22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.34 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to announce that I have received from Sir Eric Harrison a letter dated 17th October, 1956, resigning his seat as member for the electorate of Wentworth.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question relating to certain answers given by him to questions originated by my colleagues, the honorable members for Werriwa and West Sydney, concerning the exchange of ministers or ambassadors between Australia and Ireland. Apparently, from the right honorable gentleman’s answer of a few days ago, although it has been agreed to exchange ministers or representatives at the highest level, the arrangements have not been completed owing to the claim of Australia that the name of Ireland should take a certain form rather than others. I am not going into the merits of the matter, but the position has reached the stage at which, I suggest to the right honorable gentleman, it might well be referred to a committee of the House, or to some other committee or authority versed in international and constitutional law, to see whether it cannot be finalized, because I take it that it is still the view of the Government that there should be some exchange.
– The right honorable gentleman has raised a question which, so far as I know, has been dormant for a very considerable time. I should not like to give an offhand interpretation of the exchanges that have passed in connexion with it. The matter is such, I think, as to warrant a written reply, and I shall be very glad to give the right honorable gentleman, at the earliest possible moment, a written reply to his question. As to the matter being, in effect, taken out of the hands of the Government and put into the hands of a committee of the House, however com posed, I do not believe that a solution of that kind would appeal either to the Prime Minister or to the Government. I believe that matters of this sort - and I really think that the right honorable gentleman himself will agree - are the responsibility solely of the government of the day. Concerning what might be called the rights and wrongs, the merits, or the facts of the case, I shall be very glad to revive the right honorable gentleman’s memory of the situation over recent years and give him a detailed reply.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health in relation to bogus health companies, and I refer the honorable gentleman to previous questions that I have asked him in regard to these companies and to discussions that we have had on the matter. Is he now in a position to advise the House of the present circumstances in regard to a bogus health company previously known as the Commonwealth Hospital and Medical Benefits Fund and now known as the Commercial Hospital and Medical Benefits Fund, that was fleecing the public? Is this company still functioning? Is it in a financial position to pay the money owing to the members of the organization, or is it bankrupt? 1 also ask the Minister whether there are any other known bogus health companies, and whether there is any way in which the public can be warned against joining such organizations.
– The honorable member for Capricornia has been most assiduous in his efforts to protect the public against the activities of companies which are not authorized to act under the National Health Act. The company to which he refers has never been registered under the National Health Act, and some time ago - from memory, I think about eighteen months, or perhaps two years - legal action was taken to prevent it from representing itself as being registered under the act. Recently, an investigator was appointed by the Attorney-General to inquire into the affairs of this company, and that investigation is now taking place. It is the objective of the Government to protect the public from companies which represent themselves as being registered under the National Health Act when, in fact, they are not. I hope that the present investigation will be of material assistance in furthering that objective.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Reports suggest that Japanese interests have purchased the wrecks lying in Darwin Harbour with a view to breaking them up and taking the scrap metal to Japan. It is further reported that these interests have approached the Government seeking an area of land at Darwin so that they can establish a base by erecting workshops and quarters for the men who will be engaged on the job. I have received a telegram from the representative of the waterside section of the North Australian Workers Union expressing concern that, as a result of the establishment of a Japanese labour force in Darwin, this labour will be called upon to do work that is normally the function of the waterside workers. Will the Minister give an undertaking that no Japanese labour will be allowed to perform any task of handling materials, either inward or outward, at the port of Darwin, as practice over the years has established that such work should be handled by the waterside section of the union?
– T have no knowledge of any proposal for Japanese labour to be used in the manner indicated by the honorable gentleman. I shall make inquiries, but I shall be very surprised if there is anything of substance in the suggestion.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs give the House a report on the present unfortunate situation between Jordan and Israel?
– An uneasy truce - I think one could call it that - has existed between Israel and Jordan, and, in fact, between Israel and the surrounding Arab states, for a number of years. At intervals, border incidents have broken out, some of them small and some regrettably large. The Security Council considered this matter a -short time ago and invited the SecretaryGeneral, Mr. Dag Hammarskjoeld, to go to the area to investigate the situation and endeavour to reduce the tension between Israel and its neighbours. This was re garded at the time as a successful mission by the Secretary-General. It certainly resulted in a very considerable diminution of friction and of border incidents for some little time. Unfortunately, the incidents have recently broken out again. In the last three or four weeks there have been two incidents on what can be properly called a major scale. This recrudescence of tension and incidents may be a sort of side issue of the tension resulting from the Suez Canal dispute, or it may be endemic; I do not know. It is extremely regrettable and it can only be hoped that good sense on both sides will prevail. The honorable gentleman will realize from the answer I gave to a question asked by a member of the Opposition only yesterday that Great Britain has reminded Israel and the world of the existence of the British-Jordan treaty. The treaty came into existence ten or twelve years apo and was to last for twenty years. It still has a number of years to run. It provided that either party would go to the assistance of the other if the other party found itself engaged in hostilities, provided that such assistance did noi infringe the United Nations Charter. There is not very much more that can be said other than that Iraq quite lately has announced an offer to Jordan to station a substantial body of troops in that country with the object of protecting it - I think those were the words - against any aggression from Israel. The situation is an unhappy one. Many factors are involved in it, and it is fraught with a great deal of emotion. One can only hope that some steps may be taken, either through the United Nations or otherwise, to damp down this powder magazine that very definitely exists in this particular part of the Levant.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question supplementary to the one that he has just answered. Is Australia committed in any way to the obligations assumed by the United Kingdom Government in relation to the dispute between Israel and Jordan?
– That is not the kind of question that I like having to answer off hand, and I do so with great reservation. I would not believe that there is any obligation, even implied, on Australia, arising out of the United Kingdom-Jordan treaty. As I say, however, I give that reply with every personal reservation.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Some little time ago, I asked the Minister whether it was a fact that the Kingsford-Smith airport at Mascot was the only international air terminal in the world at which passengers arriving from overseas could not be cleared through Customs before 7 a.m. Information to that effect had been given to me by the pilot of a British Overseas Airways Corporation aircraft. The Minister promised to have inquiries made and to let me know the result. I now ask the Minister whether he can inform the House of the result of his inquiries.
– Yes, I am able to answer the honorable member’s question now. I made careful inquiries of the Collector of Customs in New South Wales and the Sub-Collector in charge at Mascot. 1 find that there is no substance at all in the allegation of the captain of the aircraft to which the honorable member refers. The Department of Customs and Excise keeps customs officers at Mascot continually from 7 a.m. until 1 1 p.m., and will always provide them at other times at six hours’ notice. No request to provide a customs officer before 7 a.m. was made on that occasion. The Department of Customs and Excise has no authority to prevent an aircraft from landing. On the occasion in question, if the aircraft was early, and as no request had been made for a customs officer to be present before 7 a.m., so far as my department is concerned, the captain could have landed although the passengers would then have had to await the arrival of a customs officer. I have also discovered that some twelve or fifteen aircraft-handling personnel employed by the operating company are required in connexion with the landing of a large aircraft, and the fact that the aircraft remained in the air for twenty minutes may be more closely associated with that requirement than with the need for a customs officer to be present.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that cases of infectious hepatitis in the Wollongong district have now exceeded in number the previous record for any infectious disease in the area, and that the Greater Wollongong City Council health authorities are alarmed at the spread of the disease, which has reached scourge proportions? Is it true that ordinarily the majority of cases occur in the five to fifteen years age group, but that recently in some parts of the world the heaviest incidence has occurred in persons aged over 40, and that these outbreaks have been associated with a very high mortality rate, which has exceeded 20 per cent? Will the Minister say whether there is any known vaccine of any value for the treatment of this disease, and what action is being taken by Australian research authorities to produce such a vaccine?
– I know that there have been outbreaks of infectious hepatitis, not only at Wollongong but also at several other places, during recent years, and that they have assumed fairly large proportions. These outbreaks have not been confined to Australia. They have occurred in other parts of the world, and in some cases have been attended by quite a high rate of mortality. I have no accurate figures in this connexion, but I am fairly certain that in Australia the mortality rate has been much lower than the 20 per cent, mentioned by the honorable member. Quite a deal of work has been done on this disease in Australia, but as yet no vaccine has been produced to combat it. One of the great difficulties is that it has not been possible so far to produce a culture medium in which the virus can be grown in order to make the vaccine. It is also true that there is no drug of known potency against this disease. However, work done in the United States of America recently makes it appear that a suitable medium may shortly be available, if it is not already being produced. The director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will shortly visit the United States to investigate this question among other things. Work on infectious hepatitis has been done in Australia at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Research. As the honorable member knows, the director of that institute is one of the leading virologists in the world. Of course, it should not be thought that all the research into suchdiseases is done in laboratories. A great deal of information about them is obtained from clinical experience, quite a lot of which, unfortunately, has been gained in Australia in recent years. The results of that experience have been made available to the medical profession. So 1 think it is true to say that Australia is as far ahead as is any other country in meeting the menace of infectious hepatitis.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for the Interior, who will recall that some time ago I mentioned to him the possibility of members of this House attending a course at the Civil Defence School conducted by the Commonwealth at Mount Macedon in Victoria so that they could inform their minds on the facts of civil defence and be better qualified to determine policy in relation to those facts. 1 ask the Minister whether he has been able to make more definite arrangements. Will honorable members be afforded such an opportunity, and, if so, can the Minister state an approximate date?
– As the honorable member knows, we have been conducting a series of short indoctrination courses at the Civil Defence School at Mount Macedon. Owing to the uncertainties of the parliamentary programme, and the intervention of the Olympic Games and Christmas, it has not been possible to fix a date for the attendance of members of the Parliament at such a course. I think that it should be possible about mid-February to have a course lasting a week or perhaps a little longer which 30 members of the Parliament, from both this House and another place, may attend. Suitable arrangements will be made in due course.
– 1 wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. First, I want to say that I am rather fascinated by the qualification placed on the answer given earlier by the Minister for External Affairs to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition about Australia’s obligations under the Anglo-Jordan Mutual Defence Treaty. Does the Prime Minister agree with the answer given by the Minister for External Affairs, or is there some difference between himself and the Minister as there was over the Suez Canal dispute?
– Of course, as one might expect, this is an uncommonly witty question. I should have been quite attracted by the honorable member’s fascination if I had not heard his leader, across the table, telling him to be fascinated. I welcome that sign of unity; it is wonderful. There is no disunity between the Minister for External Affairs and myself. I agree with every answer that he gives to questions because so far I have never heard him fail to make a reply that completely devastated the activities of the Leader of the Opposition.
– Has the Minister for Supply reviewed the amount now being paid to the Georgetown Council in lieu of rates for the property occupied by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s works at Bell Bay in Tasmania in order to meet requests that have been made to him on numerous occasions? Does the Minister acknowledge that the amount now being paid is considerably below the rateable value? If he does acknowledge this, and if the review has not been made, will he undertake to expedite a decision?
– I cannot say, in answer to the honorable member, that I have reviewed this question of the amount being paid by the Government to the Georgetown Council. I might say that the amount concerned is an ex gratia payment. This is what has happened: The Georgetown Council has made application for rates to be paid by the aluminium project. Legally, the commission is not obliged to pay rates. But in acknowledgment of the fact that the Georgetown Council has supplied some services which are useful to the commission and to its employees, I did have a discussion, on the authority of the Government, with the Premier of Tasmania, and he and I agreed upon a figure. I want to stress that it was the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, who agreed with this Government upon an appropriate and fair figure which ought to be paid. That amount of money is being paid, and that is where the matter stands. Whether the amount being paid is below the rateable value is really irrelevant, I submit with respect, because nine-tenths of the services which are enjoyed by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission are provided by itself. Only incidental services are provided by the Georgetown Council. My present view of the matter is that we are paying a fair amount in lieu of rates, and there the matter stands at present.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact that the first explosion in connexion with the present series of bomb tests at Maralinga was postponed on some fifteen or sixteen occasions because of unfavorable wind. Is it a fact that, in some instances, the postponements were announced in close proximity to the scheduled time of the explosion? Does this indicate that it is most difficult, if not impossible, to predict with absolute certainty what the prevailing wind direction will be any considerable time ahead or, alternatively, that somebody wilted under continued newspaper and other criticism at the repeated delays and finally gave the order to explode the bomb and hope for the best? Is it not a fact that the prevailing winds on 27th and 28th September, the first bomb having been exploded on the former date, at 5 p.m. Adelaide time, were westerly, veering to the north-west as they moved eastwards across the continent? Is it a fact that Commonwealth meteorological records disclose this to have been so at 10,000 feet, 20,000 feet and 30,000 feet with varying wind velocity? Is it a fact that adverse winds carried the radio-active cloud in an unintended direction, across populated parts of Australia, and led to a panic instruction declaring a prohibited area for all aviation? Is it a fact that such prohibited area extended from South Australia into Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria? If the Minister still adheres to his statement that the atomic cloud proceeded in the anticipated direction, will he explain the reason for the order to aircraft in the area to which I have referred? Finally, to remove all doubt as to what occurred - something which could and may still have disastrous effects on the Australian community - will the Minister table all the relevant reports received by him before and after the explosion of the bomb, the order issued to aviation, and the reports of all Commonwealth meteorologists in a position to have knowledge of wind direction and general weather conditions in the area in which the bomb was exploded?
– If the honorable member for East Sydney will take a day off and write out the question carefully in a legible hand-
– That was what the Prime Minister told you to do with the question. Ke knew you would bungle the answer in the same way as you bungled the test.
– I repeat, if the honorable member will write out his question carefully and legibly I shall give it some attention. But may I say this, Mr. Speaker, in a brief answer to the honorable gentleman - certainly briefer than his question: The honorable gentleman must be notably confused in his mind about this matter, or what he is pleased to call his mind, because there was no grounding of aircraft-
– Yes, there was!
– I beg your pardon!
– There was!
– There was no grounding of aircraft. Not a single aircraft was grounded or diverted.
– I am telling you there was.
– I am telling you there was not.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member for East Sydney to refrain from interjecting while an answer is being given to a very long question.
– It is known, of course, that the Communists in Australia are putting out the story about the grounding of aircraft, and no doubt that is where the honorable member for East Sydney got the story; but I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that no plane was grounded and no plane waa diverted. The course of the atomic cloud was exactly as expected and predicted by the scientists. As to the delay in the taking place of the explosion, again on that matter the honorable gentleman is not only ignorant, but is also glorying in his ignorance, because the simple fact is that no decision is made on the morning of a particular day that the test will take place that afternoon. The decision to fire the weapon is not made until the last moment and until all the meteorological data are brought to hand which make completely certain that there will be no change of circumstances which could create any danger. What happens, of course, is that because these tests take from twelve to fifteen hours to mount, men have to go into the area, machines have to be set up, cameras have to be loaded and set going, and so forth.
Because of the long time required to mount tests, when it seems likely that there is going to be a favorable occasion the preliminary - and provisional - notice is sent out hours before. But, I repeat, no decision is taken to fire a weapon unless it is completely certain that there can be no danger to any one.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that all honorable members are being deluged with letters from men in the ship-building industry at Cockatoo dockyard, in Sydney, who have been sacked because of the lack of work, and from others who have received notices terminating their services in the near future? Can the Minister inform me where these men now out of employment can find work? In view of the fact that similar sackings, in large numbers, are taking place at Garden Island, Williamstown, Mort’s Dock, the Poole and Steel shipyard, and other shipyards, is the Minister in a position to say whether the Government has any plans, or is making a move in any way, to find suitable employment for the men who are losing their jobs? If the Minister is able to find alternative employment for these men. I shall be pleased to supply him with the names of the people affected, who are the subject of the letters that I receive.
– I shall be releasing, very shortly, a review by the Department of Labour and National Service of the employment situation for the month just closed, which conforms with the indications that I have given to the House over recent weeks of a relatively steady situation in the employment market, with some increase in the number of vacancies recorded with the departments and some reduction in the number of applicants for employment. That is the general picture over the whole of the Commonwealth. If there is a special situation which has come to the notice of the honorable member for Banks, and if the facts available to him would be of assistance to the department, I should be glad to receive the details from him and send them to the appropriate employment office. However, the situation throughout Sydney generally shows little change, and that general situation is one of steady demand for the labour that is offering.
Mr. Haylen having asked a question,
– Do I understand that the question of the honorable member referred to a debate held this session?
– Held and concluded, sir.
– The question is out of order.
– Will the Ministerfor Supply inform the House of the developments which have taken place in the opera tion of the Mary Kathleen uranium leases in Queensland, and the erection of the treatment plant in that locality? Can any indication be given as to when it is expected that the first supplies of uranium oxide required under the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission contract will be delivered?
– My information on the matter is that rapid progress is being made by the Mary Kathleen company. I was at the site myself a few months ago. There has been much development since, but even then the dam for the water supply was approaching completion, the treatment plant was under way, and the village and the generating station had been partly completed. I understand from the company that by 1959 the first oxide required under the contract with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission - a ?40,000,000 contract which has been announced in this House - will be on its way to Great Britain. In the meantime uranium oreis being stock-piled.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service by reminding him that on 3rd October last he informed honorable members that on the 15th of this month he would bring before the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council for discussion the matter of laymen being denied, because of the provisions of the Judiciary Act. the right to appear before the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Can he give honorable members the result of the discussion of this very important question between the officers of the Department of Labour and National
Service, and the officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department? Did the Minister, in fact, find it opportune to discuss this matter with the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council on the date which he nominated? If the discussion did take place, will he tell honorable members, further, the views of the representatives of the employer organizations, and those of the representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions? Finally, what conclusion has he come to himself in this matter?
– Discussions did take place, as 1 had indicated, between the Attorney-General’s Department and my own department. The matter was listed for discussion at the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council meeting in Melbourne on Monday and a very useful discussion, during which the views of the respective parties were put. took place. It is not our practice to disclose publicly, except by way of statements approved by the council, either the details of discussion or the views of particular members. However, I am making a submission to Cabinet following upon the discussions, lt will, I hope, be considered shortly.
– In view of the great importance to Australia of an adequate and continuing defence policy, will the Prime Minister consult with the Opposition before he arrives at any conclusions in relation to the future defence policy of the country?
– That is an attractive proposal, but I must say that I am bound to resist it.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: Will he table or publish the texts of immigration agreements between Australia and the United Kingdom, Italy, West Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Malta, Greece and any other countries with which we have agreements? Will he table or publish also the texts of the rulings of the Department of Immigration on the numbers and categories of immigrants? I ask this question of the right honorable gentleman because our immigration policy is administrative, not statutory, as in the United States of America, and. accordingly, it is difficult for members of the public to discover and for members of the Parliament to advise, to take examples, why Australian residents of Greek or Yugoslav race can secure the admission of dependent relatives alone, whilst residents of Italian race are not so restricted; or again, why the Government subsidizes the immigration of some British subjects from the United Kingdom, or Malta and does not subsidize the immigration of British subjects who are resident in other countries of Europe. Will the right honorable gentleman consider furnishing this information in the department’s monthly publication, “ The Good Neighbour “, or in the department’s quarterly “ Statistical Bulletin “?
– Order! The honorable member is going too far. Will he bring his question to a close?
– It has been my practice to make available as much information as can suitably be made available about various aspects of the migration programme. That is done, not only at the annual citizenship conventions, but also at meetings of our two advisory bodies - which are very representative, as I think honorable members will agree - and from time to time in statements made in this House. I shall examine the practicability of tabling the texts of the arrangements-
– Will not the Minister table the agreements?
– I shall answer the question in my own way, if the right honorable gentleman will permit me to do so. I am not immediately conversant with the views of other governments with which we have entered into agreements on how far the contents of those agreements should be disclosed. Personally, I see no reason why the information should not be made available to honorable members generally. If that is the outcome of my investigations, the information will be supplied. In dealing with financial assistance, the honorable gentleman suggested that restrictions are applied lo immigrants of certain nationalities which are not applied to persons of Italian origin. I point out that at present restrictions are applied more stringently to prospective immigrants of southern European origin than to prospective immigrants from other areas - not because of discrimination in terms of race or nationality, but because of our determination to maintain a balanced intake of immigrants.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that over twelve months ago an all-party committee of the Parliament of Western Australia put forward a number of proposals in connexion with the development of the north-west of that State, including a proposal for the construction of a dam on the Ord River, road development, extended port facilities and a subsidy for ship construction. In September, 1955, 1 asked the Prime Minister whether he was in a position to comment on the proposals, and I raised the matter again in September of this year. I now ask the right honorable gentleman again: Is he in a position to reply to the requests of the allparty committee of the Parliament of Western Australia?
– 1 think the honorable member is leaving out of account the fact that during this period we, as a Government, have done a great deal for Western Australia in connexion with the water scheme and, more recently, in connexion with the general works programme of that State. I cannot undertake to make an impromptu statement about each of a series of proposals. If the honorable member is interested, I shall be able to find out what has happened in relation to each of them. But if his intention is to convey the impression that Western Australia has been neglected, or that its claims have been overlooked, I want to make it abundantly clear that no State has received better treatment than the State of Western Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Loans Securities Act 1919.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend our present borrowing legislation in two respects which are relevant to overseas borrowing. In some recent overseas borrowings, it has been necessary to obtain an order in council authorizing the borrowing before the terms have been finally settled with the underwriters. This order has specified the limits approved by the Government and the Australian Loan Council as to the terms and conditions to which the Treasurer, or his authorized representatives, is permitted to go. It is proposed, in future, to adopt a more flexible procedure under which an authority would be obtained from the Governor-General toborrow a specified sum of money on terms and conditions to be determined by the Governor-General or the Treasurer. This procedure would make it unnecessary for the negotiating limits to be set out in the order in council itself. These limits would, of course, still have to be approved, in the first instance, by the Government and by the Australian Loan Council, as provided in the Financial Agreement, so nothing proposed in the bill will take away from the necessity to secure that authority for the loan within the terms of the Financial Agreement. The view may be taken that the existing legislation does not provide sufficient authority for this form of approval and it is therefore proposed, in clause 3 of the bill now before you, to repeal the existing section 3 of the Loans Securiites Act and to replace it with a new section. The proposed new section provides that the Governor-General shall determine the amount to be borrowed and may determine or authorize the Treasurer to determine, the terms and conditions of the borrowing.
The second proposed amendment to the Loans Securities Act is concerned with the currency in which moneys may be borrowed. There is no doubt that borrowings in a foreign currency may be made pursuant to the Financial Agreement and that the Loan Council may authorize loans to be raised in foreign currency. However, where the Commonwealth has borrowed moneys for its own use or for the use of itself and the States, the borrowing has invariably had the authority of statute, in addition to that of the Financial Agreement. In some cases, specific legislative authority is sought for borrowing in a foreign currency. A Commonwealth borrowing in Canada, last year, for example, was covered by the Loan (Canadian Dollars) Act) 1955. However, legislation specifically authorizing a borrowing overseas is not always sought. Where, for example, an existing act authorizes the borrowing of a sum sufficient to cover the amount of any particular borrowing, whether local or overseas, the Commonwealth may rely on the act, as it did on the Loan (Housing) Act 1955 in connexion with the recent Commonwealth-State borrowing of 25,000,000 dollars in New York. That act does not contain an explicit reference to borrowing in a foreign currency nor is there an such explicit reference to overseas borrowings in other statutes, such as the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1946, or the Loan Securities Act 1919, which may be regarded as links in the chain of statutory authority for an overseas borrowing.
Australian governments have borrowed overseas for many years and there has never been any doubt that, if Parliament authorizes the borrowing of any sum of money, then that amount may be borrowed either in Australian or in foreign currency. Indeed the Government has been advised strongly to this effect on more than one occasion. In a recent New Zealand case before the Privy Council, however, the suggestion was made in argument, but not decided, that the relevant New Zealand law, which was in terms similar to Australian loan acts and made no reference to borrowing in foreign currency, might not authorize borrowing in other than New Zealand currency. Although, as I have said, there seems to be no room for doubt on this matter, it is clearly desirable to put the matter beyond question and so avoid any possibility of argument on the point in connexion with any future loan. Accordingly, it is proposed to insert in the Loans Securities Act a provision to the effect that, whenever a borrowing is authorized by Parliament, the borrowing may be made in any currency authorized by the Governor-General.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate, (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Defence Act 1903-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Defence Act in two main respects: First, to provide that a soldier may re-engage for further service prior to the expiration of his current engagement, and secondly, to stabilize the provisions of the Imperial Army Act in their application to the Australian Military Forces. At the present time, section 36 of the Defence Act provides that a soldier may re-engage for further service on the expiration of his current engagement. It is not now possible for a soldier to re-engage prior to the expiration of his current engagement. This causes various administrative difficulties. For instance, a soldier may desire an overseas posting, but his current engagement may be due to expire prior to the completion of his overseas tour. It would be both unsatisfactory and uneconomical to post the soldier overseas, only to find that, when the time came, he decided not to re-engage. The Army would then have to return him to Australia for discharge as well as provide a replacement in the overseas posting. The amendment to section 36 is designed to enable a soldier to re-engage for a further period of service in advance of the expiration of his current engagement. It is also proposed to omit the second proviso to section 36 as, since the amendment to section 40 made in 1949, this proviso is no longer needed.
I turn now to the amendments relating to the stabilizing of the provisions of the Imperial Army Act. Ever since the passing of the original Defence Act, following federation, a section has been included providing that, in general, the laws and regulations relating to the court-martial system in the British Army shall also apply to the Australian Army. Similar provision was also included for the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. However, British court-martial procedure is now applied to the Navy and Air Force by reason of section 36 of the Naval Defence
Act 1910-1952 and section 5 of the Air Force Act 1923-1952, respectively. There is, therefore, no further need for these latter provisions in the Defence Act.
In the case of the Army, by virtue of section 88 of the Defence Act, the whole court-martial system is built on the existing British Army Act and Rules of Procedure. Certain modifications to meet Australian requirements have been made by Australian Military Regulations and these have been included in the “ Australian Manual of Military Law “. Moreover, under section 55 of the Defence Act. members of the Australian Military Forces, when on war service, are subject to the disciplinary code of the Army Act, as modified and adapted. Section 54 of the act, enacted in 1917, also provides, inter alia, that members of the military forces serving with Imperial Forces or travelling to and from Australia for such service, shall be deemed to be on war service and shall be subject to the Army Act as modified or adapted. This has been the basis of discipline in the Australian Military Forces, whilst on war service in two world wars.
The United Kingdom Parliament has recently passed a new Army Act, and this will come into force on 1st January, 1957. The new British act is of different construction from the present act and has different sections and provisions. The result is that references in Australian regulations and the “ Australian Manual of Military Law “ would, if read in conjunction with the new act. be meaningless. For example, a wellknown section of the old British Army Act is section 40, which deals with offences of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline “. Many courtmartial charges are laid under this section. However, in the new British Act. section 40 relates to the particular offence of falsely obtaining or prolonging leave. References in Australian Military Regulations. and the “ Australian Manual of Military Law “ to section 40, would, under the new act, be without meaning.
To re-write Australian Military Regulations, and the “ Australian Manual of Military Law” to conform to the new British act would be a lengthy process. In the interim period, the Australian Army would be left with no legal court-martial system. It is, therefore, desired to ensure that, pend ing the completion of our new Australian defence legislation, the provisions of the existing Imperial Army Act continue to apply to the Australian Army; in other words, that we should retain, for the time being, the existing system which has been in force for very many years. To give effect to this intention, amendments are necessary to sections 4 and 88, first, to amend the definition of “ Army Act “ so that it refers to the present British Act and not to the new act, and, secondly, a consequential amendment to section 88.
A somewhat similar situation exists in regard to the Air Force. It is proposed to stabilize the application of the Imperial Air Force Act by an amendment to its definition in the Defence Act. and by a short amendment to the Air Force Act 1923-1952, which I shall bring down on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley). This bill will noi change in any way the disciplinary code or the court-martial procedure under which the Australian soldier serves to-day. Moreover, its passage is necessary before 1st January. 1957. to ensure that the present codes and procedures are preserved. 1 commend the bill to the consideration of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Air Force Act 1923-1952.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I explained in my second-reading speech on the Defence Bill that it would be necessary to effect minor amendments of the. Air Force Act 1923-1952, in relation to the application of the Imperial Air Force Act. This bill is for that purpose.
Tn 1939, Parliament passed an act applying the Imperial Air Force Act to the Royal Australian Air Force. That act provided that the Imperial Air Force Act in force on the date on which the Air Force Act 1939, came into operation, namely, 15th December, 1939, would, subject to such modifications, adaptations and exceptions as shall be prescribed by the Air Force Regulations, apply in relation to the Royal Australian Air Force in the same manner as it applied to the Royal Air Force. The 1939 act further provided that any amendments made to the Imperial Air Force Act after 15th December, 1939, could be applied by regulation to the Royal Australian Air Force. These provisions are now in section 5 of the Air Force Act 1923-1952.
On 1st January, 1957, a new United Kingdom Air Force Act will come into operation, and the existing United Kingdom Air Force Act will cease to apply to the Royal Air Force. But for the fact that the latter act is expressed to apply to the Royal Australian Air Force, “ in like manner as it applies to the Royal Air Force “, amendment of the Air Force Act 1923-1952 would not have been necessary. Furthermore, as the old United Kingdom Air Force Act will obviously not be further amended, subsection (2.) of section 5, providing for the adoption of amendments of that act, is redundant. The two amendments constituting this bill delete the words I quoted, and sub-section (2.). I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30th August (vide page 46), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure before the House is a relatively small one. but I think that it is of some importance to the wine industry of this country. In order to understand its provisions fully, one needs some of the knowledge possessed by a vigneron or a member of the winemakers’ organization. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne), in introducing the bill, indicated that its purpose was to allow winemakers a degree of liberty which, the Minister had determined, was justified on the ground that the winemakers had been able to establish that the quality of theirhigh-class fortified wines would be improved by the use of matured brandy as a fortifying spirit. Apparently the new provision to allow the utilization of matured brandy - and I suppose one should emphasize the word “ matured “ - as a fortifying spirit in Australian wines is a departure from the existing practice of winemakers in this country. As I understand the position, the winemakers do not now use a matured brandy for fortification purposes.
– They are not allowed to do that.
– I say that advisedly. I understand that as a rule a spirit is distilled especially for fortification of wine. I assume that the denial of the right to use brandy as a fortifying spirit in the past has been a denial which has been thought best by governmental authorities and, I assume, by a large section of the wine industry, as a provision, in the circumstances then operatting, most likely to ensure that high-class wines would be made in this country for both the export and the local markets.
The Minister, when he introduced the measure, said that he was satisfied that there was substance in the claim of winemakers that this change was desirable and would not worsen the types or quality of wines produced. I would have been much happier about this measure if the Minister had informed the Parliament that he was satisfied beyond any shadow of doubt that there would be no deterioration in the quality of wines produced with this change in practice which is to be permitted to the winemaking industry.
– That is just a matter of words.
– The Minister is, of course, irritated that I should pass any remarks at all on this question. He said it is just a matter of words, but I say it is a matter of substance. He did not indicate that he was quite satisfied that this change would not permit any deterioration in the quality of wines produced in Australia. If he had, I would be more satisfied that the amendment is a desirable one. It is quite true that he is fortified, not with wine, but with the opinion of the vignerons and the winemakers’ organizations that this is a desirable departure from the existing practice. But I remind the Minister that sometimes even those who are producing primary or other products are prepared to give an undertaking that if a change is made in certain practices that they are required to observe, no deterioration will take place in the quality of their goods. But that undertaking is not always substantiated by experience and the change is not always in the interests of the producers.
Something that happened many years ago - I suppose a quarter of a century ago - comes to my mind. The butter manufacturers protested most volubly when the federal government of the day brought down an amendment of the act, or promulgated a new regulation that prohibited absolutely the further use of boric acid in export butter. The government determined that it was not desirable to permit that practice to continue. The use of boric acid was believed to, and no doubt did, ensure that butter reached the United Kingdom market in a condition satisfactory to consumers, but it was not of good quality. The howl against the amendment was terrific. It was said that our export trade would be destroyed if the use of this preservative in butter was prohibited. All the preservative did was to hide the filthy habits of some dairy-farmers of that day and generation, and it did a distinct injustice to their capacity to compete on the United Kingdom market. To-day, not a fraction of preservative of any kind is put into Australian butter that is exported and our competitive position on the United Kingdom market is much stronger than it would otherwise be.
That is an illustration of the case where it is not always best to accept the advice of primary producers and other organizations regarding certain practices that obtain in the production of their products. However, I hope that in this case the change is amply justified. Neither this party, nor,I think, any other party in this Parliament, desires to place unnecessary restrictions on the mode of production of any primary product or any other product that is likely to aid substantially the development of this great nation.
In those circumstances and subject to some questions which I may ask the Minister in committee, the Opposition is prepared to give this measure its blessing, and expresses the hope that it will assist the winemakers and the vignerons in the production of what I consider are wines of a quality equal to those produced in any part of the world. I hope that this provision will assist the industry; and I hope also that a close watch will be kept, not on those who have the very highest interests of the industry at heart, but on that section of the trade - it may be a very small section, and I hope it is - that may be inclined from time to time to take advantage of a lessening of the existing restrictions to produce a wine which may do very great damage to the reputation of that industry. I leave it at that. The Opposition will let the bill pass the remaining stages without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 5 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 6 -
After section eighty-one of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: -
“82.- . . .
(2.) If the spirits, vessels and packages so removed are not claimed, in writing, .
– I move -
That proposed section 82 (2.) be omitted and the following sub-section be inserted in place thereof : - “ (2.) Unless, within six months after the removal of spirits, vessels and packages under the last preceding sub-section -
they are claimed, in writing, by the person entitled to them; and
the duty, expenses of removal, warehouse rent and charges and other storage charges (if any) on or in respect of them are paid, they may be sold by the Collector.”.
This amendment is a drafting amendment for the purpose of removing a possible ambiguity in the meaning of sub-section (2.) of proposed section 82 as originally introduced. Honorable members may feel that the amended provision says the same thing as the original provision, but in different words, but the draftsman has advised that a possible ambiguity exists in the proposed section as originally drafted. It is open to a possible construction that the collector could sell goods only if the owner had failed both to claim the goods and to pay the duty. Under the proposed amendment, in a case where an owner makes a . formal claim but fails to pay the duty, it is clear that the collector may, on the expiration of the period referred to in the subsection, proceed to sell the goods in accordance with the section. It is purely a drafting amendment and I do not imagine the committee will find very much difficulty with it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16th October (vide page 1472), on motion by Dr. Donald Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is an appropriation bill designed to provide for the payment of war pensions, including those fixed by the new schedules contained in recent legislation. As usual, the amount provided is not large enough. Not enough money is made available, for instance, to provide what honorable members on this side of the House believe should be the absolute minimum rate of war pension. Any increases that have been granted are very limited. We believe that the totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman has been completely neglected. As a matter of policy, we must repeat that consideration should have been given, and should certainly be given in the future, to increasing the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen to the level of the basic wage, irrespective and exclusive of any payments to wives and dependants arising out of the payment of the pension to the ex-servicemen.
The Government has entirely neglected this matter. You, Mr. Speaker, know, of your own vast and kindly experience in service matters, and. other honorable members of this House know that the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen constitute a tragically diminishing group, who have suffered grievously because of the war. Their injuries have been so severe that they have been granted the totally and permanently incapacitated pension. I think they are disappearing from the Australian scene at the rate of about four or five a week, and, although I am not certain of the number, I believe that only about 1,100 of them remain. It would be an act of gratitude as well as an act of grace to increase their pension rate to the level of the basic wage. Our main criticism of this appropriation bill is that it makes no provision at all for these men. It is not a matter that would involve a great amount of expenditure, and the adoption of my suggestion would help to discharge a debt that we have not yet fully discharged. I think that we should consider this matter, even in connexion with the appropriation measure that is now before the House.
I do not intend to take undue advantage of the indulgence shown by the Chair, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I would not dare to do so. I think, however, that I am permitted in this debate to refer to the money grant. The money provided is not sufficient to deal with this very urgent problem of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. The extra amount that would be required to bring their pensions to the level of the basic wage, to provide them with some little extra comfort in the years that remain to them - and they are very few indeed - and to give their wives and dependants some assistance when they are alive and some security after their death,would be little enough to add to the appropriations that the House is being asked to agree to.
I now refer to the base-rate pensioners. The Opposition feels that they have been treated in a manner that we must oppose. It has been the policy of the Opposition for some years past to relate these pension rates to percentages of the basic wage. We base our case on the case that was made out by the returned servicemen’s league, both federally and in the States, I believe, regarding these pensions. We do not entirely accept the view that the pensions paid to ex-servicemen should not have some percentage relation either to the basic wage or to the cost of living index, but we try to adopt more stable figures contained in the statistics available from the days of the Chifley Government until to-day. We see from an analysis of, or even a glance al, those figures that the percentage of the basic wage represented by the base-rate pension has decreased. From memory, i think the pension now represents a percentage of the basic wage which is 7 per cent, to 10 per cent, less than it was in the days of the Chifley Government. I stand correction on that point, however, because, as I said earlier, I am not makin ‘ a general speech on this matter, but am merely directing attention, within the limits of this debate, to the fact that the bas-. rate pension has decreased by comparison with the basic wage. It is valid enough to argue that if certain percentages were established in the early post-war period-
– 1 rise to order, ls it in order for the honorable member to proceed in this way? This bill has no relation to the rates of pension, but merely seeks an appropriation to cover the payment of pensions.
-The honorable memher has said that he was making these references only in passing. I think he is in order.
– The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) may, perhaps, agree that I am more or less making generalizations about the broad subject of the appropriation, which, of course, will be used to pay various kinds of pensions. I dealt with the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and with the fact that this appropriation bill does not provide sufficient money to do what the Opposition thinks should be done, that is, to give those ex-servicemen a rate of pension equal to the basic wage. I then turned my attention to the base-rate pensioners and to the percentage of the basic wage represented by their pensions. I conclude, on that subject, by saying that we still believe that a further examination of the position should bc made. This appropriation measure is positive proof that no examination has been made of the percentage of the basic wage represented by the base rate pension in the days of the Chifley Government in the early post-war period. In those days a certain percentage was established as a minimum, but it has not been maintained.
The money grant provided in this measure is limited, although in total it represents a fairly large amount of money. I believe that the reason why so many ex-servicemen are refused a pension is that the appropriation for these pensions is not large enough. The minds of departmental officers are, of necessity, conditioned by the fact that thesis so much in the till and no more. In that connexion I should be able to mention the onus of proof provisions in section 47 of the act. If a greater appropriation were made, it would be possible to have these onus of proof provisions properly administered. The contention of the Opposition is that they are not properly administered al present. The onus of proof is still on the ex-serviceman rather than on the department.
– Order! I think the honorable member is now drifting away from the subject-matter of the bill before the House, and I must ask him to come back to it.
– I shall cease to drift away, and shall merely say the onus of proof provisions would be more properly administered if the amount of the appropriation were increased. We tried to overcome the difficulty by saying, as a matter of policy, that any ex-serviceman of World War I., who has attained the age of 55 years and has served in a theatre of war, is automatically entitled to a pension.
The amount of the appropriation is completely inadequate for the pension requirements of ex-servicemen. I have been prevented by the Standing Orders from making certain further remarks, but that, I suppose, is fair enough, because this is an appropriation bill and not a rates bill. I conclude by saying that we support this bill, because it provides an opportunity for the meagre increases to be paid forthwith. With that fact in mind, the Opposition supports the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 30th August (vide page 47), on motion by Mr. Fairhall -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to provide for the transfer of the administration of Mount Stromlo observatory, in the Australian Capital Territory, to the Australian National University, and for other purposes. The Opposition does not support the measure. We believe that the Minister has not given sufficient reason for the transfer of the control of this Commonwealth instrumentality, which is of great value to the nation. I think that if we examine the position of the great observatories of the world we shall discover that almost all of them are under government control.I think it is essential that they should be. The Government controls the collecting of weather information and other material for the information of those who travel by aircraft and by ship, and the national observatory, which is one of the main sources of such information, also should be controlled by the Government. The Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund Act 1953 authorized the establishment of a trust fund for the purposes of the Commonwealth observatory in the Australian Capital Territory. Clause 5 reads - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, there shall be established a Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund, which shall be a Trust Account within the meaning of section sixty-two A of the Audit Act 1901-1953. (2.) There shall be paid into the Fund -
Section 6 provides - (1.) So much of the moneys that, at the commencement of this Act, are standing to the credit of The Commonwealth Observatory Foundation and Endowment Fund or the Commonwealth Astronomer’s Account established under the Commonwealth Observatory Fund Act 1930-1944 as are on deposit in a bank shall be paid into the Fund. (2.) All securities that, at the commencement of this Act, represent moneys standing to the credit of The Commonwealth Observatory Foundation and Endowment Fund or the Commonwealth Astronomer’s Account established under the Com monwealt h Observatory Fund Act 1930-1944 shall be transferred to the Commonwealth and thereupon -
The trust fund was approved by the Parliament in 1953. The conditions attaching to the fund laid down that the Government would pay £1 for £1 with subscribers. Under this measure, the moneys in the trust fund will be transferred to the Australian National University along with the instruments, equipment, and staff at the Mount Stromlo observatory. We believe that is wrong, and we cannot see any valid reason for the transfer of the whole of the activities of this very fine organization to the university along with the moneys standing to the credit of the trust fund, which was contributed to, £1 for £1, by the Treasury.
As I said earlier, the Opposition believes that the Commonwealth should continue directly to control the activities of the observatory. 1 understand that under this bill the university will take over almost the whole of the staff at present employed at the observatory by the Commonwealth. I think only two of the 33 employees will not be taken over. I am at a loss to understand why those two, who, I understand, are an attendant and a clerk, are not to be transferred to the university. The bill provides for the payment of certain salary increments to the staff to be transferred from the observatory to the university.I think that is a dangerous procedure. We have recently seen the danger that arose when some men were transferred from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to another organization. A great deal of dissatisfaction was caused. The employees in that department claimed salary increases, and it could be claimed that the men transferred should receive similar increases.I repeat that this seems a very dangerous procedure.
For the reasons that I have enumerated the Opposition considers that the House has been given no clear indication why the very fine organization of the Commonwealth observatory should be transferred to the Australian National University. It see no reason why a trust fund which was provided for by a measure enacted in 1953, and into which amounts received from subscribers, and £l-for-£l payments by the Commonwealth, are paid for the maintenance and development of the observatory, should now be transferred to the university. I think there are very good reasons why the Commonwealth should retain direct management and control of the observatory. This is a national observatory, and I consider that the National Government is better able than the university to exchange information and ideas with the world’s great observatories, and is better able to exercise control and administer the observatory for the benefit of the Australian people. The observatory really has no association with the work of the university. Both organizations are separate and complete entities. That being so, the Opposition considers that the Commonwealth should continue its direct control of the observatory and, in particular, that the existing trust fund should not be transferred to the university. For those reasons the Opposition does not support the bill.
.- The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), who led for the Opposition in this debate, opposed this measure and said that the Government had not given the House sufficient information to establish that the Commonwealth observatory should be transferred to the Australian National University. In the first paragraph of his second-reading speech, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) said, in reference to the Mount Stromlo observatory -
I should think that that fact, in itself, would be sufficient reason to suggest that the transfer of this observatory, which is mainly engaged in scientific research, to an institution such as the Australian National University would be worthy of very serious consideration.
The honorable member for Adelaide has mentioned that, in most countries, the observatories are controlled by the governments.
– There are university observatories, but I contend that the important observatories are controlled by governments.
– That statement suits my argument better, because the information that I have from the Australian National University is that, of the main observatories of the world, 30 are operating under universities, one is operating partly under a university, and eight are not operating under universities. Of those observatories which are leading in research, those under universities number fourteen, and those which are not under universities number two.
– What about Greenwich?
– For the benefit of the honorable member and the gentlemen who sit behind him, I point out that the list that I have certainly shows that Greenwich is not under a university. Of course, that, in the main, is because of historical tradition. We recall, too, that the gentleman who is the Astronomer-Royal at Greenwich is none other than Dr. R. Woolley, who used to be Commonwealth Astronomer at Mount Stromlo observatory. The same gentleman, and the Board of Visitors, on more than two occasions, recommended to the Government that Mount Stromlo should be transferred to the university. I have a list of all observatories that are under the control of universities. They are in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, South Africa, the Argentine, Canada, and the United States of America.
– Where are the eight observatories that are not operating under universities?
– I have just mentioned countries. The honorable member for Adelaide is confused; he is getting countries and observatories mixed up. Apparently, he thinks that each country has only one observatory.
The Mount Stromlo observatory, as was pointed out by the Minister, is engaged mainly in scientific research. There are two grounds for its being placed under the wing of the university.
The last point raised by the honorable member for Adelaide, with which I want to deal, is that, while the observatory is under the control of the Government, it is in a much better position to gather information - I suppose he means scientific information - than it would otherwise be. I think that the experience of the Mount Stromlo observatory has been that such is not the position. I think it has been found that, in the main, men engaged in the study of astro-physics and the other matters that engage the attention of the staff at Mount Stromlo are of a scientific turn of mind which occasions quite a lot of study. Those men do not feel disposed to work under the control of a government department when they find that their counterparts who are doing similar work in other organizations work under entirely different conditions. It has to be remembered, as I pointed out before, that this, proposal has been recommended on several occasions. As the national university possesses the Research School of Physical Sciences, and as the observatory is carrying out a similar function, there is every ground for the observatory, as I have said, to come under the wing of the university.
The honorable member for Adelaide dealt with the trust fund. If he looks at the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund Act 1953 he will find that the trust fund is under the control of the Minister, no matter where the money may come from. The money standing to the credit of the fund may be applied in a manner approved by the Minister for the purposes of the observatory. We find almost the same wording in the present legislation. The Minister for the Interior will determine how the fund will be used. Clause 5 of the bill provides, in part, for - the use of moneys and investments paid or transferred to the University under section 3 of this Act.
Clause 6 of the bill reads -
The Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, do all things necessary for carrying out an arrangement made under the last preceding section.
I see nothing wrong with this particular arrangement. I think it will result in the betterment of scientific research in which the men who are now at Mount Stromlo engage. The men who come under the wing of the university will not lose any privileges that they have enoyed while they have been members of the Public Service, because the bill specifically provides that they shall not lose any of their privileges. They are not forced to go across to the university. If they see fit not to go, they are free to make that decision.
They will be invited to work in with the university, and if they do not wish to do so, they can go elsewhere.
As these men are engaged in scientific research, I think that university procedures would provide a better environment for them to give of their best. They would enjoy study leave just as other scientists and students at the university do, and the whole arrangement would be more appropriate for the work on which these men are engaged. If, later on, they do not like it, they can exercise their abilities in some other sphere, because this is a free country. This matter has been under consideration for four or five years - may be for longer. In view of the fact that a man of the calibre of Dr. Woolley. and the Board of Visitors, have put this proposal up again and again, there is some justification for it to be seriously considered. I commend the Government for taking this action at long last.
The ionospheric prediction arrangements will stay with the Department of the Interior. I claim that this observatory is different in many ways from the ordinary observatories which have been established throughout this Commonwealth. As I have said, this observatory engages in far more scientific research work than the observatories in the various States. I am only speaking from hearsay, but I believe that the information is pretty authentic, when I say that after Dr. Woolley was appointed Astronomer Royal, the observatory had a difficult job to get some one to fill his place here. What was the reason? It was not that the people who were interested in the position did not have the necessary qualifications. But when they found that the observatory was run by a government department, they raised some objection to that arrangement. Men who are highly qualified in this sort of work do not like to feci that they are mere public servants. I do not mean that statement as a reflection on public servants generally. It is a peculiar kink that these scientific men have. Good luck to them for having it and retaining it.
I have not heard that the men at Mount Stromlo have objected to the proposed transfer. But if we can by any meansand this transfer is one of them - gain the best of the highly qualified men who might be attracted to such appointments as this, it is up to the Government to face up to the position and employ such means. If there were anything in this bill that in any way would jeopardize the opportunity or the privileges or the conditions that the staff arc at present enjoying I would oppose it, but because that sort of thing is not going to happen I believe that the proposal constitutes a wise move on the part of the Government. If the change does not work out as the Government hopes it will, we can always reconsider it. I think the fears expressed by members of the Labour party are unrealistic and more or less imaginary. I support the bill because I say again that, in the final analysis, this country will enjoy the fruits of a far better environment for these men whereby they can give to this nation of their best. So I support the legislation.
– I support the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), who is leading for the Opposition in this debate, in his opposition to the bill. I have read carefully the roneoed cony of the secondreading speech delivered by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). It consists of one foolscap page. I find nothing in the Minister’s speech in support of the bill that would convince me that the bill ought to be passed. Indeed, the Minister gave no personal support to the bill, other than to say that Dr. R. Woolley had at one time made a request and a recommendation that the observatory be transferred to the control of the Australian National University.
– Did I not say, “ I commend the bill to the House “?
– The Minister did finish his speech with the words. “ I commend the bill to the House “, but that is all he said in support of it. He did not tell us why he commended the bill other than to say, I repeat, that Dr. Woolley had on this occasion - or on several occasions if one heeds the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) - recommended that this action be taken. I want to have a much more convincing reason given to me for altering a set-up that has worked admirably indeed for so many years before I am prepared to say “ Yes “ to a bill that is designed to change drastically - drastically. I repeat - the control of the principal observatory in Australia.
The honorable member for Canning was almost as vague in his support of the bill as the Minister was. What the honorable member said, in essence - and I quote his words to this extent - was, “ I see nothing wrong with the bill “. In other words, he was saying, “ I cannot see anything right with it but. because I cannot see anything wrong with it, I am prepared to support it “.
– You are psychic, are you?
– That is what the honorable member said.
– I said that I saw nothing wrong with the proposal, and I stick by that.
– Neither did the honorable gentleman see anything good in the proposal, or if he did he kept i« carefully to himself.
– I do see something good in it, and I finished my speech on that note.
– He did say, and this is rather important. I think, that from time to time - not once, but on several occasions - Dr. Woolley had requested that this be done. Presumably, the Government time and time again rejected the recommendation of Dr. Woolley. I should like to know what has happened to produce the changed view that has resulted in this bil) being presented to the Parliament.
– Somebody wanted to be a professor, maybe.
– Why is it that, if the Government had repeatedly rejected the recommendation of Dr Woolley previously-
– It did not reject it. lt just did not get round to finality.
– I see. Now we discover that the Government did not reject the recommendation, but did not get round to finality.
– The matter was under constant consideration. Does not the honorable member agree that that is a very good thing?
– So the matter was under constant consideration, and the Government was so much in doubt about the validity or desirability of implementing the recommendation that it has taken years and years to come finally to the conclusion that it should implement the recommendation. But the Minister for the interior has no: told us what was the issue that finally tipped the scale in favour of the recommendation. The Government has kept that carefully to itself. I should like to know what it was that made the Government dither so long - because we have it from the honorable member for Canning that the Government has been dithering on this for a long time, because he said that the request was made on a number of occasions.
– I did not say that al all.
– Then what did the honorable member say?
– I said that the recommendation was made three, or four, or five years ago.
– All right, I accept that. Three, or four, or five years ago this recommendation was made, yet in 1953 the Government brought down a bill the purpose of which it now proposes to negate completely by the present measure. Yet, presumably, the recommendation of which this bill is the outcome was made before the 1953 legislation was presented to the Parliament for approval, and passed on the recommendation of the Government. What I want to know is what it was that tipped the scale in favour of the acceptance of a proposal that has been rejected for so long. What has happened? Now, it may be, as my esteemed leader has indicated, that this is the result of a plan by a lot of little men to make themselves appear big men - big frogs in a small pool instead of little frogs in a big pool.
– Whom did he mean?
– Whom did he mean? We know that the council of the Australian National University is controlled virtually by five men - Professor Melville. Professor Bailey, Sir Roland Wilson, Dr. Coombs and Sir Alan Brown. It may be that the person in charge of the Mount Stromlo observatory would like to be known as a professor instead of just ordinary Mr. So-and-so, or Dr. So-and-so. I should like to make this point: If it is proper to place the Mount Stromlo observatory under the control of the Australian National University on the ground that it is carrying out certain research work, how could the Government resist a recommendation that may subsequently come from the head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization that the body should be placed under the control of the university council?
I think that the Parliament ought to hesitate before it supports the passage of such rash bills as this without having received from the Minister in charge of the bil! any proper explanation in support of the desirability of the measure. I am sure thai the Minister for the Interior himself will agree that he does not regard the explanalion of this bill that he has given us abeing of the same high standard of the explanations of- measures that he usually gives to the House.
– I thought the need for the bill was so self-evident that it was not worth enlarging on.
– There h nothing in the Minister’s speech that indicated such self-evidence.
– I thought that the desirability of the transfer was so self-evident that there did not appear to be any need to make a hard case in favour of it.
– I shall read what the Minister said in his second-reading speech. He said -
It was recommended by the former Commonwealth Astronomer, Dr. Woolley, now Astronomer Royal, and the Board of Visitors to the observatory, that it was appropriate to transfer control of the observatory to the Australian National University for incorporation in the Research School of Physical Sciences. The Government has accepted that recommendation.
What I am interested in is why the Government has accepted the recommendation. The Minister has not given us the basis of the recommendation. Simply to come forward and say, “ I recommend a certain proposal “, is clearly not sufficient to justify the acceptance of a measure by the House. For anything to be accepted by any organization with which I have been connected it was necessary for any one making a proposal to convince a majority of those in whose hands the decision lay thai acceptance of the proposal was desirable. We know that in Nazi Germany, Russia.
Spain and other countries under totalitarian governments all that is necessary to have a proposal implemented is for the dictator of the country to say that he recommends its implementation, whereupon the proposal is forthwith accepted. But, just in case the Government has overlooked the fact, 1 remind the Minister that Australia is still, thank goodness, a parliamentary democracy, in name at least, and that this House wants more than just a blank, bland recommendation by some person at the Commonwealth observatory before we accept a proposal of this sort put forward by the Government. We want to know the pros and cons of it. Why must this alteration take place?
The Minister goes on to say - not in support of the recommendation, but merely as a statement of fact - that the transfer will include the time service, but not the ionospheric prediction service, “ which was established at the observatory only as a matter of convenience and is not intimately associated with observatory work “. We have here the fantastic proposal that a portion of the observatory work shall remain under the control of the Department of the Interior - for that is what the Minister said in his second-reading speech - and the remainder shall be under the control of the Australian National University. The Minister said further -
The bill authorizes the Minister for the Interior, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to provide, by way of grant to the university at a nominal rent a lease in perpetuity of such land and property as may be required for the purposes of the observatory and to transfer to the university, without charge, equipment or other property owned by the Commonwealth used or required for the purposes of the observatory.
In other words, it is perfectly clear that the purpose of the bill is to hand over to the Australian National University the complete control and ownership of, and responsibility for, the observatory, which at the moment reside in the Minister for the Interior. Can any one suggest that the present Minister, whatever might be said of his predecessor, has proved himself incapable of looking after the observatory? Can any one say that the people of Australia, who provide the money which buys the valuable equipment at the observatory, will get better service if that institution is controlled by the university instead of the Minister who, up to date, has shown a very refreshing superiority of capacity compared with that of his immediate predecessor? I say that the answer is in the negative.
What intrigues me is why the Government, which has resisted the proposal in the past, has, without any explanation, agreed to it only now, years after the original recommendations were made, although the matter has been under constant consideration, to use the Minister’s own words. Also, why did the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), after saying that he had in his possession the names of the eight important world observatories that were under government, not university, control, refuse point blank the invitation of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) to name them. He did tell us that one was Greenwich. If any one can name an observatory that is of greater world importance - unless it is one of the other seven that the honorable gentleman did not name - I would like to hear of it.
– I did not have the names with me.
– The honor able member said, “ I have before me the names of the observatories that are under government control, and those that are under university control “. He was able to supply the names of those under university control but, for some strange reason or other, the person who briefed him either failed to give him the names of the eight observatories or he himself studiously avoided making any mention of them.
I want the Minister to tell me who will pay the cost of any important new equipment that may be necessary to carry out the work of the Mount Stromlo observatory? Is it to come from university funds, or will the Parliament be called upon to provide the money? Obviously, it will be the Parliament. I would much rather that the present situation, about which there has been no complaint so far as I am aware, should continue until a more valid reason for its alteration is given.
Also, I am fearful of the effect of placing any organization under the control of the university, because finally it will be brought under the kind of influence which seems to have permeated the whole of the university’s activities. Only a short time ago I read the remarks of Sir Howard
Florey on the influences, aimed at stifling the ordinary academic freedoms, that are at work at the Australian National University. Indeed, it is well known that that gentleman severed his connexions with the Australian National University as a consequence of these evil influences. He has clearly indicated this. I do not want to see the observatory, or the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which, if we agree to this proposal, ultimately will go the same way, placed under the control of the stodgy group of people who at present control the Australian National University.
The Minister has not convinced me that the bill ought to be supported. The honorable member for Canning has convinced me that it ought to be rejected. All that he could say was, “ I see nothing wrong with the bill “. Unless I can see something right with the bill I am not prepared to support an alteration of the existing arrangement.
.- I am pleased that honorable members have not approached this debate with any undue heat. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who has just spoken, has asked for valid reasons why the bill should be supported by the Government parties, and why it should be passed. If the Government has a good case, it is right that that case should be put, and I hope that before I have completed my remarks, I shall have proved to honorable members that the bill should, indeed, be supported.
I do not think that during the lime I have been a member of this House - nearly seven years now - I have heard such a poor Opposition case as has been presented by the two honorable members who have just spoken. I propose, during the course of my speech, to give the honorable member for Hindmarsh the valid reasons that he seeks. I am very surprised that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) should be the one to speak, first, against this bill, and should say that he sees no value in transferring the control of the observatory to the Australian National University. He said that very few observatories were under government control.
– I did not say that. I said that the world’s leading observatories were under government control, but that many were under university control.
– I thank the honorable member for that information. I shall prove to him that the leading observatories of the world are under university control. I am surprised that he should see no value in this proposal, because both he and I belonged to the same profession before we entered this Parliament, and have both had a scientific training. We, more than other people, should appreciate the need for the correlation of the various sciences. 1 should like to make some observations on astronomy in general, and then deal with the proposal to transfer the Mount Stromlo observatory to the Australian National University in particular. I support this bill wholeheartedly. From the earliest times, man has been interested in the stars, and has believed that they very largely controlled his destiny. Many people still believe that their day-to-day activities are controlled by the stars. Almost every newspaper that one picks up contains an article on the stars and what they mean in the day-to-day life of the reader. For curiosity, I looked to see what the stars held for me to-day. The “ Sydney Sun “ says -
Don’t spend more than you have planned, or can afford, on Wednesday or Thursday, and don’t lend.
The “ Daily Mirror “, on the other hand, has this to say -
To-day may bring a lift of an unusual and encouraging nature, but, anyhow, don’t force anything until after October 20th.
If the Opposition calls for a division on the bill, I shall be prepared to try to force the acceptance of my opinion by voting for it. I believe that human curiosity is woven into the fabric of human life. The search for knowledge has led man upwards and ever upwards from the cave. Astronomy can make great contributions to many fields of human activity. Its significance should not be measured only by the role that it plays in finding a solution of existing problems. Much more important is the fact that it poses new problems. The work of early astronomers such as Kepler, Galileo and Newton on the laws of planetary motion led to the foundation of the science of mechanics. The knowledge of mechanics was basic to the industrial development which ushered in the machine age, which, in turn, is leading to automation.
It would be a costly error to limit our scientific studies to those problems which have a foreseeable application to everyday life. I believe that the fundamental discoveries of the past arose from unbridled and unchannelled curiosity, and that it is only from such curiosity that the fundamental discoveries of the future will arise. I believe also that the investigations of the new problems of the heavens that are being made all over the world, and the investigations that will be made from the Mount Stromlo observatory when the new equipment has been installed there, will enable us to extend even- further our knowledge of nature. In that sense, a very real meaning can be given to the old idea that the stars are involved in human destiny.
The honorable member for Adelaide and the honorable member for Hindmarsh wanted to know which of the leading observatories cif the world are connected with universities. Of the 39 leading observatories, 30 are under universities, one is partly under a university, and eight are not under universities. Some very famous observatories are under the control of universities. Tn the United Kingdom, the great exception is the observatory at Greenwich. That has not been placed under the control of a university, because it is believed that it should continue in its historic role. Other observatories in the United Kingdom are the Oxford University observatory, the Cambridge University observatories and the Edinburgh observatory. The observatory at Edinburgh is partly under the Royal Greenwich Observatory and partly under Edinburgh University. In Sweden, there are the Lund University observatory, the Stockholm University observatory and the Uppsala University observatory. In Denmark
– Tell us the names of the eight leading observatories that are not under the control of universities.
– In the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, South Africa, Argentine, Canada, and the United States of America there are observatories under the control of universities.
– What about the eight leading observatories that are not under universities? Give us the names of those.
– The first one that meets my eye in the list that 1 have is the Royal Observatory of Belgium. That is not under a university. I have a complete list of the leading observatories, lt shows the status of each of them. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh is interested, I shall be pleased to give him the list later. Of the sixteen observatories that lead in research, fourteen are under universities and two are not.
Several reasons have been advanced why the Mount Stromlo observatory should be under the control of a university. I agree with the contention that the greater part of the work of an observatory to-day is research work, which can be done better in a university than in a government department. University procedures in relation to appointments and conditions of service, including the grant of study leave, are more appropriate to scientific workers than are public service conditions. In addition, a university is likely to attract better scientific workers than a government department. Scientists know that they will be able to do much better work in a university, with the equipment and library facilities available there, than in a government department. When a successor to Dr. Woolley was being sought, it was found that the people who applied for appointment preferred to be associated with a university rather than a government department.
Another reason advanced for this transfer is that the recognition of the observatory as a laboratory of the Research School of Physical Sciences of the Australian National University has led to anomalies, in that some of the staff of the observatory and all of the students are attached to the university, whereas other members of the staff are in the Public Service, although some of them have academic status in the university and supervise the work of students. I believe that scientific research is much more appropriate to a university than to a government department. I have already explained that of the sixteen observatories that lead in research, fourteen are associated with universities. Those figures show that other countries agree with our view. For research work, the atmosphere of a university is far better than that of a government department. We all know that if a man works in a congenial atmosphere, the results of his labours are likely to be of greater val u. than if the atmosphere were uncongenial. My friend the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has said that this transfer has been recommended by the Board of Visitors of the observatory. Th::! independent body has pressed continuously for the observatory to be transferred to the university, because it realizes that the transfer would lead to much better work being done.
Astronomy and the applied science of astrophysics are closely related to the work of the Research School of Physical Sciences. 1 believe that when this bill has been passed and the observatory is under the control of the university, we shall find that the work of all of those correlated bodies will be much improved. There is another consideration that is important. It is believed that if the observatory were a part of the university, it would attract substantial grants of money and equipment from outside sources. If the present position were continued, people would treat the observatory as a government department and would take the view that the Government should bear the cost of it. but if it were a part of a university, with undergraduates studying there, many people would wish to contribute to the cost of such a branch of university training. An important feature of university status is that members of the staff would be entitled to study leave, which would noi be permissible in a government department. All research students of universities are granted study leave, during which they are free to go about their work in the way that they think best. Very good results have been derived from it. 1 conclude by repeating that I support this bill wholeheartedly. I agree with the opinion of the Australian National University that the transfer of control of the observatory to the university would be of benefit to both institutions and would enhance the international standard of what could become the foremost centre for astronomical observation and research in the southern hemisphere.
Or. EVATT (Barton - Leader of the Opposition) [4.45]. - The Opposition considered this matter completely independently from this point of view: What case was there in favour of changing the administration of a very famous observatory? It is the Commonwealth observatory at Mount Stromlo, and no one has said that it has not been efficiently run under its present management. It is, of course, under government control. 1 think it is true of all the observatories of Australia, certainly of the Sydney observatory, that, following the pattern of the Royal Observatory in the United Kingdom, they are under the control, in short, of the Crown. I hope that any honorable member who knows of an exception will say so. For this reason, Professor Woolley, who was formerly in charge at Mount Stromlo, is, in England, called the Astronomer Royal. Such an appointment is an appointment of the Crown. Through history the science of astronomy has always been associated with the Crown. Therefore, we can take it, under conditions in this part of the world at any rate, that the observatories have been run by or on behalf of the Crown, for which we can substitute “ government “ if we like. Not a sin -le suggestion has been made that the Commonwealth observatory has not been run efficiently. In fact, it is an institution of world fame. In connexion solely with the work of the Commonwealth observatory, the fame of Mount Stromlo is known to astronomers all over the world. It is known as the Mount Stromlo observatory. After a fair examination of the facts stated by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), we see no evidence in support of a transfer of administration to the Australian National University. In fact, it is an odd sort of proposal. It was never suggested, for instance, when the Australian National University was established under the government of Mr. Chifley, that this important institution could or should be brought under the control of the national university, any more that it was suggested that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which is one of the most famous research institutions of its kind in the world and is of enormous value to Australia, should also be absorbed. The process of absorption of successful institutions of a scientific character is contrary to the whole conception of a new university trying to establish itself as an institution which can do positive and important work. That is a point which has been completely overlooked.
From beginning to end of the Minister’s speech, in effect, all that is said is that this course was recommended by Dr. Woolley, the former Commonwealth Astronomer. This proposal recalls what happened at one time at the University of Sydney, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) will remember, when for some time the New South Wales Government Astronomer became also Professor of Astronomy at the Sydney University. That experiment continued for some time and it was then abandoned. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence), who made an interesting speech, referred to government departments. The observatory is not a government department in the sense that it can be compared with a normal administrative department. The staff is small, the work is done, and the research is planned. But this research is done not alone but in co-operation with the other great observatories of the world. What evidence is there in favour of the change? The Government proposes to put the observatory under the control of a different body. Will the position be better?
– We believe that is in the interests of progress.
– Government supporters do not believe in change for the sake of change; that would be completely unscientific. The honorable member for Wimmera referred to what might be called the pseudo science of astrology. In fact, there is a danger of accepting change for the sake of change in a matter of this sort. Why will the position be any better? What evidence is there that the Research School of Physical Sciences at the Australian National University will inculcate some new spirit in the Mount Stromlo observatory? There is no such evidence, and no such suggestion has been advanced. Professor Woolley may very well have thought that the status of the Commonwealth Astronomer should be recognized by the university. That is why I should have liked to know the grounds of his recommendation. Why was the change recommended? The need could not have been very urgent. The recommendation was made some years ago and was not accepted. Worse, or more significant than that, is the fact that a few years ago the former Minister for the Interior, on behalf of the Government, in troduced a bill to consolidate the position in connexion with contributions that have been made by the public to promote the work of the Mount Stromlo observatory. The bill we are now considering simply proposes the taking over of the trust fund into which those moneys were paid. I do not know what power the Commonwealth has to say, “ Here is a trust for Mount Stromlo observatory, which is under the control of the Crown. We shall merely transfer this money to another institution “. 1 should think that would be a breach of trust, and I do not think the fact that it is accomplished by means of an act of Parliament makes it any less a breach of trust. If persons gave donations, not very large, to Mount Stromlo observatory, I do not think that it is within the province of the Government to take this course. I doubt whether it is even within the legal power of the Government, but I shall let that aspect pass.
– The South Australian Government did that with the Coorong project in South Australia.
– This Parliament is different from a State parliament. The Commonwealth has only limited powers in these matters, but that is a minor point. I ask the Minister quite frankly to reconsider the matter, examine the persons who are interested in it, and ascertain why, in what respects, and how, an improvement would be effected. Would it mean an increase in the salaries of officers? It is suggested that that may be so, but that is not an adequate ground. If it is the ground, of course, the position may be met by increasing the salaries. If it were thought necessary that the status of the officer-in-charge, the Commonwealth Astronomer, should be raised and that it would be of some assistance to give him the status of professor, that could be done, but surely in itself that is not a valid reason for the change. In any event, such a proposal has not even been put forward.
– I am surprised that members of the Government were not consulted about this at all.
– Quite frankly, I think that legislation of this kind is treated as being of secondary importance. It rather suggests that the authorities of the Australian National University are trying to add something to their jurisdiction by bringing Mount Stromlo observatory under their control. so that if anybody then went to the university and asked what was being done in physics - I am not now speaking of nuclear physics, which is a big and vital activity of the university - the reply would be, “Mount Stromlo observatory is under our control “. It is an extraordinary proposal. Would the observatory be under any better control? I do not think that there is the slightest evidence in favour of the change. If there is evidence that the control would be more satisfactory, the Minister will have to produce that evidence in order to persuade us to that way of thinking. All that he said in his speech was that the incorporation of the observatory in the Research School of Physical Sciences was recommended. An observatory is more than a school of physical science. Its work, too, involves more than physical science. Work in the observatory requires great discipline and patience. A friend of mine at Mount Stromlo is allotted the task of making, on perhaps 300 days of the year, observations in conjunction with other observatories throughout the world. He is not engaged, in any strict sense, in research in physical science; he is engaged on special research in astronomy, in connexion with which patient observations of that kind must be made. The discipline that is needed is the discipline of those engaged in a common effort; not the effort of a university as a whole, or even of one of its great departments. This proposal includes the time service, but not the ionospheric prediction service which has been established at the observatory only as a matter of convenience, according to the Government. It is proposed that that shall remain with the Department of the Interior.
The Minister stated, in his secondreading speech, that, because of the 1953 act, legislation was needed to effect the transfer. The Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund was established in 1953 in respect of contributions made to the Mount Stromlo observatory. The act requires that moneys in the fund shall be used for the purposes of the observatory. That legislation, which was put forward as important legislation by the Minister’s predecessor, is simply to be repealed. Surely, there should be amending legislation before the Government is committed to such a change, and there should be an opportunity for the Parliament to consider it from a completely non-partisan point of view. This is, surely, a case for consideration of that kind, but no such opportunity has been given. 1 suppose that that really has not been considered, but I do suggest that these are circumstances in which it -should be done. The bill provides for the repeal of the 1953 act, and the transfer of the moneys which stand to the credit of the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund to the Australian National University. Where does the Minister derive power to do that? What power has he? The fund is not the property of the Government. The Government is simply the trustee. Yet, the trustee proposes to break its trust and hand over the property to another body. What power has the Commonwealth Parliament to do that? It is very doubtful whether it has such power, but, again, I do not wish to base an argument upon a broad technicality of that kind. As I have said, I think that these matters should be looked at far more carefully.
This is a great and famous observatory. To go there and to see the work that is being done is an education in itself. The body of the first astronomer of the Commonwealth lies buried in the grounds of Mount Stromlo, and his tombstone bears a most moving and significant inscription. I think that it is wrong to make a change which is not called for. I should like to have seen a committee appointed to consider the proposal. Had that been done, some other suggestion might have been made. This holus-bolus, all-out transfer seems to me to be unwarranted. The Minister now proposes a perpetual lease of the land, without any charge, and so on. I, again, say that, instead of this being simply an administrative change, it is something more important, and, for that reason. I think it should not be done. I therefore ask the Minister to have a further look at the matter. After all, he cannot claim to have specialized in this field, although we know, as a previous speaker from this side of the House has stated, he is interested in these matters. But what is the case for the change? In matters of this kind it is necessary to prove your case. I feel thatthere is a lot of sentiment attached to the Mount Stromlo observatory and the manner in which it has been run. All the Australian observatories are run, broadly, on the same lines. They are observatories under the control of the Crown.
With regard to the list of observatories which the Minister has been good enough to hand to me, 1 suggest that no inference can be drawn from the methods of management of other institutions in various parts of the world. The chief observatory in Great Britain is the Royal Observatory, which was at Greenwich, but which had to be transferred out of the city because of the need for better observations, and the like. The observatory at Edinburgh is partly under the control of the British Government. Looking down the list, there are undoubtedly a number of observatories under university control, but universities are often endowed with gifts for that specific purpose. Apparently in France, although the various observatories mostly are connected with universities, their activities are co-ordinated through the National Centre for Scientific Research which, I presume, is a governmental body. When we come to the position in South Africa, to which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) referred, we find that both the Union Observatory at Johannesburg and the Royal Observatory at Capetown are government observatories. They take a very prominent part, in co-operation with the observatory at Mount Stromlo and the other Australian observatories, in mapping and observing those stars and planets which are more easily observed from the Southern Hemisphere.
In Canada, there is the Dominion observatory at Victoria. British Columbia, and the observatory at Ottawa. They are the two main ones, apparently. There is also an observatory in connexion with the Toronto University. In the United States of America, there are quite a few connected with universities, but there are others as well. 1 do not suggest for a moment that association with a university is, in itself, anything but a help to an observatory, but of course much depends on the circumstances. If an institution has been working successfully, as has the Mount Stromlo observatory, and performing a useful task for the Government, then I suggest that the Government should show cause for a chance in administration. That is the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the matter.
We on this side of the chamber do not think that any real case has been made out in favour of the proposed change, and, as I say, I am of the opinion that the matter should be reconsidered. On the facts before us, and as we have considered them as a party, our view is that the change should not be accepted and that the bill should be either postponed or rejected.
.- 1 am al a loss to understand the arguments that have been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in connexion with this bill. 1 cannot see that anything but good will come of the transfer of the Mount Stromlo observatory from the administration of the Department of the Interior to that of the Australian National University. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that some honorable members on this side of the chamber had questioned the efficiency of the observatory. Nothing derogatory, however, has been said by any honorable member on this side about the work of the observatory in the past and the efficient operation of the tasks allotted to it. The point that has been missed by every member of the Opposition who has spoken so far is that the changing requirements and responsibilities of the observatory necessitate the transfer. If they have not noted that changes are taking place in the world, and that new responsibilities are being undertaken, I presume that they cannot see any further than the arguments that they have put forward. The Mount Stromlo observatory is being required more and more to undertake research work. It was established originally in order to provide time services for the Commonwealth, and it has always carried out that duty efficiently. But during the last few years it has been requested to undertake more and more research.
Before going into the details of the work that the observatory has been called upon to do, let me refer to the list of leading observatories of the world that are now under the administration of universities, to which reference already has been made by both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence). The point is that, of the 39 observatories listed, only eight do not come under university administration, and only two of those carry out research work. In the past, research work was not carried on at Mount Stromlo; to-day it is. When an observatory begins to do research work, it needs to be tied to another research organization. In the world to-day, there are only two observatories carrying on research work which are not so tied. One is at Capetown and the other is in British Columbia. Every other observatory which is carrying out research work is tied in with a university. Mount Stromlo is required to carry out research work to a greater and greater degree.
In answer to the arguments of the Opposition, I mention the change that has taken place since 1953. The work of the university has developed to such a tremendous extent that already it finds the need in its Department of Astrophysics to cooperate with an observatory. The situation in 1956 is such that the university needs to co-operate with Mount Stromlo and Mount Stromlo needs to co-operate with the university. Surely every member of this House who has had university experience knows that to-day research work cannot be confined to small compartments. A team is necessary. People from the various faculties and disciplines of the university work together and meet together on a number of projects. We have examples of that at Mount Stromlo. Research fellows from the university at Canberra have been working at Mount Stromlo, and in the very near future the university will probably appoint a very distinguished stellar spectroscopist as a reader in the science. His work will be very intimately connected with any work done at Mount Stromlo. The university has also appointed toolmakers to assist in the work at the. observatory. It is making arrangements for overseas research workers to come here and to carry out work both at the university and at Mount Stromlo. So we can see how, as each month goes by, the work of Mount Stromlo and of the university is becoming more and more intertwined.
It is not possible to say where fundamental research will lead. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence), in his speech, showed the importance of astronomy in the science of mechanics and its development. We know of the fundamental work done by astronomers in the discovery and study of cosmic rays. The study of astronomy can even help in dealing with small units such as the atom. One can never tell at any stage where fundamental research will lead. More and more one must have the co-operation of and be able to work with other scientists in the research that is being done at an observatory. The environment of a university is conducive to research work.
The recruiting of officers and staff for both the university and the observatory presents many similar problems, lt would be much easier to recruit people from overseas to do special research work if they could be tied in with an organization of the sort visualized in this measure. If the university is responsible for the administration of Mount Stromlo, it can encourage new ventures, new exploration into certain parts of outer space and new research projects. It could work with the Department of Astrophysics of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and take part in the work that will be done by the new radio telescope which will be erected by that department in the near future.
To-day, research work cannot be confined to small compartments. It has to be allied with something bigger if the work is to go ahead in as wide and as useful a way as possible. Donations of equipment and money and the encouragement of external bodies can be channelled through a wide organization much better than through a narrow one. The Leader of the Opposition referred to trust funds. Already, section 5 of the act gives specific powers to the Minister to make quite certain that those funds, moneys and investments are safely guarded and that they are used for the purpose for which they were originally given.
This bill provides another example of the way in which the research activities of the university are expanding in the interests of the nation. Research programmes are expanding. Overseas students are being encouraged to come to Canberra. Scientists and other experts are more frequently meeting here to pool their knowledge. In fact, I should say that. Canberra is becoming the ideal place for a university and for a research centre. The transfer of Mount Stromlo to the administration of the university is another way in which all the research work done in this centre can be coordinated so that each of the individual parts will benefit from contact with the others. It demonstrates again the way in which more scientists and technicians can be trained in all forms of scientific exploration. As I have stated so many times in the past, one of our greatest needs to-day is the need for trained scientists. If scientists are to be trained to be leaders in their fields, a strong and fundamental research team is necessary. That research team must be co-ordinated with all aspects of scientific activity. This bill provides for that co-ordination. lt has already been stated in this debate - and 1 think it should be repeated - that the transfer of the observatory to the university will be of great benefit to both institutions. It will enhance the international standing of what may well become the foremost centre in the southern hemisphere for astronomical observation and research. On all those counts, this bill has much in its favour, and I commend it to the House.
.- It seems that the position taken up by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) stems from his failure, as he put it at the beginning of his speech, to understand the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I would have been more satisfied of his failure to understand the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition had he spent some little time in his speech, when he was obviously looking for something to say, in showing how and why he failed to understand the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition. But he had nothing whatever to say on that matter, lt seemed to me that the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition were quite clear, and nothing that the honorable member for Fawkner has said has shown that they were not. quite clear. The honorable member for Fawkner went on to defend the position of the Government regarding this bill. He said that a point that the Opposition had lost sight of was that the requirements of the observatory had changed, and that this change arose from the fact that the observatory, from 1923 onwards, had been mainly concerned with solar observations and with the time service and, later on, with ionospheric investigations. In point of fact, the speech made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) - another speech in which very little was said- -gave quite the contrary impression. The Minister said -
Its functions have been considerably enlarged over the years to include a lime service and ionospheric prediction added during the war years, whilst generally, its research work, particularly in the field of astrophysics, has developed considerably.
That is the first point that I wish to make. The development of research at Mount Stromlo has been proceeding for a great many years, and it has developed considerably. If the only question before the House was whether this development could continue satisfactorily, I do not think it could be said that Government supporters had made out a case for the transfer of control of the observatory to the Australian National University, and it is the transfer of control that we are discussing.
The honorable member for Fawkner went on to say that it is necessary to tie a research organization, such as the Mount Stromlo observatory will become, to another research organization. Perhaps the Australian National University is a research organization, but I remind the honorable member for Fawkner that the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh are not research universities - and they are two cases used to justify this bill - but they have observatories attached to them. It is all very weir to say that in the field of research it is necessary to have people working where they can make contact with other people working in the same field or in related fields. That is a very good point, but one has merely to spend a little time in a university to know that there is little association between one part and another, and hardly any discussion of common problems at all. In this connexion a great deal depends upon the individual, and if individuals working in one part of a university know that persons in other parts of it have problems similar to their own, they will make contact with those persons, even if it means travelling as far as from Mount Stromlo to the Australian National University. That, in fact, is precisely what has been going on since the university has been established in Canberra. A considerable volume of information and ideas has been exchanged between it and the observatory.
It is not the physical transfer of the Mount Stromlo observatory to the Australian National University that this bill proposes, but merely a transfer of control. The physical distance between the observatory and the university will be the same after the passage of this measure as it is now. The physical difficulties of travelling between the observatory and the university will still confront those persons who wish to make the kind of contacts that the honorable member for Fawkner and other Government supporters seem to think so important.
It may be true that the Mount Stromlo observatory in the future will become associated with fundamental research in astrophysics and in the study of cosmic rays, in which fields some work has already been done at the university. From that point of view it may be important that co-operation of the kind mentioned by Government supporters is necessary. My point is that this co-operation already exists, and will continue to exist while we have men who adopt the right attitude to their jobs. These contacts will be made, whether the persons concerned are 5 miles or 5,000 miles apart. From this point of view, there is no particular technical reason why the observatory should be part of the Research School of Physical Sciences.
The point I wish to emphasize is that no case has been made out in this debate for the transfer of control as such. Throughout the debate, our attention has been directed to arguments in favour of bringing research workers closer together. The honorable member for Fawkner showed that this problem covers a much wider field than the simple transfer of control of Mount Stromlo observatory to the Australian National University. He pointed out that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization does a considerable amount of work in one or two related fields and, therefore, he has made out an equally valid case for the transfer to the Australian National University of part of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization as he has for the transfer of the observatory.
When we are considering the transfer of these activities to the Australian National University, we should remember that the growth of the university, on technical and general grounds which I approve, has been subject to a good deal of public and other criticism. From this point of view alone, it seems to me that wise government policy would permit such activities as we are discussing to be carried on by other organizations. The kind of transfer envisaged in this bill will naturally involve the university in greater costs, and the amount provided for it from time to time in Government Estimates must increase. If we thereby encourage the kind of criticism that has been widespread, we may well inhibit the development not only of the university but also of the observatory that will become part of it.
For these reasons, 1 believe that the Opposition was quite right in directing attention to this measure by opposing it. The argument that the transfer is necessary for co-operation in research was a distinct red herring. The measure has to be justified from the point of view of administration, and I suggest that Government supporters have failed to do so. The Minister himself, following a practice that he does not usually adopt, but which is habitually adopted by the Government of which he is a member, asked the Parliament to agree to this measure on the strength of the following sentence that was contained in his second-reading speech: - it was recommended by the former Commonwealth Astronomer, Dr. R. Woolley, now Astronomer Royal, and the Board of Visitors to the Observatory, that it was appropriate to transfer control of the observatory to the Australian National University for incorporation in the Research School of Physical Sciences.
That is all! Dr. Woolley and the Board of Visitors made a recommendation; therefore, the National Parliament should agree to the transfer of control of the observatory. That is all we are told. We are not told what was contained in the recommendation referred to. We are given no information as to why Dr. Woolley and the Board of Visitors arrived at this conclusion which, I understand, they reached five or six years ago. We are not told why this bill has been introduced only now if the reasons for it were valid then. We are told none of those things. We are not told whether any one at the Australian National University has recently moved to have this transfer brought about. We are simply asked, first, to agree to something upon the recommendation of Dr. Woolley, which was conveyed to the House by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). I know it is difficult for the House to control the spending of public money and to ascertain the reasons why proposals such as these are agreed to, but, I think, it is quite wrong for the House to be asked, for a reason such as that, to agree to this transfer, which may not be of great significance in itself from the stand-point of research or technical efficiency. 1 suggest that the Government is too often prepared to accept the views of some outside authority whose decision the Parliament is not given an opportunity to test. 1 think the House is too willing to accept the decision of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), a gentleman who speaks dogmatically, but gracefully, as a reason for agreeing to something without further debate. I would mention, in passing, that, only this morning, we saw this happen in relation to defence. The House has a right to receive more information from the Government on these matters. When Government supporters were faced with the need to put a case in this matter, they did not put a very good one. You, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, made a comparison between a university and a government department. The Mount Stromlo observatory has never been a government department. The conditions of work and research at Mount Stromlo have been better than those in a great many universities in Australia, and they have been freer. Any one who may have applied for the position vacated by Dr. Woolley could not have had any objection on that ground. So, the case put on that point - the first significant point - when the Government was asked to state a case, is not very good. A lot of material which was prepared, no doubt, by those people who ordinarily prepare this material for honorable members opposite, was brought into the House in the form of a roneoed, or, perhaps, typed sheet, of which the honorable member for Canning and you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, had a copy.
– Order! 1 ask honorable members to desist from their conversations. It has become very difficult for “ Hansard “ to hear the honorable member for Yarra.
– The material that I have mentioned related to the argument that, because a large number of observatories in other parts of the world were attached to universities, there was sound reason for making the observatory at Mount Stromlo part of the Australian National University. I think that is the weakest argument that has been advanced by the Government in an effort to justify the proposed transfer of the observatory. If one looks at the history of those observatories which are part of universities one finds that they originated within those universities and developed as part of them. They were not transferred from elsewhere. No university now has attached to it an observatory that was previously a national observatory. Until recent years the most important observatories in the world were those established by governments as national observatories. One of the outstanding scientific developments of the 18th century was the establishment of observatories by governments which perhaps showed more imagination than the people of the communities they governed. The observations made in those institutions had a very close relationship to the economic needs of the countries concerned and to the problems encountered in developing the trade routes that the governments of those countries required to be developed. Not one of those observatories has been placed under the control of another organization.
The situation in Australia is quite different from that in approximately 38 other countries where important observatories are situated. There is clearly no parallel between the situation in eight of those countries and that in Australia. Perhaps the next point advanced by Government supporters in an attempt to justify this bill has something more to it. I suggest that it may in fact be the most important reason for this measure.’ If it is, the Minister should have mentioned it in his second-reading speech. It should never have remained hidden until this stage. That reason is the better conditions of pay and service and the possibilities of academic leave that should be available to members of the observatory staff if they become members of the staff of the Australian National University. Perhaps their status would be improved. Perhaps the gentleman in charge would not be merely the astronomer at Mount Stromlo, but would become a professor. These improvements might be conducive to better work and more enthusiastic service. Perhaps the bill could be justified on such a ground, but it was not mentioned. If it is a good reason for the transfer of the observatory to the university it should have been stated at the outset.
– Did the Minister state that that was one of the reasons for the transfer?
– No. He said nothing about it and 1 think the rest of the Government’s case to some extent goes by default. lt does not answer some quite important questions. One I have already mentioned in passing is: If Dr. Woolley made this report, as I understand he did, five or six years ago, why has nothing been done until now? What events have occurred in recent times to cause the Government to introduce *he bill now?
– Who has been pressing for it?
– Exactly who has been pressing for it? Obviously it is not Dr. Woolley, because he is now at the Royal Observatory, which, incidentally, is not at Greenwich. Dr. Woolley was well out of the picture when the Government suddenly decided to act on the recommendation he first made five or six years ago.
Another point upon which the Government’s case has gone by default is that made by the Leader of the Opposition, who asked whether it was right to transfer trust funds to the Australian National University in this way. The Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund has a history of its own. It was contributed to by people who were willing to support the development of an observatory in Australia at a time when little money was available from ordinary government sources for such a purpose. Has any mention been made of the people associated’ with the building up of this trust fund? I have no idea who they are. If no mention of them has been made, I think it should have been. A third point raised by the Leader of the Opposition was that Mount Stromlo has been successful so far. lt has not been established that its future development is being inhibited or obstructed because it is not part of the Australian National University. It has not even been suggested. The Government has merely advanced a hypothetical case that if the observatory becomes part of the university its development will be facilitated. But no one has given us evidence that any one at Mount Stromlo or at the university considers that the development of the observatory is being inhibited because it is not now part of the university. No one has even suggested it. The failure of the Government to mention it, if that is the position, is another reason why its case has gone by default.
The final question that the Government has failed to answer adequately is: Is it wise in the circumstances to allow the Australian National University to become so costly as to arouse opposition? If equal efficiency could be achieved by dividing costs between two bodies that would be, as it always is, a diplomatic way of achieving a desirable result. The Government should seriously consider whether the development of the national university to incorporate activities in research, which appear to be carried on successfully in other places, is wise in view of the fact that this will increase the apparent cost of the university.
The national university, of course, is an institution which has a very short history. In many ways, it has justified its existence, but I think that it has not an unqualified record of success, lt seems to me that the feeling of a great many people in academic life is that the too rapid development of the national university by the acquisition of departments, as it were, simply for administrative reasons, is a thing which might well starve its development in other fields, particularly in the State universities. So. it seems to me that this bill involves a move of considerable importance, and one to which the Government should have given considerable thought. We have no evidence as to whether the Government gave it considerable thought. In the circumstances, I suggest it is reasonable to presume that the Government did not give much thought to this bill. For some special reason, in 1956, it has accepted the recommendation which Dr. Woolley and the Board of Visitors made a long time ago. Therefore, I think that the action of the Opposition in opposing this measure has been amply justified.
.- I onlyrise because of some of the remarks that have been made by members of the Opposition in this debate. This is a bill which will result in Mount Stromlo observatory being transferred from the control of a government department to the control of the Australian National University. When one sums the ma’tter up in these terms, one instantly sees why the Opposition has been attempting to stone-wall this bill. This stone-walling represents an attempt by members of the Opposition, once again, to preserve their socialist policy of having as much control as possible in the hands of government departments. I should think that one would get far better results in the way of research from control exercised by a university than from control exercised by a government department. That, in itself, seems to be ample ground for this bill being passed by this House.
I do not understand the suggestion that there is something illegal about this bill - that this Parliament cannot deal with trust funds. This bill provides for the repeal of an act relating to trust funds - an act of this Parliament - and this Parliament has ample jurisdiction, power and authority to repeal its own legislation, lt is recognized by all parliaments that, where trust funds have been accumulated from various sources and the occasion arises for some alteration in the trust, the parliament of the country concerned is the authority to make the necessary alteration. Now, this is a law relating to territories. It is fully within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to make a law of this nature.
As is pointed out in the second-reading speech of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), the research work of this observatory has increased considerably over the years. The Australian National University is essentially a research university, and the work of the university will be greatly added to by this additional research work being placed within its authority. The recommendation that this should be done has come from very powerful sources - from sources to which great attention would normally be paid. It is only now suggested that attention should not be paid to them because some effort is being made to keep this as a socialist project instead of handing it over to the university. But what has been forgotten in the course of this debate is the fact that this matter has been examined not only by Dr. Woolley and the Board of Visitors, but also by the university authorities themselves. Before the university authorities were prepared to accept this change of control and to assume the power to control the observatory,” this matter was carefully considered by them in order to determine whether it was suitable for the university to have the observatory within its control and whether satisfactory work could be done under those circumstances. The conclusion that was arrived at was that quite excellent research work could be done and that far greater research could be accomplished by the observatory under this control than had been accomplished previously. It was because of that fact that the university finally decided that it would accept the control. It is in those circumstances - after the university has been asked to consider this arrangement, has considered it thoroughly and has accepted it - that the Government brings the bill before the House, and asks that it be passed.
.- I had not intended to speak on this bill, but the intervention of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) compels me to do so. I am sorry that he has put the Opposition’s attack on the plane on which he has put it. It seems to me to be immaterial, if the attack has been made on the basis of a defence of socialized institutions, whether the observatory is in the hands of a socialized government department or a socialized university. But that was not the basis on which the Opposition launched its attack at all. The basis, which has been clearly put by every speaker on this side of the House, is that this institution has existed for a great number of years, apparently successfully, under the control of a government department; now, for no good and adduced reason, the Government proposes to hand it over to the control of the Australian National University.
The suggestion has been made that, if this is done, the status of some or all of the staff will be increased. It would seem that this is a sort of hole-in-the-corner method of giving certain sections of the Public Service increases in salary to which they may be entitled, but which they had not sought in the proper way, and which, if given to them, might be used as a lever for other worthy public servants to get increases of salary. If that be the low motive, I suggest that it lies, not with the Opposition, but with the Government. Therefore, on behalf of the Opposition, I repeat that our opposition to this bill is due to the fact that no good and sufficient reasons have been given as to why this change should be made in the control of an institution that seems to have been functioning successfully over the years, traditionally organized as a government department.
– in reply - I am afraid that members of the Opposition this afternoon have been faced with the task of making bricks without straw. If I have denied them straw by not putting too much substance into my second-reading speech, perhaps I owe the House and the Opposition an apology. On future occasions I will give them a little more room to manoeuvre. But the reason why the second-reading speech was a little short was that the advantages of the transfer of Mount Stromlo observatory to the control of the Australian National University seemed to be so self-evident that the proposal did not require a lot of thought and study. Certainly, judging by the speeches that we have heard from at least two Opposition members this afternoon, not very much thought has been given to or not much study has been made of the matter by the Opposition at all. So those gentlemen were not in a position to convince themselves that this was a right and proper thing.
We have to consider the functions of the observatory. Its functions, surely, are to make observations, to go into astro-physical studies and so on, but surely not to make those studies merely for the sake of preparing records. The records must be integrated with that particular programme of research if they are to be of real value. There is no doubt that the research functions of the observatory cannot be taken beyond a reasonable limit, and where we have a parallel research organization, perhaps even better fitted than the observatory can ever be, to handle particular functions in research, then it seems to me to be a very good thing that the work of the observatory should be integrated with, and put under the same control as, the research functions of the Australian National University. The fact is that the observatory cannot operate in a vacuum.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) directed attention to some addiction, some emotional attachment, to Mount Stromlo. But I remind the right honorable gentleman that the Mount Stromlo observatory will be no less the Mount Stromlo observatory when it is under the control of the Australian National University than it was before. The fact is that one of the substantial reasons put forward for the transfer, one which I certainly thought would have been self-evident, is that the observatory’s work has moved progressively away from routine and service tasks to more fundamental research. For that reason it is desirable that this work should be done by the Australian National University. It has already been made clear to all concerned, I think, that certain disabilities occurred in the observatory in relation to the selection of staff. There is a very great difference between recruiting suitable staff for this sort of research, under public service conditions, and recruiting the same sort of personnel under conditions applying in a university, because in a university there is greater freedom for detailed study. There are all sorts of advantages available to the Australian National University in respect of staff replacements, and the exchange of staff with universities overseas. In all these respects the work of the Mount Stromlo observatory will be greatly benefited, as will the research work of the university, by this transfer.
It has been asked whether the observatory should, or should not, remain under government, as against university, control, and there has been a good deal of discussion about the number of universities that have control of observatories in other countries. The fact remains that out of a list of 38 or 39 prominent observatories throughout the world, no fewer than 30 are under university control. It does not matter whether the universities in those cases established and developed the observatories, or whether the control of the observatories was transferred to them. The fact is that those observatories are now incorporated under university control. So the transfer of the research work of observatories to the control of universities is a well-established trend throughout the world, and I hope it will not be suggested in this House that we in Australia should be the last to follow this trend.
Some questions have been raised about the availability of trust funds, and the entitlement of the Government to transfer these trust funds to the Australian National University. My colleague, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), has dealt very thoroughly with that point, and it will be observed, I think, by the Opposition if it cares to read clause 5 of the bill, that adequate protection is given in respect of trust funds. In other words, the trust is being preserved, because the funds that were contributed for the purposes of the observatory are now to come under guarantee arrangements made with the university and the trustees, and will be used for the purposes of the observatory as though the observatory had continued to operate as one section of a government department.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) took us to task because we are not transferring the functions of the ionospheric prediction service, and suggested that this would produce a situation in which the Australian National University would control some aspects of the service whilst the Department of the Interior would control others. This comes oddly from an honorable gentleman who complains that my second-reading speech which, obviously, he has not read, did not contain enough detail, because in that speech I went to some pains to point out that the ionospheric prediction service had been established at the observatory for the sake of convenience, and was not intimately associated with the basic work of the observatory. The real functions that will benefit by integration with the Australian National University’s research programme are being transferred.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I shall keep the House only a moment or so. I wish to put before the Minister the need to look afresh at the questions that we have raised. As he will agree, the bill simply authorizes the handing over of certain powers. The great work lies ahead, and I hope that the Minister will consider the future in the light of the arguments that he has heard this afternoon for the firsttime. I do not want to repeat what has been said, but our arguments have been dealt with summarily, and in an unsatisfactory way.
– I will give the honorable gentleman that undertaking on the interpretation of clause 5.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 11th October (vide page 1378), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of the bill is to authorize the provision of loan funds amounting to £8,500,000 for expenditure on the land settlement of ex-servicemen eligible for settlement under the provisions of the Commonwealth legislation and the complementary State legislation. In 1945, the Commonwealth and the States entered into an agreement by which the Commonwealth undertook to provide financial aid and certain facilities to the States, in accordance with the conditions under which they elected to conduct their land settlement schemes.
Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales elected to operate as what we call principal States, whilst the other three States elected to operate as agent States. A principal State accepts all responsibility for the administration of its land settlement scheme, whilst an agent State accepts responsibility for administering its scheme in accordance with the policy and general procedure prescribed by the Commonwealth. In the agent States - South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - the Commonwealth acquires land for war service land settlement, under powers referred to it by those States, but the principal States - Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales - acquire the land and retain the sovereignty of it that is vested in them by the Constitution. They administer their schemes in accordance with the broad terms laid down in the agreement with the Commonwealth into which they entered in 1945.
Victoria elected to proceed as a principal State. Some of the difficulties in the administration of the scheme that have emerged spring from that election. The difficulties are not confined to Victoria. Needless to say, honorable members or. this side support the bill as far as it goes, but in relation to one or two matters we think it could go further than it does, and it is on those matters that I shall dwell.I shall deal specifically with Victoria, because it is the Victorian scheme with which I am most familiar, but I point out that the difficulties that have emerged in Victoria have emerged elsewhere, particularly in New South Wales. The Victorian war service land settlement legislation was passed in 1945 and early in 1946. At that time, a Labour Government was in power, and the scheme was administered first by Mr. L. W. Galvin, the then Minister for Lands. The legislation had been thoroughly considered and was drafted only after an extensive exchange of views between the Victorian Government, the returned servicemen’s league and other bodies interested in the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land The object was to avoid the pitfalls and dangers that had been encountered in administering the land settlement schemes that were put into operation after World War I.
The Commonwealth desired that the scheme should be operated on the basis of perpetual leasehold tenure, but the Victorian Government, exercising its discretion, decided to proceed on the basis of freehold tenure. That decision has given rise to extreme difficulties in the administration of the scheme in Victoria. Generally speaking, the Commonwealth and the States agree that the land settlement of ex-servicemen is a Commonwealth responsibility - in other words, that it is fundamentally and basically a matter of rehabilitation. There is no question of the Commonwealth desiring to reward ex-servicemen for services they rendered to the country. The object is that the Commonwealth shall help them to make up for the opportunities which they missed as a result of their war service.
AsI have said, the decision of the Victorian Government to proceed on the basis of freehold tenure has given rise to difficulties. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) said in his second-reading speech that the Commonwealth contributes to the States one-half of the amount by which costs of acquisition and development exceed the valuation agreed upon by the Commonwealth and States. The difficulty that has arisen in Victoria is that, so far, there has been no agreement between the Commonwealth and the State on valuations. Failure to reach agreement leads to injustice and grave administrative difficulties. In Victoria, before a settler can acquire his interim lease and his purchase lease, a valuation must be placed on the property. The payments that he is required to make are based on the final valuation. Therefore, it is necessary that a valuation be placed on the property before he takes what we call effective occupation. If it were necessary to wait until agreement had been reached between the Commonwealth and Victoria, no permanent settlement would be carried out in that State under the war service land settlement legislation. Consequently, Victoria has been forced to determine valuations for settlers, trusting to luck that later the Commonwealth authority will agree with them.
It was not possible in the initial stages of the scheme to foresee all the difficulties that would arise later. The valuations that the Victorian authority has made will be maintained. Victoria will not break faith with its settlers. It would be iniquitous if a settler took over a block of land on the basis of a certain valuation and was told later that the valuation had been increased. Any man contemplating the purchase of land desires that there shall be certainty about the price that he will be required to pay for it. It may be essential to wait for the Commonwealth to decide whether a proposition is financially sound, but we cannot expect the man who is going to pay for the land to wait indefinitely for a valuation. “ Although Victoria has had to determine valuations in advance, the Commonwealth has adopted the attitude, “ We shall wait and see. If the settler can pay off the lot, he should do so, so it is desirable that we wait “. When only land is being bought, and that land is under perpetual lease tenure, there are some grounds for adopting that attitude. The Commonwealth agreed, subsequently, I believe, to accept optional perpetual lease. In other words, the settler may elect to continue as a perpetual lessee, or he may, at some time, elect to pay off the amount and convert the land to freehold tenure. At that stage, one can see no difficulty in holding back the valuation until certainty is reached. In Victoria, it was imperative that a valuation be made before effective settlement.
A second practice of departmental administration of the act which has developed relates to the writing down of values of structures. It has been decided that, by agreement with the States, the Commonwealth and the State concerned will each contribute one half of the inflated costs of structural improvements over 1946 values. The value of structural improvements has increased considerably since 1946, but, unfortunately, in several States a practice has developed of not only writing down or writing off the excess value of structural improvements over the 1946 value, but of also adding that amount to the value of the land. This means that, while in effect there is a write-off of the excess value of structural improvements on the property, the amount written off is being written back on to the value of the land, and the price of the land is thereby increased. I submit that this practice is a most reprehensible one, because, if the land is held under perpetual lease, the settler will be paying rent in perpetuity on the increased valuation of the land, which really defeats the whole object of the agreement entered into between the State and the Federal authorities to share equally the inflated costs of structural improvements over 1946 values. The effect has been to increase considerably the amount due by the settler. Honorable members may think that structural improvements do not comprise the main cost. Certainly, they do not. The other important factors are the cost of land and the cost of stocking. To stock a property costs nearly as much as to acquire the land. We learned that from experience of the single unit farm scheme.
By way of making a comparison, I direct attention to the figures which are included in the report of the Victorian Soldier Settlement Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1955. Land acquired prior to 1st July, 1947, amounted to 233,208 acres, at an average cost of £9 an acre, and a total cost of £2,134,554. By 1949, the average cost had risen to £9 15s. an acre. I am now speaking, in the main, of grazing land. In the year ended 30th June, 1951, there was a considerable rise to £14 10s. an acre. In that year, 85,826 acres were acquired, at a cost of £2,018,018. In the year ended 30th June, 1954, costs were around £23 10s. and £25 an acre. Taking as a base year 1949, when land sales controls were lifted, the price of land has doubled, but the cost of structural improvements, buildings, fencing, bores, and dams in country areas has more than doubled, and this increase has thus outstripped the increase in the cost of land. So in that respect, too, inflation has had an adverse effect on the scheme.
– The price of wool rose.
– The way the prices for primary products have decreased over the last four years should be a matter of some concern to this Government. I would not view the returns received from primary production with much sanguinity. The other point I want to make is in regard to the Murray valley irrigation scheme. There again, what has happened is revealed by costs. In this irrigation area in 1949 the cost of an improved unit was £9,000. By 1955-56 under conservative governments it had risen to £14,000, although the price of the land had remained substantially the same, because it was acquired in or about 1946-47. The land factor has thus remained the same and the increase therefore reflects the rise in the cost of structural improvements and the work which is required to bring the properties to productive capacity before they can be made available. Whereas land values have barely doubled, the cost of structural improvements has more’ than doubled.
– It depends on the type of land which is being bought.
– Exactly. The figures which I have cited from the report of the Victorian Soldier Settlement Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1955, apply to all lands, grazing, agricultural, and irrigated. A further criticism, of course, arises from an invidious position in which the commission finds itself. By virtue of the earnest endeavour of that State, in accordance with the terms of its original act, to facilitate soldier settlement, succeeding Victorian governments of all political persuasions have voluntarily placed themselves in a position where there is a continual drain on their budgets and also where other essen- tial services have had to be curtailed in order to implement the scheme with the expedition originally desired.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, included a table showing the funds expended to date on land settlement by the Commonwealth and the States. I said at the outset that all parties agree that rehabilitation through land settlement is a combined Commonwealth and State matter. Under the Victorian scheme, at 30th June, 1956, a total area of 1,194,853 acres had been acquired and 5,355 men had been settled on the land, of whom 2,648 had been settled under the general or closer settlement scheme, and 2,707 under the single unit farm scheme. The total amount expended by Victoria, as at 30th September, 1956, was £49,010,262, not £38,111,145, as stated by the Minister. The reason for the difference between the two sets of figures is that the single-unit farms allocated under the old section 18 scheme, I think it was, after World War I., are included. Although this is a Commonwealth matter, an additional £11,000,000 has been made available by Victoria, from the State’s own resources, over and above the Commonwealth contribution. Victoria has agreed to make that money available for single-unit farms at 2 per cent., which means that the State budget, without any assistance from the Commonwealth, is required to make good the difference between the rate at which the money is borrowed and the rate at which it is lent to settlers.
This single-unit farms scheme has had the effect of placing on the land, under good conditions, those who are in a better financial situation than are others, and it has meant that the closer settlement scheme has been available to the less fortunate financially. It has resulted in the number of people effectively settled being doubled. This scheme was made possible by the insertion in the act of a provision requiring that all sales of single-unit farms must obtain the consent of the Minister within 21 days of the signing of the contract of sale. Within that period, ex-servicemen eligible for settlement could object to the sale, and the vendor, if willing to do so, could sell the property to one of those ex-servicemen. Otherwise, there would be no sale. The State authorized loans of up to 90 per cent, of the valuation of the land by the soldier settlement authorities.
By this means, we have been able to settle effectively more than 5,000 people on the land in Victoria, for which the State government has not been reimbursed. It has subsidized such settlement out of its own budget. Because an additional £11,000,000 has been made available from the resources of the State, essential services, such as roads, schools, hospitals, transport and the like, have had to suffer. Victoria has settled ex-service personnel from all States of the Commonwealth, but because it desires to do a thorough job of land settlement, it should not be unduly penalized.
I stress the point that the agent States, in the main, have concentrated on settlement on Crown land, or virgin land, the object being to bring new lands into production, with a view to increasing primary production. Our object in Victoria was to place as many ex-servicemen as possible on the land, and, for that reason, we acquired some improved properties - large holdings which were not being used to their full capacity.
– Not always.
– Not always, no, but in many cases that was so. I personally inspected a number of properties in the western district of Victoria, and because they were not being fully utilized by the owners, I saw no reason why they should not be handed over. The complaint has been made that the Victorian scheme does not increase production sufficiently. I have before me figures - I think they were supplied by me to the former honorable member for Wannon, Mr. McLeod, years ago - which show that the production of properties taken over for soldier settlement has trebled.
A factor which militates gravely against the administration of the act is the persistence by Commonwealth officers in the attitude “ We shall wait and see before we strike a valuation”. All that that does is to perpetuate the very difficulty which the framers of the original agreement of 1945 wanted to avoid - a scheme whereby the efficient, hard-working farmer, who was able to pay the full cost of acquisition, was penalized, compared with the less efficient and, perhaps, less industrious man, because a greater amount would have to be written off to keep the latter settler on the land. That is why we in Victoria have placed on the agreement with the Commonwealth the interpretation that the valuation should be based on a fair return, having regard to the type of production over a long period of years prior to the time at which the valuation was made.
The last matter with which I wish to deal, concerning the agent States and the practice of settling people on Crown land, is the terrific cost which this entails. Leaving out of consideration the single unit farms scheme in Victoria, we find_that closer settlement has cost approximately £14,400 a block. In Western Australia, which I agree is not so favorably situated, and where it takes a longer period of time to bring virgin land into production, the cost, arrived at simply by dividing the loan funds that have been made available by the number of men settled on the land, is between £33,000 and £35,000 a block, and in South Australia £22,000 a block. That, I know, includes irrigation schemes and matters of that kind. In Victoria, of course, we were sufficiently fortunate to be able to buy land for irrigation schemes, when it was wheat-growing land, at £15 or £12 an acre, and which is now worth, perhaps, £200 an acre. The difficulty with settlement on Crown or virgin land is that it takes too long, as may be seen from the number of settlers who have been allotted blocks, compared with the progress in Victoria and New South Wales. It takes too long to bring farms into production and to give the settlers an effective occupation. In terms of the actual money involved, therefore, settlement based, as in Victoria, on the acquisition of relatively large unproductive estates is far better.
In respect of that kind of settlement, 1 suggest that the Government should give genuine consideration to the establishment of a revolving investment fund from which, from time to time, capital could be made available to complete soldier settlement. The activities of the various soldier settlement authorities in the States could then be extended to include closer settlement. In the meantime, exports of secondary, manufactured commodities could be boosted with a view to maintaining a balanced economy. Exportable surpluses of primary products would be available in five, six or eight years’ time, as the Crown land projects came into full production. By that means, we could have not only exservicemen, but also the sons of farmers settling on the land - young settlers who would be given land on the basis of efficiency only, after full and open inquiry. The man who was most likely to become an efficient farmer would get the best land available. Money could be made available purely and simply for purposes of settlement, and as it was repaid by the settlers it could be reinvested. That is what we on this side of the chamber would like to see in respect of land settlement, instead of this system under which it is left entirely to the States to determine the degree of assistance they will give, because under that system the State which provides generous assistance penalizes itself unduly and must stint its other services. Different circumstances apply in the various States. For instance, Western Australia is not so richly endowed by nature as are some of the eastern States. Western Australia should not be penalized because it has less suitable land than Victoria or New South Wales. Victoria should not be prejudiced because of its desire to make a really good go of soldier settlement and to settle large numbers on the land. If we had such a scheme as the one I mentioned of a rolling fund available for investment on land settlement, when the soldier settler personnel cut out, it could be used for closer settlement. I am not drawing comparisons between States with any desire to show Victoria in a more favorable or unfavorable light than other States. I merely mention that to stress the need for capital in soldier settlement and for closer settlement to proceed at as fast a pace as we can proceed with it for the sake of our economy and national existence.
.- My friend, the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) has made to the House a speech which, I believe, in fairness can be described as a speech containing criticisms of a constructive nature. Those criticisms were temperately presented. There was no heat about his critique as such. Of course, he has had the singular good fortune to have had empirical contact with the administration of land settlement. He served in a Victorian government, I understand, as Minister for Lands. I for one, and I am sure the great majority of members in the House, listened to him with respect for his views. Victoria, of course, has had the good fortune to have had a soldier land scheme which has worked, i have heard this evening a few criticisms of it, but as a scheme it has worked. That, of course, is in striking and dramatic contrast with Queensland.
If honorable members read the secondreading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), which was presented to the House a few days ago, they will gather one fact above all else. That fact is this: The State of Queensland will not be affected in any shape or form by the legislation when it is approved by this House. That fact is very quickly stated. It may be described by some honorable gentlemen as a simple fact. It is, however, a fact which commands a background and a story which, while I describe it as one of the most shabby stories that can be told, 1 believe is a story that deserves to be told. However, this evening I can but sketch the story in outline, putting in a few of the details of substance and consequence.
When the ex-servicemen’s land settlement agreement was drawn up, the Queensland Government of the day decided to become a principle State, along with New South Wales and Victoria. That is a decision which it was entitled to make. I for one do not quarrel with the mechanism, as it were, of its decision. It made the decision. One of the main arguments used by the spokesman for the Queensland Government of the day was that Queensland regarded itself as being a sovereign State and, therefore, wanted to conduct its own affairs. There again, I say at once that the argument of sovereignty is a legitimate one. It is an argument that I appreciate and recognize. If the Premier of Victoria, .Mr. Bolte, were to say, “We believe in State sovereignty and therefore we want to remain a principal State”, or if the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, had said - though he did not - “ We want to remain a principal State because we believe in State’ sovereignty “, then the argument would have been completely understandable to me. But when a Labour government says, “We refuse to become an agent State because sovereignty is involved “, the argument strikes me as being an extreme absurdity. For a Labour government to persist in declaring that an issue of sovereignty was involved and that that was the main basis of its decision, strikes me as being a very curious and a very unreal attitude.
The simple truth is that the Labour party and the platform of the Labour party declares quite plainly and in simple language that State sovereignty shall be destroyed. If the platform of the Labour party aims at the destruction of State sovereignty, and that is an overriding and abiding objective-
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Wills affirms my contention. But when a Labour government says, “We cannot embrace this because a principle of sovereignty is involved “, then that peculiar arrangement of argument passes beyond the wit and ken of simple-minded mortals like myself, although some of the more learned gentlemen on the Opposition benches may be able to understand it.
It may be for the benefit of the House if I mention, in brief, some of the terms upon which States undertook to become principal States. I believe it is germane to the argument I wish to propound this evening. A principal State undertook to provide capital moneys required for the purpose of acquiring, developing and improving land for settlement. The Commonwealth at the same time undertook, first, to provide a capital contribution of one-half of any initial writing-down; second, to bear half of any losses arising from advances approved for working capital; and, third, undertook for one year to provide allowances and to bear one-half of the cost of any remission of rent and interest. I do not deal with the details relating to agent States. The agent States undertook to act on behalf of the Commonwealth.
It is abundantly clear that a State that undertook to become a principal State was entitled to claim credit for any successes that attended its efforts as a principal State. On the other hand, any State that elected to become a principal State should be identified as the authority responsible for any failure or failures attending its efforts in the sphere of land settlement. Such, of course, is the case in Queensland.
I present to the House four specific charges which I lay at the door of the Queensland Labour Government, or the various sections of the Queensland Labour
Government. It is extremely difficult to identify the nuances of politics from one day to the other. The first charge that I make is that the Queensland Government repudiated the whole concept of ex-service land settlement*. In that repudiation it stands charged with a vicious violation of a solemn undertaking. At the end of the war, the Commonwealth undertook to rehabilitate ex-servicemen. Included in the broad proposals for rehabilitation was a proposal for land settlement. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) properly observed in this House a few days ago that land settlement is constitutionally a prerogative of the States but the Commonwealth undertook to inaugurate a scheme of land settlement, and a spokesman for the State of Queensland said at the time, “ We are prepared to assist you in this enterprise “. That strikes me as being the kind of arrangement that no one would quarrel with. It was an arrangement that was thoroughly approved of at the time. But the salient fact remains that the Queensland Government has gone back on its word and has repudiated its obligation to exservicemen.
The second charge that I make against the Queensland Government is that it has obtained loan funds under false pretences.. Time and time again the representatives of Queensland at meetings of the Australian Loan Council have presented their schedules of works. They have indicated what they proposed to do with the loan moneys allocated to them, and on each and every occasion land settlement of ex-servicemen has been included in the programme. But, as I have proved, I am sure, to the satisfaction of at least every reasonable person in this House, the Queensland Government has repeatedly failed to spend the loan moneys made available to it for the purpose of land settlement of ex-servicemen. I know that it may be argued, and with some weight, that when loan funds have been obtained a State has the prerogative and the right to decide what to do with them. That is a point that must be appreciated, but if a State secures additional loan funds by announcing its intention to devote them to a certain purpose, there is a pretty heavy moral obligation on that State to spend the funds in the way in which it has suggested it would spend them.
The third charge I make is that the Queensland Government has failed to spend funds appropriated for land settlement of ex-servicemen. I have touched upon that particular charge already. The fourth and final charge that I make is that the Queensland Government is responsible for one of the most singular acts of administrative bungling in Australian political history. If that statement strikes some honorable members as being harsh, once again 1 say that if they are reasonable people they will be satisfied of the substance of my contention. There was a Minister in the Queensland Government, whose name is not unfamiliar in Australian political circles. I refer to Mr. Foley.
– The tobacco king!
– I do not know about his predilection for storing tobacco. In any case, he was the responsible Minister in the Queensland Government. Let me present to the House some enlightening figures. I know that figures are sometimes difficult to absorb, but I have extracted the figures for three particular years so that the House may assess the worth of the achievements of the three principal States in the field of war service land settlement. New South Wales is a principal State, and, in the year 1948- 49, that State spent 27.7 per cent, of its loan funds on land settlement of ex-servicemen. In the same year, Victoria spent an identical percentage of its loan funds, 27.7 per cent., in this way. The State of Queensland, however, which is also a principal State, spent only 1.9 per cent, of its loan funds on the land settlement of ex-servicemen. In 1949- 50, New South Wales spent 14.7 per cent, of its loan funds in this direction, Victoria 32.5 per cent., and Queensland made a modest improvement and spent 3.2 per cent, of its loan funds. In 1950-51, New South Wales spent 11.2 per cent, of its loan funds in this way. Its capacity in that year was showing marked signs of deterioration. Victoria, in that year, spent 17 per cent, of its loan funds on war service land settlement, but Queensland, again sinking back towards insignificance, spent only 2.7 per cent.
I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, and to every honorable member in this House, that those facts are not easily disturbed, because they are in the closest communion with historical accuracy. I challenge any honorable member in this House to disturb them. The House can see at a glance the shocking and abysmal record of failure of successive Queensland governments.
I mentioned, a few moments ago, the fact that the Queensland Government has failed to spend moneys appropriated for the purpose of war service land settlement. For example, in 1950-51, an amount of £141,000 of the total appropriated for war service land settlement remained unspent. In 1951-52, the amount unspent was £320,000, and in 1952-53, an amount of £452,000 remained unspent. Over the three years, £915,000 of the money appropriated for war service land settlement remained unspent. Once again, I suggest that no reasonable-minded member of this House can consider that record and say, “ This is something that kindles our admiration for the legislative and administrative capacity of the Queensland Labour Government “.
That brings me to my next point. Unhappily, the Queensland Government has fallen into the habit of trying to disguise the manner in which it has spent money for land settlement of ex-servicemen. If we read the report of the Auditor-General for the year 1954, and particularly the section that deals with war service land settlement - which, I think honorable members will agree, is not an inappropriate section to turn to - we find that, in the year 1953-54, an amount of £107,243 was spent on war service land settlement. The AuditorGeneral goes on to say that, from the inception of the scheme until 30th June, 1954, a total of £1,874,105 had been spent. I find the greatest difficulty in trying to reconcile the figures presented on occasions by the various Ministers for Lands and other spokesmen of the Queensland Government with the figures presented from time to time by Ministers of this Government.
We find that money has been made available through the Agricultural Bank, and the point that I wish to make in this regard is this: Loan funds were raised for the purpose, as stated at the time, of providing exservicemen with an opportunity of settling on the land, and it seems pretty clear that if one takes at face value the contention of spokesmen of the Queensland Labour
Government, these funds have been passed over to the Agricultural Bank, and, instead of being used for settling ex-servicemen on the land, they have been diverted to other purposes. I ask the House whether it thinks that that is a reasonable procedure.
In 1953, of course, we arrived at what I describe as the apogee of agony as far as war service land settlement in Queensland is concerned, because in that year the act of repudiation occurred. The Queensland Government said, “We are no longer interested in pursuing any policy directed towards establishing ex-servicemen on the land “. I believe that at that time the Queensland Government was responsible for one of the most shameful, shocking and shabby acts in the political history of this country. In the following year, 1954, the then Minister for the Interior offered, on behalf of the Australian Government, to make available to Queensland £1,000,000 for war service land settlement, provided that the Queensland Government would spend £2,000,000. I understand that the other two principal States accepted similar offers. The Queensland Government dismissed it with contumely and contempt. Then came the other approach. The Queensland Government, trying to save face, attempted to obtain the best of both worlds. It wanted to be half an agent State and half a principal State, blending the two in some peculiar and extraordinary arrangement that, quite understandably, was not approved by the Commonwealth Parliament.
Looking back on the eight years of inactivity on the part of the Queensland Government in the sphere of war service land settlement, one finds that only 471 exservicemen have been settled on the land. The Minister for Primary Industry in his second-reading speech pointed out that in Tasmania 340 ex-servicemen have been settled on the land. I do not say this with any desire to be unkind to Tasmania, but I have jackerooed on properties on which Tasmania would hardly be regarded as a respectable paddock. Yet in Queensland, which offers greater scope for land settlement than any other State, only 471 exservicemen have been settled on the land in eight years. Surely that record warrants the severest censure and not the least approbation! The Queensland Government has repudiated the land settlement of ex- servicemen, and its record in this sphere does not evoke any approval from me. 1 know of a number of successful applicants who won blocks of land in ballots when in their late sixties. I suggest that that is not an age at which a man should be expected to start from scratch, build shearing sheds, construct yards, provide water facilities for stock, fence his property, and undertake the many other tasks involved in establishing a farm. I do not say that with any desire to be unkind to men of advanced years, or in a disparaging spirit. But this is the sort of thing that has happened in Queensland while young, keen men with practical experience on the land have been denied the opportunity to obtain properties.
– People from other States have won ballots in Queensland.
– As my friend the honorable member for Lilley points out, people from other States have successfully participated in ballots in Queensland.
As the House is aware, a short time ago a series of contretemps in the administration of the Queensland Lands Department resulted in the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into various activities. The four charges that I have made this evening, taken together, I believe, constitute charges of great substance which require an answer. I believe that they can be answered only if the Queensland Government appoints a public committee to inquire into the circumstances which led to its decision to repudiate the whole programme of war service land settlement, and the reason why moneys appropriated for the programme were not spent, and to explain the Queensland Government’s misdemeanours in this sphere of activity to the satisfaction of the people of Queensland and of the great majority of Australians.
I say in conclusion that, as has been said repeatedly - it is something that one listens to and does not take to heart particularly - Australia depends in a very real sense on its capacity to export. One can only speculate whether or not we shall eventually overcome our balance-of-payments problem, but unless we are prepared to proceed with a vigorous and virile policy for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land in order to enable the great State of Queensland to produce to its full capacity, we shall deny to ourselves, to the country, and to posterity the opportunity to turn Australia into what I describe on the spur of the moment as the food arsenal of the world.
.- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) began by congratulating the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) upon his analytical speech in which he discussed the land settlement of ex-servicemen without heat or vituperation, and then proceeded to attack the Queensland Government in phrases which contained the words “ shameful “, “ shoddy “, and “ severest form of censure “. In general, he made a most extravagant attack upon the Queensland Government.
What is the story of war service land settlement? John Curtin, who led this nation during World War II., and his colleagues in the Labour government, knew that the question of rehabilitating those who fought and worked during the war would have to be considered. Accordingly, among other things, the Labour Government appointed a Rural Reconstruction Commission to determine what should be done for those who had left rural occupations to join the forces. The commission decided that 50,000 of the 80,000 rural workers serving in the armed forces would probably require rehabilitation, and that they should be rehabilitated if possible. In this task, of course, the co-operation of the States was needed. But the Commonwealth was responsible for raising the money and placing ex-servicemen upon the land under reasonable conditions that would enable them to establish themselves successfully. What happened? The Labour government placed a ceiling upon land prices, which’ remained until 1948. When the war ended almost all the 50,000 men who the Rural Reconstruction Commission estimated would require rehabilitation applied in the various States for blocks of land to enable them to become rural producers. After the applications had been sifted, it was found that 36,000 were willing, capable and eligible according to the conditions laid down by governmental authorities for participation in the war service land settlement scheme. Some were young men who had lived in rural districts. The untrained applicants were trained at the expense of the State governments and the Common wealth in farming methods. What happened to them? Do they now occupy properties throughout Australia? No!
About 7,000 people were placed on the land at a cost of £138,000,000. Those figures were given to me by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) only the other day. In addition to this 7,000, there are a number of people who were placed upon single unit farms and the expenditure in respect of them is not included in the £138,000,000. There would be probably, at the outside, 5,000 of those. That means that 12,000 people out of 36,000 have been settled on the land, eleven years after the war has ended. Of those who have applied, 24,000 remain to be settled upon the land!
Some one might interject at this stage to point out that 24,000 are not still waiting to be settled upon the land because many of those people have decided to relinquish their applications. Many of them have grown too old to change their method of life at this time. Many of them have families and have settled in occupations in the cities and they do not intend now, eleven years after they have put in their applications, to go on the land. Why was there this difficulty in connexion with land settlement? Was it because of what happened in Queensland? Certainly not! It was mainly because of the fact that this Government and its supporters removed the ceiling on the price of land.
– This is the position in Victoria. Prior to 1948, Victoria acquired about 100 blocks of land. As the honorable member for Darebin pointed out, the governments of this country pay the owners for the land they acquire. They then determine the economic value of the land; and the economic value of the land is the price at which they make it available to the settler. That economic value is determined by a process of averaging the productive capacity of the land over a period of about five years. In every one of these cases, prior to 1948, the difference between the price paid and the economic value was about £300. That is to say, that the State and the Commonwealth had to pay £300 in addition to the economic value of the land in order that each settler might get bis block. But after 1948, the price paid for each block in Victoria was £5,000 more than its economic value.
– How is the economic value worked out?
– The economic value is determined by the experts on the value of the production of the land over a period of about five years. In any case, there has been a difference between the economic value of each block and the price that has been paid for each block by the Government. Since 1948 the difference in those two prices has not been less than £5,000. Prior to 1948, it was only £300 in respect of each block.
What does the payment in excess of the economic value, which is increasing as the years go on, represent? Is it a contribution to the returned soldier who goes on the land? No! It is a contribution to the land-owners of the community. It is an unearned increment which is being paid to them by the governments of this country at the expense of those who settle on the land and at the expense of the community generally.
– It is easy for a Minister or an honorable member opposite to say that these remarks constitute rubbish, but, after all, if soldier settlement had been a glorious achievement, the Government would be able to say, “ We have settled so many people on the land. It has cost so much to settle them on the land. There are a few more to settle. We will settle them within a reasonable time “. But, the Government cannot say those things. Do honorable members opposite consider that land settlement is undesirable? We who are in the Labour party believe in land settlement. We believe in breaking up all big estates.
– In Queensland?
– I know more about Victoria than Queensland. I know that the Victorian Government had a survey made very recently in the western district. It revealed that the Government could take 600,000 acres of productive land, which is in a condition to be made immediately available for land settlement, and leave with the present owners land on which they could still produce as much as they are producing at the present time for the markets of Australia and the world. The Government could settle on those 600,000 acres more than 1,000 soldier settlers. But these things are not done.
What contribution has been made by conservative governments of this country to the breaking up of big estates down through the years? They have whittled away and destroyed the effectiveness of land legislation introduced by Labour governments. It was in 1910, or thereabouts, that the government imposed land tax, on a graduated scale, but exempted the first £5,000 of the value of the land. As the result of that tax, more land went under the plough within three years than had gone under the plough within 30 years previously. More farms became occupied during the next decade than had become occupied during 50 years previously. But, immediately anti-Labour governments got into power, they destroyed the effectiveness of the land tax by reducing the amount payable. The present Government reduced the tax, which had already been reduced considerably by the BrucePage Government. When this Government reduced the land tax, it did not say openly, “We are out to abolish it”. No! It said, in effect, “The land tax is too high. Of course, this is dishonest, but we are going to reduce it and make it more equitable”. The Government reduced it. The next year, or thereabouts, it abolished land tax, and £7,000,000, which had been payable by land-owners, was presented to them as a gift.
This policy will not enable the land of this country to be subdivided. I believe that the settlement of soldiers upon the land is a vital necessity. It is a vital necessity because until those soldiers are settled who desire to be settled, they have first priority, and we cannot embark on any vast scheme of civilian land settlement. Civilian land settlement is essential in this country. I have given on previous occasions the figures I am about to give, and I repeat them because they contain a warning to the people of Australia. In 1939, there were 253,000 rural holdings in Australia; to-day, there are 242,000 rural holdin.es in Australia - 11.000 fewer than in 1939, despite the expenditure during the intervening period of £138,000,000 directly on war service land settlement, £10,000,000 in advances to settlers, and £19,000,000 paid by various Victorian governments in order to put people on the land. Had it not been for that vast expenditure there would be 20,000 fewer farms in Australia to-day.
To-day there are 34,000 fewer people employed on the land in Australia than were employed on the land here in 1939. How well I remember not only this Government but governments of its ilk in days gone by stressing that we must bring people into this country to populate it, develop it, and fill its empty spaces. Two million immigrant’s have come into Australia since 1939. In that year the population was 7,077,000; the last census disclosed that the population in 1954 was 9,090,000 - an increase of more than 2,000,000 people since 1939, concurrent with a decrease of 11,000 in the number of farms and 34,000 in the number of people employed on the land.
– “ Rot “, says the honorable member for Canning.
– I shall prove it afterwards.
– He will prove it afterwards! If the honorable gentleman proves that the figures I have given are rot, then he will prove that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has presented us with false figures, because the figures that I gave are the figures that the Minister presented to us only the other day. The Minister said that there are 34,000-odd fewer people in permanent employment on the land than there were in 1939, and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who spoke after I had read the Minister’s statement to the House the other day, said that that was a fact.
– But there was a reason for that.
– That is the point. Our friend says that there was a reason for it. The reason he gave is the mechanization of the farming industry in this country. And I agree with him. There are tractors where there were not tractors before; there are all kinds of machinery where there was no machinery before. In every occupation in this country machinery is taking the place of manual labour. But that does not justify the reduction in the number of rural employees in Australia. I know that rural employees in Australia are mainly ownerworkers. We want such people on farms, with their families, and the more of them on small holdings the better. But we cannot get more of these people on the land to-day under present circumstances, and the proof of that fact is that there are not more, of them on the land.
About a year ago I approached the leading official of the Department of Lands in Victoria and said to him, “ Have you any applications by civilians, as distinct from ex-servicemen, for blocks of land, so that they may become rural producers? “ He answered, “ Yes “, and I asked him approximately how many such applications he had. He told me that he had about 20,000 applications. I say, as I said to that official, that that would be a small number of settlers to spread throughout the length and breadth of Australia, giving them land at reasonable prices and all the other assistance that governments should give to people who wish to become primary producers. I suggest that if the conditions were right we would have 100,000 people in this country putting in applications to-morrow to engage in rural occupations. The engagement of these people on the land would increase the volume of our primary production. It has been agreed on all sides of this House, and among the people generally, that we have to increase our exports so that we shall earn sufficient funds overseas to enable us to purchase the goods that we require from other countries to permit our economy to function. Where are we to get that increase of exports? We cannot get it from our manufacturing industries. The greater portion of the increase must come from primary production. That is so because of the situation of this country. Because of its lack of population, Australia cannot compete in secondary production, in markets overseas, against the intense competition of nations like Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and eastern countries like Japan. The only way by which we can achieve a real increase of our exports, and thereby of our overseas earnings, is through increased production and increased sales overseas of our primary commodities.
– Why cannot we gain it by secondary production? Will not the workers work, or what?
– Why can it not be done through secondary production, the honorable member asks. What an amazing statement! It could come only from a member of the Australian Country party.
– In rural production the workers do work, but they do not work anywhere else.
– Why, the cost of wages in Japan is about one-tenth what it is here. Wages in the United Kingdom, where industry is more mechanized than it is here, and which has greater industrial experience than we have, are about half what they are in Australia. Germany and the other European nations also pay their wageearners considerably less than the workers in Australia are paid.
– That is not so.
– Our friend says that that is not so. How can we compete, in the production of machinery, for example, in the production of textiles, in the production of any of the goods that are made in the factories of Australia, in the markets of Asia with similar goods produced in Japan by workers whose wages are only one-tenth of the wages paid to Australian workers? How can we compete in the markets of Europe with the goods produced by Germany, Italy and Greece, with the goods produced by Russia and Czechoslovakia?
– Tell us.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is straying well off the path now.
– I am just trying, sir. to enlighten honorable members opposite. Now I shall get back to the important subject of land settlement, from which I was diverted. I believe that it is of paramount importance to this nation that more and more people be settled on the land. I know that only the other day the Department of Immigration said that preference would be given to immigrants with rural experience, capable of working on the land. Of those who have come here from overseas countries the great majority, in order to qualify for acceptance by this country, had to sign on the dotted line an agreement to work on farms when they arrived in Australia and so help to increase our rural production.
– The honorable member took that from my speech.
– The honorable member for Mallee says that that is out of his speech Well, I am glad to see that there is some agreement on this important matter. Bui what happened in the past when people who had come here ostensibly to settle on the land arrived in this country? Did the> go to the electorate of the honorable member for Mallee? Did they become wheal farmers, or farmers of any kind? Did the settle in the electorate of the honorable member for Canning, or the electorate of any member of the Australian Country party? No, they came to my electorate.
– Why? You must have encouraged them.
– Well, there were probably two reasons. First, they could not get a job in the country and, secondly, they preferred the type of political representation which they could get from me to that which’ was available from members of the Australian Country party.
The problem confronting us is most serious, because upon its solution depends not merely the development but also the ultimate security of this country. The problems of past ages, and of other countries at the present time, have resulted largely from the presence of land-hungry populations in proximity to vast areas of land not being used to their full productive capacity. It was a problem during the Middle Ages. It was a problem in America and in Europe, and ir was used by the Soviet Union as an excuse to create dissension among people in cistern Europe.
The revolutions which ultimate!) destroyed existing governments in those areas resulted from allegations by Communist and other agitators that the people were being denied access to land without which they could not live reasonably. Thai occurred in Yugoslavia, in Czechoslovakia and in other parts of Europe. In China, of course, the Communists concentrated attention upon the agrarian question. In this way they hoped to cause dissatisfaction, and ultimately they brought about the destruction of the Nationalist Government and the creation of a Communist regime.
What is true of other countries applies here also. In Indonesia, only 200 miles from our northern doorway, there are 80,000,000 people, or more than 100 to the square mile. They are making public claims to Dutch New Guinea, and are regarding this country with envious eyes. Indeed, envious eyes will always be cast upon this country by people living in crowded areas. In Japan there are 577 people to the square mile; in the Philippines 200; in India more than 200; and in Australia only three. To the north of Brisbane it is a matter of counting the square miles available to each individual. That is the challenge which faces the Government of this country. It is the challenge of the age, and unless the Government grapples with it both the development and the security of this country will be impaired.
The first step that we must take in tackling the problem is the completion of the land settlement of all returned soldiers in the shortest possible time. In the few moments remaining at my disposal I wish to make some constructive proposals.- The first is that the Minister for Primary Production (Mr. McMahon) should call a meeting of State land settlement authorities to seek the means to evolve a scheme-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock). - Order! The honorable member will have to put his proposals in writing. His time has expired.
.- From the speech which we have just heard it would appear that the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) has a phobia about people who own land. He made no qualifications, and apparently did not consider the fact that some people with reasonably large areas might be working them to the best of their ability, and achieving maximum productivity. We have, of course heard the honorable member on this subject before, in the last couple of years he has adopted an attitude different from that which he adopted when he first came to this Parliament. He then said that this country could prosper only if the economy were based on the development of secondary industry. Recently, he has become obsessed with the idea of opening up the country, and whenever he speaks on this topic we hear this story about the number of rural holdings in Australia. Obviously, the honorable. member has taken his figures from the Commonwealth “ Year-Book “, the latest of which is that for the year 1955. “ Rural Holding “ is defined in these terms -
For the purpose of these statistics, a holding may be defined as land of one acre or more in extent, used in the production of agricultural produce, the raising of live-stock or the products of live-stock.
I ask the honorable gentleman, through you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, what has happened in the years since World War II. Market gardens, small orchards and poultry farms contiguous to the metropolitan areas, have been subdivided into building blocks.
– And cabbages are ls. each!
– That is due to seasonal conditions which is quite another aspect altogether. The arguments that the honorable member has used so repeatedly fall to the ground when one considers this process of subdivision. If he will take the trouble to read “ Hansard “ he will notice that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) recently replied, through his representative in the Senate, to a question on this matter. On the latest available figures, there has been in recent years an increase of 2,000 in the number of rural holdings. To-day the figure stands al 247,500. We cannot compile statistics on the basis of a requirement of one acre and, at the same time, ignore the effect of development in suburban areas. If small farms are to be cut up for building purposes the number of rural holdings must decrease.
Again, as my colleague the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) pointed out, the size of holdings, particularly those devoted to wheat farming, has become greater because of the advent of much better machinery than was available before the war. For the reasons which I have just given this story should no longer be rehashed by the honorable member for Scullin, whose vicious attitude to any one who holds land prompted him to say that whereas before the removal of controls in 1948, there had been an increase of only £300 on each block, to-day the figure had risen to £5,000. It is rather remarkable that from December, 1952 to May, 1955, during the regime of the Cain Government of Victoria - and I remind honorable members that Victoria is one of the principal
States under the War Service Land Settlement Agreement and can do almost anything it wishes in respect of land over which it has sovereignty - there was no attempt to settle the problem of which the honorable member complained so bitterly to-night. His contribution to the debate, in part, was a suggestion that this Government is handing an unearned increment to the landowners. I ask him to look back and consider what could have been done by the Cain Government when it was in office. But the honorable member dealt only with one State. Until last year, the New South Wales Government purchased properties for subdivision at prices based on 1942 values. It was only last year that the State legislation was amended to provide that a reasonable market price shall be paid for land acquired for war service land settlement, and that any land-owner who is dissatisfied with the price offered to him shall be entitled to appeal to a land court.
The honorable member for Scullin said that 36,000 willing, capable and eligible exservicemen originally wanted to go on the land. I do not dispute that figure, but I remind the honorable member that the legislation was introduced by a Labour government, and that there was written into it a provision that settlement should be based not on the number of applicants, suitable or otherwise, but on the amount of suitable land available for settlement. Every one who has had any association with the scheme knows that in many instances a project submitted by a State government has been refused by the Commonwealth on the ground that the nature and size of the block are such that the settler could not earn a living from it and also meet his commitments.
The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) was, at one time, the Victorian Minister for Lands, responsible for administering the war service land settlement scheme in that State. Therefore, I am surprised that he said, as also did the honorable member for Scullin, that the Commonwealth is responsible for placing ex-servicemen on the land, because war service land settlement is a form of rehabilitation. I ask those honorable gentlemen: At whose door should the blame be laid for the fact that this scheme is not entirely a Commonwealth scheme? The blame must be laid at the doors of two Labour Premiers in 1944-45. The Labour Premier of New South Wales at that time refused to give the then Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, the green light to go ahead with war service land settlement as a Commonwealth scheme. He made a distinction between repatriation and rehabilitation. He said, finally, that land settlement was the prerogative of the States, and that he could not agree to the Commonwealth assuming responsibility for any form of land settlement in New South Wales. At the same conference, which was held from 3rd to 5th October, 1944, the then Premier of Queensland - a Labour Premier - supported the Premier of New South Wales. Two Labour Premiers prevented a Labour Prime Minister from making the war service land settlement scheme entirely a Commonwealth scheme.
The damage has been done. We have now principal States and agent States, the agent States being financed almost entirely from Commonwealth sources for this purpose and the principal States finding the money required from their own resources. The honorable member for Darebin - I say again that he should know better - has said that in Victoria settlers are waiting for valuations because the Commonwealth and the State cannot agree on them. There would be nothing to prevent the Victorian authority from issuing all valuations tomorrow, if it wished to do so. Victoria is a principal State. It has its own land settlement authority, which could issue valuations. But if, having made a valuation that was substantially less than the cost of the property, it asked the Commonwealth to pay a half of the difference, the Commonwealth would be entitled to refuse to do so. The Commonwealth takes the view that it has a responsibility to the taxpayers and that while a State adopts the unrealistic attitude to the writing down of the value of properties that is being adopted by Victoria, no agreement will be reached. I repeat that there is nothing to prevent Victoria from issuing valuations, but, if it does so, there may be arguments between the two governments about what should be paid to recoup the State - whether it should be paid the sum for which it asks, or whether it should be paid what the Commonwealth regards as a realistic amount
The second-reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) contains a table showing the money ex«pended on war service land settlement and the number of farms allotted to exservicemen. 1 gathered from the remarks of the honorable member for Darebin that he had some criticism to offer of the position in Western Australia. Honorable members will recall that the honorable member said that all we had to do to find out the cost of a farm in Western Australia was to divide the amount expended in that State by the number of farms allotted. That would not reflect the position in any of the agent States, particularly Western Australia and Tasmania. I remind honorable members that under the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States - or the letters of memorandum, to use the correct title - the procedure is that a State initiates a project and puts it up to the Commonwealth. Then the Commonwealth inspects the project. It may be necessary to make an analysis of the soil and do a number of other things before approval can be given, but if the Commonwealth is satisfied that the land, be it virgin land or otherwise, will enable the ex-serviceman to earn a reasonable living and meet his commitments, it gives permission to the State to go ahead.
I say again that I am surprised at the honorable member for Darebin, who was a State Minister for Lands at one time. Does he think that a project can be brought into production in five minutes? Surely he realizes that in the majority of cases it takes five years or more to bring a block into production. In many cases, the block is in virgin country, covered with heavy timber. That timber has to be removed, and machinery is essential for that. Then the stumps have to be dug out - what we used to call “emu bobbing”. The land has to be cleared, ploughed and sown to pasture. There must be a proper tilth, so that there will be a decent seed bed. Then the pasture must be allowed to establish itself. Surely an honorable member who was once the Minister for Lands in Victoria must realize that to divide the amount of money expended by the number of farms allotted would not give a true indication of the cost of a farm. Millions of pounds have been spent on projects that will not be allotted to fanners until next year. Do the honorable members who criticize the scheme that has been put into operation in the agent States realize that millions of pounds worth of machinery has been employed to get the work done? Do they realize that roads to a project have to be constructed and that subdivisional roads between the properties must be made before men can be put on the land? Obviously, then, the expenditure divided by the number of settlers does not give the true position. I am reminded of a position which obtained in Western Australia only about four years ago. Some criticism was levelled by public men at the war service land settlement scheme. The returned servicemen’s organization thought that it might be a very good idea to send a couple of their executive members to have a look at these farms. Two retired farmers who had been successfully engaged on the land in their own right for years were sent, and they reported -
In general we can say that practically all settlers are satisfied. There are a few pinpricking complaints that certain politicians have been pleased to magnify in the press.
I am afraid that the criticisms of this scheme come from those who do not know very much about it. Nobody could expect to put these properties into operation from a state of virgin bush in a matter of a couple of years; it takes time.
– How long do you say will elapse before all eligible ex-servicemen are settled on properties?
– It has been the aim of this Government to have war service land settlement completed by the middle of 1958, that is, the end of the financial year beginning on 1st July, 1957.
– So a similar appropriation to that which is now proposed will finish the job?
– I am glad that the honorable member for Werriwa interluded that remark, because some little while ago I had the privilege of sitting with the former Minister for the Interior in conference with the principal States, to ascertain whether they could find ways and means of spending in three years from that date an extra £15,000,000 which would be provided by this very Government. The terms were that for every £2 spent by the States, £1 would be forthcoming from the Commonwealth, with a maximum of £2,000,000 in any one year for any one State. I notice from the bill and the figures supplied by the Minister for Primary Industry that the
States have been unable to measure up to that offer. Speaking from memory, £3,600,000 was expended last year, and another £3.600,000 is provided for this year. I am reminded by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) that the Queensland representatives will have nothing to do with that offer. The criticism made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) to-night, reveals that in Queensland a very sad and sorry state of affairs exists. The honorable member for Moreton could have gone further and castigated the Government of Queensland, because it is very, very vivid in my memory and the memories of other honorable members, that Queensland representatives got money from the Australian Loan Council for the express, purpose of clearing and preparing land for war service land settlement, and having expended the money on so preparing the land, the Government threw the land open for civilian settlement. Fortunately, some ex-servicemen did acquire some of that land. I do not doubt for one moment that, if the States could pep up the programme a bit more, the job could be completed in a shorter time than we expect at the moment.
I know that the honorable member for Werriwa, who proposes to follow me in the debate, will talk again about the scarcity of loan money. The State of New South Wales particularly - 1 cannot say this of Victoria, which has stuck manfully to its proportion all the way through - when its loan allocation has been reduced by 25 per cent., has cut the allocation for war service land settlement by 50 per cent. New South Wales would never make a cut which was only proportionate to the cut that was made in the available loan moneys. Some States, and their representatives in this Parliament, repeatedly claim that this Government should find more and more money for them. If the Commonwealth sees fit, as it has over the recent years, to vacate the loan market completely and leave it for the exclusive use of the States, and sufficient loan money cannot be raised for the States, the deficiency is augmented from Consolidated Revenue, which is nothing more nor less than taxation of the people. Let the gentlemen who represent those States which are continually demanding extra money from the Government, rise in their places and say that they are prepared to support this Go vernment in the imposition of increased taxes for the purpose. I have never yet heard them say so, and I do not think that I ever will.
There has been much criticism of this scheme. I have been associated with it for some years and in my experience every time a batch of men is settled on a project there is criticism. That criticism can never be obviated. As pastures improve, the land looks better, and this and that attended to, that criticism diminishes. Then another batch goes on, and so criticism begins again. I venture to say that there will be criticism from individual settlers for at least three years after we have closed the scheme. Anybody who has any nous at all about the conditions faced by men going on the land will expect that criticism. These men are being settled in far better conditions than have applied to any other settlement scheme in this Commonwealth since Federation. They are provided with all manner of things. A first year’s living allowance is provided free to them. I do not toss this up in their faces, but it is a concession which no man going on the land in his own right ever enjoys. In the agent States an assessment arrangement applies. In the first year the settlers do not have to pay interest or rent. The next year they carry some stock, and as their land and pastures improve and they can carry more stock, their commitments become greater. I defy any man to say, particularly in regard to Western Australia, that the assessment arrangement applied to men settling on the land in any way jeopardizes the opportunities of settlers to make progress. I have shown details of this assessment arrangement to farmer friends of mine in other States and on each occasion T have been told that we have been too light in the charge and too heavy in the contribution we make. But this is a scheme to settle men on the land and I feel certain that the persons who criticize it know very little about it. Over the years from those persons who do not have a full appreciation of the matter, we have heard criticism of the averaging system in the agent States. I think that the averaging system is the fairest system that could ever be devised. From where do most of these complaints come? They emanate originally from the fortunate person who gets the homestead block of an estate that has been cut up. An estate of 10,000 acres may be bought for £2 an acre. The homestead block of 2,000 acres is most highly improved, with buildings, water supply, fencing, and cultivation. I assume that the 10,000 acres would be cut up into five farms of 2,000 acres each. Obviously, farms 2, 3, 4 and 5 will need some work done on them, such as fencing, the erection of buildings, water supplies, clearing, and so on, which will cost money. If these farms are to measure up to the outlay involved, and if productivity is to be improved to the hilt, so that it will be possible for the settler to make a reasonable living and meet his commitments, a certain write-off must be provided. Why should the settlers on farms 2, 3, 4 and 5 be asked to pay £4, £5, £6 or £7 an acre, while the man who is fortunate enough to get the homestead block has only to pay £2 an acre? 1 think that that would be most unjust and inequitable, and as a returned soldier of two world wars, I should never subscribe to it. In my opinion, the averaging system is by far the best. After all, in order to improve the properties, a large number of workers would have to be engaged, and I contend that each property should stand some of the overhead involved in that work.
In my opinion, the war service land settlement scheme is one of the finest schemes ever to be put into operation. It is giving ex-servicemen an opportunity to settle on the land and to obtain for themselves and their families an asset that, probably, they would never have been able to obtain otherwise. Since this Government has been in office, it has altered the conditions for the agent States to make it possible for settlers to exercise an option in respect of freeholding their land. They may please themselves whether they do so or not. When the Australian Labour party was in office it tied settlers to leases in perpetuity. I do not care which way the settlers exercise their option - whether they decide to acquire the freehold or to remain forever and a day lessees of the Government. That is their affair.
In addition, this Government has made it possible for the relatives of an exserviceman who is unfortunate enough to die to have an equity in the property - a benefit they did not enjoy when Labour was in office. I believe that the Government has approached this matter in a humane and democratic way. I feel certain that, having regard to the composition of the Government, any man settled on the land under this scheme who is prepared to pull his weight and keep in touch with the authority under whom he works, has nothing to fear, no matter how bad the seasons may be or what bad luck he meets. Provided that he does those things, he will have every opportunity to become a successful farmer.
, - This, after all, is a comparatively simple bill. It provides for the expenditure of £8,500,000 for war service land settlement, £5,000,000 to go to the agent States, and £3,500,000 to go to the principal States. But the simplicity of the measure is not to be confused with its importance. It is designed to help the States of the Commonwealth to discharge their important responsibilities in relation to war service land settlement, and simple though the bill may be, I suggest that no other measure of this kind has so clearly demonstrated the fatal flaw in the socialist philosophy. Providing as it does a sum of £8,500,000, it is a measure of very great importance to land utilization in this country. It is of importance to ex-servicemen throughout Australia, and also to the economy. But when it comes up for discussion, introduced as it was by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) with a second-reading speech that covered, in a most comprehensive way, the operations of war service land settlement since its inception, it is discussed by only two members of the Opposition, both from Victoria. There is complete silence from honorable members on the opposite side of the chamber who come from the other States.
– The debate has not concluded, has it?
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asks whether the debate has been concluded. I assure him that the second-reading stage of the debate will be concluded as soon as I finish my speech. As I have said, we have heard from only two members of the Opposition, both from Victoria. There has been not a word from honorable members from New South Wales, the most populous State of the Commonwealth.
– The Minister has only eight supporters of the Government behind him.
– We have heard not a word from honorable members opposite who come from South Australia and Western Australia concerning the position in those States. There has been not a syllable from Opposition members from Queensland.
– You are a coward, and you know why.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will remain silent, or he will find himself outside the chamber.
– He does not matter.
– Evidently the Minister does not matter either, because there are only three members of his party listening to him.
– Order! I shall not have these interjections. If they continue, somebody will find himself outside very promptly.
– I suggest, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that the quality of the honorable members listening to me is entirely different from that of those likely to listen to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
As I have said, this simple bill demonstrates the folly of socialism in the most significant way. I have vivid recollections of the inception of this war service land settlement scheme by a socialist government. I remember clearly the scheme taking shape in this Commonwealth Parliament, as the result of conferences between representatives of the Commonwealth Parliament and the six State Parliaments. Because there was a socialist government in office in the Commonwealth Parliament, and because some of the States also had socialist governments, there was a degree of unanimity which augured well for a scheme of this description. The original scheme provided for the acquisition of land by compulsion under, of course, the National Security Regulations which operated at that time. Qualified applicants from all of the services could register under the War Service Land Settlement Act, and on their experience and history they would be granted qualification certificates. It was intended to provide those granted qualification certificates with properties of every description, covering the entire range of the pastoral and agricultural industries.
The authorities said, at that time, that it would be comparatively simple to acquire land and they sought to do so in the most vindictive way, without regard to the equity of the owner of the land and without regard to its true value. They said, “ We have the machinery to do so under socialism, and we shall put the machinery into operation. We shall develop the land. We shall clear it, subdivide it, build fences, sink dams, build houses and effect improvements. After all that is finished, we shall put qualified settlers on it”. As soon as the scheme took final shape, I, who have had some cause to understand the socialist processes, said at the time that it was utterly impossible of operation, because no socialist government could settle any one effectively on the land. 50 it was that, when the war terminated in 1945, this socialist scheme was ready. The socialist governments acquired vast areas of land in the three principal States.
At this point, I wish to refer particularly to New South Wales. The New South Wales socialists said, “ We will compulsorily acquire the land at 1942 values plus 10 per cent.” The 1942 values, of course, were the lowest values in the land utilization history of our country. They said. “ We will usurp the ownership of the people who possess these areas of land. Wewill take this land at 1942 values plus 10 per cent, if the owners are not willing to sell their land on these terms, then we will take it willy nilly at 1942 values without the addition of 10 per cent.”
– And give it to the qualified ex-servicemen.
– The honorable member for East Sydney - and no one could know less about land settlement than he does - says, “ Give it to the qualified exservicemen “. What actually happened was that New South Wales acquired one or two properties on these objectional terms - terms which can only be described as dishonorable, as far as the Commonwealth is concerned - until the court said that the practice of acquiring land at 1942 values plus 10 per cent, or on any other arbitrary terms must cease forthwith. This Commonwealth Government and every other Commonwealth government is bound by its own constitutional responsibilities and Section 5 1 (XXXI.) of the Constitution lays down in precise terms that, although this Government has the right to acquire land, it must acquire it on just terms. The High Court has interpreted “just terms” to mean the value of that which is acquired at the date of acquisition.
The socialist States tried to escape that constitutional responsibility. They said, “ In this instance, it is not the Commonwealth that is acquiring the land; so far as principal States are concerned, it is the State governments acquiring the land in these particular cases”. But the court said that the Commonwealth had no right to provide the means for acquisition on any terms other than just terms. After a great deal of travail, when comparatively few men were being settled on the land, the situation was ultimately resolved in a constitutional way by this Government standing up to its constitutional responsibilities. In the meantime, some 40,000 qualified ex-service men and women had received qualification certificates. They were led to believe that as soon as the war terminated the socialist government would hand them fully improved properties.
– I rise to order. As 1 understand these Gaelic gabblings, the Minister is purporting to reply - and he can speak at this stage only if he is in fact replying - to matters raised during the debate. I refer to Standing Order 66. The Minister is not, in fact replying, nor indeed referring, to any matters which were raised during the debate. While all his remarks have a certain archaic quaintness about them, they have no relevance to the debate, from which, of course, the Minister for Primary Industry absented himself. Therefore, I submit that you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, have no power to allow him to continue with these remarks.
– I also rise to order. I submit that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) is out of order. My recollection is that the Minister for Social Services is not the Minister who moved the second reading of the bill. Therefore, he is not replying to the debate.
Order! That is precisely what I was about to say. The Minister for Social Services is not the Minister who moved the second reading of the bill. Before I resume my seat, I ask the honorable member for Werriwa to withdraw his remark about Gaelic gabbling.
– I found-
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark, or he will find himself outside.
– 1 will withdraw the remark because I found the gabblings offensive myself.
Order! I will not allow the honorable member to qualify his withdrawal in that way. He will withdraw unconditionally.
– I do, sir.
– Order! The honorable member will rise, and do it.
– Yes, I will do it, and I am sorry that I raised your ire to that extent.
– On the point of order-
Order! There is no point of order. I have given a ruling. The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I am rising on a point of order.
– Order! If it is a new point of order, the honorable member may proceed.
– It is a new point of order. It arises out of your ruling. I want to know whether you are ruling that the Minister is not replying on behalf of the Government, and that Standing Order 66 does not apply in his case.
Order! The honorable member cannot discuss my ruling. If he disagrees with it, the proper course for him to adopt is to move a motion of dissent. I call on the Minister to proceed.
– It is most unfortunate that what I have said up to this point has incited the members of the Opposition to the degree of hostility that has been demonstrated during the last few minutes. But I assure you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that even if the honorable members of the Opposition take the question of war service land settlement lightly, there are those in this House and those out of this House - indeed, all those who were engaged in the services - who treat war service land settlement as a very serious matter.
– Why do not the Minister’s own supporters come into the chamber and listen to what he has to say?
– If the honorable member for East Sydney cannot desist from being rude, then may 1 appeal to him to be rather less rude for the next few moments?
– In that case, I will get the Minister an audience. I direct attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– ft is once again my privilege to say that it is most unfortunate that what I have said has raised the ire of Opposition members to the degree that they have interrupted me in every way that is available to them, even to the point of calling a quorum. I was trying, so far as 1 was able, to reply to the Opposition members who have addressed themselves to this very important bill. Up to the point where I was interrupted, I had said that this bill was a classic example of the complete breakdown and the fallacy of socialism. Here was a scheme conceived in the minds of socialists to put an unlimited number of qualified ex-servicemen on to the land as rapidly as possible immediately the war ended. Although all the resources were available to them, and although they had the money and machinery needed and all the land available to them, they failed ignominiously to put a number of qualified ex-service men and women on the land during the last eleven years.
– That is totally untrue.
– The honorable member for Darebin was one of the two members of the Opposition who addressed themselves to this bill. He was one of the two Victorians who spoke. Members of the Opposition, representing the other States, remained silent. In those circumstances, he deserves to be answered.
The honorable member for Darebin, when he opened this debate for the Opposition, said that he spoke for Victoria. The honorable member has every right to speak for Victoria, not only as a Victorian representative in this House, but also as a man who had a distinguished record in Victorian politics and who was, I believe, Minister for Lands in the State Parliament. But any member of the Opposition who speaks for Victoria with regard to war service land settlement must take cognisance of the fact that the war service land settlement scheme during the last eleven years has not operated in Victoria in the same way as it has operated in Queensland.
The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) said that he was in favour of war service land settlement. He is a member of the socialist party. There is a State in the Commonwealth that is controlled by a socialist government which is diametrically opposed to war service land settlement. The Queensland Government will have nothing to do with it. Where can we find any common ground in these circumstances, in a debate on this matter? The same remarks apply, to a lesser extent, to New South Wales. The New South Wales Government is in favour of war service land settlement only so long as it can acquire land at a price below its true value. If the vendor is willing to sell at the 1942 valuation plus 10 per cent., the New South Wales Government will acquire land on those terms. If the vendor is not willing to sell on those terms, the New South Wales Government will then take the land at the 1942 valuation. Is the honorable member for Darebin in favour of that? If he is not, then I suggest that both he and the sonorous honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), who was the only other Opposition member who spoke on this bill, have spoken in the wrong place, at the wrong time and to the wrong people. They should go to Queensland and say to the socialist government there, “ We, too, are socialists, but we are in favour of war service land settlement. We are in favour of paying just terms for any land that is acquired. We are in favour of giving land to qualified ex-servicemen on the best possible terms, and if there is any loss incidental to the acquisition of the land and the settlement of the qualified exservicemen, it should be written off and be borne equally by the State concerned and the Commonwealth Government “. They should say that in New South Wales to the socialist government there. What is, perhaps, most important of all, is that they should say it to all the other socialist governments in this country. They should tell them that they are in favour of freehold tenure. New South Wales will not have a bar of freehold tenure in respect of war service land settlement. Queensland will not look at it on any terms. The other States, the agent States and the only other principal State, which is Victoria, are in favour of freehold tenure.
Can honorable members wonder at my confusion regarding the socialist philosophy as applied to land settlement of any kind? We hear two representative Victorian socialists in this Parliament speaking like Tories, speaking as I would be proud to speak, in favour of land settlement, in favour for the best possible terms for the vendor and for the qualified ex-servicemen, and in favour of the right to convert at any time to freehold tenure. Those are the things that the Australian Country party has been advocating for years, and never before have we had any sign of support from any one. Now we have two valiant Victorians - the only two members of the Opposition who spoke - saying that they are in favour of that kind of war service land settlement. The other members of the Opposition, from New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, were utterly silent. They had not a word to say on the matter. There is, of course, a complete explanation of the silence of the Queenslanders. They must be consistent and adopt the policy of the Queensland socialist Government. They must oppose land settlement in all its forms, and they must oppose war service land settlement, which gives an absolute preference to qualified returned service men and women. There is some justification for their silence, because in eleven years the Queensland Government, having received allocation after allocation from the Australian Loan Council for purposes of war service land settlement, has succeeded in allocating only 470 farms. That is a practical demonstration of the breakdown of socialism as applied to land settlement in a socialist State of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The honorable member for Darebin and the honorable member for Scullin also expressed some concern about the valuations and what was proposed to be done with regard to writing down. The New South Wales Government, following its policy of acquiring at 1942 valuations plus 10 per cent., decided to charge the original land-owner with the losses incidental to the acquisition of the land and the settlement on the land of the qualified returned serviceman. When the Government discovered that that could not be done, ii suggested that the losses incidental to those processes of acquisition and settlement should be the exclusive responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. Now the honorable member for Darebin and the honorable member for Scullin ask what is to be done in a case where the value of the land acquired is greater than an amount that could be discharged by the qualified ex-serviceman who is allotted that land. I refer them to the Minister’s second-reading speech, in which he explained completely and lucidly what would happen in those circumstances. The Minister said, inter alia -
The Commonwealth provides the cost of training applicants for land, grants a non-repayable living allowance during the first year of occupation - the assistance period - and shares on a SO/SO basis with the State, the loss of revenue incurred by remitting the rent and interest due during the assistance period.
That is, perhaps, of no great importance in regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Darebin, but the Minister went on to say -
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 halt the losses on advances to settlers.
There is a complete explanation. The Commonwealth Government will bear 50 per cent, of the losses involved in any writing off that the State decides upon. That is a perfectly reasonable way out of the difficulty.
– Does the Minister believe that?
– I believe it.
– The Minister does not know what he is talking about.
– Of course, I believe it. It is being done. Not only is it being done, but it is necessary that it should be done. The honorable member for Scullin was also in some confusion. He spoke of the valuations and their relation to what he called the economic rents of these properties. The States, of course, can devise their own system regarding land use, and decide their own terms. They can decide whether the land shall be leasehold or freehold, whether a lease shall be a perpetual lease or confined to a definite number of years, and what the rent shall be from time to time. But the Commonwealth is bound by the agreement that was entered into with the States in 1945 so far as that agreement measures up to the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth. That has been acknowledged ever since this Government took office in 1949.
The record of the agent States gives us cause for some satisfaction. Under the agreement three of the States elected to become agent States, and, as the House knows, three decided most vehemently that they would remain principal States. Of the three principal States, Victoria alone, which is small in area, is rather better developed than the other States are, and has a population which is rather better informed about the rural industries than is the case in the other States, has a reasonable record in war service land settlement. New South Wales has nothing to be proud of, and the record of Queensland can be described only as shameful. South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia, the agent States, have a continuously good record which is likely to continue so long as a responsible government is in office in the Commonwealth. So we have these facts: Of the principal States, Victoria alone gives us cause for satisfaction, and the three agent States are advancing year by year and discharging their responsibilities to ex-servicemen. Indeed, Tasmania is rapidly reaching the point at which it will have to look to the mainland for qualified ex-servicemen to occupy the properties that will become available there in the next few years.
I shall leave it at that. This bill will make available for war service land settlement £8,500,000, of which £5,000,000 will go to the agent States.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) leaves unanswered the question which has occurred to every honorable member, but has been asked only by Opposition members: When will the eligible and willing ex-servicemen at last be settled on the land? The war has been over for a full eleven years. Many years ago, it was stated - I speak from memory - that 36,000 exservicemen who had served overseas and were qualified to work on the land, wanted to be settled on properties under the war service land settlement scheme. Up to the present date, one-third of them have been so settled. At that rate, we can assume that the last of them will be settled, not eleven years after the end of the last war, but 33 years after it ended. Even if we can take the word of the former Minister for the Interior, the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), who said that there were only 24,000 ex-servicemen wanting to go on the land and that half of them had been settled, it will still take another eleven years to settle the remainder of the eligible ex-servicemen. If they were discharged at the age of about 30, they will be about 50 by the time they obtain their blocks. If one wanted to find an effective way of minimizing the cost of soldier settlement, one could not have devised a better way. This record conforms with the Government’s view of its obligations to house ex-servicemen who served outside Australia by providing them with homes under the war service homes scheme.
Soldier settlement - war service land settlement, to give it its technical statutory name - is one form of closer settlement for which the Commonwealth Parliament seems to have authority under its defence powers. At all events, neither after World War I., nor after World War II., was the Commonwealth’s power to resume land for soldier settlement challenged. The only challenge ever made to the Commonwealth’s power in the matter related to resumption on just terms. The decision in that case was given in 1948 or 1949. In the intervening years, the Commonwealth has had the assurance that, under its defence power, it was perfectly open to it to resume, for soldier settlement, any land in the States, in the Territories within Australia, or in our transocean Territories, as long as it paid just compensation for land so resumed within the boundaries of the States.
The contribution by the Minister for Social Services to the debate on this important subject, which has been the Commonwealth’s responsibility following two world wars and the Korean war, amounted to an attempt to apportion blame between the States. He sought to assert that South
Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, the three agent States, and the States to which the Commonwealth makes grants after inquiry by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, have a good record in soldier settlement because in those States the Commonwealth discharges the function itself. He asserted on the other hand that New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, the principal States, have not only an inferior record, but a lamentable record, in settling ex-servicemen on the land. The figures given by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) in his second-reading speech - I almost said his thesis on this subject - do not bear out any such odious comparison. We have been told again and again that the proportion of people settled to those desiring to be settled in South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania compares with that in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland; that is, that the rate at which the Commonwealth has undertaken soldier settlement in the three smaller States where it has direct power is no more rapid than the rate at which settlement has been undertaken by the three larger States within their own boundaries. Looking at the figures cited by the Minister for Primary Industry, one finds that New South Wales, for which the Minister for Social Services has a perverse detestation which apparently is matched only by his reluctance to return to the land of his birth, has settled the largest number of soldier settlers. Since the end of World War II., 2,736 ex-servicemen have been settled in New South Wales, and 2,573 in Victoria. Only 718 have been settled in South Australia, the largest of the agent States. The degree of settlement is not disproportionate.
As I have already pointed out, the delay in settling returned soldiers, and the waiting list, is just as great in the three agent States where the Commonwealth does the job as it is in the three principal States where the State governments themselves do the job. The main difference is that the Commonwealth has gone about the job at infinitely greater expense. Whereas New South Wales has settled 2,736 soldier settlers for a total expenditure of £45,000,000, 718 have been settled in South Australia for a total expenditure of £17,000.000. One could make a similar comparison between the much greater expense per farm in the three agent States and the expense per farm in the three principal States.
In all States, principal and agent States alike, the soldier settlers have done a very good job. None of them has gone to the wall as they did under the pinch-penny marginal development which was sold to the returned soldiers after World War I. and which forced so many of them into the bankruptcy court at the first sign of drought or overseas recessions. Our settlements after World War II. have been universally successful in agent and principal States alike. There is nothing to suggest that in any of the principal States the basis of settlement has been other than a thoroughly economic one. If the Minister is of the opinion that there has been anything reprehensible in the way in which New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have carried out their functions for soldier settlement, then he or his predecessor could easily have decided that the Commonwealth should take over the job itself. 1 have pointed out that, for well over a generation, the Commonwealth has carried out, without challenge, under its defence power, the functions of settling returned soldiers in war service homes. Similarly, in a similar length of time, the Commonwealth has carried out in three States the function of settling returned soldiers on war service farms.
– With the consent of the States.
– It appears that I will have to go over it again.
– Do not waste your time.
– In these cases one has to temper one’s remarks to the slowest boy in the school.
– The honorable member has lost his balance now.
– Well, I did not disturb the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) on his perch. In all six States, the Commonwealth has resumed land for war service homes, without the consent of the States, and without reference to the States. Similarly, (the Commonwealth could, by using the same defence power, resume land for soldier settlers without the consent of the States and without referring to the States. If there is one really formidable power that the Commonwealth has, it is the defence power, and with that power, for well over a generation, without challenge, it has carried out war service homes development, albeit inadequately, and it has, in some States, carried out war service land settlement, albeit again inadequately.
So one would think that if the Minister is dissatisfied with the way in which New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have carried out the job, he could do what the Government has always done in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania where it has taken over the job itself. One becomes almost impatient with this constant complaint by the Government that anything on which it has fallen down is the responsibility of its predecessors in this Parliament or its contemporaries in the State parliaments. I would have thought that the Commonwealth’s own undoubted responsibility to carry out soldier settlement in the Northern Territory. where it has never done so, or in the Australian Capital Territory, where it has also failed to do so, would be compared with its co-operative responsibility in the three agent States and with its delegated responsibility in the three principal States. One finds, in every case, that the Commonwealth has fallen down on the job. ft has fallen down more conspicuously in the territories, but it has fallen down similarly, pari passu, in both agent and principal States. So let us have an end to this passing the buck in a matter which is not only important to the country, but which has become tedious by its repetition in seven successive budgets of this Government.
One would think that, after the questions which have been put by members on this side of the House and which are undoubtedly thought by the ominously silent members who have now come in to sit behind the Minister, everybody in the chamber would want to know, as we are all convinced that the Australian public wants to know, how soon the qualified and anxious ex-servicemen will actually get their lots. If the Commonwealth believes that they should be settled while they are still able to till the soil or look after their herds, then the Commonwealth has the power to settle them. Or is this just another occasion on which the Commonwealth believes that one should not disturb one’s supporters, the large graziers and large landowners - that one cannot afford to spend public money for fear of setting off another cycle of inflation? Is this another case in which there is that combination of looking after one’s friends and, at the same time, retarding the development of the country?
The Government is singularly fortunate that its interests and its theories seem to coincide so frequently, even in these matters which concern all of us so much. Because this does concern us! It concerns us, first of all, from the moral standpoint, because the Commonwealth may, it can be said, have no responsibility. In fact, the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to carry out closer settlement in general. It would seem to have the power in regard to immigrants or in regard to ex-servicemen under the immigration power and the defence power respectively. But in regard to soldier settlement, the Commonwealth has not only the constitutional power but also the moral obligation to carry it out because people who enlisted in World War I., World War II., and the relatively minor Korean war were told that they would be given the opportunity to settle on the land if they showed any aptitude for the job. Those who showed an aptitude for the job were given qualifying certificates, and one-third of the people who got those certificates have been settled on the land in the eleven post-war years.
One would think that even this obtuse government would be stricken by conscience sufficiently to see that the solemn obligations which were made by its predecessor of socialist complexion and that government’s predecessor of conservative complexion would be fulfilled. They are not being fulfilled.
– They are.
– In how long? In 22 years or 33 years? Even the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) will be a faint memory by the time the last man is settled on the land. We have not only a moral obligation but also an economic obligation to settle ex-servicemen on the land, because Australia is on trial before the world in connexion with the way in which we use our vast territories. Australia is an eminently suitable country for growing many primary products, and the best way in which to ensure that it is used to the best advantage is to see that the land is properly developed and superintended by persons who can exercise their skill in proper management areas. One way in which the Government can do that is by soldier settlement. The States could do it by closer settlement in general if they had the funds. The Commonwealth, which has the funds, and the obligation, and the constitutional power, can, in fact, carry out war service land settlement, thereby developing our land and seeing that qualified persons who have done their job for the country are given the opportunity to manage economy-size blocks of land. This Government should honour its obligations to those who helped to preserve this country - and helped to preserve it, bc it said, when land was available at 1942 values, thus assisting in the proper development of the country and providing its people with more of the wherewithal to buy the things that they need to keep them in employment and their industries flourishing. I would think that, from the national point of view, whatever our ideologies, there is every moral, every constitutional, and every economic reason for getting on with war service land settlement. The bill before us, the thesis of the Minister for Primary Industry and the reminiscences of the Minister for Social Services bring us no further towards the goal of seeing that the needs of those who are qualified because of their service to the nation, and because of their aptitude for rural pursuits, are satisfied. We have taken eleven years to do what has been done so far. At the present rate of progress those who are still waiting, and still interested in settling on the land, will have to wait another eleven years to attain their objective. They will have to wait alike in the States where the Commonwealth carries out the job itself, and in the States where the Commonwealth leaves the States to carry it out. If war service land settlement depended upon the Commonwealth alone and were confined to the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory would-be settlers would have to wait until next century to be settled.
– I have been rather interested in the remarks of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to-night. He has been telling us about the money that could be allotted for war service land settlement without the States being able to spend it on that activity. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) told us that the Government hoped to have all applicants settled by June, 1958. I do not know how the Government can expect to settle outstanding applicants by that time, because in my own State of South Australia, which the honorable member held up as a good example of an agent State doing good work under the scheme, I find that it is almost impossible to get land on which to settle anybody.
A lot of prominence has been given lately to the J and settlement scheme being operated by the Australian Mutual Provident Society Limited in the south-east of South Australia I was in that area recently, where we did a pretty good job in showing that the people are not satisfied with this Government. In conversation with some of the settlers there 1 asked what the overhead cost was oi putting a man on land that had been taken up by the Australian Mutual Provident Society Limited. A man on an adjoining property, who knows the whole place very well, said that to put a man on one of those properties, including the cost of providing house, stock and implements, cost £30,000 One man, £30,000! I asked him how the settlers or the company could possibly earn the overhead charges on such an expenditure, and he told me that the company was not concerned with whether the settlers were or were not able to make repayments so long as they stayed on the land. He said that they had been told not to worry about their commitments. That seems to me to be a remarkable attitude.
I ask the House: How we are to settle exservicemen on the land if it costs £30,000 to place one man on a 1,000-acre property? In addition, where is the land on which to settle them to be obtained? Two or three years ago I was in the Mount Gambier area of South Australia, in the coastal area known as the Nine-Mile district. The scrub had been cleared from the land, which was wonderfully rich country, situated almost al sea level, that had been thrown open for settlement. On that occasion also 1 was engaged in an election campaign, and I visited people in the area to see how things were going in respect of war service land settlement. I found that in many cases the settlers despaired of being able to make a success of their properties, for the simple reason that the land was so low-lying that the water and the growth of weeds that they had to contend with put the farmers in an almost impossible position. Men had taken up land there as dairying propositions. When I was a member of the South Australian Parliament I thought that men who had been allotted land classified as dairying land could take up their blocks with every confidence of success. But the experience of the men who took up that land showed that there were great difficulties that had not been foreseen.
The honorable member for Canning said that after a group of settlers has gone on to an area of land a certain time is taken to clear it and plough it, and that the settlers cannot expect to get a return from their land in less than five or six years. In many places it takes so long to get a return from the land that many settlers are forced to give up their properties before the land is producing. An honorable member interjects that some of them are too old to hang on until the land produces. That leads to the point that there are many would-be settlers among ex-servicemen, who applied for land when they came back from the war, and now feel that they are too’ old to be able to tackle the task of working a farm. Ex-servicemen have come to me in recent years to see whether I could help them to get a block of land. They have told me that there is no land available for them. Yet the Minister for Social Services is trying . to blame the lag in war service land settlement on particular governments. For instance, he criticized the New South Wales Government’s record in war service land settlement. He said that that government tried to take land for war service land settlement from its owners at 1942 values, plus 10 per cent. At this point I should like to say that we all know very well that, had it not been for the efforts of the ex-servicemen, when they were in the forces during the war, the land that the New South Wales Government wanted for settlement would not now be worth anything like the 1942 values to its owners.
When the war service land settlement scheme was instituted the Labour Government responsible for it felt that men should have a good chance to succeed on the land. The Minister challenged the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) in respect of agreements on values. When I was speaking a week or two ago in this chamber I asked whether any decision had been arrived at concerning the values of land that had been allotted for war service land settlement. 1 remember also that when we were discussing war service land settlement just after the end of the war, when South Australia had to pass complementary legislation to become an agent State, the question we were concerned with - and with which I, personally, was very much concerned - was the ultimate price the settler would have to pay for his land. We were told that the price was gauged on the productive value of the land, and the productive value was assessed on what the land could produce. But in order to assess the productive value of land it is necessary to know the prices that will be received for the commodities grown on that land, and not merely the volume of those commodities that the land is capable of producing. I am informed that even now settlers do not know where they stand in respect of prices. That is the information that I have received recently, and it supports the statement made by the honorable member for Darebin about the writing-off of values without any agreement having been reached on the actual price of the land accepted by the Commonwealth Government.
So I say that we can make all the promises we like in this place, but so long as we have in power a government such as we have to-day, which intends to stick to the old principle of big farms and bigger farms, we will not be able to get enough land on which to settle ex-servicemen. This Government must devise a system under which the lands of this country will be used to the best advantage. One can see to-day, as once could years ago, huge areas in almost any State from which the best possible return is not being taken. We must adopt a system of closer settlement and, in some cases, production methods different from those adopted in the past.
I admit that it is a revelation to see the improved productivity of some land. In South Australia last week I saw what was once known as the 90-mile desert. It appeared very different from the desert of 30 years ago, which would grow hardly anything at all. As the result of improved farming methods, the countryside can only be described as flourishing.
But it is not enough to learn how to carry more stock to the acre. If our exservicemen are to be settled on the land the huge areas that are at present held by the few must be made available to the many. The interest of the present Government has not been, I think one may say honestly, to make land available to as many people as possible. It has rather been to allow people to hold large tracts of land, and make immense profits out of them.
I admit that the imposition of a federal land tax did not break up land as was hoped, but something along those lines must be done in conjunction with the States if more land is to be released. Some may say that the Government is not making sufficient money available, but my fear is that governments; whether of agent States or principal States will be unable to get sufficient land at a price that will give the settler a fair chance to make a good living. We have to do more than just make the money available.
There is much to be said for compulsory acquisition of land. Before many years pass we may have to say, “ Either you will voluntary cut your land into smaller areas, or we shall have to acquire it compulsorily “. I remember that in about 1932 the Labour Minister for Lands in the South Australian Parliament brought down legislation for a land valuation and taxation scheme which would make more land available.
I remember seeing land at Naracoorte and Padtheway in 1930 and advocating that it be made available for settlement. We felt that it ought nor to be left in huge blocks. But only in the last two or three years has closer settlement been effected in those areas. One now finds that a new road has been built there and that the huge parklike areas which, in former years carried only a few sheep, have been replaced by smaller holdings, with houses scattered everywhere. I emphasize that when I speak of the Padtheway lands I do not refer to the section that is being developed by the Australian Mutual Provident Society.
I could go on to discuss many areas of South Australia where soldiers were settled after World War I. They grew wheat but after a few years their capital was gone and the former owners got the land back for very much less than they had been paid for it. I do not want to retrace the history of this matter. I know a great deal of the history of both soldier and civilian land settlement. I have had the personal experience of going onto new land. I know how it can break a man’s heart. I have known many settlers who would have walked off their blocks if they had had any prospect of making a living elsewhere. In a few years time, when prices settle down to a solid basis that will enable us to compete on world markets, present-day settlers will be in a similar position, unless we ensure that they shall not have to pay off £30,000, or some like amount.
It is not merely a matter of passing a bill authorizing the spending of so many million pounds on soldier settlement. We must have a policy that will enable men to go on the land and make a success of it. One cannot go on land and sit down on the job. I know, as the Minister has said, that one must be efficient and prepared to work; but it is still necessary to be given an opportunity to go on the land. I am glad that this money is being made available, and I hope that whatever government is in office in the future, our land will be put to the best possible use, and made available to the ex-service settler.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I think that I should take advantage of this opportunity to say something about the general principles of the measure. I am, I suppose, the only member in this chamber who is. so to speak, a survivor of the war service land settlement scheme of World War 1. Under that scheme, 1 3,000 men were settled on the land in Victoria, but only 5,000 remained on their blocks. That unsatisfactory state of affairs was due entirely to the fact that anti-Labour governments muddled and messed up-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! Honorable members on both sides must come to order.
– I rise to order. Is not ii a fact that when a bill is taken as a whole in committee, honorable members must not make second-reading speeches, but must relate their remarks to clauses of the bill?
– That is correct.
– I submit that the honor able member is not doing so.
– One of the clauses o> the bill provides for the borrowing of £8,500,000 for the purposes of war service land settlement in Australia. It is proposed that £5,000,000 of that sum shall go to the agent States and £3,500,000 to the principal States. My comment on that is-
– That it is not right.
– My comment is thar that division is approximately correct, notwithstanding the suggestion of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). Because only a very limited amount of finance has been made available to the States, both agent and principal, only a fraction of the number of ex-servicemen seeking allotments has been successful in securing them. The complaint of each State government, whether it be a Liberal government, an Australian Country party government, a government consisting of a combination of the Australian Country party and a Liberal party, or a pure merino Labour administration, is that its inability to settle on the land all the people who hold qualification certificates is due entirely to the fact that the Commonwealth has not made enough money available.
This Government has made available to the States certain loan moneys for the purposes of war service land settlement. If greater allocations had been made, the States could have done better than they have done, but the allocations have not been increased. Honorable members opposite imply that if the States want to place exservicemen on the land more quickly, they should use for the purpose a portion of the loan moneys allocated to them by the Australian Loan Council.
There is no need for the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Erwin) to get excited over this matter. The facts are revealed by the figures that have been published. Since hostilities ceased in 1945, only 7,500 men - I am using round figures - have been settled on the land, whereas 13,000 men were settled on the land in Victoria alone after World War I. The only reasons why more men have not been placed on the land since 1945 are that the Commonwealth, which is responsible for making payments to the States from the proceeds of taxation levied for the purposes of both the Commonwealth and the States, has made available to the States for this purpose an inadequate sum of money, and that the Australian Loan Council allocations have been inadequate to enable the States to proceed more quickly with this great work. In addition, in every loan allocation which has come before the Parliament since the Chifley Labour Government left office, the amount of money provided has been wholly inadequate to settle all the available applicants. That situation is not exclusive to soldier settlement. It applies with equal force, as has been stated by my colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), to the provision of war service homes. The amount of loan money available is limited and entirely inadequate to cope with the number of applicants for war service homes.
– Order! The honorable member will relate his remarks to the bill.
– That was only a passing reference. There is not a State in the Commonwealth, whether it be an agent or a principal State, that is not willing and eager to hasten war service land settlement.
– That is not correct, and you know it.
– It is correct. The only problem is that the Commonwealth, in all its loan allocations, does not provide adequate funds for the purpose. If that contention is contested, let us look at the position from another angle. If the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) does not like that point of view, let me put this to him: Since 1949, land values have been inflated considerably. In that year £7,000 was adequate to settle an exserviceman on the land. To-day, due to the inflation of land values in an unbridled economy, in New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, or any other State–
Mr. Aston interjecting,
– The honorable member for Phillip does not like it, I know. At present it costs not less than from £30,000 to £40,000 to place one solitary soldier settler on the land.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) says “ Rubbish! “ I refer him to an entirely impartial authority, the present secretary of the Department of Trade, the head of the department administered by the honorable member’s own colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). In a recent article published in a very prominent journal in this Commonwealth he said that to settle anybody on the land to-day costs at least £40,000.
– I say “ Rubbish! “
– There is no rubbish about it. Do not take my partisan opinion, but accept the opinion of the Government’s own officer, Mr. Crawford, as expressed in an article which appeared in a prominent trade journal. He is secretary of the department administered by the honorable member’s colleague. If any States are hesitant or are in difficulties because they are faced with the problem of inadequate funds, it is due entirely to the fact that this Government has made insufficient moneys available.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Because of the action of the Government in preventing proper debate on this important measure, I have been obliged to take this opportunity to say a few words, so far far as the Standing Orders will permit, on this bill.
– Has the honorable member come back refreshed from his week’s holiday?
– I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to keep the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) quiet. During this debate, honorable members on the Government side have been very critical of some of the States and their administration of the scheme that is under consideration. I am going to make a practical suggestion to the Government under which it might be able, even with the limited money available for the land settlement of ex-servicemen, to extend the benefits to exservicemen who desire to settle on the land.
I suggest that the Government should take up with the various States a review of the agreement so that it might provide for compulsory acquisition of land at reasonable values. I remember that one member of the Government said that it was all very well to talk of increasing the amount of money available for this purpose, but he asked whether the Opposition would support the imposition of increased taxes to obtain the financial assistance that was necessary. I believe that if the Opposition were asked to consider that aspect of the problem, it could make sugestions to the Government as to a source from which taxes might be raised for the purpose of extending this scheme if the Government said that it wanted to expand it.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is clearly out of order in speaking as he is doing on the motion for the third reading of the measure. He is confined, at this stage, to a reference to items which are specifically contained in the bill. As the honorable member apparently cannot proceed in this manner within the Standing Orders I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. - The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 21
– Order! My ruling is that it is competent for a Minister at any time to move, “That the question be now put”.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Mining in Northern Territory.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
What was the amount paid in respect of (a) gold (b) copper and (c) other minerals in each of those years?
k. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Free Milk for Sub-normal Children.
r asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies: -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
When will payment be made to Crowe Brothers of Cobrabold, Adaminaby, for their property “ Eagle Hawk “ of 1,410 acres which was taken over by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority in 1952?
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following reply: -
The land in question was occupied by the Public Works Department as constructors of Adaminaby Dam in 1952 and is the site of the Adaminaby Dam and construction township. The land comprises part freehold and part Crown conditional lease. In December, 1952, the purchase price and the occupation fee effective from 3rd April, 1952, to date of settlement was agreed to by the vendors. Because of the nature of the title under which the land was held, extensive surveys and Crown land subdivision were necessary. Crown land subdivision was approved in March, 1956. Payment of the purchase price and the occupation fee by the authority has been awaiting action by the vendors’ solicitors since May, 1956. Payment will be made immediately the vendors’ solicitors complete their action.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19561017_reps_22_hor13/>.