22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– 1 ask the Minister for External Affairs whether, in relation to proceedings before the Security Council of the United Nations Organization over the Suez dispute, he can report further on any developments, especially developments towards mediation and conciliation between the main disputants.
– Yes, there are one or two things that I think the right honorable gentleman and the House might care to know. The Security Council met in closed session and then adjourned for 48 hours to allow private discussions between the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, France and Egypt. According to our information, those private discussions are still continuing. There are two matters in particular about which we received information yesterday and about which I think the House might be interested to hear briefly. The first is the gist of a proposal that was made by Mr. Shepilov, the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, on the day before yesterday Australian time; in which he put forward four or five bases for an agreement. They were these: There should be freedom of passage through the canal for all ships on the basis of equality in regard to navigational and commercial tolls; Egypt should undertake to ensure freedom of passage, security, maintenance and improvement of the canal and submit regular information to the United Nations on the functioning of the canal; all parties to agree not to commit acts which might infringe the inviolability of the canal or inflict material damage; the establishment of appropriate forms of co-operation between Egypt and the users; there should be established a consultative body representing the interests of the users, and a committee, as he described it, could also be instructed to draw up a draft convention to replace the 1888 convention and prepare for an international conference to be attended by all States using the canal to approve the draft.
On the same day Mr. Dulles, the American Secretary of State, made a statement, the main points of which were as follows: It was the duty of the United Nations to seek a peaceful settlement in accordance with justice and international law; the conference in London and the Suez Canal users conference were evidence of the desire of the users for a peaceful settlement; the 1888 convention guaranteed for all time the international character of the canal, so that the efforts of the users’ association to secure their own rights was not in violation of Egyptian sovereignty; and the 18-power proposals were a means of just settlement. He rejected the Soviet proposal to refer the matter to a committee, but # he thought that the Egyptian suggestion, which was made just prior to the Russian suggestion, for a negotiating body was more constructive. He also thought that if Egypt accepted the principle that the canal was not to be used by any one country as an instrument of national policy, that all remaining problems were capable of solution. Finally, he said that the United Kingdom-French resolution embodied the basic principles for a settlement, and that the United States supported it and stood for it. Those are the only two speeches that 1 think the honorable member would care to know about. The private discussions - the to and fro private discussions between the principal protagonists - are still in progress, after which, I presume from the telegrams that we have had, the closed session of the Security Council will be continued.
– Will the Minister for Health confer with his colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, in an endeavour to improve conditions at the repatriation head-quarters in Hobart? The conditions for the staff at that place are considerably below standard, the general office is more like a barn than proper accommodation for about 40 persons and the office equipment is antiquated. The reception portion of the building for those who come for interviews has much the same degree of cheerfulness as the Old Bailey. Will the Minister urge his colleague to consider making proper provision for interviews to be held in private and for giving this building a general facelift so that there will be a pleasant and warm atmosphere in this section?
– I have no personal knowledge of the conditions at the offices, but I shall bring the matter before my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. In view of the statement by the Minister for the Army that Army head-quarters should be moved from Melbourne to Canberra at the earliest possible moment, will he prepare a statement for the information of honorable members showing the dates upon which it is estimated that the central offices of all Commonwealth departments still in Melbourne will be transferred to Canberra? When will the Royal mints ita Melbourne and Perth be transferred to Canberra? When will the head-quarters of the Commonwealth Bank and the head-quarters of the Australian Broadcasting Commission be transferred from Sydney to Canberra? Finally, in view of the fact that the Government has grossly over-taxed the Australian community in each of its seven years of office, why has so little been done by this Government to complete the plans laid down by the Chifley Government to make Canberra the national capital in fact as well as in name?
– The honorable member has opened up a fairly wide section of territory in his questions-
– Very vulnerable, too!
– I do not agree. I cannot give the honorable member for Herbert detailed answers to all his questions. I said, in answer to another question a couple of days ago, that there was a good deal of policy content in the question of the movement to Canberra of the headquarters of the defence services. That matter is engaging the attention of the Government at the present moment in connexion with the proposal that the administrative building should be completed in about eighteen months’ time. The matter of moving the Royal Mint is giving a good deal of trouble because of the very nature of those undertakings. A mint is more an industrial undertaking than anything else, and the matter of finding an adequate site in Canberra, where a mint would fit into the plan, requires a good deal of study and attention. The Treasury also is vitally interested in that matter. With regard to the development of Canberra as the national capital, the honorable member will appreciate that there are tremendous demands on such funds as are available for construction work throughout Australia. He knows something of the magnitude of “the public works programmes at this time, and Canberra at this stage is getting a very reasonable share of the amounts which can be set aside for this sort of work. The honorable member referred to the plans laid down by the Chifley Government for the development of Canberra. If there is anything plain about the problems of Canberra, it is the ease with which decisions can be made without accepting the full implications of those decisions and the cost of putting them into effect.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that, for some years, at any rate, in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, a red light has been affixed in front of the Speaker’s desk to enable him to warn a member addressing the House that his speaking time will expire in two minutes, so giving the member an opportunity to conclude his remarks with dignity and even, sometimes, wilh eloquence? Will you give earnest consideration to the introduction of that system in this chamber?
– I will consider the suggestion made by the honorable member and advise him of any decision arrived at in respect of it.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a statement made at the annual conference of the Australian Automobile Association yesterday by the president of that body that, in view of the urgent need for road funds, the Australian Automobile Association believed that motorists, in a spirit of co-operation, would willingly continue to pay the extra 3d. a gallon on petrol recently imposed by the Government as a temporary measure, provided that the proceeds were all used in the implementation of a road programme? Will the Government give serious and early consideration to this suggestion, because of the rapid deterioration of roads all over the Commonwealth?
– My attention has not been directed to the statement, but I shall, of course, read it with great interest.
– Has the Minister for Immigration read in a Melbourne publication of yesterday’s date a statement that his department was unaware that a woman concerned in a current investigation in that city by the department was an illegal immigrant? Is it not a fact that the Department of Immigration deals with many cases of desertion from ships during the course of each year?
– I understand that a statement did appear to the effect that a weakness had been demonstrated in the administration of the Department of Immigration in that apparently the department was unaware of the desertion from a ship by the woman concerned until the fact had been brought to public notice by the publication of a report in the press. That comment illustrates one of the difficulties confronting us in this place in our efforts to get the facts of any situation over to the public, because any honorable gentleman who cared to study the detailed report which I made available to the Parliament and to the press yesterday will be aware that the department knew of the desertion by this particular woman from a ship in the port of Brisbane about six weeks before the statement .appeared in the newspaper referred to. She was actually on our deserters’ list for that number of weeks before any publication occurred. It is, indeed, a fact that there are many desertions from ships in the course of the year in Australia, as in any country which is visited by shipping from other parts of the world, but with co-operation between the Department of Immigration and the police we are generally effective in locating the deserters and deporting them. In fact, in the course of the last two years some 158 persons have been apprehended and deported after deserting from their ships.
– In the absence of the Treasurer I ask the Prime Minister the following questions: Does the right honorable gentleman not consider that postage stamps are the tools of trade of politicians? Can he tell the House whether there is any parliament anywhere in the world, with the exception of the Commonwealth Parliament, which does not provide a stamp allowance to its members?
– The answer is that 1 do not know.
– The right honorable gentleman has travelled a lot.
– When I travel 1 do not concentrate my attention on finding out whether people have stamp allowances. There are some other matters that have to be attended to. But I shall inquire about these stamp allowances and advise the honorable member.
– i wish to direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister in a position to inform the House of the progress being made in drawing up the new dairying industry stabilization plan?
– Within the last few days a time-table for both the beginning and the completion of each stage in the preparation of a new five-year dairying industry stabilization plan has been agreed upon between officers of the Department of Primary Industry and myself. We hope that we shall be able to adhere to that time-table so that we shall know precisely when we should begin negotiations and when we should complete them. The first step will be to confer with the members of the Combined Dairy Industry Committee, which is representative of all sections of the industry. J hope that I shall meet the leaders of the industry this month, or if that is not practicable, during the first week of next month.
– 1 direct to the Minister for Social Services a question relating to a matter raised last Thursday by my colleague, the honorable member for Port Adelaide. In view of the announcement by Mr. Speaker yesterday that the Social Services Bill 1956 had received the royal assent, can the Minister now give specific information as to the date from which the increased benefits payable in respect of dependent children of qualified invalid and widow pensioners will take effect? Can he also inform the House the date of the pension day on which the increases will be paid to qualified pensioners?
– 1 am indebted to the honorable member for this question. Following the announcement made yesterday by you, Mr. Speaker, that the Social Services Bill 1956 had received the royal assent, ii is my pleasure to say that the increased rates of pension payable to qualified invalid pensioners with more than one child will be paid to-day. They will be paid to qualified widows with more than one child next Tuesday, 1 6th October, lt is estimated that some 10,500 widows, some 6.000 invalids, and lens of thousands of children will benefit. The House will appreciate That considerable investigation must necessarily precede the payment of the increased benefits. If for any reason unavoidable delays occur, the payments will be made retrospectively.
– I direct to the Minister for Labour and National Service a question concerning the trade union movement’s proposal to organize a nation-wide industrial stoppage. Do the reports reaching the Department of Labour and National Service indicate that there are great differences of opinion among trade union members themselves, and can the Minister inform me whether the movement in Western Australia is reconsidering the decision it has already made in this matter?
– Such information as I have received indicates that this matter has not yet been finally resolved. As I have told the House previously, it is -vident that there are strong differences of opinion among trade unionists themselves about the advisability of holding such a stoppage. I myself have stressed both the futility and wastefulness of action of this kind, which cannot fail to do damage both to unionists themselves and to Australia’s economic prestige. But it should be of some interest to the House to know that, after a very close vote at the original congress - I believe it was 174 to 168 after a number of delegates had left the conference - the divisions have persisted. At the recent meeting of the interstate executive, there was the barest majority in favour of recommending the stoppage. At subsequent meetings of the trades and labour councils, these divisions have also been apparent. Two of them were strongly against the stoppage. At the critical vote in Western Australia recently, again there was quite a narrow majority, but that vote was not taken by a trades and labour council. Apparently, in Western Australia, these matters are resolved by the political section of the movement.
– They form one body.
– The honorable member for Blaxland has interjected that they constitute one body, but my information is that there is also a Metropolitan Trades Union Industrial Council in Perth. The interesting point is that, while the political body decided in favour of the stoppage by a not very substantial majority, when the Metropolitan Trades Union Industrial Council met, it voted the proposition out by 33 votes to one. Those are the representatives who are directly concerned. In addition, it would appear from press reports that the largest union in Australia, the Australian Workers Union, has decided quite definitely against participating. Reports that are coming in show that many other unions are not prepared to take part, either. In those circumstances, it is eminently desirable that the Western Australian body should meet and reconsider its decision, i hope it will reach one that is more in accordance with trade union opinion in that State.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of the growing unemployment in the shipbuilding, maintenance and repair industry, particularly in the port of Sydney? As three of the six major shipbuilding yards in the Commonwealth are situated in the port of Sydney, will the Minister bring the matter before Cabinet so that it may discuss measures to combat unemployment, including a proposal that the Australian Shipbuilding Board should place some of its proposed new building contracts in that important shipbuilding centre?
– I shall examine the circumstances in the industry to which the honorable member has referred, but I believe it would be undesirable if. as a result of a series of questions about employment problems in particular sections of industry, any general impression were created that there was growing unemployment in Australia. In point of fact, although there have been retrenchments in some directions, and transfers of workers, the overall position in recent weeks has shown a decline in the number of recipients of unemployment benefit throughout Australia.
– Does not the Minister get sick of saying that?
– I do not get sick of telling the truth which, apparently, is not palatable to honorable members on the Opposition side. That is the general picture as suggested by official and authorative opinion that is coming to me. That does not mean that, in some particular section or other, there may not be a decline in the rate of activity formerly obtaining, but the policy of the Government, and its responsibility, are to endeavour to maintain sufficient buoyancy in the economy to ensure that there are adequate opportunities, for persons who are able and willing, to obtain jobs.
– Can the Minister for Health indicate whether supplies of Salk vaccine may be released to State governments additional to the quotas originally approved? In Western Australia, the State Minister for Health has agreed to increase the immunization programme to cover certain river districts before the summer vacation, provided extra doses of the vaccine can be supplied. As a specific request has been submitted, will the Minister undertake to give sympathetic and practical consideration to this move to protect some 7,000 to 8,000 children, prior to a recognized danger period?
– The position is that . when the poliomyelitis vaccination campaign was commenced a programme was laid down based on a certain monthly production of vaccine, and an allotment to each of the States. This programme was arranged by the Poliomyelitis Committee and the National Health and Medical Research Council on which all States are represented, so that every State knew from the start what its allotment would be and at what rate it would receive supplies of vaccine. The aim is to use virtually all the monthly production because it would not be sound practice to retain vaccine in a sort of reserve because of the danger that it might deteriorate and lose some of its potency. Therefore, it is not possible at this stage to make any major alteration in the rate of issuing vaccine to the States. The original programme was arranged in relation to the amount of vaccine available and the administrative abilities of the States to give the vaccine to recipients. This, in fact, provides a very high rate of giving the vaccine, a rate ahead of any other country carrying out a largescale programme, so that nobody should think that vaccination in Australia is a slow process; in fact it is being done rapidly. If any State now wishes to alter its administrative arrangement, either because it can give the vaccine more rapidly than was at first thought possible or for any other reason, it is not easy to re-adjust the programme. In fact it would be possible to do so in any major way only by taking vaccine from other States if they were not using their full allotment. At present, all States are using their full allotment. So, while it is true that a request has been received from the Government of Western Australia by the Department of Health for more supplies of vaccine, the department can comply with the request only in relation to the supplies that are available and can allot to the Government of Western Australia a major increase of its supply only by withdrawing some vaccine from other States. The department is examining the request of the Government of Western Australia, but it should not be thought that this is a matter in which the rate of issuing that was at first laid down can be rapidly or easily varied.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service relates to the decision of the Minister for Defence Production to dismiss approximately 250 employees from the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. Will the Minister take action to find employment in the Lithgow district for those workers who are to be retrenched? I point out to the Minister that the Lithgow area has already suffered severely because of the dismissals of mine workers and the retrenchment of workers in other industries. In view of the fact that the electrification of the western line is now tapering off and because of other great problems, I ask the Minister to apply himself especially to this problem, to confer with his colleagues to see if it is not possible to find further employment in the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory by the manufacture of commercial orders, and also to explore the probabilities of finding employment in the textile factories and the woollen mill by taking suitable action such as easing import restrictions and also providing orders for the woollen mill so that further employees may be engaged there.
– The Government is not unmindful of the special difficulties which exist in Lithgow and in some other centres, such as Bendigo, where some decentralization of defence activity has taken place and where there may not be the same variety of opportunities of engagement in the industrial field. I do not know how far it is competent for me to go, Mr. Speaker, in my reply to some of the suggestions made by the honorable gentleman, but I assure him that my colleague, the Minister for Defence Production, has looked most carefully at the situation in Lithgow and has it in mind to do whatever can be done to ease any difficulties arising from retrenchments. In our further consideration of this matter, we shall have in mind what has been suggested to us by the honorable gentleman to-day.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the American Labour Party was formally dissolved yesterday in the United States of America? Is he aware also that the collapse of this Labour movement was brought about by the infiltration of its ranks by Communists?
– I was not aware of that dissolution, but 1 am grateful to the honorable member for letting me know of it. It appears that the process of dissolution of the Labour Party is universal.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Has he had any discussions or correspondence with the New South Wales Minister for Works about the possibility of joint Commonwealth-State action to improve the road between Canberra and Tumut, in New South Wales? Does the Minister recognize that the improvement of this road would not only provide a shorter route by road between Canberra and Melbourne, but also would open up a richly productive area that would be of extreme value to the Australian Capital Territory? As the shire of Yarrowlumla has under construction a bridge over the Goodradigbee River - that is, of course, a vital part of the programme - will the Minister give fresh consideration to the improvement of the Australian Capital Territory portion of the road and, possibly, to the joint action that I have referred to for the improvement of the road over its whole length?
– The question of road access to Tumut has recurred from time to time. On the last occasion that I looked at it, there was a prospect that the work on the Commonwealth section of the road would cost £800,000 or £850,000. I appreciate the importance of the road from the viewpoints of access and opening up new country, as well as the effect that it would have on the supply of foodstuffs to Canberra. The matter has been referred to also by my friend, the honorable member for Hume. [ shall have another look at it, but 1 do not think there is much hope at this stage that anything will be done quickly.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Australian Dairy Produce Board made any contributions to research into the problems of the dairy industry in Australia? If so, what is the nature of such contributions?
– 1 can give the honorable gentleman an assurance that the Commonwealth is interested, and has been interested for some time, in the problems, not only of scientific research, but also of extension services. I think that this year the Commonwealth is allocating £250.000 to the extension services fund for the dairy industry and £300,000 to the agricultural extension services fund. The Australian Dairy Produce Board does allot money for research purposes. I do not know how much but, naturally, it would not be anywhere near as great as the allocation made by the Commonwealth. The board allots money for scientific research purposes, particularly pasture research, and for investigations of the problems of management. It gives prizes for management activities. 1 should like to make one other comment in this connexion, particularly as the honorable member for Hume is present. The Commonwealth Bank has recently made available an amount of £70,000 or £80,000 for both scientific and research purposes, and a considerable proportion of it will be available for orchard spray equipment, in which the honorable member has been very interested. If he requires full particulars regarding these advances by the Commonwealth Bank, he may apply to the bank. I am sure that he will be very interested in the matter.
– In the absence of the Minister for Trade, I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Are negotiations proceeding for a trade treaty between Australia and Japan? If so, to what extent, if any, are Australian manufacturing interests being consulted about the matter, or being kept advised of the progress of the negotiations? If negotiations are being conducted, why is the Australian public not informed of the subjects being dealt with and the Government’s attitude in regard to them?
– If the honorable gentleman will discuss this matter with me later, I think I shall be able to give him an answer. To the best of my knowledge, whenever anything of a concrete nature has been decided in connexion with such matters, not only this House but also the public have been fully informed.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the serious delaying tactics being adopted by the Queensland Communist-dominated Trades and Labour Council, in holding up the delivery of wool to wharfs, with the result that ships are leaving Brisbane with empty holds, when the wool is delivered, if the members of the Waterside Workers Federation refuse to load it. will the Government ensure that the wool is shipped without delay?
– I have already indicated to the House that the Commonwealth Government is ready to play any part required of it when the wool becomes available on the wharfs for loading into ships. As the honorable gentleman is, 1 think, aware, that situation has not yet arisen, although I understand that moves have been made in Brisbane this morning to arrange for the dumping of the wool on the wharfs, this being a preliminary to the handling of it by the waterside workers. For some time past a senior officer of the Department of Labour and National Service has been in Brisbane, keeping in the closest touch with the Premier of Queensland, and co-ordinating our arrangements with those of the Premier. I can assure the honorable member that no delay will occur when the Commonwealth assumes responsibility in this matter.
– Does the Prime Minister receive reports from time to time on the Commonwealth Security Service, to enable him to form some opinion of the extent and value of that service? As the Parliament is asked from time to time to vote large amounts of money for this service, can the right honorable gentleman give the House an outline of its activities, and inform honorable members, for instance, of the number of persons employed, any prosecutions that are or have been launched, and the number of subversive elements, if any, that have been tracked down?
– I do not receive periodical reports of a regular kind, but I do have discussions from time to time with the head of the security service, and when I want a report on some specific matter 1 get it. I was about to say that the work of the security service is well known, but it frequently appears to be greatly misunderstood. I do not think any purpose would be served by publishing statistics of the kind referred to by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry give the House any information as to the progress of litigation, known as the Poulton case, in connexion with Joint Organization wool moneys?
– The House will be aware that the Government decided to distribute the balance of the moneys held in trust pending the decision by the High Court as to whether leave to appeal against its decision in the Poulton case would be given. Action has already been taken to distribute the money, as it was thought by the Commonwealth Crown Law officers that there was a justifiable risk in anticipating the court’s decision. I understand that at 10 o’clock this morning the High Court decided not to grant leave to appeal.
– Has the Minister for the Interior had an opportunity to obtain any information additional to that which he was able to provide a couple of days ago regarding the rental reductions available to pensioners occupying Government homes in Canberra, and the rental rebate system under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement?
– The report for which I called following the honorable gentleman’s question is now available, but unfortunately I have not had time to analyse it. 1 should be able to give him some information on the subject in the course of the next few days.
– In the absence of thi. Minister for Trade, I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether it is a fact that a Tariff Board inquiry into the woollen and worsted industry took place during April and May, 1955, and that the board’s report was sent to Canberra on 15th February, 1956. Is the Minister aware that delay in releasing this report is causing great inconvenience to the industry and losses in production? In these circumstances, will the Minister, in conjunction with tfr; Minister for Trade, take action to expedite departmental consideration of the report, so that it can be released without further delay?
– I am not aware of the facts mentioned by the honorable member, but as soon as question time is over I will make the necessary inquiries and will let him have a decision on the matter later to-day.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether any plans are in hand to publish a new social services information booklet, similar to the publication brought out some years ago by his predecessor, which has proved of such great value to the officers of the department, to the public and to members of Parliament. If not, will the Minister consider the publication of an up-to-date booklet for the use of the public?
– Consistent with a practice that has been in operation for some time, plans are afoot for the re-publication of brochures on the operations of the Department of Social Services. I have already taken the preliminary action. I have seen the proofs of the brochures and they will be published as soon as that is physically possible. I hope that the honorable member for Kingston and other honorable members will be pleased with the final product.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. Yesterday, I asked a question of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) concerning a matter in my electorate that has been dragging on for something like four years - although one particular aspect of it has been under discussion for only about eighteen months. In reply, the Minister stated that he had no knowledge of the matter. As the proceedings of this House were being broadcast when that reply was made, those of my constituents who heard it could only assume that I had not been in contact with the Minister. My practice is never to take up a Minister’s time if a matter can be disposed of otherwise. At the time the Minister made that statement, I had in my possession a letter dated 22nd August. I also had the duplicate of another letter dated 25th September, in almost identical terms. Both purported to have been signed by the Minister, and they informed me that he was not in a position to give me a final reply. I do not expect the Minister to know all the details of his department, but I felt that it was necessary to bring this matter to the light of day in order to show there are -weaknesses, either in his office or in his -department, weaknesses that may be -duplicated elsewhere.
– When 1 went back to :my office after question time yesterday, I found on my desk a letter from the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond). I do not know when it arrived; as I was busy all the morning, possibly it could have been there then, but I -did not see it until I returned to my office immediately after question time, during which the honorable member raised this matter. As promised, I immediately looked into it, and 1 found that there had been -correspondence with the department in relation to this matter and that formal acknowledgments had been sent. It is, I understand, a very old matter-
– Too old!
– It concerns an argument between the Showground Association at Glen Innes and the Army. The letters that I had signed were merely formal letters of acknowledgment, and letters undertaking to have the matter investigated. Of course, when I replied to the question I did not have the details in my mind. I shall repeat what I stated then, and that is, that I think lit would have been better if the honorable member had seen me personally about this matter.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of moneys for the purposes of housing.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Fairhall and Dr. Donald Cameron do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fairhall, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising pf loan moneys totalling £32,150,000 for financial assistance to the States for housing. The moneys will be advanced to the States in accordance with the terms of the Housing Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, to be executed in pursuance of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1956. Of the total amount of £32,150,000 which it is estimated will be advanced to the States in 1956-57. £25,720,000 will be available for the erection of dwellings by the States. The balance of £6,430,000 must be allocated by the States to building societies and other approved institutions for lending for private home building. The estimated amount of £32,150,000 is allocated among the States as follows: -
Debate (on motion by Mr. Edmonds) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message):
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to approve the borrowing of moneys for a defence purpose, namely financial assistance to the States in connexion with war service land settlement, and to authorize the expending of those moneys.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McMahon and Sir Philip McBride do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– 1 move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the raising for war service land settlement of loan moneys amounting to £8,500,000 for capital expenditure. Financial assistance to all States for non-capital expenditure under the scheme, for example, living allowances for settlers, interest and rent remissions, writing down of the cost of holdings, &c, estimated at £2,200,000 for the present financial year, will be met by the Commonwealth from Consolidated Revenue.
Land settlement is constitutionally a prerogative of the States. In order to include this type of rehabilitation within the repatriation benefits for ex-servicemen, the Commonwealth and States .entered into an agreement. This was reached at a conference in 1945 between the then Prime Minister and Premiers and was given legal standing by this Parliament and the several State parliaments passing legislation which included, as schedules to the various acts, the terms of agreement between the Commonwealth and the individual State. The agreements with the States of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, which are referred to as principal States, were identical but varied from those consistently applicable to the other States, the so-called agent States.
The scheme operated under these various cts until the High Court, by its judgment in the Maginnis case, ruled the Commonwealth act invalid because it referred in the first schedule to 1942 values for land as a basis of acquisition. The Commonwealth now operates under the States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act, under which funds are made available on conditions determined by the Minister. These conditions largely correspond with the terms of the original agreements. The principal States provide the capital funds necessary for the acquisition and development of suitable land and the provision of credit facilities to the allottees who are exservicemen deemed eligible and qualified by State authorities to undertake farming of the type designated for the holding. The States retain all payments made by settlers.
The Commonwealth provides the cost of training applicants for land, grants a nonrepayable living allowance during the first year of occupation - the assistance period - and shares on a 50/50 basis with the State, the loss of revenue incurred by remitting the rent and interest due during the assistance period. The Commonwealth also contributes to the State half the amount by which costs of acquisition and development exceed the valuations agreed upon by the Commonwealth and State and half the losses on advances to settlers. The Commonwealth also makes available to the States of New South Wales and Victoria repayable loans to the extent of £1 for each £2 spent by the State from its own resources on war service land settlement. The maximum loan in any one year is £2,000,000 for each State. In the other States - South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia - the Commonwealth provides all the costs of the scheme except part of the costs of State administration. Rent, interest and principal are paid by the settler to State authorities, who remit the collections to the Commonwealth. All the training and assistance period benefits are provided by the Commonwealth. The States contribute 40 per cent, of any write-down incurred due to excess of cost over valuation.
Originally, Victoria was the only State with tenure other than perpetual lease for holdings allotted under the scheme. This Government has, with the concurrence of the three agent States, included a condition which gives settlers an option to freehold the land allotted to them after it has been held for a period on lease. This period is ten years in South Australia and Western Australia and six years in Tasmania. The pattern of settlement has varied within the States. In New South Wales it has been mainly the subdivision of large estates, to some of which irrigation facilities have been made available. There have also been many single unit farm purchases under the promotion scheme but this method of settlement has recently been suspended by the State. In Victoria, a somewhat similar plan has been followed with large irrigation schemes in the Murray Valley. Recently, clearing of virgin scrub has been undertaken in the Otway and Wilson’s Promontory areas. It is regretted that settlement in Queensland has been terminated prematurely by the Government of that State, where a large proportion of those settled were placed on sugar or tobacco farms.
In the agent States, the emphasis has been on bringing into production tracts of virgin country with the resultant increase in national production. This has been made possible by the extensive use of heavy machinery. Tractors; draw through the scrub lengths of heavy-gauge anchor chain attached to a large steel ball or a heavy log. This flattens all but the largest trees in its path and breaks it to form trash for a good clearing fire, after which sturdy disc ploughs prepare the soil for sowing with pasture. Examples of this scheme in Western Australia are mainly in the south-west of the State. The Rocky Gully project will provide 170 fat-lamb farms from 285,000 acres of virgin forest. There are 48 wheat and sheep holdings from 125,000 acres at Jerramungup and 40 farms for fat lambs at Mount Many Peaks, near Albany. Currently, up to 100 farms are being developed from selected parts within an area of half a million acres north of Bremer Bay.
In South Australia, over a quarter of a million ueres of scrublands are being developed on Kangaroo Island to form more than 170 fat-lamb holdings and a number of smaller projects in the drained areas of the south-east of the State are nearing completion. On the Murray River, at Loxton, Cooltong and Loveday 328 blocks, together with the extensive ancillary irrigation headworks, have been developed for the production of horticultural crops under irrigation.
In Tasmania, 13.000 acres of a densely timbered swamp at Montagu have been drained and are being developed to provide up to 100 dairy farms. On King Island, in Bass Strait, 90 farms have been occupied and a further 74 are nearing completion. On another Bass Strait island, Flinders, 128 farms are being prepared from virgin scrub to provide fat lamb and beef cattle units. It appears that farms in these areas will be in excess of the number required for Tasmanian applicants. They will be made available for qualified ex-servicemen from other States. The development of all these and sundry smaller areas has been made possible by the ingenuity of men in their use of power machinery and the application of scientific investigation into problems of pasture development, chief among which are the use of suitable plant varieties and trace elements such as copper, molybdenum and zinc in conjunction with ample supplies of superphosphate. Nature can be assisted but not hastened, and developing pastures must be given time to consolidate to ‘he stage where they are capable of supporting enough stock for a settler to pay his way and earn a living; but farms derived from these large projects are becoming available in steady numbers.
National undertakings of this magnitude are costly and it is the purpose of this bill to provide for the capital expenditure to be incurred in the continuation of the scheme during the current financial year. The cost of the scheme for the last financial year and since its inception, including funds from Consolidated Revenue, together with . the numbers of farms allotted, is shown in a table which 1 have here, and with the concurrence of honorable members I incorporate it in “ Hansard “. It is as follows: -
As well as the farms actually allotted in the agent States there are many holdings occupied under various forms of tenure pending the properties reaching the necessary level of production for allotment.
Previous loan acts have authorized the raising and spending on war service land settlement in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, and for making the repayable advances to New South Wales and Victoria - initiated during the last financial year - of loan moneys amounting to £36,125,000. Gross expenditure on capital items to 30th June, 1956, was £38,531,000, of which £8,029,000 was met from repayments. Loan moneys used, therefore, total £30,502,000, leaving a balance of £5,623,000 at the beginning of this financial year. Expenditure from this source during the financial year 1955-56 in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia was £5,975,000, of which £4,442,000 was new money and £1,533,000 was the reexpenditure of repayments received during the year of amounts expended in previous years.
The amount provided for repayable advances to New South Wales and Victoria during 1955-56 was £3,900,000, but, despite estimates by the States that this provision would be fully utilized, the actual amount used was £3,180,000, of which £1,570,000 went to New South Wales and £1,610,000 to Victoria. Of the £8,500,000 to be provided this year, £5,000,000 will be advanced, under approved conditions, to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, to be used by those States for the acquisition, development and improvement of land for subdivision and allotment to classified ex-servicemen and for providing those ex-servicemen with working capital and finance for purchasing structural improvements, stock, plant and equipment.
This proposed appropriation for South Australia. Western Australia and Tasmania is required to meet an estimated expenditure this financial year on war service land settlement of £8,375,000, of which it is estimated £3,375,000 will be met by repayments to be received during the year. The increase over last year’s expenditure is to meet the requirements for credit facilities to settlers to be allotted farms from the large-scale developmental projects already mentioned. There will be £3,500.000 for advancing to New South Wales and Victoria, the amount to each State depending on the allocation made by the States from their own funds. On information available to date the Commonwealth provision will be adequate to meet the States’ requirements.
Let me again emphasize that this scheme is one where the Commonwealth and States must co-operate. The States have the responsibility of submitting projects for inclusion in the scheme, the Commonwealth approving their suitability for settlement in terms of the general agreement. The allotments are made by the individual States under the relative State legislation and the terms of allotment are matters between the settler and the State, the Commonwealth having been satisfied that the general terms comply with the conditions under which funds are made available by it tor the scheme.
One of these conditions is that lack of capital shall not be a bar to eligible and qualified persons receiving allotments. The farm must therefore be capable of sufficient production to carry 100 per cent, credit at the time of allotment and at the same timeprovide a living. This has necessitated standards somewhat higher than those normally accepted as home maintenance areas under civilian settlement. The relatively few failures to date and the low proportion of settlers who are in arrears with their payments vindicates this general approach. This bill is to provide finance for the continuation of the scheme, andI commend it tohonorable members.
Debate Con motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
Tead as one with the Act passed to give effect to this Resolution.
Imposition of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution.
Rates of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Payable by Persons.
Limitation of Tax and Contribution Payable by Aged Persons.
– (1.) That this paragraph apply to a taxpayer who -
Minimum Tax and Contribution.
Elimination of Pence.
That where the amount of the income tax and social services contribution which a person would be liable to pay under the preceding provisions of this Resolution, before deducting any rebate or credit to which that person is entitled in his assessment, is an amount of pounds, shillings and pence or shillings and pence -
Tax and Contribution where Amount to be Collected or Refunded would not exceed Two Shillings.
– (I.) That, notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions of this Resolution, where a person has, in accordance with section two hundred and twenty-one h of the Assessment Act, forwarded to the Commissioner a tax stamps sheet or group certificate issued to him in respect of deductions made in a year from his salary or wages, and the difference between the available deductions and the income tax and social services contribution which would, but for this sub-paragraph, be payable by that person in respect of the taxable income derived by him in that year is not more than Two shillings, the income tax and social services contribution payable by that person in respect of that taxable income be an amount equal to the available deductions. (2.) That the last preceding sub-paragraph do not apply -
Levy of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution.
Provisional Tax and Contribution.
General Rates of Tax and Contribution Payable by Persons.
The rate of income tax and social services contribution for every £1 of each part of the taxable income specified in the first column of the following table is the rate set out in the second column of that table opposite to the reference to that part of the taxable income: -
Rates of Tax and Contribution by Reference to an Average Income.
In the case of a taxpayer to whose income Division 16 of Part III. of the Assessment Act applies, the rates of income taxand social services contribution are -
the rate ascertained by applying the rates set forth in the First Schedule to a taxable income equal to his average income and dividing the resultant amount by a number equal to the number of whole pounds in that average income; or
Rateof Tax and Contribution by Reference to a Notional Income.
For every £1 of the taxable income of a taxpayer deriving a notional income, as specified by section eighty-six or section one hundred and fiftyeight d of the Assessment Act, the rate of income tax and social services contribution is the rate ascertained by dividing the tax and contribution which would be payable under the First Schedule upon a taxable income equal to his notional income by a number equal to the number of whole pounds in that notional income.
Rate of Tax and Contribution Payable by a Trustee.
For every £1 of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee is liable, in pursuance of either section ninety-eight or section ninety-nine of the Assessment Act, to be assessed and to pay tax and contribution, the rate of income tax and social services contribution is the rate which would be payable under the First, Second or Third Schedule, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be assessed and to pay tax and contribution on that taxable income.
By this resolution, it is proposed to declare the rates at which income tax and social services contribution shall be payable by individual taxpayers for the current financial year 1956-57. Under our system of pay-as-you-earn taxation, these rates will be applicable to the taxable incomes that will be derived by individuals during the current income year 1956-57. As indicated by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in the course of the budget speech which he delivered on 30th August last, the Government, after reviewing the economic situation, did not think the time to be opportune to make tax deductions which would have the effect of adding to demand. From a financial stand-point also and having regard particularly to our potentially large commitments, the position does not warrant any major reduction in our available sources of finance.
Accordingly, the rates proposed by the resolution 1 have moved are the same as those declared last year for application to the taxable incomes of individuals for the financial year 1955-56. I may emphasize that this resolution relates to individual taxpayers only and has no application to companies as the rates of tax and contribution payable by companies for the financial year 1956-57 were declared in May last. There is no occasion for me to undertake the task of explaining the paragraphs of the resolution as, so far as individual taxpayers are concerned, these paragraphs follow the pattern of the resolutions annually introduced. The resolution is submitted for the consideration of the committee.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 1 0th October (vide page 1363).
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed Vote, £6,802,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I wish to address myself to the section of the Estimates under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “. I desire to refer particularly to the Department of Trade and the peregrinations of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) without any effective results. Before he left in April of this year, the Minister announced that the purpose of his visit to Great Britain was to bring to a head Australia’s acute dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Ottawa Agreement was adversely affecting Australian exports to Great Britain in relation to goods from competing countries. The point is that the Minister went abroad, taking with him a large assortment of public officials. I notice that the Estimates provide for the setting aside of £9,500 to cover this trip, and I understand from to-day’s press that the Minister is to make a further trip abroad, which will involve very considerable expenditure indeed. The nation does not worry about expenditure by Ministers as long as we get some results from it. I have given an outline of what the Minister proposed to do when he last went abroad. On his return in August, 1956, a prominent journal which is circulated amongst many people reported -
Apparent failure of Mr. McEwen’s mission will damage his prestige with the Government parties and with the Government’s supporters outside Parliament. Mr. McEwen’s visit abroad was undertaken wilh the express purpose of wringing considerable concessions from the British Government, which is enjoying an enormous trading advantage over Australia . . . The prevailing official feeling is that the long term benefits will be negligible.
A further report of similar character states -
Reports reaching Canberra suggest that few, if any, worthwhile results are likely to accrue from the current world tours of the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, and the Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen. The only official announcements concerning their discussions have been innocuous statements saying that England and Australia fully understand each other’s problems, and that certain matters are still being considered.
The Minister made a trip in an endeavour to obtain better markets in Britain for our products. He came back and acknowledged he could not do this. He is now going back to look again for markets in Britain and elsewhere. For far too long the British
Board of Trade has been running thi* country, and it is time that the Australian. Government woke up to the fact and took, proper control of Australian trade and commerce into its hands and away from the British Board of Trade. If the Minister isnot prepared to get tough with the British’ Board of Trade on his next visit and if he does not achieve some results, the outlook, for Australia’s future is very gloomy indeed.. The British Board of Trade is a dominant factor in the government of this country, For far too long Britain has looked upon) Australia as one of the colonies, as a wood! and water joey, prepared to supply the things which Britain needs, but if Britain can buy more cheaply elsewhere, it gives preference instead to other countries.
During the Chifley regime about £45,000,000 was donated in time of troubleto the British Government in the form of goods and commodities, and we should be entitled to expect a reasonable businessreturn, from that gesture by the Australian! Government, but what has been our reward?” The United Kingdom Government to-day, because it can buy in other markets and derive some advantage from the placating of other countries, neglects Australia’s sources, of supply. The marketing of Australianwheat provides an outstanding example of this. The Ottawa Agreement is long overdue for reconsideration. We should scrap1 the agreement and enter into some other more satisfactory arrangement for our trade with Britain, because over a number of years the balance of trade between the United Kingdom and Australia hasbeen very adverse to us, whereasother European countries have been very substantial buyers pf Australia’scommodities, and we have not been buying from them in return. We cannot expect these other European countries to continue to buy Australian products if we do not buy from them. Therefore, if the United Kingdom is not prepared to bring about some equalization of trade with Australia, weshould look to other markets and withdraw some of the many concessions which the United Kingdom enjoys on the Australian market.
The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ recently reported -
The time is opportune for the Australian Government to review whether Australia can afford toretain the limitation placed on our choice of purchasing markets by the preference provisionsof the Ottawa Agreement.
I agree entirely with that statement. As a matter of fact, the Ottawa Agreement was made in 1932 to meet a set of circumstances which had arisen from the depression in 1930, when world trade, and particularly the trade of the British Commonwealth of Nations, was depressed. It was a hasty agreement, and I think that Australia came out of it with a very raw deal. Australia did the United Kingdom a very great favour by granting preference and providing markets for almost the whole of Britain’s exports. The United Kingdom sought, and received, from Australia not only preference for its exports over those of foreign countries, but also protection against the establishment and undue support of Australian industries. In return, Great Britain gave to Australia a very limited benefit in the form of preference in the United Kingdom market. The main products which we export from this country, wheat and wool, are not now covered by the agreement, although wheat was originally included and was to receive a 10 per cent, preference. That concession has been withdrawn and, to-day, we have difficulty in selling wheat. The United Kingdom even buys wheat on the American market, having to pay for it in dollars, which are in short supply. The point I want to make is that we are receiving only limited preference from the United Kingdom Government, and unless the agreement is reviewed and wider trading benefits are given to Australia, including opportunities for our secondary industries to develop and a substantial increase in the market for our primary products, we cannot hope to progress. The population of Australia is increasing, and we should be increasing our primary production, because Australia is capable of very much greater primary production. If we are to expand production, we must find suitable markets. Under present circumstances, we are faring very poorly indeed.
A further point I want to make is that the agreement also operated adversely to Australia because, quite apart from the continuing percentage benefit received by Britain in respect of goods exported to Australia, in the form of exchange, we gave ad valorem benefits to the United Kingdom, based on the total value of British products imported into this country, but, in return for a small range of products such as wine, butter, eggs, tallow, and a few other items which we sent to the United Kingdom, we received not ad valorem benefit, but a specific benefit. As prices have substantially increased, that benefit in the way of trading advantage toAustralia has been substantially diminished. Whereas, under the agreement, the benefit to Britain has increased, the benefit to Australia has diminished. It is, therefore, time that the margins that were fixed should bereviewed for the benefit of all concerned. The British Board of Trade, too, has taken very unfair advantage of this trading agreement. It has been sending goods to Australia at a higher price than is being charged for them on the British domestic market and other markets where there is competition. As a matter of fact, the Australian Tariff Board, in its 1953 report, at page 15, said -
Apart from the factors of costs and efficiency that affect competitive ability, a special element has been introduced by certain United Kingdom manufacturers of plant and raw materials. Instances have come under the notice of the Board during the year where goods vital to Australian manufacturers have been available from United Kingdom sources only at prices higher than those charged to manufacturers in the United Kingdom. In one instance evidence was given that this pricedifferentiation was at the direction of United Kingdom Board of Trade.
That is why I say that the United Kingdom Board of Trade is the dominant factor in relation to Australian products. As a matter of fact, in respect of the system known as “ by-law entry “, under which goods may be admitted into Australia duty free if it can be shown that no comparable goods are manufactured in the United Kingdom, instead of the Australian Government deciding whether or not the goods should be admitted free of duty, it refers such matters to the British Board of Trade. If that body says that it will not permit the goods to come into Australia free of duty, the Australian Government accepts the decision, so that the Australian Government, in effect, allows the Board of Trade to run this country. However, the decision of the Board of Trade has not been accepted on all occasions. In one instance, an Australian Prime Minister refused to accept the decision of the Board of Trade in relation, I think, to an electricity undertaking in Victoria and insisted that the goods be allowed in duty free. We should no longer permit the Board of Trade to dominate Australian trade, as it has done for far too long.
The report of the Tariff Board points out that, in 1947, an Australian manufacturer wished to buy a machine which was sold to United Kingdom manufacturers at £339 10s. The maker said that if the machine went to Australia, the price would bs £438 10s. Therefore, manufacturers in Australia have to pay more for machinery, at the door of the factory in the United Kingdom, than do English manufacturers, which, of course, adds’ to the cost of Australian commodities. The same thing applies to the importation of goods for manufacture. A higher price is charged to the Australian manufacturer. Many British firms with subsidiaries in this country send goods to Australia at a price higher than the English price, and by doing so, not only do they add to the cost of commodities in this country and increase the inflationary tendency, but also, they avoid income tax in Australia by showing a loss, or only a very small profit, because of the high prices of the goods they send here. This matter is referred to in the report of the Tariff Board, which states -
It will be noted that during one period f.o.b. prices paid by Australian consumers were higher by £40 per ton or 30 per cent, than those paid by consumers in the United Kingdom . . . The Government’s policy on this … is that they like to see industry get as much for its exports as the traffic will bear.
The latter part of that quotation was taken from a document placed before the Tariff Board. The point is that the British Government is not supplying Australia with goods in competition with other countries at the lowest possible prices under the tariff arrangements, but is taking advantage of the high tariff on imports from other countries to exploit the manufacturers and people of this country. If British manufacturers are not prepared to send goods to Australia at the British domestic prices or to give us fair and reasonable prices under the Ottawa Agreement, then the new agreement should contain a clause providing that, unless the prices bear a reasonable relationship to the British prices, no preference shall be granted to British manufacturers. All preference should be denied unless we receive the benefit of fair prices.
The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) will soon be going away again. No doubt he will spend a considerable amount of public money in an endeavour - we hope - to arrange a better trading agreement with the United Kingdom. For far too long, British manufacturers have taken the Government and people of this country for a ride. I hope that the Minister, on this occasion, will not come back and blame the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for the failure of his mission as he did on the previous occasion. It will be remembered that the Minister said that if the Prime Minister had not been on the scene at the same time and had not interfered, the negotiations would have been more successful.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member’s time ha> expired.
.- I wish to direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department, because I believe that that department is one of the most important of government departments for the ordinary citizen, since its services enter so intimately into his life. Nowhere else doss successful administration depend so much on understanding of human nature, lt is precisely the lack of this quality in the official mind - probably due to demands of finance and increasing costs - that from time to time it gets out of touch with the actual requirements and outlook of the people. For this reason, I think there is a great need for the Parliament itself to watch closely the activities of organizations such as the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The recent proposal by officials of the department concerning the introduction of shared telephones is an illustration of what I mean. We have been told that the idea is under consideration, and that, as the introduction of shared telephone services would involve the adoption of a new policy, a paper is being prepared for submission to Cabinet. The shared telephone proposal obviously has been under consideration by the departmental officials for a long time, which is only reasonable, because one would not wish to see such a proposition decided upon without a great deal of deliberation. But what distresses me is that there is a good deal to indicate that the department has already made up its mind to introduce this system and is adopting the well-known technique of trying to influence the Cabinet to reach a decision along those lines.
I submit that a matter of this nature, which affects the everyday representation by the private member of his constituents, not only merits the serious consideration of the Cabinet but also demands the consideration of the Parliament itself. After all, the question involves knowing what the public wants. The Minister is no more qualified to speak in this respect than is a private member. In fact, a private member frequently, particularly in matters of this kind, is more qualified to speak than is a Minister, because he has more time to think over the problems involved, and because his association with his constituents often is closer than that of a Minister. As a private member, I am sure that the public of Australia does not want this proposal, at least in the form which so far has been placed before it. The people want privacy in their telephone conversations. With the shared telephone, as distinct from the duplex system, they would have no privacy. Each party could listen to the other’s conversation. A Postal Department spokesman, extolling the virtues of the new system, pointed out that the subscriber, or subscribers, who shared a line would be able not only to listen in, but also to join in conversations. He said that if one party wanted to make an urgent call while the line was in use, he could break in and ask the other subscriber to hang up. If he could do that, of course he could ask the other subscriber to do almost anything. The possibilities opened up by the scheme are endless. One can imagine the telephone outdoing television as a modern entertainment medium.
We have been told that shared telephones are common in Great Britain and the United States of America. That is so, but if we take those countries as guides, the people of Australia should also be told that the shared system in those countries is not popular. As I said during the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, which recently was before the Parliament, we should not be obliged to follow blindly the example of Great Britain and America, and that if we adopt the system that applies in those countries we should modify it to meet Australian conditions. The fact that the shared system is unpopular in Great Britain and America should deter us from embarking on the scheme.
Share-telephone systems meet the peculiar requirements of the country, and there may he some people in Australia who are will ing to accept the share-telephone system as something better than no service at all. But the acceptance of the service should be at the individual’s option and not upon any arbitrary decision of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. There should be no departmental pressure or compulsion in the acceptance of the proposed new service. For instance, we do not want these people to be faced with the alternative that they can have a share-line immediately or wait until an exclusive line is available - perhaps in a few years, perhaps never. In other words, if a person applies for a telephone service in an area where the likely revenue in relation to capital expenditure indicates, from the departmental point of view, that a share system is desirable, then the applicant should have the choice of the share service or paying more for an exclusive service.
There is a danger of a tendency’, under the new proposals, to create a privileged class among telephone users, based on social and business position. We have been told that it is not intended to force doctors or other professional men to share their lines, and I should hope that they would not be forced to share them. But the observance of this principle will necessitate some difficult system of priorities among users which has been in practice for some years past in order to decide who should have a telephone. I must state that I shall not be satisfied until it is laid down that the department will not force anybody to share a line service. I am not without sympathy for the difficulties presented to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in its effort to supply a service worthy of the people. Shortly after the war, there was a dual scarcity of materials and labour. To-day, the capacity to manufacture materials is greater than the demand for them. But the overriding consideration, always, is finance. I do not think that the answer to our problems is to provide a second-rate service for the Australian people, particularly when we know that the shared-telephone service is not popular in other countries in which it operates.
The Postmaster-General has shown a great deal of tolerance in discussions on this matter. I was pleased to hear him say, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) last week, that he was disposed to give honorable members any information which he had in his possession with regard to sharedtelephone proposals. At the same time, the Minister said that he intended to submit this matter to Cabinet for decision. I repeat that I, for one, believe that Parliament itself should be given all the details of this innovation. After all, the Cabinet decision reflects only the knowledge and opinion of its own members. In this matter it cannot be conceded that the Cabinet has a monopoly of knowledge. In this case, even though the proposal may be technically desirable, it may be entirely undesirable from the point of view of the well-being of community life. Accordingly, I believe that the question of share telephone systems is of such interest to the public and to private members who represent the public that all the technical reports upon which it is intended that a decision shall be made by the Cabinet should be made available to Parliament itself.
Another matter which I wish to mention briefly is the proposed introduction of an installation fee for new telephones. In this regard my opinions are shared by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) and other private members. This new charge is inevitable. We do not contest that at all. But I feel that it carries the danger of unfair discrimination, which I hope that the Government will remove. If we charge an installation fee to those unfortunate people who have applied for telephones over the last few years and who have not been able to get them, we shall make them victims of a double penalty. In the main, getting a telephone has depended on two things - who you were, and where you were. If one lived in a rapidly expanding area where exchange and cable facilities were overtaxed, one had an unbelievably long wait. I know this only too well, because a large part of my electorate of Mitchell comes within this category, and some applications for telephones have been outstanding for years in that electorate. Also, in any location, preference has been given to doctors, business men and others who were considered to have had special claims.
For the most part, these applicants belonged to the upper income group. Those who had no priority and who did not get a telephone at that time are now to be charged an installation fee of £10. In many instances, this charge will fall on the lower income group. The extra charge is an unintentional case of taxing those who are least able to bear it. I believe there is a very strong case for exempting from the installation fee those persons whose applications had been lodged before this new fee was announced. If, however, it is felt that this would involve the loss of too much revenue, I suggest that any application which had been lodged, say, six months prior to the introduction of the new fee should have exemption from payment of the amount of £10. That is a proposal which I earnestly submit for the consideration of the Postmaster-General and the Government itself.
.- Although it is most unusual for me to praise the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), I should like to commend him for having made a constructive and very effective attack on the policy of the Pos(masterGeneral’s Department. I also express my appreciation of the action of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark; in bringing to the notice of the Government certain important matters relating to trade between Great Britain and Australia. I think the Government might well take note of those two speeches because, to my mind, they were most important and deserved the consideration of the Government.
Once again, the Government is making a mockery of the criticism and suggestions that are offered by honorable members, and a mockery of Parliament in respect of the time allowed to deal with matters under discussion. Last night the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) said that his speech was costing the people of this country £2 5s. a minute. To-day, the speeches of honorable members are costing the country £1,000,000 a minute, because that is the rate at which we are spending money in the Estimates under discussion. Incorporated in the proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services, which comes within the scope of this debate, are items relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of National Development and the Department of External Affairs, and also matters relating to trade, social services. immigration and shipping. In the space of about four hours, we are expected to go minutely, in the interests of the people we represent, into the matters on which we are to spend all this money, and the real purpose-
– Order! The honorable member cannot discuss that matter. The House determined the time-table long ago.
– I was just making a passing reference to it.
– The honorable member cannot make a passing reference to a matter which the House has decided.
– Let me say that I wish to discuss a number of these departments. The first is the Postmaster-General’s Department. I am vitally concerned, as a lot of other members are concerned, with the delays that are taking place in the installation of telephone services. I do not know what is the Government’s policy or when it expects to supply applicants with telephones. I cannot see anything in the Estimates that will allay the suspicion that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has no plan for overtaking arrears. On 18th September, I asked the Postmaster-General a question concerning outstanding applications for telephone services in my electorate, and also throughout the Commonwealth. In his reply the Postmaster-General said that in New South Wales, 40,725 applicants were waiting for telephones. He said also that in my electorate the longest period for which an applicant had been waiting was ten years. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) said the other night that this was the atomic age; yet people have been waiting ten years for a telephone service. The average period of waiting by applicants in my electorate is up to two years. The Minister went on to say -
It is not practicable to state an average waiting time but the majority of applications were lodged during the past two years. Those which have been deferred for unduly long periods are from persons whose premises are located in areas where cable congestion is most serious and can only be relieved at heavy cost by major engineering works. These works are scheduled to be put in hand during the present financial year and the majority of the long-standing applications will be satisfied when the works are completed.
In my electorate, in the districts of Newtown, Marrickville, Dulwich Hill, Stanmore,
Lewisham, Petersham and Summer Hill people have been waiting up to ten years. I have here a bundle of letters, which I will not read, but which I will bring to the personal attention of the Postmaster-General, containing urgent applications for telephone services on the grounds of industrial needs, sickness and so on. This is a crowded industrial area, but it seems that none of the services asked for will be provided within the next twelve months.
The Minister, in his answer, said that major engineering works were necessary before the connexions could be made. 1 naturally examined the Estimates for the Department of Works relating to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but no provision has been made for expenditure on telephone services in any one of those districts in my constituancy that I have mentioned. The only work proposed to be undertaken in my electorate is an airconditioning plant at the Newtown post office, and for that I am grateful, but it is obvious that not one of the applicants in my electorate - some of whom have been waiting for ten years for a telephone service - will have his need supplied this year. All have been completely forgotten. The Minister’s answer is evasive, and I want to know why he should give such a reply when the Government has no intention of ending the long delays in supplying telephones.
What a tragic commentary on Government policy it is that applicants, who have been waiting for ten years for a telephone service, will be charged £10 for the privilege of having the service connected, immediately the Government is in a position to supply it! These people are located within about 4 miles of the Sydney General Post Office, but they have been waiting for ten years. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and other country members may find that their constituents will have to wait for 25 years before they are provided with a telephone service. The Postal Department is continually increasing its charges, but there is something wrong with its method of installing telephone services. There is tremendous dissatisfaction with Government policy on this matter, and I want to know why, in my electorate particularly, when people have been waiting for ten years, and most for an average of two years, no works are to be put in hand to relieve this distress in one of the most highly industrialized areas of the Commonwealth.
I wish to refer to some other matters in the brief time at my disposal, but, as the Temporary Chairman (Mr. Timson) said just now, I cannot deal with them in detail. The Department of National Development is the mystery department of the Commonwealth Government. According to the Estimates, it will spend this year £1,107,000, which is an increase of £228,000 on the figure for last year. That department employs a staff of 269, but 1 have yet to learn of any practical benefit by way of development that it has brought to Australia. What are its functions? What is its policy? We want imports and production to be increased, and we are examining various means of building up our overseas trade, but what contribution is this department making to this aspect of our economy? What is required in Australia is increased production, the development of new markets and the expansion of old ones, great public works projects, a huge housing programme and the extensive building of roads and highways.
– Order! The committee has dealt already with the Estimates of the Department of National Development, and the honorable member must confine his remarks to the vote for Miscellaneous Services. I cannot see how he is relating his argument to that vote.
– 1 should be delighted to enlighten you on that point, Mr. Chairman. I am dealing with the Department of National Development under the Miscellaneous Services vote, and although, as you. say, I cannot discuss each item minutely, you ruled a few days ago that Miscellaneous Services could be discussed in broad, general terms.
– Order! The ruling I gave the other day, and with which the committee agreed, was that honorable members could deal with departments under their particular headings, and that miscellaneous services attached to those major departments should be discussed in conjunction with them. The honorable member cannot discuss the activities of a major department under the heading of Miscellaneous Services. That was never agreed to by the committee.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but the committee is now dealing directly with Miscellaneous Services and not, as was the case the other day, with the general departmental Estimates. Although I bow to your ruling, I submit that you are seriously curtailing criticism of the department because the Government wishes to hide from the public-
– Order! That is a reflection on the Chair, and the honorable member must withdraw it.
– You know, Mr. Chairman, that I would not reflect on the Chair in any circumstances, and I withdraw my remark, but I still point out that you are not doing justice either to yourself or to the Parliament in curtailing criticism of this department.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I can see that Government members are delighted with your ruling, Mr. Chairman, because they do not want the public to know what this department is doing, and you will not allow criticism of it. There is another point, however. Every wage-earner in the community, and every pensioner and person receiving social services benefits, is feeling the tremendous impact of increased costs, but the subsidies paid by the Government have never been lower in the history of this country. Bounties and subsidies provided in the budget, and in the item under discussion, total about £13,500,000 this year. That is a fraction of the amount that the Chifley Government paid when it was in office in order to keep down prices, and to ensure that the people paid no more than a reasonable price for butter, tea, sugar and the other commodities they needed. Why has not this Government increased the subsidy on tea in order to bring its price down from 7s. or 8s. per lb. to about 2s. 7d. per lb., which was the price paid when the Chifley Government was in office? Why is not the Government paying a subsidy on butter, a commodity that is necessary in every home? Why is not the Government subsidizing the other necessary commodities that every pensioner has to buy out of the meagre sum he receives each week from the Government?
I ask honorable members never to forget that this Government was elected to office in 1949 on the pledge that it would retain subsidies on all necessary commodities in order to keep prices within the reach of wage-earners in the lower income groups, and of people dependent upon social services. Instead of asking the wage-earners to accept pegged wages, why does not the Government do something practical by subsidizing, out of revenue collected from those in the higher income groups, such commodities as butter, sugar and tea, the price of which is forcing down the purchasing power of men and women engaged in industry? This would be a practical solution of a grave problem. The Government might well consider my suggestion with a view to increasing the meagre amount of £13.500,000 set aside for bounties and subsidies this year. In view of the fact that the budget shows a surplus of £108,000,000, the Government must surely realize that it is repudiating its promise that prices of necessary commodities would be maintained at a reasonable level by the payment of subsidies.
Again, I register a protest at the curtailment of debate, because I could speak on this important question for hours. It is a disgraceful and shocking thing that, in this country of ours, when the Parliament has unlimited time in which it could sit, we should be asked to vote £1,000,000 a minute, but not be able to discuss these matters of trade arid commerce. For example, I should like to know from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen): What will be the policy of the department while he is absent? What is happening in regard to delays and the trafficking in licences? Who will look after the department while he is abroad on this next occasion? What protection is he giving to the thousands of persons in the community who are being thrown out of work because of the drastic import restrictions that the Government has imposed? Why should not the Minister for Trade and other Ministers come into the chamber not for a few minutes, but for a fair period of time, so that they might be enabled to give extensive replies to the important matters that are raised, and thus furnish us with the information we so urgently require in order to understand and lo be able to explain to our constituents just what is being done by the various departments with the money allotted to them?
– Order! That matter was dealt with during the debate on the Estimates for the Department of Trade.
– 1 conclude on that note. I am sorry, Mr. Chairman, that you had to interrupt me so constantly, but 1 could see that Government supporters were not exactly receptive to what I was saying. I register my protest against the administration of the various departments. 1 should like to see more Ministers in the chamber to hear what is being said. Moreover, 1 should like to have a full explanation from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), the Minister for Trade, and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) about the various matters we are discussing and about which this country is being kept in the dark.
.- The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) complained about the amount of time that has been allotted for this debate, but he did not make full use of the time to which he was entitled. Indeed, so far I do not think any other honorable member has made so little use of the time at his disposal. He has a most extraordinary outlook. He asked what possible hope persons in country areas had when applicants in city areas had to wait for twenty years, ten years, or whatever the period was, for telephone connexions. That is one of the reasons why the Australian Country party exists. Persons in rural areas need telephones infinitely more than do persons in city areas.
I now wish to direct myself to the proposed vote for War Repatriation Services, which includes an appropriation of £55,520,000 for public debt charges. That is the cost of war. I was rather amazed recently to hear the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) ask why ample money is available in time of war, but is not available for works in peace-time. That was a most extraordinary question to ask, but it indicated the type of Marxian dialectics that has been adopted by the Australian Labour party. The sum of £55,520,000 that I mentioned represents a debt of approximately £8 for each man, woman and child in Australia. I have referred to thai matter only because one would expect sUch remarks from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and certainly not from the honorable member for Kingston. It only goes to show that if the honorable member for Kingston associates with such persons he will be inclined to make such strange remarks.
I refer now to the proposed vote for the Office of Education, and J wish to make a plea on behalf of children who live in the country. There is no doubt about the fact that children who live in country areas are at a marked disadvantage in relation to .education. A child in the country can obtain .education up to the leaving certificate standard, but if he wants to proceed further he must go to the city. In this respect. children who come from families in the lower income group or in more humble circumstances are greatly disadvantaged when compared with those who live in the city or whose families are in receipt of a higher income. A lad who wants to go to a university must board in the metropolis. To maintain that child and to pur him through the university in order to obtain a professional training involves an enormous cost to the family.
This country is in great need of scientists. We have heard recently about the concern that has been expressed by the Western democracies because they are not turning out as many scientists or as many scientifically trained men as is the Soviet Union. As the countries near Australia become more developed they need the assistance of scientists and skilled professional men, and such men have a very powerful influence on local opinion. The Soviet Union is getting away from its tough policy and is moving towards a policy of infiltration, and is using its scientists as a means of influencing opinion in countries that are close to Australia. We know that Russian scientists are going to assist Indonesia, and that they are going to every part of the undeveloped world. We should be able to compete with them.
Recently, a constituent of mine asked me what were the prospects of employment in government service for his son. I asked what were his qualifications. I was told that the boy had just left school and that he had passed his leaving certificate examination with honours in chemistry and A’s in all other subjects, I replied that he had a first-class opportunity to get education through government scholarships. That is the kind of lad we need for training to become nuclear physicists and the like. 1 told the father that he had the qualifications to become the type of skilled man that the nation needs. I added, “ In fact, it is his duty to train himself for that purpose “. After all, one has a duty to the country in which one lives. I discovered that the family could not afford to send the boy to Sydney, and consequently he was not a bit interested in this kind of training. All 1 was asked was what were the correct channels through which he could obtain a soft job in the government service. It may bc that the fact that the family did not have sufficient money to support the lad in a boarding house while he went to the university had created that lack of interest. If facilities were made available for young men in the country to go to the city to obtain the education that is more readily available to city lads, we would be playing our part in helping them.
I should like to see provision made in the appropriation for the Office of Education for a Commonwealth contribution towards the building of hostels so that country children could be given the same educational opportunities as city children. A few days ago I received a deputation from the parents and citizens’ association of my home town. Those people complain that the vote for education is such that teachers are being withdrawn from the high schools in that town and other country towns and are being sent to the cities. We are gradually approaching the stage where rural education is being sacrificed for the sake of providing education in the cities. I think this Government should take action, either by awarding scholarships or by providing funds to the States on a £l-for-£l basis for the erection of hostels in order that children from the country might have the same opportunities as city children.
I now wish to discuss rural automatic telephone exchanges. I have much sympathy with the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt), the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and other honorable members who represent city electorates who complain about the difficulty of obtaining telephones. But it is very easy in the city to make a telephone call, because one can always go to a public call box. However, the position is quite different in the country. Country districts cover vast areas, and it is most important that the people living in them who are engaged in rural production which is vital to this country’s economy, should be given imimproved telephone facilities. One way in which country telephone services could be improved is by the extension of the rural automatic system. At the present time, when living standards generally are much higher than they have been, people do not readily take to the arduous and difficult job of maintaining small unofficial post offices, and consequently rural automatic systems are gradually becoming more and more necessary in country areas.
Recently, I spoke about bounties and subsidies. I reiterate that at a time when this country needs to increase its primary production, the Government should seriously consider subsidizing superphosphate purchased by farmers in the States. Such a subsidy would be an important encouragement to a rapid increase of rural production, because if superphosphate is applied to land, the yield is increased within a year or two. That increased production, would, of course, increase our export income. Moreover, if the more conservative types of farmers know that they can secure superphosphate at a much cheaper rate than the rate at which it is sold to-day, they will use more of it. Many farmers do not use superphosphate to the extent desirable, because the purchase of this commodity requires a certain capital outlay which they cannot afford. The purchase of the superphosphate itself is not a major expense, but in order to obtain full value from its use on pastoral lands, for example, the farmer has to buy more stock. That is because the carrying capacity of his land has increased.
Last night, some members of the Opposition who represent city electorates criticized the use made by some farmers of their land. I should say that the country through which the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) passed is used to a high degree, and it is only because the honorable member does not understand how it is being used that he criticized it. I agree that there is much land which could be made to produce more, but there are many factors to be taken into consideration when we are con sidering how best to increase rural production. For example, there is the financial factor, and the factor of conservatism.
One method of increasing the production of the land is for the Government to subsidize the purchase of superphosphate. A bounty on superphosphate is not like the bounty suggested by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), which would only help people to buy the things that they thought they needed. The bounty that I suggest will pay for itself, because if a man applies superphosphate to his land, its yield will be increased, his income will be proportionately increased and the income tax which he pays to the Government will also be increased. Therefore, honorable members will perceive that a superphosphate subsidy would quickly pay for itself. It is purely a business transaction from the viewpoint of the Government, which will merely make money available in order to obtain a return from primary industry that will benefit the country and repay the Government. I suggest that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) should seriously consider this suggestion.
My suggestion could also apply to other goods used in primary production, such as spray materials. A large number of farmers operate under a system of close financial restriction. They are not able to spend freely or to make experiments to see how they can reduce their expenditure, because they have very small cash limits. Consider the orchardist, for example! General inclemency of the weather, a fall of hail or rain at the wrong time, can ruin a year’s work for an orchardist. I believe that very few people realize the risks that are taken by, and the hardships that afflict, the producers of fruit. The Government could subsidize spray materials, or other materials used in the production of fruit. In Kenya, a country about which 1 know something, it was possible to rail a tractor 500 miles from the coast to the farm for 5s. Cattle dip, sheep dip, fencing wire and other materials of that type which help to increase rural production, were carried at rates well below cost. That system built up large agricultural production in Kenya, which, in turn, paid for imports such as whisky and other luxury goods.
– Whisky is not a luxury.
– Perhaps it is nearly a luxury. If we wish to increase rural production quickly, we should do so by means of the subsidies that I have detailed. Such payments would not be in the nature of gifts to a section of the people, but would represent a serious business investment which would bring in handsome returns. Australia must export more if we are ever to remove the frustrating trade restrictions and import controls with which we are at present afflicted. We can export more secondary goods, but I suggest that the quickest and most effective way of building up our export trade is to expand primary industries.
.- I desire to pay a tribute to the management of the Commonwealth Railways. The figures presented to the committee in the Estimates show that from the Commissioner right through the service down to the men who wait on tables in the “ Ghan “ on the trip to Alice Springs, are doing a magnificent job in the Commonwealth Railways.
However, I must voice a protest against the system of bookkeeping which is at present in operation in the Commonwealth Railways, whereby that department is compelled to absorb certain subsidies or payments made to the South Australian Government. That system is most unfair to the Commonwealth Railways and it could, by virtue of the fact that working profit will obviously decline this year compared with last year, tend to indicate that the management of the railways is becoming less efficient. I refer to the subsidy paid on the transport of Leigh Creek coal in the financial year which ended on 30th June, 1955. During that year £591,000 was paid to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner by the Federal Treasurer from Consolidated Revenue, to subsidize the transport of Leigh Creek coal to Port Augusta and the Adelaide city power houses.
– Under an agreement made by Mr. Chifley.
– I am not disputing that at all. 1 am merely stating the facts. In the present financial year, the subsidy is not to be paid from Consolidated Revenue, but the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is being compelled to carry coal at an uneconomic rate so that the South Australian Government, which operates two power houses, may receive the coal at a reduced cost. When the previous agreement expired, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner was asked to quote a tonnage rate for the haulage of coal from Leigh Creek, and submitted a quote of an economic price of 30s. 5d.
– That was a fee which the competent man running the Commonwealth Railways considered would be the economic cost of transporting coal to the power houses.
– Later he halved his estimate.
– He halved his estimate by direction of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and members of this Government - a flagrant display of favouritism towards one State in the Commonwealth. I would not dispute that subsidies should be paid on the transport of coal to any power house within the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When I said that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner had asked 30s. 5d. a ton for the haulage of coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) said by interjection that that proposed charge was ridiculous. 1 would not accept the honorable member’s observation, because 1 think that the charge suggested by the Commissioner was reasonable, especially in comparison with the charges levied by the Queensland Commissioner for Railways on the Brisbane City Council for the haulage of coal to Brisbane power houses. Those charges are 19s. 5d. a ton for a 24-mile haul, and £1 2s. 8d. a ton for a 34-mile haul. So the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner was by no means unreasonable in asking for 30s. 5d. a ton for a 160-mile haul. At present the Commonwealth Railways are hauling 500,000 tons of coal from Leigh Creek, and the Commissioner will be asked to bear the cost in his department of the subsidy that is, in effect, being paid by the Commonwealth to the South Australian Electricity Trust because of the cheap rate at which coal is hauled for that body. As I said earlier, I have no objection to the payment of such a subsidy to any electricity authority in Australia if it will have the effect of reducing the cost of production of electricity and thereby aid in reducing costs of industrial production generally. But I fail to see why any trading department of the Commonwealth should be loaded with that cost. It would be quite reasonable to have the item shown in the Estimates under bounties and subsidies, and provide that the Treasury reimburse the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for the sum lost on the cheap transport of Leigh Creek coal.
I understand that the power houses at Port Augusta are expanding, and that it is expected that within a few years the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner will be asked to haul 1,500,000 tons of coal annually from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. That means that his department will be asked to bear the cost of this subsidy to that extent. When Commissioners for Railways find that the income of their departments has fallen they invariably increase freight rates in an attempt to make up the deficiency. If this happens as a result of loss of revenue through the cheap haulage of coal it will mean that the producers who are served by the Commonwealth Railways away up in the Northern Territory and in the northern parts of South Australia will be asked to bear added costs in order to enable the reduced freight for coal to be enjoyed by electricity authorities. That is absolutely unreasonable, and the department is being thereby placed in a false position. It could bring the department to the stage of bankruptcy as opposed to the healthy condition in which it now is.
– The present rate is more than covering the railway costs for the haulage of that coal.
– I fail to see how that could be so. I have given the Queensland figures in comparison with the rate asked by the Commissioner, which would not be inflated. I realize, however, that the Government’s policy has forced the Commissioner to accept a lower rate. I think that the affairs of the Commonwealth Railways show that much care and thought are being given to the operations of that department. Every encouragement should be extended to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to run his department as he has been running it in the past - efficiently - and he should not be subject to political interference as, apparently, he is at present.
I wish to make some reference now to the proposed votes for miscellaneous services of the Department of Social Services, with particular reference to assistance to organizations that intend to engage in the building of homes for the aged. The legislation provides that the Commonwealth will subsidize such organizations £1 for £1. When this scheme came into being nearly two years ago it was received most enthusiastically by all honorable members. I understand, from statements in the press, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was prompted by his good wife to include this proposition in his last policy speech. All Australia must be grateful to Dame Pattie Menzies for having prompted the Prime Minister to include that proposal in his announced policy.
– But the States are still left to do most of the work required in that field.
– That is what 1 am about to demonstrate. I want to show what a sham we have been sold in this matter. We were told that £1,500,000 was to be made available annually for the subsidizing of the building of homes for the aged. In the last financial year the amount expended by the Commonwealth in the form of subsidy payments to approved societies was less than £400,000 - a little more than 25 per cent, of the total amount voted by the Parliament for that purpose. I believe that there is a provision in the act which .is operating most unfairly. The act provides that approved societies may receive the subsidy provided they have the money in hand to engage in the erection of homes for the aged. That is where the act operates most unfairly. There is being built in my electorate a hospice for the aged - not for the ordinary run of aged people, but for aged, incurably sick people whose position is, I suppose, the most tragic in Australia today. They are sick, incurably sick, and cannot gain admittance, to public hospitals because they will be permanent patients, although possibly they are not sick enough for admittance to a public hospital. Their relatives find it extremely difficult to care for them. The hospice being built at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, at a cost of £320,000, is to accommodate 120 incurably sick, aged people. The Queensland Government has granted the subsidy that it normally grants to builders of public hospitals, and the Sisters of Charity who are building this place went to Brisbane, fired only with their Christianity - and, therefore, the love of humankind - and were able to move the hard-hearted manager of a trading bank into letting them have an overdraft to help to pay for the construction of the hospice. But, because of the operation of the legislation governing the £l-for-£l subsidy to approved societies, the Commonwealth will not contribute one penny towards the construction of this hospice.
– It is not a home for the aged.
– It is a home for the aged who are incurably sick.
– Nonsense! lt is a hospital for the incurably sick. It is so described by those who run it.
– It is a home for the aged who are incurably sick. It is not a hospital, as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) is trying to make me say. I am not seeking to make any political capital out of this matter. I am saying that there is a weakness in the act. If the act provided that organizations which raised money for such places by mortgage could get the Commonwealth subsidy, many more such homes would be built. If that were so, the £1,500,000 originally provided by the Parliament last financial year would have been absorbed, and a similar amount of money would be absorbed in this financial year if the Parliament voted that sum. In the eyes of the Government the people who are building this hospice in Brisbane are committing the offence of doing the job now instead of waiting for ten years until they have accumulated the money for it. They are prepared to give this service to aged and incurably sick people now instead of waiting until some time in the future. I plead with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to give earnest consideration to this important matter, and I am sure that anything he may do to rectify the position will be fully supported by all honorable members.
– Again I propose to comment on the remarks that have been made by honorable members about the operation and administration of the Postal Department, in the course of which some criticism was offered. Yesterday, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) made some commendatory remarks about the amateur wireless operators and their value in the development of radio communications in Australia, their contribution to the war effort during World War II., and their very great service to the community recently in times of flood and cyclone. I am glad the honorable member commended these amateur operators. 1 consider that his remarks were completely just, and I commend the operators myself. The honorable member stated that I had indicated a desire to assist the amateur wireless operators, and that is quite true. So far as lies within my power, I shall do anything 1 can to assist them. 1 only want to point out in qualification of that assurance that many of the operations of amateur wireless enthusiasts are governed to a certain extent by international convention, and consequently there is a limit to what the Postmaster-General’s Department can do to assist them. I think it is quite proper that in a debate such as this the valuable work of the amateur wireless operators should be mentioned.
The honorable member for Capricornia, following up his remarks about the amateur wireless operators, also mentioned the very great problem that is likely to arise from interference to television reception. I should like to inform the committee of what has been done to deal with this problem. Honorable members will recall that during the consideration of the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1956, last sessional period, 1 pointed out that the Government was well aware of the possible effects of interference to television reception. In that measure the Administration took power to make regulations to deal with such interference if necessary. 1 think I said at the time that the Government did not desire to make regulations and that, for a start, it would attempt, by co-operating through the Australian Broadcasting Control Board with the various bodies concerned, to deal with the problems that were likely to arise. I am glad to be able to inform the committee that the board has been applying itself to this problem for some time, and that considerable progress has already been made. 1 am not able to report that everything has been fixed, because, of course, it is too early to expect that. But 1 think the committee will be interested to know the progress that has been made in these discussions.
Interference with the reception of broadcasts falls under several headings. First, there is the interference caused by the ignition systems of motor vehicles. In an attempt to deal with this kind of interference, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has been in touch with the chambers of manufactures in Sydney and Melbourne, and with the secretary of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. These bodies represent all the manufacturers and assemblers of motor vehicles in Australia, and they have promised their utmost co-operation. Already they are investigating the fitting of suitable suppressor devices to all new vehicles. Branches and affiliated organizations have been circularized, and discussions will proceed. Interference from the ignition systems of those vehicles which are already on the road presents different problems. In this matter the board has been in touch with the Victorian Chief Secretary’s Office and the New South Wales Commissioner for Motor Transport to see whether it is practicable for those authorities to promulgate suitable regulations under State laws to deal with the problem. The board has informed me that the Victorian Chief Secretary’s Office is doubtful whether the present laws governing the use of motor vehicles in Victoria, empower it to make the necessary regulations, but the department is looking into the matter further. The New South Wales Commissioner for Motor Transport has intimated that he does not expect any particular difficulty to arise in taking the required action.
Interference can arise also from appliances fitted with electric motors, particularly those in common use in the home. In an attempt to deal with this aspect of the problem, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has been in touch with the Federal Council of the Electrical Manufacturers Association, which has promised to ascertain what will have to be done. It is not to be assumed that every apparatus fitted with an electric motor is likely to cause interference to broadcasts, but, as many people already know, some are particularly likely to offend in this regard, and the whole matter will have to be inquired into very carefully. Representations have been made also to the New South Wales Physiotherapists Registration Board and the Victorian Hospital and Charities Commission in relation to various kinds of appa ratus used by the medical profession. These bodies also have promised to cooperate.
All that I can report so far, Mr. Chairman, is that these matters have been subject to investigation. All the bodies concerned have said that they realize the difficulties that may arise, that they do not want to market equipment that will seriously interfere with the vital medium of television, and that they are willing to do whatever they can to assist the Government to solve the problem of interference to television broadcasts. That is how the matter stands at the moment, and I hope to be able to inform honorable members from time to time of further developments. Several other matters were mentioned last evening by the honorable member for Robinvale - rather, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who was good enough to express his appreciation of the action taken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission with respect to certain news broadcasts in his electorate.
– Did he name any towns?
– 1 referred to him wrongly just now as “ the honorable member for Robinvale “; but his representations on matters affecting Robinvale have been so frequent that my slip was pardonable. I am sure the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be glad to receive his commendation. I mention the matter only to indicate to the committee generally that, although I stand, as I have done all along, by the principle that the commission shall not be subject to ministerial ‘ control, any matter concerning the commission that is raised in this chamber receives very serious and, generally, favorable consideration.
The honorable member for Mallee also asked about the new post office at Robinvale. I have already told him in response to his very frequent representations on this matter that the project is listed in the current programme.
– It has received favorable consideration!
– I am very glad to be able to tell the committee of one matter at least in which the outcome of the consideration has been favorable. If the honorable member for Mallee looks at the schedule prepared by the Department of Works he will see that the new Robinvale post office and exchange is fourth in the list of Victorian works which will cost more than £20,000 each. The total estimated cost of the new post office and exchange is £36,000, and we hope that about £20,000 worth of work will be done on it in the current financial year. It may not be completed during this financial year, but I have very little doubt that the honorable member will have the great pleasure of officially opening it during next financial year.
The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) last evening referred to two matters which he has previously mentioned in this chamber. The first was the sharedtelephone system. I do not propose to say much about it now, because I think I have already dealt with it sufficiently in answer to questions in the House. I want to say only that I thought the honorable member rather allowed his imagination to run riot when he predicted the dire consequences of the introduction of such a system. As he mentioned, this kind of system is very widely used in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and the consequences that he anticipates have not been experienced in those countries, the people of which have national characteristics very similar to our own.
– They do not like shared services.
– That is a matter of opinion. I have said previously that the proposal is still under investigation, and when a final report is received, it will be a matter for determination by the Government, and not by the department.
I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Mitchell suggest that I was out of touch with feeling in the electorates. May I say, with great respect, that I take exception to that statement. The fact that I was a private member for a long period - a little longer than the honorable member himself has been a member - and have had some months experience in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, has enabled me to form an opinion that is at least worthy of consideration. I have not forgotten what I learned when I represented my constituents as a private member, and I have now gained a wider knowledge of the requirements of the department.
As to the installation fee, I have dealt with this matter previously, but it is important, and I want to say more about it, as it has been mentioned by several honorable members. First, I shall refer to the justification for the fee. As I pointed out when explaining the general tariff proposal, the department has been falling behind in revenue in comparison with expenditure, to the extent of about £5,000,000. In addition, an amount of £250 is involved in the installation of every telephone. Previously, that capital expenditure was carried by Consolidated Revenue from which money was made available to the department, and no charge was made to the subscribers. I do not know of any utility in Australia, or anywhere else, where the subscriber - or whatever he may be - can get for nothing, service involving a capital outlay of £250. Because of the increasing costs that the Government and the department are facing in providing the whole field of Postal Department services, the retention of the old system could not be justified.
May I point out that the £10 installation fee is not recurring expenditure, lt is an initial capital expenditure and, therefore, it is not in exactly the same category as are increases of tariffs. That is to say, its impact on -the financial situation, and its inflationary effect, cannot be considered to be nearly as great as are other figures in the new tariff. For that reason, also, it is fully justified.
The second point regarding the fee relates to the date of application. 1 have referred to this matter previously in this chamber, but it is worthy of attention. In matters of this kind, it is difficult for a department to suit everybody; in fact, it is impossible to do so. Whatever decision was reached on the application of the new charge and the relevant date, somebody would have been dissatisfied. We were faced with two alternatives. First, we could have decided that the installation fee would be payable only in respect of applications received after 1st October. Secondly, we could have made the fee apply to all outstanding applications. Let us examine each of those alternatives.
First, if the fee were to apply only to applications received after 1st October, virtually no telephones installed in this financial year would carry the £10 installation fee, because there are about 86,000 applications for telephones outstanding. For purely practical reasons, it is necessary to obtain certain extra revenue in this financial year. If it were decided to forgo £800.000 to £1,000,000 in revenue on this item, other rates which have already been increased in the general tariff would have to be increased by a further amount of nearly £1,000,000 in this financial year to offset the loss. We cannot have it both ways. If we charge the fee, but apply it only to applications received after 1st October, we must agree to add a further £800,000 to £1,000,000 to other charges. That method was rejected by the Government and by me.
The alternative was that the fee should apply to all outstanding applications. That was not possible because, in some cases, a contract has been entered into between the department and intending subscribers. The requisite equipment being available, and the cables being laid, the department is prepared to begin the installation of the telephone. At that stage, the department communicates with, the applicant. It says to him, in effect: “ We are ready to go ahead. This is the financial basis on which the telephone will be installed. If you agree, send in the first period’s rent “. When this is received by the department, a contract has been entered into, and it cannot be waived. Therefore, the installation fee is not chargeable in respect of such an application, but only in respect of those where no money has passed between the applicant and the department.
The Government would have been delighted had it been in a position to delay this proposal for a year or two, but that was not practicable.
The alternative that was put forward by the honorable member for Mitchell and others was that, while they accepted the need for the fee. it might be possible to refrain from applying it to all applications that were received more than six months ago, or some other period. If we started to play around with dates, where would we stop? Why not make the period three months ago, or twelve months, or nine months? There is no logical argument in that suggestion. It is a stab in the dark, f prefer to stand by what we have decided, and I believe that it has some logic behind it.
The third point referred to the provisions governing the obligation to pay the fee. I have dealt with this matter briefly, also, but 1 shall devote some attention to it again. The fee applies where the department is required to provide exchange lines and equipment for the service. The provision excludes extra internal telephones that make use of only one exchange line. In the case of country party lines, where there is just one line to the exchange, the £10 fee is divided among all the parties. If there are five, they will pay £2 each. In country areas, where the trunk lines run to a country exchange from which exclusive services radiate to six, twelve or fifteen subscribers, the department has met the initial expenditure and. therefore, the fee is payable.
I believe that I have covered the provision generally, but, in the last week or two, several cases have been submitted to me by honorable members and private individuals which indicate that some of the provisions I have mentioned have not been applied. I have considered these matters carefully. In some cases, there has been misunderstanding on the part of the subscriber. He has seen cables going down and has asked when he is going to get his telephone. He has been told, “ Not until after 1st October, and you will have to pay £10”. There is no basis for such a proposition. If a contract has been entered into by the payment of the rental, a fee of £10 is not chargeable. In some cases, there has been confusion. The department has given a quotation to a subscriber and, realizing that the contract could . not be completed before 1st October, has stated that the £10 fee will be payable. In such cases, I have issued an instruction that, if the £10 had been included in the quotation, and the rental has been paid before 1st October, it will either be refunded or credited to the rental account. So, I am standing on the decision that I announced in this House, namely that a certain basis would be applied to the application of the fee, and if an honorable member brings any case to me in which that decision has been apparently departed from, I will certainly adjust the matter.
During the last few days, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) has made some grave charges against the administration of the central office. As the charges he has levelled apply personally to some of the officers, who have no means of replying to them, I do not think it is fair that I should let those charges pass without a challenge. They were very grave charges; they were uttered in intemperate words, and were completely baseless. It would be fair to describe those charges as nothing more or less than rabble-raising rubbish. The honorable member for KingsfordSmith made charges from which the listening public could infer that the members of the central office are in a position where they determine their own salaries, that the head office is grossly overstaffed, and that considerable inefficiency exists. That is far from the truth.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith had his turn a few days ago, while I sat quietly listening. To-day, I am replying to those charges by stating the facts. I point out, for a start, that such criticism indicates a lack of knowledge of the widespread functions and responsibilities of the central administration which, after all, is controlling the largest organization in Australia; public or private. It is providing for all the essential communication services throughout Australia on a 24-hour basis. The central office has to control and direct the whole of the general operations of the department. It has to formulate and direct policy and all the procedures and research work that is going on; it has to co-ordinate programmes of operation and is responsible for the general oversight of the spending of money right throughout Australia in the various States. It is controlling an organization whose assets, at cost, are worth about £320,000,000, but which, if based on present-day value, would be worth something like £550,000,000. It is controlling an instrumentality which has a yearly financial turnover of £800,000,000.
The staff comprises 79,100 officers, but, in addition to that, there are semi-official and non-official postmasters, assistants and so on. It is a very vast organization.
I will now get away from generalizations and refer to various facts which will show’ that there is no cause for any unfair criticism of the department. Dealing with the subject of staffing in the central office, I inform the committee that in 1949-50 when this Government took office after a government which the honorable member for Kingsford-
Smith supported had been in power for some considerable time, the staff of the central office numbered 887, which represented 1.24 per cent, of the total number of employees in the department throughout Australia. For 1955-56, the comparable staffing figure is 1,045. Some may say that we have increased the staff by 160 during that period. That is not so, because the figure for this year includes about 160 officers who, in 1949, were shown under the Victorian administration division but are now shown in the head office division. It will be seen, therefore, that virtually no increase has taken place in the staffing of the central office. The number still represents 1.12 per cent, of the total number of employees in the department, just slightly less than the percentage employed in head office in 1949-50.
From the point of view of finance I shall compare the cost of head office administration this year with that in 1949. The comparison which 1 offer to the committee is true unless the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is prepared to admit that in 1949 things were in a very parlous and bad state in the central administration. If he does not concede that, he must concede that any sound comparison will show that the position is better now than it was in 1949. The total cost of head-quarters administration this financial year is estimated at £1,385,000, compared with an expenditure of £555,000 in 1949-50. But this year the total expenditure of the department is £121,600,000. Therefore, the cost of administration of the head office represents a shade more than 1 per cent, of the total expenditure of the whole department. In 1949-50, when the total expenditure of the department was £55,604,000, the cost of administration of head office was £555,000, which also represents 1 per cent, of the total expenditure of the department. So, there has been no departure from the ratio between the cost of administration of central office and the total expenditure of the department between the years 1949-50 and 1956-57. That, as I said, is a fair comparison.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith, in his personal comments on the Director-General himself-
– Who fixes his salary? That is what I want to know.
– 1 shall finish, ©a the subject of salaries. I make passing reference to the fact that the salaries’ of all’ employees of the Postal Department, excepting the Director-General, are determined by arbitration. The salary of the Director-General is fixed by the Government. At present, the Director-General receives £5,500 a year, compared with £4,000 in 1936. During the period from 1936-56 his salary has increased by £1,500. So, the percentage increase in the salary of the DirectorGeneral is only about half the percentage increase in salaries and wages generally throughout Australia.
My time is running out and- other honorable members desire to speak. The matters I have been dealing with are important. I did not have an opportunity to refer to them during the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. I conclude by assuring the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) that his representations regarding rural’ automatic exchanges will continue to receive the careful attention of the department. When this Government took over in 1949, 192 rural automatic exchanges were in operation throughout Australia, whereas now the number is in the vicinity of 900. They are being put in at the rate of 100 a year, and last year the department installed a few more than 100. tt is anticipated that that rate of installation, which is about the maximum possible will be continued. I notice the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) looking at me, because he, too, has been talking to me about rural automatic exchanges..
I wish also to refer briefly to the statement made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who wanted to know what the Government’s policy is regarding the installation of telephones. I invite his attention to the allocation of the proposed vote under new capital works and services where he will see that the vote this year for technical services is £26,450,000 compared with £24,800,000 last year and- the vote for new buildings this year is £3,800,000 as against £3,400,000 last year. When the honorable member waved a piece of paper and said nothing was included in the works lists for Grayndler this year and therefore implied that he would sot get this year any of the services he is looking for, he was seriously mistaken, because that list applies only ‘ to new buildings which are not likely Co have any bearing on the provision, of telephone of other services for at least two years. The item with which he should” concern himself is the engineering vote for this year, which, as I have pointed out, stands at £26,450,000 - or practically £2,000,000 more than was voted last year. It is that money which, will be used to pay for extra equipment for existing exchanges and equipment for- new exchanges, as well as all the cable, telephones and technical equipment that will be installed this year in order to implement the Government’s policy of the greatest possible extension of telecommunication services.
.- I assure the Postmaster-General (Mr.. Davidson) that he will not hear any kindly references to his department from me until the longpromised and long-awaited new post office has been erected at Bendigo. I suggest to the Minister that he ascertain where that post office stands on the department’s list and when the plans, which have been ready for some time, will be put into operation, so that Bendigo car* have a post office’ worthy of it.
– It is No. 6 on the whole list, and the estimated cost is £17,500. It is expected that at least £15.000 will be expended on it this year.
– That is the first instalment. I want to deal with the operations of local repatriation committees, and I hope that what? I shall say on the subject will &e brought to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), so that a very unfortunate situation can be rectified. The work of the local repatriation committees forms an exceedingly important part of repatriation administration. The committees, which have been established in various districts in each State, are responsible for handling all applications for war pensions and service pensions, for medical appointments in respect of pensions, for giving advice on war service homes and for handling communications in respect of war service homes, which are not handled by the local offices of the War Service Homes Division. In addition, the committees deal with applications for loans and other forms of assistance from the Repatriation Department, as well as matters affecting the Canteens. Services Trust Fund, applications for educational allowances and other benefits, and inquiries in respect of rehabilitation, war service land settlement and other matters.
The peculiar situation which has arisen in some districts has been brought to my notice by the Bendigo branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League, which has advised me of the disabilities from which it is suffering as a consequence of the parsimonious attitude of the Repatriation Department. The local repatriation committee in Bendigo has been heavily subsidized by the Returned Servicemen’s League. The local branch has made available to the committee office accommodation, as well as the services of its secretary and a typist. However, notwithstanding that in the last few years administrative costs have risen considerably, the Repatriation Department has gradually but persistently decreased the funds that it has made available to finance the work of the local repatriation committee. In 1951-52, the sum allocated to the committee to enable it to carry out its duties was £500. 1 point out that the local branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League performs all the functions of the committee in respect of its members, without charge. However, there are over 2,000 returned servicemen in Bendigo, and as only one-half of them are members of the league, the work in respect of non-members must be done by the local repatriation committee. In the last four years, administrative costs have risen by at least 70 per cent. Notwithstanding that increase, the grant made to the committee, which was at the rate of £500 four years ago, has been reduced to £125 a year. Consequently, the committee is unable to pay its way, and almost the whole of its work is being done by the local branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League, which has been compelled to realize certain of its investments that were intended for other purposes. If that process continues, the branch will be compelled to refuse to do any more work for the committee.
In that event, the Repatriation Department would have to do what the Department of Social Services and other departments have done, lt would have to open an office in Bendigo, and the cost of that would be considerably more than £125 a year. I hope that my remarks will be brought to the notice of the Minister for
Repatriation, so that a bigger grant can be made to the local repatriation committee to enable it to carry on with its work.
[3.11. - Despite the fact that the items to which 1 shall refer are non-controversial, I think it would be wrong if the Minister responsible for ite-*is totalling something like £6.400.000 did not say a few words about them to (he committee. The items to which I direct the attention of honorable gentlemen now are contained in Division 217, which is a sort of omnibus division. It includes items relating to miscellaneous activities of the Department of External” Affairs in financing overseas missions and the like, not only for ourselves, but also for the Department of Trade and other departments. However, the expenses of those missions come in the vote for the Department of External Affairs, and we are responsible for them.
One of the items relates to the research expedition to the Antarctic, which is very close to mv heart and. I believe, is very much in the minds and imaginations of honorable members on both sides. The proposed expenditure under Division 217K is £5.200,000. most of which is taken up by an item of £4,700.000 in respect of the Colombo plan. I do not believe that on any one of the items that T have mentioned there is any controversy between us. Indeed, there have been very few references to them in the course of the debate so far.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) made a thoughtful and sympathetic speech on the Colombo plan, and I should like to refer to one or two remarks that he made. He reminded the committee that one of the resolutions passed by the Australian Labour party at a recent conference was to the effect that it advocated generous assistance by Australia to Asian peoples suffering from poverty, disease and a lack of educational facilities. We subscribe to that view also. It is something that is common to both sides. That is what we have been trying very hard to do for a number of years, particularly through the Colombo plan. The honorable member for Batman, in combating what I hope will be regarded as synthetic criticism of the Colombo plan, referred to the argument that we hear from some quarters to the effect that charity begins at home and that we should spend this money on our own people. My friend from Batman, very rightly and very intelligently, went on to say that charity does not end at home.
I do noi think that I am called upon to defend the Colombo plan at this stage of its history. I believe that the vast majority of thinking Australians are firmly of the view that, to the reasonable limit of our ability, we should continue to bring aid to the countries of South and South-East Asia which say that they need aid. I do not propose now to give a dissertation on the Colombo plan but, if required, I shall be available to do so on other occasions. There has been a slight increase, of the order of 10 per cent., in the amount provided in the Estimates under Division 217. That has been brought about largely by an increase in the amount that we have been obliged to find as our share of the” costs of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. That is something, of course, that we cannot and do not want to avoid. Another contributing factor towards the increased amount under this division is a certain increase in our Antarctic costs, which I shall describe quite briefly. There are one or two other small increases and decreases, and the final result is that the estimated expenditure is fi, 184, 000, compared with last year’s expenditure of £1,063,938.
Let me now say a few words about the increase in our Antarctic costs. The estimated expenditure for this year is £342,000 as against expenditure last year of £268,667. This increase has been brought about, first, by the need, as we saw it, to acquire a new aircraft. We already have one Canadian de Haviland Beaver aircraft, which has done remarkable service in the Antarctic in the last ten months. We shall acquire a second Canadian de Haviland Beaver aircraft, which will go down to our Antarctic base with the December relief parly. The aircraft that is there now will then be brought back for reconditioning, and will return to the Antarctic with the next relief party in about fifteen months’ time. A great many hours have been flown by this aircraft, which is operated by a Royal Australian Air Force crew. The aircraft has proved itself eminently suitable for this kind of work under what honorable members will realize are extreme conditions. Another reason for increased expenditure is the fact that we intend to estab lish a new station at Vestfold Hills, on the coastline about 400 miles east of Mawson. That station will be manned by five men and will cost an additional £24,000 this year.
In general, the expenditure will increase slightly for this year, because in the course of this financial year the International Geophysical Year starts and continues for twelve or eighteen months. We have been preparing for several years for the International Geophysical Year, and we have now, and will have when our party is relieved in December or January, a first-class contribution to make, under a great number of scientific headings, to the world-wide activities of 50 different countries in connexion with operations envisaged in the International Geophysical Year. Australia will be able to play at least its part, if not a good deal more, in the additions to the world’s knowledge that will undoubtedly result from this great co-operative effort in the International Geophysical Year.
I sometimes wonder whether Australians generally realize the part that Australia’s claim to a large portion of the Antarctic continent will play in our future. This is not the proper opportunity to speak to honorable members at any length about the Antarctic, but I would remind honorable gentlemen on both sides of this chamber, with great respect, that the Antarctic may very well, in years to come, occupy a very much bigger place in the thoughts of Australians than it does to-day. We are laying foundations there that may stand us in very good stead in the future.
Referring to the other items under this division, I have already spoken briefly about the Colombo plan, and I shall say no more about it. Then there are five or six items that relate to international aid in a variety of directions. It may be asked why Australia should bother itself about contributing to the relief of hardship in places many thousands of miles away from our shores. The simple fact is that we are in the world and of it. We have to do our share of relief of distress in any part of the world, and we are doing so, and have done so in the past, from Korea right around to the Middle East. We have contributed to the relief of the million or so unfortunate Arabs in the Gaza strip on the Levant coast, and we have contributed in many other directions. We are doing these things merely because in this new post-war era no country wants to or is being allowed to live to itself alone. Every country, however remote from others, must accept its share of the general burden. We are not alone in giving aid to these unfortunate countries thousands of miles from our shores. I can tell honorable gentlemen, as, indeed, they probably know, that Australia can hold its head high in respect of the contributions that it makes, from its necessarily limited resources, to those who are in various degrees of distress in a great many parts of the world.
I wished to say those few words in regard to this combination of items covering our contributions to the relief of hardship in other countries.
– Will the Minister tell the committee the contributions that will be made towards the United Nations International Children’s Fund this year?
– Yes. I am grateful to the right honorable gentleman for reminding me of this matter. Australia again has a proud story to tell in this connexion. It began during the last Labour administration, when the right honorable gentleman was in the position that I now hold, and large amounts of money were found by the government of that day as contributions to the United Nations International Children’s Fund. I am speaking of governmental contributions. We have continued to contribute, although in this case we have not been able to maintain quite the same level of contributions as was achieved in those days. We have, however, increased the level of contributions in other directions. The Australian public is asked from time to time to make voluntary contributions towards the children’s fund, and in this connexion again we have a proud story to tell. 1 know of no other single work more worthy of both governmental and private support than that which is carried out with the aid of this children’s fund. I do not know how many millions, or even tens of millions, of children living, in some cases in the most distressing conditions, have been aided and given a chance to live through the medium of this international children’s fund.
There is a group of subjects covered by the Estimates under consideration upon which I could speak to honorable members, if they had the patience to listen to me, for almost any length of time. Unfortunately our time is running out, and 1 shall have to leave it at that. If honorable members require further detail on any particular matter on a later occasion I shall be only too glad to give it to them.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Part 4. - Payments to or for the States -
Part 5. - Self-balancing Items - Department of Primary Industry.
Proposed Vote, £150,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- The future of New Guinea must loom more and more importantly before us in Australia. It is important to us because of the obligations that we have undertaken to the indigenous peoples of Papua, not only voluntarily but also under the United Nations Charter regarding trust territories. It is important also in the light of Indonesian claims to Dutch New Guinea, or Irian, as the Indonesians call it.
The problem of the control of New Guinea is a complex one, as those who have visited the Territory realize. Viewed from afar, it may appear simple, according to one’s point of view. Some say, “ Let the administration carry on as it has in the past “. Others say, “ Hand it over to the natives “. Still others say, “ Let the European settlers manage it ‘”. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) even suggested in a recent speech that it may become part of Australia. Some people have no opinion about New Guinea at all. They are ostrich-like in their attitude. It is that kind of approach that nearly lost New Guinea to us some time ago, and almost lost Australia itself during World War II. New Guinea is Australia’s Achilles heel, and unless it is well shod, and developed efficiently either by ourselves, or by a friendly and democratic government, it may well prove to be our ultimate downfall. Let us not make the mistake of being lulled into a sense of indifference or complacency about it. We cannot afford to ignore the storm warnings near our own shores. Only today it was announced that Indonesia had renewed at the United Nations, its insistent claim to Dutch New Guinea - this time with the support of fifteen Afro-Asian nations which have formed a bloc favorable to the claim. Recently Dr. Soekarno, the President of Indonesia, visited the United States of America to make an unsuccessful plea for that country’s support of his claim. Last week, be it marked, he was feted in Peking by the Communists. Moreover, Mao Tse-tung, who is at the head of Communist China, pledged the support of that country to Indonesia’s claim to Dutch New Guinea.
Surely the indigenous people of New Guinea should have some say in the determination of their future? The memorandum submitted by Indonesia to the United Nations is as follows: -
Dutch New Guinea continues to be a cancer in Indonesian-Dutch relations. lt will continue to be an irritant in IndonesianAustralian relations also while Indonesia adopts its present attitude. Communist China is using Indonesia as a pawn in its own ‘game just as Russia has been using Egypt and the Arab countries in its drive for world conquest. Only last year Mao Tse-tung said that Australia was part of Asia, and fixed 1965 as the deadline for its conversion to a Communist Chinese province. Another very significant fact is that last week, when the foundation of the Chinese Soviet Republic was being celebrated, Liu Shao-chi was advanced to second place in Communist China, behind Mao Tse-tung, and over the previous Premier Chou En-lai. It was Liu Shao-chi who was designated as the first commissar, or governor-general, of sovietized Australia!
Quite apart from the designs which Moscow and Peking may have upon us. there are in Indonesia elements which may force their Government into precipitant action, compelling the Dutch to capitulate and make a deal in regard to west New Guinea that may be inimical to the interests of Australia, and the people of that region. Honorable members will recall how only a few years ago the young military clique of Japan forced their elder statesmen to take imperialist action. I would like to quote a cable item from to-day’s “ Daily Telegraph “. It reads -
Three leading West Java army officer? have been arrested and questioned about a plot to overthrow the Indonesian government. Army groups have been planning to set up a military or youth junta to govern the country. Major Djhuro. Djarkata city commander tried to arrest the Foreign Minister before he left for the Sue? conference in London. In Peking last week President Soekarno said he realized that members of the Indonesian armed forces “ were not yet satisfied with the results achieved up to this time “, but he warned them not to go off the rails of democracy.
Perhaps he could read the signs and portents to be seen in his own country.
Recently, when I was in Tokyo, 1 met the son of a former Japanese premier who was dragged out of his bed and assassinated one morning by members of the young military clique because he opposed aggression and the proposal to invade and rape Manchuria and China. These youn£ officers eventually succeeded in intimidating the Japanese Cabinet, and those countries were invaded. There is a striking similarity between the position in Japan then and the position in Indonesia now. Japan was coming out of a feudal and backward state with the aid of the western democracies but was politically immature and, because of certain initial successes, became cocky and arrogant, favouring aggression.
Indonesia, at the instigation of a young military clique, may make the same tragic mistake as Japan, and over-reach itself. Whether that attempt is successful or noi it will be a very costly business for the people of Australia. In the light ot previous experience, and the changed situation in Asia, we must assume that these claims to West New Guinea and Australia are made in earnest - that these people are not just fooling. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. We must bear in mind that Japan, although denied a military victory, succeeded in its plan for a coprosperity sphere and for “ Asia for the Asians”. Only would-be collaborators and potential Quislings, and people who have no interest in this country, would urge us to ignore the ominous signs on our own horizon. Our own defence, and that of New Guinea, must go hand in hand. We have a sacred responsibility to the humble native of that country. We must carry out the humane policy laid down by the late Sir Hubert Murray, and past and present Commonwealth administrations, and honour our obligation under the United Nations Charter, ultimately to bring these people to the point of self-government.
Having visited the area, I can say that a great job is being done there. I echo the sentiments expressed recently by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who said that Australia had no apology or excuse to offer for its administration of New Guinea and was working steadily and purposefully for the social, economic and political advancement of the indigenous people of that country. Any impartial observer will admit that our administration of the Territory redounds to the credit of all concerned. It is a credit, first, to the forebears of the present native population, who settled there under great difficulties; secondly, to the missionaries who went there and cared for the natives despite great hardships; thirdly, to the European settlers who help to develop the natural resources of New Guinea; and, fourthly, to the Administration, which has protected the natives and planned for their future.
The missions that have come to the region from the United Nations organization have made eulogistic comments about Australia’s administration and have been agreeably surprised at what has been described as the greatest and most successful humanitarian experiment in history. However, the most recent mission said that a deadline for the development of New Guinea to the stage of self-government should be fixed. I quite agree, because I believe that there is scope for improvement, and for the speeding up of the programme. We should accept this constructive criticism and do something about it. 1 was most impressed by the potential of the Territory, particularly in the highland regions, which are suitable for agricultural, and even industrial, development. The Administration itself should be moved there. It would overcome difficulties of staffing and, because of the more refreshing climate, would result in more efficient administration. As I have said, certain areas away from the humid atmosphere of coastal centres such as Port Moresby, Lae, and Rabaul are suitable for industrial pursuits. Undoubtedly, the natives are capable of acquiring skill. I had the privilege, in company with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, of inspecting the new technical college buildings that were under construction at Rabaul, and I must say that the workmanship displayed by the natives under the tutelage of the Administration officials was of a very high order.
– That was true, also, of work being carried out at the Kokopo mission station.
– That is right. I think that there should be a new approach to this subject. We should reverse the policy of maintaining the indigenous people in their villages. They should be concentrated in larger settlements, so that modern amenities can be provided for them. Apart from the fact that it is uneconomic for the natives to live in huts as at present, their concentration in modern settlements, properly planned, would hasten the industrialization of the Territory.
There are more than 100 allied trades associated with the building industry. Ample man-power exists in the Territory, which has a population of 1,750,000 natives. Furthermore, it is rich in timber, including some that is being made into the best plywood in the world. I consider that, from the point of view of moral uplift, it would be far better to concentrate the natives in the way that I suggest than to continue to uproot them from their native villages, take them away for training, and afterwards send them back again. I heard some alarming stories about natives who were, taken away from their villages, and who subsequently went back. There is no doubt whatever that the natives have a high degree of intelligence, and that they are eager to learn and become self-reliant. It did my heart good to see how the natives control their own educational settlement at Rogeia. By a show of hands. 80 per cent, of the children there indicated that they would like to become teachers. I believe that, in due course, the natives could undertake self-government and that, as the Minister has suggested, the Territory could become the seventh State of Australia. But I submit that that is solely a matter for the natives themselves to decide. We cannot have it both ways. Acceptance of the proposal would involve all sorts of complications in relation to citizenship; it would need to be carefully considered. There is no doubt that the natives in the Territory are very grateful for what has been done for them by the Australian Government. Particularly are they grateful to the servicemen who helped to save their country during the war. The natives are very favorably disposed towards Australia, and I am sure that they want to continue in that way.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Quite recently, I was privileged, as a member of a parliamentary delegation, composed of members of this chamber and of another place, to visit New Guinea. For me, it was a memorable experience, inasmuch as 1 had not been to New Guinea before and I had. as I quickly discovered, very little conception of what the Territory is like to-day. 1 am sure that the average ex-serviceman who served there during the war would find conditions to-day very different from his memories of the “ green hell “ of the jungle. It is quite evident that tremendous progress has been made in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea during the last seven or eight years. My first impression of the Territory was that there exists, both in the Administration and in private enterprise, a tremendous spirit of go-ahead. It was quite remarkable to see, at the £20,000,000 project of the Australasian Petroleum Company at Middletown, which is situated in the delta area in the south-west, some of the most modern equipment imaginable. Very modern equipment is also installed in the jungle at the Bulolo pine mill - which produces some of the best plywood in the world - and at the Bulolo Dredging Company. These three plants demonstrate the terrific progress that has been made in the Territory.
I should like now to direct my attention to a decision that was taken recently by the United Nations Trusteeship Council, on a vote of eight to six - including the United States of America in favour - to ask Australia to suggest a date by which there should be either self-determination or selfgovernment by the native people. I can only say that those who voted in favour of such a proposition have a very scant knowledge, indeed, of what is going on in the Territory at present, and of what the Administration is doing. That vote indicated a remarkable lack of knowledge in this respect. To begin with. I have had some experience at first-hand of a similar kind of administration in other countries, but I have never seen elsewhere an administration that is so humanitarian and dignified in its approach to the native people as is the present administration in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Of course, there are still large areas of the Territory that are uncontrolled. One can visualize the awful chaos that would result if. within a reasonably short period, selfdetermination and self-government were given to the Territory. Much of the good that has been done, and which is continuing to be done, would be undone. I emphasize that the vote to which 1 have referred indicated a very considerable lack of knowledge in certain quarters of what is going on in the Territory. One would have expected the United Nations Trusteeship Council to go out of its way to commend the manner in which Australia has conducted its trusteeship.
– I remind the honorable member that a delegation from the United Nations Trusteeship Council visited the Territory.
– I was coming to that. The parliamentary delegation of which I was a member asked native leaders individually whether they would prefer to continue under the United Nations Trusteeship or to be with Australia completely. Without exception, they said that they preferred to be with Australia completely.
– Hear, hear! That is right.
– Whilst I was in the Territory 1 frequently heard remarks about the United Nations Charter that were not complimentary. I came away from the Territory with a firm conviction - the natives made no bones about the matter - that the natives of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea want to come, as they put it, under the Australian flag.
I wish now to deal briefly with Dutch New Guinea, to which the previous speaker, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) addressed himself at some length. In my opinion, we should be utterly foolish not to take the strongest possible stand against New Guinea becoming a part of Indonesia.
– Hear, hear! You can say t’hat again.
– 1 should be surprised if any member of this Parliament had a different opinion. Although many people in New Guinea feel that there is insufficient interest taken in Australia in regard to this particular problem, I think that they can be assured that, at least in this Parliament, there is a very strong desire to maintain in Dutch New Guinea people who are very friendly towards Australia, because New Guinea can be described as our front doorstep. I turn now to several’ individual matters that impressed me while I was there. I do not imagine for one moment that in such a short visit one could become an expert, but certain things become apparent very quickly. The first has relation to land. The general principle applied by the Minister is that the natives shall not in any way be dispossessed of their land unless they want to sell or unless the Administration is satisfied that it is proper that they should sell. I am bound to say that I agree with that principle in general, but, on the other hand, it seems to me that certain areas could be made available for opening up by private enterprise, by Europeans, but which are not being made available sufficiently quickly. It is self-evident that in certain areas, such as the Chimbu Valley,, where the density of population is high, it would be utterly foolish to allow Europeans to settle; but there are areas where the density of population is very low indeed and where there are tracts of arable land.
– Does the honorable member mean that the land should be taken from the natives?
– 1 certainly do not mean that it should be taken from the natives’. 1 do not think that anybody would suggest that. It must be opened up after proper negotiations, but time may not be very much on our side in connexion with this matter, and unless we develop these areas as quickly as possible we may never have the opportunity to do so.
In case there are some who still think that the Europeans are exploiting the natives there, I point out that the farmers in the highlands around Goroka have formed what is known as the Highland* Farmers and Settlers Association. They have drawn up a rather lengthy charter, and as the time available to me now is so short I shall not be able to read it; but it sets out very clearly that its members believe that they must live side by side with the natives,, that they must not dispossess them of their property without warrant but must live with them and help them to advance as they themselves progress. Talking to the white settlers there I found constantly that they were not out to abuse or exploit the natives. I discovered that they wished to live with them and work with them so that both might be enabled to make a living.
Another matter about which I should like to speak relates to roads. What has been achieved in the highlands with the absolute minimum of equipment is astounding. There, they have constructed something like 600 miles of roads, and almost every foot of those roads has been built by natives using nothing but pointed digging sticks. What has been achieved there is even more astounding when we appreciate the fact that the patrol officers and district officers there have had to perform the duties of surveyor, engineer’ and overseer all in one. There is no doubt that what they have done in that extremely difficult and precipitous country is amazing. There is, of course, an obvious and urgent need for mechanical equipment to assist those people in that work. A few tip-trucks and a grader would lead to a tremendous increase in the volume of work done, but. at the same time, what has been achieved is a monument to the district officers and others who have been responsible for it.
Speaking generally of the work of the Administration, the sympathy and understanding which it has in carrying out its duties is outstanding. There is mutual respect between the Administration and the native leaders. The Administration does not follow the old colonial method of being, as it were, standover men telling the natives what to do. lt works in a different wa said, as a result, there is profound mutual respect between it and the natives. Another -gratifying feature is the magnificent work -done by the young patrol officers m the uncontrolled areas where the inhabitants were completely primitive and savage not only in appearance, but also in performance on occasions. I have not seen those areas at first-hand, but I have seen the natives in the semi-controlled areas, and I know how these patrol officers work. One -cannot help but feel proud of the fact that Australians are able to carry out such excellent work.
As, I suppose, is the case in almost every service, there are certain matters in this field which give rise to some concern. Unfortunately, there is a gulf of discontent between Canberra and Port Moresby on the -one hand and between Port Moresby and the Administration officers working in the field on the other. I know that the Minister has this matter in mind, because I have discussed it with him; but I do suggest that (the gulf between the field officers and Port Moresby could be narrowed by the establishment of some intermediary between the Port Moresby Administration and these field -officers.. On the other side, I suggest that, in the long run, it would be of distinct advantage if it were possible to bring the Administration officers from Port Moresby to Canberra reasonably frequently and vice versa. In my view, such a policy would make for better administration.
Another matter to which the Parliament -should give some thought is the citizenship -status of Asian people in New Guinea. There are some 2,000 people of Chinese and 2,000 of other bloods in that Territory. They are now Australian-protected persons, and this Parliament ought to consider whether we -should grant full citizenship status to them. If that is to be done, there will undoubtedly “be some difficulties of an obvious nature in connexion with those people who may have a British passport at the moment and who may be only temporary residents there; but we should give consideration to extending -citizenship status to those of the nonindigenous people who have been there for perhaps three generations now.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding in Australia about New Guinea’s problems. 3 do not imagine for one moment that, in the short time I was there, I was able to gain a full appreciation of them, but I suggest that it is essential that we, in this country, realize how important New Guinea is to us. There is still a considerable division of opinion as to whether the administration of the Territory should be carried out on the old colonial style or on the anti-colonial policy which is being pursued by the Minister at the present time. There are probably faults in both methods, but nobody can doubt that the present policy is by far the more preferable of the two. Nobody doubts the sincerity or ability of the Minister in this respect.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 wish to discuss Norfolk Island. A parliamentary delegation visited Norfolk Island this year, and that visit coincided with the centenary celebrations there on 8th June. This Parliament elected six delegates to accompany the Minister there, and I had the extremely good fortune to be one of those selected. It was the first parliamentary delegation to visit Norfolk Island, and I was pleased to be a member of it. When the Norfolk Island Act came into force on 1st July, 1914, Norfolk Island was accepted by the Commonwealth as a territory under its authority. We are responsible for this territory, just as we are responsible for NewGuinea, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), the Cocos Islands and the Northern Territory. Australia is responsible for the welfare of its people, whom I found to be most hospitable and very loyal. I understand that almost every able bodied man on the island served in the forces during World War II.
The island is governed under an ordinance prescribed under the act and an Administrator is appointed by the GovernorGeneral. The Administrator is responsible to the ‘ Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). The people are represented by the Norfolk Island Advisory Council, which has eight members. The island is divided into four wards, and the members of the council are elected in the same way as members of other councils, but they are advisors only. I stress that, because I found that the people” would like the members of the council to be more than advisors. The Minister has power under the act to veto any decisions made by the council. This island is such a beautiful, salubrious place that it would be difficult to feel unhappy there, but. of course, the people expect more than environment. They feel that they should have a bigger say in the government of the island.
I did not go to Norfolk Island merely to find things about which to complain when I returned to Australia. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent there. I enjoyed the scenery and the abundance of hospitality shown to me. But I went there to try to help the people who had kindly invited me. I listened to their explanations of matters that they considered to be problems and decided to say something about them when 1 came back to Australia. As a member of the parliamentary delegation to this island, I feel thai it is my bounden duty to express my views on what I found there. The residents of the island have no elected representative in this Parliament and they feel that they should have a voice here.
– How many people reside on the island?
– There are about 880 people there. The residents of Lord Howe Island have a voice in this place, through their very excellent representative, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue). They are also represented in the New South Wales Parliament by the member for the State electorate of King. I believe that the residents of Norfolk Island should have similar representation. I know that the Minister will look after them to some degree, but the islanders would be very happy if they had a representative in this Parliament.
The members of the advisory council are a little upset because they have not the power to implement any of their decisions. The President of the council said to members of the delegation, “ Give us some responsibility, some rights to make decisions and power to implement our decisions “. At the moment the island is going back. The tourist traffic and the population are declining. At one time 1,500 or 1.600 people were resident on the island; now there are only half that number. Norfolk
Island has no industry to help maintain the population. Another point brought to my notice was that our social services are not extended to residents of this place, and the islanders felt that some social services should be provided for old people. The soil is most fertile and a person with energy could produce almost enough food for his requirements. But there arc old people who are beyond the stage where they can produce for themselves. Some provision should be made for them.
No telephone service is available. 1 believe that under the present system the doctor’s residence is connected to the hospital and one or two other points may be connected, but no exchange service is available. The existing service is available only at a very limited time. I heard discussion in this chamber to-day about the rural automatic exchanges. Possibly such a service could be considered for the people of the island, lt would be very suitable for them.
– An investigation was made to ascertain whether such a service was suitable, but the number of potential subscribers was not large enough.
– I thank the Minister for that information. The possibility of such a service being provided was mentioned to me when I visited the island. Another complaint is that the public facilities are too far away from what might be called the small business centre. They are about two miles distant. The administrative offices are at Kingston, at one end of the island. Public services such as the post office, bond store and the library are located there. The people in the little business centre feel that they should be closer to those facilities and that the possibility of transferring them should be considered. A suitable electric light system is not installed on the island. The existing system could be extended to some of the people in the business area.
Another matter that was brought to my notice concerned St. Barnabas Church of England. I know that this matter is not within the jurisdiction of the Government, but I desire to refer to it. St. Barnabas is an historic church and was previously the head-quarters of the Melanesian Mission in the Pacific. Another Church of England, AH Saints, is located near the administrative block. The two churches are about three miles apart. For sentimental reasons, most of the people who belong to the Church of England go to All Saints Church. There are not sufficient people on the island to maintain St. Barnabas. It is an historic place. The interior is an absolute gem, with a variety of stones and mosaic fittings on the altar and mother-of-pearl plaques on the pews. The beauty in that church probably could not be equalled anywhere else in the world. But the roof is deteriorating and quite a bit of maintenance work is required. If possible, some way should be found to preserve this church because of its historic value. If it was accessible, I am certain that hundreds of thousands of people would visit it to see its beauty. I would say that St. John’s Church in Canberra would not equal St. Barnabas Church, but very many people visit St. John’s.
Norfolk Island has no harbour facilities. The only way to get to the island is by air. The lack of harbour facilities makes it difficult for ships to take freight to and from the island, and the carriage of freight at present is very expensive. It costs about £18 a ton. A proposal was made that a harbour be constructed at Ball Bay. I do not know whether that proposal has been shelved or whether any prospect remains of Ball Bay ever being developed, but the opportunity is there for a harbour to be built.
– A breakwater could be constructed there.
– Yes, it is possible to have a breakwater there. 1 understand that during the war, the Americans examined Ball Bay. If the Japanese had not been defeated so quickly we may have had a harbour there.
The tourist attractions of the island should be developed. It is a beautiful place with magnificent scenery. The climate is sub-tropical and it is possible for one to walk around in an open-necked shirt and sports trousers during almost the whole of the year. It is disease-free. There are no flies, and one can walk into the thick meadow green at any time and not find snakes. From many points of view, it is the perfect place. I think that the “ Bounty “ mutineers said that from a mutiny came a paradise, and that word sums up the place.
I have given some points of view which I desire to bring to the Minister’s notice. If an opportunity occurs in the future for a delegation to go there, honorable members should accept the opportunity and be assured of a very pleasant experience. Some industry is developing in the form of a whaling station. Since I left the island, I have not heard of the station’s progress, but I understand that it provides an opportunity for the employment of about 60 islanders. I hope that this enterprise develops satisfactorily. The station may possibly be used for fishery purposes later. I should appreciate anything that the Government can do to solve the island’s problems. We were invited there as delegates, and these problems were put to us in good faith. I commend these submissions to the Minister in the spirit in which they were made to me.
– I propose to address my remarks if not entirely, almost entirely, to the subject of Papua-New Guinea. Two very thoughtful contributions have been made to this subject this afternoon and I want to refer particularly to that which was made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). The delegation which recently visited New Guinea was led by that very distinguished gentleman, and I know that he was properly summed up by the interpreter who described him as the “ One fella big master No. 1 man “. He did an excellent job and I am quite sure that I voice the opinion of all members of the delegation when I say that we felt duly appreciative of his efforts and of the arrangements which were made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and his staff. The experience of that delegation convinced me, not for the first time in my political career, that men of different political parties can meet on common ground, investigate fairly with open minds, and arrive at a fair measure of agreement about problems which are common to this country of ours. The party was a very happy one, and I may say that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) brought to the proceedings a light touch which we all appreciated.
In the very limited time at my disposal, I want to direct attention to the point made by the honorable member for Franklin about certain criticisms, implied and otherwise, of the Administration of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea. In doing so, I wish to direct the committee’s attention to some statistics. In 1939, the total public finance provided for the Territory was £42,500. By the end of 1956-57, it will have grown to £9,250,000, which reflects an increasing appreciation of the importance of the Territory. Figures provided by the Minister show that, in 1948-49, the total public expenditure was a little over £4,000,000, whereas for the current year it is estimated to be £13,500,000. Of these amounts, local revenue provided £1,200,000 in 1948-49, and will provide £4,250,000 this year, or roughly 31 pei cent, of the total public expenditure. This is a very remarkable performance, having regard to the stage of development. Trade has grown in value from £5,300,000 in 1938-39 to £11,600,000 in 1948-49, and to £33,100,000 in 1955-56. Imports have increased from £1,850,000 in 1938-39 to £19,800,000 last year, when exports totalled £13,250,000. 1 think that these figures speak tor themselves. They should be better known by those persons who are, or ought to be. interested in the Territory. I wish to refer to one or two major items of expenditure in the total of £13,500,000 to which this country is committed this year. In 1955-56. we expended approximately £2,000,000 on hospitals in the Territory. In 1948-49, the Administration had 154 hospitals; now it has 1,005. The missions then had 265 hospitals and now have 357. Over that period the number of private hospitals has dropped from five to four. The total number of hospitals shows the remarkable growth. When this Government took office there were 424 hospitals in the Territory, whereas to-day there are 1,416. The hospitals vary widely in type. In New Britain there is a native hospital which is estimated to cost £495,000, and in Port Moresby one to cost £463,000. There are small European hospitals such as the one at Lae and primitive hospitals in the most remote areas we visited. Some criticism was directed at the type of hospital provided in some of the outlying areas. 1 discussed this matter with very experienced medical officers, who put to me - I think their statement is indisputable - that the response of a patient to medical treatment depends a great deal upon environment. If natives are projected straight from primitive surroundings into a European-type hospital, they are far less likely to have a quick and ready return to health than if they are put in a good type of native building in the surroundings to which they are accustomed and treated with the same life-saving drugs. The Administration apparently is working up steadily from that type of primitive establishment to the very expensive hospital to which I have referred. 1 shall refer now to education in the Territory. Six years, almost to the day. from the time that I left on this trip, I went with the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), under official imprimatur but otherwise freelance, into the Territory. I was given every opportunity of availing myself of the services of the Administration, but I was not attached, nor was my colleague, to an official party. We had the advantage of a great deal of freedom and made easy contact with all soils of people, but there are also very marked advantages in the kind of tour which f made six years later, because all arrangements were made to a split-second schedule. We saw an enormous tract of country, from Daru Island, which, incidentally, is less than 100 miles from the tip of CapeYork Peninsula, right along the mainland, and on to the main parts of New Britain and New Ireland. We saw and we met people in every possible environment. When I went back there six years afterwards, 1 did so with an appreciation that the people in charge of the Territory at the time that this Government took over had to contend’ with an administration which had been> shattered by war. It included some misfits and suffered because of mistakes - perhaps bad mistakes - of policy by the previous government. But I do not want to touch on that matter. I believe that any government that had the task of administering the Territory immediately after thewar would have had a colossal job. The change from the position that I saw six years ago to that which I saw on the recent visit was very close to miraculous, both in respect of what had already been achieved’ and what was being done.
Let us take education, for instance. T am sorry that I cannot give the committee comparative figures, but 1 know something of this subject and I also know how poorly 1 was impressed with what I saw in 1950. To-day, there are 23 non-native schools; there are 150,000 native children, mainly in mission schools; and in the administration schools there are 8,300 children, most of whom are in the secondary stages ot education. The training of teachers is proceeding apace, and, in this connexion, do not let us underrate the difficulties that confront the Administration, because it is dealing with a people Who have at least 40 separate languages - not dialects, but languages. They have no common language, and there are no written languages. Perhaps by mistake, they were taught pidgin, which is not of much use to them in trying to govern a modern community, ft has been set aside. As I have said, the training of teachers is making good headway. In 1955-56 there were 326 teachers, and there are at present 227 in training, most of whom will go into the service this year. The training of teachers includes teachers for normal schools, technical schools, localgovernment clerks’ schools, and agricultural schools, those being the broad classifications.
Australia has every reason to be proud of the white senior teachers in its service, and of their attitude to the native populace. I do not in any way reflect on the junior teachers, but I do wish to pay a tribute to the men who are the leaders. Because the people of New Guinea depend so greatly upon the way in which these teachers approach their task, the matter is an important one. Australia has every reason to be proud of the kind of leadership that is being given. I support entirely the policy of availing ourselves of the mission work in the primary stages of education. Nevertheless, we need to take care that, in all of the schools, there is a standard which is acceptable to the - Administration, and the Administration, in return for its subsidy, should insist on such a standard. I feel that the Administration is doing a great job in the Territory and is doing it as quickly as is humanly possible. In addition, it is going about its task in a realistic way. I mct certain native people who were very well advanced, and the standard they had attained impressed me greatly. The honorable member for Franklin, who was the leader of the party, has already told the committee that the population is approximately 1,680,000 and that, of that number. 55,200 are in private employment and 13,300 in government employment - a total of approximately one in every 23 of the total population, including those not under control.
In the last few minutes at my disposal. I wish to refer to the point made by the honorable member for Franklin regarding citizenship rights for certain people of the Territory. I was tremendously impressed by the standard of the young Chinese, many of whom had been educated in our bes schools. As I pointed out to the Minister six years ago, these people apparently hang between the heaven of the white person and the definite status of the native. Thanks to the administraion of the present Minister, they now have a better status. Since they are relatively few in number and as many of them were born in the Territory, and most are eager to come under our flag, I believe that Australia should give serious consideration to according citizenship of this Commonwealth to them, and also, perhaps, to a limited number of the Malays who live there, and so tie the loyalty thai I believe that they are prepared to give. I know that that might raise certain difficulties insofar as the native-born people are concerned, and one may well ask whether we can give citizenship to one and not to the other. In my opinion, we should devise a formula for admitting native people, of a suitable standard of education, in proportion to the number of white people who take up permanent residence in the Territory. By that means, we could disarm criticism that otherwise might be fatal to us, both inside and outside the Territory. In conclusion, I congratulate the Minister who, I believe, has been the inspiration and driving force behind the policy, on the magnificent job that he and the Department of Territories are doing.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I wish to address my remarks to the proposed vote for the Northern Territory. On a previous occasion, I referred to the effect that excessive transportation costs were having on the development of the
Territory, and I pointed out that the subsidy being allowed to the South Australian Government in respect of the Commonwealth railways was a charge against the revenue of the railways and not against Consolidated Revenue. I did not question the justice of the subsidy but merely criticized the method that the Commonwealth was adopting in regard to it. The excessive charges that the Commonwealth railways will have to bear as the result of this subsidy will, of course, be passed on to the producers and consumers of the Territory, and of central Australia.
One of the most formidable obstacles we have to overcome in the Territory at the present time is the cost of living. In this respect, 1 turn to another aspect of transportation which has a definite bearing, especially in the northern part of the Territory. 1 refer to the charges made by the shipping services that ply between Fremantle and Darwin, and between Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin. The Commonwealth has the requisite power and could do much to rectify some of the anomalies that exist in relation to the shipping position in that part of Australia. I point out that the Western Australian Government subsidizes the development of the northern part of the State, and no one can deny that northern Australia, particularly the Northern Territory, is worthy of development. In the course of such development, there will be certain inescapable financial burdens for the Commonwealth to bear. The Western Australian Government has tackled it in a manner which the Commonwealth could with advantage follow. Western Australia is not a prosperous State compared with the industrial States of Australia, yet its Government can subsidize the development of the north-west to a degree very much greater than the degree to which the Commonwealth is prepared to assist the development of the Northern Territory.
I should like to instance some of the freight charges of the State Shipping Service in Western Australia between ports in Western Australia and the port of Darwin. Nobody would suggest, in view of the charges that I am going to quote, that the Western Australian Government, in its shipping operations, is discriminating against the port of Darwin, lt is not doing so. It is not the responsibility of the Western Australian Government to sponsor and sub sidize the development of the port of Darwin and the northern part of the Northern Territory. Its responsibility is to subsidize the development of its own State, and it has made a mighty contribution to that cause. But what can be done by the Western Australian Government in its own sphere can easily be done by the Commonwealth in its sphere of activity, the Northern Territory. I say to the Minister for Territories that he should confer with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) with a view to that Minister conferring with the Western Australian Government in order to strike a freight rate which would be comparable with the freight rate that the State is charging its own people in that part of the west. The Minister for Territories must also bear a large part ot the responsibility in this matter.
The Western Australian Government ii> shouldering a great responsibility in allowing its shipping service to extend beyond the borders of the State into the waters of the Northern Territory. I think that the Western Australian Government has earned a tribute for the work that it has done in that respect. I have the greatest admiration for the Western Australian State Shipping Service. Even under existing conditions, that service is contributing greatly to the development of the north. For instance, I think that its ships call at the port of Darwin on no fewer than 28 occasions each year. The ships of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, which is directly under the control of the Australian Government, call at Darwin from the eastern States about eight times a year. So one can well imagine the contribution made by the State of Western Australia to the development of northern Australia. I feel that the Western Australian service is entitled to charge the full rate for cargo consigned to ports beyond the boundaries ot Western Australia.
The charges that 1 shall cite come from the official list of the State Shipping Service of Western Australia and have been operative from 1st November, 1952. A schedule of freights was forwarded to me by the State Shipping Service. The freight for general cargo from the port of Fremantle to Wyndham, which I think is some 1,300 miles from Fremantle, is £5 12s. 6d. a ton: whereas for freight for a similar classification of goods consigned to the port ot
Darwin, the charge is £1 1 1 7s. a ton. That is an increase of more than 100 per cent., although Darwin is only 200 miles distant from the port of Wyndham. So an additional amount of £6 5s. a ton is charged to carry freight 200 miles beyond the port of Wyndham. It is obvious that the State Government is subsidizing its shipping in order to allow it to charge only £5 12s. a ton on freight to Western Australian ports as against £11 17s. a ton on freight to Darwin. The Commonwealth might well step in and do for the Northern Territory the same thing that the Western Australian Government does for its people.
Then the Western Australian Government has a special developmental rate. I do not know what is actually included in this specification, but I should say that it would be goods of a capital nature, required for the developmental purposes of the area. For such goods there is a preferential rate of £4 lis. a ton, whereas the rate charged for the shipment of the same type of freight to Darwin is still £11 17s. a ton. No concession is made on the shipment of this type of freight to Darwin, nor do we expect that the Western Australian Government should make a concession. We feel that the Commonwealth should fall into line with the practice of the Western Australian Government.
Now I want to pass to another aspect of shipping in the north, and that is the congestion in the port of Darwin. There has been terrific congestion in that port over the years, particularly since the war. It is felt that the wharfage position in the port of Darwin has contributed greatly to that congestion. Time and time again, we have seen ships from the eastern ports lie in the stream for periods up to three weeks. They are the ships of the Australian Shipping Board, and that delay must place a terrific burden on the operating costs of that line. People in the north feel that some co-ordinating body should be established in order to arrange the arrival of these ships at a period when they can be handled in the port of Darwin.
The State Shipping Service of Western Australia adopts a different attitude. If its ships cannot be unloaded, they turn around and go back, and take their cargo with them. Of course, the movements of the Western Australian ships are condi tioned by the tides along the coast and they have to sail on those tides; but many a time have the ships of the Western Australian State Shipping Service left Darwin carrying in their holds cargo urgently needed in the Northern Territory. When ships from the eastern coast are laid up in the stream for periods up to three weeks while awaiting discharge, this adds to the cost of running them and it adds to the costs of the consignees. It all amounts to an additional impost which the people of the Northern Territory have to bear.
The position has become acute in the port of Darwin. On 20th September, “The Northern Territory News “ reported that an all-out effort was being made to ease the port congestion and that “ Dulverton “, a ship of the Western Australian State Shipping Service, would be unloaded by the waterside workers of Darwin who had volunteered to work around the clock. The newspaper said -
In an all-out effort to prevent the “ Dulverton “ sailing back to Perth without unloading muchneeded supplies, Darwin watersiders offered to work “ around the clock “ yesterday. To-day the offer was accepted and immediately the “ Doris ‘’ is unloaded, probably early to-morrow, the “ Dulverton “ will berth.
This gesture on the part of the waterside workers was very much appreciated and it shows what a fine body of men they are. The citizens’ representative on the Town Management Board, Mr. E. D’Ambrosio. said that the watersiders’ offers had been very fine indeed. I think that we should pay tribute to the waterside workers for the action that they have taken.
– What newspaper is the honorable member reading from?
– I am reading from the “ Northern Territory News “ of 20th September. The article continued -
One building contractor said that if the “ Dulverton “ sailed away without unloading the timber and cement he would have to’ shut down business.
On other occasions 1 have made representations to the Minister on this very same matter. I will give due credit to the department, lt has done everything that it could to reduce the delays that have taken place, but I think we should deal with causes and not effects. Something drastic will have to be done if the position is to be rectified.
The following week, on 25th September, the “ Darwin News “ published an article on its front page under the caption, “ Darwin Builders take drastic action to meet serious shortages - Ban on week-end work “. The report began with the following paragraphs -
The drastic shortage of cement, galvanised iron and other essential building materials in Darwin forced master builders to take strong action this morning.
At a meeting held in the North Australian Workers’ Union office, builders agreed to abolish entirely Sunday work and to cease work on Saturday for a trial period of two weeks.
Undoubtedly, the position will improve when the new wharf is brought into use, but it will still not be good enough, because it will provide berthage for only two small coastal ships. It should be extended to the limit recommended by the Public Works Committee last year, that is, by another 200 feet, so as to allow two large vessels to berth simultaneously. The new wharf will provide berths for two small ships, and the old wharf for one, but they will have to be vessels of 3,000 tons or less. If a ship of more than 4,000 tons comes to Darwin - which is not a large vessel by any standards - it will occupy all the space available at the new wharf. The Government, eventually, will have to extend the new wharf, as recommended by the Public Works Committee, to provide adequate accommodation for more ships.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The speech of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has emphasized the problem of transportation involved in the development of the Northern Territory. The honorable member also showed the difference betwen the two distinct areas of the Territory - that which surrounds and is served by Darwin, and that which surrounds and is served by Alice Springs. The problem of transport in the Northern Territory is not homogeneous, but is divided into two distinct parts. This accentuates the difficulties that face the development of this vast area. This Territory, which comes under the administration of the Commonwealth Government, comprises an area almost exactly similar to large parts of Western Australia, South Australia and western Queensland. The committee is discussing the proposed expenditure of about £7,000,000 in the: Northern Territory, which is an increaseof £1,000,000 over last year’s expenditure,, but 1 invite honorable members to turn1 their attention to similar problems in like parts of the other States.
If the success or failure in developing the: Northern Territory during the last 50 yearswere to be analysed and judged solely on the bases of revenue and population the natural conclusion would be that not much progresshad been made. However, such a conclusion might be erroneous, particularly in regard to population. If the population of the capital cities of other large States of the Comonwealth were to be deducted from their total population, the comparison with the Northern Territory population would then be not so lopsided. If centres of population can be developed to serve less densely populated areas a better balance of population over the whole area can be achieved, and that is the principle which could be applied in the vast area of the Northern Territory.
The principal task in the Northern Territory, apart from increasing the population, is to make the Territory self-supporting. During discussions on the Northern Territory from time to time, an atmosphere ©I starry-eyed enthusiasm about its capabilities has been manifested. In the light of more recent discoveries and developmentsin the Territory the outlook is probably more promising than it was six or ten years ago. I wish to direct the attention of the committee to a statement appearing in. the preamble to the report of the Payne committee, which, in 1937, inquired intothe land industries of the Northern Territory. It is as follows: -
The Northern Territory as ii exists to-day is a national probem a national obligation, a challenge to other nations and a detriment to oar selves. Nature has not been lavish in bestowing resources on the Territory. It possesses tracts of good pastoral country but they are widely separated from one another by huge belts of inferior and often useless land. Not more than SO per cent, of the Territory is suited for pastoral occupation or development.
Although more recent developments may have qualified that statement to some extent, the basic condition of the country endorses it as being still, virtually, true. I quote from the Payne report further suggestions made by the committee -
Industries must, so far as possible, be granted conditions that will place them in a position not less advantageous than that enjoyed by similar industries operating in more favoured parts of Australia . . . Some new transport facilities must be provided to overcome the present isolation of much of the Territory’s most favoured pastoral lands and thus enable increased development, increased production and increased settlement to take place.
Although almost twenty years have passed since that report was written, it is still substantially true but, as I have already said, in the light of recent developments, the outlook is not quite so black. If we are to rely entirely on a pastoral and small agricultural population to provide the inhabitants of the Northern Territory, we must accept the proposition that the Territory can never carry a large population. Although modern methods of better farming and pastoral improvement, better water utilization and up-to-date equipment may be employed, and could make an important contribution to the increase of the Territory’s population, it would be over-optimistic to suggest that population in that area on similar lines to the more heavily populated parts of the east coast of Australia could be expected.
It is quite unreal to imagine that a large tract of country such as the Northern Territory, with a low rainfall area, can carry an enormous population when in other countries that are very heavily populated, such as the United States of America and China, deserts exist which carry no population at all. Government action can encourage and make attractive living in the Northern Territory, and help to provide a reasonable reward for labour. The recent mineral discoveries in the Territory point the way to considerable advance. Honorable members will all agree, of course, that a mining population is somewhat transitory in its nature. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) would be the first to agree that, although mining brought a tremendous rush of people to the area that he so ably represents in this chamber, it would be quite reasonable to assume that, had it not been for the advantages of the agricultural and pastoral lands that surround Bendigo, there would be a very small population there to-day. In other words, as soon as the mines are worked out the people pass to other areas. If we can assume that the importance of uranium will carry into future years, it is not unreasonable to suggest that it could be the basis of quite a large influx of population, especially as from day to day there seem to be further significant discoveries as development and investigation are made.
At the present moment, the value of mining production in the Northern Territory, excluding that of uranium - I do not know whether the figures for uranium are availableis about £3,000,000 annually. In the last financial year that was the actual amount. That production consists largely of copper from the Peko mine and gold from certain gold mines in that area. Because we have not the figure for uranium, it is difficult to say what is the total mineral production at the present time; but if, as we can assume, uranium is to play a much larger part in the future of the mining industry, it could form a very substantial part of the total mining output of the Territory.
Reference is made in the Estimates to grants for the investigation of farm production, the encouragement of the production of such commodities as rice, and also - and this is of great significance - the investigation of the production of pasture plants suitable for that climate. I feel that that work, for which the Parliament is asked to vote the necessary finance, will be of immense value in the future.
I now return to the question of transport, because I think that probably it is the most vital single factor that is impeding the progress of the Territory. We heard the honorable member for the Northern Territory refer to difficulties in shipping freight to Darwin. If he had had time to do so, he probably would have mentioned the difficulty associated with railway freights. Although it is proposed to grant freight concessions amounting to approximate^ £40,000, I think the honorable member will probably agree with me that, whatever transport or communication system is adopted in the Territory, there will always be a large place for road transport. 1 have heard various suggestions from time to time about the extension of the Dajarra line to the tablelands on the eastern side of the Northern Territory, but 1 think that the Government in particular would be much wiser to study and even give some encouragement to the development of the system of road trains. Because of their very nature, they are so much more flexible and capable of fitting in with the rather seasonal kind ot traffic throughout the Territory that I feel that is the direction in which the best value could be obtained for the money spent. Without wishing to be cynical in any way, I do not think anybody in this chamber would look upon the provision of an expensive railway in a sparsely populated area with any great confidence.
– Is not that the way to get population?
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has asked whether a railway would not bring population. I suggest that, if he looks at the trans-continental line, which extends for 500 or 600 miles across the Nullabor Plain - I have no doubt that he has travelled across it - he will discover that that theory, as applied to that line, has not worked out. With the exception of some emus, there is not much in the way of population along that railway line.
– It renders a service.
– I do not wish to debate the question of railways versus roadways, but I believe that the money that might be spent on railways would be much better employed if it were used to provide a system of really first-class all-weather roads supplemented by a system of road trains, even if it meant the payment of a government subsidy. The road trains that are now being developed lend themselves to overcoming the transportation problem of the Northern Territory more effectively than I believe railways could do.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Like the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay), the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), I was honoured to be selected as a member of a delegation to represent the federal Government at the Norfolk Island centenary celebrations. The celebrations marked the one hundredth anniversary of the transfer of the descendants of the “ Bounty “ mutineers from Pitcairn Island to Norfolk Island. The occasion also marked the first visit to the island by a representative body of parliamentarians. Before proceeding to give my personal views and observations, gained during my visit, 1 wish to express my thanks and appreciation to the people of Norfolk Island for the hospitality and cordiality shown to us during our stay, and also to express many thanks to Mr. McCarthy, of the Department of Territories, for his untiring efforts in leaving no stone unturned to see that satisfactory arrangements were carried out.
The views that I shall express are noi intended as adverse criticism of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), because I think that both he ‘ and the department are earnest in their endeavours to do the right thing for the island and its people. Rather do I offer my views as constructive criticism which, I hope and trust, the Minister will consume as food for thought. I intend to confine my remarks to the following headings: First, Norfolk Island and its potentialities; secondly, the great importance of the island to Australia; and. thirdly, the very many vexed problems confronting the island in relation to its future welfare.
Norfolk Island is about 1,000 miles northeast of Sydney and about 600 miles north of New Zealand, in the South Pacific Ocean. It enjoys probably the best climate in the southern hemisphere, with the temperature very rarely exceeding 80 degrees, and very seldom below 45 degrees. It is a very beautiful spot, and possesses safe swimming and other recreational facilities, lt also possesses many landmarks and other items of interest associated with its early days as a penal settlement. Because of these facts. I consider that it offers tremendous potentialities as a leading tourist resort. Instead, the number of tourists to the island is rapidly declining. For example, in 1952, 1,217 tourists visited the island; in 1953, 1,467; in 1954, 1,168; and, in 1955, the number dropped to 665. I believe that the fall-off in the tourist trade can be attributed to a lack of initiative by the Administrator in providing the sum of only £104 as a means of attracting tourists. I leave to the imagination of honorable members the value of the publicity that could be gained by the expenditure of £104 a year.
I now refer to the great and valuable importance of Norfolk Island to Australia.
The island has a first-class grass airstrip, which was built and used by our American allies during World War II. Because of its geographical position, the island proved to be of immense value during hostilities in the Pacific. It also has a very valuable line of communication in the form of a modern cable station. The people of Australia owe a great debt to this cable station and its employees, because, in association with the station at Suva, it located the Japanese task force in the Coral Sea which resulted in a smashing defeat of the Japanese navy by the allied forces, and, as we all know, that defeat was really the turning point of the war in the Pacific.
I shall confine the remainder of my remarks to the people of Norfolk Island, and to their local problems. The problems and difficulties encountered by the people are the main causes of the dwindling population. For example, in June, 1953, the island had a population of 1,163, and now the population has dropped to approximately 800 persons. The islanders are frustrated people, who believe that they are being completely neglected by the ruling powers at Canberra. They are not entitled to social services benefits nor to workers’ compensation, and they are not paid award rates for any work that they perform. Except for a local tax which is to maintain roads and other public works, they do not pay income tax, but I am sure that these people are looking forward to the day when they will be placed on the same basis as the people of- Lord Howe Island and Australia, and pay taxes, receive social services benefits and are paid wages similar to those prevailing in Australia.
As an illustration of unfairness to the people because the social services system is not operating on the island, I shall detail a case which was related to me. lt concerns a man who is 80 years of age. I believe most honorable members will agree that any person of that age should be retired on a pension and should not be obliged to work for a living. This elderly gentleman was employed as a labourer, and during the course of his work he was injured by a log rolling on his leg. The injury eventually necessitated the amputation of portion of the leg, yet he did not receive any social services payments or compensation for the injury.
In regard to wages, the driver of the car which we used during our stay on the island, a Mr. Charles Evans - an islander - informed me that he was a carpenter by trade and was employed on the erection of a whaling station on the island. He received a wage of £13 10s. a week. As honorable members will recognize, that wage is several pounds a week less than the award rate in Australia, and I emphasize that the all-round cost of living on Norfolk Island is similar to that in Sydney.
The most important complaint among the islanders is that they are denied the right to manage their local affairs. It is perfectly true to say that there is an advisory council of eight, elected on a ward system by popular vote, but any resolution of the council which it deems fitting for the progress and welfare of the island, can be vetoed by the Administrator. This conflicts with our Australian ideals of democracy. As an illustration of the unrest among the people I desire to quote from the report of the Norfolk Island Progress Association dated May 1956. It is as follows: -
Our council has done its very best under frustrating conditions, to obtain a helpful suggestion towards achieving control of local affairs, and the removal of the existing Ward system, but with no action from Canberra.
Essentials, such as we have mentioned, and a Democratic form of pension scheme, should come before the ridiculous cost of the present bureaucracy for so small a population. It is a case of more and more taxpayers’ money being spent for less and less of what the taxpayer wants.
Over the last few years we see only a steady decline in prosperity and population. The past years have certainly proved the ghastly failure, from an economic and social point of view, of a virtual dictatorship supervised from Canberra.
When are we to be offered a helping hand to commence controlling our own affairs without a top-heavy Administration?
I conclude my remarks by suggesting that the Minister should bear three points in mind and give them earnest consideration. They are, first, to give every support to all methods of advertising the island as a tourist centre; secondly, as this island would be of great strategic importance to Australia in the event of war, it is essential to keep the population intact, and that can be done only by keeping the people happy and contented; and thirdly, to give the people of Norfolk Island local autonomy, which will create initiative and instil in them a keen sense of responsibility.
– During the debate to-day a number of speakers dealt with the Northern Territory, but I do not believe that a complete modern picture of the territory can be presented without some reference being made to the excellent report that has been furnished this year to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) by Mr. Wise, the former Administrator of the Northern Territory. Mr. Wise was sent abroad by the Minister to investigate lands having similar characteristics to parts of the Territory, and how those lands could be used for the purpose of primary production. His report to the Minister was based upon the result of the information that he obtained on his trip overseas, and it definitely indicates that the potentialities of the Territory are much greater than have been indicated in the speeches of certain honorable members this afternoon. However, I do not intend to speak at length about the Northern Territory; I propose to direct my remarks to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
At the outset I should like to say that the committee is to be congratulated upon the fact that the leader of the parliamentary delegation which visited New Guinea earlier this year was the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), who has already spoken in this debate. The honorable member for Franklin - as leader of the delegation - upon his return to Australia made a factual report, which appeared in the press. It was of a thoughtful nature, and it indicated that great praise was due to the administration of the Territory. At the same time, from the standpoint of constructive criticism, it indicated that there were certain quarters to which attention should be directed in order that the administration might be improved. That was not done in any destructively critical sense; it was designed to be constructively critical.
To-day, honorable members had the pleasure of hearing the views of the honorable member for Franklin about the Territory, which appeared to be very sound and which showed the great value of members of the Parliament visiting our territories or even taking trips overseas. It is rather too common in this community for parliamentary trips abroad to be regarded as merely in the nature of pleasure jaunts, but, as we all know, honorable members go abroad in order to seek information and they come back far more knowledgeable than they were before they left this country. The new knowledge that they have obtained as a result of their trips abroad is then used for the benefit of the Australian people in general, and for the information of other honorable members of the Parliament in particular. It is quite clear from the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin that the recent New Guinea trip made by members of this Parliament was of the utmost value.
I desire now to refer to the importance of the wise administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This is so because the United Nations has before it, on each occasion when it assembles, reports on trust and non-self -governing territories. These reports come before the Trusteeship Committee or, as it is known within the assembly itself, the “ No. 4 Committee “. This is a committee which submits a report on each non-self-governing territory that comes under the scrutiny of the United Nations, including our Territory of Papua. At the tenth assembly last year, which took place shortly after the Geneva conference when what was known as the “ Geneva spirit “ was very much abroad, it was thought by delegates that there existed an improved international tone, and that as a result it should be possible to diminish greatly the cost of armaments to the world and thereby enable more money to be spent on such territories. As we know now, the talks on disarmament in the United Nations did not get very far at the tenth assembly, and there has been no opportunity for more money to be saved for expenditure in the way that the assembly originally hoped. But that was the spirit in which the assembly met and viewed the administration of these particular types of territory.
As a result of the critical eye cast on the reports, as much as possible was raked out of them with a view to criticizing the administration in non-self-governing and trust territories throughout the world, including Papua and New Guinea. We met the criticisms that were levelled in the case of the Territory of Papua, and in order to show how slight they were, and how splendid the Australian administration of that Territory has been, it is only necessary to look at the criticisms and the manner in which they were completely answered. The first criticism regarding our administration of Papua, which came from one of the Asian countries, was to the effect that we were practising racial discrimination there through a system of segregation in schools, and had established schools for natives only. Any one who knows what goes on in that Territory, and the primitive nature of its inhabitants, knows that native schools were established with a view to assisting the natives, and that the last thing in the mind of any one connected wilh the Administration was to have a system of discrimination between natives and whites. Of course, nothing of that sort has occurred, and it was therefore easy for Australia to answer that particular criticism.
Then there was criticism from the Soviet Union, which had examined the report and noted that the expenditure on health services in 1955 in the Territory was slightly, though not very much, below the expenditure in the previous year. The explanation given in answer to that criticism was that in the previous year a large amount of money had been spent on the stockpiling of medicines, drugs and other medical supplies, and the existence of that stockpile made it unnecessary to spend in 1955 as much on such medical supplies as had been spent in the previous year. It was also explained that during this Government’s term of office, in the period from 1949 to 1955, the expenditure on health services in Papua had tremendously improved year by year, and was continuing to improve.
Another criticism advanced in respect of our administration of Papua was to the effect that neither the number of schools nor the number of pupils being educated in the Territory was so large as in the previous year. In answer to that criticism it was pointed out that the difference was not very great, and that although some private schools had been closed down there had been an increase in the number of government schools. It was also explained that the slight difference in the number of pupils was due lo the fact that there had been a period ot very full employment, and that a number of those who would otherwise have continued their schooling had seized the opportunity to take exceedingly remunerative employment.
The question of our administration of the Territory of New Guinea was dealt with at a later stage, and the Soviet Union again, in an indirect way, advanced certain criticisms which the Australian delegation answered completely. As criticism on these minor matters was the full extent of the criticism regarding our administration of those Territories, advanced after the delegates of the nations had heard elaborate reports, this committee will realize how little can be said against Australia’s administration, especially when the little which was said was shown to be thoroughly unfounded. I think it is of importance to the committee, and to the community generally, to know how satisfactory our administration of the Territories has been and to realize that we are able to hold up our heads before the rest of the world in respect of it.
Another matter which the honorable member for Franklin mentioned was the self-government of those Territories. One has to realize that in the United Nations there are represented some nations which have only recently been freed from what they describe as “ colonialism “. They have a complete phobia about “ colonialism “, and at the same time they are exceedingly young nations politically, and exceedingly starry-eyed. They have no real conception or knowledge of the primitive nature of the inhabitants of Papua and New Guinea, and they imagine that because they themselves have just been freed from “ colonialism “, and because they desire that all peoples of the world shall obtain self-government as they have obtained it, all peoples are fitted to have self-government. The vote that was recently taken by the United Nations on this matter cannot, be regarded as a vote, in any real sense of the term, founded on proper knowledge of the conditions in the Territories and the primitive nature of the inhabitants. To try to set a date within a comparatively few years when those Territories will be fit for self-government is entirely absurd and incongruous, having regard to the actual conditions in the Territories. I was very glad to see, therefore, that when the matter was drawn to the attention of the Minister for Territories he made it quite clear that he regarded it as entirely inappropriate.
– I should like to make a few comments on the remarks of the honorable member for
Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), who criticized the probable extension of railways into the Northern Territory for developmental purposes. I invite him to contrast the present position with that which existed in central Australia before the rail link between Oodnadatta, in South Australia, and Alice Springs was constructed. Since 1928, a dramatic change has come over the scene, and central Australia, which was one of the most backward parts of the Northern Territory, has now become one of the most progressive, and certainly one of the most highly developed, areas in the Territory. In spite of its limited population, it supports a railway of some 900 miles in length, which shows a profit every year. Therefore, 1 do not support the honorable member for Corangamite’s contentions about railways and the present state of affairs.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) rightly praised the report of Mr. F. J. S. Wise, the former Administrator of the Northern Territory, which was recently tendered to the Government. He was also correct when he said that, in that report, the former Administrator emphasized that far greater possibilities existed in the Northern Territory than were apparent. The only comment I should like to add is that before the possibilities mentioned by Mr. Wise can become realities, we shall have to solve the principal problem of transport. Until adequate facilities for transport by rail, road, sea and air are available, we cannot bring the former Administrator’s plans to fruition in the way he desires. Transport is the most serious bottle-neck in the Northern Territory.
I pass now to the existing situation in the Northern Territory Legislative Council, of which the committee should be aware. As honorable members know, the Legislative Council is composed of nominated and elected members who represent the various districts of the Territory. Honorable members know, also, that owing to the predominance of nominated members, the Government has the final say in determining matters with which the Legislative Council deals. Its powers are limited. They are strictly defined, and are not in any sense all-embracing. A disturbing situation arose three or four months ago, when an elected member representing the
Darwin district resigned. The disturbing feature is not so much the resignation of an elected member, as the Government’s failure to hold a by-election to fill the vacancy. Sufficient time has elapsed since the resignation for the Government to decide whether to hold a by-election to fill the vacancy, or to dissolve the Legislative Council some six or eight months before its term expires and have a general election. On 11th September, I asked the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) what the position was, and he informed me that the matter was under consideration. In answer to a similar question which I asked yesterday, he informed me that the matter was still under consideration.
The time has arrived for the Government to make up its mind to treat the people of the Northern Territory as they are entitled to be treated, and to take action immediately to fill vacancies in the Legislative Council whether it occurs as a result of the resignation of a member or for any other reason. The citizenship rights of the people of the Northern Territory are already limited enough, and they feel considerably slighted by this kind of treatment. The Minister should make a considered statement about what the Government proposes to do in order to make the Legislative Council again as effective an instrument o< the people as is possible.
I turn now to mining matters, which 1 consider are among the most important in their relation to the Estimates for the Northern Territory. I think we all agree - doubtless even the honorable member foi Corangamite agrees - that mining could transform the Northern Territory, because it offers the best prospects of rapidly increasing the population. It certainly offers far better prospects than does the pastoral industry, which cannot bring to the Territory the number of people required, no matter how much it expands. Agriculture, of course, could attract considerable numbers of people to the Northern Territory, and will be of great benefit, and earnest efforts should be made to encourage it. The annual value of production from mining is about £3,000,000, excluding the returns from uranium mining. This brings up a sore point among the people of the Territory concerning the manner in which this activity is administered. Uranium-mining is controlled by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The annual value of uranium production, 1 should say, is between £4,000,000 and £6,000,000. As it goes directly into the coffers of the Government it is not credited to the Northern Territory as revenue. In the notes circulated by the Minister for the information of honorable members during the budget debate we read that the estimated revenue of the Northern Territory for 1956-57 is only £846,000, excluding income tax collections. That statement is not correct. 1 consider that the Northern Territory is being cheated because it is not credited with the value of the uranium it produces.
– The figure mentioned by the honorable member was presented only as revenue collected by the local administration. I readily admit that a great deal more revenue is collected by other government instrumentalities.
– That is correct. I intended to mention that. If the value of the uranium produced in the Northern Territory were credited to the revenues of the Territory, I think it would be found that the Territory is almost, if not actually, paying its way. I know that in the past it has been regarded as a mendicant territory because it receives a hand-out of revenue every year to conduct its essential services and to promote development. However, I think that if the Government were to reveal the true state of affairs by crediting the Territory with the revenue from the production of uranium it would be found that it almost pays its way. It would certainly be in a far better position than are some of the States which have to ask the Commonwealth for grants in aid. I am sure that if the Northern Territory can almost pay its way now although the mining industry is as yet only in its infancy, it would pay handsome dividends within the next five years if the industry were properly developed. The South Alligator uranium field, for instance, is as yet hardly tapped. No revenue earned by it as an uranium producer has yet been taken into account, although I believe that one lot of uranium from this field where there are no treatment facilities, has been sold for approximately £1,500,000. The ore has merely been packed into drums and shipped overseas for treatment. We are not getting the full benefit of the uranium we produce from these fields, lt should be treated in the Northern Territory, where it is mined.
Other metals also are of great importance to the Northern Territory. Copper is playing a very big part in the territory’s development, and it is expected that within twelve months the territory, with an annual output of approximately 10,000 tons will be the second largest producer of copper in Australia. Admittedly, the territory will not produce as much as Mount Isa produces, but it will produce more than is produced at Mount Morgan, which has been an important copper field for many years. The financial editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, writing in yesterday’s issue about the Peko mine at Tennant Creek, which is the main copper mine in the territory, made the following significant comments: -
One of the weirdest success stories in the recent history of Australian mining has brought Peko Mines to a stage where the most sceptical observers must accord it a considerable measure of national importance as well as financial respectability . . .
This will be one of the finally decisive strokes making Australia self-sufficient in copper metal compared with its position as a heavy importer four years ago. If such a national asset was stumbled upon almost by accident, what other mineral wealth lies in the remote interior of the north? Peko’s luck has already stimulated other prospectors in the Territory.
He urged further tax concessions so that other capital would be attracted to the Northern Territory. Even at Tennant Creek, the Government is not doing as much as it should. It started work only recently on the reconstruction and renovation of the public battery there. I congratulate the Government on doing that, although the battery should never have been shut down for four or five years. The water supply at Tennant Creek is still most unsatisfactory. Residents still have to cart water, even for domestic requirements, for 6 or 8 miles. Yet that field is producing almost £3,000,000 of wealth annually. Provision is made in the Estimates for the expenditure of only £7,000 for the extension of the water supply at Tennant Creek. The Government should decide to link up the existing exploratory wells which have been sunk, and which are capable of supplying 15.000 to 20,000 gallons of water an hour. It should then install a system of reticulation, and run the water into the town. It would not be giving the people more than their due, and they have paid dearly for it in the past. That field alone provides about £50,000 a year in royalties to Commonwealth revenue. It would be only fair to plough back some of the money the Government is taking out of that area.
The overall assistance to mining that is granted by the Government is not sufficient. On 22nd March last, the Minister for Territories replied to some questions I put to him, upon notice, regarding the assistance in respect of prospecting, machinery and equipment that was made available to the Northern Territory in each of the years from 1950 to 1955, inclusive. The Minister replied that, in 1950-51, £37,047 was made available for assistance to the mining industry, including advances to miners, advances for purchase of tin concentrates, cartage and crushing subsidies and the purchase of tailings. That was a self-balancing item, so that the outlay is not as large as it appears to be. In 1951-52, the amount provided was only £1,561 and, in 1954-55, no money was made available.
It is true that the Government has given assistance in other directions. It has extended services for the benefit of the mining industry in the area, but I still say that the prospector, who goes out with a pick and shovel, is the man who contributes largely to the development of mining in the Northern Territory.
.- I want to devote the few moments that I have available to me to discussing the vote for the Australian Capital Territory. I am concerned over the fact that it is almost impossible to discover the civic costs involved in running this august City of Canberra. By civic costs, I mean the costs that are properly incurred by ratepayers and residents of a city for roads, footpaths and other services that are normally provided by a local government authority or a municipality. I have had occasion to speak on this matter in past years, and I have been taken to task by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and the “Canberra Times”. lt was said that I was not looking at the matter with a practical eye. For example. I was reminded that the residents of Canberra pay taxes like the rest of the community. I do not deny that, but I point out that the inhabitants of other cities pay rates to the local government authority, aswell as taxes to the Commonwealth Government and the State government. The residents of the Australian Capital Territory pay taxes only to the Commonwealth Government. They have no State government to levy taxes, and no local authority. They pay some measure of rent, and they pay for water and electricity, but so also do the inhabitants of other towns and cities. Therefore, there is no comparison. 1 was reminded that the cost of running the City of Canberra is conditioned by the fact that it is the seat of government. It has been said that there are administrative buildings here, and that the cost of providing and maintaining them has to be borne by the Government. I remind the people of Canberra that each State capital city is also a seat of government. In none of those cities does any government - Commonwealth or State - contribute to the cost of civic amenities. If a road is required toParliament House in Sydney, Melbourne or the beautiful City of Perth, the civic authorities are expected to provide the road. They get nothing whatever from the State government for it, so that the people are called upon to bear the cost of local government, and to bear their share of Commonwealth expenses as well.
The accounts of the Australian Capital Territory are of such a nature that it is impossible to say just what is the cost ot government. It is argued that Canberra is the seat of the Commonwealth Government; that we have Parliament House here, and want the place to look a bit better than the other cities of Australia. Accordingly, additional costs are incurred, and it is argued that it is only to be expected thai the Government should bear those costs Even if we concede that there may be something in that argument - for the sake only of argument - we might at least expect that the system of keeping accounts for the Australian Capital Territory and the City of Canberra would indicate clearly what those costs are. We would know then the full cost of running Canberra, a* well as the expense involved in maintaining normal civic activities.
The Estimates for the Australian Capital Territory include such items as general services, eradication of noxious weeds, rabbi! extermination, bushfire prevention, garbage collection, sanitary services, local government registration, publicity, street-cleaning, cemetery, and so on. I could continue, but I point out that costs in respect of all such items are usually borne by a local government authority.
– Do not the residents of Canberra pay rates?
– No, they do not. The communities in other centres who benefit from those services contribute directly to pay for them, in addition to the taxes they pay to the Commonwealth and State governments.
– Why did the honorable member stop at the cemetery?
– I could go on.
– Not beyond the cemetery!
– Do 1 need to go on? Let me take an item beyond the cemetery which might be appropriate for the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I refer to firewood supplies. The sum of £1,000 is provided for firewood supplies. What is that for? Is it a firewood supply peculiar to governmental activity? Or is it for officials of the Advisory Council? For what purpose is that firewood provided? It is a charge on the national purse.
The time has arrived when the accounts of the Australian Capital Territory need to be submitted in a form which will show, first, the costs which are incidental to running the city under the guidance of civic fathers; and. secondly, the costs which are incidental to government activities in the city, as apart from normal city activities. I make a comparison for the purpose of arriving at some conclusion. On looking at the current Auditor-General’s report, which has been submitted to the Parliament, I find that the amount received for motor car registrations during 1955-56 was £79,229. In every other city and town in Australia, motor vehicle registration-fees are related to the provision of roads. So. let us have a look to see what Canberra gets in the way of roads for the £80,000, in round figures, which it pays in motor vehicle registration. On looking at the civil works programme for this year, I find that the estimated cost for the construction of roads, footpaths, kerbs, gutters and so on in the new subdivisions is £175,000, and that the estimate for the bituminous surfacing of roads is £45,000, making a total of £220,000, against a revenue of £80,000. I agree that a considerable amount of transport is government owned and operated, and pays no registration-fees, but, somewhere and somehow, that should be shown. Some record should be kept to show that aspect of the matter so that the relationship between the amount that is contributed by the local residents towards the cost of these roads, and the amount which is actually paid can be properly understood.
I fear that much the same is going on in that connexion as went on in connexion with the swimming pool in this city, about which I made inquiries in the Parliament earlier. The swimming pool cost £200,000, in round figures, and I understand it requires still more money to be expended on it.
– Hear, hear!
– Very obviously, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), whose electors live within two or three minutes of the beach, is not worried about swimming pools. Those of us who represent rural areas, where bathing amenities in the form of swimming pools are now being looked upon as a necessity, are very concerned. When we make a request to the Treasury, as I have done, for a few pounds to assist, by way of subsidy, towards the construction of a swimming pool, the reply is: “ Sorry, it cannot be done “. But, in Canberra, of course, £200,000 can be found for a swimming pool. Throughout the rest of Commonwealth, the local people have to find the money themselves, and they cannot afford to spend £200,000 on swimming pools. All they can afford is £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000. As far as Canberra is concerned the rest of the community is being taxed to provide a magnificent swimming pool for the fortunate residents of this city. That is grossly unfair. If it is good enough for the national Treasury to provide funds for a swimming pool here, then it is good enough for it to provide funds for swimming pools elsewhere. If it is a fundamental principle that the Treasury does not provide money elsewhere, then why provide it here? Some differentiation in principle must be applied in financial relations between the Treasury and the national capital city.
If Canberra is to be entirely a government city and is to be subsidized as such, the people will have to be told that, as they are enjoying all the benefits of this subsidy without finding any money themselves, they must be willing to make some sacrifices in return. If they are to enjoy all the benefits of living in this city their emoluments should be somewhat less than those of persons living in other cities. If they insist on receiving the same emoluments as their brother public servants in other parts of the Commonwealth, then in ordinary decency they ought to be prepared to make some contribution towards the welfare of their city by helping to provide the necessary amenities. This swimming pool is a shocking business.
– It’s a shame!
– According to the AuditorGeneral’s report it was opened in December last and was in service until April. The revenue received by way of cash takings amounted to £5,423, whilst the operating costs including wages, chemicals, electricity and minor repairs, amounted to £4,673, leaving a surplus of £750. The AuditorGeneral adds -
The above-mentioned operating costs do not include provision for interest and depreciation of assets.
In these Estimates I find an item “ Swimming Pools - Maintenance, £ 1 1 ,000 “. Goodness me, not only are the people of Australia providing the huge capital cost of building a swimming pool in Canberra but they are also subsidizing to a considerable extent those who enjoy a swim in the pool.
– Cleanliness is next to Godliness!
– 1 agree, but it is pretty costly. I should like to find out how much this swimming pool is costing the taxpayers individually, because it looks as if it could be worked out on a “ per head “ basis for each individual who enjoys a swim in the pool.
I mention this merely as an illustration of what goes on in this capital city, and I suggest that some alteration must be made. Some line must be drawn between normal civic activities and the costs incurred in that connexion and the costs which are incidental to purely governmental activities. I again remind the committee that the charges to be made against the Govern ment would need to be carefully examined in the light of the fact that in every other city, and in every other Stale capital, the people are called upon to meet all the charges incurred in maintaining State government, local government and Commonwealth buildings as well. Those are additional burdens which the privileged people of this city do not have to bear.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) 15.34].- Like every other honorable member in this Parliament who has had the privilege ot visiting New Guinea, Papua and the Northern Territory, 1 have been impressed with the possibilities of the development and the importance of those areas as parts of the outer defence system of this Commonwealth. Nobody can go to Papua and New Guinea and not be lost in admiration for the work being done by the Administration officers, headed by the Administrator and his deputy, by officers of Commonwealth departments who are stationed in that area, by missionaries and by private citizens. I believe that they are all doing a magnificent job. I echo the sentiments expressed by my colleague, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), who was there with me in July of this year, and I express my complete agreement with the sentiments uttered by other honorable members in such of the speeches as I have been able to listen to this afternoon.
I was in New Guinea for the first time only last year. When 1 went there a few months ago for the second time, I noticed the extremely rapid progress that had been made in the preceding twelve months. I was struck by the great development that is taking place and the manner in which the indigenous people are striving, under great difficulties, lo emancipate themselves from a primitive age - because in many cases their grandfathers were headhunters and cannibals - and to obtain, not only for themselves, but for their children the opportunities which they know that people of European descent have in the fields of ordinary education, technical education and medical education. They want opportunities in any fields of learning which they could possibly turn to the advantage of themselves and their people. 1 went there last year with the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack), the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) and the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). Those gentlemen are still in the Parliament. We were made very welcome everywhere we went. We worked to a very tight schedule. We were expected to meet many people and to visit various districts. We were all grateful for the opportunities that were provided for us. When 1 went over much of the same ground this year, 1 was struck by the increasing tempo of development. I congratulate the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on the work that he has been doing since he took office in striving to make these people - who are living, as it were, under our tutelage - as happy as it is possible to make them by money voted by this Parliament and by laws made by the councils which they control, the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea and this Parliament.
The Minister has been kind enough to supply me with some figures, and I shall quote them appreciatively. This year, the Parliament is being asked to appropriate £9,250,000 of the Australian people’s money to help the people of Papua and New Guinea. Locally, £4.250,000 will be raised. The sum of £13,500,000 raised from Australian sources and local sources which will be spent this year is at least £1,200.000 more than the expenditure last year, which was £2.000,000 more than that of the previous year. Since 1948-49, expenditure has risen progressively from £4.000.000 to the present figure of £13,500,000.
We are trying to demonstrate to the world and to satisfy our own consciences that we are doing something for those who live close to us in this portion of the Pacific Ocean and whose destinies are bound up with ours. I believe that the people of Papua and New Guinea are most appreciative of what the Australian people are doing for them. They want to advance towards nationhood, but their leaders realize the shortcomings and the inadequacies of their fellow countrymen and countrywomen. All this talk about fixing a date on which the Territory shall become independent of Australia is so much nonsense. The people of Papua and New Guinea - in that term I include all the people of the island, because they are one people - have felt the impact of European civilization only during the last 70 or 80 years. Their advance towards nationhood has been striking.
The men who represent them in the Legislative Council - Simogun, Vuia, Merari Dickson and Samboya - have a full appreciation of the difficulties confronting their own people. With the honorable member for Reid, I had an opportunity to speak to three of them. In their view, it would be better for the whole of the part of the island of New Guinea which we administer to be incorporated in the Commonwealth than to allow it to be threatened by Indonesians and others who might covet an opportunity to occupy it. As a matter of fact, Simogun was most demonstrative about the matter. Vuia, who won the Distinguished Conduct Medal during the last war, in which he lost an arm and an eye, was even more emphatic in demanding that Australia should make no concessions to Indonesia in regard to its claim to the possession of Dutch New Guinea. If we were ever foolish enough to agree to any of the suggestions that are being put forward by Indonesia to-day, not only should we seal the doom of the indigenous people of New Guinea - they do not like the word “ native “ - but we should endanger our own security as well. What the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) said was perfectly true, and I entirely agree with him. The time allotted for this debate is too short for us to say all that we should like to say about the things that might be done in New Guinea.
– Far too short.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who has been there several times, has a full appreciation of the possibilities of the Territory and of what more we might try to do there.
Perhaps I can offer a few observations to the Minister, i do not think it is wise to encourage the children of the people of Papua and New Guinea to go to the mainland for their education, if we can provide secondary schools for them in their own country. 1 believe that we ought to do as much in that way as is possible. What the honorable member for Reid said about the technical school that we saw outside Rabaul was not an exaggeration. What we saw there, as well as what we saw outside
Samarai. near Milne Bay, was remarkable indeed. Boys who have never had any real basic education have been turned into tradesmen. They are building vessels under the supervision of our people and are doing extraordinarily well. It may be only a a dream now, but I think university colleges at Port Moresby and Rabaul could become a reality. At the moment, we are sending the bright boys and girls indigenous to the area to Samoa and other places to be educated as doctors and medical attendants. They say that they would much prefer to be educated in their own country. I believe that the Australian School of Pacific Administration ought not to be located in Sydney. It ought to be located in the area which it is intended to serve, but I understand that some of the leading people in that organization say that they will not go to Port Moresby and Rabaul to live. The highlands of New Guinea and Papua are places where any person of European descent could live, or at least take a vacation to build up his or her energies after the stress and strain of living in the more tropical, low-lying areas.
– But there would be no real advantage, would there, in having this establishment located in the highlands?
– The school would be operating on the spot. The work that is being done in Sydney now is based upon the reports of people who go to New Guinea and Papua to obtain information about the conditions there.
– But the work does not cover only New Guinea and Papua.
– That is the principal portion of the Pacific area in which we are interested, and that is where this school should be located.
I wish to say a few words about the United Nations missions that come to the Territory and report upon the work of the administration there. We could do what South Africa did in regard to German West Africa, and terminate our trusteeship. At times, I am irritated by reports made by some of these missions, although I must admit that the last one was reasonably fair. Some of these missions include among their members persons who have not the least knowledge of or interest in the Territory. Some of them are least fitted to tell us, for instance, when we should terminate our trusteeship. Just imagine the representatives of such young, virile democracies as Syria and San Domingo telling us how the Australian Government should administer its mandate in Papua and New Guinea! Every government in Australia’s history has a proud record of administration of this Territory, and our record compares favorably with those of some of the countries from which come the persons who criticize us. In 1954, it was reported that the representatives of the United Nations missions would not travel in single-engined aircraft. They demanded aircraft with at least two engines. Practically every one who is doing a job in New Guinea flies in single-engined aircraft and takes whatever risks are associated with such flying. The honorable member for Watson, who has been to New Guinea, knows that the best planes operating there are DC3’s, and we have now been told that those aircraft are not safe enough for the Duke of Edinburgh. That may well be so, but most of the people living in New Guinea consider the DC3 as we consider the Super Constellation.
I read in the last report made by a United Nations mission some criticism made by representatives of Britain and France, among other countries. Our record in regard to New Guinea is better than the record of Britain in regard to the British Solomon Islands, and it is better than the record of France in regard to New Caledonia. If they were not colonial territories of those two nations, Britain and France would be subject to a good deal of criticism regarding their administration, and the criticism could be made very much more severe than any that could be justifiably levelled against us.
Nevertheless, we are glad that United Nations representatives come to see what is being done. For my part, 1 object to the manner in which some of the newly established democracies of Asia and Africa presume to tell us what we ought to do in administering our mandated territories.
– They come out fighting amongst themselves.
– Of course they do, and if members of this Parliament had the opportunity to meet the leaders of the indigenous peoples of Papua and New Guinea they would realize that those men know the problems of the Territory and are most willing to co-operate. Simogun said to me, “ Why don’t you see the Minister and arrange for Vuiua and me to be sent to the United Nations, where we could tell those people to mind their own business? We are perfectly satisfied with what is being done for us. No one else could do better, and we appreciate all that has been done “. I met these two gentlemen-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I find very little in the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) with which to disagree, lt is not easy to speak in this debate, because so few of us have any profound knowledge of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. For my part, 1 must confess that my knowledge is extremely limited, and if I make some sweeping statements it is merely because, on account of limitation of time, I am not able to qualify them as I should like.
I am familiar with the terrain of this Territory, having traversed, with the 16th Brigade during World War II., the Kokoda Trail over the Owen Stanley Range. I have recently been to New Guinea and have seen what is being done in the administration of that territory. I emphasize, however, that my knowledge is limited, and what 1 have to say is very tentative. Nevertheless, one can come to some conclusions, and they should be put before the committee in this debate.
The problem of these territories is one of the most challenging problems that faces Australia, and not only Australia, but this generation of Australians. If I can do nothing else, I want to make it clear that in my view this is an urgent problem for us. The solution, T believe, involves prodigious consequences for this country, particularly concerning its safety. Gone are the days, I think, when colonization was a synonym for exploitation. Gone are the days when we could regard a territory like Papua and New Guinea as merely a fruitful field for missionaries and anthropologists. Gone also are the days when we could think that the process of bringing the people of that country from barbarism to civilization might well continue for generations, and perhaps centuries. The time, I believe, is much shorter than that; it is, indeed, very short. The reason for haste, which we might otherwise think undesirable in a time of peace, is that we are compelled, both by external forces and internal compulsion, to press on. We have seen the rise of nationalism in Asia. We know that that tide has been reinforced by communism, and we know that Asia has adopted advanced Western techniques that make the nations of the continent of Asia formidable indeed.
In particular, we are compelled to press on by the diplomatic assault of Indonesia. What may be the outcome I cannot tell, and what I have to say may be merely a chimera, a phantasma, or a hideous dream. But so many of these things have come true in recent years that one cannot dismiss the dangers of the situation, and, therefore, I emphasize them in the hope that they may not eventuate, but also in the belief that we would be foolish not to have regard to them.
Dutch West New Guinea is, if one is to believe what has been written, a povertystricken place, and a continuous sink into which is poured the money of Dutch taxpayers. One cannot tell how long the Dutch people will receive support in the United Nations for their claim to hold that territory. The whole of the Afro- Asian powers - the Bandung powers, let me remind the committee - will be ranged against them. We may hope that they will be successful in holding the territory, but they may have to relinquish it. Recently President Soekarno has been in Moscow, fraternizing with the Russian leaders, and has received a Russian loan, with all that that implies in the way of Russian technicians infiltrating his country. He has expressed opposition to all forms of imperialism, except, of course, his own - because his claim to Dutch New Guinea is nothing but the rankest imperialism. However, that propaganda against imperialism may well be turned against us, because Australia is a colonial power, and let us make no mistake about that.
– Is it?
– My friend, the honorable member for Balaclava, asks, “ Is it? “ Well, it does not matter whether it is or not, because the Afro-Asian powers will represent it in precisely those terms. If we consider what would happen if the Indonesians were to gain a foothold in West New Guinea, we may well be appalled, because experts in psychological warfare would have a magnificent opportunity to operate on the people in our part of New Guinea. They are experts in the art of exploiting the fears and hopes that may linger in the dark recesses of the primitive mind, and they will use every avenue that malice can suggest, and every artifice that ingenuity can devise, to undermine the allegiance that the New Guinea people undoubtedly feel, at present, for the Australian Administration. They can play upon racial animosity, injured pride, and every grievance, real or imagined, that they can fabricate or exaggerate. That is the danger that we face. 1 am trying to shock the committee - if, indeed, a committee like this can be shocked - into some realization that the pace must be accelerated; that we cannot afford to loiter. These are the external pressures. There are also internal compulsions to be considered.
As the Minister well knows, within the next three or four years we shall see the emergence of a local New Guinean elite. Already there are a dozen New Guinea medical practitioners trained, or in training, at Suva. There are also about 60 New Guinea boys at boarding schools in Queensland, training to be teachers. These people will go back to New Guinea. How will they be received? They will be, I suggest, a people apart. They cannot, of course, go back to the squalor of their village. Will they be accepted by the Europeans in New Guinea? Will they be admitted to the clubs? I do not know what will happen. One may ponder upon what happened to educated Indians in the United Kingdom during an earlier period. From such people Nehrus are bred. I am not suggesting that anything else can be done about it. They have to be. educated, and the more who come here the better, but obviously they are people who can be worked upon by our enemies. This new phase will occur, not in a generation, or in a century, but within the next few years.
There is, also, among the New Guinea people themselves, great pressure for progress. I cannot illustrate this more vividly than by reading a letter which reveals the ferment in their minds for the knowledge and know-how which has helped Europeans to control their environment. Naturally enough, they want everything that the white man has. Here is a letter written by a New Guinean schoolboy to his teacher after visiting his village -
Please Mr. Blank. I am Yawal. speaking to you Mr. Blank. Please I am telling you that here in my village a new native society’s store is opened and a feast will be held at the same time. So the village constable and higher people wanted me to spend my night here and have a conversation with them.
Please, sir, they trust me to give them some ways of controlling themselves and having a good living. Talking about some good ways of running their business and to talk with them to build a government school here. That’s all. I am, YOU scholar,
Honorable members will agree that when the elders of a group are prepared to listen to a boy of fifteen or sixteen, who has been to a government school, so that they can advance their community life, they are not to be long denied. All this has been said before, but I think that it is a vivid way of bringing to the attention of the committee this internal pressure in New Guinea for progress.
I am not unaware of the immensity ot the practical difficulties. I have spoken of the difficulty of the terrain. Fortunately, those honorable members of this House who were with the 6th, 7th or 9th Australian Divisions in New Guinea, and many Australians who were comrades in arms there, are familiar with the nature of the New Guinea countryside. They know those towering mountains, up to 15,000 feet high, that make up the Owen Stanleys. They know those deep ravines, where one descends tens of thousands of steps by tortuous paths, and then must cross raging torrents at the bottom. They know the tens of thousands of steps that one must ascend on the other side of the ravine.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I had hoped to say something of the difficulties of the Australian administration due to the terrain - the segregation of the population into small isolated communities - and to pay a tribute to the heroism, devotion and ability of the Australians who have achieved so much without bloodshed, while retaining the goodwill of the indigenous people. But time forbids.
I have, in conclusion, four propositions to put forward: First, to reinforce our efforts, 1 suggest that we approach the World Bank for a substantial loan to enable us to pre:>s on with the task more massively. Secondly, if we can get young men in Australia to take up the burden, let us find them quickly. But if not. I suggest that we might be able to get education, health, and other technical officers from the United States of America to supplement oar own, and train them in our methods and outlook. 1 believe (hat the association of the United States with us in the task is of crucial importance. Thirdly. 1 suggest that we should have documentary films made - by commercial interests, if government resources are inadequate - showing the work of patrol officers, the various medical services, activities in the schools, work being done at fermentaries, the encouragement of local government, work being performed by cooperatives and research establishments, the results of extension services, and so on. lt is a stirring story, which lends itself to pictorial representation. And it is of first importance to let Australians and the world know the magnitude and nature of the problem, and the way that we are tackling it. World opinion is of vital importance to us.
Fourthly, we must study the possible nature of the political association between this country and New Guinea. The Minister made a momentous announcement when he expressed his hope that New Guinea, if the people so wish, should become the seventh State of the Commonwealth. This pronouncement, surprisingly, has caused scarcely a ripple. Yet nothing could have more profound implications. It would mean freedom of trade and business intercourse. lt is true that the products of New Guinea - copra, cocoa, coffee, timber and rubber - do not compete with the products of the mainland. But how can comparable wage rates be fixed, should competing products be produced, in order to avoid a charge of unfair competition? Freedom of intercourse means free movement of natives and Europeans between New Guinea and the mainland, with all that that would involve. But what does it mean in the political sphere? It means, that, at first, perhaps, some Europeans would represent the New Guineans in the Commonwealth Parliament. Later, New Guineans would themselves become members of this Parlia ment. Would they be entitled to vote on matters not affecting the Territory? Seeing that tariffs, taxation, wages and conditions must ultimately affect the Territory, surely in the end they must enjoy full voting rights in this Parliament. During the period of attaining political adulthood, there would be arguments about the strength of their representation and whether the New Guinea representatives should be appointed or elected. Finally, assuming that the population of the Territory increases from nearly 2,000,000 to 10,000,000, and the mainland population increases to 30,000,000 or 40,000,000, should we anticipate that one in four of the members of this Parliament will be New Guineans? What would be the resultant effect upon our national life and institutions? ls it envisaged that there will be intermarriage, miscegenation - a composite race? 1 come to no conclusion on this tremendous issue, but I suggest that much thought should now be given to the nature of the partnership that is possible, practicable and desirable when the New Guineans reach the stage where some permanent union can. if they and we so wish, be established between the Austraiian Commonwealth and the people of New Guinea.
Of two things I am sure: We should offer to the people of the Territory every educational opportunity that exists in this country, as well as trading ties and the provision of capital should be among our objectives. From these, it might reasonably be hoped that treaties of alliance for joint diplomatic action, and for defence, will stem, lt is clear that, during the next few years, much study should be devoted to the nature of the political Jinks that can be forged between the people of the mainland and those of the island Territory.
I conclude by saying that the problem of New Guinea is of major importance to us. It offers a challenge that, if we set the correct course now, can be met. It certainly offers a challenge to our statesmanship and to the young men and women of this country, lt presents a task, the discharge of which calls for the display of heroism, idealism, patience and capacity of the highest order. I believe that Australians can meet that challenge.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I propose to address myself to the Estimates of expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory. I shall not deal with the broad, national aspects of other territories of the Commonwealth, as the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) has done, but shall confine my remarks to problems that affect the day-to-day lives of the citizens of Canberra. This national Parliament must, within the limits of the Constitution, govern the whole of Australia and, in the Australian Capital Territory, it must also play the role of a State government and a municipal or shire council. What is, I think, too often forgotten by the absentee critics of Canberra and was, perhaps, forgotten by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who addressed himself to this subject this afternoon, is that certain items of expenditure which are listed for the Australian Capital Territory would be, in any other community in Australia, the expenditures of the Commonwealth Government, the State government, and the local authority - either a municipal council or a shire council. Therefore, the expenditures here, which so frequently come in for criticism, can be justified, I think, in all respects. I hope to be able to avail myself of a second period during this discussion in order to deal in detail with some of the criticism that was offered by the honorable member for Moore. At present, I want to direct my attention to two or three local matters which are of considerable moment to the people of Canberra.
This city, as most honorable members should know, is divided by the Molonglo River, which is crossed by a number of bridges. Within the residential area and what can be called the business area of the city, there is one high-level bridge - not a particularly imposing structure and not, I believe, particularly safe - and three low-level bridges for every-day use. Those low-level bridges are, of course, subject to flooding. When they are flooded, all traffic between the northern and southern portions of the city must proceed via the two-lane, high-level bridge. Only this morning, there was a classical example of what happens when the Moloinglo River rises. The Commonwealth-avenue bridge was closed for repairs, and two of the three low-level bridges were covered by the waters of the Molonglo. The river rose to within a few inches of the level of Lennox Crossing. There are also two other low-level bridges, one on the road from Molonglo to Fyshwick, and the other on the stock route leading to the Oaks Estate. 1 have lived in Canberra for ten years. During the whole of that time, and 1 believe, for many years before, there has been an agitation for the building of high-level bridges on the main access roads from the northern to the southern parts of the city and, indeed, there have been promises over the years that additional bridges would be built. There have been discussions as to the style and type of bridges that should be constructed, whether they should provide four or six traffic lanes, and whether they should be of concrete and steel or of other forms of construction. But we cannot cross rivers on promises. The ridiculous position exists in this city, which now has a population of 30,000 people, that there is only one high-level bridge, which is completely inadequate, linking the northern and southern parts of the city.
In answer to a question on this subject the other day, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) said that if the Estimates were passed, it was hoped that work on the construction of a new bridge to replace the Commonwealth-avenue bridge would be begun quite shortly. It is now, I think, well over twelve months since the Public Works Committee recommended the commencement of work on the construction of a high-level bridge on the King’s-avenue alinement, which is the road that most honorable members use when travelling to and from the airport. But if the waters of the Molonglo are above the crossing, they have to undertake a longer journey. The Minister indicated that certain foundation work had been commenced in connexion with the construction of a bridge to replace the present Commonwealth-avenue bridge. The point I make is that, had this community been under the control of a shire council or a municipal council, these bridges would have been already built, with the assistance of State government administration.
– The honorable member is too optimistic.
– The only really handsome bridge that we have in the Territory is one across the Murrumbidgee River at Tharwa, which was built many years ago by a State government, through a local government instrumentality. We have the ridiculous situation that, in this city, the national capital, controlled by the Commonwealth Parliament, we cannot even build a decent bridge across the Molonglo River, and when we do get to the stage of contemplating the construction of a bridge, we cannot dream of building two bridges at the one time; we might consider building one and following that with the construction of another later, but we cannot possibly build the two at the one time. 1 hope that the work will be put in hand shortly and that this farcical situation will be brought to an end.
Another matter which is giving rise to great public concern at the moment is the recent decision announced by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) to increase the bus fares for school children travelling not only to and from school, but also to and from church and Sunday school. The proposed increase is to be from a uniform charge of Id. to a uniform charge of 3d. I readily admit that this might seem a small matter to be bringing before the national Parliament, but I point out that, in respect of the Australian Capital Territory, this national Parliament must sit as not only the Parliament, but also a body of aldermen and councillors. It is responsible for the decisions made on matters that should really be handled by local authorities. In the absence of any attempt to give the people of the Australian Capital Territory the right to govern themselves, a right which is enjoyed by the people of every other community in Australia, this Government must accept responsibility for these smaller matters. It may be argued that the 3d. that is to be charged is, in fact, worth no more than the Id. that has been charged hitherto, and that may well be true. The change in money values could well mean that the Id. of ten years ago was equal in value to the 3d. of to-day; but, if that line of argument is to be used, it should be applied in the other direction as well. To date, the Government has never accepted that line of argument when it has been adduced from this side as a reason for increasing the family allowances made under the Social Services Consolidation Act. When child endowment was introduced, it was intended to help the family man to meet the expense of educating his children and fitting them to occupy decent positions in the world, but I remind the committee that the rate of child endowment has remained stationary over the years. It is still at the same level in this year, 1956, as it was in 1948, and 1 mention that fact in support of my assertion that it is fallacious for the Government to argue that the change in money values justifies the proposed increase in the bus fares to be charged to school children.
It is quite probable that the senior public servants who make the recommendation that is adopted by the Minister will not be affected by this increase. The comparatively highly salaried public servants in any sphere, perhaps, will not feel this impost, but it certainly will be felt most severely by the man on the small income who has a large family. I know of families who have six children attending school, and in those cases the proposed increase from Id. to 3d. for each journey on the bus involves an extra expenditure of 10s. by the bread winner each week, and that is a very substantial impost in these days of very hard family budgeting. I do not think the Government would have the temerity to legislate for a reduction of 10s. a week in wages, but in actual fact the proposed increase in bus fares for school children has exactly that effect. With a basic wage in Canberra lower than that in the adjoining State of New South Wales, and with prices here far above those obtaining in the cities and towns of New South Wales, this impost will hit the family man very hard indeed.
It has been argued that the bus services must be made to show a profit or at least to pay their way. I remind the committee that this is a planned city and the planning has been such that long journeys by bus are inescapable. Had this city merely grown outwards from one main street as other cities and towns throughout Australia have developed, it is probable that this problem would not be confronting us to-day; but because this is a planned city, because the Government brings employees here, telling them to live here, to work there and to send their children to this or that school, these long journeys must be taken and these expenses incurred, and for those reasons the Government has properly resting upon it the responsibility of subsidizing its employees for this expenses. The decision to increase bus fares to school children attending schools, churches and Sunday schools is a bad one. lt must result in the imposition of substantially increased expense to the man who has a large family and who is on a low income, lt will hurt the very man whom we should be helping. Time and again we have heard it said in this place that the Australian child is the best immigrant, that we should do everything possible to encourage family life, but in this instance the Government is discouraging it. The man who will be hurt is the very person who should not be harmed in this way. The matter must come before this Parliament by way of amendment, to a regulation. When that happens, the Parliament, in effect, becomes a local authority and decides whether the regulation should be accepted or rejected, and 1 hope that the Parliament will be given the opportunity to decide that it should be rejected.
By way of questions recently, I pointed out to the Minister that in this city there were some areas which might, perhaps, be described as depressed or neglected areas, and the Minister undertook to make a tour of inspection of them with me. I propose to refer briefly to them now because the impression is too loosely held that everybody in Canberra lives in an ideal garden setting and is spoon-fed in every way.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) says, “ Hear, hear! “. This afternoon, he described this city as a Utopia for which the highly-taxed and highly-rated people of the rest of Australia are paying. They may be highly rated; in fact, some of them are overrated, but I shall deal with that matter later. At the moment I mention first the suburb of Causeway, which was established in 1925. lt has been in existence for 31 years. Many of the people still living there have been there for the full 31 years; and that area, which was the pioneer settlement of the city, is still without kerbing, guttering, footpaths or any of the other facilities that are provided almost automatically in the newer suburbs! I hope that is one of the areas the Minister will visit with me, just as 1 hope that he will see that these facilities shall be provided there, lt is appreciated, of course, that he is not entirely responsible for the lack of these amenities in that area; it is the result of neglect extending over many years.
Then, we have the Narrabundah prefabricated area, established in 1947. It has been in existence for nine years and is still without kerbing, guttering or any of the other proper facilities that are provided in every other suburb of the city. To illustrate the line of thinking adopted in the department towards these suburbs, I point out that when the Narrabundah prefabricated area was established in 1947, the prefabricated houses were equipped with tin baths. Nine years have elapsed since the establishment of the area, and the tin baths are wearing out. Even those which have been painted with silvafros are rusting through, but, when asked to provide replacements for them, the department says, “ We cannot provide porcelain baths; we will replace your tin bath wilh another tin bath “; and it has a plumber engaged in making these tin replacements. When one asks the officers of the department why they make first and second class citizens, why they give some people porcelain baths and others tin baths, they merely reply, “ Frankly, we have not the money to provide porcelain baths “. In answer to that. I remind the committee that the average life of a porcelain bath is at least 30 years whilst the obvious maximum life of a tin bath is nine years. So, in actual fact, within the lifetime of one porcelain bath, the department will provide three tin baths and incur the cost of installing all three, and it does so because the work is a charge upon maintenance and is not debited to new work.
.- I desire to deal with item 5, Division 225, “ Building of homes for the aged - Assistance to approved organizations “, for which a provision of £700,000 has been made in the Estimates for this year. The pension in Australia is, perhaps, more liberal than that paid in any other country in the world. Notwithstanding that, cruel hardships are to-day being inflicted upon a certain minority of pensioners. An examination of the circumstances of pensioners shows that a great many of them are able to live under reasonable conditions on the pension that they receive to-day. For example, a pensioner couple living in their own home, who receive £7 a week superannuation and £8 a week pension, have a total income of £15 a week. That, of course, is higher than the basic wage.
– Order! To which vote is the honorable member referring? We have passed the Estimates for the Department of Social Services, and Miscellaneous Services.
– I am dealing with the building of homes for the aged.
– That occurs in a group of Estimates that has been passed.
– I understand not.
– We are dealing with territories now.
– Very well, sir. I shall refer to the building of homes for the aged in the territories, for which some provision is made. The Aged Persons Homes Act provides for the building of homes for aged persons and its provisions are not limited to any area. I was pointing out that under the existing social services provisions, which apply to the territories as well as to the rest of the Commonwealth, under present conditions the pension for a married couple fortunate enough to have their own home is to-day more than the basic wage. That being the case, I believe that it cannot be said that any real hardship is caused in the true sense of the term to those persons. When we consider the married couple living in their own home who receive only the pension of £8 a week, I believe that they, too, are able to carry on without undue hardship. Similarly, a single pensioner living in a home is able to carry on, provided he has not a mortgage on that home or heavy rates and taxes to pay.
However, the single pensioners, widow or widower, who have no assets or other income and have to pay rent ranging probably from £1 10s. to £2 10s. a week, are suffering to-day the most cruel hardships. I do not think that any honorable member would suggest that, with the cost of living as it is to-day, a person in receipt of a total income of £4 a week, out of which she has to pay rent amounting to, say, £2 a week, can possibly feed and clothe herself on the remaining £2. The Aged Persons Homes
Act has been a tremendous boon to such people in every part of the Commonwealth. Last year, throughout the Commonwealth, 1,175 people were provided with accommodation under that act.
– Order! I am afraid I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed. He is dealing with social services and homes for the aged. The group of Estimates under which those provisions could be discussed has already been passed.
– I point out that they apply to the territories as well as to any other part of the Commonwealth.
– Order! I shall nol allow discussion of those matters now. The division quoted by the honorable member is included in the previous block of Estimates, and I cannot allow him to proceed.
– Very well, sir, I bow to your ruling.
– I do not want to take up the time of the committee for very long. 1 know that other honorable members want to deal with some of their pet subjects and I certainly would not deny them that pleasure. But one or two matters have been mentioned to which I think I should address a few remarks.
This afternoon, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) mentioned certain matters as they appeared in the printed Estimates. Of course, the honorable gentleman does well to question those things that he does not understand. As the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) pointed out earlier, the Commonwealth Government stands in relation to affairs in the Australian Capital Territory as local government, State government and Commonwealth government combined. Therefore, certain of the headings to which the honorable member for Moore referred this afternoon are matters which, in the States, would be dealt with by a State government or by local government authorities. The honorable gentleman asked for information about an item which dealt with firewood. He is quite right in raising that matter, because the Estimates provide a sum of £1,000 for it. 1 am pleased to tell the honorable gentleman that it provides for the development in Canberra of a reserve of firewood for the Government’s own use. It is wood which is cleared from areas that are now to go under forestry development, and which otherwise would have been burnt and destroyed. So that is a conservation activity of the Government.
The honorable member addressed some remarks to the matter of the Canberra swimming pool, and drew attention to the great cost of the pool. Certainly this kind of amenity is very expensive to-day, but in a country town it is very necessary. I draw attention to the fact that here we are developing a national capital which, to an increasing degree as time goes on, will become the symbol of this country’s nationhood. That being so, we should not be cheese-paring. I know that the honorable member will reply that we have been cheese-paring in other things, and regretfully I am forced to admit that that is so. But this swimming pool has drawn national attention, not for the reasons mentioned by the honorable member for Moore, but because, as he will know, the design of that pool won for the architect the Sulman prize for architecture for this year, it is a pool which is playing a very important part in the development of this national capital’s affairs.
– Why not assist souse of the States to do the same thing?
– I will come to that in a moment. The pool was opened with the State swimming championships earlier this 5’ear. Next year I understand the national swimming championships will be held at the pool. I submit that it is a very good thing that here in the national capital these facilities should be provided for national games of this type. I am a little disappointed with the honorable gentleman, because he referred to the AuditorGeneral’s report and drew from that two figures, one showing the cost of operation and the other showing the returns of the new Canberra swimming pool. Then he referred lo the figures included in the Estimates. From that he appeared to draw the inference that something was wrong with the maintenance vote on the Estimates for this coming year. The position is that the Auditor-General’s figures referred to one swimming pool only, whereas the figures in the Estimates refer to the two swimming pools which are operating in Canberra, or will be operating very shortly. The fact is, of course, that the Olympic pool was opened on 26th January-
– On 22nd December, according to the Auditor-General’s report.
– I am speaking of Unofficial opening. As the figures show, very little business was done until that date. But the overall figures represent very largely the revenue for only the last couple of months of the swimming season. With a full season’s operation, it may well be that the pool will show an enhanced surplus for the coming year. The honorable gentleman asks, “Why do we not do something about State pools? “ My information is that one or two of the pools to which the honorable gentleman referred this afternoon, and in which he is interested, were started by the State government with funds which, of course, were allocated from federal sources, so here are instances where pools have been provided by his State government with funds from which the Commonwealth Government, in quite the same context, has provided the Canberra pool.
I want to pass now to one or two remarks made by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), who has quite rightly directed attention to the fact that there are great shortcomings in this national capital which has been the responsibility of succeeding governments ever since the decision was taken to develop a garden capital city here in Canberra. As I have had occasion to point out in this chamber on previous occasions, it is one thing for a government to make a very good decision to establish a national capital, developed on a planned basis and providing a garden city atmosphere, but it is quite another thing for succeeding governments, in times of changing economic circumstances, to face up to the inevitable costs which are involved in implementing that decision. Inevitably, there have been these great shortcomings. It is quite true that we badly need an additional high-level bridge in Canberra, but I must assure the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory that he can cross the Commonwealth-avenue bridge with the highest degree of safety, and that that bridge has a very long life in front of it. As he knows, the Estimates which are being debated by the committee include provision for funds from which the final surveys, .drilling, foundational investigation, and so on, will be made for the new King’savenue bridge. I am hopeful that if the present economic circumstances continue we shall see in a very short time the beginning of construction of the new bridge. As I say, inherent in the development of this garden city, and for reasons to which the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has quite rightly directed attention, there are great calls for subsidies, for transport and so on, which the Government must face. In the matter of subsidies, it is a problem for the Commonwealth Government to hold an even balance between the entitlements of the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory and the Government’s responsibility to the rest of the taxpayers of this country.
– You are coming my way.
– I am prepared to go the honorable member’s way when he puts up a good argument. 1 want to deal particularly with the bus fares payable by children in Canberra. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory points out that we propose, and I have agreed, that the bus fares of children going to and from schools should be increased from Id. to 3d. lt is quite true that 3d. to-day is equivalent, economically, to Id. at the time when those bus services were begun. It is not of much use for the honorable gentleman to suggest that child endowment has not been raised to take care of that sort of variation in values, because in the days when the Id. bus fare in Canberra was struck, there was not any child endowment at all, so to that extent parents have gained through child endowment. I rather wish that the honorable gentleman, when he said that we should look at the great increase from Id. to 3d., had taken the argument a stage further and referred to the total amounts involved in this sort of operation. In 1954-55, the total fares recovered on children’s buses were, in round figures, £4,500 in return for an expenditure of £48,000. In 1955-56, the fares were £4,700 and the expenditure was £48,500. It is estimated that in normal circumstances we would have recovered £5,230 from children’s bus fares in the current year, as against an estimated expenditure of £52,000. We are therefore proposing to increase the return from about £5,000 to about £15,000, and so there will be a gain to that extent, but nothing alters the fact that we are already heavily subsidizing these bus services, as shown by the figures which I have submitted to the committee. The honorable gentleman points to the Commonwealth’s responsibility to subsidize fares. This subsidy is at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia, and I do not think that anybody can rightfully claim that we have not stood up to our responsibility to subsidize, on a perfectly fair and equitable basis, the transport of children to Canberra schools.
.- After perusing the Estimates, I am disappointed that more money is not to be made available for developmental works in the Northern Territory. The terrific potential of this part of our continent in the mining, agricultural, and pastoral industries, coupled with its great defence importance, makes the Northern Territory No. 1 in our priority list of national projects. It is truly said that water is the lifeblood of a nation, and the import of this statement is brought forcibly to one’s mind when travelling in central Australia. My next remarks relate to a project geographically and climatically far removed from the Northern Territory. I refer to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. I accept without argument its great national value and importance, but there is a need in the Northern Territory for investigation and research on a national basis to ascertain whether it is possible to implement schemes of a similar nature in that part of Australia. We must keep in mind the extent of the rainfall in the wet season and, as water is so vital to any industry operating or contemplated in the Territory, investigation of this problem is imperative.
I have referred in other speeches in this chamber to the crying need for all-weather roads in the Northern Territory, and in this regard I should like to mention the great strides being made by the Peko company at Tennant Creek. I think that every one is interested in the financial report on that company which appeared in the newspapers in the last few days. Perhaps one of the most striking features of that report is in relation to the transportation costs of the company’s products, coupled with the statement that it was possible to carry on under such circumstances only because of the very high grade of copper ore that was being mined. This leads me to make some reference to production at Mount Isa and Mary Kathleen. I am of opinion that activities in the Northern Territory and at Mount Isa and Mary Kathleen are closely related. We are reliably informed that £20,000,000 will be spent at Mount Isa in the next two years on office accommodation, laboratories, dam construction, and modernizing of plant to increase production three-fold. An amount of £9,000,000 will be spent at Mary Kathleen on housing, accommodation, laboratories and plant before production is commenced. The huge amount of money being spent in north Queensland on these projects is indicative of the great potential of the area and every credit must be given for the initiative and enterprise associated with them. In order to exploit fully the great mineral resources of the Northern Territory and north Queensland, it is necessary to extend the all-weather road from Tennant Creek through Mount Isa to Townsville. If this were done, the task of obtaining and retaining labour would be made much easier. It would have a significant effect in lowering production costs and also would reduce the cost of living for the people of the Territory, as well as for those in northern Queensland. In addition, it would have great utility value to the nation as an alternative transport route.
The construction of this road and the continuation of the all-weather road from Alice Springs through to Adelaide is of urgent necessity to the development of the Territory and to the important projects that are at present being undertaken there. Such roads would have a real place in a national roads scheme. The future of the pastoral and mining industries, as well as that of the “ baby “ industry of the Territory - the agricultural industry - depend largely on an immediate programme for the construction of all-weather roads in this frontier area of the continent. My views on the need to construct roads and to develop industry in the Territory, and the tremendous task which confronts any government that is concerned with those matters, were supported by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in a statement that he made to the Parliament on 13th March last, when he said -
The development of the Northern Territory is going to be much harder than is sometimes represented by those who talk most glibly and write most freely about the subject. Pioneering ha.never been easy in any part of the Australian continent and the main reason why the northern region has not been populated or developed to the same extent as southern Australia is simply that it is an even harder country than the rest of the continent. .This is still a hard frontier But a nation with the sort of record that we Australians have is not going to turn aside from the challenge of this last great task of pioneering. I believe that, as a nation, our people still have the toughness, the initiative and resourcefulness of their forefathers and to-day we undoubtedly can bring to the task scientific knowledge and technical skill and mechanical power immeasurably greater than was ever available to the earlier pioneers of this continent. Power lies in out hands to do more than they did. The urgency of the times in which we live demands that we do more. We should bring to the task all possible scientific and engineering aids and use an imagine lion stimulated by the present and not by the past. 1 agree with that statement of the Minister. He went on to say that water was of vital importance to the mining industry, and he pointed out that the Government had made surveys and had not neglected that field. He also informed the Parliament of what had been done at Tennant Creek in the search for water. He referred to remarks of the then Administrator, Mr. Wise, stressing the importance of road construction as a means of opening up mining areas and assisting production. He went on to say that much had already been done in road construction, and that the Government was working on a comprehensive road construction and maintenance programme for the Territory designed to improve, generally, the transport and communication facilities in the general interests of the development of the Territory.
I fail to see how those remarks of the Minister are backed by the votes which the Parliament is now considering, because a programme of the dimensions that the Territory demands would necessitate the expenditure of a great deal more money than is provided in these Estimates. Now is the time for something to be done. Although it was almost 50 years before anything was done about the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme, the majority of Australians now are convinced of the value of that scheme to the nation. Its success should be a lesson and an inspiration to every one to support further national research, investigation and planning. Posterity must benefit from the heritage that we leave behind us.
The vast possibilities of the Northern Territory warrant investigation of the whole area, because we must bear in mind that the development of this part of our country may be of inestimable value to our national security and prosperity. The development of the Territory, of course, depends wholly upon population. If population is to be attracted, it is essential that the people who go there should be able to enjoy some of the amenities which the more fortunate members of the community have. I do not think that the pioneering spirit is dormant in Australians, but it must always be remembered that we live in a mechanical age, when little is beyond the scope of scientists and technicians to accomplish. It must also be remembered that now that Australians have tasted the sweetness of these amenities, they will be loath to forego them even while pioneering. If all of these things are taken into consideration, and if every effort is made to keep them in the forefront of the picture, I believe that the Northern Territory eventually will be a place of which we may be proud. lt is time that this Government enacted legislation to permit the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) to exercise his franchize iin this place. I say, in conclusion, that railways, roads and water supplies are essentials for the development of the Territory, and are needed quickly. So that they may be provided as soon as possible. I strongly suggest that money which may be wasted on defence could be used to advantage in the Northern Territory and. at the same time to the benefit of Australia generally.
– I wish to say a few words on the general administration of our territories. I have some strong feelings on this subject, but I shall condense what T have to say to-night into a few sentences, ft is ironic that Australians, who have always been the champions of White Australia and the preservation of the highest standards for the Western races, should be laying the foundations of racial conflict in their own territories. Yet, I am convinced that that is exactly what we are doing under the policies being pursued at the present time. On the pretext of lifting the standards of the Melanesians and aborigines in our care, we are busily destroying all their ancient culture, standards and ideals. We are giving them in return only a sense of inferiority to the white man. 1 believe that this inevitably will lead to conflict such as we see at the present time in South Africa and the United States of America.
There is much evidence of opposition to the policies being pursued by this Government. We have only to read the periodicals published in the islands, or to consult unbiased authorities there, to find that thai is so. By “ unbiased “ I mean, of course, people who are not employed by the administrations of the territories. In order to achieve a balanced policy for the territories we must pay urgent heed to the voice of the opposition. We must listen to their criticisms of the policies that have been adopted. I believe that the Government will profit much from doing so. The “ Pacific Islands Monthly “ of September last summarized a large section of the opposition when it criticized a speech made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in Perth recently, on the occasion of the Roy Milne memorial lecture. The editorial of the publication stated that the Minister claimed that the end result of the policies being pursued in New Guinea would be that -
Scores of different groups, knowing no relationship with each other, may gradually become a Papuan . . . people, joined by a common language, living at a common standard of material wellbeing, and with a common culture, strongly influenced by Christian teaching, and by Australian social, economic and political practice, but preserving and enriching all that is best in their native cultural heritage.
The editorial goes on to say -
This might be possible in a different kind of planet. But in this world in this incalculable century, it is sheer dreaming. There is neither time, nor the money, nor the administration, to carry out the task that Mr. Hasluck has outlined. 1 believe that those sentiments will be widely shared throughout the Territories and throughout any colonial administration. 1 was recently in the Northern Territory, and I was shocked to find money being spent there on something that might happen in the future and which might produce results in the future, while urgent jobs were crying out to he done in the present. There was no lywire ffor example, on hospitals. Yet, we were told that, in the future, the natives would be given marvellous institutions. 1 believe that that is an example of the idealism which is proving fatal to the policies in our Territories.
We should clear our minds as to our objectives in the Territories. In New Guinea, for example, the population is increasing at a very fast rate. There is not a vast area of arable land in that country. We cannot alienate very much more than we have already alienated in the course of our settlement. It will all be needed for the indigenous people themselves. The Minister has estimated that the future population of our section of New Guinea will be 10,000,000 people and, if they are to have a rising standard of living, they will need every inch of that country to develop themselves.
But, we cannot retreat entirely from the Territory, for obvious reasons. Those people will always need to be cared for. They will always need our protection. Here is where the difference between my view and that Administration’s view comes in. My view is that the people will never be capable of self-administration. They will never be capable of looking after themselves. I say that with some sense of proportion. The Chinese, we understand, can colonize and settle in these countries and administer their colonies very well. But I cannot find one example of a race such as the Melanesian people who inhabit New Guinea ever in history having been able to fend for themselves. I think it is highly unlikely that something that has never occurred in the past will occur in the measurable future.
I believe that these people will need to be looked after for ever and a day. No matter how we raise their standards of living, they will still need the protection of a strong and virile people such as the Australians who are administering them now. Those are my views. I should like my views to be heard along with the views of all the other opponents of the policies that are being carried out in these Territories. I believe, in short, that they should be heard and that we should take some note of them.
– It has become the practice for some members in the Parliament in the debate on the Estimates, to express their criticism of the administration of the Aus tralian Capital Territory and, more particularly, their criticisms of the residents of the Australian Capital Territory. Such criticism was expressed late this afternoon by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie). Some reply to his remarks has already been made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), and I propose to have something further to say on the criticisms that the honorable member for Moore has expressed.
I think I am correct in quoting the honorable member as saying that Canberra was some sort of a Utopia in which people were maintained, more or less in luxury, by the highly rated and highly taxed residents of the States. If we are to speak in defence of the taxpayers or ratepayers of the States, let me say at once that the criticism expressed by the honorable member tor Moore has been expressed by a member who, I would say, five week-ends out of six flies from this place at the earliest opportunity to his home in Western Australia at a cost to the taxpayer of about £90 a week.
– Order! That is nothing to do with the Estimates before the committee.
– I was hoping to assess the value of the honorable member’s criticism. I propose to say this on the Estimates: The people of the Australian Capital Territory pay income tax at the same rate as everybody else in the Commonwealth pays income tax. It may be that, because this is a younger community than exists in most other parts of Australia - the majority of the people in this Territory are in the earning ages - the rate of tax paid per head in this Territory is the highest in Australia. The people of this Territory contribute income tax at the same rates applicable to individuals everywhere else in Australia, but at a higher rate per head of population. They contribute to every subsidy that is paid to every State. They contribute their full share of all the payments that are made to all the States by way of special grants, by way of tax reimbursements and in other ways. The Territory, as such, receives no reimbursement of income tax payments. This Territory has one of the highest ratios of motor cars to population in any part of Australia. Its citizens pay petrol tax at the same rate as other citizens in Australia, but, unlike, the States, this Territory receives no return of the petrol tax that is collected and no such payment is credited to the account of the Territory for the maintenance of its minor roads. I have not the figures available here
– Who pays for the roads’/
– The Commonwealth makes the roads. If the honorable member for Petrie will allow me, I shall say this to him: It has been very clearly demonstrated that if the Territory were credited, as the States are credited, with reimbursements of income tax, and if the Territory were credited with portion of the petrol tax payments, the accounts of the Australian Capital Territory would show a -surplus. Those are facts which I put before this committee. It is quite wrong to accuse the people of this Territory, in effect, of living on the backs of the taxpayers living in the States.
Coming to the items of expenditure that have been under criticism, we could ask the honorable member for Moore or any other member of the Australian Country party whether he would cut down on the expenditure on general lands services. Would they cut down on the eradication of noxious weeds, on rabbit and dingo extermination, on bush lire prevention, on the alleviation of distress, on surveys, on garbage and sanitary services, or on other matters which, in the States, clearly are the responsibility of a State government or a municipal or civic authority? Would the honorable member for Moore or any other member of the Australian Country party cut down on those activities of the Government which here must act in the role of State government and municipal government, as well as in the role of the Commonwealth? I believe it is quite clear that if the accounts -of the Territory were to show that reimbursement of income tax and the reimbursement of petrol tax to which I have referred, the Territory’s accounts would disclose a surplus. Perhaps it might be an interesting exercise for members of the Public Accounts Committee, in their spare time, to delve into that problem a little. It is hardly apt for honorable members who come from the States, which grudgingly concede to this Parliament the powers it is able to exercise under the Constitution - -representing, as they do, areas which are controlled, at the local government level, by shire councils and municipal councils - to criticize the people of this Territory who are deprived of the right to govern themselves in their day-to-day affairs. Even the citizens of Bungendore, Woop Woop or Mugwump have that right which is denied to the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory.
Over the years, there has been considerable agitation for Canberra residents to have this right because they are living in the city which is the seat of the Australian Government, and many of its senior citizens are engaged in the framing and implementing of government policy. But despite that agitation and the presentation of report after report on this matter, no action has been taken. It is sometimes argued that it is not possible to divide the functions of governing this Territory according to those which are properly exercised by the Commonwealth Parliament and those which should be exercised by a local council. The task may be difficult, but it is not insuperable and it should be tackled. The people of Canberra are prepared to pay their proper proportion of the cost of day-to-day administration. There is a rate element in every rental charged in the Territory, whether it be for house or land, and these rates are not disproportionate to those charged in a town of similar population. 1 do not say of similar size, because a normal Australian town with a population similar to that of Canberra would not extend over such a large area as this capital city. It may surprise some honorable members who do not have the opportunity to spend much time in Canberra to know that it now extends for 7 miles in a direct line from north to south. That is a substantial measurement for any city.
The task of assessing the charges that could properly be imposed on the citizens of Canberra to maintain it as their home town, as against the charges in which the national government is involved to maintain this capital as a planned city, should be undertaken and a decision made. It was recommended in the Cole report and more recently in the report of the Senate select committee that the people of the Territory should be given the right, the privilege and the duty of governing themselves in their day-to-day affairs. A correspondent in the “ Canberra Times “ a day or two ago expressed the view that the people in Canberra were a complacent lot.
I think I know what he meant, but the word “ complacent “ was hardly correct. He would have more properly stated the position if he had said that the people of Canberra have been frustrated in their dealings with the Government because all too frequently any proposal that they have put forward has come up against the blank wall of officialdom. So many schemes have foundered on that rock that the people have lost heart in their attempts to deal with the government of the day. They can see errors being made in the development of this city, but they are denied the opportunity to express their views. In this city, the Government is in control, not only as the Commonwealth Government, but also as the State government, the municipal council, the landlord of everybody and the employer of 60 or 70 per cent, of the population of the Territory. That fact demonstrates the real responsibility of the Government, and emphasizes the need for it to take some action to share that responsibility with the people.
I understand that opportunity will be given for the consideration by both Houses of this Parliament to the widening of representation on the National Capital Planning and Development Committee. I have constantly advocated that that should be done, so that residents of Canberra might be represented by people who have a wide knowledge of the development of this city and who have had a long association with cultural, sporting and other activities in this community. I hope that the Minister will agree to that wider representation. This Parliament needs to be made aware of its responsibility for the government and growth of the national Capital, and that can best he achieved, as I have said on previous occasions, by the setting up of a joint standing parliamentary committee to oversee its development. This matter is listed on the notice-papers of both Houses, and I hope that when it is debated members on both sides will express their views, and that a decision will be made to establish a committee of members from each House. I hope, also, that when they sit jointly something effective may be done in overseeing the development of the national Capital, and that a report will be made to the Parliament. f hone that the interest of members of Parliament in the national Capital will be extended. I am pleased to know that several Ministers, including the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), reside in the Australian Capital Territory. Their personal knowledge of local conditions will be of great value, and should contribute not only to the proper development of this capital city, but also to the welfare of its residents.
– In order to facilitate the business of the committee, several Estimates have been grouped together. That meant that at one and the same time honorable members may be discussing votes relating to the Australian Capital Territory, the external territories of Australia and the Northern Territory. This arrangemen places something of a strain upon the imagination and the mental agility of honorable members. At one moment we may be talking about the great advance towards civilization taking place in countries such as New Guinea, and in the next moment our thoughts may be led back by a succeeding speaker to the primitive jungle of bureaucracy at Canberra. At one time, in imagination, honorable members may be in a land where people spend some time shrinking one another’s head, and a little later their thoughts may be directed to a place where every head has a tendency to become a little swollen.
The contrast becomes very pointed when we throw our minds back to the fact that this afternoon the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) was making a point, quite cogently, about the expenditure of £7,000 in order to provide a supply of drinking water for the people al Tennant Creek. He was followed by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who directed the attention of honorable members to the fact that in Canberra a sum of £200.000 was spent to build a bathing pool in which people could swim. That contrast between the immediate problem of getting water to drink in a place like Tennant Creek, involving an expenditure of £7,000 on exploration for water, and the expenditure in Canberra of £200,000 for people to have a swim, bears a moral for all Australian people. T am sure that my friend and colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), will not misunderstand me when I draw that contrast. He has his responsibilities, which are very great, towards the Australian Capital Territory, and I have my responsibilities towards the outlying territories.
The first point I should like to make in special reference to speeches made byhonorable members on both sides of the chamber this afternoon is to express appreciation of the words - I think well-deserved words - that they spoke in praise of the Australian officers who are serving the people of Australia in the territories, particularly the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. They also made reference - again I think well deserved references - to the attitude of settlers, the attitude of mind and the sense of responsibility that so many of the people who live in these places have in regard to the great Australian national task that is being done there. These people are not in government employment and are noi bound by their salary, occupation or any other tie to support government policies but, because of their realization of the nature of the situation in which they live, they look at these things in exactly the same way as does the Government and appreciate that their own personal conduct and their own personal relationships with the people of a different race among whom they live will be determining factors in deciding that there shall be a happy outcome of our relations with these people and that there shall be a successful result of the efforts that we are making in the Territory.
In passing, I should like to refer briefly to the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan). I know that he holds his views sincerely and firmly, but just as his views differ profoundly from mine, my views differ equally profoundly from his. I am quite unashamed and unrepentant in my idealism on this racial question. I should like honorable members to look at our attempts to advance the primitive people of New Guinea towards civilization, and to give an opportunity to the Australian aborigines of the Northern Territory to live as we do, not against any strange background but with exactly the same state of mind as they would look at any Australian question. One thing of which we as Australians are proud and for which wc have fought and striven since our forefathers came here is that in the kind of society we are building every man and woman shall have the chance to be the best that it is within them to be. My idealism is simply this: What is true of a white Au>tralian is true of every human being, and it is part of the responsibility that is laid on us in our administration both in Nev> Guinea and of matters affecting the Australian aborigines that not one man, woman or child shall be barred from the opportunity to be the best that that person can possibly be.
There was a suggestion that these matter.” are less urgent than certain other matters and that, if there is to be a choice between avenues of expenditure, there are certain practical things to be done which are more important than the spending of a little bit of money on the health, education or social advancement of a coloured person. I differ from that viewpoint. My view, which is quite simple and straightforward, is this: When one is dealing with a human being and one fails to do something this year or next year, one is not merely losing a year out of a programme of administrative action but is stealing a year from a person’s life. If there is a child of ten years of age who could benefit by going to school this year and we fail to give that child the opportunity to do so, we rob that child of a year of school life and the child will never get that year back again. If a person is suffering from an incipient disease and we fail to take measures to safeguard the health of that person, it is not a question of losing a year out of our parliamentary proceedings or that the debate will take place twelve months later than it otherwise would have done; it means that that person’s life has been robbed of twelve months. So, I believe there is a real urgency if we think about these things in human terms.
Although, as I said, I respect the sincerity of his views, 1 also differ profoundly from the honorable member for Gwydir when he suggests that, in taking these measures to improve the conditions of coloured people, whether they be Australian aborigines or persons in New Guinea, we are laying the foundation of race conflict. I say that the foundation of race conflict is laid when one sets up two different sets of privilege and when a native, if one may use that term without any of its connotations, feels that he is the person who is excluded, who is shut out, and who is not going to have the opportunity that other persons have. But there is no race conflict when, as we and so many of our admirable and idealistic officers are trying to do in Papua and New Guinea, people stretch out a hand and say, “This hand is here to help you “. There is no foundation for race conflict in the helping hand. That is a point on which - and on this matter I differ from my honorable friend from Gwydir - I venture to say that the view of the Administration is shared by the very large majority of the persons who are in private trade, in private agriculture or private settlement in Papua and New Guinea. This afternoon one honorable member quoted briefly from a charter that was prepared by the Highland Farmers and Settlers Association. That charter, which has been endorsed and accepted by the equivalent in New Guinea of those whom the Australian Country party represents here - by farmers or persons engaged in agriculture - is as firm and idealistic an expression of our aims and achievements as we could wish to see drafted anywhere.
Having made those remarks, I feel that 1 should say something quite briefly about one or two of the points that have been made during the debate. This afternoon several honorable members referred to the future of western New Guinea. It is not within my province to comment on international relations; any statement regarding our relations as a nation towards the Dutch or the Indonesians will be made by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). However, I want to say - and this is a point on which I agree most emphatically with the remarks made by honorable members this afternoon - that in deciding what is to happen in the long term in western New Guinea there seems to me to be one paramount consideration and that is the interests and the rights of the indigenous people. The imperialism of Indonesia, or, if you like, the imperialism of the Dutch, is a lesser consideration in deciding how to do the right thing than are the rights and interests of the indigenous people. I think that that is the one factor which, in international discussion, is being forgotten and overlooked. Every one talks about the Indonesian claim, the Dutch claim or somebody else’s claim, but how seldom do people ask, “ What is best for the indigenous people? “ T. could develop that point to express my own views but, as at the moment we are dealing with our own territories, I shall not trespass further on the field of international relations.
Another point which I think must be faced very squarely and which was raised’ by certain honorable members this afternoon is the question of the future of the comparatively small Territory-born Chinese population in Papua and New Guinea, but mostly in the trust Territory of New Guinea. With a few exceptions, their present status,, as was explained this afternoon, is that of Australian-protected persons. In our administrative policies, we have tried to give to those people opportunity to participate in local enterprises, local political affairs, and local government affairs, so that they will feel most clearly and definitely that their future lies with Australia and that, by taking part in the task that Australia has to perform in the Territory, they will find the most hopeful and satisfactory future for themselves. But as honorable members saidthis afternoon, if we embark on that line of thinking we shall have to apply ourselves to the question of what is to be their status - whether citizenship as Australians or some other status satisfactory to them. That, I believe, is one of the questions which, although it does touch upon the traditional immigration policies of Australia, has to be faced and considered very thoughtfully, very carefully and very sympathetically by the Australian people.
I turn now to the remarks that have been made about Norfolk Island. I think this is the first time that this Parliament has devoted so much of its time to the affairs of Norfolk Island. I was very pleased that that should be so, because few more pleasant experiences await any Minister for Territories than to visit Norfolk Island and meet the exceptionally friendly, hospitable and delightful people who live in that delightful and pleasant land. The particular problems mentioned’ by the parliamentary delegation in connexion with Norfolk Island were small in comparison with the problems to be found in other territories. It has been said that the people of Norfolk Island have no social service benefits. That is so because they pay no taxes, and our social services legislation does not extend to them. However, we do make certain payments as an act of grace to take care of aged and indigen’ people who may need assistance, and such assistance is given out of public funds t<< a number of elderly people on the island.
Reference was made to the problem of establishing industries on Norfolk Island. I suppose behind that problem is the basic question of communications and transport. The tourist industry is a good example, but if a tourist industry is to flourish, there must be cheap and convenient means of getting to the island. At present the only way a tourist can get there is by air, and the return air fare is about £100. The sort of person who will spend £100 on a fare in order to have a holiday, wants a type of accommodation that cannot be provided without considerable expense. The existing air service does not carry enough people to justify anybody investing in the building of a luxury hotel on the island, and the absence of a luxury hotel makes it impossible for the airlines to engage in publicity to attract tourists. That is the dilemma that we are in with regard to the establishment of a tourist service on Norfolk Island.
I would now like to refer to the matter raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) with regard to the by-election for the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. The facts as he presented them to the committee are quite true. One of the elected members of the council - one of the members representing Darwin - decided to accept an appointment with the Government, and was so appointed. Thereupon, having incurred a disqualification, he resigned from the Legislative Council. His resignation was necessary under the laws covering the election of members of the council. In the normal course of events, a by-election would have been held, but that particular case led our legal advisers to examine the whole position of the council. The result of their examination was advice to the effect that it was extremely probable that some of the remaining members of the Legislative Council were also disqualified, and then, when we applied ourselves to that problem, we found that we faced another, inasmuch as the existing legislation provided no machinery by which a question of that kind could be resolved.
One could say, theoretically, that the Legislative Council itself could decide whether or not a member was qualified to hold his seat, or whether he should vacate it. However, inasmuch as there was considerable doubt whether all the members were qualified to hold their seats, there would be doubt whether any action that they took would be valid. Then,, we looked at the question whether or not all the actions that the council had taken were valid, or whether they needed validation.
The legal advice that we had was that they probably were valid and not open to claim, but that, to put the matter beyond doubt, it would be advisable to pass some sort of validating law. An examination of the whole position reveals that action will have to be taken, not by the Legislative Council, but by this Parliament. That is the question which has been engaging the attention of the Cabinet, and I am hopeful that, as a result of the careful consideration of the many ramifications of that situation, we will, before the present sitting of the Parliament ends, bring down for the consideration of honorable members some legislation to set the matter straight. Until we do set the matter straight, it is impossible for us to hold the by-election, because part of the question at issue is the question of the qualifications of a member of the Legislative Council. The honorable member for the Northern Territory will know as well as I do that if we apply too rigid and narrow a set of qualifications to the election of members of the Legislative Council, we might deprive ourselves of the services of some of the best citizens of the Northern Territory.
I shall give an example to illustrate my meaning. Many of the settlers in the Northern Territory accept an annual sum from the Commonwealth to maintain airstrips on their pastoral properties. That is an innocent action and would not affect the impartiality of a member in his parliamentary duties, but, on a strict interpretation of the law, that is a pecuniary interest in some sort of contractual arrangement with the Crown. There are few substantial people in the Northern Territory who might not be touched at one point or another by such disqualifications. That is a problem which needs examination, and I am hopeful that, as a result of the examination to be made, we shall be able, during the current sittings of the Parliament, to introduce legislation to deal with the position.
So as not to trespass on the time of the committee further, I shall not deal with any of the particular questions raised in respect of the various Territories, but I assure all honorable members that each one of those questions will be carefully considered and, so far as possible, will be taken into account when we are shaping our administrative action. 1 think that the majority of honorable members who have spoken in this debate have spoken about Papua and New Guinea and, in closing, I want to say, personally, how much I share the pride that the members of recent parliamentary delegations to that Territory have shown in the way in which our officers are carrying out their responsibilities on behalf of Australia. It is a very heartening experience not only to hear the tributes brought back by members of parliamentary delegations, but often to have conversations with distinguished citizens or representatives of foreign countries who go there, and to appreciate the unanimity with which they praise the calibre of our officers and the standard of the work being done, and, above all, to appreciate the way in which man after man will point out that the thing that surprised him most was the existence of that trust and confidence between the indigenous people and the European, whether he be a settler or an official. I think that that trust and confidence, which does exist over so many parts of the Territory, and between so many people, is the brightest seal that could be set on the work Australia has been doing there for half a century or more. It is also the most valuable thing that we can preserve in the Territory.
– 1 rise to make a personal explanation. While the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) was referring to some of the remarks I had made earlier this evening, he said that there was a suggestion that money should be spent on more practical things than bringing medical services to the natives, or words to that effect which, I believe, implied that I had expressed some view along those lines. In actual fact, my views are completely the reverse of that, and I think the Minister has misunderstood me in respect of the example which I quoted of the lack of fly wire at a hospital. My statement in that respect was an example of my view that money should be spent on medical services for the natives. Surely when we are spending £12,000,000 in this Territory we can find enough money io buy fly wire for a hospital.
.- 1 hope that the indigenous inhabitants of Moree, in the division of Gwydir, will: accept the explanation just made by their representative in this place (Mr. Ian Allan).
I was delighted that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) was stirred by the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) to reveal that it is proposed this session to amend the act under which the Northern Territory is governed. I think that it is high time such action was taken. The population of the Northern Territory has, I think, trebled since the war, and is not so incomparablewith -the population of Queensland at the time Queensland was given self-government 100 years ago this year, or with the population of Western Australia when that State was given self-government about 60 years ago, that we should not now consider giving the Northern Territory self-government, or at least a greater measure of selfgovernment than it has enjoyed since the last act dealing with it was passed, I think, in 1948. It is true that there are singularly few people in the Northern Territory who are neither in government employment nor obligated to the Government in some other way. That can bc cured possibly bv an ordinance of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, which the Governor-General would approve on the Minister’s recommendation, or by an act of this Parliament. It is more important, however, that the majority of persons in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory should be elected by the people of that Territory. It may be said, and quite rightly, that the Northern Territory is still largely dependent on subventions from the Commonwealth Parliament and therefore should not be given too free a hand in how these subventions are disbursed. The same criticisms can also be made, although to a slightly lesser extent, about the three smaller States in the Commonwealth, and nobody suggests that they should be denied selfgovernment for that reason. This is not to suggest that the present State boundaries, defined more than 100 years ago in the United Kingdom, are ideal for our present needs. But. at all events, we have in our disposal how the Northern Territory will be governed, how it will be governed in connexion with those things that concern the Northern Territory alone, how, further, we will give it representation in this Parliament - not only in this place but in the other place also. The Constitution enables us to decide how the Territory will be represented, under what conditions, and in which House of the Parliament it shall be represented or whether it shall be represented in both Houses. Many of Australia’s governmental problems would be easier of solution, and many of our strategic and developmental problems would be better handled, and brought home more to the people of Australia, if the Northern Territory were represented in this Parliament, not by, as at present, one industrious and indefatigable member of this chamber, but by members of both chambers of this Parliament. When there is a majority of elected members in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, it will then, 1 would hope, be transmuted into a legislative assembly.
– Would you give them ten senators to represent them here?
– No, and I would not give some of the States ten senators. The Minister knows quite well my attitude towards the Senate. I would think that, with the growth of parliamentary democracy and the decline of State jealousies, some government will some day have the courage to ask the Australian people to abolish the Senate, or give them the opportunity to decide whether it should at this stage be abolished. But 1 do say that the Northern Territory is so important to Australia because of its situation and its potential that it should in the meantime have some representation in the Senate. And the Constitution leaves it completely open to this Parliament to decide whether the Northern Territory should be represented in the Senate, whether it should be represented by two senators or twenty senators, and whether its representatives should hold office for three years or for 30 years, or should retire together, or half of them at alternate elections. That is entirely in our disposal. Since the Minister is good enough to seek my opinion on it, I think he should start out with two senators for the Northern Territory and two representatives in this chamber, all of them with full voting rights. The Constitution enables us to provide such representation, so why are we delaying in that respect? Is it because the Northern Territory is becoming less important strategically or economically to Australia? Surely not.
The other department to which I wish to direct my remarks has been deprived, I regret to say, of the benefit of its Minister’s presence in the chamber to-night. I am referring to the Department of Primary Industry, a department which surely requires more explanation and elucidation than any other department. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who came fresh to this department from his triumphs in the Department of Social Services and the departments of Navy and Air, has been unable to give us any explanation of the functions of his department. Many questions have been asked of him. and not once has he been able to accept for his department the responsibility that is his, and which led honorable members to ask questions of him and to Mr. Speaker’s allowing them to ask him questions. One would thing that one of the functions of this new satellite department of the Department of Trade would be that of co-ordinating the development of our primary industries wherever they may be in Australia and, where necessary, giving financial assistance to them. The Minister was asked on 6th March last when the Australian Agricultural Council would next meet - that body upon which every State, and the Commonwealth itself, are represented and the body which is the only co-ordinating body for agricultural matters in Australia. The Minister said in reply to that question - i am not able to say at present when a meeting will be held, but as soon as i can make arrangemen s i shall let the honorable member know.
He certainly did not let the honorable member know in this chamber, if the arrangements have since been made. He said he had arranged for various papers to be circulated to the State Ministers for Agriculture because he “ thought that they contained subject-matter for subsequent discussion, related to matters which required attention by the State government concerned “.
Then there was his answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) about relief in respect of flood damage in Australia and its really catastrophic effect on our primary production in the whole of the inland areas of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia last year and this year. This was the Minister’s answer on the appalling devastation in the Murray-Darling River system -
Most honorable members will realize that this problem is mainly one for the State governments.
That was on 15th February last. Then, on 11th April, another honorable member asked him about water conservation and irrigation in general, and the co-ordination of those matters on an Australia-wide basis so as to make Australia more productive. In particular, a question was asked concerning the McGarvie-Smith Animal Husbandry and Experimental Station at Badgery’s Creek, which is almost within my electoral orbit, and the Minister replied -
This farm is being run by the Sydney University and, therefore, is not under the direct control of ihe Commonwealth Government.
We helped to finance it, but that is the excuse made by the Minister, and no further information is given. On 22nd February, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) had asked the Minister a question concerning the land settlement of exservicemen - soldier settlement, in other words - that form of closer settlement which is indubitably within the sphere of the Commonwealth Government under its defence powers and which, in this instance, the Commonwealth exercises in three States and allows the State governments to exercise, with its money, in the other three States. On this subject, a bill was introduced to-day. The Minister replied, “ The matter is one within the jurisdiction of the States”.
Those matters which are not within the jurisdiction of the States are, apparently, within the jurisdiction of other departments. The honorable member for Mitchel! (Mr. Wheeler) asked the Minister abou’, the importation of new poultry strains to Australia, a matter which is of considerable importance to the poultry industry, our fourth largest exporting industry. The Minister replied, “ I think that it would be a problem that would come more within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Health “.
– The honorable member would get no satisfaction out of him, either.
– It is a pity the Ministers are not here to note the fraternal accord between us. That was on 3rd May.
Then the Minister was asked a question by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), a young Liberal who still retains his vigor, or rather verve in these matters - his vigor is yet to be proved, 1 believe - and who is as yet undeterred by uncommunicative Ministers. The question concerned the wool stores at Portland in his electorate, a good bread and butter question, but nevertheless one that vitally concerns Australia’s principal exporting, industry. The Minister replied, “These stores are now under the control of the Department of Supply “.
Then, other questions have been asked1 on various specific primary products. The Minister for Primary Industry is to be commended on his growing interest in such subjects because hitherto his interest in cultivation has been confined to the window boxes of Birtley Towers. On 22nd May, the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) asked him a question on dairying and the Minister gave a long reply which was epitomized by the remark tha: “ decisions of the kind that he has mer.tioned are not within the jurisdiction or the Commonwealth Government “. Then, on 26th September, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked the Minister a question concerning potatoes which. I would think, are definitely a primary and principal article of produce. The Minister replied, again in a long reply - not as fulsome or as glowing as he usually vouchsafe^ to honorable members on the Government side - that “ potato production falls withinthe province of the State governments “ Thereupon, when the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) asked the Minister it there were any subjects which were within his province, the Minister replied, “ I like answering questions “ - this was the concluding sentence of a long reply - “ but if they are irrelevant 1 am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, would be the first to say ‘ Let them know that they are irrelevant and let them know that their State colleagues have some responsibility for these problems,”.
There are some functions on which the Minister has to impart information to the House, namely subjects upon which he has to make annual reports. There are also some subjects upon which reports are made to him. A former Minister, a very capable and outstanding Minister in this field, a soldier settler, a man of experience both in practice and administration - the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) - asked the Minister if he would make available a report of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in relation to the cost of production of the dried fruits industry. The Minister said, “ I shall consider his request, and if I think that any useful purpose can be served in making the report available, I shall let him know “. Can honorable members imagine a more churlish and supercilious reply on a subject which definitely comes within the Minister’s province, upon which he received a report, and upon which he did not deign to give information to honorable members?
Lastly, there is the case of the notorious report, the farewell report of the Australian Whaling Commission, whose affairs were discussed earlier this year. After those affairs were discussed, and after a bill winding up, and in fact practically giving away, the assets of that great and successful, public, pioneering activity had been passed by this House, the report was at last presented to the Parliament in which the commission said -
During the negotiations which have taken place for the sale of the Commission’s assets, the Commission has been in a most invidious position as its operations and financial returns have been the subject of attack from many quarters. lt compares its financial operations over the years when it was in operation with those of the company to which its assets were disposed.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I direct the committee’s attention to Division 280 of the Estimates, item 23, being an amount of £60,000 as a subsidy for the city omnibus service in Canberra. That figure represents the anticipated loss on the operation of buses in the federal capital city. I find, further, that by reference to the annual report of the Auditor-General upon the Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure and other accounts for the year ended 30th June, 1956, on page 30, item 48, there are details relative to the transport section, Canberra. 1 quote from portion of the Auditor-General’s report -
Receipts of the Trust Account include appropriations of £70,000, which was last year’s subsidy, to cover the estimated loss on operation of buses.
It is that point I use to justify the emphasis- I make that this subsidy of £60,000 is tocover the anticipated loss on the operation, of buses in the capital city of Canberra for this year. This transport service in Canberra is, of course, a government service and I wish to emphasize the point that the estimated loss of £60,000 must be added to the ever-growing list of deficits of transport systems administered by governments across this country. I also desire to impress upon the committee, as indelibly as I can, that deficits of this nature are incurred by governments notwithstanding exemption from sales tax and petrol tax, so far as Commonwealth government departments are concerned, and also registrationfees. Then, in many cases preferential treatment in respect of revenue tax imposed by State transport boards is also enjoyed. Government-operated transport in Australia has a sorry record which spreads back over many years. Deficits of many millions of pounds are accumulating year by year on government transport systems, such as the government transport buses here in the City of Canberra.
The Commonwealth and State governments are only too well aware of this fact. The problem, is, of course, increasing; the deficits each year become more alarming to us all. Some governments, such as the socialist government of Western Australia, my own State, are spreading out eager hands, as it were, to take over private transport companies. To me, this is purely an extension of political power. 1 am convinced that unprofitable transport operations will soon replace the good services and successful operations of private enterprise.
To-night, I affirm the soundness of the Liberal principle of private enterprise. I am sure that in this enlightened age the people of this country will readily accept the view that if companies or individuals have determination, will to win and preparedness to work, their operations invariably are successful. The Canberra bus service admittedly presents an unusual and complicated problem. Those of us who know the difficulty of moving round Canberra will agree that the geographical dispersal of the suburbs of the city is responsible for the buses running over many miles of roads on which they pick up no- passengers. I admit that the passenger bus industry, as a whole, is a sick industry. An extract from an article published in the “ District News “ - an American newspaper - on Sunday, 10th June, is interesting in that connexion, lt is as follows: -
It was the biggest cities that first felt the impact of the problem. In one city after another, transit service has become unprofitable unless subsidized. . . Since World War II., when millions had no choice but (o ride the buses and street cars, the patronage of transit lines nationally has shrunk by half. On the average the rale of fare has been doubled. But this desperate effort to keep pace with rising operating costs has served only to hasten the loss of riders. It is a sickness that in all logic should prove fatal, though it won’t, lt won’t because few cities, large or small, can afford to do without transit service. Even if everybody should acquire his own automobile, the need for public transportation would still persist. For one thing, there would be no room for all the cars.
Mr. F. J. Spellacy, the chairman of the Passenger Section of the Australian Road Transport Federation, stated -
During the past few years the heavy increase in numbers of private cars in use has affected the passenger traffic on buses and trams to an alarming extent, until this traffic has been reduced principally to workers travelling to and from places of employment, whose carriage necessitates the provision of rolling stock for morning and afternoon peak-hour traffic, leaving the bulk of rolling stock idle for the rest of the day, andschool children travelling on concession fares, again only during morning and afternoon peak hours. These conditions, coupled with generally increased operating costs, have seriously affected the financial stability of the road passenger transport industry, and this condition is evident in the heavy deficits which have been disclosed during the last few years by government bus services. The same circumstances which have brought financial difficulties to government services have also affected private companies, until the ability of the latter to absorb increased costs and maintain their services is exhausted. 1 speak of the problem as it relates to Canberra, but I want to support my argument with examples taken from other parts of Australia. Like the secondary cities of the United States of America, our cities are facing the possibility that private operators will be forced out of the passenger bus industry under a nationalization plan. The Western Australian Government recently indicated a proposal to nationalize passenger bus transport in Perth by the formation of a transport trust. One private company which would be affected is the Metro Bus Company, which has served the people of the city and suburbs so effectively for the last 30 years. With the vision and drive of private enterprise, the company expanded greatly, lt began its operations with only 31 passenger units, but to-day it has 126 units, lt is operating on a profitable basis, but only just, because it has to pay various fees and taxes. Its competitors, the government services, are virtually exempt from those charges, but, nonetheless, they accumulate terrifying deficits year by year. That discrimination is a grave injustice, for it threatens the very existence of privately operated omnibus services throughout the Commonwealth.
A significant point to note is that in the whole of the national transport system only privately operated omnibus services and several railway companies, including the Midland Railway Company of Western Australia, pay sales tax on equipment and maintenance supplies. In Western Australia, although private services and government services operate on a common-fare schedule, there is a great disparity in their overhead expenses. Government undertakings pay no road licence-fees, but private companies are required to do so. Government undertakings pay only 1 per cent, of their gross revenue to the Transport Board, but the private companies are called on to pay 6 per cent, of their gross revenue. Government undertakings are exempted entirely from the sales tax. but private companies pay at the rate of 16J per cent, on their equipment and supplies.
It is apparent to me and I am sure, to all thinking persons, that the treatment of this section of the transport industry represents an anomaly. If we want to avoid paying a subsidy of £60,000 to the Canberra bus service, and if we want private enterprise to operate transport services in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia, that anomaly must be corrected. The Passenger Section of the Australian Road Transport Federation and the highest transport administrative authorities in New South Wales and Victoria have expressed their concern about this matter. No request is being made for subsidies or for special concessions. The request that has been made by private company after private company, and by those who would protect private enterprise in this field, is that the private passenger transport section of the transport industry shall be placed on an equal footing with all other sections of the industry. Why should there be the disparity that I have referred to? Why should there be unequal treatment of government undertakings and private companies?
To-night I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is responsible for the operation of bus services in the federal capital, to explore the possibility of private company administration of the Canberra bus services, provided tax concessions are available. I do not claim that that is possible of achievement overnight, but I believe that it would not take very long to consider and implement the proposal. I urge the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Government to approve the requests in respect of sales tax exemptions which I know have been submitted by the private omnibus companies. The continued existence of essential services depends upon a measure of co-operation by both the State governments and the Commonwealth. The present inequitable and anomalous situation could be adjusted by granting sales tax exemptions. If that were done, private companies would continue to serve the people of our cities and towns as well as they have served them in the past. Instead of nationalized services, adding to the already out-of-hand government transport deficits, we should see private enterprise providing satisfactory services on a profitable basis.
.- I am sure, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I shared your pleasure at the comparison made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) of the Canberra city omnibus service and the bus services in Perth and Detroit. It appears that the problem of running a bus service at a profit or at a loss in the Australian Capital Territory, where the service is run by the Commonwealth, is similar to the problems faced by State governments of various political complexions and by American governments. It would appear to be extraordinarily unpopular to persuade people to pay the fares necessary to cover operating expenses. If these services are publicly owned, of course they must b3 kept operating. No government can discontinue a service. If, however, a city transport service which is privately owned becomes unprofitable, the owner discontinues the service. I remember that that happened in the case of the oldest and probably the most pleasant form of city transport in Sydney, the harbour ferries. They just stopped, and the Government nationalized them by default, if I may use that term. It obtained the whole service for, I think, £8,000 - and that was not a confiscatory price. Rather was it a generous price, considering the losses suffered for several years by a transport company which had lost its vision and its enterprise. The company had built no new vessels for 30 years. It had discontinued services and had not recruited new operatives. Very naturally, of course, the service was not conducted at a profit. Now we see the State government building new and modern ferries, and running the service at smaller losses. It will soon be making ends meet, while running the service pleasantly and efficiently.
One would think that the Canberra city omnibus service, with a grant in aid of £60,000 this year, and of £70.000 last year, must be the most unprofitable municipal bus service in Australia. It may be that this is inevitable because of the nature of the capital city. Those who view the matter more superficially may say that it is because there is a Liberal government in the federal sphere. I shall not be quite as simple as that. I agree with the honorable member who has said that nationalization of city transport services is out of date. It will nol improve matters at all. Rather should such services be municipalized. There is no sense, surely, in the Australian people paying extra taxes so that people in Canberra may pay uneconomic fares to travel on buses. There is no point in the people of Australia, and particularly of New South Wales, paying extra taxes so that the people in Sydney suburbs that are served by trams or government buses may travel in them at uneconomic rates.
– Has the honorable member given away nationalization?
– No. We advocate municipalization in regard to local services, mutualization in regard to insurance offices, and nationalization of services which affect everybody in the nation. Those points are all included in the policy of the Australian Labour party, and those are the points that will commend themselves by sheer economic and historical necessity to every one in the country. Why is it that the South Australian Liberal Government nationalized - if that is the term - the electricity services in that State? Why is it that a Country party government in Victoria nationalized the gas and fuel corporation there? Why is it that a New South Wales Liberal-Country party government nationalized the Sydney bus services? I think that at that time it used the alias of United Australia party-Country party government, and one of its distinguished members was the gentleman who is now the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), and the leader of his party was the Minister for Transport in that government, Colonel Bruxner. Such things are inevitable, Mr. Temporary Chairman, as you well know. I represent an electorate on the outskirts of Sydney. No government buses operate in it. I used to represent a larger electorate, the largest in Australia in point of population, in which no government buses operated. My electors, without exception, wished that government buses did operate, because they could then have travelled on them more cheaply, although at an uneconomic rate. People in the outer suburbs pay fares on private buses. Those private services have shorter sections, higher fares, and less frequent services than generous Australian governments provide for the people who live near the centres of the larger capital cities, or in those smaller capital cities that have not expanded after the war as have Sydney and Melbourne.
– The private operators have been overloaded with taxes.
– If they run at a loss they do not pay taxes.
– Would their losses be less if they were owned by municipalities than if they were owned by the State?
– 1 should think that the State would make more from a profitable publicly-owned corporation than from a profitable privately-owned company. The difference is that the privately-owned organization would pay the Commonwealth, at the very most, 7s. or 8s. in the £1 in taxes on its profits, whereas the State, or the Commonwealth, or a municipality, would retain the whole of the profits of the publicly-owned corporation.
Government supporters interjecting,
– This lively interchange arises, Mr. Temporary Chairman, out of the small item of £60,000 subsidy for the Canberra city omnibus service. 1 am happy to return to an example of the comparative merits of private and public enterprise, as revealed in the farewell report of the Australian Whaling Commission which 1 was reading to the committee a little while ago. This is the report that was suppressed by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) until after the passage through this Parliament of the bill to dispose of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission.
– I rise to order. I think you must agree, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the honorable member for Werriwa is very wide of the mark. At present, the committee is discussing the Estimates for the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Norfolk Island, Papua and New Guinea, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Part 4 of the Estimates for the Department of Health, and Part 5 of the Estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. How the honorable member can bring in the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets is beyond me. I should like your ruling on this, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I cannot see how whaling comes into it at all, and I suggest that the honorable member should not be allowed to follow his present line.
– I rule that the honorable member is in order. He is making merely a passing reference.
– The honorable member’s interest in the affairs of the Department of Primary Industry is confined to dried fruits, which, the Minister for Primary Industry has said, is a matter for the States.
Order! I think the honorable member should come to the point.
– The Department of Primary Industry was responsible for the Australian Whaling Commission. The Minister for Primary Industry is the one to whom questions about that commission were directed. He presented this report, and this is the first opportunity we have had to discuss it. In it is set out a comparison between the financial operations of the Australian Whaling Commission and of the company that obtained its assets, during the years when they operated concurrently. Their operations were conducted in the same area, and they worked on the same quota of whales. The comparison, therefore, is complete. During the years of their rival operations the publicly owned corporation made an operating profit of £1,163,657, while the privately owned company made only £844,592 profit. The publicly owned corporation allowed depreciation of £292,689, as against £1 10,058 allowed by the private company.
– The honorable member should not labour this point.
– I rise to order. 1 do not disagree with the ruling that you gave earlier, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but the honorable member is speaking, now, solely about the operations of the Australian Whaling Commission, and the item before the committee, to which he attempts to link his remarks, is Part 5 of the Estimates of the Department of Primary Industry. Although Part 5 includes a number of items under that department, they are a particular series of items, and they do not include anything having relation to the Australian Whaling Commission.
– I have already told the honorable member he may make passing reference, but he is labouring the point, and I must ask him to come nearer to the items being considered by the committee.’
– My last sentence on this subject is this-
– lt will have to be brief!
– It will, indeed. The publicly owned whaling corporation repaid to the Treasury during those years £850,000, and the private company paid in dividends £2 1 6,000. The interest paid to the Treasury by the former was £126,025 and the tax paid by the latter was £160,303.
I now refer to the specific items relating to the Whaling Commission. Honorable members will recall that the profits from the sale of the Whaling Commission were to be devoted to a Fisheries Development Trust
Account. Last year the disposal of the assets brought in £672,624. The trust fund got £125,000 of that-
Order! I cannot allow the honorable member to discuss that subject further.
– The other item that I wished to discuss in relation to the Department of Primary Industry was egg production.
Order! I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed along those lines either. The expenditure is incidental.
– In all seriousness, and with great respect to the Chair, let me say that the Minister for Primary Industry is responsible for the affairs of the Australian Egg Board. He presents, though somewhat belatedly, the annual reports of that board, and Mr. Speaker allows honorable members to ask questions of him concerning its operations.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed along those lines. That matter should have been dealt with when the main departmental estimates were before the committee. This is an incidental provision.
.- I was very interested to hear the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) give us another of the many interpretations of Labour’s nationalization and socialization policy that we hear from the other side. Almost every day we are given another definition of Labour’s nationalization policy.
– I rise to order. In what way is this related to the Estimates before the committee?
The honorable member has not proceeded far enough to allow me to decide that.
– If the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) is unaware of the meaning of nationalization he should not be sitting where he is. However, his confusion is understandable, in view of the further definition that he has been given to-night. The honorable member for Werriwa, in replying to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), said that government transport services provided cheaper travel. 1 do not deny that, but government transport can always fall back on the taxpayer in order to make good its losses. The natural consequence is that all government transport in Australia is in a shocking state, and is operating at a serious loss. 1 remind honorable members that private transport operators have not the assistance of a subsidy, and cannot fall back on the taxpayers if they show a loss. As a consequence of the need to equate charges and costs, they must demand higher fares. As the honorable member for Swan pointed out clearly, they have to meet additional imposts such as licence and registration fees and taxes. Government transport services are not called upon to pay any of these charges, but, unfortunately, they are forcing many private transport companies out of business, and making people rely on government transport, which makes good its losses simply by collecting more money from the taxpayer. Indeed, those who do not use these services at all - the residents of rural areas - must help make good transport losses in the urban areas.
Returning to the Australian Capital Territory, I thank the Minister for replying to some of the points that have been raised. I thank him especially for his explanation of the item to which I referred specifically. Had time permitted I should have referred to many other items of which I should have liked an explanation. No doubt the Minister would have been only too glad to supply it. I still stand convinced that I am right in saying that it is time that the accounts of the Australian Capital Territory, and of the City of Canberra in particular, were presented to Parliament in a form which would enable us to assess the costs of the normal civic administration as distinct from the costs of administration consequent upon this being the National Capital, and the site of the Parliament.
– What does all that mean?
– If the honorable member cannot understand what I am saying, he would be better off in a kindergarten. I could recommend a very good one.
– It must be the one that the honorable member attends.
– It is the one thai I attended a long time ago. While 1 was there I learned something, but I suspect that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) will never learn. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Eraser) said that apparently I spent very little time in Canberra. I mav say that I take every available opportunity to look around this city. Certainly. J do not go on conducted tours. During the parliamentary session I fly to Western Australia and back every week-end. 1 point out to the honorable member foi the Australian Capital Territory that 1 come to Canberra not to enjoy the sights as does the. tourist, but to work. I am obliged to work here on three days of the week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday 1 must spend the day in the air, because only a daylight air service to Western Australia is available. Saturday, Sunday and Monday are all working days for me. and 1 spend them in my own electorate. Therefore, my time is evenly divided between Canberra and my own State. I would vers much like to come here as a tourist ami if, in common with the honorable membe for the Australian Capital Territory, I hat! time on my hands, I would probably do so. and enjoy some of the sights. But my job is certainly full-time.
On the question of cost, I remind the honorable member for the Austraiian Capital Territory, and other honorable members representing electorates on this side of the continent, that in 1933 the Commonwealth went to great lengths to defeat the Western Australian referendum on secession. Apparently, Western Australia was so important to the Commonwealth that it was prepared to expend considerable sums of money and much effort in order to make sure that, despite the long distance to Canberra and the cost to the nation of sending representatives here, the State would not be lost to the Commonwealth. There can, therefore, be no quibble about the cost of transporting Western Australian members to this Parliament, especially when they divide their attention equally between their States and this capital city, wasting no time in either place.
I wish to refer, once again, to the provision of finance for the Australian Capital Territory. I emphasize, that from the Estimates the cost of administering the
Australian Capital Territory is not clear. From the total figures shown, apparently the people of the Territory are subsidized to an extraordinary extent in their normal civil functions - quite beyond what applies in any other part of this country. As I have said before, it is true that the residents of the Australian Capital Territory pay income tax, sales tax, and all of the other taxes that the people in the States are called upon to pay. Of course, members of Parliament also pay tax. But, in addition, the residents of local government areas in the States have to provide the money for their own civil administration.
– The residents of Canberra also pay rates.
– I do not deny, that they do. According to the “Year-Book” published in 1954, which contains the latest available figures, the total expenditure by 147 local government authorities in the year 1950-51 was. £3,424,844. All of that money was raised by means of direct taxation levied on the ratepayers in the various districts. It was not subsidized by either the Commonwealth Government or the State governments. For the same financial year, the vote for the Australian Capital Territory was £1,216,500, which included provision for the various aspects of civic administration to which I have referred. The total expenditure by local government authorities in 1950-51 included the cost of general administration, debt services, including interest, redemption and exchange - for which no provision was made in the vote for the Australian Capital Territory for that year - public works and services - roads, streets and bridges - health administration, sanitary and garbage services, street lighting, council properties, grants to fire brigades, hospitals, ambulances and other charities. Provision for many of these items, as well as for additional items, was made in the vote for the Australian Capital Territory. I admit that, because Canberra is the Seat of Government and we want to make it a national city - as the Minister said, something worth while, and I am not averse to that - certain civic costs are provided for in the vote. I am not quibbling about making Canberra a real city.
– I thought you were!
– But it cannot be denied that the people of this place do not contribute to the cost of civic administration to the same extent as do people in other parts of Australia. The people of Canberra enjoy an enormous benefit because of the national decision - if I may use that term - to make Canberra a grand city.
I reiterate that, from the Estimates now before us, it is impossible to see whether the cost of the removal of garbage, and other civic services in Canberra, is being borne by those who enjoy them. The only way that that could be shown is by a separation of the accounts. However, that would require a further step to be taken; it would require some form of local government to accept local responsibility. It is local responsibility that I want to see in this place. So far, I have seen no evidence of a desire by the people of Canberra to assume that responsibility. I should like to see the people here battling to obtain a voice in the control of their own civic affairs, and expressing a determination to carry local responsibility. If they said that they were prepared to do that, and agitated for the establishment of a form of local government, I cannot see why they should not get it. They should get every worthwhile reform. I believe that this reform would be worth-while, and I favour it.
– Why does not the honorable member introduce a private member’s bill to give it to them?
– 1 have never yet been guilty of subscribing to Labour’s policy of foisting on to the people something that they may not desire. It is up to the people of Canberra to indicate that that is what they want. This is a democracy - a free country - and it is for the local people to say what they want. It is all very well for the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory to say that he believes in the introduction of local government to Canberra, but I want to see some indication from the people here that that is what they want. I have read the evidence that was given before the Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra. The idea seemed to be uppermost in the minds of some of the witnesses that if the Government would give the residents of Canberra certain things, they themselves would do certain other things. Why do not the residents seek, straight out, the right to carry their own local government burdens? Until I see evidence of a definite indication by the people of Canberra that they are prepared to give, as well as to receive, I shall not let this question rest.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) was speaking, I thought of an axiom: A little learning is a dangerous thing. I also thought of Goldsmith’s lines -
And still they gaz’d, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
I think that this Parliament made an awful mistake when it put the honorable member for Moore on the Public Accounts Committee. We have had to suffer the effect of it to-night. He has regaled us with two speeches that have been nothing else but anti-Canberra tirades. If he hates Canberra as much as he protests, why does he come here? After all, if we are spending a lot of money on the national capital - as he says, wasting it by pampering people who are living here, to the disadvantage of people elsewhere - how can he, in conscience, saddle the taxpayers of Australia with a financial burden of £90 a week conveying him to and fro between Western Australia and Canberra?
– Each week?
– Order! Honorable members who are interjecting will remain silent. I have already ruled that the allocation of funds for members’ travel is not under discussion.
-I made a passing reference to that subject in order to score a debating point.
– I point out that every honorable member has an equal right to return to his electorate at week-ends during sessions.
– That is true but, with all due deference, Mr. Chairman, if honorable members want to go back to their electorates at the week-ends, they have no right to talk about the Government wasting money in other directions. Canberra has to be built into a national capital. Its development has been delayed for too long. World War I. delayed the establishment in
Canberra of the national capital. We had the depression which further delayed its progress. Then we had World War II. which delayed it for a short time, and plans were delayed again in 1951-52. I hope that the Government will not be intimiated by all this talk by the honorable member for Moore about a secession movement in Western Australia. I hope that it will make this capital what it ought to be - a truly national capital. I also hope that it will transfer to Canberra all those departments which are now in Melbourne, Sydney and other places so that the people of Australia may obtain the service which they cannot get now in all instances. It Canberra were a truly national capital, there would be a great saving of money. I am sure that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) is just as anxious as his predecessor was to do as much as he can to develop this city. It is not the fault of the people of Canberra that they have not got a municipal franchise or local government. After all, I remind honorable members, the people who live in Washington. D.C., have less representation in the American Congress than the people of Canberra have in this Parliament; but I do suggest that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory ought to have an effective instead of a limited vote in this Parliament.
– He ought to be effective.
– He is always effective within the limits of his possibilities. The honorable member for Moore should be moving to help the people of Canberra to get local government franchise.
– I am trying to do that.
– The honorable member is trying in a very crude and obscure way, a way which most people cannot understand. He would be better advised, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, to do all he can to help the development of Canberra instead of attacking the people who, in most instances, live under certain disadvantages in this city. I hope that one day the Government will erect a city hall in Civic Centre and that the people of Canberra will have a municipal franchise. I am sure the members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council would like to have the Tight to make decisions which would have immediate effect instead of what I might term a mere recommendatory voice.
– What about the new Parliament House?
– In all the capital cities of the world where a federal system operates it is not possible to have the ideal system, and, in reply to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), the sooner we start on the new Parliament House then, obviously, the sooner it will be finished. This is the time when we should be calling world-wide tenders for a new Parliament House. The Government might well consider appropriating £500,000 a year for the next ten or twelve years to pay for it. I hope that when it is erected it will not be merely a replica of European buildings but that it will be something redolent of the Australian atmosphere and expressive of the Australian type of architecture. I recommend to the honorable member for Moore that instead of studying figures he should now turn his attention to the study of architecture.
.- We have just been listening to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), a man who represents a metropolitan seat and who, obviously, would have an outlook quite different from that of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who represents a vast electorate embracing a great deal of open primary producing country. We could not expect the honorable member for Melbourne to have the same ideas about Canberra as those of the honorable member for Moore.
– Moore’s Utopia!
– A significant feature of the debate to-night is the fact that both the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and the honorable member for Melbourne spoke along the same lines, using almost identical words. The honorable member for Melbourne could not have been aware of what the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory had said because he was not in the chamber when the latter was speaking, and it would seem, therefore, that honorable members opposite speak to a pattern. The honorable member for Melbourne said exactly the same thing as had been said only a short time previously by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory.
– There is no crime in that.
– No, but it does seem to indicate that honorable members opposite speak to a certain pattern. I have always held the view that personal attacks should not be made in this National Parliament; and if any person ever hears me making such attacks here, I ask that he tell me about it and I shall then apologize most humbly for having done so.
It is now 25 minutes to 11. The debate closes at 10.45, and it has been noticeable that honorable members opposite have been hard put to it to keep it going. The honorable member for Melbourne is a man who can generally speak at great length. He said to-night that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
– A little learning, not knowledge.
– That is the quotation, but I thought he said “ knowledge “. As he was able to speak for only three minutes, it would seem that he had very little knowledge of the subject under discussion. There may be something in what both the honorable member for Moore and the honorable member for Melbourne have said, but I do not think that people who live in Canberra are any different from residents in any other part of Australia. The important point to remember is that the main industry of the people of Canberra is public administration, whereas in most other places, such as Melbourne and Sydney, both public administration and great industries are carried on. In any case, it is a little late at this stage to suggest that it is wrong to have the Australian capital at Canberra.
There was a time when the late Mr. W. M. Hughes and other people visited Albury with a view to deciding whether that city should be made the national capital. I understand that Albury was one of the cities considered to be suitable, but on the day of the visit by the late Mr. W. M. Hughes and his colleagues, it was hot and there was a north wind blowing, bringing dust with it. For those reasons, I believe, it was decided that Albury was not a suitable site for the national capital. Had it been one of those bright sunny days that are a feature of Albury’s climate, that city would have been chosen as the federal capital. In my opinion, that would have been of great advantage because the Australian capital city would then have been on the main railway line instead of being isolated as Canberra is. Further, the cost of transporting members of Parliament backwards and forwards between the capital city and their electorates would have been much less. Again, with ali the amenities that have been provided in Canberra with the vast amount of money that has been spent here, we would have had in Albury a great city with the dual advantage of having the industry of public administration carried on side by side with other great industries.
But talking of these things will not do any good now, because we cannot scrap the present federal national capital, especially as so much money has been, spent on it. 1 support what the honorable member for Moore has said, and ask what would happen to Canberra if the administration of the Commonwealth were withdrawn from it to-morrow and it was no longer the national capital. It would revert to the bush from which it was wrested. The only thing that keeps Canberra going now is the money that is spent by the Commonwealth Government and the public administration that is necessary for the conduct of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– What keeps the honorable member going?
– I intend to keep going until 10.45 so that honorable members opposite will not have any more opportunities to attempt to drag out a subject about which they know very little.
Some reference has been made to the difference between the amount allocated for the Australian Capital Territory and the amount of money voted for the Northern Territory. I was amazed at the difference in the amount proposed to be provided for one item.
– Is that rabbit and dingo destruction?
– Yes. The honorable member will probably remember that I reminded him about it a little while ago, and I thank him for reminding me now. The vote proposed for rabbit and dingo extermination in the Australian Capital Territory for the year 1956-57 is £17,500, whilst the amount proposed for the same purpose in the Northern Territory is £13,500. That is £4,000 less for the Northern Territory than for the Australian Capital Territory. Of course, the amount for the Australian Capital Territory includes provision for the destruction of rabbits, but, with the results of myxomatosis, I doubt whether a rabbit could be found in this area.
– One or two may be poking about, but it would be difficult to find them. I ask the Minister to say whether, for the expenditure of £17,500, any dingoes are being caught in this area. I should think that in no circumstances would dingoes be found in this part of the country.
So that the Chairman will not call me to order, 1 intimate now that I refer to Part 4 of the Estimates, “ Payments to or for the States “. In particular I refer to the annual votes under the control of the Department of Health, “ Division 288 - Tuberculosis Act 1948 - Re-imbursement of Capital Expenditure by State Governments “. For the year 1956-57, the amount is estimated to be £1,825,000. I do not think the Commonwealth is getting full credit for the large amount of money it is spending in fighting this dread disease. About two and a half years ago I was present at the opening of an institute. The State Minister who was performing the opening ceremony said, “ We have provided this money to fight this dread disease “. He took all the praise. It is only right that the people of Australia should know that every year the Commonwealth is providing large sums of money to fight tuberculosis. That is shown by the Estimates, and great credit is due to the Government. It has spent more money in fighting this dread disease and has been more successful in extermi- nating it than any other government in Australia, and we must give credit where credit is due.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) made a remark, I hope in passing, that the only subject I knew anything about was the dried vine fruits industry. I thank him for regarding me as an expert, though I am not. His comment shows that he has no knowledge of any matter that does not concern his metropolitan electorate. A large part of the area that I represent is used for fat-lamb raising, sheep, dairying, and the growing of wheat and other products of the soil. It is only at Sunraysia and two or three other places along the Murray Valley that dried vine fruits are grown, but production is so bountiful that in that small area over 70 per cent, of the dried fruits crop of the whole of Australia is grown.
The Estimates of Revenue under the heading “ Self-balancing Items “ show that under the Dried Vine Fruits Support Price Agreement, the moneys expected to be received from the United Kingdom for the year 1956-57 amount to £150,000. The self-balancing item is to be found under the heading “ Disbursement of Moneys Received from the United Kingdom Government”. The amount is. the same - £150,000. I know that at this stage the Minister cannot explain how this money will be disbursed, but I wish to put on record that I ask him to supply that information. The dried fruits growers will be anxious to hear what is being done with this money. The British Ministry of Food gave the price support to the dried fruit exports at the time when the change from governmenttogovernment buying to the trader-to-trader basis was taking place. . A short statement by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) would be much appreciated by the dried fruits industry.
I hope that Canberra will continue to flourish. I know that its industry is public administration, but if it can do that well, then it is serving a purpose.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £453,804,000 for the services of the year 1956-57, viz.: -
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1956-57, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £292,836,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Hasluck do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt and read a first and second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Issue and Application of £292,836,000).
– I move -
That the clause be postponed. as an instruction to the Government -
To present a new vote for Defence Services in the light of the re-assessment of the nation’s defence needs now taking place.
Mr. Chairman, in the consideration of the Estimates in the Committee of Supply, the Opposition moved that the proposed vote for Defence Services be reduced by £1, which was the traditional way of censuring the Government for its defence policy. The reasons given by Opposition members for that action were based on two grounds. The first was that there had been extravagance in the large defence expenditure during the six years this Government had been in office. The defence expenditures in that period amounted to approximately £1,031,000,000. Opposition speakers claimed that the Government had not placed the Parliament in possession of all the facts in relation to those expenditures and claimed that value had not been received for all the money that had been spent. Numerous illustrations were given. Some of them were taken from critical references in the annual reports of the Auditor-General, others from criticisms made during the course of inquiries by the Public Accounts Committee, and others from the kind of criticisms that we read in letters to editors of newspapers throughout Australia. The Opposition based its motion of censure, first on extravagance and lack of information about what had been obtained for the expenditure of these vast amounts of money; and, secondly, on the fact that the Government did not know where it was going and that we had never been given any indication by the Government of overall strategy or policy. This is underlined by the announcement made by the Prime Minister a week or so ago of a revision “ from top to bottom “ of the defence policy of Australia. That announcement provides confirmation from the highest authority that at this stage Australia does not know where it is going with its defence policy. It is an indication that the Government itself believes that all is not well in 1956 with Australia’s defence policy. The amendment is proposed, above all, for the reason that this Parliament is responsible for ensuring that money is voted only for the purposes stated in the Estimates. That cannot be the position with these defence Estimates, which have been prepared in advance of the plans for the spending of the money. The premises on which the provision of £190,000,000 in these Estimates is based are no longer valid, and this Parliament would be abdicating its responsibility for granting finance if it did not seek at least a withdrawal of this provision. The Government should present a fresh set of defence Estimates, perhaps in a few weeks, when the top-level conferences have finished, and when the Government has some indication of what its policy should be.
Suggestions - denied by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) - have been made in some quarters that there is to be a total revision of Australia’s national service training scheme. It is true that at this stage the Minister denies that that revision will be made, but if it is made and there is a change in the scheme, the amount which we are voting in the Estimates for the Army will no longer be soundly based. A suggestion has also been made that in future greater emphasis than hitherto will be placed on the Air Force. In other words, it is presumed that less money will be provided for the Army and more for the Air Force. The Parliament must be mindful of the fact that it does not pass a bloc vote for the various defence departments. It provides a separate, individual vote for the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Department of Defence, the Department of Supply, the Department of Defence Production, &c. In each instance a specific amount is provided, and if the discussion which commenced, I understand, to-day and will continue for some weeks, lead to an alteration of defence plans, these Estimates will no longer be reliable, and the committee knows at the moment that they are not reliable. Yet the committee will, coldly, in’ a minute or two, vote £190,000,000 for purposes which are specified in the Estimates, knowing that the Estimates do not disclose the real figures for the year ending June, 1957.
The Opposition is, therefore, taking this opportunity to give the committee a chance to revise this all-important matter, so that the Government may withdraw the present set of Estimates and bring along another set which will be true and will disclose the expenditure which is really going to be incurred in the current financial year. The Parliament is an elected, representative body, and it is traditional that money, once voted by Parliament, can be used only for a specific purpose. Without a shadow of doubt, this £190,000,000 will, finally, not be applied to the various categories of expenditure enumerated in the Estimates. This Government’s defence expenditure has been of such a nature that the Estimates presented to the Parliament at the beginning of a financial year have been found, at the end of the year, to be entirely wrong. The various defence heads have, from time to time, said that they regard the defence of this country as one overall service, but that is not the basis upon which Parliament makes its appropriations to various sections of the defence forces. Each section has a specific amount allocated to it. This country has set its face against the practice which, I understand, is followed in Great Britain, whereby appropriations for defence purposes tend to be made in a bloc vote. Under that system, if £200,000,000 is allocated, and the Army spends less than is estimated and’ the Navy or the Air Force spends more, no notice is taken of it. But that is not the situation here, as has been stated in two or three recent annual reports of the Public Accounts Committee. If Parliament wants it that way, let Parliament so decide, but, until then, let us not make a mockery of our procedures. We know that the figures before us are a mockery, because, when the Parliament rises in a week or two, there will have been a re-allocation, a reorientation, a new direction altogether, in each of the arms of defence in this country. We, therefore, take this opportunity, in the short time that is at our disposal, to air our hostility to this procedure.
I repeat that we feel there has been extravagance over the years in defence expenditure. Examples were cited which I cannot recapitulate to-night. This party has, for more than twelve months, made the criticism that the Government does not know where it is going with its defence policy. If final . confirmation of that contention was needed, it was given last week by the Prime Minister, when he requested a thorough examination, as he said, “ from top to bottom “ of the whole defence expenditure of this country.
– The Government cannot accept this amendment, and I am quite certain that the honorable gentleman who moved it was fully aware both of the inability of the Government to accept it and of the very sound reasons why the acceptance of an amendment of this character, at this stage, is entirely impracticable. We do not need any urging from honorable gentlemen opposite to make the most economic provision for our defence, consistent with the safety of this country, and the very review to which the honorable gentleman has referred with such emphasis has proceeded from the desire of this Government to have not only the most effective defence programme available to us in this country, but also that which is most economical, having regard to the requirements which we believe to be necessary. It is rather difficult for honor- able members on this side of the chamber to follow the reasoning of honorable gentlemen opposite. Although we have maintained the defence vote at the same figure as last year, because of the fact that, as a result of extensions of the programme in certain directions, retrenchments have become necessary in other directions, honorable members opposite are urging us–
– Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the bill has expired.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 3 and remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) (i). The interest rates charged by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and Commonwealth Trading Bank on loans to government guaranteed terminating building and housing societies in New South Wales and Victoria over the last ten years have been as follows: - January, 1946, to July, 1952, 37/8 per cent.; August, 1952, to March, 1956, 41/2 per cent.; since April, 1956, 5 per cent. It is understood that the rates charged to building societies by private trading banks have been substantially the same as these, (ii) The rates charged by the Commonwealth Savings Bank on credit foncier loans have been the same as those charged to building societies. Before 1952, these loans were made by the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private trading banks do not make credit foncier loans but lend for housing purposes on overdraft. It is understood that most current housing advances bear interest at 5 to51/2 per cent, (b) The rate of interest charged on housing loans by life assurance companies is a matter for the individual company. It is understood that, at present, most of these companies are charging either 51/2 or 6 per cent, on housing loans.
In the case of trading bank overdrafts, repayment is a matter for arrangement between banker and customer: -
t asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Cabinet decided, last June, that the rate of import licensing should be reduced by the equivalent of £40,000,000 f.o.b. per annum. To give effect to this reduction, it was decided to vary the principles applicable to quotas determined under category A and category B as from 1st July, 1956. Details of the changes were announced by the Acting Minister for Trade on 28th June. The opportunity was taken, at this time, to bring the licensing system up to date and to relate import quotas to a recent and more realistic trading period. For this reason, quotas for goods falling into category B were based on a percentage of imports during 1954-55. However, imports in 1954-55 resulted from licences issued at a time when the Government was relaxing the controls. Many special licences were issued then which could not be approved in the tight situation in which import licences are issued to-day. These special licences, together with the high rate of licensing operating in 1953-54, resulted in imports in 1954-55 being higher than they had been since the boom year of 1951-52. The decision to relate B category imports to the 1954-55 base year meant that the percentages at which quotas could be established had to be comparatively small ones in order that the required saving could be made. However, although this resulted in a reduction of quotas for most importers, a few individuals would have enjoyed increased quotas because of the special licences they had obtained previously. The Department of Trade, therefore, took steps to ensure that no individual should receive a quota in excess of that which he held prior to 1st July. In import licensing matters, as in all other government action, Cabinet lays down the policy to be followed, and the relevant department then takes administrative action to implement that policy. The action of the Department of Trade was in accordance with Cabinet’s decision.
n asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Books and printed matter from countries other than the dollar area, which are imported for use by universities, public libraries, colleges, schools and other approved institutions, and books or printed matter of small value, are exempt from import licensing. All other books and printed matter from non-dollar countries are not subject to quota restrictions, and licences are issued on application to the Collector of Customs. When the licensing controls were brought down, for balance of payments reasons, it was decided that no control, other than that necessary to conserve dollars, should be exercised by the licensing authorities over books from particular countries or for particular organizations in Australia. For that reason, it is not possible to supply the specific information requested.
r asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies: - 1, 2 and 3. At a meeting in June, 1956, the Australian Loan Council approved a governmental borrowing programme for 1956-57 of £210,000,000 of which £35,532,000 was nominated by the States for advances under clause 5 of the Housing Agreement. The amounts nominated by each State were -
The Commonwealth did not support the resolution providing for a governmental borrowing programme of £210,000,000. The Commonwealth indicated that it would be prepared to vote for a programme of £190,000,000 and, subject to certain conditions, that it would be prepared to make monthly advances to the States at an annual rate of £190,000,000 for the first six months of 1956-57, after which time the position would be reviewed and the amount of the financial assistance to be provided by the Commonwealth from its own resources towards the financing of the 1956-57 programme would be determined. Of this amount of £190,000,000 the Commonwealth, with the concurrence of the States, is making advances at the following annual rates for purposes of the Housing Agreement: -
The agreement provides that as far as possible 50 per cent, of the dwellings erected from time to time by a State shall be allotted to members of the forces (the definition of which includes both serving personnel and ex-servicemen), to their dependants or to widows of deceased members of the forces.
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19561011_reps_22_hor13/>.