22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
I have to announce, with deep regret, the death, on 12th July, of the honorable member for Richmond, the Honorable Hubert Lawrence Anthony. I have to inform the House that I have issued a writ, on 1st August, for the election of a member to serve the electoral division of Richmond, in the State of New South Wales, in the place of the deceased gentleman. The dates in connexion with the election were, fixed as follows: - Date of nomination, Wednesday, 21st August, 1957; date of polling, Saturday, 14th September, 1957; date of return of writ, on or before Saturday, 26th October, 1957.
– As you, Mr. Speaker, have reminded us, our late colleague, Hubert Lawrence Anthony, died on 12th July of this year, at the age of 60. He had a very remarkable career - in war and in peace, in the private and peaceful development of extensive productive interests, and also in public service in this Parliament.
He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in October, 1914. He went overseas in December, 1914. He returned to Australia in August, 1916, and was then discharged as medically unfit. He then directed his energies, which grew very rapidly, to the development of a substantial primary industry in New South Wales, in which he achieved, of course, remarkable success. He exhibited a high sense of public duty in local affairs, duties which he continued to perform for the rest of his life. The late honorable member was elected to this House as member for Richmond in 1937, and he therefore served for twenty years in this Parliament. He had a very distinguished ministerial career. He was a Minister without portfolio in 1940 and 1941, assisting the Treasurer and the Minister for Commerce. He was Minister for Transport from June, 1941, to October, 1941, when the Government fell. He was a member of the Economic and Industrial Committee of Cabinet. He was a member of the Joint Committee on Income Tax on Current
Income in 1944, as a member of the Opposition. Later, he was Postmaster-General for seven years from 1949 to 1956; and I remind honorable members that his name will be always associated with the work that led up to and culminated in the establishment of television in Australia. In that, he played a very conspicuous part.
He was Minister for Civil Aviation for three years, from 1951 to 1954, and there again he had much to do and a great part to play in the development of the modern structure of the civil aviation scheme in Australia. A great deal of work had been done by his predecessors, to ohe of whom it will be my duty to refer a little later on, but I think that all honorable members realize the zeal with which Hubert Anthony threw himself into that important task. He acted for other Ministers on one or two occasions. He was Acting Minister for the Interior for a time, and he was Acting Minister for Health for a time. While he was a Minister he visited New Zealand, in 1941, for trade discussions, -and he later on took part in various nights to other countries. He was, in fact, the first serving Australian Minister to make an official visit to South Africa. From there he went to the United kingdom and the United States of America to study developments in television.
This simple and curt narrative of the facts shows what an ‘extraordinarily active life he had, and it may be said freely that from first to last - from the very first to the very last- it was an active life of honest public service. A deeply public-spirited man has left us-. He was, as we know, and as those who had the privilege of sitting with him in government know particularly well, a man of great talent - a talent which informed his public spirit and gave it useful direction and purpose. At the same time, after mentioning all these matters, we will remember him as a good companion, a good colleague, as a man whom we all miss and as a man who, starting from the very beginning, from scratch, made a great mark in this Parliament and in the public life of this country-. We all desire to convey our deep sympathy to his widow and to his famiLy. They may rest assured that the work that he has done is not forgotten, and that he himself remains a pleasant memory for all of us. I move -
That this -House expresses its deep regret at the death of the Honorable Hubert Lawrence
Anthony, a member of this House for the Division of Richmond and a former Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I second the motion. The details that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has given of the career of Mr. Anthony show how wide was the scope of his activities. One extraordinary thing about his career was this: In the north coastal area, particularly in the area surounding Lismore, he became famed for his contribution to the development of the dairying industry while it was in a crucial stage, whilst the work that he has done publicly in the Parliament, for the most part, concerned other activities of government which the Prime Minister has mentioned, such as his administration of civil aviation and his long period of office as Postmaster-General.
There is one other aspect of the career of Larry Anthony which I think might be mentioned to the House. The Prime Minister has mentioned his achievements in Government, but in Opposition he was a rough, rugged, tough fighter, always in debates. He was restless to get into the fight on all subjects at all times. I think that his contribution to the debates of the House and his insistence upon certain points of view while his period in Opposition lasted marked him out as a very unusual Australian. I therefore join most readily with the Prime Minister, iti the commemoration of his services, and particularly in expressing to his family our deepest regrets at his death.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McphersonTreasurer):It is with very sincere personal regret, Mr. Speaker, that I rise to speak of the passing of Larry Anthony. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has given to the House, and to the country as .a consequence, a record, a monument, of which Larry Anthony’s family can be very proud. The right honorable gentleman referred to Mr. Anthony’s political career. I should like to make one or two references to his private activities.
Larry came ‘up the very hard way. He and Stan Carver, who is presently our Commonwealth Statistician, were the first pupils of the little Warren State school to win scholarships. Stan Carver joined the New South Wales Public Service; Larry became a telegraph messenger at the little town of Warren - a telegraph, messenger in an institution to which, in after years, he was able to point proudly as ministerial head. It was a very proud day for Larry when he was made PostmasterGeneral - and why should it not have been? He had started as a simple, humble telegraph messenger in a country post office and had become head of a great national institution.
War broke out Larry put his age on and enlisted. He was in the original landings at Gallipoli and was among the first Australian soldiers wounded there. As the Prime Minister has said, he was invalided home. He drew a soldier’s block on the Richmond River, and with the energy and determination that were characteristic of him, he took on banana-growing. With a broad axe and a broader heart he worked hard until the day came when he was to harvest his crop. But just as he saw on the horizon success and compensation for his hard work, hardship and privation, a parasite found its way on to his farm. The first bunchy top parasite that inflicted itself on the banana industry of Australia was on Larry’s farm. The whole of his crop was useless and had to be condemned. He walked off that farm penniless after all his hard work, and he took on selling tea from house to house and from farm to farm. He could tell many humorous stories about that part of his life.
Then he took on commission agency work and sold a good deal of the land that is now known as the “ Gold Coast “ in my own electorate, in the vicinity of Burleigh Heads and Surfers Paradise. He amassed sufficient savings to fake on banana-growing again. He went back to the old love and lived to see the day when he was the biggest banana-grower in the whole of Australia. He formed the Australian Banana Growers Federation, and was its president for very many years. That was part of his private, non-political life. He then came into this Parliament as the representative for Richmond. He and I took our seats in. this House in the same year. I had won a by-election during the preceding December but was not sworn in until the opening of the session m June, 1937. He and I sat together in the House and we continued together through all the years that followed until his health began to fail.
The Richmond electorate has lost a very conscientious, forthright representative. My electorate has lost a wonderful neighbour. My party has lost a loyal and determined stalwart. This House has lost a great debater - a man with high principles and deep-seated convictions, who was never afraid to u;>hold them. I have lost a great mate. I associate myself with the motion.
– I desire to join in the eloquent tributes that have been paid to my lifelong friend and veteran colleague, Larry Anthony. Before he entered parliament at the relatively young age of barely 40 years he had done really a lifetime’s work. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said, he was very young when he went to Gallipoli, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has spoken of some of hrs early troubles with regard to bananas. Mention has not been made, however, of the fact that, having been defeated by bunchy top, he resolved to beat that disease. He not only organized research which led to its extermination, but, having succeeded in that task, he organized also the marketing of bananas in Australia and was, the first president of the Banana Growers. Federation. While he was doing that work,, of course, he was engaged in all sorts of other public activities. He managed to build a hospital in Murwillumbah, which was opened free of debt. That stately hospital stands to-day as a monument to his public service.
He gave of his services willingly and spontaneously to every one on the land throughout the whole of that area and as long as the present generation lasts his name, will be. remembered there for his kindness, skill, and assistance. When he came into this Parliament and could no longer give attention to the banana industry as a whole, he turned to the development of much of the other country in his electorate for the purpose of pineapple-growing and for that purpose carried out an extensive- research programme during the period he was PostmasterGeneral. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said, while he was in this Parliament he was active and vigorous in every debate that took place.
We, in the north, feel that we have lost some one whom it will be very difficult indeed to replace. We have lost a wonderful citizen, a man loved everywhere. By reason of the love and affection felt for him by the people in the Richmond electorate, he was not opposed for election more than three times during his service in this Parliament. When he became PostmasterGeneral, he did his best to establish automatic telephones throughout the whole countryside. He was responsible for having hundreds of them installed where previously there had been only a few score. He considered that television was something really worth while for Australia, and because of his intense desire to make certain that Australia should have an absolutely first-class television system, he went overseas and worked so hard on that matter that his doctors attributed the shortening of his days to that work. The people in the northern districts of New South Wales earnestly desire to extend their sympathy to his widow and children and pay tribute to the work he did.
– I wish to speak as one who became acquainted with the late Mr. Anthony during the election campaign which resulted in his entry into this Parliament twenty years ago. The town of Glen Innes, in which I was then employed as a newspaperman, was in the Richmond electorate and I had the privilege of reporting the speeches of the late Mr. Anthony during his first election campaign. I knew him in subsequent years as one who gave complete representation to a widespread electorate, and as one who earned the respect of everybody in the community, including those who were his political opponents. While he was PostmasterGeneral he took pains to ensure that the member for each electorate in which any post office work was to be undertaken was kept fully advised of developments and given proper representation at any function connected with the post office within his electorate.
I had the good fortune also to be associated with the members of Mr. Anthony’s staff during the time when he was a Minister of the Crown, and it is a further tribute to his worth to say that he was regarded with very great affection by all those who served him in that capacity. I believe it is true to say that they were completely devoted to him, and I am sure that they join with us in mourning his loss.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– To-day we also mourn the death of another colleague, the Honorable Arthur Samuel Drakeford, a man whom I had the great pleasure of knowing both in the Victorian Parliament and later in this Parliament. He was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1927 as member for Essendon, and he held that seat until 1932. He was elected to the House of Representatives as member for Maribyrnong in 1935, and he sat for that electorate in this Parliament for twenty years.
From 1941 to 1949 he was Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation. I made a passing reference earlier to one of the predecessors of the late Mr. Anthony. Arthur Drakeford had the heavy responsibility of those portfolios for eight years. He was a member of the War Cabinet from 1941 to 1946, and a member of the Manpower and Resources Survey Committee in 1941. He was a member of the Advisory War Council in 1944. For a brief period in 1946 he was Minister for the Navy and he was Acting Minister for Defence in 1947 and 1948.
He represented Australia abroad with great distinction on several very important occasions. He was a delegate to the British Commonwealth talks on civil aviation in London and Montreal in 1944. He was chairman of the delegations to the civil aviation conference in Chicago in the same year and to the Empire Air Conference in New Zealand in 1946. He was vicepresident of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization conference in Montreal in 1946, and vice-president of the first assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal in 1947. He was a delegate to the British Commonwealth air conference in New Zealand in 1948, and he became the permanent chairman of the South Pacific Air Transport Council.
I suppose very few men have had a more intensive or extensive experience in the field of civil aviation, as a Minister of the Crown, than did Arthur Drakeford. In all his various capacities he devoted himself to his task. He attended to his work, brought to it the whole of his experience and of his faculties, and won a high name with all of us for the way in which he dealt with those matters. In his earlier days he had been a railway officer. I knew him in that capacity before he was a member of the State parliament. He had an uncommonly intimate knowledge of industrial matters; he had been through them in the school of experience. He was a wellknown figure in arbitration proceedings. He represented in a strong, yet singularly moderate way the whole feeling, outlook and experience of the men for whom he spoke. As honorable members know, he was federal president of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen for twenty years, from 1929 to 1949.
Not only did Arthur Drakeford have this intimate understanding of industrial matters, not only was he able to speak with knowledge and complete sincerity, but indeed, if I may be allowed to say so as one who was his opponent throughout his political life in both parliaments, he was a most honorable opponent in every sense, always willing to be generous and always willing to be just to his opponents. I have many very happy recollections of things he said and did in matters of controversy between us, and they gave me a higher and higher opinion of him as an opponent with whom it was an honour to deal. He leaves a very good name. He is survived by a widow, a son and four daughters. They may all like to know that he will be remembered and missed not only by his own party, whose valiant servant he was, but also by his political opponents, whose great friend he was. Sir, I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the Honorable Arthur Samuel Drakeford, a former Member of this House for the Division of Maribyrnong and a former Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– I second the motion. Arthur Drakeford’s career was a remarkable one. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has mentioned that he became president of the Australia-wide organization of locomotive enginemen. Arthur Drakeford was an expert locomotive enginedriver. I had the honour to meet him in the mid-twenties, before he became a member of the Victorian Parliament. He continued his activities as president of his union for many years, until the end of the war. He left the Victorian Parliament when a critical situation arose in the Labour movement during the depression years. Later, he became a member of this Parliament and served the people for more than twenty years.
I want to emphasize two things: The Prime Minister has referred in detail to one of them - Mr. Drakeford’s belief that in civil aviation a world-wide organization was needed. He was willing to go further than many others at that time and filled a pioneering role during those days when the regulation and control of aviation was recognized for the first time as having a supreme importance in world affairs. He attended all the conferences mentioned by the Prime Minister. The second thing, I think, is more important. At a critical period in World War II., Mr. Drakeford became Minister for Air. From the end of 1941 he devoted himself unstintingly to the work of that vital portfolio, in which he discharged his duties with magnificent courage and persistence. It was not an easy portfolio to fill adequately, but as Minister for Air, as well as in his capacity as a member of the War Cabinet, he was more than merely conscientious. He was always at work, either in his office or at home, discharging the heavy duties of his important portfolio.
Those who knew Mr. Drakeford well mourn his death. They will never forget his work in this Parliament and outside it, and especially in the cause of unionism. I and other honorable members on this side of the House, particularly, support the motion of sympathy with Mrs. Drakeford and his family. They will miss a very good man who was a most efficient public servant.
– I should like to be associated with the tribute being paid to-day to the late Arthur Samuel Drakeford. The House has been told that he rendered great political service to this country over a period of 30 years. He made a fine contribution to the advancement of Australia, and he was highly respected by all who were privileged to know bini. Mr. Drakeford made many friends, and few enemies, if .any - largely, I think, because of his balanced approach to bis duties and also because of his middleoftheroad policy. He was, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has told us, an honorable opponent. I found him so in every way, and there was nothing but respect and liking ‘between us. On behalf of myself and of those constituents of Maribyrnong who were privileged to know Mr. Drakeford’s worth, I should like to convey to his widow and his family our deep sympathy. I may mention that Mr. Drakeford’s son, who is his only .male descendant, holds the Pascoe Vale seat in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, and is following in .the footsteps of his greatly respected father.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– Since we last met, the Parliament has suffered the loss also of a senator - Senator John Joseph Devlin, one of the senators from Victoria, who died on 26th May last at the age of 57. The late senator was a farmer, but early in life he became active in public affairs, not only in the national field, but also in the local field. It is very interesting to record - I confess that I did not know it until certain material was put before me - that he was a member of the Violet Town Shire Council from 1927- indeed, throughout his public life - and was its president on three occasions. Therefore, he had a very intimate association with the problems of the locality in which he lived for so long. The late senator moved on, not abandoning that background, but taking it with him, into the parliamentary field. He made two unsuccessful attempts to enter Parliament, once by way of a State seat, and once by way of the Federal seat of Indi, and in 1946 he was chosen to fill a casual vacancy in the Senate. At the time of his death, he had given eleven years’ continuous service as a senator. Before he came into the Senate he had served for seven years on the Public Health Commission of Victoria and had interested himself in the organizational side of politics. He was in fact a member of the central executive ©if the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party for over twenty years, having been Federal President in 1937-3&.
This ‘represents what I would call, I hope, a balanced career - local activities, local government, parliamentary government and a close interest in that very important aspect of politics, the organizational work without which no party and no government can live. It was not my privilege, being in another House, and busily occupied, to know him as intimately as many honorable members undoubtedly did, but I always found him genial, warm-hearted and friendly. I am sure that those qualities, contributing to his natural gifts, brought him into these positions that one is able to look back on when surveying his life.
Every man who comes into Parliament and remains for any substantial period of time accepts a burden and will feel the strain. It is not always understood, but public life is not just a mere matter, if I may use the homely phrase, of beer and skittles. Public life is a matter of great responsibility and of great burden and all those who accept it feel that burden as the years go by. It is fitting therefore that when one of our number leaves us and leaves behind him a respected memory, we should pay a tribute to it and make clear, as I am sure we all do in this House, our profound regret at his passing and our deep sympathy for his family. The late Senator Devlin leaves a widow and three daughters. I am .sure that they would all like to know that we have very, very friendly memories of him and are grateful for the services that he rendered,
I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Senator John Joseph Devlin, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– Those who knew Senator Devlin only during the last few years of his life, after his health had broken down, will do well to recall the matters to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has referred. His father was a pioneer in the Benalla district and he himself, with his father, became engaged for a time in farming pursuits. He was very active in local government. Three tunes he became president of the shire. He always remained an active and. loyal supporter oi the Australian Workers Union, a very important organization in the country districts of Victoria. In the Labour party organization he ultimately became president of the Victorian branch.
Those activities can bs easily said shortly and forgotten, but his work ca shire councillor alone indicates long devotion to public affairs. That devotion singularized the greater portion of his life. It was extended into the federal sphere and I am certain that his breakdown in health towards the end of his life was contributed to or caused by his devotion to duty in the public interests. On behalf of the Opposition 1 join in a message of sympathy to Mrs Devlin and his daughters.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing ia their places.
Mc. MENZIES (Kooyong- Prime Minister). - Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that, as a mark of esteem to our late friends, you might suspend the sitting of the House until 8 o’clock.
– I feel sure that the suggestion made by the Prime Minister meets- with the concurrence of the House. As a marie of respect to the memory of the deceased gentlemen, the sitting is suspended. The chair will be resumed at 8 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 3.41 to 8 p.m.
Mr. WEBB presented a petition from 11,533 citizens of Western Australia praying that early steps be taken to relieve the plight of the pensioner by increasing social service pensions to 50 per cent, of the federal basic wage and granting to pensioners certain free medical and pharmaceutical benefits and increased funeral benefits.
Petition received and read.
Mr. CALWELL presented a petition from about 100,000 citizens of Australia praying that immediate consideration be given to the matter of increasing the rate of age, invalid and widows’ pensions to at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
Petition received and read.
Petitions, praying that the pension rates be increased to 50 per cent of the basic wage were presented as follows: -
By Mir. ERWIN from certain citizens of Australia.
By MEr. GRIFFITHS from 2,680 citizens of Australia.
By Mr. ANDERSON from 39 citizens of Australia.
By Mr. DAVIS from 2,564 citizens of Australia.
By Mr. MALCOLM FRASER from 3,253 citizens of Australia.
By Mr. TURNBULL from 2,107 citizens of Australia.
By Mr. OPPERMAN from 1,100 citizens of Australia.
– What is the point of order?
– I want to know whether the Standing Orders allow of a show of hands by those who support the request of the pensioners.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order. He will resume his seat.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question in relation to the world exhibition to be held at Brussels, I think in April next year. Australia, I take it, has been invited, although apparently a decision has not yet been made whether we will be represented. I ask the Prime Minister, or the appropriate Minister, to have regard to the fact that approximately 40 nations will participate and that 30,000,000 visitors are expected. It will be a world exhibition, properly so called under a regulation which prevents fairs from being called world exhibitions. It could be of great importance to Australia. Will the Minister and the Government consider urgently the representation of Australia at this exhibition?
– I shall endeavour to secure some information on this matter and advise the right honorable gentleman.
– Has the Minister for Health had discussions with the British Medical Association with regard to determining a recognized official status for specialists in the field of medicine? If not, will the Minister consider initiating such discussions, and will he further consider pursuing discussions with the British Medical Association concerning the advisability of compiling an Australia-wide register of medical specialists, such as I believe exists in Queensland?
– This is a matter which has had a good deal of consideration and which is still under consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. At present, a naturalized immigrant must be domiciled in Australia for twenty years before he is eligible for the age pension. This provision is causing great hardship in many cases in which immigrants come to Australia, work for nine or ten years and then reach retiring age, which is 60 years for females and 65 years for males. It is understandable that immigrants who had been in this country only a few years would not have been able to provide for their old age. I understand that this matter was brought forward at the 1955 Australian Citizenship Convention and was referred to the Department of Social Services for further consideration. Can the Minister say whether the department has considered the matter and whether any decision has been reached concerning reduction of the twenty-year period?
– Might I be permitted to say that that is the kind of thoughtful question one would expect from the honorable member for Adelaide. A preliminary requirement of entitlement to age, invalid and widows’ pensions is naturalization. I am aware that the honorable member knows of that condition. It is true that, to qualify for an age pension, a residential qualification of twenty years is necessary. That, of course, is due to the implication that in twenty years a person would have made some contribution to the general revenue and, by that very process, would have qualified for a long-term social services benefit. The invalid pension, on the other hand, may be paid to a qualified person subject to a means test after residence of only five years. Similarly widow’s pension may be paid, subject to a means test, to a naturalized subject after residence of five years and, in certain circumstances, after residence of twelve months. The matter, however, is constantly under consideration.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Air, refers to the transportation from Sydney to Brisbane of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith’s famous aircraft “ Southern Cross “. I preface the question by informing the Minister that my committee has now completed all the preliminary arrangements required to house the “ Southern Cross “ in a memorial at Brisbane airport. That being so, can the Royal Australian Air Force provide the necessary vehicles to transport the aircraft from Sydney to Brisbane, and will it also be able to have such vehicles ready to move the aircraft not later than 19th September? In conjunction with the movement of the aircraft, could the Royal Australian Air Force provide an escort and guard to protect the aircraft from vandals en route?
– Any proposal concerning the permanent preservation of this famous aircraft which was flown by Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and his crew across the Pacific must commend itself to the interest and sympathy of the Royal Australian Air Force. A good many weeks ago the honorable member asked me whether the Royal Australian Air Force could undertake the task which he mentions. I am happy to tell him that I have given my own approval, in principle, to the undertaking, and I have asked the department to see whether it is practicable for it to do the things which the honorable member suggests. I have had general advice from the Air Staff that the move can be arranged and that details are being worked out. But the plan of the honorable member’s committee is a very ambitious one. It involves the slow movement of the aircraft from Sydney to Brisbane through a number of country centres, which will take a considerable time. The provision of an escort and guard would involve taking a number of air force personnel from their present duties for some three weeks during the movement of the aircraft. That is a matter which, of itself, involves some investigation and planning. All that I can give the honorable member at the moment is an assurance of departmental sympathy with his request, an expectation that we can do as he asks, and the hope that we can comply with all the details of his request.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he is aware of the grave economic position of the Australian egg industry. If so, will he state what steps arc being taken to place the industry on a sound economic basis?
– Some time ago representatives of the egg and poultry industry approached the department and myself to see if it was possible to have a stabilization plan devised for that industry. At that meeting I think the representative leaders of the industry conceded that it would be extremely difficult to concoct a scheme that would cover the industry efficiently and give it genuine stabilization. The question then arose as to whether an export subsidy would be given. I pointed out, on behalf of the Government, that it did not, in principle, favour export subsidies because if it granted a subsidy to one export industry it would be necessary to give it to all export industries that might need them. At least, if the Government were not compelled to do so, the door would be open to other industries to apply and it would be difficult to resist pressure from them.
So far as the domestic egg industry is concerned, it presents an extremely difficult problem. Recently, at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council I had to point out that this matter was largely one for the State governments themselves to solve and they agreed that rehabilitation was necessary. If they felt that within their own States there were problems in the egg industry, it was up to them to find out what those problems were and whether they were real. Then, it would be a matter for themselves to find a solution. I point out to the honorable member that there is no objection whatsoever to the various State governments concerned taking some action rather than always attempting to dump the responsibility into the lap of the Commonwealth Government.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry give details of the recent vote of dried fruit growers on suggested legislation gauged to stabilize the dried fruits industry? Is any further move contemplated or suggested by the Minister regarding the future of this important industry?
– Within the last few days the Commonwealth Returning Officer has let me have the voting figures in a poll that was held upon a stabilization scheme for the dried vine fruits industry. Of the total number of votes cast, 2,951 were for “Yes” and 731 for “No”. This showed that the great majority of the persons who did vote thought that the scheme presented by the Commonwealth was generous and was a good scheme. Unfortunately, one of the requirements was that 50 per cent, of those entitled to vote should vote for the scheme before it could be passed into law and implemented. The necessary 50 per cent, did not vote in favour of the scheme. Therefore, at least for the time being, the scheme will not be passed into law. This morning, I received a letter from the Australian Dried Vine Fruits Association, asking me for particulars of the voting in the various areas and for certain other information, so that the association could decide what the voting implied and what further action it should take. The leaders of the industry have pointed out to me that they do not feel disposed to recommend a stabilization scheme unless 50 per cent, of those entitled to vote actually vote in favour of it.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, given on 3rd June last, in what is known as Jenck’s case, to the effect that the Government must make available to the defendant at a criminal trial the reports against him in the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and that the burden is on the Government, and is not to be shifted to the trial judge, to decide whether the public prejudice in allowing a crime to go unpunished is greater than that attendant upon the possible disclosure of State secrets and other confidential information in the government’s possession? Is this a principle of which the Prime Minister approves, and, if so, will he apply it in all cases in which citizens of this country might be affected by undisclosed and unchecked reports in the possession of the Commonwealth Security Service, which would in many cases have been obtained from dubious persons and sources?
– Ignoring the bit at the end of the question, I could answer by saying that I have not seen a report of the relevant case, but, so that I may have an accurate idea of what it says, I will read it
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for die Army, arises out of the death of a private of the Australian Army, in Malaya, on 4th July.. On 5th July, the parents of the dead man, who were his next of kin, received a telegram which stated baldly that their son had been killed. From then until 19th July they had received no further information from the Army. On 22nd July, I sent a telegram to the Minister, and on the same day I received a reply stating that he would inquire into the reasons for the very considerable delay. I now ask the Minister whether he is able to inform me of the results of his inquiry.
– This matter presents a great deal of difficulty. There are certain regulations which require that in cases such as the one referred to by the honorable member the next of kin shall be informed at the earliest possible moment. Of course, the name of the deceased cannot be released until the next of kin have been informed. I have no recollection of the particular case referred to by the honorable member. Quite a few such cases have occurred. However, if the honorable member will see me in my office after question time, I shall go into the matter with him and ensure that he is given a prompt reply.
– I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the important decision recently made by the High Court in connexion with what is popularly known as uniform taxation, will the right honorable gentleman make a statement an the likely implications of this decision on Commonwealth-State financial relations in the event of one or more States deciding to levy a separate income tax? Will he arrange for the circulation of the full text of the Court’s decision for the benefit of honorable members?
– I should be very glad to arrange for the full text of the judgment to be made available to honorable members seeking it. It is a large document, and I should not like to have more copies struck off than are necessary, but I shall see that any honorable member who would like to have a copy receives it.
– I would like an autographed copy.
– I will give you that with pleasure. I would add an instruction to the bank, of course, that it was not negotiable. The position as a result of the judgment is, in my view and the view of my advisers, materially the same as it was before. If any State desires now, as it may have desired before, to resume its own taxing authority - this is assuming that the whole system remains without political agreement to the contrary - the position will be that the Commonwealth will still have to raise revenues for its own purposes and for paying tax reimbursements to the other five States. As Commonwealth taxation cannot discriminate between States, it follows that the taxpayers of the State concerned would inevitably under the Constitution be called upon to provide their share of .tax reimbursements to the other five States. If a State refused the tax reimbursement grant and imposed its own tax, it would have to impose its tax on top of the uniform rates of Commonwealth tax which would still exist in all six States. If I were a State Premier, that is not a prospect which would fill me with consuming rapture.
– Will the Minister for Air, in order to assist in the search for oil, make available to the holders of oil leases photographs taken by the Royal Australian Air Force of territory covered by such leases?
– This is a matter that I inquired into recently.. There is no objection in principle to the Department of Air making available to commercial interests in Australia photographs of any part of Australia taken in the course of Air Force operations, provided mo security question is involved. Indeed, a commercial charge for such photographs has been established in the department, and I can assure the honorable member that any company engaged in the search for oil will, on application to the department, be supplied with photographs at the rate established, subject only to the question of security.
– Will the Minister for Immigration explain why the figures supplied by his department of the numbers of British immigrants err so seriously by including as British immigrants Australians who are returning to this country after travelling abroad and also former residents of Malta? This is causing confusion about the number of immigrants actually coming from the United Kingdom.
– If any confusion exists, it is not caused by the statistics published by the Department of Immigration. I think it exists in the mind of the honorable member because he has misread the “ Australian Demographic Review “, which is produced, not by the department, but by the Commonwealth Statistician. The review clearly states, under a heading in block type, that the figures do not purport to represent permanent migration as such. The simple truth is that the statisticians of the world have agreed to produce, for their own purposes, through a United Nations organization, a standard set of figures, in the preparation of which they classify as permanent the departure of a person who states that he will be away from a country for twelve months. In practice, a great many people - approximately 10,000 in the case of Australia - who state that they will be abroad for a year return before the year has passed. This gives a very greatly distorted picture of the true position. If the honorable member would like the exact figure for the number of assisted immigrants brought into Australia under the immigration programme, I shall be very pleased to let him have it. The figures compiled by the Department of Immigration are accurate down to the last baby. If we try to read into the statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician something that they do not indicate, confusion will surely result.
With respect to immigrants from Malta or from other parts of the British Common wealth, I can say only that such people travel here on British passports. We have never stated whether immigrants arriving on British passports are from the United Kingdom, Malta, Canada, or any other part of the British Commonwealth; we take them all as British immigrants. If the honorable member studies the statistics published by the department, he will see stated quite clearly the numbers of immigrants who have come to Australia from Malta and other Commonwealth countries.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that a British ex-serviceman with an excellent record in England and as a settler in this country, who deserted from an overseas ship in Australia about eighteen months ago, has been arrested under the provisions of the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act, apparently on information supplied by the Department of Immigration, and sentenced to eight weeks’ imprisonment in Long Bay Gaol, after which he is to be returned to Great Britain. Will the Minister confer with the State authorities with a view to having this law, which is an archaic relic of feudal barbarism, amended to provide for a monetary penalty, as in the case of other broken contracts, so that other persons may not be disgraced as this decent young man has been?
– I think that the honorable member refers to a case that I know fairly well. Briefly, the man in question was convicted under the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act, which has nothing to do with the Department of Immigration. Under the provisions of that act, he was arrested and gaoled.
– It is a confounded shame.
– Tha t is not for me to say, because it is nothing to do with the Department of Immigration. With respect to deportation proceedings, for some ten years there has been an agreement between the Australian Government and the British shipowners.
– The Labour Government entered into it. It stipulates that if a seaman deserts from a British ship in Australia, and the shipping company requests that he be sent back in one of its vessels, we shall send him back.
– That is perfectly right.
– That is correct. Those are the circumstances in the present case. It should not be thought that there is anything against the young man concerned except the fact that he deserted from a ship. It is a rather complex question. In the United Kingdom, there is a somewhat long term of military service. In this instance, the man had done his military service, but the general practice is that a young man’s term at sea is accepted as part of his national service training, or whatever the term is in Britain. Therefore, if a man deserts his ship in Australia, he is getting out of his obligations under the national service training provisions in Britain. Also, desertions in Australia would delay the return of British ships to the United Kingdom.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Minister take immediate action to provide employment for the growing number of jobless in Australia? My question relates particularly to the plight of more than 1,000 good citizens in my electorate who are without work. I ask the Minister to treat this question as one of the utmost urgency, because the unemployment payment is deplorably inadequate.
– The question hardly appears to be one for information from me, but I will say this to the honorable member: The Government is justifiably proud of a record of employment which has not been bettered by any government in any industrialized country in the free world. That situation has obtained substantially throughout the long term of office of this Government and while we are in office we shall so contrive to order our affairs and the development of this country as to provide ample work opportunities for our people. It is not always practicable to ensure that at any given point of time labour supply and demand will be neatly balanced on the razor’s edge. For most of this Government’s term of office, there has been an excess of demand for labour rather than an under-supply of jobs. At the moment, partly due to seasonal and other factors, there is some unemployment. No one attempts to deny that fact, but it would be both stupid and, I suggest, mischievous to exaggerate the fact, because nothing can prejudice the prospects of employment in industry more than panic statements about the state of this country’s economy and the level of employment. The truth is that there are slightly more than 20,000 people receiving the unemployment benefit - roughly one-half of 1 per cent, of the work force of this country. The Government had all these considerations in mind at the recent Loan Council meeting when it made allocations to the State governments for their works programmes. It has had these considerations in mind while the discussions on the budget have been proceeding. If the honorable gentleman will be patient for another week he will see outlined by the Treasurer a series of measures which we believe will correct the immediate position and lay the foundations for steady progress in the future.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Trade regarding the French exchange system. In view of the fact that France is Australia’s third best customer will the Minister tell the House what effect the new French exchange system will have upon trade between Australia and France? Is it also the intention of the French Government to continue its subsidies on the export of wheat and flour?
– I am not equipped to answer the question in complete detail, but my understanding of the position is that the French Government, with a balance of payments problem, has introduced what amounts to two different rates of exchange applicable to certain commodities in certain directions of trade. The intention is, and I am sure the results will be, to stimulate and encourage exports from France without at the same time placing any obstacle upon the imports into France of those commodities which are essential to the preservation of French industry. This seems to indicate that there will be an encouragement of certain items of export from France to Australia, and that no obstacle will be raised to purchases by France in Australia of wool and sheepskins, which are her principal purchases here. On the other hand, we have had the experience in recent years of being troubled in some of our export markets, particularly for flour, by the subsidies that the French Government has paid on the export of French flour. To the extent that the change from the system of subsidies on flour to this multiple exchange rate gives French flour a stronger competitive position on the overseas market than it had under the previous subsidy arrangement, that would, of course, be disadvantageous to the Australian flour industry. I am not in a position to measure exactly what the outcome of that might be, but I am quite conscious of what the consequences could be in certain circumstances. Our position is being carefully watched, and, if necessary, our point of view will be put.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Will the right honorable gentleman make arrangements to pay any increase that might be granted in the budget to pensioners from the date on which the budget is introduced? Will he also consider paying age and invalid pensions weekly instead of fortnightly as at present?
– The answers to the points raised by the honorable gentleman will be given in the budget, which will be introduced a week from to-night.
– In directing a question to the Prime Minister, I refer to the forthcoming visit of Her Majesty the Queen Mother next February, the prospect of which gives such joy to us all. In submitting an itinerary to Her Majesty, will the right honorable gentleman suggest that some part of her time be spent in South Australia, where a reception awaits her unexcelled by any other part of this country?
– I appreciate the honorable member’s point of view in this matter, but without at this stage saying “ Yes “ or “ No “ in answer to the question, I want to say that Her Majesty will be here for only a fortnight. I have no desire, nor would honorable members have any desire, to make that fortnight an incessant round of obligations over a vast area. That cannot be done. Indeed, I think this is an opportunity for us to show that we can enjoy a royal visit without making it completely arduous or trying to cover too much ground. The matter of the Queen’s itinerary and the places she will visit are under discussion and will be for some little time. There must be due intervals for Her Majesty to have some rest and some enjoyment. Those matters remain to be decided, but the honorable member’s representations will not be overlooked.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has any decision been made to build a new Government Printing Office at Canberra to replace the existing building which, with increased staff, is lacking in amenities? If such a proposal has been adopted, can the right honorable gentleman say when the new building will be commenced? If no such decision has been made will he have an investigation made of the amenities at present available to employees at the Government Printing Office, and have them brought to a proper and adequate standard?
– I shall obtain what information I can, and convey it to the honorable gentleman.
– by leave - I think the House and the country are well aware of the extent to which the Australian national well-being is interwoven with our experience in exports from this country and imports to this country. Australia is a great international trader. In fact, notwithstanding that we have only 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 people here, Australia ranks eighth among the international traders of the world. We are constantly engaged in protecting our overseas trade, because it has become quite clear to all of us that there can be no continuing basis for prosperity and expansion in this country unless we have a healthy and expanding overseas trade. It was partly out of that thinking that the Department of Trade itself was created.
The Japanese market is a great and natural market for Australia. It is an expanding market. A country of 90,000,000 people with a rising standard of living provides a great opportunity to this country, an opportunity that we can only continue to enjoy if the Japanese themselves have an opportunity to trade in the world to an adequate extent. This treaty which has been negotiated by the Government is designed to contribute to the preservation of Australian prosperity and the avoidance of fluctuation in our economic experience, to provide stability in employment and stability of profits in commerce and in primary and secondary industries, to provide more strength to the base of our national development, and, among other things, to enable us to continue our immigration programme.
May I remind the House of the position in respect of the trading relationship between Australia and Japan before this trade treaty was concluded? In respect of Japanese exports to us there were no trade rules under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade governing the situation, because Australia had invoked its right, notwithstanding the admission of Japan to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, under section 35 of that treaty, to be free of the obligations of Gatt in respect of Japan. In consequence, Japanese exports to this country were admitted under the general tariff column of our tariff schedule. There are three columns in that schedule - the British preferential column, which remains untouched; the so-called most-favoured-nation column, which is a misnomer because it does not deal with a most-favoured nation but is the column which deals with all the countries of the world that are members of Gatt and which represent for us practically the whole of our trading partners; and the general tariff column, which is the column that applied to Japanese imports before this treaty was signed. In addition, there was practised a measure of discrimination in import licensing against Japanese imports, which I will explain more fully presently.
In respect of our exports to Japan, that country was a very heavy buyer indeed of our wool and barley. She bought some of our hard, high-protein wheat; she bought none of our soft wheat, or f.a.q. wheat, because the Japanese market for such wheat was being satisfied by the United States almost entirely under concessional and noncommercial terms. Japan bought, from time to time, a modest quantity of sugar from us. In short, there was no real pattern of trade between Australia and Japan. Therefore, the total picture of the trading relationship was for both countries one of considerable uncertainty and unpredictability. Now a treaty has been negotiated and signed. It is a very profitable treaty, indeed, for this country, and we hope that it will be a treaty of advantage to the Japanese. The period of the treaty is three years, firm. It is subject, thereafter, to termination on three months’ notice by either government, but it contains a provision that makes it capable of termination at any time upon disagreement between the two governments as to the successful operation of the treaty.
To summarize the treaty, Japan is still not entitled to application of the Gatt rules by Australia, but in relation to Australian exports to Japan we have gained very valuable arrangements. Our exports to Japan, from now forward, will be treated at least as favorably as those of other countries in connexion with tariffs, licensing, and the allocation of exchange. There are specific benefits. The treaty provides that for the next three years Japan will not impose a customs duty on Australian wool. It provides that Japan will not restrict the allocation of exchange for wool except if necessary for balance of payments reasons. It provides that of all the exchange made available for purchases of wool, 90 per cent, will be made available for the purchase of Australian wool. That does not mean that 90 per cent, will be spent on Australian wool but that 90 per cent, will be made available to Japanese wool buyers for the purchase of Australian wool.
The treaty also guarantees our continued access to the high protein wheat market in Japan. It contains a very valuable new provision ensuring access for our f.a.q. wheat to the Japanese market. The treaty provides that Australia will have equal access with other countries in respect of 40 per cent, of Japanese imports of sugar, provided that our price and qualities are competitive, the other 60 per cent, being committed under other treaties oy Japan. That provision will give us access to a market which totals half a million tons a year. The treaty ensures access to the Japanese market for a quantity of barley equal to 30 per cent, of the normal annual imports of barley by Japan. That really safeguards the position that we have been enjoying for some years past, Japan being our principal buyer of barley.
The treaty provides for continued access for Australian butter, cheese, beef and a variety of items of that kind, of which we have sold modest quantities to Japan. The treaty provides for a new and assured access to the Japanese market for a number of other items such as beef tallow, skim milk and dried vine fruits - a number of items which, in total, are quite important. That is the range, quickly stated, of advantages which Australia has gained. I shall turn back to them in more detail later.
There is, of course, a balancing arrangement - the Japanese advantages under the treaty. In this respect, the treaty provides that the Japanese will have the same trading basis with us for the future as other foreign countries have. In licensing, it will enjoy the same treatment as other non-dollar countries, and in tariff treatment it will now come under the most-favoured-nation column; that is, it will come into the same tariff situation in relation to Australia as practically all other foreign countries in the world. There are the usual reservations that are contained in a treaty of this kind to the effect that either country can invoke restrictions against the other’s trade for the purpose of preserving the overseas balances of the country concerned. In addition, the treaty provides that the Australian Government will, before the end of the first three years’ term, enter into discussions with the Japanese Government with a view to exploring the possibility and examining the basis of applying Gatt between the two countries. In short, the three-year period will serve as a basis of experience in our trading relationships upon which we engage to have discussions with the Japanese and, in good faith, to consider whether it is possible and practicable for us to admit Japan to Gatt.
I have said that Japan, under this treaty, is put on the same trading basis as other countries. There is a reservation to that provision. There are certain highly important safeguarding provisions which are designed to protect Australian secondary industries. These provisions cover certain arrangements by the Japanese Government which have been accepted by Japanese industry. The provisions also cover certain reservations in connexion with our own actions. The Japanese Government agrees, within the treaty, that Japan’s export trade to Australia will be conducted in an orderly manner so as to avoid serious damage to Australian industry. The Japanese Government engages to use its best endeavours to see that an appropriate restraint is exercised in exports to Australia in order to ensure that Australian industry is not seriously damaged.
If, in the opinion of the Australian Government, restraint at the Japanese end is ineffective and Japanese goods cause, or are likely to cause, serious damage to Australian industry, then, after notice in writing has been given to the Japanese authorities, and after an opportunity has been provided to consult as fully as circumstances permit, special action to safeguard Australian industry may be taken by the Australian Government. In effect, the agreement is so framed that, if no other remedy can be found, or if it cannot be found in time, this Government is free to impose special or emergency duties or special import quotas against Japanese goods. Consultation is required, but, in an urgent case, there need be no delay. This is understood and recorded by both Governments.
Why should we have such an agreement? Why do we consider it desirable to negotiate one? Our objective, as I have said, is to avoid sudden disruption in our trade with this, our second most important customer. Our objective is to consolidate our existing trade and to get additional trade opportunities. Japan, indeed, has become so important to Australia as a trader that, frankly, our economy would be vulnerable to any serious fluctuations in our trade with that country. We had a recent example of that kind of thing with the Philippines. We had a trade mission there which succeeded in doing some very useful trade in flour. Because we had no trade treaty with the Philippines, almost before our people were home the Philippines had made an alteration in their tariff arrangements that almost nullified the trade opportunity that had been secured in that commodity. That is an example of what can happen to trade when there is no contractual arrangement between governments.
Surely it is clear to every one in this country that a serious interruption to our wool trade would affect the economy of the whole country and not merely the woolgrowers. In the past five years Japan has bought from us £425,000,000 worth of our produce. During that period Australia has bought from Japan £65,000,000 worth of products, and the disparity that is revealed there is growing. Last year, for instance, Japan bought £139,000,000 worth of our produce and we bought in return £12,900,000 worth of Japanese produce.
The whole Australian economy is concerned to avoid recurring balance of payments problems. Even secondary industries are very much concerned to see that our economy is preserved sound in respect of export earnings, a matter to which I shall turn a little later. Our Australian factories depend, to a very important degree, on imports. It has been estimated that 75 per cent, of the entire imports into Australia in recent times have gone directly, or indirectly, into Australian manufacture, although that percentage is somewhat arguable. I have heard it argued that the correct figure is more than 80 per cent., according to the classification of certain items.
– Is that imports from Japan?
– No, of course not. Manufacturers themselves appreciate this point very well indeed, but although they appreciate it with complete clarity, I am bound to say that there are some manufacturers who close their eyes to what it is necessary to do in order to secure continuation of the wherewithal to pay for those imports which are so essential to their own operations.
It has been said, of course, that the more you manufacture the less you need to import. There is no instance in history which substantiates that argument. The history of the industrial growth of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the United States of America, Japan and Australia shows, in each instance, that the more a country industrializes the more it needs to import. So, although we are producing more here, there is no escape from our need to earn continuing and increasing overseas income.
I am bound to point out, Mr. Speaker, that if we had no treaty with Japan; if we continued to exclude Japan from the entitlements of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; if Japan had a growing balance of payments problem of her own, such as has recently shown up; if we continued to discriminate in relation to tariffs and licensing against so good a customer, giving rise to a widening disparity in our trade, then in the total of those circumstances, any reasonable person would recognize that Japan would have every reason, in her own eyes, and in the light of world opinion, to feel entitled to take direct retaliatory action against us - action not unknown in world trade - to force our hand. Alternatively, she could turn to other markets and bargain for the purchase of wheat, barley and wool in consideration of those other markets engaging to buy from her. So, frankly, we must avoid grounds for grievance.
While this is a commercial treaty, J feel that it is in context to remind ourselves that this country and Japan are two Pacific nations. Here we have a state of affairs in which 90,000,000 Japanese, a modern industrial community, are forced to exist within a small group of islands. They must import food and raw materials and, like the United Kingdom in a similar situation, they must export to survive. Unjustifiable obstacles to trading would be bitterly resented. We must keep the future in mind. The agreement is prudent, in our interests, as a commercial arrangement, and it is certainly prudent, in our interests, viewed in the light of the long-term relations of these two Pacific powers. Tn the end result, both can gain advantage from the treaty that has been negotiated. But the agreement, on examination, has shown itself to be good for the Australian economy. It is certainly good for the Australian export industries. It will be good, too. for Australian consumers. It is good for the Australian trading community, and it is good as a contribution to continued peaceful existence in this part of the world.
Having said that, I may add quite frankly that there is one section of the Australian community - a certain limited section of manufacturers and their employees - which is, I concede immediately, justified in expressing concern at unrestricted Japanese competition. But there will not be unrestricted Japanese competition. I shall show that most adequate safeguards have been provided. For the moment, however, I wish to deal in a little more detail with the advantages for Australia of our exports under this agreement.
For us, the most-favoured-nation classification in the Japanese tariff, which we achieve, is itself not so important as are the Japanese engagements in respect of exchange allocation for the purchase of Australian produce. In respect of some of these products, such as wheat, barley and sugar, the purchases by the Japanese state trading agencies will be highly important. Let me turn to these item for item. Our dominant interest, of course, is wool. There is great advantage to this country in having, with so big a buyer of wool, a contractual arrangement which provides that no import duty will be imposed for a three-year period, and there is a tremendous advantage to us in the contractual commitment that, of all wool exchange allotted, 90 per cent, will be available for the purchase of Australian wool, and that Japan will not restrict the allocation of exchange for the purchase of wool unless driven to it by balance of payments necessity. If Japan encounters a balance of payments problem this treaty will require her to deal with it through exchange allocation. She could deal with it in other ways. She could, for instance, deal with it by imposing a customs duty on an item such as wool, of which four-fifths of all her imports are used domestically and only one-fifth reexported. When a country has balance of payments problems it naturally thinks, amongst other things, of temporarily depriving its own citizens of some imported items, and so the imposition of a customs duty could be employed by the Japanese in such a situation. That automatically would reduce the buying limits of Japanese buyers in the Australian wool auction rooms, with a consequential effect on the sale of our entire clip. That kind of danger is avoided by this treaty.
Japan, as I sought to point out just now, is in a rather different classification from most of the other important buyers of our wool. Britain, Italy, Belgium and France buy our wool very largely for fabrication and re-export and are, therefore, bound to come into our market. Japan buys our wool predominantly for her own domestic use and to that extent is not under the same compulsion to come and buy here. She could withdraw. So these commitments of the Japanese Government in respect of wool are of immense value to this country.
Turning to our second most important export item, wheat, Japan is a natural market. The annual imports of wheat into Japan total about 80,000,000 bushels. We have sold some high protein quality wheat, but since the war we have sold virtually no f.a.q. wheat at all because of the greater advantage to Japan of accepting or buying American soft wheat. Because of the importance that Australia attached to obtaining an assured competitive outlet in Japan for soft wheat, the agreed minutes attached to the treaty specifically provide that in the event that our competitors in the Japanese market resort to transactions not conforming with normal fair trade or commercial practice, the Japanese Government will take steps to ensure that our soft wheat is given an equitable share of the Japanese market; and secondly, without limiting what this equitable share shall be, the agreed minutes specifically record an understanding of the two governments, completely confirmed in my discussions in Japan, that it shall be not less than 7,000,000 to 8,000,000 bushels of f.a.q. wheat per annum, even in the early stages of the agreement, and, moreover, that it will have a yearly increasing trend.
This assurance is entirely additional to continued sales of what high protein wheat we have available for offer. We grow that quality wheat only in Queensland and northern New South Wales.
– How much would we get for that wheat?
– We would get the prevailing market price. Immediately following the signing of the treaty, the Australian Wheat Board sent a mission to Japan and within days the Japanese bought, through that mission of the wheat board, 2,250,000 bushels of f.a.q. wheat. That was the first sale we had made since the war. Sir John Teasdale, the chairman of the Australian V/heat Board, on his return to Australia said that as a result of the agreement, Japan could buy 18,000,000 bushels a year and become Australia’s second most import wheat buyer. That is already a result from that mission and a prospect of great value, under the treaty, for our export earnings from wheat.
The Japanese are engaged in a series of multi-lateral and bi-lateral arrangements with other countries concerning the purchase of sugar. It has commitments with Formosa, Cuba, Indonesia and the Philippines which cover about 60 per cent, of
Japan’s average importations of sugar. Consequently, there remains only 40 per cent, of the market to which access could be gained. But that 40 per cent, is equal to 500,000 tons of sugar a year. Over the last five years we have sold to Japan a total of 185,000 tons of sugar. Now, the treaty provides that we shall be assured of equal access with any other country to that uncommitted 40 per cent, of the Japanese sugar market. As I have just said, that represents a total of 500,000 tons a year that we could go after. Just before the signing of this treaty - but certainly in the spirit of the treaty - the Japanese bought 100,000 tons of sugar, representing a value of about £6,000,000. That was again a tremendous early achievement arising out of these negotiations and a most valuable prospect of consolidating the sugar industry and the total of Australia’s export earnings.
As I said before, there are other items in respect of which new contractual concessions have been achieved. We are to have access to the Japanese market, equal to that of other countries, for beef tallow, cattle hides, skim milk, dried vine fruits and a number of other items. There, in total, is a category of great advantage to us. There are, of course, balancing arrangements in our engagements in respect of Japanese trade. Speaking now of Japanese exports to Australia, under the treaty the British preferential provision in this market is, of course, completely untouched. That stands. But Japan now has equal tariff treatment with other foreign suppliers, and all import licences issued here for use in non-dollar countries will be available as much for use in Japan as for use in other sterling and non-dollar areas. That, generally, states the broad concession. I reminded the House a little earlier that there is a safeguard reservation.
But I should point out here that this change in putting Japanese imports into a different tariff schedule and the abolition of normal discrimination in licensing is not, in fact, so dramatic a change as has been painted by many. The treaty does not add £1 to Australia’s commitments to import. Australia imports to a ceiling fixed by the Government in accordance with its overseas reserves and the trends of our trade. This treaty does not add £1 to that ceiling. Under the treaty, Japan cannot, of itself, send goods to Australia. Goods can come here only if they are ordered by an Australian licence holder. Australian imports from Japan have, in fact, been falling in recent years. Two years ago they totalled £23,000,000; last year they were rather less than £13,000,000. Under the treaty, Japanese imports become dutiable under the most-favoured-nation tariff; previously they were dutiable under the general tariff.
The effect of this change to a different schedule ranges from no change at all to fairly significant changes in only a relatively few cases. Licensing discrimination has been practised since 1954 against 36 categories of imports from Japan. In that year licensing discrimination was removed against all other imports from Japan. But although it has been applied to only 36 category items - I do not wish to understate the fact - that, nevertheless, involved items covering about half of our total imports from Japan last year. Some of those items are quite important to Australian industry. But on the other hand, even in the textile field, there is a very considerable number of items against which we have not discriminated during the last three years. For example, there has been no licensing discrimination whatever against Japanese woollen textiles during the last three years. However, as I have said, there are special provisions for the protection of Australian industry against a damaging inflow of lowpriced Japanese goods. The necessity for that fact has never been overlooked at any stage of the negotiations, because this clearly touches one of the highest responsibilities of any Australian government - to see that there must not be a dislocation of important Australian industries. There is no danger whatever that this treaty will cause serious damage. There is no doubt whatever that we are completely equipped to see that that does not occur.
– What is the Minister’s interpretation of “ serious damage “?
– It is a sensible man’s interpretation.
– Give us your interpretation of it.
– There are two safeguards. One is the safeguard about which, I am sorry to say, there has been some sneering. I hope there will not be any more. There could be some doubt, but I hope no more sneers. I refer to the safeguard represented in the engagement of i&e Japanese Government and Japanese industry to exercise restraint in exports to Australia. The purpose of that safeguard is to see that from that end damage <to Australian industry does not occur. At the Australian end, as I said earlier, we retain the right freely to impose emergency duties, and also the right to impose special import quotas for the protection of Australian industry. The agreement recognizes the right of the Australian Government to act on those lines; it acknowledges 4he right of the Government to suspend - in the words of the treaty - its obligations under the agreement. 1 say frankly, however, that we must bear in mind that this is to be done within a proper interpretation of the spirit of the agreement. We must consider reasonably the spirit of the agreement and not think only of our ultimate legal rights. We would not be interpreting the agreement, and our rights under it, in good faith if we invoked these emergency sections regardless of whether a problem in industry did, in fact, Stem from Japanese trade and from the terms of the treaty. It is clear that the Japanese Government is entitled to be consulted before emergency action of this kind is taken, and, in fact, as soon as emergency action is contemplated by the Australian Government. Because of certain arrangements that have been made, both in Australia and at the Japanese end, by which prior warning will be given of what might turn out to be a damaging inflow of Japanese goods touching Australian industries sensitive to that kind of competition, we feel confident that the necessity to take extreme action under our emergency powers will not arise. But consultation, which, as I say, is provided for, does not necessarily imply such delay as would negative the result of the action when taken. The action can, in fact, in an emergency, be taken after notification in writing has been given to the representative of the Japanese Government here, and the Japanese Government clearly acknowledges that we have that right of expeditious action if we exercise it because of need and in good faith.
Many fears have been expressed by Australian manufacturers, based largely upon completely inaccurate statements of what is in the treaty. I do not propose to recount the long list of grossly inaccurate statements that have been made by various persons in this regard. It is important to understand the background of these negotiations, as they relate to Australian manufacturers. There was no secrecy about our intention to negotiate this treaty. We cannot carry through all our negotiations in public places, but many public statements were made by me and by other representatives of the Government last year, to the effect that we were engaging in negotiations with Japan, with a treaty of this kind as the end objective. Just a year ago, I explicitly invited representatives of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, and the National Farmers Union separately to meet me and senior officers of the Department of Trade, so that I could explain to those Australian interests exactly what the Australian Government had in mind. I direct particular attention to the fact that this invitation was extended to the representatives of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia.
The essence of the explanation that was given to those bodies was that we were contemplating an arrangement based upon mutual most-favoured-nation treatment by each country of the other’s goods. I stated then to those who were sufficiently interested to meet me that the Government ai that time recognized that, unless there were associated safeguards, this arrangement could, and indeed would, produce problems for some Australian industries, notably for some sections of the Australian textile industry. But the negotiations from the outset were conducted on the understanding, first, that there would be restraint at the Japanese end, as has been practised by the Japanese in their trade with Canada over a period of three years, and, secondly, that there would be awareness on the part of the Japanese that before the negotiations took place this Parliament would, as in fact it did, on the invitation of the Government amend the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act for the purpose of enabling the Government, if necessary, by quite arbitrary decision and without delay, to take safeguarding action in the interests of Australian industry - quite arbitrary and prompt action, without reference to the Tariff Board.
I explained those matters and invited constructive suggestions, over a period of many months, from various sections of
Australian industry. Some little time before the treaty was negotiated I met a deputation from a section of the Australian textile industry entitled to feel sensititve to Japanese competition, the Cotton and Rayon Spinners and Weavers Association. 1 am glad to say that when that deputation met me there were with it the president and the secretary of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. The meeting took place before I went to Japan and before the final stages of the negotiations in connexion with the treaty. We made a thorough examination of what mutual most-favoured-nation treatment would mean for Australian industry. We had a very full discussion of that matter.
I am bound to say - and I say it without heat - that certain statements that have been made by sections of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia since the treaty has been signed could only lead, if taken at face value, to the conclusion that in the view of that association t here never should have been a Japanese trade treaty. I do not wish to engender any heat, but I must say that the members of the association had ample opportunity to make those statements before the treaty was signed. They did not do so, and I can conclude only that those responsible persons recognized that certain things implicit in this arrangement were so good and so necessary for the Australian economy that they would not be acting in the overall Australian interest if they took the stand that there should be no treaty of this kind.
– Depending upon what was in the treaty.
– But they were told. I want to say to the House and to the people what I have been saying to various representatives of Australian industry. Let us put an end to shouting at each other from a distance. Let us sit around the table and discuss the needs of sensitive sections of Australian industry. Let us examine quite closely the equipment that the Australian Government has armed itself with to protect Australian interests. Let us see to what extent there can be continuous consultation, so that in the end we may achieve the objective that the manufacurers and the Government desire - that is, that no serious damage to any Australian industry will flow from this agreement. In recent days, I have been offering this kind of consultation to section after section of Australian industry, and I believe it will have the useful result that I have predicted. But I do say that it is clear already that there has been a wrong assessment of what is implicit in the treaty for some sections of Australian industry. In this regard, no section of Australian industry has been more vocal, as I think every honorable member of this House will know, than the Australian Woollen and Worsted Textile Association, but a close examination of the facts, of this treaty of trade and of the circumstances of that industry, would put that aspect of predicted danger into a much better perspective and show that there are really no grounds for the fears expressed by that industry in its appeal to the public and to the members of the Government.
Let me give some relevant facts. Since 1 954, there has been no licensing discrimination against the importation of woollens from Japan. Any licence to import from a non-dollar area was completely and fully valid for the importation of goods from Japan. Duties on woollens under the general tariff from Japan, in some cases, have not been altered by this treaty. The general rate, and the most-favoured-nation rate turn out much the same. In others, they have been lowered, but not drastically lowered by this treaty. So I can say, without any gross exaggeration, that the treaty has not really altered importantly the position of the Australian woollen and worsted industry as against Japanese imports as it has existed over the last three years.
What has occurred in the situation over the last three years? There is a variety of items of woollen textiles. The most basic one is wool tops. There have been no importations whatever of wool tops into Australia from Japan not merely over that three-year period, but since 1949.
The next item, ascending the scale of manufacture, is woollen yarns. It is in exactly the same position. There has been no discrimination and there is very little tariff change under this treaty. Again, there have been no importations whatever of woollen yarns from Japan into this country in recent years.
Move now to the third woollen textile item in our tariff. I refer to blankets. In the last five years, with no discrimination against Japan for three of those five years, the total importations of blankets from all sources in the world represent about 3 per cent, of the total Australian market. During that period, the importations of woollen blankets from Japan have been absolutely negligible. Last year, their total value was £342. And this is the industry which says it will be destroyed by the Japanese trade treaty!
Now take the main item of all woollens - woollen piece goods. This includes all piece goods, even those containing as little as 2 per cent, of wool. Here are the facts relating to that item over the last three years. With no discrimination against Japan, the total importations into Australia during that period amounted to £5,000,000 worth, and of that amount only £2,000 worth was imported from Japan. Last year, the total importation of woollen piece goods into this country was £1,000,000 worth. Of that amount, £500 worth came from Japan, and there was no licensing discrimination against Japan. For this calendar year, we have issued licences for the importation of £900,000 worth of woollen piece goods, and so far this year applications have been made for licences to import a total of only £1,000 worth from Japan.
Let us put it another way. Over the last three years, the total Australian market for woollen piece goods has equalled 94,000,000 square yards and of that total market of 94,000,000 square yards only 6,000,000 square yards has been imported from the whole outside world, thus leaving 88,000,000 square yards to the Australian industry. In that period, importations of woollen piece goods from Japan have been absolutely microscopic. I know the honorable member for East Sydney, who is interjecting, may not have enjoyed hearing that statement, for it destroys the force of some of the things which he intended to say. I am equally sure that some other industries have made a wrong assessment of what they believe to be the dangers for them under this treaty, but that is not to be taken as a suggestion by me that there is no danger in unrestricted Japanese importations. On the contrary, as I have said several times, we have recognized that danger from the very outset. It explains the comprehensive provisions that we have negotiated with the Japanese at their end and provided for in legislation and administrative arrangements at this end, and it gives me confidence to believe that I can meet the various sections of Australian industry across a table, not in a shouting match across the air, and satisfy them that we have the means, the equipment and the foresight to look after their interests.
– Will the Minister contrast those figures with the estimates for the next five years or even the next three years?
– No. I would be completely unable to predict that.
– But we must compare it with the probable future.
– What will transpire will depend upon the demands of the Australian community, and the resources of Australia in exchange. They will govern what action may be taken if those demands generate problems for any section of Australian industry. They will determine what action may be taken at the Japanese end and by the Australian Government to safeguard the particular industries concerned. As I have said for this Government, we regard ourselves as having no higher responsibility to the people of this country than to see to it that serious unemployment never occurs here. That is our record, and that is our intention.
– What does the Minister anticipate will be the value of goods that will come into this country within a period of three years?
– I could not anticipate that. I have just answered that very question. One can only form some opinion by looking backwards at the trends of trade, and I have been quoting figures relating to that aspect.
Australia is now a completely modern industrial State. To-day, I believe, we are facing a new phase of world competition for our industry. World competition is becoming sharper, and there is some glimmering hope of the passing of the necessity and justification for our maintaining import licensing with the rigidity that we have experienced in recent times. The truth is - and I say this quite deliberately - that if import licensing were suddenly to go, this Government would be better equipped to protect Australian industry against damaging competition from Japan than it would be to protect it against competition from British and European sources where the mechanisms would prove to be rather slower; and I think that it would be useful if Australian industry were to recognize that it is not about to be blasted by Japanese competition under this treaty. As I have said, I do not wish to mislead any one. I cannot guarantee that no one in this country will experience some breeze of Japanese competition, but whatever breeze of Japanese competition troubles any one here, it will carry commensurate advantages to Australian consumers. As I have said before, surely some regard has to be paid to the Australian consuming public. I shall not carry my re-assurance beyond the extent to which 1 feel confident to guarantee it. However, if Australian industry accepts section by section the offer that I have been making recently for industry consultation with myself or, better still, with senior officials of the Department of Trade, who necessarily are better equipped on details than I am, though I will be present to speak on the policy side, we can be sure that no real troubles will arise in important Australian industries. I have offered to arrange for senior officers to meet industry groups, but I point out that one conference is not enough to do this job; we need a continuing basis of consultation.
In addition to what has been provided as opportunity for the Government to act and in addition to the consultations that I have offered, the Government proposes to establish a special advisory authority to make recommendations to the minister responsible for the protection of Australian industry. The authority would have the benefit of both industry and departmental facts and would recommend to the Minister when special action was necessary and the measure of that action. I propose to invite the chambers of manufactures and chambers of commerce to discuss with me the form the advisory authority should take.
To sum up, this treaty protects Australian exports to Japan and provides an opportunity for the expansion of our exports. Subject to very definite safeguards inserted to protect Australian industry, Japan is given the same trading basis as other foreign countries enjoy. The experience of this arrangement will dictate how long it will continue and its form in the future. The treaty contemplates that it shall continue for three years and thereafter be subject to termination on three months’ notice by either party. The treaty also contains a right of termination if either government finds the treaty unsatisfactory. The Commonwealth Government has done something that is good for the Australian economy and has adequately safeguarded Australian industry. It now looks for co-operation to be extended by interested parties in good faith in what is an important matter. The treaty is clearly of extreme importance to the economy of this country and it is imperative that it should operate with complete success to all sections.
Some people in good faith, and others with less admirable motives, have declaimed that this country will soon be flooded with cheap Japanese goods and that Australian labour and industry will be displaced. I say to the political opponents of the Government and to others outside that I can think of no more fruitful means of producing dislocation in Australian industries and factories and the cessation of orders than the continuance of a campaign declaring that Australia will soon be flooded with cheap goods. I hope that the dangers of such a course will soon be recognized and that all concerned will co-operate in fostering the future well-being of our country. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Agreement on Commerce between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan, signed on 6th- July, 1957. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill 1957. Public Service Bill 1957.
High Commissioner (United Kingdom) Bill 1957.
Papua and New Guinea Bill 1957. National Service Bill 1957. Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1956-57. Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No.
Supply Bill 1957-58.
Supply (Works and Services) Bill 1957-58. Wheat Tax Bill 1957. Wheat Research Bill 1957. Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1957. Wool Tax Bill (No. 2) 1957. Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1957. Wool Research Bill 1957. Wool Use Promotion Bill 1957. Norfolk Island Ordinances Bill 1957. Norfolk Island Bill 1957. Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1957. Dairying Industry Bill 1957.
Flax Fibre Bounty Bill 1957. Explosives Bill 1957.
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill 1957.
Australian Antarctic Territory Bill 1957.
Heard Island and McDonald Islands Bill 1957.
Customs Bill 1957.
Debate resumed from 22nd May (vide page 1754, vol. H. of R. 15), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill provides for the establishment of the Australian Wool Testing Authority, and lays down the constitution of the authority, its functions, the method by which it shall be administered, the way in which it shall be financed and so on. A very important provision is clause 14, which says that the functions of the authority are to carry out tests of wool and wool products being the subject of trade and commerce with other countries or among the States, including tests for the purpose of ascertaining the conditioned weight of wool and wool products, by agreement with persons desiring those tests; to establish, maintain and operate facilities in Australia for carrying out tests of wool and wool products; and to issue certificates in respect of tests carried out by the authority.
This is a most important measure and the Opposition is pleased to support it. It is long overdue and will do much to improve Australia’s trade in wool with other countries. The purpose of the bill is very wide. In the sale of wool, particularly treated wool such as carbonized, scoured and other types, an allowance is made for moisture content. Frequently, differences of opinion arise between buyers in this country and the persons to whom they send wool, and sometimes buyers suffer considerable losses because the weight is disputed when the wool arrives at its destination. In the scouring or carbonizing process some wools dry out more than others and the moisture content varies very much indeed. There is an internationally accepted standard of moisture content. It is only natural to assume that, if we ship wool abroad in a drier condition than is re quired in accordance with the standard, we receive less money for it than we should otherwise do.
This legislation will serve two purposes. First, it will prevent losses to the buyer and shipper of the product and, secondly, it will bring greater revenue to Australia. The Minister estimated that this could amount to at least £1,000.000 a year. Wool buyers, brokers, scourers, carbonizers, fellmongers and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have strongly supported, for a very long time, the introduction of legislation of this kind. Organizations of the type proposed to be set up are already in existence in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and other countries. As Australia is one of the world’s greatest wool producers, and the world’s prime shipper of wool, such an organization is especially needed here. We stand to lose more than does any other country from disputes over the value and weight of wool. For that reason the introduction of this measure represents a very important step.
As the Minister has pointed out, the Central Wool Committee, which controlled the sale of Australian wool during the war, brought down a report in 1942 stating that -
Honorable members will appreciate that substantial savings could thereby result to both the wool sellers and the nation. Apart from that, these improvements should end the wrangles that have taken place in the past. In America, I understand, a highly technical system of examining wool samples is employed. When wool is delivered it is compared with samples already tested in that country. If it does not measure up to sample the buyers are required to make substantial refunds to offset the differences in weight and composition. Frequently, too, American firms refuse to accept wool because its texture and quality do not measure up to sample.
I understand that, in the initial stages, the proposed organization will be principally concerned with moisture content - the actual yield - of carbonized and hydrogen scoured wool and that later it will go more fully into the testing of wool and wool products in order to coveT the field more widely and operate to even greater advantage.
It is important that the standards of the proposed organization should be accepted by existing international bodies of a similar kind. Its creation would serve no good purpose if its certificates were not acceptable in other countries. I am pleased to note that wide discussion has taken place between the Government’s representatives, the International Wool Textile Organization, and the British Wool Federation, and that these bodies have agreed to accept the certificates that are to be supplied by the Australian organization. That is the only basis on which the scheme can operate successfully.
Australia is one of the world’s main woolproducing countries and, as is often said, we should set about establishing a vast secondary industry based on that product. Far greater employment should be provided in the carbonizing and scouring of wool, the making of tops and generally treating wool. In this way we could add considerably to the value of our exports. I understand that such treatment adds about 30 per cent, to the value of raw wool. Honorable members will appreciate that if this percentage can be added to a considerable portion of our wool cheque, our trade balances will improve substantially. In this way, we can improve our international trade position and improve the social and economic prospects of the people by giving them greater employment opportunities and consequently greater economic security.
Unfortunately, at present the wool carbonizing and scouring industry is facing difficulties. For some time it has been developing at rather a rapid pace. It is generally recognized that the Australian wool-grower turns out one of the best products in the world, but our prices must be competitive. I understand that the scouring and carbonizing plants can make substantial savings in treatment costs by working three shifts. It is estimated that treatment costs represent about 12d. per lb. on a three-shift basis, and 19d, per lb. on a one-shift basis. At pre sent, several mills are either closing down or restricting operations, and costs are going up accordingly.
Japan and other countries which havebeen buying substantial quantities of our carbonized and scoured wool are now making arrangements to treat the wool themselvesand to supply not only their own needs, but those of other nations as well. In this way, we are losing a substantial industry and a very fruitful source of employment. Sometime ago, I warned the Government of what was taking place, and asked that concessionsbe granted so that the industry might be maintained on a sound basis. However, the Government has been so dilatory in acting that a considerable portion of that trade hasalready been lost. I am hopeful that, in the very near future, something will be done to win it back again.
Japan is moving into the carbonizing and scouring field, and undertaking the production of wool tops, and has prospects of supplying other countries on a very large scale. During the last twelve months, continental China purchased about £3,000,000 worth of wool tops from Australia, and we have an opportunity to increase our business with that country. However, the Japanese are making arrangements to purchase our raw wool and to treat it with a view to selling it to China. Our trade with China has been improving during the last twelve months, and could improve very considerably in the near future, but unless we do something we are likely to lose much of it. Wool is very important to both the economic and social life of the people of Australia, and we should be more alert to deal with these problems as they arise, instead of allowing them to linger on and to ruin good trade that Australia has established with other countries and should be improving. We should not allow the wool industry to be ruined as it is being ruined at present. Wool has been the chief stand-by of the Australian economy for many years. Earlier in the evening we heard some mention of the problems of trade and the balance of payments. Wool is one of the most important factors in the solution of those problems. In the financial year 1956-57, Australia’s wool production totalled 1,565,000,000 lb. This was 11 per cent., or 155,000,000 lb. more than the record production of the previous financial year. That indicates how much the wool industry has improved with the passing of the years. Last financial year, 156,000,000 sheep and lambs were shorn. This was 15,000,000 more than in the previous financial year. It is estimated that a record total of 165,000,000 sheep and lambs will probably be shorn in the current financial year. These figures indicate the rapid rate at which the wool industry is developing. This rapid progress of so important an industry has a considerable influence on our balance of trade. The production of wool is now about one-third more than it was at the end of World War II., and the statistics that I have mentioned speak for themselves.
I cannot neglect the opportunity to direct the Government’s attention to one important factor. Although we on this side of the House agree with the principles of the bill and its objectives, and hope that it will be successful and that the Government will co-operate completely with the proposed Australian Wool Testing Authority in order to improve the marketing of this important product in other countries, we should like to point out that it is of no use to constitute such an authority in an effort to improve the quality and the marketing of wool, and to help the wool industry in a small way, while the Government restricts credit as it is now doing and hinders wool production throughout Australia.
– That is not so.
– It is so. Graziers in my electorate are being directed to hirepurchase establishments for finance because they cannot get it from the banks.
– That is not being done by the Government.
– lt is being done as a result of the Government’s policy. Reputable graziers are unable to obtain adequate finance from the banks, because this Government has laid down a restrictive financial policy.
– This Government does not lay down a policy that finance should be obtained from hire-purchase institutions.
– It is all very well for the Minister to deny that it is the result of Government policy. Those who know anything about this sphere of activity will know that what I am saying is correct. The present restrictions upon credit are the greatest that we have known for many years. Unless there is a substantial release of credit to enable people to obtain funds to improve their properties and to place their sons on the land, and thereby improve the quality of wool and increase the amount produced, Australia will not progress as it should. I repeat that it is of no use for the Government to say that it will help the wool industry in a small way by introducing a measure such as this, if, at the same time, it greatly restricts the development and progress of this important industry as it is doing through its credit restrictions. 1 conclude by saying that I wish the bill well. I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) will see that it is administered in a way that will help the wool industry, and that he will ensure that ihe things intended to be done in the terms of this measure are done quickly, because they are very much overdue. The sooner they are done the sooner we shall receive the benefit from them.
.- Unlike the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), I shall discuss the bill and not credit facilities, and I shall do so briefly. I am glad to hear from the honorable member that the Opposition supports this measure, and believes, as I do, that it will improve the marketing of wool overseas. Honorable members have asked a number of questions about the measure that should be answered. The first question is: Is it necessary to constitute a wool testing authority and wool conditioning houses ? I say that it is definitely necessary. Australia is the greatest producer and marketer of wool, and it has the best system in the world for the marketing of greasy wool. However, it is behind a number of other countries in its methods of marketing scoured wool. The United Kingdom has had a wool conditioning house at Bradford since 1891. New Zealand established one about seven years ago, and it has proved very successful. Other countries such as France and Belgium have similar establishments, and surely Australia, as the world’s greatest producer of fine wool, should have a wool conditioning house also. The honorable member for Darling mentioned the observations that were made by the Central Wool Committee in 1942. I am very glad indeed that those views have at last borne fruit and that wool conditioning houses are about to become a reality in Australia.
One of wool’s greatest assets is its capacity to absorb moisture. We know that it can absorb anything up to 20 per cent. of its weight in moisture without showing wetness. Therefore, estimates of the amount of moisture in scoured wool can be very inaccurate. Indeed, officers of the Department of Primary Industry and woolbuyers have told us that Australia has been losing a large sum annually because the moisture content of wool sold on the London market has not been accurately assessed before it left this country. I do not know whether there is an analogy between wool and milk, which also can absorb water. If one produces very high quality Jersey milk, he can add water to it to reduce the butter fat content to the lowest level permitted. Much the same sort of thing has been happening with respect to our wool. It has carried a considerable amount of moisture and we have not been able to determine exactly how much. Officers of the Department of Primary Industry estimate that, eventually, we shall be able to obtain an additional £1,000,000 from our export markets by assessing the moisture content of our wool accurately. I should like to hear from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) exactly how this figure was arrived at. I do not question the fact that there will be a considerable gain. If we can gain for Australia an additional £1,000,000 annually, the expenditure of £40,000 on wool conditioning houses will be very well worth while. Recently, China purchased a quantity of wool tops from us. However, it insisted on a certificate as to their quality, and they had to be sent to the New South Wales University of Technology in Sydney in order to obtain it. These things make it essential that we in Australia should establish wool conditioning houses immediately.
A second question asked by a number of honorable members is: Why cannot the industry do this for itself ? The honorable member for Darling and the Minister have explained that it is necessary for this work to be done by a statutory body controlled by some public authority, if the certificates are to be recognized and accepted. The certificates given by the New Zealand Department of Agriculture are accepted by the International Wool Textile Organization. The body we are setting up in Australia similarly will be recognized by the Inter national Wool Textile Organization and as a result certificates issued by it will be accepted anywhere in the world.
People want to know how much this will cost. The cost is minute. The establishment of the first two initial conditioning houses will involve £20,000 capital expenditure and £20,000 in running expenses until returns start to come in. The various authorities associated with the scheme estimate that within three years the £20,000 running expenses will be repaid and that within another two years - that is, at the end of five years - the whole of the capital outlay will be recouped. That will be possible because a charge will be made for every certificate issued. 1 was informed recently that the wool technology school of the Sydney University was paid £300 for a small amount of sampling. So it seems quite obvious that the money to be loaned for the setting up of these houses will be repaid in a very short time.
Another question that has been raised by some honorable members is whether the fact that these wool-conditioning houses are to be established in Sydney and Melbourne will affect the setting up of new areas for wool sales throughout Australia or will affect markets which are now wellestablished. The answer to that question is, “ No, it will have nothing to do with that “. The wool that goes to these conditioning houses will be samples taken from the stores. It will not matter whether those samples are taken in Melbourne, Albury, Goulburn, Brisbane or elsewhere. They will be put into small cellophane packets, so as to ensure that there will be no loss of moisture, and they will be air-freighted to the conditioning houses, where the tests will take place. The samples will be taken, no doubt, by the new American method of coring, by which a hollow drill bores into different parts of a bale and takes out even samples.
There is no doubt that this scheme is necessary, but it will not cost the Government a great amount of money because the loan will be repaid within a short time. The scheme will considerably improve the marketing of Australian wool abroad. It will deal first with scoured and carbonized wool but later extensions will include the clean yield of greasy wool, wool diameters, wool tops characteristics, yarn tensile strength and many other matters that are of great interest to us. This work, in conjunction with a lot of work which is to be carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on the shrink-proofing of wool, permanent pleating, improved scouring and carbonizing methods and moth-proofing, will make wool a far better product as a textile. In Australia we rely more on wool than on any other single commodity. For the reasons I have given, I congratulate the Minister on having introduced this legislation, and I commend it to the House.
*– The measure before the House is designed to enable us to take a step forward in increasing the efficiency of the wool industry of Australia, and I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) on having introduced it. The initial work was done by a very expert committee of wool buyers, brokers, scourers and carbonizers, representatives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and officers of the Department of Primary Industry.
I understand that the measure is designed to do away with what might be called the rule of thumb in determining certain factors Which affect the prices of certain consignments of wool. I recall a famous case many years ago which involved the expenditure of a considerable sum of money on litigation. A man who was looked upon as an expert valuer was taken to a certain bale of wool in a very big wool store. After valuing that bale, he was asked to value other bales of wool in the store and finally was brought back to the bale which he had originally valued. In the meantime, it had been shifted from its original position. As a result of that manoeuvre, he valued the bale on the second occasion at one-halfpenny per lb. less than on the first occasion. This new system will substantially, if not entirely, remove the factor of chance from valuations. I note mat this is to be a voluntary scheme. Nobody will be obliged to take part in it, but it is quite clear to me, at any rate, that it will offer distinct advantages to those who do participate, because the certificates issued by this body will receive the recognition of the International Wool Textile Organization.
The scope of the scheme, I notice, will be far wider than the provision of the services envisaged in the first stages. The authority, as a first step, will confine its activities to testing the moisture content of scoured and carbonized wool, but it is to be noted that as the scheme develops the authority will go further and will make tests to ascertain, among other things, the percentage of vegetable matter in wool. More than one-half of Australia’s wool has a vegetable content exceeding 3 per cent., but the residual matter allowable in scoured processed wool is 2 per cent, or less. If my memory serves me rightly, during the war a system was adopted for determining the content, not only of moisture, but also of residual substances which affect the determination of the value of wool. The operations of this authority which are ultimately envisaged will include tests to determine also the acidity or alkalinity of wool, factors which may affect buying and blending. Wool is facing competition from other fibres, particularly artificial fibres. If these things can be determined with scientific accuracy, the element of chance will be removed and buyers will be made aware of certain factors which affect the value of wool that they are buying. They will be given a clear indication of the purposes for which that wool can be most effectively used. So looking at the constitution of the body which is to deal with these questions I feel that this step is in the right direction. It was my privilege to visit Torridon, at Bradford, and to go very thoroughly through that institution. I saw its processes and the extent to which the wool textile delegation of Great Britain had carried out research for purposes of assisting the industry. I associate myself with this measure and I congratulate the Minister in bringing it before the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. R. W. Holt) adjourned.
Refusal of Residence Permit to Cypriot Immigrant - Deserter from British ship.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- At question time to-day the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) took the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) to task for what he regarded as an inhuman act in driving out of this country a British subject who had established himself here and observed the laws of the country. I desire to direct attention to a case not exactly identical, but showing the highhanded manner in which some of these matters are dealt with by departmental officers. I refer to a young man named Ali, who was born in Cyprus and who came to this country some twelve months ago, paying his own fare. After he had been here for some time, desiring to remain, he applied for a permit to remain in the country permanently. However, his application was rejected.
I took the matter up with the Minister in an endeavour to ascertain the reason why a British subject, who had paid his own fare to Australia, should be deported when there was nothing against him other than the fact that he was in the country without permission. It was not suggested that he was not a proper person to be admitted. The Minister advised me on 14th March last as follows: -
Mr. Ali is not eligible for admission under present immigration policy and in fact entered :the Commonwealth without holding any authority to do so.
When the Minister was replying to the honorable member for New England he claimed that deportation was necessary under an agreement with the British shipowners because the man concerned was a deserter from a ship. That does not apply :in this case, because Mr. Ali paid his own fare. I wrote to the Minister on 17th April, and asked him this question -
Is a British subject, not born in the United Kingdom and paying his own fare to this country, obliged to secure a permit to enter this country for the purpose of permanent residence?
The Minister said this in his reply of 15th May-
As a general rule British subjects of European descent may enter Australia subject to their being :in sound health, of good character, in possession of a valid British passport and provided that they are able to satisfy the immigration authorities on arrival that they are not likely to become a charge on the State.
This man was able to satisfy all those requirements. The Minister’s letter continued - “There are exceptions to this rule. For example, Cypriots ( who are usually unable to speak English and therefore have more difficulty in settling in Australia than British people from English speaking countries) are required to secure prior authority to enter before embarking for Australia.
Nobody disputes the fact that people able to speak our language are more readily assimilated into the Australian community, but why select Cypriots for special attention and special action? I do not say that this man can speak English fluently but he can make himself understood and he is able to understand questions directed to him. He has less difficulty with the English language than many others who are permitted to enter this country. Why are Cypriots singled out? Why is not the same test applied to the many thousands of people who obviously, as members of this House are well aware, have little if any knowledge of the language and certainly, in my own experience, have not as much knowledge of the English language as this man has.
The significance I attach to this case is this: Honorable members are aware of my attitude to immigration. I believe that for economic reasons Australia should strictly limit the number of people entering the country. We should restrict our intake to the very best that can be secured overseas and we should not admit immigrants until such time as the people already here are properly housed and employed. But when the Government presses on with its immigration policy despite the criticism and suggestions of the Opposition, surely we are entitled to insist that the law shall be administered impartially. I am of opinion that this man has been excluded merely because the Government holds the view that anybody coming from Cyprus would necessarily be of a rebellious nature, and therefore might not support the Government upon arrival in the country.
This special test is applied to Cypriots. Why is it not applied to people from Southern Italy, for example? Why is it not applied to people from Greece and other countries? I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), a former Minister for Immigration, whether, as the present Minister now asserts, all new arrivals in Australia must have some substantial knowledge of the English language before they are eligible to remain here? Here is the ridiculous situation that arises. The Government is still bringing people into the country at great cost to the Commonwealth and at some cost to certain governments overseas yet the Government is so anxious to get this man out of the country that he is not to be permitted even to await the departure of a ship in which his passage could be provided! The Government has decided that he shall leave the country by air next Thursday. It appears to me to be rather strange that the Government should decide to exclude one man who can satisfy all the qualifications specified in the second paragraph of the Minister’s letter, firstly because he has no permit and secondly because he has not a sufficient knowledge of the English, language.
I suggest to the Minister that he interview this man himself, because he will then be able to ascertain that he has a better knowledge of the English language than have many others who have been in this country for some considerable time. I hope the Minister will be able to satisfy this. House that the criticism the Opposition has been directing against the department has no basis, but judged by our experience it is quite evident that one of the tests that this Government never announces publicly but which it applies to new arrivals in this country is the political test - an investigation of their background to see whether they have been active trade unionists and whether they have been associated with democratic or labour political parties overseas. If the Government discovers that they have been in any way associated with that type of activity they are not admitted into this country. My own opinion, based on the Government’s past action and the policy which it has publicly announced that it is following, is that it has no justification for selecting one individual from Cyprus and making some sort of example of him by driving him out of the country. He is a young man, in employment, in good health, and rapidly becoming fluent in the English language. I admit that he has not a substantial knowledge of the language at the moment, but he has quite a workable knowledge of it, sufficient to enable him to get by in the Australian community. I hope that even at this eleventh hour the Minister will review this position and let me know the result before Thursday, when this man is due to depart.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has referred to a question which I asked of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley). I propose very briefly to outline certain facts that I was not able to bring out in my question.
About 11th July, a grazier of the Tamworth district came to me with a young Englishman and informed me that this young man was likely to be in serious trouble by reason of the fact that at some time during the previous eighteen months he had come to Australia and had deserted his ship. I do not want it to be thought, Sir, that I would condone, or that I do condone the breaking of contracts. I do not wish that inference to be drawn from anything I say. The grazier informed me that this young man had come to him and had so devoted himself to the land that he proposed to hand over to the newcomer the running of one of two properties that he owned. The grazier also informed me that he believed that this young man had been informed upon by somebody who had happened to get hold of the facts.
When I was shown the papers relating to this young man, I found that he had completed his national service, with credit to himself, with the army of occupation in Germany. There was not a suggestion of a stain on his character; he was in every respect an eminently satisfactory settler. The next I heard of the matter was that the young man had been committed to Long Bay gaol - where he would presumably associate with criminals - for a period of eight weeks. Then, to cap it all, Sir, he was to be compelled to go back on one of the ships of the company that was sailing. In other words, he was being penalized twice. I consider that this practice is an archaic relic of barbarous feudalism.
– It is in keeping with this Government’s policy.
– I shall have something to say about that in a moment. I do not object to a man being penalized if he breaks his contract. But surely, in a case like this, where the man could have got an assisted passage to come out here, a monetary penalty would suffice. The company could inflict that penalty by retaining a portion of his wages. That would be a reasonable attitude and in conformity with modern usage. But, sir, I discovered that the information was apparently given by the Department of Immigration, which found out the facts. That department had been approached to give information concerning deserting sailors.
Whether the department is justified in doing that is a matter upon which I reserve my opinion. But I found that the action was taken, not by this Government at all, but by the New South Wales Department of Justice under an act called, I think, the British Maritime Service Act. That is what I call barbarous treatment of a decent young man who made a mistake, and it should not be tolerated in Australia for one moment longer.
I believe that the man ought to pay a monetary penalty - that he should lose his deferred wages, and I believe also that in certain cases, undesirables should be deported. But when a young Britisher shows that he possesses the right qualities to make him a good settler, he should not be thrown among criminals. In this instance, after being sentenced to eight weeks’ association with criminals, he is being practically forced into slavery to go back. That is what it amounts to in the final analysis. I believe that the Commonwealth and the State should get together in order to disown the implications of an old British act which no longer should apply in an enlightened country.
– In the absence of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley), I shall try to give some answer to each of the two matters which have been raised on this adjourn . ‘tent discussion. I think honorable members know that for some time now I have b:m making it a practice, in my capacity as Leader of the House, on mornings following adjournment discussions, to ask my- staff to take from the “ Hansard “ record extracts of what was said on the adjournment and send them to the Ministers directly concerned.
– I am sorry that the Minister for Immigration is not now present in. the chamber.
– That is hardly the point. I mention the matter now at the opening of this sessional period, so that honorable members that speak on the adjournment motion will know that that practice is being followed and that even if the Minister directly concerned fs not present, what is said on the adjournment is brought to his notice at the earliest opportunity.
I cannot claim to speak, with a full knowledge of the facts, on either of the two matters that have been raised this evening, but I think I know enough through my former occupancy of the post of Minister for Immigration to be able to give what seems to me to be the answer in each of the two cases that have been brought before the House to-night.
I shall deal first with the matter that was raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He referred to a Cypriot immigrant who had paid his own passage to Australia but who had apparently not secured in advance a permit of entry to this country. The honorable member considered that some unwarranted discrimination had been exercised against the immigrant, and, indeed, he hinted that the action taken by the department had been based on some political adherence that this man possessed and that was not acceptable to the Minister or his department. I can say quite emphatically that that would be a totally unwarranted conclusion to draw from the facts.
I myself am not aware of any instance in which action of that character would be taken unless there was strong evidence of subversive activity on the part of the person concerned. But there is quite a simple explanation, which I would have thought would have commended itself to honorable gentlemen from the Opposition side of the House, some of whom - not all - have been pressing the Government for a considerable time now to restrict the intake of immigrants, particularly those who come from the Mediterranean area.
– That is our policy.
– I am interested to have the confirmation which the honorable member gives me, and I thank him. Although Cyprus is part of the British Commonwealth, for purposes of immigration the department apparently in this case has been treating people from Cyprus as it treats other people from the Mediterranean area or from southern Europe. The honorable member for East Sydney asked why similar treatment was not meted out to immigrants coming from southern Italy and from Greece. In point of fact, that is precisely what is being done at the present time.
The Government has- at all times tried to maintain a balanced intake of immigrants from the various emigration countries. In the foat few years there has been a trend towards excess movement, in relation to a balanced programme, from the southern European area - from the countries touching on the Mediterranean. Consequently, it has been found necessary - at least for the time being - to place some restrictions on the categories of immigrants who can be accepted from those parts of the world, and those categories place rather more limiting restrictions on them than most members of the House are aware. If my recollection of the rulings of the department is correct, the position nowadays is that an immigrant or a new settler here can nominate his wife, his children, his parents, his sisters, but not his brothers and not other relatives further removed in point of blood than those that I have mentioned. In short, the opportunity to nominate is restricted to close relatives of the immigrants, even where others wishing to come here are quite willing and able to pay their own fares and provide their own accommodation in this country. It is, I think, not a policy which any of us is very happy to have to apply at this time, but it is one which we consider desirable in order to keep a balance in the immigration intake and, unless I am mistaken in my analysis of what has been put by the honorable member for East Sydney, that is the situation applying to the Cypriot to whom he has referred. However, I shall check that with my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, and, if the facts are otherwise, that can be made known.
Now, I turn to the second case, regarding which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has spoken in very strong terms. I question whether the honorable member has a full understanding of the basis of the policy that is now applied. It is not one which was entered into lightly. Also, it is not one which has persisted for a long period of time, as he has suggested. He talked about it being a “ barbarous relic of the feudal era “. That is by no means the case. It is a policy of comparatively recent application and it was, in the first instance, again if my recollection is correct, prescribed by my predecessor as Minister for Immigration, the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). It came into being because so many seamen, British and otherwise, were deserting their vessels when they reached Australia -that this practice was dislocating shipping to this country. This is a country of immigration; but our immigration policy has to be conducted on proper lines, and entry to Australia has to be of a lawful character. The simplest way for some people to get to Australia was to take an engagement on a ship and, from the moment that ship touched Australia, take the first opportunity to desert the vessel. After discussions between the then Government and the shipping companies, agreement was reached that a certain course of action would follow such desertions of their ships by seamen. It was agreed that where people deserted they would be prosecuted as the law enabled them to be prosecuted, and at an appropriate time would be returned by the shipping companies concerned to the countries from which they had come. That policy has been applied in relation to both British seamen and seamen of other countries. It was continued by myself as Minister for Immigration and, apparently, is being continued by my colleague who now occupies that office.
I should like to have had at my fingertips the statistics that would enable me to show the honorable member for New England the number of cases in which these illegal desertions have occurred. It no doubt seemed to him, in the particular case that he has brought up, that here was a desirable type of immigrant whom normally we would be glad to have, who was the victim of bureaucratic red tape, which was enforcing his return to his country of origin. When I was Minister for Immigration I had before me many cases which seemed to me to be much like that. But the fact is that, if we are to maintain some orderliness in the movement of shipping to this country and in the conditions under which- crews are engaged and retained on the ships for which they are engaged by their masters, it is difficult to find any more satisfactory method than the policy that has applied over recent times. Again, I give the honorable member my assurance that the particular case will be brought to the Minister’s notice and, if the Minister feels that it calls for further inquiry, or that I have misstated the position, I am sure he will take such action as may be necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following replies: -
y asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570827_reps_22_hor16/>.