year shows that the actual figure represents about £2,800,000, which is considerably in excess of the figure given by Mr. Gair. I do not suggest that Mr. Gair deliberately gave a wrong figure, but I suggest that the figures were not complete at the time he gave them to the State member. That view is supported by the Estimates presented to this Parliament, which show the figure for the year concerned, covering payments to all the States, was increased bv £500,000. It had risen from £15,200,000 to £15,700,000. Obviously, since Queensland receives 19.2 per cent, of the total payments, that State did not receive nearly £1,000,000 less that year than it did the previous year. “We can assume, therefore, and, I think, correctly, that Queensland received about £3,000,000 that year. The total payment for this year to all the States is more than £17,000,000, which is also a considerable increase over last year’s payment, and Queensland will again receive an increased amount.
I wish to know why Queensland has not complied with the provision of the act. An admission is contained in a letter from the present Minister of Transport in Queensland, who is also Deputy Premier of that State, to the effect that the payments to local authorities have not been increased since, the first year covered by the act, and that the total payments to local authorities, including the Brisbane City Council, in each vear has been only £560,100. On a percentage basis, therefore, the Queensland Government has paid out to local authorities only approximately 20 per cent, in the first year under the act. This year it will pay out about 18 per cent. In other words, local authorities in Queensland are not receiving much more that half the amount that this Parliament decided by statute they should receive, The result is that there is a universal cry from local authorities in Queensland for more money. They are asking why the Commonwealth will not make more money avail- able to the States. The trouble is that the Queensland Government has failed to comply with the provisions of the act. A recent conference of local government authorities in Queensland adopted a resolution asking for an improvement of the basis on which the distribution of the money is made. I think I am right in saying that the basis is three-fifths population and two-fifths area. That basis was agreed on between the various States. The present Lord Mayor of Brisbane suggested that there should be a Commonwealth minister for local government. I do not know why he made that suggestion. What purpose would be served by having such a Commonwealth minister, who, under the Constitution, would have no jurisdiction over local authorities in the States, or over the money allocated by the Commonwealth to the States? I think that such a suggestion is intended as a red herring to be drawn across the trail in order to remove, in the minds of the public, some of the blame that can be rightly laid at the door of the Queensland Government, which the Lord Mayor previously supported and then abandoned on a matter of principle. It seems now that he is trying to get into that Government’s good graces again.
I have been an ardent State-righter. I arn beginning, however, to lose my enthusiasm for State rights as a result of the activities of State governments which fail to measure up to their responsibilities. I suggest that they may as well be wiped out if they are to exist only as political critics. While accepting no responsibility for the collection of taxes they are always looking to the. Commonwealth for finance. If they arc going to serve no real purpose but to be mere criticizing machines, we may as well save some of the expense which, as taxpayers, we have to face in order to keep them in existence. Suggestions have also been made that the Commonwealth should take over responsibility for education, which is at present a State responsibility. The honorable member for Bass said something about the Commonwealth taking over responsibility for railways, which are now the concern of the States. If the Commonwealth is to take over the responsibility for all those States functions, what purpose will State governments serve? I believe that the State governments ought to be made responsible for the collection of their own revenue, and that they should live up to their responsibilities as governments. How can local authorities benefit from increased grants to the States if the State governments do not pass the money on to the local authorities? I heard the chairman of a local authority in my electorate say at a recent conference that the Government of Queensland had robbed the local authorities of the money that was due to them. They were only receiving about 18 per cent, of the money made available by the Commonwealth instead of 35 per cent. The Australian Government has generously decided that the grant for road maintenance purposes to the States should be increased from £17,000,000 to £24,000,000, the estimated amount that will be raised by the levy of 7d. a gallon on all petrol used, irrespecti ve of whether it is imported or locally refined. That is almost a 50 per cent., increase. But what will the local authorities receive? They will not receive nearly as much as the 40 per cent, increase that the Prime Minister announced that they would receive. It is not a valid answer to this argument to say that section 6 of the act does not specifically state the amount that local authorities should receive. The Premier of Queensland, when he was Treasurer of that State, said that section 7 of the act provided that 35 per cent, of the money made available under the act must be expended on roads in rural areas, including developmental roads, feeder roads, roads in sparsely populated areas and roads in country municipalities and shires. The Premier made that statement in a letter to n member of the State legislature. It cannot effectively be argued, in rebuttal of my case, that the local authorities receive some of the 65 per cent, of the Commonwealth grant which is properly retained by the State governments. The local authorities in Queensland have not received any amount additional to their proportion of the £560,000 except that they may have received, as a loan from the State Government, a part of the money which the Australian Government granted to the State Government for the purposes of grants to the local authorities. This situation should be thoroughly investigated. The Main Roads Commission report is not very clear on that point, but it reveals that certain sums of money have been lent to local authorities at certain interest rates. Local authorities have always received some moneys, under section 6 of the act, for the purposes of main-road construction and those moneys were intended to be allocated out of the 65 per cent, to which I have referred. In effect, the act laid ‘ down that the local authorities should , receive 35 per cent, of the Commonwealth grant, and, in addition, a portion of the remaining 65 per cent, in order to enable them to buy road-making machinery. As the Queensland Government has not even attempted to comply with the act, I suggest that this Parliament should amend the legislation, so as to provide by agreement, that a. certain proportion of the moneys granted by the Commonwealth must be given to the local authorities. A provision of this nature was placed in the war service land settlement legislation, i This is the only way in which we can ensure that the local authorities of Queensland receive the money to which they artentitled, i
– Has the honorable member received any concrete complaints from local authorities?
– Every local : authority in my electorate has been complaining. I spoke in six different elec- .torates during the last election campaign and in every one local authorities had the same complaint. In these six electorates, without exception, representatives of the local -authorities told me that the State Government had so much money that it had offered to lend them all that they wanted on condition that they spent it before the end of the financial year.
I now want to speak in support of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) who has been- working so hard in his electorate. I am astonished . that Opposition members should have; ‘ suggested that airlines are charging excessive rates merely because they have slightly increased rates for the delivery of papers and goods. The Premier of Queensland has suggested that, a. subsidy should be paid to the airline,e that operate in ‘his State. But the Queensland Government is the only State in the Commonwealth ‘that taxes its airlines. A tax ranging from 7£ per cent, to 10 per cent is levied -on all fares and freight charges made ‘by the airlines of Queensland with the ‘exception of the Gulf country where it is 2£ per cent. If the Premier wants to assist the airlines, let him remove that tax. The Labour ‘.Government in Queensland imposes a tax on every form of transport. Road transport is taxed at the rate of 3d. a ton mile and Id. a passenger mile. In that way the Queensland Government taxes country citizenship. The Australian Government has reduced sales tax in order to assist the airways companies to make transport cheaper than it has been in the past. The Government of Queensland has taken f 150,000 from the airways in the form of taxes. All that Mr.. Gair needs to do to assist the airways is to abolish those taxes. Such a move would be a welcome relief to the airways companies that are struggling to give an efficient service. As the Queensland Government cannot distribute the generous funds that the Australian Government has made available to it, I hope that the Australian Government will introduce amending legislation for the purpose of insisting that the moneys that it makes available to the State governments shall go to the local authorities which are entitles to them.
.- I rise in this House as the spokesman for the electors of Griffith, a most enlightened people who, on the 29th May, voted against the social injustices meted out by this ‘Government to a large section of the people of the Commonwealth, and in particular to those of Queensland. However, I propose to reply first to some charges made by the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), in relation to moneys made available by the Queensland Government to local authorities. I can speak with some authority on such a matter, because I had the great honour of serving the citizens of South Brisbane in the Brisbane City Council for seventeen years ; first under a dictatorship lead by Sir John Chandler, and then under a more enlightened administration. The charges made ‘by the honorable member for Fisher -are entirely at variance with facts. The honorable member stated .that the Queensland ‘Government was mot prepared to lend the money that it received from this Government .to local government ‘authorities. For many years, >a most generous policy, initiated by a Labour government led by the late Mr. Forgan Smith, -and ‘applied ‘and improved by his Labour successors, operated in (Queensland. That policy was to make grants :to any local authority which was prepared to carry out developmental works.
The State Government will, without any strings attached to it, pay 50 per cent, of the cost of sewerage construction work carried out in any part of the State, and it will pay by way of grant or subsidy 22£ per cent. <of the cost of any water .supply reticulation works. The Queensland Government will also pay, by way of subsidy, 50 per cent, of the cost of any work associated with mosquito eradication,; that is, work associated with the construction of drains and water channels. No doubt that information will interest the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm). If the Brisbane City Council is prepared ito undertake some of the ‘drainage work that the honorable member for Bowman complained about, I have no doubt that the Queensland Government will pay half the cost of such work. As a result of this Government’s actions, Brisbane, which has a population of about 475,000 people out of a total State population of about 1,250,000, received only £15,000 last year for the construction of rural roads. Therefore, I suggest that Brisbane is indebted to this Government for nothing in regard to assistance for the construction of rural roads.
Earlier in my speech I referred to certain acts of social injustice which the people of the ^electorate of Griffith revolted against on the 29,th May. I now propose to refer to the economic issues which faced the people in that part of the Commonwealth at that particular time. There is a good deal of hostility in Queensland among certain .sections of the people, regarding the policy of the Australian Government in relation to the pegging of wages? and also with respect ito the margins issue. It is fortunate feat in Queensland most of “-the working population .’come under the ‘jurisdiction -of the State industrial courts. I say that it is “fortunate”, because “we are singularly -free from industrial ‘disputes in that State compared with other States. However, a section of the industrial community does come under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth .’Court of Conciliation ‘and Arbitration. Within that section ‘are waterfront employees, and because the Commonwealth Arbitration Court -.decided that automatic costofliving adjustments would not .be made for twelve -months, and because it adjourned the hearing of the margins case for almost twelve months, a .good deal of resentment and some industrial disturbance .has .ensued. I fear that unless a judgment is given shortly, there will be a considerable disturbance in the waterfront industry in Queensland.
I do not agree with the principle that those who contribute most to the creation of the wealth of the nation should have ito bear the whole of the burden of a campaign to halt inflation, or, to use the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), ‘to put value back into the £1. mi. working section of the community is apparently the only section that is being penalized and made to bear that heavy burden. At the recent general election a united front was presented against the Australian Labour party by the Liberal party, the Australian ‘Country party and the Communist party. Yet the combined vote for those three parties did not exceed that polled by the Australian Labour party. If a system of proportional representation had obtained for the election of this House as it does for the Senate, the Australian Labour party would be administering the affairs of the ‘Commonwealth to-day. ‘.The promises made by the Australian Labour party in that election campaign apparently appealed to .a .majority of the people, and I support one particular promise very enthusiastically. That was , the .undertaking .given by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that if a La’bour (government were .elected to office it would .approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and intervene in the margins .case. Howe.v.er, because of :our electoral .-system the Government survived !by a narrow majority;, or, in racing par lance, ‘by a short head. Therefore, we, must ‘accept the situation as it now is.
We all -know that one ‘honorable member on the Government side, one of those upon whom the Government depends for’ its majority, owes his presence in this House to the Communist party. Because of the vote that .he received from sup-‘ porters of the Australian Communist, party, he is now a member of this House. t I wish to make quite clear the position of the members of the Australian Labour party in this matter. A statement was issued only yesterday by Mr. Boland, the president of the Queensland central executive of the party, which set out the position of the party in relation to communism. Mr. Boland is also the general secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland. In the course of 1 his statement, he said -
The Australian Labor Party excludes any . Communist from membership. .No Communist auxiliary or subsidiary can be associated with the Labor Party in any activity and no Labor 1 Party ‘Branch .or member can -co-operate with . the Communist Party.
Labour believes the Communist Party to be ‘ not only under the moral domination of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R., but that it ; is also physically dominated by the Kremlin.
Its objective is the destruction of the defence and the prosperity of Australia to pave the way for the imposition of the totalitarianism of Communism.
To that end, it places every possible .obstruction in the way of economic recovery. It would ‘ sabotage every social advance gained by Labor.
It attempts to discredit the A.L.P. and its “leaders in accord with an international design.
The Communist Party of Australia has never hesitated to stoop to the basest lies and chicanery to achieve its ends. This is in the true tradition of international Communism.
Members of the Labor Party are constantly on ‘the alert for subversion.
To the Australian Labor Party, opposition to Communism is not a matter from which to derive political capital. ‘It .is a matter of vital importance to every Australian.
Labor realised the danger many years ago. 1 Some unions bar Communists from holding executive positions. In others, considerable success in removing Communists from office has been achieved.
The Chifley Government laid charges of sedition and succeeded in securing convictions even when the cases were subject to’ appeal to the High Court.
Similar legal victories were gained in the coal crisis of 1949.
Labor has the answer to Communism.
Communism is an exotic, bloodsucking plant which can thrive only in the jungle of industrial unrest and unjust working conditions.
The A.L.P.’s social programme aims at the elimination of these two factors. As a byproduct, support of false Communistic ideals will be virtually eradicated.
That is the view of a spokesman of the Australian Labour party in Queensland. On that basis, I feel that I can say conclusively that the members of the Australian Labour party in this House are not merely non-Communist but are definitely anti-Communist.
As a Queenslander, it is, perhaps, natural that I should make observations cn certain passages in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General which referred specifically to the State I represent. In that northern outpost of the Commonwealth there have been bitter complaints over the years, particularly since 1949, concerning the harsh treatment administered to the State by this Government, and of its reluctance to assist in Queensland’s development. A recent leading article in Queensland’s foremost anti-Labour newspaper, the Sunday Mail, contained the following passage : -
The defence measures necessary at this time in Queensland, as throughout northern Australia, are population and development.
The leader writer claimed, in effect, that defence and development go hand in hand. The people of Queensland consider that a great deal needs to be done to develop the great potential wealth and productive capacity of their State.
His Excellency also said that the River Murray Commission had recommended to the Government that the Hume Reservoir be enlarged to 2,500,000 acre feet, and that the Commonwealth should pay a quarter of the cost of such work, but no reference was made to assistance to the northern part of the nation in connexion with such developmental works. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), when speaking in this House recently, stated that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) had said, in an address, that northern Australia was unattractive from the point of view of further development. I suggest that that was a very odd statement to be made by a responsible Minister. Surely, he was aware that the only place in which oil had been struck was in this so-called unattractive area of northern Australia, and that the best uranium fields are also in that area. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) regards the uranium field at Rum Jungle as of sufficient importance to the nation to warrant his visiting the site in order to launch the project next month.
While the Government takes the viewthat an imaginary line should be drawn across the continent westward from Tweed Heads, thus dividing the northern part of Australia from the southern part, and that it should concentrate its efforts only in the southern part of the continent, the residents of the north cannot help but feel that they have been abandoned by the Government. The Premier of Queensland has asked repeatedly for a spirit of co-operation, on the part of the Australian Government, in developing northern Australia, but he has received no co-operation at all. In the southern States, joint authorities have been set up to carry out developmental works. For instance, there is the excellent Snowy Mountains Authority, which was established by the Chifley Labour Government, and which is doing fine developmental work. The proposed enlargement of the Hume Reservoir will also be well worth while. However, all our developmental work should not be confined to the southern part of the Commonwealth. The first line of attack should be the first line of defence.
In another part of his Speech, His Excellency stated that the Government would closely examine the extent to which additional transport links, including railheads, were desirable for the development of beef production in north Queensland and the Northern Territory. Since 1949, the present Government has been inquiring into the desirability of improving transport facilities in that area. Numerous requests have been made to the Premier of Queensland for files and information on this subject, and on each occasion the Premier has made such information readily available. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is also a Queenslander, in sheer desperation and, no doubt, out of a sense of shame because of the failure of his Government, tried during the recent general election campaign to sell the idea of an air beef lift instead of the proposed rail links. He was laughed to scorn by his own supporters. The wealthy graziers ridiculed the proposition which had been advanced by the Leader of the Australian Country party. Notwithstanding that fact, the Queensland electors returned to this House thirteen members of the Government parties, as against five members of the Australian Labour party. The Prime Minister stated in the Brisbane City Hall that he was always pleased to be in Queensland because, if Queensland had not voted in support of the Government, he would not be Prime Minister. His actions, however, are a repetition of the old story of base ingratitude. Although the right honorable gentleman admits thai if Queensland had not voted for the Government he would not be Prime Minister, he turns a deaf ear to the requests of the Queensland Government for assistance in developmental projects. Perhaps he will change, but I think that is too much to expect. The Prime Minister and the Government have done nothing to assist the State in this all-important matter.
I have gazed at the ministerial bench and have noted that some of the leading Ministers come from Queensland. In the Senate, the Leader of the Government is a Queenslander. Apparently those Ministers render excellent service to every State in the Commonwealth except Queensland. There are many other aspects of the Government’s abandonment of Queensland to which I could refer, but time does not permit me to do so.’ I emphasize, however, that the defence of the nation is a matter to which we must all have immediate regard. The country’s defence is inseparable from its development. It is useless for Ministers to say that the country is passing through difficult times and to use that state of affairs as an excuse for abandoning developmental projects. I am reminded of the inscription on a monument in New Guinea that was erected to the memory of fallen soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force. I am not sure of the exact words, but I think the inscription states, “The difficult is accomplished now; the impossible takes a little longer “. It must be admitted that our forefathers developed 1 this country under very difficult conditions. Surely we are not going to say that we are less worthy than they were.
.- 1 Although I rise to speak in support of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I am sure the House 1 will not mind my digressing to congratulate the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for , Griffith (Mr. Coutts) upon their maiden speeches. It is one of the lesser attractions of this place that on both sides, with the ebb and flow of public opinion, we lose the company of good friends. Supporters of the Government bitterly regret the loss of our colleagues who represented the Divisions of Bass and Griffith. How- ever, we have more than enough charity i in our hearts, and sufficient appreciation of the hard facts of political life, to wish i our newly found company the best during ‘ their sojourn, but, for reasons which are i not personal, they will be aware of our ‘ efforts from time to time to ensure that their stay in this place is not protracted. 1 We welcome the remarks of the honorable member for Bass in relation to private enterprise. Those remarks were not in agreement with the sentiments that have been expressed so often by his colleagues, and for that reason it may be hoped that i in due course he will follow another illustrious Tasmanian who left that side 1 of the House when a government that was of similar persuasion to this Government was in office. I am afraid, however, that there is little hope of the honorable member for Griffith doing likewise. I , do not wish to be critical, but it is unfortunate that a newcomer to the House should bring with him the old parrot cries and the old insufficient definitions of such terms as “ the workers “, all of which follow the Australian Labour party line and are dedicated to keeping alive in this community a spirit of class distinction which we do not want.
The honorable member’ for Griffith spoke about his experience in local government in Queensland and about the enlightened policy of the party to which he belongs. I think we ought to pass lightly over the fact that, although it was ‘ the policy of his party to reduce rates, those in Brisbane have been increased.
The same administration, supported’’ a reduction of fares* but fares- have been increased1. In addition, the ratepayers of” Brisbane- carry the burden of an annual loss of- £300,000 by that city’s transport service. The administration which the honorable member supports proposed, to reduce electricity costs, but. those costs- have been, increased. As. the honorable member has. seen fit to mention a programme of public works and sewerage, the House should be reminded that that programme has fallen behind schedule and that the performance of the present, administration does not equal the. performance of the previous administra-tion.
The Speech of His Excellency, the Governor-General, has been described by some honorable, members opposite as sterile. His Excellency stated among other things -
My advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to be the strengthening- of Australia’s’ security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the developof our national, resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.
I think: there is- sufficient in that statement to challenge the imagination, and certainly the industry, of every honorable member’. Surely we can agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Benelong (Mr: Cramer-) when he drew attention to the marvellous future that awaits this -country. Yet 9,000,000 people, who are clinging precariously to the fringe of this great continent, are not laying adequate claim to continued control, of it! Every influence at work in this country is opposed to decentralization. Governments,, particularly the State governments,, pander to- the- swollen populations of the cities, and foster the industrial- vote. When we look: at the development of transport and other services, we see that every influence is1 directed towards the enlargement of the cities at the. expense of the more sparsely populated’ country areas. Much imagina-tion and courage, and much encouragement to private enterprise, is needed to ensure that there will be unleashed in our community those forces’ that will assist in the decentralization of industry and population.
Recently-, emphasis has- been- placed upon- the subject of defence. It is easy to think- of defence- in terms of arms- and men under arms, but– honorable* members must be pleased’ with the following statement by His Excellency -
My- Government is- undertaking a reorganization on the defence1 programme to- achieve themaximum security that the country can provide for. a long, period,, having regard tu the needs not only of defence but also of economic stability; a steady development of population and- resources) and high levels of production! and employment.
I hope the people of Australia will realize- that, without national development and the maintenance of a stable economy, there cannot be adequate defence-. Australia has come through a fairly difficult period’. Although, for obvious reasons, the Government had nocontrol over the time-table of events, it knew that Australia, would emerge from the recent period of inflation if the people had the. goodwill and the patience to support the programme upon which it had embarked. Co-operation between the Government, and the people has brought about, the desirable, situation of stabilized prices, and we are on top of inflation, to-day. Nevertheless,, we have only an uneasy hold on prosperity, which, it is too readily supposed, will continue as a matter of course without the need for us to do anything to maintain it. An inclination to behave like the gambler who has had- a few winning hands and wishes to cash in his chips and leave the game, is abroad in Australia, to-day. The fact, is that more and- better things, are in store for. this great country if. we will only hang on and. work to preserve what we have already attained. The. standard of living in Australia is rising as rapidly as the level of national development will permit,, and if we seek, with too much haste and impatience for further improvements we may very easily lose: all that we have gained. I refer now to the present state of industrial, unrest that has arisen out of the somewhat, but not altogether;, spurious issue of margins’. No great pressure: from, the general public- for the- adjustment of margins’ exists. A mere; handful’ of malcontents in industry see. in this issue the prospect of stirring up industrial’ trouble, and are using’ it, through agitation, for the attainment of some objective of which I am sure that we are all aware.
– Is the honorable member referring to bank officers?
– I was referring to no particular group. The honorable member knows very well to whom I refer. According to the latest statistics, the average male wage in Australia to-day is considerably more than the basic wage, together with the margins for skill that have been fixed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It must be obvious to the most unthinking person that, in a full employment economy, the interplay of supply and demand and the competition of industry for labour are more beneficent influences in the determination of wage rates than is the court. Those who have most to gain from any increase of wages would be well advised to do nothing to undermine the existing position of full employment and thereby destroy the beneficent influence that is working on their behalf. That is not to say that the condition of full employment could not be destroyed and those influences that are working so well for the Australian wage-earner could not be vitiated with great ease. The action of the court in setting aside until November consideration of the margins issue was wise. A great deal is being said about margins at present, and there seems to be some misunderstanding in the minds of the public on this issue. Every wage-earner in Australia to-day receives some sort of a margin for skill. Consequently, any increase of margins would really be an overall wage increase.
The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, having made a determination after a lengthy, full-scale, review of wages, would hardly, before it was able to ascertain the effect of its determination, undertake a re-hearing of the same matter. I have a great appreciation of and admiration for the skilled members of the community, and an understanding also of the need for unskilled labour. I trust that the determination of the court on margins will be based on the need to reward those who have made sacrifices in acquiring their skills. I am concerned, not with the sort of skill that is acquired by a few months’
labour at the work bench, but with the’ skill acquired, usually at the cost of some sacrifice, by study, specialization, and application to the task in hand. Increasing mechanization of Australian industry’ will give rise to a growing need for skilled operatives, who are far too few in Australia at present. “We have recently passed through a period when big money was easy to come by, and the dead-end job’ took on a great attraction for young men setting out on life’s journey. It is typical of human nature that men should heed the opportunities for acquiring big money easily, and refuse to make the sacrifices necessary for the acquisition of industrial’ skills. The only solution of the problem, is to have the Commonwealth Court of, Conciliation and Arbitration inquire into’ the matter and fix margins that will! ensure that professional workers and skilled artisans shall be rewarded for the additional skills that they have acquired, of which Australia will stand in increasing need. I trust that the Australian people in general will be patient on this issue and that their patience will be rewarded by a restoration of the incentive to develop skills, because the maintenance of skills in a sound economy is essential to a worth-while defence effort. !
I said, earlier that the basis of our defence effort might well be stability in rural industry, and I invite the attention of the Government to a problem that arises out of the impact on rural industry of the national service training scheme. I am wholly in favour of national service training, which, in spite of the detraction of its critics, is a very good thing. Nevertheless, the obligation of employees to undergo national service training bears with devastating severity on some industries. It is somewhat regrettable that the worst cases of hardship occur among those who are engaged on productive properties. The situation lends itself to the charge that the Government is perhaps pandering to the more well-to-do classes in the community. I assure the House that I do not, and never will, entertain any such notion. However, I am only too clearly aware of the amazing number of eighteenyearold youths who- suddenly become “ managers “ of businesses. It has been left to the courts to see through these spurious claims, and they have done so.
On the other hand, there are cases of genuine hardship where young men in the call-up age group bear major responsibilities to the community which cannot be discharged by any one else.
– They have their remedies.
– They may apply to the courts for exemption from training, or someone else may be engaged to take the place of the man who undergoes national service training.
– Or else they may go to their federal member.
– I hope that they do not take that course, because, as the honorable member knows very well, members of parliament have no power to determine these matters. Members should not be able to exercise influence in this highly important national problem, which should be left completely in the hands of the independent courts. When the question of replacing a man who is called up for national service training arises on an application for exemption, it is easy for the magistrate or, perhaps, the national service officer in attendance, to say that the Commonwealth Employment Service can provide labour to replace that of the young man who. is seeking exemption. But, under conditions of full employment, the Commonwealth Employment Service generally cannot find any one with the skill or the experience to do the particular job on dairy, sheep, wheat and other properties. It is reasonably easy to fill the gap in industry or a retail establishment when a young member of the staff is called up for training for three months, but I am sure that all honorable members will agree that in rural pursuits, particularly in dairying, working conditions are not nearly attractive enough to appeal to men of suitable calibre.
Many dairy farms conducted by aged or infirm parents, with the help of lads of seventeen to twenty years of age, can be kept in production only by a great struggle. If the lads are called up for service and labour is not available to replace them, the farms will probably be thrown out of production, or production will be seriously reduced, for at least, twelve months. Dairy cows are highly temperamental creatures, and they get to know and like those who handle them, particularly if their handlers like the animals. The kind of persons whose services are available through the Commonwealth Employment Service do not like cows, and therefore would upset the animals, which would not reward them with milk in the buckets. The conduct of a property, particularly of a dairy farm is not, as so many honorable members seem to imagine, an unskilled occupation. A high degree of skill and considerable experience are necessary to the successful conduct of farming, and the calling up for national service training of youths who are skilled farmers may seriously reduce the supply of skilled labour available for farming pursuits. Two interesting examples, to which I shall refer only in general terms, illustrate this point. One is a transport business. It grew almost in spite of its proprietors to such an extent that father and son were handling sections of the business far removed from each other. Every effort is being made to obtain a replacement for the son. Advertisements have been published in a number of newspapers where they are likely to do the most good and wages at almost a fantastic level have been offered for some one to fill the boy’s place. Up to now, they have been unable to obtain even a reasonably adequate replacement. The absence of the boy may mean the death of the business. In another case a young man served in the high school cadets and is eager to do national service training, but he is the sole support of a widowed mother who is struggling to maintain a hold on a conditional purchase lease. If the boy goes, it may mean the cessation of production and further, the loss of a family property upon which the family has done much hard work.
I know that deferment is possible but it is not reasonable to ask magistrates to defer training indefinitely, nor have they the power to do so. The Government might well study this problem in an endeavour to find some relief for the extreme hardship cases. I am under the impression that the ability of the national service training scheme to handle the number of trainees who are coming forward’ is limited. In other words, some of the boys who are coming of training age cannot be accommodated in the national service training camps. It would be most inequitable and unwise if some of the national service trainees were balloted out while others, including extreme hardship cases, were obliged to undergo training. The Government might consider amending the scheme by extending the period of obligation or by giving the magistrates power to exempt youths from service as well as power to defer their training. I believe that the rectification of these apparently minor matters, that are not minor to the people concerned, might well receive the attention of the Government. It would thus gain the goodwill of those who wish to see the defence of Australia maintained efficiently, and who appreciate the magnificent part that is being played in defence preparations by the national service training scheme.
.- The debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply is one of the few occasions upon which honorable members can direct some attention to the institution of the Parliament itself. I propose in the time at my disposal to examine the functioning of this institution from the point of view of the ordinary member of Parliament, and to suggest something that might be done to make it function more effectively as a deliberative legislature. From my experience I fear that it is not performing that function now. I address myself to this question because it is not a theoretical one but a matter of grave practical moment to the people of Australia. This Parliament is the final guardian of the liberties of the people. Only through parliamentary democracy have the ordinary man and woman, the ordinary Australian and the ordinary citizen of the world, been able to achieve economic justice and social freedom. Only by the preservation and extension of parliamentary democracy will they retain the gains that have been made after a long, hard and bitter struggle. Therefore, it is of great practical moment to all of them that the Parliament should function as a deliberative legislative body expressing the will of the people through the representatives whom they have sent to this place.
Let me say first that I am somewhat concerned about the poor opinion, steadily growing poorer, that the people of Australia seem to have of their parliamentarians and the Parliament itself. I am not one of those who suggest that we should not be able to examine ourselves critically or take a few laughs at our own expense. We all know the old story that a statesman is a politician who is kept upright by equal pressure from either side. We can have our fun and take a laugh at ourselves, but the present deterioration in the opinion of the Australian people of their parliamentarians has gone beyond that stage. We have to look, not only at ourselves, but also at the machinery of this Parliament, to determine whether something can be done to correct what is, in my opinion, a drift that is not in the best interests of the people of Australia.
I believe from my years of experience, though it is true that they are not many, that this Parliament is no longer, or is certainly only to a very limited extent, a deliberative legislative body. If voters have any illusions that this Parliament considers its legislation in an informed manner, ot that our debates affect the policies or intentions of the Government, I hasten to dispel those illusions. I can count on my thumbs -the occasions when debates in this House have resulted in the amendment of a bill.
– That applies to any government, too.
– I agree. I am not condemning this Government or its members. The drift has continued for a number of years and all must share the blame. I suggest, however, that while we share the blame, we must all attempt to correct the position because it bodes no good for the future of parliamentary democracy. During my brief career in the Parliament, I have found that the main purpose of the ordinary member of this legislature is to provide the numbers so that the party that has the largest number will form the Government. Once he has provided the numbers, the ordinary rankandfile member is in almost the same position as some members of the insect world who, having fulfilled their appointed function, promptly wither away and die.
I believe that I can speak for other honorable members as well as myself when I say that the great majority of the ordinary members, those who are not in the ^Ministry or do not occupy official positions in this House, suffer from a sense of frustration and futility. They feel that their talents, such as they are, and the time that they are prepared to devote to the welfare of the people, are not used to the best advantage.
This Parliament has, in fact, become simply the means of registering the decisions of the Cabinet that have been reached after little or no consultation with members of the party. I do not believe that the people are getting value for the cost of transporting members- from all parts of Australia and maintaining them while they are in Canberra. Most of us come to this House and, like performers in a radio parade, we have our turn to appear and then move off the stage, feeling that we may have tickled the ears of the listeners but that, for all practical legislative purposes, we have served no useful function whatever.
Beyond a few minor occasions, I have no knowledge of any debate by honorable members in this House on either side of the chamber that has had any effect on the legislation that the Government has produced. If I remember correctly, on only two occasions have amendments been accepted by the Government as a result of the deliberations of this House.’ I should not like the members of the general public to believe that they do not get value for the money they expend upon the salaries of honorable members. I believe that I and others serve a useful function in attending to some one’s pension papers, getting a telephone installation hurried on a little, or having an injustice remedied by breaking through a little red tape. We may get exemption for a national service trainee or something of that nature. Most of us, acting as social services agents for our constituents, and as the poor man’s lawyer and adviser, perform a useful function and live a busy and productive life. But we could carry out those duties just as effectively without being obliged to come to Canberra. We could, for instance, inform Mr. Speaker by telegram that we were still members of a certain party and that, if that party wa3 opposed to a measure, we desired to register our vote accordingly. In that way, the taxpayers could be saved the expenditure that is now incurred in the transport of members of the Parliament to Canberra, and the expense incidental to their sojourn here. To-day, the ordinary members of the Parliament have less influence on the legislative programme of the Government than have vested interests, lobbyists, pressure groups and those who supply the Government parties’ funds.
– The Government parties have no funds.
– I cannot accept the view of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) that pressure groups, vested interests and subscribers to party funds are not associated with the Liberal party. The Minister can make up his own mind on that point. He was at one time a back-bencher, and has now been a Minister for some time. I repeat that honorable members generally, have less effect upon the Government’s legislative programme than have lobbyists and vested interests whose representatives are always active in Canberra and, undoubtedly, get their way with the Government.
Let us examine the procedure that is followed in the consideration of a bill. It is not unfair to say that on the day that a bill is introduced, or on the preceding day, members of the Government parties, at their party meetings, are given a brief outline of it. Then it is introduced and, willy nilly, members of the Government parties have no alternative but to support the bill and vote for its passage, or to refrain from, taking part in the debate on the measure. Sufficient time is not available even to Government supporters in their caucus meetings to discuss1 proposed legislation in detail and to give it adequate consideration. The various parties are able to meet weekly for only a few hours on Wednesday mornings, or, occasionally, while the sitting is suspended at meal times. For instance, last week a bill that could have been very contentious was introduced and Opposition members had no opportunity to examine the Prime
Minister’s second-reading speech on it or to consider the provisions of the hill sufficiently to be able to make up their minds on them. It is clear that the Government’s supporters also had very little opportunity to consider the provisions of that bill. That is not an unusual feature of proceedings in this chamber. Similar circumstances occur almost every session. Very few opportunities are given to honorable members to study measures adequately and, for that purpose, to seek expert assistance and advice. . I appeal to all honorable members to use their influence in an endeavour to restore the authority of the Parliament as a legislative body, instead of permitting it to remain, as it is now, merely an automatic machine to register decisions made by the Cabinet. When a bill comes before the House, it must run the gauntlet between two well-organized bodies, the primary task of the majority being to keep the Government in office and that of the minority being to discredit the Government in order, in due course, to displace the Government. In such circumstances, the interests of the people are ignored.
– On some occasions, Government supporters have voted against certain measures.
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) will admit that such occasions have been rare. He knows that, normally, honorable members generally are not given an opportunity to inform themselves upon the details of measures many of which are of a technical nature and have been laboriously drafted by experts. I think that he will also agree that it would be far better if the Parliament were to use the undoubted talents of rank and file members, through the formation of committees, for the purpose of examining bills, in conjunction with the appropriate Ministers and with experts. In that way, perhaps, broad agreement could be reached upon the proposed measures. In any event, such a procedure would, at least, enable honorable members to participate in debate upon measures with first-hand knowledge of their provisions. The honorable member for Canning will also agree that we could well follow that procedure because it would give to hon- orable members an opportunity to per- ‘ form the duty that they are really elected to the Parliament to perform, that is, to present the views of their constituents to the Government in respect of measures that come before the House. I am not dull, but I certainly do not understand a great deal about many bills that are introduced. However, before I have an j opportunity to gain some knowledge of a measure by seeking the advice of , persons who know something about the subject with which it deals, the bill is passed. Then, very often, the Government rushes back with a bill in order to rectify omissions which would have been obviated if the Parliament had been given an opportunity in the first place to use the expert advice that could be made . available by departmental officers. It x is not good for the Parliament, or for the country, to have an overwhelming majority of honorable members labouring . under this feeling of frustration and futility, while the Government refuses ‘ to utilize the undoubted talents of hon- torable members generally in the consideration of measures.
Why should we be content to take the 1 view that all our democratic forms were frozen at the end of the last century? Surely, when the Parliament is faced with an overwhelming volume of work, we should devote a little attention to devising means to enable it to operate more effectively and efficiently and to enable it to regain a greater degree of 1 control over the executive. Unfortunately, when matters of this kind are raised they are usually shrugged off, with ‘ the result that the Parliament continues to carry on in the same old way. Our parliamentary system of government has been won through blood, sweat and tears. That heritage can only be retained so long as the Government adheres to the principle of that system. The welfare 1 of the ordinary citizens, their liberties and social justice, depend entirely upon the preservation of our democratic system, and every injury that is done to that system will result in encroachments being made upon our liberties and further injury to the welfare of the people. This is not merely a theoretical argument, or a discourse upon democracy as it is exemplified in the parliamentary system. The fact is that the welfare and liberty of the people depend on the efficient working of the Parliament. Therefore, we should endeavour to reverse the trend that has been taking place during recent times.
Next week, we shall debate the budget under which the Government seeks to raise revenue amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds. That debate will be somewhat discursive, but when we come to consider certain items of the Estimates-
– Order! The honorable member cannot deal with the budget. That is a matter for consideration in the Committee of Supply.
– I am now referring not to the amount of particular items, but to the form of debate in which the Estimates will be considered. I have no intention of dealing with the substance of any item. Time and time again, honorable members have found that when’ they really have an opportunity to place before the relevant Minister advice and information which they have obtained from their constituents upon the working of various departments, that opportunity is denied to them, because the Estimates for a number of departments are considered together, and the Estimates as a whole are pushed through the Parliament within a few days. It would be far better from the viewpoint of the efficient working of the Parliament if the budget debate in respect of general financial policy were curtailed so that honorable members could be given an adequate opportunity to debate the individual Estimates in the presence of the relevant Ministers.
– Every Minister, when the Estimates of his department are being considered, attends in the chamber. The honorable member is aware of that fact.
– That is not correct. Od the last occasion, the Estimates for several departments were grouped, and in some instances the relevant Minister was not present in the chamber. On that occasion, I myself was obliged to discuss certain items in the absence of the Minister responsible for their administration. In any case, the time allowed to discuss the Estimates is not adequate.
Obviously, if we are to criticize adequately, and advise the Government on the administration of the various departments in the light of the information that we receive from our own constituents, a Minister ought to be at the table when the Estimates for his department are under consideration, and the subject of the debate ought to be that particular department. What is the use of one member talking about the aluminium plant at Bell Bay, and then somebody else rising to talk about an increased pension for some’ individual under another department altogether? Such a system makes a connected debate impossible. It does not do Ministers any good, and does not help the Parliament. The Parliament should insist upon an adequate opportunity to debate the Estimates, so that honorable members can offer to the Government criticism of its departmental administration and receive from the various Ministers their replies to our criticism. In that way the Government would have our advice, and we would have the Government’s reply to our criticism.
It is said on occasions that we devote too much time to worrying about the forms of the Parliament. But the forms of the Parliament are important. The forms of the French Parliament lend themselves to the unstable government of that country which is the cause of so ‘ much distress and difficulty. If, when a government fell in France, a dissolution of the Parliament took place as it does here, undoubtedly the political instability that we find in France at present would not exist. If the members of the French Parliament had to face the electors every time a government fell, obviously they would think twice before throwing a government out. There we see the actual forms of a parliament affecting the stability of the country, and even the continuance of democracy. So, any time that we may devote to consideration of the forms of this Parliament, and to the carrying out in a more efficient manner of the functions of the Parliament, is not time wasted. Our problem is to improve the efficiency of the Parliament, and at the same time to safeguard the reality of parliamentary control. I hope that the Government will, at some time during this session, consider appointing a special committee consisting of members of bot]] sides of the chamber, to consider this problem and make recommendations upon it. I believe that there are enough honorable members devoted to the parliamentary ideal to approach this problem with the seriousness that it warrants, and to devote some time and thought to it in order that recommendations may be made to the Government. It is an important matter that merits urgent and serious consideration.
I shall suggest a number of remedies for the evils to which I have drawn attention. First, the Government ought to alter the forms of this- Parliament to provide for the appointment of a number of committees - presided over by Ministers if that is considered necessary - to which bills could be referred, and before which experts of the various departments would appear. By means of such committees the rank and file of the Parliament would have an opportunity ‘to obtain complete knowledge of legislation.
– As is done in the House of Commons.
– It is carried out to a certain extent there, and to an even greater degree in the United States of America. The result would be that honorable members would have an occupation when they came to Canberra other than listening to the debates in this House. They would have the benefit of expert advice of men who have spent their lives dealing with various problems. We would then have an informed debate on the proposals in this House and we would have to debate only those propositions on which there was genuine disagreement. In addition, the passage of legislation would be expedited without the use of the gag or the “ guillotine “. Such a system would also assist greatly the drawing up of the Government’s legislation because, without wishing unduly to praise members of this Parliament, I consider that they can bring a great deal of knowledge, information and advice to bear on the problems with which the Government is confronted. My second proposition is that the Government should allow more time between the introduction of a bill and the resumption of the second-reading debate upon it. The time is long overdue when the second-reading speech of a Minister on a particular measure should be followed by a reasonable period to enable individual members and parties to consider it adequately. That is not always done at present, and unfortunately it was not done under the regime of previous governments. Nevertheless, I hope that this Government will give serious consideration to the matter.
My third proposition, and one which most past governments have refused to accept in order to protect themselves from criticism by the Parliament of the administration of various departments, is ‘ that adequate time should be allowed to discuss the Estimates, department by i department. Instead of having long’ debates on the Address-in-Reply and on, the budget, if we were to spend more time , debating the Estimates of each depart- 1 ment, and submitting the expenditure and administration of the departments to a closer scrutiny, we would be serving a, much more useful function than we serve at present. More time should be allowed also for debates at the committee stageof bills. We meet here, far from, the centres of population, train and plane schedules have to be kept, and the unfortunate tendency is to arrange for a bill, to go through, and that is the end of it. Most measures are passed without adequate consideration. I be1lieve that because of the wide variety of legislation and the tremendous tasks t that face any parliament in a modern democracy, much of the work that is now done from Canberra must be decentralized. Australia cannot be adequately governed by Canberra. I’ agree with Labour’s policy of establishing , provinces throughout Australia which would take over much of the work that’ is now being performed by the over-1 swollen States, dominated by their capital cities, and by the Commonwealth Parliament, and which could be more adequately performed by organs of government closer to the people. It is a sound democratic principle that the closer a government is to the people the more1 democratic it is. We should not take, away from any subsidiary organs of government any function which such1 organs can more adequately perform. In conclusion, I say that in my, view, the problem I have mentioned is a problem of great moment and one to which honorable members on both sides of the House might devote more time in the coming weeks than we have in the past. If that were done, I am sure that some good results for this Parliament and for democracy would emerge.
.- With parts of the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) I wholeheartedly agree. But there was much in it that I cannot agree with, because I believe that the blame for the circumstances which prevail in this Parliament at present has been laid by the honorable member at the wrong door. I hope that members of this chamber, and anyone else who may have heard the speech, will realize that he was speaking entirely for himself when he spoke of a sense of frustration and futility amongst members of this chamber.
– I was speaking of back bench members.
– Speaking for myself, and I am sure for most of my colleagues on this side of the House, I say, far from feeling a sense of frustration, we feel a sense of success. It is true that little legislative amendment takes place in this chamber, but every honorable member knows that much of the legislation that comes before this House is introduced as a result of the representations made to Cabinet by the back benchers.
– What legislation has ever been introduced in that way?
– I could point to quite a number of measures in which I could say that I personally played a part.
– Tell us some.
– I do not propose to take up my time in that way because I have something else to tell honorable members. However, I should be prepared to give the honorable member a list if he really wants to to know exactly what has happened. The honorable member for Yarra has really presented a grave indictment of the methods of the Labour party. I assure him that when the Liberal party and the Australian Country party hold meetings, a Minister does not produce a draft bill and say, in effect, “It is this, or nothing “. Private members of the Government parties play a part in discussions of the Government’s intentions. That fact is obvious, because many bills that are introduced here are the results of suggestions and recommendations made by Government supporters. I do not think that Ministers claim that all the brains in the Government parties are confined to the heads of the twenty members of Cabinet. I am satisfied that they recognize that such is not the case, and they confer with us on proposed legislation. When all is said and done, it was the Labour party that introduced the caucus system, and any attempt to change it should be initiated by the Labour party. The system followed by the Government parties requires little change, because we have not adopted the caucus method.
I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Yarra that certain procedures in this Parliament require alteration. I expressed that view when I first became a member of this House, and I said, in particular, that the Parliament had no control over financial measures. The blame for that position does not attach to any particular govern^ ment. The practice has grown up over the years. Let me refer briefly to the procedure for the introduction of a financial bill to illustrate my contention. Yesterday, you, Mr. Speaker, announced the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending the appropriation of an amount of money for the purposes of the Meat Export Charges Bill 1954. You then vacated the Chair, and the House resolved itself into committee to consider His Excellency’s message. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) thereupon moved that it was expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of that bill. The motion was agreed to, and the Chairman of Committees reported the resolution to you, Mr. Speaker, when you returned to the Chair. A bill was thereupon prepared and introduced to carry out that resolution. The point I make is that the committee agreed to the appropriation of revenue for the purposes of that bill, although the Minister had not given a single reason for the imposition of the charges. In my opinion, that procedure is wrong, hut the fact that it is followed is not the fault of this Government. The practice has grown up over the years, and is peculiar to this National Parliament.
I suggested, in the first speech I made on a budget when I became a member of this Parliament, that every Minister should introduce the Estimates for the department that he administers. I do not think that the honorable member for Yarra or any other member of the Labour party supported my view on that occasion. I obtained some encouragement from honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber, but the adoption of my proposal was not possible without the general support of honorable members. I shall state my theory about the reason for the present procedure. This debate on the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech enables me to make my point. What contribution has the Opposition made to this debate, other than discussion and argument of a purely party political nature? No constructive criticism has been offered by Opposition members. I believe that the existing procedure is due to the fact that honorable members opposite have not concerned themselves with the subject-matter of debates, but have allowed themselves to drift into party political harangue. The remedy lies with honorable members themselves.
The honorable member for Yarra has advocated the adoption of the committee system followed in the House of Commons. The idea is commendable, but I remind the honorable gentleman that it is traditional with the Labour party not to co-operate with other political parties in such matters. The Labour party has not made any attempt to nominate members for appointment to the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is the most important committee of this House. Let the honorable member for Yarra and others who support his view give evidence of their sincerity in this matter by a change of attitude towards the Foreign Affairs Committee. They had the opportunity last week, when the House debated international affairs, to indicate their view, but they merely condemned the foreign policy of the Government, and, incidentally, met with little success in doing so.
The Chairman of Committees will verify my statement that, in the first week I was a member of this House, I expressed the opinion that political party barriers or distinctions should disappear during the consideration of a bill in committee. A committee of management, as I call it, has the responsibility , to see that the “ t’s “ are correctly crossed, and the “ i’s “ are correctly dotted. I pointed out that this was the practice in the Western Australian Parliament, and that a similar practice could be adopted with advantage by honorable members here.
– Why has not the honorable member done something . about it ?
– The honorable member 1 for Hindmarsh apparently is not aware of what is happening around him. It is the responsibility of the Opposition to adopt the correct attitude here. The ; honorable member, instead of asking me what I propose to do about the matter, 1 could well indicate what he proposes to do about it.
I commend the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) on the fine way in which he delivered his maiden speech. If he is allowed to remain in this House, . he should exercise a good influence on the Labour party, because he holds certain . views which are not in accord with those of a number of his colleagues. I also commend the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) on his maiden speech. The honorable gentleman has had considerable experience in the Queensland Parliament, and it comes as second nature to him to make a thoughtful contribution to a debate. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) has shown that he brings to this House an extensive knowledge of national and international matters. I commend the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) for his speech, but I advise him to make sure of his facts before , he criticizes honorable members on this side of the House. He attacked the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) for what the honorable member had said about the actions of the Queensland Government in distributing moneys granted to it under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, but his statements confirmed the complaint that had been made by the honorable member for Fisher. He said, for instance, that the Brisbane City Council had received only £15,000 from the Commonwealth Aid Roads Trust Account. The act provides that 35 per cent, of the moneys made available to a State government for road purposes shall be distributed to local authorities, but on that occasion the Brisbane City Council was given, not 35 per cent., but 18 per cent. The honorable member attempted to confuse the issue by referring to expenditure in connexion with sewerage. Money granted to the Queensland Government for that purpose has nothing to do with roads. I say also to the honorable member, who appeared to rely very largely on old Labour shibboleths to support his contentions, that the best thing that he and his colleagues can do to prove that there are no Communists in the Labour party, and that it is an anti-Communist party, is to refrain, both inside and outside the House, from apologizing for and defending Communists. If they do so, they will provide the best evidence that they are anti-Communist.
I was very happy to hear the GovernorGeneral deliver his Speech. I am sure the majority of the people of Australia are satisfied with it, because it reveals that the Government intends to fulfil the promises it made a few months ago. Papers that were distributed recently to honorable members provide further confirmation of that intention. The Governor-General .should be thanked for delivering a speech that proves to the people that the Government was honest in making its election promises. The Government has announced that it will continue with its programme for developing the resources of this country. That is the best thing that any government could do. I agree wholeheartedly with the decision to continue the development of water conservation projects such as the Snowy Mountains scheme and the Hume Weir. Water is the most important requirement for this country. Water conservation projects are needed, not only in the eastern States, but also in Western Australia. I point out to the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that the growth of our population and the development of our country depend entirely upon the degree to which we can conserve water. That remark applies with particular force to Western Australia. I suggest that the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, should undertake a nation-wide survey of water conservation possibilities and that particular attention be paid to Western Australia, which has some problems peculiar to it. The- Commonwealth should take the initiative in developing water conservation schemes. There are other matters that must be considered from a national viewpoint. In view of the Government’s past record and its intentions for the future as disclosed in the Governor-General’s Speech, we can bring them to the attention of the appropriate Ministers with confidence that they will receive attention.
The provision of a medical school in Western Australia is of national importance. There is no medical school there at present. As a result of overcrowding of medical schools in Victoria and South Australia, universities in those States have informed Western Australia that they will be unable to accept Western Australian medical students in future. That is a serious blow to us. I believe it is beyond the capacity of the Western Australian Government to find the money necessary to establish a medical school in the University of Perth. It is true that that is a free university, but nobody wants to change that situation. Indeed, it could not be changed, because it is inherent in the university’s constitution. I suggest to the Government that the provision of a substantial sum of money to assist the Western Australian Government to establish a medical school is of far greater importance than the provision of hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Olympic games that will be held here in 1956, of far greater importance than the provision of £25,000 for a national theatre, and of far greater importance than the provision of £15,000 to send an Australian team to take part in Olympic equestrian events held overseas. The school is required urgently. I know that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) is aware of what has happened, and I am confident he will support what I have said about the necessity for the school.
Another problem to which the Government will have to turn its attention during the next few weeks is the financial provision that should be made in connexion with the forthcoming wheat harvest. The Government should decide and announce to the wheat-growers as soon as possible the degree to which it is prepared to guarantee - not to find the money - an initial advance in respect of the wheat they are about to harvest. The growers will require cash to enable them to carry on after the harvest. It. is unthinkable that they should have to approach their banks and finance their operations on a credit basis. This Government must decide quickly what it is prepared to do in connexion with the forthcoming wheat harvest and future harvests. I know that a proposed stabilization scheme is to be submitted to a ballot of wheat-growers, but that scheme has nothing to do with an initial advance to growers in respect of the next wheat harvest.
I also support the statements that the. honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) made about the dried fruits industry earlier to-day. This industry was responsible for the initiation of orderly marketing in Australia, and it was good enough to contribute generously to funds that were used to promote increased consumption of its products, thus enabling it to expand production. The industry has no stabilization scheme, but, in view of the uncertain marketing conditions overseas and the fact that the sale of its fruit will take a long time, a substantive floor price should be guaranteed to it so that the growers will be assured of receiving at least the cost of production. The industry also should be given some measure of financial assistance in advance of the sale of the crop so as to enable growers to carry on in the normal way without having to resort to the borrowing of money to finance their operations during the coming year. I support the proposed Address-in-Reply and commend the Government, in all sincerity, upon the legislative pro gramme that it has announced. I know, and the people of Australia know, as they showed on the 29th May, that the stability, prosperity, development and future security of Australia are safe in the hands of this Government.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I refer again to a matter that I raised in this House last night. It concerns the practices indulged in by Chrysler Australia Limited, of South Australia, in respect of the production of component parts for Canberra jet bombers. I understand from newspaper reports that the manager of Chrysler Australia Limited has seen fit to contradict the statements that I made last night. Therefore, I propose to supplement them with further statements, and I shall await his reaction with great interest. The accusations that I make against Chrysler Australia Limited are not based upon information obtained from an unreliable source. My information has been supplied by people who are directly and personally concerned in this matter. If the Government is prepared to set up a committee of inquiry to investigate the most important and serious charges that I shall make against the company, I can and will produce the name of a person who is prepared to give sworn evidence in support of every accusation that I make. That person has authorized me to tell the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) to-night that he is prepared to give evidence if an official inquiry is conducted.
An inquiry must be held into this matter, because the lives of gallant airmen may be at stake. If Canberra jet bombers are being constructed in the manner that I am about to describe to the House, it is a crying disgrace to those who are responsible for the manufacture of the component parts, and I am certain that the Minister will not stand for it. Numbers of men who have been employed by Chrysler Australia Limited as inspectors during the last few months have left the establishment because of the frustrating tactics of the management. At least half a dozen of these men are known to me, and I can name them.
I shall now repeat in part the statements that I made last night and add something to them. Chrysler Australia Limited issues release notes for parts supplied to the Government Aircraft Factory at Fishermen’s Bend, Melbourne, but the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate staff in Adelaide is too small to enable it to inspect every individual item covered by each release note. These men can make only sample inspections. Since Chrysler Australia Limited commenced the production of component parts for Canberra jet bombers, hundreds of stringers, which have been passed for release by the company and sent to the Government Aircraft Factory at Melbourne for assembly, have been returned to Adelaide as unfit for use and have had to be reworked. That is not an exaggeration. Stringers, I am informed, are the longitudinal members that run fore and aft under the skin of an aircraft. Some of the stringers have been so bad that it has not been possible to rework them and make them suitable for fitting. Until January of this year at least, and perhaps even up to the present, literally hundreds of stringers have been lying in a paddock at the back of the Chrysler Australia Limited works at Finsbury.
– And not going into jet bombers !
– These stringers were so bad that they could not be reworked.
It was found that stringers were growing in length when they went through the precipitation process. This is an important matter. Precipitation is the process of re-organizing the crystal formation, which is disorganized during hammering. “When stringers came out of precipitation, they were found to be up to .15 of an inch too long, which meant that certain pick-up points along the members were out of position. The stringers were then put back into the jigs for rehammering so as to give the correct clearances. The corrected stringers were not put back into precipitation. This means that the crystal formation of the metal was not normalized. However, having been through precipitation and the bath in the first operation, the stringers were marked “ All processes completed “ when, in fact, correction should not have been attempted after precipitation. This means that .the re-worked metal must, of necessity, be brittle and totally unfit for aircraft construction.
Another complaint concerned a large quantity of rear walls, which are the members to which the ailerons of the aircraft are fitted. Ailerons are the flight control surfaces used to bank an aircraft from side to side and are a most important part of any aircraft. These rear walls were supposed to be curved on the outer surface in order to match the wing contours. This was not done. They were folded straight instead of being folded with a curve, and the metal was cleared away to give the required contour. This means that there was a serious weakening of the whole member. The rear walls were released in that condition by Chrysler Australia Limited for use by the Government Aircraft Factory at Melbourne, but were returned because they were not fit for use in aircraft.
– Returned by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate?
– No, by the Division of Aircraft Production.
– There are representatives of the Aeronautical InspectionDirectorate there.
– The parts were returned by the Division of Aircraft Production, if the honorable member does not mind me correcting him. He should get his information right before he interjects. “When Chrysler Australia Limited discovered its mistake, it shaved off some metal, resprayed the parts with tropical coating in order to camouflage the improvization, and, although this process had greatly weakened the parts, the company again released them, and sent them to the Government Aircraft Factory at Melbourne for assembly. “Wingtip tanks released by Chrysler Australia
Limited have been, returned from the Government, aircraft factory because they did not match the contour of the wing tips; When navigators’ escape hatches, were being made they did not match up on the various jigs, because the jigs themselves were not properly matched. These components were forced through the various stages by distorting them to fit the jig. Although the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate has rejected considerable quantities of the components, much of which had been reworked, its three inspectors and the chief inspector at Chrysler Australia. Limited cannot possibly make a proper inspection of every item in. each release note. The. Department of Defence Production should take over Chrysler Australia Limited. If the department, took over the annexe at Finsbury, it could make, the components, thus obviating the expensive cost-plus system, which goes hand in hand with the present method of production. If that were done, I think that the- people of Australia, particularly those who are required to fly Canberra jet bombers in the defence of this country, would feel very much happier about the situation. The Department of Defence Production already owns the machinery used by Chrysler Australia Limited, at Finsbury, and the Government built the annexe. I consider that not a single Canberra jet bomber should be put into the air until every component or structural make-up has been rechecked by competent authority. Failure by the Government to take firm action to remove these complaints will, in my opinion, render it solely responsible in the event of any Canberra jet bomber’ crashing as a. result of structural weaknesses. These are. serious charges. I do not. make them lightly,, because I realize the gravity of them. Every charge that I have made can be backed up by people personally associated, with these: undertakings. I do not blame either the Government or the Minister for the- present state of affairs, because it is not possible for a Minister to know every particular detail of activity that comes under his administration particularly in a department of the size of the Department of Defence Production.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has: expired’.
– I direct the attention of the Minister i who is acting for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Beale) to a. matter that is causing discontent, amongst the immigrants who- are housed at Williamstown racecourse and the Brooklyn immigrant hostel. The. huts are under the control of a management committee which, I believe, is presided over by Mr; Funnell. I understand that the complaint that I am about to make has been already referred to the Government. I have corresponded with both the management and the Minister about it, but the decision of the management has not been reversed. To say the least, the camps that I have mentioned are dreadful places. They are built on wide open plains, and are most unsuitable in every way for the purpose for which they are being used. I realize that both this Government and its predecessor have been 1 hard-pressed to provide suitable accommodation in view of the number of immigrants who have come to this country. I think it is true to say that very grave difficulties still exist in this connexion. It is not possible to establish grassed areas between the huts at the camps, because it has been necessary to place them close together. In some instances, the footpaths have been tar-sealed, but most of them are surfaced with loose screenings. There are wide, open drains at the- camps, which are dangerous to i the many children. 1
During winter-time, and even later in the year, the climatic conditions are fairly harsh. Many of the immigrants who are accommodated there are shift-workers. By direction of the Government, the hostel management makes available, free, to the immigrants a limited number of units of electricity. Many of the shift-workers arrive back . too late to obtain meals in the dining-rooms, and are obliged to prepare tea and toast, and, in some instances, more substantial meals, on electric stovettes. Due to the cold conditions in their miserable quarters, they have to use electric, radiators. The burden of my complaint is that they are required to defray the cost of electricity consumed beyond their free allowance. In some instances’, immigrants, have received accounts for up to £18, which they have refused to pay. In view of their miserable surroundings, the climatic conditions, and the lengthy periods that some of the immigrants must remain at the camps, it would be a gracious action on the part of the Government to permit them to use as much electricity as they need, free of charge. After all, I do not think any of the immigrants would keep radiators burning until conditions became oppressive, and they would not undertake the task of cooking food on their stovettes if they could use the diningroom facilities. Furthermore, the health of the many small children at the camp must be considered. By the expenditure of a relatively small amount of money, conditions could be made more pleasant for the immigrants who are forced to live in the camps. They should be able to enjoy the comfort of warm rooms, and to use their electric stovettes to prepare supplementary meals when they return late at night, after travelling long distances from their work, without incurring expense for the extra electricity consumed.
I urge the Government to consider this matter on a non-party basis, because no elections are to be held in the near future. It should adopt a humanitarian approach to this matter. A yearly expenditure of about £4,000 or £5,000 on electricity would appease the immigrants, and give them the justice that they deserve. I am sure that most honorable members would be prepared to sacrifice the measure of taxation relief that many of us are gloating about in order to make those immigrants happier, because population is our best defensive weapon. Such a gesture to the immigrants would make them more contented. Due to the restricted playing areas at the Williamstown camp, the children have rubbed their hands continually on the fibrous walls, which, are now very dirty. Surely something could be done to brighten up the camp and make the immigrants more contented.
– in reply - I assure the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that I shall direct the attention of the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Beale) to the matter that he has raised. I am confident that the Minister will give it serious consideration.
I am very concerned about the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). I was not in the House last night when he first mentioned it. I took the opportunity of reading in the Hansard “ flat “ the charges made by him in the course of his observations last night, and I only want to say that I think his remarks are either of a very serious nature or they are fantastically absurd. There is no midway point, because the matter is so important. I am not prepared at this moment to answer the charges made by the honorable gentleman last night, because I believe that they are of sufficient importance to merit a complete investigation. If I am not satisfied with the report that is made to me, then I shall see that such an investigation is carried out and I may - I certainly shall if such is the case - call upon the honorable member to produce the mythical person-
– He is not mythical. Do not say that.
– Then I shall say the person, whose name I have no knowledge of at the moment. I say that, because I noticed, as the House must have noticed, that although the honorable member last night made a series of charges that greatly concerned me, his observations to-night were mainly directed to the fact that a number of defective components were sent to Fishermen’s Bend and were returned from there. There is nothing strange, in that. That procedure occurs continually in the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, which is under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force. It is that inspector ate’s job to inspect parts, and if the inspectors at Fishermen’s Bend found those parts to be defective, of course they returned them! That procedure applies right through the whole range of munitions, and is not peculiar to aircraft manufacture.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.Ward) does not know what he is talking about. Let me talk to the honorable member who knows the case. Let me say to him that the importance that I place on what he said last night is somewhat discounted by the fact that to-night he came forward with a series of observations that are not, in themselves, charges. The matters he mentioned to-night are the general result of a complete and meticulous inspection by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate of parts sent to Fishermen’s Bend. If he had continued to make the charge that he made last night about parts that had been condemned by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate and then sent to Fishermen’s Bend and then built into a Canberra bomber - -
– I did not make that charge last night.
– I have read the Hansard “flat” of the honorable member’s speech and, if he did not say that, then I have been grievously mistaken. I notice that he said that if he was wrong he would make an apology. I want to say that an apology will not be sufficient to cover the damage and wrong that he has done. He just cannot, get out of it by saying, “ If I am wrong, I shall apologize “. He should never have mentioned the matter in this House if there were any possibility of his being wrong. He should have satisfied himself that his case was 100 per cent, correct because by making these charges he must instil fear in the minds of every pilot who has to take a Canberra bomber off the ground. Any honorable member who does that, unless he is 100 per cent, certain of his case, is indulging in a form of sabotage. I am not saying that the honorable member is doing so, but I am saying that if he is wrong in what he has said, then he is either the victim of somebody who is attempting sabotage, or he has not taken sufficientcare to satisfy himself that the charges are correct. If I am wrong-
– Of course, you are wrong!
– If I am wrong - and I have told the honorable member that I shall not let the matter rest if the report is not satisfactory to me
– The right honorable gentleman has already made up his mind about it.
– I have not made up my mind about it. If I had done so, I should have come into the House tonight to deal with the honorable member. Instead, I am dealing with the fact that the charges made by the honorable member last night were so entirely different from the statements he made to-night, that it almost seems that his statements to-night are designed to provide a way out for him. I think if you had let the matter rest on what you said last night your case would have been much stronger.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman will address the Chair.
– The honorable member did not rest on the case that he stated last night. Had he done so, I should say his case would have been 100 per cent stronger than it now is. The fact that he went back on it to a degree by pointing out that the inspectors had gone through their ordinary routine of inspection and had sent the parts back, and then endeavoured to build that into his case, shows that he is somewhat, shall I say, doubtful whether what he said last night was correct.
– An inquiry will be a waste of time.
– I shall have an inquiry carried out, and if the honorable gentleman is shown to be correct, I . shall have greatpleasure in thanking him for bringing the matter before the House, because he will thereby have performed a great public service. But if the honorable member is wrong, I shall deal with him in this House, because, in my opinion, the matter should never have been ventilated here unless the honorable member was 100 per cent certain of his facts - and I do not think he is.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
The following answer to a questionwas circulated: -
How many vacancies of a permanent nature exist at the present time in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for qualified engineers and qualified technicians.
There is in Australia to-day an acute shortage of fully trained professional and skilled technical men and the Post Office like most other authorities requiring the services of mcn people is unable to recruit its full requirements. If a new organization and stall loading basis recently approved by the Public Service Board were fully implemented it is estimated that the Department could appoint to the permanent staff a further 370 qualified engineers; it could also appoint to the permanent staff up to 1,500 technicians. It should he pointed out, however, that partly offsetting that figure of 370 there are 170 men employed as engineers who although not professionally qualified in the formal sense arc nevertheless carrying out very efficiently the particular function which they are required Likewise the shortage of technicians is offset by the employment of men who have received a limited amount of training devoted to the particular work on which they are engaged, to perforin and these men too are performing a very valuable service. The department is taking all possible steps both here and abroad to secure additional qualified staff to meet its essential needs.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 August 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540819_reps_21_hor4/>.