21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 3.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will associate all sections of the House with the message that he forwarded to the relatives of those persons who lost their lives in the recent air disaster which involved the Vickers Viscount aircraft. As soon as it is possible to do so, may the House he informed of the circumstances surrounding the accident ?
– I shall adopt the suggestion with pleasure. My colleague, the Minister for Air, will make a statement in relation to this very unfortunate event later to-day.
– My question Ls addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the unfortunate fatal crash of the Vickers Viscount aircraft at Mangalore on Sunday, and the subsequent cancellation of the invitation so honorable members to take part in a demonstration flight in it, will it be possible ‘to arrange for honorable members to go on another flight in this fine and well-tried aeroplane in the near future?
– I regret to say that it .will not be possible for that aircraft to fly again, but others of the same type are coming from England, and I am sure that the airline will be only too pleased to make one of them available, so that honorable members may ride in it and see what an excellent machine it is.
Mr. TOWNLEY (Denison - Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation - by leave - The House will have learned with regret of the grievous accident which occurred on Sunday last at Mangalore. There is little that can be said at present, except, perhaps, - to assure honorable members that a very thorough investigation is taking place. Expert examiners from the Department of Civil Aviation, under Mr. Harper, arc at Mangalore, working in conjunction with teams from TransAustralian Airlines under its experienced safety officer, Captain Koch. In addition, we are getting the utmost cooperation from Rolls-Royce engine specialists, Rotol propellor men,’ and Vickers Armstrong, whose chief test pilot is leaving England to-day for Australia.
It will be appreciated that the. investigation will take some time, but 1 feel sure that the results will add much to our aeronautical knowledge, and perhaps assist materially in maintaining our already excellent safety record. It would be idle to speculate on the possible oau se of the accident. The pilots were practising emergency procedures designed to fit them for coping with every possible contingency, no matter how remote, which might occur whilst carrying passengers. The practice of giving instruction in three-engined take-offs is a standard practice with all four-engined aircraft, so that pilots may be familiar with such practice if over it should be needed. The same training procedure is followed in England, and indeed throughout the world, and is dona regularly, under supervision, by every pilot who is engaged in airline operations in Australia. There can be no criticism, at this stage, of Vickers Viscount aircraft. They ‘have been in regular service in the United Kingdom for over eighteen months, and Sunday’s accident was the first fatal mishap with this type of aircraft. I am confident that these aircraft will go into Australian operations, and that they will prove as reliable as any other aircraft we have seen here. The Prime Minister has sent messages to relatives of the deceased, and I can only express again, on behalf of myself and all honorable members, deep and sincere sympathy with the bereaved.
– Is the Minister for Air yet in a position to advise me whether the request of the Chairman of the British Overseas Airways Corporation for authority to operate air services via Perth has been considered? If the request has been considered, has it been agreed to, or refused? If it ‘has been ref used, will he state the reason for such refusal ?
– The matter raised by the honorable member is being con sidered at present. An approach was made to us by the British authorities for permission . to operate air services zia Perth, but they did - not indicate the number, or frequency, of the services they desired to operate. I have asked for precise details, and when I receive them, they will be considered.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, concerns the death, in my electorate, of a youth who, after ho had been informed that hu had a hopeless cancerous growth, proceeded to have it. treated, at some expense, by an unqualified person who had previously been described by the Director-General of Health as a fraud and a charlatan. Can the Minister inform me whether the responsibility of ensuring that these unqualified and unscrupulous quacks do not profit from sickness and distress lies with the federal or the State health department?
– The registration of doctors of all kinds for practice is a matter entirely for the States. The only place in which the Commonwealth may register a doctor for practice is in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I ask the Minister for Air when he will bc in a position to table the report on the crash of the Canberra jet bomber at Amberley.
– I have no intention of tabling the report on the. crash of a Canberra bomber at Amberley. This is the first I hare heard of the suggestion.
– Why not?
– Because it is not the usual .procedure.
– As the report on the Satex exercise has now been furnished to the Government, will the Minister for Air make an announcement to the House in relation to the unsuitability of the Lincoln bomber for use in submarine warfare, which suggestion is current in Brisbane ?
– The honorable member seems to - be under a misapprehension. I have not received a report in relation to the Satex exercise yet. The Lincoln bomber is a good and excellent aircraft for the purpose for which it was designed. It was not designed for the same purpose as the Neptune bomber, but it carries out its job quite well.
– My question is directed to the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General. On a number of occasions, I have suggested that private enterprise should be asked to assist the Postmaster-General’s Department in the installation of telephones. I ask the honorable gentleman whether any decision along these lines has been made, and, if so, what has been the result.
– I have discussed this matter with the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs. The position is being examined, and perhaps at a later stage I shall be able to give the honorable member some further information on the attitude to be adopted by the department.
– I ask the Prime Minister when it is anticipated that final compensation will be paid to Australian prisoners of war. What is the basic unit upon which the compensation will be paid, and can the right honorable gentleman indicate what the average payment will be? Is the total amount of compensation to be paid to Australian prisoners of war to be provided by the Japanese, and under what terms are payments made to prisoners of war from the Government’s £250,000 trust fund? Has anybody yet applied successfully for relief from that fund?
– The honorable member has raised a Treasury matter. I should be glad if he would put his questions on the notice-paper, because they need a precise answer which I could not give him offhand.
– Will the Minister for
Defence consider introducing an insurance scheme on the lives of all servicemen, the insurance being paid to the widow or next of kin? Does the Minister believe that such an insurance system would ease the financial difficulties of the dependants of servicemen who have lost their lives in the service of Australia?
– The honorable member is aware that the dependants of all servicemen who lose their lives on active service fall within the repatriation legislation benefits. The dependants of those who lose their lives in time of peace are covered by the defence forces retirements benefits legislation. It is possible for servicemen, whether on active service or not, to take out insurance policies on their own account. Payment under those policies would undoubtedly ease the financial cir cumstances of their dependants. I shall discuss this matter with my colleague the Minister for Repatriation, and I should like to discuss it further with the honorable member to ascertain the class of servicemen he had in mind, whether those on active service in time of war or those serving in peace-time.
– Is the
Minister for the Army aware that national service trainees at some centres are not sufficiently informed of the fact that donations which are sought of and accepted from them for the benefit of various charities or institutions, and for company recreational, sporting and entertainment activities and so on, are purely voluntary? When the trainees are receiving their pay they are under the impression that the sought-for voluntary donations are compulsory levies, which many of them can ill afford. Will the Minister ensure that officers in charge shall fully explain the schemes to the trainees at the outset of their training in order to clear up any doubts in their minds about their responsibilities in regard to this matter? By way of explanation may I say that trainees at present at Holsworthy camp have been required to sign for £11 as their pay at one table, and then have been handed £10 at the paying-out table and told that £1 had been held for charities. I have been informed that the trainees had no previous knowledge of the levy or of the purposes to which it was to be applied.
– There is no obligation on any lad who is serving as a national service trainee to make any contribution towards any charity. Earlier this year I visited Holsworthy camp, after relatives had written to me on behalf of the soldiers and made representations similar to those made by the honorable member. I then issued definite instructions about the matter, and I shall ensure that my instructions are carried out.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information to confirm or deny a report to the effect that there has been a secret military alliance entered into by the Russian and Peking Governments about the transfer of control of Port Arthur?
– I have seen it reported publicly that such an arrangement has been reached. I am afraid that we are not in the confidence of either of the governments concerned, and I have no official information about the matter, but I see no reason to believe that the published report is not true. I would expect it to be true from what little we know of the relationship in that part of the world.
– Can the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization inform the House whether experiments which have been carried out by that organization in conjunction with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock on the aerial spraying of brigalow timber with hormones are successful and economically profitable?
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has not actually been associated with the work which is being done on the hormone spraying of Brigalow. Those experiments have been undertaken by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, and I understand that they are still in train. The Commonwealth Scien tific and Industrial Research Organization has been kept informed of them. I suggest that the most direct method would be for the honorable member to get in touch with the Secretary of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock in relation to the matter. I believe that the Director of Plant Industry in that department is actually in charge of the work.
– The question that I wish to ask the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Maranoa. In view of the recent statement by an officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization that there is in Australia approximately 640,000,000 acres of uncleared land with an annual rainfall of between la and 30 inches suitable for development, most of’ which is brigalow country, will the Minister agree that the clearing of this land represents a national problem and that the task of clearing it by the application of hormone sprays warrants the full assistance and study of the organization?
– I do not deny what the honorable gentleman has said, but there must be some limit to the tasks undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, both from the point of view of the cost of the work and from that of the salemtific staff available. The general principle is that, if a matter of research, particularly in relation to primary industries, concerns only one State, the work is left to the appropriate department and research mechanism of that State. If the matter extends beyond the borders of one State, it is a matter that should attract the interest of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. As I have said, the main limitations are those of money and trained scientific personnel. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization now is spread about as far as it can be spread physically with the resources that are available to it, but in matters of national interest - and I do not deny that the subject mentioned by the honorable gentleman is of national interest - it keeps in touch with the relevant State instrumentality which, in this case, I believe, is adequate to carry out the work.
– Can the Minister for Territories inform me whether a departmental inquiry has been held into the circumstances of the killings of two patrol officers at Telefomin. about a year ago? If an inquiry has been held, will the Minister lay on the table the findings of the investigation, with relevant documents, so that honorable members may be in a position to be informed on the probable causes of the uprising and tragic happenings? Will he also make available to honorable members the depositions of witnesses who gave evidence at the trial of the natives charged with the killings? Finally, will the Minister assure the House that no protection will be afforded to any officer whose negligence substantially contributed to the tragedy?
– I can say without hesitation that if we can procure the depositions of the witnesses at the trial from the Territory, because we do not have them in full here, they certainly will be available for the scrutiny of honorable members, They are public documents. At my request, a series of inquiries into various aspects of the events surrounding the incidents at Telefomin were made under the direction of the Administrator of the Territory. Whether or not it is suitable to place those documents before honorable members is a question on which I shall have to consult my leader. I myself doubt whether any good purpose would be served in making the results of those inquiries available in full. As to whether we should attempt to apportion blame to any officers for the circumstances associated with those incidents, I think that the general opinion of fair-minded persons will be that it is very difficult to say that, because on some occasions some officer carrying out his duty to the best of his ability may not have been able to do what some people would describe as a first-class job, we should try to isolate his conduct for special blame. We cannot always see the direct link between some really personal shortcoming, and the consequences that follow. I shall, however, look very carefully into all the matters that the honorable member has raised.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been directed by the department to the tragic plight of age pensioners, who have endeavoured to safeguard themselves and those they leave behind by taking out insurance policies in various funeral insurance funds, as a result of the closing down of such funds in the various States? Having regard to the urgency of this matter, will he give consideration to increasing immediately the amount of funeral benefit payable in respect of age pensioners? That benefit has not been increased since it was fixed originally by the Curtin Government almost twelve years ago. Further, in order to safeguard the interests of aged people in this matter, will the Minister confer with the State governments with a view to taking over control of these various insurance schemes ?
– The problem of the insurance schemes to which the honorable member has referred comes within the jurisdiction not of the Australian Government, but of the State governments. I had not heard that some of these organizations were closing down. With respect to the honorable member’s second question, the amount of the funeral benefit was discussed when the budget was under consideration and it was decided not to increase it. It is not proposed to re-open that matter at this stage. I shall discuss the matter raised in the honorable member’s third question with the Director-General of Social Services with a view to seeing whether any action can be taken along the lines suggested, and-I shall let the honorable member know the result of that inquiry in due course.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is true that, in spite of all the publicity given to the recently passed social services legislation, there are at least 415,000 pensioners in Australia who did not. receive one penny increase under the measure? Does the Minister realize that all these pensioners suffered grave disillusionment?
– Order ! What is the question?
– In view of the stillrising cost of living, as instanced by the increased prices of boots, shoes, and tea, is the Government likely to rectify this intolerable position by introducing further legislation on the matter early in 1955 ?
– The information on which the honorable gentleman has based his question is quite inaccurate. If he had read the newspapers, or the official memorandums, he would have realized that the cost of living has stayed practically static during the course of the last few years. The cost-of-living index is one of the factors that the Government takes into consideration when deciding pension increases. The Prime Minister and the Government have made it quite clear that this matter always receives our sympathetic attention. It is not considered appropriate to re-open it at this time.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether he is aware that the Victorian Government was compelled recently to appoint a committee of inquiry into funeral benefit funds which discovered that most, if not all, of the funds in that State were unsound financially, some of them fraudulently so, and others because of mismanagement or because no attempt had been made to calculate actuarially the liabilities that might be incurred. As a result, the Victorian Government has had to wind up nearly all of those funds, and the contributors, who are all age pensioners, have lost a considerable sum of money. In view of those happenings, I ask the Minister whether he will confer with the State governments to ascertain whether the Australian Government can institute a scheme of its own to enable these people, who are so anxious to make provision for a funeral before their demise, to do so, or whether joint Commonwealth and State regulations may be instituted to prevent any further abuses of that kind.
– As the honor able member pointed out, the Victorian Government has interested itself in this problem, and it is to be hoped that it will be sufficiently efficient to arrive at a satisfactory solution of it. I doubt very much whether this Government has the necessary constitutional power to intervene in these matters. Nevertheless, I shall consider the proposals of the honorable member, and I shall inform him of the result of my investigations.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Following the closing down of National Oil Proprietary Limited, numerous miners who were purchasing their homes at Glen Davis moved into my electorate, which is a mining constituency. Some of those miners have been given compensation in respect of payments which they had made on their homes at Glen Davis, but a section of them, not a numerous section, who were on compensation for dust, have not received Id. compensation for shifting nearer their relatives in my electorate or any assistance whatsoever to help them transfer their furniture to their new homes. Those miners have been on compensation for practically ten years, and despite the fact that they pay rental of £3 10s. a week, they are not considered to be eligible for long-service leave. Yet, they still appear on the pay-roll of the Newnes Insurance Company. Will the right honorable gentleman have these matters investigated with a view to remedying the complaints of these miners ?
– I know that very elaborate arrangements were made in relation to the matters that the honorable gentleman has raised, but I have not them in mind. They do not fall within my department. I shall obtain a full answer from my colleague who administers such matters.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, as the custodian of the privileges of the House. It concerns the use and reservation of seats in the diplomatic galleries. First, what persons are entitled to use the diplomatic galleries, and are there any priorities in regard to the reservation of seats? Secondly, in particular, is the privilege confined to representatives of other countries in Australia, or does it extend to persons who are, or have been, heads of Australian diplomatic missions or posts abroad? Thirdly, if it does so extend, are all such heads of missions or posts included, or is any distinction made in respect of persons who were members of this Parliament prior to appointment, persons who are permanent officers of the Department of External Affairs, or persons not included in either of these two groups ?
– The allotment of seats in the diplomatic galleries, which form a part of the Speaker’s galleries, is under my absolute control. I do what I think right in any circumstances. I cannot do more. There are 40 or more foreign missions in Canberra now and, when I receive a request from one of them for a dozen seats on an important occasion when the House is crowded, I do not grant it.
– Is the Minister for the Navy in a position to give the House any information about the recent naval and air force exercises at Manus Island? Is it a fact that, although the exercises revealed some encouraging developments in anti-submarine warfare, they also indicated that the accommodation for naval personnel in our modern aircraft carrier is quite unsuitable for sustained service under tropical conditions?
– The Satex exercises which took place in the vicinity of Manus Island recently were designed to try out certain practices that were being considered for adoption in the event of war, and to establish a close relationship between the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. I have read the official report, which shows that the exercises were eminently successful. There was no reference in the report to the suggested need for the modification of naval ships if they are to be kept constantly in tropical areas. I shall make inquiries of the Chief of the Naval Staff,
Admiral Collins, who was present at the exercises, with a view to having the question examined and ascertaining what can be done about conditions of tropical service.
– My question is addressed to the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Has the Government decided on a. national memorial to his late Majesty, King George VI? If not, will the right honorable gentleman, give consideration to this matter, it being nearly three years now since his Majesty died? Will due weight also be accorded to the opinions of those who urged the perpetuation of the late King’s name by supporting causes which made a special appeal to him during his lifetime?
– No definite proposal for a memorial such as the honorable member has mentioned has been considered by the Government, but the honorable member may rest assured that the matters raised by him, and particularly the views of those who supported the causes in which his late Majesty evinced great interest, will be taken into consideration if it is decided to construct such a memorial.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the fact that a careful examination of the reports of many companies that have published their balance-sheets in the last few months reveals that the Government will undoubtedly receive in company taxation more than £20,000,000 in excess of the budget estimate, will the Prime Minister consider distributing, before Christmas, to the people from whom that money was taken, an equivalent amount in the form of increased child endowment and pension payments?
– This is clearly a matter of policy affecting the budget and the general financial position.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. In view of the fact that repairs do not seem to keep the lift in the federal members’ rooms in
Melbourne working, will the Minister consider having an entirely new lift installed ?
– I have considerable personal experience of the lift in question, because my office is on the fourth floor of the building. The honorable member also has a room on that floor. Most Victorian Opposition members have rooms on the second and “third floors, I flunk. The frequent breakdowns of the lift are so troublesome that, on the last occasion, I told officers of the Department of the Interior that the federal members would move into the new building in Exhibition-street, in Melbourne, and that the department would he moved into the present federal members’ rooms.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that it is alleged that there are no fireplaces or .electrical installations suitable for heating appliances in the converted huts occupied by immigrants at the Bonegilla training centre? As such conditions are a source of anxiety to immigrant mothers with young children, will the Minister cause the allegations to be investigated, and, if they are found to be correct, will he have the necessary facilities installed prior to next winter?
– I know that, generally speaking, conditions at Bonegilla have given cause for praise and satisfaction to representatives of other countries who have visited that centre to examine conditions for their nationals. I shall examine the statement of the honorable member to ascertain whether .further provision along the lines that he has mentioned is necessary.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government to make arrangements for the resumption of the debate on the interim report of the Royal Commission on Espionage during the present sittings of the Parliament? If not, will the right honorable gentleman state whether it is a fact that this is the only occasion in the history of the Australian Parliament on which a debate of such importance has been .gagged after such a short discussion ? Will he state specifically his reason for curtailing such an important discussion, in which the Australian ^public has evidenced great interest.?
– I do -not propose to have the debate listed for continuation. I simply add this to the reasons that I gave last Thursday night: I think I am right in stating that on at least a dozen former occasions in the history of the Parliament interim reports of royal commissions have been presented, but that this is the first occasion on which one has been debated. I stated - I thought quite explicitly - why the Government took steps to enable the Leader of the Opposition to deliver the remarks that he delivered, and which I had the opportunity of answering.
– I ask the Prime Minister, as Acting Treasurer, whether he will take whatever action is necessary in the administration of the Services Canteens Trust Fund to ensure that accumulated profits shall be applied, and benefits extended, to -ex-servicemen, and the dependants of ex-servicemen, of the Korean war and related theatres of operations.
– I shall have the honorable member’s suggestion investigated at once.
– I ask the Prime Minister” whether it is a fact that the Anglican Synod recently passed a motion, I believe unanimously, which was condemnatory, and extremely critical, of his conduct. Will the right honorable gentleman state whether he is aware of the reason for the synod’s decision? If so, will he make a statement setting out the exact details?
– I have no knowledge whatever of “what the Anglican Synod, wherever it may “be, has been stating or writing about’ me. I find it sufficiently hard work to keen up to date with current Presbyterian literature.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence Production. In view of the fact that the Minister has appointed a committee of leading industrialists to advise the Department of Defence Production on the production of defence vehicles, will he also take steps, if he is not prepared to add representatives of the employees and the unions to that committee, to constitute a separate committee of employees, who surely must have some contribution to make to the problems that confront the Government in the production of defence vehicles?
– The answer is “No”.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, before any irretrievable action is taken to take the parklands in Solander-place, Yarralumla, for building purposes, he will discuss the matter personally with the superintendent of parks and gardens and with the head of the Forestry Branch of the Department of the Interior?
– I have already discussed the matter personally with at least one, if not both, of the gentlemen concerned. I have also discussed it with the head of the Department of the Interior, and with the body that is responsible for the planning of Canberra. I have acted mainly on the advice of the last-mentioned body.
– by leave - In the statement which I made to the House on the evening of the 27th October, I dealt with the results of the Manila conference and the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. I now wish to deal with a few of the more important matters with which I was concerned, on behalf of the Government, during my recent visit to North America where I attended the current session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the Colombo Plan Ministerial Conference in Ottawa.
Honorable members will wish to know the present situation about Dutch New Guinea, although they will be quite familiar with the Australian Government’s attitude on the subject. Our views have been frequently and clearly expressed, ever since the problem presented itself, following on the agreement reached between the Dutch and the Indonesians at the round table conference at the end of 1949. We had a right and a duty to make our views on the future of Dutch New Guinea publicly known, because the future of this territory concerns Australia. The only land frontier of any Australian territory is the frontier with Dutch New Guinea. It is only a line on the map, this frontier - it does not follow any recognizable geographical feature for more than a short distance. What happens in the western half of this great island is of importance to us who have the responsibility for the security and welfare of the people in the eastern half.
At the same time, we have always done what we could to take the heat out of the Dutch New Guinea dispute. Having made our views unmistakeably clear to both the Netherlands and Indonesia, the Australian Government has, of set purpose, refrained from any pointless public reiteration of them. We have refrained from provocative statements and actions ; and we have expressed the hope that both Indonesia and the Netherlands would do the same. I expressed the hope publicly that both parties would let the question remain in cold storage, in the hope that time would bring about an improvement in Netherlands-Indonesian relations. Unfortunately, this hope has not entirely been realized, and, as honorable members will know, the Indonesian Government in August - three months ago - requested that West New Guinea be put on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly for discussion at its present session.
The Indonesians wish to incorporate the territory of western New Guinea, or West Irian as they term it, into the national territory of Indonesia. If this were done, a million people w-ould be moved overnight from the control of one nation into that of another, the second being essentially just as alien as the first. Let us wait until they are sufficiently developed to consider their position and sufficiently articulate to express their desire for self determination, as one day they surely will be. There are some responsible leaders in Indonesia who have raised warning voices against their government’s staking too much on its present policy regarding West New Guinea. However, these voices have not prevailed. I am not being unsympathetic towards a friendly neighbouring government which has difficult political and economic problems on its hands - I am not being unsympathetic or controversial, when I say that the We3t New Guinea “ question “ is one which they themselves have created.
It is at least open to argument whether or not the question is legally one which the United Nations should be discussing at all, in view of Article 2 (7) of the United Nations Charter, which states that nothing in the Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the jurisdiction of any State, or shall require members to submit such matters to settlement under the Charter. It could be argued that West New Guinea is essentially within the jurisdiction of the Netherlands. But even if one outs this argument aside, the fundamental facts remain - that the Netherlands have complete sovereignty over West New Guinea - that the Netherlands Government has no intention of transferring this sovereignty to anybody under pressure from outside - that the United Nations cannot itself compel a transfer of that sovereignty - and that the Netherlands is under no obligation under international law to do so.
Therefore, it may be asked what does Indonesia hope to achieve by bringing the matter before the United Nations? Possibly the hope is that the United Nations will suggest a resumption of discussions on the problem between themselves and the Dutch. But the Dutch have already on numerous occasions up to 1952, discussed the future of West New Guinea with Indonesian representatives, without reaching agreement. The Indonesians wanted to take as the starting point of such negotiations an assumption that West New Guinea was legally Indonesian, and that the Dutch were merely exercising administration there on sufferance. The Dutch naturally have rejected any such assumption, which has nothing whatever to support it. Indeed, whenever this line of argument by the Indonesians has been shown to be legally untenable on the facts, the Indonesian Government has shifted its ground, and said that the question is not a legal question but a political question, which is what it is saying to-day. And the Netherlands Government has made it quite clear that, as it has already had extensive and futile discussions with Indonesia on the matter, it sees no point whatever in having any more.
Now, given these circumstances which I have just mentioned, it seemed to us that no. good purpose could be served by raising the question in the United Nations. Indeed, such action, in our opinion, cou’ld only turn a dormant dispute into an active one, and distract both parties from the urgent tasks of development and welfare facing them in the region. It could do nothing to help the peoples of West New Guinea, and might well be prejudicial to their present welfare and their rights to political freedom in the future. Australia therefore spoke and voted in the General Assembly against the inscription of this question on the assembly agenda. A majority of countries, however, have voted that the matter should be discussed, and it has now been put on the agenda of the Political Committee, where it will come up for consideration within the next few weeks.
The fact that a majority of countries voted for discussion of the item does not, however, mean that a majority of them support the Indonesian Government’s claims to West New Guinea, or even that a majority of them will support any resolution which Indonesia may put forward for discussion in the committee. Ear from it. There are quite a number of countries - including some within the Commonwealth of Nations - whose practice has been not to vote against the mere discussion of any substantial political complaint brought to the General Assembly, but who prefer to allow all such complaints to be discussed there. This is a point of view which we must respect, even if we do not feel that it is a wise rule to apply in every case. But I believe that a considerable number of such countries, and probably others as well, after they have carefully considered the arguments which will be put before them in the Political Committee, will find themselves in agreement with us in rejecting the Indonesian claim, and in rejecting any proposal to keep it under the notice of the United Nations. The important thing is that all the countries represented in the Assembly should really examine the situation objectively, and not assume that “West New Guinea is “ just another colonial question “. It is not “ just another colonial question “, as I shall try to explain.
We shall, of course, express our views in the Assembly when the matter comes up in committee, and if I may be allowed to do so briefly here, I should like to mention a few of the more important points, as they appear to us. First, there is the fact of Netherlands sovereignty over West New Guinea, to which I have referred. There is very little, if any, disposition among other countries to question the fact of that sovereignty. The Indonesian Government, however, is suggesting that the United Nations should pass a resolution calling on the Netherlands and Indonesia to resume talks on the future of West New Guinea. It is quite clear that the objective of this approach is in fact to have sovereignty transferred from the Netherlands to Indonesia. We must therefore take account of the objective of any such resolution. The Australian Government will for its part oppose not only a transfer of sovereignty but will also vote against any resolution which lias a transfer of sovereignty as its ultimate objective.
Secondly, we attach importance to the obligation which rests on the Netherlands Government under the United Nations Charter to develop selfgovernment for the people of West New Guinea. We believe that it would not be in keeping with the objectives set out in the Charter, concerning self-determination of peoples, if the United Nations were to attempt now to force a transfer of West New Guinea to Indonesia. It is, to say the least, improbable - especially in view of the trend of political developments in Indonesia since i949 - that, if West New Guinea were transferred to Indonesia, the peoples of West New Guinea would ever be allowed to have a voice in their own political future. The Netherlands Government, on the other hand, has made it clear in 1952, and since, that, under Dutch sovereignty, the people of West New Guinea will in due course and at an appropriate time be allowed to decide for themselves, by a plebiscite, whether they want to govern themselves, or unite with Indonesia, or maintain the status quo, or choose some other solution.
Thirdly, we do not accept the argument that, because West New Guinea was a part of the Netherlands East Indies, it should now be transferred to Indonesia. Under the Netherlands East Indies administration, West New Guinea wa3 always a special administrative problem as a remote and distinct territory. When the round table agreements were concluded at The Hague in 1949, a charter of transfer of sovereignty formed part of them. This charter article 2 reserved the position in regard to western New Guinea in the following terms : “ The status quo of the residency of New Guinea shall be maintained with the stipulation that within a year the question of the political status of New Guinea be determined through negotiations between the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands “. It was agreed by the parties that “ status quo “ meant that Netherlands control would continue. However, when the Hague conference of 1950 met the Indonesians made it clear that they interpreted the word “ determined “ as meaning “ determined in their favour “ and claimed the immediate transfer of sovereignty. Subsequently, they introduced into their discussions with the Dutch the notion that the round table agreements of 1949 implicity required the transfer of New Guinea so that Indonesia could be the successor to all the territories formerly administered by the Dutch in the area. In August of this year the NetherlandsIndonesian union was dissolved and hopes that a solution of the dispute might be found within its framework finally died.
Fourthly, we do not accept any argument that there is some close racial affinity between the peoples of West New Guinea and Indonesia. In general, the peoples of West New Guinea, as far as they can he precisely described, are Papuans. They belong to the same ethnic family as the natives of eastern New Guinea grouped under the generic name of Papuans, and living in primitive tribal societies. In physical characteristics, culture, language and religion, they differ markedly from the Indonesians. I very much doubt whether any Americans who fought in the New Guinea campaigns would see a resemblance between the beloved but primitive native people they knew and the highly cultivated Indonesians who are now taking an increasingly important role in South-East Asia. We have seen no evidence that there is any national sentiment as yet among the peoples of West New Guinea, and certainly no evidence of any desire among them to be ruled from Djakarta. Therefore, as I have said, it is impossible for anyone who looks at the problem with unprejudiced eyes to identify the Indonesian claim with any movement by a people for the realization of what might be called their national aspirations.
These, as I have said, are some of the points which we shall put forth when the matter is discussed in the Assembly. The Department of External Affairs has already been most active in putting these views to representatives of other membercountries of the United Nations. I myself have spoken with the leaders of many delegations in the Assembly. I have only the other day discussed the matter with Mr. Dulles of the United States, and Mr. Selwyn Lloyd of the United Kingdom, and in the course of my recent journey abroad I have put our views to both Dr. Sunario, the distinguished Indonesian Foreign Minister, and Mr. Luns, the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, as well as to numerous Asian, European, Latin American and Commonwealth leaders.
Finally I want to say this. However firmly we express our convictions on this question of the future of Dutch New Guinea, we do not wish it to disturb the friendliness of our relations with Indonesia. We have never considered any part of New Guinea as being Indonesian. But this opinion is held without heat or animosity. We believe that the welfare and security of the peoples of the western half of the island must receive predominant consideration, just as they must in the eastern half. We are cooperating with the Netherlands Government to that end, in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter. We trust that Indonesia and the other members of the United Nations General Assembly will, on further consideration, accept our view and agree that the matter be dropped from the Assembly’s agenda.
That is all I wish to say on the subject of Dutch New Guinea. There are many other items on the General Assembly agenda in which Australia is interested and in which . our delegation is playing an active part. An item which has been discussed and which is of particular importance to us is that dealing with disarmament. I should like the privilege of saying a few words on it. Honorable members will have seen press reports that the Soviet Union has put forward a new set of proposals, which might seem, at first glance, to be very similar to proposals advanced by the Western Powers last May. In order to get these proposals into perspective, it is necessary to review briefly the recent history of disarmament generally.
Since 1946 the Western Powers have stressed the need for international confidence to precede measures of disarmament. This phrase “ international confidence “ has become rather shop-worn over the years. However, it does mean something important which can be summed up by saying that nations are judged by their actions rather than by what their leaders say. When national actions conform to statements of goodwill and trust, international confidence grows. When national actions contradict such statements, confidence withers. As a test, we have to look at the whole pattern of behaviour of the nation that asks us to trust it. Unfortunately, the actions of the Soviet Union arid other Communist countries have not been such as to inspire our trust - in fact, the reverse has been true. So long as there is an iron curtain, for example, which prevents normal exchange of ideas and the normal travel of ordinary people across Sovietcontrolled frontiers, it is difficult for us to conceive how the Soviet Union can make such a fundamental change in its policy as would be necessary in accepting a genuine international system for control of any sort of armaments. Nor - to take a recent case - does the way the Communist side have behaved in the supervision of the Korean armistice give us much confidence to go ahead on the basis of Communist countries’ promises, which are unsupported by the sort of consistent national behaviour which alone can inspire trust. In the absence of such confidence the Western Powers have insisted on a watertight system of international inspection.
The United Nations Disarmament Commission, which consists of the members of the Security Council and Canada, and which was charged by the United Nations with the task of seeking agreement on disarmament measures, met during 1952 and 1953, but remained deadlocked. The Soviet Union, for their part, insisted that the first step was the prohibition of the atomic bomb and onethird reduction in armaments. The West, for its part, insisted on the essential prerequisite of a proper system of disclosure and verification of each country’s existing level of armaments, followed by disarmament in stages under full international inspection. The eighth session of the General Assembly in 1953 without much optimism passed a further resolution requesting the Disarmament Commission to continue its work, and suggesting that it might set up a subcommittee to seek an acceptable solution in private talks.
Last March, the United States tested an extremely powerful hydrogen bomb at Bikini. The series of international political repercussions set off by this explosion were such that the Disarmament Commission was called in April and quickly set up the sub-committee suggested earlier by the General Assembly. The first suggestion for the reconvening of the commission was actually made by me on the 21st March. The sub-committee, consisting of representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Soviet Union, France and Canada, began its meetings in May. The Western powers put forward proposals which were far more detailed than previous Western proposals and which, for the first time, canvassed the question of the prohibition of the atomic bomb under certain safeguards and under certain circumstances.
Three sets of proposals were , put forward, covering -
These Western proposals represented an important advance in two respects. First, they suggested that, immediately on signing the disarmament treaty, States should regard themselves as explicitly prohibited, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, “ from the use of nuclear weapons except in defence against aggression”, pending the total prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. Secondly, the proposals recommended that the proposed disarmament treaty should establish a time-table for progressive disarmament in three phases, the timing of the phases to be regulated by the international control organ itself.
During the first of these phases the control organ would be established in every relevant country, and would satisfy itself that it was able to carry out its task. This is the most significant stipulation. At the same time, military manpower and expenditure would be frozen at the 31st December, 1953, levels, these levels being verified by the control organ. During the second phase, half the agreed reduction in conventional armaments and the prohibition of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, would take effect. In the final phase the remainder of the agreed reductions in conventional armaments and the total elimination of nuclear weapons would take effect. These proposals were rejected by the Soviet Union as “unworthy of consideration “. Mr. Malik, the Soviet representative on thesub-committee made it clearthat the Soviet Union would not permit a control organ to be set up and to function before steps in disarmament comeabout.
Mr. Vyshinsky’s present proposals to the General Assembly are that the
Disarmament Commission should prepare a draft treaty providing for disarmament in two phases. First, in the course of six months or a year, states shall reduce their armaments, armed forces and expenditure by half the agreed reductions. Simultaneously, a temporary international control commission shall be established under the Security Council, with the right to require states to provide necessary information on measures taken by them to reduce armaments and armed forces. Secondly, on the completion of these measures, states shall reduce in the course of six months their armaments, armed forces and expenditure by the remaining half of the agreed reductions. Simultaneously, a complete prohibition of atomic, hydrogen and other weapons of mass destruction shall be carried into effect and the production of such weapons shall cease; and states shall institute a standing international organ for the supervision of the implementation of the treaty, with full powers of supervision, including the power of inspection on a continuing basis to the extent necessary to ensure implementation of the Treaty. Superficially, there is considerable similarity between these Soviet proposals and the “Western proposals made last May. The Soviet proposals, however, contain serious difficulties, and we believe that we would need a considerable clarification before we could assess whether or not they fulfilled conditions which we regard as essential.
It will be seen that the Soviet has proposed two control organs, the first one to be temporary and the second one, which would supersede the temporary organ in the final period, to be permanent. It is, however, a not unknown tactic to agree to a temporary organ whose powers and functions are satisfactory to oneself, and to propose a subsequent permanent organ whose powers and functions are satisfactory to one’s opponents, and to take good care to see that matters never proceed beyond the first stage. The temporary organ would be under the Security Council, and, therefore, subject to the veto. The permanent organ would not. The temporary organ would content itself with requiring states to provide information, and, in some undefined way, with supervising fulfilment of their obligations, again under the Security Council. There is also nothing about its verifying the December, 1953, levels of armaments as a starting point. The permanent organ, on the other hand, concedes all that the West asks - full powers of supervision and inspection on a continuing basis. The Russians also maintain their well-known proposal about simultaniety. The reductions, the’ prohibitions and so on, are to come into effect “ simultaneously “ with the constitution of the control organs. These control organs, however, are apparently not to be set up and in a position to certify that they can carry out their duties before the reductions and prohibitions actually begin. We are to assume good faith in the institution of the proposed measures before any control organ can verify the facts of existing arms levels.
The vital difference between the proposals lies in the adequacy of machinery for control and inspection, on which the Soviet proposals are unfortunately vague and unsatisfactory. As at present formulated, the Soviet proposals assume a confidence in international relations which does not exist. They appear to ask us to accept Soviet statements about the level of their armaments at face value, without proper checks. They ask us to disarm, and to give up the manufacture, and eventually the possession, of atomic weapons, with no certainty that control machinery satisfactory to us will, in fact, come into existence at all. Mr. Vyshinsky has made it quite clear that the Soviet Union will insist upon retaining the veto upon decisions or conclusions made by the temporary control organ. And in his final contribution to the debate he has said that the Soviet Union will never agree to international inspection from the air. What hope would one have of detecting clandestine operations in the Soviet Union if confined to inspection by land transport ? The whole world to-day wants disarmament, aud any move towards this objective is devoutly to be wished. Any proposal which could lead to some progress being made must be seriously and sympathetically studied. But, at the same time, we must beware of proposals which may be put forward in the hope of obtaining a cheap propaganda success - proposals put forward in the knowledge that they are unacceptable to others. The temptation to take advantage of the fears of the ordinary people is one which the Soviet finds difficult to resist. We must beware, too, of proposals which may be put forward for the purpose of gaining a strategic advantage. We must, in approaching the whole question of disarmament, bear in mind not only the political implications of any agreement that may be reached, but also the strategic effects of any substantial disarmament programme. A disarmament programme must take into account Australia’s special geographic and political position on the Pacific fringe of Asia. For this reason, the Government is giving the closest attention to the strategic implications of both the Western and Soviet proposals.
During the discussions in the First Committee of the General Assembly various suggestions were made regarding procedure. These had the common objective of seeking clarification of the Soviet proposals. The Canadian and Australian procedural suggestions had much in common. We wanted to pin down Mr. Vyshinsky and the Soviet representatives and to get the fullest possible clarification at the earliest possible stage, so that the Assembly could have a clear idea of the issues before taking up any attitude regarding the merits or defects of the proposals. We wanted to avoid seeing the real issues lost in confusing propaganda, which may indeed be what the Soviet hopes will happen. And the further this process of clarification has gone, the less have the Soviet proposals seemed to have anything new in them. In addition to the Soviet refusal to permit inspection from the air, Mr. Vyshinsky has also said that enforcement action arising from breaches detected by the control organ must be subject to the veto. What this means, in effect, is that the control organ’s freedom of movement is greatly hampered, and, even if it should stumble upon some improper activity, the United Nations, through the voting procedures of the Security Council, would be stopped from doing anything effective about it.
These Soviet proposals deserve close objective study by us, but, at the same time, we must treat them with the utmost caution. This is the attitude of the Australian Government, and the line which the Australian delegation has been taking in the discussions in the General Assembly.
The matter will now go back to the “ London Committee “ - a sub-committee of the Disarmament Commission, consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union and Canada - whose work will be followed with the keenest attention by all. The Government will see to it that Australia’s views are made known in the most effective quarters at all times. It will consider all the proposals put before the Political Committee of the United Nations. One of these, put forward by India on the 25th October, is worthy of special comment. This suggestion reflects the world-wide anxiety that something should be done quickly in the field of disarmament. It suggests that we would be taking a step forward if, before conventions on disarmament were ready for signature, there should be a freezing of present levels - a sort of armaments truce. This may be all very well in theory, but it suffers from the fundamental weaknesses of many of the Soviet proposals. It assumes trust and confidence in international affairs. It assumes that, without verification or inspection of any kind, we can rely on the good faith of every one to abide by a truce of this kind. I know that such a proposal stems from the highest motives, but I regret that as things are at the moment it is quite unacceptable. Agreement to an unverified freeze in armaments would be a dangerous procedure.
Before passing from United Nations matters, I should mention briefly the discussions in the Economic and Social Council and the Economic Committee of the General Assembly on the establishment of a special United Nations fund for economic development, which has come to be known as Sunfed. Australia has every sympathy with the wish of those countries which feel the need to stimulate the flow of foreign investment capital into their economies. As we see it, however, there is no way of forcing those countries which would be the main sources of investment capital into contributing to a scheme before they are ready to do so. A change in the political atmosphere bringing with it a reduced need for heavy expenditure on armaments is a prior essential to undertakings to subscribe to a new fund and this prior essential has not yet been met.
The interest of Australia and of a number of other countries in this problem of the economic development of underdeveloped countries was shown by our participation in the Colombo plan meeting at Ottawa recently. A few weeks ago, I attended the sixth meeting of the Colombo Plan Consultative Committee at Ottawa. This was the largest meeting of Ministers and officials that has yet been held in connexion with the Colombo plan.
Since the plan originated at a meeting of Commonwealth foreign ministers in Colombo in 1950, its membership has so expanded that it is no longer solely a Commonwealth project. The United States has given its active and invaluable support to the plan since 1951. The entry of such nonCommonwealth Asian countries as Indonesia, Burma, and Laos, Cambodia and Southern Vietnam, was followed by the admission at the Ottawa conference of Japan, Thailand and the Philippines. To-day membership comprises all the countries of South and South-East Asia, together with a number of countries outside the area but pledged to help it, namely the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Of the three new members added, Thailand and the Philippines had previously attended meetings as observers and this year decided to participate as full members. The Government of Japan made a formal application for membership, which was accepted. The Australian Government supported this Japanase application in the belief that Japan had a real contribution to make to the area, primarily in the field of technical assistance. Moreover, we attach considerable significance to Japan’s peaceful association with international organizations of this kind.
The primary purpose of these meetings is to review the progress that has been achieved in the development plans of the countries of the area in the previous year. The meetings are held in camera, which makes for frank discussion of all aspects of the economies of the members - the failures of the year and the accomplishments - the hopes and fears for the future. Economic and financial policies, and the reasons for their adoption, are freely explained by the countries of the area. At the same time, future prospects of the individual countries of South and SouthEast Asia are discussed - the probable availability of their internal resources, from which the greater part of the developmental plans must be financed - the prospects of external assistance by way of grants and loans to fill the gap. This external assistance is a vital part of the developmental plans of the countries of the area.
Seventeen nations are now joined together in seeking a practical solution of the economic problems of the countries of South and South-East Asia, so that the living standards of the peoples may be raised. The economic problems of this area are probably the most difficult in the world. The achievements to date have been considerable, particularly in the light of the massive nature of the task. Since the start of the Colombo plan, the total amount invested in economic development in the countries of the area has been over £1,600,000,000. A most encouraging feature has been the way in which, from year to year, the volume of developmental expenditure has steadily increased. In the first year of the plan the total was just over £400,000,000. In the third year, 1953-54, it had risen to £700,000,000. Plans for the present year contemplate an overall expenditure of £880,000,000. I may say that these figures do not include the very considerable, release of sterling balances by the United Kingdom to the countries of the South and South-East Asian area.
It is significant that assistance contributed from external sources was equivalent to about 18 per cent, of the total invested in economic development. This external aid has come from a number of different sources. These include grants by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, and loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development, the United States ExportImport Bank and the Commonwealth Development Finance Company. In addition to these governmental sources, important contributions have been made by such private agencies as the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.
During the first three years of the plan, nearly 5,000 places have been found under the various technical co-operation schemes operating in the area for men and women to receive technical training of one kind or another outside their own countries. Of these 5,000 places, over 1,500 were provided by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some 2,500 experts and technicians have been provided to put their skills at the service of the countries concerned on the spot. The increasing tempo of the operations may be judged from -the fact that overall expenditure on development last year was 27 per cent, greater than in the previous year, whilst plans for the present year provide for an increased expenditure of 31 per cent, over last year.
These achievements are substantial, but we must not be led to believe that the problems are within sight of being solved. The pressure of increasing population will be a continuing strain on available resources . during the early years of development, when a large proportion of investment is in long range multipurpose projects for substantial increases in electric power and irrigation potential, which cannot begin to contribute to increased production for some time to come.
The aid flowing into the countries of South and South-East Asia comes from a variety of sources, the principal of which are : Economic and technical aid from the Colombo plan countries - the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - and from the United States; the United Nations technical assistance; the international bank; and institutions such as the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. I believe it can be said with truth that the Colombo plan countries were the forerunners amongst all these sources from which aid is now forthcoming - and amongst the Colombo plan countries, I believe it can be said with truth that Australia was in the forefront.
There is another aspect of this problem that I would like to refer to. Honorable members are aware that the countries of South and South-East Asia depend to a considerable extent on their export earnings from primary production, and most of them rely on one or two basic products such as rubber, rice, tin, tea or jute. The extent to which individual governments can apply their own resources to investment in capital development depends to a large extent on the prices they receive for their exports. The boom of 1950-51 was followed by a drop in raw materials prices which diminished export earnings and reduced internal finances from which developmental projects are financed..
During 1953-54, in general there was no marked change in the terms of trade of the Asian countries, and so economic planning could proceed on a fairly stable basis. However, the problem of the relationship between the price level of the principal Asian exports, and the ability of the Asian countries to plan for development, remains. As I have said on other occasions, it would be of immense help to the Asian countries in coping with their most difficult economic problems if some degree of stability could be achieved in the prices of their main exports. I am well aware of the difficulties of achieving such stability, but the fact remains that some success in this direction would be of vast benefit to the free countries of Asia.
I do not want to anticipate the report of the consultative committee’s meeting at Ottawa, which is now being printed for simultaneous public release in all member countries on the 1st December. At a later time I hope to be able to present a fuller statement designed to give members as complete a picture as possible of our assessment of conditions in South and South-East Asia and the prospects for the period ahead. The matters with which I have dealt, as being of particular interest to Australia, namely Dutch New Guinea, disarmament, and the Colombo Plan, are obvious in their impact on us. It would, however, be short-sighted if 1 did not make some reference. to events in
Europe. Australian experience in the past two world wars showed how farreaching are the consequences of uncertainty in Europe.
Australia, therefore, welcomes the fact that the countries of western Europe reached a complex series of agreements in London a month ago, confirmed in Paris three weeks later, which bring Germany into full membership in the free western European community and provide a framework within which Germany may collaborate on a basis of equality with her western neighbours. The revised Bonn Conventions, which have now been agreed to by the three Western- occupying Powers as well as by Germany, will -have the effect of terminating the occupation regime and of facilitating a contribution by Germany to her own defence. The enlarged Brussels pact to which Germany and Italy will belong is henceforth to be known as the Western European Community, and within its framework an organization will be built up, not only for automatic mutual assistance in case of attack, but also for economic and cultural collaboration. Western Germany’s admission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will facilitate collaboration in the detailed aspects of military planning. Nato, in its new form, provides the mechanism, for definition of the authority of the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and for the limitation of the armed forces to be contributed to his command.
The outstanding feature of the new European community is that it provides the means for bringing to an end a long period of hostility and mutual distrust which has existed between France and Germany. This was made possible by the remarkable offer of the United Kingdom Government to leave strong military forces committed to the defence of Europe for a substantial period, an undertaking which saved the London conference from probable failure and gave France the assurance that she would not be exposed alone to sudden attack by the new forces which Germany is now to be allowed to raise. West Germany’s striking economic recovery from the chaos and destruction brought upon her during World War II. has emphasized the role which the .Germans can play in the development of the economic strength of Western Europe. The good faith and willingness to co-operate in the reconstruction of Western Europe which have been shown by Chancellor Adenauer reflect high credit on his statesmanship. No matter what the Communists may affect to believe, the Western European Community has no hostile aims towards Eastern Europe. The new arrangements do not envisage any form of attack, armed or otherwise, on the Soviet Union and its associates. Their purpose is to provide a unified and constructive alliance which will not be capable of being divided up and swallowed piecemeal by aggression.
The matters that I have endeavoured to cover are some of the more important questions of foreign’ policy which have been the concern of the Government in recent weeks. They will continue to be kept under review and our Australian viewpoint on these and other matters will be pressed at the times and in the places where they will be heard most effectively.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
International Affairs - Ministerial statement, 2nd November, 1054. and move -
That the paper be printed.
– I ask the House to bear with me for a few minutes. I propose to make a request to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and then to ask for leave of the House to continue my remarks later. I shall say nothing at the moment about the disarmament negotiations or about the Colombo plan. The vital matter to which the Minister has referred is the situation in relation to Dutch New Guinea, or West Irian, as some people call it. What does the Minister visualize in relation to the future of Dutch New Guinea? It is all very well for him to state that a proposal for the discussion of the status of Dutch New Guinea will disappear from the agenda of the General Assembly of the United Nations on this occasion. But how does the Netherlands regard West New Guinea, as it is sometimes called? Does the Netherlands
Government intend to hold and defend it? That is a matter on which we should be informed. What is the attitude of the United Kingdom, the other members of the British Commonwealth, and the United States of America and other countries? The real situation in Dutch New Guinea is far more important than are many of the other questions on foreign affairs to which the Minister referred in his statement, though they also are important.
I wish to make it perfectly clear that I agree with the Minister that sovereignty over Dutch New Guinea without doubt resides in the Netherlands. Nothing has taken that sovereignty away from the Dutch. But we should know the attitude of the Netherlands Government, and of the other governments interested in the Pacific region, in relation to the development of Dutch New Guinea, because that area must be defended in accordance with some regional arrangement. The defence of New Guinea, inclusive of West New Guinea, is integral with the defence of Australia. The fact that seems to emerge from the Minister’s statement is that Dutch New Guinea will be the subject of continuous dispute, year after year, and that claims will be made but never admitted. What will happen then? We should know much more about the situation. I do not criticize the Minister. I merely point out that we are eager for information about Dutch New Guinea, so that we may debate its position. I make it clear that sovereignty over Dutch New Guinea has never left the Netherlands. In the negotiations between the Dutch and Indonesia it was never intended that the Dutch should lose sovereignty over West New Guinea. The Minister’s analysis on that point is correct, and it repeats views that I have expressed in this House on other occasions. But it is of no use for a country to have sovereignty over a territory such as Dutch New Guinea unless it intends to develop and defend that territory. That question is of vital importance to Australia. The House has yet to debate the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty Bill 1954, and therefore I ask the Minister to consider the point that the Netherlands is not a proposed party to that treaty, although Dutch New Guinea is in an area that could be covered by the treaty. At the moment Dutch New Guinea is not clearly covered by the proposed SouthEast Asia Treaty arrangements, because it is not an Asian territory and does not belong to any proposed member of Seato. That fact tends to cause a power vacuum.
– Dutch New Guinea could be designated as a territory covered by the treaty.
– It could be designated by unanimous agreement. Dutch New Guinea is the nearest foreign territory to Australian territory, and it is of immediate and vital importance to us. We must look at its position in the light of the proposed reservations of the United States in relation to the South-East Asia Treaty. It has always seemed to me that in the region within which Dutch New Guinea lies, it should be possible, by pursuing a policy of peaceful conciliation, which the Minister and all of us wish to pursue, to enter into, a regional arrangement covering Indonesia, the Netherlands and Australia within the framework of a larger arrangement. Our duty in New Guinea, as has been stated, is primarily to the native peoples ; yet we all know that that Territory is vital to and integral with Australia’s defence. Not only Papua and the trust Territory of New Guinea are vital to our defence, but also Dutch New Guinea is vital to it. That has been proved. Consequently, the Dutch territory is a. source of potential danger to Australia and of weakness in our defence. I ask the Minister to give us a more realistic account of the future arrangements for Dutch New Guinea. It is not merely a question of including discussion of the future of that territory in an agenda or excluding such discussion from an agenda. The important question is what arrangements are proposed. Is it intended to embrace Dutch New Guinea within a defence arrangement?
I trust that the House understands my position. I obtained a copy of the Minister’s statement only after he had begun to read it to the House. It used to be the regular practice for copies of such statements to be made available to the Leader of the Opposition beforehand so that they might be studied. I do not blame the Minister for the delay on this occasion.
– I greatly regret the delay.
– As I have said, I do not blame the Minister. Copies of statements of this kind should be available to the Leader of the Opposition before they are read. I have mentioned the matter only to indicate that the status of Dutch New Guinea is of supreme interest to us. I am aware that the other subjects to which the Minister referred are vitally important in a broader sphere but we should like further information on proposals for the future of Dutch New Guinea, and I should be much obliged if the Minister would make a supplementary statement or a special statement, or by some other means make available to us further information on Dutch New Guinea. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Sulphur and sulphuric acid.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Sugar Agreement Act - Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee - Twenty-third Annual Report, for year ended 31st August, 1954.
Copies of the report will be made available to honorable members as soon as arrangements to have it printed can be made.
REport of Public Accounts Committee.
– As Chairman, I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Sixteenth report - Treasury minutes on reports of the 1952-54 Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
The minutes set out, for the information of the Parliament, the action that the Treasury has taken in relation to the criticisms and recommendations of the committee in its several reports.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
War Pensions Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1954.
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1954.
States Grants (Special Financial Assistance) Bill 1954.
Wine Overseas Marketing Bill 1954.
Wine Grapes Charges Bill 1954.
Papua and New Guinea Bill 1954.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to request, and consent to, the enactment by the Parliament of the United Kingdom of an act enabling the Queen to place the Cocoa or Keeling Islands under the authority of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now before the House provides that the Australian Parliament should give its request and consent to enactment by the United Kingdom of legislation to enable the Queen to place the Cocos or Keeling Islands, in the Indian Ocean, under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia. I should like, at the outset, to record the Australian Government’s appreciation of the helpful and understanding attitude of the United Kingdom Government throughout our negotiations with it on this question, and our gratification that it has been possible to reach an agreement satisfactory to all parties.
Honorable members will be aware that the Cocos airstrip is a vital link in the air service operated across the Indian Ocean between Australia and South Africa. The islands could also assume, in time of war, great importance as an aircraft staging point, and as a link in air services between Australia and Asia and Europe. Therefore, it must be a matter of gratification to all honorable members that the United Kingdom and Australian Governments have been able to agree on this transfer to Australia. The Cocos Islands first sprang into world prominence shortly after the outbreak of war in 1914, when the cable station established on the group was attacked by the German raider Emden, subsequently destroyed by Sydney in the Royal Australian Navy’s first major engagement. With the development of wireless communications, the importance of Cocos Island as a cable station has diminished, and it was not until the latter stages of World “War II. that its new role as an important air link emerged.
The question of the transfer of these islands has been under discussion for a number of years. On the 22nd June, 1951, I announced publicly that the Australian Government had expressed to the United Kingdom Government a wish to develop for civil aviation purposes, the airstrip which had been constructed on Cocos during the 1939-45 war for the Royal Air Force. On practical grounds, it was considered desirable, after examining various alternatives, that the government controlling the airstrip should also administer the islands, and Australia therefore suggested that the group comprising two atolls, made up of some 27 coral islands with a total area of approximately 5 square miles, should be transferred to the Australian Government. Such a course of action will have considerable strategic advantages for the British Commonwealth as a whole. The United Kingdom Government, after consulting the Singapore Government, with whom responsibility for administering the Cocos Islands rests at present, was consequently able to agree in principle. Various questions of detail then had to be considered by the Australian departments that will assume responsibilities as a result of the transfer. I believe that we have reached a satisfactory understanding with the. United Kingdom Government on nil outstanding matters. The population of the islands’ - about 1,200 - consists principally of Malayans, descended from Malay seamen who went there with Captain John Clunies Ross in 1827. The future of the islanders has been under discussion between the United Kingdom and Australian Governments. In Singapore, too, I discussed a whole range of questions involved in the transfer.
The Clunies Ross family have been the acknowledged landlords of Cocos since 1886, when their position was confirmed by an indenture granted by Queen Victoria through the Governor of the Straits Settlements. Subject to conditions allowing Her Majesty to resume land in the public interest, providing for the establishment of a telegraph station, and preventing alienation of the land to other persons without the assent of the Crown, the lease was granted to George Clunies Ross and his heirs to hold in perpetuity. The House may be assured - as the United Kingdom Government has been assured - that the legitimate interests of the Clunies Ross family will not be prejudiced in the forthcoming transfer of sovereignty. The manner in which the transfer of the islands is to be effected has required careful study. After considering various alternatives, we have found that the procedure now being adopted is the most satisfactory procedure. After consideration of the question by the Crown Law advisers in both the United Kingdom, and Australia, it was agreed that Her Majesty’s Australian Parliament would be asked to request and consent to the enactment of such legislation by Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom as was necessary to place the islands under the authority of the Commonwealth. The purpose of the bill now before honorable members is to embody such request and consent, and thus allow the legislative machinery of the United Kingdom to operate.
When honorable members and senators have approved this bill, a bill will be introduced by Her Majesty’s Government into the United Kingdom Parliament for the purpose of transferring authority over Cocos Islands to Her Majesty’s Government in Australia.
– Is any compensation involved?
– No. Compensation may he payable to the Clunies Ross interests for the lands that are alienated for the airstrip, but that would be the only compensation. As the final legislative step in the transfer, another bill will be brought before the Australian Parliament after the United Kingdom Parliament has acted. This will be for an act accepting the transfer, and providing for the future administration of the islands. This will be the major enactment, for which this present bill is only a preliminary. At that time it will be possible to debate, if so wished, the terms of the transfer which the Australian Parliament will then be asked to accept. I commend the bill to honorable members, and I am confident that they will share my feeling that it will advance the interests of Australia and of the British Commonwealth generally.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes ofa bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of sulphuric acid.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Eric Harrison and Mr. Casey do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Eric Harrison, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the payment of a bounty on sulphuric acid produced from materials of Australian origin. Before commenting on the various aspects of this bill, I should like to give honorable members a brief outline of the Australian sulphuric acid industry, and the considerations which led up to the Government’s decision to introduce this particular bounty legislation. Sulphuric acid is, as honorable members are aware, essential for the manufacture of almost all of our fertilizers and many of our strategic materials. Its adequate production in Australia is, therefore, of vital importance in the overall economy of this country.
The payment of a bounty on sulphur and sulphuric acid production in Australia is no innovation, as such provision has existed in the Commonwealth statutes since 1923. However, as a result of the war and subsequent substantial increases in the cost of imported brimstone, together with a global shortage of that material, the production of sulphuric acid in Australia from Australian sulphur bearing materials, such as pyrites, has not been, until recently, in need of governmental assistance. Existing bounty legislation is, of course, completely out of line with present-day prices, and itis now proposed to replace that legislation with the legislation now under consideration. In 1950, when it was evident that brimstone would be in short supply and the future looked uncertain, the Government decided, as a matter of urgent policy, that every effort should be made to utilize Australian sulphur-bearing materials to the greatest extent practicable. Therefore, at the instigation of the Government, and with the industry itself well realizing the importance of becoming much more independent of overseas supplies of brimstone, a programme of converting some of the existing acid plants, and the designing of new plants to use local sulphur-bearing materials for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, was started. This programme, which became known as the conversion programme, is still proceeding, but it is not expected to be complete until the latter part of 1956. The Government is hopeful that, by that time, at least 65 per cent. of the capacity of the industry will be available to use Australian raw materials. Although the bulk of the cost of the conversion programme has been carried by the industry itself, the Government also has endeavoured to play its part in a practical manner. Recent estimates have shown that the capital cost of new and converted acid plants constructed since 1950, has amounted to approximately £10,320,000. Of this amount, approximately £1,200,000 has been used to convert brimstone burning plants to pyrite plants, and approximately £1,520,000 has been expended in the development of pyrite production.
Needless to say, the industry would not have entered into this capital expenditure without some form of assurance and continued assistance from the Government. To this end, the Government assured the industry that it would be protected against importations of brimstone at an imported cost which might render uneconomic the use of indigenous sulphurbearing materials as a source of sulphur dioxide gas. Furthermore, the Government has already given assistance to the industry in the form of guaranteed bank overdrafts, and also the granting of import licences and the duty-free entry of plant and equipment for use in the conversion programme. At this stage 1 should explain that the output of brimstone in the United States of America has a major influence on the world supply of that product. For example, in 1953 the world production of brimstone was 6,350,000 tons; of this 5,490,000 tons were produced in the United States. Expert opinion suggests that shortages and surpluses of world brimstone supplies will occur in cycles over the next twenty years, and while immediate prospects seem reasonably good for a period up to 1955, there is a general uncertainty regarding adequate supplies of sulphur in all forms being available to meet the demand in the period before 1960. This forecast alone should serve to stress the need for our industry to become more and more independent of imported brimstone supplies.
In this country the bulk of our brimstone supplies is obtained from the United States. These supplies, together with those available from other world markets, are purchased solely by the British Phosphate Commissioners who, on behalf of, and in consultation with, local acid manufacturers, distribute the brimstone throughout Australia at a common agreed price, usually referred to as the pool price. When the conversion pro gramme was initiated, the pool price of brimstone was £25 a ton. At that time it was possible to produce sulphuric acid from pyrites at a price that was competitive with acid from brimstone. In July, 1953, as a result of a reduction of shipping freights, the pool price of brimstone fell to £20 10s. a ton, which is its present price. This had an adverse effect on most Australian acid producers, who had converted or who were in the process of converting and building new plants for the utilization of pyrites, since this made the cost of acid from brimstone less than that from pyrites. The Government has been most concerned over this situation, and while it is realized that brimstone could at any time be in short supply again, it is most desirable as a long-term policy that a pyrites burning industry should be established in this country on a permanent basis.
Following a Tariff Board inquiry in 1952, the Government decided that if manufacturers who were producing sulphuric acid from materials of Australian origin required assistance to ensure that they would be protected against importations of brimstone, such assistance could be by way of a bounty, subject to conditions to be prescribed. In view of the fall of the pool price of brimstone in 1953, and the degree of conversion that had already been carried out by the industry since 1950, it was clear that some form of assistance was required. As a consequence, the question of the level of bounty assistance needed by the industry was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. The Tariff Board conducted its inquiry in April and May of this year, and in its report, which I have already tabled, the board recommended, in effect, that a bounty be paid during the five years from the 1st July, 1954, on sulphuric acid produced in Australia from such Australian sulphur-bearing materials as are prescribed by regulations. As the board visualized that it may be necessary to provide for different rates of bounty in respect of sulphuric acid produced from different materials, it has also recommended that the rates of bounty be prescribed by regulations.
The Government has adopted these recommendations, and the bill now before honorable members has been drafted accordingly. Contingent upon the passage of the bill through the Parliament, action will be taken to issue regulations, effective as from the 1st July, 1954, which will give effect to the further recommendations of the board that -
The important feature of the conditions that I have indicated, is that bounty will, at this stage, be limited to sulphuric acid produced from pyrites. However, if and when representations are made for the payment of bounty on sulphuric acid produced from other Australian materials, such as spent-oxide and sinter gas, the bill provides that such action can be taken, if necessary, following a further inquiry and report by the Tariff Board. I also point out that while the bill provides for the payment ofbounty during a five-year period, it does not necessarily follow that the rate of bounty to be initially prescribed for pyritic acid will automatically continue for that period. The need for the payment of the bounty will be kept under review and, if warranted, either by an upward or downward trend in price, the Tariff Board will be asked again to report on the measure of assistance required by the local industry.
Other significant aspects of the bill are that a total of £600,000 per annum is appropriated from. Consolidated Revenue for the payment of bounty, and that bounty will not be paid so as to raise the net profit of a producer of sulphuric acid above 12½ per cent. of the capital used in the production and sale of the sulphuric acid.
I feel sure that honorable members will agree with me that it is essential, in view of the uncertainty which surrounds future supplies of brimstone, that the Australian industry should be developed to a stags where full advantage can be taken of the raw materials indigenous to Australia. I therefore commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 27th October (vide page 2359), on motion by Sir Eric Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure now before the House appears to follow a bill recently introduced to amend the Customs Act. It appears to me that the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs, no doubt with the consent of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), have embarked on an attempt to remove anomalies from the existing Customs Act, and to amend it where required to facilitate the business of the department and to eliminate activities that are not warranted by present-day conditions. To the extent that those are the intentions of the Government, the Opposition agrees to the bill. Any cleaning-up process, whether applied to the Customs Act or any other act, is desirable, wherever that process will result in facilitating public and governmental business.
This small measure seeks to amend section 37 of the Customs Act, in order to overcome the possibility that an importer, after making an entry in regard to the value of certain goods, will take the opportunty at a subsequent date to repeat the entry following a reduction of customs duty. By that method of evasion some importers have been able to enjoy some advantage. It is hoped that the proposed amendment of section 37 will overcome that difficulty, which perhaps could be better referred to as a weakness, in the present act.
The bill will also amend section 92 of the Customs Act. It is proposed that warehouse owners, no doubt including those with goods in bond, shall be required to provide suitable accommodation for officers of the Department of Trade and Customs who, ::> many cases, are required to be on almost constant duty at those warehouses. It is reasonable that provision should be made for office and other accommodation for those public officers. No doubt such provision has been made by some warehouse owners, but T suggest that the fact that the act needs amending is a reflection on warehouse owners who have not of their own volition provided the necessary accommodation. .
The proposed amendment of section 199 will allow an extension of the period for which customs warrants are operative. At present, officers use warrants that are current for three months, in order to enable them to carry out inspections and searches of bond stores and other places. Such a short term for the currency of warrants is obviously ridiculous, where officers’ duties require them to operate under such warrants for six months. The proposed amendment will allow the issue of warrants for terms of six months, and consequently eliminate a good deal of unnecessary clerical and other work. The Opposition will facilitate the passage of the measure, and we hope that it will achieve the purpose for which it has been introduced.
.- This bill is a measure to amend the Customs Act 1901-1953. Therefore, the debate on it gives me an opportunity of saying something about recent happenings in the Department of Trade and Commerce, with a view to securing some alteration of procedures in the department by means of an alteration of the law. The Customs Act has been amended on about twenty occasions. It was certainly amended in 1910, 1922, 1933, 1934 and 1950. It is a necessary act, designed to protect the public revenues from loss through the smuggling of goods into the country, and to prevent the smuggling of narcotics and other drugs which could have a harmful effect on the health of the community. However, certain happenings have taken place from time to time under the Customs Act, and I do not believe that it is altogether right that the act should not be amended to prevent those happenings. For example, there was recently an American warship named Tarnma in the port of Melbourne. A number of high-ranking military officers, and other persons, were invited to a function on board that vessel, and were each given a carton of American cigarettes. As they went through the customs gate after leaving the ship, they disclosed the gifts to the customs officers in each case. These people were hauled before the court of the Collector of Customs in Melbourne to show cause why they should not be dealt with for having offended against the Customs Act in bringing goods into the country that they had no right to bring in. I suggest that a little more discretion should bc exercised by subordinate officers of the department in matters such as that. In any case, I am not so sure that the right way in which to handle these matters is through courts presided over by Collectors of Customs. I consider that the day has arrived when we might well follow the American custom and set up federal courts in all our capital cities and other seaboard cities so that the judicial processes may be gone through much more satisfactorily than may happen from time to time in courts where administrative officers are given functions to perform that are performed much better by the judiciary. In 1950, the Parliament amended the law so as to permit persons coming from overseas to bring into the country, free of duty, £100 worth of goods. That was a desirable improvement, but we should be well advised further to amend the law so as to exempt from duty gifts up to a few pounds in value made by members of ships’ crews to their guests. Some ships are sent here on goodwill missions, and inexpensive gifts from persons aboard the vessels to their visitors certainly should not be subject to duty.
The worst feature of the present law has obtained for many years, and no government has attempted to remedy the position. Since 1923, section 255 of the act has forced a defendant to prove his innocence. I refer to the famous, or notorious, averment provision. A person charged with an offence is guilty until he proves his innocence. I believe that this section, in its present form, should certainly be amended. The Government, if it will not go the whole distance in throwing on the department the onus of proving its case, should certainly not throw on the defendant the full responsibility to prove his innocence. Section 255 reads as follows : - 255. (1.) In any Customs prosecution the averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff contained in the information, complaint, declaration or claim shall be prima facie evidence of the matter or matters averred. (2.) This section shall apply to any matter so averred although -
In other words, under section (4.), if a person has guilty thoughts, or if he is thinking of doing something unlawful, he cannot be prosecuted. But if a defendant does escape the “ intent “ provision, this section does not lessen or affect any onus of proof otherwise falling on him. In recent times, we have heard a good deal of argument about the onus of proof. Section 255 is one of the archaic provisions in our legislation. The Government should accept more of the responsibility of proving a case against a defendant. I do not know whether it would be possible to abolish the averment provision entirely, but I consider that the
Commonwealth should not divest itself of complete responsibility to prove its case against a defendant, as it does under this section. This section, in part, appears in the original act of 1901. So much the worse !
I know that a person was prosecuted in recent years, not because he understated the amount of duty that he should have paid, but because he paid too much duty. The Commonwealth argued on that occasion that, because he did not pay the right duty, he subsequently gained a certain advantage in regard to sales tax, or something else. He was prosecuted, and convicted. This provision does not help to create respect for the law. People are inclined to regard the law with contempt when the Parliament retains a provision which honorable members on both sides of the House, whether they have been in opposition or in government, have described as throwing an unfair burden upon a defendant. The law, in general, provides that a person is innocent until he is found guilty. Under the Customs Act, he is quilty until he proves himself innocent.
– in reply - I have been very interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). He has referred to an incident when certain guests of officers on an American vessel were each given a carton of cigarettes. They showed the cartons as they moved through the customs barrier, and they were immediately taken before the Collector of Customs and dealt with. The honorable member for Melbourne did not think it was right that a collector should have power to deal with persons in such circumstances. The honorable gentleman should be aware that the collector could not have dealt with those people unless they had elected to allow him to deal with them. Had they not done so, the case would have been heard in court. I suggest that, particularly in a case of this kind, it was infinitely better for the collector to try to straighten out a matter that he had to interpret in accordance with the law of the country, than for the people concerned to be subjected to the penalty of appearing in a court of law. I hope that the honorable member will concede that point.
The honorable member for Melbourne has referred to guests on a visiting vessel bringing dutiable goods ashore. I put it to him that it does not necessarily follow that the customs officers would have a list of the persons who were invited aboard the vessel. It is quite on the cards that if a carton of cigarettes was given to each of the guests, some other person might take past the customs barrier a carton containing a narcotic or something of that kind.
– There were highranking American officers aboard the vessel.
– But it does not necessarily follow that every one who passed through the customs barrier was a guest of the company concerned. It would be quite possible for another person to “ ring the changes “ on such an occasion. Naturally, action had to be taken by the customs officials in accordance with the law. That, in itself, seems to me to give point to the fact that these men are diligent and efficient in their interpretation of the law. No harm came eventually to the persons who were bona fide recipients of gifts.
The averment provision would probably make an excellent subject for debate. I wonder why successive governments for many years have not introduced legislation to amend, section 255 of the Customs Act. There is an excellent reason, and I am perfectly certain that the honorable member for Melbourne is aware of it. He has spoken as if the averment provision is always used in customs prosecutions. It is not. The section is used only when customs authorities have a suspicion that a person has certain goods on him reasonably suspected of having been smuggled into the country. For example, a defendant may say that a man down the street has given him, or sold to him, a batch of watch movements. A man down the street! The honorable member for Melbourne knows perfectly well that old confidence trick. The man down the street can never be found on such occasions. How, then, would it be possible for the customs authorities to prove that a defendant had smuggled the goods into the country? The responsibility rests upon the defendant to produce the man down the street and to satisfy the customs officials that the watch movements were not smuggled into the country. It is only in such a case that the averment provision is used. It is an excellent section when customs officials suspect that a man is breaking the law, and they have no means of finding the necessary evidence to convict him. The responsibility is then placed upon him to indicate the source of supply. That is the explanation which the honorable member for Melbourne has doubtless sought. I believe that he will agree, on reflection, that the reason why successive governments have not altered the averment provision is that they find it is necessary for the effective custodianship of customs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 54-4 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 27th October (vide page 2360), on motion by Sir
Eric Harrison -
That the bill he now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment of a bounty of 6d. per lb. on continuous filament acetate rayon yarn produced in this country. This yarn is used in the weaving and knitting of piece goods, ribbons and apparel. For the time being, it is proposed to apply the bounty to yarn produced by Courtaulds (Australia) Limited, at Tomago, New South “Wales. That company employs a very modern and efficient process in this manufacture. Every proposal that is presented to the Parliament for the payment of a bounty calls for an examination of the framework of Australian secondary industry generally. The Australian Labour party has always supported the expansion of secondary industry in this country. First, one should ascertain whether the proposed bounty is sufficient for the purpose for which it is designed. This industry is an important unit in the manufacture of textiles. Our experience during World War II. made us realize the importance of the manufacture of textiles in this country in peace-time as a phase in the expansion cf Australian secondary industry. The payment of incentives in industry is a live question at present, and it is interesting to note that incentives predominate in the textile industry to a greater degree, possibly, than in any other industry. Dealing with this subject, the Tariff Board in its annual report dated the 27th August, 1954, stated-
During’ the past yeal- there have been some hopeful signs that the unions might bc more willing to accept the principle of wage incentives as a means of increasing efficiency. The Board considers that further attention should be given to schemes which offer a veal incentive to increase efficiency and production.
Is this industry designed to meet Australian requirements and. if so, to what degree is it succeeding in that direction? The bounty is to be payable in respect of acetate rayon yarn. We should examine the circumstances in which it becomes necessary to pay this bounty to an organization like Courtaulds (Australia) Limited. That company established this industry following World War II. The Labour Government which was in office at that time was concerned about development generally. A great deal of publicity was given to the fact that Courtaulds proposed to establish an industry in Australia, because that decision conformed to the pattern which Labour desired should be followed in industrial expansion. Labour believed then, as it does now, that unless we are capable of developing secondary industries to the greatest possible degree we shall not be able to hold this country. The Tariff Board, under its reference, dated the 25th March, 1953, was asked to determine whether assistance should be accorded to the manufacture in Australia of cellulose acetate flake and, if ?o, to indicate the nature and extent of such assistance.
The decision to produce acetate in Australia followed the decision of Courtaulds to establish the rayon yarn industry in this country, and it was intended that the two industries should be interlocked. As a result, Colonial Sugar Refining Chemicals Proprietary Limited, which is an offshoot of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, decided to produce acetate for use in the manufacture of rayon yarn’, and for that purpose it established an industry at Rosebery in New South Wales. That decision also was in keeping with the policy of the Labour government of the day to develop all phases of secondary industry, particularly the manufacture of fabrics.. That policy was based on two considerations. The first was the difficulty experienced in bringing fabrics to Australia during World War II.; and the second was the difficulty of obtaining dollars during the post-war period for the purchase of Australia’s requirements of fabrics. That was the background against which Courtaulds established the manufacture of acetate rayon yarn and Colonial Sugar Refining Chemicals Proprietary Limited undertook the production of acetate. The annual report of the Tariff Board gives a picture of what happened in this country in industry generally after the Labour Government was defeated in 1949. Originally, Colonial Sugar Refining Chemicals Proprietary Limited, had every reason to believe that it would be able to produce acetate in competition with the overseas product. However, the report of the board, which every honorable member should peruse carefully, tells of the experience of that company as a result of inflation that commenced after the present Government assumed office. Courtaulds planned to launch its project in December, 1949. Originally, it intended to use steel produced by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in the construction of its plant but, actually, it was obliged to import steel. Whereas the company planned to be in production by May, 1952, as a result of this Government’s failure to face up to inflation, production was not actually commenced until twelve months later. That delay involved Colonial Sugar Refining Chemicals Proprietary Limited, the supplier of the raw material, in a huge capital cost of £1,600,000 in excess of the original estimate.
Between 1949 and 1953, according to evidence given by Courtaulds (Australia) Limited before the Tariff Board, ordinary wholesale prices rose by 75 per cent, and the prices of metal, coal, steel and chemicals rose by 114 per cent., whilst the basic wage in Sydney increased from £6 10s. to £12 3s. a week. Those increases involved the company in an additional capital outlay of 42 per cent. That additional cost was attributed to the inflation that prevailed in this country during that period. Although, originally, the industry had every reason to believe that it would be able to compete on the world’s market, the Tariff Board found that in order to enable it to meet the increased costs arising from inflation it would require protection to the extent of 25 per cent. The board investigated this industry thoroughly. It is important to consider the reasons that persuaded the board to recommend the payment of this bounty. It found that the industry’s undertaking represented a capital investment of £4,000,000. It found that the industry was part of the rayon industry, which is growing in importance, and that it provided an essential raw material for the first unit to produce rayon in Australia. So this Australian company-
– It is not an Australian company. It is an English company.
– I think that the Minister will admit at least that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited is an Australian company. The associate chemical company, being an offshoot of it, is also an Australian company.
– But the honorable member is talking about Courtaulds (Australia) Limited.
– I am not.
– The honorable gentleman did not say so.
– I had hoped that the Minister would have some regard for the difficulties that confront secondary industries in making Australia a strong industrial nation. This is an illustration of the difficulties that will beset such industries for many years to come as a result of the inflation of prices that has occurred since 1949. I am dealing with the Tariff Board’s report on the production of cellulose acetate by the offshoot of the Colonial Sugar Refin ing Company Limited, which is an entirely Australian company.
The board found that the company, although it was not at present using wholly Australian materials for the production of rayon, had prospects of doing so and was making the acetate section of the rayon industry independent of overseas supplies. I underline that fact. Here is a company that had at its disposal the wherewithal to make Australia independent of overseas supplies of acetate. The Minister must understand, surely, that the report on this company’s application for protection is related to Courtauld’s application to be granted protection for the yarn produced from cellulose acetate. The board found that the chemical company had made satisfactory arrangements for overseas advice and technical assistance and was producing acetate flake of a satisfactory quality. In other words, its product is as good as flake produced anywhere else in the world. This merely provides another example of the ability of Australian workmen to produce the highest-quality goods if they are given the opportunity to do so. The board reported that if the rayon section of the flake manufacturing business were unprofitable, it would possibly be necessary to discontinue the other sections and occasion loss of employment to about 250 persons. Surely no honorable member in this year of grace, when Australia must continue to develop or perish, will sit idly by and allow to pass unheeded a Tariff Board report in favour of the protection of an industry which employs Australian men and women.
The fact that agitates my mind is that the board refused to recommend the assistance that the company needed. It reported that the level of assistance sought was exceedingly high and that there did not appear to be any prospects of the company requiring less assistance for some years. It added that the cost of making cellulose acetate flake in Australia was so high in relation to costs in the United Kingdom as to lead to the conclusion that local manufacture was inefficient or uneconomic, or both. The whole story is related to the overcapitalization of the company. The company has a capital of £4,000,000, which is rather substantial, but the inflation which occurred after this Government came to office increased its capital cost3 by £1,600,000. A protective tariff of 25 per cent, would have enabled the company to compete against overseas companies, but its capital costs were inflated to the tune of 42 per cent, as a result of inflation. I appeal to the Government to keep in mind the future well-being of Australia. Let us be guided by reports such as the Tariff Board report. However, I am not happy to know that the board has failed to recommend the degree of protection that the company sought. The board stated -
The Board has weighed carefully the arguments for and against the value of this industry to Australia and. whilst fully appreciating the enterprise displayed in establishing it in the face of numerous difficulties, and with a full recognition of the possibility of capital loss to the industry’s promoters, it is reluctantly forced to the conclusion that, because of the high cost involved, it would he contrary to the interests of the nation to give it either the assistance it has requested or the level of assistance that appears to be necessary if requirements of cellulose acetate flake are to be made in Australia._
Here we have a company which set out to produce in Australia a national requirement. It expected that its capital costs would amount to about £2,400,000, but inflation between 194.9 and 1953 raised its outlay to £4,000,000. A similar fate has befallen all the other companies that the former Labour Government invited to establish factories in Australia in order to make the nation prosperous. The blame lies at the door of this Government, whether Ministers and their supporters admit the fact or not.
I turn now to examine the situation of Courtaulds (Australia) Limited. Honorable members should not think that these matters can be divorced. The production of rayon in Australia was found by the Tariff Board to be of national importance us a result of the great difficulties that were experienced during World War II. The manufacturing company is now at the production stage. It sought protection in order to ensure efficient production by a plant which was installed at very little capital cost. The company is capable of supplying the Australian market, not only for the present, bat also for many years in the future. There are many reasons why we should support such companies. I have already referred to the employment afforded by the acetate flake company, for which the Tariff Board failed to recommend assistance. The board has said, in effect, that, having regard to high capitalization, it may be well to allow that company to go out of existence. If that happens, the final blame will rest with the Government, not with the board.
Courtaulds (Australia) Limited may be said to be a powerful company, and I have heard in this House to-day the statement that it is an English company. If honorable members will study the stock exchange reports, they will see that it is not a powerful company. Neither is it an English company. In fact, notwithstanding the assistance for which this bill provides, the company’s shares are down below par according to to-day’s market reports. I am concerned with several factors associated with the welfare of this company. I am concerned, first, with the fact that it gives continuous employment to good Australians under the best possible conditions. I am concerned, secondly, that most of its employees are males, a fact which stand. to its everlasting credit. I am concerned, thirdly, with the fact that it is conducting a new industry and has been subjected to heavy establishment costs, which have been much heavier than would have been necessary if this Government had not gained power on the 10th December, 1949. The company was caught in tha same cleft stick as the company which set out to produce cellulose acetate. I am concerned, fourthly, because the rayon yarn industry in Australia, had to break in on a strong position already held by overseas suppliers. The industry has not had the benefit of tariff protection up to the present.
Anybody who knows anything of the ‘ textile industry - and many members of the Opposition understand its difficulties - realizes that the expansion of Japanese textile manufacturing activity makes it imperative for Australia to examine very closely its capacity to produce its own requirements of textiles with Australian labour. Why did the cellulose acetate manufacturing company seek a 25 per cent, protective tariff for its product? Honorable members will find the answer to that question if they compare the weekly earnings of an Australian worker in the textile industry, of which cellulose acetate is a raw material, with those of his counterpart in Great Britain. A male employee in Great Britain earns £8 17s. 7d. a week in terms of Australian currency. The wage paid to a worker producing the same type of material in Australia is £15 4s. 2d. A female worker in Great Britain receives £6 7s. lid. a week. The Australian female wage is £11 ls. 4d. Let us pause for a minute and consider the position that this industry would have achieved if we could have retained the wage level that prevailed when Labour was in office in 1949.
– Is the Labour party a low-wage party?
– The Labour party has always advocated greater value for the money earned by the worker rather than the payment of large wages capable of buying only small amounts of goods.
This industry has been forced to apply to the Tariff Board for protection mainly as a result of the Government’s failure, to handle the Australian economy as it should have been handled between 1949 and 1953. The company has been fighting against unequal odds. One of the opponents of the application for protection was British Celanese Limited, which is eager to come to Australia in order to produce the same type of rayon materials as Courtaulds (Australia) Limited manufactures. The British company bought land at Geelong, but it has not yet started to establish a factory because it is waiting to see which way the economic cat will jump in Australia. It realizes that the policy pursued by this Government raises almost insurmountable obstacles in the way of any company that wishes to establish factories in Australia at present because of the effect upon capital investment programmes of cost inflation. Such inflation did not occur in Great Britain after 1949, because, in that country, there has been close co-operation between the Government and the trade union movement.
The Labour party in Great Britain, like the Labour party in Australia, knows full well that the £1 earned by the worker must retain full value if the worker is to be given good conditions. Courtaulds (Australia) Limited was encouraged by Labour’s policy to undertake the manufacture of cellulose acetate rayon yarn in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements of the Australian rayon industry. The potential production of the company’s plant at present is between 10,000,000 and 10,500,000 lb. of rayon a year. Even at this stage, it is producing 3,000,000 lb. The output can be increased in order to meet the entire Australian requirement. In order to help Colonial Sugar Refining Chemicals Proprietary Limited to produce cellulose acetate, it buys 30 per cent, of that organization’s output at the Australian price and the remaining 70 per cent, at a price mutually agreed. Its object is to try to keep the chemical company in operation as an Australian manufacturer of cellulose acetate. Sixty per cent, of the shares in Courtaulds (Australa) Limited are held in Australia. Clearly, therefore, the company is not a British organization. The prices of the shares of the company are falling and even though the Government has introduced this bill, it is not much concerned about the development of secondary industries in Australia. Most of the £6^500,000 capital of Courtaulds (Australia) Limited is Australian money. Victorian members of this House know that Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited at Wangaratta, and other firms, rely on supplies of rayon from Courtaulds at Newcastle. The bounty of sixpence per lb. is equivalent to 5 per cent. It will give a measure of help to a company that has struggled against great odds as a consequence of the inflation that has occurred in Australia. Courtaulds has a branch in Canada also. Therefore, I considered it pertinent to ascertain how the Canadian Government treated that company which entered into production in Canada in much the same manner as the Australian company has done in Australia.
– Order ! I ask for order in the House, and particularly for the cessation of conversations between members and visitors in the galleries. If order is not maintained in the galleries I shall have them cleared. I ask honorable members also to refrain from conversing with one another.
– The Canadian Government was so much concerned about the development of secondary industry in Canada that at the commencement of operations by Courtaulds in Canada it paid a bounty of 28 cents per lb. on a base cost of 60 cents per lb. “We in Australia should not quibble at helping an industry such as this. I am concerned that if we do not keep in operation industries that are essential to Australia’s future well-being, we shall once again encounter all the difficulties that were experienced during World War II. as a result of which the Labour Government invited industrial concerns to establish factories in Australia. If that happens, our future difficulties will be far worse than anything we have had to face up to the present time. The Tariff Board firmly determined that Courtaulds (Australia) Limited was capable of producing 8,000,000 to 4,000,000 lb. of acetate rayon yarn at present. It is acknowledged that the company’s present selling price may be too high, having regard to the capital invested. But here again one must consider the capital investment that an intending producer must make. The capital investment made by this company between 1949 and 1953 was enormous. An important factor in the company’s favour, and one of the principal reasons why it is able to function in spite of the high wage levels that have been mentioned, is that the spinning capacity of the mills installed is better than that of any other rayon factory in the world. It. is acknowledged in the textile industry that Australian artisans are capable of producing the highest quality materials faster than they can be produced anywhere else in the world.
– That is, under a good government.
– If Australia had had a good Government in the last five years a. bounty would not be needed now. The company would have been producing rayon yarn that would have enabled Australia to sell rayon materials competitively in the world’s markets. The payment of a bounty will enable the company to produce rayon yarn and sell it at a price that will not disturb the level of prices in the industries that use that yarn. We must bear in mind that at present the only manufacturer of acetate rayon yarn in Australia is Courtaulds (Australia) Limited. It is of prime importance that help be given to that company to tide it over the difficult period that it is now experiencing in common with most secondary industries in Australia. I am not at all happy about this measure. It is drafted similarly to the Tyre Cord Bounty Act 1939. One cannot help but wonder whether he should sit idly by and accept a bill such as this.
– Do not wonder !
– One has no need to wonder about the attitude of Government supporters, whose contributions to the debates in this House force one to come to the conclusion that the Government and its supporters have no concern for the future of secondary industries in Australia. Let us not delude ourselves that we can continue to depend on wool and wheat. Any one who thinks that we can do so is lacking in the true Australian outlook. I and other Opposition members who have studied this bill are worried about the fact that Australia is now suffering from the repercussions of the inflation that has been allowed to occur since the 10th December, 1949. Its effects are reflected not only in the cost levels of our basic and old-established industries. They are being reflected also in those newer industries that were developed at the cost of heavy capital investment and are now doing their utmost to produce goods at a cost that will enable them to compete in the world’s markets. I trust that the 6d. per lb. bounty will tide Courtaulds over its present difficult period. The bill is in very similar terms to the Tyre Cord Bounty Act 1939, and one clause in particular is ambiguous. When I look at measures I sometimes wonder why they cannot be drafted so as to indicate their meaning clearly. Subclause (2.) of clause 8 reads -
Where the amount available for the payment of bounty in respect of rayon yarn produced in a year to which this Act applies is insufficient for the payment in full of all valid claims, the bounty otherwise payable in respect of each of those claims shall be reduced to an amount which bears the same proportion to the amount of the claim as the amount so available bears to the total amount of all such claims. “When I read clauses such as that I wonder why we have not tried to draft measures differently so that they may be more clearly understood by the ordinary person who looks at them in an attempt to ascertain what protection any particular industry might hope to receive in the future.
I trust that the Government’s decision to pay a bounty will not prove to be too little too late, and that in the final analysis Courtaulds will be enabled to produce goods that will sell competitively in the world’s markets, and that it will thereby be enabled to continue to provide employment for large numbers of Australian artisans. We on this side of the House are very concerned about the future of secondary industry in Australia because, rightly or wrongly, we believe that Australia must expand its population and that secondary industry must be developed on a large scale on a sound basis. After World War II., textiles were a great problem to Great Britain, and the Mother Country had to give much attention to the problem of obtaining artisans to promote the recovery of the textile industries. The textile industries, in the years that lie ahead, will prove as important to Australia’s development, especially in relation to overseas trade, as they proved to England. For that reason the Opposition supports the bill, but it warns the Government that if this measure is a sample of the treatment it proposes to accord to industries that were invited to Australia by the Labour Government prior to 1949, and if the capital cost that those industries have incurred is indicative of capital costs in the future, this Government may be doing too little too late to ensure the future of Australia’s secondary industries.
Mr. PETERS (Burke) T8.40].- I have listened with close attention and great interest to the observations of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) on this very complicated matter. Had the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) listened to the honorable member, he would have been much better informed about secondary industries generally. Germany, Japan, Great Britain, the United States of America, Italy, Belgium, and other countries that manufacture various classes of goods on a large scale are all producing more of those commodities than their own peoples can consume, and therefore are all looking for overseas markets. In their attempt to obtain them they are adopting various devices to get their products into other countries, for sale at prices that will defeat the competition of the local products. Australia, too, must adopt similar devices. In particular, we must assist our secondary industries to sell competitively in the local markets.
I am not opposed to the method by which it is proposed in this bill to give such assistance to the rayon industry. However, I should like the Government to be a little more consistent in the principles that it adopts in the payment of bounties to secondary industries. Two bills have been introduced in the House within the last week to provide for the payment of bounties on particular products. One of them, the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill which was introduced to-day, authorizes the payment of a bounty on sulphuric acid, and this bill provides for the payment of a bounty on rayon goods. It is provided that the bounty on sulphuric acid shall not be paid so as to raise the net profits made from the manufacture of that product above 12i per cent. The bounty on rayon goods shall be reduced when profits made from their manufacture reach 10 per cent. Why should the limit be set at 10 per cent, in one instance and at 12£ per cent, in the other f Why should it not be set at 10 per cent, for both types of industry. I can see no reason why the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited should be entitled to receive the full rate of a bounty for its products until its profits attain the level of 12 £ per cent, when Courtaulds (Australia) Limited shall receive the full rate of bounty only until its profits reach 10 per cent. Why should these industries, when their profits reach the level of 10 per cent., not repay to the Government the money that has been paid to them in time of stress to promote the manufacture of their products? Why should all profits above 10 per cent, not be paid into Consolidated Revenue so that they may be used for the promotion of other secondary industries or the reduction of taxation and the expansion of social services?
The industries in question are big undertakings. The capital of such concerns might be anything from £1,000,000 to £10,000,000. Let them receive assistance when they need it. Every possible device should be employed to permit the establishment of secondary industries, because they are essential, not only for the absorption of a growing population, but also for the production of our requirements should we be threatened by other countries and should our lifelines be cut in years that may not be too far distant. However, that does not mean that those particular industries should be given bounties in their infancy and, shall I say, in their adolescence and then, when they have reached adulthood, they should be allowed to reap exorbitant profits.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member says, “ Hear, hear ! “ I am pleased that one member of the Australian Country party has been converted to support for secondary industries. The profits of some secondary industries are too high. One has only to look at any of the daily newspapers to learn that industries are paying to shareholders dividends of up to 20 per cent, and, in some cases, 70 per cent. After all, shareholders are merely money lenders. All they do is to invest their money in industry, go about their ordinary vocation, earn their living by the sweat of their brow, if they do earn their living by the sweat of their brow, and allow their money, in the form of stocks and shares, to provide them with a dividend. Dividend rates of up to 70 per cent., as is the case in many secondary industries, are too high. I suggest, therefore, that provision should be made not merely for the elimination of the full rate of bounty when the profits of the undertaking reach 10 per cent., but that profits in excess of 10 per cent, shall be repaid to the Government until the total amount that has been advanced in the form of bounty has been repaid. In putting forward such a proposal, I should receive the support of all the free enterprise gentlemen who are members of the Liberal party and of members of the Australian Country party. This country cannot afford to make vast gifts to industries like the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited and Courtaulds (Australia) Limited when there is no necessity for them. By all means, let the Government subsidize those industries in times of necessity, but, when they reach a very lucrative earning stage, let it ensure that they repay to the community the money that it has advanced to them.
Mr. DRUMMOND (New England) [8.50J. - I did not intend to speak during this debate, but one or two points have been raised to which I think some Government supporter should refer. It has been suggested that honorable members on this side of the House are not interested in Australia’s secondary industries. That suggestion is so wide of the mark and is so completely at variance with fact that I shall not refer to it at great length. I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament when it passed the original legislation for the purpose of providing the necessary site for Courtaulds (Australia) Limited near Newcastle. It was necessary that the company should obtain a site that it thought would be satisfactory for the expansion of an undertaking which, to-day, I understand, has a capital of approximately £6,500,000 of which approximately £4,000,000 represents money that has been invested by Australian shareholders. That is a very considerable sum of money. This country cannot expand unless people are able to invest their savings in such enterprises. If the people are to have savings, it is quite clear that the Government must pursue policies that are designed to enable them to live in a reasonable standard of comfort and invest their surplus money to the best advantage.
Certain statements have been made by honorable members, particularly by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), which show a lack of appreciation of the vital necessity of a balanced economy if secondary industries are to reach that stage of prosperity and progress that every Australian -wishes them to achieve. It must be remembered that the Government, in addition to introducing this measure, has provided certain tariff protection. I have no quarrel with the provision of tariff protection. I do not think any one will object to such provision if it is necessary for the establishment of this industry, provided the industry is pursuing a policy that is designed to achieve efficiency. The honorable member for Blaxland referred, quite rightly, to the necessity for the greatest possible co-operation between labour and capital. I do not divide the labouring class into two categories - those who labour with their hands and those who labour but also have money for investment. The merging of those two categories in our national economy is so gradual and so progressive that it is not possible to argue otherwise, nor do I think it would be fair to the honorable member for Blaxland to suggest that he attempted to raise such an argument. The honorable member intended to convey the thought that those persons who control industries and those persons who take part in production are, at one and the same time, seised of the necessity of achieving mutual good. Without that mutual good, based on co-operation, it is impossible to achieve any worth-while result by providing bounties or other forms of protection.
When I was in England a year or two ago, I visited the textile industry, and I had the opportunity of meeting leaders of that industry at Bradford. I had an opportunity of seeing some of their great mills at work, and I also saw mills in Northern Ireland. In addition, I witnessed the effect, in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of Australia’s import restrictions upon the working people and upon those persons who provide capital. Immediately it became apparent that Australia’s import restrictions would cause a shortening of employment, the leaders of industry announced a very large reduction in their own emoluments. That reduction amounted to a very large sum of money. Those men made the first gesture. Then they got their employees together and said, “It will be necessary to stand down a certain number of people, because we simply cannot get the orders to keep the mills going. We want your agreement to a standing down of those employees who have fewest responsibilities, consistent with the efficient running of the plant “. That agreement was forthcoming. I visited another great enterprise, and I said to the leader of that enterprise, “ What are your hours of work here ?” He stated, “ By law, the hours of work are 44 hours a week, but we have not worked fewer than 50 hours a week since the beginning of the war “. This was in 1952, seven years after World War II. ended. I asked him, “Do your working people agree to that ? “ He replied, “ Well, we pay them overtime, and they are glad to receive it. Actually, they are willing to work longer, but we prefer that they do not, because it would lower efficiency “. When such co-operation is obtained between the men who run the enterprises and the men who work, economic strength may be achieved. I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Blaxland that more and more co-operation is needed in this country.
Australia’s economic set up is such that, as the honorable member for Blaxland stated, we must not continue to depend upon the production of wool and wheat. In other words, we must not depend too much upon our primary products, of which wool and wheat are the greatest. I am quite prepared to accept, to a degree, that general proposition, but I invite honorable members to examine the other side of the picture. Australia is importing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of goods which not only compete with its industries but which also partly, as semi-raw materials, are essential to those industries. Above all else, interest is paid on the capital that is employed to develop the country. A great country cannot be developed without the assistance of outside capital to any greater degree than a large estate can be developed without a reasonably good overdraft from a bank. Australia is exporting goods the value of which has risen in the past to more than £S00,000,000 a year. From memory, I think Australia exported £600,000,000 worth of goods last year. Australia can export goods of that value only if it is prepared to buy from outside countries. I am not arguing that we should sacrifice our secondary industries, but I wish to emphasize that more than 90 per cent, of our exports come from the great primary producing industries.
There are some industries such as the great industries controlled by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which are not only providing materials for Australia’s use as cheaply as we can buy those materials in other countries, but are also manufacturing and fabricating goods which can be exported and sold profitably in the overseas markets of the world. However, taking all those industries into account, only about 10 per cent, of the output of our secondary industries is exported. Consequently we all - the Parliament and the people as well as the Government - must keep in’ view the fact that we shall certainly find ourselves in difficulties before long unless we continue to derive income from exports to enable the country to develop, and to create what the economists ca.ll a velocity of money to expand which will set up a beneficial impulse of prosperity throughout the country. If the honorable member for Blaxland and other honorable members will only pause to think for a moment about the matter, they will realize that if it is necessary to have tariffs and bounties to enable our Australian industries to sell their products profitably in this country against the competition of products from overseas, we shall certainly never be able to sell those tariff-protected produets of our industries in competition with the rest of the world. I am not arguing against bounties or a reasonable amount of protection for our own industries. I know that without protection a system of bounties will not carry us very far because overseas products will still be able to flood into this country and compete against our own products.
I put forward a plea for better understanding among the people. The good of every man and woman in this country depends on co-operation between employers and employees, and a recognition that one side cannot benefit from harm that is done to the other side. All parties in this Parliament must approach this matter with a full understanding that we cannot proceed at a pace which will kill our chances of selling the primary products which bring to Australia the hundreds of millions of pounds that are used to assist local industry and keep up the beneficial surge of prosperity throughout the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 28th October (vide page 2411), on motion by Sir Eric Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure at present before the House is of very great importance to the country, and, incidentally, of great concern to the flax-growers and the millers of flax products. Early in its history the flax industry had a most chequered career. Just before “World War II., however, it was having some success in its endeavours to set itself on a firm and stable basis. Indeed, two factories in the western districts of Victoria had started to process flax crops. When war broke out in 1939, the then Government had to ensure that the people of Australia should be provided with all the flax fibre that they needed. Flax fibre is an important material from which is made fire hoses, canvas, tarpaulins, threads for sewing boots for soldiers and civilians, and many other things. Therefore, the then Australian government set up an authority under the control first of. the Department of Supply and Development, and finally the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. It may be said, to its eternal’ credit, that that authority did a magnificent job for the people of Australia, and later, for the people of the United Kingdom.
Before World War II. we were not producing enough flax fibre for our domestic requirements, and we were dependent on flax from other countries, such as Belgium, the Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania., and the flax-growing provinces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Some people may be under the impression that most of the world’s flax is grown in Northern Ireland. That is not true. Some is grown there, but in later years production has fallen off, and much of the finest Irish linen has been manufactured, both before and after the war, from fibre grown in Belgium and other European countries. The Flax Production Committee was set up just after “World War II. broke out, under the chairmanship of a very competent officer who was charged with a grave responsibility by the then Australian Government. Under that Government, and under all following governments, the committee did a very good job. It established mills in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, and before long it was in a position to inform the Government that it had succeeded in having produced in Australia enough flax for our own needs, and a substantial amount for export.
With the loss to the enemy of the low countries in Europe, and the consequent loss of Belgian flax to the United Kingdom, the British Government asked for our flax. Under an arrangement between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government, the flax industry in Australia was expanded so greatly that eventually we had about 80,000 acres under flax in this country. On the termination of hostilities, the flax industry’s development had been so rapid and the methods used so thorough, that I should have thought that we would have been in a sufficiently strong position to produce and sell flax in competition with overseas countries that had been producing it for hundreds of years.
Whereas in older countries flax had been harvested by hand, machinery had been developed here to harvest it almost entirely by mechanical means, and field retting of flax was abandoned and tank retting introduced. But to-day flax is again available to the United Kingdom from contiguous countries, and despite all the developments that took place in Australia, and for another reason that I shall give later, we are not now able to produce flax fibre in this country to com- pete with the product of overseas countries. That is a most regrettable state of affairs. The other factor that prevents us from competing with overseas producers of flax, however, is that costs in all fields of production in Australia have doubled since 3949. Therefore, notwithstanding all the development of the industry, and the mechanical ingenuity that was applied to it, we now face a situation where we may not always have adequate supplies of flax fibre available in Australia. Consequently, . the Government has to ask the Parliament to subsidize the production of flax, and, under certain conditions, to pay a bounty of £35” a ton on the production of flax fibre.
– That is the penalty of inflation under this Government.
– Yes, that is so. This measure will provide for a bounty of £35 a ton on flax fibre, but it is true to say that the payment of that bounty is hedged about with conditions. For example, it is a condition of the payment that where it is shown that the profits of flax fibre manufacturers - and I am not sure whether the flax factories that scutch and ret the fibre are included - exceed £10 a ton, further bounties are not to be paid. The Australian Labour party believes that this country should be in a strong position, both in peace and in war, and it recognizes that flax and allied products are essential to that condition of strength. Therefore, we must take all possible steps to ensure that the flax industry shall continue in this country. Where we once had 30 factories, and we were assisting the United Kingdom, we now have about six factories. Those factories are all owned by the Government, and are all controlled by a commission that this Parliament set up to supersede the previous Flax Production Committee. The commission controls the mills in Victoria and South Australia, and there is a co-operative mill in Western Australia. If the industry were not paid a bounty, then, on figures that have been closely examined by the Tariff Board, the manufacturers of flax fibre would not be able to pay the growers a worth-while price for the raw material, and our produets would not be able to compete with flax products from overseas. In these circumstances, the Labour party supports the bill.
– It is a piece of socialism.
– I agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) that it is a piece of socialism. I recollect very well that I examined in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture a file relating to this industry. At that time, the Labour Government was endeavouring to sell the flax mills, because we considered that the constitutional right of the Government to conduct them might be challenged in the High Court of Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– My political antagonist, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) interjects “ Hear, hear ! “. The Labour Government sold one flax mill in “Western Australia. Somewhat later, trouble occurred in Korea, and the Menzies Government, very wisely, decided to continue the Commonwealth’s ownership of those mills, with the consequent responsibility for the operation of them, the employment of staffs, and so on. Last year, this Government introduced legislation for the appointment of the flax commission, and gave that authority extensive powers to resume land and acquire properties. That bill was one of the most socialistic measures which was ever considered by this Parliament.
However, I have digressed from the matter that I intended to discuss. At about the time the Labour Government was endeavouring to sell the mills, I examined in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture a file relating to the matter. I found that somebody had consulted the flax millers and spinners about their attitude to the purchase of the mills. Those disciples of private enterprise replied, in effect, “ This is not the time for us to purchase the field mills and factories, because we do not consider that the industry is far enough advanced to be sufficiently profitable for us “. Private enterprise was prepared to wait until the Commonwealth had expended enough money, and, in so doing, had made losses, on this industry in putting it on a sound and profitable basis. At that stage, the dividend-paying companies would be prepared to consider the purchase of the mills. Government supporters and private enterprise are ever willing to point the finger of scorn at government-owned industries when they make a loss, so I take this opportunity to emphasize that private enterprise and those who tilt at the Labour party for its socialist attitude were only too ready to allow the flax industry, which is most important from the defence stand-point, to be carried on in a socialist manner. The moment the industry becomes profitable, private enterprise will come in like hungry wolves, and attempt to purchase it, ostensibly, in the interests of the nation, and, incidentally, in the interests of the shareholders.
I mention those matters because I consider that the people should have a knowledge of them. The spinners are not prepared to buy the mills, and the Government realizes that it is essential to continue them in operation. The farmers who have done a magnificent job must receive a fair price for their product. Therefore, the Parliament is now asked to authorize the payment of a bounty of £35 a ton on the production of flax so that Australia may be assured of the supply of an essential defence material.
I notice that the Minister, in his second-reading speech, or the Tariff Board in its report, pointed out that the commission to control the industry is to consist of public servants, representatives of the millers and a representative of the primary producers. In these times, we are not given much opportunity to study legislation and official documents. The Government is asking the Parliament to dispose of legislation with indecent haste in order that we may go into recess for some months. However, that is by the way. I mention, in passing, that the representative of the primary producers on the commission has done excellent work. I notice that the commission is in favour of the payment of the proposed bounty.
I recall that when the legislation to establish the commission was under consideration, I submitted, on behalf of the
Labour party, an amendment to ensure the appointment to it of a representative of the employees in the industry. The Government rejected the amendment, and, by so doing, refused to allow an employee to have a seat on this commission, which bandies a most important national project. Therefore, the purchasers of fire brigade hose, tents, and the thread used in footwear, have no voice in recommending whether the .bounty should be £35 or £30 a ton. About a week before I submitted that amendment, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) had returned from a visit overseas and had been prattling to this House about the advantages of co-operation in industry between worker and employer, the need for the two parties to be co-partners, and the need for mutual understanding between them. On the first opportunity that the Minister had to put his theories into practice, he refused to make provision for the representation on the flax commission of the employees in the flax industry. I leave the matter at that.
I hope that the passage of this bill will assist the establishment of this industry on a firm basis and that as the result of the further application of science and mechanical ingenuity, the Minister will be able to advise the Parliament that the payment of this bounty is no longer needed to sustain this essential industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 28th October (vide page 2465), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The House is now considering -
A bill for an act to provide for the conversion to standard gauge of the railway from Leigh Creek North Coalfield to Marree in the State of South Australia, and for purposes connected therewith.
It is not my intention in this debate to bore the House with many figures. You, Mr. Speaker, and I know the story that the less said about figures, the better. With my usual modesty, I shall confine my remarks to the bill as much as I possibly can. Naturally, I am particularly pleased with the various measures which have been passed during this session pertaining to the important Division of Grey. Other measures which have been passed, and regulations which have been promulgated, deal with generalities.
Naturally, I commend the bill. The only point I make about it is that it is years overdue. We cannot get away from the fact that the Labour Government laid the foundation for this legislation. However, that Government had to take measures to put this nation on an even keel, and the present Government was able to take advantage of the fruits of that wise policy in the post-war period. It was not possible for the Labour Government to deal with all the matters to which it was keenly desirous of giving attention in the interests of this great Commonwealth of Australia.
The bill provides for the conversion to the standard 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge of the railway line from Leigh Creek North Coalfield to Marree. In my opinion, that is not nearly far enough. The line should be converted to the standard gauge as far as Alice Springs. I hold that view for three reasons. First, the extension of the standard gauge to Alice Springs would be important from a defence stand-point ; secondly, it would be of great benefit to our cattle trade; and, thirdly, it would be of assistance to our mining industry. Anybody who has visited the important northern areas of South Australia cannot fail to be impressed with the fact that great developments will take place in the near future in the mining industry there.
A few minutes ago, when the Flax Fibre Bounty Bill 1954 was under consideration, reference was made to socialistic enterprises. Over this railway, 30,000 tons of coal will be hauled weekly from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. The socialist enterprise which will use that coal will be the £10,000,000 power project which is being put up practically under the direction of the South Australian Government. When we speak of the Leigh Greek coal-field, I feel a modest glow of pride, because it was my pleasure to take a small part in obtaining Commonwealth assistance for the development of that area. I look around the chamber now, and I see honorable members who had not been elected to the Parliament when the development of the Leigh Creek coal-field began. It was my privilege to state a case to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of the day, and a grant of £100,000 was made to the South Australian Government for the development of that area.
The conversion to standard gauge of the railway from Leigh Creek North Coalfield to Marree will expedite the transport of stock from Maree to Port Pirie. From the last-named centre, the stock will be transhipped to Adelaide. You, Mr. Speaker, as a man of the land, know that the transhipment of cattle is most expensive because it has such a detrimental effect upon the beasts. It is estimated that 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, of the cattle, when they are transhipped, are bruised, and, as a result, are entirely unfit for export. You, Mr. Speaker, and
I, who have had considerable experience in the back country among the cattle people and in the cattle industry in general, know that the cattle from the north are very wild and timid. When the beasts reach stations where there is a good deal of noise caused by industries and aeroplanes in flight, they are considerably scared and that has a detrimental effect upon them. The uneasiness of the cattle increases the difficulties of the men who are endeavouring to tranship them from one train to another.
Those of us who are conversant with the north-south railway line cannot allow this occasion to pass without paying a tribute to the railway men. Over a period of years, those employees have done a most remarkable job. They rendered great national service during World War
I wholeheartedly support the proposal contained in the bill but I should like to see the standard gauge line extended to Alice Springs. If the tender of the interests that I have mentioned wa.$ accepted, they could use plant already available on the site and thus obviate the delay that would be incurred in transferring plant to that locality. The standard gauge is now provided between Stirling North and the Leigh Creek coalfield, and this proposal would provide for the extension of the standard gauge line to a length of 219 miles, and would provide a continuous 4-ft. 8£-in gauge track from Port Augusta to Marree - a distance of 275 miles. The extension of the standard gauge line from Leigh Creek to Marree will add another 56 miles of standard gauge to the present system. That distance may not sound impressive, but in the movement of cattle it is considerable. Under the agreement contained in the bill, the South Australian Government undertakes to grant to the Australian Government free of charge, any Crown lands and any leased lands of the Crown in respect of which this Government shall have acquired the rights of the lessees; and any stone, soil and gravel, upon any Crown lands or leased lands of the Crown from which the State has a right to take such material, and which the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner certifies to be required by the Australian Government in connexion with the conversion of the existing railway or the maintenance or working of the railway upon the altered gauge. I commend the South Australian Government for the assistance that it has given to the Australian Government in this respect. The State Government appreciates the urgency of extending this line.
Trucking yards should be established at Marree in preference to Telford. Several disadvantages apply to Telford. First, there is not sufficient cattle yard accommodation to enable cattle from stations between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs to be unloaded for spelling. There are no facilities there for holding paddocks which would be essential. Secondly, and this is the most important disability, the water supply available would be quite inadequate. Local pastoralists have proved by boring that underground water is not available in that area. The rainfall is much too low to provide a reliable water supply. Thirdly, the noise and dust resulting from road and rail traffic and activities of the Leigh Creek coalfield would cause great difficulty in the handling of bush cattle which would be stirred up by such disturbances. Fourthly, cattle walking in from the Birdsvilleroad would, after travelling between 300 and 400 miles, have to be driven into this noise and activity and would be most difficult to yard. In such circumstances, bruising and injuries would be unavoidable. When the cattle are removed from the trucks they are timid and behave wildly with the result that they bruise one another. On the other hand, the advantages of establishing the trucking yards at Marree are, first, that a good set of cattle yards, capable of holding approximately 500 head of cattle, is already available; secondly, that there is a good water supply from a bore, water being pumped into troughs dispersed throughout the yards; thirdly, ample land is available within the area of the common for the provision of holding paddocks, which would enable several different consignments of cattle to be rested, fed and watered simultaneously; fourthly, the cattle yards, and the holding paddocks, when built, would be some distance from the township and the cattle could be put into them without disturbance resulting from traffic and noise; and fifthly, Marree is approximately half way between Alice Springs and Dry Creek, and’ thus the long journey could be broken from loading stations at the top end. With the conversion of the line to standard gauge and the operation of diesel-electric engines a fast run-through on the last leg of the journey would be possible and would avoid the steep gradients and sharp turns through the Flinders Range, where so much bruising and injury to cattle now occurs. Tired cattle get down in the trucks more easily, and, in such circumstances, injury and loss of condition are suffered. I have travelled in cattle train brake vans and I have seen cattle trampled on and taken off trains at various points. Substantial losses are incurred by cattle-raisers in this way. With the extension of the standard gauge now proposed and the provision of additional facilities, cattle will reach Adelaide in good marketable condition and this will be of benefit not only to the cattleraisers, but also to the community generally.
Approximately 100,000 head of cattle are transported annually on the northsouth line to the Adelaide market. Since the line was extended from Oodnadatta, cattle traffic from Alice Springs has more than doubled. The average number of cattle in the Alice Springs district has increased by approximately 300 per cent, since pre-war days. During the same period, the average number of cattle in the Northern Territory has increased by approximately only 12 per cent. This virtual stagnation in the Northern Territory can be attributed to the lack of railway connexion with the south. I have no doubt that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) will deal fully with the need to extend the standard gauge line to Alice Springs. I support the proposal contained in this measure. It will be of great benefit from a defence viewpoint. During World War II., I saw at first hand the difficulty that was involved in transhipment from the standard gauge line to the narrow 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line, which was poorly ballasted. At that time, three or four trains daily were run on that line and the railwaymen did a magnificent job under most difficult conditions. My only regret is that this proposal was not initiated some years ago.
– I support the remarks that have just been made by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell). This is a step in the right direction. However, it is only a short step in the conversion to the standard gauge of the railway line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. The Government is making a great blunder in not undertaking the completion of that line at present. Its policy is shortsighted. The Government should not be content to standardize the railway gauge in piecemeal fashion, because under such conditions continuity of planning is impossible and full benefit from an employment point of view is not obtained. It is time that the Government displayed more courage in this matter and planned immediately to complete the line through to Alice Springs because this facility is desperately needed in that region. The Government should immediately make adequate funds available for that purpose, and it should abandon its present shortsighted policy of carrying out this undertaking in piecemeal fashion, particularly as it is obliged, under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, under which it took over the Northern Territory from South Australia, to complete this line. A line right through to Alice Springs is required not only to enable the cattle industry to expand but also to meet the needs of other industries in that area, the expansion of which is being hampered by the lack of adequate and cheap transport for the conveyance of their products to southern markets. I refer particularly to mineral production. Whilst the products of some industries provide loading only one way, the mineral industry, like the pastoral industry, would provide loading both ways. Loading would be available to serve the needs of the pastoral industry in goods and material and also in the opposite direction in the conveyance of the products of the industry. The same observation applies to the mining industry. _
The line could be extended with every advantage to Alice Springs. Such a line, right through would serve not only the copper and mica mining industry at Alice Springs but also the growing copper industry and nourishing gold-mining industry at Tennant Creek. Approximately, £1,000,000 worth of gold is now being produced annually at Tennant Creek; but the copper potential in that area is equivalent to that of the gold-mining industry there. Whereas gold can be conveniently freighted by air, copper is in a different category. In the near future, approximately 100 tons of copper concentrate will be produced daily at Tennant Creek, and that production will be increased. A railway would greatly assist that industry because the cheaper transport so provided would enable a lower grade of ore to be mined than can be economicaly mined now as the industry is obliged to rely on road transport. The ore has to be carted by road for over 300 miles from Tennant Creek. A railway would enable it to be shifted to the southern treatment plants more quickly and cheaply, and therefore more profitably, than is possible at present. Thus it is not the pastoral industry alone that would benefit from the provision of a rail link.
The House should not forget, either, the part that a railway could play in the development of the uranium-mining industry of northern Australia. We have a treatment plant in the north which extracts an oxide from uranium ore, and this must be sent to other parts of the world for final refinement. Uranium ore is also being mined in South Australia, and the intention is to treat that ore for the extraction of uranium oxide at Port Pirie. The defence value of this mineral dictates the necessity for carrying out all refining processes in Australia ultimately. The refining work must be done, in the interests of security, at some place that will not be vulnerable to attack. Only two places, so far as I can judge, would satisfy that requirement. One, “of course, is Alice Springs in the centre of Australia, where I believe we could establish a refining industry with advantage to both the Northern Territory and the uranium industry. Uranium oxide could be railed from the treatment plant at Port Pirie to the central plant for refining. Should the Government reject that proposition, it is certain that a refining plant will have to be established eventually either at Whyalla or at Port Pirie. For the purposes of such an arrangement, a rail link connecting the terminal at Alice Springs and the terminal at Birdum will he essential for the southward movement of the uranium oxide which will be won at Bum Jungle. That is another excellent reason why the north-south line should be completed without any delay. Without such a link by rail, huge consignments will have to be shipped by road over a distance of about 600 miles. Such a system would be economically unjustifiable in view of the financial saving and the extra efficiency associated with the shipment of ores and concentrates by rail.
Another significant factor in favour of the early completion of the rail link is the effect that a direct rail service would have on the cost of living in the Northern Territory, Costs in that region are terrifically high at present, and many people are discouraged from going to the Northern Territory by the prohibitive prices of necessaries, especially if they have families. The construction of a through line and the conversion of the service from steam to diesel power would considerably reduce costs of essential commodities in the Northern Territory and would thereby make the area more attractive to prospective settlers. The high cost of motor transport at present inflates living costs to a degree that makes it scarcely possible for a man to maintain a family in the north of Australia.
The enactment of the bill will facilitate the transportation of live-stock from the rail terminus at Alice Springs to the new break of gauge at Marree. It will not result in any material shortening of the time involved in shipping freight from Alice Springs because the distance involved in the conversion scheme is not great, but there will be a slight saving of running time for trains. All honorable members should understand the reason why the line is to be extended from the original terminus at Leigh Creek to Marree. The line was converted to standard ga:’j” by the Commonwealth originally, not for the purpose of developing the Northern Territory or the northern part of South Australia, but for that of allowing coal to be shipped from Leigh Creek to Adelaide more cheaply and at a faster rate than was possible previously. Having agreed that the line should be converted to the standard gauge as far as Leigh Creek, the Government was confronted with certain consequent difficulties. Most of the stock carried over the line comes from areas around Alice Springs and further north. The other principal trucking points are Marree and Farina. Cattle delivered to the rail at Marree or Farina had to be carried only a short distance to Leigh Creek, and then unloaded for trucking on the standard gauge line to Port Augusta. That was not a practical proposition, of course, and therefore the Government was compelled to make provision for the line to be extended from Leigh Creek to Marree.
The extension of the standard gauge line to Marree will enable stock to have a rest much earlier than is possible under the present system. The animals now have to go 200 miles beyond Marree before they can be unloaded from the trucks and spelled. They have to remain on their feet for periods of as long as 50 hours, and the additional ten or twelve hours involved in covering the 200 miles beyond Marree results in most of the bruising and damage suffered by the beasts. When the standard gauge line is extended, the trans-shipment of stock at Marree will make it possible for the animals to be given a rest at that point, which will reduce losses considerably. I should like the Minister to clarify the situation in relation to freight charges. Will the provision of the extra facilities that will be needed at Marree for the trans-shipment of stock and other freight add to the charges payable by stockowners and others who live beyond Marree? Trains will have to stay at Marree for periods up to 24 hours while cattle are rested. I fear that, because of this, freight charges may be increased instead of reduced. I ask the Minister to enlighten me on that point. He said in his introductory speech that freights would be reduced and that running costs would be lowered, but I am not convinced that it will work out that way, although I sincerely hope that it will do so. The Minister said that railway expenditure would show a saving of over £22,000 a year because of the lower operating costs of standard gauge as against narrow gauge equipment. If the conversion of the line from Leigh Creek to Marree will result in a saving of £22,000 a year, surely the conversion of the whole line would effect a much larger economy. The Government cannot reasonably argue that it would not be profitable to extend the standard gauge to Alice Springs, because the bulk of the freight that is carried over the north-south line comes from points north of Oodnadatta at least. That is an excellent reason why the line should be converted to standard gauge as far as Alice Springs with the least possible delay.
I refer honorable members to the comments of the royal commission headed by Mr. Justice Wolff, which determined the route of the line from Port Augusta to Brachina. The commissioner’s report included the following passage : -
The North-South line now carries approximately 100,000 head of cattle a year for the Adelaide markets. Since the line was extended from Oodnadatta in 1929 the cattle traffic from Alice Springs has more than doubled. It can be demonstrated that while the average number of cattle in the Alice Springs district has increased to approximately 300 per cent. more than pre-war, the average in the Northern Territory is only about 12 per cent. This virtual stagnation may be traced to lack of transport.
The probable increase in cattle traffic from Alice Springs alone would warrant serious attention to better and more speedy transport.
We think the foregoing remarks show how necessary it is to ensure that adequate, safe, and speedy transport is provided to foster this important industry.
The commission based its report on the expert advice, not only of senior South Australian railway officials, but also of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. Another reason why the whole of the project should proceed at the present time was provided by the Minister, who said, in his second-reading speech -
If this bill be passed now, it will be possible to effect appreciable savings in construction costs by the use of men, plant and equipment now in the field for the work in progress, and by extending current contracts for the supply of ballast and for rock cutting, concrete work, and so on.
The Minister admitted that because the labour, materials and plant are assembled already for the construction of the section of line to Leigh Creek, it would be cheaper to construct the section from Leigh Creek to Marree at present than to construct it at some future time. A similar argument applies to the line from Marree to Alice Springs.
-What is that distance ?
– Approximately 400 miles. Other honorable members and I consider that the whole of northern Australia can be properly developed only if railways are constructed there. It is true that motor, water and air transport may play an important part in development, but rail transport is the principal need. The north-south railway between Alice Springs and Darwin must be completed, and eventually a line must be constructed from Dajarra, in Queensland, to Newcastle Waters, in the Northern Territory. When that line was originally proposed by Sir Harold Clapp in 1949, it would have cost approximately £11,000,000. The estimated cost is now about £40,000,000, and it continues to increase. It pays to get on with these large projects at the earliest possible moment, because inevitably delays cause increased costs. The Railways Standardization Agreement (South Australia), which was entered into in 1949, already provides that the standardization of the north-south railway shall proceed with the least possible delay. Clause 21 of that agreement reads -
The Commonwealth shall undertake -
the conversion to standard gauge of 3 feet 6 inches gauge lines of the Commonwealth Railways from Port Augusta to Alice Springs, the conversion to standard gauge of existing locomotives and rolling stock suitable for conversion, and the construction of standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock to the extent necessary to replace the existing capacity of all units unsuitable for conversion to standard gauge;
the construction of a new standard gauge railway from Alice Springs to Birdum and the construction of the standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock necessaryto operate this line; and
the conversion to standard gauge of the 3 feet 6 inches gauge Commonwealth Railway line from Birdum to Darwin, the conversion to standard gauge of existing locomotives and rolling stock suitable for conversion and the construction of standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock to the extent necessary to replace the existing capacity of all units unsuitable for conversion to standard gauge.
The ‘Commonwealth already has an undertaking with South Australia, entered into under the provisions of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910, for the completion of the whole of the north-south line. That agreement was restated in the Railways Standardization Agreement (South Australia) of 1949, under which the Commonwealth has undertaken to complete the unconstructed section of that line and to standardize its entire length from Port Augusta to Darwin. All that is required is that this Government shall provide the necessary funds for the completion of the northsouth line and the Queensland link. Negotiation with the Queensland Government will- be necessary in relation to the line from Dajarra to Newcastle Waters. The work must be done sooner or later. The longer it is delayed the longer it will take to develop the Northern Territory. We shall be very thankful when this Government or any other administration has the courage to provide the funds for the construction of railways, if not for the benefit of the Northern Territory, at least for the security of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wentworth) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Finance - Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General upon other accounts for the year 1953-54.
Ordered to be printed.
Apple and Pear Organization Act - Australian Apple and Pear Board - Eighth Animal Report, for year 1953-54, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - K. J. Darby.
Supply - R. K. Battersby, P. A. Bridgewater, J. R. Disher, D. Fairbairn, G. G. Germer, R. A. Halliday, J. IV. Johnson, W. Matley, H. F. McKenzie, E. H. Percy, M. S. Rutter, J. L. Smith, A. H. Se-4it, A. L. Warren, W. N. T. Welch.
House adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Australian Military FORCES
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– On the 19th October, the honorable member for Phillip (Mr.
Fitzgerald) asked the following question : -
In view of the magnificent voluntary work carried out by members of the Surf Life Saving Associations of Australia - last year on Sydney beaches alone 3,400 rescues were effected - will the Prime Minister arrange for an increase of the Commonwealth subsidy to this great Australian organization, which at present is £5,000 per annum. I assure the right honorable gentleman that the cost of surf life-saving equipment, which is essential to the saving of lives on our beaches, has doubled since the subsidy was introduced.
This matter of the size of the grant to surf life-saving bodies was personally considered by my colleague, the Treasurer, in connexion with the current budget, but he decided that no increase was possible.
D asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2.- Matters included in any report of -the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public
Accounts which call for further investigation or action are dealt with by procedures agreed upon with the Joint Parliamentary Committee itself, and the action taken is made known to Parliament in duc course in subsequent reports nf the committee. These procedures are working smoothly, and neither the Government nor the committee sees any need to alter them. The first responsibility for dealing with any criticisms of departmental administration contained in reports of the Auditor-General rests with the Minister concerned, and these are followed up where necessary by the Treasurer, who has an overall responsibility for financial administration. The Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts has the duty of examining each report of the Auditor-General and reporting thereon to Parliament. Criticisms by the committee and by the AuditorGeneral are part of the normal machinery of parliamentary control. It would be very strange if, in a service as large and complicated as a modem government, nothing could be found for criticism. But the Government is well satisfied that the criticisms do not reflect a general inefficiency or lack of care for the public interest on the part of departments. On the contrary, it expresses its unqualified confidence in the Public Service, and in the steps which are being taken by the Public Service Board and the departments to ensure a continued high level of efficiency and responsiveness to public needs.
4;Wabo asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs; upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s questions: - 1 and 2. For purposes of import statistics, eucalyptus oil is not recorded separately butis included under the general heading “ Essential Oils not elsewhere included “. All relative import warrants for the month of September have now been examined and the honorable member can be assured that there were no imports of eucalyptus oil’ at the port of Sydney during that month.
z asked the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Queensland, 51, (b) Australia, 450.
a asked the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Sir PHILIP- McBride. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 November 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19541102_reps_21_hor5/>.