21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for the Interior made any progress with discussions or investigations relating to rates, valuations and rents of business premises to which he referred in this House on the 31st August, 1954? Does the Minister recognize that although it is possible for a lessee to seek and obtain the fixation of a fair rent on business premises, the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance, as amended several years ago, has removed from the Fair Rents Board, any power to enforce a fair rent so fixed? Will the Minister investigate a report that an owner of business premises which were recently constructed at Ainslie at a capital cost of about £5,000 is seeking to obtain rents which total £45 a week or £2,340 a year? Will he consult the Attorney-General on the probable need for the amendment of the Ordinance ?
– I have no knowledge of the particular case to which the honorable member has referred. I shall try to get particulars of it and give the matter consideration. The general subject of valuations has been receiving consideration. It has taken a long time to deal with the matter because it is difficult to obtain a large number of valuers in Canberra, but I shall make inquiries and inform the honorable member of the stage that has been reached.
– About three weeks ago, when I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question concerning the progress of a survey of the egg industry by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Minister informed me that it was anticipated that the result of that survey would be known very soon. I now ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, during its rural hour, broadcast a comment on this survey, allegedly by an officer of the Department of Agriculture. If this is so, does it mean that the report has been received by the Minister and, if so, will he make it available to members of this House?
– It is true that the survey to which the honorable member has referred has been completed and that I have seen it. I am not aware of any comment that has been made by an officer of my department. Any premature disclosure of substance would have been improper. The usual practice is to make the results of such surveys available, first, to the State government and to the organization that is representative of the industry concerned, and then, within a matter of hours, to the public. I think the point has been reached at which the report on this survey could be made public.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development.
– Order! The Minister for National Development is not in this House.
– May I direct my question to the Prime Minister?
– No, because the Prime Minister is not responsible for the administration of the Department of National Development.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Can the Minister state whether a regrettable succession of stoppages on the Geelong waterfront in recent months represents an abnormal loss of man-hours as compared with a very favorable record in past years?
– It is a fact that the port of Geelong has enjoyed a very favorable record in comparison with other Australian ports in relation to the regularity of work by the waterside workers. 1 think it was the last report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board which showed that less than 1 per cent, of the working time-, in thai; port had been lost through industrial disputes.; but it. is-, regrettably, a fact that, in’ recent months, the incidence, of. stoppages’ at. the port of Geelong has been abnormal. I am sure that the” port of. Geelong,, and the prosperity of Geelong generally, have been greatly assisted by the good- work, that has been done in earlier years,, and it would bc unfortunate and regrettable if that record were to be marred by thoughtlessand irresponsible stoppages.. I know that the honorable member for Corio has taken a keen and active interest in. these matters, and that he has visited the port and seen the- working conditions. I do not feel able to comment at length on the causes of the stoppages, because I understand that certain aspects of them are being examined by Mr. Justice Ashburner of the Commonwealth Court df Conciliation and Arbitration. I join with the honorable member in expressing hope that the differences will be resolved, and that the port will seek to re-establish the record that it has enjoyed in the past.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether the announcement that £677,000 will be spent on the provision of naval barracks has been prompted by the eagerness of the Department of the Navy to spend moneys that have been allocated for defence for this financial year. In view of the fact: that there are already many buildings at South Head, and in view of the urgent need for the provision of homes for people- in New South Wales, will the Minister ensure that a. wasteful use of tradesmen and money does not occur? I further ask for what purpose a. substantial brick structure is now being built at South Head, and. what it will cost.’
– The proposal for the building of permanent barracks for four or five separate schools of instruction for officers and ratings^ and for the accommodation of personnel who- will live at the schools’, has’ been investigated very thoroughly by a departmental committee’, and by the business advisers who are. giving valuable help to service Ministers in relation;, to such problems: Every care has been taken1 to follow the practice1 of. providing the best possible-, accommodation within reason, and I assure the honorable gentleman that there will be no waste whatever.
– When will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make public the findings of the. special inquiry into the cost of production of butter fat that was undertaken about eighteen months ago ? T remind the Minister that he promised that a special study and analysis of the problems in Western Australia would be made. I” ask him why there has been such delay in the completion of the investigation, in view of its special urgency to Western Australia.
– Eighteen mouths have not elapsed, since an announcement was made of the commencement of a special survey of the dairy industry. The survey has been, completed-, and the final assembling of the conclusions is in hand. The report on the survey, as it affects Western Australia,, is complete and it will be made public within, a day or two. I. think the report has been sent to the Western Australian Government already. As soon as I check that information, the report of the survey in relation to Western Australia may be made public. The report on the general survey will be made public in the very near future. I am not able to state exactly whether it will be mad’e public within a matter of days or within a week or two.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the recent increase by insurance companies of interest, rates on loans to 5i per cent., and the fact that money is advanced by the War Services .Homes Division, not only to buy homes, but. also to- assist ex-servicemen to become home owners, will he consider reverting to- the practice of the former Labour Government of making finance available under the act for- the purpose of discharging loans on mortgage which bear heavy rates of interest, so that all ex-servicemen may enjoy the advantage of obtaining loans at 3$ per cent, interest; and so give them an- opportunity to own their own homes during their1 lifetime ?
– This House approved of a programme for the provision of 12’,200 homes by the Waa- Service Homes’ Division this year. In fact, 12,800: homes will have- been- provided. In other words, 600 homes more than the number that was budgeted for will be provided this year. So far as. mortgages une- concerned, I point out that a person who has a. property which is the- subject of a mortgage already has a home. If the honorable member’s request that money should be- made available for the discharge of the: mortgage were acceded to, another ex-serviceman would be deprived of. a home. It. is not intended to deprive a person who. has not a home of an opportunity to get one, in order to give an advantage to a person, who. is already in possession, of a home. However, as I have previously pointed out, if an exserviceman is- subjected to hardship as a result of having to pay an excessive rate of interest, power Besides in the Minister or the Director of the Waa- Service Homes Division to authorize the taking over of the mortgage by the division. If the honorable member is able to point to a particular case - and no other honorable member has yet been able to do- that - I shall be glad to. consider it.
– In the light of reports on terrorist activities of extremists in Cyprus; who- are demanding the annexation of that island by Greece, will the Minister for’ External Affairs inform the House of the views of the Australian Government” on that subject?
– If is true that last year the Government of Greece launched a campaign, in- which it demanded the’ annexation- of the island of Cyprus and ite translation from: British sovereignty to Greek sovereignty, and that this has had a- most unfortunate effect on theotherwise, I think I can say centuriesof, traditional friendship and intimacy between the United Kingdom- and Greece. Under’ the United’ Nations’ Charter, theorganization of the’ United1 Nations does1 not entail’ the possibility of interference- in the domestic affairs- of a sovereign State-. We,, in Australia, support: the view that, as the United Kingdom holds sovereignty over Cyprus, the. General Assembly of the United Nations is not competent to interfere or even to express an. opinion. I. have personal knowledge of the conditions that obtain in the island of Cyprus, which is benefiting from anexcellent system of British colonial administration; We believe that the United Kingdom is entirely right in its belief that it has sole power to judge the timing of the stages through which Cyprus must go in. order to attain home rule. There is- also the fact that there- is a very substantial proportion - I think about 20 per cent.: - of Turkish nationals in Cyprus, and they are, I think one need hardly say, very hostile to the- idea of changing the sovereignty of Cyprus. I think I need also hardly say that the Australian Government very greatly, deplores the effort’s to determine this question by force of arms and by terrorism in Cyprus.
Mi-.. BRYSON. - Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a- fact that a regulation made under the- provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act provides that where a residence is more than 12 feet from the street alinement, a letter box must be provided, or letters must not be delivered ? If this is- a fact, is it also a fact that at the residence of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, the house is more than 12 feet from the street alinement, and that postmen have been instructed, both from Rose Bay and Vaucluse offices, to deliver letters at the door of the house?
– I rise to order. This question is obviously based on a newspaper report. We all have read in the newspapers of this case. As you have ruled in the past, Mr. Speaker,, that questions may not be based on newspaper reports,, I ask you to disallow this, question.
– Order ! If the question is based, on a newspaper report,, it. is out. of order,.
– It is not based on a newspaper report. I happen- to be- a- member of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia, and members of that union are affected by this matter. As a member of that union, I am bringing the matter before the House.
– The honorable gentleman is not here representing the Postal Workers Union; he is here representing the .Division of Wills. He is now asking a question on a matter which is outside his division, but perhaps entirely within his competence.
– I rise to order. I am seeking information in regard to this matter, to find out whether the regulations made under that act are being operated or not. I am not depending upon newspaper reports to state my case. I believe that I am entitled to ask the question.
– Order! The honorable gentleman may proceed.
– I wish to know whether the regulation is being enforced in the suburbs of Rose Bay and Vaucluse, or whether the regulation is being disregarded. Are postmen in those .suburbs being instructed to break the regulation, which every official of the Postal Department is expected to carry out?
– There are regulations that provide for certain letter boxes to be erected wthin a prescribed distance of the street. No differentiation has been made as between persons who make application for a variation of the conditions, and the same degree of courtesy will be exhibited to the Vice-President of the Executive Council as to any other member of the community.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General, and it refers to the establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Mackay. Approval for this work was given quite a considerable time ago. At present, however, although tenders have been let for the erection of a prefabricated building, there is little or no evidence of the commencement of work on the installation of the automatic equipment. Will the Minister inform me, therefore, as to the present state of the work, and, particularly, when the automatic service is likely to be available to the Mackay public ?
– A prefabricated building, which will take over certain of the postal services, is being erected at Mackay, and the post office space thereby vacated will be used as an automatic telephone exchange. The work of constructing the prefabricated building is proceeding. It will be from nine to twelve months after that has been completed before the automatic exchange can be installed.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the fact that certain honorable members have received confidential information from the Minister as to the allotment of certain funds for assistance in building homes for aged people, has the Minister authorized any one to divulge, or make known that confidential information? If not, will he inquire why the Country party candidate for Ballarat North, in the Victorian State election should have divulged, purely for political kudos, confidential information regarding an allocation of funds for a home for aged blind people in Ballarat? It is necessary for me to add that, although I have received this confidential information from the Minister for some time, I have respected his confidence, but this information has received the widest publicity in Ballarat newspapers.
– It has been the custom of the department to advise honorable members, and also the organizations concerned, when the DirectorGeneral has approved of a grant of money to an organization. On each occasion we have asked that the matter be kept confidential until the cheque has been presented so that the widest publicity can be given to the matter and the public may be informed of it at the earliest possible moment. If it so happens that information has leaked out, I can only express my regret, but it is not confidential or secret information in the normal sense of the word. I think, however, that good taste would demand that information such as this be kept confidential until the Minister has made a publicstatement about it. Despite that, quite frankly, although I shall write to the gentleman concerned about the matter, I cannot undertake to take any further action than that.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate when detailed plans and maps of the projected development of Brisbane airport will be completed ? I further ask him whether, when those detailed plans and maps have been completed, he will be able to make them available to the Brisbane press, so that they can be publicized for the benefit of land-owners in the district concerned, who will be affected, and particularly to let farmers know whether they may plant new crops in that area, or whether they should transfer their planting activities to other areas.
– I know that the honorable member is particularly interested in this area of land, but the actual preparation of the plans and so on conies within the province of my colleague, the Minister for Works. I shall discuss the matter with that Minister, and I do not doubt that if it is possible to let the press have copies of the plans, that action will be taken.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether there has been brought to his notice a report emanating from Rangoon yesterday to the effect that Karen rebels in Burma murdered an entire Communist football team that they had invited to a match at a village 60 miles north of Rangoon. The report states that, just before the kick-off, the Karens bound their opponents and shot them. They thereupon made off with 450 kyats, a sum which is the equivalent of £A.44, which the Communists had wagered on the result of the match. In view of this happening in another country, and since international football teams frequently visit Australia, will the Minister give an assurance that there is no likelihood of our following the example of the Karen rebels?
– I have heard no recent report about problems in Burma of the type that the honorable gentleman has described, but I shall inquire into the matter as far as it concerns any possibility of fun and games between ourselves and Burma. 1 shall also remit the question to my friend and colleague in the Government, though I do not know at this point just who he is.
– Will the Minister for the Interior say whether the Queensland Government still declines to make Queensland an agent State for the purposes of war service land settlement, its action depriving ex-servicemen in Queensland of the benefits of the dual-control scheme which is operating so successfully in several other States?
– I think it was in November, 1952, that, because of the slow progress that was being made with war service land settlement in Queensland, where the opportunities for it are probably greater than they are in any other State, a suggestion was made to the Queensland Government asking it to consider changing Queensland from tha status of a principal State to that of an agent State. In about the third month of 1953 a conference on the matter was held with the Ministers from the principal States, at which the Queensland Minister concerned stated very definitely that Queensland did not want to become an agent State. Queensland wanted to get the best possible advantage out of the agreement providing for principal States and agent States. As the Commonwealth had been operating on the principle of having agent States, which are Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, ever since 1945 or 1946, it was impossible at that stage to change the arrangements, because by doing so we would have had also to change all the conditions in those three States as well. The next thing that happened occurred in July, 1953, when the Premier of Queensland informed the Commonwealth that Queensland did not propose to continue with war service land settlement until such time as its proposals had been agreed to. They then threw open for (closer settlement land that had been .set aside for war service land settlement. In the following year, 1954, this Government, in order to .speed up war service land .settlement in the three principal ^States, offered to subsidize the States to -the extent of £1 for every £2 that they provided. New South Wales and Victoria accepted the offer, but Queensland did not. As a result, in Queensland, there has been no war service land settlement development as part of the general closer -settlement scheme. I might add that though it is technically possible, it is practically impossible for the Federal Government to carry out a war service land settlement scheme without the co-operation of the State Government concerned. It would .not be fair to settle people under a federal scheme to which the State Government was antagonistic. Therefore, I am afraid that at present it does not seem that this Government can re-introduce war service land settlement in Queensland.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and .Agriculture whether it is correct that Australia is gradually losing its market for flour in . South-East Asia to America, because that country is selling its flour on an extended credit basis? If .so, has he considered formulating a (plan for selling our flour on a similar credit system, thus giving Australia aja even chance of holding this valuable market and avoiding further closing down of flour mills in Australia ?
– Private interests export the flour of the United States of America, and I do not know whether they arrange export credits as has been suggested. An export credit arrangement, hacked by the Australian Government, has been advocated, but it is not a simple matter. The proposal is being examined, -but I cannot hold out any hope in that .regard at .present.
– Will the Minister for the Interior consider approving the early resumption of that excellent publi cation, South-West Pacific? -Is the Minister :aware of ‘the comparatively wide circulation ‘of this magazine in Western European countries, particularly those from which we .are trying to recruit suitable immigrants? Is it not false economy to cease giving Australia such useful publicity at a time when the springs of northern European immigration appear to be drying up ?
– I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in SouthWest Pacific, but, as far as I am aware, it had a very small circulation of about 7,000 copies in Western Europe because it was printed in English. It was used to a certain extent on board ship, and elsewhere, and was of value as a publication. On the other hand, at the moment our most crucial area is South-East Asia, and in view of the staff available in the News and Information Bureau, it has been considered advisable to concentrate on the production of publications that are necessary or desirable for the improvement of our relations with our next door neighbours. We are issuing certain other publications, printed in both Dutch and German, in order to fill in the gap left by the cessation of the circulation of South-West Pacific in Western Europe. There is another publication, called Australia, Portrait of a Nation, which has taken the place of South-West Pacific to a certain extent. ‘ I might add that after we ceased to publish South-West Pacific, the National Development magazine came out. It contains more or less the same pictures and the same information as South-West Pacific^ but I do not think it is circulated in the countries in which South-West Pacific circulated. If the circulation .of a magazine of the type of South-West Pacific is required, perhaps extra copies of the National Development magazine could be obtained and, if necessary, given a different cover. ,
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Is it the policy of the War Service Homes Division to prohibit the sale of a property acquired with the assistance of the division, with the object of securing another property, even .though the area, in which; the original property is. situated, has- become,, so as to speak, socially incompatible with the ex-serviceman. concerned,. or was socially incompatible when the: property was- purchased or iginally I
– This is the first time that this kind of problem has- been put to me in connexion with the sale of war service- homes: I shall obtain an answer for the honorable gentleman and let him have it as quickly as I can.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is aware that there have been serious dislocations of the transport and deliveries system on the Hobart waterfront, not necessarily arising from the actions of the waterside workers themselves. Recently, the Minister approved a system of shed inspections in the Huon Valley, as a result of which, some delays were avoided. Will he extend the system to the fullest possible degree in order, to prevent. further delays?
– I am aware that practical difficulties of the kind to which the honorable member has referred are producing irritating problems. I shall study the suggestion he has made. He was substantially responsible for the introduction of more practical inspection mechanism on an earlier occasion.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that there is a widespread public desire for an Australian national anthem that will express Australian national sentiment as well as loyalty to the Crown? Does this indicate that the Australian people do not agree with the statement by the Prime Minister that there should be only one Australian national anthem, namely, God Save the Queen! Is it a fact that there is an Australian song, Advance Australia Fair, which typifies Australian pride and sentiment? As the Olympic Games will be held in Australia next year, and there is a. need for a song expressing Australian feeling as an essential part of that very important’ event, will the right honorable gentleman- ensure that steps will be taken to satisfy the widespread public desire* for the recognition of Australia, as. a separate unit within the British Common,wealth at that world-wide gathering?
– This is a fascinating subject, but I think, there is a. good deal of confusion about it in the minds of somepeople. The national anthem of thiscountry is God Save fc/ie Queen. I should resist to the utmost any suggestion that we should abandon it. It is the national, anthem of Australia. From time to time, there is some clamour for a national song. All that- 1 want to say about that is that national songs are not produced by governments. National songs rise up in the course of the experience of a nation and are adopted by public feeling as characteristic of the nation. An honorable member says, “ What about Waltzing Matilda?” I have heard Waltzing Matilda played all. round the world I say nothing about the lamentable moral defects of the hero; but, as an air to stir the mind, it knocks out the jingle A dvance Australia Fair.
– It is not Australian either.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. There seems to be an idea that we need to have a competition;, but no competition was ever held anywhere in the world that produced a great national song. I do not believe in competitions for that purpose.
– What about For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow ?
– Let me remind the honorable member that For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow arose in the days of the early eighteenth century when Marlborough was going- to war. The song sung by the soldiers was, Malbrouck s’en va-t-en guere or Marlborough goes to war. The air was subsequently adapted to the quite different, indeed quite opposite, words For He’s a Jolly Good’ Fellow. It was not endorsed by any government, but as it was written and as it was sung; it fired the. popular, imagination,, just as, in. the- early days of the French Revolution, the; Marselguise, ‘ which came out of the south of France, caught the imagination of the people. If we are to have national’ songs it will be because the nation itself likes them and the people like to hear them Bung.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. It concerns the fact that recently some flour-millers have had trucks of flour due to go overseas rejected because of the presence of weevils. If one truck is found to have a trace of weevils, all the trucks are sent back to the millers at considerable expense to them, and often at considerable expense to the nation because contracts are not fulfilled. Is the Minister satisfied- that the inspection is not too rigid, and has he discussed with State Ministers any action which might render the chance of infection from dirty rail trucks, tarpaulins, &c, less likely?
– I know there is a problem, but frankly it is one of the problems that I have not yet got round to informing my mind about. My colleague, the honorable member for Darling Downs, has concerned himself with this problem and is consulting with members who have made representations to the department. I have no doubt that if it is shown that it is practicable to alter the current inspection service, that will be done. I rather gather that the problem is not so acute at the seaboard as at an inland flour-mill. Infection may occur in the flour it is holding and such flour may not be movable for some time. The weevil germinates in the meantime. If a practical solution can be found it will be put into effect.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that all the trading banks are now refusing to give temporary finance to ex-servicemen, who have been informed by the War Service Homes Division that their applications for a loan have been approved? The procedure up to two weeks ago for an ex-serviceman, when buying a new home, was that upon receipt of the letter indicating the amount of the loan available, it was possible to take that letter to a trading bank which would advance the amount of the loan until the division was prepared to make its advance in six or eight months’ time. That procedure has now ceased and despite the fact that a serviceman has a written approval from the division he cannot obtain any temporary finance. I ask the Minister to use his best endeavours with the flinty hearted Treasurer to see that the Commonwealth Trading Bank makes finance available on receipt of favorable information from the War Service Homes Division. If that cannot be done, can the War Service Homes Division be asked to expedite the making of the payments so that the ex-servicemen will not have to suffer the delay of six to eight months that the present procedure imposes on them?
– The question is a little involved, and, I believe, enormously confused. I n the first place, it is the practice of the Wai- Service Homes Division that an ex-serviceman who wishes to raise temporary finance for a new home must obtain the division’s approval before he negotiates bank finance. That has been the practice for many years. Where the approval of the division has been obtained, then as soon as the ex-serviceman’s turn for the discharge of his mortgage is reached, his mortgage is discharged. Waiting periods are imposed in respect of all kinds of transactions. Some waiting periods in respect of new homes built under the act are as long as two years. The delay of six months to which the honorable member has referred, therefore, can relate only to old homes purchased by ex-servicemen. In such cases, it is the rule of the War Service Homes Division not to permit the raising of temporary finance.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy, who is also Minister for the Army, whether, in view of the revolutionary changes in defence requirements created by the possibility of attacks with atomic missiles, the Royal Australian Navy and the Army have brought training up to date. If the answer is “ Yes “, when will the new training procedures come down to the rank and file of the forces in the ordinary training establishments ? If the answer to the first part of this question is “ “No “, will the Minister give appropriate directions to the Navy and the Army? This action would do much to relieve the anxiety of the honorable member for Mackellar and of the rest of the people of Australia.
– The armed services keep pace with all variations in tactics and arms, and in procedures for manoeuvres. The chiefs of staff are continually in communication with the chiefs of staff in Great Britain and the United States - of America. They report any changes in arms and methods to the Department of Defence, and the department implements new proposals as quickly as possible after they have been considered by the Defence Preparations Committee. Schools are established to implement any decisions made.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Health by reminding the right honorable gentleman that, in November, 1954, he informed the House that there had been considerable abuse of the pensioner medical scheme, and that certain cases were before the courts owing to the lack of effective action by the disciplinary committees of the British Medical Association. Has the Minister been kept informed of the court proceedings? Have the decisions of the courts been adequate to prevent further abuses of the kind in question ? If not, is the Minister in a position to inform the House of any measures that he considers will be necessary in order to reduce the abuses ?
– Since I spoke on this matter in the House, the British Medical Association, through its disciplinary committees, has very much tightened up its control over doctors who really were not carrying out their duties as they should do. As a result of this, tightening up, I should say that nearly every one who has appeared before the disciplinary committees has been mulcted in certain sums for the repayment to the Commonwealth of moneys that he had obtained improperly. The position is steadily improving under the more stringent control.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is true that strong protests have been received from the chiefs of staff of the Royal Australian Navy and the Army against the Government’s proposal to elevate the Minister for the Navy, who is also Minister for the Army, to a diplomatic post in New York.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that certain overseas forwarding agents receive from the so-called conference line shipping companies a rebate of 10 per cent, on all freight charges for goods that are shipped through them, provided the overseas forwarding agents agree to ship the goods of their customers exclusively in ships belonging to the conference lines?
– I do not know, but I shall find out.
- Mr. Speaker, will yon, on behalf of honorable members, express a word of appreciation to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and his staff, and also to the officers in charge of the Government Printing Office and their employees, on the production of the first issue of the daily Hansard? This is an historic occasion and I think that it is worthy of an appropriate word from yon.
– I think that that is a matter that the House should take up. My admiration for the work of Hansard and the work of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter is known to him and his staff.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether there has been a substantial fall in the price of cattle? Is it a fact that cattle buyers are offering prices for cattle which would give the cattlegrowers £3 19s. per 100 lb.? Does the price that is now being offered by cattle buyers represent, as has been stated by the president of the United Graziers Association, a reduction of £11 a head on last .year’s prices ? !Does this mean that cattle-producers will he selling cattle below the cost of production? Will this result in a substantial fall in the price of meat to the Australian consumers’?
– I am not familiar with the trends in the price of cattle in northern Queensland. There has been no measurable fall in the price of cattle in the southern States. With respect to the price of export beef, the Government proposes to take a course which has been suggested to it by the cattle-owners themselves.
– Yesterday, the honora’ble member for Franklin asked me a question which I slightly misunderstood. It was not until I received the typescript of Ms question that I understood its effect. It is true that on Monday I received from the commander of the visiting section of the United States Air Force a very fine ‘book which dealt with !£he history of that Air Force and its work in .Korea. I (have suitably acknowledged the receipt >of that book in a letter, a copy ! of which may be seen in my office. I have directed that the book be placed fin the Parliamentary library.
– by ‘leave - A source of supply of an important drug, reserpine, has now been discovered in an Australian plant by officers of the ‘Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The discovery was made during studies that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been making into the pharmaceutical value of Australian plants. The discovery is expected to be of great value to the Commonwealth, both in making the drug available in greater quantities and in making it available more cheaply in Australia, and in helping to overcome a shortage of the drug throughout the world. The drug itself is:not.new.. .For centuries, the people of India have employed the roots of a plant, the technical name of which is Rauwolfia .Serpentina, as a sedative in the treatment of a -wide range of mental disorders and in controlling blood pressure. Scientific investigations i” various parts of the world led, .in 195V. to the isolation of the active principle, alkaloid “which is called reserpine, -and to detailed clinical studies of its properties. This was quickly followed by the introduction of reserpine into general medical practice in the United States of America and other countries. Reserpine is regarded as valuable in the -treatment of high blood pressure and hypertension. There is said to be an absence of the development of tolerance to the drug and an absence of any -serious side effects.
The value of the Rauwolfia industry to the United States has been reliably estimated at 50,000,000 dollars for the year 1’9S4. Reserpine is at present being retailed in tablet form at a price equivalent to between £30 and .£40 per gram of alkaloid. The chief source of Rauwolfia Serpentina plant has been India. How.ever, ‘because of -domestic Indian needs, the export .of the roots of the tree from which the .drug is extracted has been banned. Inconsequence, .other. sources in such ^places .as .Burma, Thailand and Indonesia .are being investigated. The -overseas firms concerned ‘are .’spending much .time and money in their search ;f or better sources of supply, a search which has extended .to Central America. At present, natural sources ,of the dr.ug .have to be relied upon .because reserpine .has not been prepared synthetically and its structural complexity is such that it is unlikely that it can be produced synthetically on a basis competitive with the natural product.
The Australian discovery was -made by the Division of Industrial Chemistry of -the Commonwealth Scientific .and Industrial Research Organization. The Australian plant .that is the source of the drug is technically called Alstonia Con.stricta. It is believed that this plant is a source of the ‘alkaloid reserpine of a quality .comparable with, if .not superior to, the overseas sources. Biological tests in the ‘Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Division of Animal Health and Production have not so far revealed .any difference between reserpine made from the Australian source and ‘that made from commercial preparations based on the Indian source. The tree concerned - Alstonia Constricta, -or Bitter Bark, is a small tree averaging 10 to “30 feet in height. It is found in north-east Australia, ‘being characteristic of the drier sub-tropical vine-scrubs ‘and related transitions with eucalypt forests. Its main distribution is from just north of Rockhampton to a little south of the New South Wales border. The Division of Plant Industry of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has con.confrimed that it is available in commercial quantities.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has already been in touch with commercial firms in Australia which are likely to be interested in the development of the drug. At least two firms are actively looking into the prospects at present. This discovery is another example of the excellent work that is being done by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in the field of scientific and industrial research. It should result in Australia’s having ample supplies of reserpine ‘to meet our own needs and to supplement the present inadequate supplies elsewhere. I would like to congratulate the officers of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization who have been responsible for this achievement.
– by leave - ‘The Opposition would like to join the Minister for External Affairs . (Mr. Casey) in congratulating the officers of the ‘Commonwealth (Scientific -and Industrial Research Organization who made the very great ‘discovery to which he has referred. As the Minister indicated, the cost of the preparation of the alkaloid is between £30 and £40 per gram. This cost has placed the medicine outside the possibility of purchase by the average person. If the Australian discovery is as great as the Minister’s statement seems to indicate, Australia “will make .a very great contribution to the solution .of one of the great problems that faces mankind. High blood pressure is -one -of the great killers of mankind. Some honorable members were in ‘this House during the lifetime of two prime ministers -who died in office from high blood pressure. Another prime minister died a little time after he left office and while still a member of this House from the same cause. Too many people ,are dying from high blood pressure. If Australia can help the world because it is in possession of a particular ‘kind of tree that will assist in the .alleviation of suffering, it certainly will be doing something for mankind. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is a great organization which is not obliged to -depend entirely upon this discovery for its fame and reputation. I .hope that the Minister who is in charge of the organization will not .proceed with the proposal to allow two private firms to examine the question of .developing the manufacture of the drug, because I am sure that, if the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization .or some other body similar to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, or .a State organization, were given the chance of preparing the drug and of selling it to the public, the cost would .he .greatly reduced. Already, action is being taken by the Commonwealth >Serum Laboratories to prepare a vaccine for the treatment of poliomyelitis.
I urge the Minister not ‘to be too hasty in leaving i.the preparation of the drug reserpine to private enterprise. Probably the drug will be fairly -costly, and the cheaper it is the greater will be the service that we Tender to mankind. The Minister has not stated the names of the officers who participated in the discovery. It is impossible for him to state al of them, but they all are entitled -to some recognition of their co-operative effort. I hope he will ascertain which officers have contributed to this great -.discovery, and that he will thank them, not only on behalf of himself and his .colleagues, but also on behalf of all other honorable members and the people >of Australia.
– by leave - I wish, to refer only to the last paragraph of the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), in which he offered congratulations to the officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I raise this matter now rather than during the Supply debate, because I think it can be highlighted more effectively at this stage. Not only is the discovery of the drug reserpine of great medical benefit to Australia, but it also represents the gain of a vast sum of money by the Australian people. Time and time again in the House, reference has been made to the wonderful work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I suppose the work that has been undertaken in relation to the improvement of soils has meant the discovery, shall we say, of a new Australia, because the result has been the . opening up of country that previously was considered to be of no use. Such discoveries have been worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Australia. The discovery to which reference has been made to-day also is worth millions of pounds to Australia, yet, because of the inadequate salaries that are being offered for trained scientific graduates, the chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization cannot recruit sufficient staff. I am pleased to note that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is in the chamber.
– Surely the honorable member does not blame the Treasurer for everything.
– If the Treasurer were to say to the Public Service Board or Public Service Arbitrator that the salaries paid to officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization were inadequate, surely the authority concerned would listen to him.
– “What rot !
– If the Treasury were to make the money available, I have no doubt that the chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization would ensure that the officers concerned received it. If the House, having received news of discoveries of the utmost national impor tance, repeatedly says politely, “ Good on you “, and gives the officers concerned a pat oh the back without offering them any further recognition, it is not doing the right thing. By so doing, it is obviously pursuing a policy of being penny wise and pound foolish. It is quite obvious that, because the chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is compelled to recruit staff at salaries that are in no way attractive, or which are not nearly so attractive as salaries offered by private enterprise for officers of similar qualifications, that organization is being very severely limited. I know that the Minister who is in charge of the organization has continually endeavoured to obtain higher salaries for these officers, but the policy of the Government has been opposed to granting them.
– The Government is not responsible for the fixing of their salaries.
– The Public Service Board and Public Service Arbitrator listen to cases that are submitted by both the employer and the employees. If the Government, as the employer, were to say to the Public Service Arbitrator, or to the Public Service Board, that it believed that higher salaries ought to be paid to enable the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to perform its work more effectively, does not the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) think that the board or the Arbitrator would listen to it? But the Government has not submitted such a case. It simply adopts a passive attitude and leaves it to the members of the staff to fight, as best they can, for adequate salaries.
– The Government gave salary increases to the judges.
– As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has reminded me, the Government has given salary increases to the judges, and also to high public servants. As most of the men who are concerned in these discoveries are professional men who are entirely devoted to, and immersed in, their work, and who are not able to fight their own cases as they ought to be fought, they have been neglected. Therefore, the responsibility now falls upon the Government to say to the appropriate authority that, on the basis of the discoveries that have been made, it is obvious that the officers concerned are entitled to a much greater reward than they are now receiving. The Government should say, not only that they are entitled to a greater reward, but that also, if the work of the organization is to be done as effectively a3 it ought to be done, salaries that will attract the best scientific brains in the universities and in the community ought to be paid. The saving effected by the discovery of the drug in question would more than pay the full cost of the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the next six generations. I suggest that the Treasurer, as the person who holds the Government’s purse strings, ought to listen to the representations that I know the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will make to him, and that he should submit to the authorities a case in support of the payment to these officers of salaries to which the work they are doing for Australia makes them justly entitled.
– by leave - As one who was intimately associated with the establishment of the organization now known as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, I should like to congratulate the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who is now in charge of it, upon the extraordinary work that it is now doing, and which it has done for so many years. I am pleased to know that I was instrumental in bringing to Australia a very great scientist, Sir Frank Heath, who was able to initiate the scheme and induce the first directors to come forward and implement the organization.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was established under a charter. In the 1920’s, when a few budget surpluses were available, I, as Treasurer, was able to provide, as an endowment to the organization, a very substantial amount of money which carried it through the depression period. At that time, the organization was independent of the Public Service Board and the rest of the Public Service, and it was possible to provide the opportunities to which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has referred. Approximately eight or ten years ago, the word “ Organization “ was made part of its title, and it became known as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It is now in the position of having several masters.
I agree that if we hope to get first-class scientists to work for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and if we are to persuade them to stay in Australia and continue to help the work of the organization, the results of which have been so fruitful, we must take steps to ensure that they receive the remuneration to which their work entitles them.
- by lea’ve - I am rather intrigued by what appears to be a little cross-current on the Government front bench. It is obvious from the remarks that have been made by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) that the real culprit in this matter is the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). It is also apparent, from the interjections of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and from the behaviour of his colleague, the Minister for Health, that the Minister for External Affairs, who is now basking in the reflected glory of the hard work of the officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, has done absolutely nothing to try to obtain decent remuneration for these people who are making such remarkable discoveries. The Minister for External Affairs sits on the front bench, and allows honorable members to attack the Treasurer for not having made available more money, and it is perfectly obvious from the interjections of the Treasurer that the Minister has done absolutely nothing to make even an official request to him for increased salaries. There should be some honesty among ‘Cabinet Ministers. Surely the time has come in this Parliament when we might expect Cabinet Ministers at least to make a decent, honorable approach to each other. But here we have a glaring example of a Cabinet Minister, the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Mr. Casey), sitting on the front bench and allowing one of his colleagues to be attacked without attempting to tell the truth of the matter, namely, that he himself has never made a request to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden’ for increased money, and that money has not been refused.
I should like the Minister to tell us whether plans have been made to preserve whatever supplies of raw material we have - whether plants or trees, we have not been told. Will he say whether they are in limited quantity? Will the Government ensure replanting so that the supply will be at least maintained, and probably increased? The Government should follow the advice that has been tendered to the Minister by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, namely, that it ought to provide finance for the manufacture of this drug, by a government-owned organization, either Commonwealth or State, instead of allowing it to be manufactured by private enterprise because, as the honorable member for Melbourne has pointed out, if private enterprise is allowed to obtain a monopoly of the manufacture, of this valuable drug, irrespective, of whether or not it is placed ultimately on the free list, the people will have to pay much more for it than would otherwise be the case. It seems to me that one of the great tragedies of the past has been that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, working on very poor wages schedules and using public money to make these great discoveries, has seen the whole of the benefit of its work taken over and capitalized by private enterprise. As the community has borne the cost of the discoveries by a government-owned instrumentality, surely the community should derive the benefit from them and not somebody interested in private enterprise. I am glad to notice that the Treasurer has come to the table. I shall await with great interest a statement from him, because I am perfectly certain that his interjection, that he has never been asked for the money, was valid. Yet the Minister in charge of the Com- monwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization sits back and allows kudos to be heaped on himself as though he were a little, white angel and the real culprit was the Treasurer.
Mr. CASEY (La Trobe- Minister for External Affairs). - by leave - I want to make a few brief remarks relative to the statements that have been made by leave of the House. The statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) ‘was of the usual sour and mischievous type in which he takes delight, by reason of his nature. There is no subject, however non-political, to which the honorable member does not give a sour, mischievous and unpleasant taint. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, made, if I mavsay so with respect, a sensible contribution to this short debate.
– He always does.
– I shall not dwell on that aspect very much. I should like the honorable member to know that the reason why I did not give the names of the men anc! women scientists who have been responsible for this work - I know them all very well, and I have their names here - is that I think it is rather anomalous to give the names of individuals who have been responsible for a successful piece of scientific research, when there, are a very great number of other individuals, probably just as worthy, whose names do not happen to be associated with that research. However, I shall adopt the honorable member’s suggestion and take steps to see that the men and women who have devoted themselves to this work for many months - indeed, for several years - shall receive the proper recognition that is due to them.
As to the question that has been raised of the pay generally of the scientific research workers in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden.) was undoubtedly right in saying that he has no direct responsibility for that matter. The Treasurer is responsible for the production of the budget and the protection of the public revenue. I come forward at budget time, as the
Minister politically responsible for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and make my pleas and’ representations and arguments at the Cabinet table for what I regard as an adequate amount of money for the organization for the year. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board. The determination of salaries of officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is a problem for the executive of that organization, in consultation with myself. Those salaries are, of course, from a common-sense point of view, kept broadly in line with Public Service salaries, because I think that it would be quite wrong for the remuneration of any branch, of workers in the service of the Government to be appreciably out of line with that of other government employees. It is quite true to say that until about six months ago the remuneration of scientists in government employment in this country was inadequate. I know that very well. But as the result of the recent increases in remuneration - for reasons that we all know - I .think that that situation has very largely passed. I have been discussing this matter constantly with the executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - as, indeed, I discuss all related matters with them. Six months ago, we were having great difficulty in recruiting suitable personnel, owing to the attractions of overseas scientific work. Our turn-over of scientific and research workers was too great for comfort. However, 1 believe that that position has been very largely rectified. I do not, for a moment, say that these people are overpaid; indeed I do not say that they are paid as much as private industry is able to pay them. That is because, in the government service professional men, such as doctors, persons with legal qualifications, and scientific workers in the Bureau of Mineral Resources do not get what private enterprise is able to pay them. That, I. believe, is recognized by people who come into the government service for scientific employment, or other employment. However, I think that the present rate of remuneration in the Commonwealth
Scientific and: Industrial Research Organization is now very much more adequate than it was in the past.
I ventured the opinion only yesterday to one of the chief officers on the administrative side of. the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization that I believe that quite shortly we shall begin to see an influx into Australia of scientists from overseas countries, because of the very much-improved conditions of scientific work and pay here. Until lately we have had a deflux; the attractions of overseas countries, particularly North America and Great Britain, have been such that we have lost a great number of Australian scientists to those countries. I think that all honorable members who have been interested in this little series of speeches by leave of the House have been given a reflex of the House’s appreciation of this particular piece of successful work done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research. Organization.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) made a suggestion in this matter. “Without using his exact words, he said that a balance-sheet should be totted up to show what the Australian people - the taxpayers - had received by way of benefit over the years from the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I take this opportunity to inform the honorable member that I have had a compilation on those lines in hand for a couple of weeks. I hope that before very long I shall be able to present publicly a statement that, will show the total cost to the Australian taxpayer over the last generation, just about 30 years, of the original organization, then of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and, more recently, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, as well as a balanced estimate of what the Australian public has gained by way of financial benefit, which, of course, must be an estimate, but it will be a modest and reasonable estimate. I think that the House will be very surprised at the dramatic two sides to this balance-sheet, the cost on one side,, and the benefit to the Australian people on. the other.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been grossly misrepresented by remarks made in this House yesterday by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and by a statement concerning this matter which was published in the Melbourne Argus and which seriously reflects upon my conduct as a member of this Parliament. In the course of a debate yesterday, the honorable member for Parkes made these remarks concerning me -
The honorable member for Fawkner lias seen fit to interject. Is it not only recently that he was castigated by the Melbourne Argus for peddling’ caucus secrets around the door of its editorial offices, and being spurned for his pains? ls it not in so many words in the Melbourne press that he attempted to sell the secrets of our caucus in order to gain frontpage prominence?
That most serious series of allegations breaks up into three parts. First of all, he states that I was castigated by the Melbourne Argus - and I leave that one for the moment - for peddling caucus secrets around the door of its editorial offices, and being spurned for my pains. That statement is completely and absolutely untrue.
– Shame !
– Similarly, the other statement, “ that he attempted to sell the secrets of our caucus in order to gain front-page prominence “, is completely and absolutely untrue. This remarkable outburst by the honorable member for Parkes, which is completely untrue, is based upon a couple of paragraphs that appeared in the Melbourne Argus of the 19th May, 1955. I make no complaint about that newspaper’s criticizing me, as I have criticized it, but I do complain about this statement, upon which the honorable member for Parkes based his remarks. On the 19th May, 1955, the Melbourne Argus, as a result of a controversy in which I had been involved with that journal, said -
Here’s why name-caller Bourke is so sour towards us: He came to this newspaper with a. proposition which was treated with the contempt it deserved.
If he wishes to pursue this matter the Argus will be happy to ventilate the background of his vicious attack last night.
– Why do you not beat it to the gun?
– I shall handle the matter in my own way. That statement in the Argus is a complete perversion and distortion of an interview which I had . with the editor of that newspaper. I should like to say to this House that I gladly and willingly accept the invitation extended by the Argus in those paragraphs, wherein it says it will be happy to ventilate the background of what it calls a “ vicious attack “. I invite the Argus to publish, in full and complete detail, the interview which I did have with its editor. I have nothing whatever to hide in the matter, and I should welcome a full statement by the Argus to show the falsity of the statement which it made, and the falsity of the statement made by the honorable member for Parkes.
Mr. Clyde Cameron interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Hindmarsh will keep quiet while the honorable member for Fawkner is making his explanation.
– The statement made in the House yesterday by the honorable member for Parkes is completely false, and I ask him to adopt one of two courses. I ask him either to withdraw completely the false and scurrilous allegations which he made against me, or alternatively - and I must say that I should prefer this course - if he wants to stand up to the matter and go on with it, to produce his evidence and give this House, or the Committee of Privileges, a full opportunity to investigate the charges in their entirety, so that this House will then have an opportunity of deciding on the falsity or otherwise of these scurrilous statements which he made.
– I have listened with great interest to the remarks made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), and I shall consider the propositions he has named and the alternatives he has suggested. Might I say, if I am allowed to make a few remarks to create something of the atmosphere of yesterday, in which allegations were floating around this chamber, that those who cannot take them should not make them? The allegations which I made were made on a balanced judgment and were based on confidential information, plus a published statement. I shall, as the honorable member for Fawkner proposes, consider the two suggestions made by him, and select the most appropriate alternative to benefit both of us in this matter.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), during the course of his remarks yesterday, referred not only to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), but also to myself in these terms -
Is it not also true that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) peddled his wares to other newspapers, which were more agreeable and accepted them?
I had hoped that the honorable member for Parkes would have admitted that in the heat of debate he had asked that question, and that he would have withdrawn and apologized for the implication contained in it, because it is much more serious than are the statements which are ordinarily made in this House about one member or another. The statements made by the honorable member for Parkes contained an accusation against members of the Parliament of being willing to betray caucus secrets to newspapers for a bribe. I propose, therefore, to move, at the conclusion of my speech, that the statements made by the honorable member for Parkes be referred to a committee of privileges, in view of his failure to make amends for them - to withdraw them or to apologize for having made them. Before I do so, let me say, if it needs to be said, that the allegations are completely untrue. They are typical of allegations and innuendoes that were made by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) during recent controversies. They are typical of similar remarks which, I understand, were made before the federal executive of the Australian Labour party by the right honorable member for Barton and, strangely enough, despite the fact that those persons who have been accused by the honorable member for Parkes of peddling caucus secrets are no longer in the caucus, it seems that the caucus secrets are being disclosed now to an even greater extent than they were when those members now accused were in the caucus. As everybody knows, one can get a more complete description of caucus events at the present time than was available during the more turbulent period when the honorable member for Fawkner and I were members of that body. It is well known that caucus leakages were occurring in the Labour party long before either the honorable member for Fawkner or I ever appeared in this Parliament. Indeed, one of the complaints of the right honorable member for Barton to the federal executive of the Labour party about leakages to the press-
-Order! I do not think that the honorable gentleman should bring in the federal executive of the Labour party. He is raising an issue which concerns himself and the honorable member for Parkes, and I think the matter should be kept within those bounds.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. But before moving the motion, let me remind the House of a similar case which occurred in Great Britain, and which is reported in the report of the-
– I rise to order.
– What is the point of order ?
– Let me have time to state it. When I sought leave to make a personal explanation here on a previous occasion, and attempted to preface my remarks with two or three sentences of explanation, you, Mr. Speaker. . abruptly told me either to make my personal explanation or to sit down. Now you are allowing this honorable member, which is typical of the-
– Order !
– Why are you calling me to order, Mr. Speaker?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman shall state his point of order. He may not criticize the honorable member.
– All I am asking you to do is to insist that the honorable member for Yarra make his personal explanation instead of rambling on with a diatribe about what happened in the House of Commons.
Air. .SPEAKER. - Order ! The honor able member for .Fawkner stated -this morning that he wished to make a personal explanation. At the end of it he put a propositon to the honorable member for Parkes in regard to something that was said in the House yesterday. The honorable member for Parkes made his reply. The honorable member for Yarra then rose and said that he proposed, a’t the end of his remarks, to move a certain motion to commit certain things to the Privileges Committee. Therefore, I presume, I hope correctly, that the honorable gentleman is now speaking on that matter of privilege, which goes far outside the question of a personal explanation. I am sure that he distinctly said that he proposed to move that motion for committal of certain things to the Privileges .Committee.
– I made no reference to a personal explanation when I first rose, Mr. Speaker. I made it quite clear to the House that I -was speaking to a motion of ‘privilege. My remarks, therefore, ara addressed to that, and go far beyond the limits of a personal explanation. I was coming to the point ,of “whether the .statement made by the honorable member for Parkes was a matter of contempt .of this Parliament and, therefore, a matter which should be referred to the Privileges Committee. I was referring ‘to -a case that occurred in the House of Commons in 1 947, which is reported in the report of the proceedings of the Privileges Committee of the House of Commons for the 23rd .July, 1’947. In that case a member of ‘the House of Commons -made a certain allegation about another member of the House selling caucus secrets for his own benefit. It was subsequently found out that the member who made .the allegation about the other member had made it in order to disguise the fact that he himself had been guilty of selling caucus secrets to newspapers. It was as a result of proper investigation by the Privileges Committee at that time that the said gentleman who .made the accusation was found to be the guilty party himself, and was duly expelled from the House of Commons. The honorable member for Parkes has made his accusation. He was given an opportunity to .withdraw the allegation, and he will now be given the opportunity to prove it. I invite him to appear before the Privileges Committee in order to prove the allegation that he has made against two honorable members sitting in this corner of the House, and produce evidence to a committee of this House to show whether there is any truth in his statements or otherwise. I am quite prepared to submit my conduct in this House .and my honour as a member of this House to any investigation that the House may care to undertake, and T issue the challenge to the honorable mem ber for Parkes, knowing full well that there is no evidence of any sort that he can produce to substantiate his charge. I can only regret that the honorable gentleman himself did not openly confess that the remarks were made in the heat of debate, and do the decent thing and withdraw them. He has refused to withdraw them, and there is .only one course open for an honorable member whose honour has been impugned in that manner. .1 mo.ve, therefore -
That the statements by the -honorable mem;ber for Parkes reported in Hansard of Tuesday, .the 24th May, at page 1000, in .reference to the .honorable member for Fawkner and the honorable member for Tarra, and also the report of this statement in -the Melbourne Argus, .of the .25th May, .be referred to ‘thu Committee -of Privileges.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is trying to include the honorable member for Fawkner .(Mr. W. M. Bourke ) in his motion. The honorable member for Fawkner had an opportunity to address the House, and did not move any motion that iia affairs, or any complaint, be referred to the .’Privileges Committee. The honorable member for Yarra, therefore, cannot .commit .the honorable member for Fawkner. The honorable member for Fawkner made a certain proposition to the .honorable member for Parkes, which that honorable gentleman agreed to accept and consider, and, I assume, to inform the House of his decision to-morrow. .At this :stage, the honorable member for Yarra .should move that his own complaint be -referred to the Privileges Committee, but he .may not move on -behalf of the honorable member for Fawkner.
– Thank you for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I therefore move -
That the statements by the honorable member for Parkes recorded in Hansard, page 1000, dated 24th May, and the report of the statements in the Melbourne Argus, of the 25th May, in reference to the honorable member : for Yarra, . bereferred to the Committee ofPrivileges for investigation and report.
– Has the honorable gentleman a copy of the newspaper of whose report he complains?
– It must be tabled.
– In conformity with the requirements of the Standing Orders I tablea copy ofthenewspaperconcerned. I shall, if necessary, also table a copy of Hansard.
– Is that the “ fair play” newspaper?
– Yes, so called.
– Is themotion seconded’?
-i second the motion.
– The honorable gentleman may speak to the motion if he wishes to do so.
– I wish, to make apersonal explanation. A question of privilege has been raised. As I understand the position, such a matter must be raised as soon as practicable after the utterance complained of is made. There is tan element of urgency about that. I have made my remarks about the matter, and the honorable member for Parkes has stated his position. I should like to , be clear in my mind that the honorable member for Parkes does propose to give hisanswer in relation to this matter -promptlyor reasonably quickly.I should like guidance from you, Mr. Speaker, on this point - that I shall not be prevented from raising this matter if necessary, as a matter of privilege, depending on what the honorable member for Parkes has tosay. Itake it that if there is some reasonable delay, ‘which should not be very long - perhaps, he is going to check up with certain people; I do not know - I say I will welcome anything in that direction - I -shall have an assurance from you, Mr. Speaker, that that delay, of perhaps : 24hours, will not in any way prejudice my rightto place this matter bef orethe Privileges Committee.
Mr.Haylen. - I am prepared to stand up to my statement in. this matter, and if it is of help to the honorable member for Fawkner far you to permit him to join with the honorable member for Yarra in relation to it, that is acceptable to me.
– I take it that the honorable member for Parkes is inviting the ‘honorable member for Fawkner to join withthe honorable memberfor Yarra ?
– In that case, I stall put the motion moved by the honorable member for Yarra, and thehonorable member for Fawkner then may move a motion in relation to himself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In view of the refusal of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to withdraw the remark he madeabout me in the House, I move -
That the remarks of the honorable -member forParkesrecorded in Hansard, page 1000. dated 24th . May, . and the report thereof in the Melbourne Argus of the 25th May, in reference to the honorable member for Fawkner, be referred tothe Committee of Privileges for investigation andreport.
– Isthe motion seconded?
– I second it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumedfrom the24th May (vide page . 1039), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That thebill be now read a secondtime.
.- The debate on this bill gives honorable members an opportunity to deal with matters that affectthe Commonwealth, particular States, or their own electorates. The debate is completely unrestricted in that regard. As Icome from Queensland, I propose to make some reference to the conditions in industry there and to the way in which people are ‘suffering as a result of this Government’s policy. As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, come from Queensland, 1 know that you will extend lo me the impartial treatment that Mr. Speaker would extend me if he were in the chair at this moment.
I join the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the deputy leader of ray party, in protesting against the refusal of the Government to give further consideration to the lot of ago and invalid pensioners. This was a grave issue during the last general elections. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) gave, as a part of Labour’s policy, an undertaking that an immediate increase of 10s. a week would be made in pensions. A majority of voters supported that policy. The Statistician’s figures reveal that the Labour party gained more votes than did the combined anti-Labour parties, but because of the disposition of the electorate the Government was just able to survive. It gained a sufficient majority of members to thwart the democratic will of the people, and the pensioners were thus denied the increase of pensions that had been promised to them by the Labour party.
The position of the age and invalid pensioners has since deteriorated very seriously. Many are suffering untold hardship as a result of the reluctance of this Government to increase their pensions. Government supporters, especially the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), have boasted that inflation has been largely pegged. I believe that that claim is untrue. The cost of any pegging that has taken place has been borne by the wageearners and pensioners of Australia. “We know that since 1953, when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court froze the basic wage, the cost of living has continued to rise. . On the other hand, the quarterly adjustments, which were a feature of industrial awards before September, 1953, have been discontinued. A table recently prepared by the Australian Council of Trades Unions shows the considerable loss that has been suffered by workers under federal awards since that decision was made. That table has been based on the increase in the cost of living since that time, and the loss varies by between £12 7s. for each person working under a federal award in Sydney and £64 for each person working under a federal award in Perth. That illustrates how the cost of living has increased in those cities, and in every capital city of the Commonwealth. It is not so easy to see how much the pensioner has lost us a result of this Government’s action in pegging pensions at the 1952 level. The position of a pensioner who is living with his or her children is bad enough, but that of a pensioner who is living on his own, or is attempting to live in lodgings in one of the capital cities, is absolutely pitiable. The conditions of such people have to be seen to be believed. It is still possible for the Government to rectify this most serious omission. I hope that when it brings down the budget for the year 1955-56 it will give the aged and infirm the adequate increase in their pensions that is so long overdue.
The Government has boasted of remitting £40,000,000 in taxation during this financial year. What a hollow claim this is! It has remitted £40,000,000 to the wealthy companies, whose dividends increase year by year. Statistics show that the dividend of the average Australian company this year has risen by 1.4 per cent. The Government is handing out largesse to the wealthy companies, but is depriving those who -have helped to build this nation of a reasonable age or invalid pension. If the Government agrees to increase these pensions, honorable members on this side of the House can justly take credit for it, just as they can take credit for having, many years ago, forced an anti-Labour government to introduce the old age pension.
During the week-end the Treasurer made a most important speech to the members of the federal council of the Australian Country party at a meeting in Canberra. He said, among other things, that Australia was already fighting for its share of export sales in regions where its produce had, in the past, found a ready market. I must accept the right honorable gentleman’s statement. It is very true that Australia is fighting for markets. It is being assailed on all side3 by those who would take away the markets that it has held in the past. To-day, overseas shipping companies are making a vicious attack on the Australian economy and the Australian purchaser. One of the principal export industries in Queensland - this should interest members of the Country party - is the beef cattle industry. I do not intend to speak for the squatters, as members of the Country party claim they do, but on behalf of the nation generally and, in particular, those workers who are associated with the production of beef cattle, the men who work on the stations, the railway workers, the meatworkers at the abattoirs and the wharf labourers.
The attack which is being made on our economy by the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association is a most serious one. We know it has been said that a claim will be made for a 10 per cent, increase of shipping freights from Australia to Great Britain. Freights from Great Britain to Australia have been increased by 10 per cent, already. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and other Ministers have led the House to believe that the Government will fight the increase to the last ditch. Each Minister says, in effect, “ Only over my dead body will this organization obtain an increase of freights”. But it is a sham fight. The Government has nothing to take the place of the ships that are provided by this association to carry our goods to overseas markets. Our overseas shipping line was sold in days gone by, and it has not been re-established. The Australian Shipping Board owns a large number of steamers, but they are in the hands of private companies, under charter. So this country lies helpless at the feet of the overseas shipping companies. It was only during last week-end that Mr. Cuney, a representative of the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association, made a statement in Brisbane, of all places, to the effect that shipping rates were to be increased. He presented his case for an increase. It is a case which I believe the Government will regard as unchallengeable and will accept. Unfortunately, the newspapers in the other capital cities did not publish the statement, but honorable members can read it in the Queensland newspapers in the library.
The effect of an increase of freights on our beef industry will certainly be most tragic. It will affect the Queensland economy very considerably, because Queensland is the principal producer of export beef in Australia. During the year 1952-53, 1,029,000 beef cattle were slaughtered in Queensland, 197,000 in South Australia, 152,000 in Western Australia and 15,000 in the Northern Territory. Those are the only areas in Australia which play a considerable role in the export of beef. The increase of freights proposed by the overseas shipping companies will hit very hard, not only the Australian economy as a whole, but the Queensland economy in particular. During the year 1953-54, 100,405 tons of frozen beef and veal were exported from Queensland. The total quantity of beef, veal, mutton, lamb, pig-meat and offal exported from that State in that year was 107,783 tons, on which the freight charges were £2,076,118. The total freight charges on the frozen meat exports of the Commonwealth for 1953-54 were £3,909,861, the total tonnage being 189,196. Queensland supplied 53 per cent, of the total Australian exports in that year.
The increase of freights will hit Queensland producers to the extent of £207,612 a year. That is an alarmingly large sum, especially when we bear in mind that, according to a statement by Mr. W. A. Gunn, of the United Graziers Association, the price of beef cattle is falling at an alarming rate. He made the point, as reported in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of the 18th May, that the free trade price of fat cattle in north Queensland had fallen to £10 a head below the price ruling under the bulk-purchase system. The beef industry is being attacked on two sides, first, by a reduction of the prices paid by overseas meat companies, and secondly, by an increase of the freights charged by overseas shipping companies. So we see that an alarming situation is developing in that important industry in Queensland.
We have been told that there is a move by Government members to have the carriage of goods transferred from British ships to Continental ships. But that has already been taken care of by the shipping companies.. Such a. proposal provides- no refuge for the Government,, but because the-. Overseas Shipping Representatives Association, which is. claiming1 the increase of freights^, represents fourteen British shipping lines and seven continental shipping lines- it just about covers all the shipping, lines of. any consequence which are trading to Australia. In. addition,, only one class of vessel is of any use to the “beef industry. It is the vessel which can carry frozen, or chilled beef. To illustrate the raw deal which is being given to the Queensland meatexporting industry by the overseas shipping companies,, let me remind- the House that the last shipment of chilled beef from Queensland was made in March. There will be no further shipment from that State until June.
– Why ?
– Because the overseas shipping companies, at the behest of the New Zealand Government, will always send their ships to New Zealand whenever they are required for the shipment of New Zealand chilled beef and mutton, and refuse- to send them to Queensland.
I have made those observations, not because I am pessimistic, but to present the situation as I see it. I fear very much for the stability of a very important industry: I remember an incident related by Mr. Gunn in his speech to the United Graziers’ Association. It occurred while I was: a schoolboy. I lived in the cattle country of western Queensland. I remember the- collapse of the industry, to -which Mr. Gunn referred. It took place in 1921, when the British market for our beef disappeared, almost overnight, because- of the desire of. the meat companies of Great Britain, to purchase their meat in future, not from Australia but from the Argentine. Beef-producers, in western Queensland were, figurativelyspeaking, millionaires one night and paupers the next morning: The industry collapsed completely, and it did not regain anything like a reasonable degree of prosperity until the late 1930’s. Pleas have been made in this House for the Government to do something, to boost the production of beef and. so increase our exports.. Australia is sorely in need of. improved and increased export markets, ass the-. Treasurer pointed out in hiss statement to the federal council of the Aus-tralian Country party-. Some- of us onthis side of the House who- represent electorates in Queensland - unfortunately nobody on the other side1 from Queensland has supported us - have repeatedlyrequested that this Government should! make available’ sums of money, and work in co-operation with the Queensland Government, so that the proposed railway to the- Northern. Territory can be built. This railway, when built,, will be absolutely a beef railway. If we are to hold’ our beef markets overseas, we must keep abreast of the times and ensure that the beef required by overseas consumers is made available for export. The overseas demand at present is for lean, young beef. Like the Treasurer and myself, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are a good judge of beef. We like very fat, juicy steaks. That is all right for us,, but the people overseas desire very lean, and very young, beef. Australian young beef cannot be walked the long distance from the Northern Territory into Queensland,, and retain its quality. The beef that is required, overseas has to be from two to three years old, and cattle of that age cannot walk 1,000 miles from the Northern Territory into Queensland and then be fattened.
Modern means of moving either the beef or the cattle must be adopted. The Treasurer, some nine months ago - and a lot can happen in nine months- gave an undertaking that a committee would be appointed, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson), to inquire into the feasibility of establishing an air-lift beef system in the Northern Territory and western Queensland. Many witnesses should be available from the beef fattening fraternity in Queensland who could give evidence before that committee, but unfortunately, although nine months have elapsed, no report has yet been given to this House. Only a. week ago,, in reply to my question, the Treasurer said that he had not received a report from the committee.
– The- investigation is proceeding:
– I quite agree. I know it -will be proceeding until the next election, when the Treasurer will no doubt report that the investigation, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Dawson, is proceeding. I suppose many cattle producers -and many citizens in Queensland will accept the word of the right honorable gentleman. I do not dispute his statement that the investigation is proceeding ; the point with which I am concerned is when the report will be made, because a ‘most ‘important industry is at stake. I think nine months is a fairly reasonable time to allow the committee under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Dawson to make its investigation, and make a .report to this House.
– It was not nine months.
– The statement by the Treasurer was made in August, 1954, and we are now in the fifth month of 1955. I do not think my arithmetic is so bad that [ would make a mistake on that score.
I wish now to get away from .that phase of Queensland development, or lack of development, and speak of other issues which affect that State. We know that much developmental work is taking place, with considerable assistance from this Government, in certain parts of Australia. Unfortunately, this Government is not giving assistance on the same basis to any major developmental undertakings in Queensland. Even the arch-organ of this Government in that State, the Courier-Mail, is publishing a series of articles, the first of which appeared on Monday the 23rd May, 1955, and which deplore, and give publicity to, the inactivity .and the reluctance of this Government to assist the Queensland Government with the development of national undertakings in that State. I emphasize that Queensland is our first line of defence, as was proved in World War II.
Many propositions have been advanced to the Treasurer and to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) regarding major undertakings which would be of great importance to the nation and particularly to “Queensland. Somehow, the requests always seem to fall on barren ground.
An <appeal ‘has been made by the ‘Queensland Government for the co-operation -of this Government in the development .of the Burdekin River, which discharges more water into the sea than any other river in Australia. The Queensland Government has carried out a complete investigation into the economic features ‘affecting the damming of the Burdekin River and the irrigation of the river valley and the lands adjacent to the river.” Some time ago, when the Treasurer was ‘fighting to make a comeback into political life, he gave an undertaking that the Government of which he would be a member would assist the Queensland Government with the Burdekin scheme. But that is just another repudiated promise. Nothing has been done by this Government to assist the Queensland Government.
I have the report which was published following a. complete investigation into the Burdekin River hydro-electric and irrigation scheme. That report discloses that if the scheme were carried out, it would be possible to fatten beasts which had been “brought from the Northern Territory. They could be depastured in an area with a carrying capacity of two beasts to the acre, .situated within 200 or 300 miles of Townsville. That is a fantastic carrying capacity for beef cattle. These cattle could be readily fattened and topped-off for the market, and would attract the highest prices. Fifty thousand square miles of fertile soil would be available in the area if this dam were constructed. The dam would trap 7,000,000 acre-feet of water, or more than the Snowy, Eildon and Burrinjuck dams put together. When it is realized that there are 50,000 square miles of fertile .soil in that droughtfree area that could produce to capacity, with the aid of cheap electricity from the hydro scheme, it impossible to visualize the huge population that could .’be maintained in northern Queensland in an area just a few miles south of Townsville.
Mi-. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
; - I should like to avail myself of the opportunity -afforded by this debate to discuss one of Australia’s new industries, uranium production. I wish, at the same time, to express some views about a kindred subject, atomic research. I shall rt-fer to the second annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, in which fulsome praise is given to selected gatherings of people and organizations which cover a wide field. I should like to give praise to the men who were forgotten in that report, the men who went out into the deserts and found uranium. Great praise is due to them, for they braved severe hardships. It so happens that some of Australia’s most promising uranium deposits were found in the most remote and inhospitable areas of this continent. The men who prospected for uranium turned their backs on all the amenities of civilization, and sometimes were forced to live under conditions that even the aborigines find difficult. With the men who found the uranium deposits, I should like to couple the hundreds of thousands of investors who saved and subscribed their money to make those pioneering efforts possible. I refer particularly to the small investors who are the great majority of the subscribers whose capital has financed these enterprises. Those small investors have shown their faith in their country and in the new age of atomic power, and I hope that they get their just reward.
The second annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission concludes with handsome acknowledgments to those who are associated with Australia’s uranium development and atomic research programmes. These acknowledgments are made in eleven paragraphs, each of which honours a .number of people. All but one gives credit to officials and official bodies. One private company, the Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited, receives some of the plaudits, almost incidentally, because it operates, at Rum Jungle, in the Northern Territory, the Government’s only plant for the production of uranium oxide. For the rest, the commission pays handsome tributes to the services of the principals of bodies, to officials in Australia, and to its own opposite numbers in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Canada. No doubt, officials in those countries pay tribute to the - assistance that they, in their turn, have received from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The uranium production business seems to be developing into a huge international admiration society. It is natural, of course, that the official bodies in Australia and the other countries that I have mentioned should have dealings with one another. But there i3 a lesson to be learned from this situation. Uranium, which offers such tremendous possibilities for good or evil, has come to be closely associated with governments. This means that there are many commissions, boards and committees which produce innumerable reports and make innumerable surveys, but which of themselves never produce any uranium.
The production of uranium ore must depend on the efforts of the forgotten men of whom I spoke earlier - the prospectors who went out into the deserts seeking uranium - and the investors who subscribed the finance to enable the prospecting to be done. The grave danger with the present system of control is that the only result will be too many reports and too little uranium. I for one wish to see more encouragement given to the producers. The official attitude to them is at present distinctly frosty. It may be summed up in the following phrase, which I heard recently : - “ We are not interested in these companies and their profits “. It behoves the House and the Government to take a deep interest in the profits of the companies concerned in the uranium development programme, because without profits there will certainly be no uranium. It is not only reasonable but also necessary that those who find and mine uranium in Australia shall he able to make gains from their efforts. If the production of uranium is properly handled, it will yield profits, not only for the producers, but also for the Australian nation. All that is necessary is a programme that will afford recognition of the services and the difficulties of the producers, and give proper encouragement to them to continue their efforts in this field of mining.
The first question to be considered is the provision of plants for the treatment of uranium ore. Such plants cost up to £6,000.000 each. Transport costs in the outback are so high that it is essential to- have at least one treatment plant in every district in which there are substantial deposits of uranium ore. One of the most promising deposits, which is in the Cloncurry-Mount Isa district of Queensland, is so far from Rum Jungle that it would be hopelessly unprofitable to transport the ore from that district to the Rum Jungle treatment plant. The transport of the ore from other fields to the Rum Jungle plant also would involve long and costly hauls. It should soon be established whether a number of fields have sufficient ore to enable a local treatment plant to be conducted on an economic basis. If the deposits are so large as to make local treatment plants an economic proposition, the Government should be prepared to help in the establishment of such plants, because a programme for the establishment of local treatment plants might well be worth-while national development in view of the likelihood that the uranium discoveries will be the key to the development of Australia’s empty north in much the same manner as the discovery of gold 100 years ago opened up for development the southern and western States of Australia.
The Government has set itself up as the sole Australian buying authority for uranium ore. I am not aware of the circumstances that led to this decision. Last year, in a debate in this House, I questioned the wisdom of this procedure, which I described as a hazardous business risk. Unfortunately, subsequent events have not caused me to feel inclined to alter that opinion. However, I take it that the Commonwealth is prepared to establish, anywhere where private enterprise will erect a treatment plant, a buying centre for the purchase of uranium. No business risk would be involved, because no firm would spend up to £6,000,000 to establish a plant unless substantial deposits of ore were available for treatment. However, the development of the uranium industry is not simply a question of constructing treatment plants. The normal process of the expansion of a mining enterprise is that the sales of ore begin on a small 3ale, and the returns from those sales help to pay for the testing and the development of the remainder of the ore deposits. However, under the present arrangement, uranium mining will not be allowed to develop in this fashion. This is tragic, because the gouger, if he were not hampered by the present timid approach of the buyer, could do for the uranium industry what the small prospector did for gold-mining and other mining ventures.
As I have stated, the Government has established itself as the sole buying agent for uranium ore, but it buys at only one point - Ruin Jungle. If the available ores are not situated close to Rum Jungle, the whole enterprise will reach a stalemate. It is fantastic that the Government should make itself the sole buyer and establish only one buying centre. This is the equivalent of its assuming a monopoly right to buy all the wool produced in Australia, and at the same time demanding that all of that wool be delivered either to Marble Bar or to Bourke before it will purchase it. I realize, of course, that the Government, as the sole buyer of uranium ore, is confronted with great difficulties and that it therefore hesitates to commit itself too deeply to the purchase of uranium ore which cannot be treated immediately. It must avoid the criticism that it wastes the taxpayers’ money by buying ore and leaving it to leach at grass at mining fields throughout Australia. If the Government is not prepared to buy uranium ore at any point in Australia where considerable quantities are mined, it should allow the producer to sell to other buyers who will trade at that point. I would go further. When local defence requirements have been met, the ore producer should he permitted to export, under licence, if necessary, if the Government fears that Australian uranium might fall into the hands of a potential enemy. I fear that Australia has missed the bus with respect to uranium production although it could have been one of the world’s greatest suppliers of uranium. A new and vigorous approach to our problems is required in order to regain the lost ground.
The same dead hand of officialdom lies heavily across the development of atomic power in Australia. One object of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, no doubt, is to ensure that, eventually,
Australia will, generate; atomic power;. It. seems; to be. even more important to the. commission that it. should ensure that no other organization will generate atomic power first. Especially is the commission, reluctant, to give any help to universities, for research unless such research be carried out for the benefit and under the control of the commission. A speaker at a. recent, function which was arranged, by the Nuclear Research Foundation of the University of Sydney complained that the Government was trying to nationalize, the atom. I am compelled to admit that there, seems to be some justification for this complaint.. In dealing with atomic energy, any government must rely to a great extent on its expert advisers. The trouble with the Australian venture seems to be that it has every hallmark of a socialist programme which has been designed for a free enterprise government. The result is somewhat of a mixture.
It is good that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission intends to. build an atomic reactor near Sydney for the production of power. It has also been announced that, in connexion with the reactor, it will conduct a school of nuclear engineering. This proposal, and the way in which the- commission proposes- to implement it, should be closely examined. This school, like the ore-buying programme, will be run on government lines. The training of nuclear scientists, it appears, is to be undertaken by the Government and not by universities. As this new science is- very complex, whoever has the expert staff will have complete control of generation of power. It could easily follow that, in the new atomic age, power- generation could rest in the hands of the Australian Government. In other word’s, a monopoly could be created. The training- of nuclear scientists’ will be-, a major step in our atomic programme^ Consequently, I read1 with interest last Monday that the Australian Atomic Energy- Commission had announced that it would* provide’ facilities -to- train- university graduates as nuclear- scientists and1 engineers– at Lucas Heights^ near Sydney, and’ that, a conference will be called, between the commission- and representatives; of the universities in order to discuss: working arrangements;
Research, activities are.- very expensive and it is difficult for any university tt undertake much research without outside assistance but, at all costs, universities must maintain their free status. Therefore, I hope that this conference; will be a happy one, and that it will not reveal that, any strings are; tied to the; proposition. Obviously,, the offer departs from, the accustomed practice of research being carried out by the. universities with their own- facilities. No doubt, more details of the present offer will, be made available at a later- date, but I hope that grants of money will, not be- offered in return for obedience to the- wishes of the government, of the day.. Such conditions may prevail in State spheres where primary and secondary education are directly under the control of a State department of education. But there is still a very great need to preserve the present system of independent selfgovernment by the universities for tertiary and. post-graduate studies-.. Our atomic energy, programme is. supposed to be modelled on that of the United Kingdom, but it is notable that, in its relationships with universities,, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission- has departed entirely from United Kingdom policy. In the United Kingdom, the Atomic Energy Authority, a body with functions similar to those of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission,, is not allowed to have charge of the1 allocation of grants to universities. In the United Kingdom, two entirely different bodies, the University Grants Commission’ and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, take care of that matter: The United Kingdom has thus safeguarded itself against the exercise of a dictatorial policy by the Atomic Energy Authority.
As I have said, any government must lean heavily on its advisers in determining its policy on atomic energy. The big problem is to ensure that the advice of the experts is sound and is progressively, first and foremost, in the interests of Australia. Until a few months, ago, the- Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s programme was designed to make Australia a sort of colonial kindergarten training ground for’ the British establishment at Harwell. It was intended that’ Australia should have- nro> reactor of its’ own and that it should- export, its promising men to England,, where most of them, would be lost to us, an experience which w& have: had in many other fields.. Then. suddenly, came the- welcome news’ that Australia, would have its own reactor at Menai. This was an astonishing reversal of policy. In announcing its scheme, the Australian ‘ Atomic Energy Commission and Professor Baxter, who is one of the Government’s chief advisers on. atomic research, turned one of the most amazing, somersaults known, to science. Not long before, when it had been proposed that the University of. Sydney should build a low-power reactor, Professor Baxter^ who is also deputy chairman of the commission, poured scorn on the whole idea. He is reported to. have said -
While; I was overseas I made inquiries about the training and experience to be obtained through low-power reactors and I found that audi suggestions’ were greeted with derision. Such reactors- have no future whatever intraining men for- this industry; They art laughed, at by the experts of the three big countries (United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada). The feeling is that such reactors aire a sheer waste of time. [Quorum formed.] Now, at Menai, near Sydney, the commission has proposed to build, not one, but several . of the lowpower reactors to which Professor Baxter objected so strongly when they were recommended by the University of Sydney. It would be in keeping with that strange situation if, when the reactors were completed, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission offered one of them to the Sydney University for its sole use and control.
Another matter that Ls difficult to understand is the reluctance of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to take full advantage of the services that the Nuclear Foundation of the University of Sydney can render. Many of the greatest figures in. Australian industrial and financial life, and many of the most efficient corporations’ in all parts of Australia, are members of the foundation. They are banded together, not with the idea of gaining, profit for themselves, but with the idea- of bringing to’ Australia the blessings of: atomic energy. In a very short time, they, have amassed, quite apart- from. State, and- Commonwealth contributions, private endowments amounting to- approximately £300*000.. Never previously has similar community support for any technical programme in Australia been received.
I appeal to the Government to give to the foundation encouragement rather than the almost frosty and open hostility that has been shown by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. What the Commission does- not seem to ‘ appreciate is thai private enterprise can, and will, play a very useful part in atomic power research. This is an instance in relation to which, the: Government may well, ascertain whether its policy of giving, encouragement to free enterprise is .being implemented or whether free enterprise is- being frustrated,, somewhere along the line- of administration, at the hands of a bureaucrat. The official attitude of the Australian. Atomic Energy Commission towards the Nuclear Foundation of the University of Sydney is difficult to follow.
Scientists, at last, have been able to develop a vaccine to protect U3 against infantile paralysis; I wish some one would discover a vaccine to protect u* against official paralysis. It is a disease that obstructs progress in every department of our national life, and it become? worse every day. We should take very vigorous steps, in this all-important field of atomic research in. particular, to shake off that paralysis. Let the Australian Atomic Energy Commission carry out its own programme of research by all means, but let it refrain, at the same time, from trying to exercise rigid control over the whole field. Unless more freedom, and less, government control, in the training of nuclear scientists is . afforded,. Australia may miss great opportunities in this field. Let. us abandon the hopeless attempt to- tie up the atom with red tape,, and let us throw open our nuclear energy research programme to any one who has something to contribute to it.
One may ask whether Australia is not losing out because its programme and technique, are tied too rigidly to the programme of the British atomic energy authority from which Professor Baxter comes. * ‘ It has been often stated that Britain, is ahead of the United States’ of America in atomic research. As a
Britisher, I hope that Britain is, but the position may be parallel to that which obtained in the field of aviation after World War LT., when Britain was ahead of America in research but America led in the translation of research into production.
America has shown also what can be done in relation to the production of uranium oxide. A few years ago, a world shortage of uranium oxide seemed possible, but America invited private enterprise to take a hand, and gave it encouragement rather than the kind of lukewarm approval that it receives in Australia. The result of America’s- attitude is such that, for the time being at least, production has outstripped the demand for uranium oxide. America and Canada are now following the same policy in relation to the development of atomic power, and several large industrial corporations have been allocated hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of power projects. As a result of the tremendous drive and energy that private enterprise is able to apply to the production of atomic power, those countries threaten to leave Britain years behind.
It remains to be seen who eventually will win the race for atomic power, but we must face the fact that America has made the first practical application of it. I refer to an atomic-powered submarine, which has been operating successfully for months. America, with the tremendous technical resources that are available to it, is certain to produce something worth while. Our link with Britain is of enormous value to us, and let us take full advantage of it; but the technique that has been adopted by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission tends to ba linked irretrievably with that of Harwell, and Harwell alone. Australian needs independent teams of teachers and research workers to keep it abreast of development!* in other parts of the world, particularly in America. Above all, we need a realistic programme in which all those persons who have the requisite capacity may freely play their part.
.- I know that you, Mr. Speaker, have listened to other speeches about various topics during this debate, but we all realize that the debate affords us an opportunity to bring to light injustices that have been perpetrated by government departments. I am pleased to see the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) sitting at the table. I ask him for his co-operation in bringing before the appropriate Minister the case I have in mind, which has been under consideration for quite a period of time. I ask the Government to what lengths an ex-serviceman must go to obtain some degree of justice from the Repatriation Department. It seems to me that a person who is suffering from an injustice must go to the length of publicizing his case throughout the length and breadth- of the land, and the best way in which to do so is to take his case to the local newspaper or, in Sydney, to the metropolitan press. I have before me several cuttings from the Daily Mirror, which took up the case of a certain pensioner. Immediately the matter was taken up by the press, the man in question obtained the desired assistance. The first article bears the following caption : -
Veteran says T.P.I, pension is delayed.
It reads as follows: -
An ex-serviceman to-day claimed the I; epatriation Department had delayed his claim for a pension on a Totally and Permanently Incapacitated basis for nearly 12 months.
Within 24 hours of the publication of the article, the Repatriation Department took up the matter.
If justice is to be handed out in this manner, it is about time the Government, and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), looked carefully at similar cases, because not every exserviceman wants the details of his plight published to the world. The parents of the young man in question had seen me, and had done everything humanly possible in their efforts to obtain some degree of justice and benefit for their boy. But that is not the only case. I have in my . hand a copy of the magazine Reveille which was issued in May, and which deals with most of the details associated with repatriation claims. The story was written up by the war compensation officer of the returned servicemen’s league, Wal. Newington, and published in this month’s issue of Reveille. The article is headed “Diggers are up in Arms - Entitlement Claims jettisoned “, and it sets out fully the reasons why exservicemen are dissatisfied with the manner in which entitlement appeals are determined. I urge the Government to ensure that justice is meted out to exservicemen who have legitimate and justifiable claims. Supporters of the Government should read Wal. Newington’s article, which reveals exactly how these people are being treated to-day.
I wish to make a plea on behalf of an ex-serviceman of World War II. His father, who was a “ digger “ in World War I., had two sons. I think that the Minister at the table knows something about this matter. Possibly he was approached about it, in the first instance, some considerable time ago. The father to whom I have referred is an officebearer of a sub-branch of the returned servicemen’s league in the Bondi district of Sydney, with which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has an acquaintance. Both of this man’s sons enlisted during World War II. After fighting his first son’s case valiantly and vigorously, but unsuccessfully, he brought the lad to Canberra. When the then Minister for Repatriation saw the lad, he said to the father, “ Take the lad back home and see that he is put to bed “. Subsequently, the Daily Telegraph took up the case for him, and I believe that the Vice-President of the Executive Council also made representations on behalf of the lad. Finally, he was granted a 100 per cent, general rate pension, but died within a month in the Yaralla Repatriation Hospital at Concord. In due course, the other son was discharged from the forces.
I should like to make it clear, at this stage, that I have known this family for approximately twenty years. The second lad is now 31 years of age, married, and has one child. He has not worked for about fifteen months, and has been in the Yaralla Repatriation Hospital. He has been in receipt of the Commonwealth sickness benefit, and doctors who examined him in Sydney stated that he should be granted an adequate war pension. This boy had been in receipt of a 20 per cent, war pension for some time in respect of a skin complaint. After a number of letters had passed, and I had made representations on the lad’s behalf to the Minister for Repatriation, the Repatriation Department accepted, as attributable to war service, the boy’s heart condition and the asthmatic bronchitis from which he suffered. He was then granted an additional 20 per cent, pension - 10 per cent, in respect of his heart condition and 10 per cent, for the asthmatic bronchitis. I emphasize that this lad has not worked for fifteen months. He submitted to the Repatriation Department certificates from Dr. Michael of Bondi, Dr. Charles Bernard of Bondi Junction, and Dr. Ping of Bondi, all of whom are outstanding medical practitioners in the Bondi district. In addition, the Repatriation Department has a report on him from the late Dr. Bolger. All of those doctors stated the lad’s condition was attributable to a situation with which he was confronted during the war, and they asked the Repatriation Department to do something for the boy. But no- notice has been taken of their recommendation. On each occasion that I have made representations to the Minister for Repatriation in this matter, he has replied that the case was under consideration by the department, and that I would be informed in due course of the result.
As I have said, I have known this lad for many years. Before he enlisted he was very smart, and earned quite a good reputation as a boxer in preliminary bouts. It was thought that he would go a long way in the boxing profession. Today, he is completely broken down. Something should be done for him. I have before me a copy of a letter that was written by the father on behalf of his son, which I shall read to the House. I urge the Minister at the table to take notice of the letter, and to do whatever he can do to help. The letter reads as follows: -
I would like your help re my son’s case now before the Repatriation Department. I think he is getting a very raw deal by Repatriation doctors. Some years ago I had to get the Daily Telegraph to take up the ca=e of my other son . . . and after the Minister at that time had spoken to my son he was disgusted at the treatment afforded him. The next day after the interview, a car was sent for him and he was examined by an independent doctor in Macquarie Street before the Repatriation doctor. They were both of the opinion he should .have full treatment and a full pension, .but he only lived about a month after. He .passed away in Concord Hospital.
I am afraid, as my other son … is in a much worse condition than the one 1 lost. [ really -don’t know . whether the treatment afforded this son is because I have complained, but it seems there is something, as every time he is called up by the Repatriation doctors, his file is turned over and the opinion of the examining doctor is verified by him and agrees with the doctor in the next -room who has examined him before; of course they won’t disagree with one another.
In my opinion treatment afforded my son by local Repatriation doctor, Dr. C. Bernard, should be taken into consideration, and the opinion of the prior Repatriation doctors who have examined him should be left out of the file and the patient given a fair go. My son has been unable to work over 15 months while he has had his case under consideration by the Repatriation Department. He has had full sickness benefits by Social Services, and the Chief Medical Officer has examined him each 3 months and verifies the certificate issued by Dr. Bernard of Bondi that he was unfit for work.
The fact of the matter is that, on a number of occasions, this boy has been urged to accept an invalid pension. As 1 have said, he is only 31 years of age, and prior to enlistment was 100 per cent, fit and capable of hard work. The letter goes on -
During “the last 3 months he has been in Concord Military Hospital and after he was’ discharged I. had to get Dr. Bernard to treat him for heart and asthma. He was again in bed for a week and during that time was put on full sustenance for some weeks. He was still under Dr. Bernard’s treatment when he had to report to Dr. Lancaster at Repatriation, who had Dr. Bernard’s report and certificate before him. Still, Dr. Lancaster, knowing and sympathising with him on his condition, gave him 10% for heart trouble and 10% for asthma.
The reason my son was not paid the full back money and a full pension or a T.P.I, was that the back money would be .too big to pay out and those doctors know the patient will appeal and will get it only from the time they appeal.
I think this is one case that you .might ask the Minister to inquire into without any fear’ or favour. I believe because all certificates were placed before the Minister some weeks back and you had the case reviewed, the doctors at Repatriation have set my son’s pension at the lowest rate. I know everyone who has had any dealings with my son’s case (employees at Repat.) say they can’t make it out, and Legal Aid officials say he must get a full pension before the Appeal Tribunal : but why must he, in his condition, have the worry of fighting all the way?
Through Mr. Fitzgerald, my local member, T appeal to the Minister - -himself a returned soldier, as 1 am - to give my son’s case full consideration. I am willing to take my sun to Canberra and let the Minister for Repatriation see him and talk to him. If his er),id idition is not all I :say, I will give up.
I hope that further inquiries will he made by the Minister personally. I was a Welfare Officer in the R.S.’L. for sometime, and this case has been the worst I have had to deal with. I have had my son ill at home for months, nursed by his wife.
That is a very earnest plea by a father on behalf of his son - a father from whom death has already claimed one exserviceman son, whose case he had to plead. I hope that the Government, in the interests of decency and human justice, will heed this plea. As I have pointed out, I have known this family for many years, and. I have seen this lad’s condition gradually deteriorate.
I .urge the Government to reconsider this case on a priority basis, and see that the Minister places it suitably before a proper, highly qualified medical authority prior to placing it before the tribunal - and thus have competent authority, quite apart from the repatriation officers, who, quite obviously, in many cases are out to interfere with the rights of genuine and decent men who appeal to them. I am aware of the fact that the Minister knows the family. I am quite happy that the file should go to a higher authority. If the honorable gentleman sees the letters to which I have referred, I believe that the Government, in its wisdom, will recognize that justice has not been done in this case.
.- Since this debate gives an opportunity to honorable members to deal with any matters which may happen to be on their minds at this time, I seize it for the purpose of developing a simple point which I believe is not unimportant. It is hardly necessary to remind honorable members of the importance of South-East Asia to this country at the present time. In the nuclear age, which brings the risks of war so much closer to us, at a time when nationalism and racialism have emerged in Asia, and when Communist designs may well weld together those forces for our destruction, it is plain that South-East Asia is very important to us. We are placed in this dilemma : ‘On the one hand, if we seek to ^establish, in effect, fx forward base to- protect., ourselves inthat part of the world, we, may antagonize our- Asian friends; if, on the other hand,, we maintain forces within our, own, boundaries- in, order to avoid that result, we- may find that we. cannot hold the enemy at. arm’s length;.
I want to deal with the ignorance, the inevitable- ignorance, of Australian people, and of honorable members, through no fault of their own, in regard to affairs in that part of the world. Recently, we were engaged in a debate on foreign affairs, and honorable members were at a loss to know whether Malayans wished to have our forces disposed in their country for their protection as well as ours, or whether they would resent it. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) sought to convince the House, I think, that the terrorists in Malaya really represent the spirit and attitude of the Malayan people. Such a simple issue as that, one might think, could easily have been determined, had there been any real degree of knowledge within the House itself about the affairs of South-East Asia. That was not so. Honorable members were quoting for example, statements that a dozen Asian students had written in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, and other such flimsy sources of information were put before us with a view to informing our minds.
How different is the position of members of the British Parliament when they come to debate matters of foreign affairs ! It is so easy for a member of the British Parliament to travel to Europe, Prance, Germany, Italy, or wherever it may be, in order to ascertain the facts for himself. For that reason, the debates in the House of Commons are much better informed than are the debates we have here. I was in Europe in 1947 and, with the greatest ease and very little expenditure of money, I was able to visit most of the countries of western Europe and find out for myself, by contacts with men in the political, economic, and administrative life of those countries, the situation of Europe at that time. On the occasion of that visit I recall that a very large group of American congressmen, 100 or more, arrived in England. I was present at a dinner that was given to welcome them by the- United. Kingdom.- branch of what w,as. then- called1 the Empire Parliamentary Association. Marshall, aid had- been instituted* and many reportswere, trickling back to America that Marshall aid money was being squandered, and* naturally, the taxpayers of that country- were concerned at such a situation, and their- representatives, in Congress were being urged to curtail Marshall aid, if that was the position. Why should the American taxpayer be taxed so heavily if the money was not being used to the best advantage ? What did the American Government do? President Truman, finding that Congress was getting restive and perhaps unwilling to support the Marshall plan as far as the administration felt it should be supported, arranged for a. group of about 100 congressmen to visit Europe in order to convince themselves that the Marshall plan was worth while. The Marshall plan was a. tremendously important policy for the administration. Congress was not convinced that it was necessary, and so members of Congress were given an opportunity to see its operation for themselves. That is a matter within my own personal experience.
Now let us look at the situation as between Australia and South-East Asia. What are our contacts and, therefore, what is- our knowledge of a part of the world, which, as I pointed out at the outset of my speech, is of paramount importance to this country? It is true that, from time to time, a Minister will visit the countries of South-East Asia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has called in at Singapore or at New Delhi on his way to an overseas conference. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has on several occasions visited those countries.. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) took the opportunity to visit Japan, Formosa and Malaya, fairly recently. Then, in addition, we have the reports of our diplomatic representatives in those countries. Those reports, of course, may be entirely accurate and of great value; no doubt they are. The fact remains that one cannot expect the observations of people who are established in those posts to present necessarily the whole of the story, or the true story. After all, it is not so long since Dr. Burton was head of the Department of External Affairs, and he, or some who shared his views, could easily have been established at diplomatic posts and furnished reports which were perhaps somewhat coloured by their views of what our relationship and our policy should be towards the countries concerned. I am not suggesting that the officers are not competent, but I do suggest, on the basis of what we know about that particular officer, that those reports cannot necessarily be taken at their face value if they are not checked by reference to some other sources of information.
Then we have the Foreign Affairs Committee, the members of which, I understand, are given access to confidential documents. They may be able to make themselves better informed on these matters than other honorable members, but one has to recall that honorable members opposite are not represented on that committee and, in any case, whatever may be the representation ‘on the committee, its members must be largely dependent on reports furnished by diplomatic posts, which may not present the whole story or present it accurately. We have occasional visits by top public servants, or by chiefs of the armed services, to those countries, and visits sponsored by various bodies, such as the recent visit of the fame gentleman, Dr. Burton, and Professor Fitzgerald of the Australian National University, to Bandung. Some contacts are also established through the Colombo plan. Australian technical men visit those countries in that connexion and, similarly, Asian students come to this country. Our business connexions with those parts of the world, however, are very slight. It so happens that our trade is more complementary with the United Kingdom than with the countries of South-East Asia. There may be a few Japanese wool buyers in Australia, and occasionally Australian businessmen may go to that part of the world, but, by and large, our business contacts with SouthEast Asia are very slight.
I have detailed the various contacts that we have with South-East Asia, and I suggest that they are very slender indeed and in no way com para hie with the contacts that a British member of
Parliament can have, with the utmost ease, with any part of the continent of Europe. Some things can be done about it. No doubt steps have been taken to establish oriental studies in our universities. But I am not dealing with those things. I am dealing with the fundamental ignorance, through no fault of their own, of Australian members of Parliament, of countries that are of vital concern to us. Let us be quite clear that there is a great difference between the situation of members of Parliament in Australia, and that of British members of Parliament. British members of Parliament can, without any involved planning, in fact, quite casually and independently, take steps to inform their own minds, at small expense, about affairs in the adjacent continent of Europe, by going there to see for themselves. That is not the case with Australian members of Parliament. If members of this Parliament are to have real knowledge available to them about our near neighbours, something must be done deliberately to make that knowledge obtainable by them. I have mentioned the American example in respect of Marshal] Aid. It may be said that such a thing would be a costly business. Of course, it would be a costly business to give members of this Parliament the opportunity to see for themselves the position in SouthEast Asia in the same way as members of the United States Congress were able to see for themselves the situation in Europe in 1947! It is exactly because it is a costly business that members of this Parliament cannot afford to finance such visits to other countries from their own resources.
I shall not cite the Sydney City Council in any other respect, but I shall give one of its actions as an example on this occasion. Recently, that body sent a group of aldermen to the United States to study problems related to car parking. They made that trip at considerable expense to the council. I suggest that in a matter of such vital concern to Australia as is the position in South-East Asian countries, an opportunity should be given to a certain number of members of this Parliament to visit those countries. I raise the matter now because the Parliament will shortly go into recess for a period of several months. Opportunity should be given to a number of honorable members to see for themselves the position in South-East Asian countries, so that we shall not again have the spectacle we had during the debate on foreign affairs a short time ago, when, even on the most elementary questions of fact, nobody in the House knew anything about things disputed in the debate, which would have been as clear as crystal if members of the Parliament had been given an opportunity to see things for themselves.
It may be suggested that members of Parliament may be very simple people, and that if they were to go to, say, Malaya, they would be taken in by local propaganda on behalf of this or that interest. All I can say about that is that members of Parliament spend their lives being approached by various kinds of interests with some special case to put to them.; and if they have not yet learned to distinguish between what is true and what is not, they ought not to be members of the Parliament. If any class of people is skilled in detecting such things, surely that class includes members of Parliament. Naturally, any member of this Parliament who visits a South-East Asian country on an official visit will listen to all the stories from every source, then consider them together and try to determine the truth of the matter. I suggest that any member of this Parliament is capable of doing that.
– I doubt it.
– The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) may speak for himself. I have a rather higher opinion than he, apparently, has of members of this Parliament. I suggest that there is a sufficient number of members on both sides of this House - I shall exclude the honorable member for Riverina if he chooses - who would be capable of doing much good for this country if they had the opportunity to inform themselves at first hand of the situation in South-East Asia.
It would he of immense gain to this Parliament if a more informed opinion generally on conditions in that part of the world were available in the House. A much more stable foreign policy would result, particularly in relation to important matters. It would be much more stable because it would be based on real knowledge that would be shared among a number of members on both sides of the House.
– We are much too insular.
– Of course, we are insular; and I have pointed out why we are insular! lt is because the cost to honorable members of getting to these places and informing themselves on the position there is also too high for them to finance out of their own resources. Our position differs from that of members of legislative bodies in Great Britain and Europe, who can inform themselves aboutother countries without having to go to much trouble. We shall continue to be insular unless a deliberate attempt is made to bridge the gap between Australia and the continent of Asia, and very few members of this Parliament will be sufficiently informed about that part of the world to be able to contribute to a solution of our problems vis-a-vis Asian nations.
It is all very well for people to take the view that our foreign policy is a rather esoteric business, a matter for just a few well-informed people. But I put it to the House that, unless a fairly large number of members from both sides of the Parliament are fairly well informed, there can be no stability in our foreign policy. When one government goes out of office and is replaced by another our foreign policy can change overnight. There is no conformity of opinion, and no general view that members on both sides of the Parliament can arrive at as a result of their own investigations. It is deplorable that we should regard these matters as being the preserve of a handful of people.
I am not pressing this case for any reason other than that I believe that the House would have more informed opinion available to it if common-sense members from both sides had an opportunity to visit South-East Asian countries and see for themselves what was happening, and talk with the various political leaders, administrators, and captains of industry there, and the people in charge of those countries. If they were given such an opportunity I believe that we would be able to look forward to a more common outlook in this Parliament in relation to our foreign policy. At present we are now completely in the air, during debates on foreign affairs, with very few really knowing anything about the subject. The matter is pressing now, because, as I have said, the Parliament will go into recess very shortly. There are some months ahead when my proposal could be put into operation, and I urge the Government to put it into operation, not that I have any confidence that it will do so, because my confidence in the Government is limited in that respect. I have no doubt that it should be done, but I have considerable doubt whether it will be done. One can only speak the truth as one sees it, and say that the things which, in one’s opinion, ought to be done, should be done. I make no apologies for putting this suggestion forward. I have done so with the utmost sincerity because I think it is right. If the Government thinks differently, then I believe the Government is wrong. I think that any honorable member who has an open mind will agree with the case that I have made. It may be, of course, that honorable members are not capable of taking full advantage of the proposal. It may be that the House will send people who are not qualified to be observers of these things.
– It has happened.
– As the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) says, that has happened before. Of course, if honorable members wish to have this opportunity, they will have to use it as any great privilege must be used - in a responsible fashion.
I do not want to say more on that point. I turn now to a somewhat cognate subject. I am referring to the knowledge that honorable members may, or may not, have about our territories, in particular New Guinea. It is possible under present conditions for an honorable member to travel by air from his electorate to any other part of Australia without cost to himself ; and the regula tions in that respect have been interpreted to cover visits by honorable members to . the Northern Territory. That has been interpreted as including a visit to the Northern Territory, so there is a means by which honorable members may inform themselves of what is happening in that important part of Australia. Of course, they may travel by other means, a? I intend to do within the next few months : but for some inscrutable reason it is not possible to make use of those provision* so far as New Guinea is concerned. On* may travel to the Kimberleys, or to Darwin and back, but one may not travel to Port Moresby. My last recollection of that country goes back to a march from Owers’ Corner to Sanananda. over the Owen Stanley Ranges. I must confess that when I arrived back and succeeded in getting the mud off by boots, I did with some rejoicing and in the hope that 1 should never return. However, the circumstances are now such that I should like to re-visit that country and see something different from what I saw on tinlast occasion. The cost of going there by air is very high because, for some inscrutable reason, the privileges that attach to a visit to the Northern Territory do nor attach to a visit to New Guinea. It mar well be that if honorable members turned up in New Guinea day after day and occupied the time of administrators ir would create a difficult position. The fact is that members are not likely to go there except during limited times of the year, when the House is not sitting. Moreover, by some reasonable arrangement among them, it may be possible to fit in with the work of the administrator?. Those things should not be beyond th, wit of .man.
It is ridiculous that such a restrictive policy should exist in regard to an Australian territory, except for the odd halfdozen members who may go on a conducted tour through that area. I especially deplore the situation because, as a new member, I have been here only a .short time and when the business of selecting members for these visits is taking place one needs many friends, one must have been here for some time, !and one finds that Other quite irrelevant factors are considered. The result is that, unless I go at my own expense, ten years may pass before I visit New Guinea. If necessary, I stall go at my own expense; but it should -be possible for honorable members to inform their minds upon the affairs -of the Territory, and thus debate them -intelligently, without submitting themselves to great expense. When there are complaints ‘-that Australia is not conducting its affairs as it should, whether the subject be South-East Asia .or New Guinea, it must not be forgotten that apparently the ‘Government considers private members, whom it usually refers to as back-benchers, as such fools that their views ought not to be taken into account.
– The Government’s action is disgraceful.
– I am referring to the institution and not to a particular government.
– Our government would never do that.
– Your government would do precisely the same thing. Let us not reduce this to a party level. The system is such that these things are decided by the Government, in its great wisdom, and the private members’ views are regarded as being of little value. As a result, it is not felt that he needs an opportunity to inform himself on such matters. That is a most unhealthy situation in any democratic assembly. I hope that some notice will be taken of the proposal that I have made, for I will continue to make it and will not rest until something along those lines has been achieved. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) may smile. He has been here for a long time. He knows that governments never do listen to such complaints; but persistence on the part of back-benchers must, in the end, prevail.
– The speech of the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) has been most timely. This matter has been very much in the minds of the members -of this party for some time and I think that every one should support the honorable member’s practical suggestion that honor- a’ble mem’bers should have an opportunity -of finding -out what goes on in foreign countries. Indeed, it was ‘my intention to approach the Prime Minister -(Mr. Menzies) at the end of this session ‘to see if it would be possible :for the Government to make arrangements for some honorable members to go to Malaya, which I consider to be a most important place at the present time. That intension has been strengthened by reports concerning our defence forces. In this morning’s newspapers we read that our armed forces are some 5,000 men short of the target. None of us can make an appreciation of the armed forces that are necessary in order to make Australia secure; but the statement that the armed forces are so far short of the strength which the Government considers necessary is most disturbing and underlies the need for urgent action of the kind that has been suggested by the honorable member for Bradfield. The deficiency is serious, and if honorable members could make a more adequate appreciation of the situation they might be even more disturbed. The position seems to have become clouded, and it is time that the Government did something to make “it clear to every one. A statement on the defence position is long overdue, and the Minister for Defence should have ma.de one long ago.
The recruitment of troops is a m081 important matter which can be achieved Only by certain means. The numbers of our armed forces are dwindling, but a large part of the defence vote remains unexpended. That can only be viewed gravely. What is the actual fact? Is the Government making any real attempt to recruit sufficient troops for the defence of Australia? If it is, it has not been successful even within its own estimates, let alone what other estimates might reveal. This is the second year that a big proportion of the defence vote has remained unexpended while the numbers -of troops have been declining. Troops can only be recruited if they are offered suitable inducements. That has been shown by the experience of other countries. In Canada, adequate encouragement is given to recruits. If one take3 the trouble to go through Canada’s figures, one finds that that country has raised a considerable number of troops. It has two divisions in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s army in Europe, and a division at home. Moreover, the numbers of its troops have increased during the last year or two. That shows that Canada’s recruiting methods are sound. Our recruiting officers should go to Canada and get the best information on the subject. I heartily agree with the honorable member for Bradfield that honorable members do not move around sufficiently to see what goes on in other countries. Large numbers would volunteer if the right inducements were offered them. We should not have the present alarming position in our defence forces. I admit that the recruitment of troops by voluntary methods has its limitations. In certain circumstances, the voluntary recruiting system will not produce enough troops to meet our defence needs. In such circumstances, some other method of of getting the number of troops required must be considered. Can we say that we know how many troops we need? The Minister has not made a statement on the matter, and we have been left to find out for ourselves. As the honorable member for Bradfield has suggested, we should try actively to find out. We are entitled to be very perturbed about the present position. We must have an appraisal of the strength that the Australian defence forces require to do their job.
The remarks of the honorable member for Bradfield about South-East Asia were most appropriate. We really need to know what goes on in that area, and we can find out only through first-hand experience. Our apprehension is increased when we consider the grave menace of communism, not only within Australia, but also outside Australia. At present, members of the Opposition led by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), speaking on the hustings in Victoria, are telling the people of Victoria that this Government and the members of the party to which I belong are eager to enlist troops compulsorily and send them away to be slaughtered in South-East Asia. It is most regrettable that those who support the right honorable member for Barton take that line, especially in view of the fact that recently my party moved an amendment to a motion for the printing of a paper on foreign affairs and defence, in which we asked for the fullest possible examination of the present situation and stated that we considered voluntary recruitment to be the most effective method of raising forces for the defence of Australia. The right honorable member for Barton, by taking a point of order, prevented that subject from being discussed. Now he is in Victoria, alleging that we propose that troops shall be enlisted compulsorily. Nothing is further from our minds. We adhere to the system of voluntary enlistment of troops insofar as the system will raise the correct number of troops for the proper defence of Australia. The correct number of troops for the proper defence of Australia should be found out right at the beginning, so that we can know whether that number of troops can be recruited by voluntary methods.
I want to say that the foreign policy propounded by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was nothing but a pro-Communist foreign policy. It was not supported by his followers. It was obvious that, having delivered a statement, of foreign policy which would assist the Communists, the Leader of the Opposition could not get enough speakers from his own party to support him. He had to call a special meeting to try to get a panel of speakers to support his foreign policy. He got a panel of speakers, consisting of some of the most reputable men in the House, but they did not support his foreign policy. Why was it that they did not do so? It was because they knew it was a pro-Communist foreign policy. The honorable member for Port. Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), who had been very thoughtful and worried for some days, rose to speak. He prefaced his remarks with an apology. He said that very often, because of party loyalty, members of the Opposition had to support views in which they did not believe. That was the kind of remark with which the honorable member for Port Adelaide started his speech. There was an apology at the very beginning of it.
– I did not use those words. The honorable member is misinterpreting my remarks.
-Order ! The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) must not refer to debates of the present session.
– I shall not deal with what was said in debates of the present session. 1 shall deal only with th, omissions, the things that were not said. Let me deal with the speech made by an honorable member who had been to Malaya to visit a relative. It was a most important speech. I hoped that he would tell us some of the things we wanted to know, but he did not do so. When an honorable member has been to Malaya, he should give us the benefit of his knowledge of conditions in that country. J am referring to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford). He has been in the House long enough for us to trust him. What did he say? Or, rather, what did he not say? What he left out of his speech, was very important. He said, in effect, that many people in Malaya would welcome Australian troops there, because the people of Malaya were in the military business, and the more troops were there, the better it was for them. I must pay that one!
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not deal with debates of the present session.
– Then I shall deal with what went on outside the House. I saw the honorable member outside the House, and I said to him, “ As I understand it, half the people in Malaya are Malayan nationals, who have their own police force. They are assisting tha British troops to keep the terrorists in subjection. Do I understand you to say, having been there, that the people of Malaya would like the British troops to be withdrawn, and that they would prefer to deal with the terrorist problem with their own police force?” The answer of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, given outside the House, was, “ T think honorable members should go there and see for themselves “. He completely dodged the issue. He did not deal with the important things with which we wanted him to deal.
He did not support the foreign policy proposed by the right honorable member for Barton. Of course, it was not true Labour foreign policy. The Labour party in New Zealand recently had to consider the subject of foreign policy from the Labour angle. Hie New Zealanders knew the foreign policy of th<i Australian Government and they knew also what I had said about foreign policy on behalf of the true Australian Labour party. They were in the position of arbitrators. They had all the facts before them. Having considered the facts, they found that the interests of New Zealand were identical with those of Australia. They found that the policy that I had enunciated, which was in conformity with the policy enunciated by the Australian Government, was in accordance with Labour policy, and they supported it. That indicates that the foreign policy proposed by the Leader of the Opposition is not a true Labour policy, and cannot be accepted as such.
The right honorable member for Barton, finding himself in a very difficult position, his leadership being assailed and his foreign policy having been rejected by his own men, has gone to Victoria to try to save the situation. He. is in Victoria now with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), and half a dozen other people. They are on the hustings, going for their lives in an attempt to turn the Victorian election their way. They are telling the extraordinary story that the Cain Government was the victim of a subversive movement. They are saying that it was in the grip of Mr. Santamaria. The fact is that the industrial groups in Victoria were making good headway against the Communists, but the Leader of the Opposition, who has a great regard and sympathy for Communists and is out to help them at every opportunity, could not see his friends being assailed without coming to their assistance. He is in Victoria now, saying, on the one hand, that the Cain Government was a great success and was doing a good job, and on the other hand, that it was controlled by a subversive influence which made it do things that it did not want to do. He cannot, have it both ways. His arguments are not in accord with the facts, and cannotbe accepted.
The industrial groups in Victoria were a great success. Mr. Cain, the Premier of Victoria, was the chairman of the industrial groups committee of the Australian Labour party. He was assisted by another supporter of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Lovegrove. Those two men held the most important’ positions on the industrial groups committee. It is because of the work of the industrial groups committee that Victoria has enjoyed industrial peace. No government has given such good service, and the railway men, in particular, never had such a good time, and never experienced such continuity of work or enjoyed such good conditions, and never made such progress, as they did during the term of that Government. It was all brought about by the good work of the groups. All those things, for which credit must be given to the industrial groups committee, have been rubbed out by John Cain, assisted by Mr. Lovegrove. These men have been asked by the Leader of the Opposition to turf out, and stop the work of, the groups. Mr. Cain has made his mistake. He said, “‘All right, because you say so, and because you have got the numbers and you are standing over me, I will do that “. That is the platform on which they are fighting the. election.
The Cain Government must bc given credit for what it is; it is nothing other than a tool of the Communists. It is all very well to say that John Cain is not: a Communist. Of course, he is not a Communist ! It. is all very well to say that a. dozen men: in the. Cain Government are not Communists and have never shown any sympathy for the Communists or helped them - up to the present. However, I still say that they are the tools of the Communists. One might as well say that a taxi-driver is not a burglar when he takes a couple of thugs in his taxi and they plunder a building, and return to the taxi with their spoils, and he drives them away. He may not be a burglar, but he is a tool of the burglars. That is what the Cain. Government is; it. is the assistant of the people who would destroy Australia. It isabsolutelyshame ful that good and reputable Labour men should be such fools. I wonder why they remain in a party which calls itself the Labour party why they do not see the light and do the proper thing.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- The Supply Bills and the Appropriation Bills now before the House make provision for a small supplementary appropriation for the financial year 1953-54. reconcile the accounts of the current financial year, and will give the Government supply for the first four months of the coming financial year so that it may continue to conduct the services of government until the 1955-56 budget is brought down. I. wish only to throw into the discussion a thought or two about Australia’s economy, and if my remarks serve to provoke debate on the matter and to make other honorable members think about it. I shall have served my purpose. The Opposition has advanced nothing contentious that I might answer; so I shall content myself with dealing with the economy as I see it, particularly as it. affects the primary producers.
Every one is concerned about Australia’s overseas credits. They are not so buoyant as they should be. This fact gives us cause to analyse the position, and we begin to wonder whether it is due to a reduction in the volume of exports or to decreased prices for exports.. Generally speaking, the ca.use is a reduction not so much in the volume as a reduction in the average prices received. Of course, in some great industries, such as the wool industry, upon which Australia depend? so much, exports have not yet been reduced greatly, although income is about £50,000,000 less than it was last financial year. Exports of butter are almost double those of last financial year. Exports of wheat have increased, and exports of flour have decreased. The net effect is that the total exports of wheat and flour, taken together, are less than were those of last financial’ year. Some commodity prices have declined, and some commodities are now exported at prices below the cost of production. The outstanding example of this trend isbutter. Although the dairy equalization scheme brings the priceof butter up almost to the cost of production, the producers do not receive a return equivalent to the cost of production. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) stated a few evenings ago that everything the primary producer buys, producesor sells is sub- sidized from the cradle to the grave. T can tell him that the producer of butter receives less than the cost of production. Cn relation to the dairying industry, those who are subsidized are the consumers of West Sydney in particular, and of Australia in general. If they did not receive the benefit of a consumer subsidy of10d. per lb., obviously they would pay lOd. per lb. more for butter. The cost of production of butter has been determined at from 4s. 2½d. to 4s. 3d. per lb., and producers in Queensland receive from the factories only 3s. lOd. per lb. Therefore, it is obvious that in spite of the equaliza ti.on scheme the producer receives less than the cost of production.
Australia’s overseas credits have been reduced; some export prices are greater than were those of last financial year, and some are less. We must realize that the overseas market is more competitive now. Plentiful supplies of primary products are available, not only from Australia, but also from many other countries. The world market is a true buyer’s market, and no longer a seller’s market. This is the principal reason for the reduction of Australia’s overseas credits. As a result of this situation, the cry goes up, “ Increase production “. What production are we going to increase ? Are we to increase primary production? We know that it is the basis of our entire economy. Probably, no other country leans so heavily upon the primary producers, who are slighted by so many other groups in the community, as does Australia. The standard of living in this country would be considerably lower than it is to-day if it were not for the efforts of the primary producers, who provide about 90 per cent of the exports upon which Australia’soverseas credits are based.
We look in vain for exports from our secondary industries. Secondary industry in Australia has increased to large proportions, but why does itnot have an export trade? There is only one answer? It has priced its goods out of the world’s markets. I shall refer more particularly to that matter at a later stage, I wish at the moment to concentrate on the problem of increased primary production. We must consider the position of the primary producers. The more we produce, the more we deflate the market by over-supplying it, and the more we must reduce our prices. Obviously, increased primary production for export would not necessarily increase our export returns or enlarge our overseas credits. In addition, many producers who receive less for their produce than the cost of production would not be eager to produce more if, as a result, they would be required to accept lower prices. Then, how can we strengthen our economy? If increased primary production will serve only to over-supply the market still more, what can we do? We cannot turn to exports of manufactured goods, because secondary industry has already priced its products out of the world’s competitive markets by allowing costs to increase. Evidently, we must give further consideration to the position of theprimary producers.
I wish now to refer to the credit situation within Australia. General statements that credit is restricted have been made. Let me say at the outset that this Government has not adopted a policy of credit restriction. The only action taken by the ‘Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in relation to credit was to suggest that the banks should exercise reasonable restraint in lending. He has given no instruction about the matter, which is left to the banks for their own determination. The banks have issued credit to the limit of their liquid assets and are naturally looking for more opportunities to make advances. I wish to discuss more particularly the distribution of credit. The trading banks are adopting ‘a wrong approach. They prefer to lend their money in large individual advances to big companies that have established themselves in this country. Goodness knows, we want large companies in Australia ; I do not condemn them. However, I do criticize the banks for lending their money to large enterprises atthe expense of the individual primary producers who are the backbone of our economy and who cannot obtain adequate credit. They cannot negotiate advances to buy farms. A farmer who has reached the age of retirement and who, perhaps owing to physical disability, wants to sell his farm, finds it impossible to get a buyer who can obtain the necessary credit to make the purchase. Similarly, producers who want to buy better machinery so that they can reduce production costs and produce more find that the banks are not concerned about satisfying the credit needs of primary producers. Australia’s primary producers cannot obtain credit of any consequence, though the entire Australian economy depends upon primary production.
There is another aspect of advances with which I am concerned. Even when the primary producer has grown and harvested his crop he sometimes has difficulty in obtaining finance. Under the relevant statute, the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank is authorized to advance up to 80 per cent.- of the value of a crop that has been harvested, including expected administrative and handling costs. However, immediately any one crop is produced in quantities surplus to the requirement of the market, the Rural Credits Department reduces the advance to the growers in respect of such a crop unless they are in possession of a contract for the sale of the whole of their crop. The bank is not willing to take a reasonable risk on a crop which has been accepted by a marketing board. Consequently, the more the growers try to produce, the more they come up against financial difficulties. They incur the expense of planting a bigger crop only to receive a smaller advance from the Rural Credits Department. These methods of finance will not result in increased production by the farmer. Financial concerns must recognize that, in making finance available to secondary industries which aro dependent on country people for the bulk of their markets, they are weakening their security by reducing the supply of finance to those primary producers who provide the markets for the products of secondary industry.
There seems to be a general feeling that the primary producer is on top of the world. Let me disillusion the House on that matter. That is true only in the case of a couple of primary industries. Even in the beef industry, the market price is not as secure as it was some time ago. The beef industry has been protected only by the wise administration of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the Australian Meat Board. The fifteen-year meat agreement has given some measure of protection to meat producers. The wool industry will be in a satisfactory position while present prices remain. But all the smaller farmers in other primary industries are struggling. Yet bank officials and other persons have said that farm prices are too high. I do not know what they mean by that.
– We should nationalize them.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) would like the Queensland Government to acquire all the land, in that State at less than its value. He would like the Queensland Government to rob the landowners of that State by acquiring their land at 1942 values. He would socialize land. Yet, in selling houses under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement, the Queensland Government is prepared to rob the buyers by demanding present-day prices. It cannot be consistent. The price of farms is not unreasonable in view of the price of the machinery that has to be used on them. Some people would say that a certain farm property which has been sold for £10,000 is not worth that amount. Yet the house alone might be worth £5,000; other buildings on the property might have cost a couple of thousands of pounds; a couple of tractors would have cost about £4,000; and a plough would have cost some hundreds of pounds. How can it be truthfully said that two or three machines are worth as much as a farm upon which a man and his family have spent a lifetime of work? The price of land is not too high having regard to the state of the economy of the country.
Lending authorities should realize that if they do not enable primary producers to secure the finance that they need to harvest their crops, our overseas balances will be weakened considerably. Farmers will not attempt to increase production in order to place their products on a congested market which will yield lower prices. How can the standard of living be maintained if Australia does not maintain its overseas credits? How can we maintain our overseas credits without adopting one of two courses of action? One such course of action would be the restriction of imports and the increased production of the restricted imports in Australia. Our secondary industries are failing us. They are not producing goods in the quantities that are required. There is still a shortage of materials such as iron, wire and other farm requirements. The other course of action is to increase our production of those goods, thus enabling primary production to be increased to build up overseas credits.
I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) concerning shipping freight rates. An increase of 10 per cent, in shipping freight rates will be a serious matter for primary producers. I am glad that the Government is having inquiries made into this matter. I hope that it will regard the proposal to increase shipping freight rates as very serious. I hope that it will not take this threat lying down because increased freights will represent still another burden to the primary producers and to the Australian economy.
I think that, before they deliver their judgments, the arbitration courts should have a full knowledge of the country’s economy. I do not want arbitration to bc politically controlled. I do not want it to have any connexion with politics. However, the prosperity loading of fi which was added to the basic wage some years ago was granted because of the ability of one industry to pay that additional amount. The judgment did not help other industries. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and. Arbitration stated at that time that it was prepared to re-examine the matter when conditions altered, and it has honoured that promise, at least to a degree, by pegging wage levels. Industries other than the wool industry have been unable to bear that heavy load because they have not enjoyed the prosperity of the wool industry. The Australian system of industrial arbitration is a good system but it presents economic problems to the Government. The Government must provide, in its budget for the conditions that are brought about by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Consequently, the court should have regard for the effect of its judgments on the whole economy of the country. The effect of the prosperity loading was to aggravate the inflation that existed at that time without achieving the improvement in the supply position which was so necessary. Most of the very high priced articles are proportionately higher to-day because consideration has been given to the prosperity of particular industries rather than to the overall economic position. I realize that the court, in delivering its judgment, took into consideration what it sincerely thought was best for the country. I always accept the decision of the referee, but the decision of the court has brought about a problem the effect of which has not disappeared, but which has become worse day by day. I repeat that the whole economy of Australia depends upon the welfare of the man on. the land. Although the secondary industries are providing employment, and although they are providing consumers in the cities, the standard of living of the consumers, producers, manufacturers and every other section of the community is dependent upon our overseas credits. No one can be satisfied with the position of Australia’s overseas credits. I hope that, through the banking system generally, and through the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in particular, advances will be made to primary producers to enable them to place their products on the market.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) referred to workers in the beef industry in Brisbane, but he paid little attention to the producers of beef in the country. He stated the position correctly when he said that the Stales were exporting beef to help the country toobtain overseas credits, but I remind the honorable member that one of the problems with which the Queensland producer is confronted in obtaining, overseas markets is the bottle-neck that has been caused by the failure of the Queensland Labour Government to provide adequate facilities for the killing of beef cattle at the Brisbane abattoir. Moreover, I do not think the honorable member could be very proud of the record of the slaughtermen at the Brisbane abattoir, or of the record of some of the wharf labourers who have refused to move the beef. All of those factors add to the problems with which we are confronted. We cannot maintain, or improve, our standard of living if we are not able to export our goods and. obtain money for them. Goods stacked in Australia do not help to improve that standard. I again draw attention to the vital need for credit to be distributed: in the right quarters if Australia is to protect its overseas balances-
– Order !
-.- As 1 listened” to the’ speech of the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), I was1 rather- surprised to note’ that it’ consisted1 almost entirely of an attack upon the Government of which he is a supporter, and which, during the six years it nas been in office,, has failed’ miserably ta control’ the economy of this country and1 bring prosperity to our’ primary and export industries: As honorable members know, Australia’s overseas trade balance is’ receding, and the honorable member for Fisher, in’ referring to the ineffiency of’ the Government, has given some’ of the’ reasons £ot that’ recession. The honorable’ member pointed’ out that Australia’s” primary industries are- being’ priced out of. world1 markets;
– I made that statement in relation to secondary industries.
– Primary industries^ too, are facing problems in relation to the disposal1 of their products. Many of themare: unable, on the- present” trader-to-trader basis,, to. place their products on. the markets that they had previously.. The Government,, by. allowing; a wild inflationary trend to take control of the country over the. past six-, years, has- been largely responsible for that state of. affairs. If this Government had maintained, the stable economy that it inherited in- 1949, Australian, products would have been able to compete with those, of other countries in any part of the. world. When the Chifley Government was in office,, the COSt: of production- in. Australia, were very much lower than those, of other countries with, which we had to compete. If thiGovernment had maintained a stabbeconomy,, the wheat-farmers,, the woolgrowers, the meat-growers, the. producer - of eggs and other primary products,, and even those engaged in secondary industries,, would have been in a much bett°position.
The- honorable member for Fisher is a supporter of the. Government, and a member of the- Australian- Country party, thileader of which is- the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden)!. The honorable member has complained about the Government”.’present credit policy. The 1945 banking legislation’, which was introduced by thiChifley Government, empowers this Government to direct the banking and finalcial policy of the banking institutions. If the banks are not pursuing their policy in. the best interests of Australia,, the honorable member should use his influence, not by talking to: honorable members in the House, but by- talking- within his awn party circles in an- effort ta persuade the Treasurer to implement a more liberal financial policy to bolster- up, Australia’s primary industries. The Au* tralian. Country party has failed miserably in. that respect, The Treasurer, so far from being an asset. to the country, has been a, heavy liability, because his-, policy, which has been one of restriction, has noi helped the- primary industries.
The Government simply talks, but takes no action to prevent an increase of freight rates. Such inactivity in this matter i.« typical of its policy., I recently read a report which stated that, freight rates- on goods shipped, from Africa, and other, members, of the British Commonwealth ofNations to Great Britain, or even to the Eastern countries, were much lower over longer distances than the freights on goods shipped from Australia to those countries. Australia is being; exploited in the payment of shipping freights., If the- Government intends to stand by and allow shipping freights to be increased- by 1Q per cent., it will penalize the- Australian primary producers- because the- burden of that increase will be placed upon imported tractors and farming equipment, and, in addition, on the goods that are exported. I understand that representations are also being made for the imposition of a duty of 27i per cent, upon all imported tractors. If that duty is approved, an additional burden will be placed upon the primary producers. I do not wish to deal at greater length with the points that have been raised by the honorable member for Fisher. He has sufficiently condemned the Government by pointing out that it has fallen down on the job of maintaining a stable economy.
I shall now discuss the failure of the Government to deal with another major national problem, the solution of which is essential to the development of Australia. [ refer to the standardization of railway gauges. Reference has been made to this subject over many years. Here again, the Government lias fallen down hopelessly in meeting its responsibilities. It has refused to accept the advice of those officers who are in charge of the main traffic instrumentalities of Australia. The House should know that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, in his report for the year 1952-53, made a very strong plea for the standardization of railway gauges, particularly in relation to the East-west line from Sydney to Perth. In that report the Commissioner made the following statement: -
The position created by breaks of railway gauges in Australia has been the subject of many discussions and investigations, and has been mentioned in my reports for previous years, with particular emphasis on the adverse effect that the disabilities’ arising from breaks of gauge have on the operations, and, conveniently, the finances of Commonwealth Railways.
That emphasizes the adverse effect and the difficulties of the breaks of gauge. The report continues -
Every change of gauge necessitates the provision of costly transfer equipment, the employment of man-power which could be better utilized in other directions’, seriously delays the transport of goods, increases the risk of loss or damage, ties up large numbers nS urgently needed wagons, prevents fluidity of rolling-stock. and causes congestion of traffic- a>t the- transfer points- and on the lines leading to those places. These factors’ all increase the cost of transport, and militate against the successful performance of the railway’s t:ask of transporting goods economical’ly.,, speedily and efficiently..
I believe that much of the cost to the primary producers and to industry to-day, and the high cost of living which the people have to bear, can be ascribed to inefficient methods of transport within Australia, because transport is one of the factors that add considerably to costs. It should be given immediate attention by the Government. The report goes on->-
The Trans-Australian railway, particularly, depends on freight business if it is to operate profitably, but when it is recalled that good* transported to or from Western Australia have to be transferred, and consequently delayed, at two break of gauge points if between Victoria and Western Australia, and three if the traffic is between Sydney and Perth, it will be realized how seriously the breaks of guage operate against the success of our efforts to provide the service to which our clients artentitled, and to meet competition from other services not so hampered. Goods railed al Sydney for Perth must be transferred at either Albury or Broken Hill, according to route required, at Port Pirie Junction, and again at Kalgoorlie. The minimum delay at each place is one day, but in unfavorable circumstances can be considerably longer.
All this involves considerable loss of time and consequential additional cost. It adds to the problems of the people who are using the railways. In many instances, in fact,, many days are lost al various centres. The report goes on -
An extremely important aspect of this problem that is too frequently overlooked, is the economic loss, and interference with business arrangements caused by delays to traffic at transfer points, quite- apart from the actual cost of transfer operations. To the .interest on the capital value of transfer equipment, e.g., cranes, loading and unloading platforms, mechanical handling equipment, &c, and th? actual physical cost of handling, there should be added interest on the cost of locomotives and rolling-stock standing idle,, earning nothing whilst transfer proceeds,, but which could bt earning revenue on other parts of the railway system, if not so tied up . Without going into detailed calculations, it will bc obvious that the community suffers very great economic loss, necessarily “resulting in higher prices for goods than would be the case if consignments could be railed through without transfer … it will be apparent to even the most casual observer that our country cannot afford to permit the broken gauges t<< exist for- any lengthy period in future’.
I appeal to the Government to take notice’ of this report because of its very great importance. The Commissioner then referred to the impact of war. He stated -
T.n; case of war on pur shores, inability to more engines- and rolling-stock quickly from
State to State, when troops and equipment, stores and materials, were urgently needed at particular points might well prove fatal to our efforts to defend the country. Whilst the Australian railways did a magnificent job in World War II., their efforts were hampered and weakened by these conditions, which were only overcome by superhuman effort, at great expense, and with alarming, but quite unavoidable delays.
These points should impress the Government, because this report has not been acted upon. South Australia entered into an agreement to carry out the standardization of railway gauges, and that work is being done on Avhat is known as the South-East railway system in that State - not conversion to standard gauge, but to the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge. As the Commissioner pointed out in his report, the most important work is to carry out the standardization of railway gauges on the main lines between the capital cities without delay. In this connexion he reported -
It is recommended, however, that serious, urgent consideration be given to standardizing the 3 ft. 0 in. gauge line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie over which heavy tonnages are hauled annually, and which forms an important link, both strategically and commercially, between New South Wales and Western Australia. In addition to minimizing the delays to passengers freight and mails at Broken Hill, conversion of the line to standard gauge would -
provide a continuous standard gauge railway between Brisbane and Kalgoorlie, a distance of 2,676 miles;
Shorten the rail route across the continent by 252 miles;
Eliminate two breaks of gauge;
Permit a fluidity of rolling-stock on the New South Wales and Commonwealth systems; and
be a permanent asset to Australia.
When in office, the previous Labour Government made strong endeavours to have this work carried out, but it was not able to get the co-operation of certain States. However, South Australia undertook to co-operate in connexion with the important link between the eastern States and Western Australia. In view of the existence of that agreement, this Government should be proceeding with work to complete the standardization of railway gauges which was commenced in 1S97. At that time, the railway commissioners of Australia recommended that the work should be carried out immediately. In this connexion, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner states in his report -
At that time, the total miles of mainland track in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia was 7,839, and the estimated cost of provision of a standard gauge railway on the three systems was £2,300,500.
But the job was not done in those days. In 1920,’ the matter was taken up again, and strong recommendations were made about it by a royal commission, which was subsequently appointed. Commenting on the recommendations of the royal commission, the railways commissioner states -
The royal commission estimated the cost of this scheme at £21,000,000.
It. will therefore be seen that the estimated cost of carrying out the work of standardizing the railway gauges rose from £2,360,500 in 1897 to £21,600,000 in 1921. Again, in 1945, when Labour was in office, an investigation into the matter was carried out by the late Sir Harold Clapp, who recommended that the standardization of railway gauges to 4 ft.8½ in. gauge should be carried out between Fremantle, Perth and Brisbane in certain specified stages. He stressed the extreme urgency of standardizing railway gauges between the east and the west, and estimated the cost of that work, including locomotive and rolling stock, at £44,318,000. When 1 asked a question in this House on the 12th October last, about the matter the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) appeared to be embarrassed in furnishing an answer.
– Did the honorable member read to the Prime Minister at the time all of the extracts from the railway commissioner’s report that he has read this evening?
– I have before me copies of the question, and of the deferred answer that the Prime Minister gave me on the 2nd November last. I shall read them to the House. The Parliament should be familiar with the contents of this report, which has been for too long buried in the dungeons. The Government has for too long been considering the recommendations contained in it.
Supporters of the Government are constantly referring to private enterprise and the way that it carries on its business. It is evident from these extracts from the commissioner’s report that the Government has fallen down hopelessly in the implementation of his recommendations in the interests of Australia. The principal part of my question was -
I should like to know from the Prime Minister the progress that has been made towards connecting the S.A. railway line with the railway line to Broken Hill.
The reply which I received was as follows : -
A considerable part of the work in the SouthEast Division has been completed.
The South-East Division has nothing at all to do with that line. It is round Mount Gambier in South Australia. That is set out in the report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. The answer continued -
Standardizing the link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie would involve acquiring that portion of the line owned by the Silverton Tramway Company. Exploratory talks have taken place on this matter, but so far no decision has been taken.
I suppose that the exploratory talks have been concluded long ago ; they should not go on indefinitely. The Government should know where it is going. The report from which I have been quoting is for the year 1952-53. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, in his report for 1953-54, the latest report, says -
The main disadvantages, and the economic loss which result from the differing gauges of the railways of Australia were discussed in some detail in my last report. Because I regard this subject as a matter of national importance, I again take the liberty of drawing attention to it.
He mentions again’ the losses that are involved in operating railways under the present system and the national necessity of completing that work. He continues -
Because of the considerably greater importance of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill railway, it was recommended that a transference of the standardization effort be effected.
In his opinion, work should be diverted from the south-east portion of South Australia to this line, to facilitate transcontinental carriage. In the south-east portion the work is nearly finished, and it is an undertaking which is not of a national character. The most important railway is the trans-continental section, which will link the northern part of Queensland with Perth, through Sydney. The Commissioner regards that as being most essential and says it should be carried out. The Government has been wasting time on a railway to serve people in isolated areas in South Australia, but has not carried out more important work.
There arc other matters of importance to the western part of New South Wales. Over a long period, re presentations have been made for the establishment of radiotelephone services. I have repeatedly mentioned this matter in the Parliament. Investigations and experiments have been carried out, and I understand that the Postal Department is quite satisfied that a most efficient system of radio-telephone communication can be linked with the present telephone service, so that it will serve people in the outback. There hai been undoubted delay. The work has been postponed from year to year, and I have repeatedly approached the Minister in an endeavour to have the work carried out. I have been told that provision for it was on the Estimates for one year and would be on the Estimates for the following year. We are told now that tenders are being called abroad for the material and when supplies are available the work will be completed. The Government’s lack of effort in this direction points to the fact that it is not very interested in providing the service at all. Many public instrumentalities have radio-telephones. The New South Wales Department of Public Works has its own service which is very efficient. It can communicate over hundreds of miles with gangs working in various centres. The Snowy River Hydro-electric Authority has its own radio-telephone service. If these authorities can obtain equipment for the services and be so efficient, why should there be delay in providing facilities for the people of the outback? I appeal to the Government to stir itself to provide essentials of this character.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the trunk-telephone service, which is most inefficient in the western part of New South Wales. I was told that provision had been made in the Estimates overthelast two years for this work to be carried out, and although I know that the current Estimates included provision for important trunk-telephone facilities in the western part of New South Wales, the work has not yet been done. Only this week I was told that tenders have been called for the necessary equipment. This stalling on work of an essential character has been going on for quite a long time, and people are becoming sick and tired of the promises made to them and not carried out by the Government. I appeal to the Government to carry out its undertaking and see that facilities are provided for outback people. We are told that there should be a higher population in the distant areas, but people will go in greater numbers to live in those areas only if better facilities are provided for them, and one of the most important of these is an adequate telephone service. Telephone lines cannot be provided in many places because of the extreme costs, so radio-telephone services, which could be provided, should be extended immediately. I appeal to the Minister at the table to take these matters up with the various departments in an endeavour to have them provided for, if not in these measures, in the budget to be introduced later this year. I hope that these works will be provided for then and will be carried out at a very early date.
. -The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has raised one or two points which I believe should be answered at this stage. He commenced his speech by accusing the present Government of promoting inflation in this country and failing to stabilize the economy. That is obviously past history now. The situation is known to every thinker in Australia.
Mr. Fuller interjecting,
– I could probably exclude the honorable member for Hume from that category. I draw the attention of the honorable member for Darling to ‘the Commonwealth Year Book of last year, in which the Commonwealth Statistician sets out very clearly the fact that the inflationary price spiral commenced in 1947 and did in fact continue until the end of 1953, when it was brought in check by the policies that had been applied by ‘the present Government. The honorable member ‘for Darling ‘also made the most peculiar statement that the Government did not help primary industries. That is almost too absurd to reply to, but I remind him that during its few years in office the Government has gone a considerable way to rectify the anomalies which were left over from the previous Government, particularly in the price structure of many of our commodities, and especially in the price structure of some of the contractual arrangements which were handed down to us. There is also a degree of co-operation between the primary industries in Australia to-day and the Government which I do not think has previously existed in the history of this Parliament. The Government has achieved a good deal in just a few short years. There is also a practical side of the issue. I refer to the number of tax concessions which have been made to primary producers by the present Government. If the honorable member has not yet seen the booklet issued by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, with which I am associated, in regard to taxation of farmers’ and graziers, I suggest that he obtain a copy of it. If he peruses the booklet carefully, he will see that various concessions of great value have been extended by this Government to Australian primary industries. He referred also to shipping freights. That reference was, of course, made from a merely political point of view, because otherwise he would have not raised th, matter, which is at present under examination by the Government. In case the honorable gentleman has not seen it. I could arrange to make available to him a copy of a very important statement on it that was made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, which indicates the concern of the Government with the present situation, and shows that, far from being content to ignore the position, the Government is prepared to examine it in order to see what steps can be taken to overcome the obvious difficulties.
Under the division of the Supply Bill which deals with the Department of -Commerce and Agriculture -I wish .to refer ‘to two matters, ‘the first ‘of which is the linseed-growing industry in Australia. The Australian linseed industry is a ‘small, but very -important, industry.
At. ‘is important for three reasons, the first -of which is purely economic. The more linseed we can produce in Australia to-day, the less linseed and linseed byproducts -we -shall have to import. Ils second importance is that from linseed there is produced a very essential byproduct, linseed meal, which is a highvalue protein meal of great value to other primary industries, particularly the cattle, dairy, pig and poultry industries, tall of which depend upon that kind of meal for their efficiency. Its third importance lies in its defence value. It was discovered during the last war that it was essential to make some attempt to develop this industry within . Australia although, of course, it was not possible to do so because of the war situation. As far as linseed oil, in particular, was concerned, we had a great problem during that period. Therefore, in the immediate post-war period, great encouragement was given to the expansion of the linseed-growing industry in Australia. In fact, figures bear out conclusively that a definite expansion of that industry has token place. In 19’47-4S we had 1,600 acres under linseed. In 1952-53 the acreage was 56,900, approximately half of which was in southern Queensland. That indicates clearly the expansion that has taken place in a few years. It is regrettable that, due to a decrease of overseas prices, which, of course, reflected itself immediately in local prices, by the end of 1953 linseed production in this country -was affected, and the industry at that particular time was facing difficulties as far as its future was concerned.
It was obvious that, in order to exist, tin-, linseed industry had to have some incentive in ‘the form of a guaranteed price, because linseed -is grown in areas in which other crops may be grown. It is grown, mostly in association with wheat, ‘which is a. major grain crop and is easier -to grow. The cultivation df linseed -presents problems that are not, associated with ‘the cultivation of many of the other grain crops. The effect of -a reduction of price, which brought thu ruling (rates “for linseed down to a .par with ‘the. rates for wheat, meant that .in la te ‘19 53 -there was a possibility .that the linseed industry faced extinction, although it was the aim of the Australian Agricultural Council, and governments throughout Australia, to encourage its expansion. At that time, through an arrangement which was negotiated with the Linseed Crushers Association, a guaranteed price -of £70 a ton for linseed delivered to certain centres throughout Australia was given. This gave :some encouragement to linseed-growers, particularly in southern Queensland, and the industry was saved. There was instituted, at that time, a Tariff ‘Board inquiry into the question of whether the industry in Australia required some form of protection against imported linseed products. That inquiry has been concluded, ‘but the board’s report has not yet been tabled in the Parliament. I understand that it will not be long before it is tabled, and it will be interesting to see the information that has been derived from that inquiry.
The Australian Agricultural Council in 1952 set out some aims for various primary industries. It referred to the linseed industry as such, and set a target of 200,000 acres, to be obtained by the 1957-58 season. As I have indicated, there was a slight reduction of acreage in late 1953, but that position had been restored to -some small degree since then. It is obvious at the moment, however, that the aims set at that time will not be attained. These aims were fixed only on the knowledge of the future of the industry that existed at that particular time. It is a target to which we still aspire, but I am afraid that it will not be achieved in the period laid down, although many of the other aims laid down in this booklet at that time by the Australian Agricultural Council have, in fact, been achieved already.
It is interesting ‘to know that ,the linseed industry during the last season achieved a production of 5,500 tons of linseed on the basis of “ the guaranteed price of .,£70 a ‘ton. This year the estimated production .is approximately 15,000 tons from about .50,000 acres. This will involve an outlay by the crushers of .approximately .£1,000,00,0. It is .easy to realize, from those figures, the increasing economic importance of this industry to Australia. The estimate of the crop this season means that we should be able to provide approximately onethird of our total requirements of linseed oil from local sources. As honorable members know, linseed oil is used principally in the manufacture of paint. This year it is estimated also that from this crop we shall be able to produce approximately 10,000 tons of linseed ,neal. which has a particular economic importance to us because it is used by other primary industries.
– Is there any proposal to combine linseed oil with macassar oil?
– The interjection _ of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. j. R. Fraser) is, I presume, facetious. Nevertheless. I am sure that he appreciates, as other honorable members appreciate, the value of the linseed industry, though probably not for the purpose that he has in mind. I may be able to consult with him on that subject later. It is important to know that from 50,000 acres this season we expect to be able to produce 15,000 tons of linseed and 10,000 tons of linseed meal. Those figures indicate that one aim of the Australian Agricultural Council, that of improving the linseed yield has, in fact, been achieved. The improved yield this season will mean, on the results at present expected, that we shall have attained the best production result that has been attained since the industry started in Australia.
Associated with this industry there are already some very interesting experiments being undertaken at present in the growing of another crop, which will produce an oil for industrial purposes. I refer to the growing of the safflower plant, experiments into which are being conducted in southern Queensland. The indications gained last season are reasonably hopeful. The safflower plant is not subject to the same problems connected with pests as some other crops are, and it i.« capable of producing a yield cornparable with that of linseed. Its economic possibilities are much the same as those of linseed, although the safflower plant will not produce a meal as a byproduct. Nevertheless, the oil, which can be produced in the same way as linseed oil is produced, is cheaper than linseed oil, and is satisfactory for use in certain synthetic paints for which there is at present a. big demand. We are watching these experiments, which are being conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in conjunction with the Queensland Department of Agriculture. We are hopeful that they will be successful, but we shall not know the actual results for at least another few years.
The second point to which I wish to refer deals with the changed arrangements that are consequent upon the termination of the contract for the sale of butter and cheese to the United Kingdom Government, which, as the honorable member knows, expires on the 30th June, next. I shall go into some detail so that the House may be made fully aware of the changed marketing situation, which is vital to this very important Australian primary industry. For the last fifteen years, Australian butter and cheese have been sold to the United Kingdom under inter-governmental contracts. Instead of competitive buying and distribution by commercial houses the trade has been entirely in the hands of the British Ministry of Food. The marketing procedure during this contract period has been relatively simple. The whole of Australia’s exportable surplus, with the exception of the agreed “ free quota “, has been sold each year to the British Government. Producers of butter and cheese have sold their produce to the Commonwealth Government through the Australian Dairy Produce Board and received payment immediately. The board arranged shipment and, on presentation of the shipping documents to the Commonwealth Bank, claimed on the British Government. In the United Kingdom the butter and cheese were received, stored and distributed by the British Ministry of Food.
The termination of the current agreement, on the 30th June, 1955, will mark the end of sale of these commodities to the United Kingdom by contract. This method of trading will give way to the resumption of open competition, and butter and cheese of the coming -season exported to the United Kingdom will now. have to contend with all the market influences operating against price. Strong competition is expected from other wellorganized suppliers of butter and cheese, such as New Zealand and Denmark, and also from the British margarine industry, which is making a vigorous bid for expansion. Because of these developments, close attention has been given to the marketing arrangements which will apply in the United Kingdom in the future. It was considered that the situation called for maximum strength in selling, with Australia following the example of major exporting countries in selling as a unit, and as such co-operating with these countries in an endeavour to achieve stability and maximum prices in the United Kingdom, which is the world’s major market for export butter and cheese. In order to achieve these aims, a plan was formulated by the Australian Dairy Produce Board which would give it the necessary power to continue to finance export butter and cheese pending sale; to direct supply to selected United Kingdom agents; and to effectively control sales of Australian butter and cheese on the United Kingdom market, including accounting to manufacturers for such sales. This plan had the full backing of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation and the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited. The necessary amending legislation was passed by this Parliament last year. The essence of the plan is that the Australian Dairy Produce Board will become the marketing control authority in respect of exports to the United Kingdom after the 30th June, 1955. From that date it will have discretion, on its own decision, to be the sole selling authority to the United Kingdom.
Though the Commonwealth Government will no longer be a principal in the sale of our export butter and cheese, the amending legislation of 1954 authorizes the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to arrange for the making of advances by the Commonwealth Bank to &3 board for the purpose of financing export butter and cheese. The board will be able to purchase, in its own name, butter and cheese on entry into cold stores or at shipment, but such purchases will be made only where the owner has requested finance from the board. If required for sale locally, or for some market other than that indicated when entered for export, butter and cheese purchased by the board may be repossessed by the manufacturer at any time prior to shipment, on repayment to the Board of the amount of the interim payment which was made to the manufacturer at the time.
When exporting to the United Kingdom the board will continue to use the services of manufacturers, or their duly appointed agents. The butter and cheese will be consigned to the board in the United Kingdom and will be allocated by the board to selected agents and sold by them under the general direction of the board. The agents will account direct to the board for sales and the board, in turn, will account to manufacturers in respect of particular shipments, or sales over a determined period, on the basis of the actual realizations of each grade of butter or cheese involved. Where butter or cheese has not been sold to the board at shipment and is therefore exported in the name of the manufacturer or his duly appointed agent who would be operating as a licensee under the act, such course will be provided for in terms of an arrangement made with the manufacturer or licensee as provided for in the Regulations under the act.
Butter or cheese for the United Kingdom which has been purchased by the board in store, or at shipment, will be shipped by the board itself, and in that case a special arrangement with the manufacturer will not be called for. In such circumstances, the board will ship through licensees who would customarily handle the butter or cheese involved. It is expected that in the new conditions all, or practically all, of the butter and cheese that will go to the United Kingdom market will be shipped in this way, but any manufacturer intending to export to the_ United Kingdom, butter or cheese which has not been sold to the board at shipment will, as I have indicated, be at liberty to do so in the terms of an arrangement made, with the board. Whether purchased by the board or otherwise, butter and cheese sold on the United Kingdom market will be sold under the control of the board and will eventually be- accounted for, direct to manufacturers or their licensed agents.
Prom the standpoint- of manufacturers, the new plan of marketing in the United Kingdom, in actual practice, will only alter that which obtained under the contract for- so many years by substituting tha board for the Ministry of Pood as the consignee, and the allocation of supply to United Kingdom agents, selected by the industry itself through its own board,, instead of to agents. nominated by the Ministry of Food. Tha conditions governing exports to markets other than the United Kingdom will remain unaltered - namely, sales by manufacturers, through licensees of the board, on the basis of values and such other conditions as the board may determine from time to time, with the board exercising, the right, at any rime, to itself arrange bulk sales to any other country or countries.
I have gone into the details of the new marketing, arrangement-, at some length, and” I thank the House for its forbearance. [ thought it necessary that the fullest information on this change, which affects our important dairying industry, should be placed on record.
.- The con-tempt of the Menzies-Fadden Adtainistration for this Parliament is well known, and its disregard of this House is notorious. I ask: honorable members to consider tha lamentable record- of this Administration. Its failure to consult Parliament on- matters of the utmost importance deserves the- censure of this House. Though 345-2 days, almost a year have elapsed since the members-, of this House were elected by the people, the Parliament has met to discharge the affairs of this nation on, only 56, days. That is the tragic and. sorry record of the Menzies-Fadden- Government, in this Parliament. It clearly reveals the Government’s contempt- for this, institution and the elected representatives of the people-. Government members who have spoken this evening, have indicated, by their plaintive expressions of disapproval, that they also believe that the: Parliament should meet more frequently so that honorable members, can. be given greater opportunities, to- serve the, nation!.. I listened with great interest to the honorable) member for Bradfield ([Mr. Turner), who complained at some length about thilack, of opportunity that he= had in tb,House. Despite the fact, that he is: a newcomer to this Parliament, be has wide experience in the- New South Wales Parliament. Similar complaints were voiced by other honorable, members opposite.
Later; it was my privilege to listen to the honorable member for Fisher (Mi Adermann), who complained about” the difficulties of the men on the land. He expressed the view that the only people on. the land who were receiving a real reward for their labours were those engaged’ in the pastoral industry. He argued that farming was in the slough of despond and that, in order to retain the services of the people at present working on farms in rural areas and in the hinterland, it was necessary to improve their conditions to a marked degree. The honorable member for Darling Down? (Mr. Swartz) spoke at length,, or read n lengthy statement emanating from the department of which he is the under Secretary, about our primary industries. But I doubt very much whether his statement will increase the prosperity, let us say,, of the butter and cheese1 producers. The honorable member for Darling Downs, like the- members of the Cabinet that he supports’, refuses- to- come- to grip? with the real problems- that’- face- the men on the land. He- and his colleagues burk the- issue of the- increase of shipping freights which will deal a sledge-hammer blow at our pastoral’, farming and dairying industries. The honorable member and his colleagues refuse- also to- come to grips with the problem- of providing adequate funds, at a reasonable rate of interest, to help the farmers.
I have made those remarks at- the out set of my speech because I’ think it is’ of some importance1 for- us: to- realize- how honorable members opposite; feel about the: administration.’ of this Government. How do they feel about the; Prime Minister (“Mr-. Menzies)-? The right honorable gentleman^, is becoming a wandering
Prime Minister. He is in Australia one day and then he disappears, only to reappear on some foreign strand, where he speaks on behalf of this country. It is difficult to get him to come to the Parliament and deal with the pressing problems that face the country. Australia is becoming accustomed to being a leaderless nation. “We find’,, not only that the Prime Minister goes on pilgrimages abroad but also that other Cabinet Ministers one after another in a constant procession leave our shores. Last year no less than £63,000 was provided to meet, the expenses of the trips abroad made by the wandering members of our Government. Although many Ministers have gone overseas to discuss the affairs of Australia in other countries, the members of the Cabinet do not speak in concert or agreement. It is not unusual to find Ministers of this Government making statements simultaneously in various parts, of the world on various matters, [f they happen to speak about the same matter, quite often they express differing views on it.
The foreign policy of Australia is of the utmost importance to the Australian people. But what do we find there? The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has gone overseas time without number. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has tripped around the world, expressing his views on foreign policy and saying what he thinks should’ be done. The Prime Minister, not content with the visits overseas made by his fellow Ministers, sent the head of his department to the Far East to confer with’ people there on international affairs. Despite the fact that foreign affairs are the- sole responsibility of one Minister; the? Prime Minister sent Mr. A. S. Brown, the head of his- department, to visit various foreign countries and to report to: him on his return to Australia. Is the. Minister for External Affairs capable of dealing with foreign policy? What is the view of the1 Prime- Minister on that question ? It would appear that he- does, not entirely trust the- Minister for External Affairs. Otherwise, he would not have sent Mr. Brown overseas to checkup on his colleague. The Minister for the Interior,, as I have said, made- his contributions to the subject of foreign affairs. The- statements made by various Ministers, were so much in conflict that the Prime Minister, ignoring the importance of calling the Parliament together to discuss the vital question whether the people of Australia should become involved in an international conflict, decided that Australian- . troops1 should bfsent to- Malaya. He did so- without consulting the Parliament or, apparently, his Cabinet. I do not propose to canvass the merits of that decision to-night, but 1’ want to say that I deprecate the fact that the Parliament was not given an opportunity to consider that matter in the way in which it was entitled to consider it. It is disturbing that a decision of such vital! importance to- the Australian people was made in such a manner.
Another classic example, of the Government’s disregard of the Parliament is tha raising, of dollar loans.. Arrange ments are made to. borrow dollars from, overseas, and the money raised is spent on all sorts of things. It does, not seem to. matter to the Government whether the things on which the money is spent fall within the categories, ultimately approved: by the Parliament. Later,, the. Parliament is called, together and is asked to approve of loans which have already been, raised and spent.
Another matter to which I want to refer is the salaries- of the heads of government departments. I pay a tribute to the Clerk of this House for upholding the dignity and prestige of the Parliament by refusing to accept an- increase of his salary before the increase was approved by the Parliament. The Executive has decided that the salaries of head? of departments shall be increased substantially. I do not want to- discuss now whether those increases are adequate or inadequate. I say it is wrong for the Executive to increase the salaries of’ heads- of departments and to pay the increased salaries- without reference to the Parliament. The salaries have been paid at the increased rate1 since- the 1st January. That is a most disturbing state of- affairs, because the Public ServiceAct states clearly -
The salaries of officers of the First Division shall he as fixed by. Parliament.
Increased salaries are being paid to highranking public servants, but the Parliament was not consulted on the matter. I wonder what would happen if honorable members returned after a recess and discovered that the Government had increased pensions and had been paying the pensions at the increased rate for some months, without parliamentary approval. We know that that is fantastic. At budget-time, when it has been proposed to raise the mere pittance paid to pensioners by 2s. 6d. a week, we have found, when we have asked for the payment to be made retrospective to the beginning of the financial year, that invariably the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) has told us that the request cannot be granted, and that it is necessary for the Parliament to determine these matters. He has explained that the relevant bill must receive the Vice-Regal assent before the pensioners can receive their increased payment. Why does not the same argument apply to heads of government departments? The Government tells us that it is necessary to hasten the passage of the bill, so that pensioners can receive their pittance a little earlier. When heads of government, departments are involved, there is no need to wait for the Parliament to determine the matter. The payments are made without any consideration for the views of the honorable members who comprise this House, whether they sit on the Government or Opposition side.
This evening, I make a plea to all honorable members. I feel there is a need for the Parliament itself to stand on its own feet, and for honorable members to assert their rights. For too long has this new despotism been allowed to exist in this country whereby the Executive usurps the powers of the Parliament and determines matters without reference to those who have been elected by the people. I say truthfully, on behalf of every honorable member, that we come to this honorable place only because we have the support of the people in our electorates and because each of us, in a democratic way, has received a majority of the votes that have been cast in his division. It is our duty to serve them in the National Parliament. I think it is a disgrace, and a revolting state of affairs, that the Parliament has its doors closed from time to time.
I am disappointed and unhappy to think that even the Chairman of Committees should acquiesce in a state of affairs, where the Parliament is not sitting, and the matters that he himself has ventilated in this chamber, are not dealt with. He referred to matters such as a better deal for the man on the land, additional finance to assist fanners, the need to fight the shipowners for the survival of our secondary industries and to prevent the destruction of our primary industries. It is absolutely necessary that Parliament should meet, and that we should be up and doing in order that our industries may survive. It is inevitable that our secondary industries will die if no steps are taken to remedy the position, because they cannot succeed in competition against the cheap labour industries of other countries. They have to bear shipping charges which are completely out of tune with reality. As one honorable member mentioned this evening, goods can be transported from South Africa to Far Eastern ports at half .the charge that is imposed on goods shipped from Australian ports to Singapore and other places in the Far East. There is something very wrong about that and I agree with the opinion expressed by Mr. Latham Withall, who is the director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, when he said that Australia is subsidizing Britain by the imposts of heavy shipping costs. I whole-heartedly agree with that.
Australian secondary industries cannot survive, and I think that members of the Australian Country party should protestmost vigorously against the fact that our primary industries are being held to ransom in this fashion. It would be of great value to this House if we could get the Australian Country party militant to rise again, as it apparently did during the days when it was first formed to represent country interests. But no longer is it the Australian Country party militant; it is a mere appendage of the Liberal party. Just so long as members of the Australian Country party can trade away their inheritance for a mess of pottage, such as the portfolios of Treasurer for their leader and other positions in the Cabinet, and form a group within this House and derive some private and personal gain, they apparently forget entirely the ideals which inspired them to seek election to this chamber in the first instance.
It is unfortunate that the Australian Country party has deteriorated in that fashion. I do not know whether the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) is trying now to convince the members of the Australian Country party that they should join the Liberal party and so make peace with them at the present time. Perhaps that was his mission. In any case, this is a most serious matter and I am concerned with the developments which have taken place.
Within a week or two this chamber will have its shutters drawn. The doors will be closed and the only voices which will echo and re-echo through the corridors of this House will be those of tourists looking at a place which should be a dynamic place where the voices of the elected representatives are heard throughout the year expressing the viewpoint of the people on urgent and pressing matters which from time to time affect this nation. What will be the position? As I say, the shutters will be drawn, and the doors will be closed and this place will be a national museum, a place where tourists will congregate to look at what might happen here.
An Honorable Member. - They come to see the exhibits.
– I assure members of the Australian Country party that the exhibits will ha.ve long since returned to their respective electorates, and they will be missed by the tourists who come to this place.
But this matter is far too grave to be treated lightly. I am also concerned about the treatment of matters which do eventually come before this Parliament. I om not criticizing the Parliament itself, nor am I saying a word against its management; but I am saying something against the actions of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who, on behalf of the Govern ment, times without number has moved the gag on vital matters affecting the people of Australia. I call to mind the discussion of the subject of shipping as a matter of urgency. After one or two speakers addressed the House, the gag was applied, and the question put. Again, the Australian Country party voted with the Liberal party, thus agreeing that there should be no debate on the matter.
The allocation of receipts from the petrol tax for road-making purposes and the construction of bridges is also an important matter. The provision of proper roads enables people in the country districts to reduce the cost of bringing their produce to the market. But what do we find when this subject is raised? Again, the Australian Country party voted with the Liberal party to close the debate, and thereby stopped a fair discussion on those matters. Every person who knows anything about the country districts of New South Wales knows only too well thai there are slums in the country just as there are slums in the city, and that finance is urgently needed to provide better homes for the people who are living in country districts so that they can enjoy a better standard of living. But those matters are passed by.
The plight of the pensioners and needy people has again been ventilated in this chamber. Those people are obliged to live on 70s. a week. However, when the Opposition submitted a proposal for the discussion of this subject as a matter of urgent public importance, after only one or two honorable members had spoken about it, the Vice-President of the Executive Council gagged the debate, and Government supporters willy-nilly accepted the restriction of debate on this most important matter which dealt with the unfortunate position of the pioneers of this country, many of whom have lived all their lives in the outback and, by their understanding, tenderness, loyalty and patriotism, have built up this country in a material sense and put it in the position in which it stands to-day, after having survived two world wars and two depressions. A debate upon the plight of those grand people was cut short by a motion that the business of the day .be .called .on. We have (reached a most unhappy situation in Australia when the Government does .that sort -.of thing.
The need for civil defence measures was dealt with by the Government in a precisely similar cavalier fashion. Our democracy .stands in definite danger, and honorable members on the Government side of the House particularly .should exercise a greater degree of responsibility. I suggest to them that it is not a prerequisite to being supporters of the Government in this House that they must oppose every democratic proposal brought into this chamber. Surely, there are many matters of the kind I have mentioned upon which the Government and the Opposition could deliberate on even terms in an effort to -work for the true good of our nation.
Increased development is one of the most urgent needs of Australia, for who knows what time we have at our disposal to develop this country. We all know that very great and very real dangers threaten the world to-day, and we who are concerned about Australia’s development are appalled by the lack of interest in these vital matters shown by Government supporters. We on this side of the House are well aware of the need for the standardization of railway gauges, which was mentioned .by the honorable member for Darling (Mr.. Clark). We recognize also the necessity ‘for the construction of railways in .the Northern Territory, and for the development of the Burdekin Valley irrigation scheme, to which reference has been made .by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) . Honorable members on this side of the House are concerned about all those measures by which Australia can be developed. By ‘developing this country we shall .be helping to defend it. All of the matters I have mentioned are of the utmost importance, and the Parliament should meet for -a period long enough for it to deal effectively with them. However, for the Government and its supporters, it is -a ,case :of out of sight, out of .mind. When the Parliament is not in session, the people’s representatives cannot consider “these vital issues. We frequently .hear from Government -sup- ^porters assurances that they -will, speak, or ask questions, .about one matter or another when the Parliament meets again, but, even if they wish to put their expressed good intentions into effect, -they have little opportunity to do so. In one year, the 123 members of this House were allowed a total of only 56 sitting days to consider the important affairs that vitally affect the Australian people.
– What about Ministers’ silly answers to questions?
– The tragic state of affairs that I have outlined calls for correction. The honorable member for -Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has referred to Ministers’ answers to questions. I consider that Ministers usually do their best. The honorable member might think that their answers to questions are -silly, but doubtless Ministers, with the assistance of the information that they have available, try to meet the requests of honorable members for information to the best of their ability. However., that matter is by the way.
The vital subjects that I have mentioned should be dealt with in a more forthright, manner. Recently, the position of Australia’s economy has deteriorated very greatly. This Government has set in motion what might be described as an eccentric process. It has pegged the basic wage, but profits and prices have not been pegged. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), some years ago, made a definite declaration to the Australian people that, if he were elected to office, he would introduce an excess profits tax. AH of his preelection promises have been forgotten, and, as a result, a most serious condition has developed, because Australia’s economy has deteriorated to such a degree that even Government supporters must admit that we face serious difficulties. Australia’s national problems must be dealt with in a just and reasonable manner. It is unjust and unfair that the basic wage earner should have to exist on a pegged wage and that families should be required to live on ;an income of about £12 a week while ?costs and prices are allowed to continue to spiral upwards.
Of course, this Government has never had any real desire to control prices or profits. Tt had no real desire to halt. inflation, which1 it has* allowed to run riot; Itr has: permitted large-scale investments, in’.all sorts. of profitable’ undertakings and: enterprises without regard for the needsof, the Australian people for. a sound economy or for the development of industries, of the types that; are necessary to the development of a- greater and better Australia-. It has ignored the pattern of planned development that was formulated in, Canberra by my predecessor as the representative of- the electorate of Macquarie. That pattern of development, which would have kept Australia’s economy on the rails and in a sound condition, has been thrown overboard because the Government and its supporters represent, thu interests that favour only some controls. They want laisser-faire to enable- them to make large profits, but they wish, to impose the most rigid controls on the wages of the ordinary people. Only recently, the controls upon wage margins were removed, but many sections of the Australian people are still labouring under the great disability of the controlled basic wage.
In. conclusion, I wish to refer to the congregation of industries on the seaboard. This Government has failed to consider a worth-while scheme of civil defence. It has submitted no civil defence proposals to this Parliament for its consideration. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has a civil defence measure on the business paper. lt is not my function to refer to it now, except incidentally by pointing out that safety requires that industry shall be decentralized and removed from the vulnerable centres on the seaboard. This Government has given no consideration to events, of which it has knowledge, in other parts of the world, to the history of other countries, or to the sufferings of the people of Hamburg, Warsaw, Coventry and other cities that were devastated in war-time-. It has continued to allow to congregate about Sydney all of the industries that are essential to the survival of the Australian people. The atomic reactor which is to be built at Lucas Heights, near Sydney, the new power stations in Sydney, and the new oil refinery at Kurnell, near Sydney, are examples of undertakings that are essential’ to the survival of the Australian nation; and all of those establishments could be1 destroyed simultaneously by one hydrogen bomb.-
The. Parliament should, continue to meet, for another month;, if necessary, to consider, and to put into practice plans for the development oi Australia, for the preservation of the country’s security by the removal of the important industries that I have mentioned to the hinterland, for the decentralization of industry generally, for the encouragement of immigration, in order to increase our population, and for the provision of better homes for the people, especially in country districts. If that were done, we should certainly be doing something worth while. However, I am certain that this sessional period will end within several weeks with all these vital matters unresolved; and, for all this Government cares, they may remain unresolved.
.- The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) this afternoon attempted to castigate this Government, for its alleged failure to provide properly for the development of Queensland.. It is not possible for me, in the short period of half an hour which, is available to me, to give to the House a complete account of all that this Government has done to develop Queensland and to make proper provision for its. defence. Therefore, I propose- to deal with two or three of the subjects which the honorable member for Griffith introduced into this debate. During his speech, the honorable member referred to the fact that some time ago the Government appointed a panel to investigate the possibilities of the development of the air transport of beef and cattle, in northern Australia. He said that, so far, no report had been submitted- to the Government by that panel. He inferred that the Government, in appointing the panel, had simply attempted to stave off a decision on this important subject. He said that he felt sure that no report would be- submitted until, just before the next general election. He suggested that the appointment of the panel was a piece of electioneering- and a party political action. That is completely untrue.
Some time ago, the Queensland Government, at the request of the Australian Government, appointed a com- mittee to inquire into another aspect of the development of beef production in north Queensland. That was known as the Kemp committee. Strangely enough, in view of the implied charge by the honorable member for Griffith, the Queensland Government waited eighteen months after the presentation of the report of the Kemp committee before it tabled that report in the State Parliament of Queensland. In view of that fact, it is strange that the honorable member has criticized the delay in the presentation of the report of the committee that has been appointed by the Australian Government.-
During the last general election campaign the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden’ told the people of Queensland that when this Government was elected to office it would appoint a committee to inquire into a relatively new method of developing beef production in north Queensland and northern Australia, in other words, the transport of cattle and beef from inland abattoirs by air. The Government honoured that promise. It appointed an expert panel which included two representatives from Queensland and a representative of other interests associated with the cattle industry in Australia. I am chairman of the panel. The present Government and other governments have received representations over a period of many years concerning other methods of transport which were available for the development of Australia. Recently, it has become obvious that, in addition to rail and road transport, a third method of transport offers distinct possibilities for the rapid development of inland areas. The Government rightly believed that, before it committed itself to a considerable expenditure of public money on additional transport facilities, it should have a factual investigation made into the possibility of this new method of transport which has already been tried in some areas. That is why the panel to which I have referred has been appointed. The honorable member for Griffith twitted the panel on the fact that it had not submitted a report. The panel has met on a number of occasions. It has invited people to give evidence before it. It has contacted certain authorities in the beef industry, not only in north Queensland, but in the Northern Territory and in the Kimberley district of Western Australia and throughout Australia. Those people have given valuable evidence. As a result of those investigations, the committee has already submitted a confidential memorandum to Cabinet on a matter which arose two or three months ago. As that memorandum is confidential I have not the faintest intention of informing honorable members of its contents. Before submitting a firm report, the members of the panel, all of whom arc solid, practical men, realize that the one example in Australia of the air lift of beef from an inland abattoir, that is the Glenroy project, should be investigated. The Glenroy abattoir commenced- its operations a week or two ago and, next week, the panel will make a complete investigation of this one example of the air lift of beef. The panel will take advantage of its visit to Glenroy to see all the areas of the Kimberleys and the Northern Territory that could come within the scope of the panel’s recommendations. The committee will then be able to base, its report, not only on the evidence of practical men, but also on its own experience of the new method of transport. Any man with any common sense will realize that that is the soundest approach to adopt to a problem such as this. After the panel has made its final inspection in a week or two, the report concerning which the honorable member for Griffith has expressed concern will be submitted to Cabinet. What will happen then will be a matter for determination by the Government.
I have been extremely pleased to be associated with this investigation as chairman of the panel, because the air transport of beef offers the beef industry an opportunity for speedy development which other methods of transport have not offered. As public money could be involved in this matter, it is essential that a proper factual investigation should be made.
In association with the subject of the air lift of beef, the honorable member for
Griffith also raised the subject of the proposed railway to Dajarra. The proposal to provide a railway between Dajarra in north-west Queensland and Newcastle Waters has been given considerable prominence in. Queensland and in this House for some time past. The honorable member for Griffith, playing the game, or whatever we might like to call it, of the Premier of Queensland, saw fit to try to persuade the House that this Government had fallen down on its task in relation to the development of north Queensland.
For a long time, I have been in possession of a good deal of information about this subject which I have refrained from making public in the House. As the attempt of the Premier of Queensland to make political capital out of the actions of the Australian Government by a misuse of the facts has been re-echoed by the honorable member for Griffith, I now propose to give the House a few of those facts. The desirability of providing a rail link between Dajarra and Newcastle Waters is one of the many pet subjects that the Premier of Queensland uses in an effort to discredit this Government. No one who knows the position can deny that the Queensland Government has not the faintest intention of spending one penny for the provision of a railway between Dajarra and Newcastle Waters. It is not interested in it, and it knows that no Australian government of any worth would consider the proposition; yet it asks this Government, “ Will you agree to this proposal ? “ Although it knows that no Australian government would agree to it, it says, “Look what this terrible Australian Government is doing to us. It will not provide for the essential development of north Queensland “.
Following a request from the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister some years ago, the Queensland Government appointed a committee to inquire into the economics of the DajarraNewcastle Waters rail link. Eighteen months elapsed between the completion of the report of the committee and its being tabled in the Queensland Parliament. Eighteen months passed before anybody who was not in the confidence of the Queensland Government obtained any knowledge of the contents of the report. Before the report was made public, the Premier, Mr. Gair, made certain comments about it. Honorable members should be interested to learn what those comments were, because it must be remembered that the idea behind the suggested Dajarra-Newcastle Waters railway was that it would provide for Queensland a wonderful opportunity for development. It was suggested that the link should be completed, because the whole of north Queensland would benefit greatly. Against that background, let us consider the comments of the Premier of Queensland, which take us back to the 5th March, 1953. He stated -
It is considered that the effect of the construction of the Dajarra-Newcastle Water* extension on the area of Queensland traversed by the line would be limited.
The honorable member for Griffith, at one stage during his speech, would have had us believe that this link would be a wonderful thing for Queensland. The Premier further stated -
The purpose of constructing the line would be primarily the development of additional supplies-
He meant additional supplies of store cattle - from the Northern Territory, which is administered by the Federal Government.
I want honorable members to note how cleverly the Premier of Queensland built, up his argument. He does not wish to be committed by the report of the committee that was appointed to investigate the matter, but, at the same time, he tries to commit the Australian Government to the expenditure of a greater amount than that which would be justified. He says, in effect, “ It does not affect us very much ; it will not benefit us very much “. and then he says that the purpose of constructing the line would be primarily the development of additional supplies from the Northern Territory. If greater supplies of cattle for fattening, and for transport over the Queensland railway system, would not considerably benefit, that State, I do not know what would. He said, moreover -
The operation of this extension as a State enterprise at an annual loss of over one-third amillion pounds is notjustified since the benefit derived from construction of the line would apply to the Northern Territory.
The statements of the Premier are conflicting. In one statement he says that the only benefit would be additional supplies of cattle available to north Queensland, which could be transported over the Queensland railway system to, say, the Townsville meatworks, with consequent employment to many persons, and in the other statement he says that the annual loss would not be justified because the benefit would go, not to Queensland, but to the Northern Territory. He continued -
Evan under the most favorable conditions
Mark that, because it is important - it is not likely that the Tevenue received on the railway line would he sufficient to meet operating costs.
There is no reference in that statement to capital expenditure or maintenance. Those comments have not been made public previously, but I was obliged to make them public because of the charges that have been levelled to-day by the honorable member for Griffith against the Government, and against the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who has been Queensland’sgreatest friend in the ‘Government.
Following the making of those comments, the Premier of Queensland made an offer to this Government. I want all honorable members to listen to the terms of the offer, because they should have a right conception of the need for the properexpenditure of public moneys. The terms were that the complete cost of the proposed rail link from Dajarra to Newcastle Waters, which has been estimated to be anything between £16,000,000 and £20,000,000, should be borne by the Australian Government. The second amazing part of the offer was that, although the Commonwealth was to meet the complete cost of the rail link, it should be built by the Queensland Government railways. I invite honorable members to think about that. Couldany honorable member, irrespective of his political affiliations, with a knowledge of what has happened in Queensland in Relation to rail and road construction, agree to a proposal that the Common wealth should supply the money for the construction of such a rail link and that the Queensland Government railways should expend it ? I suggest, without fear of contradiction, that thecost would rise to £40,000,000 before it was finished. But that was not the end of the offer. I want it be completely fair in this matter. The ‘Queensland Government then said, in effect, “ We are prepared to expend a total capital amount of £200,000”- against £20,000,000, I emphasize–” to put in certain crossing links which will be necessary to handle the traffic “. That w.as very generous! The Queensland Government also said, in effect “ We are prepared to defray the cost of 75 per cent of the rolling-stock and 75 per cent of the maintenance of the railway within Queensland “. Having made that generous offer - I suppose the Queensland Premier felt that he had to say something to gloss over the matter - he added that the operation of the Queensland section of the line on the terms proposed, which I have just enumerated, and which were surely generous enough, would result in an annual loss to the Queensland Government Railways of at least £15S,000. He said -
This isconsidered tobe the maximum contribution which this State can afford to make towards this undertaking.
So there it is. The Queensland Government says that this undertaking, about which there has been so much talk, is not worth, to the State itself, more than £158,000 per annum; but at the same time it says, in effect, to the Commonwealth “ Nevertheless,you should be prepared to expend at least £20.000,000 on this project. You should not have any control as to how the work is done, but should just come in. If you do not do it, we will tell everybody in the State that you are not playing the game with Queensland and that you are failing to provide for the proper development of that area”. These are facts. If any (honorable membersopposite challenge the the statement that I have made as to the Premier’s remarks I invite them to have a lookatHansard which will reveal ‘the exact terms that I havegiven.If they cancome to this House afterwards and protest a denial which can be accepted ul the remarks I have made, I will stand here and apologize to the Premier of Queensland and to this House. But I know that they ‘cannot accept that challenge because what I have ;said about the Queensland Premier’s remarks is true. lt is amazing how quickly time passes when one is ‘dealing with a subject like this, of which there are so many aspects, [n dealing with what this Government has done in Queensland, I am not going to turn round to-night and quote the amount of loan money that has been made available to Queensland ; I am not going to spend any time pointing to the millions of pounds that have been made available to Queensland by this Government over and above the amount that that State was entitled “to under the formula, and I am not going to point out how much this Government has made available to Queensland out of revenue which it had no need to make available except for its desire to help Queensland as well as the other States; but when honorable members opposite talk about what the State government is doing by itself in connexion with the Burdekin Dam scheme and other schemes, without the finance made available over and above what Queensland was entitled to receive from this Government, I am going to say that those schemes could not possibly have been carried on without Commonwealth aid.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his last policy speech, gave an indication to the nation of the way this Government felt national development should be tackled, not only in Queensland, but throughout Australia. The position is that the Commonwealth has representatives of every State coming to it, particularly when the Australian Loan Council meets, and when, conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers are held, saying, “We have certain essential works in our area which are of national importance and which must be given priority”.
– Hear, hear !
– Queensland does that, and so .do New South Wales and the other States. It as ‘extremely difficult for the Commonwealth to determine the priority which should be given to these works. In an attempt to sort, out thi* matter and to give priority to matters most entitled to priority, the Prime Minister made a very sensible and statesmanlike proposal. He said -
When we are re-appointed, we will approach the States with the suggestion that there should be a national development commission appointed with representatives from the various States. That is something that will need the co-operation of the States. Thimain task of that developmental commission will be to examine the various proposals that .are put up by the various States - the various developmental proposals - and deter mine their order of priority.
In other words, this commission, which will be an impartial body composed of representatives of both the Commonwealth and the States - men of substance, not those who would follow only the party line - will be required to determine whether the Burdekin dam scheme or the Dajarra scheme or some other scheme in New South Wales, Victoria or South Australia should be given priority. It will determine the order of priority that should be given to these schemes. That was completely sound. I suggest to the Queensland members opposite who are making a lot of noise that, had that been done, the Premier of Queensland would have been able to submit to that impartial body his claims on the degree of priority that should be granted to the Burdekin dam scheme and the Dajarra scheme and other schemes. But he was not game, because he knew of the basic fallacy and inequity of the schemes thai he was putting up. Consequently when, after being returned to office, the Prime Minister moved towards the .appointment of this national development commission, which would depend for its operation on the co-operation of the States, the States bailed up and would not agree. So the commission has still not been appointed. However, this remains the major factor that must be brought into being in order to sort out properly this question of development so that the matter can be removed from the atmosphere of State jealousies and put on a proper national footing.
In conclusion, I point out to the honorable member for Griffith ‘(Mr. Coutts), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) and the honorable member for
Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), who are sitting together opposite, that I am concerned about the matter of State development as much as they are. Indeed, so are all Queensland members on this side of the House. We want to see something constructive instead of destructive put up by the Queensland Labour Government, so that we can turn round and fight back. As yet, nothing of such a nature has been put up. Why cannot members of the Opposition get behind the Queensland Labour Premier and say, “ Look, this commission you are talking about and which you have objected to is the finest and best thing that could be brought into being. If you were to submit these matters to such an impartial body we would get somewhere “. Until they do that their criticism is just so much bunkum.
.- On the question of the comments on Queensland development that were made by the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson), I shall leave him to Queensland members on this side of the House. I should like to return to a discussion that was initiated by honorable members on this side of the House in relation to the problem of our export markets and the whole crazy nature of our economy at the present time. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), and several other honorable members on this side of the House, as well as honorable members on the Government side have seized on that problem as our paramount problem. I remind the House that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, yesterday initiated a discussion on the paramount problem of what we are to do to maintain our stability in exports, to maintain full employment and, in short, te get away from the razor-edged economy in which we live from day to day. There are certain things to be said, and they cannot be said by cant, humbug and slogans. Honorable members have talked about the farmer being the backbone of the nation, which is true enough, but that does not enable any more wheat, wool, or butter to be sold on the markets. They have talked about pricing ourselves out. of the overseas market, which is another slogan from the writers on economics, but that does not give us anything. There are two things which must be done. There must be a recognition of the fact, as stated by the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), that the export of primary products has to be developed as the sheet anchor of the economy. Everybody knows that, and everybody in this House has, at some time or other, had some discussion about the reason for it, but one clamant, very obvious indication of why we are not selling primary products and not getting the best price for them in certain directions is that there has been a slowing down in the processes of salesmanship. Everybody knows why wool will command its own price. What that price will be is a matter of supply and demand, and the cost structure does not. enter into it. It is virtually a monopoly against the world, because it is the world’s best fleece. Everybody knows that the found cost of production of wheat has a generous edge to it, and honorable members who represent wheat-growing constituencies will agree that, compared with Canadian and American costs of production, we have not priced ourselves out of the market for primary products of that nature. The meat agreement recently concluded has assured an equal market for meat for fourteen years, and Australian meats are doing well on world markets, particularly in Britain.
A sad story has to be told with regard to butter, eggs, dairy products, cheese, wines, and other products. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), we concede, is the most dedicated Minister to the job of selling our products overseas, and doubtless he should have seen a statement in the Melbourne Argus containing an attack on the Australian primary producer, which read -
Most of Britain’s 50,000,000 people refused to buy Australian eggs, tinned meat, and soups. They rave never heard of Australian butter, so labelled, nor tasted Australian wine, nor sampled Australian cheese.
That report was the work of ten experts. Surely it was not just written as a derogatory reference to our trade. Surely it was not a scandalous piece of propaganda geared against us. I should not believe that for a moment. I thought it was a warning by ten experts of what was happening. We know that the products that are grown here are all right. We know that our butter, eggs, and wines are good - some of them incomparably good. This was a message to the selling side of our great primary producers that something had gone wrong. The ten experts, going from the north of Scotland to the south of England, found that the goods referred to - and I limit my remarks to them - are unknown or spurned, and the quotes they made from tho statements to them in a Gallup poll from door to door were, “ Oh, I never buy Australian, because it is not nicely packed. It is not branded, and is not accompanied by sales promotion “. There is something to answer in relation to our great primary products, not the staples of wool and wheat, but the other things for which we can get a market.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) made a long and exhaustive statement on the butter position, which ends the governmenttogovernment trading arrangements which have been in existence for so long. Butter is now controlled by our own selling organization. He did not tell us that Australian butter will go out blended as a product labelled “Empire Blended”. It has no name. Nobody wants it. It is from somewhere in the Empire. It may be from South Africa, New Zealand or Canada. Why should there not be a distinctive name and a distinctive wrapper for Australian butter? The position is the same with our eggs. They are mixed with eggs exported from Egypt, for instance, which are sold as Australian eggs, to the detriment of the Australian product. We have to remember that we arc being mulcted in the Treasury of £700,000 by a disastrous series of incidents of bad salesmanship in the egg exports of this country. There is a case to bc cleaned up. It is no good whining about a 40-hour week and what we are going to do about the price structure. We have to look at what we are selling for profit and see if we are making the best of the deal. Australian wines are exported in bulk and we all know that the commodity market in London, now that there is no government-to-government trading, is a shocking racket. Australian wines are taken in bulk and blended with cheap Spanish wines, and sent over to France to be sold as high-class wines with the label of the French vignerons, the sellers of high-class wines, as champagne,, burgundy, and wines of other names which are peculiarly those of the French wine industry. There again we are caught.
In regard to cheese, over the years there was a great rush for the development of milk powder and other products, and the farmers gave away the delectable cheesemaking industry. In New South Wales, we had a marvellous collection of cheeses. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) knows of their value - the Bodalla cheese, and the Kammeruka cheese, piquant, well-flavoured, excellent cheeses. Nobody wants them now. There must have been some considerable substance in the arguments of those ten experts who said that most of Britain’s- 50,000,000 people refused to buy Australian eggs, tinned meat, and soups. Our wine is the only commodity that feels the cost structure against it, because South African wines are produced where cheap sugar is grown and cheap labour is used in their production, but even at that South Africa has only increased its market overseas to £2,000,000. Every one on both sides of the House, I am sure, wants to do two things - sustain our markets overseas, and see that the shrinking grip that we have on our balance of payments is sustained in order to preserve in this country our standards and our policy of full employment. If our primary products are not properly marketed, there is a case to answer. If any assistance needs to be given to them, there is a case to answer. When we have done all these things, another question has to be considered.
At this stage of our development, 1 think we have come to the position where we have to look at our economy and see what can be done with our secondary products. The honorable member for Fisher said that we were not exporting any of our secondary products, which is not strictly true. So far, they have not been exported in any great volume, but the field is there. The time -has come for us to blend our primary and secondary exports. The secondary industries can and’ win, if encouraged, play a part in the* maintenance of full employment in this: country. In- the past, the Labour party,, under the- Scullin tariffs, and subsequently, has always sustained, the secondary industries, and what real rewards: we have had for it - a workshop to carry on our war effort, and after the war theknowhow to develop our country and lift our standards of living. It seems to me that the secondary industries must nowtake a step, forward, and they can do so without hauling their- goods 15,000 miles across the- world. Our immediate market is- in Indonesia, in some sections of New Guinea where white men are, in Java, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, South-West Asia, and Asia itself, and already we have pioneered some of the future markets there as a result of the Colombo plan. Diesel engines, refrigerating plant, and bulldozers have been given away under a plan to assist the Asian nations. But those nations are rising from their colonialism, and are becoming purchasers of commodities. So there is a commodity market there for us to supply. They are attempting to drain the swamps, hew down the jungle and develop their countries. They are countries which, in most cases, have been handed back to their nationals. There is our opportunity! What have we done with it so far? We have sent a few trade counsellors who are merely trade diplomats. They are not commercial travellers, and we should not expect them to be. They are men who have done a good job in creating goodwill towards us in Asia. I should describe our trade commissioners as “ trade facilitators “. The commercial traveller comes next, and I suggest that now is the time. The demand for our products in the countries I have mentioned, particularly the Eastern countries, is growing. They want hydro-electricity plant, refrigeration machinery, diesel engines, tractors and bulldozers, consumer goods, fertilizers for their crops, pest-killers and the know-how of agriculture which we have gained during our development as a nation. Some of them want the knowhow of the production of machinery. They want to introduce some sort of balance into the standards of their agriculture. We can help them by letting them have machinery manufactured in
Australia. One question that has been asked before is-, “ How are, w.e going to. build up this trade ? “ If it. comes slowly now. it will, in the- final analysis, be anavalanche. There is a way for Australia to balance its economy!:
The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), among other honorable members, has mentioned export credit guarantees. It is impossible for secondary industry in this country to submit tendersworth millions of pounds for diesel engines, or grid’s for electrical installations, without some guarantee, when they are dealing with a country whose economy is a little- unstable, and whose rate of payment is necessarily slow, that they have a reasonable chance, of payment within a reasonable time. In, the contracts that are accepted from Asian countries there is a clause that provides for payment at a date more than ordinarily distant. As a result, many British and American firms- are receiving contracts- which could otherwise- come to this- country. We ask ourselves whether we. can, at this stage, with our limited production, compete by tender for those jobs in Asia. The answer from the authorities that I have consulted is, yes, for two reasons. One is that, geographically, we are close to those countries, and the haulage of the goods to: them is not expensive. The purchasers are not 12,000 miles way, but are a matter of 200 miles away in the case of Indonesia, and various greater distances in the case of purchasers on the Asian continent and in the archipelagos. Another reason is the availability, or rather unavailability, of dollars-, to pay for these things, which must harass and bedevil the plans ofPakistan and those other countries which are showing- signs of building themselves up. Australia’s soft currency economy can be a useful and telling point in selling such countries the things that we need to sell abroad. I am advised by people who are informed on this matter that, say, £2,000,000 placed in an export credit guarantee fund as an insurance to exporters that they would get their money, would do wonders for our- economy. I understand the matter is being considered by the Government, and I also understand, that, as usual, the Treasury is digging its toes .in and saying, “ This is new, and w.e are not .going to get much out .of ‘it”. The .Treasury is adopting that horrible and niggardly approach which it always adopts to .any new scheme, whether it be in relation to social services or anything else. In the .interests of this country, I beg honorable members apposite to make sure that the Treasury will not have the .last :say in this matter. It is only a bureaucratic organization for making money available. The imagination ,and know-how .should come from the Government and honorable members themselves.
I .think .that, after careful consideration of the whole matter, it is possible to 3ay with confidence that great possibilities lie ahead of us. I do not suggest that trade with Asia is going to boom immediately. But the provision of export credits guarantees would be good planning for the future. It would be an incentive to our exporters who are prepared to dare, and would, in due course, allow them to tap markets that have great possibilities. The British Empire became great because it dared to trade at a risk. It took trade into Egypt and Persia, and into remote corners of the world where nobody would have thought it was possible to sell anything, and, as a result, it earned millions of pounds. These are crucial days, and if we wish to avoid being left with a dangerous imbalance in an economy geared completely to our primary products, we should take advantage of the secondary industries that we have fostered so well. It is now their turn to line up with their elder brothers, the primary industries, in the crusade for greater trade and commerce for Australia with the world. The future of the Australian continent, if we carry out that crusade, if one looks at it calmly, and without being swayed by patriotism, and without exaggeration is, T think, a good one. I think that its future is vast and illimitable if we undertake some wise planning now. The scheme for export credits guarantees, mentioned by the honorable member for Canning und other honorable members on both sides of the House, is not a costly scheme.
If we are to keep 1,000,000 Australians in ‘employment we must find markets for the products <o( ‘Our secondary industries.
There .are -some extremely interesting details in regard to where .people work in this .country. The products that they produce will have to be sold abroad if we are to keep those people employed. One million people are directly employed in secondary industries. Half of the task force of the nation works in factories and in the tertiary industries -that are associated with secondary industry. The answer to our economic problems obviously lies in increasing exports of the products of our secondary industries. There are many problems associated with primary industry, but they are not incapable of remedy. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) gave us a treat to-night by showing us the beautiful lexias and -sultanas that are grown in his electorate. I hope that the dried fruits industry, with which exservicemen have a close -association, which is at present temporarily -in the doldrums, will, in time, lift its .head .up and be able to show the world what it can do. But I am not talking about temporary setbacks in particular industries. I am concerned with -what we must do to see that our secondary industries can play the role that they should play in our export economy. If the establishment of an .export credits guarantee fund means the outlay of £2,000,0.00 or £3,000,000, we must remember that .that would be only trust money.
There are firms in this country which have the capacity to make machinery which is in demand in the countries that I have mentioned. The Clyde Engineering Company Limited is one company which has the capacity to make diesel cars. There are other companies with similar capacity. It may be invidious to mention only one company, but that is the one that comes to my mind. The Email companies have the -capacity to turn out, on mass production lines, refrigerating machinery which is of great value to the Asian nations. We can get a market for all .these things. We hear talk about increases in our cost structure which allegedly prevent us from competing in (overseas markets. I have no patience with the chairman of directors who declares a 12 -per cent, dividend, throws a cocktail party at the Hotel Australia, and immediately after he has handed out the swag says, “ Now, we must have a look at the cost structure. The men are not working hard enough under the 40-hour week”. I think that we should forget such attitudes towards the 40-hour week. The 40-hour week is part of Australia’s economy, just as it is part of America’s economy. America’s immense production is achieved under a 40-hour week, and Australia is the only other country in the world that has a 40-hour week. So let us forget all the talk about raising the cost structure, and get ahead with some reasonable plan for export guarantees. I believe that such a plan has been suggested to the Government, and I understand that the Government is still analysing it. I am hopeful that it will do something about it, because I am empowered to say that the Labour party supports such a plan. Without any feeling of smugness we say that it was the wise planning of the forefathers of the Labour movement, who saw that this country could not proceed without a basic secondary industry to fill the demands made by primary industry, which has given us the secondary industries that we now have. The simple plan, if I may summarize before I sit down, is this - that an export credits guarantee should be provided by the Government through the Commonwealth Bank. Then, in the words of Shakespeare those wise traders who would “ venture trade abroad “ may feel that their money is safe. Then they can take risks in developing the sales of their country’s goods and sell the machinery, agricultural implements, seeds, food and other things that have flowed into the Asian countries as a result of the Colombo plan. After that, we will tap the vast commodity market. Because of our proximity to these markets for consumer goods we shall not have to worry about monopolistic shipowners; it is a short haul. Moreover, there will be no worry about payment because this is a soft currency area. There will be no worry, if we have faith in our tradesmen in secondary industries - and as technicians they are second to none - that we shall be unable to beat the ancient traders of the world at their own game, building up for ourselves a vast field of industry and commerce with the Asian nations that are so close to us.
The fostering of this trade with our near neighbours in the East has been one of the planks of our foreign policy, and of our policy of full employment. Our simple proposition is that the Government should consider offering this exports credits guarantee. It is simplicity itself, it is easily explained and obviously must appeal to all. We will not then have at the beginning of every Supply debate, and of every debate that affects our economy, the cry that trade is on the razor’s edge of imbalance. We are proposing something that will form two prongs of a pincer movement that will envelop trade in the East and bring prosperity to our nation. It is well worth considering, for the traders and manufacturers of this country are satisfied that it will work. It would begin as a trickle, and end as a flood. For too long in this country have we put all our eggs in one basket; for too long have they all been broken. For too long have we had alternating periods of prosperity and depression, distressing rises and falls in commodity prices, and the consequent ill effects upon the Australian community. If we did the logical thing and used our technical know-how to develop our sales in- the East we should have another and stronger source from which to build our economy to a stability that would not be equalled any where in the world.
The opportunity is there waiting for us to take advantage of it. Before the late Ben Chifley died he showed me a list of the things that, at that stage, the Indonesians wanted from this country but, because of certain difficulties, they could not get. It began with slate pencils and ended with Holden motor cars. The teeming markets of the East are still open to the Australian manufacturer, if we will only be up and doing. The way to bring this about is to create an export credits guarantee under the control of the Government and Commonwealth Bank. We shall then be exporting instead of always moaning about where we are going and about the trouble that we are in.We have a great chance and we should take advantage of it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pearce) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Consular Fees Bill 1955.
Cotton Bounty Bill 1955.
Loan (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Bill 1955.
Loan (Swiss Francs) Bill 1955.
Meteorology Bill 1955.
Patents Bill 1955.
Rabbit Skins Export Charges Legislation Repeal Bill 1955.
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
UNITED Nations Association.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The total Commonwealth payment to the Australian Association for the United Nations in 1953-54 and 1954-55 was £4,000 each year. The allocation of this grant between the various States and the federal council is a matter for the association and these details are not readily available. (b) Assistance provided to Good Neighbour Councils and New Settlers Leagues is as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550525_reps_21_hor6/>.