22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Horn John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether, following his statement of the other day, he can now give the House further information as to the proceedings before the Security Council inconnexion with the Suez dispute. There are, of course, references in the press, but we know nothing of the documents that have been filed by the various parties. Could we have those details and any other information that he has to offer on the subject?’
– Only ten minutes ago I” inquired from my department whether any telegrams had come through in the last 24 hours regarding the Security Council debate on the Suez matter. There is nothing more to tell the right honorable gentleman than that the debate is proceeding.. 1 have not in my mind the precise terms of the item inscribed in the name of the United Kingdom and France, or of that submitted by Egypt, but I believe that they have been published in the press. They are, of course, appropriate to the position adopted by each of the parties. As soon as there is anything that can properly be told to the House or to the public I will most certainly make it’ available. So far there has. been no development that would warrant an. announcement: on the subject.
– Can the Prime; Minister say- whether it will, be: possible to. invite: the. State. Premiers; to. attend, another conference, on- the- vital question, of. quarterly wage adjustments and; wage rates generally throughout Australia?
– As the honorable member knows; in- August a meeting with the Premiers of the States was field1’ in order to seek, greater: uniformity of wage, policy. The purpose was not, I remind the. House, to- avoid- having: a high effective wage level, but; to. produce a high degree of uniformity ins wage practice. On Tuesday night Cabinet considered this problem again andi I’ was. authorized to communicate with the StatePremiers and suggest- a- further conference as soon as possible. I will, of course, consult the wishes of the Premiers and also their convenience in fixing a time, but hope that’ it will be practicable to have the conference, within, the. next four or five weeks.
– Can the Minister fo; Social Services say when effect will be given to the increases of pensions provided for in the recent social services legislation? 1 refer particularly to the payment to widows of an extra 10s. a week for each child after the first, and the great benefits- for invalidpensioners. If the details will not be with the department in time for it to include the increases, in the first pension payment after the bill takes effect, will the increases be made retrospective for that purpose?
– I remind the honorable member for Port Adelaide that in the course of my second-reading speech on the bill to amend the Social Services Act, I said that the increased payments would be effective as from the first day after the bill had received the Royal Assent. I am informed that the Royal Assent is now being sought and my department is in a position to effect payment as from the first pay day after it. has been granted. I think it will be received in the course of the next few days, if not the next few hours; and the department is ready to meet the situation. If and when- there are any adverse physical difficulties, the payment will be made retrospective to the first pay day- after the Royal Assent is given.
– In view of a reply given by him to- a question asked by an honorable member last week, I ask the: Prime Minister whether he- can indicate- if the present- pow lion is to be. maintained- or whether an changes, in defence planning in this country are contemplated..
– 1 imagine that the honorable member- is referring to a question put to me, 1 think on Tuesday- afternoon, by an honorable member opposite, and which I answered. I then dealt with that question and with no. other, which is- the rule of the House;- but now that the opportunity, has been given, to me. by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. 1 should- like to say that when I returned from abroad I had accumulated a certain amount of information and some ideas on the question of future defence policy. I took, the opportunity to sort oat my ideas over the week-end. I had a long conference with the Minister for Defence on Monday afternoon last and long discussions with Cabinet on Tuesday night, in consequence of which it has been agreed that the whole defence programme is to be reviewed in the light of certain circumstances. That, as we arranged on Tuesday night, will begin at a conference between the Minister for Defence, the three service Ministers, the three Chiefs of Staff and myself on Wednesday of next week. The whole purpose of that will be to have a complete revision from top to bottom of the ideas underlying the defence programme in the light of the circumstances now existing in the world.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service refers to an application made by John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited for the deregistration of the Australian Journalists Association in about July of this year. 1 think the Minister is aware of this case. It eventually came before the new industrial court, and the newspaper concerned asked for have to withdraw the case because of constitutional difficulties. The union asked that the case be dismissed and that it be awarded costs. The problem about which I am directing a question to the Minister concerns costs. A small union with limited financial resources can get into grave difficulties in an instance such as this, i think the matter has been referred to the Minister by the Australian Journalists Association. Has he anything to tell us about the matter as yet?
– I am not in a position to give a considered reply to the honorable member at this point, but I shall have one prepared and will convey it to him as soon as practicable.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question in continuation, really, of the question asked by the honorable member for Corio. Is Australian general electrical development and consumption of electricity per head of population much below that of other competing countries, especially the United States of America and Canada? ls the improved position in those countries due in large part to their system of long-term self-amortizing charters or franchises dealing with electricity generation which do not necessitate public loan raisings and ensure continuity of policy? As Australian electrical development is largely in the hands of local government and semi-local governmental authorities, whose activities are being brought to a standstill, causing heavy retrenchment of employment, by their inability to raise even the reduced loan allocations made by the Australian Loan Council, will the Prime Minister raise for consideration at the forthcoming Premiers conference on wages the question of such bodies being not only allowed, but stimulated and encouraged, to arrange for the generation of electricity under private overseas charters or franchises which would ensure continuous electrical development, simplify the problem of spiralling wages and costs, improve the competitive power of our industries and relieve Australia’s balance of payments and local public loan position?
– The suggestion conveyed in the right honorable gentleman’s question is, if 1 may say so. much too important to be given merely an offhand reply. 1 will certainly discuss this matter with my colleagues in order to see what course of action we should take on it.
– I address three questions to the Minister for External Affairs. First, what does the Government regard as the precise point at issue with Egypt on the Suez Canal dispute? Secondly, is it the act of nationalization or is it the accusation that Egypt is not permitting free access to the canal? Thirdly, is it that the Canal Users Association, and not Egypt, should collect the canal dues?
– I think the honorable gentleman will probably realize that the series of questions he has asked is really too all-embracing to admit of anything approaching an adequate reply during question time. After all, the noticepaper contains an item, the debate on which, I imagine, will be resumed before very long when the business before the Security Council has reached a sufficiently definitive stage to warrant the resumption of the debate. I assure the honorable gentleman that when that time comes 1 will endeavour to give him a precise answer to the series of questions that he has asked.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question. It is common knowledge that a very considerable back-lag exists in regard to telephone installations. Can the Postmaster-General say whether this problem has in large measure been overcome in the United Kingdom and the United States of America by the introduction of shared lines as well as by duplexing services? Will he have a paper prepared by his officers and circulated among honorable members giving a comprehensive and balanced account of the operation of this system overseas?
– It is correct, as stated by the honorable member for Bradfield, that there is a considerable back-lag in the installation of telephones in Australia. At the end of the last financial year, it was about 86,000. This condition is not peculiar to Australia. .Back-lags of a much greater volume exist both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. An attempt has been made to overcome the back-lag in those countries by the use of what is described as the shared system. In those countries preference is given to the shared system rather than to the duplex system. This matter has been under investigation by the Postal Department for some time; naturally the department is investigating all means, not only this one, which may enable the back-lag to be overtaken quickly. The information obtained is that in the countries I have mentioned the shared system is applied only to residential connexions where the call rate is low. It certainly would not apply to any business connexions, nor in residential homes that are used by doctors, nurses or anyone connected with public utilities where the call rate would be high, and there would be some degree of urgency in the calls. I am informed that, in the United Kingdom, approximately 1,000,000 of the residential services are on the share basis. In the United States of America, about two-thirds of the services are on that system. As a matter of fact, in the United States of America they go to the length of having two, three and four subscribers on the one line. The system of shared services has been under investigation by the Postmaster-General’s Department for a considerable period.
– Is it any cheaper for the subscriber?
– That is one of the matters into which we are inquiring. Indications so far are that there is quite a considerable saving in the installation and maintenance of shared services as against the duplex system. Of course, there is a great saving on shared services as against exclusive services. The honorable member asked me whether I would circulate a paper giving details of the matters to which I am referring briefly now. I am quite prepared to give honorable members all the information I have on the matter, but as the introduction of shared services would involve the adoption of something in the nature of a new policy, I am preparing a paper for submission to the Cabinet. I should be glad to give honorable members any other information that might assist them.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether loan negotiations are pending with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the International Monetary Fund? If so. what is the amount of money involved, and what will be the rate of interest?
– Yes, negotiations have been proceeding on the basis of an investigating and canvassing survey I am not in a position to give details at this juncture but, knowing the interest that the honorable member takes in these matters, 1 shall do so as soon as I can.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior to a recent postponement of a decision in relation to new post office facilities at Woody Point on the Redcliffe Peninsula. Will the Minister inform the House whether any decision has been reached on this matter and, if so. what is the decision?
– With the large number of property deals that . pass through the Department of the Interior, -I am afraid that I have not the precise details.
– Look them up.
– I shall be glad to do so. I recall giving approval for a lease which will provide facilities that should meet the wishes of those on whose behalf -the honorable member for Petrie has been making representations.
– In the continuing and persistent absence of the Prime Minister from the Parliament, T direct a question to the acting Prime Minister. Is the most consistent consideration by far, from Australia’s viewpoint, to keep the Suez Canal open for world shipping? Has there been any suggestion or indication during the currency of the present dispute that the Egyptians have the desire or intention of interrupting the flow of shipping through the canal? Is it a fact that to prevent the passage of shipping would be against the best interest of Egypt, which would lose considerable revenue if such a course were followed? Is it a fact that the only action taken which was designed to obstruct the free flow of shipping through the canal has been the decision of the Suez Canal Company to withdraw the services of its pilots? Is it a fact that the company offered a guarantee to continue payment of the pilots’ salaries for a period of time reported to be two years provided they obeyed its direction to leave Egypt? As such action could vitally affect Australia’s interests, has the Australian Government protested against the action taken to induce these skilled pilots to leave their employment? Finally, having regard to the Prime Minister’s statement that the Egyptian Government had threatened to imprison any employees of the Suez Canal Company who vacated their posts, is it a fact that no obstruction was placed in the way of pilots who chose to depart?
– The first part of the honorable gentleman’s question, with regard to the Prime Minister’s absence and continued absence, emanates from the sewer. Suez is the general subject-matter of his question, which I shall leave to my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, to answer.
– The honorable member for East Sydney, .in typical fashion, has made a most mischievous interpolation on a. matter that concerns Australia, our mother country, Great Britain, and a number of other democratic countries throughout the world. .He has, as usual, taken the side of Australia’s opponents.
– Rubbish! Why do you not answer the question?
– He has asked a series of ex parte questions, all based on lack of information, untruths or half truths, in an effort to smear and disturb-
– You are a liar!
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, and .1 ask the Minister to withdraw the .statement that I was guilty of uttering untruths.
– Order! The Minister for External Affairs may continue.
- Mr. Speaker-
– I ask that the Minister withdraw the statement that I used untruths, which I regard as offensive.
– If the right honorable gentleman used that remark, I ask him to withdraw it.
– Yes, at your request, Mr. Speaker-
– I .ask the Minister to withdraw it unconditionally.
– 1 withdraw it unconditionally. Still, if I may say so with great respect, the facts remain and speak for themselves. The point is this: A most mischievous series of interpolations has been made. Every one of them is clearly against the interests of Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, and a number of other countries. In other words, the honorable gentleman has taken an attitude which is almost exclusively his attitude on international or national questions, against the interests of his own country, Australia, and designed, presumably, to get him publicity and headlines in the Australian .press or such units of it as like that sort of thing. I think his questions are beneath contempt and I do not propose to answer them.
– You cannot answer them. You are not game to answer them.
– In any event, the matter is on the notice-paper, and so I say that his questions are out of order.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral any control over policy decisions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? What policy, if any, has been laid down for the broadcasting of descriptions of horse races throughout Australia? Has any representation been made to the commission to have descriptions of races in eastern States broadcast in Western Australia? If so, has any decision been made in this respect?
– The PostmasterGeneral has no direct control over the operations of, or the policy applied by, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I think it will be well known, in view of the fact that the Broadcasting and Television Bill has been ‘before this House on several occasions during the last six months, that the powers and obligations of the commission are defined in that legislation, and that it is the commission’s responsibility to carry out its tasks under the general instructions contained in it. I would also state that in my experience it is highly desirable that the commission should be a statutory body operating under its own authority and not under the direct control of any Minister. The honorable member asks what policy has been laid down for the broadcasting of horse races in Australia. No direct representations have been made to me on this matter, but I know that, some time ago, the Australian Broadcasting Commission decided that it was undesirable that all the horse-racing events in the mainland States of Australia should be broadcast in each State, and a new policy was adopted whereby, in each of the main States, the horse races which are conducted in the capital city on Saturday afternoon are broadcast in full. Only the results of races in the other States are given, with the exception of events of particular national interest, which also are broadcast in detail. That system applies throughout the mainland States. An exception was made however, with regard to Tasmania because there is little horse-racing in that State - a statement which I hope my Tasmanian friends will not question - and also because the northern part of the State receives .most of its national broadcasting programmes from the Melbourne stations. That is the policy which has been laid down. No representations have been made to me regarding the broadcasting in Western Australia of races in the eastern States. I have an idea that representations were made to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and I understood that ‘the commission does not intend to depart from the policy which was adopted some considerable time ago and with which, I might state, I am in full agreement, although I have no power of direction.
– Does that apply to the commercial stations also, or only to the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– I am referring only to broadcasts by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether .there is any truth in a recent statement that, when aborigines are brought to trial in the Northern Territory, no provision is made for their legal defence.
– I assume that the question refers to those aborigines who are under the care of the Administration. In such cases, the provision is that no aboriginal may plead, either in a lower court or a higher court, unless a Protector of Aborigines, having interviewed him, enters a plea on his behalf. The Protector of Aborigines then decides, according to the nature of the case, what representation of the defendant is needed in court. In general practice, in a lower court, such as a court of summary jurisdiction, the protector himself may appear for the aboriginal. In the higher courts, legal counsel is always briefed, and if the case is such that it is likely to go to a higher court, then counsel is also briefed in the lower court. This matter was raised in a Melbourne newspaper recently and, generally, what was said in that newspaper was completely false; but it prompted me to make some specific inquiries to ensure that the directions of the Government were being carried out. I found that, of the 40 most recent cases of aborigines brought to trial in Darwin, legal counsel had been briefed in all except seven. Of those seven cases, six involved minor charges which were dealt with in lower courts, and the other was dismissed on the representations of the protector, and no legal defence was necessary. In fact, in 33 of those 40 cases, counsel was briefed to defend the aborigines.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that at a meeting of the bishops and laymen of the Anglican Church at present being held in Melbourne, particular attention has been directed to the inadequacy of social services payments, particularly age, invalid and widows’ pensions? ls he also aware that in a recent issue of “ Presbyterian Life “ it was suggested that Presbyterians should communicate with their local members and endeavour to induce them to take a line of action that would persuade the Government to increase these inadequate payments? Does the Minister agree that it is unusual for these church gatherings - I have no doubt that other denominations have taken similar action - to intrude into such subject-matters? Does their intrusion into this very great and grave social problem indicate that this Government has completely ignored the needs of these unfortunate people? Will the Minister soften his heart and make urgent representations
– Is this a question?
– 1 know that I am hurting the honorable member for Hume, who has sat behind the Government on this issue. Will the Minister urge the Cabinet to make a review of the whole subject a matter of very great urgency, with a view to granting an immediate increase of social services payments?
– Let me answer the last part of the honorable member’s question first. I have no intention of altering my attitude towards this vexed question. In the traditional way. submissions were made to the Cabinet by me; they were given the consideration that was their due, and decisions were reached consistent with the economic circumstances of our country. No government can do more than that. I remind the honorable member for Lalor that year by year and budget by budget this Government has substantially increased the social services ‘benefits that are available to persons who qualify for them, and I hope that, consistent with the capacity and the willingness of the Australian people to pay, that process will continue. I also remind him and other persons outside this House who are interested in this question that there is no known way for this Government or any other government to bring down a bill to provide for compassion and the expansion of Christian charity, and that there are illimitable opportunities for people to engage in the relief of the distressed without such legislation.
– 1 direct to the Minister for Social Services a question which is supplementary to the one which has just been asked. How long did it take in another place to pass the bill that was introduced to amend the Social Services Act? As the Royal Assent depends upon the passing of the bill in that place, is the Minister satisfied that there has been no undue delay?
– I availed myself of the opportunity to be present in another place when the bill to amend the Social Services Act was introduced, lt was passed in that place within a few hours without amendment and without a division, and during the course of the discussion great tributes were paid to the officials of the Department of Social Services. Because of these circumstances there has been no delay, nor will there be any delay.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, with two brief statements. In 1950, the right honorable gentleman announced that, because of the danger of war, Australia must be ready for mobilization in 1953. In answer to a question on Tuesday, the right honorable gentleman said that this country could not be ready for mobilization - unless it has not only a full-bodied system of long-range and long-period conscription- and he continued - but also devotes from its revenues such an enormous increase in money that it is able to have … all the modern equipment thai goes to make a modern army, navy or air force.
In view of that statement, I now ask the Prime Minister whether he was aware of these requirements for mobilization between the years 1950 and 1953. If he was aware of them, why did his Government not establish them if, as he announced, Australia faced the danger of world war? Doss the Prime Minister consider that annual expenditure of about £190,000,000 is sufficient to provide Australia with the modern equipment necessary for mobilization, or does he consider that some “ enormous increase in money “ above that amount would have to be spent to provide the modern equipment required for mobilization?
– The question seems to be an extremely argumentative one. I have no apologies for having said what f said in 1950. Nor have I any apologies to make for setting the marks high. My experience is that if you do not set them high, you are liable to have less achievement. Therefore, I have no regrets about that matter at all. I do not know whether the honorable member was here earlier this morning, but I have already indicated to the House that the defence programme is now in course of complete reinvestigation. How much can be produced or made available for all needed equipment will emerge in the course of that discussion. 1 regard the problem of securing effective equipment for modern and mobile forces as of the highest order of priority. It is not a simple matter. It will be worked out with every technical assistance that we have.
– Can the
Minister for External Affairs give the House any information on the present state of negotiations between Russia and Japan concerning their long-delayed peace treaty?
– After very many long years of delay, it does not appear possible for the Japanese and the Russians to reach a peace treaty in the normal sense. So the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Hatoyama, is about to go to Moscow, it is understood, to try to reach an agreement as to a simple termination of the state of war between Russia and Japan. I imagine that it is intended to make an arrangement similar to the one that was made between Russia and West Germany. The matters in dispute, of course, have been very many. Large numbers of Japanese prisoners of war have been in Russian hands; many of them are still in Russian hands, if they are alive. There has also been the question of the Kurile Islands to the north of Japan which have been occupied by Russia since the end of the war, and that matter is in dispute. I should not like to prophesy the outcome of the talks between the Russians and Mr. Hatoyama, although I think that the Japanese Government and the Japanese people have every reason, almost, for dismay at the state of affairs that the Russians have forced to continue for over ten years.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the conditions now prevailing at the University of Melbourne, where saturation point has been reached for the number of students that can be accommodated there? Does this position arise as a result of inadequate tax reimbursements to the State of Victoria or paucity of loan funds, or as a result of both? Will the Government give consideration to the alleviation of this position which, if unchecked, could seriously impede our development as a nation?
– This again, I venture to say, is a purely argumentative matter, and I did not think it was appropriate for questions. The honorable member, in his short argument, raises the whole question of the relations between the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria in the tax reimbursement field and in the loan field. I do not know that he has anything to complain about unduly, because the tax reimbursement provided by this Government to the State of Victoria and to other States is, in fact, far greater than would be payable under the formula worked out by his own government with the States years ago. The Commonwealth Government has supplemented, by many millions of pounds each year, the amount payable under that formula. So far as the University of Melbourne is concerned. I think that it will not be heard to complain about the treatment meted out by this Government which, in fact, as the honorable member may know, is now, under a plan put forward by it some years ago, providing for the universities something of the order of £2,000,000 every year.
– My question, directed to the Minister for Trade, refers to the very alarming statement made the other day by the chairman . of the. Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, regarding the disposal of a huge quantity of wheat by America to India. He described this action as blatant dumping in a market which is natural to Australia. Is the Minister aware, of this statement, and of the incident to which it refers? Is he aware, also, that the statement has created, very great alarm among those engaged in the wheat-growing industry? Can the Minister give the House any information which will alleviate that alarm, remove the fear of the wheat-growers and counter the growing opinion that the United States administration is, apparently, prepared to sacrifice the economic interests of any of its friends so long as its own interests are secured?
– Broadly, the facts of the situation are. that the: United States administration has concluded an arrange-, ment with the Indian Government which isdesigned to establish in India what are described as security, stocks of wheat. I take it that that means security against the contingency of famine in that country. Speaking from memory, I think that the total amount provided for as security stocks is about 130,000,000 bushels of wheat to bc provided1 over three years. The actual facts have not: yet been published, but I” understand that payment for. the wheat is to. be made by the Indian Government, not on commercial terms - that is, not in dollars but in Indian, currency:. By arrangement with the United States administration, most, of the money paid is to be available to the Indian Government for certain purposes of its own development.. To that extent, this is an example of a completely, noncommercial transaction in wheat.
Attached to this, general arrangement is an, undertaking by the; Indian Government, that iti will buy,, oyer the same- period’, on commercial- terms, at least: 20,000,000. bushels of wheat a year: There is no: restriction, as to the. source; from: which the Indian. Government may, buy this quantity annually, on commercial terms;, other than’ that. 5,5.00,000 bushels, of. the: 2Q:000,000 bushelsmust be bought from the United States: ot America.
The policy of this Government, as I have stated before, is that it does not” object to the-, expression of United’ States generosity in providing, on: whatever terms it: elects. aid to. a county or- people in4 need who, otherwise, would not be: able to make a pur-chase. We have made that quite clear: The. only- objection we take is. to the provision, on non-commercial terms, of com: modities that are. in the. Australian export regimen, when such- action would result in distorting ox destroying Australia’s trade opportunities. This, particular transaction has in it the elements of both these policy considerations, and. the attitude of this Government is quite clear: It. asks no more than that the United States Administration should make us aware of its. intentions in such circumstances, as those, give us an opportunity to express our point of view and state, where our interests lie, and also give us. an. assurance that proper weight will, be attached to our. view and our inrterests. In this particular case, I. am bound to. say here in the. Parliament, as I have said. to. the United States Administration’s, representatives,, that we. were not given adequate opportunity, to. express, our point of view.
– As. chairman, 1 present the following, report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Twenty-eighth Report. - Supplementary, Estimates; variations’ under section 37 of the Audit Act 1901-1955 and Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue: Fund, for the year 195.5-56.
I wish to say a few words on this matter. The House. will be aware that. at. the instance of” the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the Supplementary Estimates 1955-56 were transmitted to this House for consideration on Tuesday- last, and that, as part of his programme for improving- budgetary practice, those Estimates were- submitted for consideration- this month instead* of “in April or May next as- they would’ have been in accordance* with the practice that has. obtained’ for some years. The- new practicewill enable honorable members to- deal1 withmatters arising from the Estimates in the light of their current knowledge and when their recollection of the subjects they wish to touch upon is fresh, instead’ of-‘ having to wait for- nearly a year before- they- can raise matters on. which their- memories by- that time will no longer be fresh.
The committee was told’ that the Supplementary Estimates- were Vor be- submitted for consideration early this year. in. accordance with, the practice which the. committee itself had advocated, and the. Treasurer was good enough, to. supply the committee with a list, of the items in the Supplementary Estimates as: well as of section 37 transfers. The committee spent some time in deciding which of those items it would examine, and it has been conducting an inquiry until recent days. The reason why the report is. presented in the present form is because the facilities, of the Government Printing Office are- strained to the utmost while the Parliament is; in session. The Printing Office had not the time, the staff, or the machinery to print the report in the way that the committee would like to have had it printed for presentation to the House. That is the reason- why the report is presented in the less satisfactory form in which I am presenting it. Then, again, we have been under the greatest difficulty in getting the report completed so that honorable members could) have copies of it in their hands, before: the debate on the Supple,mentary Estimates gets under way- next week. As: honorable members; know. the committee occupies a. room which, is the Senate Committee Room, lt is constantly, being ejected from that room when the room is required for committee purposes. As a result, our workis severely- handicapped’. It was not until 4 p-.m. yesterday that the’ last page- of this document was typed; and> we had: to- collate 250/ copies of it, each o£° 9.0 pages. Honorable members can. imagine how- many hours of- work it took- us, to have the. report prepared for despatch to: the. Government: Printer- by 6 p.m. last night so. that we could have it back, in its present form, this- morning.
I think that the work that, the committee, is doing, is approved, by the House generally, and we. should like some little consideration to be given, to the committee’s accommodation and the facilities necessary to enable it to do its business- efficiently. So 1 suggest that, the House, when it examines- this report in its. present form;, acquit us of any blame for the. form in which it is presented, and. consider action to give us the accommodation and staff to- enable us to do our work as well as we should, like, to do it.
Ordered to- be: printed;.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 3rd October (vide page 1133).
Proposed Vote, £778,000. (Ordered to- be considered- together:)
.r-I desire to devote the limited, time- at my disposal to, a; discussion of the Department of Immigration. The. fact that the. Minister for Immigration (Mr.. Harold Holt) is at the table- now gives us- an opportunity to define some issues in respect of immigration which have been causing- concern- to- the- community andi indeed, to both major political parties;, since: we last had. a. debate on immigration.
The question before us- in regard to immigration policy- and the vote for immigration can be- subdivided into questions- relating- to numbers; efficiency of screening and the future of the scheme. For that reason: 1 shall address my remarks in that order.
Now let me deal with the question of numbers. I believe, as a supporter of the principle of immigration, that the present target is too high. I believe that the target should be more closely in line with the requirements of employment in this country and that at this stage, after many years of immigration, it would not be a bad thing to re-examine this immense problem and consider the magnificent job that has been done on both sides of this chamber in relation to immigration. But we must realize at some stage or another that the immigration scheme is not just a holus bolus thing. We have to get down to brass tacks and see how it is working out, what tensions are developing, and what new threats are arising from the increase of our population by 1,000,000 people - tensions in respect of employment, hospitals, housing, schools. The Minister is well aware of these things. I think it is time we appointed a parliamentary committee on immigration, quite apart from the Immigration Advisory Committee, which embraces a wider field, to examine the problems of immigration strictly from the point of view of the responsibilities of parliamentarians.
The question of numbers has another connotation - that is, the question of categories from the various countries from which we derive immigrants. I declare with fervour that I am not concerned where a worker comes from, so long as he desires to settle in this country, and get a job, observe our laws, become naturalized as quickly as possible, and fit into the economy for his own benefit and for ours. But it is regrettable that only 25 per cent, of the immigrants coming to Australia today are British. The remainder are mostly from the Mediterranean seaboard. I think the Minister for Immigration will agree with me - or will correct me if 1 am wrong - that under the administration of the Labour government, the ratio between British and other immigrants never fell below 60 British immigrants to 40 foreign immigrants.
– That is correct.
– I think the Minister will agree with me that that has been so for the major part of the time since the war, and that it is only in the last year or so that the proportion of British immigrants has fallen to 25 per cent. What is the reason for this?
– What about the displaced persons programme?
– The displaced persons programme, of course, was a general mercy scheme. It was not so much a practical scheme for finding people as a scheme to relieve tension in Europe, where there were large numbers of displaced persons. I think the Minister will agree that, in the voluntary immigration scheme, as distinct from the bringing to Australia of stateless persons who were under pressure to find new homes, the Labour government maintained a proportion of 60 British immigrants to 40 foreign immigrants.
Where are the potential British immigrants? Why do they not come to this country? Have we done enough to ascertain why they do not come here? The general wage in the United Kingdom - there is no basic wage - averages about £8 a week. British workers are suffering from the problems of automation. Their difficulties have been highlighted in the press. Yet, the British authorities have in no sense been behind a full-blooded and full-scale migration of Britons to Australia. We have to face the facts and admit that the Conservatives were not interested in sending British immigrants to Australia. The Churchill Government did not think much of the idea. The Attlee Government tried to do something about it, but it, too, was in the grip of bureaucrats who had a general idea that it would not be a good thing to lose skilled workers, and who did not get wholeheartedly behind the scheme. 1 know it is the aim of the Australian people generally to preserve their national character. In saying that, I do not imply anything derogatory of other peoples. Of course, foreign immigrants have a right to come to Australia under our immigration scheme. But why is the British quota not higher? The Minister has an explanation that is satisfactory from his stand-point: Sufficient numbers are just not available. 1 know that the scheme began with an appeal for mass emigration from the British Isles. Speeches in the House of Lords and the House of Commons in the United Kingdom lauded the idea of building a new British democracy by the emigration of Britons from the Mother Country. But, of course, all that has faded into the distance. That is something that the Minister might explain. Has he gone deeply, thoroughly and purposefully enough into the question of arousing, not the British people - they want to come here - but the United Kingdom Government and British democracy to do something about it?
There are no great problems here for British immigrants. They may be a little tougher than those from Mediterranean countries, because they know unionism and understand conditions here better, and have come from a country in which the highest ideals of liberty are found. Therefore, they sometimes tend to cut across the ideas of departmental officers a little more and to create a little temporary discord. But, generally speaking, they have no trouble. For them assimilation into the Australian way of life is like walking from one room to another. They give us no enduring problems in settling into this country, because they are some of us and because they are the most desirable immigrants of all.
T now turn to another matter. The president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions recently made a statement on immigration. It was reported rather slightly, so the full text of it may not support the tenor of the headlines. He showed considerable interest in the increasing number of Italian immigrants, and he warned that the Italians are congregating in certain big industries such as the motor industry and the mining industry at Broken Hill. I ask the Minister whether it augurs well for their assimilation into the Australian community if, as this gentleman stated, fewer than 10 per cent, of these new Australians are mingling with old Australians. This is a matter that should be considered quite independently of party politics, and I should like to hear the Minister’s general views on this matter which the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions has mentioned.
I wish to discuss now another matter on which the Opposition has always quarrelled with the Government - the screening of immigrants. I am still not satisfied that the inquiry into the incidence of crime among immigrants which was made by a committee presided over by a very prominent legal man was sufficiently thorough to get to the causes. It is easy enough to say that on a relative population basis a greater percentage of capital crimes has been committed by Australians than by immigrants. That is not the real question. People who are screened for entry to Australia or any other country should be most careful not to infringe even the minor laws of the community in which they will make their new homes. But we in Australia have seen some shocking examples of crimes committed by immigrants. This indicates that screening has been directed not so much at the character of immigrants as at their political affiliations and ideas. T say nothing derogatory of the devoted men and women - medical officers and departmental officials - who are doing a good job in screening immigrants. 1 am criticizing only the plan which is terribly hard to make work efficiently where there are passport “ factories “ and changes of name, as there have been in the ebb and flow of affairs in Europe since World War II. It is a very difficult problem. The net result to us is that the rate of crime among immigrants is too high.
There seems to be a preference for persons who have no association with what are loosely called the iron curtain countries. A person who was something of a democrat in his own country in the troublous times before, during and after the war is looked at askance, whereas those who :have gone quietly are looked upon as politically safe risks. Not enough attention has been given to the analysis of a man’s record .as it .reveals his character as a human being, and to his problems, and, in many: instances, ;the illnesses he has suffered. I know that honorable members sometimes press the -Department of Immigration to allow a sick person to enter the country for reasons of mercy, but we never ask them to admit people who have bad records, lt is obvious that some people. can and sometimes do get through a screen of the finest mesh, and that our screening methods are not as efficient as they could be.
To sum up my views on this difficult subject o’f immigration, the Minister knows that the general opinion of the Australian Labour -party and the people is that the immigration “programme should continue. But it should be realistic. Let us not be carried away by target objectives and become ‘target-happy. The Minister should aim at the maximum number of immigrants that we can usefully employ, and at flexibility in the programme, and should do his best to be always right and not to allow the immigration programme to impinge upon the absorption of Australians into industry. In the event of a recession, which this Government has been trying to bring about for many years, the immigration problem will become not a recessive one, but an urgent one, right on the surface of affairs, and will cause a great deal of anxiety. So the question of numbers and categories is most important. I offer as a solution an all-out drive of publicity and representation to the British authorities to encourage enough British migrants to come here to make up more than 25 per cent, of our intake. The Australian, following a century and a half of consolidation, is in general a good type. He stems from English, Scots, and Irish stock, and the almost imperceptible change that will be wrought by this influx of immigrants, which has been so great that about one in nine or one in ten of the population to-day is a new Australian, not necessarily of foreign origin, is something significant that we must consider ‘on racial and ethnic grounds, lust to take a light-hearted attitude to numbers and where they come from is not doing the big job of immigration as we see it from this side of the chamber. Screening, as I have said, is an important matter, and we should be unfair to the Minister if we did not point out its importance. We feel that a political content enters into the methods of screening adopted, and has been in existence for months and even years. A distinction is made between socialists and those who are tagged loosely with the red label.
– What does the honorable member mean by political content?
– I mean that the Government is seeking immigrants who are safe in the sense that they are politically a good deal to the right.
– Does the honorable member mean that we are excluding known Communists and -Fascists?
– Nonsense. That is the sort of thing that I want to warn the Minister against. The Government should look for men and women who will work and develop this country. If they have sufficient independence of spirit to have a democratic outlook and to be leftist, without being Communist - and the division is clear enough in Europe - the Government refuses to bring them in. We have the example of what some immigrants are doing in this country. Some foreign language newspapers are disseminating more hatred than one could believe possible. These new Australians who have quickly got into their stride with “the Government’s encouragement are trying to create discord. Are we to ‘believe that extreme rightists and other people who have received the encouragement of most sections of the Government parties should decide what we want in this country? Nothing of the sort! This country must be built on the sturdy “foundation of people who want to come here to work and develop it. I cannot see that the question of whether they happened to be democrats or leftists should have any bearing on their screening. Reports by unions, labour leagues and branches of the Australian Labour party show that people can get through the screen if they lean to the right politically. The Government has set a sort of unstated quota on these things, and more and more we find that the kind of immigrants who would be aggressive in the interests of themselves and the community generally do not pass the screening test. I believe that the Minister for Immigration will agree with that statement.
– I most emphatically do not agree with it:
– I think the Minister will find that it has been done again and again. That state of affairs will be found in connexion with the screening of immigrants, particularly in Germany. In. Italy, the screening is a pell-mell sort of thing, because the Government is seeking to get large numbers of immigrants from that country, lt is found that if a prospective immigrant has been associated with any leftist movement, he does not get through the screening process.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to direct my remarks in this debate to the Estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service, and, in particular, to the proposed vote for the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. I draw the attention of the committee to the great work that has been done by this council during the past year, and to the reports that it has issued on productivity and automation. The proposed vote also draws attention to the work of the Commonwealth Employment Service and its future importance, which will be stressed if the present rate of industrial development in Australia is to be continued.
The council’s report on automation draws attention most wisely to the fact that there is nothing novel or magical in the word “ automation “. While the definition of automation, when coined originally in Detroit, was fairly circumscribed, here it is almost synonymous with rapidly increasing mechanization. I think that the report shows that the problems of automation are really those of more rapid development, such as we have been facing as a nation since the early days of the industrial revolution. Therefore, we have nothing to fear from automation in the future; indeed, we have everything to gain.
I take issue with those honorable members of the Opposition who have spoken on this subject in the past, and have tried, in some ways, to cause scares about violent changes and wholesale dismissals of staff.
The report on automation of the Department of Labour and National Service draws attention to the industrial problems which are likely to arise with the continual growth of our industrial system. I believe that we should be indebted to the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council for the grand job that it is doing, and I trust that the money that will be voted under these Estimates will be sufficient- to enable it to develop its functions as rapidly as possible during the coming year. I believe that automation is a matter on which honorable members from both sides should cooperate to the greatest possible degree.
Dealing, first, with the matters raised in the report, I shall turn my attention to the numbers of people likely to be affected directly by any development of automatic processes in this country. I desire to quote from an article^ which appeared in the London “ Economist “, of a few weeks ago, in which it is stated that in Great Britain -
The number of people in industries where automation might significantly affect, total employment on production - not the number whose employment would in fact be affected - might thus be close, on 40 per cent, of manufacturing labour; perhaps IS per cent, of the people employed in Great Britain.
Therefore, the whole matter of. automationis unlikely to affect directly more than 15 per cent, of the total work force in a highly industrialized community like Great Britain. Here in Australia, the total number of people affected might be even less than 15 per cent.
– The number might be more, also.
– It is unlikely to be more. Unfortunately, time will not permit me to quote in greater detail from this article, but I believe that the. total is unlikely to be more than. 15 per cent. Automation will affect the people- in certain industries, and also certain sections of office workers engaged on routine operations. I take, as an instance, the Ford company- in. Detroit, where automation and automatic processes have been developed’ more highly than in any other company in the world: The total number of people affected by automation in the Ford company was 10,00.0 out of, 146,000 on the payroll. Therefore,we have to realize that the whole matter- oft automation will affect relatively,- few people in the community.
The second matter that I wish to mention is that automation and automatic processes are tremendously expensive and, therefore, may be introduced only if there is a real, permanent and expanding market which can be foreseen. If we can see an increasing market, then that is the time when automation may be introduced, because the effect of these new processes is to produce more goods with the same number of people rather than to produce the same number of goods with fewer people. In nearly every case where the principles of automation have been brought into use, we have seen that, in fact, the same number of people have been engaged. There has been very little deployment of labour. In general, automation leads to the production of more goods, higher wages and a rising standard of living because it is only by making machines do the work that we can have that higher standard of living which we all desire. It is about 150 years since the Industrial Revolution, and machinery has greatly increased productivity in that time. Nevertheless, we still have the advantages of a condition of over-full employment.
I wish now to mention remarks made by Mr. Walter Reuther, a former president of the American Congress of Industrial Organizations. He said -
We in the Congress of Industrial Organizations have said many times that we welcome “ automation “ and that we are going to encourage its expeditious development . . . We have a great and wonderful opportunity. Instead of struggling to divide up economic scarcity, we can co-operate in creating and sharing economic abundance.
I believe that the task of all of us in Australia and the trade unions in particular, should be to co-operate in creating and sharing in this potential economic abundance.
I shall deal now with matters raised by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) about the numbers of people who will be affected by automation. The issue is that there will be more workers engaged in the maintenance of machines, in the production and development of machines and in the distribution of the products. I have found that in those factories that have automation there are more people to-day on the permanent payroll and fewer casual workers. Let us take the example of one factory. In that establishment the number of casual workers was reduced from 700 to 550 on the introduction of automation, but the permanent workers increased from 300 to 450 and at the same time production was increased by 60 per cent. Automation is so expensive, and there is such a high capital cost involved that the incentive to keep the plant running must be greater than in other types of factory. Therefore, permanent,, stable work is ensured to a greater number of people. That is a fact that we should alt realize when dealing with the development of automatic processes. What is important is the fact that changes of work and skills will be involved in automation. There will be less monotony, and workers will be using their minds rather than their brawn r I refer honorable members to a recently published report of the Institute of Public Affairs. In it is stated -
The essence of automation is a tremendous shift from “ labour “ to people who work with their minds, people who apply learning and knowledge rather than brawn or experience to their work. The “ automated “ business will employ a tremendous number of such people … It will’ create a tremendous problem for the supply of trained and educated people. There is only one place where these workers of to-morrow can come from; that is ihe workers of to-day. We cannot hope to hire these new skills and new knowledge. We will have to create them. And this means that the people now at work will have to learn new skills, new knowledge, new methods
That, I believe, is the task to which each honorable member should be directing his attention. We should appreciate the need for and the mobility of labour and make allowance in industry for re-training of staff and the possibility of higher severance pay for trained men going from one industry to another. As a result of this process we shall have to provide greater opportunities for basic technical training, particularly for people such as electricians and others who will be involved in larger numbers in the days to come.
On the subject of management, which is to be even more highly involved in automation, a need for better training is obvious. With the higher capital cost involved the amount of skill necessary in forecasting will be even more important, and above all the problems of marketing and distribution in all forms will be tremendously important. I quote again from the “ Review of Institute of Public Affairs “ -
The companies I know, all of which have been very marketing-conscious, do not have enough marketing managers for to-day’s needs; all they really have are sales managers. Men who can analyse a market and analyse the needs of a customer, his concepts of what he buys and his concepts of what he considers value in his purchase; men who can analyse a product, plan for new products or for the systematic and planned improvement of old products . . . are scarcer than hen’s teeth.
The whole subject of marketing will be of even greater importance during the next few years because we shall need to engage more people in the whole process of distribution, whether in connexion with transport, warehouses or the retail trade. Each honorable member will have to give a great deal of thought to that matter.
During the last 25 years we have concentrated to a great extent on the problem of production, but in the next 25 years our thoughts will have to be devoted much more to the problem of markets and the distribution of our products, lt is in those spheres that we shall need more people, and our work management, employer organizations and trade unions will have to give a great deal of thought to these matters. I believe that here is the real challenge of our times. These are real problems which we should be prepared to investigate before they envelop us. Training, especially in these new skills for both management and labour, will take many years. The Ministry of Labour Advisory Council has given the industrial world of Australia a lead in this matter. I do not believe that employer organizations and the trade union movement have yet prepared to accept this challenge. We must all do so if we are to maintain our place, both now and in the future, as one of the most highly industrialized countries of the world.
.- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt) has stated that the Government is anxious to increase the population of Australia. In that objective, T entirely concur. In north Queensland I have been in touch with various kinds of immigrants over a period of approximately 50 years. The Lebanese and Syrians almost invariably send to their own countries for their wives. The Greek people do so also, but not to the same extent to which the Lebanese and Syrians follow that practice. I agree entirely with what the Minister has said about the necessity to increase Australia’s population, but I hope during this speech to let him know that he and the Government are not doing their best to bring about such an increase. If we are to increase our population, two methods are open to us. The first is by immigration, and the second is by natural increase.
The early immigrants who came to nord Queensland from England, Ireland, Scoland, Wales, Italy, Greece, Finland, Syria and Lebanon were not brought out by th; thousands as is the case to-day. They married in this country with the result tha we have thousands of young people, Wit parents of various nationalities, who wen born in this country and have become goot Australians. That is the only proper way This business of teaching new Australians as they are called, the Australian way of life, after they have been 30 or 40 years in their native country, will not work. They cannot possibly be taught the Australian way of life because their associations and social connexions before they come to Australia are too strong. The earlier form of immigration, although not sufficiently rapid, did add to the population of Australia. Today, of course, the necessity to populate Australia has become more urgent than ever before.
In their desire to increase population, the Minister and the Government have overlooked certain fundamental facts. Children must have both a father and a mother. The Minister seems to overlook the fact that in propagation in either the vegetable or animal world the female of the species is essential. The Minister should know that, but he seems to have made up his mind that the laws of nature can be overlooked. It is a very serious matter indeed when a government thinks it can overrule the laws of nature. As a result of the immigration policy there is, in the Cloncurry mining district, a surplus of 5,000 males in a population of approximately 50,000. That area includes that in which are located the Rio Tinto uranium, the Mount Isa copper, silver, lead and zinc deposits and the surrounding cattle country. I shall tell the Minister later, if he does not know, about some of the results of the segregation of this huge male population. Apparently, he is so innocent that he does not know of those facts; and he thinks he can overrule the laws of nature. The fact is that these males cannot increase the population of Australia. The female of the species is absolutely necessary for (that purpose regardless df how many .males are -brought into the country. Natural increase .is what. we want .more dan anything else. The logical and .sensible thing to do would be to bring out at least tvo shiploads of women in lieu of the shipleads of men that are being brought out at present. Shiploads of about 1,000 men are b,ing landed in the north at least once or tvice a year. The men are landed at ports ir the north, but subsequently many of them break their agreements and go south ti Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and other cties, where there are employment problems.
The Minister, acting through his depart.nent, should -endeavour to adjust the .disproportion of the sexes. Some .people will say that in .order to do that, we must .deal with living conditions. That is quite logical. Let me tell the committee that every company and sub-contractor in this area provides a home for .every married employee on the job. The Government could well .send somebody up there to learn something about the building of .houses. The companies provide homes for all married employees. In addition, they have provided bowling greens, tennis courts, drive-in picture theatres and other amenities. As a matter of fact, in many respects there are more amenities there than there are in Canberra. Prospective immigrants, quite naturally, want to know about hospital facilities. There are fine hospitals at Mount lsa and Cloncurry, and the hospital at Townsville is one of the best in Australia. To each of those hospitals is attached a maternity ward. -So there is nothing to cavil about as far as :the care of womenfolk is concerned.
Some Australians have astonished me by asking, “ Who would go out to a place like that? “ They visualize the back country as it was twenty years ago. They had not the faintest idea of what it is like to-day. In the area about which I am speaking, the State government and the churches have provided first-class educational facilities. Many women now living in places where conditions are sub-standard, compared with Australian conditions, would be only too pleased to go to this area. They would go there under better conditions than did the British -pioneers who opened up and developed that pan of the country in the early days. There is not :the slightest doubt that these .immigrants aTe keen to get married and to rear families. They like big families. Therefore, the logical thing to do is to maintain a balance between the number of males and females.
There are higher educational facilities :in the area. At Charters Towers, an old mining town, the various churches provide facilities for higher education that are equal to those provided anywhere else in Australia, and the State Government has established hostels for the youngsters who go there for their higher education. So there is nothing that the Department of Immigration has to do to make the conditions what they should be other than to ensure that there will be a balance of the sexes.
When we read of a sensational shooting or stabbing, we find that very frequently a new Australian is involved. What is the reason for .that? Even in other parts of the country, when there is one lass for two or three lads, the lads sometimes fly to the gun or the knife to eliminate some of their competitors. This is due .to the fact that many of the immigrants who have come here are not living in .natural and normal circumstances. It is a mistake to believe that it is their habit to fly to the. knife. That happens in any part of the world where there is an unbalance .of the sexes. There is another point which it is just as well to mention. Conditions like these lead to an increase of homosexuality. We do not want that to happen. If we want to make the best use of our immigration programme and build up our population, that is one of the things that we must take steps to avoid.
I emphasize again that all that is required of the Minister and the department is to ensure that in the scheme of immigration there will be a balance of the sexes. It does not require a brilliant intellect or specialized knowledge to realize that that is essential. I have been in touch with this matter for so long and I regard it as so serious that 1 could not help but take advantage of this opportunity to emphasize to the Minister and the Parliament the necessity to streamline our immigration programme in such a way that we shall get the very best value from it.
.- I appreciate very much what was said by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). 1 -think that he has hit upon a problem of immigration to which, perhaps, we do not give sufficient thought, although it is of vital interest .to the immigrants who have already come to this country. It is true that the balance of the sexes is a tittle out, so to speak. I have seen evidence of that in Western Australia, which, as honorable members know, has received, on a per capita basis, more immigrants than any other State ‘since the immigration scheme was started about seven years ago. It seems that the problem can be solved only by bringing out females of a marriageable age, because a few years must elapse before the immigrants already here will be assimilated completely.
The easiest way to assimilation is through the children of immigrants and the children of Australian or .British people. It has become evident since the immigration scheme started that Australia has at last grown up. Whether that is due to the last war or to the fact that we have added a few more years to our age as a nation, I do not know, but we have lost some of the dreadful habits that we had in dealing with peoples from other nations. I well remember that when I was at school the appearance at the school of a boy of another nationality was a signal for us to shout words of derision at him. We had a feeling that we were far superior to other people who came to the country. Australians, as citizens of a small nation a long way from the large centres of modern civilization, have always been reluctant to believe that any other nation could be better than Australia. It was due to that philosophy that Australia made the progress it did. If it had not been for that philosophy, this country would have gone back to the state that it was in in 1788, and every one of European descent would have gone back to the country of his birth. As we grew in stature as a nation, so we had to revise our ideas and our attitude towards the people from the old world.
One of the most pleasing features of immigration, as I said earlier, has been the attitude of Australian-born children towards new Australians in the schools throughout Australia. It is only rarely that they do not freely mix and accept one another as citizens of this country, with no thought of national prejudice. We .recently had the -spectacle in Western Australia of a State schoolboy’s football team being captained by a new Australian lad, who had only been here for four years. Why, 30 years ago, it would have taken a lad who was a newcomer to Australia four years to get a game of football, let alone be assimilated so completely that he could captain the schoolboys’ side. This, of course, is a tribute to the people of Australia.
As the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) said, the young men who have come here must, if they are to marry, be afforded opportunities to meet girls about their own age. Only in that way can the difficulty that the honorable member mentioned be overcome. The children of new Australians will be very quickly assimilated when their school days arrive, and then will be felt the full benefit of the immigration programme.
In the speeches that have been delivered during this debate, some self-styled economic experts have put forward theories designed to justify the halting or cutting down of the immigration programme. As an ordinary citizen with no claim to be an economist - for which I am sometimes thankful, because my thinking is not clouded and I can think along national lines - I believe that we have to make a choice now between two kinds of immigration. We can continue the kind of immigration on which we have embarked. If we do not do so, at some stage in the future, we will have another type of immigration - that carried on with landing ships. Down the front-end ramps will come into this country people whom we have no desire to have, but whom we have not the strength to stop.
– Have we sufficient jobs for the immigrants who are coming in?
– I thought that some honorable member opposite would interject to that effect. If the people who landed in Western Australia in 1827, during some of the worst weather imaginable - they putdown on a sandy island off the coast, and brought with them pianos and other heavy items - had had no more courage than some people are showing in the country to-day, there never would have been established a permanent settlement in that State. In any scheme of national development, there must be difficulties, heart-aches and heart-breaks. Anybody who has not the courage to look into the future and accept .the situation that, in a quickly expanding nation, some people must of necessity suffer is not worthy of being called an Australian.
Mr. Cope interjecting,
– I inform the honorable member for Watson, who is interjecting, that I am about the same age as he is. I was ready to leave school in the days of the depression, but I could not obtain a job, even though I had been educated to the middle standard. I do not think that my parents ever broke their hearts about that; they thought about the future, when they hoped that times would not be so severe. I venture to say that many people who suffered hardships at that time gained from their experiences, and this nation benefited in consequence. I do not appreciate interjections pointing out how tough depressions are, because I suffered just as much during the last depression as did any member of this committee, and I have no desire to see the country once again plunged into a depression similar to the depression of 1929 and the early ‘thirties. I believe that the quickest way to bring about another depression in Australia is to shout from the housetops that we are headed for it, whenever there is a temporary recession of the economy - and to go about screaming and forecasting another depression. By so doing, the people who might do something to prevent a depression are frightened off. Certain people in the community become afraid to embark on developmental undertakings when unthinking people forecast the most direful things because of their memories of the ‘thirties. I know, from my own experiences of those days, that it is hard to erase the memories of the depression, but a new generation has arisen. I venture to say that if we go forward with sufficient courage, the new generation will never have to suffer as the generation of the ‘thirties suffered.
Coming from a State that has been particularly hard hit during the last few months, for reasons that have been bandied about in this chamber, I realize that the group of Estimates now under consideration is probably more important to my own State than to any other State. Four of the proposed votes before us make provision for things which are of vital importance to the future of Western Australia. That State is capable of great development. Up to this stage, it has absorbed the highest number of immigrants of any State. Western Australia has much to gain from the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in its search for the right trace elements to treat vast areas of land which, while enjoying regular rainfall, lack something in the soil. Excluding the proposed vote for the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, all of the proposed votes now under consideration are of great concern to Western Australia.
Before addressing myself to other aspects of this group of the Estimates, I should like to advise honorable members on both sides of the committee, who think that the immigration programme should be halted, to take a trip to the electorate of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), and visit a place called Manjimup, where they will see the best possible advertisement for the introduction of people from Europe into this country. About 30 years ago, an Italian named Fontanini, accompanied by his wife, conveyed all his belongings, including axes, shovels and supplies, by wheelbarrow to a place 8 miles beyond Manjimup, and settled on the land. Whenever further supplies were needed, he and his wife obtained them by the same means. That man proceeded to clear an area of forest land in order to gain a livelihood, and to-day he is worth more than are most primary producers in Western Australia. He now has the show place in the State. To see that place is to be convinced of the ability of the Italian people to work industriously, not only to develop the country, but also to advance themselves and their families. I advise any cynic, any critic of our immigration programme, to inspect the property that 1 have mentioned.
I come now to the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service. That department handles the registration of trainees under the National Service Training scheme, in connexion with which I should like to bring one factor to the notice of the Minister. The preliminary medical examination of trainees is undertaken by doctors from the Department of Labour and National Service who, I suppose, are civilian doctors recruited for that purpose. The men are then told that they are medically fit, subject to a final medical examination. When they are called up for the particular service, whether it be the Navy, the
Army or the Air Force, they undergo a more stringent examination, and some, unfortunately, are rejected. 1 think the proportion of those rejected is fairly small. In Western Australia, where the intake is naturally much smaller than in New South Wales and Victoria, the number of rejections on medical grounds may amount to half a dozen. I believe that before a man is told that he will be called up on a certain date, the authorities should be sure that he will not be taken to the Army camp, Air Force station or Naval depot and then rejected. If 400 or 500 eighteen-year-old lads are called up together, it is probable that some of them know some of the others in private life, and we should not embarrass a lad by allowing all the others in the callup to know that he is being rejected on medical grounds, particularly when his disability, although being sufficient to cause his rejection, may be a trivial matter that will not prevent his leading an every-day life as a normal, healthy person. 1 have mentioned this matter because I happened to meet a young lad the other day who had been rejected in circumstances such as these, and who was most disappointed. After having obtained leave from his place of employment, he had to go back and report for work, and inform his employer that he was medically unfit for military service. Circumstances such as these should not arise in the administration of the national service training scheme.
Time does not permit me to deal in detail with the Department of National Development. I may say, however, that the future of Western Australia may well hinge upon the activities of that department in developing the north-western portion of the State. As has been pointed out by journalists and experts from overseas, that area has a terrific potential, but its potential can never be tapped with the limited resources of the State government. I believe that the only way in which that portion of our country may achieve its proper destiny is by a programme of development undertaken by the Commonwealth department. The expenditure of some Commonwealth money in the development of this part of our country will assist in the overall development of Australia in the future.
– I shall confine my remarks to matters that concern the Department of National Development. At the outset I express again my regret, and that of the people of Queensland, at this Government’s failure to assist the Queensland Government to carry out the very important national works that it has in hand, and which it is endeavouring to perform with the loan moneys granted to it by the Australian Loan Council. I have complained on a number of previous occasions in this chamber about the Government’s neglect of Queensland in this respect. I cannot understand why it is that Queensland, unlike other States, cannot obtain money from the national revenue to carry out these important national works.
I notice that in the Estimates for this year financial provision is made for only one developmental scheme, the Snowy Mountains project. This year the amount provided for that project has been increased by about £3,000,000. As 1 have said before, I do not object to the money being provided from revenue for an important project such as this, but I am of the opinion, as are many other Queensland people, that the Snowy Mountains scheme is no more important than are quite a number of other projects that the Queensland Government is endeavouring to undertake with the limited funds made available from loan moneys. For five or six years quite a number of very important projects, which would assist in development, not only of Queensland but also of Australia as a whole, have been under construction. Every one must agree, and particularly those who have visited Queensland, as many honorable members of this Parliament do at certain times of the year, that Queensland is in need of development, if only from the point of view of defence. The Queensland Government is endeavouring to carry out a programme of development, and I should like to mention some of the national projects that it has in hand.
I shall mention, first, the Burdekin Valley irrigation and hydro-electric scheme, which was commenced during the term of office of the Chifley Labour Government. The Prime Minister at that time was so impressed with the project that he. decided that his government would give financial assistance to the Queensland Government. 1 understand that during the 1949 election campaign the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur
Fadden), who is a Queenslander, also promised that if his party was returned to power the government would give financial assistance to the Queensland Government to enable it to carry out this important work. The Queensland Government has done a very good job in trying to perform these many developmental tasks. It is estimated that when the Burdekin Valley scheme is completed many thousands of acres of valuable land will be made available for settlement. Although the project is still a long way from completion, I understand that even now there are about 300 ex-servicemen settled on the land, and that they are doing very well. How this Government or any other government can claim that such, projects are not national works is beyond my comprehension. They are as nationally important to Australia, as are many other works that are being paid for from revenue. 1 am very pleased to see that no provision is made in the Estimates for any projects other than the Snowy Mountains scheme to be financed from national revenue. In, the Estimates for last year provision was made for the aluminium undertaking in Tasmania, and also for projects in South Australia and Western Australia. The only project for which provision is made this year is the Snowy River scheme, but north of the Burdekin there are two much more important projects from the point of view of population, defence and the development of Queensland. I was very interested to read in the Brisbane “ Courier Mail “ a long article by an expert which that paper sent, to gain first-hand knowledge of all these important projects for which the Queensland Government has been endeavouring to get extra financial assistance. The writer refers, first, to the fact that the people of northern Queensland are hankering for adequate water and cheap electric power, and then goes on to say -
The source of supply will be the £20 million Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme and the £16,300,000’ Tully Falls hydro-electric scheme.
These are both good schemes- and of great national importance. The writer points out that the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme will call for a dam with a capacity of 90,000,000,000 gallons of water, or about three-quarters that of Sydney Harbour. Honorable members will appreciate just what that- means- to the people- of northern- Queensland, who depend so greatly on irrigation. The writer continues^-
It will be conveyed by gravity in a system of channels- to 1420 farms varying in size from 59 to 200 acres. Total area of the farms will be 78;000 acres of.’ which 38,000 acres will be irrigated annually.
Of this it is expected that 12,000 acres will be devoted to tobacco production and 26,000 acres to mixed crops.
It is estimated that irrigation will lift production by £6,161,000 a year. The present population of 5,000 in the area to be served, is expected to be increased by 16,000.
That is the opinion of one who has just visited these projects. The. writer then goes on to refer to the Tully Falls hydro-electric scheme, which takes, in. very, difficult and rugged country, and is also very important to the development of Queensland. Here, again, the Federal Government, should, give financial assistance to the. State Govern; ment, which is carrying on with the meagre amount of money at its disposal’ and endeavouring to bring these schemes into operation as quickly as possible. The writer points out that, when completed, the project will supply power to all north Queensland from Tully to Cairns, Mossman, Atherton Tableland, and out to Mount Garnett. I understand that it- will not be long, before the scheme is in operation and bringing adequate water and cheap power to the whole of that area. The writer adds that at Tinaroo 700 men are employed, and at Tully Falls 360.
I cannot understand’ why Queensland is not treated in these matters- in the same way as are the other States. The people of Queensland do not object to the Snowy River scheme, but if it is; all right to carry out’ a scheme which, benefits. New South Wales and Victoria only, it is equally right to give Queensland sufficient funds to enable it to carry out these huge projects. That would do: a great deal, to solve the population problem - every one. realizes how necessary it is to populate Queensland and northern Australia: - and. would also contribute substantially to the. defence of this country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Everything that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has said in his very informative- and’ forward-looking speech emphasizes the fact that there should be a completely new approach to the problem of national development, especially in relation to business enterprises which serve the public, provide amenities, and are reproductive, and in relation to research - an integral part of that development. The present method of trying to deal with these matters under an annual budget, either by way of a loan or, what is much worse, out of revenue derived from taxation, must result in tremendous disappointment and terrific waste. One has only to look around at the scars on the countryside to realize that. One sees railways and dams that have not been finished. Frequently all parties agree that a certain project should be carried out, but, because of some financial stringency, work on it is discontinued and never recommenced. The time has come to look the stark facts of national development in the face and see whether we can bring this state of affairs to an end.
There are only three ways in which to handle this matter. One is to draw up a long-term plan and to devote a substantial vote to it in each of several successive years, as 1 was able to do in the ‘twenties with the Postal Department. In 1923, the BrucePage Government decided to get busy and repair the damage that had been done by neglect during the war period, when all sorts of economies had been effected. Sir Harry Brown was, at that time, in Australia as a consultant, and ultimately became the head of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. He said that if he were given £25,000,000 to spend over a five-year period without being restricted to a specific amount for each year, he could lay down a really sound foundation for us. We agreed to his suggestion and voted him £25,000,000 to be spent over five years. He expended £3,000,000 in the first year, £6,000,000 in the second year, £7,000,000 in the third, £6,000,000 in the fourth, and £3,000,000 in the fifth, and in that way laid a foundation that has never failed the Postal Department since. As a result of his plan, more telephones were placed in country districts than had been previously installed during the whole life of the department in Australia. Further, the erection of so many country lines brought the department so much added business that the main trunk-lines showed a tremendous profit which enabled the department to provide a sinking fund of 30s. per cent, for the amortization and maintenance of the telephone lines. That is a splendid example of one way of dealing with the position, but it is not the best.
Again, we have the example set by the Bruce-Page Government in i925 in connexion with the Federal Aid Roads plan. Under that scheme, the State governments and the Commonwealth Government each provided a certain amount of finance L> bt expended on a ten-year plan. This was also a satisfactory way of tackling t’-.r problem because the fact that the plan extended over ten years gave it some permanency. It enabled constructing authorities to offer permanent work to employees and, because the works would be extended over ten years, those constructing authorities felt justified in purchasing first-class equipment to do the work. This plan was launched in 1926, and, although there were some misgivings at the time, it proved so successful that in 1936 every government in Australia decided to extend it for a further ten years; and I was extremely disappointed when the period was reduced to three years after 1946.
A third method that has been tried is the one introduced by me when I allocated £500,000 to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization under legislation that provided that this money could not be interfered with in any way. It was that action which enabled the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to achieve such success in its work and to live through the depression.
But none of these methods constitutes a permanent way of dealing with problems connected with our progress. The time has now arrived for Australia to follow the precedents established in Canada and America in connexion with important activities such as the generation of electricity. There, they have adopted the franchise or charter system. Under that system, charters for undertakings are self-amortizing and become public property at the end of the period without the necessity of the public’s taking over any debt in connexion with them.
– Like the Suez Canal.
– The Suez Canal was a good thing, and 1 intend to say something about that later. At the moment, however, I content myself with expressing the hope that when Australia enters into a charter with any other parly it will honour its obligations and keep to its bargain. The more we examine some of these ventures, the generation of electricity, in particular, the more we realize the necessity for continuity of operations. In most instances, electricity undertakings are built up step by step, but it is imperative that the planning be done always with an eye to future development and requirements. A splendid example of what is required is to be found in the construction of a number of generating stations along the Clarence River. In the Nymboida River scheme, for example, a generating station of a certain capacity was first erected, the intention being to increase its capacity within five or ten years. When the second station was erected, it was designed as an integral part of a network which included the first. This meant that the load factor of the first station, which was 33 per cent, originally, would be increased to 69 per cent, by the construction of the second generating station and, indeed, both stations would be working on a load factor of 69 per cent. This method is a splendid way of saving cost to the community while, at the same time, achieving satisfactory results.
The generation of electricity is important to future progress, for, if automation is to become a reality, ample supplies of electric power are essential and the sooner we get on with the business of ensuring sufficient electric power, the better it will be for Australia. Further, in all these schemes, it is essential that long-term arrangements be made. This is borne out by the Ebasco report recently furnished to the New South Wales Government. That report pointed out that in electric undertakings, especially hydro-electric plants, it is essential that the planning be done on a long-term basis. For instance, it sets out the life of dams at 100 years, of tunnels and surge tanks at 100 years, of pipelines at 50 years, of turbines and mechanical equipment at 50 years, of operators’ cottages at 30 years, and so on. But it is impossible to plan for such undertakings if expenditure is to be restricted to an annual budgetary appropriation. The same observation applies to the working out of the way in which plant is to be enlarged to meet future requirements. For instance, the Ebasco report to the New South Wales Government has taken a 25-year basis, lt recommends a plant capable of producing so many hundred thousands of Kilowatts extra by 1960 with gradual expansion each year until 1980 when its capacity will be something like fifteen times greater than that of the first section installed. Planning of this type is possible with hydro-electric schemes because, unlike coal, diesel oil and so on, water does not fluctuate in price. I put forward a strong plea here that works of this type be planned on a national basis. 1 was pleased to read that the Premier of New South Wales said in answer to a question yesterday that he was giving consideration to the establishment, under franchise, of certain works in northern New South Wales because such an undertaking would avoid a tremendous amount of the sporadic unemployment from which we now suffer. Further, it would help our balance of payments position because a great amount of outside capital would be invested here and an additional advantage would be that those outside investors would in all probability establish other undertakings in this country. Under the system I suggest, the local government bodies throughout Australia would be in a much better position than they are now. At the moment, because of the reduced allocations made by the Australian Loan Council, many local authorities are not able to raise the money they require for the generation and. reticulation of power. Under the system I advocate, no such problem would be experienced by them. By having a central authority with a long-term franchise generating the power, and by leaving the reticulation to the local government bodies, great savings could be effected to the advantage of the Australian people. especially if we had people from 0’itside Australia investing in works to develop our country, just as America was developed.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I welcome the opportunity to speak on this group of Estimates. Generally, 1 try to appease my constituents by asking a question, but I have b:en denied the right to do that for three days, despite the fact that some honorable members who asked questions yesterday were again called to-day. I could have said all I want to say in a question, but now I am compelled to make a long speech.
– It will seem longer.
– I get more publicity out of short, snappy questions than I do out of a speech. However, I want to speak on national development. I have spoken in this chamber for many years on this subject, and have suggested that we should do as other countries have done. I have been here for 29 years and have always advocated the establishment of plant for the extraction of oil from coal. Now, I am supported by a number of experts who have come to this country and have inspected coal mines in the northern districts of New South Wales. I mention, in passing, that practically all those mines are in my electorate. The experts are Professor D. W. Phillips, Professor R. Kiar, Dr. R. H. Buchanan and Dr. G. H. Roper. Their plan is to develop the coalfields on lines similar to those that have been followed in the Ruhr Valley.
I had the privilege of visiting the Ruhr Valley in December, 1955. I stayed there over the Christmas period and until January, 1956. I made a thorough search of the area. I did not go overseas to enjoy myself; I went to try to educate myself ami thereby bring new knowledge to this country. I did that, and I submitted a report on this question. I visited plants for the extraction of oil from coal in Britain, France, Holland and Germany. Some of the best coals for the extraction of oil products are at Greenwich, but I am indeed pleased to say that Australian coal, and the Greta series of coal, which is found in the electorate that I represent, contains the highest oil content of any coal in the world. Yet Germany and other countries which have coal with a smaller oil content are extracting sufficient oil to keep them going. In fact, Germany relied on petrol from coal to help it in the last part of World War II. Therefore, it is a tragedy that nothing has been done in Australia to produce oil from coal. Chemicals, as well as oil, can be extracted from coal.
The mining experts whom I have mentioned are the authors of a process to extract by-products from coal. Last week they submitted a plan to the New South Wales Government and to the Joint Coal
Board. I have mentioned their names and I do not want to repeat them, but I point 0 -It that one of them, Dr. Kiar, is a German. In a report that I submitted to the then Labour government, I said that a German expert should be invited to this country. The New South Wales Government has now brought a German expert, among others, to this country. They plan to develop the northern coal-fields of New South Wales on lines similar to those adopted in the Ruhr Valley in Germany. As I have said, I have been there and have made a report upon it. I visited the various plants and watched the processes for the extraction of oil from coal. The chemical side was beyond my ability to understand; nevertheless, 1 made inquiries and tried to understand it. I recommended the Fischer-Tropsch process. That is the latest process for the extraction of oil from coal. Other countries, apart from Germany, have adopted it.
The experts claim that the plant they recommend would employ 8,000 men. That is significant, because nearly 8,000 men have been cavilled out and mines been shut down. I know that fictitious figures have been given on this matter. I need only say that they are incorrect. Any one could go to the coal-fields where I go, and see for himself. In order to establish a plant for the extraction of oil from coal, and so employ those 8.000 men, the New South Wales Government and private companies each would have to subscribe £10,000. Not only oil but other constituent bodies could be extracted from coal. The State Government and 50 private companies would invest in this scheme. But what is the Commonwealth doing?
– The Commonwealth is doing nothing, and never has done anything. I have been asked before why the preceding Labour Government did not do something. The people should realize that during the nine years Labour was in office, this country was at war or was recovering from war. We had to concentrate everything on winning that war. The previous antiLabour Government left us helpless and defenceless when it resigned in 1941. Some of its supporters ratted upon it. Coles and Wilson ratted on it and voted John Curtin into power. That is perfectly true and cannot be denied.
– What about the coal strike in 1949?
– Who settled that?
– Labour settled it, but Labour stirred it up, too.
– We settled it. The Minister for Labour and National Service has not the guts to do that. He would go out on - well, his pink ear. I was nearly going to use a vulgar expression, but every one knows what I mean.
The companies that have been approached have recognized the value of the proposition, and have considered it favorably. But what I want to know is: What is this Government doing? It has been said that this Government is doing nothing. I want to plead with it to do something for national development. The initial cost of this plant is estimated to be approximately £5,000,000. Where will the money come from if this Government is not prepared to help? The by-products that could be extracted from coal include plastic, nylon, synthetic rubber, chemicals and petrol. Synthetic textiles that could be produced are orion and nylon. Initially, orion would be most suited to production because it will mix with wool. Production, based on the use of 10 per cent, of the wool clip in a large plant, would be 50,000 tons a year. That indicates what could be produced from coal. The turnover would be about £25,000,000 a year.
Instead of importing slush oil for diesel engines to compete with coal as fuel, with consequent unemployment of miners and the closing down of mines, we could produce oil from coal. Each year, chemicals worth £50,000,000 are imported. We could produce chemicals to that value from coal. For years I have advocated such a scheme. The previous Labour government had to conduct the war effort and, after the war, it had to put ex-service men and women back into useful employment, and it could not undertake these projects.
Something should be done to curtail the importation of diesel oil to compete with coal. By importing fuel oil, we are giving preference of employment to workers in other countries. Two firms - American and Japanese - are prepared to establish new steel mills in Australia, one of them at Port Stephens. We are exporting steel at lower prices than those paid elsewhere. There is a demand for steel in Australia, and we need another steel mill. What is the Government going to do about that? The chairman of the Joint Coal Board, Mr. Cochran, has been very concerned about the coal miners who have been put out of work. Recently, 250 were dismissed at Belmont, and 250 at Raspberry Gully, or what is called the Waratah collieries. We are bringing thousands of immigrants into Australia, and I welcome them, but I do not like to see them displacing Australians from employment. New avenues of development should be opened up as I have suggested, but I am afraid that nothing will be done while this Government is in office.
– I wish to discuss the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization because it deserves the highest praise. In particular, I propose to devote my remarks to the agricultural and pastoral work of the organization, but we must not forget that it has done very valuable work for industry, and has achieved much in scientific research. I shall refer briefly to two examples. One is the valuable work that has been done by research officers in the production of distancemeasuring equipment which, I believe, is now standard equipment for many of the world’s major airlines. The second achievement, which may appear to be a small one, but which could greatly help the economy of the railways in Australia, is the method of treating sleepers to make them last a much longer time, and so avoid the need for constant replacement.
– There are plenty of sleepers in Canberra.
– I notice that there are some on the Opposition side.
– Name one honorable member on the Opposition side who is asleep.
– Apparently, they woke up to hear the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the man on the land has been of inestimable value. One comparatively small but vitally important advance was connected with the battle against the blowfly. Some time ago, the Mules operation was introduced to enable pastoralists to combat the blowflies. More recently, aldrin, dieldrin and diazinon were developed from American discoveries to suit Australian conditions, and the work of fighting the blowflies was made easier. The development of these treatments has enabled the pastoralists to devote their efforts to more productive work than the control of blowflies which damage the sheep and the wool.
Results that are more easily seen flow from the development of the use of trace elements. Particularly good results can be seen in South Australia. In the Adelaide Hills, a large proportion of the development has resulted from the use of molybdenum. Production of fat lambs in that area could not have been developed successfully without trace elements. The success of the Australian Mutual Provident Society’s scheme at Keith, in South Australia, which has received wide publicity, was entirely due to the use of trace elements. That district is a good rainfall area, but it was useless for production without trace elements, combined with superphosphate. The use of those elements and fertilizer has increased the carrying capacity of the land from nothing until it is now one and a half to two sheep to the acre.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization also did valuable, work in developing a branding fluid that will not harm wool, and will scour out easily although it remains in the fleece for identification purposes as long as the pastoralists require it. The faults of the old tar type of branding fluids are well known, particularly to those in the wool industry. It was difficult to scour out of the wool and, even in the final stages of manufacture of cloth, some small traces of tar could be left in the wool and could ruin certain kinds of cloth. This has been avoided by the use of the latest branding fluids, again with great saving to the people on the land. The list of what the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has done is almost endless, but at the present time it is an unhappy fact that the extension of this work into new and desirable fields is seriously threatened by financial stringency. There was a time when the equipment of the organization compared favorably with that of any similar organization in the world, but now, I understand, visitors from overseas to the laboratories, say, “ Yes, your men are doing some wonderful work here, but why do you not give them modern, up-to-date equipment? “ Why do our scientists not travel abroad in order to learn and see what is happening in these fields in other countries? The plain fact of the matter is that the small amount of money made available - I believe it is small for an organization that does work of such magnitude and of such value to the country - is almost wholly expended in maintaining the present level of development in certain fields, and it is very difficult to branch out into new fields of development when such action becomes necessary. The increase of £250,000 in the proposed vote over the amount allocated last year will be almost entirely absorbed by inescapable increases in wages and salaries or other costs that have unavoidably risen during the year. It is true that it has become possible to add eighteen new officers to the staff of the organization throughout Australia, but I believe that that is a very small number in a period of expansion such as that which we are going through at the present time.
I should like to give one or two examples of work that is waiting to be done, which is important and which, if done, will bring great benefit to this country in the future. We know far too little about weeds and thistles, for example, skeleton weed and noogoora burr. We know very little about how these pests spread and how to control them. An immense amount of work remains to be done in this field. I know that in my own area of Wannon many persons have become upset because the common scotch and shaw thistles have now been declared to be notifiable weeds. They multiply in three, four, or five years to plague proportions and then die, leaving the pastures with just the normal grasses on them. Very little is known about how to control these thistles, and any methods that are known at present are enormously costly and very probably beyond the capabilities of a great number of farmers.
The second matter in relation to which work is waiting to be done is pasture plant breeding, and when this work is begun and developed fully it may possibly prove to be as important as the development of trace elements has been in the past. At the present time the main grasses upon which we are dependent in the high rainfall areas are phalaris, subterranean clover, and Wimmera and perennial rye grass. These are very largely what could be called fortuitous grasses, not having been bred specifically for our conditions. They have bern adapted from conditions prevailing elsewhere to those which we have in Australia. TV:’h the development of plant breeding, it may well become possible to increase the productivity of our pastures and to lengthen the growing season by the development of new species of grasses. At present, we have one of the shortest growing periods of any pastoral or agricultural country in the world, and if a grass can be developed that will grow later into the summer months, that is, if the spring-growing period can be extended, productivity will be greatly increased. I have been led to believe that in the present circumstances there is no money available for work in the two fields that I have mentioned, and work on foot rot, dermatitis, fleece rot, and the fruit fly has proceeded at a relatively low rate because of lack of money, and not in any way because of a lack of willingness in the organization to do everything it possibly can to help in these matters.
The Melbourne “ Age “ published a report that too little has been, or is being, spent on wool study in Australia. Surely that is one of the most important and essential spheres of study for this country, because our prosperity and continued development depend upon our ability to make wool competitive at all times in price and quality with any substitute that may be developed in the years to come. We have had one or two nasty moments as the result of threats from synthetics, but at the present time those threats seem to be receding. However, that does not mean that we may be complacent in this matter, and we should be developing wool as a textile material, constantly improving it and making sure that the challenges of the future will be met. The work on cattle tick could, with advantage, be intensified if the necessary financial resources were available. I think that most honorable members know that in certain areas cattle have to be dipped about every six weeks and that theoretically the dip through which they pass should give them immunity for a far longer period. Why it does not is a question that certainly merits further research, lt is a very great pity indeed that in these days of economy an organization like the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is forced to restrict its activities. To my way of thinking, this is false economy. The work done by the organization will pay oil’ handsomely in the future by saving pastoralists or industrialists a great deal of money in the development of cheaper techniques or the curing of some diseases which are prevalent at the present time.
I should like to say a few words about the western district of Victoria, because in that part of the world we have two problems which, although not necessarily peculiar to that area, are most important to it and possibly more important there than in other districts. The first of these is pasture deterioration. We who come from the western district of Victoria know that pastures there are improved by sowing clover, rye grass and phalaris, which produce a high yield pasture, but after about ten or twelve years native volunteer grasses come back and the clover and rye grass tend to die out. We are not quite sure why this happens, and this presents a very real problem, because when it does occur the carrying capacity of the pastures falls. It may well be a matter of pasture management, but no one at present can say dogmatically why pasture deterioration does occur in these high-productivity areas. The second problem is in relation to lamb and weaner losses. In both these fields there is scope for work by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, perhaps on a research station or, if money is not available in the future to purchase a station, it may be possible to lease a property where experiments can be conducted with a view to helping the pastoralists of that region to solve these problems. The importance of research to people on the land in this country should not be underestimated. I should like to cite one example. In a high rainfall area it can cost approximately £3,000 to keep 15.000 sheep free of footrot. So, if we could ensure that sheep would not get footrot or if we could find a complete cure for it, we could cut running costs by £3.000 for every 15,000 sheep, which would be well worth while. That is just one example of how research in the present could pay handsomely in the future.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I wish, first, to deprecate the procedure that has been adopted during this debate. We are considering five proposed votes together, and I suggest that a bewildering situation must arise because there is little or no continuity in the various speeches. The Ministers in charge of the departments concerned must feel at a disadvantage in replying to the matters raised during the debate. Therefore, I hope that, in the future, a better method will be devised, either by this Government or some other government, so that there can be adequate review and proper supervision of the expenditure of public moneys. This afternoon, we are considering the proposed votes for the Department of Immigration, £10,212,000; the Department of Labour and National Service. £2,043,000; the Department of National Development, £49,488,000; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, £5,389,000; and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, £3.214,000. Those are huge sums. I suggest that the time allotted for honorable members to discuss these votes does not permit of the kind of review that they warrant. We in this Parliament have not the advantage of the wide committee system that exists in certain other countries and which would allow us to make a more detailed examination of the Estimates. I agree with those honorable members who have suggested that Australia would benefit from an extension of the committee system, particularly in relation to the consideration of expenditure of public mnoeys
I rose particularly to identify myself with ihe remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and other honorable members on this side of the chamber, concerning immigration. In my opinion, nothing is more important to the life and future of Australians than is the task of increasing our population. Immigration plays an important part in helping to develop this country and make it secure. Therefore. 1 feel that it is wise that we should consider how best to use the powers at our hand to acquire suitable immigrants and to encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in this country. However, we must at the same time exercise caution and not allow the intake of immigrants to outrun our economic ability to absorb and provide adequately for them. Because of extraordinary economic conditions in this country, the Government has considered it essential to curtail the importation of many raw materials that are necessary for industrial expansion, and that action must affect the employment opportunities that otherwise would be available for immigrants. We must recognize that we shall merely add to our difficulties and accentuate our economic problems if, during a period of economic uncertainty such as that which exists at the present time, our immigration programme is over-ambitious. There is a degree of unemployment at present which is sufficient for us to take warning and to realize that it could lead to grave economic conditions. An increase of unemployment would be a bad advertisement for Australia and would discourage people who had intended to come here in the future from doing so.
Australia has done well to provide for the additional people who have come here from overseas. I understand that, since October, 1945, approximately 1,100,000 new citizens have come here under the immigration scheme, the foundations of which were laid by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), as Minister for Immigration, and which, subject to certain changes in qualification mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes, has been supported by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt). Australia has benefited greatly from the policy adopted by a Labour government. However, I think that there are associated with it circumstances of which we must take note. Earlier in this chamber to-day, the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) brought to the notice of the committee the degree of imbalance between the sexes of the immigrants being brought to this country, and he pointed out that, because of that imbalance, we are creating additional problems for ourselves, lt is desirable for us to attempt to preserve a much better balance between the sexes of immigrants and so avoid the possibility of a serious problem in the future. It seems that the department could do a lot to help.’ I have known of cases in which it has allowed the husband to come to Australia but later there has been difficulty about the wife and children coming out. In those circumstances, the man concerned becomes dissatisfied and possibly feels that he has a responsibility to return to the country from which he came. If he does return, we are disadvantaged by reason of having expended money upon establishing him as a new citizen and of having lost his citizenship.
When a man is attesting his suitability to come to this country, the department should also determine whether his wife and family can satisfy the necessary qualifications for admission. If, for health reasons or because of any other circumstance, a wife and family are unable to qualify for admission to Australia, the man concerned should be warned, before he leaves his home country, that there is no prospect of his wife and family being able to join him here later. To do that would save a lot of difficulty and hardship, because many who have come to this country and have suffered the disability of not being joined by their wives and families have found themselves in a dilemma and have been faced with having to decide whether to stay here or return to their homeland. The Department of Immigration has always been helpful to me in trying to find a solution of some of these problems, but I am afraid that the present procedure makes it impossible to resolve some of these difficulties. I hope the Minister will remember that a certain obligation devolves upon any such persons that it may have allowed to enter Australia, and I am wondering whether we are not really required, to do something to enable them to return to their families. To do that would be to do the fair thing for the wives and families concerned. If we were to inform the intending immigrant about the likelihood or otherwise of his wife and family being allowed to come to Australia, we would have a safeguard against this kind of thing occurring in the future. 1 am glad to note that there is to be a more or less immediate increase of the total number of immigrants by the inclusion of 4,000 people from the Scandinavian countries. I should say that a greater number than that would be willing to emigrate to Australia from the Nordic and Scandinavian countries. I feel that Australia would be greatly advantaged by the presence of this kind of immigrant, because they are among the very best of people and their outlook is akin to that of our own Anglo-Saxon people.
.- Consideration of the subject of immigration has led to an amazing number of misstatements which have been epitomized in the committee to-day by the honorable members for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) and Bonython (Mr. Makin). The honorable member for Bonython has made the point that tragic circumstances occur when it is ascertained that the families of some immigrants are ineligible for admission to Australia. As I understand the position, for many years after the last war, when a Labour Minister for Immigration -~cl1 in office, only the proposed immigrant, anu not his family, was subjected to the selection tests of the Australian officials. After the immigrant had come to Australia and had accumulated the things that he required, he applied for his family to be allowed to come, and they were then submitted, for the first time, to the medical and other selection criteria, lt was in those circumstances that the tragic situations described by the honorable member for Bonython might have occurred. Since this Government assumed administration of Australia’s immigration policy, the entire family has been submitted to the various tests before the bread-winner has departed for Australia. So, if any criticism is levelled on that score, it must relate to what happened some years ago.
The honorable member for Parkes commenced a parade of mis-statements by saying that it was a very sad fact that there was an accumulation of immigrants in certain industries. He proceeded to cite examples and suggested that the motor vehicle industry was becoming too full of a particular kind of migrant; but he did not let the committee into the secret and indicate what nationality was concerned. He also referred to Broken Hill. Whether or not these facts are true-
– If they are facts, they must be true.
– I say that they are not facts. I appreciate the action of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) in correcting my mode of expression. I appreciate it very greatly. Sitting in his place, he has adequate time in which to prepare these little forays. If the statement of the honorable member for Parkes is true - and 1 deny it - has any harm been caused? The demographers tell us that the history of migration throughout the centuries has largely been one of chain migration, that there has been an accumulation of migrants in certain places and from that point there has been the chain of migration. If what the honorable member has stated is true, 1 certainly am not opposed to it; but I doubt whether it is true. 1 believe that the assimilation of immigrants in Australia is a great monument to the administration of the Department of Immigration both in earlier years and since this Government has assumed office.
The honorable member for Parkes also said that the screening of intending immigrants has been directed towards politics and not towards ascertaining the true character of the person concerned. To say that is absolutely wrong. That the honorable member might have discovered that his estimate of the number of immigrants who would vote for the Australian Labour party has not been achieved, would, of course, sadden him, but it should not form the basis of a charge that the department is devoting itself exclusively to the ascertainment of the politics of the potential immigrant. I had the honour to serve in the department as a selection officer. 1 feel, therefore, that I am in a position to explain to the committee what occurs when an immigrant presents himself.
When the immigrant presents himself, he is very keen to come to Australia because he has heard of the prosperity in this country. There comes from the people already established in Australia the outline of the prosperity and the work that is available. The immigrant is placed before a selection officer and a medical officer. The selection officer is a man who has been selected by the department. He represents a wide range of views. He may be, as in my case, a young professional man. He may be a farmer. He may be a representative from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, or he may be a public servant.
In all cases, the criteria of the selection of the selection officer are that he must know something of Australia. He must be representative of the type of people whom the immigrant, upon arrival in Australia, will encounter and with whom he will bc asked to associate. I will say this, despite the cacophony of protest from the other side of the chamber, that the standard of the selection officers representing the department overseas is extraordinarily high. They are men of tremendous character. They are men who have a sense of devotion to the job and who have had a true interest in the development of Australia and who execute their tasks at all times with the greatest intensity of devotion to the ultimate development of this nation.
– How did the honorable member tear himself away from the job?’
– I tore myself away in this manner: I felt that there was a job for me to do in Australia in pointing out to the people of Australia just how wrong the honorable member for Parkes usually is. The honorable member also devoted a considerable amount of his time to suggesting that the report of a well-known member of the judiciary was wrong. That well-known member of the judiciary reported on two occasions. He reported facts which may be, for the opponents of the Government’s immigration policy, rather unfortunate, but, nevertheless, they remain true. It was not an inquiry by a single individual. It was an inquiry by a group of individuals of different types with different interests and experience, brough together to examine this proposition that immigrants are addicted to crime. They then discovered that immigrants, contrary to the allegations that had been made,, were tremendously law-abiding people. If immigrants are seen frequently in court, it is not in the criminal jurisdictions. It is in the civil jurisdictions. They welcome the opportunity afforded by our type of justice which ensures that their rights and contractual obligations will be protected and properly decided by a judiciary which is quite impartial. If the honorable member for Werriwa is around the courts on occasion, he will find that immigrants, whilst relatively profuse in the civil jurisdictions arc very scarce in the criminal jurisdiction.
– I am scarce in the criminal ones, too, these days.
– The personal explanation of the honorable member for Werriwa will be accepted by the Chairman. I am sure.
The honorable member for Parkes then went on to suggest to this committee that the Minister should prevail upon the British Government to “ spare more than 25 per cent, of the immigration intake into Australia “. He immediately adopts this form of argument; he argues from a false proposition. The false proposition, immediately, is the 25 per cent, that are British. That is quite wrong. The figures have been given to the committee and justified, and I have no purpose to pursue them at this moment. But what does the honorable member for Parkes anticipate that the British Government would do if British people were not successfully prevailed upon to emigrate? Would he have the British Government direct them to emigrate? Or perhaps, if he wants the intake of British immigrants to be considerably bumped up, he may give a thought to the development of Australia in order to make it attractive to immigrants. It is attractive now but it may not continue to be attractive if statements are made such as the one that was made in Brisbane the other day as follows: -
If Mr. Gunn . . . has any sense he will meet the disputes committee and conciliate - otherwise the wool industry will be wrecked for ever.
If the people in England, accustomed though they may be to threats, had a statement such as that placed before them, they might have serious reservations as to whether Australia is the ideal place for them. Fortunately, up to date, no fear such as that has been raised in their minds.
Then, on continues the caravan of misstatement. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), supported by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) referred to the imbalance of the sexes. I took the opportunity to look at the Commonwealth Statistician’s report. Fortunately, I found the information set out for me in a publication by Mr. W. D. Borrie, M.A., reader in demography at the Australian National University. The honorable member for Leichhardt presented certain truisms to the Minister. He pointed out that it is most necessary that there should be females as well as males in order to produce natural increase of population
– Does the honorable member disagree with that?
– I feel that all of us are indebted to the honorable member for this truism. It may be that we would have forgotten, had it not been so forcibly brought to our notice by the honorable member for Leichhardt. The statistics are these: Of the net immigration intake in the age group from nil to fifteen years, the percentage of males was 23.7, whereas the percentage of females was 30.7. The number of females in that young age group was 7 per cent, more than the number of males.
– The honorable member does not expect them to produce children?
– They will. Another truism is that children grow up. In the age group from 15 to 64 years, male immigrants outnumbered female immigrants, the figures being 75.8 per cent, and 67.6 per cent, respectively. 1 turn to the statistics relating to the total Australian population as shown in the 1947 census and the 1954 census. In the nil to fifteen age group, the percentage of males was 25.3 whereas the percentage of females was 28.5. It is a further truism to say that when those children grew up and married there would be a preponderance of females over males unless there were a greater intake of males than females through immigration. But Mr. Borrie, who is a very knowledgeable man in his profession, continued to comment on the situation and I can present the argument no better than he did. I therefore propose to read a couple of extracts from his paper on the subject. Mr. Borrie stated -
Placed in its historical perspective the unbalance to-day is nol excessive.
Then, perhaps, this is his most important statement -
Theoretically il might seem that the simple answer lies in recruiting young women from European countries, where there is already a surplus of females, because of male losses and emigration, and settling them in employment in new industries in such areas as Wollongong-Port Kembla where there are already large congregations of migrant male workers. The idea has possibilities, but moil of us know that operating a marriage market is no easy task. We cannot be certain that the eligible males of Wollongong will be attractive to or be attracted by the eligible females whom the Government brings from overseas. Further, the immigration of young single women, except with a family unit, is difficult even in this age of assumed equality of the sexes. More effective might be the continuation and extension of opportunities for our surplus males to bring out young women of their own’ choice from their areas of origin.
– Although my remarks will be directed to the Estimates of the Department of Immigration I do not propose to follow the line of argument of the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden). However, I was impressed by his statement that children do grow up. I preface my remarks by saying how much I appreciate the assistance and co-operation of officers of the Department of Immigration, and I am certain that what I say will be endorsed by all honorable members. On many occasions, I have sought the assistance of that department, and the understanding and help of the officers in dealing with particular problems has been unfailing. There are some aspects of the policy of immigration, however, to which I feel I should refer.
One that troubles me considerably, and that has brought several cases to my office - and no doubt to the offices of other honorable members - is the difficulty that immigrants, already established here, have in obtaining permits of entry into Australia for their parents or close relatives, lt is proper that a high standard of physical health should be required, and whether immigrants are coming under the assisted passage scheme or as sponsored immigrants paying their own fares, that high standard of physical health should be maintained. But there is an obligation upon us as a nation that is accepting migrants from various countries, and that prides itself on its humane and Christian attitude to migration, that we should not make these standards too rigid. We should be prepared to accept some of the bad with the good. In many cases we would be adopting a right, Christian and humane attitude if we were to stretch a point to enable immigrants, already established here successfully and desiring to remain in Australia, to bring to this country from their homeland their parents or close relatives.
Within my experience of some years in this Parliament 1 have met with cases in which a parent or a brother has been refused a permit to enter Australia because his height is below the minimum standard. There may be some merit in having a minimum standard of height, but I suggest that this requirement should not be enforced too rigidly. The regulations should be interpreted in a humane way, and all possible assistance given to the immigrant, who has established his home here and who wishes to remain, to have his next of kin join him. Some parents have been refused permits of entry because they have contracted some form of disease. In cases where these are communicable it is understandable that care must be taken before permits to enter are issued. In other cases, however, when the intending immigrant has a lung or thoracic disease of some kind, the transfer from the climate of the old world to the Australian climate may do much to effect a cure. All of these cases should be examined with great care and sympathy.
In some instances the Minister has exercised his discretion, and allowed the parents to be brought out, but in others there has been heart-break in the families of immigrants established here because their parents have not been allowed to join them. I suggest to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt) that a second look should be taken at these problems, and that a Christian and humane attitude be adopted so that, if possible, the standards laid down shall not be applied so rigidly as to prevent parents or close relatives from being united with their families in this country.
In cases where, for no stated reason, permits are refused for close relatives to come to Australia, the resident immigrant feels frustrated, and assumes that security is involved. It is proper, of course, that, as in the case of health, security standards must be observed. I suggest, however, now that World War II. is ten or eleven years in the background, and there is a changing outlook in the world and among immigrants who have come to Australia, established their homes here and accepted what we are pleased to call the Australian way of life, a second look should be given to their applications to ascertain whether it is really necessary to apply the security tests so rigidly. I have had personal knowledge of cases in which, after two years of representations, the Minister has been able to say, “ Frankly, there is nothing on the file relating to this person that should prevent his coming to
Australia “. The permit has been minted for his entry, and the outcome has been a happy one. In his case it has become evi-dent that there was no need to refuse a permit.
I refer particularly to the migration to this country of people of Greek origin. In the Greeks now in Australia we have some of the finest migrants who have come from European countries. They form a very worthwhile part of our community. It has been customary, in this capital city, on the occasion of the celebration of Greece’s national day, for the Minister for Immigration, both of this Government and of the previous Labour government, and also for the Prime Minister to issue messages of congratulation to the Greek community, and to participate with them in the celebration of the day when Greece achieved its independence. The Greeks in this community have succeeded, by hard work and knowledge of trading, in establishing themselves wherever they have chosen to settle. They have become particularly loyal citizens of Australia and, of course, they are our traditional friends and they were our allies in the last war.
In recent months, however, it has become the policy to limit the entry of persons of Greek nationality to close relatives of Greeks already established in Australia. Perhaps there is reason for some reduction of the intake in what are generally classed by the department as “ southern Europeans “. But the term “ southern Europeans “ includes nationalities other than Greek. I ask the Minister and officers of the department to give further consideration to the migration to Australia of people from Greece, in the light of our continuing and historic friendship with that nation, and of its association with Australia in the last war. There is also the overall knowledge that the Greeks who have come to Australia have established themselves soundly and we’ll, take their part in community affairs, have a very high rate of naturalization, accepting Australian citizenship, and who do make provision and offer security to those of their relatives and friends in their former country whom they nominate for entry into this country. I believe that, if possible, the present restrictions on the immigration of Greeks, at least, should be relaxed. Whether the figures have any bearing or not I am not able to say, but in the proposed votes under discussion the total amount provided for the immigration office in Greece is £95,000, whilst the total amount estimated for the maintenance of the immigration office in
Italy is £219,200. I am not drawing a comparison between the people of one nationality and those of another, but I repeal that I believe that the immigration of Greeks to this country could well be encouraged insofar as we can eliminate or lessen the restrictions that now apply to the entry of sponsored relatives of Greeks already established in Australia.
One other minor aspect of the immigration policy on which I should like to touch is the ceremony of naturalization. It is true that the recent change in that ceremony from one of a legal nature to one carried out by local governing bodies in the various cities and towns has been of great benefit. It has brought the ceremony closer to the Australian people and has made it a warmer and more significant ceremony for the immigrants themselves. A much more friendly atmosphere now marks those ceremonies than was the case previously. We have an opportunity here, in this national capital particularly, where our naturalization ceremonies occur at an average rate of one in every three months to add to both the colour and the significance of such ceremonies. In Canberra we have had up to 120 or 130 applicants for naturalization being naturalized at one ceremony. I believe that we could do something to make the civil ceremony a little more colorful. This is rather an unusual community, in that we do not have a lord mayor, or a mayor, or any official of that kind who wears robes of office.
– Is not the Minister for the Interior the mayor?
– Well, no, but the predecessor of the present Minister was the uncrowned king of Canberra. I have not found a title for the present Minister. Perhaps “Big Brother” will be his title. However, I believe that we could do something to make the naturalization ceremony in Canberra a little more colorful than it is at present. We might even follow the American pattern to a degree - J do not want to see it followed in its entirety. I think that it would not be a bad idea if we ranged behind the officials who conduct the ceremony the flags of British Commonwealth countries, or even of the countries from which the immigrants being naturalized have come. Also, it would not hurt if we had perhaps a number of boy scouts and girl guides in uniform to provide some sort of guard of honour.
– Why not ask representatives of the Australian Country party to be present?
– I am afraid that the members of the party representing the wool-growers would not produce the right effect in their nylon shirts, so, at the moment, I shall not suggest their participation. However, I feel that my suggestions, lightly though they may appear to have been made, are worth considering. I believe that their adoption would have a beneficial effect on naturalization ceremonies carried out in Canberra and perhaps in other parts of the Commonwealth. I hope that they will be considered by the Minister and his officers.
Mr. DRUMMOND (New England) 13.29]. - I wish to address myself mainly to the proposed vote for the Department of National Development. I agree generally with the remarks of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) on the quality of the Greek citizens who have come to live in this community and made a contribution to the life of the community. If time permitted I should like to expand on the subject of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That organization is doing a magnificent job, and nowhere does the work it performs have more spectacular results than in my own electorate, the tableland district of New England, where the organization has a station at Chiswick, with out-stations at, I think, a radius of about 100 miles. The organization has in that region opened the doors to new wealth and a new understanding of how to tackle the problems of the area, and has immensely increased the wealth of the district and its continuity of supply. I, who knew New England in the days long before World War I., can see the difference which has been brought to that part of Australia as a result of the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has its head-quarters in the University of New England, where it works in very close association, and very successful association, with the university, particularly with the newly established Faculty of Rural Science.
I wish, however, in the limited time at my disposal to direct my remarks rather to the subject of national development, following somewhat the line of thought evinced by my distinguished colleague, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who has suggested the adoption of a new approach, or at least the use of an approach which is now neglected, to the whole subject of national development. I know that some of my friends on the opposite side of the chamber are inclined to look with grave doubt at anything that appears to be connected with private enterprise, particularly those of them who, no doubt quite honestly from their point of view, believe that a more socialistic trend would benefit the community. But whether or not one holds that view, one must have regard to the fact that capital is one of those things which one must use to develop the resources of a country. The capital of the Old Country was the basic means whereby we settled this country, even if it were often human capital exported for reasons connected with the Old Country’s good in the first place. I think that is something that must be borne in mind. Apropos of that, I remember reading in 1924 the report of the British trade union commission which visited Moscow in that year. It was pointed out in that report that one of the problems that the Soviet Government had to face wai that it was trying to do a tremendous amount of development with a limited amount of capital and technical resources. The result was that the consumers had to go short so that the Soviet Government could get ahead with its job of developing Russia. In other words, the Russians, by adopting a method of repression of even normal instinct in the community, were able to attain objectives that could not be attained under the standards to which we adhere. But if we want to maintain a good life and balanced progress by speeding national development, the suggestions advanced by the right honorable member for Cowper should receive the consideration of this Parliament. I want to make some references along those lines about New South Wales, the State from which 1 come, and in order to prevent a good deal of perhaps unnecessary argument from some of my friends opposite, I preface my remarks by saying that they are not directed specifically against the present Government of New South Wales. They are intended merely as an illustration of what has happened under successive governments of New South Wales over a considerable period of time, for the very reason mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper, which is that unless there can be a continuity of the flow of money as well as of the flow of purpose, it will be quite impossible to carry works out expeditiously and, having regard to the rate of our development, on the most economical basis.
Let me give some examples of New South Wales works from my own experience. In 1928 a government in which 1 was a Minister turned the first sod in the construction of a railway between Guyra and Dorrigo, upon which it spent £100,000. When the depression came work was stopped, and not a tap has been done since. If £100,000 is added to the national debt it represents a continuing charge that must be borne by the taxpayers. So, at 4 per cent, interest, more than the original expenditure has already been paid out with nothing to show for it. I recall that when Sir William McKell. who was then Mr. McKell, was Premier of New South Wales it was proposed to construct a railway from Inverell through Glen Innes to Grafton at a cost of £14,000,000. This railway was first proposed nearly 100 years ago. 1 think Sir George Dibbs was one of the first to suggest it, and Sir Henry Parkes certainly regarded it as an important project. A port is being developed at the entrance to the Clarence River, but I venture to suggest that the money spent on it will largely be wasted unless the latent resources of its great hinterland are opened up by adequate railways. A great deal of money has been spent on a highway between Glen Innes and Grafton. This is not as bad a case, but it too has been the subject of continual expenditure without much progress.
In 1938 a government in which I was a Minister began the construction of the Keepit Dam, in anticipation of the drying up of the artesian waters of the north and north-west of New South Wales, in order to ensure a water supply and assist the inland areas. I think, speaking from memory, that the dam was originally estimated to cost £1,500,000. By the financial year 1948-49 it had cost that amount and I believe that on current estimates it will cost about another £5,000,000 to complete. Apparently its completion is still a long way off. Private enterprise could not possibly conduct business in that fashion. If it dawdled along and allowed capital charges and interest to accrue in that manner it would certainly be up queer street. Approximately £1,500,000 has been spent already on the Glenbawn Dam, which was begun by the McKell Government in New South Wales. This project is now estimated to cost £5,000,000 to complete. It drags on like a Kathleen Mavourneen promise. The Sydney metropolitan railways system is another example. The first stage was to be completed in 1926. In that year work was proceeding on the section between St. James and Wynyard stations, which now, 30 years later, is almost completed. The worst case of all is a railway which was begun in 1938 by a government in which I was a Minister to provide a link between Dubbo and Newcastle. It is known as the Sandy Hollow-Maryvale railway. This line was recommended as a defence work and was intended to provide a vital link should anything happen to the Hawkesbury River railway bridge. It is still a vitally necessary link. I think that about £1,300,000 had been spent on this railway by the time the government to which I belonged went out of office. All the earthworks and most of the tunnels had been completed. Yet even now not one rail has been laid! But the debt burden on the taxpayer in respect of this railway is steadily mounting. 1 agree with the right honorable member for Cowper that it is not practicable for governments to develop this continent sufficiently rapidly to justify our continued exclusive occupation of it and to enable us to defend it properly. Therefore, I think the time has come when we should encourage fresh capital and enterprise for the development of hydro-electric and other schemes by giving long-term franchises to complete them. I suppose the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme is being pushed ahead as no government work has ever been pushed ahead before, but I believe that even in that instance certain charges have accrued because of delay in providing the necessary finance.
There is a case, particularly in New South Wales, for Commonwealth and State co-operation in an overall railway policy. It is of no use for people to talk about the evils of the break of gauge. If there were a standard-gauge railway between Sydney and Melbourne, New South Wales would suffer a considerable loss of trade to Victoria, because Melbourne is the natural port for the Riverina area, the trade from which would have gone to Victoria years ago if a standard-gauge line had existed. New South Wales has always resisted it for that reason, and unless the Commonwealth adopts a practical policy of subsidizing that State for its loss there will be little done about the construction of a standard-gauge railway.
– New South Wales was not always against the idea.
– It does not matter what is said publicly; that is the story behind the scenes. No State which has blundered as New South Wales has done by constructing a tenuous railways system over unnecessarily long distances in order to carry goods hundreds of miles in the opposite direction from the port to which they should naturally go will face up to the financial consequences of its actions. The New South Wales railways are virtually in a state of collapse. Last year they lost more than £7,000,000. The permanent way is in bad condition and a great deal of the rolling-stock is obsolete. The time is ripe for a public corporation composed of powerful financial interests to provide at least half the capital needed to modernize the system completely and to construct all the vital links the very absence of which makes the system inefficient. If that were done new heart would be given to the men who work in the railways. New heart would certainly be given to those who are trying to make them pay, and a very great improvement of the entire system would result.
I turn now to hydro-electric resources. In the north of New South Wales vast quantities of water which could be used for irrigation are running to waste.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to discuss matters relating to the Department of Labour and National Service, and to bring to the notice of the committee and the community generally the serious situation of growing unemployment in Australia.
Before developing my remarks on this subject, I should like to pay tribute to the work of the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service throughout Australia who are devoted to the task of placing people in employment and are discharging their duties with great efficiency and skill. However, 1 taKe exception to the manner in which the news release is made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in respect of the summary of the employment position in Australia every month. I have before me the Minister’s news release for 20th August, 1956. In that document the Minister commenced his statement about employment by saying -
The trend of the employment market during July as disclosed by the activities of the Commonwealth Employment Service-
And I emphasize these words - indicates a continuing process of correction of a lack of balance in the economy which the Government’s policy has been designed to cure.
Then the Minister’s statement goes on to point out that the number of vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service during the month decreased from about 32,000 to about 28,000, that employment in the larger factories throughout Australia had declined substantially - that is, by about 3,000 - while the number of persons receiving the unemployment benefit increased during the month by 2,161, making the total of persons receiving that benefit 9,164 throughout Australia. The latest news release of the Minister is dated 18th September, 1956. It indicates that there is a continuation of Government policy which is resulting in further unemployment throughout Australia. In the latest news release we find that the number of registered vacancies for employment has fallen from 28,000 to 26,000, employment in the larger factories has declined by a further 2,950 and the persons receiving unemployment benefit have increased to 10.333. What occurred in July and August is simply a continuation of the trend that has been apparent for some months past in respect of employment throughout this country.
The first thing that I object to in regard to the Minister’s statements is the undue emphasis that he gives to the number of persons who are receiving unemployment benefit. While it is true that the number receiving the unemployment benefit gives an idea of trends in the employment situation, the real test of unemployment in Australia is the number of persons who are seeking employment. The register of unemployed persons which is kept in the Commonwealth Employment Service is checked frequently, and if a person has not been near the office for some time his name is taken off the list; but it can be said that the number of those who are seeking employment is a better indication of the total number of unemployed persons in Australia than is the number of those receiving the unemployment benefit. 1 stress that point because applicants for the unemployment benefit are subject to a very strict means test, and any person who is receiving an income of £ I a week or more is immediately denied the benefit. This is one of the social services payments for which it is very very hard to qualify.
I further regret this tendency to place emphasis on the recipients of the unemployment benefit as expressed in the unemployment returns which, I think, are issued by the Commonwealth Statistician. The returns to which I refer may be found at page 14 of the last statistical bulletin issued in July, 1956. It is there indicated that the statistical record used by the Commonwealth Statistician is based on persons receiving the unemployment benefit, and I suggest that that indicates a very sorry position in Australia. According to the bulletin published in November, 1 955 - a couple of months after the little budget had been introduced - the total number of persons receiving the unemployment benefit was only 1,677, but by August that number had increased to 10,177. If we consider the matter from another angle, and again I use the same bulletin, we shall find that employment in the larger private factories - which would be a source of greater and more stable employment than smaller factories - decreased. In November, 1955, there were 493,000 persons employed, but by August of this year that number had declined to 484,000, indicating that even in well established and stabilized industries the tendency for employment to decline is becoming clearer and clearer.
The matter that worries me, and probably worries those honorable members who represent country electorates, is the growing unemployment in country centres. That has disastrous effects, because in country centres the opportunities for persons to obtain alternative employment are very rare indeed, and the consequence is that people who become unemployed in centres like Ballarat, Bendigo or Geelong and similar centres in other States, frequently have to sell up their homes and migrate to capital cities because of the greater opportunities for obtaining employment there. One finds in the September issue of the Minister’s release that while the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit in Sydney totalled 1,783, there are remarkably high figures for the smaller centres. For example, in Wollongong there are 278 unemployed, in Maitland 109, in Leeton 97, in Wagga 91 and in Cessnock 68. When we take into consideration the population in those centres as compared with the population in the capital city of New South Wales, we find that the proportion of unemployment in the smaller centres is much greater than that in the metropolitan area. The same thing can be said about the position in Victoria. In Melbourne 2,152 people are unemployed, in Geelong 569, in Ballarat 134, in my own centre of Bendigo 95 and in Shepparton 86. When we take into consideration that the population of Geelong is about 85,000 as against 1,750,000 in Melbourne, if there are 569 people unemployed in Geelong and at a place like Bendigo with 33,000 people there are 95 persons receiving unemployment benefit, one can perceive how seriously the country areas throughout Australia are being hit as a consequence of the application of Government policy to overcome what the Minister has described as a lack of balance in the economy.
I have made inquiries from the trade union movement, in order to ascertain what had been taking place in regard to individual unions, and I was astonished by some of the figures that I received. I found that in respect of vehicle building - and my remarks refer to the members of the vehicle builders’ union only and not to the persons doing skilled work in the industry - since last March 2,500 people have been displaced in Victoria, 1,300 in New South Wales, 1,800 in South Australia and 300 in Queensland. Of those persons displaced in South Australia, some 300 were taken over by General Motors-Holden’s Limited in their new establishment in that State, but the net loss in the vehicle-building industry of persons classed as vehicle builders is no less than 5,600, whilst the Australian Society of Engineers, which is associated with that industry in a minor way, lost 500 members. The Rubber Workers Union in Victoria, which forms only a small proportion of a very big organization, has lost 200 members.
One could go on and show, from the figures I have received, that sales tax, excise duties, higher rates of interest and credit restrictions have affected industry after industry in Australia and made conditions exceedingly difficult. We have to remember that when employment is increasing it finds employment for other persons, but, on the other hand, when employment is declining, it is like a snowball in that the more persons who are out of work the greater is the number of others who find their security and their jobs threatened. As a further indication, one need only point out that, as a result of the budget itself, unemployment is growing in the ship-building industry and in government factories, and, generally, as a consequence, a. feeling of insecurity is gradually growing throughout the community.
I have no doubt that the Minister, in his reply, will say that the amount of unemployment is relatively small. Compared with conditions in the past, in the 1920’s and ‘thirties, that probably would be correct, but, on the other hand, we, to-day, consider ourselves the pioneers of a new type of economy in which we give full employment to our people. The Minister will probably say that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said, some time ago, that we would have full employment if 5 per cent, of the people were unemployed. 1 go a little further and say that, prior to World War I., no less an authority than Professor Copland, who, at that time, was regarded as Australia’s leading economist, expressed the opinion that for all time in the future we would have at least 10 per cent, of the community unemployed. The point is that when one is prophesying in respect of a new type of economy one can find only as a consequence of its operation what is going to be the unemployment position. With the type of economy that was originated during World War II., and with the development of the resources of the community in a progressive and expanding economy, the only unemployment should be frictional unemployment of persons changing from one job to another.
In addition to the Government’s policy, automation is having some effect and is gradually making itself felt in Australian industry. The growing problems of automation and unemployment should be the subject of very full consideration, and there should be a complete reversal of government policy in order to give security to all in the community.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– If I may, I shall speak first in my capacity as Minister for Labour and National Service by way of courtesy to my good friend, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who has been giving us, as usual, a thoughtful contribution, this time on the subject of employment in Australia. 1 am afraid he did not really have his heart in the job, because he remembers only too vividly the less happy periods of Australian history when we had a very different employment situation from that which has existed in Australia over the post-war years. I certainly share his view, in common, I think, with honorable members of all parties in this Parliament, that we should so organize, if we can, the national economy to ensure that jobs are available for all who are willing and able to work in this country.
When the honorable member for Bendigo tells us that no less an authority and economist than Sir Douglas Copland, who the honorable member stated was regarded at the time as one of the leading economists in Australia, said that 10 per cent, unemployment would be a normal thing, then I believe the experience of our post-war years shows now we have succeeded as a government and as a nation in pioneering this new type of post-war economy where full employment is substantially guaranteed. Sir Douglas Copland is to-day, in my opinion anyhow, probably the outstanding economist of this country. Certainly he ranks among the top economists. The fact of the matter is that even putting the employment position on the basis which the honorable member for Bendigo recommended we should - that is going beyond the recipients of unemployment benefit, although I will say a word or two about that in a moment - and considering the people actually registered for work, which I agree with him gives a much more realistic picture of those actually out of work at a particular time, then on our latest figures some 35,000 people in Australia were registered at the offices of the Department of Labour and National Service. That does not give the full picture either, because of those 35,000 people, a considerable number might have registered on the day, or during the week, before that check was taken and by the time the information came to me many of the persons so registered might have transferred to some other employment. In a buoyant economy such as ours, with a great deal of employment of a seasonal nature in which people change from job to job, many people, either because a particular job has come to an end or because they feel they would like to be doing something different, go along to the employment office and register for employment. As I say, on the latest figures, 35,000 people have so described themselves; but that is not a picture of chronic unemployment in this country. A great proportion of those 35,000 might very well be placed in jobs and their places in turn taken by others who were also seeking a change from the employment in which they found themselves.
That 35,000, if one takes that figure as a more accurate indication of the position than the number of unemployment benefit recipients, works out at something less than I per cent, of the work force of this country. Any industrial country that can maintain employment on a basis of jobs available for all but a fractional degree of I per cent, of unemployment has given its people full employment in the substantial sense of that term. With the exception of a short period in 1952, that has been the experience of this Government since it took office. I remind the honorable member for Bendigo that in the census of 1947 - a time when the government of which he is a supporter was in office - the figure for unemployment on the day the census was taken was 83,000. Nobody at that time imagined that we had a serious unemployment problem. On the contrary, we were in a situation of prosperity and 1 am quite certain that honorable gentlemen opposite felt at that time they were maintaining substantially a full-employment situation. I think it could do a good deal of harm in a very real sense if we became unduly alarmed as this frictional unemployment developed from time to time. 1 have pointed out before that we are now in what i» generally regarded as the slack period of the year, in an economic sense. It is normal for employment opportunities to decline to some degree during the winter months in the southern States. But then, when the spring comes in and we move into the Christmas trading period, the demands for labour increase and more people are absorbed into industry. The latest figures that I have lead me to believe that that is happening again. Far from rushing downhill, far from there being a substantial increase of the number of persons recorded as being in receipt of unemployment benefit, I find that there has been a reduction of the number of such people during each of the last three weeks for which figures have been supplied to me. As at 22nd September, 412 people less were recorded as being in receipt of unemployment benefit. Even in Western Australia - where, admittedly, there has been proportionately more unemployment in recent months than in other States - each of the last five weeks has shown a decline in the number of recipients of unemployment benefit.
There may be some force in the comments of the honorable member for Bendigo that the figures showing the number of recipients of unemployment benefit do not show the full degree of unemployment that exists. I have never claimed that they do. I have merely argued that, taken in conjunction with the other figures that I make available to the Parliament, they assist us to analyse trends as they develop in the Australian economy.
– They show only about onesixth of the actual number of unemployed people.
– Rather less than a quarter.
– I think about one-sixth.
– That indicates the normal degree of inaccuracy of the honorable gentleman’s assumptions. Mine happen to be official figures, but his have been just taken from the air. I want to correct the honorable member for Bendigo on a relatively minor point. He has said that a person with an income of £1 a week is ineligible for the unemployment benefit. That is not correct. The rate of employment benefit for an adult is £2 10s. a week. There are further payments of £2 a week for a dependent wife or a housekeeper, and of 5s. a week for one or more children under the age of sixteen years. Therefore, the total benefit for a man with a wife and one child is £4 15s. a week. In addition, he is allowed to have an income of £1 a week from other sources, not including child endowment. The benefit is reduced in accordance with the amount in excess of £1 which the wife or the husband earns or receives as rent from property, &c. I do not challenge the general proposition that there is some limitation of eligibility for the unemployment benefit, but I point out that the statements made by the honorable member for Bendigo were incorrect in that point of detail.
I have said that during recent weeks the number of people in receipt of the unemployment benefit has shown a tendency to decline. I do not attach great significance to that fact at this time, but it does appear to confirm our experience that there is an increased demand for labour as we move out of the winter months towards the Christmas trading period. I said a little earlier that undue alarm over the present degree of frictional unemployment could cause some harm. I believe it could lead to a distorted view of the economic problems ahead of us. There is a quite serious inflationary pressure on the economy which, as a government, we have been trying to subdue, with a view to bringing the economy into better balance. The task of keeping supply and demand nicely balanced on the razor’s edge is not an easy one. If we have erred since we have been in office, we have erred in one direction. There has been a demand for more labour than could be supplied, although we could have adopted policies that would have taken us in the other direction. Undoubtedly, that has contributed considerably to the inflationary pressure. I do not know of anything more inflationary than a scarcity of labour when the pressure of demand is mounting steadily. We found that out in 1951, when we were at the peak of unsatisfied demand in this country.
We have been planning and organizing the economy to get, not the pool of unemployment that honorable gentlemen opposite are disposed from time to time to say that we want, but a reasonable balance between the supply of and the demand for labour. It will be very interesting for all of us to see what happens during the next few months. The Government watches the position very closely. I get the official figures each week. In addition, the employment situation is reviewed periodically by the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, on which the trade unions are strongly represented, as are the organizations of management. That representative and significant body is able to make a frank analysis of the employment situation from time to time.
– On what? On figures that you supply?
– I hope the honorable gentleman is not going to make the charge that the Public Service wilfully distorts the facts of the economic situation. It is hardly necessary for me to assure the committee that that is not the case. Certainly no responsible trade union official whom I have encountered has challenged the authenticity of the figures that we have presented.
– What did Mr. Chamberlain say about them?
- Mr. Chamberlain did not challenge the authenticity of those figures.
– He challenged them in relation to Western Australia, and the Minister denounced him in the Parliament for doing so.
– What he was saying was that there were more people unemployed than were recorded as unemployed by the department. That may well be so at any given point of time. We do not claim that every person who becomes unemployed rushes in to register as unemployed with us. It is probable that quite a number of people in the country districts to which the honorable member for Bendigo has referred look for work without bothering to come near us. That is true of some of the people, anyhow, if not of a big proportion of them. However, to the extent that we are able to get the information on an official basis, we supply it to the council. I think that the present picture of the employment position is one of supply and demand very close to a balance. As the demand for labour increases between now and the end of the year, it is likely that we shall see a reduction of the number of persons registered as unemployed. If we do not, the Government will have to consider what action can usefully be taken to redress any unbalance which has manifested itself.
I should like to comment very briefly on some of the points made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in relation to immigration. I must confess to some disappointment at the statement made by the honorable gentleman. After a period during which the immigration programme had been carefully and, on occasions, critically analysed by many people, one would have hoped that the opening speaker for the Labour party when the Estimates for the Department of Immigration were under consideration would have made a thoughtful and useful statement of the views of his party on this important subject. I have listened to the honorable member for Parkes on many occasions. On this occasion, he made the most woeful statement that I have heard him make since he came into this Parliament. It was a hash of ill-considered and ill-digested propositions. I do not believe that his heart was in the story that he put forward. At one time, he was a member of a delegation which went overseas and did useful work in ascertaining sources of suitable immigrants and for many years he gave strong support to the immigration programme. I am somewhat concerned to form the belief that the comments he made proceeded, not so much from an objective analysis and dissection of the immigration programme, as from the political motives allegedly involved. I was astounded to hear the honorable member for Parkes tell us that we give some sort of instruction or lead to selection officers overseas to make their selection of immigrants on such a basts that the political support of the immigrants after coming to this country would be likely to go the way of this Government.
– That is well known.
– I am not surprised that the honorable member for East Sydney is concerned, because we do seek to keep out not, as the honorable member for Parkes said, the left-wingers in the countries where we make our selection, but persons who are known to have been active in Communist organizations and Communist political work. That is treated as one of the grounds of objection. Similarly, in a general sense, persons who have been members of nazi or fascist organizations are not regarded by us as being suitable immigrants for this country. So far as the general basis of selection is concerned, to the best of my knowledge it has not altered in principle from the basis and criteria of selection that were laid down by my predecessor when he was in office.
– Not at all - you have altered it!
– I invite the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to tell me of one way in which we have altered the basis of selection. I can well understand his uneasiness on this matter because, you know, he has something of a persecution complex, and he has convinced himself that a great proportion of the European immigrants will never vote for him to become the Prime Minister of this country. That may, or may not, be so. Curiously enough, the sort of people the right honorable gentleman so regards as being unlikely to support him are, in the main, people who are not assisted by the Government to come here. They come out here as full-fare paying passengers, nominated by their friends and relatives, who have already settled here.
But he should not be surprised that people in Australia, irrespective of their political beliefs, have come to the conclusion that they will not support him politically. That is not only true of European migrants; it is true of tens of thousands of Australian native-born trade unionists - people who formerly had a traditional allegiance to the Labour party. Not only do they not intend to see the Leader of the Opposition placed in a position to be able to govern the country, but they have given the Labour party away. It must be quite baffling to the immigrants who come here from other parts of the world to understand just what labour party they are being invited to support. Almost weekly, the confusion increases as some new splinter group establishes itself and seeks support.
Again, here is a consideration, I think, which might well influence an immigrant to support a party which believes in free enterprise, expanding principles, and in the greatest measure of individual freedom. Many of them come from countries where they felt the heels of the Communists on their necks. Many of them come from countries in which socialist forms of government restricted the opportunities that they might otherwise have enjoyed, and that depressed their living standards. They come to Australia, and what a contrast! Here they find a land of wealth, opportunity and freedom. Having experienced a degree of happiness which they had never found at any time in their native countries, it is small wonder that they are determined to support governments and policies which will ensure a continuance of the conditions that commend themselves so strongly to them. So, I myself deplore the attack by the Labour party, which was based on a belief that we, as a government, had so manoeuvred and contrived as to attract to this country only people who are likely to support us.
We heard some criticism from the honorable member for Parkes about the inadequacy of the intake of British immigrants. I shall take this opportunity to say a word in that connexion, because this Government takes considerable pride in the manner in which it has attracted British immigrants, and has gone on maintaining in the United Kingdom interest in settlement here in Australia. One would think, to listen to some of these criticisms, that we are lagging far behind our competitors in the immigration field - lagging far behind the other dominions of the British Commonwealth. The contrary is the truth. During the period from October, 1945, to December, 1955, of 1,031.508 permanent arrivals in this country, 496,614, or 48.2 per cent., were of British nationality, and most of them came from the United Kingdom itself.
– How many came from the United Kingdom?
– I shall give the right honorable gentleman the picture. Figures for the post-war period until June, 1955 - the latest date for which such figures are available - show that, of the number of persons who departed from the United Kingdom to settle overseas, Australia received 48.1 per cent., compared with Canada 33.9 per cent., South Africa, 5.6 per cent., and New Zealand, 12.4 per cent.
– What percentage of the total number of immigrants to Australia came from the United Kingdom?
– It is very difficult to present these figures, with interjections coming from all sections of the Opposition benches.
– Do not run away from the question.
– Although the figures I have cited do not suit honorable members opposite, they are accurate. I invite honorable gentlemen on the other side to study them. Even in the latest period, which the honorable member for Parkes said was a time of great decline of British immigration to Australia, this country has received a proportion of British immigrants broadly equivalent to the total number received by the other three Commonwealth countries that I have mentioned.
As further evidence of our activity and good faith in this matter, I should like’ to refer to an aspect that troubled us when we came into office and looked at the immigration programme. I remind the Leader of the Opposition who, I know, thinks that the current level of intake is too high, that in the last year in which he was the Deputy Leader of the Labour government, the total intake was 169,000. I say, more credit to him and his government for seeing that Australia got such a considerable influx of people. But, at that time, as the right honorable gentleman will recall, our immigration programme was dominated by the intake of displaced persons from certain countries of Europe - people who had had the misfortune to be involved in the tragedy of war and, having been displaced from their homeland, were living in camps in great numbers. They were brought out to this country to settle here. No fewer than 169,000 displaced persons were brought to Australia during the right honor.agle gentleman’s last year of office. We found, when we looked at the kind of immigration programme that honorable gentlemen opposite had established at that time, that the British intake- was not, in proportion, nearly high enough. But here was the problem: We had a very generous and liberal provision of assisted passage money for prospective British immigrants, the immigrant being required to find only £10 for himself, £10 for his wife and £5 for each of his children, the remainder being provided mainly by the Australian Government, although a small proportion was found by the Government of the United Kingdom. Those people came here after having been nominated by friends, relatives, government instrumentalities or other prospective employers.
Despite these liberal arrangements for passage money, the intake was not, in our view, sufficiently high, and British immigrants did not form a sufficiently high proportion of our total intake. We therefore established a scheme of Commonwealth nomination, under which we, as a government, became, in efFect, the nominator of the person concerned. It was not simply a matter of saying to a prospective immigrant, “ You come out here and we will see that you get a job “. Although such an undertaking was part of the obligations that rested upon the Government, in addition we undertook to find accommodation for these people when they came to Australia. For this purpose we had to construct hostels all over the country. By this means we have been able to increase very considerably the intake of British immigrants beyond what it would have been had we left it to relatives, friends and employers in this country to nominate immigrants. That policy has helped to put Australia in the favorable position that I have indicated, by comparison with other dominions. If honorable gentlemen opposite are deeply concerned about this matter, I would welcome their assistance in encouraging our fellow citizens in all parts of Australia to nominate people to come here from the United Kingdom. Many thousands of them are eager to come. They are quite suitable immigrants from our point of view. Our own hostel accommodation is taxed to the practicable limit, and if we are to have more of them then more Australians must nominate British people. I hope that they will do so, and here is an opportunity for honorable gentlemen to exercise their powers of advocacy, if they choose to do so, in the national interest.
– Where will they find a place in which to live if the Government reduces its expenditure on housing?
– I do not want to open up the housing question. We have had plenty of opportunities to discuss that matter. As the honorable member knows, so rapid has been our progress in overtaking the housing lag that developed during the war years, and so far have we proceeded beyond the rate necessary merely to keep up with our own natural population increase and the net intake of new immigrants, that it is quite on the cards that home-building activity will decline considerably in the near future, because we will have completely overtaken the lag that had developed previously.
I shall now turn to two other matters, one of which was dealt with by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). He referred to the incidence of the criminal offences among immigrants in this country. I should have thought that this slander against our immigrants had been fully scotched by now as a result of the two reports published by the committee set up to investigate the conduct of immigrants in Australia. I remind honorable members that a representative group of people, a responsible body, examined this matter on two occasions. The committee was chaired by Mr. Justice Dovey, its other members being Mr. A. E. Monk, the federal president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. J. C. Nagle, the federal secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and Mrs. J. G. Norris, the president of the National Council of Women of Australia. Those people constituted a representative group, and I think no one will challenge my statement that they were a responsible group and well able to examine this problem. They did not rely only on facts that they were able to elicit for themselves. They sought information from the police commissioners of the various States, and their findings revealed quite convincingly that the rate of incidence of crime amongst aliens is considerably less than it is in the whole of our population.
– The Minister knows that that is a futile sort of analysis.
– The honorable gentleman may have his own standards of futility. 1, for one, knowing the calibre of the persons concerned, and knowing that they sought the advice, observations and statistics that could be provided by the police commissioners of the various States, believe that we are fully justified in accepting their reports as authoritative statements of the position. Some recent confirmation has come to my notice in the findings of Associate Professor Norval Morris, of the Department of Criminology at the University of Melbourne. He has reached the following conclusions as a result of his own studies: -
The crime rate amongst recent immigrants to this country … is lower than amongst any control group of “ Old Australians “ i.i similar financial and living conditions. The crime rate amongst recent immigrants to this country is likely to be lower than the crime rates in the countries from which each particular national group came.
– We pick them!
– Of course we do, and we select them with considerable care. It is no reflection on the Australian community to say that the crime rate amongst immigrants is lower than it is amongst our own people, for the reason mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), but at least let us not go on saying, quite unjustifiably, that Australia’s crime rate has been enhanced by the presence amongst us of so many people from various European countries.
The final matter to which I wish to refer in this connexion concerns an aspect that was mentioned by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), relating to the unbalance between the sexes in this country. It is not novel for Australia to find that the males in the community have quite considerably outnumbered the females. This is, in fact, a familiar pattern in young, developing countries, and the excess number of males in rural areas in Australia has always been particularly marked. If honorable gentlemen care to study the picture revealed by the census figures for the years from 1881 onwards, they will notice a steady decline in this excessive proportion of males. In 1881 there were 117.35 males for every 100 females; in 1891 the comparative number of males was 115.89; in 1901 the figure was 110.14; in 1911 it had fallen to 107.99; in 1921 it was 103.37; in 1933 the figure for males was 103.20, and in 1947 there were 100.46 males for every 100 females. In 1954, which is the first year for which the figures show the effects of the immigration programme, there were 102.38 males for every 100 females. If honorable members study later the figures that I have cited, they will see that over the long period during which census figures have been taken, there has been only one period in which the proportion of males to females was lower than it was in 1954.
When we examine the difference in the distribution as between urban and rural areas, we find quite marked differences, which arc not peculiar to our present situation, but which again may be traced back throughout the period in which census statistics have been drawn up. In 1933, for example, the proportion of males to females in metropolitan areas was 90 per cent., whereas in rural areas it was 124 per cent, and in provincial urban areas 97 per cent. In 1947, fourteen years later, this very marked discrepancy between the male populations of the rural and urban areas was still present. The percentage of males to females in the metropolitan area was then 92.76, and in rural areas 114.65. In provincial urban areas the percentage was 97.82. It will be seen that the present position is not so markedly different. In 1954 the percentage of males to females in metropolitan areas was 96 per cent. In other urban areas it was 100.5 per cent, and in the rural areas 121 per cent. - approximately the picture presented in the 1933- 1947 period.
I have not given the committee those figures from any wish to suggest that we are not concerned, to some extent at least, with the fact that there is an unbalance. We say that there has been a greater unbalance at earlier periods of our development and that in a growing and developing country we must inevitably have a disproportion. In the first instance male migrants will tend to come in greater numbers so that they can establish themselves and then send for their wives, female relatives, or children. Also, it is both understandable and in accordance with Australian experience that we should find a much bigger proportion of males in the rural, developing areas than in the settled areas of the cities.
– Could something not be done to correct that state of affairs?
– In various ways we attempt to do that. We provide financial assistance to bring out the wife or the fiancee of the immigrant. We have selected, from countries where there is an availability of females, employees who can be placed initially in domestic work, hospitals and other institutions. It is quite remarkable how soon after they reach this country a big proportion of them marry.
– It happens far too quickly.
– I share the honorable member’s feeling of regret that some of those whom we have brought into our households, and who have given useful service, have left after a much shorter period than we would have liked. I am afraid that that is one of the hazards that we must accept. I apologize to the committee for taking up so much of its time but I felt that as the honorable member for Parkes, introducing this matter, was apparently speaking for the Opposition, I should attempt to answer the principal points which he had brought out.
In conclusion, I regret the lukewarmness shown at this stage by the Labour party on this important matter. Labour lv s a record in immigration of which it can be proud. It showed considerable energy and courage in launching the programme on such a large scale.
– It has not changed.
– I should be very surprised if the sentiments uttered by the honorable member for Parkes, to-day, were those of his deputy leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), or, for that matter, of a considerable proportion of the honorable gentlemen who sit behind him on the Labour benches. They are certainly not in accordance with the robust, realistic and national sentiments expressed by a former leader of the Labour party in supporting the establishment of Australia’s immigration programme. I would like to put on record, for the consideration of honorable gentlemen opposite, the views put by Mr. Chifley, on behalf of the Labour party, in his policy speech of November, 1949.
– Will the Minister qualify that by making some reference to the economic circumstances at the time?
- Mr. Chifley said -
Immigration means security. Even more than that, it means the full development of untapped resources. It means greater production of goods and services. It means a better, happier, more prosperous life for every Australian.
The great immigration drive, launched by the present Labour Government in 1945 and carried out with remarkable success, will be continued vigorously until Australia has the population she needs to achieve the development of all her resources and guarantee her security.
I hope that those sentiments still represent the general viewpoint of the Labour party. The honorable member for Parkes says that our immigration programme should be related to our economic circumstances.
– That is all that we are asking.
– Of course, we are doing just that. This programme is not concocted without regard to the economic situation, lt is based on the best advice that we can get and takes into account the views of responsible advisory bodies on which the industrial movement is well represented - the views of as representative a collection of responsible citizens as we can bring together. In turn, the programme has to run the gamut of the advisers and experts of every Commonwealth department. We also examine attentively and critically any views put forward on the subject by the State Premiers or their officers. Out of all this thinking and planning, we build an annual programme, and this year, as in other years, that programme is related to the capacity of this country to sustain it.
I should certainly hope that no party would wish Australia to do other than proceed with a programme as comprehensive as the economy and the community could sustain. We have been guided by those considerations, and the record of our immigration programme in the post-war years indicates that we have been successful. I am certain that in adopting thai approach we have the overwhelming support of honorable members from both sides of this chamber, and the strong support of the Australian people.
.- Touching first upon the statement or misstatement of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt), I say it is true that the Labour party is proud of its policy, and of what it achieved in the field of immigration. We endorse entirely the sentiments expressed by our late leader, Ben Chifley. The charge that can be laid against this Government is simply that it has not the basic economic policy needed to maintain the admirable edifice erected by the Labour party. The Minister can pay no greater tribute to the Labour party than by basking in the reflected glory of the late Ben Chifley. lt is true that though we are concerned with the humanitarian side of immigration, we desire the maintenance of the programme generally. However, we do not desire it to be maintained simply by ignoring the human requirements of the immigrants themselves. One fact which the Minister apparently is anxious to overlook is that the majority of the present unemployed are new Australians. Labour does not believe in bringing people to this country unless they can be guaranteed gainful employment. Whether the Minister has conveniently overlooked this point in the interests of personal ambition for elevation in the Cabinet, we do not know. However, we do know that he did not want to see a reduction of the immigration programme because that would be taken as reflecting upon him at a time when he was a candidate for the deputy leadership of his party. We do not believe that considerations such as those which adversely affect the lives of men, women and children who are coming to the country should be allowed to intrude into our national policies. This is certainly a matter for more mature consideration than the Minister is apparently prepared to give to it.
Another reason why we may be pardoned for doubting the Minister’s sincerity in connexion with immigration is the fact that he deliberately avoids the production of any figures relating to the number of immigrants from the United Kingdom. We are essentially a British country, and we on this side are anxious that we should maintain a balance in favour of British immigrants. The Minister glibly says that the number of British immigrants is determined by the proportion of total emigrants from the United Kingdom allotted to Australia. He says that we receive 42 per cent, of the total number of emigrants from the United Kingdom and seems to take consolation from the fact that we receive the greatest proportion of British emigrants; but the more important fact is that for the eighteen months from 30th July, 1954, to last December, emigrants from southern European countries outnumbered British emigrants by mere than two to one. The actual figures disclose that whereas for that period we received 70,302 immigrants from southern European countries, we had an intake of only 26,561 from the United Kingdom; in other words, for practically every three southern European immigrants, we received one from the United Kingdom. Similarly the Statistician’s figures reveal that for the twelve months ended December, 1955, we received 21,249 immigrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland out of a total of 95,317. Those figures represent the net permanent immigration to this country.
– The net figure is not a true indication.
– That figure is arrived at after taking into account departures from the country.
– And Australians who go overseas for more than twelve months are classed as permanent departures.
– The Statistician does take Australian departures into consideration. He also offsets against our intake the number of British immigrants who return. Further, I point out that in the Preston hostel, which is in my electorate, I have definite evidence that the type of housing provided for immigrants is such that they are writing home discouraging their friends and relatives from coming to this country. I admit that the Preston hostel is conducted more as a transit camp. Housing conditions there are similar to those of the average army transit camp and, no doubt, the department is discouraging any idea of permanency there; but if we are to encourage British immigrants to come to this country we should at least do everything possible not to disappoint them when they arrive here.
On the other hand, after hearing what the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) said this afternoon about unemployment, I should have thought that the Minister, whose first consideration should be the welfare of these new citizens, would have looked upon the fact that the greatest majority of people applying for unemployment relief in the Darebin area are new Australians as a warning light.It is also an indication that it was time he and his Government gave serious consideration to the present immigration policy and refrained from continuing the present rate of intake purely for political purposes, completely disregarding the effect it will have not only on the immigrants themselves but also upon the economy as a whole. Labour’s immigration policy is determined by the absorptive capacity of our economy. Of course, it is obvious that the economic policy pursued by a Government largely determines the country’s absorptive capacity and, having regard to the repressive policy adopted by the Government last October, it is impossible to entertain with equanimity the thought of continuing the present rate of immigration intake.
– Is that the Labour party’s policy?
– Labour’s policy is that we should not bring in more immigrants than the absorptive capacity of the country will stand. If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), in his ignorance, is prepared to bring immigrants here regardless of whether we have jobs or suitable living conditions for them when they arrive, then all I can say is that he is prepared to place more importance upon gaining political kudos than upon the welfare of the immigrants.
– Will the honorable member give the proportion of British immigrants?
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will please refrain from interjecting.
– I reiterate that as the economists estimate that the capital cost of absorbing each immigrant is £2,000, the Commonwealth Government, by refusing to grant the necessary capital required by the States to provide essential services for new Australians, is aggravating the already unsatisfactory employment situa tion. I have stressed the fact that the absorptive capacity of the economy must determine our ability to assimilate these new arrivals. We have an obligation to guarantee at least a job to every immigrant to this country. That is the first requirement. The Government, apparently for political reasons, is not attempting to heed the warning signal that has been given. The result will be that forecast by the honorable member for Parkes in his expert statement.
Doubt is cast upon the statement made by the Minister for Immigration because he seeks to avoid replying to the questions that have been asked and to the allegation made by the honorable member for Parkes in regard to British immigration to this country. 1 repeat that in the eighteen months ended 31st December, 1955, less than 25 per cent. of the immigrants were of British origin. Of the total number of immigrants who came to this country last year, 21,249 came from the United Kingdom and the remaining 74,317 came from other sources. Over the last eighteen months, the proportion was one British to every 2.6 southern European immigrants.
The progressive policy of the Australian Labour party is adapted to circumstances. The Labour party now reluctantly finds itself in the position where, due to a deterioration in our economic circumstances caused by the present Government its federal executive must have another look at immigration. At its conference held last month, the determination of the federal executive on immigration - and I add that this was to adapt itself to the Government’s policy - was in these terms -
The Executive draws attention to the policy of the Labor Party which initiated the greatest influx of migrants known to this country. We also draw attention to the financial and economic policies of Labor which enabled migrants to be absorbed under conditions of full employment. Having regard for the foregoing and the problem of increasing unemployment we state as follows: -
That migrant intake must be regulated so as not to impose undue strain upon the economy and lay insupportable burdens upon the States.
That immediate attention should be given to the unduly large proportion of semi and unskilled migrants who cannot be readily absorbed into industry.
It may interest the Minister to know that last June, at the annual conference of the Labour party in Victoria, we had to face a demand from the trade union movement in that State that immigration be cut off. The trade union movement knows - and no one knows better - the extent to which jobs are being jeopardized. It knows that work is not available for unskilled workers and that, therefore, some adjustment of the immigration policy should be made. Eventually the conference resolved - and I am speaking from memory - that the rate of immigration be tapered off to adjust itself to the ill-assorted economic policies of this Government. So we find the Labour party having to adjust itself to circumstances beyond its control.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- For nearly ten years this country has had an immigration programme which, I venture to suggest, has hardly been equalled anywhere in the world in its many merits. That programme has been made possible by the practically unqualified support of all political parties and of the people of this country. lt has been left to the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) to state to-day on behalf of the Labour party that it now wants to bring party politics into the immigration programme. He let the cat out of the bag completely when he revealed, as did the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), that the Labour party viewed with some disfavour the present extent of the immigration programme because it found that Labour did not get any political advantage from our immigrants.
I remind the honorable member for Darebin, who cited figures to suggest that there was some alarm about our present absorptive capacity, that in 1947, when the immigration programme on a large scale started to get under way, Australia had 83,500 unemployed. In those days Labour was prepared to take a national and a longrange view. From year to year, as the immigration figures increased, under Labour’s administration the number of unemployed in this country was far in excess of the number of unemployed to-day. In fact, in 1949, when the Chifley Government went out of office following an election, there were well over 100,000 unemployed.
Yet that was the year when we were approaching the peak of our immigration programme.
It seems that the honorable member for Darebin and the honorable member for Parkes have come to regard this matter as one that may enable them at this stage to make a little political capital. They are taking a party political view rather than the national view which the Labour party of bygone years was prepared to take. I ask the honorable member for Darebin whether he would care to state what he considers to be the absorptive capacity of this country. Does he feel that it is 1 per cent.?
– It is unlimited under the right type of government, but not under the type of government that the honorable member supports.
– Let us consider that statement. The honorable member considers that our performance has not been as good as the performance of the Labour party. I have already cited figures to show the large degree of unemployment that existed in this country when our immigration programme really got under way. During the years this Government has been in office, we have sustained an immigration programme which has been greater, in total numbers, than that of the Labour party. Yet, at the same time, we have had full, even to the point of over-full, employment and a record of prosperity that has never been equalled in this country. But the honorable member for Darebin has the audacity to suggest that under this Government we cannot sustain a rate of immigration such as that proposed in the Estimates for the current year.
I want to say a few words about the structure and the system of immigration that has been built up, the balance which this Government has tried to preserve and the type of attacks that have been made on our immigration programme from time to time. The honorable member for Darebin laid great stress on the lack of balance between British immigrants and southern European immigrants during one year. His colleague, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) wanted us to bring more Greek immigrants into the country. I should like to know exactly where the members of the Labour party stand on this question. On the one hand, the Government is invited to bring more British immigrants into the country. On the other hand, the honorable member for Darebin refers to the fact that no encouraging reports are sent to Britain from friends and relatives here. In other words, he is deliberately trying to sabotage our efforts to sell the virtues of Australia overseas. That is the sort of thing that comes from honorable members opposite in relation to the immigration programme today. It is in sorry contrast to the support Labour has given to the programme over the past years. I can attribute that only to the changed outlook that the Labour party now wears.. Under its present leadership, the Labour party has abandoned any pretence to a national outlook. Its members are seeking only personal and political advantage in their approach to the problem.
During the current year we plan a net intake of immigrants equivalent to approximately 1 per cent, of our population. The Government has stated that that will be the target figure, and a suitable intake figure over the years. I suggest that honorable members opposite should make up their minds whether, on a national basis, that is a desirable target, and whether it is within our absorptive capacity. It has been demonstrated clearly, not by any abstract theory but by trial and error, that we are capable of absorbing at least that number of immigrants. Is it desirable that we should keep expanding as a nation? Is it desirable, in the words of Mr. Chifley that were quoted to-day, that we should make the maximum utilization of our resources, plan for security and better standards of living for every one? Undoubtedly, the answer will be “ Yes “.
In those circumstances, the Department of Immigration is to be commended on the programme for the current year. It is a balanced programme, and it has reasonable elasticity. We propose to bring in about 115,000 immigrants. Of that number, 52,000 will be unassisted and 63,000 will be assisted. An analysis of those figures is interesting. Of the unassisted immigrants, there will be 15,000 Italians, 5,000 Greeks, 10,000 Dutch, Germans, Austrians and Scandinavians, and 22,000 British. They are persons who have decided that they want to come to Australia, and they will not receive any assistance from the Australian Government.
An analysis of the unassisted immigration programme will reveal great interest in the countries which have, as it were, an exportable surplus of population. I refer particularly to the Mediterranean countries. Under the policy of this Government, a vastly different approach is disclosed in relation to the assisted passage programme. In that case, we have a programme to provide assisted passages for 27,000 immigrants from Scandinavian and northern European countries compared with 9,000 from other European countries, and 27,000 British. Therefore, the Department of Immigration is making every effort to maintain a balance in the assisted passages programme. At the same time, if we are to observe the ideal target we have set of maximum expansion of population and absorption of immigrants in Australia, there will be some variations because of pressures from some countries and lack of enthusiasm in others.
I add my plea to that of the Minister and to the pleas of those who want more British immigrants to come to Australia. I ask them to make some personal effort, because there are many British persons who want to obtain assisted passages to Australia and who require nomination. If churches and other religious organizations, as well as politicial bodies, would nominate people and guarantee them employment, they would receive assistance to come to Australia. For those who say that we should have more British immigrants, there is ample scope to do something active about it. As has been explained, the activities of the Government are necessarily limited in that regard because hostel accommodation is fully occupied.
I wish to refer briefly to one or two of the problems that have been mentioned by honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), who referred to the lack of balance between the sexes. The Minister dealt adequately with the overall statistical figures in that connexion, but I want to assure the honorable member for Leichhardt that there is a real problem in the lack of balance between the sexes in particular areas. If some constructive suggestions could be advanced for the alleviation of that problem, they would be welcome. The honorable member referred to mining areas. Mining communities, in the main, are masculine. In the electorate of Forrest, there are several timber mills that are comparatively isolated. They are staffed largely - to the extent of about 80 per cent. - by new Australians. Even if female migrants were encouraged to come to Australia, we could not, in any reasonable circumstances, get them to go into the timber-milling or mining areas. We cannot develop new industries there suitable for female labour. That is a problem that is almost insurmountable unless we say, in effect, that we will not put immigrant labour into the mining and milling industries.
I think this problem will solve itself in time, but we have to recognize it and do what we can to help. However, to suggest that we should embark on a large-scale programme of female immigration simply because this problem exists is not to make a worthwhile contribution to the discussion. 1 referred earlier to the complicated structure of immigration that has been built up over a period of years. We have a system which cannot be adjusted or cut off here and there just to suit a particular moment. We have agreements with other governments. We have a long-range programme that must be sustained in the interests of Australia. If the ideas of honorable members opposite, which change from day to day, were to be put into effect, we would find that all our negotiations with countries such as Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Greece, as well as those with the Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration, would go by the board. We have to compete with other countries, including Canada, the United States of America and South America to secure the maximum number of desirable immigrants. If we shilly-shally and vacillate in our policy of immigration, we shall never get the right kind of immigrants. Therefore, I commend the Government on having set an immigration target of 1 per cent, of the population as a normal figure near which the actual intake may fluctuate from year to year. We have reached a stage where national development must go on, and we should gear our economy to a stable level of immigration. We should make sure that the immigration programme is not beyond our capacity. The record of this Government has proved that Australia is capable of adopting a national outlook on immigration.
.- The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) suffers from the same disadvantage in dealing with the Estimates for the Department of Immigration as do members of the Opposition. We have to confine our remarks to fifteen minutes. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt), who preceded the honorable member for Forrest, had unlimited time, and had no scruples in exercising his right. However, the honorable member for Forrest, like the Minister for Immigration, took advantage of his freedom to ignore facts and statistics. He spoke entirely in generalities and platitudes.
There can be no doubt that all political parties in Australia agree with the principles that have been enunciated on immigration, but there is growing resentment in Australia, and particularly on the Opposition side, to the practice of immigration in recent years. There can be no question that the vast majority of Australians want Australia to take as many immigrants as it can absorb in our economy, in our industries, both primary and secondary, and in our society. In recent years, under the administration of this Government, the absorptive capacity of Australia in relation to immigrants has decreased year by year. Criticisms have been voiced by many persons, including some on the Government side, although they were virtually strangled by their colleagues for their pains. There were disgraceful episodes when persons, appointed under the Holt empire to advisory councils, the honorable member for Forrest, and the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) heckled the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) when they ventured to criticize Australia’s immigration policy, not as enunciated by the Government, but as carried out by it. We all agree that Australia should be able to absorb by way of immigration 1 per cent, of its population every year, that is, that we should be able to absorb at present over 90,000 persons a year, this number being the difference between those who permanently arrive in Australia and those who permanently depart from it. Some honorable members on the Government side have had the temerity to suggest that in our present economic conditions we cannot absorb that number. I agree with their contention. We cannot absorb them because of the way in which the Government handles the economy. I know it is difficult for any government in Australia, under our federal Constitution - the horse-and-buggy harness which we have to wear - to control our economy properly. To-day, with a Liberal government - worse still, a coalition government - on the treasury bench in the Federal Parliament, we shall have unemployment and disorganization in our economy, whether we cut down on immigration and defence expenditure or whether we maintain it.
Secondly, it is agreed that we should have a balance between the skilled and the unskilled breadwinners whom we bring from overseas. Thirdly, it is agreed that we should have a balance between those who come from the British Isles - England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales - on the one hand, and those who come from other countries on the other hand. As is clearly revealed in the successive statistical bulletins issued by the Department of Immigration, the balance between the unskilled and the skilled is not maintained, and we assert that it is unfair, that it is an unnecessary selfimposed hardship, to import unskilled persons into this country when there is unemployment. It is unfair to the unskilled persons who were born in Australia and who are out of employment. It is unfair to the immigrants who have earlier come to Australia and who are unskilled and unemployed; and it is unfair to the unskilled persons whom we propose to bring and who also will be unable to secure employment. Nobody suggests that unemployment is caused if we bring in skilled immigrants, to take an extreme example, to fill the jobs which are unfilled in the books of the Commonwealth Employment Service. Unemployment is being caused, however, because we are not maintaining a proper balance between skilled and unskilled. We say that it is important not how many we bring in, but who and what we bring in. If we cannot get skilled breadwinners and their dependants to the number of 45,000, we do not have to make up the quota of 90,000 with unskilled breadwinners and their dependants. We should bring in no more unskilled than skilled, even if thereby we reduce our immigrant intake below I per cent, of our population.
In addition, there is the social aspect of our immigration. No one objects to skilled persons coming into the country, from whatever country they come. In discussions on immigration, frequent reference is made to the position of Italians. Nobody in Australia, as 1 understand it, would be reluctant - in fact, we all would be delighted - to receive the skilled persons from Italy, from the factories, say, of Milan and Turin, from Fiat and Olivetti, and all such people who are not only the most skilled in the Mediterranean but are also equal in skill to anybody in the world. Australia would be very fortunate and very proud to get them, but we are not getting them. All parties profess that half the persons who come to this country should come from the British Isles, because they are most easily absorbed. There is nothing shameful or racist in this aim. After all, the people from whom most of us sprang are from the British Isles - by either chain migration or migration in chains, according to our various ancestors. We can most easily absorb persons who come in turn from the British Isles. It is to be deplored that many persons on the Government side, many of its supporters, headed, to his shame, by the Minister for Immigration himself, do their very best to play on the political prejudices of immigrants from the continent of Europe. During the last State election campaign in New South Wales, for instance, a Labour candidate in my area was the victim of propaganda in Maltese put out by his Liberal opponent, stating that the Labour candidate was a Communist. Everybody has had that sort of experience. There are honorable members here who know that in union election campaigns multi-lingual pamphlets in Polish. Dutch, and Italian are circulated among unionists prior to court-controlled ballots under the first-past-the-post system, suggesting that anybody who is in agreement with Labour policy is a Communist. Persons on the Government side are doing their disruptive and divisive dirtiest to spread dissension among our new arrivals and to distort Australian political aspirations.
The Minister for Immigration consistently comes out with three stereotyped replies, when we ask any questions suggesting that parity is not being maintained between immigration from the British Isles and immigration from other sources. They are fallacious replies as well. First, he says that the figures do noi show the true British migration, because they deduct those Australians who are leaving our shores to go to the United Kingdom or Ireland for a period of twelve months or more. He seems to think, however, that we are always to overlook those persons who go fo: twelve months or more. Of course, the figures for succeeding years show those persons who are Australian by birth and who have gone to the United Kingdom or Ireland for twelve months or more and have then returned to Australia as being permanent immigrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland. The right honorable gentleman’s excuses in this regard take all Australians to be persons who are veritable tyros on statistics. The figures of the Statistician allow for the population movement, which he pleads.
His second excuse is that Australia has attracted more immigrants from the British Isles than the next three countries which take immigrants from the British Isles, and he cites the figures for the last ten years. He never cites the figures for the last three or the last two years, or the last year, because they do not bear 0U his contention. If he looks at his own statistical bulletin, the last one that was issued. No. 19 for July, 1956, he will find that Canada alone in the last three years has taken more immigrants from the British Isles than has Australia.
The Minister’s third stereotyped and fallacious reply is that 48 per cent, of our immigrants have been British. He cites the figures for ten years. He will not cite the figures for the last three or the last two years, or the last year. Of course, he includes under “ British “ a number of categories, exceeding one dozen. I should have thought that in our understanding “ British “ means persons who came from Great Britain and Ireland or, should I say, to spare the Prime Minister’s feelings, the Republic of Ireland. As the Minister refuses to give the figures, and as the honor able member for Forrest, who was given a hand-out on the subject, also refuses to give the figures, let me state them. They are as follows: -
I shall now give the committee the figures for Australian residents who departed permanently for the United Kingdom and Ireland, and for other countries, from 1946 onwards. They are as follows: -
Honorable members will see from these figures that, whereas the proportion of immigrants to Australia from the British Isles has declined to approximately one in four, the proportion of departures from Australia to the British Isles is two in five. The proper solution, I suggest, is to encourage British immigrants and skilled immigrants, first, by giving them the modern health and social services which they enjoyed in the countries from which they came, and, secondly, by making it possible for them to enjoy the housing conditions which they were able to obtain in the countries from which they came.
.- T wish to address to the committee a few remarks concerning the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service and, in the necessarily brief time at my disposal, to try to examine just how far our external problems, which have been discussed so much during the debate on the Estimates, are aggravated or increased by deliberately created internal difficulties. Having listened very carefully and with great interest to the general debate on the budget, and also to the debate that has taken place so far on the Estimates, I think tha! c. reasonable summing-up would be that neither side had got very far, because the budget and the Estimates remain unaltered, for reasons which I shall try to indicate.
First, let us accept the fact that the troubles - or perhaps I should say “ imaginary troubles “ - from which we suffer have been created deliberately by the actions of our own people. Every section of the community, without exception, has been trying to exact the maximum from prosperity while it is with us. In other words, every section of the community has said, ‘’ Give us all the bright lights to-day, even though that will bring about a blackout to-morrow “. Yet, when the day of reckoning arrives, as it inevitably must arrive, we absolve ourselves from all responsibility and blame everything on the Government. The criticism on this occasion, particularly from Opposition supporters, has not altered one iota from that of all the previous years. Such criticism is made entirely without regard to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We hear the same generalities, the same cliches, and the same platitudes from honorable members opposite who seek to deal with effects while completely ignoring causes. I admit that to give too much consideration to causes might occasion a good deal of embarrassment to certain honorable members in this place, but until we, as a Parliament, forget politics and recognize the basic facts which contribute to our national embarrassment we shall continue to contribute to the problems which are inimical to out national well-being. In short, Mr. Chairman, until we can get something like value for the money that we expend, we shall always have rising costs, and we shall have no prospect of resuming our place in the markets of the world on a reasonably competitive basis. The possibility of our doing so will become more and more remote. As I say, the solution of that problem lies in getting value for the money that we spend.
I invite the attention of the committee to a matter that is studiously avoided by honorable members opposite, although it is one of the principal factors in the economic troubles that we are experiencing to-day. 1 refer to the industrial unrest in Queensland. There, we have evidence of people abusing power so ruthlessly that, by comparison. Colonel Nasser appears a lilywhite amateur. But at least it can be said for Colonel Nasser that what he has done he has considered to be in the interests of his country. What the people to whom I refer are doing is not in the interests of their country, and they know it. Until this Parliament, and all parliaments, get down to a consideration of these internal factors, we shall never solve the problem of rising costs, or overcome our marketing difficulties in other parts of the world. Unless this abuse of power is successfully challenged - and I believe that there is some attempt to challenge it at the present time - it can end only in the attainment of the Communist objective, which is to strangle completely the economy of this country and that of every other democratic country which stands in the way of communism. The fight in Queensland to-day is between ordered society and mob rule. If mob rule is allowed to prevail, then government in Australia will become a farce.
It is our duty as a federal Parliament to do everything we can to ensure that, in the future, law will continue to be the basis of our society. The fight is no longer a fight between the Australian Workers Union and the Queensland Industrial Court. The repercussions of the initial union action have developed into a very serious threat to our whole national well-being. Shipping costs, for instance, must go up, and those costs will be reflected in freights. We shall then hear the same old argument from those who choose to ignore the cause of the rising costs and who prefer to deal only with effects. We shall hear the Government being criticized for failing to prevent shipping freights from rising, although those who make the criticism support the very action which causes freights to rise. I am certain that this state of affairs is not desired by at least 99’ per cent, of the members of the Australian Workers Union. I believe that all they want is to be allowed to work peacefully under the awards of the court and to rear their families in peace and security.
The Government, in order to preserve a semblance of balance in our overseas trade, has adopted such measures as import restrictions and very severe sales tax imposts to discourage people from buying things, but while those measures are being taken we have within our borders groups of people who are using usurped authority to prevent the export of goods that would automatically ensure a balance between our exports and imports. But we allow that sort of thing to continue. It is national sabotage, and I do not know of any other country that would allow it to continue as we do. We can talk about democracy, but we can also let democracy run mad. Freedom in a democracy exists only until the exercise of that freedom interferes with the freedom of somebody else, and then the law steps in.
The fact that very many honorable members opposite are supporting the reactionary forces does not improve the position. They are afraid to say anything against those forces. They might not like what is happening, but their political life might depend upon their giving such support. As long as political advantage can accrue from industrial turmoil, we shall have certain members of the Opposition supporting the sort of thing that is going on in Queensland to-day. What an absurdity! The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) is associated with the railways, but the log that was submitted recently by the railways employees’ organization sought a wage of £30 for a week of 30 hours, with every second day a holiday.
– That was not mine.
– Possibly it is Mr. J. Brown’s contribution - his thanks offering for being returned to the plush floors of office. Certain honorable members support that kind of thing when freights are already so high that it is cheaper to import timber from Indonesia than from the forests of northern New South Wales. I remember an occasion when a federal Labour government was challenged very seriously in a way similar to that in which the Queensland Labour Government is being challenged today. But it did not lie down and take it; it simply took prompt and ruthless action and settled the matter. Once the law asserts itself, these people must come to heel.
Mr. Clyde Cameron interjecting,
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who has just interjected, is very prominent in the Australian Workers Union. It has always been said that that union was never associated with communism until the introduction of compulsory unionism. Communists still cannot hold office in the union, but who is game to say that the dispute in Queensland is not in the hands of the Communists? They are the people who are fostering it, and they are doing so in order to destroy the economy of this country. It is time that the unions did a little bit of stocktaking. I believe that they are very necessary, and I have always supported them; but I believe also that they have achieved the objective for which they were established. Instead of setting out to hold that position, they feel, like Alexander the Great, that they have no other worlds to conquer and therefore they decide to go to extremes. Extremes have brought down every dictator in the world’s history, and they will bring down every potential dictator. If unions continue in the way in which this group in Queensland is continuing, unionism will destroy itself from within and not from without.
I wish to give to the committee another illustration of the union’s attitude, and I relate my remarks to the Estimates for the Department of National Development. Every year we hear a howl about not enough money being provided for houses and not sufficient houses being built, yet the people who offer that criticism support a policy that seeks to place a limit on output. For example, in this country bricklayers lay 300 bricks a day as against 800 to 1,000 bricks a day laid by bricklayers in other countries. If employees were allowed to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, we would be able to build three houses with the money that is now spent on the building of two. I guarantee that, if they were allowed to do so, bricklayers could lay by morning tea time the number of bricks that they are now permitted to lay in a day. In addition, there is a darg or a limitation of output in the manufacture of bricks. The fact that the whole nation is crying out for bricks and for building materials leaves honorable members opposite cold. They have the temerity and the hide to talk about Australia’s economic position when the very policy that they support is largely contributing to it.
I am trying to emphasize that the troubles around us have been caused internally and not externally. We do nothing to stop the cause of these troubles; indeed, half of the members of the committee support it. I repeat that there should be a spring-cleaning and that, in a friendly way, we should endeavour to persuade the unions to look at their own country instead of contributing to the troubles of other countries, and to try to get their own country out of a national emergency or crisis. After we have caught up with everything is the time to talk about placing a limit on output. I do not doubt that honorable members opposite mean well.
In many industries, loafing has become a science; it is no longer a haphazard affair. Until we can overcome it, honorable members should not talk about bringing down costs. They should not expect Australia to be able to compete favorably with other countries while costs continue to rise. Judging by the look in your eyes, Mr. Chairman, 1 think I must have nearly exhausted my allotted time. I should very much like to have had another half-hour in which to tell honorable members the truth. I had to hurry in order to mention a few points that had not already been mentioned.
.- I understand that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) was a lieutenant-colonel in the Army and I believe that, like all lieutenantscolonel, he has little understanding of the working man and the trade unions. The true position, as every one knows, is rather the reverse of what the honorable member has stated it to be. During the last seven years, the trade unions, as has been recognized by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), have given a very high degree of cooperation to this Government despite the fact that it has adopted an economy policy that has not been favorable to the interests of the trade unionists. The trade unions and their leaders have given a far higher degree of co-operation than the Government has had the right to expect. I think the facts will prove that to be the position.
As my contribution to the debate at this stage, I wish to refer to the Department of Immigration. I should like to begin by quoting a few statistics on immigration over recent years as the basis for what I should like to say later. Between January, 1947, and June, 1956, 1,083,628 immigrants came to Australia, and of that number 831,308 have remained. It is necessary for us to have regard to the composition of that total, which is an extremely high figure for this country or any other country with a similar population. I should like to refer first to the national make-up of that figure. The Minister for Immigration, in a recent speech, concentrated upon figures that were recorded in the statistical bulletin issued by the Department of Immigration and related to immigrants from British sources, which is a rather vague and indefinite term. 1 shall cite the figures for British immigrants compared with those for people who were not British, or who were alien, throughout this period. The figures show that 47.9 per cent, were British and that 52.1 per cent, were alien. The proportion of British immigrants varied from 39.8 per cent, in 1950 to as high as 55.5 per cent, in 1951.
When one looks a little more closely at this bulletin, one finds that figures are given on page 9 for immigration from the United Kingdom under the free and assisted scheme. On the assumption that these figures include nearly the total of immigrants from the United Kingdom - and 1 am not absolutely sure that they do, but the statistical bulletin gives no information on this point - the proportion of immigrants from the United Kingdom to the total number of immigrants between 1947 and 1951 was only 25 per cent. In 1952, it was 27 per cent.; in 1953, it was 18 per cent.; in 1954, it was 18 per cent.;, and in 1955, it was 18 per cent. For the first two quarters of this year it was 20 per cent. The overall average for the period is 24 per cent. That is the point to which the Minister for Immigration should have directed his attention and which, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Darebin, was carefully avoided in his long contribution to the debate this afternoon.
It is quite true that, if we have a look at the proportion of British immigrants that Australia has received compared with other countries, we find we have done better than most of them. But it has nothing whatever to do with the proportion that has come to Australia. It has nothing whatever to do with the fact that the total that has come from Britain has fallen continuously from 56,700 in 1951 to 36,000 in the last completed year. It has nothing to do with the fact that the number coming from the United Kingdom, as distinct from this overall British figure, has fallen from 35,000 in 1952 to 25,600 in the last completed year. That is the particular matter to which I want to direct the attention of this committee.
Tt is quite true that if one looks at the total alien proportion of the Australian population one will see that it is a surprisingly low figure. Aliens are those people who are registered under the Aliens Act 1947, but the figures relating to them do not include children under sixteen years of age, and visitors. There were 387,923 of those people in 1956, or 4.1 per cent, of the total, and if one adds to that total the number naturalized between 1945 and 1956, which was 52,322, then the total proportion of aliens and recently naturalized people in Australia is only 4.7 per cent. Those people who look to the future for some political significance in the nonBritish element in Australia still have a long way to look.
I want to refer, also, to the matter of naturalization. I think that we have a right to say, at this stage, that in recent years the rate of naturalization in Australia has been surprisingly low. I direct the attention of the committee to two separate sets of figures in order to demonstrate that. If we consider the number of immigrants naturalized between 1953 and 1955 we find that there were 17,160 in 1955, 4,770 in 1954, and 2,532 in 1953. If we compare those figures with the number of arrivals five years previously - I think it is the figure - as an indication of the number that might have been naturalized, we find that in 1950 there were 153,685 people, compared with 17,160 who were naturalized in 1955; in 1949, 149,270 people arrived, compared with 4,770 who were naturalized in 1954; in 1948, 48,468 people arrived, compared with 2,532 who were naturalized in 1953.
Before leaving that point, I should like to say that the information provided by the Department of Immigration in this bulletin and in other sources as to the social and national characteristics of immigrants is completely unsatisfactory and inadequate to allow any definite and helpful conclusions to be based upon them. I think the Minister should take into account the need to give a far more adequate statement of the social and national characteristics of immigrants, which is of vast importance to this country, than is provided in this bulletin.
I want to refer, for a moment, to the occupations of the 1,000,000 immigrants who have come to Australia. We find, for instance, that throughout this period only 7.7 per cent, of them were rural workers, although approximately 15 per cent, of the population as a whole are rural workers. The figures are as follows: -
It is difficult to compare this break-up of immigrants’ occupations with that of the community as a whole. Here, again, there is a serious deficiency in the way in which the statistics are presented. The Department of Immigration makes a totally different classification of occupation from that which is presented in the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures on population as a whole. This is another matter that ought to be taken into account by the Minister and the department, in order to bring into line the kind of classification of immigrant intake so that we can compare it with the classification of the population as a whole. It is useless, pointless and deceiving for the Minister to talk about the occupations or distribution of the immigrant population because we are not in a satisfactory position to compare immigrants with the population as a whole and we are not in a position to know what kind of immigrant occupational distribution we want.
– The question is whether they stay in Australia.
– That is an important question, and nothing like that is revealed. I think there are three other kinds of classification that appear in the immigration figures to which I should like to refer. The first concerns the proportion of workers and dependants among permanent arrivals. The average is 51.9 per cent, of workers and 48.1 per cent, dependants. That appears to be a higher proportion than obtains in the population as a whole despite the fact that when we refer to the age distribution - perhaps this is the explanation - we find that the age distribution of the immigrant population is younger than the population distribution as a whole. For example, although there is not much difference in the underfourteen group, 16.2 per cent, of immigrants are in the age group between 20 and 24 years whereas only 8.2 per cent, of the population as a whole is in that age group. Among immigrants 16.2 per cent, are in the age group from 25 to 29 whereas 7.9 per cent, of the total population is in that age group. That is, of course, normal with an immigrant population and it is one of the reasons why an immigrant population is a desirable thing.
Upon the basis of these statistics, I should like to spend a minute or two in trying to review the question, “What should be national policy with regard to immigration? “ I want to make clear, for a start, that with regard to this very important and fundamental question, there is a very great difference of opinion in the Australian community. Not only is there a difference of opinion in the Labour party but there is a difference of opinion among Government supporters. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) pointed out some time ago, that we had the sight, recently, of the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) being heckled by his own supporters when talking on immigration. Whether or not that happened to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) I am not sure, but if it did not happen to him it would have simply been because the hecklers were not present when he happened to be talking. There is a very marked difference of opinion among Government supporters on this matter and there is a very marked difference of opinion in the community.
What should be our criterion? At what should we look when we are concerned to answer this question of, “What should be national policy on immigration? “ I suggest that the Government has looked almost exclusively at what it calls absorptive capacity and when it wants to know what absorptive capacity is it has regard to the level of employment or unemployment. The Government has taken great pride in the level of employment that it has maintained. The Government has not maintained employment in Australia, but it has maintained inflation, and full employment has been a consequence of that policy. It is true that if the Government allowed unemployment to come about in Australia it would probably lose votes and, perhaps, an election. Therefore, it pays the Government and its supporters, for other reasons, to maintain inflation and thereby full employment. If the time comes when it pays the Government not to maintain inflation it will not maintain full employment.
The Government has had regard to the level of employment, because its immigrant intake has varied .with that level. Some time ago, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) was challenging members of the Opposition to say whether we supported an immigrant intake of 1 per cent, of total population in all circumstances. Of course we do not, and neither does the Government. If we examine the proportion of total population, including immigrants, represented by the immigrants themselves in recent years we find the variation to be as follows: - In 1949, the percentage was 1.9; in 1950, 1.86; in 1951, 1.32; in 1952, 1.09 and in 1953, .49. What happened to the 1 per cent., in that year? In 1954, the percentage was .76, and in 1955, it was 1.07.
The figure dropped considerably below 1 per cent, in 1953 and 1954, because in those years there was about 3.5 per cent, or 4 per cent, unemployment in Australia. The Government has accepted the principle of varying the immigration programme in accordance with the level of employment. Both the Labour and anti-Labour parties accept the fact that a high level of immigration cannot be maintained if there is unemployment. Although the Government has recognized the effect of the level of employment upon immigration, it has failed to consider the impact of the immigration programme upon other important factors such as housing, schools and transport. The most serious of the social problems in Australia to-day is that of housing. No government that adequately considers its responsibilities to the Australian community can ignore housing as one of the criteria of its immigration programme.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– As we are working on a tight time schedule, Mr. Chairman, I do not propose to keep the committee other than a short time in an effort to tell the dramatic story of Australia’s greatest investment, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I hasten to say that there is no politics in what I intend to say which, I am sure, will be a great relief to my friend from East Sydney (Mr. Ward), because there is no politics in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I should like to believe that members of the Opposition are just as keen on this great government developmental research organization as we on this side of the chamber are.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is 30 years old. In its early years it devoted itself practically entirely to the problems of primary industry. It was only in the few years before World War II. - and, of course, the position has continued in the years since the war - that the Government directed a proportion of the attention of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization towards the problems of secondary industry. My reason for describing the organization as Australia’s greatest investment is borne out by the simple figures of the case, in that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in the 30 years of its existence has cost the Australian Government £35,000,000 in total, and the annual dividend to-day, estimated on the most modest basis, is appreciably over £100,000,000. So
I think one is justified in saying and believing, quite sincerely, that the organization is Australia’s greatest investment.
I shall give the committee a few figures that will reflect, for the benefit of honorable members, the growth of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization over the years. I shall not go back to the pre-war years. I shall go no further back than the first post-war year, 1946, when the staff of the organization totalled fewer than 2,000 people, of whom about 520 were scientific officers - in other words, about 35 per cent, of the total staff consisted of such officers. To-day, ten years later, we are employing 3,600 people, of which total almost precisely one-half consists of scientific officers. Those figures indicate the growth of the organization over the last ten years.
Now, as to the proportions of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s activities that are devoted to the primary production side and the secondary production side, measured in terms of money, which is the most convenient and, I think, most logical yardstick: 51 per cent, of the total money expended on the organization is devoted to research on primary production. Another 12 per cent, of the total is devoted to research connected with manufacturing industries that are closely related to primary production, such as food preservation, dairy problems, forest products and the like. So the total devoted to primary production, and industries closely related to it, comes to 63 per cent., or very nearly two-thirds of the total. The balance is devoted to research broadly in aid of secondary industries.
Although the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has a great deal of achievement to its credit - indeed, the figures I have given as to the total national investment in it, and the dividends we derive from it, prove that without any further need of enlargement - I think there is one thing the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization does not suffer from, and that is complacency. We are never satisfied. I use the pronoun “ we “ because I venture to identify myself with this great activity, of which I have had the privilege to have political charge for a total period of considerably more than ten years. My own early training was on the scientific side, so I like to believe that my interest in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization goes rather further than that of being the Minister in charge of it. When 1 say that we have a great achievement to our credit that does not mean that I think that the work of the organization is by any means complete. I am perhaps more conscious than any member of this chamber of the things that we are not doing, the things that remain to be done. My friend from Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) earlier in the day gave us a good list, if I may say so, of the things that remain to be done in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I think that I could multiply the contents of that list two, three, or ten times, to cover the things that I am eminently conscious are crying out to be done. So please do not accuse the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of complacency or of sitting down and taking it easy.
The work of the organization is limited by two bottlenecks. One of those is money; the second is the lack of a sufficient number of scientific officers to enable the organization to expand its work. Even given the necessary money the organization would still have a considerable problem in getting the requisite number of scientific officers to do the great volume of work that remains to be done.
If I may venture to do so I shall now expand a little on the honorable member for Wannon’s list of matters that still remain for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to turn its attention to with greater intensity than is the case now. First, there are the great problems associated with water. Water is Australia’s most important individual commodity. We need to know a great deal more about water than we do. Successful work has been done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in the last couple of years on the diminution of the evaporation of standing water in Australia, which in our very hot country means enormous financial losses running into tens of millions of pounds. That problem has been, if not solved, at least very much reduced, as a result of the organization’s research work, the fruits of which will, before very long, be available to any person in the primary industries who chooses to get the material that has been proven as a successful deterrent to water evaporation which, as we know, in the hot areas of Australia is most serious.
I always say, and I think it is true, that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization exists for the simple purpose of enabling more Australians to earn a better living. That is the material outlook, if you like, but that is a most important objective. The organization’s task is to help in the maximum development of Australia’s natural resources and so help to increase our income from exports. As I say, water is priority Number 1 among the things that need scientific research in Australia. As I have said, the prevention of evaporation of standing water has, I think, been achieved. But there remains the problem of underground water, about which we know only too little. Then there is research work connected with our soils. We have done a great deal of work in the soils division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but a very great deal remains to be done on soils, not only from the pastoral and agricultural point of view, but also from the engineering and building construction point of view, That work is going on, but I am afraid only too slowly.
Then we need a great deal more work on improved species of pasture plants in Australia, perhaps particularly for the tropical, sub-tropical and semi-arid regions. There are glittering prizes ahead of us as a result of the successful introduction, development and exploitation of pasture plants to suit our very varied climate. I may say here that there is a device that has been perfected in another country that goes by the peculiar name of phytrotron. This is a building in which there is a considerable number of small cabins in each of which are the means of reproducing completely the climate of any part of the world. It is possible to reproduce, day after day, month after month, throughout the year, any climate anywhere, in the correct proportions of sunlight, moisture, temperature, pressure and everything that constitutes climate. It is possible to reproduce there the climate of Rockhampton, or of any place in the Northern Territory, or of southern Tasmania at the other extremity of the Commonwealth. One point about the introduction of new plants, particularly pasture plants in our case, from overseas is that it sometimes takes a very great many years before the plants can be acclimatized and before our scientists can discover to what particular region of Australia particular plants are most appropriate. That may take a great many years. Tremendous waste of time in discovering where particular pasture plants could be used to the best advantage could be prevented. The time factor could be reduced perhaps to one-fifth of its present proportions, if not less, by the use of this climate-reproducing equipment. It would cost approximately £350,000, but, unfortunately, we in Australia cannot contemplate additional expenditure of such magnitude in present economic circumstances. Nevertheless, we have hopes that before long we may discover some means of enabling the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to acquire a phytrotron, with which it could reproduce any required climate. This would save us an enormous amount of time and bring very much closer the day when we could acclimatize these improved pasture plants in the many parts of Australia that are crying out for them.
I have been asked, in this chamber recently, why the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization does not do more work on the control of weeds. It is simply because of the limitations of money and men that it does not do more of this work. Officers of the organization know very well how much weeds are costing us. They probably cause greater economic loss than do all the animal and insect pests put together, and the total is tremendous. We are very conscious of it. We have not yet tackled scores of weeds that are causing great economic loss. If we had a great deal more money at our disposal, we could attack the problem of weeds very much more expeditiously and more effectively than at present.
Footrot is a trouble with which every pastoralist is acquainted. We know that the present methods of treatment by . hoof paring and foot baths keep it in check, but these methods are clumsy and expensive in terms of the numbers of sheep that may be treated and the annual cost of treatment, as my friend, the honorable member for Wannon, demonstrated to-day. As yet, no quicker or more effective method of coping with footrot is in sight than these rather pedestrian methods of hoof paring and foot baths. If we could overcome this trouble, we could save Australia many millions of pounds.
– Has the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization done any work on salt damp in buildings?
– Yes. The Building Research Division has worked on that problem. I suppose every honorable member could mention one or more things crying out to be done. 1 believe that if by some miracle we could double the amount of money at our disposal - we are now spending £5,750,000 a year on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - all of it could be very usefully spent. It could not all be spent at once, because we should have to recruit scientists and obtain additional equipment, but I venture to say that within five years the additional annual expenditure of £5,750,000 would add hundreds of millions of pounds a year to our national income.
– Thousands of homes are destroyed by salt damp.
– I know that. 1 have placed a strict time limit on myself so as not to take up too much of the available time, and I shall have to pass over a number of matters that I should like to have discussed in other circumstances. However, I shall mention the mineral research activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. 1 suppose one of Australia’s greatest opportunities lies in the development of its mineral resources. The organization assists in this development by evolving processes for treating minerals of which deposits have been found. It does a great deal of this work.
I should like also to touch briefly on research in institutions other than governmental institutions. I have said in this chamber many times that it is a very great disappointment to me that Australia’s secondary industry is not more researchminded. Since I voiced that disappointment a week or so ago in very positive terms I have been almost deluged with correspondence from industrial enterprises trying to prove the contrary. With respect to those organizations, I must say that I am very largely of the same opinion as I was before. Admittedly, there is more industrial research work going on than 1 was previously aware of, but I think that generally it is still true to say that secondary industry in Australia is not nearly so research-minded as is secondary industry in the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain, and does not undertake research on anything like as large a scale.
There are two ways in which research can be undertaken, and in some instances is being undertaken, by secondary industry in Australia. One way is by the formation of research associations in which individual companies, or all the companies in one industry, band together to establish a research laboratory. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization cooperates in this work and gives all the help it can. A certain number of these research associations are in existence, but I think the number is pathetically small in terms of the size, importance and range of secondary industry in Australia. Another way in which research can be undertaken is by what is known as a sponsored project, which is initiated by an individual industrial enterprise taking a problem to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and asking it to find a solution. This help is given to the maximum extent permitted by the available scientific staff. The company concerned pays the whole cost or pays an agreed amount per annum to offset the cost of the work. There is one outstanding example of this kind of project. The Mount Lyell, Mount Morgan and Peko companies, which mine copper, have had the organization’s Industrial Chemistry Division doing a great deal of work on the processing of the mineral ores mined by them. I am glad to say that the companies are paying the entire cost of the work, and I give them full credit for that, f hope and believe that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s work will give them eminently satisfactory results.
As I have said, I believe the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has a considerable volume of achievement to its credit, but there is a great deal still to be done, and I think no one is more conscious of this than I am. The organization has a keen, vigorous, experienced and enthusiastic staff, all of whom have the constant urge to see over the next hill. And there is always a next hill to see over in scientific research, particularly in Australia, where we have a great many unsolved problems. I do not wish it to be thought, from the tenor of my remarks, that there is no development of the organizations’ work from year to year. That is not so. There is a constant but slow development of its work each year. But it has to consider very carefully all new proposals for research - and they reach it almost daily - to make sure that it can do the required job within the limits of its budget. As I have said, I believe that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is without doubt the greatest investment that Australia has made. Intelligently directed scientific research is the best investment that the government of any country can make. In the organization we have an institution of which we can be very proud.
It may seem to some people that I am complaining because the funds available to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are limited to £5,750,000 in the current financial year. 1 am not really complaining, because I am very conscious, as 1 think all honorable members are, that in the present economic circumstances every government department and instrumentality must limit the expansion of its work. At least the vote for the organization has not been reduced, and it has been able to expand its activities a little each year. I make no complaint against the Treasury. I have arguments with it, of course, about whether this or that can be done and about the extent to which the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization can develop. That is inevitable, and I make no complaint about it. I would just say that most departments and instrumentalities spend their vote on their work each year and that is the end of it. I think the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is almost the only instrumentality that could be described as not wholly and solely a money-spending body, but an investment organization. It is the only government instrumentality that I know of from which one can with reasonable certainty expect, for the money put into it, a manifold return to the Australian community after a few years.
I would end by saying that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is entirely engaged in civilian activities, lt does no defence work at all. It was at one time suggested that it should undertake defence work, but it does not do so now. lt is engaged in purely civilian activities which, as I have said, are aimed at enabling more Australians to earn a better living.
– We are all interested in the matters that have been mentioned by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), but I wish to re-state to the committee certain aspects of the problem of immigration so far as it appears to us. First, I draw the committee’s attention to the figures given this afternoon in regard to immigration by my colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). For week after week, honorable members of the Opposition were endeavouring to find out the precise relationship between immigration from the British Isles on the one hand and immigration from European countries on the other hand. However, the figures were never given to us. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt) gave all sorts of answers to our questions, except the answer indicating the percentage that we asked for.
I wish to refer to the figures since the census of 1954; they are comparatively recent figures. It is true that in 1948, 1949 and 1950 there was an enormous influx of immigrants who were, for the most part, displaced persons and refugees from the camps of Europe. In 1949 we received about 114 030 immigrants and in 1950 about 121,030. The attitude of the then government, which is the present Opposition, towards the problem of immigration is best stated in the policy speech of the parliamentary Labour party which was adopted by the federal executive of the Labour party. It re-states the policy of which the Minister for Immigration professes to be ignorant, although I think that he knows it well. The statement is as follows: -
In the post-war period Labor instituted the Immigration policy as a humanitarian effort to alleviate the lot of victims of World War II. as well as to build our work force and to help develop Australia.
Labor will continue to welcome with goodwill and comradeship these newcomers opposed to totali ananism who are willing to become democratic Australians, upholders of Trades Unionism and ihe Austalian way of life. The British tradition of freedom under law is basic to our way of living: and all migrants can and should come to share it.
That is our general approach- not an approach of hostility, but of welcome. But there are certain obligations which should be accepted by immigrants and must be maintained. The policy went on -
Migration must be regulated so as not to impose an undue strain on our economy.
I ask honorable members whether that is not axiomatic - there is no country in the world where that would not be the position. The policy continued -
The task of providing housing, hospitals, schools and transport and other services has thrown heavy burdens on the States.
Labor is satisfied that the screening and medical examination of migrants has not been adequate during the last few years. Concern is felt at the number of recent migrants with serious social and physical disabilities.
With these considerations in mind Labor will at once review the rale of intake and the screening of migrants.
That statement is in general terms, but I want to apply it to the present position. 1 have pointed out that because of that humanitarian policy, and because the immigrants would help in the rebuilding and building required in Australia, we practically opened Australia’s doors to the victims who suffered perhaps more than any one else from World War II., whether it was from totalitarianism of the Left or totalitarianism of the Right. There they were, and the doors of Australia were opened to them. That policy was responsible for the tremendous number of immigrants who entered this country, and nobody undertook the task of getting them here more vigorously and more energetically than the then Labour government under the late Mr. Chifley and my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
This is the serious thing to be considered in this matter. I do not think that anybody anticipated that the immigration from the British Isles would fall to this relatively small percentage of our immigrants, who come to a British country which, if it is going to maintain the British traditions of democratic freedom, should remain substantially and predominantly British in respect of the composition of its population. There can be no dispute about that. But look at the figures! In 1953, the number of people who came to this country from the British Isles was 25,000, and 49,000 came from other countries. In 1954, the number from the British Isles who entered Australia was 28,000, and 75,000 came from other countries. In 1955, the number who came from the British Isles was 36,000, and 94,000 came from other countries. In the period January to June, 1956, the number of people from the British Isles who entered Australia was 22,000 and 49,500 came from other countries. Those figures were commented on by the Melbourne “ Herald “, which pointed out this striking fact, that from the time of the census of 1947 to the census of 1954 the number of southern Europeans who came to Australia increased from 49,000 to 165,000, which is an increase of about 223 per cent. In the same period, the number of British-born immigrants increased by 22 per cent., or less than one-tenth of the rate of the increase of southern Europeans over that long period.
We feel that that position should be closely watched. That is not because the southern European may not be a successful immigrant, but because our immigration programme must be a balanced programme. I completely agree with what my colleague the honorable member for Werriwa said in relation to it. He said that the number of immigrants coming to Australia from the British Isles has declined to a proportion of approximately one in four, and he suggested that the proper solution of the problem is to encourage British immigrants and skilled immigrants from all quarters by giving the immigrants the same health services and social services that they were used to in their own countries, and by making it possible for them to enjoy the housing conditions that they enjoyed in the countries from which they came. He referred to the social services that the British people enjoy in their own country. That is a factor that would have an important influence on their decision to come here.
Let us apply that argument to two of three matters, the first being employment. lt has always been accepted in this coun try that if the employment situationbecomes difficult and there is substantial unemployment, immigration cannot be continued at its present rate. That has been recognized in a sense by the Government. 1 will not take time to discuss the precise figure which seems to be far too large. If it is too large, what will be the effect? 1) will be to cause hardship not only to Australians but also to new Australians, and there will be conflicts between the twogroups. That would be a serious thing from the viewpoint of the new Australian becoming part of our community. Therefore, it is not merely the cruelties which might result from too great an influx of immigrants, but the fact that this influx, might imperil the whole basis of our immigration scheme.
There are other factors, and while theMinister was speaking, I pointed out one or two of them. One of the shocking things in the immigration policy was that no sooner had the Chifley Government’sgreat scheme come to early fruition, with tremendous numbers of people entering Australia, than the political parties supporting the present Government distributed to every immigrant pamphlets, expensively produced and printed in three languages - German, Czechoslovakian and Polish - and containing an argument which one would think to be an act of such baseness to Australia that it would be impossible. It was suggested, not obscurely, that id Australia the real problem was communism and that the immigrants had to get rid of the Chifley Government in order to ge> rid of communism. Those documents are in the library. I mention them because perhaps many honorable members on the Government side cannot remember them. That was a most treacherous attack upon the Chifley Government, and unfortunately that policy, in many respects, has been continued. If we are to bring politics into the immigration programme, it will be the ruin of a proper immigration scheme. The policy has to be re-stated.
The Minister said something this afternoon about the screening of immigrants and about the harm which might be done in countries in Europe of a socialist character. That is completely untrue. No socialist government was our enemy in World War II. Certainly, fascist governments were our enemies; and I can understand some objection in screening being applied to immigrants from countries with Communist governments, although those countries were our allies during the war. That is the trouble, but I think it indicates the Minister’s point of view. The screening of people coming to Australia from European countries in which social democratic parties - which are really Labour parties - are in office is probably the reason why many of these immigrants cannot get to Australia. At any rate, that state of affairs should be investigated. I do not like hearing generalizations all the time. I know many individual instances which I think should be placed before a committee of the House. They have come to my notice in my official capacity as Leader of the Opposition.
We have to see that the spirit of democracy is applied in the selection of immigrants, or rather that the spirit of intolerance does not apply with the result that people who want to come to this country are rejected. Above all, it is essential that these people most of whom cannot speak the English language - they cannot read it at any rate - should be given an opportunity to learn it. They have a large number of newspapers in their own languages and nobody objects to that. The Labour Government had a rule under which a portion of all publications had to be published in the English language in order to give to the immigrants some slight inkling of the language which is the basis of our English heritage. Why should that not be done? I do not believe that the classes that are being held are sufficient. It is very important that immigrants should understand our language. ft is, however, the spirit in which the immigration system works that matters. Immigration ought to be removed entirely from party politics. I do not care what the politics of the immigrants are so long as they are not unduly influenced upon their arrival, or even on the ships before they arrive, by the authorities of this country. We know that that kind of thing has been going on. Reference has been made to trade anions. I have asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) a question about how many immigrants are trade unionnists but I have never been able to get an answer to that question. Surely, it is essentia], when immigrants come to Australia that they should belong to a trade union because there would be no democratic freedom at all in this country but for the trade unions. Is that not a reasonable condition to require them to observe during the first two years of their stay here?
– Is unionism compulsory?
– For the first two years of their stay in Australia they are required to give specific assistance in a special job, and I think that whether it is made a condition of entry or not they should be persuaded and encouraged by the Government to join a trade union.
– Encouraged, but not forced.
– The honorable member uses the word “ forced “. I would go so far as to say that they should be required during the early period to join a trade union associated with their calling. Without that, how can their conditions be guaranteed? That is the danger, and that is what occurred during a similar period in the United States of America. All the immigrants coming into that country became a reserve labour force that was used against trade unionists in some of the great struggles that took place in the United States. In any case, I think the great majority of immigrants would wish to join a trade union. The job of the department should be to encourage them to do so, and I think that is an absolutely vital feature. 1 have referred to the language problem. Then comes the final act in the process of their becoming citizens of Australia. I do not think that should be a mere formal act. Before they become citizens of Australia and are naturalized some indication of their ability to speak English, or at least of their attempt to study the language, ought to be required. They should not be segregated, because that is what it amounts to, in small communities of their own in this country. If that is done we shall face absolute ruin in the future as those communities become greater. Many instances of that sort of thing occurred in the United States.
One other aspect is in relation to industry. My colleagues, the honorable members for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) and Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), and especially the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) have referred to the type of work which immigrants are performing. My opinion may not he precisely accurate, but I think it is substantially true that the great majority of immigrants coming to Australia at present are not skilled workers.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- From the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) we have just heard to-day’s funny story. He suggested that immigration should be kept on a non-political basis. I agree, but the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), who has a particular interest in this matter as chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council, has informed me that within the last twelve months immigrants arriving in Western Australia have been given a pamphlet in which it was suggested to them that the Australian Labour party is the only party in Australia that is fighting communism. A party which makes suggestions such as that cannot have much reliance placed on a statement made by its leader. Some of the confusion which exists in relation to immigration results from a misunderstanding of the statistics. When we read the Statistician’s statement on immigration statistics we must realize that permanent departures comprise all naturalborn Australians, all people from other British countries who have been here for more than twelve months and all naturalized persons, whether they were pre-war or postwar immigrants, who leave Australia for any overseas country with an intention to be absent for more than twelve months.
If honorable members completely understand that fact they will realize that the statistics may create considerable confusion. For instance if a naturalized person who came from, say, Italy leaves Australia his departure is deducted from the list showing the actual intake of British immigrants. Therefore, it is more desirable that we should speak in terms of gross intake rather than in terms of net intake. It has been estimated that of the British immigrants who arrived here during the post-war period, no more than 6 per cent, have returned home. If we accept that figure we obtain a very different conception from that presented by the Leader of the Opposition or even by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) when he spoke this afternoon.
I suppose the honorable member for Yarra regards himself as being as capable as any other honorable member of reading statistics, but when he cited a percentage of 25 per cent, as representing the intake of British immigrants since 1947 he was dealing with only assisted-passage immigrants and completely neglected those who had paid the full fare.
I refer the committee to page 14 of the document from which he quoted. On that page is disclosed the fact that the assisted arrivals from Great Britain represented 25 per cent, of the total arrivals and that the full-fare immigrants represented 22.9 per cent, of the total. That gives a gross intake of British immigrants of 47.9 per cent. I ask honorable members to compare that with the 25 per cent, which the honorable member for Yarra cited this afternoon. 1 suggest that he quoted that figure with intent because his experience should enable him to produce a much more accurate statement in respect of those statistics than he did.
We have heard enunciated in the chamber to-day a new policy so far as the Australian Labour party is concerned. At least the indication is that it is a new policy because it has been stated that the number of immigrants to be brought into Australia should be the maximum number that can be maintained and absorbed into the country. Inherent in that statement is a suggestion that that is not the Government’s policy in relation to immigration. The Government has gone to great pains during the last seven years to bring about just that result. Having regard to the research work that is done in the Department of Immigration, the analyses of the employment situation that are made by the Department of Labour and National Service and the outside advice that is received by the Government, I think that the public generally, if not the members and supporters of the Labour party, will come to the conclusion that the policy which this Government has adopted during the last seven years is the policy which is suggested now as Labour’s policy, and only Labour’s policy.
Let us have a look at the names of some of the people who are advisers to the Government in relation to immigration. The members of the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council are Mr. Ian
McLennan, the general manager of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited; Mr. W. E. Dunk, a Public Service Commissioner; Mr. A. J. Keast, the general manager of the Mary Kathleen organization; Professor Copland, who has been referred to this afternoon; Mr. A. W. Coles, the first chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, appointed by a Labour government; Mr. J. Vicars, a Sydney industrialist; Mr. G. Gerrard, an Adelaide industrialist; Sir Samuel Wadham, perhaps the most outstanding authority on primary industry in Australia; Sir John Jensen; Mr. L. G. Melville, an economist associated with the Australian National University; Mr. Gerald Packer, a Melbourne industrialist; and last but not least - I say that advisedly - Mr. Albert Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. When Mr. Monk, because of illness, was unable to attend meetings of the council, he was represented by the late Mr. Broadby.
I believe that the members of the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council are as good a cross-section of the nation as any government could select to advise it on immigration. They are well qualified to advise the Government on the economic situation of the country, on the prospects of development and on the level of immigration. Those men have faith in the future of Australia. The debate this afternoon has shown that the members of the Labour party have no faith in the future of Australia. If that is not so, their speeches are an indication of their desire for a depression as the only chance of regaining power.
Then there is the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. I shall not mention the names of all the members of that body. The chairman is the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth). Represented on the council are employers, employees, returned servicemen’s organizations and women’s organizations. That body also advises the Government on the great problem of immigration.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he did not propose to indicate to what number the intake of immigrants should be reduced. I get a little tired of people who want to scratch one number through with a pencil and substitute another number for it. The Government has decided that the intake for this year shall be 115,000. During the last few weeks I have heard people suggest numbers ranging from 60,000 to 90,000, but not one person who has suggested an alternative number has produced a valid reason why the Government’s number should be reduced to the number that he suggests.
The reduction is proposed on the basis that it will cause a reduction of the demand for goods within the community. Let us go back. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the great numbers of immigrants who came here in 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952. At the end of 1952, the Government decided that the intake should be reduced. The intake for 1952 was 128,000, and in each of the three previous years it had been greater than that. In 1953, the intake was only 75,000. What happened then? In the December quarter of 1952, the construction of just over 15,000 homes was commenced. In 1953, the figure was nearly 19,000 and in 1954 it was 19,500. The value of other new buildings rose by 50 per cent. Let us look at motor car registrations. In the December quarter of 1952, there were 26,500 registrations. In the December quarter of 1953, there were 31,800 registrations. In the December quarters of 1954 and 1955 the figures were 39,000 and 43,000 respectively. Public authority expenditure during that period also showed an upward trend. Therefore, I suggest that a reduction of the intake of immigrants does not necessarily entail a reduction of the demand for goods within the community.
We are told by many people that expenditure on community services has increased as a result of immigration. Schools have been referred to particularly. What is the position there? Three-quarters of the money being spent on schools to-day is required as a result of the natural increase of the Australian population. There was a high birth-rate during the war years and the early post-war years. Only a quarter of the additional school accommodation is required for immigrant children. For the purposes of comparison, I think it is worthwhile to mention to honorable members that a quarter of the increase of our work force since the war is a result of the natural increase of the population and that three-quarters is a result of immigration. 1 suggest that immigrants have made a substantial contribution to the production of goods and services, including school facilities, in the last ten years.
But they have made a number of other contributions which have been mentioned from time to time in this chamber. They have made contributions in relation to oil refineries, the motor car industry and the steel industry. The Australian steel industry has tried to increase its production sufficiently to avoid the necessity for us to buy steel from overseas. By producing enough steel to meet Australia’s requirements, it has contributed substantially to a solution of the balance of payments problem. It was my privilege recently to visit the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Port Kembla, where I saw a new tinplate plant in the course of erection. Australia has imported 140,000 tons of tinplate a year. This plant alone will produce 70,000 tons a year. Will any one suggest that that will not be a valuable contribution to the Australian economy and to the solution of the balance of payments problem? I believe that all those facts, added together, show that the Government’s approach to the immigration problem has been completely justified.
Let me mention the contribution which immigration has made to the pensions problem in this country. Between the censuses of 1921 and 1933 and also between those of 1933 and 1947, the rate of increase of the number of persons over 65 years of age was approximately three times the rate of increase of the total population. That brings us to a period when the immigration scheme was in its infancy. Between 1947 and 1954 - the date of the last census - the rate of increase of the number of persons over 65 years of age was only slightly greater than the rate of increase of the general population. So immigration has contributed substantially to a solution of the pensions problem. To-day every natural-born Australian is called upon to pay less to the Government in the way of a social services contribution than would have been the case if we had not undertaken large-scale immigration into Australia. Development in this country would have been impossible unless we had maintained our immigration pro gramme during the last few years. I commend the Government for what it has done, and I take encouragement from the fact that it has sought the advice of men who understand our economy. This Government will not be bustled by any demands that are made by the Opposition for a reduction of the immigration intake.
.- 1 think that it will be conceded by the listening public that there are differences of opinion in this Parliament on the immigration programme which this Government is determined to implement. During the last few weeks, supporters of the Government have made no secret of their belief that the immigration intake is too large for the absorptive capacity of this country. One of the stars, so called, on the Government side, to wit, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), who is an economist of no mean stature, has pointed out, not only in this chamber, but also in a recent article in the Melbourne “ Age “, that the time has come to call a halt in immigration or, at least, to reduce substantially our intake of immigrants because, at the moment, our economy is not conditioned to deal with the people in a manner that would be fair to them, irrespective of whether they come from the continent of Europe or from the British Isles.
If any honorable member has any doubt that our country is not conditioned for the present large intake of immigrants, I remind him of the reply that was made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) this afternoon, when I directed his attention to the fact that two churches in this country had already, if not in words, at least in effect, condemned this Government for not increasing the rates of social services benefits payable to widows and pensioners. The Minister said that the state of our economy was such that we could not afford to increase payments to the recipients of age and invalid pensions. Does not that statement imply that our economy is not able to absorb immigrants at the rate that has applied over the last few years? If we cannot afford to pay appropriate rates of pension to those who are no longer able to work and earn their own living, how can we expect to cope with a too-large immigrant intake?
Honorable members from both sides have commended Labour for inaugurating the great immigration scheme in 1947. However, we must acknowledge that to-day the situation is getting out of hand. If we are to develop this country satisfactorily and provide as we should, not only for the incoming immigrants, but also for the people who are already here, we must have regard to many facets of our economy. Almost daily, leading articles in the conservative press refer to the shortage of schools in Australia. Only to-day, I read that, in Melbourne, many hundreds of houses lack sewerage facilities. The university of Melbourne has not sufficient money to expand its activities in order to provide sufficient educational facilities for medical students.
The situation in regard to immigrant hostels has reached a critcial stage. Almost daily, immigrants who have been in this country for some time are being turned away. T should like to make it clear that I am strongly in favour of immigration, particularly from the United Kingdom. I strongly support the continued application of that part of the Government’s immigration policy which provides for a large proportion of immigrants to come from the United Kingdom itself. Of course, I am not reflecting in any way on the immigrants who have come here from other parts of the world.
Let us consider the circumstances that might be militating against a sufficient intake of British, Scotch and Irish immigrants. There has been an immigrant hostel at Brooklyn, in Victoria, ever since the immigration programme was inaugurated in 1947. I do not know whether the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) has visited that hostel, but I should like to say, irrespective of the politicial colour of the government that established it - it was, of course, provided to meet an emergency - the hostel is a disgrace to the Commonwealth. It comprises a series of old wool sheds, and a dining room. I admit that it is equipped with a first-class kitchen. Many English, Irish, and Scotch immigrants, as well as immigrants from other countries, are cramped into Nissen huts of three compartments, where they are destined to remain for periods of from six months to four years. I know of one instance in which an immigrant family occupied one of the huts for seven years.
– They should not be there for so long.
– The honorable member for Forrest says that they should not remain there for that length of time. But will the Government, or any instrumentality controlled by the Government, make available, either through the Commonwealth Bank or the various housing commissions, sufficient money to enable homes to be provided for the occupants of immigrant hostels? As we know, the immigrants from Europe are conscious of the fact that there is nowhere else for them to go, unless they obtain a block of land and erect temporary accommodation upon it, wilh the intention, eventually, of adding additional rooms. The average British immigrant is not prepared to contemplate living in that way. 1 know of an instance in which British immigrants living at the Brooklyn hostel sought, and obtained, financial accommodation from both the State Savings Bank of Victoria and the Commonwealth Bank, to form a co-operative housing society. However, the amount of money that they received for that purpose was insufficient to provide homes for all of them of a standard to which they are entitled. The end result was that a great many of these people were forced to remain at the hostel.
As I said a few minutes ago, the state of affairs at the Brooklyn immigrant hostel is a disgrace to the Government. I ask honorable members, and the listening public, to visualize, if they can, row after row of Nissen huts, the back of one separated by only a few yards from the front of the next, and the sullage from all the huts running into a drain situated only a few yards from the doors. The sanitary facilities are located not far away. Honorable members can imagine what can happen in those circumstances, even with the best behaved people. Of course, I cast no reflection on the management of the hostel: indeed, I take my hat off to the men who have carried on despite the conditions that I have described.
Amongst the British immigrants are a few good agitators who have, during the last few years, organized protest meetings and advised the Commonwealth Government of the state of affairs at Brooklyn. 1 sometimes wonder whether it is because good radicals amongst the British immigrants at Brooklyn have protested against the bad living conditions at the hostel that this Government is not enthusiastic about encouraging additional British immigrants to come to this country in appropriate numbers. But, before the Government encourages British immigration to Australia, it should make quite sure that adequate housing will be provided for the immigrants within a reasonable time of their arrival here. Sufficient money should be provided to enable the immigrants to build houses of suitable dimensions, in which they can rear their families under good Australian conditions. I know that the advisory committees do good work. The immigration council does its best, but it should ascertain why the British immigrants at Brooklyn have held protest meetings and agitated for better conditions. 1 recently attended one and endeavoured to smooth out difficulties, but I must say that I supported wholeheartedly the protests of the British immigrants, directed not against the management, but against the Government, for expecting our kith and kin to live in the hovels that I have described.
– Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Immigration, Department of Labour and National Service, Department of National Development, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and Australian Atomic Energy Commission has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed Vote, £890,000.
Department of the Navy.
Proposed Vote, £39,065,000.
Department of the Army.
Proposed Vote, £60.284.000.
Proposed Vote, £53,750,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
Mr. CREAN (Melbourne Ports) [9.11.- As a vote of censure on the defence policy of this Government, I move, on behalf of the Opposition -
That the amount of the vote - “ Department ot Defence, £890,000 “-be reduced by £1.
I do not think anything could have been more astounding to honorable members than the announcement of the Prime Minister to-day that he intended to undertake, during the next week, a complete and thorough examination of the defence policy of Australia, when one remembers that two days ago in this chamber he replied to a question by the honorable member tor Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) by saying that never in a time of peace had Australia’s defences been in a better position. We on this side of the committee, and a large number of people outside this Parliament, have, for a considerable time, been critical of the defence expenditure and the defence policy of this Government. I believe that the Government’s defence policy could be described as one of camouflage and subterfuge, and during the last few weeks persiflage has been added, in order to try to cover up the criticism that has been heard from all sections of the community. I say camouflage because the Government has deluded the people of Australia as to the real amount of defence expenditure. 1 say subterfuge because the Government has not indicated where the money that has been spent has actually gone, and what this country has received for it in terms of physical defence assets.
For several years the good round sum of £200,000,000 has been taken as the annual defence expenditure of this nation, despite the fact that never in any one year has it reached that figure. In some years the actual physical expenditure has been as low as £170,000,000, and it has been camouflaged by the transfer of amounts of the order of £20.000,000 to strategic stores reserves and defence trust accounts.
We are fortunate on this occasion at least in having a reasonably comprehensive statement about the defences of Australia, which was prepared by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) for the information of honorable members during the budget debate. The Minister indicated in that statement that during the six years that the Government has been in office it has spent £1.031.000.000 on defence. That amount is by no means insignificant, and if we could take comfort in large figures we might sav that Australia is adequately defended. But defence does not consist merely of the expenditure of large amounts of money. As we shall see, much of this money has gone to very mysterious places, and Australia has not received for it very many of the tangible articles that are supposed to deter the enemy. In his statement the Minister has broken down this vast expenditure of £1,031,000,000, and we find that £707,000,000 of it has been spent on what we might call day-to-day activities, such as the necessary maintenance of our Army, Navy and Air Force establishments. Only £324,000,000 has been spent on the things that deter the enemy, such as aircraft, battleships and arms. But even that is not the complete picture, because over £98,000,000 of this amount has been used to provide what are vaguely called buildings, works and acquisition of sites. In fact, therefore, out of the total expenditure of £1,031,000,000 in the six years from 1951 to 1956, only £226,000,000 has been devoted to the provision of new equipment for the services or, in the words of the Minister, the modernization of existing equipment. 1 suggest that the people of Australia are entitled to a little more information as to whether the Government has adopted the ideal method of apportioning its defence expenditure between these various aspects of defence. We are told from time to time in this chamber that in a modern age defence is not so much a matter of man-power as of mechanization, arms and equipment. We find, however, that only about one-fifth of the total expenditure has been used for the provision of those things. The main part of it has been used for day-to-day expenditure in the various services.
Some time ago I asked the Minister for Defence for certain information regarding the position of our Army, Navy and Air Force at June, 1950, and at June, 1956. He supplied me with this information: In June, 1950. Australia possessed 360 frontline aircraft, whereas in June, 1956, it had 388. In 1950 the Navy had 22 front-line ships and 24 aircraft, and in June, 1956, it had 24 ships and 40 aircraft. I know that some of the aircraft and ships are not the same in 1956 as they were in 1950. but at least it is apparent that after a lapse of six years Australia has very few more ships and aircraft. I repeat that we are entitled to ask what we have received for the expenditure of this large amount of £1,031.000 000. One of our difficulties, of course, has been that the Government, content to rely upon its claim to have spent large amounts of money in selling its defence policy to the people, has embarked upon a defence programme that is beyond the capacity of the country. That is borne out by a consideration of the amounts expended during the last three or four years, and the effect of the Government’s policy upon the administration of our defence departments. Considerable laxity and waste have occurred in these departments, because they have been in the fortunate position every year of having more money available than they could spend. That has led to the kind of situation that was described by the Public Accounts Committee in its twenty-fifth report. On page 24 of that report, at paragraph 40, the committee said -
Your Committee are concerned at the laxity In the control of defence expenditures that can spring from the adoption of a Defence Programme that in recent years has been substantially underspent. To know that there will be heavy underexpenditure on most items is not an encouragement to careful spending. No incentive is given to Departments to “ keep within “ the appropriated figure; instead every effort appears to be made “ to spend the funds voted “.
That is indeed a serious indictment of this Government’s defence policy. I shall also read to honorable members a passage at page 71 of the report of the AuditorGeneral for the year ended 30th June, 1956, in which reference is made to H.M.A.S. “Hobart”. The AuditorGeneral gave a long history of this vessel, and it is interesting to see amounts like £1,500,000 mentioned as having been virtually wasted, when to-night we heard the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) suggesting that if he had £5.500.000 he could save this country hundreds of millions of pounds. The Auditor-General’s final comment is -
The position is that £1,430,637 has been spent on conversion and modernization of a vessel which, because of changes in Naval policy, is now placed, in its incompleted state, in Reserve and that additional expenditure, estimated at £1,000.000 will have to be incurred before the ship can fulfil a role in the Fleet of the Royal Australian Navy.
That is one example of the kind of thing that is going on under this Government’s administration. There is laxity in expenditure, and each year more money is provided than can possibly he spent. Naturally, any departmental chief when given money to spend will let his head go. The various heads of the departments administering the Navy, Army and Air Force have not been backward in this respect. The people of Australia are entitled to something better than this. We are entitled to be critical about the value that we have received for our expenditure on defence. What is this Government’s policy on defence? I doubt whether, in the light of the circumstances of 1956, it has a policy. This is largely attributable to the lack of co-ordination of our defence activity.
Australia is not the only country that is calling its large defence expenditures into question. Similar agitation is present in Great Britain and America, because it is realized that the more that is spent on defence the less there is to spend on the other necessary functions of government. In Great Britain there has been considerable discussion as to where the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are really going, and as to who, in the long run, actually determines defence policy. The people of that country want to know whether defence policy is decided by the Government or by the permanent heads of the various defence departments. One conservative member of the House of Commons asked who in the community would battle against prejudice in the Navy, stupidity in the Army, and arrogance in the Air Force. Those questions might well be asked in Australia also. What is our defence policy? The Government ought to be more frank, and take the people more readily into its confidence. Who evolves defence policy? What is the machinery for co-ordination between defence production, supply, the Army, the Air Force and the Navy? These departments are administered by a miscellaneous collection of Ministers, some of whom are in the junior Cabinet and some in the senior Cabinet. Behind them they have all sorts of boards of business experts, and consultative committees.
As we look around we cannot see much that the Australian community has to be thankful for, or to be hopeful for, from this Government. On its own figures it is spending £1,031,000,000 this year yet the ratio between what might be called capital expenditure and ordinary day-to-day activity is still 30 per cent, capital - buildings, the acquisition of sites, and the like - and 70 per cent, man-power and maintenance. One of the Ministers concerned should explain more fully whether that is the ideal proportion for the year 1956. No one wants war in 1956 but every one including Labour - despite what some people say - believes that a country is entitled to defend itself. But the people of a country are entitled to information on that country’s defence policy, because in the absence of information there cannot be confidence. If we are to have more of the camouflage and subterfuge that has characterized the utterances of Government supporters, the people of Australia will have every reason to be wrathful about the policies that have been pursued by this Government.
.- A move to reduce a vote of £190,000,000 by £1 doubtless tends to bewilder the public, but it is in conformity with a practice that has grown up in the Parliament and is no more or less than a censure of the Government for its proposed defence expenditure in the current year. Probably the working of Parliament would be much more understandable if the Opposition were to move that the vote be reduced, not by £1, but to a specified figure below £190,000,000, or be increased to a figure above £190,000,000. This would make it necessary for the Opposition to say in what fashion it thought the defence requirements of Australia could best be fulfilled with the money available in the budget for the current year. As it is, the form of the debate on this group of Estimates will be that the Opposition will disagree with the proposed expenditure and the Government will hold fast to its theory that all the money will be needed in the ensuing year if Australia is to be adequately defended.
The first thing to be kept in mind is that the democracies, as history has shown, are never able to reach the stage where their defence forces are also offence forces. Their role is always to ensure that there is a force adequate to the defence of their country with out thought for offensive operations. The history of the last 30 or 40 years has demonstrated that when a war breaks out we suffer by having planned only for defence and by not being able, in the eyes of the world, to plan adequately for offence. It is quite sound to say that the money that would be needed to provide adequate defence for every mile of our coastline. and every acre of our land, is more than the economy could stand. A vote of £190,000,000 would never be enough to -defend this country from aggression. All that we can ever hope to do is to ensure that we have sufficient forces to protect ourselves until assistance arrives from some other democracy. Defence expenditure must be considered in that light.
On both sides of the chamber there are men who have served in one or other of the services. It would be fair to say that each would be biased towards his own service. For instance, an ex-member of the Royal Australian Navy would have a strong leaning towards the naval vote in the Estimates. An ex-member of the Army would lean towards the Army, whilst an «x-member of the Air Force would lean towards that branch of the services. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) mentioned something about the Army and something about the Navy and the “ arrogance “ of the Air Force. As a former member of the Royal Australian Air Force, I immediately froze upon the “ arrogance “ of the Air Force, and I feel now that I have an excuse, perhaps now or later in the discussion on these Estimates, to press claims for the Royal Australian Air Force which can be put down, perhaps, to my arrogance and, certainly, to my firm belief that the real defence of this country in time of attack can never be carried out by the Army or the Navy, but that our future security will depend upon an efficient and mobile Royal Australian Air Force.
– The junior service.
– It is one thing to be junior in age, but it is another to be senior in achievement. I know that ex-members of the Royal Australian Navy will not agree with what I say; but, as a humble former member of the Royal Australian Air Force, I have never thought it was wise to spend many millions of pounds upon an aircraft carrier which seemed to me to be a nice object to hit in any stage of warfare when, for the same expenditure, a mobile squadron of the striking force of the Royal Australian Air Force could be equipped. And so this debate will proceed, with honorable members clinging to the traditions of one or other of the armed services and leaning towards their own service affiliations.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned the difference between what we had ready in this country in 1950. and what we have ready now. He said that, in 1950, the Royal Australian Air Force had some 360 first-line aircraft and that in 1956 we had some 388 first-line aircraft. He also mentioned the ships of the Royal Australian Navy. However, to compare numbers over a period of six years is always a bad comparison, especially when we appreciate the terrific development that has taken place in the production of aircraft as a means of defence. A first-line aircraft of six years ago, which might have cost £200,000, would probably cost £800,000 or something closely approaching £1,000,000 to-day. Those who believe that because the Estimates have been increased by £900,000, we should be able to have several more squadrons floating round this country in a state of readiness, little realize that the expenditure of nearly £1,000,000 represents the cost of only one modern first-line aircraft for our flying services. That brings me back to my earlier assertion that this country can never hope to finance a defence force capable of defending it against aggression from any power on earth for any length of time. I sincerely hope that the Government will keep in mind at all times the fact that this country, separated as it is by many miles of ocean from the major forces which to-day are our friends, is an island in the Pacific surrounded by millions of people who could, at some future date, be aggressors against us, and that defence expenditure, although it may seem to assume colossal proportions, cannot possibly be assessed in its true light unless we are prepared to pay the price of modern equipment for the armed forces to-day.
What applies in connexion with the Royal Australian Air Force applies equally to our Navy and our Army. With the present high cost of equipment, it is probably wiser to-day to train men and have them ready to train others with modern equipment. In other words, it is wiser to have the nucleus of a force ready if ever aggression should threaten these shores. I know that in many quarters there is a tendency to look upon us as warmongers when we talk about the threat of future aggression, but a close study of the map of the world should impress upon everybody the fact that what has happened in the past is just as likely to happen again. As one who grew up during the period between the two world wars, I should hate to think that the fate that befell so many of us who were born in the years from 1910 onwards should befall those of our children who have been born during the years from 1930 onwards, and 1 believe that it is only by the expenditure of sums like those mentioned in these Estimates that Australia can take its share of responsibility in the Western world. As a nation, we cannot hope to raise a force adequate to defend ourselves for any length of time, but we must be prepared to shoulder the responsibilities of nationhood. We must be prepared to play our part in whatever sphere in the world our assistance is needed. A couple of days ago, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) in a question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies; referred to the withdrawal of forces from overseas.
– Hear, hear!
– For the first time in history, we were asked to supply a garrison force overseas. Some three years ago, I visited the garrison force on the island of Malta, a squadron which the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith thought was still there, but which returned to Australia some eighteen months ago. Not only did that squadron take part in exercises in the Mediterranean with the Royal Air Force and allied air forces, but its members also proved themselves to be magnificent ambassadors for Australia. Australian forces have only started to move round the world during peace-time, because of the changing world situation, but wherever they have gone Australian servicemen have enhanced this country’s reputation and developed a spirit of friendship with the people among whom they have lived. Apart from the defence value of placing squadrons and battalions on foreign soil, the advantage to Australia of the friendship developed by our service personnel overseas can never be measured in terms of money spent on defence.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports criticized an answer given by the Prime Minister to a question asked this week when the right honorable gentleman said that following his visit overseas he was calling a conference of the Minister for
Defence, the service Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff to discuss Australia’s future defence. Rather than being a subject for criticism, that statement calls for commendation because it shows that from his discussions with service chiefs and leading people in the political life of England and America the Prime Minister realizes that in changing world conditions there is need to plan for changing situations in the sphere of defence. Rather than criticize what is being done we should be appreciative of the fact that Australia is prepared to change its plans and conditions within its services at any time to meet developments throughout the world. In conclusion, let me say that as the discussion of these Estimates proceeds it will become obvious that the amendment moved by the Opposition, far from being merely one for the reduction of the proposed vote by £1, is a true indication of Labour’s attitude towards the defence of this nation at a time when defence is so vital to the future of ourselves, our children, and the nation.
.- A similarity exists between the situation to-day and that of October, 1941, just prior to the Curtin Labour Government taking office. At that time we had a government under the very same leadership and of the same political character as the present Government. Because it had bungled the defences of this country, some of its own supporters became so alarmed that they crossed the floor of this Parliament and voted the Government out of office. Today we are in the same situation. The Government has spent £1,068,000,000 on defence since it took office. I suggest to honorable gentlemen that, instead of wasting the time of Parliament talking about the value of one service compared with another, they should begin to ask themselves what this country has in defence equipment for the expenditure of £1,068,000,000.
Let us examine what we have. I shall take the Navy first. The Navy is regarded as the senior defence service. The actual active service craft in the naval forces to-day are two aircraft carriers, four destroyers, three anti-submarine frigates, two anti-aircraft frigates ex-sloop, four ocean minesweepers, one fleet tug, one ammunition store carrier, four boom vessels and sundry small vessels. That constitutes the entire Navy. Let us look now at the manning side of the Navy. We do not lack admirals; we have plenty of admirals in the Australian Navy for its size. We have one Chief of the Naval Staff, six rear-admirals, four commodores, second class, 55 captains and 154 commanders - andI have not mentioned the various lieutenant-commanders, and so on. So, the Navy which, 1 dare say, would probably compare in numbers with the Manly ferry fleet, has that large quota of admirals, rear-admirals, commodores, captains and so on. I might add that it is rather interesting to note that, according to page 211 of the Estimates, the number of officers has been increased by 50 this year, though the personnel of the Navy has not changed.
I turn now to the Army. We were told quite recently by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) that, if anything happened as a result of the Suez dispute, we had 900 men ready for immediate service. If the figures on page 213 of the Estimates are added, forgetting about lance-corporals for the moment, of the 26,000 men, who it is claimed constitute the Australian armed forces, 13,930 hold the rank of corporal or higher and 12,070 are in the ranks. Actually, the Australian Army to-day has more chieftains than Indians.
I shall refer to the comments of Sir Frederick Shedden. I remind the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) that, when he is replying, he should not try to belittle Sir Frederick Shedden. When Sir Frederick was appointed to his post, he was complimented by the Minister for Defence upon his appointment. When Sir Frederick Shedden told the Public Accounts Committee what he thought of the defence preparations in this country, he was talking, even in the eyes of the Minister, as a man fully equipped to talk. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) invited us to read the minutes of the Public Accounts Committee, and they show that Sir Frederick Shedden said that Australia had not been ready for mobilization in 1953 and was not ready now. If we are not ready now, what has happened to the £1.068,000,000 that has been spent since this Government took office?
Recently the Prime Minister, in reply to a question, tried to ridicule the idea that we should be ready for immediate mobilization. He said that no country other than a totalitarian country could be ready for mobilization. But that is not what he said in 1950 when he predicted that we had three years in which to prepare for war. The Prime Minister said then -
We must be ready for war on the day it breaks out. If we are to be ready we cannot, and must not, give ourselves a day more.
That is what the Prime Minister said then. He now says that we should not expect to be ready immediately but that we must have some time to mobilize our forces.
Everybody knows that in the defence services there has been terrific bungling and waste of money. 1 invite honorable members to consider some of the replies that we get to questions. I shall mention one in regard to service losses. Recently I directed a question on notice to the Minister for Defence. I asked -
The Minister, who claims to be in charge of the defences of this country, answered in these terms -
The information sought by the honorable member is not readily available from the records of the service departments.
He does not know even what the services lost by theft nine years ago. The Minister continued -
However, it is being compiled and I will make it available as soon as possible.
The Minister did not say whether the services were conducting an annual audit. If they are having an annual audit, as they should be, why is he not able to produce the reports immediately and let us know what the losses from the various stores have been over that period? Let me take another illustration. With the aircraft carrier “ Hobart “ they decided-
– It is not a carrier; it is a cruiser.
– Thank you, a cruiser. It has been referred to in many quarters. I do not claim to be an expert like those who represent the Government parties. The Government said it would modernize this vessel and spent £1,386,000 - almost £1,-500,000- on refitting work and modernization. After it had spent- that money, it decided to put the vessel into reserve. When I wanted some information about it, the Minister told me that it could be a useful vessel in the event of Australia again becoming embroiled in warfare. But how long would it fake to prepare the vessel for action? The Government has put it into reserve, and the” work on it has not been completed. According to the Minister’s reply to my question, a further £1,000,000 would have to be spent - over what period I1 would not attempt to guess - - before it would be of any use at- all. So, in respect of these matters, it is obvious that there has been bungling on every hand.
Let me mention the St. Mary’s project Anybody would imagine that we were preparing to fight another Boer War, not to fight a war in this year or in the years to come. This Government decided to erect a filling factory at St. Mary’s to cost, according to the estimate, £23,000,000. A filling factory in a war that would be fought with atomic weapons! What use would a filling factory be if this country became embroiled in another world war? In any event, how long would a filling factory last within a short distance of the City of Sydney if atomic or hydrogen bombs were dropped?
While I have the opportunity, I want to refer to a first-class bungle in which this Government was directly involved. I refer to the testing of atomic bombs in which the Services-
– Order! The honorable member cannot speak on that subject at this stage.
– I am referring to the part that was played by the armed services in the atomic tests at Maralinga. If there were members of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Army and the Navy employed in the tests there, and if somebody has bungled, I am entitled to direct attention to the matter.
– Order! That matter will be left until the committee is considering the Estimates for the Department of Supply.
– I am referring to it on the basis that men of the armed services Were engaged in the tests.
– Order! That mattei does not come into the discussion of the Estimate’s that are before the committee
– I rise to a point of order. Mr. Chairman. Your ruling is that the reference that was made by the honorable member for East Sydney to the atomic tests is out of order, but it is common knowledge, and has been explained by the Minister, that members of the Australian Army took part in those tests. The votes for the Army and the other armed services are included in the Estimates that are before the committee;- therefore, 1 submit that thehonorable member is in order in discussing this matter.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr. Chairman, I submit that there are twenty honorable members who know, from their personal observations, that members of the Royal Australian Air Force provided the transport at Maralinga, men of the Army did the providoring and the Royal Australian Navy provided all the electricity and water distillation services there. They are covered by the Estimates before the committee.
– Order! J shall adhere to my ruling. Honorable members will not be permitted to make this discussion a general budget debate. They must confine their remarks to the Estimates for trie various departments that are before the committee.
– With due respect, Mr. Chairman, and although the Government has the numbers to enforce it, I say that that is an outrageous ruling. The Australian community does not need to be convinced by anybody thai there was bungling in connexion with the bomb explosion at Maralinga.
– Order! Will thehonorable member for East Sydney obey the Chair?
– Yes, I will obey the Chair. I am making only passing reference to this matter because the bomb was either exploded prematurely-
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will cease defving the Chair, or T shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am not defying the Chair. I am merely warning the Australian people about the bungling of this Government.It bungled the matter to which I have referred. If I am not permitted to tell the Australian people during this debate what happened, I shall take the earliest opportunity of doing it inside or outside the chamber, because it is a fact that the Government has bungled. It has lied to the Australian community. It has not told the people what actually happened in regard to the bomb explosion, and the danger to which the community has been exposed.
We want members of the Government to tell us what they have to show for the vast expenditure on defence. This is a bungling Government. Let us consider the national service training scheme. It has cost more than £100,000,000, and what has the Government to show for it? It puts boys into camp, taking them out of industry and affecting production, but it is generally recognized by the military authorities that the training the youths receive is of no use to them in a military sense; it is merely good as physical training. If the Government wants a physical training scheme, it could put one into operation through the educational institutions. We do not need such a costly structure to carry out the national training scheme that has been undertaken by this Government.
It does not matter in what direction We look; there is theft and there are losses from naval and military stores. The recruiting campaign has been bungled. How many men have we in the forces? According to Sir Frederick Shedden, we are 5,000 men under strength. The men in the Royal Australian Navy are so dissatisfied with their conditions that only 3 per cent. of them intend to apply for another period of service when their present term expires. That shows that the men have no confidence in the Government.
Let me quote a little poem that was sent to me by a constituent. I think it fits the bill. It is this -
That megalomaniac, Bob,
Is becoming a bibulous blob.
He had skill - as a bluffer-
But was always a duffer
At doing a national job.
I think that is Very good. It is obvious that the Writer was referring to Our bungling
Prime Minister, who bungled the national defences in 1941 and is doing it again in 1956.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure, Mr. Chairman, that you and the people of Australia will be disappointed at the insincere approach of the members of the Australian Labour party - particularly the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who has just resumed his seat - to the very important subject of defence. I know that newspaper reports are not usually accurate, but it is worth noting that the reports of the newspapers on the consideration that was given to this matter by the Labour party suggest that the whole business was decided in five minutes and that, even during that short period, several members of the party were not present. If that is a fact - andI think the reports are confirmed by the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney - it is obvious that the Opposition did not raise this matter in committee in order to promote the security and welfare of the people, but in the hope of gaining political advantage. lt appears that the Australian Labour party is reverting to type, because we know from experience over the years that if there is one thing in which the Labour party shows complete lack of interest, it is defence. I remind honorable members that when a Labour government was in office in 1931, it cut the vote for defence more than that of any other department. It reduced the defencevote to £3,400,000 - the lowest amount that has been devoted to defence since 1910-11. I also remind the committee that when there was a threat of war in Europe, and the government which succeeded the Scullin Government attempted to strengthen the defences of Australia, the Labour opposition opposed every increase in the defence vote. I also remind honorable members that, as late as 1938-39, when the vote for defence was increased to £14,400,000, Mr. John Curtin said that any extra expenditure, after Munich, was warmongering.
The Labour government came into office during World War II., When the programme and pattern of defence for Australia had been shaped by the Menzies Government. Members of the anti-Labour Opposition pressed for more active defence preparations, and the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Curtin, gave a full account of the condition of Australia’s defences, much to the consternation of many of his followers. He said that the defences were in a high state of preparedness. I challenge any honorable member on the Opposition side to state how the Labour government had changed the defence programme of the Menzies Government in any one particular. The Labour government, under Mr. Curtin, built on the foundations that had been shaped by the previous administration.
Now, the Australian Labour party is running true to type. As soon as World War II. was over, the one thing that the Labour government of the day was eager to do was to disperse all the equipment that had been made ready for the defence of Australia. Nobody could say that we were in a state of peace and permanent security, but the Labour government began immediately to dispose of £100,000,000 worth of factories, annexes, machine tool plants and equipment. Equipment to the value of £100,000,000 was disposed of and now, because we have had, of necessity, to replace the things which were disposed of, honorable members opposite have the audacity to ask why this expenditure has been so large. I say quite definitely that one of the real reasons why it is so large is that we have been making good the deficiencies resulting from disposals by the Labour Government after the war. The Labour government also disposed of one of our bastions in the north, the Manus Island base. Do not let anybody ever forget that the Americans, who had spent about 500,000,000 dollars on this base and had offered to maintain it for our use in case of need were turfed out by the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). All of these assets were disposed of in various ways and, while I do not claim for one moment that we have nearly restored the base to its former standard, we have spent some millions of pounds in making a usable base in that area. Although some members of the Opposition were in government during time of war, apparently they have either learned nothing or they are deliberately attempting to conceal the achievements of the Government in the process of building up our defence forces.
It is perfectly true that in 1951, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) returned from overseas, having made an appreciation of the general European position, he said that we had to endeavour to prepare for war by 1953. It is perfectly obvious that if we were to be prepared for war to the extent of being completely ready for mobilization at that time, we would have had to clamp down all the controls, all the restrictions that applied in time of war, but obviously no country, not even the United Kingdom or the United States of America, in time of peace would impose those burdens upon its people. A nation has to make an assessment of its needs in respect of defence and then of what the economy will sustain, because, after all, defence without in the background an economy to sustain it, would be a failure. Consequently, we stepped up defence expenditure from the relatively small amount that was made available by the Labour Government, until in 1951-52, in spite of the fact that we have heard two Opposition speakers state that we had never expended £200,000,000, we expended £215,000,000.
– We know that this Government is a record spending government, but what has it to show for its expenditure?
– I am pointing out the inaccuracies of the statements that have been made by speakers on the other side. The international position changed, and it was then evident that the threat of an immediate global war had disappeared. Consequently, we adjusted our programme to meet the conditions which existed then, conditions of cold war, or minor war such as the war in Korea, and we adopted a programme which we expected would be sustained in this country, at the same time as we were to expand production and increase the population. So it was decided that we would convert from the preparation for war by 1953 to a long-term programme, and the programme accepted at that time by the Government was for an expenditure of £200,000,000 per annum for three years. It is perfectly obvious to anybody who knows anything about defence programming and the building up of forces that once a programme is decided on it is most improbable that the whole of the allotment for the first year will be spent, because defence requirements and war materiel are no. bo i an off the shelf. In other words, when equipment is ordered there may be a delay of twelve months. 24 months, three years, or even more, before those orders are fulfilled. Thus, it was perfectly obvious that in the first year or two of the duration of that programme the amount allotted would not be expended. The Government, knowing this, decided to open an equipment trust account, so that certain moneys which were not expended but were obviously committed, because authorizations had been made and orders placed, could be placed in this trust account. Those are the conditions from which we gel the terrific criticism that at the end of the year the services are out to spend every penny that they can spend. Of course, the simple fact is - and those former Ministers who were in government during the war know it perfectly well - that the services are not given an open cheque to order unlimited quantities of anything.
– They were not given an open cheque by us.
– They are not given an open cheque by any responsible government, least of all by this Government, because we have had better value for our money than ever a Labour government had. The services advance certain propositions, which are considered by the Cabinet. If they arc considered proper and necessary, authorizations are made. At that stage the authorizations are considered by the Board of Business Administration. I remind the committee that we have established such a board, which is not unknown to the Opposition, because during the war there was a similar bo-ird under the jurisdiction of the Labour government. The purpose of the board is to ensure as far as possible that we get value for our money. I will not be so foolish as to say that in the expenditure of £1.000,000,000 there has been no waste, but I am prepared to say that in my opinion Australia has got as good value for money spent on defence as has any democratic country. All this hubbub about trust accounts and unexpended money arises from the circumstances I have mentioned, which are perfectly legitimate and perfectly explicable.
– What about the great losses from military stores?
– The honorable member for East Sydney knows that when he was a member of the Labour government there were losses in stores.
– Not to the present extent.
– He has not found out the amount that was lost. Over £400,000,000 worth of equipment is in store. To suggest that out of stores of that value, dispersed as they are over the Commonwealth, no losses should occur is simply ludicrous.
– They are extraordinary losses.
– Nobody can seriously suggest that the losses that have been sustained are unusually large. The honorable member for East sydney referred to bungling in connexion with national service training. I hope, and I think, that few people in Australia share that opinion. I believe that national service training has been one of the greatest achievements of this Government. It has been a great thing from the point of view of training and discipline, and in addition, the scheme has provided us with a reservoir of men who are basically trained should a war o:cur. I am not going to say for a moment that, now that we have these large numbers of men who have had basic training - some are continuing their training with the Citizen Military Forces - we must continue on the same scale. That matter is being reviewed at the present time. But I do suggest that the introduction of national service training is one action of this Government which has the wholehearted support of the people of Australia, particularly those who have undertaken the training.
I do not know what the future development of our defence programme will be, but since weapons of war are changing all the time, we should be stupid to stand pat with the type of military equipment, units and training that prevailed during the last war. Changes have been gradual, but the time has arrived for a review. This is recognized not only by Australia, but also by the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and, I believe, all the other democratic nations. I have no doubt that defence methods already have been reviewed by the Communist nations. To suggest, however, that because we may change our approach to defence, because “ Hobart “ is to be put in reserve, because :these things are happening-
– The Minister admits that 4hey are happening.
– I affirm that the probability is that, as a result of the review that is taking place now, certain changes will be made, and I suspect that those changes will bring subsequent changes in their train. But to suggest that, because we have quantities of equipment of a certain kind for a particular purpose, everything -we have done has involved foolish expenditure, is simply ludicrous. Of course, this is the kind of thing that honorable members opposite revel in. They cannot find anything constructive to say, so they use hind sight and say, “ Well, you made a mistake here “, or “ You made a mistake there “. 1 assure the committee that the Government does not propose to make the mistake of standing flat-footed in this time of change, t also assure the committee and the people of Australia that when this review is completed and the decisions are made we shall go forward to order and obtain the things that are necessary for our defence services within the new defence structure. I regret having spoken for so long. I conclude by saying that I am disappointed by the lack of constructive criticism from the Opposition. I am disappointed, too, by the lack of sincerity in the comments of honorable members opposite which do neither credit to them nor service to the people of Australia.
– It was rather pitiful to see the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) with his hack to the wall, trying to justify the Government’s lack of achievement in defence. Perhaps the fact that the honorable gentleman recently participated in a photo-finish for last place in the election of deputy leader of the party he supports has taken some of the fire and enthusiasm from his handling of his ministerial duties. In the course of his remarks he took the Australian Labour party to task for allowing a little light to seep in on defence expenditure. He said that the supporters of the Labour party were concerned only with personal aggrandizement and party political advantage. Fancy accusing a party of seeking political advantage when it is merely telling the people the truth and letting the taxpayers, who pay for our defence projects, know what is being done!
The cold war psychology that has spread throughout the world since the cessation of the Korean war has given many so-called military experts the opportunity, which they have so eagerly sought for years, to strut the stage and set themselves up as political advisers to all and sundry. They stress the dangers of a hot, shooting war at the end of the cold war. Their opinions have been taken up by members of the Government, who are always eager to grasp at political straws. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), particularly, saw in their fears another means by which he could deceive the taxpayers of Australia regarding the international situation. In fact, the right honorable gentleman was fearful that, in all the world confusion, peace would suddenly break out. He harped on the possibility of war, a matter to which the Minister for Defence also referred to-night. Aided and abetted by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, the Prime Minister enlarged the Ministry by the simple process of splitting certain portfolios and appointing additional Ministers. By so doing, he appeased the vanity of the old gang of anti-Labour politicians who clutter the precincts of this Parliament. New departments were created at huge cost. We now find that the defence services are covered by six departments, the Department of Defence, the Department of Defence Production, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, the Department of Air and the Department of Supply, although only two departments are necessary if proper co-ordination is employed. The upkeep of those six departments entails huge expenditure, and that, of course, necessitates very heavy taxation. Indeed, the level of taxation is unprecedented in our short history.
Labour fought a successful war and had 1,000,000 men under arms, lt coordinated the huge tasks of feeding and equipping them, as well as organizing the civilian population. That co-ordination, which reached a very high pitch of efficiency, was necessary to pave the way for the great victory which followed. All of that was done at a cost very litttle greater than the sum which this Government has
Only yesterday in this chamber, I directed a question to the Prime Minister in an endeavour to get some clarity in this matter. I asked the right honorable gentleman the extent to which Sydney and other Australian capital cities had been equipped with radar detection equipment, and whether there was an air umbrella to defend them. The right honorable gentleman became really peeved - he always gets peeved when we ask awkward questions - and in a long-winded reply, full of flowery phrases, he skipped right round the question, so that we still do not know the nature of those defences. 1 am still waiting for an answer to my question about radar detection equipment. I asked the Prime Minister to what degree we had protection against possible air raids. What happened? All we got was a long tirade of abuse. Our cities are still at the mercy of enemy aircraft.
Another matter in relation to which the Government should be exposed is the state of the Army. My colleague the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), compared the number of officers with the number of other ranks. Of course, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who has only recently been appointed to that portfolio, had to speak up and say, “ It is not true “. Set out at page 213 of the Estimates is a detailed statement of the composition of the Australan Regular Army. We find it consists of the Chief of the General Staff, two lieutenant-generals, 24 brigadiers, 45 colonels, 216 lieutenant-colonels, 2,801 majors, captains, lieutenants and second lieutenants, 2,364 warrant officers, 777 staff sergeants, 2,770 sergeants, and 4.919 corporals.
– How many lance-corporals?
– There are 12,070 lancecorporals, privates, gunners, sappers and drivers. There are 870 more officers than privates. All this information has been collated at the express wish of the Minister for the Army. It is in print in the Estimates, and I do not wish to suggest that that document is a forgery.
– Has the honorable membergone off his head?
– Without allowances?
– All found. If honorable members want to know what “ all found “ means, it means the use of a car, all perks, and clothing. The two lieutenant-generals each receive £4,150 a year, and the eleven major-generals £4,074 each. This year, the major-generals receive an increase of £474 - a paltry £9 a week. When the proposed vote for the Department of the Army is analysed, we find that £23,541,000 . is set aside for the payment of wages and salaries, more than half of which will be absorbed in the payment of salaries for those from the rank of corporal up to the “ top brass “. Less than half of the total allocation represents the wages and salaries of the real soldiers - the men who do the work.
– Who worked that out?
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) wants to know who worked out all that information. It was worked out by the experts and the advisers to the Minister for the Army for the purpose of presenting to the Parliament a proper statement of expenditure. We want to hear from the Minister whether it is a true account. If it is not, it must have been forged at the Minister’s instigation. Recently, the Minister found it necessary to make a rush trip to New Guinea. He found that another great soldier - the Governor-General, Sir William Slim - was in New Guinea, and he did not wish to be left out. So one of his first social engagements after appointment to this portfolio was to visit New Guinea and bask in the sunshine of Sir William Slim.
– Order! The honorable member may not refer to the Governor-General.
– I am sorry, sir. After his trip to New Guinea and while still basking in the sunshine, the Minister was surrounded by reporters and asked for a statement about Australia’s’ defences in the far north as he saw them. He said he thought it would be possible, out of the 2,000,000 natives of Papua and New Guinea, to organize a force - a regiment of those fuzzy-wuzzy angels who projected Australia in the past and who in civil life are now earning the munificent sum of 15s. a month. That is their, reward for saving this country from the Japanese. The Minister thought it was an excellent idea, but he did not imagine that there would be a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the fuzzy-wuzzies. While in New Guinea he saw a few parades of the Pacific Islands regiment, and he thought all was set to conscript the remainder of the natives of Papua and New Guinea into a new force in order to defend our native land. Having recently visited New Guinea as a member of a parliamentary delegation, I can tell the people of Australia that there is not a gun in New Guinea that could be used in the defence of Australia.
We have heard a lot of talk about Manus Island and what the Labour government did in relation to it. What happened was that the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, and the present leader of our great party, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), refused to hand over one of our possessions to America unless, as a reciprocal arrangement, it granted to us a base off the American coast. That is the real story about Manus Island. I think our leader acted with great propriety in refusing to be stood over by any other nation, irrespective of what nation it was, and in that respect he had the full support of the Labour party.
– Tell us more about the fuzzy-wuzzies.
– About the Minister’s fuzzy-wuzzy army? I think the people of Australia should ever remember that the first gem of thought that proceeded from the mind of the new Minister for the Army when he discovered that he had more than £20,000,000 to spend on wages and salaries alone, not including his own salary, was that there should be an enlarged Pacific Islands Regiment which would be able to defend the northern coast of Australia. I return now to the question of our air defences. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), who is an ex-airforce man, agreed that we should have an air defence umbrella right around Australia. He is only a new member of the Parliament, and I should like to inform him and the people of Australia that in 194S that was the idea of Ben Chifley, the then leader of the Labour party, that there should be an air defence right around Australia and that radar detection equipment should be installed right around Australia.
Order! The honorable member’s dme has expired.
.- The committee has just seen democracy at work. lt would have been extraordinarily humorous if it were not so dangerous. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) has been deriding our defence forces, taking down our defences and doing everything he could to deride the work of the Government in a vital branch of its responsibility. I should like to know whether he could speak in that way in the parliament of another nation which has built the second greatest navy in the world in the last ten years, which counts its divisions, fully armed and equipped and thoroughly mechanized, by the hundred, which has probably the greatest air force in the world to-day, ready for war, and which has the greatest fleet of submarines - offensive weapons - that the world has ever seen.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has derided men who have given their lives to the service of this country. He has derided their rank without having any knowledge of the reasons why they are in the services or what they are there to do other than to interpose themselves between the honorable member and the enemy. That is the sort of speech that the committee has heard in the last two hours, during the Opposition’s attack on the Government’s defence policy. It might be described as attacking the Government’s defence policy with the jawbone of an ass, because that is about what it is.
Now I should like to go back a little into the past. In my electioneering I have often met the statement, “ Because Mr. Menzies could not run the country before the war, he was thrown out of office “. It is common knowledge that that was done by political means, by using two members who succeeded in getting extraordinarily good jobs later. It was not the country that took action to put the right honorable gentleman out of office. “ Hansard “ records that Mr. Curtin said, two months after taking office, that there was nothing he could do to improve the defences of the country. Yet Opposition members have claimed credit for the defences that were in existence when Labour took office. They have no right to make that claim.
Why do we have these admirals and generals? Do honorable members imagine that if conditions changed, divisions could suddenly be raised and equipped with officers? Do Opposition members realize that in any army in the world, one must first build officer cadres and noncommissioned officer cadres and that they must be trained before recruits are taken in? ls it not the first element of a defence policy? We cannot in a democracy, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, maintain vast defence forces as they are maintained in Russia or as Hitler maintained them in Germany before the war. The democratic countries have to prepare cadres and raise divisions with war equipment when they can. Otherwise, we could not enjoy the standard of living that we enjoy in Australia to-day. To compare the number of men in the ranks with the number of commissioned men in the forces and to ridicule the result is just plain ignorant nonsense. I feel very sorry for the betterclass men in the Opposition who have to listen to their speakers such as the honorable member for East Sydney deriding these things.
In this chamber, the statement is continually made that the Prime Minister warned that we would have war in three years. Why have we not had war in three years? I shall tell honorable members the reason. Subsequent to the last war, the democracies - the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France and all the other free nations that won World War II. - completely disarmed. The socialists did not. Then the democracies suddenly realized, with the Korean incident, that war might come. The reason there was no war was that the democracies pulled up their socks and expended a vast amount of treasure. They made such defence preparations that no war came. That was why the money was spent. It was worth spending £1,000,000.000 on that purpose alone. But Opposition members cannot see this. They do not face the intelligentsia. They play to the rabble. The fact that war has been averted proves the value of the expenditure that has been undertaken by this Government.
Some wild charges have been made. It is easy to ask, “ What have you got to show for the expenditure on defence? “ Well, we can show the cost of maintaining large forces to fight in two minor types of wars. All those costs are included in these-
– No, they are not!
– What does it cost to maintain 12,000 infantrymen in Korea? What does it cost to maintain 6,000 naval men in action in Korea? What does it cost for 2.000 airmen in Korea? All that expenditure was met from amounts provided by this Government. It is quite easy to deride these things. It is quite easy to say, “What have you got for the money? “ The Labour party has had six years in Opposition. In any year it could have attacked this aspect of the budget. But has it done so? Of course not! Now, for political purposes, it does so. I feel that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has adequately answered the frivolous charges that have been made. Those charges are designed, not to secure the increase of our defences, not to make Australia stronger, but to get some cheap political advantage out of the situation.
Defence policy is an integral part of our foreign policy. Only two months ago there was every possibility of peace. We thought that the change of attitude in Russia would bring us peace. Suddenly, out of a blue sky, came the risk of war. That was due to one small incident concerning the Suez Canal. The Opposition will say, “ Oh, it is not dangerous “. But every member on our side of the chamber has a sense of responsibility to this nation and realizes that the situation is dangerous. The Opposition says, “ Now we have the United Nations “. One cannot change human nature. The Opposition says, “ Take these matters to arbitration and conciliation and they will all be fixed “. Well, let us try that in our own domestic affairs. If Opposition members contend that these matters can be settled by arbitration, why do they not take the new Democratic Labour party to arbitration? Will they do so? Of course not! They know jolly well that just as conciliation does not work in their ordinary domestic affairs, it will not work in international affairs. [ am sure there is not one ex-serviceman on the Labour side who wishes to see a war. No ex-serviceman ever does. Probably we have a few more ex-servicemen on the Government side of the chamber than there are on the Opposition side. But out of the blue sky came the risk of war. As long as Russia has a tremendous force of men ready for war, in the next 50 years incidents could be created at any time. If the Russians want to use incidents, they will use incidents. Opposition members know that, and I know it.
If we do not spend this money on defence, who will bear the responsibility of defending the country? Opposition members say that this expenditure is not neces-
Nary. At the last general election, they advocated the reduction of the defence vote by £50,000,000. They say that we have nothing to show for the money that we have spent on defence. But they were prepared to risk this nation by reducing the vote by £50,000,000 a year! They fail to take into consideration the question of responsibility. They think that the problem is quite easy to solve. They get into office; they increase pensions. But if our country is occupied, if we lose our country, to whom will they answer? It is quite easy now to say, “ There is no war “. At any moment, we might find in office a person who has no sense of responsibility to the nation.
As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) has said, Opposition members could ask for a reduction of the defence vote, or they could ask for an increase. There are very good grounds for asking for an increase, but they did not do that. At the present moment we have more the cadre on which to build strong forces, and it is a well-balanced cadre indeed. I do not propose to canvass the value of the Air Force, the Army or the Navy - particularly the Navy because immediately astern of me is a very strong supporter of the Navy.
I am not one of those who believe that it is possible to fight push-button wars. The next war need not necessarily be an atomic conflict. Probably exactly the same orthodox weapons will be used as were used in the last war. Consequently, as long as we have a well-balanced defence we ought tobe right. It will not be possible to save this country with one arm of defence alone, such, as the Air Force by itself, or only the Army or only the Navy. We will need balanced: forces of all arms.
I am greatly interested in the national service training scheme. Honorable members opposite have asked what is the use of training youths in what they know already. In the final analysis, in war, men kill men and the same methods of killing will always be adopted for the next 150 years. It is essential, therefore, that men should receive basic training such as is provided in the Citizen Military Forces and under the national service training scheme. If, in the latter part of the Malayan campaign, I had had men as well-trained as are those who have received national service training, many more Australian servicemen would have returned from that war The fact that many of those Malayan campaigners were untrained was a grave disadvantage. The men who have received training under the national service training scheme are competent to look after themselves, but that training does not go far enough. I hope that, when the defence authorities are reviewing defence preparations, they will retain the national service training scheme. AH nations comparable with Australia train drafts of men for fifteen to eighteen months. In a young country like Australia we can hardly be expected to have such long periods of training, but I should like the training period to extend over six full months. That would prove to be cheaper in the end.
The national service training scheme has been a tremendous success, and there are now about 180,000 men - seven or eight divisions - who have received basic training at a very reasonable cost. According to the figures, the cost has been about £575 a man, and in terms of Navy. Army and Air Force expenditure that is a comparatively small sum. It is most important that a continual stream of trainees should be undergoing basic instruction, because we never know what might happen and the least a nation, which is responsible to its manpower, can do is to train them so that when an emergency arises they will be able to undertake its defence. An untrained man has no chance in war, and is an easy prey for the enemy.
People who have been listening to the broadcast of these proceedings to-night will not be proud of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition, after hearing the kind of criticism that has been voiced by honorable members opposite. It is something to be seriously deprecated, and I am certain that it does not represent the view of the decent members of the Opposition. I do not include the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) in that comment because he was reasonable and fair in what he said, but the other members of the Opposition who have spoken have no reason to be proud of their contribution to the debate.
– So far in this debate Government members have given a remarkable display of dodging the issue. What is the real contest between the Government and members of the Opposition? First of all, there is no disagreement as to the need for the proper defence of Australia. The gravamen of our complaint is the policy being applied by this Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that after spending £1,000,000,000 of the Australian taxpayers’ money on defence, he finds it necessary to call his Ministers of State and the chiefs of the defence forces together to work out a modern plan of defence. Such a statement brands this Government as the greatest bungling administration Australia has ever had in making defence preparations. But that is the kind of defence administration that has existed ever since this Government came into office.
The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to-night referred to the fact that early in World War II. the one man in this country who showed great leadership, the late John Curtin, who had a Cabinet around him of which we are all proud to-day, made a statement two months after he assumed office that everything in the garden was lovely so far as Australia’s defence organization was concerned. The Minister knows that when the new
Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Curtin) took over, the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was suffering from stab wounds in the back which he had received at the hands of his erstwhile supporters. In those circumstances, the first thing the Curtin Labour Government had to do was to create confidence in the minds of the Australian people by saying that defence preparations were in good shape.
To-day, however, we are faced with a situation created by the bungling of this Government, and we should be lacking in our duty as an Opposition if we did not criticize the Government for failing to make adequate preparations for the defence of Australia. The Minister for Defence criticized the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments for selling £100,000,000 worth of war materiel after the war, and said that there was a deficiency as a result of that sale. Suppose that statement were true, it is an admission by the Minister that he and his Cabinet colleagues, and the heads of his defence staff, are still thinking in terms of the conditions of 1945. The Minister says that he still has £400,000,000 worth of equipment stored for the use of defence forces. It is open to suggest that, in the review that is to be made, at least £200,000,000 worth of that equipment will be found to be obsolete.
The Government has spent an average of £200,000,000 a year for five years, but to-day there is not a road in Australia over which the 900 troops, which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) wanted to send to Egypt, could move if we wanted to send them anywhere within the continent. This country has not rail transport adequate to shift even a small body of troops from one point to another.
I am convinced that until the Government is removed from office, and an administration of the type led by the late John Curtin is placed in control, Australia will not have the overall defence protection to which it is entitled. Last year, the Government spent £61,500,000 on partly training a few Australian youths. When the whole of the defence vote is placed alongside the Government’s defence programme, what else can be done but to accuse the Government of bungling the defence of Australia? It has spent £200,000.000 a year, but has done nothing to make adequate provision for Australia’s protection. Is it that this Government believes that its only responsibility is to train troops in order to send them out of Australia to fight in theatres of war overseas? Is it that the Government believes that it has not a responsibility to see that we have efficient roads, railways and the like adequate to handle the real national defence of Australia in conjunction with the armed forces? Or does the Government believe, as I think it believes, that its only responsibility in respect of defence is to send Australian forces out to fight in some other sphere, as has always been the policy of governments of its kidney right down the years?
If the implication by the Minister for Defence that the Labour Government’s action at the end of 1945 in disposing of £100,000,000 worth of defence equipment was something detrimental to our present war effort is in keeping with the Minister’s actual thinking, one must come to the conclusion that the time has arrived for some of the back-benchers on the Government side to do something about our defence needs. Some of them actually know something about those needs, and I wonder how long they will stand by inactive and watch the results of the woolly-headed thinking of the old people who are at present guiding our armed forces. If ever there was woollyheaded thinking we had it to-night from the Minister for Defence, whose attempt to defend the Government was in line with the Government’s own record of defence - not much good. He did not at any stage of his address give this Parliament or the people of Australia one word of explanation of the reason for the complete review of the nation’s defences that the Prime Minister talks about. Perhaps the Prime Minister was upset when he found that the Minister for the Army had only 900 troops to send to Egypt to help to protect the Suez Canal. Maybe he realizes that the Government is going about things the wrong way by cutting down the vote for the Navy at a time when we have not one really modern fighter in our Air Force. I do not know, but I do know that after spending £1,000,000,000 on defence in five years we could not put up a good show against an army of niggers armed with bows and arrows. That is our position to-day as a result of the Government’s policy. I can visualize, if war came, the same sort of thing going on in the Government as went on in the first Menzies Government in 1941. The members of the Government would want to shift their responsibilities on to somebody else, as the Minister for Defence attempted to do to-night. That Minister, in the event of war, would want to shift his responsibility on to somebody else because of the failure of the Government to provide, after the expenditure of £1,000,000,000, any proper defence in Australia.
Look at it as we like, that is exactly the situation that the Labour Government found in 1941. We would be faced by the same situation if we were to come into office again now. We should have to do as we did in 1941. First, we should have to rebuild the morale of the Australian people so as to bring them to the pitch of being able to defend themselves, before we could hope to get a war effort from them. That was what the Curtin Government had to do in 1941, and that would be the position to-day, because move where we like around Australia we cannot find any confidence in the Government’s defence policy.
There is no reason why we should not have a proper, co-ordinated defence programme. If we can find £1 90,00 J.000 for a defence scheme such as the Government has provided for in these Estimates, surely we can find the money to provide the roads and the railways over which our troops would have to move in the event of war, more particularly in the event of any threat to the integrity of our soil. Does the Government believe that it can assist in the defence of the coastline of Australia by cutting down expenditure on the Navy while we have not one modern fighter aircraft in this country? Where do we think we can get by talking in the terms used by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) when he said that the Government had played its part in the defence of this country by spending £1,000,000,000 on defence? He said that the real reason that we did not have a third world war in 1953, as predicted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menizes), was because aroused democracy pulled its socks up. All I can say is that if democracy pulled its socks up in the same way as the Government has hoisted its hose in the last six years, it is a poor lookout for the free world. After spending an enormous amount of money on defence the Government now finds it necessary to call a conference of service chiefs and service Ministers in an attempt to do something about modern defence requirements. If that is the pattern of defence in the democratic countries, God help them!
– Does the honorable member condemn the democracies?
– We are not condemning the democracies. We believe in defence of the countries of the free world. But what is the first step that should be taken in the defence of Australia? It is surely the provision of a military organization that can defend the country at any point of danger. We know that such an organization is apparently beyond the Government’s concept of defence, and we also know - and this is our criticism of the Government - that after an expenditure of £1,000,000,000 on defence, including this year’s estimated expenditure of £190.000,000, the defences of Australia are in a worse position than they were when the Labour Government came into office in 1941. My reason for making that statement is that when Labour assumed office in 1941, and when the American forces with their equipment began to land here to reinforce the Australian forces, we at least had a road system that could handle the passage of troops and materiel from point to point of this continent. But that is something that we have not got to-day. Incidentally, during the war the Labour government was condemned in many quarters for turning to the United States of America for aid. Our road system throughout Australia is such that we could not despatch forces to points of danger on our coastline or anywhere else. Imagine what the position would be if we wanted to move troops from Victoria to Wagga Wagga to-night to meet a war eventuality. If heavy rain had fallen recently, we would not be able to get them past the first bog over the New South Wales border. We have spent £1,000,000,000 on defence under this Government, and we have not the wherewithal to move even the 900 troops promised by the Minister for the Army for the defence of Suez, between Sydney and Melbourne, with their equipment. Yet, the Government boasts about what it has done in relation to our defence.
The Labour party is not exposing the Government’s colossal defence failures merely for political propaganda purposes. What we are doing is something realistic for the future of Australia and its people. We are sheeting home the responsibility where it rightly belongs. We say to the Government, quite frankly and honestly, “ Yes, we believe you should have a defence programme for Australia, but we also believe that, having spent £1,000,000,000 on defence in the last five years, and having had six years in which to do something really concrete about our defences, you should be able to do more than do as the Minister for Defence did to-night when he attempted to bluff his way through the debate and hide the Government’s obvious failings “. We place the responsibility for our present plight fairly and squarely where it belongs. We say that it is time the Government had a look at the whole defence situation. We know full well that no country can have defence without making sacrifices; but we know that if sacrifices must be made the people whom we ask to make those sacrifices are entitled to value for them and value for the money expended on defence. We know, too, that the Australian people are not getting value for the money expended on defence. Certainly, the Minister for Defence has proved conclusively, to-night, that the people are not getting that value. It is a poor show when the only defence that the Government can put forward for its failure to guard the security of the country is the sort of talk we had from the Minister for Defence tonight about what the Labour government did in disposing of defence equipment that was no longer required.
Let me conclude on this note: The Labour government came into office in 1941 because the Labour party was fighting for Australia. It did not come into office as a result of a barrage of political propaganda, because when John Curtin was Leader of the Opposition, prior to the fall of the first Menzies Government, he offered the Government all the support he could in any attempts it made to do the right thing in relation to Australia’s defence. But the first Menzies Government failed, as the present Menzies Government is failing, to measure up to the nation’s requirements, and if war broke out to-morrow, we would be faced with a similar situation to that with which we were faced in 1941, when Labour had to come into office to put the country into shape for a real war effort. If the back-benchers on the Government side of the chamber were honest-
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I understand that progress is to be reported about 11 p.m., but I should like to take a few minutes of the short time remaining to review some of the foolish charges that have been made this evening by the Opposition. Since I intend to speak on Tuesday evening I shall leave other matters until then.
– The Minister must discuss them this evening, not on Tuesday evening.
– I shall discuss them when I want to. I shall not submit to dictation.
I shall begin by saying that the statements made by Opposition members this evening are consistent with their attitude to the defence services at all times. Never since I became a member of this Parliament in 1949 have I heard a debate on defence matters in which the Opposition has offered any encouragement, support, or help, or made any suggestion for the benefit of Australia. When this Government proposed to introduce national service training, the scheme was bitterly opposed by all Opposition members. The organization of the recruiting campaign also was bitterly opposed. The Government’s proposal to send forces to Malaya was opposed bitterly. The Opposition has opposed and ridiculed every defence proposal that has been advanced by the Government.
Some Opposition members have made utterly stupid statements. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) and others said that the number of officers was too great compared with the number of men in the other ranks in the Army, and ridiculed the Army on that account. They purported to advance sensible arguments by adding the number of officers, non-commissioned officers and privates, as shown in the Estimates, and making a total of 26,000 army personnel, although they know, or ought to know, that those figures show the establishment, not the effective force, which numbers- 23,000. They have been told this many times, but they are not interested enough to remember it. If they examine the Estimates they will see that certain amounts are not expected to be spent. This indicates that there are not in fact 26,000 members of the Australian Regular Army. As I have said, there are only 23,000 members. This shows the utter stupidity of some Opposition members. Surely they know that the Regular Army is engaged in a great number of duties in which the services of officers and other ranks are required as instructors.
– What jobs do they do?’
– I shall tell the honorable member some of the jobs they do. In the first place, the Australian Regular Army provides the regular field force. Does the honorable member know that we have 1,440’ army men in Malaya?
– Why are they there?
– Of course, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) doe& not want them to be there. They are there because this Government is defending Australia and taking its proper part in the defence scheme in the Pacific. The Australian Regular Army also provides the component for reinforcement of the Malaya force and for forces elsewhere. In addition, it does a major job in training national service trainees. I think the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) stated that the Government had spent £61,000,000 merely on training a few youths. That is hardly a sensible statement to make in the National Parliament. Surely the honorable member does not think that is all that the Army does! When we examine the matter, we see that the Australian Regular Army officers who have been so much ridiculed by Opposition members control a total of 140,000 army personnel, not merely 23,000 or 26,000. That figure does not include the great number of national service trainees who are now on the inactive list. It includes the current national service intake of 9,332, the men on the Citizen Military Force active list, who number almost 80,000, and 33,000 cadets. In addition, there are on the inactive list 59.000 national service trainees who havecompleted the training given to them by Australian Regular Army personnel.
– They are on the reserve.
– Under the existing system they are on the reserve, but they are part of the Army and were trained by the Australian Regular Army, the work of which I am describing in order to demonstrate that the Opposition’s criticism on this score is ridiculous. In addition, there are many schools and training establishments in which a great number of Australian Regular Army personnel are engaged in training men.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! Apparently Opposition members think they can ridicule the business of the committee. It is considering a serious matter, and I ask the Opposition to maintain order.
– 1 am just stating the facts. 1 think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) mentioned the comparison between maintenance and capital expenditure and ridiculed the Government because he considered expenditure on maintenance was too great in comparison with capital expenditure. 1 just want to remind him of the Labour government’s record in this matter in its last year of administration, because it is pertinent to the honorable member’s argument. 1 think he is reasonable enough to examine this matter for his own edification. I am discussing not the entire expenditure on defence, but only the expenditure on the Army, for which I am now the responsible Minister. In its last year of office the Labour government’s provision for expenditure on the Army was £16,010,000, whereas the proposed vote for the Army in the current financial year is £61,440,000. The Labour government provided for 92.8 per cent, of the Army vote to be spent on maintenance in the financial year 1949-50, and only 7.2 per cent, on capital equipment. I admit that the present Government proposes to spend a greater sum on maintenance in the current financial year than the Labour administration provided for, but this represents only 79.7 per cent, of the Army vote, 20.3 per cent, of which will be spent on capital equipment. These figures show that the Opposition is not in a position to criticize this aspect of the present Government’s administration.
One can go further and point out that in 1949-50 the Labour Government provided for 46.3 per cent, of the vote for the Australian Regular Army to be spent on pay and general expenses, whereas the figure for the current financial year is 36.4 per cent. The Labour administration provided for 18.4 per cent, of the vote to be spent on civilian pay in 1949-50, whereas the figure for the current financial year is 6.9 per cent. Of course, under the Labour administration nothing was spent on the national service training scheme, on which 12.9 per cent, of the vote will be spent in the current financial year. In 1949-50, Labour provided for 4 per cent, of the vote to be spent on the Citizen Military Force, whereas the figure for the current financial year is 1.4 per cent. Labour provided for 2.5 per cent, of the vote to be spent on capital equipment in 1949-50, whereas the percentage for the current financial year is 14.9 per cent. In its last budget the Labour government provided for 4.7 per cent, of the vote to be spent on accommodation, whereas the proportion in these Estimates is 5.6 per cent. Under Labour’s administration the Australian Regular Army numbered only about 14,000 men, whereas at the present time we have, as is shown by the figures I have cited, a total Army of 140,000 men. If that does not show that this Government has made progress in the short time it has been in office, I should like to know what progress is. 1 wish to mention just one other matter, which concerns the comparison between expenditure on the Army and the total budget expenditure in 1949-50 and 1955-56. In 1949-50 the budget expenditure totalled ‘ £544,000,000. Last financial year it was £1,123,000,000. In 1949-50 Labour provided for 2.9 per cent, of its total budget expenditure to be devoted to the Army, whereas the figure for 1955-56 was 5.5 per cent. These figures show clearly what the Labour government thought of defence and what this Government thinks of it.
– It indicates that the present Government has been extravagant.
– That is only the right honorable gentleman’s opinion. What is the relationship between expenditure on the Army and the gross national product, which in 1949-50 totalled £2,693,000,000, and in 1955-56, £4,832,000,000? Expenditure on the Army provided for by the Labour Government in 1949-50 represented . 59 per cent. of the gross national product, whereas last financial year the figure was 1.27 per cent. 1 have cited all these figures only to show that Labour’s whole policy on defence is to reduce expenditure. It did not wish to defend the country when it was in office, and does not think this Government should defend it now. We have heard cry after cry from the Labour party to reduce defence expenditure by £50,000,000 or so, and use that money for this, that, or the other purpose. God help Australia if we are ever going to relax our defence preparedness! 1 shall say more about that subject next Tuesday, but, surely, at a time such as this, knowing what confronts us in the world, we should be recreant to our duty if we did not spend adequately and build up a proper defence structure in this country.
Labour has been opposed to adequate defence preparations at all times, and has endeavoured to nullify the efforts of the Government in every possible way. It has never been any help to the country, and has always attempted to frustrate the Government in its efforts to build up a defence system adequate for our needs. It is about time that we received some co-operation and some constructive suggestions from the Labour party which might justify its position in this Parliament as the Opposition. I hope that the debate next Tuesday on this matter will be on a much more elevated plane than the debate to-night, and that we shall receive from the Opposition some genuine suggestions as to how we may improve our defences, instead of receiving merely criticisms that in many instances are not related to facts and which do not help this country in any shape or form, or the people who will defend this country should the need arise.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The position as confirmed by the Government’s legal advisers is as follows: -
t asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
What amounts were collected in customs duties in each State in the years 1954-55 and 1955-56 on goodsimportedbythe by theStategovernmentfor its own use or that of any of its instrumentalities or local-governing bodies?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Goods imported by State governments are subject to normal rates of customs duty and separate statistics are not kept of such importations. To provide the information sought by the honorable member it would be necessary to examine copies of all entries passed in all States of the Commonwealth over the period concerned. Moreover, the figures so obtained could not be regarded as final as in some instances the goods may have been purchased either through a contractor or from stock previously imported by a commercial firm under their own respective names. In such cases it would be necessary to refer to each State government to ascertain the extent of those importations. For these reasons the honorable member will appreciate that the information he seeks is not readily available.
son asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Mr.Crean asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What permits for ship construction outside Australia have been granted to shipping companiesoperating in Australia?
For what kinds of vessels have the permitsbeen granted?
Were some of the contracts for construction of these vessels let in Great Britain?
Is it a fact that, because of pressure of work, in shipping yards in Great Britain, some contracts have been diverted to other countries including Germany and Japan?
Has any of the projected construction for Australian companies been affected by the circumstances in British shipping yards?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following replies: - 1 and 2. Current approvals granted to Australian companies to have vessels constructed overseas after investigation had shown Australian prices and delivery dates were not comparable, together with the type of vessel, are as follows: -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable, member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19561004_reps_22_hor13/>.