22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Several days ago, I addressed a communication to the Treasurer requesting some Commonwealth financial aid in the establishment of an Olympic swimming pool at Elizabeth, in South Australia, where the Commonwealth has certain important establishments connected with missile weapons. It is also near a Royal Australian Air Force station. Can the Treasurer give me some indication of the Government’s response to the request of the citizens’ committee at Elizabeth- for Commonwealth aid in this direction?
– Yes, I received that communication, and it is presently under consideration. The matter, of course, is one that has to be considered in connexion with several other representations of a. similar nature regarding similar projects. It will be seriously considered.
– Some few weeks ago, 1 asked, the Minister for Air a question about the future use of the Royal- Australian Air Force base at Rathmines as a training centre. I understand that the Air Force has abandoned the recruit training centre at Richmond, and I should like to know from the Minister whether any further extension of training, is now being made possible at Rathmines- air station..
– The honorable member’s information that Richmond is no longer being used as the recruit training centre in New South Wales for the Royal Australian Air Force is quite correct. In fact, the recruit training centre has been transferred, for the time being, to Rathmines, with the result that that station, which is in the honorable member’s electorate, has now some 500 more Royal Australian Air Force personnel than it had last month. The transfer was completed on 28th April. I agree with the honorable member’s view, which he has put to me so often, that Rathmines is an excellent place, in a. very pleasant area,, in which to train recruits for any service. I cannot undertake that the recruit training centre will remain there indefinitely. In service matters, as indeed in all matters of administration, one change leads to another. The arrival from America later this year of the twelve fourengined Hercules transports which we are buying will necessitate a great deal more room for personnel connected with the operation of aircraft at Richmond, which is why we have had to move the recruit training centre out. The final use of Rathmines has not been determined, but, as I believe I told the honorable member for Robertson some weeks- ago, it certainly will not be abandoned’ as an Air Force base before the end: of- next year.
– I- address, my queslion to the Minister, for Defence, in the absence: of the Minister for the Army, who, yesterday, in answer to a question about a statement reported to have been made by Colonel Mackay, Director of Army Personnel Administration, about the strength of the Australian Regular Army, said that it totalled 20,800 personnel, of whom 2,663 were commissioned officers. The Minister for the Army went on to say that these commissioned officers were concerned not only with the Australian Regular Army, but also with the Citizen Military Forces and the Cadet Corps. I should like to know whether the Minister made some mistake when he said that there were 2,663 commissioned officers, 9,144 warrant officers and non-commissioned officers, and 9,000 privates. If these figures are added together they give a total of 20,800. Can the Minister for Defence say whether it is correct that, in. an. army- of 20,800 men, with an admitted total 08 9,000 privates, there are 9,144 warrant officers and non-commissioned officers? I hope- that the figures given by the Minister for the Army are not correct, but I- am sure that, if they are, the House will agree that there is something wrong with the Regular Army. I should also like to. receive an assurance from the Minister for Defence that the 2,663 commissioned officers are actually participating in the operations of the Citizen Military Forces, and the Cadet Corps, as well as those of the Regular Army.
– I have not the slightest doubt about the accuracy of the figures given yesterday by my colleague, the Minister for the Army. What he did say was that the 2,663 commissioned officers in the establishment of the Australian Regular Army were concerned also with the training and operations of the Citizen Military Forces and the Cadet Corps, which have not sufficient of their own officers for their work.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for External Affairs, I refer to anxiety for Australia to intervene in various international disputes displayed in recent times by the Leader of the Opposition. I ask the Minister whether this pragmatism is to be regarded as a prelude to the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition as an international fixer or international conciliator.
– This is certainly a novel conception, to which, I admit, I had not given any previous thought. Subject to further consideration, I admit that it would certainly seem to have possibilities, and I should be very glad to consider it. The idea would need a little sales promotion, I expect, and probably a pamphlet would have to be prepared, perhaps with illustrations and some unsolicited testimonials. If that were mutually agreed, I should be very happy to make available the services of the Department of External Affairs to ensure that it received very wide circulation. As well as having international significance, the idea might also have a domestic application.
– I shall now give the Minister for External Affairs a question that is not a “ Dorothy Dix-er “. Will the right honorable gentleman, next week - the sitting may end next week - carry out his undertaking that he would have in this House a debate not limited to one aspect of international affairs, but covering the most supremely important aspect, namely, the question of summit talks and a meeting between East and West, so that the House will not go into recess without a full debate on those matters?
– I agree thoroughly with the right honorable gentleman that a discussion on summit talks and similar subjects would not be without value. Whether a great deal can be said about summit talks that has not already been said a hundred times in one part of the world or another, I have some reason to doubt. However, to have a debate of any consequence on such matters before this day week, I think, would be trying to get a quart out of a pint pot. A great deal of legislation remains to be consummated before the end of next week, and I do not think it is humanly possible or practicable to fit in a debate on these international matters before next Thursday.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry say whether any action is being taken to expand research and extension services in the cotton growing industry in Queensland following the recent announcement that the Government has agreed to continue the bounty on cotton for a further period?
– Yes. Following the announcement on the cotton bounty, I have had discussions with the Minister and the Queensland Department of Agriculture. The honorable gentleman will be glad to know that there are now three research stations in Queensland and that a fourth station, at Mareeba, will be included shortly. In the opinion of the Department of Primary Industry there was a deficiency in what is called extension services, which convey the findings of science to the practical farmer. Yesterday, I agreed with the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Stock that, if the Queensland Government would provide one additional extension officer, the Commonwealth Government would, out of the Commonwealth Extension Services Grant, provide one additional officer for the purpose I have mentioned. Knowing the honorable member’s great interest in this problem, I can inform him that he can rest assured that much is now being done on the lines he suggests, both in terms of research and of extension activities.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In the last sessional period, I asked a question about the amount of money that was to be distributed out of the surplus beef payments. The Minister informed me that £3,000,000 had been distributed amongst exporters of beef. As I have had a number of complaints from constituents who are producers of beef that they have not received any of this money, and as the Minister has refused to disclose the names of those receiving the money, will he reconsider his decision and give me an account of the actual amounts paid to each exporter of beef?
– I should, first, correct one statement that was made in the honorable gentleman’s question. Investigations have been made both by the department and by the Australian Meat Board, and we are sure that the deficiency payments on beef are being passed on to the producer in terms of higher prices, and, additionally, that the higher prices for beef exports are being reflected in higher prices for beef for local consumption. The deficiency payments vary from day to day, and I will obtain up-to-date figures for the honorable gentleman. I will also consider further whether it is reasonable to disclose both the amounts and the names of those exporters who are receiving the payments.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Trade, by offering my congratulations on the very interesting exhibition of trade promotion activities of his department which has been staged in King’s Hall this week. Such displays are of great value in rebutting uninformed criticism of what is being done, and are much appreciated by honorable members interested in our overseas trade. Can the Minister say what his department is doing to advertise Australian products and to retain the present volume of our export trade of more than £200,000,000 in the area covered by the European Common Market and the more important European free trade area?
– On behalf of the officers of my department, I thank the honorable member for his complimentary references to the display in King’s Hall. I assure him that the effects overseas are quite good.
With respect to his question as to what has been done in the European Common
Market, and the area that would be within the free trade area, if it eventuated, I point out that the bulk of our trade that flows into that area, totalling, as the honorable member mentioned, over £200,000,000, is trade in bulk products, such as wool, wheat, barley and hides - commodities that do not lend themselves to consumer advertising. However, in respect of wool, the Australian contribution to the International Wool Secretariat is immense. The secretariat is constantly engaged in promoting the sale and use of woollen textiles in the area referred to by the honorable member.
The activities in Europe of the Department of Trade are very considerable. I could describe them as divided into two sections. One section is directing its activities towards constant negotiations with those governments that admit Australian products under a licensing system. That activity is not directed towards promoting consumer demand, but to inducing governments to permit the entry of our products for which there is a ready market. There is no public evidence of- that section’s activity, but the result is evident in the satisfactory volume of sales.
On the other hand, there is a widespread trade commissioner service, ranging in its activities all the way from Scandinavia to Italy. This service engages particularly in the promotion of sales of products for which there is a demand. Broadly speaking, there is no demand for dairy products and carcass meat, but there is a valuable demand for apples and pears. Constant and considerable advertising is undertaken, particularly in West Germany and the Scandinavian countries, with respect to honey and other products. I assure the honorable member that whilst the activity is not identical with the kind of display advertisements and promotional activities proceeding in the United Kingdom, it is very effective, quite intense, but selective in its character.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Trade. Since the end of March, I have been making representations to the Minister concerning an import licence that would guarantee employment to many people in a factory at Lithgow. Yesterday, I received a telegram from the proprietor of the factory, and another from the mayor of Lithgow, bringing to my notice the fact that 35 employees in this factory have been dismissed because of uncertainty about import licences. Will the Ministe.r give urgent and favorable consideration to the representations I have made so that the 35 employees who have been dismissed may be re-engaged, and removed from the present substantial army of unemployed in the Lithgow area?
– I give the honorable member an undertaking that a specific decision on this matter will be made not later than next week. The honorable member has approached me on behalf of his constituency on a number of occasions. I assure him that the matter has received quite serious consideration. Part of the problem, as I understand it, is that the company concerned - a textile-garment manufacturing company - has based its activities mainly, if not almost entirely, on making up materials supplied to it. In the trade, I think it is known as a maker-up business. Now, because of the fall off in that trade, the company, I understand, desires to sustain employment and activity by purchasing the material and making it up for sale on its own account. This introduces a new element in importing. A quite substantial special licence was issued to the company some months ago. That is a continuing licence for the time being, but representations have been made to me that it is not big enough to sustain employment there. I am conscious of this fact in an area where, I am told, there is some unemployment. I give the honorable member an assurance that he will receive a decision next week after full and sympathetic consideration has been given to this matter.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral give me any information concerning the proposed new Australian Broadcasting Commission building in Perth?
– I can give the honorable member a little information regarding this matter. The position is that tenders have .been called for the building- The closing date for them is, I believe, next July. As soon as the tenders have been received and a determination made, work will proceed as quickly as possible.
– Last week I asked the Minister for Social Services a question about .pensions being paid for long periods after the department had been notified of the dates of death of the pensioners. Can the Minister now offer any reason why one of my constituents should have received, last week, a further pension payment for a deceased pensioner? Was there any need for further payments to be made after I had sent a telegram to the department advising it to cease making payments? Has the pension of this deceased person now been cancelled, or has it only been reduced according to notification? Is the Minister interested to learn of another case where payment of pension has been continued although the pensioner died last October and the department was advised of this fact on at least three occasions? If so, I shall be pleased to give him the details of the case. Further, can the Minister inform the House whether a proper audit is made of his department’s accounts? If so, how is a case of dual payment of pension detected?
– The Minister is dead himself.
– Order! I have warned the honorable member for East Sydney already this morning, and if he interjects again I will deal with him.
– I tried to explain to the honorable member for Shortland last week that no department is stronger than its weakest link. There are human faults and frailities in the administration of departments as large as the Department of Social Services, and no matter how careful are the investigations made from time to time these inevitable breakdowns occur, and they are to be regretted. But if and when they happen, I should be most grateful to the honorable member for Shortland or any other honorable member if he will bring them immediately to my personal attention and I will have them rectified.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to the propaganda campaign which is being carried on concerning the holding of summit meetings and the stream of propaganda which is coming into this country from Wellington, New Zealand, and which, apparently, emanates from the representatives of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics there, tending to place the blame for any breakdown in arrangements for summit talks upon the Western nations. I ask the Minister whether he knows of a single case requiring investigation by United Nations officers, particularly in Korea, Hungary, North Viet Nam and other places, in which these investigators received that full and free entry and right of inspection which they have been given in countries under the supervision of Western nations. Further, is this not one of the underlying reasons for hesitation on the part of the western nations to accept in good faith suggestions that the U.S.S.R. will really assist in making effective the control of thermo-nuclear and other atomic weapons of war?
– It is true that in the instances of North Korea, North Viet Nam and Hungary, there has not been anything approaching full recognition of the right of bodies established, or sought to be established, by the United Nations, to move freely and collect information. In fact, where there has been agreement, it has been grudging agreement, and the actual facilities for free travel have not been provided. I think that this is one of the factors that make for lack of confidence on the part of the West in iron curtain countries. Lack of confidence, of course, is the basis of the present state of world tension and the difficulties that the West has had in attempting to bring about a summit meeting under conditions that would give at least some reasonable chance of a successful issue, even in small part. The matters at issue are well known. The ones that the honorable gentleman mentioned are, of course, amongst the most important, particularly the efforts to achieve international inspection and control of both nuclear and conventional weapons. In this respect, the Soviet Union, in particular, has set its face against international inspection. The West does not believe that there is any conceivable possibility of all the great matters at issue between the Soviet Union and the West being fixed up at a summit conference, but the West wishes to have sufficient preliminary discussions to ensure that some matters at least, even though they are small, will have some chance of being successfully dealt with at a summit conference. As the honorable gentleman probably knows, individual discussions are or have been going on between diplomatic representatives of the West and of the Soviet Union, in preparation for a foreign ministers’ conference. One can only hope and pray that out of these discussions will come something that will give the world some chance of relief from the almost intolerable tension that surrounds not only European countries, but even Australia and other countries elsewhere.
– Will the Treasurer, in his preparations for the forthcoming Budget, which we expect will be a really good one, make provision for funds for the erection of two additional wards at the Bundoora Repatriation Hospital, the construction of which has been approved for a great number of years? One of the wards is required urgently. Will the Treasurer also make the necessary financial provision for the construction of essential roads to serve not only the existing wards and other sections of the hospital but also at least one additional ward to be built?
– The question raises a matter which, by its very nature, is one of policy. It will be taken into consideration in conjunction with the forthcoming Budget. I am pleased to hear the honorable member’s forecast that it will be a good Budget, lt will be a characteristically good Budget.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry been informed of the refusal of the Australian Wool Growers Council to attend a conference which was to have been held to-morrow to discuss the future of Goulburn as a wool selling centre on the ground that the New South Wales buyers had refused to lift their boycott on attendance at Goulburn after 30th June? Has the Department of Primary Industry been in touch with the New South Wales Government and the buyers on this matter?
– I have heard that the Australian Wool Growers Council had refused to attend a conference between the various components of the industry - that is, the brokers, the growers and the buyers. The Department of Primary Industry has been in constant touch with the people concerned, and I think the honorable gentleman will know that the woolgrowers themselves and the Graziers Council of New South Wales were anxious that the matter be left to the parties concerned to settle. Nevertheless, we have been very interested in the problem. I have heard this morning that the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture has called a conference of the parties involved in the dispute. I think the honorable gentleman will know that this is more a State than a Federal matter, because all the authority and power rests with the State Government and none whatever with the Commonwealth Government.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. As the Government has decided to pay pensions to retired Commonwealth judges on the basis of half the salary they received at the time of retirement, will the Prime Minister state whether there is any logical or just reason why retired workers in receipt of a retirement allowance, referred to as the age pension, should not be paid at the rate of half the basic wage?
– This matter has been argued out many times. I have nothing to add to the conclusive answers previously given.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry given consideration to the promotion in Australia of the plan now being put into operation in New Zealand to cut dairy production by using 10 per cent, of the dairy herd to nurse calves for veal production? In the face of the extremely grim future facing dairy’ farmers in Australia, is it not likely that more exchange could be earned by exporting veal than, as is the case now, by turning milk, which could be fed to vealers, into dairy products for export?
– I have read an extract from a statement by the chairman of the New Zealand Dairy Products Marketing Commission that it would be wise for dairy producers in New Zealand to use their dairy herds for the purpose of breeding vealers rather than for milk production. I think that statement was also supported by the chairman of the New Zealand Meat Producers Board. We have had very helpful and informative discussions with the New Zealand Dairy Products Marketing Commission in the last few days, and I am sure that now we all know much more about each other’s views on the marketing of dairy products. The honorable gentleman will know that the problem of production is one for the Ministers for Agriculture in the various States. Yesterday, the Standing Committee on Agriculture met and discussed the problem fully. I am not aware of its conclusions, but shortly the Australian Agricultural Council itself will discuss the problem of marketing of dairy products. I will place all the facts I can before it so that the State Ministers for Agriculture and the producers can make up their minds which avenue of production they should follow.
– In answer to questions from this side of the House over the last couple of weeks requesting attempts by the Minister for External Affairs to conciliate in international disputes, the right honorable gentleman has indicated that he sees no good purpose in such action and that, in fact, it could have no good effect. Does he think that this state of affairs arises from his failure to adopt an independent Australian foreign policy and his complete subservience to American foreign policy - the Dulles line? Does he remember that, ten or twelve years ago, the present Leader of the Opposition played a very constructive and formative part in international affairs, particularly in regard to the establishment of the State of Israel? Does he not agree that his kind of spirit could be brought into foreign affairs at the present stage?
– The honorable gentleman’s question does not admit of a short “ Yes “ or “ No “ reply. He has dragged up the old and, I think, with respect, nonsensical tag that Australia has not a foreign policy. The honorable gentleman smiles, realizing very well that he has asked a propaganda question which really has nothing in it of substance. Australian foreign policy is based on Australian interests. We do not quarrel with our friends in public. If we have disagreements with our allies, the Great Powers - our Mother Country, Great Britain, and the United States of America - we conduct discussions in private which, I believe, is the proper way to discuss such matters. We see no merit, on this side of the House, in denigrating and frequently insulting our best international friends. That is not the way to ensure the survival of Australia.
I do not want to develop that matter and touch upon controversial subjects or personalities. I should certainly welcome a discussion in this House, at the appropriate time, on the general subject of Australian foreign policy and how it is formed so that one may, I hope - although it may be a fruitless hope - -dish once and for all the allegation that we are dragged behind the cart of this country or that.
– We are not subservient to Russia.
– Exactly. As I am reminded by the Prime Minister, the thing could be put in reverse. Many of the policies of the Opposition could very well be said to be almost a Chinese copy of the policies of Soviet Russia.
– I wish to refer to the Minister for Primary Industry a matter which was also referred to by the honorable member for Farrer a few weeks ago - the recent Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization report on rabbit extermination in New Zealand. Will the Minister bring this matter to the attention of the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council and endeavour to get a co-ordinated Australian approach to rabbit extermination on similar lines?
– Frequently, the Australian Agricultural Council has discussed the effect of myxomatosis, the European rabbit flea, and, quite recently, some new compound that has been used extensively and successfully in Victoria in the extermination of rabbits. I shall see that, at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, there is a co-ordinated effort to look at the three methods together and that such information as may be available is published.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the high level of unemployment existing in various parts of Australia, including the Wollongong district, will the Minister state whether it is the intention of the Government to perpetuate a pool of unemployment as an essential part of its policy to break down, or freeze, working conditions and wage standards?
– There is some unemployment in Australia, but it is ridiculous to refer to it, as the honorable gentleman has done, as a “ high level of unemployment “. As I have previously said, our level of unemployment would be the envy of most other countries, which would regard it as indicating a state of healthy economic buoyancy and prosperity. It has often been made clear from this side of the House that we direct our economic policies to a situation in which the manpower resources of this country will be fully engaged in productive work. It is our objective to see that the level of demand is sustained and, while no government, particularly the government of a country which is subject to fluctuations in its earnings from the sales of its export products, and to the vagaries of climate, as is the case in Australia, can ever achieve a completely even flow of supply and demand, the record over the last eight or nine years of this Government’s term of office has, I believe, shown how successful we have been in maintaining demand at a high level. That continues to be our policy. The employment situation is constantly under review in the Department of Labour and National Service, and I report frequently to Cabinet on the trends which appear to be developing from time to time. I have previously pointed out that there are many opportunities in the course of the year - at Budget time, or around the time when the Loan Council is meeting, as well as on occasions when we consult with the central banking system - when the Government is able to take effective action to sustain demand. That continues to be our policy.
– I ask the Minister for Trade: Has the Government yet considered what action it may take on the Tariff Board’s report on the copper mining industry, and in relation to the associated copper manufacturing industries in Australia? When will the report be made available to the House?
– The Government has received the report of the Tariff Board on the copper mining industry. I do not think there was any reference to the Tariff Board regarding the fabricated products of copper. Close study has been given to this highly important industry, and I am hopeful that there will- not be much delay before the Government’s decision has been reached and the report of the board made available.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Will he discuss with his colleague, the Minister for Health, the administration of the health regulations of the. Australian Capital Territory as they relate to the importation of meat for sale in retail shops in Canberra? In particular, will the Minister, seek to ascertain whether the health regulations have been applied- as an economic measure rather than purely as a measure to protect the health of the people of the Australian Capital Territory? Will he ascertain, also whether permission has been readily given for the importation of poultry and offal meats but has, on a number of occasions, been withheld in respect of carcass meats and prepared cuts of meat which would, sell in competition with the product of the Canberra Abattoir, which is conducted by the Department of Health? Finally, will the Minister seek to ensure that,, while, the health of the people is protected, consumers will be given the broadest possible- opportunity to purchase their requirements, of meat at least on the most favorable terms?
– I advise the honorable gentleman that the whole of the matters to which he has referred - and they are fairly extensive^ - are scheduled for discussion with the Minister for Health, very shortly, in relation to the request of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council that an inquiry be instituted into the meat situation in Canberra. I give no undertaking on that matter; but the whole subject is to be traversed in discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Health.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the right honorable gentleman noted the handsome provision being made to equip the Tariff Board with an economic and1 research staff? Will he consider setting up a similar staff to assist the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration- Commission in its no less important economic and social task, and not leave the commission to rely on statistics, supplied by the Government, from the Treasury and the Commonwealth Statistician, and interpreted by counsel briefed by the parties and economists called by the parties? The right honorable gentleman will remember that provision for such a staff was made in the 1-947 act and was removed by the 1956 act.
– I am, familiar with the provision which was inserted, as the honorable gentleman reminds us, in earlier legislation and removed! in the amending legislation in- 1956- This matter has- been carefully examined on more than one- occasion by the Government and, presumably, it received some examination from our predecessors, who apparently came to the conclusion that it was either not practicable or, indeed, not desirable, to move along those lines because, so far as I am aware, no positive action to carry out the provisions in the section was taken during their period of office, which did not terminate until the end of 1949. We have come to the conclusion - and I am putting the matter quite broadly - that we can provide a more effective research and statistical service based on the instrumentalities which are now operating than would be the case if a much more limited, and perhaps not so competent, body were established solely for the purposes of the arbitration system. I am not familiar with what has been done in the Department of Trade. There may be some specialized studies which are required to be made by that department which cannot be covered adequately through other existing departments; but certainly, so tar as- concerns the arbitration jurisdiction, which extends its examinations over the whole field of the economy, we feel that that cam best be- served by the present governmental organization.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure o£ the Government to ensure that adequate moneys are available to the public for hire-purchase operations at reasonable interest rates.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required, by the Standing Orders having risen, in their places) -
.- It often happens that truths spoken by members of the Labour party are twisted by members on the Government sidle of the House in order to make a trap for the very foolish members of the community; I do not want hat to occur in connexion with the matter I have brought before the House for discussion. So I desire, first, to make clear that the Labour’ party is not opposed to hire purchase. The Labour party believes that the average family in this community cannot secure the comforts, and in many cases the necessaries, of life without the assistance of a system of hire purchase. It is the abuses of hire purchase to which: we are opposed, and because my time is short I shall concentrate on pointing out,, with- the assistance of published figures that cannot be contradicted, what a colossal toll is being levied on the community by the hirepurchase companies’ of Australia.. In last Saturday’s Melbourne “Herald” an article by the newspaper’s commercial editor, Mr. Maurice Hare, appeared under the heading “Big hire purchase companies boom”. Among the details given in that article of the activities of, and the holdings in, hirepurchase companies were the following passages -
Australian guarantee - Bank of N.S.W. took a 40 per cent, interest in the ordinary share capital in a £4 million’ deal’ . . . Annual turnover reached £66 million . . .
Latest dividend rate is 15 per cent.; it took less than half the 1957 profit;
That is, profit over 30 per cent. The. details also include -
Custom- Credit. - National Bank holds 40 per cent, interest. Formed in 1953, group assets now exceed £45 million.
Pays 15 per cent., dividend . . .
Economic Holdings, the Myer Emporium’s hire-purchase company, has- paid a 15 per cent, dividend. Another passage reads -
General Credits, in’ which the’ Commercial Bank has a 45 per’ cent, interest has- maintained spectacular growth.
This company, too, is paving huge dividends. Another passage reads -
Industrial Acceptance, Australia’s largest hire purchase house - in which A.N.Z. Bank has a 14 per cent, interest - now Has- outstandings exceeding £50 million and’ group’ assets totalling more than £55 million , . .
Last share issue was in late 1955; latest profit . . more, than twice covered the 16) per cent, dividend.
The dividend is 16J per cent., but the profits are more than twice as great. That, of course, does not tell the whole tale. The person who buys on hire purchase a refrigerator, a washing machine, floor coverings, or furnishings, for his home, is not merely paying a profit of 33 per cent, to the hire-purchase company. In addition, he is paying the profits of the manufacturer, or of the manufacturer and the importer if the goods are manufactured overseas, and the profits of the retailer. Can any supporter of this Government, which has allowed this system of financing to develop, justify such exorbitant profits, which place a heavy toll upon the average family? It is not sufficient for governments to say, “ We are not responsible for these things “.
As. I’ have pointed out, every big private banking, organization, including the Bank of New South Wales, the Australia and New Zealand: Bank Limited, and the National Bank, of: Australasia Limited, is a party to the: investment of money in hire-purchase concerns, and to the making of these huge profits. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, however - the people’s bank - is not permitted by this Government to enter into hire-purchase activity in order to help the people by curtailing the exorbitant demands that the private hire-purchase organizations are able to make upon the people.
These things, however, do not tell the whole story of hire purchase, which, in this country, is developing the most fraudulent financial methods that have existed in any country and in any age. I have before me now particulars of the terms offered by a number of organizations. Testro Brothers Consolidated Limited advertises that money invested with it will earn four times savings bank interest, and it guarantees a return of 10 per cent, on money deposited with it for four years. H- & S. Credits (Newcastle) Limited guarantees 12 per cent, for three years, 11 per cent, for two years, and 10 per cent, for one year. Warranted Home Supplies, which advertises itself as a television retailer, and which has its head office at 215 Clarence-street, Sydney, offers 12 per cent, per annum on money lodged with it on deposit investment. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 6th May published an article by the financial editor about a firm by the name of Owen Potter and Associates, under the headline, “A New Borrowing Name That firm guarantees 12i per cent, interest on money borrowed by it.
How are these firms able to guarantee such returns? How do they do business? They usually establish a small office, as H. & S. Credits (Newcastle) Limited has done in Melbourne, and issue prospectuses offering, say, 12 per cent, interest for money lent to them. They obtain money at that rate of interest, and immediately lend it at 12 per cent, or more. They induce people to borrow this money from them by telling intending borrowers that they can in turn lend the money to a hire-purchase company which will pay them a return of 16$ per cent, and still be able to retain a similar percentage to be placed in reserve. Having lent the money in this way, the lending company obtains from its borrowers promissory notes which it discounts with discount brokers, thereby obtaining the use of much more than the original loan of, say, £100,000 at 12 per cent. This additional money also is lent by the company. So the process goes on, with the borrowing and lending accumulating all the time. All that is needed to bring about a huge collapse in this superficially attractive financial system is for one. big borrower to go bankrupt. When that happens and the whole system collapses, people lose the assets that they have acquired on hire purchase by expending the savings that they had scraped together over many years.
So attractive is this kind of scheme that H. & S. Credits (Newcastle) Limited sought the permission of the Commonwealth Bank to borrow £500,000 in Singapore. When it was asked how it would invest that sum, it said that it would invest it in, among other companies, Pearl Island Fabrics, a Parramatta firm of softgoods retailers. That firm was the cause of the bankruptcy of Edward Moss Waxman, who lost £30,000 in sixteen months. This is the kind of scheme that the Government allows these companies to undertake with impunity.
The Opposition believes that, if people cannot pay cash for household requisites, the Commonwealth Bank should advance them money at a reasonable rate of interest so that they can buy furniture, refrigerators, washing machines, and all the other things that are so essential for ordinary decent living in these modern days- If money were advanced for this purpose at a reasonable rate of interest, the private banking institutions would not be able to invest huge amounts in hire-purchase organizations which make exorbitant profits, and the funds available for housing would not be so severely diminished as they have been, particularly during the last year. Last financial year, £7,000,000 less was devoted to housing than in the previous financial year, and fewer houses were built. I am most conversant with the situation in Victoria, where over 3,000 homes were built in 1955 and less than 2,300 last year. This situation is a direct result of the attractive investments that the private banking institutions and the big financial companies are able to make in hire-purchase organizations. Many of these schemes, which guarantee interest at the rate of 12i per cent, or more, are based on practices that are little better than corrupt, but they are permitted by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is now sitting at the table apparently quite unconcerned.
Why does he permit this? He permits it because, fundamentally, there is a difference between the interests that he represents and the interests that I represent in this Parliament. He is the stooge of big business. I and my colleagues on this side of the House are the representatives of those who have everything to lose by the three-card trick of public and private finance. We are opposed to the big financial interests, such as the private banks, being allowed to utilize not merely cash but also the credit that they can create - almost exclusively in hire purchase at 30 per cent, profit and over - and so impose an intolerable toll on Australian industry and development, and deny the ordinary citizens a part of the standard of living that they are entitled to enjoy.
, - The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) was as far away from the substance of the matter that he has raised as the North Pole is from the South Pole. The subject that he has raised is -
The failure of the Government to ensure that adequate moneys are available to the public for hire-purchase operations at reasonable interest rales.
His arguments were quite foreign to the intent of his proposal. First, he dealt with a matter that is beyond the control of the Commonwealth Government, because it is ultra vires the Constitution. His speech could more aptly have been made in a State parliament, because the only possible power available to the Commonwealth to control interest rates is the banking power. Interest rates are the very basis of his complaint about the profits earned by hirepurchase companies. Incidentally, such profits are not exempt from taxation. The profits made by these companies, in common with all profits earned by companies, are taxed under the laws of this country.
I repeat with emphasis that the only possible power available to the Commonwealth to control interest rates is the banking power. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the States have virtually complete power to legislate for the control of interest rates and, to the extent that they have so legislated, the maximum permissible rates have been fixed at levels which will be mentioned during the course of this debate. The advice obtained by the Government from eminent legal counsel is that hire purchase, as it is conducted, is not banking business and, therefore, is not capable of control by the Commonwealth. The only control exerted by the Opposition when in Government was a control under the defence power; it did nothing whatever under the civil power to regulate or control the activities or interest rates of hirepurchase companies. During the course of my remarks, I shall mention a matter that shows an intent quite the opposite of that of the honorable member for Scullin in raising this matter to-day.
However, let us deal with the basis of this matter. The proposal of the Australian Labour party and the arguments used to support it - some of them foreign to the proposal - show that the minds of Opposition members are confused and their attitudes divided on this issue. They demand that the Commonwealth Government should ensure that adequate moneys are available to the public for hire-purchase operations. We all recognize that hire purchase, or any similar form of consumer credit, is an established element in our present-day community life. Indeed, it is an established element in the life of all democratic nations. We also recognize that as long as this facility is used in moderation there is something to be said for it. However, like everything else of a similar nature, it offers temptations that lead people into difficulties.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) last night sounded a note of warning, which I think was very wise, in cautioning unionists and workers about the difficulties in which they could find themselves by the undue use of this means of consumer credit. I firmly believe that too cheap or easy money is very bad for any nation. That has been proved in the history of the world. The cheaper and the easier money is made, the greater is the extent to which the future of the recipient is mortgaged, to the disadvantage not only of himself and his family but also of a stable economy generally. I do not say that over-indulgence in hire purchase is the custom of everybody, but I do say that far too little thought is given to the consequences arising from the ever-expanding availability of consumer credit. These consequences have been realized in America. When I was there, an inquiry into the expansion of consumer credit had just been completed, and anxiety was expressed for the stability of the economy. However, I need not go into that.
I should say that probably the great majority of people who resort to time payment or hire purchase do so moderately and well within their means. But there will always be a fair proportion of people who will take a plunge and get themselves into financial difficulties. People who buy on hire purchase get articles sooner than they otherwise would, but they pay dearly for them. Hire-purchase finance will always, by its very nature, be dear money for the borrower, and goods bought on hire purchase will always be dear goods. That holds true no matter how moderately hirepurchase business is conducted or what is done to regulate it. Therefore, I suggest that the proper attitude for the Labour party to adopt, as instanced by the honorable member for Port Adelaide last night, is to counsel caution in the use of hire purchase by people of limited means. Opposition members should point out to their supporters the dangers of people allowing themselves to become over-committed. They should not proclaim that consumer credit is a good thing for the people and that there ought to be more of it, although that is very much what they are doing when they argue that the massive resources of the Commonwealth Bank, and indeed the resources of Australia, should be used to provide more hire-purchase facilities. Hire purchase is not, and can never be, cheap finance for any one. I had a very early lesson in hire purchase or time payment. The first tailored suit I ever had was bought on time payment, and I had worn it out before I had paid for it. I have never forgotten that lesson.-
The Opposition might well have done a little political and historical research into this matter before introducing it for debate in this way. The whole basis of the complaint of the Opposition is the failure of the Government to ensure that adequate moneys are available to the public for hirepurchase operations. Let us have a look at the history of hire purchase. Statistics on this matter are available only from 1953. The amount of hire-purchase balances, including hire charges and insurance, outstanding at March, 1953, was £85,946,000. The latest available figures show that at 28th February last this amount had moved to the gigantic sum of £271,000,000. Those figures refer only to business done by hirepurchase or finance companies; obviously, the amount of business of this type done by retail stores is not available. They show that the availability of finance in Australia for hire purchase or instalment purchase has increased from about £86,000,000 in March, 1953, to the recent figure of about £271,000,000.
Let me deal now with the question of what are reasonable rates of interest. I think all members opposite will accept with happy memory the financial reputation and ability of the late Mr. Chifley, and the high regard in which he was held by his colleagues. It is a strange coincidence that in this year of grace, 1958, I should be standing here as Treasurer, because in 1941, as Treasurer, I appointed, on behalf of the then government, a board of inquiry to investigate hire-purchase and cash-order systems. To that committee I appointed no less a person than Joseph Benedict Chifley. Also on the committee were Harold William Chancellor, a very eminent practising chartered accountant; George Stanley Colman, then manager of the Australian Estates Company Limited; and Marshal James McMahon, whose occupation I forget. That board of inquiry was appointed for the specific purpose of inquiring into the system of trading in Australia by means of cash orders and hire-purchase agreements, including the business and operations of any person who issued cash orders or entered into hire-purchase transactions as lessor, vendor, or owner, or who financed, either directly or indirectly, hire-purchase transactions; also, the conditions under which such trading, business and operations should be carried on. On 15th August, 1941, the board presented its report. Evidence was taken all over Australia, and certain conclusions were arrived at.
– We want to hear them.
– The right honorable gentleman should have looked up this report if he was interested in the subject. The unanimous conclusion of the committee, .subscribed to by no less a person than Mr. Chifley, was that the rates of interest, as set out in paragraph 77 of the report, were not unreasonable, and there appeared to be sufficient free competition amongst the finance companies to act as a brake on excessive charges.
– What were the charges?
– I am glad that the right honorable gentleman asked me that question. I anticipated it. The charges that were considered reasonable in the circumstances were, in some instances, higher charges than operate to-day. On page 12 of the report it is stated that the average flat rate for new motor vehicles was 7.3 per cent. To-day, the average rate is 7 per cent. On used motor vehicles the rate was 8.5 per cent. To-day, it is 9 per cent. The rate charged on plant and machinery - considered reasonable by the committee - was 7 per cent. To-day, it is still 7 per cent. The rate on household goods- - also considered reasonable by the committee of which Mr. Chifley was a member - was 10 per cent. It is still 10 per cent. Honorable members opposite can draw whatever inference they like from those figures. They are the rates that were inquired into-
– They are fictitious.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw anything that you, Sir, desire me to withdraw.
– I can understand why the honorable member cannot take it. If ever there was a crazy, ill-timed, and ill-considered proposition put forward in this House as a matter of public interest, this is it. The Opposition is shot with its own ammunition, namely, the report subscribed to by Mr. Chifley, who then said that the rates of interest charged by the companies that are maligned and attacked to-day were reasonable. In some cases, those rates were higher than they are to-day. I do not think that it is necessary to say anything further in order to show how ridiculous is the Opposition’s argument.
– You are making yourself ridiculous.
– Well, nature made you that way! First, the Opposition says that insufficient money is available to cater adequately for the hire-purchase system. Figures conclusively show that since March, 1953, the movement of finance in that direction has been from about £86,000,000 to about £270,000,000 to-day. The rates of interest charged today are satisfactorily comparable, because they are the same rates, or in some instances, lower rates, than Mr. Chifley subscribed to.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– There is no doubt about the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). We are all very fond of him, but he really does work himself up into a passion. He has invoked the name of Mr. Chifley. In the first part of his speech he denounced the Chifley doctrine of low interest rates. He said that low interest rates were the curse of the world to-day. Towards the close of his speech he discovered a report to which Mr. Chifley was a party in 1941. Could he not have got an older one?
– The report was effective enough.
– If it had not been for the hire-purchase system, with the restrictions placed by this Government on bank credit, industries that exist in Australia to-day might very well have disappeared. The hirepurchase system has kept people in employment. The motor car industry is one example, and other examples could be cited. Is the Treasurer against hire purchase?
– I never said any such thing.
– Well, he must be in favour of hire purchase.
– In moderation.
– “In moderation placing all my glory, while Tories call me Whig and Whigs a Tory”. One of Mr. Chifley’s great contributions towards the development of Australia was his insistence that money be made available at low rates of interest. That doctrine is now being adopted by President Eisenhower to meet his difficulties, despite the criticism of reactionary interests in the United States who want high profits and high rates of interest. Unemployment has hit the United States, and they see that one of the prime causes is the rate of interest charged.
The real essence of this debate is the failure of the Government to ensure that enough money is available to the public for hire-purchase operation. This shortage of money is brought about by the Government’s control of the banking system and the fact that it controls, in substance, interest rates. The key to the proposal by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) is reasonable interest rates. Who can object to that? The rates are not reasonable. The Treasurer is correct when he says that the amount of money made available in Australia for hire purchase has increased from about £86,000,000 in 1953 to about £270,000,000 to-day. That money supports industrial output in this country. Hire purchase has been called, I think, by quite a few authorities, the poor man’s overdraft. Where is the little man to get credit? If he is willing to allocate a portion of his wages towards paying off a debt, hire purchase is the only way he can get credit. Small businesses are in the same position. The Opposition does not want to destroy the hire-purchase system, but it does say that some of the abuses of the system should be removed. The Treasurer’s argument is destructive of the hire-purchase system.
The private banks are placed in a special position by statute. They are placed in a special position of trust. They are supposed to carry on the business of banking, but every one of them has rushed to this new source of profit. The fact that they are either the direct owners of hire-purchase companies, or have a controlling interest in them as investors, has made them parties to this racket of high rates of interest. Does the Treasurer justify the high dividend rate quoted by the honorable member for Scullin of 15 per cent.? That figure represents only half the profit, which means that the full rate of profit is over 30 per cent. The banks cannot be allowed to carry on like that; it is a form of black marketing. The banks should be devoting the greater proportion of the money they control to housing at reasonable rates of interest, but they are going into this hire-purchase business.
– They should help the primary producers, too.
– That is so. All sections of the community are suffering, primary producers, business people and workers who are not conscious of the rates of interest they are obliged to pay. These are abuses, and it is the duty of the Government to see that they are removed. The States certainly have power in this matter, but they cannot deal with it on a State basis, although they can help enormously. The position reflects grave and serious abuses.
Instead of the Government helping the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to reduce rates of interest, by competition, all it has done has been to prevent that bank from competing in this field. Of course, the Government does not want to see competition in these circumstances although its supporters claim that they want to encourage private enterprise on a basis of competition. The truth is that the Government makes one great exception in that respect in favour of the powerful financial interests of this country - the financial combines, groups, cartels and the oil companies as well as the private banks which, as the late Mr. Chifley pointed out, contribute so much to the Government parties’ funds. For all these great combinations of money the sky is the limit so far as the Government is concerned. That is the position; the Government must face up to these abuses.
On previous occasions I have said thar if the system of hire purchase were not in existence it would have had to be invented, because otherwise the enterprises it assists and which employ so many people would have broken down. A rate of 10 per cent, is far too high; it is a form of black marketing. When these finance companies make high profits they do not care how much they invest in hire-purchase business. They know that they can always make more profit. This is one of the greatest evils in the country.
I am not condemning the hire-purchase system as such. It enables people on lower incomes to save; they have no private accounts in the general credit system of the banks, but they are enabled to save by this method. However, they are not conscious of the high rates of interest which they are obliged to pay. That is not clearly explained to them. They do not know the profits which are being made out of them.
Is it not the duty of the Government, therefore, first to get the Commonwealth Bank in operation in this field and so help to remove this evil? That is the principal purpose of submitting this matter for discussion The Opposition wants to maintain the hire-purchase system, but it also wants to remove the abuses now associated with it. It is useless for the Treasurer to quote things that happened in 1941 when the situation was entirely different. Hire purchase in those times comparatively did not amount to much. We do not know what profits were made then, and it is useless to quote figures in respect of that period. Certainly, the percentages of profit are far higher to-day.
– They are not.
– That is what you say. Can you justify the enormous profits quoted by the honorable member for Scullin? The Treasurer makes no answer; he cannot answer that challenge.
– All I say is that the Government taxes these companies.
– That is not enough.
– Can the Leader of the Opposition suggest a scheme to control them?
– The Government should tax excess profits and so curb this exploitation of the people which goes merrily on. The Government taxes profits but does not tax excess profits, because it does not face up to that problem.
The hire-purchase system must stay. It fulfils a public need in providing credit for the poor man, the ordinary man who purchases goods over a long period, for instance, in furnishing his home. To do that he enters into hire-purchase transactions. The Government should not say to him, “ You are not to go in for this “; but it should ensure that he is not exploited through unreasonably high interest rates. That is the Opposition’s purpose in submitting this matter for discussion to-day and the Opposition will see that its purpose is carried out.
– How will the Opposition do that?
– You will see.
.- The matter now before the House was submitted in two sections for discussion, but it seems that the members of the Opposition have devoted their attention only to the second part, which deals with interest rates, whereas they have paid very little attention to the first part. I believe that if we disregard the first part, as they have done, we will lay ourselves open to the accusation outside this House that we failed to answer the claim made by the Opposition that the Government has failed to ensure that adequate moneys are available to the public for hirepurchase operations.
– I rise to order. Cannot an honorable member submit more than one phase of a proposal for discussion as a matter of urgency?
– Order! The honorable member for Petrie is in order.
– This is one of the most fantastic propositions which has ever been put before this House. What does it mean? I shall suggest one interpretation which can be put upon it. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that a sum of at least £271,000,000 was outstanding at the end of February in hire purchase. What the Opposition now suggests is that all that money should be called in and replaced by money provided by the Commonwealth. If that is the proposition which the Labour party puts before the House, how is the Government to provide the money? The Opposition has not suggested in its submission that the Commonwealth Bank should take any action to provide it, nor has it suggested means by which the Government might raise the money. Does the Opposition suggest that this substantial sum should be raised by additional taxation in order to provide the community with hire-purchase finance? As an alternative, does it suggest that £300,000,000 of trust fund finance, all of which is invested at the present time in Commonwealth loans, should be used for this purpose? Of course, such action would immediately destroy the confidence of the public in Commonwealth loans. These suggestions, I believe, are inherent in the Opposition’s proposition.
But I shall go a stage further. Do not let us imagine, under any circumstances, that if the Government found this amount of money, it would be in substitution for the money which is already being used for hire purchase. It would be additional to that. The Opposition suggests that there is too much money invested in hire purchase at :the present time; but if the proper interpretation is put upon its proposition now before the House, the sum available would be doubled. If that happened chaotic conditions would be created. What sort of a demand would be made by the public if they knew that a considerable amount of additional finance was available for hire purchase? What organization would the Government require to administer the scheme? Surely inherent in the proposition is the suggestion that the Government should take over the full administration of hire purchase.
– There are the State savings banks and the post offices.
– I have no time to listen to the honorable member. Inherent in this proposition is the suggestion that hire purchase should be taken over by the Government and taken away from the companies which are operating at the present time. I suggest that this is the best evidence of muddled thinking that we have had from the Opposition for a very long time. I believe that nobody else in the community would suggest for a moment that the Government should become a money lender in relation to hire purchase, as this proposition implies.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to small businesses. If he is so interested in the ability of small businesses to obtain money, why did he not do something to assist us in getting the banking legislation through? The proposed Development Bank would have been available to the small businesses of this community. The right honorable gentleman knew perfectly well that the determining factor then would have been not security but the ability of a business to show that it could be made a success.
The Leader of the Opposition has claimed that interest rates are exorbitant. It is a pity that he, coming from New South Wales, cannot exercise a little more influence over the Labour Government of New South Wales in this regard, because only in September, 1957, that Government gazetted the maximum rates of interest chargeable in relation to hire purchase. What are they? On farm equipment and new motor vehicles, there is a maximum of 7 per cent.
– Of course it is flat.
– The honorable member for Petrie is making this speech. I should like all other honorable members to remain quiet.
– In relation to second-hand motor vehicles, the maximum rate of interest allowed is 9 per cent., and in relation to all other items sold on hire purchase the maximum rate is 10 per cent. How does that compare with the report made by the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, which was mentioned by the Treasurer this morning? Those are higher rates than were suggested by Mr. Chifley in his report. Honorable members opposite say that 1941 conditions have no application at the present time, but what is happening in New South Wales under the operation of this gazettal? Two of the hire-purchase companies financing the purchase of new motor vehicles are charging only 6 per cent.
– Of course. The maximum rate is 7 per cent. flat. I wish the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith would not be so stupid. Another of the companies in New South Wales is charging an interest rate of only 5i per cent.
– The honorable member is the biggest flat I have seen in this place for a long while. In these circumstances, I suggest that the approach of the Labour party in the federal sphere is entirely different from the approach of the Labour party in the State sphere. But what has been done in New South Wales is surely confirmation of the fact, to which the Treasurer referred, that the Labour party in that State recognizes that the control of hire purchase and rates of interest thereon is a matter for State governments and not for the Federal Government.
Under no circumstances do we agree with the statement of the honorable member for Scullin that the Commonwealth Bank is not in the hire-purchase field. The Commonwealth Bank was the first of the banks to be associated with lending for hire purchase. I think that in June last year no less a sum than £13,500,000 had been lent by the Commonwealth Bank for this purpose.
Over the years all that we have had from the Labour party is an airy-fairy criticism of the rates of interest charged ‘by hirepurchase companies. The Labour party does not in any circumstances appreciate the problems which .are associated with -the matter. They do not understand the mechanism of hire purchase. If the Labour party has its way in accordance with the suggestion it has put to ‘the House this morning, and ‘if it espouses that cause before the people of Australia, it will get no thanks from them, because the people of Australia, to the extent of an average of £27 per person-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I raise a point of order. Is a member who is directly interested as a representative of hire-purchase companies entitled to take .part in .this debate and also record his vote in the division?
– The honorable member concerned is the proper judge of that.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That Standing Order 104 (11 o’clock rule) be suspended until the end of this month.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Beer Excise Act 1901-1957, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill proposes to make a change in the method of collecting excise duty levied on beer by abolishing the necessity for buying and cancelling beer duty stamps. As honorable members may know, the excise duty on beer has been collected, since its inception, by selling to brewers beer duty stamps of appropriate denominations, which are subsequently affixed to the vessels in which the beer is contained, or in the case of bottled beer, to the brewer’s cart-note.
Whilst the stamp system has served its purpose as a means of collecting duty over the years, a recent review of the system carried out by the Department of Customs and Excise led to the conclusion that the procedure is cumbersome on present-day levels of production and could well be abandoned without danger to revenue. The brewery trade has been consulted and agrees with these views. The stamp system is costly both to the department and to the trade, as it involves the annual printing of millions of stamps of varying denominations, the provision of extensive storage facilities and comprehensive accounts and audits for both parties. In addition, labour must be provided by brewers for fixing the stamps and the publican must cut the stamp on opening a vessel.
In effect, this bill will simply abolish beer duty stamps and apply to beer the same duty collection procedures as operate with respect to other excisable goods. The present accounting procedures which the department requires brewers to carry out will not be disturbed, but departmental control will be exercised over the acquisition and use of cart-notes by brewers as an added protection to revenue. Further, as a consequence of the proposed change in the method of collecting duty, this bill provides for the removal of beer “ under bond “ from point to point, within certain limits, prior to subsequent payment of duty. Such transactions are not permitted under the present stamp system, as the law limits the payment of duty to breweries and to brewers’ delivery stores. The effect of the provision, therefore, is to apply to beer the same principles as are applied to other excisable goods.
These provisions result from the determination of the Minister for Customs and Excise to simplify and streamline customs procedures as far as practicable, and I present the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Public Service Act 1922-1957.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to remove from the principal act restrictions on the period of furlough that may be granted to officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. The furlough provisions for permanent officers of the Public Service are contained in the Public Service Act. Similar provisions for temporary employees of the Commonwealth and those who are not employed under the Public Service Act are contained in the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. An amendment of this act to remove the restriction on the period of furlough that may be granted to such employees is contained in the separate Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill.
The maximum period of furlough that may be granted to officers and employees under both acts is restricted to twelve months. An officer or employee is required to complete 40 years’ service before he is eligible for the maximum grant of furlough. However, he does not receive any furlough entitlements for service exceeding 40 years.
The Government has approved the recommendations of the Public Service Board to remove the restrictions on the period of furlough which an officer or employee of the Commonwealth might be granted. In reaching this decision, consideration has been given to the view of the Joint Council constituted under the Public Service Act. The effect of the amendments will be that a Commonwealth officer or employee will be able to acquire an entitlement to furlough in respect of each year of his service. Under the new provisions, an officer or employee may be granted furlough in respect of each year of service in excess of 40 years on the same basis as that for which he may be granted furlough in respect of his years of service up to 40 years.
The amendments proposed by these bills will bring the Commonwealth provisions into line with comparative legislation operative in the majority of the States. I commend the bill to honorable members.
.- The Opposition will not delay the passage of this legislation, or of the second bill which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) proposes to introduce in a moment or so. My colleague, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), who had association with Public Service organizations before he came into the Parliament, has been asked to say something on these measures and I expect that, within a few minutes, both will have passed through this chamber.
– The Labour party, as has been indicated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), supports the bill, which increases furlough benefits to all public servants, permanent and temporary. The old act provided for six months furlough for each period of twenty years’ service, with a maximum of twelve months furlough. The extension of that benefit has been advocated, of course, by the Public Service unions and the Labour party for many years. That was incorporated in the Labour party’s policy speech for 1954. Naturally, we are very pleased that it is now being implemented.
There are other outstanding matters which I do not wish to debate now. An election is coming and we hope that those matters will be incorporated in the Labour party’s policy and that we shall have an opportunity, as a government, to implement them next year. Propositions are put to the Labour party from time to time and we are asked, “ Why don’t you implement these benefits? “ Obviously we cannot introduce any additional benefits while we are in Opposition. But we can advocate them, as we have advocated this one, and I am glad that the Government has yielded to our continual recommendations.
The provisions of this bill may be considered by some to be generous. I know that quite a lot of people think that public servants are too well treated. I do not think that this bill is over-generous. Public servants have a disadvantage in their occupations because many of them have to move from place to place and it is not easy for them to acquire their own homes. The fact that they will be able to take a lump sum in lieu of accumulated furlough at the end of their careers will help them to purchase a home. Unlike most people in industry, as I have said, they move from place to place and a rolling stone gathers no moss. Very often, the public servant does not own his home because of his movements.
There is one aspect of the act that I would like to see improved, and this may be an opportunity to improve it. The act provides that furlough “ may “ be granted. I think that it should be granted as a complete right and that there should be no doubt about it. If a Commonwealth public servant has had twenty years of service and has earned this furlough, nothing should be allowed to take it away from him. An officer, after acquiring entitlement of six months furlough, may breach the law in some very minor way but, because of this, he can be penalized by being deprived of his furlough. The act should provide for furlough as a right and it should not be possible to withhold it.
The act also provides that an officer’s dependants can have this benefit in the event of his death. But there again it only says that the benefit “ may “ be granted, depending on the officer’s conduct. I believe that the act should specify that once an officer has earned that benefit it is an absolute right.
I notice that the bill is to take effect from 30th April. Consequently, many officers who have been advocating this provision over the years will not benefit by it if they retired before 30th April. I should have liked to see a retrospectivity clause in the bill, giving it effect from some time back. It is true that a line has to be drawn somewhere, but I had hoped that the line would go back a little further. Nevertheless, the Opposition is pleased at the benefit that will come to Commonwealth public servants. The Government can be assured that whenever it does introduce bills which will benefit any section of the community they will always have the support of the Labour party.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Employees’
Furlough Act 1943-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.- by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I do not need to say anything on the secondreading of this bill because it is covered by what I said on the first measure. I should just like to point out two things, though, to my friend the honorable member for Banks (Mr- Costa), who has” been very keen on this matter. First, we have made this decision and introduced the legislation for one reason: We believe it to be just and, believing it to be just, we welcome the cooperation of the House in putting it through.
In the second place, I appreciate the point which the honorable member made about persons who will not benefit although they have advocated this legislation for many years. But, as he himself pointed out, a starting date has to be determined and whatever date is chosen, there will be some anomalies. It is in the light of that view that we selected the date of operation as the date on which the Cabinet decided to introduce the legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1956, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Tl’2.31]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This Parliament made extensive amendments to the conciliation and arbitration legislation in 1956. It can be fairly claimed that these have resulted in substantial improvement in the working of our conciliation and arbitration machinery. Indeed, the first annual report of the president of the commission commented favorably on the effects of the changes made. It is certainly not without significance that 1957, the first full year following the 1956 legislation, produced fewer working days lost through industrial disputes than any earlier year since 1942. This result is the more noteworthy when account is taken of the fact that the total number of disputes occurring in the year was not significantly less than the experience of other post-war years. It is worth noting, in passing, that if the 2 per cent, of the work force engaged in coal-mining and stevedoring are excluded, the working time lost in 1957 on the average by employees in the remaining 98 per cent, through industrial disputes was less than one hour in the year for each man - a very remarkable result, I think you will agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and one which places Australia on a favorable footing in comparison with such highly developed countries as the United Kingdom and the United States and, for that matter, other English-speaking countries.
While the 1956 legislation has worked out very well, the first annual report made by the president of the commission suggested some improvements of a minor character. Observations by myself and the department of the working of the system have suggested some other improvements. But the principal purpose of this amending bill is to put beyond doubt the structure of the system, that is the division of powers between the court and the commission which we established by the 1956 act.
Basically, what the 1956 act did was to provide for a commission to exercise the functions of conciliation and arbitration, and a court to exercise the judicial and other functions inseparable from our arbitration system. Some of these other functions could not be said to be unquestionably judicial in their nature. There was some doubt at the time whether they could validly be committed to a court of law. In the absence of authoritative decisions, it was decided to act on the view that the vesting of these functions in a court would be constitutional. The alternative would have been to vest them in the commission. We did not do this because we felt it most important that the commission should not be burdened with any functions which would prevent it from concentrating on its true function - the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. Experience has proved the wisdom of this. But the fact is that the validity of certain of the sections of the act which vested jurisdiction in the Industrial Court has been the subject of adverse pronouncement in the courts, and doubts have been raised about a number of other sections. What we have sought to do is reframe certain sections whose validity has been brought into question, by either decision or comment by the judges of both the High Court and the Industrial Court. Our object has been to make clear that the powers sought to be conferred are judicial, where that was formerly intended.
Examples of sections which have been recast in this way are section 140 dealing with rules, section 143 dealing with the cancellation of the registration of organizations, and the sections, principally section 165, dealing with inquiries into allegations of irregularities in elections. Reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that in a few cases reframing could not make good what are inherent defects, in the light of the view taken by the High Court in the Boilermakers’ case. In these cases, the power formerly given to the court has now been vested in the Registrar. But where powers have been given to the Registrar, their exercise will be subject to review by the commission instead of by the court as previously.
In a nutshell, we have set out to clothe the Industrial Court with as many of the powers which the 1956 act sought to confer upon it as we believe to be constitutionally possible in the light of subsequent developments. Unfortunately, it is impossible to feel complete confidence that the validity of what we are setting out to do will in every case be upheld if challenged. It is quite possible that further judicial decisions may make necessary other examinations of the distribution of functions between the court and the commission. I hope this does not prove to be the case. We are setting out to do the best we can.
The reframing of one section in particular has presented much difficulty. That is section 143, dealing with the deregistration of organizations. Fortunately, this is a power which is very rarely used, but it has been felt desirable, not only in this jurisdiction but also in others, to include such power within the scope of the industrial tribunals. In this section we have included a somewhat novel provision designed to meet the situation which could arise, should the section be declared to be invalid in whole or in part. In that event, upon the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General, the commission will be empowered to deal with applications for deregistration in precisely the same way as was formerly open to the old Arbitration Court. This provision will prevent a situation emerging in which there will be no authority capable of exercising this power.
I do not think there is any point in going laboriously through every one of the provisions made necessary by this legal problem to which I have alluded. While there has necessarily been some redrafting, I think it is true to say that, with one exception, no new principle of consequence is introduced. The exception is that, where the court directs a new election in a disputed election case, the election will, in future, be officially conducted.
I have mentioned that certain amendments in the bill were suggested by the president of the commission in his first annual report. One of these was that instead of it being obligatory to summon a conference of members of the commission once every four months, it should suffice if one such conference in each year were required by the act, and if the president had power to summon conferences more frequently if he thought it necessary. Frequent conferences involve expense, of course. They can interrupt the hearing of matters and impose extra travel on the members of the commission, on whom the burden of travel is already heavy. The president also pointed out that presidential members, in addition to participating in the appellate, reference and other presidential jurisdictions, perform work in connexion with particular industries, and that competing priorities as between the particular industries and the requirements of the Full Bench sittings can place presidential members in the position of having to choose between two important duties. While stressing that no difficulty has arisen in regard to the constitution by him of benches of all types, the president suggested it be made clear that he should have the responsibility for arranging which members should constitute Full Benches from time to time. The president also suggested an improvement to the provisions relating to the appointment of an acting deputy president during the absence of a deputy president. It is quite a formal matter, but, we believe, a desirable amendment. All of these suggestions will be carried into effect by the bill. These proposals were, in fact, considered and endorsed by the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council at its February meeting.
The president has also brought to notice the fact that, since the commission is not a court - I ask honorable members to note this - the members of the commission do not have the same protection and immunity as judges in the performance of their duties. It would seem desirable that they should enjoy this protection in respect, for example, of the law of libel and slander, and provision has been made accordingly.
Of the remaining matters dealt with by the bill, only four seem to call for express mention at this stage. The first is to put beyond doubt some questions which Mr. Justice Foster has raised about the definitions of “ industrial matters “ and “ seamen “ in section 71. I gather that this section, with the definitions, was taken over from the Navigation Act, and its wording differs to some extent from the definition of “ industrial matter “ which applies more generally with respect to matters dealt with by other commissioners. The judge has urged that the extent of his powers in relation to seamen should operate as widely as those exercised by commissioners generally in the other industries with which they deal, and though it has been our view that the range of his powers has been the same, the matter is being put beyond doubt.
The second matter concerns the question of intervention. Section 36 of the act provides that the Attorney-General may intervene as a matter of right in the major cases relating to the basic wage, standard hours, &c., before the Full Commission, and on reference and appeals to it, and the same right of intervention exists generally in relation to matters in the Commonwealth Industrial Court. In each case, it is provided that where the AttorneyGeneral has intervened, the commission or the court may permit persons or organizations to intervene upon application for leave being made. In a recent matter before the commission, doubts were raised as to whether the commission had a discretion to grant leave to the AttorneyGeneral to intervene in a case in which he was not specifically empowered to do so. Furthermore, in a recent decision of the Industrial Court, it was held that there was no discretion to permit persons to intervene before the court, except where the Attorney-General had intervened. This bill makes it clear, in respect of both the commission and the court, that, quite apart from the right of the Attorney-General to intervene, there shall be a discretion to permit persons who are not parties to proceedings to be heard, but always provided the Commission or the court is of the opinion that it is desirable that leave should be granted.
Thirdly, cases have been brought to my notice in which members have experienced difficulties in obtaining copies of the rules of their organizations. Not everybody has the time to go to the Registry and peruse the copy which is filed there, and the bill, accordingly, requires the secretary or other appropriate official of an organization or of a branch to furnish to a member a copy of its rules when requested so to do. Provision is made for a charge not exceeding 2s.
– Does that apply to employers who are members of registered organizations?
– It applies to organizations registered under the act.
– To both employers and employees?
– Yes. That is my understanding, but I will check the matter for the right honorable gentleman before the bill reaches the committee stage. Provisions of this kind are usual in company legislation, and there are many precedents for the same thing in the industrial legislation and the trade union laws of the States.
Finally, questions about the audit of the accounts of organizations have been raised in the House. Provision for such an audit exists, but, when I came to look into the question, I found that there was no requirement that auditors should be qualified persons. The fact is that many organizations do employ professionally qualified auditors, and I think it will be generally agreed by honorable members that it is desirable that organizations which have large incomes and expenditures - and, for that matter, large membership - should, for the protection of their members, be required to appoint qualified persons to be their auditors.
I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That it is expedient (hat an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Cotton Bounty Act 1951-1957.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McMahon and Sir Philip McBride do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision, already announced, to extend for a period of five years the assistance at present afforded to the Australian cotton-growing industry under the Cotton Bounty Act 1951-1957. Under the present act growers of cotton in Australia are guaranteed an average price of 14d. per lb. of seed cotton until 31st December, 1958. This bill will extend the guarantee until 31st December, 1963.
Queensland is the only State in which cotton is at present being grown on a commercial basis. Experimental plantings have recently been made in north-western New South Wales and at Katherine in the Northern Territory with promising indications and there are distinct possibilities that cotton-growing may be developed within the next few years in areas other than Queensland. Cotton-growing in Queensland dates back to the last century when during the American Civil War the price of cotton rose steeply. The industry developed until about 14,000 acres were under cotton but declined rapidly when American production was restored. Since then various efforts have been made to revive the industry, mainly by assistance of a Commonwealth Government bounty. Peak production was reached in 1934 when over 17,000 bales of raw cotton were produced from some 50,000 acres. Production, however, subsequently languished during a period of low prices and declined still further during the war years when emphasis was largely on the production of foodstuffs.
When the present Government assumed office it reviewed the industry and decided that further assistance by way of bounty was warranted. Accordingly, under the Cotton Bounty Act 1951 growers were guaranteed a minimum average price of 9id. per lb. of seed cotton for five years from 1st January, 1951. The guaranteed price was increased to 14d. per lb. in 1953 and has remained at that level since- As I mentioned earlier, this bill seeks to extend this guarantee for five years from 1st January, 1959.
No import duty is levied on imported raw cotton. The customs tariff provides for a duty of lid. per lb., but this is suspended under by-law. The tariff protection on manufactured cotton goods is based on the assumption that Australian cotton spinners are able to obtain their supplies of imported raw cotton duty free. Raw cotton produced in Australia is therefore sold to Australian spinners at the world price equivalent and the difference between the world price and the guaranteed price is met by a bounty payment. The amount of bounty payment required, therefore, depends on the world price of cotton. In recent years, the United States of America has been exporting its surplus raw cotton at a price level of about 6 cents per lb. below the United States of America domestic price. This depression in world cotton prices has necessitated an increased rate of bounty on the Australian production. The Australian economy, however, has not suffered as the cost of our imports of raw cotton has been greatly reduced as a result of the United Stales of America export policy. It is interesting to note that the United States of America, which is the largest and most efficient cotton-producing country, finds it essential to subsidize its raw cotton exports to the extent of about 6 cents per lb.
Despite the guaranteed price, cotton production in Australia has not developed to the extent expected. In the early 1950’s production was affected by labour shortages while of recent years the seasons have been unfavorable for cotton-growing. In 1955 and 1956, harvesting was affected by excessive rain and much of the cotton produced was of low grade and proved difficult to sell. Severe drought in Queensland in 1957 reduced the crop in that year to about 2,800 bales of raw cotton; this crop was of above average grade and the lint recovery was over 39 per cent. The improvement in the grade of cotton produced last year was heartening after two seasons in which the grade was low. Continued drought conditions early this year have reduced the prospects for the 1958 season to an estimated 2,000 bales of raw cotton.
It is obvious that a bounty payment in itself is not sufficient to assure the development of the cotton-growing industry - additional assistance must be given by way of research and extension activities. The Queensland Department of Agriculture has recently intensified its research into cotton growing. Three experiment stations now undertake work on cotton and an additional station in the Mareeba-Tinaroo district is to be included shortly. The department also intends to open a further station in the Inglewood district to complete the climatic coverage for cotton growing. It is not sufficient, however, to produce cotton on experiment stations - farmers must be instructed in correct agricultural practices, and for this purpose field officers must be made available. I have had discussions with the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Stock regarding extension services for cotton producers and have arranged for assistance to be given under the Commonwealth Extension Services Grant. A land survey is being considered by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to determine what other areas in Australia are suitable for cotton growing.
There is little doubt that the Commonwealth Government could boost cotton growing by substantially increasing the guaranteed price. There is a danger, however, that this would result in the production by inexperienced growers of low-grade cotton which would be unacceptable to Australian spinners. Further, growers enticed into the industry by a high .guaranteed price would probably cease cotton growing should the guarantee be reduced. The Division of Agricultural Economics made a survey of the industry in Queensland in 1956 and reported that a number of growers had satisfactory net returns at the present guaranteed price. This indicates that a guaranteed price of 14d. per lb. should prove reasonably remunerative for efficient producers.
Increased interest in cotton growing has recently been displayed by farmers in Queensland, particularly in the Darling Downs areas, where cotton is a suitable crop for rotation with grain. As Australian spinners use between 80,000 and 90,000 bales of cotton annually, of which only about 3,000 are produced locally, there is ample scope for expansion of cotton growing in Australia. Imports of raw cotton cost over £6,000,000 annually, most of this amount being in dollar currency. An efficient local industry would save much of this heavy expenditure.
Since the commencement of the present Cotton Bounty Act in 1951, about £300,000 has been paid in bounty. Expenditure for 1958 is estimated at £82,000. The monetary cost of the guarantee must, however, be considered in relation to the benefits to be derived from the development of an efficient cotton-growing industry. These benefits include the saving of dollar funds by reducing the quantity of cotton which is at present imported; the diversification of our production; the value of cotton as a rotation crop; and the provision of byproducts, including protein-rich cattle food.
There is no apparent reason why cotton cannot be grown in Australia as efficiently as in the United States of America and other countries. The Government believes that an extension of the present guarantee for a further five years and an intensification of research and extension activities should do much to establish the industry in Australia on a firm and economic basis. I commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Edmonds) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 1568), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The debate on the Supply Bill gives honorable members an opportunity to discuss not only aspects of Government policy, but also many other matters of importance to individual members and to the country generally. Before proceeding to offer some criticism in reply to Government supporters who have already spoken in this debate, I wish to raise one or two matters that I think are important. The first concerns the miserly contribution of the Government towards the cost of sending a team of athletes to the Empire Games at Cardiff. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), and other honorable members from this side of the House have pointed out how necessary it is that Australia should be fully represented at this great gathering, and how paltry is the Government’s contribution towards sending our team. When all is said and done, the Government spends a fortune - I think the cost will be almost £100,000 for last year - sending Ministers and their staffs overseas.
– Who paid for your trip?
– I do not criticize that practice, but the people of England would, no doubt, much prefer to see Marlene Mathews and Betty Cuthbert in Cardiff than the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). It would be a good move on the part of the Government to increase its miserly contribution of £5,000, even if it meant keeping the Minister for Defence in this country and not sending him abroad on one of his many excursions. What better ambassadors could we have than these people who have brought honour to Australia in the field of sport? Take, for instance, the Konrads kids and Lorraine Crapp. What about Dawn Fraser and others? They are known all over the world. But the Government refuses to increase its grant of £5,000 so that these great athletes may play their part in the Empire . festival in Cardiff in the coming July. It amazes me!
Members who sit on the other side of the House do not look very much like athletes, but despite the fact that many of them are now falling away to flesh, they probably played their part in the various sporting arenas of this country. Why do they not stand up and support the demand for an increased grant to send these ambassadors overseas? Unfortunately, the Government has refused to increase the grant, but any day now we may see the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) or the Minister for Defence and their colleagues travelling to all parts of the world, spending unlimited amounts of money.
In this bill the Government is seeking approval to spend another £20,000 in that way, yet all it will give towards sending our athletes to Cardiff is a paltry £5,000. This is a Government that squanders money. The St. Mary’s project has cost £23,000,000, yet the Government will not give one penny more towards our Empire Games team. As the honorable member for Macquarie says, it is a British Commonwealth relations team, in effect. The Government boasts of its allegiance to the Crown, it talks of the British way of life; but it refuses to contribute a reasonable sum to see that Australia is adequately represented at the Empire Games. Its treatment of our athletes - our ambassadors - is scandalous in the extreme. It is paltry and mean. I hope that the Government, despite the assurances given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the decision is final, will, at this late stage, review its decision and see that the amount is increased. I should like to see some of the near-silent members opposite support my request, because it is a worthy Australian project and one to which all honorable members should subscribe, irrespective of their politics.
There are several matters I should like to mention in this debate. Some months ago, I wrote to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) asking that blind persons be given certain concessions with regard to the installation of telephones. I had received a deputation from blind citizens of New South Wales, requesting me to place before the Postmaster-General proposals for a reduction in the cost of installations, rentals, and call charges in respect of telephones used in the residences of blind persons. I shall not give the full details of the request, but I was advised by these people that a telephone in their home is almost like having a sighted person in the house. A telephone is a vital part of their existence. I asked the Postmaster-General to consider reducing rental and installation charges for these telephones. Subsequently, I received a communication from him, which ran into a full page, giving reasons why this concession could not be granted. The Government has announced that the Postmaster-General’s Department has made a profit of more than £3,000,000. Could it not give a fraction of that amount towards providing some relief and comfort to blind people? The Government might well do so, and I ask the Postmaster-General to consider carefully, and as soon as possible, my request so that these concessions may be incorporated in the forthcoming Budget and thereby afford relief to people who are stricken with blindness.
I wish to refer to one or two other matters in the light of the Government’s policy. Speaker after speaker on the Government side has referred to the prosperity in this country to-day. They were so enthusiastic that several members of the Australian Country party joined them to tell the nation that Australia is a country teeming with prosperity and in which nothing whatever is wrong. Members of both parties opposite said that this Government had a proud record of achievement second to none in the history of this country.
If that record is so good, I wonder why the Government did not call for a double dissolution of Parliament recently when the Opposition rejected its banking legislation in the Senate. If the Government’s record is so outstanding, why was it afraid to face the people, as it had an opportunity to do at that time? Why did it not come out and face its masters and tell them about its proud record and then take their judgment? If the Government had done so, I know that some of its supporters who are now sitting opposite me would have been on the pay-roll of J. Somerville Smith or somebody else immediately after the election because of the judgment of the Australian people. In a debate earlier to-day on hire purchase it was made very clear that this Government has thrown the Australian people to the financial sharks and has com pletely destroyed the economic stability of the country. This Government was elected in 1949 on the greatest array of promises ever presented to the Australian people. But even at this stage, despite the pious words of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) a couple of days ago, I doubt whether one could possibly find one promise among all that were made by the Government parties in 1949 that has been fulfilled.
The Government talks about prosperity. What prosperity is there for the vast majority of the Australian people? I do not disagree that there is prosperity in this country, but the trouble is that it is shared by 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, at the expense of the 80 per cent, or 85 per cent, who work for a living and who look to the Government to provide that security which they are unable to get for themselves through their earning capacity. There is plenty of security for the select few. The balance-sheets of companies show from time to time that unlimited profits are being made for the shareholders and the wealthy interests which control them. The financial interests of this country, under the policy of this Government, are gaining a monopolistic control of capital. In addition to that, there is a wealthy squatocracy represented - or misrepresented, however one likes to look at it - by the honorable members for Moore (Mr. Leslie) and Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and other honorable members opposite. Those people are wealthy to-day simply because they are protected at the expense of the vast majority of Australian people who do not get any protection from this Government.
What prosperity is there for pensioners under this Government’s policy? These people are living, or are expected to live, on the miserly amount of £4 7s. 6d. a week. A few days ago I received an answer to a question which I asked about butter. It showed that never before has the consumption of butter been so low as it has been during the last seven or eight years. One reason for that fact is that the people are paying 4s. 7id. per lb. for butter whereas in 1949, under the Chifley Government, they paid 2s. 2d. per lb. Another reason for the lower consumption is that pensioners and others are forced to live below the bread line and have no share in the prosperity that exists. That is why they have not got this necessary commodity on their breakfast tables.
How can a person live on £4 7s. 6d. a week? He can hardly exist. He gains little satisfaction from pious statements such as those of the honorable member for Sturt and others in this Parliament, or when he reads about the huge profits being made by companies, the unlimited expenditure on Government projects such as the St. Mary’s filling factory and others, and the news that Ministers of the Crown are constantly travelling around the world at the taxpayers’ expense. He is unable to meet his commitments out of £4 7s. 6d. a week, but he is expected to do so at a time when honorable members on the Government side say that this country has never been more prosperous.
What is the position of the pensioner who wants medical benefits? He has to overcome the means test, which is one of the most vicious impositions of its kind. Yet, the Government promised that no means test would be applied to pensioners who were in need of medical benefits. To-day, we have a situation in which of two pensioners who may be living in one house one can obtain free medical attention but the other is denied it because of the vicious means test which has been imposed by a Government that boasts of the country’s prosperity. I invite members of the Australian Country party and many members of the Liberal party to visit my electorate and others in the great metropolitan areas of Australia to see for themselves the suffering of people whose only means of subsistence is an age, widow’s or invalid pension. I believe that even in their hard hearts, honorable members would realize that the prosperity which they speak of is enjoyed by only a select few, the wealthy 10 per cent, of 15 per cent, who put this Government into office. They are the people in control of the banks and other financial institutions, and they are reaping huge benefits to-day because of the Government’s policy. It favours the wealthy but casts the poor aside.
The Government tells us that there is great prosperity for the wage-earner. Every wage-earner to-day knows that he cannot possibly subsist unless he goes right into debt with hire purchase or sends his wife out to work so that together they may earn sufficient to buy the necessaries of life. Never before in our time has the cost of living been higher or the purchasing power of the £1 lower than under this Government which pledged the people that it would put value back into the Australian £1. 1 have some figures which I checked in the official records of this Parliament and which show what is taking place. They relate to the six capital cities, and they show that in 1949-50, the last time that Australia had a decent Government - which was the Chifley Labour Government - the C series index was 1,669. In December, 1957, it had risen to 2,905, which was an increase of 1,236, or 75 per cent., in the cost of living. That is what has happened under a government which told the people throughout the length and breadth of Australia that it would protect their savings, put value back into the £1 and protect the wage-earners and others. The figures show also that the basic wage has risen from £6 9s. in 1949 to about £12 16s. to-day. But the purchasing power of that £12 16s. is equivalent to only about £5 in 1949. The fact of the matter is that wageearners and others have never been worse off than they are under the present Government, which is so proud of the country’s prosperity.
What is the use of the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) quoting the number of motor cars people own or are running on the roads? Many country members say that it is not possible in some areas to find the roads which the Government talks about. The State governments and local government bodies have not been able to spend anything on them, because the Commonwealth Government has used road tax revenue to bolster up some Commonwealth account which it has robbed for some other purpose or to help support a failing economy. The honorable member’s statement does not prove anything except the fact that many people who drive motor cars are in debt. They have been exploited by the hire-purchase profiteers who are raking off 10 per cent., 15 per cent., and 20 per cent, interest on the money they have lent to these people for the purpose of buying motor cars.
This morning the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) submitted the subject of hire purchase to the House for discussion, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) became very antagonistic when he was challenged about the high rates of interest charged by hire-purchase and finance companies. Many people who own motor cars to-day are paying a high rate of interest on the money they borrowed to purchase them, but the banks refuse to lend money for the building of homes. That is because the people behind them would not get a big enough rake-off in interest from money lent for this purpose. I am not opposed to hire purchase, but I say that in this time of so-called prosperity under the economic policy of this Government the people are purchasing all kinds of luxury goods because it is only for the purchase of these lines that they can borrow money. For such loans they pay an exorbitant rate of interest. Much as they want to buy their own homes they cannot obtain finance. It is easier for them to borrow to buy furniture than it is for them to obtain money with which to purchase a home to put it in.
The Government is open to attack from many other directions, and not only in relation to costs. Its housing policy is damning. In its war service homes administration, it is allowing soldiers who are unable to get homes to be exploited. Finance companies are charging them up to 25 per cent, interest. It is of no use for the Government to say that prospective home owners are not being charged high rates of interest. I have in my hand a letter sent to me last year, which reads -
Although T told the War Service yesterday that we want the house, 1 do not believe that we can raise the extra £50. The finance company which is lending the £150 at 25 per cent, will not give us any more, and the other firms will not consider it as the house already has two mortgages. The War Service has the first, and the second one is £150.
There is an example of what is happening to-day all over the country, yet this Government boasts about prosperity! It is prosperity for the select few who have the power and influence and are able to pull strings to make the Government introduce legislation which suits them.
This Government attained office by promising that it would reduce taxation. This is the position after this unfortunate Government has been in office for eight or nine years. The Government is collecting £44 Ils. annually in indirect taxes from every person in the country. The Chifley Labour Government collected only £19 15s. In direct taxes this Government is collecting £76 annually from every person, but the Chifley Government collected only £38 12s. To-day, £120 per annum is being collected in direct and indirect taxes from every citizen of the country, but the Chifley Government collected only a little over £60 a head. How is that for a policy of tax reduction? Right through the whole field of taxation, substantial increases have been made by this Government, which promised to reduce taxes. In 1949-50, under the Chifley Administration, £35,000,000 was collected in taxation, but this Government last year collected £129,500,000. In 1949-50, the Chifley Government collected £96,000,000 in income tax from individual persons. This year the Government is collecting £465,000,000, which is an increase of £369,000,000. That is a classic example of how this Government has put aside a promise on which it was elected.
It is interesting that during this session Government supporters have constantly shown that they were not game to defend the legislation introduced. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who is interjecting, rarely has any practical knowledge of the situation. Like an automatic adding machine, he provides a lot of figures, and then sits down and tries to look intelligent. When his speech is finished, no honorable member is any better off in the possession of knowledge. He is one of the Government’s experts on taxation. He would not allow as deductions from taxable income the fares that workers spend going to and from work. Although the committee of which he is a member investigated this matter, it has allowed the Government to shelve whatever proposals the committee made.
I mention these matters in order to show the problem that confronts the nation now and to illustrate that the Government no longer has a prosperous nation to look after because of the tragic financial policy of the Treasurer. That policy has led the country along the same path on which it was taken by the Bruce-Page Government. Our overseas borrowing has never been higher. Honorable members know the history of the Bruce-Page Government, which borrowed abroad to such an extent that the people of this country had to work for generations to pay off the interest. If the Government believes that it has behind it a confident country, why does it not do what the Chifley Government did in time of war? The Labour government borrowed over £1,000,000,000 from its own people. We paid that money back, and so it was kept in Australia. By paying a reasonable rate of interest we raised the money from our own people. This Government’s financial policy is putting the Australian people into pawn with nations abroad. If the policy is allowed to continue, there will follow a tragic economic recession, caused solely by borrowing from abroad. The Government talks about prosperity, but there is now more unemployment here than there has been at any time since 1939.
– What about the coal strike in 1949?
– The Government sits idly by and laughs it off. Its policy has caused more unemployment than has existed since 1939. The honorable member for Petrie talks about the coal strike. That was a time of great national crisis, when an organization declared war on the Labour government. Labour, to its eternal credit, took steps to ensure that the interests of the country were protected. It acted with the full support of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the men and women of the trade union movement generally. Honorable members opposite should not forget that the unemployment caused then lasted for only a short time. This Government is encouraging immigrants to come to Australia only to put them amongst the unemployed, at a time when we have people of our own unemployed.
Irrespective of the figures that are bandied about by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), and irrespective of how complacent honorable members opposite look, an awakening is coming when the electors are faced and the full truth about the unemployment position is brought home to them. I do not want to see unemployment grow. I do not want a vote out of the unemployment of any man. I have lived at a time when unemployment was rife in this country. It was tragic, and while I am a member of this Parliament I am prepared to take any kind of drastic financial steps to ensure that not one person is unemployed.
But the Government does not care. It favours a policy of economic pressure. It likes to have men outside the gates as a means of bringing efficiency to industry and greater profits to the people who control the wealth and power. It is well for the people generally to wake up to these things. If honorable members opposite do not think it matters, let them remember that a government in Canada was recently returned to office with an overwhelming majority because the policy sponsored by its opponents was one which would have added to the growing unemployment in that country. The serious charge can be laid against this Government that by curtailing finance to the State governments for essential works, housing and development, it has curtailed the spending power of governments and industry and therefore their capacity to employ. Honorable members opposite might well remember these matters when they are talking about the great prosperity that exists. They judge prosperity by the value of the hire-purchase agreements in force.
The Government is not prepared to face the people on its record at this stage. The Treasurer, whom I see in the House now, said this morning that the next Budget will be a good one. That will be a delightful change. We have not seen a good one for a long time. But an especially good Budget will be needed to carry back to office the Government in which the right honorable gentleman sits to-day. I shall be sorry when he leaves the Parliament, but I think he is a little lucky. If he did come back, he would be over here with many of his colleagues, after the Government had gone to the people on its policy. It is interesting to note that we can wake up Government supporters only when we tell them that they might be beaten. Of course, they have a personal interest in getting back, and on this occasion they realize that what I have said about their record is completely correct.
I wish to summarize the few remarks that I have made. I disagree entirely with honorable members opposite who say that the Government’s policy has brought prosperity to the nation. In every field - finance, social services, costs, taxation, and banking - this Government has acted contrary to the promises it made when it went to the people. Each aspect of the policy that it has implemented has resulted in this country going backwards. That applies to taxation, social services, prices, rents, and any other matter one cares to mention. To-day, in the field of hire purchase, the average person is being exploited. If anything exemplified the Government’s vulnerability on its financial policy, it was the fiery speech made by the Treasurer to-day when he took umbrage at Labour’s righteous attack on the exorbitant rates of interest being charged and the exploitation of the people under this Government. These matters are clear to every one. The proof is available for all to see. Government supporters may think that what I am saying is not right, but it will be verified by the votes that are cast at the next federal election.
We should not forget either the wastefulness of this Government. At a time when it claims that it has not enough money to give to this or that deserving organization, the Government has squandered £26,000,000 on the St. Mary’s project. In various other fields of activity, money is being expended wastefully as never before. I have not the time now to go fully into defence expenditure, but everybody knows that this Government has spent large sums of money on tanks which cannot pass over anything but the Sydney Harbour bridge. They are too big to cross any other bridges and culverts in the country, and are practically useless.
Although this Government has expended £1,500,000,000 on defence, we have the word of Sir Frederick Shedden, formerly Secretary of the Department of Defence, that Australia has never been more vulnerable and less prepared than it is to-day. That is the pattern through the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. A prominent army officer has stated that we have more officers than privates in the Australian Army. This Government should be condemned for its wasteful expenditure on defence and all aspects of administration.
I join with my colleagues in saying that we should be proud of this country. It has great possibilities for development, but if we leave development to this LiberalCountry party Government, we shall not get very far. A current exhibition in the King’s Hall of Parliament House illustrates what is being done on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. That scheme is held up by this Government as being something of great national value. Tourists are shown over the scheme under the sponsorship of the Government, and it is quite right that they should be told what is happening there; but the fact is that every Liberal and Country party member of this Parliament with the exception, I think, of the Treasurer, boycotted the opening of that project because they said it was not necessary. I pay a tribute to a former Treasurer, Mr. Chifley, for his foresight because he saw in that project one of the greatest of its kind in the world. All the great reforms, social and economic, and all the great things that have been done in this country for its development have resulted from Labour administration. I hope it will not be long before men and women of the Australian Labour party will sit on the government side of the House and bring to this country economic stability and security for the people. Labour will ensure that the country shall be developed in the interests of all and particularly for the 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, without power or influence who look to a Labour administration to make this country what it should be.
.- When the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) commenced his remarks, he said that a debate on a supply measure enables a speaker to cover a wide range of problems of national importance. For the last halfhour he has entertained the House with a list of those problems which he has brought together in that category. In his peroration, he referred again in a critical way to the claim by this Government that the Australian nation is enjoying great prosperity. It is quite true that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and members of the Government have made just claims regarding the present prosperity of Australia. The honorable member sought to criticize those claims and went to some length to explain to the House that, in his opinion, the country has never been in a worse state.
Quite obviously, the honorable member has not had time to consult with his colleague, the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, with whom he has some strong ties, and, T might say without exaggeration, bonds of friendship. In the last few weeks, the Premier of New South Wales arrived in the United States of America, and we have read many reports of the very heartening advice he has given in the United States regarding the state of affairs in Australia. We have also had the pleasure of seeing photographs of Mr. Cahill posing with film stars and millionaires. In public statements, he has said, among other things, that never has the Australian nation been more prosperous. There is no unemployment here, in the words of the Premier of New South Wales, and when there is occasionaly some slight measure of unemployment, it is only of a seasonal nature. Therefore, the honorable member for Grayndler seems to be speaking in this House out of tune with one of his own leaders. Of course, this is not the first time he has been out of tune with a Labour leader.
During the last few months, we have suffered in this House the type of attack in which the Opposition in general seeks to make party political capital out of a state of affairs that does not exist. It has been proved that the Opposition’s claims are correct, because when a leading member of the Australian Labour party gets away from the party political atmosphere of his State or the nation, and speaks in a national way, as the Premier of New South Wales has been doing, we find the truth comes from his lips.
I do not intend to follow the honorable member for Grayndler along various interesting by-paths, but there are several matters, to which he directed the attention of the House, on which I should like to comment. The honorable member said there was an awakening coming to Australia. He made that statement in the context that there is an awakening coming to the present Government and that, after the next elections, we on this side might find ourselves on the Opposition benches.
– You have nothing to worry about. You will get the “ com.” preferences again.
– If the honorable member for Herbert will give me an opportunity to answer the honorable member for Grayndler, I would point out that he is out of tune again with his leader, because the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) does not think that we are in for an awakening. He is deserting his electorate of Barton and going to the safer seat of Hunter. He realizes the type of awakening this is coming to him. So, while we can agree that there will be an awakening, we differ in our interpretation of the phrase.
The honorable member for Grayndler said that the cost of living had never been higher than it is now. If he related that statement to New South Wales, from which both he and I come, he would be correct; but he was trying to relate it to the whole of Australia. In New South Wales recently, we had the unhappy experience of a rise in the basic wage to an extent unknown in other States. We have noted the happy experiences of a successful government in South Australia and, more recently, a successful government in Victoria. Neither of them is a Labour government. It is a well-known historical fact that, because of wise government in those two States, industries have been attracted within their boundaries to an extent that has not been known before and to the detriment of the premier State of New South Wales. Sir Thomas Playford in South Australia and Mr. Bolte in Victoria, with their colleagues, have been most successful in attracting industries and encouraging the expansion of the economies of those States. Belatedly, those successes have been recognized by the Premier of New South Wales. So, he has gone scampering abroad to try to attract investment to New South Wales. I hope that he succeeds. If he does, it will be good for that State and Australia; but I fear that he has started his run too late. I say this as a New South Welshman who is not in any sense jealous of the great success that has been achieved in Victoria and South Australia and which looks like being repeated in Queensland.
The honorable member for Grayndler also referred to the fact that the wealth of the nation was, to use his own phrase, in the hands of a select few. I do not wish to debate that point at great length because I answered an honorable gentleman opposite on that subject in a previous debate. To summarize, may I remind Opposition members, once again, that the invested wealth of the country is not in the hands of a select few. The honorable member for Grayndler mentioned the trading banks of Australia. If he looks at the shareholding lists he will find that a great number of people have invested their savings in the trading banks of Australia. The same thing applies to another private enterprise which is frequently criticized in this place, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Once again, a great number of small shareholders - the ordinary men and women of Australia - have invested their savings, to varying degrees, in such enterprises as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
The honorable member mentioned the problem of housing, which I had had in mind to include in my remarks, and I should like to pass to it now. I say, in contradiction of the honorable member, that this Government has a very good record in its administration of a problem that is well known throughout Australia - the housing problem. Fortunately, the difficulties surrounding that problem are decreasing. They have not been solved at the speed for which we had hoped, but without trying to pass the buck in any way, I think it is true to say that the delay has not been due to any failure by the present Commonwealth Government. It is well known that although the previous agreement between the Commonwealth and the States - the Chifley, socialist agreement - was due to expire on 30th June, 1956, by common consent, it was extended to allow negotiations to take place between the respective governments. The reason for the delay in coming to further agreement was that the present Commonwealth Government, being a supporter of free enterprise, desired that a certain proportion of the money to be made available should be channelled to assist private home-building. The Government considered that the money should not all go to the various housing commissions within the States, as was the idea and objective of the socialist agreement which was entered into under the late Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley.
As is well known, the Labour Government of New South Wales at least has the great objective to be the landlord, and for the citizens of that State to become the tenants of the Government. That objective is completely contrary to the conception and ideals and objectives of the Liberal Government. So the new agreement with the States took some time to be negotiated, but I am happy to say that we were able to persuade the States and that we have met with some measure of success. As a result, 20 per cent, of the total amount allocated to the States was channelled to private home-building for use in 1956-57 and 1957-58. This will increase to 30 per cent, of the total amount for the years 1958-59 and 1960-61. That is the answer, although brief, that I make to the honorable member for Grayndler.
During this debate, the matter of pensions has been brought forward on several occasions. There is only one point to which I wish to refer in this connexion. In saying that, I do not wish to lead the House into thinking that I am forgetting the many problems that surround our social services. I believe that, in this debate, those have been well covered. I only wish to speak to one that has not, to any degree, been mentioned in this debate. That is the difficulty which one section of the population finds in maintaining its standard of living.
I refer to that group of people who, by their own savings, have endeavoured to provide for their retirement. Because of their savings or their investment in some form of property or shares, they find that they are not entitled to the age pension at all or are entitled to only a very small percentage of that pension. We have been able, by amendment to the Social Services Act, to make reasonable provision for people who are in receipt of superannuation. We have been able to make provision for pensioners who are married couples. But there remains the group under the general definition that I have just given - I would include also the single pensioner, whether aged or an invalid one.
There are two things that I suggest to the Government, and in doing so I make a strong plea. I suggest that the income that is being derived from a person’s capital asset be taken into consideration in assessing the amount of pension that is to be paid, and not the capital value of the asset. We all know of many instances in which the capital value of an asset is high but. for various reasons, the income derived from it is low.
– If it were superannuation it would not affect the amount of pension received.
– Quite so. Therefore, I make a strong plea to the Minister for Social Services that due consideration be given to the conditions in which these people find themselves.
Although the matter has been well covered in other speeches, I would like to support, very briefly, the view that has been put forward that it is necessary for us to consider the plight of the single pensioner. This problem is perhaps most evident in city areas, where the rent of rooms, or whatever accommodation is occupied, is higher than in country areas.
The next matter that I would like to discuss is a local one. It is the need for a broadcasting licence to be given to one of the several applicants for a station to be established on the central coast area of New South Wales. In saying this, I want to make it quite clear that I am not making a plea for any one of the individual applicants. Each application will have to be considered on its merits. What I am making a plea for is that a licence should be granted. This matter has been before the PostmasterGeneral and, through him, before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, on a number of occasions over the last eight or nine years. I have a belief, on the information given to me, that, when this matter is considered by the officers of the Broadcasting Control Board, they look at the map and find that, in air miles, the central town of this district, Gosford, is some 30 miles from Newcastle, in which area there are four broadcasting stations, and approximately the same distance from Sydney, where there are eight or nine broadcasting stations. Consequently, the officers conclude that the district is well served.
That is not so. In the first place, owing to the physical conditions, Newcastle stations are not well received in that area. Some stations can hardly be heard at all. Reception from Sydney stations is good at night-time, but it fades at frequent intervals during the day-time. Apart from poor reception, I think you will agree with me, Mr. Speaker, that because of the change in the manner of our living, a local broadcasting station has become one of the necessary amenities for a progressive district. Licences have been issued for broadcasting stations in areas that have by no means as large a population as the district I have mentioned.
In making that statement I know full well that some of the areas to which I refer are outback areas which have not the other means of communication that the central coast district of New South Wales has. So I again ask the Postmaster-General to consider whether or not it would be possible to allot to an applicant for a licence for a broadcasting station on the central coast a channel that would be on the same wavelength as a station operating, say, in Western Australia. That would be a great advantage to us. It would not interfere in any way with the signal from the Western Australian station, because the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has power to limit the strength of the signal emanating from a broadcasting station.
The third and final matter which I wish to discuss is the problem of the people whom I have termed, on past occasions, “ small acreage farmers “. This problem is not confined to the central coast district of New South Wales which I represent here, but is common to a number of areas throughout Australia. But the problem is accentuated in that district of New South Wales for various reasons, one of which I have mentioned previously in my remarks - that costs are higher in New South Wales than they are in other States. One need not look far for the reason. When I refer to small-acreage farmers, I refer to such people as orchardists, poultry-farmers, pigfarmers, dairy-farmers and vegetablefarmers - those who are engaged in producing the food of the nation. I think you will agree, Mr. Speaker, from your own knowledge of New South Wales, that the New South Wales Labour socialist government under which New South Wales has suffered for more than sixteeen years, has given preference in its legislation to providing amenities - which, in themselves, are all to the good - to the workers in the metropolitan and industrial areas.
One of the amenities that the New South Wales Labour Government has thought it necessary to provide for these people is cheap food. The return to the producers of food has not risen to the same degree as have the prices of other commodities. The small-acreage farmer has suffered from the fact that he has had. to pay increased prices for feed for his stock, and for equipment like wire and wire netting. Although the prices of these commodities have gone up over the years, the small acreage farmer has not been able to pass the increased cost on to the other sections of the community in the same way as those engaged in other industries have been able to pass on their increased costs. 1 mention this matter here and now because several members on both sides of the Parliament have taken an interest in it. Curiously enough, with the exception of the late Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, very few, if any, of the members of the New South Wales Government have taken any interest in the plight of the small acreage farmers and, unfortunately, the late Minister for Agriculture was unable to persuade his colleagues to take any progressive action to help these people. On the contrary, disaster overtook the small acreage farmers because of increasing costs associated with their various industries. One thing that affected them most disastrously was the steep increase of charges for transport both by road and rail. I mention that now because it is one of the curious quirks of life that those members of this House who have taken an interest in this matter, and who tried to give assistance and advice to those affected by the increase of transport costs, are the very ones who have been blamed in some degree by the small acreage farmers for the difficulties and problems they face.
I think that all honorable members know that, where government action to help in regulating the cost structure of the small farming industries is possible, the responsibility for it lies solely with the government of the State concerned, and the State Department of Agriculture. When members of this Parliament, in all sincerity, put that point to the small farmers they are accused of passing the buck, to use the old Australian phrase. Nothing is further from the truth. So I think the House and the nation were well served in this week’s urgency debate which dealt with a proposal that the Commonwealth should accept a greater measure of responsibility for education, because that debate was marked by the same suggestion that the Commonwealth was passing the buck to the States in the matter of education. During that debate, it was made quite clear that there was no question of the Commonwealth’s passing the buck to the States, and I relate that rebuttal to the particular industries of which I have been speaking.
On the Commonwealth level we certainly have a responsibility to those on small farms, and we have available to us a number of ways in which we can assist them. In fact, this Government has given much assistance to the small farming industries. For instance, we have been able to open up new markets for the poultry industry to replace the United Kingdom market which, until recently, was the best market for that industry. We are able, through the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in cooperation with the State Departments of Agriculture, to provide extension services to farmers. We are able to provide, and have provided, money to enable people to go overseas to study the efficiency of the farming industries in other countries. These are some of the ways in which the Commonwealth can help. But the point I wish to stress is that where government action is possible to remedy so many of the difficulties that surround the small farming industries at present, the responsibility for taking that action is a State responsibility. So there is no validity in any suggestion that the Commonwealth is passing the buck in this matter, either.
I have mentioned in this House on previous occasions my firm belief in the need to maintain a true and strong federal system in Australia. The Commonwealth Constitution is what might be termed the fundamental law of the nation, and it is binding on all governments and parliaments as well as on all citizens of Australia. That means that each form of government - local, State or Commonwealth - has its own responsibilities, and it is up to the citizens of Australia to see that the people they elect to manage their affairs at all those levels shoulder their responsibilities.
– If the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) feels frustrated in his dealings with the New South Wales Government when he seeks to take up the cudgels on behalf of the man on the land who operates in a minor way, he really should try himself out against the Government he supports, in relation to its administration of the land in the Australian Capital Territory, and see how that Government will frustrate any efforts he might make to state a case or obtain justice for the small farmer in this Territory, which the Commonwealth itself controls. This year was the year of hope for the land-hungry people in this Territory - and there are people here who are anxious to get on the land and have been making every effort for a great number of years to get on the land. They had looked forward with great hope to 1958, because the leases under which the rural lands of this Territory are held were to terminate on 30th June, 1958. At that stage, the use of the lands was to be reconsidered and reviewed, and it had been assumed that opportunities would be afforded to those who did not have land - and especially to the sons of farmers, and to returned sailors, soldiers and airmen from the recent war - to secure land on which to establish themselves in farming pursuits. As I proceed, I shall endeavour to show just how this Government has dealt with the land in the A.C.T. and how it has frustrated the aims of those people who had such great hopes of this year 1958.
We should note, Mr. Speaker, that the Australian Capital Territory comprises some 910 square miles. A considerable portion of that area, of course, is withheld from occupation because it is within the catchment area for the city water supply or is required for afforestation projects. The area withheld unoccupied in that way is approximately one-fifth of the total area of the Territory, or some 129,500 acres. Leaving out the 56 square miles of the city area, 310,000 acres is held under leasehold, and 107,000 acres, or slightly more than one-sixth of the total area of the Territory, is still held under freehold in some exceptionally large properties and some comparatively small holdings.
The leasehold land is administered by the Government under the Leases Ordinance and regulations made under that ordinance, and certain requirements are provided in the regulations subject to which a person may be entitled to become a lessee and have a lease granted to him by the Minister for the Interior, who controls the leasehold land in the Territory. The requirements are severely restrictive. The Minister has, first of all, to establish to his own satisfaction that the applicant for a lease is entitled to become a lessee. He has to have regard to what land, under either leasehold or under freehold, or under any other tenure, the applicant already holds. He has to be satisfied as to the applicant’s financial position and his ability to manage land held under a lease. The requirements were summarized in this way. The Minister has to have regard to these matters -
There, the term used was that adopted after the first world war, and has not yet been amended - and
Subject to those matters, the Minister - shall determine whether the applicant or the proposed assignee as the case may be is eligible to become a lessee.
A lease shall not be granted to any person unless the Minister previously determines that he is eligible to become a lessee.
The basis of land settlement on the leasehold system in the Territory, Mr. Speaker, was that what was assessed as a living area was granted. The basis on which a living area was assessed may or may not have been correct. In my view, it was not strictly correct. A living area was assessed at about 1,100 or 1,200 acres. The regulations provide that no lessee shall hold land of an assessed value greater than a certain amount, which was originally fixed at £6,000, and was subsequently increased to £8,000 and still later to £10,000. In my view, it would have been better to have assessed a living area which, if unimproved, would have carried, say, 1,000 sheep. Then, had the lessee chosen to improve his land so that it would carry three or four times that number of sheep, good luck to him. So he would have advanced in the community. But the conditions of leasehold, and the administration of the regulations under the Leases Ordinance, have been such that lessees have been encouraged, not to improve their land, but to acquire more land by the transfer of leases, by purchase, and in other ways. So, the leasehold land in the Territory has been passing into ever fewer and fewer hands. The present Government must accept the blame for the accentuation of this trend to such a degree that we have now reached a position in which it is possible for all of the leasehold land in the Territory to pass into the hands of one family. That would be an extreme case. It is not likely to happen, but it could happen. I suggest that the money available will be the limiting factor.
– That would be monopolization.
– That could happen. The aggregation of leasehold land in this Territory has been encouraged, and there could be aggregation to the complete exclusion of the sons of farmers, and of returned servicemen, who, year after year, have asked the Government for some sort of closer settlement scheme in the Territory.
As a result of the way in which the regulations have been administered, under the leasehold system, the land in the Territory has been given over almost entirely to grazing. I have not with me the latest statistics published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, but those for 1955-56 reveal that there was, then, a total of 222 rural holdings, comprising a total area of 389,275 acres. This refers to the whole area of the A.C.T. Of that area, only 5,740 acres was used for crops. Land lying fallow totalled 805 acres. Areas sown under clovers and grasses for improved pasture totalled only 51,871 acres out of the total area of 389,275 acres. The balance of the land used for grazing was 318,805 acres. Since 1955-56 there has probably been little variation, although I think that the area under improved pasture has probably increased slightly. At that time, 370,676 acres, or 95 per cent, of the occupied land in the A.C.T. was used for grazing. These statistics prepared by the Bureau of Census and Statistics indicate that the great bulk of that grazing land is completely unimproved, that there is a negligible amount under crop, and that a very small area indeed is under improved pastures.
There were certainly powers under the Leases Ordinance and the regulations for the Minister for the Interior and his officers to see that the lessees made improvements to their land, but I am afraid that, over the years, the regulations have been largely disregarded and those powers have been largely unused. As a result, we have the present tragic position that, in the year in which the leases were to be reviewed, and renewed or re-allotted, over 95 per cent, of the land in the Territory is used for grazing, and only 51,871 acres out of 389,275 acres - a very small proportion indeed - has been sown down to improved pasture.
The practice has been for the aggregation of estates, and it was encouraged over the years, particularly, let me say, in recent years. There is no other phrase but “ aggregation of estates “ that can be used to express what I want to say. Lessees have begun with an area of 1,100 or 1,200 acres, perhaps running sheep on natural pasture, experiencing good years, and receiving substantial cheques for their wool, and instead of improving their land, they have purchased adjoining leases which they have left unimproved. I am bound to say that a great deal of the land in the southern part of the Territory breeds more rabbits than sheep, and it is to the everlasting shame of the Administration - and of the lessees also, let me say straight out - that the lessees have not sought to improve their land and increase its carrying capacity.
I come back now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to those people who, over the years, have sought an opportunity to get on the land and to acquire their part of the national estate under the leasehold system of which I completely approve - and I shall show how their efforts have been frustrated and how the hopes that they had held for this year 1958 were finally completely dashed. As far back as September, 1951, I wrote to the then Minister for the Interior, proposing that some assistance be given to exservicemen who sought to enter into vegetable production, orcharding and pursuits of that kind. On 20th September, 1951. the Minister wrote to me in these terms -
With further reference to your representations of 22nd August, 1951, on behalf of ex-servicemen in the A.C.T. desirous of securing leases for fruit and vegetable growing, I have had enquiries made and find that there is no land available for the purpose mentioned.
The Minister’s letter continued -
All suitable Commonwealth-owned rural land is at present under occupation and will not become available until the expiration of leases in 1938 when it is proposed to review the conditions under which these lands will be utilised in the future.
There was a reiteration of a promise given over the years by successive Ministers for the Interior that, at the expiration of the 25 years’ leases in 1958, there would be a review of the leases and of the conditions under which the land was to be utilized.
– Is that land within reasonable distance of Canberra?
– The land is all within the Australian Capital Territory which, as the honorable member knows, extends at the most some 50 miles south of this city, but the usable land in the grazing and agricultural sense would be at the most, say, 25 miles south of the city. If developed, of course, it could be of extreme value in providing for the needs, in many fields, of the National Capital.
In 1952, I made further representations to the then Minister for the Interior, and in his reply of 28th November, 1952, he said -
The Minister’s letter went on -
As you are aware the major portion of Commonwealthowned lands outside the City Area are at present held under lease expiring on 30th June, 1958. Your suggestions will be kept in mind when consideration is being given to the future allocation of these lands and the rights of the present lessees.
So, once again we had re-affirmed an undertaking that the use of the lands would be reviewed and possibly lands re-allotted in 1958 when the 25 years’ leases expired. But then, at whose instance I know not, towards the end of 1955 - that is, towards the end of the life of the Ministry; we were going to the country in December of that year - some people, no doubt with vital interests in maintaining the present situation in the Australian Capital Territory, became active. I do not hold the Minister blameworthy for this; I believe that this matter was put to him by his departmental officers, actuated no doubt by a concern regarding the use of the land in the Territory. However, on 23rd November, 1955 - which, of course, was at the commencement of the election campaign of that year and after the Parliament had risen and members from this chamber and from another place were scattered far and wide over the continent - an ordinance was proclaimed to amend the Leases Ordinance. The major effect of the amendment was to remove from section 3 of the principal ordinance the words “ not exceeding twenty-five years “. Those words had regard to the tenure that could be given over leasehold land. A lease could be given for a term not exceeding 25 years, but, by this ordinance - proclaimed at a time when the Parliament was not in session and when in fact the members of the Parliament were scattered far and wide campaigning for a general election which was held only seventeen days after the proclamation of the ordinance - the provision restricting the length of the lease to 25 years was abolished.
Worse was to come, because only five days before the election, on 5th December, 1955, the then Minister for the Interior, who ceased to be Minister for the Interior after the election, promulgated a new regulation - Regulation No. 13 of 1955 under the Leases Ordinance 1918-1955. The purpose of this amendment was to remove completely from the Leases Regulations the regulation which prescribed the maximum value of land that could be held by any one lessee. At that stage, no lessee could hold land of an assessed value greater than £10,000. The regulation brought down on 5th December, 1955 - I repeat, just five days before the election - removed that provision from the Leases Regulations. It said this-
Regulation 7 of the Leases Regulations is repealed and the following regulation inserted in its stead: - “7. - (1.) The period for which a lease may be granted for grazing, fruit-growing, horticultural, dairying or agricultural purposes is a period not exceeding fifty years. (2.) The period for which a lease may be granted for a purpose other than those specified in the last preceding sub-regulation is a period of ninety-nine years.”.
So, two steps had been taken. The section which prescribed a limit of 25 years had been removed, but instead of amending the ordinance to provide the new term of 50 years, the regulation was amended. The amendment of the regulation repealed a section which fixed a maximum value on land that could be held and inserted in its stead a completely separate provision relating to the length of tenure of leases.
I moved, unsuccessfully, for the disallowance of the new regulation. Of course, a vote was taken and the motion was defeated on party lines. However, similar action was taken in the Senate. There, with the support of two Government senators, the Opposition succeeded in having the regulation disallowed. I am told that the legal position, and the view accepted by the Government, is that, because the regulation said that regulation 7 of the Leases Regulations was repealed - although the Senate, by rejecting it, said in effect that regulation 7 was not repealed - there is now no regulation whatever regarding the two matters to which I have referred. It is held that the promulgation of the regulation repealing the former regulation 7 meant in fact that the regulation was repealed. Although the Parliament disallowed the repealing regulation, it is maintained that there is now no regulation at all and that the previous regulation 7 remains repealed.
The effect is that there is now no limit on the length of a lease that can be granted by the Minister and no limit on the value of the leasehold land that can be held by one lessee. I suggest that puts far too great a power into the hands of the Minister or of his advisers, and I hope that action will be taken to remedy the position. I said at the outset of my remarks that this was the year of hope for those people in this Territory who want to obtain land and for the sons of farmers who have been striving to obtain land. The action to which I have referred was taken in 1955 - two and a half years before the present leases were due to expire. The existing lessees, many of whom had acquired their land in complete contravention of the regulations, with the approval of the Minister for the Interior, are now confirmed in their existing holdings and for the next 50 years, unless the Government - either this Government or a succeeding government - is prepared to take some action, there is no hope at all of any one obtaining one acre of land in this Territory other than by purchasing the land of some existing lessee.
I know of case after case - I have referred to some of them in the House previously - in which the regulations as they existed were completely flouted, and in which the government of the day condoned the flouting of the regulations, allowed the aggregation of estates by leasehold and allowed people to hold land of a much greater value than the limits set by the regulations. The classic example wasthe one that I raised in the House concerning the sale of the “ Booroomba “ property, which the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) will remember. I have told the House that the Minister had to satisfy himself that a person was entitled to become a lessee before being granted a lease. “ Booroomba “ was a property in the estate of the late Sir Keith Murdoch, a property of some 13,000 acres of freehold, plus 13,700 acres of leasehold. A lease cannot be granted without the approval of the Minister, and the approval of the Minister cannot be given until he has had regard to the land already held by the applicant, either in the Australian Capital Territory or elsewhere. The following advertisement in connexion with the sale of this property appeared in the “ Canberra Times “ of 23rd October, 1953:- “ Booroomba “.
Attractive Australian Capital Territory Freehold. 13,049 acres freehold (and 13,713 acres A.C.T. Crown Leases given in).
There was a plain statement, not objected to by the Minister when I directed his attention to it in the House, that the purchaser of 13,049 acres of freehold would be given a lease of an adjoining 1 3,700-odd acres of similar land, although naturally the freehold was the better part of the property. In point of fact, that property went under the hammer at £123,000. I ask the House as I have asked it before, whether any man who had £123,000 with which to purchase land, and who, in fact, used that money to purchase land, should be given a lease over 13,000 acres of land that many other people were in need of.
– The purchaser was not in need of it.
– He certainly was not. The matter was debated in the House, and I suggested that the property would be admirably suited to sub-division under the War Service Land Settlement scheme. There was some difference of opinion among honorable members about that suggestion. I maintained that the property could be subdivided, and some speakers on the Government side said that it was unsuitable for sub-division. The honorable member for Canning asked me how many farms I thought it should be sub-divided into, and I suggested eight. He poured scorn on me for having dared to suggest that. He wanted to know what experience and knowledge I had of the land. But, in point of fact, three weeks after the land was sold at auction, it was sub-divided into eight farms, and the people who bought them are doing reasonably well out of them.
My aim in bringing this matter before the House again is to see that the Government administers this area of Australia in the interests of the people. This is the National Capital, and the Australian Capital Territory could be regarded as a national estate. I want to see that land is not allowed to get into fewer and fewer hands. I want those who need land to be given the opportunity to obtain it. Case after case could be cited of land that is held and not used. If one travels to the south of this city out into the river valleys, one sees areas there that are admirably suited for the growing of root vegetables and cereal crops, for dairying, and for other intensive agricultural pursuits. That land is being used at present solely for grazing. I suggest that the Government might consider introducing a form of developmental lease under which the lessee would be required to carry out improvements to the land. Although it has previously ignored such suggestions, perhaps the Government might conduct an inquiry into the use of land in the Australian Capital Territory, to see how it is being used now, and how it could be used for the benefit of the people of the Australian Capital Territory, particularly those who will be living in this city in the years to come. In future years, Canberra will be faced with a serious problem with regard to the supply not only of milk and dairy products that will be needed for its growing population, but also of vegetables, eggs, and poultry. Areas of the Australian Capital Territory are available provided there is wise use of governmental power to ensure that the land is used as it should be used - in the interests of the people as a whole. It would need severe action on the part of the Government because, despite the fact that these matters have been brought constantly before its attention, it has allowed all the misdeeds of the past in respect of the allocation of leases and the transfer or assignation of leases to be perpetuated under the provision whereby the Minister for the Interior has granted fifty-year leases to the existing lessees. He has done this without any inquiry as to how the land has been used; without any inquiry as to the needs of other people in the Territory. Action has been taken in the interests of those already on the land, to confirm them in the holdings that they now have and which, in my view, they should not be allowed to retain. Some action is needed now. Perhaps this Government should do what the Bruce-Page Government did in 1929 - refer this question to the Public Accounts Committee. That committee continued to function after the change of government in 1929, and if its findings had been followed, the present situation would not have arisen.
Before long the Government will have to pay regard to the necessity to resume more of the land at present held under freehold. I do not doubt that that will cause some outcry from those who hold freehold land that they feel is sacred and must never be touched. But let it not be forgotten that in this area we are dedicated to a proposition that there shall be no private ownership of land. That applies in the city area, and it applies to more than half of the occupied land elsewhere in the Australian Capital Territory. I do not doubt that in the years to come some of the existing large properties will have to be taken over and used as dairy farms or for other productive purposes in order to supply the needs of the people who will come to this city. I do not suggest that those properties are to-day other than well-managed and well conducted. But it is estimated that within the lifetime of some honorable members now in this House the Australian Capital Territory will have a population of 120,000. Its population has already reached one-third of that figure, and we are already facing great difficulties in the procurement of food supplies that could be produced within the Territory.
– This Government has a better record for full and sustained employment than any preceding government. That is evident from the figures. I have not the slightest doubt that that record will be sustained in spite of unfavourable conditions that may at some future time occur or which, perhaps, may now be occurring. No government, no economy, can hope to insulate itself entirely from forces such as the recent fall in overseas prices. But as these things occur, I am sure that the Government will preserve for the future the excellent record in the employment field that it has achieved during its past nine years of office. Already, by appropriate credit relaxation and similar measures this Government has given an earnest of its policy in this regard. I think that the bill before the House, in one respect at least, shows that the Government is moving in the direction of getting the requisite reproductive works programme under way. I refer to the Treasurer’s intimation that extra moneys are being allocated for the commencement of the standardization of the railway from Albury to Melbourne. This work was referred to in the Governor-General’s speech which was delivered to the Parliament not so very long ago. It is gratifying indeed to find that the actual construction of the line has now been started, and I have no doubt that it will be successfully and rapidly carried through to completion. This is one thing which will not only give employment but which will also make other employment more secure because it will increase the efficiency and competitive status of industry as a whole in the eastern States.
I feel that it is now time for the next step in rail standardization to be taken and, although not implemented immediately, prepared for. By that I mean the standardization of the gauge from Port Pirie to Adelaide. This line would not only link Adelaide, which otherwise might be isolated, with the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge, but would also link that city directly with Perth. Further, it would link the trans-continental system with the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge system of New South Wales and the lines from Sydney to Brisbane and Melbourne. I feel, also, that recent industrial developments which are forecast for South Australia make this link very much a matter of practical politics. Some things that have happened there render it highly desirable that there should be a standard gauge line between Port Pirie and Adelaide.
I refer particularly to the announcement that a steel works is to be constructed at Whyalla and that from Whyalla to Port Augusta, a distance of 40 miles, a standard gauge line has been projected, although, I think, not yet approved. As honorable members know, from Port Augusta down to Port Pirie, which is only a short distance, there is a standard gauge line. If there is to be a steel works at Whyalla and rail connexion with that steel works, it is obvious that there must be a line free of break of gauge through to Adelaide which will be the market for that steel works’ products. In fact, unless there were a line without a break of gauge from Port Pirie to Adelaide, it would be futile to build a line from Whyalla to Port Augusta.
So, from the South Australian point of view, this new development which, in some respects, is a triumph for the Premier of South Australia, renders it imperative to have a standard gauge link from Port Pirie to Adelaide. From the point of view of Adelaide, of course, this is not the only advantage of such a line. With such a link, Adelaide would have the benefit of non-stop movement of cattle inwards from Marree, a matter which is becoming of progressive importance as the impact of the standard gauge railway from Port Augusta to Marree now makes itself felt. It would be a tremendous advantage to Adelaide to draw direct into the abattoir from the Dry Creek area cattle which are fattened in the north. Honorable members will know that the line from Port Pirie to Adelaide runs past Dry Creek.
It is true, also, that with the increasing emphasis upon rockets for defence, the Woomera range, which this Government has so far-sightedly fostered, becomes of increasing importance, as it is not unlikely that Salisbury, near Adelaide, again on this route and which is the manufacturing base for the Woomera range, will itself increase in importance. If this is so and if there is, as I am sure there will be, this increasing possibility of movement between Woomera, which is on the trans-continental line, and Salisbury which - is near Adelaide, it is desirable that the standard gauge should run right through and give connexion from Salisbury to Woomera without break of gauge.
It is also of advantage to Adelaide to be linked directly with the trans-continental railway whose standard gauge now terminates at Port Pirie, some 135 miles from Adelaide. So, for all these reasons, from Adelaide’s point of view this link between Port Pirie and Adelaide is becoming of increasing importance. But there is something else. A standard gauge link between Port Pirie and Adelaide, which has now become imperative, would form part of the standard gauge scheme and co-ordinate very well with the link across from Broken Hill to Port Pirie, an old, battered, inefficient line which requires to be converted to standard gauge.
We are finding that the mines at Broken Hill, rich though they are, can scarcely maintain full employment in the face of their costs and present world prices. One of the heaviest costs which these mines have to bear is the terrific freight. I think it is of the order of 3d. a ton mile, which the South Australian railways charge, from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. This freight charge is necessary because of the inefficient, outmoded nature of the old 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line. So, for the help of Broken Hill we need to get an efficient standard gauge line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie. This would mean a lot to the base metal industries which are part of Australia’s export income producers. But further than that, this particular line runs not only past the plant of General MotorsHolden’s Limited at Woodville near Adelaide, but also passes through the town of Elizabeth which is the projected site of General Motors-Holden’s Limited expansion. If that company’s new factory is to be fully efficient it will need to have access to both the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line and the 4-ft. 8i-‘m. standard gauge fine.
Honorable members may be aware of what is happening at Somerton, just north of Melbourne, where the Ford motor company, very far-sightedly, is constructing a major plant which will have the economic advantage of access to both the 5-ft. 3-in. and 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge lines. How can the General Motors organization in Adelaide hope to compete on a fair basis without some corresponding advantages? In Melbourne, the Ford company will be able to receive its steel from New South Wales direct by rail without change. It will be able to despatch its completed cars by rail without change to Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth. If we had a standardgauge line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie, Elizabeth and Adelaide, the General Motors company would have the same advantages. It seems almost certain that South Australia will not want to deny those advantages to what is, I suppose, Adelaide’s most important single industry. Let me leave that question, because I feel that all is going well. I feel that the time has not yet come to start work on this line, because the thing to do is to concentrate our resources for a little while to finish first the Albury-Melbourne line. But I do feel that the time has come to start the preliminary surveys on that line; to tee the proposal up, and to be ready to commence actual work at fairly short notice.
When the Government is looking for reproductive works which will help to stimulate employment, one of the matters it should look at - as I am sure it will - is the question of the locomotives and rollingstock throughout the Australian railway system. In the interests of overall transport efficiency, it is necessary that we should dieselize this system as soon as possible. Surely the time is ripe for the establishment of some special circulating fund which could be set up in co-operation with the railway commissioners of the various States. It would be used for the purchase of diesel-electric locomotives. It would carry a sinking fund to which payments would be made from the savings that these locomotives would bring, and which would go back into the original fund. Such circulating fund would make it possible to dieselize the whole system within a reasonable time. That is one matter which I think is so obvious that it needs no stressing, and I do not propose to detain the House further in regard to it. It is a simple, practical, constructive step which could be taken.
We have also to consider goods rollingstock. It may not be possible to modernize all of this stock. Rolling-stock used on branch lines and on some of the slow trains, which has a low utilization factor, may not be able to be converted or replaced straight away. But we should be making an effort to modernize fully the rolling-stock which we can use on our main lines and which has a high rate of utilization, so that we will not need to modernize such a large number of vehicles in order to transport a given tonnage of goods per year.
We have to look at four matters. First, our rolling-stock should be all bogie stock. We should get rid of the four-wheelers as soon as possible, except perhaps on the 3 ft. 6 in. lines. The reason for that is quite clear. The four-wheelers are governed down to a given speed, and if they are incorporated in a train they reduce the speed at which that train can run and so make for all sorts of inefficiencies. A slow train is not only uneconomic in itself. By getting out of phase with faster trains - this is particularly important on single lines - it reduces the efficiency of the whole system and leads to all sorts of signalling and shunting complications and other delays. So, all stock on the main lines should be bogie stock. Secondly, it should all have automatic coupling. I think most goods stock now does have this form of coupling. Passenger stock, as honorable members will know, in many instances has not the automatic coupling that it should have. That is a fairly minor matter, but the conversion of passenger stock to automatic coupling has to be done very quickly in order to prevent confusion and delays through having to match one kind of coupling with another kind.
Goods stock should all have heavy drawbar gear, and frames heavy enough to enable long trains to be made up. In Australia now, even when we have automatic coupling the design is very often much too light, because we have been banking on small trains, which i are uneconomic in contradistinction to the big trains which, at least for main lines, are the only possible economic form of goods transport by rail. Even when we have adequate couplings, the basic design of the frames is such that very often there is not the requisite strength to enable long trains to be coupled up.
There has to be a certain amount of rethinking along these lines - bogies, automatic coupling, heavy drawbar gear and, fourthly, roller bearings. As honorable members know very well, there is not much difference in friction losses between roller and other bearings once the train is moving. But because of inertia, the original friction caused by getting the train going is very much greater with the old-fashioned bearings than with roller bearings. More importantly, of course, the old-fashioned bearings are subject to hot boxes, to which roller bearings are not subject.
So, in all those respects we have to look at the overall picture of Australian rollingstock, particularly goods stock. There is another matter, on which we can learn from America, which, much to its regret has fallen down in this direction. We should be standardizing the equipment that is to be used by the various Australian railways for piggy-back conveyance or for containers, whichever it is to be. The American railways, which use these devices, are to some extent limited because they did not standardize them when they were introduced. These systems, of course, did not really start to come in until after the war. Do not let us repeat that American mistake. Let us get the commissioners together. It seems to me that it is most fit and proper for the Commonwealth to chair a conference of commissioners and make certain that these things are put right, providing, if necessary, funds for purposes which are fully reproductive, in order to preserve the excellent full employment record of this Government.
I did not intend to speak for as long as I have spoken about railways, because there is one other matter to which I want to refer. We have to think now in positive terms of stimulating the building trade. This has not been necessary so much in the past because there has been full, or some would say over-full employment in that particular industry. I do not feel that the immediate outlook is necessarily as good as that, or it would not be good automatically, and some further government intervention on a not immoderate scale is now called for.
The Government has done something by increasing its allocations for housing. More could be done. It could do more, when the time comes, to provide immediately housing for its own defence forces. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) referred to that matter earlier to-day. But also is it not time now for something to be prepared in regard to schools and hospitals in co-operation with the States? Here again, let us be temperate; let us be moderate. Do not let us have any wild schemes. But at the same time, if we have any spare resources in the building industry, some part of them might well be directed now to the provision of the schools programme and the hospitals programme which, in some States at least, are now rather seriously lagging.
I agree with what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said only a few days ago in this House - that education, for example, is the function of the States. We do not want to take that over from the States.
I agree that it is undesirable to separate the responsibilities in a service. We do not want to have one government collecting the money and another spending it where that can be avoided. I agree also that in some States - and this applies more particularly to New South Wales - budgetary troubles are due to consistent mismanagement, but children are young only once, and you do not want to visit the sins of the Premiers upon the heads of the children. If the time has now come when there are spare resources in the building industry, surely the Commonwealth Government might convene a conference of States and arrange for co-ordinated lists of works to be made ready for use when there is any spare employable labour force.
That is not a very hard thing to do. If each State has such a list for the Commonwealth and if the Commonwealth is apprised of each State’s need, then the State can do, from the top of the list, what it can from its own resources. If there are available real resources to spare in the building industry, then the Commonwealth can take the works which are next in priority on, for example, a schools list and bring the thing up to date. It is only a matter of organization, but it does need to be organized in advance.
I believe that when the Australian Loan Council assembles again, we should be thinking of some kind of co-ordinative list, not that I think the Commonwealth should dictate to the States, but that the Commonwealth might well say to the States, “ We might be able to help you. Let us look at your needs. Would you please list these in detail and have your plan ready? “ The schools situation is unsatisfactory in many ways, and what I have said about schools is also true of the hospital situation. I hope that some form of co-ordinated list of works will be prepared. [Quorum formed.]
.- Supporters of the Government who have spoken in this debate have claimed that the national economy is very sound and that employment is at a very high level. Generally, they have complimented the Government on the present state of affairs in Australia but, pessimist as I am, I have been perusing many of the documents that are circulated from time to time by officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, and I have found that the information available in these documents should give honorable members some cause for concern.
I am very concerned about the sorry deterioration that has taken place in the external trade of the nation. Figures that were released last night by the Commonwealth Statistician should give all honorable members cause for grave concern. The figures show that for the first ten months of the last financial year there was a trade surplus of £127,000,000, whereas for the ten months of the trading year ended April, 1958, the surplus was only £39,000,000. But the position is much worse than it appears from those figures because no consideration has been given to the substantial costs involved in freight and insurance charges. For the six months of the financial year ended December - the latest figures available- they totalled £62,000,000. Consequently, for the first time for some years we have a deficit in the first ten months of the year of £33,000,000 in our overseas trading balance. Those figures are not absolutely correct because they omit freight and insurance charges for four months.
Such a state of affairs caused the Prime Minister a great deal of concern in 1955. Honorable members will remember that in September of that year, the Prime Minister went to great pains to deliver a speech on the Australian economy. I think it would be appropriate if I quoted some of the right honorable gentleman’s remarks, because they apply particularly to the present state of the Australian economy. The Prime Minister stated on 27th September, 1955 -
Above all, the wool sales have opened and there has been a substantial fall in the price of wool. This cannot be ignored.
Those were his words on 27th September, 1955. Strangely, they can be applied to the present state of affairs. I shall quote some figures supplied by the Australian Woolgrowers Council. This information, which was published on 16th January, shows that, for the six months ended 31st December, 1956, the average price of wool was 76.83d. per lb. By 31st December, 1957, it had dropped to 68.3d. per lb. So the conditions that caused the Prime Minister to deliver his economic speech, with its rather harsh implications, in 1955 were very much as they are to-day. The right honorable gentleman went on further to state four major factors in the economic situation. He stated the second factor in the following terms: -
The second is that as such demand cannot, having regard to our population, materials, and equipment, be entirely satisfied by Australian products, we have had a vast demand for imported goods; and as that demand exceeds our export earnings, our external balance of payments is in heavy deficit.
He went on, further, to say -
The fourth factor relates to important matters external to Australia. Our true prosperity is deeply affected by international trade and therefore by economic conditions in the countries with which we trade. This exposes us a good deal to what I will call the “ wind and weather “ of the world’s markets. The fact is that during the past two years the fortunes of international trade have not been as high for us. The terms of trade have moved against us; i.e. the prices of some of our major exports have declined, but the prices of other internationally traded commodities, such as rubber and the non-ferrous metals, have been rising as, indeed, have international shipping freights.
Those conditions apply to-day as they did in 1955. The prices for our major exportable commodities - wool, base metals, wheat and butter have declined to an alarming degree. In addition to that, freights have risen alarmingly. Australia is, unfortunately, in the grip of the overseas shipping combines, and the soulless individuals who operate them have certainly imposed a very heavy charge on the Australian primary producer.
Leading up to the final blow, the Prime Minister went on to point out that on the date on which he was speaking, 27th September, 1955, wool was still 81. 5d. per lb. He added -
We have considered all these matters and we have decided that our external payments situation must be brought into full balance not later than 30th June, 1956. How can this be done? One immediate measure is, of course, the direct measure of intensifying import restrictions. Little as we like such things, we see no escape from them. Even when import restrictions are applied it is normally a matter of, at any rate, six months before they take effect in lower imports.
I have quoted the Prime Minister’s remarks in order to show the House that the conditions that applied in 1955 and which led to a harsh intensification of the import restriction system, and an increase in sales tax on many commodities, exist again to-day. Our trading figures have dropped alarmingly. For the first time in some months, we have a trading deficit and this will further deteriorate as the year proceeds. I feel that the Government has no cause to be satisfied with conditions as they are. I am afraid that, before very long, we shall again witness the Prime Minister coming into this place, making a survey of the economic situation and informing us that it will be necessary to impose further harsh measures in the national interest.
Judging by previous performances, the Government will intensify import restrictions. This possibility is causing great concern to the community, as well as to members of Parliament. It has been readily admitted that the import restriction system administered by the Department of Trade has grave injustices- I hope that, should the Government again have recourse to an intensification of restrictions, there will be some general review of the method by which import licences are issued. The system has given deep cause for concern and honorable members, as well as the public, are gravely dissatisfied with it. It is shocking to find that some traders who hold licences to import goods from outside Australia are not exercising those licences but peddling them to the highest bidder. That does not reflect any credit on the Department of Trade or on the Government which permits such a state of affairs to exist.
It gives me no cause for jubilation to have to speak in such terms. I cannot, on perusing the information available to us and studying the general trade returns, help feeling that our trade is sadly deteriorating and that this will cause adversity, generally, inside Australia. We know that in the United States of America, which leads the democratic nations in all matters - defence, industry, and in the economic field - there is a grave decline in the number of persons engaged in industry. The situation in the United Kingdom, too, is steadily going down hill. In Australia, when we can periodically obtain the figures from the Department of Labour, we find that unemployment is reaching proportions that should cause every individual in this country great concern.
We find that in the building industry, one of the best employment barometers, employment has decreased very considerably over the last twelve months. It may be that this has been caused by the intensification of building of large commercial blocks of offices in the cities, in the construction of which new building techniques are used, and the consequent reduction in the construction of houses for the people. But the fact is that there is a falling-off in the building industry in Australia. However, I want to pursue the line on which I began and refer to Australia’s trade, which is of great importance to the nation and should be of some concern to members of this Parliament, particularly members of the Australian Country party.
Our trade with the United Kingdom has been decreasing for many years. At the moment there is an excellent poster display in King’s Hall dealing with the so-called “ Display Campaign in the United Kingdom “. We are reminded by that exhibition that a considerable amount of money is spent each year by the Department of Trade in promoting the sale of Australian products in the United Kingdom. But it would appear that, notwithstanding the fact that large sums of money are spent in that direction, and that beautiful Australian girls are used as salesgirls in shops in London and British provincial cities, and that at various places in the United Kingdom people are invited to have free tastes of Australian wine, the earnings from the sale of our exports to the United Kingdom have dropped. Our sales to the United Kingdom in 1952-53 were worth £359,000,000; in 1953-54 these earnings dropped to £300,000,000; in 1954-55 they dropped to £285,000,000; in 1955-56 they dropped to £257,000,000; in the first eight months of 1956-57 they dropped to £182,000,000, and in the first eight months of 1957-58 to £155,000,000. So we are fighting a losing battle in the United Kingdom market.
I admit that at the present time the United Kingdom is still the best customer for our exports; but it is easy to see from these figures that our trade with Great Britain is falling to an alarming degree. That leads me to say that I think that the Department of Trade should look for fresh fields into which our exports can be poured. I hope it is doing so and that, if it is doing so, it is intensifying its efforts in that direction. I have said in this place before, and I say it again, that, whether or not we like it, Australia is geographically part of the Eastern world. It is closer than any other country of European civilization to the markets of the East, and so has a geographical advantage. If Australia were prepared to trade with Asia as the United Kingdom does the economic advantage to Australia and the Australian people would be great. We apparently refuse to do that, however, although some quantities of Australian goods are trickling into China through Hong Kong, handled many times by agents and brokers, a fact which causes the actual cost to the consumer in China to be very high. If Australia were trading directly with the Asian nations the cost of the commodities to the people of these nations would be considerably reduced, and we would build up much goodwill among them.
I remind honorable members of the following statement by President Eisenhower -
In trade, too, our choice is clear. We will have reciprocity or we will have retaliation. I wholeheartedly support reciprocity.
We could well follow that principle stated by President Eisenhower.
There are many people in the world who desperately want meat and other commodities that we produce. It is generally admitted that Australia produces the world’s finest-quality wool. While wool and some of our other commodities command a fair price in the world’s markets they are actually the cheapest for the consumer to buy because of their quality. People overseas, particularly in Asia, desperately want some of those goods, especially wool. But we are denying them those commodities because of our trade policy.
The honorable member for Bowman [Mr. McColm) has said that he is prepared to be a realist and admit that for many years to come the present Government of China will continue to rule that country and that, as a result of that fact, he is prepared to advocate recognition of the Chinese Government. If the Australian Government followed the example of the Macmillan Government of the United Kingdom, and recognized China, Australia would gain a great trading benefit.
Although our trade with the United Kingdom has fallen considerably, our trade with nations in the East has risen very considerably. That gives point to the suggestion I make that it would be of great advantage to Australia to find fresh outlets for our exportable products.
– It is vital.
– Indeed, it is vital, as the honorable member for Wilmot says. It is essential that we find new markets, for, if our trade with the United Kingdom continues to deteriorate as it has been doing over the last five years, we will be left with a great volume of our exportable commodities on our hands, and the members of the Australian Country party will be lamenting that they are unable to find markets for the products that they and their electors produce.
It is true that the increase of Australia’s population over the last decade has meant an increase of internal demand for the products of the land; but it is equally true that, because we are a nation that requires for its development goods produced overseas, we still have to export huge quantities of our own goods in order to pay for our overseas requirements. So I again urge that the Department of Trade intensify its efforts to find fresh trade outlets in the eastern bloc. There are many Asian countries that need our goods. They are adjacent to Australia, which is a most important factor. They are not 12,000 miles from the point of shipment of our goods, as is the United Kingdom. Relatively near to us are countries like Indonesia, China, Japan and Burma, which are only from 3,000 to 6,000 ship-miles away. So we have a grand opportunity, which the Government should seize, to increase our export trade.
While I am on that point I want to stress again the sad internal deterioration in our economy which should cause the Department of Trade to do everything it can to find fresh markets. We know that the price of wool has dropped to a sensationally low figure. We know that, owing largely to the drought and to increased production in Canada and the United States, the overseas market for our wheat has almost disappeared. Nobody overseas wants our butter because it costs too much, and we have to meet severe competition from European countries.
The latest body blow at Australian industry has been dealt by the alarming fall in the prices of silver lead and the other minerals produced at Mount Isa and Broken Hill. I am informed that, as a result of the fall in the lead bonus, and the decision of the mines at Broken Hill to stand down their employees for one day in every fortnight, the overall wage bill paid to the workers in Broken Hill has been reduced by £60,000 a fortnight. That is a large loss to any community, Mr. Speaker. When we realize that it is the loss suffered by the workers in one city alone, it should cause us considerable concern. The returns received from the export of base metals have declined. In the eight months to the end of February, 1957, pig lead to a total value of £116,000,000 was exported. In the eight months to the end of February, 1958, the total was only £109,000,000. The decline might almost be described as sensational. This shows just how seriously our trade is deteriorating.
Some time ago, we discussed in this House the Japanese Trade Agreement. Opposition members argued that it would have an adverse effect on Australia’s manufacturing industries. The Government just brushed our objections aside, and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) stated that he would appoint an officer to examine closely the operation of the agreement in order to see that Australia’s manufacturing industries were not adversely affected. Notwithstanding that promise, statistics recently released indicate that the agreement has had an adverse effect on Australia’s trade. In the eight months to the end of February, 1957, we imported from Japan goods to a total value of £8,300,000, and exported goods to a total value of £82,900,000. In the eight months to the end of February, 1958, imports jumped by more than £6,000,000 to a total of £14,900,000, and exports fell to £72,600,000 - a decline of more than £10,000,000. Our imports from Japan, of course, are all manufactured goods which could be made in Australia. This trade is reacting to the detriment of Australian manufacturers and workers. These facts, I think, entirely disprove the claims made by the Minister for Trade about the operation of the Japanese Trade Agreement.
I hope that my words will not prove to have been wasted, although the Government and its supporters generally adopt a very narrow attitude towards suggestions made by Opposition members in this Parliament for the good of the country. Members of the Australian Labour party are just as sincere as is any person in the community in their love for Australia, their desire to see that it progresses and particularly their desire that the producers of the wealth shall receive a fair share of that wealth, that the economy shall be sound, and that the general welfare of the nation shall be served.
.- We have just heard the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) urging the Government to seek new markets for our products. Yet, as soon as it did seek a new market in Japan by means of the Japanese Trade Agreement, he began to tear it to pieces. The honorable member gave a most unfair interpretation of the statistics of trade with Japan that he cited in support of his arguments against the agreement. We know that the prices that we receive for our primary products have fallen. The volume of our exports to Japan would naturally reflect that decline. Everybody knows that if it were not for Japanese buying, in particular, the wool market would not have sustained even the present low prices, and, therefore, we can be very thankful for the powerful influence that Japan has had on the market.
I also propose to address myself to the problem of falling prices. Right through our history, we have been prosperous so long as our primary producers have been prosperous. Historical evidence substantiates this fundamental fact, not only in Australia, but also in England, where the well-known corn laws were founded on that principle. As long as the primary producers are strong, the economy is strong. Since World War II., primary production prices have increased in the United Kingdom, which, as a result, has enjoyed prosperity, as have the United States of America and Europe, where the prices for primary products are higher than they were before the war, because various devices such as price support programmes and subsidies have been adopted. Experience in those countries has served to highlight the historical fact that primary production is the most important part of a nation’s economy.
I should like to give the House some statistics of Australian trade for the year 1956-57. In that year, 90 per cent, of our exports comprised primary products, about two-thirds of which were unprocessed, and less than one-third processed. On an f.o.b. basis, the total value of our exports in that year was £981,000,000, and 90 per cent, of that large amount, which has an important bearing on our balance of payments problems, was earned by primary products. This indicates the importance of primary production to our economy, and that is what I want to emphasize. Of our total exports of £981,000,000 in 1956-57, £500,000,000 was earned by wool and sheepskins alone, £104,000,000 by wheat, flour and grains, £51,000,000 by meat, £44,000,000 by dairy products, and £29,000,000 by sugar. It is obvious, from those figures, that our stability depends largely on our exports of those commodities. Therefore, a fall in the overseas prices for those products, or, conversely, an inincrease in local cost of production, gravely affects every man, woman and child in Australia. The overseas balances that we acquire by exporting these commodities are urgently needed to pay for capital equipment, raw materials needed by our secondary industries, and consumer goods, and to meet interest on loans. If we are to maintain a favorable balance of payments, we must produce our export goods at costs that will enable us to sell them in the world’s markets at competitive prices, because we are now meeting strong competition in the markets of the world, and are seeking new markets in competition with other countries where labour is cheap.
Australia has developed a system of protection under which the wages and conditions of employees in secondary industries are protected. It may be that, ultimately, we can develop a large export trade in manufactured goods subject to little competition, but I am quite convinced - and I think everybody in Australia is convinced - that, for the remainder of this century, most of our export earnings must come from the export of primary products. Therefore, whatever other planning we may undertake, our first need is to preserve and maintain our primary industries. We have preserved our secondary industries and expanded them greatly. Indeed, we may be very proud of the standards attained by those industries and the quality of the goods manufactured.
We owe the prosperity of our secondary industries largely to the Tariff Board. That institution has been unanimously supported by all governments, regardless of their political colour, and it is very highly respected in the community. It has always taken the broad and wise view on contentious matters, and, except on the score that its deliberations have been subject to delay, very little criticism has ever been levelled at it. lt has never been criticized, for example, on the ground that it has displayed partiality, and all its very well-reasoned reports are read with interest, and with great respect, by members on both sides of the Parliament.
The Tariff Board is not merely an instrument to advise the Government. It is much more than that. It is comparable with an army general staff- It prepares appreciations of the position of the economy, and it indicates where improvements may be made. It is independent of government direction, regardless of the political colour of the government. We have even known it to criticize the policies of Governments. For example, it criticized the pay-roll tax because of its impact on costs. Then, it recommended that the depreciation allowance for plant used in manufacturing industries be increased. This is an independent body. The primary industries have access to it, but I feel that we want something more. I believe that the Government should establish special machinery for the primary industries. The Tariff Board has proved its value in relation to secondary industries, but now the primary industries need some similar machinery.
I should like to see a primary industries tariff board established to work on similar lines to the existing Tariff Board so that a constant review of changing circumstances could be maintained. We must become more competitive to maintain the present price structure. That is why we need some impartial body able to take evidence and, without any partisan views, give advice to the government of the day.
We have a complex pattern of regulatory devices such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and our postOttawa agreement with Great Britain. Other factors, such as the trade agreement with Japan, have been introduced. All these require close examination by an impartial tribunal so that the impact of these regulatory devices on our cost system can be studied. The export of our primary products has other complicating factors, in addition to those that I have already mentioned. We have the problem of American surpluses and American foreign aid. All these factors increase the competition with our own primary industry. We have the Colombo plan and the growth of the European common market, which creates a danger to our very well established markets in the United Kingdom. There is a tremendous drive for security in trade by every nation, and we are in the same position as other nations. We must look at this global picture to see what we can do to preserve our own trade. An interesting suggestion was made recently - that is, a fiscal union between ourselves and New Zealand. That shows that people are seeking security.
I shall mention some aspects that could be examined by a board such as I have suggested. An instance is the import of primary goods. We have to buy some goods from overseas, but is it necessary to buy all the goods that we do? For instance, in 1956, we imported goods of animal origin such as cheese, fish, lactose, meat and so on, to the value of £5,500,000; foodstuffs of vegetable origin and non-alcoholic beverages worth £25,000,000; tobacco worth £14,000,000; animal substances such as hides and skins worth £3,500,000; pulp and paper worth £42,000,000; and chemicals and pharmaceutical goods worth £30,000,000. I am not suggesting that all these goods could be produced in Australia, but I think the time has arrived when some impartial body should closely scrutinize these matters. For example, should we import synthetic beverages from the United States of America in competition with our fruit industries?
We should also examine the tariffs on the import of capital plant to maintain the balance between the production of plant and the increased cost to the primary industries. After all, we are increasing mechanization on the land, and we should examine how tariffs affect that position. The development of the use of aircraft is another point that should be investigated. It is interesting to note that in 1955-56, 32,000 tons of superphosphate and 127,000 lbs. of seed were placed on 500,000 acres of land. In the very next year, the amount of superphosphate increased to 68,000 tons and was placed on 1,300,000 acres. There is room for examination of the customs duty on the import of aeroplanes and their parts.
A wide range of chemicals, insecticides, trace elements and so on is being developed for use on the land. Some of these are imported and some are manufactured locally. Phenothiazine, I understand, could be imported from America at half the cost of the locally produced item. Sprays for orchards are being produced locally because of the tariffs on imports and that is increasing the cost to the orchardists. The importation of machinery for the conservation of fodder and the equipment and implements to lower the cost of primary production are other fields that could be investigated.
We are faced with a changing pattern of consumption and export of our products. Last year we consumed 560,000 tons of beef and veal in Australia, which was equal to the amount consumed and exported prewar. Production increased only 35 per cent., but we export now one-third of our production as compared with one-quarter in the pre-war years. With lamb and mutton, 89 per cent, is consumed locally, compared with 72 per cent, pre-war. We export 5 per cent, of our wine production as against 20 per cent, pre-war. Our trends are changing, and these factors should be examined so that some advice could be given to the Government in order to stimulate the various industries that require stimulating. Another problem arises from increased population. It means that a greater proportion of our many products is consumed locally, and this proportion will increase as our population grows.
We are really due for a wholesale review of our fiscal policies, to prepare us for the great changes that are becoming evident now. I am touching on various aspects only to impress the Government of the need for special machinery to conduct such a review. Special machinery has been proved with the secondary industries, and similar machinery should be developed for primary industries.
We are in the process of an enormous industrial expansion. I commend to those interested an article in the “ Review “ of the Institute of Public Affairs for AprilJune, 1956, entitled “ Development Depends on Exports “. Curiously enough, the honorable member for Griffiths (Mr. Coutts) used that very phrase. One man in a factory producing consumer goods or goods to replace imports requires nearly four people behind him in various other industries. Every additional person employed in factory production requires more power to enable him to produce more, transport, including roads, office buildings and homes, social services such as hospitals and schools, professional services, retail and wholesale trade, restaurants and hotels, banking, food and raw material production for home consumption. Some people think that, if we manufacture the goods ourselves instead of importing them, our exports will not be affected. However, our exports are affected because one man employed in factory production requires another four persons to maintain him in production. Thus, items which normally would be exported are consumed locally. It is known in war that a great number of people are needed behind the lines to maintain one man in the lines. The same principles applies to maintaining one person in industry.
I think the views of all honorable members are that we are entering a period of enormous industrial expansion. Such expansion must be carefully watched because, if we develop unevenly and at the expense of primary production, ultimately we will find that we cannot maintain employment in industry because we cannot obtain the necessary overseas balances. I commend to honorable members the article to which I referred, because it has a definite bearing on the suggestion that I am making. Newly established industries often need protection against competing industries overseas. This inevitably causes our costs to rise. If our costs rise, primary producers are the people first affected. The manufacturer does not feel inflationary pressures. The person who exports to the world’s markets feels inflationary measures most. Therefore, if we are to develop the country at the present rapid rate, we must carefully check inflationary cost rises.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) made a very thoughtful speech about transport. Transport is the important cost with which the primary producer is faced. I think it is recognized that 30 per cent, of our costs in this country are transport costs. An impartial scrutiny of the transport question would bring to light important factors, and the Government should direct its attention towards reducing transport costs. I particularly refer to the recent imposition of a road tax by the New South Wales Government. This tax will have a very great effect on primary producers. It has caused consternation throughout the country. Nowadays, with the high cost of droving, methods of selling sheep have changed. Sheep are seldom driven along the roads to-day unless they are being driven from a drought area and are feeding along the way. Most sheep to-day are carried by motor float. Buyers and graziers transport sheep from the markets to the pastures by float. But the road tax imposed by the New South Wales Government will seriously affect the wool trade. All of our primary industries are feeling the effects of falling prices. Must we sit idle and not have an impartial examination of costs? “I feel that the primary producer, who is the backbone of the economy, should be protected, and the costs that affect him should be kept constantly under review so that he may play his important part in the national economy by being able to export profitably overseas, and thus maintain our export balances. The body whose formation I have suggested should survey everything. A tariff board, for example, can criticize the Commonwealth Government, and there is no reason why it should not also criticize State governments. If we are to compete in falling markets we must have a tribunal that can impartially advise the Government and, if necessary, criticize its policies. It must be able to bring to light trends that are going on in the world, and so enable us to maintain our position in world markets. It is my belief that, for the next century, Australia will be mainly a primary producing export country.
.- Australia to-day is capable of offering a very full life to its people. Its resources are unlimited. Its general potential is such that it guarantees to our people an assured and wonderful way of life. But all this is conditional on the way in which our resources are used.
My love of my country is as great as, but no greater than, anybody else’s. Australia’s resources should be developed towards a better way of life. I listened to the speech of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) yesterday when he spoke about what he termed a prosperous condition because of the work of the Government. Many people in this country are not living a full life. Thousands of our citizens are faced with grave difficulties. They are almost a lost legion. Our economy is not as satisfactory as some honorable members have suggested, and we must exercise great caution concerning the difficulties that lie ahead. Mention has been made in the House of the decline of our overseas trade. Our export trade showed a deficit of £14,300,000 in the last month, reducing our favorable balances for the past ten months to £39,000,000 compared with a balance of £227,000,000 in the corresponding period of 1956-57. That warning is backed by the report of the Bank of New South Wales for February last. However, as my time is limited, I shall not read that report; but I should like to say that other facts indicate that our economy should be carefully overhauled, and that new policies should be adopted that will bring greater prosperity and well-being to our people.
Mention has been made during this debate of the number of bankruptcies at the present time compared with former years. I wish to deal with this matter briefly in order to show the seriousness of the drift that is taking place. In 1946-47, under a Labour government, there were 255 cases of bankruptcy. The following year there were 352. But for eleven months of 1955-56, under the present Government, the number of bankruptcies was 1,012. For the year 1956-57 the number was 1,529. It may be seen from this that there is a definite trend in the wrong direction. No doubt hire purchase has something to answer for in regard to that state of affairs. It is another indication of the fact that the economy of this country is not as buoyant as some people would like to believe.
Although the Government is pledged to full employment, there are about 60,000 workers at present without means of livelihood. They have no opportunity to fulfil the great life which they seek to express by their interest in industry. To that extent the Government has failed because these people have not the opportunity to contribute, by their own service, something to the well-being of both themselves and others and to the development of our nation. Some may think that this is not a great cause for concern, but those who are out of work find themselves in a very unhappy condition. Until the Government fulfils its promise of full employment it has not complied with the responsibility placed upon it as a signatory to the United Nations Charter. I hope that members of this Parliament generally will realize that until we are able to fulfil our obligation of providing employment for our citizens, we shall fail in our duty to them. Australia offers many opportunities for expansion and development. Many public works need to be carried out. The people should be provided with adequate housing and the aged and those in ill health should be given far greater attention in hospital. Yet, the Government seems to be incapable of providing full employment, and that fact alone indicates that Australia is not being governed with wisdom and prudence as it is entitled to be governed.
Of course, relatively small numbers of our people are enjoying an enrichment of life. Those engaged in commercial pursuits, particularly in the financial sphere, have taken advantage of the opportunity to exploit the present economic circumstances and have unduly enriched themselves. On the other hand, many thousands of people in Australia, particularly pensioners, are able to afford only the meanest forms of comfort. Family life has experienced great hardship. The cost of living has continually risen during the period this Government has occupied the treasury bench and the responsibilities of parents to their families have become harder to fulfil. They have not been given the measure of assistance from the Government by way of child endowment to which they are entitled. No assistance beyond that which was originally given for child endowment has been made possible by the present Government. This means that the younger generation have been denied the means of developing as strong and vigorous units in our com munity life. This is an indication that the present Government is failing to enable thousands of people to take full advantage of the Australian way of life. In order to meet the ever-increasing cost of living, the wife and mother has to go out to work to supplement the family income. This results in lack of care of children in the home and in many cases has been the fundamental cause of juvenile delinquency - an unhappy feature which is on the increase. It is a cause of alarm to those who have an interest in the well-being of the younger members of the community. But no improvement in this situation is possible under the present Government’s policy.
Another proof that Australia is not soprosperous as members on the Government side would have us believe is that during this Government’s term of office there has been an ever-upward spiral in the cost of living. As a consequence, the value of the £1 has fallen considerably since 1949, and its purchasing power is now about lis. In 1949-50 the C series retail price index figure was 1669, but in the September quarter of 1957-58 it had risen to 2903. These figures indicate that the value of the £1 has dropped seriously.
I want to show to honorable members the unfairness of it all. A person may havea banking account or some kind of fixed asset. He may have a Commonwealth bond, which he can sell only at a discount. What he receives in return for the bond is worth only about half of what it wasworth when he bought the bond originally. Members of the community are sufferinghardship as a result of putting their savings into that kind of investment to secure their own future and that of the persons for whom they are responsible. There has been a general encroachment on their savings, and an impoverishing of the wholecommunity in order to enrich the few. The Government has increased indirect taxation, which bears heavily and widely upon the community, but has, in many instances, given relief to the big companiesand financial institutions upon which it relies for funds to conduct electioncampaigns.
No doubt in the Budget that will be presented a little later in the year, we shall find a carnival of concessions to wealthy interests in return for the assistance they give to honorable members opposite in their appeals to the electorate. I only hope that the people can keep in mind the way in which they have been required to contribute heavily because of the Government’s administration. It is time that a Labour government took charge again, with a view to squaring up some of the financial inequalities, giving leadership in the economy, and providing the people with the security and the standard of living that Australia can afford but which, unfortunately, as a result of the Government’s mismanagement, is denied to the great majority. Only those who are privileged to be within a very small circle are advantaged by this Government’s methods of administration.
.- This Supply debate has produced something in the nature of a political miscellany. A great host of subjects has been canvassed by members who have participated in the debate so far. I understand that I am to be the last speaker in the debate, and no doubt I shall add to the variety of subjects that will be found by any peruser of the “ Hansard “ record of the debate.
The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) said that it was about time a Labour government was returned to office, and some rather enfeebled “ hear, hears “ came from the Opposition benches. The plain truth of the matter is that nothing would be more disastrous for Australia’s economy, security and safety, than to have controlling the nation’s affairs a government that was allegedly Labour in character. One has only to look at the great division of opinion that is to be found among the members of Her Majesty’s Opposition and then to contemplate a situation in which they would form Her Majesty’s Government. Frankly, that is not only an appalling thought. It goes beyond that to the stage where one might describe it as a horrifying thought. The honorable member for Bonython - I hope he will forgive me for saying this - waxed somewhat sactimonious about full employment. He said, in effect, that only a Labour government could secure full employment. That is a curious assertion to be made by a member of the Labour party. I have mentioned in the House before - it will bear repetition - that in the considered judgment of the honorable mem ber for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) 5 per cent, of unemployment is, for all practical purposes, to be regarded as full employment. Added to that, we have the doctrinaire stand of the Labour party on full employment. By that I mean the Labour ambition to have a planned economy. I have referred to this before, and I shall but fleetingly refer to it again, if only to correct the odd view held by my friend, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). The Labour party’s present leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) said on several occasions that he would like to see direction of labour in Australia.. In 1942, at the Summer School of Political Science, he declared that the right of the individual to choose his own vocation in life was only one of the many liberties to be surrendered in the interests of the State.
– During the war.
– The honorable member for Wilmot chimes in “ during the war “. I beseech the honorable member for Wilmot to listen to what I am about to say, because it will clear from his mind what appears to be a pretty firmly embedded misunderstanding of the position. Let us turn to a document prepared in connexion with the attempt to secure, in the fourteenpoint referendum, from the Australian people power to legislate with respect to a host of things. It was prepared by the Leader of the Opposition; it has his imprimatur quite clearly upon it. One finds there the suggestion that much of the war-time organization that Was found necessary would have to be carried over into postwar fields of activity. So I say to the honorable member for Wilmot that it would be fair, in the very essence of things, to assume that the direction of labour, which was one of the declared ambitions of the present Leader of the Opposition in 1942 remains his ambition to-day. I do not want to dilate any further upon that point. I want to turn to a matter that is exercising my mind considerably and, I believe, the minds of many other people throughout Australia. We have been told in recent days that an eleven-man delegation from Communist China is to come to Australia to investigate the establishment of closer trade relations. I want to say to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Government that I think it is quite foolish to grant to this delegation vises to visit Australia and to offer to the delegation any facility whatsoever. I believe that in the matter of trade with Communist China, we are already committed too far.
In March last, I addressed a question to the Minister for Trade in which I sought to ascertain the value of Australian exports to Communist China in the last twelve months and in this last three months. The right honorable gentleman in his reply gave the total value of Australia’s exports to China for the year 1957 as £9,150,187. In the same reply, he gave the value of exports to Communist China for the three months ended December, 1957, as in excess of £2,000,000.
I think this issue can be split quite clearly into two particular aspects. The first aspect to which I want to refer is one which I will style as economic dependency. If this country or any country in the Western world has the idea that they can secure advantages from trade with Communist countries, quite obviously they are prepared to commit themselves to a policy that can only lead to disaster. Only the other day, the right honorable Mr. Harold Wilson, a distinguished member of the British House of Commons and the socialist shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrote an article under the title, “We Mustn’t Snub 600,000,000 Customers “. I wish to read to honorable members portion of this interesting and very challenging article. Mr. Wilson stated -
But if we look on China as a market for our goods we can plan on the basis of 600 million customers and an almost limitless demand for British engineering products. . . .
China needs our goods. We need the market, and it may become more vital to us if we face a world of dwindling trade in the West. . . .
With all the differences between us, especially the fundamental distinction between Communism and democracy, our fortunes are closely intertwined.
I believe that is true. If any country is going to depend on trade with Communist China to any great extent, or is going to depend on trade with any Communist country, disaster will result because, as surely as night follows day, the Communists will give it that degree of assurance and take it to a stage where the country concerned feels quite at ease. Then the Communists will turn round and on some pretext or for some particular reason will withdraw that degree of economic dependency.
I hope that the Government will not grant vises to members of a Communist trade delegation to Australia. I hope that it will not grant the delegation any facilities whatsoever. I believe this is an issue on which one can take a definite stand. I know there may be some honorable members who sit on this side of the House with me who would not entirely agree with my views on this issue, but I see nothing disrespectful in propounding those views in this Parliament. It would be completely disastrous for Australia to commit itself to a policy of trade with Communist China.
The other aspect of this matter is one of principle. I suppose that we can take some heed of the words of Edmund Burke and model our principles to our circumstances and to our situation, but if we are going to let pennies flow in our blood instead of corpuscles, if we are going to put pounds before principles, we have reached a very sorry state of affairs.
No doubt honorable members will recall with some degree of distress that, on several occasions, I have levelled against the Government of China several massive and grave charges which involve great moral issues. One does not give a simple opinion on these matters. We must come to a conviction on them. It is easy to be swayed by headlines and by transient slogans, but if we are going to let reasoned judgment develop from principles and not simply from prejudice in this particular case, we in this country and in this National Parliament should not only frown upon the proposal that we should engage further in trade with Communist China, but we should also ensure that everything is done to bring it to an end. This is a matter of high principle. That is the significant aspect of the issue. The first is simply one of economic dependency.
The Communists have many weapons in their armoury. Economic warfare is one of them. I suggested about eighteen months ago in this House that the Government should set up an ad hoc committee to examine the nature of this economic warfare. I believe that, during this particular phase of the- cold war, economic warfare plays a very vital role, but we are seemingly unaware of it or are completely ignorant of the facts of the position. I conclude on this particular issue by appealing to the Minister for Trade to consider carefully all lie ramifications of it. I ask him not simply to look at it in terms of an economic proposition, but to examine the issue searchingly in terms of a political issue, because that is what it is fundamentally. It is not an economic issue; it is a political issue. If our trade with Communist China increased to £30,000,000 and then, within twelve months, that trade were to be cut off, the effect for Australia would be embarrassing and of great consequence.
I mentioned at the outset something about a political miscellany, and I want to turn to one or two other matters now. First, I wish to refer to the position of many persons in the community who are getting on in years and require housing. Valuable legislation has been introduced by this Government and has been supported by all sections of the House relating to assistance for homes for aged people, but I think we would do well to remind ourselves that many persons in the community simply do not want to go into a church home or one run by a particular organization. Some of these people are living in large houses on their own. Some of them are living with their families.
I would like the Government to examine the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement with a view to providing for flats or community homes. By that, I mean homes in particular areas where single persons or married persons getting on in years could live. This is a very distressing problem, and it has many facets to it. It is one that does not offer an easy solution because many of these people are drawing social service benefits such as age and widows’ pensions. They are simply not in a position to meet the rental demanded by private landlords. Looking at it in another way, private landlords are not in a position to accommodate them. So the position is simply exacerbated by the fact that no accommodation is available to them. It affects their families and, ultimately, it affects the entire community. I appeal to the Government and to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) who administers the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to give particular and earnest consideration to this issue.
The next matter to which I want, hurriedly, to refer, is the administration of the Services Canteens Trust Fund. Last year, the administration of this fund was altered to provide that children of ex-mem bers of the forces would not be able to draw benefits from the fund until they turned fifteen years of age. I believe that that was a very unfortunate and regrettable amendment to make and I shall tell the House why. I hope that I shall not be accused of being provincial, but the majority of children in Queensland go on to secondary school when they are fourteen years of age. So, the impact upon parents to provide with secondary school uniforms and books falls when the kiddy turns fourteen years of age, not fifteen years of age.
The upshot of the amendment is that, after the kiddy has turned fifteen years of age - in the majority of cases in his or her second year of secondary schooling - then and only then can the parent receive assistance. I have suggested that, instead of this amendment, a means test should be imposed. If this valuable and much appreciated assistance is to be denied until children reach their second year of secondary schooling, it will cause many families genuine financial embarrassment.
The last matter to which I want to refer is the number of civil pilots who are giving up their employment with Australian airlines and going abroad. I found out only this week that, in the last eighteen months, approximately 30 pilots from TransAustralia Airlines have resigned their positions and, in the majority of cases, they have gone to join airlines abroad. I think that this matter should cause us all concern. This country has a superb record of safety in civil aviation - not only Trans-Australia Airlines, but all airlines. Many of these pilots have been senior pilots, some with many thousands of flying hours’ experience. They are, in a sense, being pinched by overseas companies.
Why are they going to overseas companies? Apparently, they are going because the overseas companies are offering them more favorable conditions of employment. The imposition upon the Australian economy, and particularly upon the airline companies in training these pilots and giving them experience, is substantial. I think it is a bit grim that these pilots should be resigning, apparently in such great numbers, from Australian companies and going abroad. One becomes a little embarrassed at repeatedly requesting the Government to examine matters but this is an issue which I feel properly calls for examination by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). If it is found that there is substance in the claim that more attractive conditions of employment abroad are appealing to Australian pilots, something should be done about it. If we tolerate the continuation of these circumstances in which the very cream of Australian pilots are being filched from this country, the superb record of safety of Australian airline companies may not be quite so good in the future as it has been in the past.
When I began, I said that a great deal had been talked about by many members participating in this debate. But I think that the essential note was struck by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) last night. The honorable member referred to the very real and genuine prosperity that has existed in this country for so long. While I realize that some honorable gentlemen opposite will not instantly agree with the honorable member’s contention, they must admit that over the last ten years Australia has passed through a period of great development. That development has imposed upon this nation’s economy a very great strain.
I think it is a tribute to the retiring Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that Australia has managed to continue its pace of development for so long without the strains that many other countries have shown. I shall be very sorry to see the right honorable member for McPherson (Sir Arthur Fadden) leave this Parliament. He has been very kind to me since I came here. I feel that the great majority of members of this House, no matter what their politics, will say to him between now and the time when he brings down the next Budget, “This may be your last Budget but it will be a Budget by which we will remember you “. I think that we can all say to him, personally, that he will command not only our admiration but also our warm affection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 1473), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 1400), on motion by Mr. Downer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I wish, first, to congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) on his appointment to his position, and also on the very calm and able manner in which he placed this bill before us.
The measure covers a trinity of subjects. It relates to immigration, deportation and emigration. I think that the value of the measure and its provisions can be fully appreciated only if we consider them in the light of the history of immigration in Australia, so I propose to deal briefly with that history.
Immigration has played a very important part in the history of Australia. Indeed, there have been very few years in our history when immigration has not been proceeding. From the first settlement of Australia in 1788 the necessity to bring more and more people here was evident. I think a knowledge of the history of immigration is important from three stand-points. First, it enables a rational attitude to be adopted to the whole subject; secondly, it enables us, from our experience, to justify our immigration policy to the rest of the world; and thirdly - and this is the most important from the stand-point of the continuance of an immigration policy - it enables us to understand and appreciate the factors that produce the ebb and flow of migration.
History shows us .that at various times Sour sections of the Australian economy have played an important part in either attracting or assisting immigrants to come here. “The first was the pastoral industry, the second the mining industry, the third the agricultural industry and the fourth industrial enterprises generally.
A knowledge of the story of immigration will be of some value to us when we are assessing the worth of immigration and of our capacity to continue an immigration policy. A study of the history of immigraton should start at about the period when the Australian colonies first obtained selfgovernment. What happened in respect of immigration prior to that period is a part of our history of which we are not proud, and on which we have no desire to dilate. Obviously, people who came to Australia after having left their own country for that country’s good are not the type of immigrants we would favour. So I shall begin my brief narration of the history of immigration at about 1850.
The period from 1850 to 1861 might be termed the “ gold era “. What free immigration had taken place prior to that had come about mostly at the request of the pastoralists who wanted labour for their big holdings. From 1852 to 1861, we get a clear picture of immigration. Gold had been discovered both in New South Wales and Victoria and that fact, in conjunction with the petering out of the Californian gold-fields, caused a large influx of immigrants. The hardy, adventurous types came here from various parts of the world. They had a big effect, and very substantially increased the Australian population. In the main, they were free settlers. They came here because they believed that in this country they could find a place to settle, an outlet for their energies and a chance to make their fortunes. I point out that from 1852 to 1861 the total number of immigrants - 554,000 people - constituted 70 per cent, of the nett increase of population in the period. That was, in fact, the biggest influx of immigrants comparative to population that has ever taken place in our history.
Most of these people came to Victoria. But Victoria, because of the rich gold discoveries, also attracted many people who had already settled in the adjacent colonies.
From that stage onwards the pattern of immigration kept changing constantly. From 1861 onwards, the proportion of immigrants to total population began to decline, until the 90’s, when immigration practically ceased. That brief statement does not entirely cover the position, because every effort was still being made by certain of the colonies to increase immigration.
It is wise, I think, to have some understanding of how the different policies were put into operation and with what success they met. The decline in alluvial goldmining resulted in large numbers of people becoming unemployed. They had to have some sustenance, and the colonial governments, in an effort to increase agriculture and, as in Victoria, to develop secondary industries, put various forms of assisted immigration into operation, the idea being to bring people here, settle them on the land and let them develop our agricultural resources. These policies were pursued for some time, but there was continuing resentment in the community against the bringing of assisted immigrants to the colonies at a time when there were people here who could not find work. Indeed, the records of that time indicate that the wage-earning section of the various colonies very vigorously protested against assisted immigration while there were still people out of work. As a consequence of that agitation the assisted immigration policies in the various colonies were revised. The Victorian Government dropped assisted immigration in 1873, the South Australian Government in 1 866, the New South Wales Government in 1877 and the Tasmanian Government in 1891. The only two colonies that continued a policy of assisted immigration thereafter were Queensland and Western Australia.
It is of interest to note the results of this programme of assisted immigration adopted by the various colonies in the four decades from 1862 to 1901. From 1862 to 1871, net immigration was 185,000. This represented 35 per cent, of the increase in population during that decade. From 1872 to 1881, net immigration was 209,000 or 34 per cent, of the increase in population. From 1882 to 1891, when economic conditions in the colonies were slightly better, net immigration rose to 361,000 or 41 per cent, of the increase in the population. But from 1892 to 1901, when all the Australian colonies experienced -an exceedingly severe depression, immigration ceased almost entirely. In that decade, only 1,000 immigrants came in. They represented .2 per cent, of the increase in the population. So one can see that, although, in the period with which I have dealt, an attempt was made to assist migrants to come to Australia for settlement on the land, and in order to establish industries in the colonies, agitation within the colonies resulted in the gradual dropping of assisted immigration schemes, and, during the depression of the 1890’s, immigration of all kinds almost ceased.
I now turn to the period that followed federation. When the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia came into force in 1901, immigration was one of the matters over which the Commonwealth was given power. Indeed, one of the first measures passed by the Commonwealth Parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, which, by the way, is to be repealed by this bill. That act governed the entry of people into Australia, and provided means for keeping unwanted people out of this country. Since it dealt solely with the prevention of entry of prohibited immigrants, it did not provide machinery for the control of immigration. That was still retained by the States, which had developed that machinery when they were colonies. It was not until 1920 that the Commonwealth took over from the States the sole control of the recruiting, examination, and transporting of assisted immigrants.
The period from 1901 to 1931 was tragic for Australia so far as immigration is concerned. The depression of the 1890’s had had a very serious effect upon Australia. All the colonies suffered, some more severely than others, and it was not until about 1906 that the Australian economy began gradually to recover from the very severe blow that it had been dealt by the economic conditions of the 1890’s. After 1906, the States again gave impetus to the development of assisted immigration schemes. From 1906 to 1912, the States were very active in this field. In the three years preceding World War I., 230,000 immigrants entered Australia. But unemployment was rife in this country at the time, and the trade union .movement and the wage-earners protested against the assisted immigration schemes of the States being implemented while trade “union members -and workers who were not members of trade unions were unemployed. However, the assisted immigration schemes of the States were continued until the onset of World War I., when the perilous position of Great Britain owing to the war, and Australia’s participation in that war, brought immigration into this country to a halt for the time being.
After the war, economic conditions .in Great Britain deteriorated considerably. Indeed, for many years after 1920, the Mother Country suffered severely, and its economic condition caused a great deal of concern. At that time, the United Kingdom was very anxious to get rid of its surplus population in order to ease its huge burden of unemployment It made representations to the dominions on the matter, and, in 1921, a conference on immigration, attended by representatives of the dominions and of the United Kingdom Government, was held in London. At that conference Great Britain’s economic plight was made clear to the dominions. They were told that they had open spaces waiting for settlement and development, and that it was their duty to go to the assistance of the United Kingdom and assist the surplus people in that country to emigrate to countries where they could settle among English-speaking people of their own kith and kin, and where they could find employment and live in security and happiness- As a result, the United Kingdom and the dominions made a compact that they would co-operate, financially and otherwise, in an assisted migration scheme designed to provide opportunities for the settlement of British people in the various dominions.
Very grandiose schemes were talked about. For example, there was talk of hundreds of thousands of British people going to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other places. As a result of all this, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Empire Settlement Act of 1922, which provided that the United Kingdom Government would contribute every year an amount not exceeding £3,000,000 to promote migration and to assist the dominions to obtain migrants from Great Britain under an assisted scheme.
In Australia, the implementation of this scheme was left to the States, which were to requisition for the number of migrants required, and take the necessary steps to settle them when they arrived. Subsequently, the various States, the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom reached an agreement or understanding governing the establishment of British settlers on the land in Australia. I need hardly remind those who watched the efforts made to bring migrants to this country in the 1920’s of the result of this understanding. The three States principally concerned were Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Victoria requisitioned for 10,000 settlers to go on the land. The result of the efforts of all three States was most disappointing; it was tragically disappointing. The total number received by Victoria was only some hundreds instead of the 10,000 sought.
Those who were settled rapidly became discontented. They complained about the way the land was selected for them and the manner in which they were trained to go on the land. They claimed that the statements made to them in the United Kingdom by representatives of the States were misleading and that they had been brought out under false pretences. Some honorable members no doubt will recall the royal commission into this matter held in Victoria in the 1920’s. The United Kingdom Government was behind the settlers in their claims for compensation. The findings of the royal commission indicated very clearly that the settlers had been misled, that inaccurate statements had been made to them and that proper provision had not been made either for their training or in the selection of the land on which they were placed. In addition, there was wholesale condemnation of this plan of assisted migration from all sections of the Australian community.
One can understand that. Although the 1920’s were regarded as relatively stable years, because retail prices during those ten years did not vary up or down by more than 5 per cent., unemployment amongst those engaged in industry varied from 6.5 per cent, to 11.2 per cent. The organized trade union movement and the unemployed protested vigorously and expressed great resentment at the policy of bringing people to this country when those already settled here were not able to obtain the employment and the security that they desired. One can regard that part of our immigration policy only as disastrous and tragic from the stand-point of both Australia and the settlers. It seriously handicapped any tendency towards migration to Australia for the rest of that period. Following a fall in prices, particularly of primary products and raw materials, in 1928 and 1929, which reached bedrock in 1930 and 1931, migration to Australia ceased entirely.
The only other point that I want to deal with in respect of that part of our immigration history is what transpired about 1936 or 1937. At the time, I was very prominent in the trade union movement. The authorities of that day asked us what the attitude of the trade unions would be if haven were given in Australia to a limited number of refugees from the tyranny of Nazi Germany. The number was not great. I think the total involved - I am speaking from memory and subject to correction - was about 25,000 persons. They had fled from Germany, where they were persecuted and were liable to imprisonment because of their political views. All of them, as far as 1 know, belonged to the Social Democratic party. The trade union movement held the view that these people, who were fighting for political liberty, were entitled to refuge in Australia, and we did not raise any objection to the scheme. 1 think the full number allotted to Australia came here.
I have been rather lengthy in dealing with the history of immigration because I think that certain factors should be mentioned. An analysis of what has taken place during the last 100 years indicates clearly that when Great Britain - most of our immigrants during the last 100 years have been drawn from Great Britain - was enjoying relative security or prosperity, the tendency for people to leave to come to Australia was lessened. In periods when Australia was prosperous, the tendency was for immigration to increase. That was shown in the “ gold era “ and prior to World War I. What is happening to-day also shows that the factor which determines emigration from any one country and the factor which induces a country to accept immigrants is very largely the economic condition of the countries concerned.
I admit that there are other factors, but substantially that is the dominating factor. It is true that people will emigrate for health reasons, but their number is small. It is true that people will emigrate to escape harsh political laws or harsh military laws. People have come to Australia and have gone to other countries to avoid such laws. It is true that people will emigrate because they are seeking religious freedom. I suppose the classic example of that is the emigration from Germany of the Templars, who settled in Palestine because they believed that they could practise their religion there without restriction or persecution and in circumstances that they considered spiritually advantageous to them. One should emphasize, I think, that any immigration policy will be successful only if the economic conditions of the times permit the absorption of immigrants, and the availability of immigrants will depend upon the conditions in countries from which immigrants generally come. I shall make a further brief reference to that point at a later stage.
I desire to deal now with the conditions operating in Australia to-day. The present immigration policy commenced in 1946. It was initiated by the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who was then Minister for Immigration. He was followed in that portfolio by the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), and in turn by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Townley) and by the present Minister for Immigration, who has recently been appointed. The immigration programme from 1946 to the present has been very successful, because in those years, with the exception of a recession in 1952 and 1953, the economic conditions in Australia have permitted persons who have come to this country to find employment immediately. As long as Australia’s economic conditions are based upon expansion, the stimulation of capital investment and a long-sighted plan to develop our natural resources - in other words, a progressive and may be adventurous and dynamic policy - we will be able to keep the economy stable. As a result, it will be possible to continue bringing to this country persons who can be absorbed in the necessary work of developing Australia. To continue a successful immigration programme, we must make sure that the persons who are brought here will fulfil our needs. At lot has been said about the thousands of people who are waiting in Great Britain to migrate to Australia, but it is useless bringing people to this country who do not possess the skill and knowledge, or the special abilities, required to develop the country. The migration policy up to date has broadly been to secure from European countries people with special skills and to employ them in developmental and precision work being carried on here. It is not necessary to bring out people who are not skilled, whether they belong to the white-collar group or the labouring group, because there are plenty of such people available in this country. History shows why immigration sometimes succeeds and why it sometimes fails. We have 100 years of experience to draw on, and we are able to say that this line, if pursued, will give success, or that this road, if followed, is bound to lead to failure. 1 should like to pay a tribute to Mr Heyes, Secretary of the Department of Immigration, and to his staff, for the manner in which they have been carrying out our immigration policy since the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was Minister for Immigration. The staff of the department does its best to see that honorable members are kept acquainted with such matters as will enable them to understand properly what is taking place with regard to immigration.
There is one aspect of immigration that should be clearly understood. Many European countries have no desire to see their people emigrate to another country. That is particularly so with Great Britain, which does not look with favour on persons emigrating from Great Britain to any country in the world. That is indicated by the attitude of the United Kingdom Government, whose contributions towards assisted passages of Britsih migrants to Australia is a token payment of only £100,000 per annum. The sum previously was higher, but has now been reduced. Many other countries are in a similar position. The Scandinavian countries, because of their present security and prosperity, do not desire to see their skilled workers emigrating. The same can be said of western Germany. It is true that we are bringing into this country large numbers of people from the Netherlands, but the reason for that is population pressure on a small country rather than impoverished economic or working conditions.
So to-day Australia is faced with the position that the countries that are not prosperous, that have a surplus population, and that are anxious for other countries to take their surplus people, are mainly in the Mediterranean area. I refer particularly to countries like Italy, Greece, and Malta. The problem of finding the right type of immigrant for Australia is becoming increasingly difficult. If we want to build up our population and increase our work force it is essential that we encourage skilled migrants to come to this country. These people will help to build up our economy and the very nature of their work usually provides employment for another person to do the semi-skilled or labouring work. Our policy should be to ensure that the family unit is retained. Where we can bring out husband, wife, and dependent children, so much the better. But all the time we must be careful to see that we do not damage the economy of the country.
The policies of the trade union movement and the Labour party have not been against migration as such: It has been a question of determining to what extent Australia can carry on migration without damaging her economic structure. Once we permit any policy to endanger the economy of the country, then not only the migrant but the whole community suffers. Because Australia has had 100 years’ experience of immigration, we are able to justify the attitude that we take. Fundamentally, the continuance of a programme that has no economic dangers for Australia will make the programme a successful one.
It might be well to mention at this stage the attitude of the trade union movement. From the 1850’s until the beginning of the second world war, the trade union movement was critical of immigration. But since the second world war it has taken the stand that if there is room and opportunity in this country for people to settle, they should be helped to settle, but always with the proviso that the policy, whatever it may be, shall not. cause damage to Australia’s economic structure. I suppose the best illustration of the faith and integrity of the trade union movement in this respect is the fact that it is represented on the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council’ and the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council. It has also played, a very important part in citizenship conventions and is doing all it possibly can, through its great organization, to assist in the assimilation into the Australian way of life of the migrants that come here.
In the few minutes remaining to me I want to say something about the bill. I am happy that this bill removes the dictation test. In 1901, the passport system that is now universally in operation was not in operation in all countries, and no doubt the dictation test was regarded as the best way of determining whether a person should be allowed to enter Australia. I think that the test is undesirable to-day. It should’ be a matter of Government policy or administrative policy to decide whether a. person may enter the country. Under the proposed system of entry permits, a person wishing to migrate to Australia, no matter in what country he may be, knows that if he has an entry permit he can come here and he will be admitted without further trouble. But under the dictation test a person could come here with the very best of intentions to settle. Then, because he is considered to be an undesirable immigrant, he is given a dictation test in a European language that he cannot understand. Because he cannot pass the test he is considered to have committed a crime. He can be prosecuted and sentenced to six months in gaol. He is declared a prohibited immigrant. I believe that we have reached a stage in the development of our society when we can, as a community, say: “ You are a desirable citizen “, or “ You are not a desirable citizen “. With a system of entry permits Australia will take the responsibility and a person who proposes to come here will be given some idea as to whether he will be admitted or not.
I wish to mention a second matter to the Minister. I am not happy about part of clause 13. That clause provides that the Minister may order the deportation of an immigrant from Australia for reasons set out in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). I am not concerned with paragraph (a) which relates to persons who have been convicted of an offence punishable by death or by imprisonment for twelve months or longer, or with paragraph (b) which provides for persons who have been carrying on undesirable and wrong practices in Australia. But I am concerned with paragraph (c) which provides, in effect, that the Minister might order the deportation of an immigrant from Australia if, within five years after any entry by him into Australia, he becomes an inmate of a mental hospital or public charitable institution.
If a man is admitted to Australia after a strict medical examination and subsequently becomes mentally or physically ill, we, having accepted him after that stringent medical examination, ought to accept responsibility for his care. Whatever may be said in respect of a person who is an inmate of a mental hospital, under this clause a person who happened to be in a public hospital for one day could be deported.
– The clause contains the word “ may “.
– That is so, but it is significant that whereas the Minister in his memorandum on this clause mentioned paragraphs (a) and (b) he said nothing about paragraph (c). I should like to have an undertaking from the Minister that although this clause confers a discretionary power on the Minister, it will not be used in an arbitrary manner, and that if it has to be used, that will be done in a way which will not in any way do violence to the feelings which we have towards human beings. I have no doubt that at a later stage the Minister will give that assurance.
– The fears of the honorable member will be set at rest.
– I hope so. The third matter I wish to mention relates to clause 64 which deals with the emigration of certain aborigines. I express my pleasure at the fact that aborigines will now be freed of the restriction contained in the act of 1910 which related to the emigration of young persons and Australian natives. This clause will allow people like Harold Blair, the great aboriginal singer, Pastor Doug Nicholls of the Church of Christ in Fitzroy, or Albert Namatjira, the great aboriginal painter, to leave Australia without hindrance to visit other countries. No restriction or interference will be placed upon such aborigines, as was possible under the old act.
Finally, this bill can best be discussed in committee. I believe that it will improve our immigration laws to a marked degree. It recognizes more fully the rights of human beings whom we bring into this country and will give them greater protection than was the case previously. For the reasons I have given, the Opposition does not oppose the motion for the second reading of this bill and we hope that, as a consequence of the general discussion at the committee stage, our migration laws will be much better than they are to-day.
.- I approach my task to-night with a great deal of pleasure, first because of the fact that I follow, on this side of the House, the new Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who presented the bill in a manner worthy of the highest commendation. If I may presume to say so, it is a long time since we have heard such a complex measure explained to the House with such clarity and precision. It was easy for honorable members to follow the new ideas that are being introduced. I add to the congratulations offered by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) my own congratulations to the Minister on his achievement. Secondly, it is a pleasure to follow the honorable member for Bendigo, who has been a loyal supporter of the immigration programme of this country for many years. He is a member of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, and during the deliberations of that body, as well as here, I always listen with a great deal of respect to the very mature wisdom which he brings to these problems. To-night, it was a pleasure to listen to his very sound and learned discourse on the history of migration to Australia.
We have progressed a long way since the first migrants to this country, who might be delicately referred to as compulsory migrants, were brought here. But as international transport becomes quicker and easier and movement around the world less restricted, it becomes necessary to impose more and more restrictions at the point ,of entry into or departure from a country. The ideal, of course, is to have free movement of all nationals all around the world, but we must always keep in mind the overriding question of national interest. In Australia we have a very good history in allowing as free entry as possible into this country of people who want to come here. But at all times we have had to bear in mind the peculiar conditions which arise here and also the long-term necessity to preserve a homogeneous community which will not be faced with complicated racial problems, such as, unfortunately, have arisen in other parts of the world.
This is a technical measure and does not affect our overall policy to any great degree. I suppose it is inevitable in a second-reading debate that policy should be discussed; but this bill does not, as I have already said, in a sense affect the overall policy as to who, in general, shall be admitted or who, in general, shall be excluded. I should say that this bill provides for a greater degree of flexibility in nation-building. After many years of experience, particularly in more recent times, of a large-scale immigration programme, we have reached the stage at which the inadequacies and deficiencies in our existing laws have become more clearly exposed. We have now arrived at a point where we are prepared to do away with a lot of fictitious procedures and to say quite bluntly whom we want to come to Australia and whom we do not want.
The Immigration Act, which this bill will repeal, was first passed in 1901, and it then contained 19 sections. It has been successively extended by a tremendous number of amendments until it now contains 64 sections, which are really confined within the original nineteen sections, so we have considerable confusion in the numbering of the sections. For instance, to section 3 were added eleven additional sections numbered 3a to 3k. Section 8 provides another example. To it were added seven additional sections, numbered 8a, 8aa, 8ab, 8ac, and so on down to Sc. Some sections have been completely neglected simply because of High Court decisions on the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth Government to deal with immigration and emigration. Sections 3a to 3j have not been used for at least 40 years. Three other sections, numbered 8aa, 8ab, and 8ac have not been used since the high court case ex parte Walsh and Johnson; In re Yates, in 1925.
For these reasons alone, there is a crying need to simplify the existing act. The High Court has, from time to time, made some very strong comments on the difficulty of any one, no matter how high his qualifications, finding his way around the act. For example, in 1949 in the High Court case O’Keefe v. Calwell, his Honour Mr. Justice Dixon, said -
Of course, the act is very difficult. Everybody who has tried to construe it over a period of years has found great difficulty over it.
Later, he said -
The act was not well drafted and has grown up in bits and pieces. It has become extremely difficult to reconcile some of the provisions.
So it is not surprising that, quite apart from the incorporation of new ideas, some attempt should now be made to consolidate the act to bring it up to date from the point of view of draftsmanship and to clear up some of the confusion which exists. Like the honorable member for Bendigo, I am delighted with the proposed abolition of the outmoded dictation test. It has always been rather a standing joke among members of the Australian community that we make the test of whether a person is fit to be in this country his ability to write down 50 words in any European language selected by an immigration officer. Of course, the legal profession is not unaccustomed to legal fictions, which are resorted to in order to get over a difficulty where there is no power to say outright what one wants to attempt. In the early days it was probably felt undesirable to say straight out that we did not want such and such a person to enter and that we preferred to have somebody else. But now we have grown to nationhood. We have grown up in the world where these things are recognized as prerogatives of government, and to-day we have no hesitation in exercising our undoubted right to say who shall come in and who shall go out.
For that reason alone there is no justification for the dictation test. Its absurdity was exposed as far back as 1935 or thereabout, in the celebrated case of R. v. Carter, ex parte Kisch. A gentleman by the name of Egon Kisch was in Australia, and for various reasons it was found desirable to deport him. This gentleman had come from Czechoslovakia, and he was a linguist of some renown. The Commonwealth decided that it was a bit risky to subject him to a dictation test in any modern European language because, undesirable as he might be, he knew most modern European languages and, unfortunately, he might be able to pass such a test. Therefore, he was subjected to a test in Gaelic and, quite naturally, he was unable to pass that test. It was then that he became a prohibited immigrant under our existing law. The case was taken to the High Court, which decided that Gaelic could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a European language. I do not know whether any of the Scots in the House would agree with that decision, but it did provide a great deal of mirth in the Australian community and exposed the Government to a degree of ridicule which was not desirable.
Even to-day, continually we find that there is difficulty about the application of the dictation test. As a simple illustration, we have the case of Italians who have come here, for example, with false documents. It may be desired to put the machinery in motion and give them a dictation test. An Italian has only to say that the officer administering the dictation test spoke a different dialect or came from a different region in Italy and that he did not understand him, to be able to escape the consequences, at least on the first occasion of administering the test. He can thus evade the act for some time, and it is necessary for the department to administer another test.
It can be seen, therefore, that this procedure is clumsy in the extreme. There is, I believe, a further defect in it. It contains an implied insult - not expressed and, I believe, certainly not intended - to any one who comes from a continent other than Europe - ‘because the test of literacy, as it professes to be, is a test in a European language. There are people from other parts of the world who are highly literate and who may have educational standards far higher than our own, and there is no doubt that they do feel considerable resentment that we have written into our law this implied discrimination as to the continent of origin. We can eliminate that resentment if we simply put into our legislation a provision giving the right to say who shall come here and who shall stay out.
The man thing of which we must be certain is that in abolishing this dictation test we do not do anything that will weaken the power of the Government, as it exists at present, either to exclude people or to deport people who are later found to be undesirable. We propose to replace the test by a simple system of entry permits, either temporary or permanent. A consideration of the provisions of the bill that are designed to enable us to control those people will show, I think, that there are just as many protections in the new bill, as there are in the dictation test. First, let us consider the case of people who enter this country irregularly before the new act commences. Clause 16 provides that persons who have entered by evasion of officers or who have presented false documents are prohibited immigrants and may be deported. Persons who enter irregularly after the new act commences will also be prohibited immigrants, either because of having no entry permits or under the provision relating to false documents and so on.
– Supposing that cannot be proved and it is doubtful, for instance, whether the documents are false, what will be the position?
– I should imagine that that is a difficulty we will always be up against.
– The test could always be held in reserve for that type of case.
– That is true. You do preserve an arbitrary power for the Minister under conditions which may be most unjust. After all, you may suspect something but not be able to prove it. If you cannot prove it, you might be doing a great injustice. At any rate, this legislation gives the person concerned a fair degree of protection. As I said earlier, the ideal of a migration bill such as this is to provide the greatest freedom of entry consistent with a reasonable degree of security for Australia. If you cannot prove a case beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law, it is difficult to say that you are evading the responsibility of government in regard to security for Australians. People who enter the country for a temporary stay after the new legislation comes into force will receive temporary entry permits. At the expiration or termination of those permits, the holders may be deported. Persons who enter or who have entered as migrants may, at any time after five years from the time of entry, be called, before an independent commissioner to enable him to consider whether they are fit and proper persons to remain in Australia. If he finds they are not, they may be deported.
The objection which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has just raised in regard to the arbitrary powers of the Minister in the dictation test, could, I suppose, quite properly be raised against delegating to a commissioner power of inquiry to consider whether a person was a desirable or an undesirable inhabitant of Australia. But the Government believes - I think quite rightly - that the individual who is here has certain rights and is entitled to certain protection. If the Leader of the Opposition objects to the abandonment of the very arbitrary power implicit in the dictation test, he would probably also object to the submission to an independent commissioner the question of whether a person who had come here as an immigrant was a fit and proper person to be allowed to remain in Australia.
– The honorable member knows that the dictation test was never a test of education.
– That is so, and it is all the more absurd that it should be ostensibly used as an education test. When you resort to complete legal fiction, it is only in a case where you have not the power to do a certain thing directly. I believe that it is completely within the power of this Government to say whether it wants a person in Australia or not. So, I believe it is quite right that we should do away with the dictation test. If the case for its retention simply rests on the possibility that, at some stage, there may arise a case where you Cannot prove in a court that a person has come to this country under forged documents or is a prohibited immigrant, that is not a sufficiently strong ground for its retention. It may be a ground for strengthening the bill” in some other way, but I do not believe that it makes out a case for retention of a test which is so absurd.
– It is really a matter to be threshed out in committee.
– That is correct. If the right honorable member is in favour of the retention of the dictation test, I assure him once again that he is completely out of step with all popular opinion as I have heard it expressed in Australia over a great many years. Before I pass from that point, 1 remind honorable members that the United Nations Trusteeship Council recommended the abolition of the dictation test in relation to the trustee Territory of Papua and New Guinea as far back as 1952. Under an ordinance of that Territory, it was abolished.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) traced the history of immigration to Australia in the light of employment opportunities as they existed. He dealt with the changing fortunes on the Australian scene, with booms and recessions, and the wave of immigration which followed important events such as the discovery of gold. He related that argument ingeniously to the present large scale immigration programme which has been operating for more than ten years now. There is a great deal of truth in what the honorable member said. He placed the onus fairly and squarely on governments of Australia to ensure that, so far as is humanly possible, their economic policy will maintain a continual state of expansion. There must be growth of capital investment and continued consumption expenditure so that immigrants can find work opportunities when they come to Australia. I have no quarrel with that point of view.
I commend also the support which the trade union movement throughout Australia has given in a far-sighted way to our immigration programme. It has gone a great deal further than the honorable member for Bendigo suggested; and I believe that he would agree with me in this-. The honorable member suggested that although in years gone by the trade unions had expressed a sort of resistance to immigration, they have now adopted an attitude of nonresistance1. The unions have gone much further; in my opinion, because they have done a great deal themselves towards encouraging immigrants- to place themselves in industries, to’ educate them and assimilate them. That is a long-sighted policy.
Immigration itself is one of the very important economic factors which lead to continuing opportunities for migration. It is a self-generating process. As new immigrants come to Australia, they create demands. As those demands are made, the economy expands. To meet those expanding needs, we have to have more immigrants. That is a vital thing because, if in the face of a temporary recession you cut down the immigration programme in a moment of doubt or fear or panic, you cause destruction of that self-generating process which creates demands for jobs,- consumption goods and investment. So, I would say that that should be the last thing to do at a time when we are undergoing what could seem to be a temporary period of contraction or recession.
We encountered enormous difficulties during the post-war years, contributed to by immigration. From time to time, we have heard people express doubts and fears about housing, employment and education. But I think it will be seen that, in all of these aspects, immigration has helped us iri a tremendous way. Many of the difficulties would have been immeasurably greater without our immigration programme. For example, take the question of housing. Many people have said that it is no use bringing immigrants to this country if they cannot be given houses. I like to think of this as a part of our greater problem of development. Immigration is part of that problem and so is housing. We do not provide immigrants, initially, with houses. We get them here to build houses for themselves and for Australians and they certainly build more houses than they themselves require.
The other day, in this House, we heard somebody attribute part of our education problem to immigration. There is no doubt that we do have more children in this country to educate because of our immigration programme. But, by the same token, we have far more money to spend on public works for education because such a great proportion of our immigrants are adult workers who contribute in taxation, loan funds and the like.
The State governments- allege that they have been- placed in peculiar difficulties because of immigration. For a start they seem to overlook the fact that for their additional population they get additional amounts in taxation reimbursements. Statistics show that, as by far- the greater proportion of immigrants are adult workers, the
States make a clear gain with respect to their educational problems by reason of the adjustment of the tax reimbursement formula. The age group picture in Australia also has a bearing. During the depression there was an extremely low birth rate. By 1948, the people who had been born during the depression years were teenagers entering the work force. Their number was of course far lower than would have been desirable.
From 1948 onwards we had a high peak of children who had been born during the war arid post-war period entering the schools. Without the immigrants to help build those schools and provide the basic materials, and to help provide the finance through taxation, we would not have had the constructive effort towards reaching a solution of our educational problems that we have had. No schools, or very few, were built during the war. This lag in the provision of educational facilities during, the war is one of the main factors, together with the birth-rate problem that I have outlined, in the educational problem of today. lt is quite wrong to attribute our educational problem to immigration.
The question of British immigrants which was vitally touched on by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), has troubled many people in Australia. This Government has clearly stated its policy in relation to the problem of having a homogeneous Australian community without any marked problems of racial minorities, while, at the same time, building up a strong nation arid developing this country as quickly as possible. The Government has acknowledged that,- in order to do this, preference will be given to British immigrants. It is doing that.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adadjourned.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 1470), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is an important piece of legislation. It was debated, to some extent, when the Murray report was presented by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). 1 say immediately that the Opposition supports this legislation. Not only is it strictly in accordance with the approach of the Australian Labour party to the problem of education, but it follows action taken in the immediate post-war period when the National University was established, largely through the initiative of the Labour government led first by Mr. Curtin and then by Mr. Chifley. That institution was established with the universal consent of all members of the Parliament.
Of course, this bill, while referring to the Australian National University, extends in a dramatic way the grants to the universities of Australia and, in many ways, it will relieve their position immensely. From that point of view, the Murray report will be an historic step in the educational development of Australia. That was the view that we took during the earlier debate on this subject, and we commend the immediate decision to carry this plan into effect.
We are again faced with the dual nature of the educational establishments in Australia. The States are practically entirely responsible for tertiary, or university, education. They are also responsible for the bulk of primary and secondary education, for technical education, and for education in special subjects which are not strictly within the educational area, such as that given at some of the great conservatoriums. The plain fact is that the States, in the present situation in Australia, are quite unable adequately to keep the universities going and are equally unable to keep the institutions going in the field of primary and secondary education. I do not think anybody will deny that, and certainly the Murray report does not deny it.
What this grant to the States for the universities emphasizes is that there must be a close re-examination of the position in relation to educational requirements and CommonwealthState relationships. At certain periods in Australian history there have been great developments in the field of education. One such period occurred between 1910 and the first World War, particularly in New South Wales, with which I am most familiar. I think that similar developments occurred in other States, but not necessarily in that period. In or about 1910, high schools in New South Wales were limited to one in Sydney and one in the country at Maitland. Now, the number of high schools in New South Wales is very considerable indeed. No large country centre is without a high school. Similarly, there has been a tremendous advance in technical education. That has involved tremendous expansion in building programmes and the employment of teachers in numbers never dreamed of in earlier days. The transport position resembles other features of the State-Commonwealth relationship. I referred to it previously when we were discussing the Murray report. Everybody blames the States for the weaknesses of the Australian transport system, from the financial point of view. But the plain fact is that because of the nature of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States no proper support was given by the Commonwealth, at the right time, to the State transport systems. These systems were run to pieces during the war, both in regard to rolling-stock and permanent way. Whereas in the United States the defence authority - the federal authority - paid compensation to cover such wartime wear and tear on railway equipment, in Australia that was just overlooked. Nothing of that sort was done. After the war ships that had been requisitioned for war purposes were completely reconditioned so as to enable the shipping companies to start afresh in the peace era. But the State railways did not receive that form of compensation after the war. I think that what applies to the State railways applies also to the State schools. The States have been quite unable to keep their schools at the proper level of efficiency. They are short of teaching staff. No matter how much effort is put into the programme, the school buildings are insufficient to meet the demands made on them. How do we tackle the problem? This is simply an illustration, I think, of the general problem. I want to see the same broad approach shown by the Commonwealth in connexion with secondary and primary education as with tertiary education. Otherwise, there will be gaps of all kinds in secondary and primary education.
What are the problems? The Murray report says that it is clear that there has been a great wastage of talent at the secondary school level, due to early leaving.
Boys and girls with the necessary ability to carry through to the university, with very probably a percentage of them able to reach the highest possible standards in Australia or the world, are deprived of the opportunity to do so. There is no tragedy, Mr. Deputy Speaker, greater than the tragedy of the brilliant young student, boy or girl, with the capacity and the eagerness to take up a science subject or to go into the field which appears important to him or her who, for financial reasons, family difficulties or the like, is not able to do so. That is a wastage that can never be made good.
– lt is a matter of economics.
– It is often the economic position of the family that is the reason, or perhaps illness in the family.
The Murray report indicates that there are about 36,000 persons attending universities in Australia and that for every person taking a university course there are at least three others of equal skill and intellectual capacity who could undertake the same courses. So only one-quarter of the people who have the intellectual capacity to do a university course and to approach the same problems actually enjoy the benefit of a university course. The other threequarters have been prevented, by financial circumstances or similar circumstances, from attending a university. That is a tragedy. A democracy is not an educated democracy if, because of that particular lack, its children are not seen to be worthy of that opportunity and if they are thereby, or for other reasons, deprived of it. In highly educated people we have an asset which could make the nation in time of crisis.
Of course, to-day we emphasize the field of science, and it is indeed very important. Everybody emphasizes it. The achievements, during the International Geophysical Year, of the two nations most prominent in the field of science, including the placing of satellites in orbit around the earth, are achievements that were absolutely beyond the dreams of humans until comparatively recent times. They are the achievements of the scholars and scientists of those countries. These achievements are so gigantic in their possibilities for good that we cannot dismiss them, and indeed I do not think there is any attempt to dismiss them. They make us want to emphasize science very much indeed, but we should not emphasize it exclusively at the expense of other important subjects. The humanities are just as important, and if Australian literature and Australian drama can be, as they are being, studied and developed by Australian students, that is just as important a contribution to the spiritual life of the country, in its way, as great scientific advances are. I think that the qualities of Australians in the field of science have been proved. That is also largely true in the field of literature, drama and the like.
I am only trying, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to illustrate - perhaps inadequately - the loss to us of the potentialities of young people who are just cut off from the chance of higher education, and may have to leave school either before going to a high school or at an early stage of the high school course. Many of them who complete the high school course and would like to go further have to leave at the end of it. They are deprived of the chance of going to a university because of some of the circumstances that I have mentioned.
A bill like this will alleviate that position in many respects; but it will, I think, still leave a disability. If all who wish to avail themselves of a university education were able to do so there would be many more than 100,000 students at university level instead of there being 36,000. The difference that that could make to the nation is obvious, although it cannot be precisely calculated.
Now let us examine the position in the field of science. In 1950, at the peak of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, 703 bachelor degrees were conferred in science. Last year that number fell to 332. Of course, the high number in 1950 is to some extent explained by the great resurgence of interest in education as a result of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. That scheme opened the way to the universities for many people who in normal times would perhaps not have been interested in going to a university. That desire to partake of the highest forms of education was one of the good by-products of the war.
It was estimated that in engineering the number of bachelor degrees conferred would fall from the 1950 figure of 427 to 329 in 1957. The bachelor degrees conferred on agriculture students were expected to fall from the 1950 figure of 101 to 68 in 1957.
– That is one of the most important fields of education.
– Yes, it is one of the most important. It is absolutely vital. The bachelor degrees conferred on graduates in architecture were expected to fall from 101 in 1951, to 57 in 1957. Bachelor degrees awarded in the veterinary science field were expected to fall from the 1950 figure of 91 to 44 in 1957. So, there has been a sharp and steady decline in the number of bachelor degrees conferred in those science subjects, despite the vital need for additional scientists, who are absolutely necessary for development and absolutely essential for our defence programme. The immediate post-war rise in the number of students is reflected in the output of graduates in science up to the peak period between 1950 and 1952. The increased numbers of students included many people who had been in the services. The post-war rise ended in 1952, and there has since been a decline to a little more than 60 per cent, of the figures for the peak years. 1 am referring here solely to some illustrations in the field of science, which indicate a very serious position indeed. According to the Australian Academy of Science recently, special measures are required to deal with the problem. Again, there is a contribution in this field. The point that I wish to stress is that it is not sufficient to think that that can be done suddenly at the university level. It cannot. One cannot generalize about the problem. The time at which the intellect of a boy or a girl develops sufficiently for the highest fields of learning cannot be dogmatically stated in advance. It may come comparatively late. The boy or girl who leaves school at fourteen, fifteen or sixteen, might have made an entirely different decision twelve months later. The mind cannot be dogmatized about. A person’s genius for a subject may be revealed at a very early age, or the revelation may be postponed. Therefore, one cannot separate the university level of education, in an arbitrary way, from the secondary or high school level; nor can one separate the high school level from the primary school level in an arbitrary way.
The Murray report says this - and this is where it affects the secondary schools -
One major and critical field of graduate employment is that of teaching.
It is not merely that we need scientists who are devoted to a particular branch of technology, or a particular subject or study, as graduates in the field of science itself. We need graduates who are devoted to the field of teaching. The report continues -
Unless the schools can be staffed with soundly trained graduates, it is obvious that the whole educational edifice is threatened. . . .
The volume of the flow of students into the universities, on the one hand, and of graduates into the community, on the other, is determined by the quality and number of the staff in the schools.
The researches of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, which has done a considerable amount of research on this question, indicate the position in New South Wales. There has been a serious dilution of high school staffing. The Department of Education has not been able to train sufficient graduates, and the recruitment of graduates does not nearly meet the staffing needs of the schools. Only 82 graduates began their teaching careers in 1956, and in 1957, the number increased only to 100. Four hundred and ninety-five teachers were recruited to the New South Wales secondary schools service at the beginning of 1958. Only 120 of these were graduates. Fifty-two had diplomas in special subjects. In secondary education, it is necessary to have highly qualified teachers. Of the 495 secondary school teachers recruited at the beginning of 1958, only 120 were university graduates, and 52 had diplomas in certain subjects. The remaining 323, with the exception of a very small number, were two years trained, and many of them would be minors. That is to say, they were not adults. In addition, over 100 teachers were transferred to the secondary schools from the primary schools service. Thus, of approximately 600 teachers who began their careers in secondary education at the beginning of this year, only 170 were graduates trained for the work. 323 were nongraduates, and the remainder were drawn from the primary service.
That is due to the inability - not the lack of desire - of the States to organize the system in such a way that the flow will be continuous and adequate for secondary education. If the flow of teachers is not satisfactory, how can one expect the undergraduates in the universities to obtain the desired standard for degrees? That is pointed out in the Murray report. It is perfectly true. Many of the universities regard the first year at the university as another year of preparation before university studies proper are commenced, and the failure rate is very high. This is due to the fact that, at the secondary school level, as well as at the university level, there is no continuous provision of services or the equipment and buildings necessary for an Australia-wide system of education in which every boy and girl will have the opportunity to achieve the highest standard made possible by teaching in these vital subjects.
– Would the rising costs of education have anything to do with that?
– Costs are rising, of coUrse Education is costly, and the cost is rising, just as the cost of everything else is rising. That is simply a further challenge to the community. Education is one of the things that we have to put on the highest level ot priority. That is the great difficulty of it, but the problem must be tackled, and this grant to the universities is a great step forward. As I have already said, it will be ot tremendous help to the universities. I do not want any one to think that I am complaining about this measure. I only want the field to be looked at as a whole in order to have all phases of education improved.
Actually, not half the science teachers in the New South Wales secondary and high schools are graduates. They are not qualified. Many are two years trained and many have had no special training for their important work. The Murray report states -
The true gravity of the present situation is revealed by the estimate of the Commonwealth Office of Education that, whereas for 1960 and 1961-
Looking ahead -
Government and non-Government schools will require an annual intake of 450 mathematics and science teachers, the output of science graduates thorn all universities in 1956 for all purposes was only 524, .and is likely to be Jess in 1957.
The staffing of secondary and high schools, particularly the newly established ones, shows just what economies in teacher recruitment mean for secondary education. These are just a few examples: In a staff of 48. only eleven .are graduates; in a staff of 41, there are only nine graduates; in a staff of 50, there are only eleven graduates - only eleven have a degree conferred by a university in the appropriate subject. That means that many teachers have not been able to get an opportunity to graduate from a university so as to become thoroughly competent to teach their subjects to students who may become the great leaders in their particular field of education. There are many other examples of the small percentages of graduates on the staffs of schools. In one staff of 45, only seven are graduates. The schools in question all are classified as high schools, and, among the non-graduates, there is a good proportion of two years trained teachers having their first experience in the secondary field, and two years trained first appointees, some of them minors, being given the outsize task of handling big classes of adolescents. That is tending to become the general pattern for staffing in both high schools and secondary schools.
If the Australian universities are to train an adequate supply of graduates, those students with the native ability to undertake university studies must remain at school and receive appropriate preparation for their further education. It is not enough to say that, and to provide for them. We must have both the necessary school buildings, and the equipment, which is becoming more and more important, and more and more expensive. We must have the teachers, and there must be drive in order to keep the movement going. And that drive is obtained, as history shows, only when there is something like a great renaissance in education. Now is the time for such a renaissance, and the Murray report is a move towards it. In dealing with this problem, we must always go back to the question of money and who is to pay.
I do not intend to return to the short debate we had recently, but one or two points mentioned in that debate cannot be overstressed. The field from which contributions can be .made is very large. The Commonwealth Parliament is taxing the people, both individually and through companies, and is collecting enormous sums in excess of the amounts needed to meet Commonwealth obligations. The question then to be considered is: How is this money to be distributed? Section 96 of the Constitution permits money to be given to the States on conditions. Any condition can be imposed. In this instance, the condition is that the State is responsible for some degree of expenditure. That is the condition which enables the affairs of government to run smoothly and efficiently. However, despite the summary dismissal in a sentence of what I said the other day, 1 assert that the Constitution goes further than that. Any one who considers the facts of the 1946 referendum, when the Chifley Government carried the social services power, will find that it included the provision of benefits for students. That provision is unlimited in its character. It refers to any type of benefit and any type of student; it is for this Parliament to determine those points.
In my opinion, as the years go by, lt will be necessary for the Parliament not merely to provide grants to the States but to provide grants for the purpose of education, under this method of making grants. I think that is a very important feature of the constitutional system. It is completely wrong to say that the Constitution stands in the way of providing for the needs of the States on a more satisfactory basis. Any one who looks at the debates in the House at the time of the 1946 referendum and at the pamphlets on the constitutional proposals which were submitted to the people will find that the position is as I have stated. It does not mean that we can dogmatically say what the sum is to be. ‘ It is the approach that matters.
I welcome this legislation. I think it may go beyond the Murray report in many ways, but, based upon some of its principles, the Commonwealth Parliament - not the Government, because we are all responsible - is now bound to go ahead in the field of education. It is no use saying that there are many other avenues; in the end there must be some approach that is rational and reasonable. Education is of such supreme importance in the world to-day that I look forward eagerly to the Commonwealth taking a substantial measure of the obligation in relation to both primary and secondary education. Referring to this legislation, I say that the Government is to be heartily congratulated on adopting the report so swiftly and carrying out the recommendations so expeditiously.
– I could not agree more heartily with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) than I do when he says that the whole field of education is of supreme importance. He says that he looks beyond the Murray report to what will come in a few years time when the Commonwealth, he believes, will make direct grants for primary and secondary education. He must realize also that, if that happens, the federal system as we know it will be dead. If that process continues, the States will be left with less power and responsibility than shire councils. If we give the States money and say, “ You must spend this much on education”, it is only a very short step to saying, “You must spend this much on hospitals and this much on other items “. If we believe that that would be good for the federal system, then our view is particularly short-sighted, and certainly I could not support such a view.
The Leader of the Opposition quoted figures relating to New South Wales to show the extreme difficulties that the education authorities have got themselves into in that State. I should like to suggest that at least some of those difficulties may have arisen because the Government of that State has apportioned a smaller part of its revenue and loan funds to education than have other States, notably Victoria and Tasmania.
– That is not true.
– It is true; if the honorable member likes to look at the figures-
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair. The honorable member for Watson will remain silent.
– Although New South Wales revenues are higher than the revenues of other States the New South Wales Government has apportioned to education a smaller proportion of the revenues handed out by the Commonwealth than have other States, notably Victoria and Tasmania. It is worth noting that a short time ago the Victorian Minister for Education announced tremendous strides in the education field in that State. It is also worth noting that in this year, for the first time, five-year-old children were enrolled in many Victorian schools. I admit that when the announcement was made it led to overcrowding and difficulties in some areas because it came partly as an unexpected measure, but those difficulties have been overcome and I understand that by far the greater proportion of five-year-old children who wish to go to school in Victoria can be accommodated in the schools. This has taken place in an atmosphere in which the Opposition says that education standards are continually falling. The record in Victoria certainly does not support that view.
I do not want to canvass again the debate that occurred in this House a few days ago. At present we are debating the State Grants (Universities) Bill; we are not debating whether this Commonwealth should give direct grants to the States for primary and secondary education. However, the Leader of the Opposition brought the field of primary and secondary education into this debate, so I wanted to make the few remarks that I have made.
I should like to deal with five points in the debate on this bill. The first concerns a national policy for universities. The second concerns the Australian attitude to universities, which is typified by the Public Service attitude to universities. The third concerns universities and research. The fourth concerns universities and science. I am afraid that I disagree, probably with most honorable members and certainly with the Leader of the Opposition, because I am not one of those who believe that we need a violent swing away from the humanities and the classics towards science. I hope to be able to give some facts to show that my view is right. My fifth point relates to universities and politics.
I shall deal now with the first point, which is a national policy for universities. If this legislation is to set the pattern for the future, as I hope it will, it is essential, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced, that we have a universities grants committee. If the Parliament is to make more sums available to universities, it is vital that the academic freedom and the self-government or self-administration of the universities be preserved. Although the Government is responsible for the money that it makes available to universities, it is essential that there be a buffer between the Government and the universities. A universities grants committee could well fulfil that purpose. If it is to be successful, such a committee must win the trust not only of the Commonwealth Government but also of the universities and ultimately of the State governments, so that we can have complete co-operation in this field. We need national policies for our universities because it is in this field that we must make the best possible use of our resources. I know that many skills and faculties are essential if a place of learning is to be called a university, but there are other things that are not necessary adjuncts to every university. For instance, I am sure that it is not necessary for every university in Australia to have a well-equipped, up-to-date, expensive medical school. It would be wasteful if at this stage each university was so equipped.
– The universities are terribly overcrowded.
– I agree, but I believe that it would be wasteful if each university had such a medical school. We have a University of Technology. Such a university concentrates on such things as highway engineering and wool technology. Only one such university is necessary in Australia at present. The University of New England is concentrating on rural science and is making very fine efforts to pioneer this field in a way that has not previously been attempted in Australia. But we do not need a university of that type in each State. The present system is making the best use of resources. It means a certain amount of specialization in certain universities, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It has been said that in England there is specialization, that Oxford sticks to the classics and the old subjects whilst Cambridge tends to concentrate more on science and modern subjects. That may be the reason why I am prejudiced to some extent against this violent surge that we see on all sides towards more and more scientists.
There is one difference here between a national policy for universities and what I should like to call a local policy for schools. I only mention this because the Leader of the Opposition mentioned it in his speech. We need a local policy for schools that is purely adapted to the local needs that may best be judged by the local State authorities. We must have a national policy for universities if we are to use our resources to the best advantage. If there is to be a degree of specialization in’ universities, quite clearly arrangements must be made for students who wish to go from one State to another to study a particular course that can only be followed in one particular State. If students from Melbourne wish to go to Sydney to study at the School of Veterinary Science, facilities should be available to accommodate them at that school. This should have been done in the past. It will not be necessary in this instance in the future, because I am glad to say that the new Monash University in Melbourne will include a School of Veterinary Science. But that is the kind of thing that should be done if this specialization amongst our universities is to have any real meaning.
A national policy on universities implies some conflict between the autonomy of the individual universities and the best use of resources. I do not believe that this conflict is important if the funds going to the universities are controlled by a competent universities grants committee. I do not believe that their loss of autonomy will be important, but the advantages gained from the better use of resources will be of immeasurable benefit to the undergraduates of Australia.
I should like to deal now with the Australian attitude towards universities, particularly as typified in the Public Service attitude. Although many people in the Public Service may not agree with what the facts seem to indicate, the facts are dis* graceful. In 1956, only 33 of the 1,251 non-professional recruits taken into the Public Service were university graduates. There are clear reasons for this under the present set-up. There is no financial inducement for anybody who has undertaken a university course to enter the Public Service. The only recognition that is given is that a person is able to enter the Public Service at a later age and thereby come under a higher age award. But he gets no recognition for his training. Apparently, the Public Service Board would sooner have recruits direct’ from school, lt believes that if it can train boys for four years it will make better public servants of them than it can of older persons with the wider understanding that comes from an adequate university training.
This must’ lead inevitably to a narrower outlook amongst sections of our Public Service. I do not mean that all recruits to the Public Service should be university graduates, but I believe that the proportion should be very greatly increased. I know that the Boyer committee is examining this question at the present time; and I hope that it will make some recommendations along the lines I have indicated. I believe that under the present situation our Pub. lie Service is denied the services of many people who would be of great value. If we examine what happens in Great Britain we find that degrees gained at United Kingdom universities, especially in the classics, open the doors to the highest positions in the British Public Service. I think Australia could well take a few leaves out of the book of the Mother Country in this regard. I know that the Public Service Board encourages its members to undertake night schooling, but it is a battle and a grind which only persons of talent can weather successfully. Night schools are surely no substitute for an adequate and wider university training in its truest sense.
I wish to deal now with universities and research. Active research on behalf of tutors in universities is essential and vital to good teaching. It keeps tutors alive in mind and spirit, and makes sure that their teaching is alive. It makes it easier for them as tutors to capture the enthusiasm of their students. I believe that in this field the universities have suffered greatly over the last few years, perhaps not so much in the immediate past as ten or fifteen years ago. There are reasons for this. There are better opportunities for pure research, without distractions from university administration or teaching, in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That organization has more funds available fm research equipment. There is better equipment and fewer distractions. The demands of geology and oil search have captured many people from the universities. The Bureau of Mineral Resources has probably entered into, some competition with the universities in this regard. It has been difficult under these conditions and the conditions of financial stringency under which they have suffered, for universities to maintain adequate research; and if they cannot maintain adequate research, they cannot teach adequately.
This situation should be remedied, and I hope that as these increasing funds become available, it will be remedied. More direct assistance must be provided for research. I believe that we could with advantage study what happens in the United States of America, where universities or university staffs are given research contracts on behalf of certain organizations. The university obtains funds in this way and, at the same time, the staffs are given some direct research to carry out.
Research in universities should never be made subordinate to teaching, as I believe it has been regarded in Australian universities. The attitude here has been to get a degree as a passport to a job, and that has been enough. Well, it is not enough; and if that attitude continues, Australian universities will eventually wither away and their place will be taken by superior technical schools, perhaps a medical school run by the British Medical Association. That, again, would not be a desirable objective.
Unless the university can fulfil a function other than merely enabling students to pass examinations, it does not deserve to occupy the place it now enjoys in our society. Its task should not be to teach students how to pass examinations but how to master their chosen subjects and be able to undertake further research in them. If a university does this, it achieves a great deal, but that is much more than merely teaching people how to pass examinations.
My fourth point relates to universities and science. The question is whether we are short of scientists or, more definitely, whether we are shorter of scientists than we are of other graduates in general. I believe that the answer to this is an emphatic “ No “. I should be far happier about this position if people other than scientists kept saying that we need more scientists. Modern scientists tend to look at what they call a modern scientific society- whatever that may be; to me, it is a meaningless phrase - and suggest that it alone can provide an answer to all our problems. This is patently not’ true, for there are many problems of human relations and understanding which science does nothing to solve but a very great deal to intensify.
Furthermore, scientists often go outside their realm because in this modern age of sputniks, scientists and their achievements have come to the forefront in the news of the world. This has tended to bring about a situation in which the statements of any scientists, if they are outstanding enough - not in quality but in headline value - are given a place in the news. This is wrong because- there is no reason why a person who is a nuclear physicist should be regarded as more qualified than any one else to pass judgment on a situation outside his chosen field. We are, perhaps, approaching a situation in which we treat, scientists almost as . superior beings who have some right to pass weighty judgment on every situation which arises.
– Is the honorable member against science?
– I am not against it, but I. say that we do not want scientists and nothing but scientists.
– Surely science has some bearing on philosophy.
– That raises the question of what is “ science “ and what is “ philosophy “. However, to get back to the question of whether we are short of scientists, there are three tests which can be applied. First, I want to quote some figures issued under the authority of the Melbourne University. I apologize to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for the fact that they have not been issued by the University of Sydney which, I understand, was the source of the figures which he quoted. My figures tend to show a position contrary to that indicated by the figures which the right honorable gentleman quoted. If we look at the statistics inrespect of the faculty of engineering we find that in the pre-war year of 1939, 23 students secured their degree of Bachelor of Engineering. In the post-war years from 1953 to 1956 the average number who graduated was 100,- a four-fold increase. In the faculty of medicine the number of graduates increased from about 100 in 1939 to 150 or 160 in 1956. There have been substantial increases in the number of graduates over the years. It is not necessarily right to take the peak years during which repatriation students were training and swelled the numbers. The figures for those years do not show the trend, but rather distort it.
There are three tests which may be applied to help us answer the question of whether we are shorter of scientists than of other graduates. First, let us look at the standards of judgment in industry. There, leaders do not say, “ We have a lot of scientists in this industry, therefore we are efficient “. That is the reverse of every other standard of efficiency that is applied. The criterion of efficiency generally observed in industry is comparative production of a smaller number of men or from lesser equipment. To say that industries are efficient because they have a large number of scientists on their staffs is not necessarily correct. During the post-war years the two countries which have made the most dynamic and dramatic industrial progress have not been noteworthy for their scientific achievements or for the number of scientific personnel on their industrial staffs. Those two countries are Germany and Japan. The second test to apply to this question is to consider whether scientists are receiving higher salaries than, say, arts graduates. Statistics show that in general they are not.
The third test is whether we have as many scientists, proportionately, as have other countries. This is a dangerous line to take because it can lead to competition in fields that will do nothing whatever to benefit the human race, lt will lead to a kind of follow-my-leader competition in fields that may do much more harm than good. I believe that in certain fields, such as the development of nuclear physics and hydrogen bombs, this has already happened. So far as comparisons can be drawn, because the standards of different universities differ so much, if Great Britain or America are short of anything compared with Russia they are short of economists and statisticians. I think there would be few people who would say we need as many economists and statisticians as would the Russians.
If there is a shortage of scientists in. Australia, conditions inside this countryhave made that position worse. The standards of technical courses are constantly being raised. There is a continual pressure by people in charge of technical courses to give them professional or university status. This denies the country of able technicians who are unable to meet the requirements of higher courses which have come into being as a result of pressure over the last few years, but who would have been able to pass more modest courses. It also forces industry to specify a professional status whereas all it needs is really an able technician. This, in turn, causes wastage, because many people with scientific, qualifications who apply for jobs and get them find that their capacities are not fully used. I believe that it is wrong to mingle or blend the technical with the professional. I should like to see a strict division made between the two, because they operate in entirely different spheres. We should not treat them as one.
On the question of scientists, the Murray report contains some pertinent passages. Paragraph 6 reads as follows: -
We can handle machines and physical nature beyond the dreams of previous generations, but we handle ourselves, our families and our fellow human beings in general no better, and perhaps less well than our fathers did before us. Many of the most serious problems in the world to-day are moral problems and are problems of human relationships. The need for the study of humanities is therefore greater and not less than in the past.
But I have to admit that in paragraphs 78 and 79, which I will not quote, the Murray committee put two bob on the other horse as well and said that there should be a swing away from the humanities towards the scientific courses. The Murray committee, in this instance, cannot have it both ways, and I would much sooner have it the first way than the second.
The pursuit of science is divided. Medical science is not competitive, and many examples can be given of its benefits to humanity. But there is another kind of science which is competitive. I refer to the production of nuclear weapons; and this is bad. Although in the future nuclear science may be applied to bring great benefit to mankind in general, at present and in the next few years there is a grave danger that it will bring evils upon mankind beyond the comprehension or wildest imaginings of any person in this chamber. Dr. R. B. Madgwick, Vice-Chancellor of the University of New England, has said -
Physicists have provided us with unlimited power and in so doing have posed social, economic, and political problems which as yet the community and its Universities have not solved.
He accepts the challenge. Although I do not thank the scientists for the problems that they have posed us, we clearly cannot blame them, because these have always been insoluble problems of human relationships. It is modern science that has made their study and solution infinitely more urgent than it has ever been.
There is a ready recognition of this fact, but universities, I believe, have done little to remedy the situation. They have done little to turn the tide back on this new scientific society which is meant to solve the problems. We find the scientists and the Academy of Science calling for more and more scientists, but the study of other subjects, of the arts, the humanities, history and its problems, human relationships, and moral and political philosophy, can help us in the present situation. A more intensive study of science cannot. Some people would like to say that philosophers - or experts in thinking, as I like to call them - are not practical people. I would deny that emphatically. Looking through the pages of the greatest philosophers that Britain has seen, one finds that when emergencies have arisen they have proved themselves to be the most practical of all men. I had two philosophy tutors. During the last war, one was the personal liaison officer to Air Vice-Marshal Harris, of Bomber Command fame, and the other was in charge of an important section of British Intelligence. They are philosophers, men whom many people would call impractical. I do not believe that they are.
For hundreds of years, up to the beginning of this century, the study of moral and political philosophy was pursued actively in the universities, but I believe that there has been little new thought on these problems in the present century. That may be because of the turn that modern philosophy has taken. The romantic search for ultimate truths has been replaced by a cold study of the definition of words and phrases. Whatever the reason for this may be, the result is tragic, when democracies are faced with urgent and grave moral and political problems, which have caused much heart searching, not least in the United States of America. These problems have challenged the minds of thinking people, including politicians, for generations. I am afraid that this is no place to discuss them, because I have already taken too long.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) passed his university years and some of the most formative years of his life in the United Kingdom, at the oldest university there. He benefited at that university from a system of coordinated government aid for all the universities in the British Isles, which has been granted for a generation. I am all the more disappointed, therefore, that he should have commenced his speech by displaying an archaic attitude to federalism and a parochial attitude to the crumbling portions of the Australian federation.
– I am a Scot, not an Englishman, you know.
– I should have thought, or hoped, that the honorable member was an Australian. I referred to the British Isles and the United Kingdom. I did not refer to any of the former constituent parts. I know that the attitude of many people on the Government side to federation is such that they would never have supported a United Kingdom. Scotland and England would still be separate kingdoms, if the philosophy which is espoused on the Government side had been followed. 1 do not propose to follow the honorable member for Wannon in distinguishing between the contributions made by scientists and philosophers. I am no scientist. I cannot claim to be a philosopher. I am no longer really a humanist in the academic sense. I readily concede that I now have little Latin and less Greek. I remember sufficient about such philosophers as Nietzsche to thank our British ancestors for not having produced philosophers who influenced the course of affairs so much as some philosophers bedevilled affairs in the most belligerent countries of Europe.
I propose to deal, rather, with some of those archaic and parochial -matters to which the honorable member first referred, because these may have more relevance to the bill we are discussing and they are susceptible of statistical refutation. I think I am sufficient of a scientist to understand some of the statistics.
First, he referred to the comparative expenditure on education in New South Wales and Victoria. He would have us believe that because the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) referred to the position in New South Wales, he was referring to a position which would not have obtained in Victoria. I shall rely on the comparative figures for New South Wales, Victoria and the other States, because we should take a broad Australian view in this matter. The last figures available to us are those in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission of half a year ago. On page 5.1 we find that the net expenditure per capita on education in New South Wales was 193s. 8d., while in Victoria it was 179s. 2d. The .figures for various forms of education are segregated in the table which forms appendix No. 14 on page 98 of the report. We there find that only Western Australia in our federation spends more per head on primary education than does New South Wales, and only Tasmania spends more per head than New South Wales on secondary education. Let me give the comparative figures for New South Wales and Victoria.
– For what year?
– The latest year for which figures are available, 1955-56. They are the figures which were published six months ago by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and upon which we based legislation which is current this financial year.
– My remarks were based on later figures, which are available.
– The honorable gentleman did not quote any figures; he made assertions. If there are figures which will show a miraculous overnight transformation in the statistical position, it is astonishing that he did not quote them. I am quoting the last ones which are available to the Parliament, which were never questioned in the Parliament, and which were made the subject of unanimous legislation by the
Parliament. I shall compare the per capita -expenditure in New South Wales and Victoria on education. On primary education, New South Wales spent 96s. 2d., and Victoria 87s. 4d. On secondary education, New South Wales spent 42s. 2d., and Victoria 2’ls. 4d. On university education, New South Wales spent 10s. 2d., and Victoria -6s. 9d.
– That is a different story from the one we heard.
– It is, is it not? The honorable gentleman proceeded to claim there was no decline in the number of persons entering the less Parnassian faculties of science and engineering. I shall quote the answer which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave in reply to a question by the -honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) who is now listening to -me with rapt attention. This information was published in “ Hansard “ on 5th December, 1957. I quote from Schedule 1. of the Prime Minister’s answer which sets out the number of new students enrolled in first bachelor degree courses at Australian universities from 1950 to 1956.
To get the perspective, in 1950 the total number of new students enrolled was 5,185. In 1956. the total was 6,844. That is not a bad increase overall. The significant thing, however, is that the greatest part of that increase was in the faculty of arts alone. I will single out the faculties of science and engineering since those are the faculties to which the honorable gentleman has referred. Enrolments in the faculty of science in Sydney in 1950 totalled 207, and in 1956 the number was 254. The enrolments in Melbourne in the corresponding years were 194 and 241. That increase was not proportionate to the total increase in all faculties. If we must look at this matter on the parochial basis of States, the enrolment at the New South Wales University of Technology - which is shortly to be elevated to the University of New South Wales - rose from 46 to 84. The new students enrolled in the faculty of engineering at Sydney in 1950 was 157 and new enrolments in 1956 numbered 163. The number enrolled in Melbourne was 158 in 1950, and 151 in 1956. At the New South Wales University of Technology, the number rose from 102 to 174. If it were not for the -very great contribution being made by the New South Wales University of Technology in the production of scientists and engineers, the figures would be more alarming than they are.
The plain fact is - and it is trite information - that the Slav countries are producing a greater number of scientists and engineers than, are the North American countries, and still more than the western European countries. We are choosing to follow the western European pattern. We can take from that what comfort we may.
Having, I would think, countered the initial arguments of the honorable member on statistics, let me pass to a subject which has concerned us all on more than one occasion this week. I refer to the question of Commonwealth assistance for education. Again and again, the Prime Minister has stated that the founding fathers determined that education was to be a State province. Of course, they did not direct their attention to it very closely. Since they were all State members of Parliament, they gave the Commonwealth Parliament as little as they could. The Commonwealth Constitution nowhere refers to the matter of education. Therefore, it is true that except in the territories, we cannot administer or lay down standards in education. Our sole recourse must be through section 96 of the Constitution under which we may make grants to the States on any conditions we choose. The States, if they venture, can refuse the grant. If that is destroying the Constitution, it means a greater future for Australia.
This bill is the living refutation of the deceptive and, I suggest, the fraudulent claim that has been reiterated so often by the Prime Minister. Under this bill, we are making grants for £20,000,000 over three years for the assistance of one segment of Australian education - university education. It is a very important segment, but it would be a more valuable segment if we gave proper co-ordinated assistance in other preliminary fields.
The Prime Minister’s excuse and justification, if you like, for assisting university education alone, is that we could not get out of it because the Labour government had given so many scholarships after the Second World War to ex-servicemen to enable them to improve themselves at the universities, and had started to increase university facilities to provide for that great influx of students. Therefore, according to the right honorable gentleman, we cannot get out of it. We are stuck with it. We have to see that it goes ahead. But if it is possible for us to assist that segment of education under section 96, it is possible for us to foster and co-ordinate any part, of education in Australia.
There are more and more such features which ought to be co-ordinated and fostered. In particular, I refer to that part of education immediately preliminary to university education. I refer to that, segment of the population - the most promising section of the Australian population - which has reached the age when it is permitted to leave school but has not yet attained the qualification for entering a. university. There is a gap of two years when young men and women are consuming as much food and wearing out as many clothes as are their parents. They are coming to an age. when very often their parents cannot afford to keep them at their studies and where, to a diminishing extent, this Parliament and the parliaments of Australia are assisting them to get to the university stage. This Parliament then gives them no assistance. Child endowment ceases: when a child reaches sixteen years of age. In the case of an only child, the child endowment allowance is 5s. a week until the child’s sixteenth birthday, and he can get no further assistance until he attends a university.
I do not want to disparage this bill as far as it goes. It presents three very important improvements which we on the Opposition side have advocated assiduously. We have said that staff and accommodation at universities should be brought up to par; and this bill will achieve that in three years. Secondly, we say that the Commonwealth should make provision for capital expenditure and not merely for recurrent expenditure in universities. For three years, this bill will do that. Thirdly, we have said that we should appoint a universities grants committee in view of the beneficial experience with a similar organization in the British Isles. The Prime Minister has promised us that he is considering the exalted personnel for such a committee. So far so good. But we are still faced with the attitude that we must not go any further or we will destroy the federal system.
Let us look at that proposition in perspective. What was the position in the first year of federation when the Commonwealth had taken over some functions from the States? Let me take New South Wales which was typical of the education pattern in Australia at that time. In 1901-2, the expenditure in New South Wales from Consolidated Revenue was £10,908,166 and the expenditure on education was £843,066. In the present financial year, the estimated expenditure from Consolidated Revenue in New South Wales will be £135,275,517 and, of that amount, the estimated expenditure on education will be £38,589,864. In the course of our federal history so far, the proportion of New South Wales consolidated revenue spent on education has gone from less than 8 per cent, to more than 28 per cent. Is it not time to reconsider the position? Must we always pursue unchanged the conditions which prevailed in the last century when the Australian States were divided up at Westminster and our State politicians framed a niggardly federal Constitution?
– Order! I think the honorable member is getting a bit wide of the bill.
– I am sorry that 1 cannot pursue that line. I shall, therefore, go to another distinctly relevant one. The advantage of Commonwealth participation in any field of education is that it could co-ordinate the standards and make qualifications interchangeable. On the university level, we know quite well that there is no assurance that the student in any State can do the matriculation for the particular course that he wants to pursue in another State. The honorable member for Wannon was quite right in saying that there is no point in having a university of technology in every State or a faculty of rural science in every university and that the Australian student should be able to attend a faculty in any part of Australia. By the. sametoken, he ought to be able to study for entrance to that faculty in any part of” Australia. He ought to be able to get a State bursary or a Commonwealth bursary, if we introduce them, as we have been ableto since the 1946 amendments to the Constitution, in order to pursue his studies with assistance in any part of Australia.
Let me illustrate the variations that there are. In New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia one enters the university after five years of secondary education, following on seven years of primary education. In Victoria the student enters the university after six yearsof secondary education, following six years of primary education. In Queensland, he enters the university after four years of secondary education, following nine years of primary education. In Tasmania, he does five years of secondary education after six years of primary education. I am not suggesting that the Commonwealth should co-ordinate or foster primary education. But it is essential that it should take such action in secondary education.
It is impossible, as so many Commonwealth public servants and employees of any big company know, to go from one State of Australia to another without incurring one or other of two penalties for children who are undergoing secondary education. Either the child has to go into a class in which he will continue without interruption those subjects in which he has been trained to the highest standard and try to make up leeway in the less advanced subjects or he has to join a class which is at the standard of his least advanced subjects and repeat work he has already done in his more advanced subjects. It would be absurd for all school children in Australia to be simultaneously studying Henry V. or the Gallic War Book VI., but there should be the same general level. It should be possible for any student who is going to pursue education to the limits that his parents can provide, or a State will facilitate, to go from one State to another without financial loss and without harm to his studies. It is not possible to do so, as yet, in Australia. I do not believe that the six
State governments will ever grow up sufficiently to get together on this problem until the Commonwealth comes into it and coordinates and fosters the latter years of secondary education in the same way as it is now doing in tertiary education.
This bill provides, quite admirably, for bringing up to date in three years the staff and equipment of Australian universities. It does nothing, however, to assist the students at universities or the students who are in preparation for universities. Let me refer to the only assistance that this Parliament gives to students at universities, namely the Commonwealth scholarships. There are no more scholarships available now than there were when the Government introduced them. There are no more than 3,000 a year. Because some of the scholars who entered the universities first “were still there, the number of scholars rose, between 1952 and 1956, from 7,372 to 9,635. Those are the scholars who get at least their fees paid. But the depressing feature about it is that this Government has not modified the means test which applies to these scholarships. The scholarships are of diminishing use and of use to a diminishing class of people.
The number of people who get full allowances, according to a reply which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave me on 17th October, 1957, only rose between 1952 and 1956 from 939 to 1,071. Those who get no allowance, however, went up in those years, from 5,064 to 7,148. Let me illustrate the means test. If a scholar is the only dependent child of his parents, a full allowance will be paid to him if his parents’ income does not exceed £600 which is less than the basic wage. When the parents’ income does not exceed £800, which is less than the average wage in Australia, the scholar can only be awarded a full allowance if there are three other dependent children besides himself in the family. Merely by maintaining this means test, we are achieving a false economy. The amount of fees which the Commonwealth pays on behalf of all scholars has increased considerably. The living allowances have also increased, but because fewer people are eligible for the allowance, the amount spent on them is scarcely any higher than it was in 1952.
I have suggested before, and I think it is not inappropriate to reiterate, that we should exercise the power that the people gave us at the referendum in 1946 for student benefits. We might as well be generous about it. I would suggest that anybody who reaches sixteen years of age and is enjoying full-time education and is passing his exams should get a student benefit of a couple of pounds a week. On every birthday, the weekly rate should go up one pound. That would give some incentive to students as well as their parents. It would open a fuller life to these students, give greater satisfaction to their parents, and benefit the whole community.
If people are in part-time work, as so many articled clerks or apprentices are, at least the student benefit should be at half that rate. It is perfectly constitutional and it cannot be said to be a State matter because the people wrote it into the federal Constitution in 1946. We cannot avoid our responsibilities in this matter. The Government tries to do it by marking time. I applaud this bill for what it so far does for the staff and equipment at the universities. It is about time, that we did something for the students at the universities and for the students who would go to the universities - four times as many as go at present, so the Murray report says.
It is an appalling fact, as the Murray report points out at page 22, paragraph 48, that only four people out of every 100 who enter high schools go to the university. There are sixteen people out of every 100 who have the mental equipment to go. It is up to us, in the interests of these children, to lighten the burden on their parents and to make Australia a wealthier country in the proper sense of wealth. This Parliament should pass complementary legislation to give students at universities benefits on a higher scale and, for the first time, to give assistance to those who are fit to go to universities and who are willing to take the time and work required in the latter years of their secondary education.
– In . opening my remarks on the measure I should like to refer briefly to the very brilliant speech made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) and the extremely provocative speech which we heard from the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam).
I should like to say at the outset ; that I recall an instance when a very distinguished prelate of New South Wales visited two country ;towns in the west of New South Wales. There was a good deal of jealousy and healthy rivalry between the two towns. The mayor of the first town he visited claimed to be the mayor of the Queen City of the Plains, and the mayor of the other town claimed to be the mayor of the Queen City of the Hills, the Valleys, the Moun-tains and the Rivers. The distinguished prelate made no comment on this until he was leaving the second town, when he bowed to the mayor and said, “ Gentlemen, I wish you all the luck in your queen competition “. I shall leave it at that and address myself to the measure.
The purpose of the bill is to grant to the universities of Australia, during the financial years 1957-58, 1958-59 and 1959-60, the sum of £21,370,000. That is a very marked advance in comparison with the amount they would have received under the existing formula governing such grants, which would have been about £7,000,000, spread over these three years. The bill will increase the formula amount by no less than £14,370,000, or by rather more than three times. I think it is just as well that that fact should be noted and understood and credit given to the Government for making such a splendid provision.
Members of the Opposition have repeatedly said many things in favour of assisting education, but I do not recall their ever having specifically advocated anything of the nature of the assistance being given under this measure. I am open to correction, but since a statement by one honorable member opposite that the Opposition had advocated such assistance was a mere assertion not supported by extracts from speeches by any members of the Labour party, I regard it with a certain amount of reservation.
There are two .important factors in the bill which make it rather more flexibly generous in its application than was originally intended when the Murray report was drawn up. They are, first, that the speed at which the grants may be used is flexible; and secondly, that the amount for building is also flexible in that, if necessary, it may be increased by 15 per cent. It is quite true that those flexible provisions are conditioned by the fact that the total of the grants must not be exceeded in any particular case. That is quite understandable; but if I read this measure aright, and if I understood the Prime. Minister (Mr. Menzies) aright, instead of an arbitrary amount having to be spent each year on buildings and equipment, a university that is able to get its building work carried through and obtain the equipment it requires in a shorter time than that visualized by the Murray committee will be permitted to do so. I hope that my interpretation is correct, because there is great urgency for additional accommodation and equipment, as well as for the provision of facilities for both teaching staff and research staff and also for private study by staff and the carrying on of the work associated with the academic training in which university staff engage.
Now I turn to the part of the measure which deals with the University of New England. There are several matters that should be brought out in this debate which may not have been fully understood when the original proposal was drafted. The Commonwealth Government will match, by grant, the capital expenditure at the university of New England up to £450,000 over three years. Provided that the New South Wales Government will find £450,000 for capital expenditure in that period the Commonwealth will match that sum; but the point is that expenditure on the erection of buildings to provide residential accommodation is set down at £200,000 by each party and for the erection of buildings for general purposes at £25,000 by each party. Provision is made for certain buildings for the Faculty of Rural Science and the erection of a library building. It is unfortunate that in this rapidly growing young university we have not yet got proper library accommodation. Since I have, all my life, been a lover of books, I have a very strong feeling that a good library, in the truest sense of the word, is the nerve centre of any institution of learning, particularly a university.
When the decision of the Murray committee was announced there was great rejoicing on the Council of the University of “New England, of which I am a Government member. May I say that I deeply regret that the Chancellor of the University, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), is not present to make this speech. The point I want to make is that the New South Wales Government, with which I disagree on some things, but which has proved generous and understanding about the needs of the university - which was a university college until 1955 - was actually, at the time the Murray report was brought down, giving a higher proportion of its funds to the university than was required under the formula, lt is rather unfortunate that that point has been overlooked, but if the New South Wales Government follows its past policy, the future position will not be that we shall gain on the swings as a result of the Commonwealth grant and lose a certain amount on the round-abouts, as it were, by having a portion of the State grant withdrawn.
Having made that comment to indicate a certain difficulty obstructing the expansion of the University of New England, I want to say how delighted every member of the university council was when the findings of the Murray committee were announced, and when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) declared, in the very able statement that he made some time ago, that the Government would give effect to the recommendations of the committee as speedily as possible. We looked forward then to spending at the earliest possible moment and in the most effective way, the funds to be provided, and we looked forward to removing a difficulty that had worried the university council for some time. But, just as we thought we could see a break in the fog, and that we could move onto the uplands to healthful expansion, as it were, a disaster of the first magnitude overtook us: The largest building at the university - the science building, which was known as the Belshaw block - was completely destroyed by fire. It was only by a miracle that an adjacent temporary building, which houses section of the science faculty, was saved from destruction. Practically nothing in the science building was saved, and, since the bulk store of the university was in the basement, we lost a great deal of valuable equipment and material belonging to other faculties as well as the science faculty, some of that material representing the results of years of research by members of the staff of the university from its earliest days. All that was swept away, and irreplaceable research records were lost.
I mention this because I understand that there have been certain negotiations between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth to see whether something can be done to enable the university to replace, without delay, the building that has been lost, and to provide, to a certain extent, for the expansion of the university to a degree far exceeding that envisaged some time ago. I suggest that, if this fire had occurred before the Murray committee presented its report, in view of the line of thinking adopted by the committee, it would almost certainly have made provision for the replacement of the building lost. I do not wish in any way to create an impression that I regard the action taken by the Prime Minister and his associates as constituting anything other than a most statesmanslike recognition of a problem that had to be tackled without delay, but I do appeal to the Prime Minister and those associates to consider favorably any reasonable proposal made by the New South Government - and I am sure that any proposal made by that Government will be reasonable. I must say, in fairness to it, that it has been reasonable and helpful in its dealings with the University of New England in the past, and I am sure that its attitude will not change now. I trust that if any proposal is made for Commonwealth and State co-operation to enable this new and lusty young university to function as it should function, and to continue the work that it is doing with the aid of many brilliant young men and women who are rendering first-class service, the authorities concerned will act upon that well known axiom that he who gives quickly gives twice.
I should like, now, to indicate why time is the essence of the contract in this matter. Under the act of incorporation of the
University of New England, it was agreed with the New South Wales Government that the university should provide for external university studies. I think, speaking from memory, that more than 700 of the university’s students are external students, in the sense that they pursue their studies externally under the direction and with the assistance of the Director of External Studies, and attend the university at least once a year for a short period in order to have some contact with their professors and lecturers. The plain truth of the matter is that if we had more accommodation, and more assistance of the kind provided for in this measure, we could afford a far greater number of students the benefit of external university study. Therefore, from this stand-point alone, it is essential that we should be able to provide for the staff needed to cope with external studies as well as for the staff needed for internal studies. Many of the students, professors and lecturers are carrying on under conditions that have been made almost intolerable by the destruction of the Belshaw block.
In addition to these things, we have been obliged to restrict enrolments by various means, without making it too apparent that we were doing so, because we were already short of accommodation. The number of students is, nevertheless, increasing rapidly. I think we have about 200 more students this year than we had last year. Excluding arts students affiliated with the university through the Newcastle University College, the total enrolment of both internal and external students is approximately 1,200.
There is a great demand for trained scientists and for trained science teachers to-day. As has been rightly pointed out during this debate, unless we have adequate numbers of trained science teachers, we shall not be able to train enough science graduates. The destruction of the science building at the University of New England is making it more difficult than ever for us to cope with the demand for science training, and we are proceeding with plans for the replacement of the building in the belief that no government would admit, to the extent that it is admitted in this measure, the need for adequate university accommodation, and then decline to co-operate with a State government in making good, at the earliest possible moment, the serious loss sustained by the university through the destruction of a building which, unfortunately, was nowhere near fully covered by insurance.
At the University of New England, we are training an increasing number of Asian students. We take our fair quota of them, so far as we can, and they appear to be happy with us. Certainly, the staff and the other students of the university do their best to make them feel that they are really welcome.
That is all that I have to say on that subject. I have endeavoured to point out a difficulty of a very special kind that confronts the University of New England. The university began as a university college in 1938, on the eve of the war. The chancellor was not installed as the chancellor of an incorporated university until 1955. Through the devotion of the staff during the war years, we were able, not only to keep the institution going as a university college, but also to win from the inspector appointed by the Commonwealth to watch over the progress of students, the tribute that, although the leaving certificate standard of students admitted to this institution was lower than that of the students admitted to the parent university in Sydney, the number who graduated, and the standard of their passes, were proportionately higher. That is a tribute to the qualities of the staff who served so faithfully and well during the war. The tradition established by them has been carried on. It is quite clear to any one who has embarked on a new enterprise, whether in business, land settlement, or any other field, that, in the early stages, when money is short, assistance is needed to enable the position to be consolidated.
As the honorable member for Wannon has pointed out, the University of New England is developing largely as an institution devoted more particularly to the sciences associated with the land, through its faculties of rural science and agricultural economics, although, like other wise universities, its work is based in the first place on the two main faculties of arts and science. As time goes by, it will be found wiser to put more of the work associated with the great primary industries in touch with the districts where those industries predominate. I do not agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Wannon that the future of a faculty of veterinary science will always be in a great city any more than I think that a great engineering college should necessarily be in a predominantly rural district. I know, as every one associated with universities knows, that the greatest advantage is obtained by associating a faculty of veterinary science with a medical faculty. That is one aspect that must be considered when a faculty of veterinary science is being developed. There is no suggestion that that should develop in the University of New England. We are confining ourselves to those subjects that are associated with the land, such as forestry, and with the great primary industries generally.
During the war, there was a threat of possible bombardment of our coastline. The teachers’ college at Armidale, which is affiliated very closely with the University of New England - or the University College, as it was then - was the repository of many of the art and other treasures of the State of New South Wales. They were shifted into the basement there. A lesson can be learned from that occurrence. I am sorry to see that no provision is contemplated for a rural university in, say, Queensland or Victoria. I believe that, to have an organism already developing so that it can be rapidly expanded to take over essential work, would be a very important sheet anchor in any crisis that may overtake us.
I wish to refer now to a discussion that took place in this House on the association of secondary education with universities. The Murray committee reported in the following terms: -
High intellectual ability is in short supply, and no country can afford to waste it; every boy or girl with the necessary brain power must, in the national interest, be encouraged to come forward for a university education, and there must be a suitable place in a good university for every one who does come forward.
I entirely agree with that statement. The question is: How will effect be given to it? Why is it that sufficient students are not coming forward? A great deal has been said on this subject, and it would appear that there is a gap between the willingness and the financial ability of parents to send their children to universities.
The Prime Minister also dealt with the difficulties in secondary schools. He quite rightly pointed out that there is a vicious circle. Sufficient students are not coming forward and we have not enough teachers to train them, particularly in science. Consequently, we have a shortage of scientists. Industries are bidding for the services of teachers, and that means that there are not sufficient trained teachers. That position arose in New South Wales. The Government there had to comb the primary schools to find sufficient teachers of even moderate attainments to carry out its policy.
One other point is made by the committee, and in the limited time at my disposal I shall refer to it. It is the so-called failure rate of university students. The committee said -
The failure rate is alarming. Thus, of the 1951 first-year entrants, only 61 per cent, passed…..
Why is there a failure rate? Sometimes, youngsters are too closely under tutelage at schools. In my opinion, the last year of secondary schooling should be a conditioning year. When students enter universties, they are thrown on their own resources to a great extent and they miss the ready help of the teacher. Their groups have not a large enough staff to enable them to obtain guidance. Such guidance is the real value that we find in a residential university such as the University of New England. There, we are entirely residential and we are now developing the system of colleges, with tutors attached, in an effort to overcome the major difficulty of the gap created by loss of interest, loss of proper and full assistance at the right time and, ultimately, the grouping of students in classes that are too large.
Honorable members on both sides of the House have pointed to the evil that exists and have made suggestions ranging from wiping out the Constitution to other less drastic measures. The Australian Country party has clearly stated that it believes that the right approach to this question is the formation of a council’ of education, of the same character as we have in- the great agricultural industries. In 1934’, the Chancellor of the University of New England, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) as Minister for Commerce formed the first Australian Agricultural Council. That council; without any constitutional status, has grown in stature year by year and has rendered a magnificent service to the primary industries and to the people. Whether it would be better under statute is anybody’s guess, but it can be done. I proved that it can be done from 1936 to 1941 when I took the initiative in forming the first Ministerial Council of Education in Melbourne in March, 1936. Men of every shade of politics were associated with me in that council, and I received the greatest possible inspiration and assistance in facing on a non-party basis the big question that is before the House in its entirety and implicitly in the measure now before us.
If the States and the Commonwealth will get together, and if the States will place their cards on the table and say what their real needs are, then the difficulty that the Prime Minister has foreseen can be overcome. He said that there is no constitutional barrier. He said that years ago. But there is a real barrier. The real barrier is that, when the universities wanted money and assistance, they worked out their needs in detail and placed them before the people, but the States have not yet done that. The method I have suggested is the right method.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in congratulating the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the legislation which he has brought down. However, the Prime Minister is to be congratulated in another respect. Reference to Appendix A to the report of the Committee on Australian Universities reveals a copy of a letter written on 19th December, 1956, by the Prime Minister to Sir Keith Murray, chairman of the University Grants Committee in Great Britain. I am glad that the Prime
Minister’s- request to Sir Keith Murray was dated 19th December, 1956, before sputniks or any of the stimuli to military panic were known to us. Consequently, the desire for reform in- university education was not motivated by the kind of international competition in- military science which- has caused a great many people, who have never done so before, to support university education;
The Prime Minister was also wise in’ looking outside Australia for a chairman of the committee. Anybody who has been associated over the years with the founda-tion of the Australian National- University would have been disappointed at the strenuous resistance of some of the leaders* of- academic thought in Australia to the establishment of that institution. One would have thought that people who had’ university education would have adopted’ the attitude that the more universities the merrier. Their tendency, however, was to fear that with the establishment of the Australian National University Commonwealth grants would be concentrated upon the Commonwealth establishment and not the State universities. Those of us who thought that direct intervention by the Commonwealth into university education through the medium of the Australian National University would heighten Commonwealth interest in that matter, have been proven correct.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) delivered a most workmanlike speech. He is entitled to considerable credit because he, unlike I, who merely talk about universities, was largely instrumental in founding the University of New England during his term of office as Minister for Education in the State of New South Wales.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) made a speech which displayed an attitude with which I do not agree. In the first place, he made a false comparison between scientific and nonscientific education. The issue is not whether we are going to decree that more scientists or fewer scientists are required; the issue is that young people who are interested in the study of science and the arts should have the opportunity to pursue those studies. I do not think there will be any government decree about the numbers of students who may study science and the arts.
– That was not suggested.
– The honorable member was rather concerned lest a new great emphasis be placed on science. In a world which is afraid of war it is inevitable that anything which has a bearing on preparation for war will gain a new importance. A professor of physics at the Australian National University visited Russia, and on his return reported how highly privileged scientists were in the Soviet Union. Magnificent residences were placed at their disposal with all the facilities one could ask for, servants and so on, so that no distraction in their personal lives would divert their attention from their research.
Every aristocracy has begun as an aristocracy of function, whether in the clan, the tribe, at the feudal level or in commerce, through the successive phases of history, and every aristocracy is, at root, a military aristocracy. The tremendous privileges enjoyed by leaders of scientific research in the Soviet Union, as described to us by Professor Oliphant in his reports - he did not make this point; it is mine- are essentially the signs of the establishment of a new aristocracy with its roots in the armed services. If nuclear physics means primarily the production of hydrogen bombs and rockets, then the scientist who produces those things, and his associate engineers, are highly privileged and become a new military aristocracy with the right to transmit their privileges to others.
The comparisons made between countries in every debate since the development of sputnik, are very often not valid. We are told, for instance, that Australia spends 33 dollars per head on education compared with 77 dollars per head in the Soviet Union and 56 dollars per head in the United States of America. The comparison is meaningless because, in the Soviet Union, there is no sector of private education and, to the 33 dollars per head spent in Australia must be added the large sums spent by people who educate their children in private schools. The same position applies in the United States of America. One hears that the Soviet Union spends a smaller proportion of its budget on military preparations than other countries, but the budget of the Soviet Union includes every sector of industry. Expenditure is planned through the State and, therefore, any military expenditure is a lesser proportion of a budget which covers a far wider range of studies than the budgets of other countries. We should forget such comparisons and ask ourselves whether the proposals before us are adequate.
The honorable member for New England quoted portion of the Murray report which states -
High intellectual ability is in short supply and no country can afford to waste it; every boy or girl with the necessary brain power must in the national interest be encouraged to come forward for a university education, and there must be a suitable place in a good university for every one who does come forward.
If honorable members refer to the schedule to this act dealing with grants to the various universities, they will see that the establishment of new universities is not envisaged, but I am convinced that that is one of the most urgent needs in Australia to-day. It is a tragedy when universities become great barracks accommodating 20,000 students. The University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne are moving in that direction. It is a good thing that there is to be a new university in Victoria which will relieve the position in that State. The University of Western Australia, which caters for 3,000 or 4,000 students, is large enough. If a considerable expansion in the number of students in universities is envisaged, the establishment of a new university, even in Western Australia, is justified.
One of the most fruitful suggestions in the Murray report is contained in paragraph 11, which reads -
In the second place, at the university level good teaching cannot live without research. Able young men and women of 20 and 21 are not just school children; they do not wish to be just taught. They want to be put into touch with the fountains of knowledge; they want to see and hear and talk with the men who are “ making “ the modern knowledge. For one thing the world is changing fast, and they are acquiring a learning which will have to stand them in good stead when they are in the prime of life, in 20 or 30 years’ time, when scientific knowledge will have moved on a lot. They want to learn from the men who are working in the front lines of science, and it is right that they should do so. For another thing, the teacher of young men and young women needs to have some work of his own to gain their respect, and to keep his own, and also of course to be able to stimulate their interest. It is manifestly not possible to teach well at the undergraduate level unless the teacher is’ sustained by living work of scholarship or research of his own. The whole history . of university teaching proves this; and in any case it is obvious enough in daytoday work to teacher and student alike. The able medical student wants to attach himself not to the. accomplished teacher in the wards, but to the gifted physician or the brilliant surgeon; and it is right that he should do so.
It is equally almost certain that if there are over-crowded universities, the teachers in those universities will not be able to engage in research. Nor will they be able to have those qualities of inspiration that are a real stimulus to the highest intellectual ability if they are in one of those great barracks with 20,000 or 30,000 students and a great range of students for whom they are responsible and whom they will find it almost impossible to get to know personally. There are hine or ten universities throughout Australia, but with our area of 3,000,000 square miles we could do with twenty universities. A man in a smaller university who has a particular genius is able to build around himself a staff and a body of students where high excellence can be cultivated.
The point made by the Leader of the Opposition is a valid one. He said that we are building at the top levels of education, whereas it is necessary to build at the central levels. Perhaps as a primary task the Commonwealth should consider teachers’ colleges in Australia. I propose to say a hard thing, but it must be said. Objection was taken to my words by an official of the New South Wales Teachers Federation when I said them at the opening of a teachers’ conference. If the teachers of Australia are to be judged by the journals that they send to honorable members, especially that of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, which I think is misnamed “ Education “, then honorable members must necessarily be depressed by their efforts to influence us. When we receive from the medical profession a copy of one of its monthly papers - when it has some aspect of social medicine to which it wishes to draw our attention - we can look at the other pages and see the evidence of the professional interest in advancing the standards of doctors in dealing with their patients. It may be some new technique or operation, or some aspect of medicineBut the publications that we receive every month from the teachers are nothing but propaganda about money. There is never anything in them that would improve a teacher’s technique, never anything that shows a thinking into the nature of the child. There is never anything about a new aspect of psychology, never anything that would engender a new sensitivity and sympathy in the teacher.
When I expressed those views, objection was taken to them on the ground that the teachers at a big meeting in Sydney had displayed a slogan which stated that the education of the child could not wait. But the education of the child meant better classrooms, better furniture, more money spent on education, and new projectors. I am still speaking of the function of the teacher as an inspirational person, and that is something we. never see. If the teachers’ journals are a reflection of the professional consideration that they give to their task, then the situation in this country is depressing. If we are to talk about getting more people into the universities, we must have a higher level of teacher training as well as assistance to parents to put their children through universities, and up to the level of universities.
We may as well’ face the fact plainly that this is a country that in many respects has very false values. We can say that parents need assistance to educate their children up to university level, but, after all, this is a community that spends £450,000,000 a year on gambling, £240,000,000 a year on liquor, and £125,000,000 a year on tobacco. That is an expenditure of more than £800,000,000 a year. So it cannot be said that all around us is a grinding poverty that prevents large numbers of people from giving their children an opportunity. Very often there is a total selfishness and a falseness of values that prevent people from giving a proper assessment to education’s place in the lives of their children. - The honorable member for Wannon complained of the attitude of the Public Service towards university graduates. What I am about to say is another thing that should be said. If university students in this community are not sufficiently valued, very largely they have themselves to blame. I know that I am speaking of a small minority, but the publicity that they receive is never, or rarely for the intellectual excellence of their work. More usually is is for some jackasseries on commencement day, something of a near criminal character, such as occurred at the Gap in Sydney a few days ago, or the death of a student at the University of Adelaide. Their actions create hostility towards them in the minds of the public, as was the case in Adelaide. A man is not better than another man because he is a university graduate. A man who is a university graduate should be better than he would be if he were not a university graduate, but being a university graduate does not necessarily make him better than another man. A man. is not shut off from wisdom because his studies are Science, nor is he given wisdom because his studies are Arts. Wisdom is a spiritual and moral quality as well as an intellectual one, and many of our scientifically trained people show at least as much wisdom as, if not more than some who have studied in other fields.
Honorable members have been treated over the course of the last few months to statistics about graduates in Science and Engineering. I think it should be clearly remembered that there is a considerable division among scientifically-trained people very much of the nature of that indicated by the honorable member for Wannon. There are students of pure science and students of applied science. Our tremendous advances in the development of weapons of destruction, or in the knowledge of nuclear fission, have come from students and researchers in pure science, and very often from mathematicians who are not actually dealing with the physical substance of uranium, but who have worked out theoretically and mathematically how the nucleus will behave- Then engineers have applied those theoretical findings.
Therefore, when we get statistics about the number of engineers graduating, say, in the universities of the Soviet Union compared with the number in the universities of the United States, it does not necessarily give an indication of the level of technical competence in a community. Obviously there are vast ranges of technical competence of a non-professional kind in a country like the United States, that manufactures and maintains millions of cars a year and has such a high standard of production of consumer goods and goods of a technical character.
I feel that university students in Australia should look upon their university education in the same way as it was looked upon during the war - as a privilege. At the Australian National University about 40 or 5.0 students are in residence. This community has lavished millions of pounds on that place and those students are highly privileged to be there. If they recognize that fact and speak and behave towards the Australian community accordingly- not always as’ if the Australian community owes them something, but with the recognition that they also owe the community somethingthey will be -highly received and they need never worry about this Parliament or the State parliaments, or the Australian community improperly evaluating universities and the ways in which they can be assisted.
Let us not forget that, whatever the reasons” are, there is a wastage in Australia of people who should have a higher education. Let us not forget also that institutions other than universities should be considered. I speak of the technical schools, the high ‘ schools and the teachers’ colleges. The Commonwealth and the States have an interest in the standards of all those institutions.
.- I do not wish to detain the House for very long. 1 expressed my views on the Murray committee’s report, which has resulted in the formulation of the legislation now before us, when that report was presented to the House. I listened to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), as I and I am sure most honorable members on this side of the House always do, with a good deal of interest. I should like to indicate how completely I agree with him in relation to the materia] attitude, as judged by their publications at least, of the teaching fraternity. The honorable member mentioned specifically teachers in secondary schools, but presumably his remarks apply to primary schools also.
I think a large part of what he said applies to university teachers as well. If we were to judge the university staff associations and the university staffs, by their publications and bulletins, it would be difficult to prevent ourselves from drawing the inference that they think of very little else than material considerations. I have in mind the bulletin that has been produced recently by the Federation of University Staff Associations of Australia. The first two issues of the bulletin contain literally nothing other than a discussion upon and demands in relation to academic salaries. They contain not one article which attempts to examine the question of student failures or all the other matters referred to in the Murray committee’s report. That is a great pity. If the university staffs wish to gain the respect of the community, which I think, speaking generally, they deserve, they will have to behave in a different manner in regard to this question.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and one or two other honorable members have tried to link this bill with the question of primary and secondary education, which was discussed in this chamber earlier in the week. Although the right honorable gentleman and others have used the Murray committee’s report to substantiate their view that the Federal Government should enter the field of primary and secondary education, they have neglected those aspects of the report which clearly set out reasons why the Government should concern itself with tertiary education as distinct from primary and secondary education.
Such things as the staffing of universities - the fact that the universities of Australia draw for their staffs on the whole of Australia’s resources and not just on one State, and indeed on overseas countries - are the concern of a government which is responsible, generally speaking, for the whole of Australia rather than any particular part of it. The question of over-lapping in universities and ensuring that they dp not duplicate faculties is another factor which makes tertiary education something with which the Federal Government should concern itself. All those are factors which do not apply in the case of primary and secondary education.
That is graphically illustrated by a report which appeared in this morning’s press in relation to salaries at the University of Sydney. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney announced yesterday that at that university a professorial salary level of £3,750 had been fixed, that being £250 more than the level recommended in the Murray committee’s report. I think it is well known - it is certainly well known in university circles - that probably one of the primary considerations which governed the action of the University of Sydney, for which we cannot blame it, was a desire to be a little ahead of the other universities, particularly the University of Melbourne. Probably the reaction of the University of Melbourne will be to fix its professorial salaries at £4,000.
This constant preoccupation with the salaries of other universities and uniformity of salaries is bad for the universities. It prevents university staffs from getting on with the more important tasks that they have to perform. That is another reason why the Federal Government should concern itself with this matter through the Universities Commission. It should be decided, through that commission, to set a uniform standard and thereby eliminate competition in the fixation of salaries.
I wish now to make one or two points about the University of Adelaide. When I was speaking in this chamber on the Murray committee’s report, I said that in one respect the University of Adelaide had been hardly treated. The Murray committee based its recommendation on needs. Because it did so, the University of Adelaide has suffered in the making of grants, particularly for building purposes, compared with other universities. The reason why it has suffered is that, on the whole, it has been more prudent in its building programme than have been other Australian universities. I do not object to the Murray committee’s recommendations in this respect. I think the only thing it could do was to base its recommendations on needs. I think I should point out, however, that, in relation to the University of Adelaide, the committee’s report on needs for the next three years does not conform with the opinions of responsible people within the university.
The bill makes provision for a grant of £375,000 for building purposes over the next three years. The university took up the subject and pointed out that it requires for its immediate purposes during that period a sum of £620,000, nearly twice as much. The reason the Murray committee gave in its report for suggesting that figure was that it did not feel, although it recognized the need, that it would be possible for the University of Adelaide to undertake the physical task of spending the sum of £620,000 in the next three years. Although the opinion of the Murray committee may be right, the University of Adelaide thinks differently.
I say this because I think it most important that the proposed universities grants committee should be set up as soon as possible so that it can tackle these particular problems. If that committee were set up, say this year, and could examine the position of the University of Adelaide as well as that of other universities and decide that perhaps the Murray committee was wrong because of the limited opportunity it had to look at this question, this Parliament and the Government might be able to have another look at the problem and revise the estimate of expenditure. The estimate of the University of Adelaide of its minimum needs for the next three years is something like twice as much as the Murray committee has recommended.
I am glad that the Prime Minister in his second-reading speech said that he was working on the job of setting up a universities grants committee. I realize that it is not an easy task to do this quickly. One of the reasons is that it is difficult to find suitable people. 1 remind honorable members that five or six of the proposed eight members of that committee, including the chairman, are to be people from the universities. It is extremely difficult to find the sort of person with “balanced judgment as well as academic attainment in the universities to undertake the work of such a committee. However, I urge the Government to press on with its search for suitable people in order to get the committee cracking as soon as possible.
– The Minister at the table will repeat all your urgings to Cabinet.
– I am sure he will. I wish to say one more thing with reference to the University of Adelaide. Some harsh things have been said in South Australia about the Murray committee’s report and its effect on South Australia. I have just mentioned some of them.
– Probably, the people in Adelaide confused them with the Murray waters.
– Maybe; it is rather a difficult subject. I find myself in disagreement with one of the criticisms which were made in South Australia. Honorable members may have noticed that in the bill a specific sum has been granted to the South Australian School of Mines and Industries in Adelaide to be spent during the next three years. The view taken in South Australia is that that school should have been given much more, and treated as a university in the same sense as the New South Wales University of Technology. I strongly disagree with that view. I have even heard it said in a very responsible quarter in South Australia, in a sneering sort of way, that if only we had given the School of Mines and Industries a fancy name, such as a university of technology, it would have been considered as a full university for the purposes of the Murray report.
Statements of that kind indicate to .me an appalling ignorance of the real nature of a university. The South Australian School of Mines and Industries received this grant precisely because part of its work is to undertake some of the functions of .a university. It undertakes some of the work in relation to the degree of Bachelor of Technology. But as for the remainder of the functions of that institution none of them bears any .resemblance to the normal functions of a university. It must be remembered that the Murray committee was set up to report on the Australian universities. In that respect, I think South Australia has been treated well, rather than badly. No other equivalent institution in Australia, such as exists in Melbourne or Sydney, has received any consideration from the Murray committee, worthy institutions though they are. No mention of them is made in the report of this committee which was specifically set up to examine university problems.
– What is the enrolment of the South Australian School of Mines and Industries?
– About 4,000 or 5,000. That is all I wish to say on this point.
I should like to emphasize the importance of the Murray report as I did when it was tabled in this House. I confess that, for the time being, I am more concerned with the proper education of persons who are already attending a university or who will be doing so in the next three years, than I am about the education of persons who might have been in the university if they had received a better secondary education. It is vital to see that these people eventually do get a university education if they are capable of undertaking it. But I think in that matter we are putting the cart before the horse. We are losing sight of the fact that students in our universities now are not receiving the sort of education to enable them to emerge as educated people of the type they should.
Much has been said on the subject of staff-student ratio, and the report deals with that in detail. Much of the finance which is being provided in this bill, particularly current grants, is designed for the purpose of improving the staff-student ratio in the universities. The desirable end of which the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) spoke - the impact of the trained mind awakening in the student a desire to pursue knowledge - is not now attained. I should like to relate to the House an experience that was, and still is, quite common. When I first went to a university, in 1947, the classes in at least three of the four subjects which I studied numbered in the region of 100. The actual number enrolled in those subjects was twice that. Very often the lecturer had to give an identical lecture in two successive periods. In my first year at the university I did not speak to one of my teachers nor, I think, did any of my fellow students. I did not, except in a limited fashion on the sporting field, have contact with any member of the university staff. I think that is a common experience in Australian universities.
We have often heard it said that, in the humanities at least, elaborate buildings are not needed; that you have a university when you bring together a teacher and a student who has a desire for knowledge. All the other things are ancillary. At my university we had the lecture rooms and all the ancillary features. What we did not have was contact between student and staff. That is the reason not only for the high failure rate but for the high number of graduates who should never have graduated at all. I think that we neglect that aspect far too much. Having had the opportunity of seeing the general run of students who graduate in the United Kingdom I have no hesitation in saying that the Australian graduate is a much less complete person when he receives his degree. I put that down principally to the low staff-student ratio. I do not think that we can afford to allow that state of affairs to continue. I should like to add that the best students which Australia turns out are the equal of any in the world. I am speaking of the general run of students only. The majority, because of the disadvantages from which they have suffered, graduate as mere walking repositories of facts, not fully rounded individuals with well trained minds. In my view the principal object of university education is the production of well trained minds.
I might mention one further aspect, and thus take the risk of provoking the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), who will follow me, to speak at greater length. The very real concern which prompted the Government to ensure that the deficiencies flowing from inadequate finance shall be remedied should not blind us to the obvious deficiencies which may be attributed to the universities themselves. These are mentioned in the Murray report, but have not been emphasized as they should in this debate. Much can be done within the universities themselves to effect improvements. For instance, there are deficiencies in administration, in the quality of staff, and in the application of the staff - deficiencies resulting from a grasping and material attitude to one’s position in the university. It would be a very sad thing if the prompt and imaginative response of the Commonwealth Government to the financial needs of the universities led people to believe that future deficiencies could be remedied by the mere provision of more and more money. In my experience that is certainly not so. It is now up to the universities, so far as lies in their power, to put their own house in order.
.- It is very appropriate that a new day in this Parliament should be about to start in this fashion. I have listened this evening to a description of the vicissitudes of university education, but hope springs eternal and I would wish, even at this late stage, that the Government could be imbued with a little of the spirit in which the Opposition approaches this measure. I realize that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), steeped as he is in reactionary bias, and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), steeped as he is in I know not what, really think along the same lines as we do and desire to bring university education to the maximum number of Australians.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) though he was unduly pessimistic and a little critical of my former colleagues in the teaching service. I agree that it is not the quantity of knowledge that one acquires at the university but the quality of the thinking which one is able to produce which measures the real worth of the course. The honorable member for Barker spoke of the Government’s “prompt and imaginative response “ to the needs of universities. All I can say is that the blame for this assistance coming years too late can be laid at many a door. I shall not say that the assistance is too little, for that would be trite, but in 1945 Parliament passed legislation giving the Commonwealth Office of Education the responsibility of examining the needs of the education system, in the universities particularly, and the desirability of federal action. At last, some thirteen years later, further action has been taken. I believe it to be quite inadequate. My criticism on this point will be made, not at length, but in the hope that at least it will stimulate a new attitude on the part of the Government supporters. As has been pointed out, only a quarter of the people who would benefit from university education are at present receiving it. Therefore, three-quarters of the people who could, by higher education, benefit the community, are being deprived of it. Of course, this is all a legacy of the past. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) spoke rather strongly of the undesirability of interfering. He said -
The position in relation to the particular field of education is, of course, materially different in that while the States have been quite willing and, indeed, anxious to receive grants under section 96 of the Constitution for the universities, they have, in all other matters, strongly resisted a grant with a tag on it - a grant ear-marked for some particular purpose falling within the State jurisdiction.
I should like to know what opportunities have been given to State Premiers to resist an attempt to build more primary and secondary schools. Opportunities have never been offered to them. They would seize them if they were offered. I believe that a fundamental error of honorable members opposite is their failure to appreciate that the people who go to universities are much more important than the constitutional implications of a document written 60 or 70 years ago.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) pointed out that in the field of primary industry the Commonwealth had not allowed the Constitution to stand in the way of action. A moment ago I had a look through the Constitution, and I found it very difficult to locate the parts which actually give constitutional validity to the appointment of a Minister for Primary Industry, but that has not stopped the Government. Materialism has been the reason behind it all. The view taken, I suppose, was that we grow the sheep and the wheat and we need a Minister to help look after the interests -of the .growers. It is in this way that these . difficulties are overcome. The Constitution should not > be .allowed to interfere with our examining -the .whole picture of .education. Education starts at the -kindergarten and it may finish at the university, although it is probably continuing all through one’s -life. We on this side regard the education system as a whole. The Prime Minister may be able .to see some difference between tertiary or .university education and secondary and primary education, but I am afraid that .the difference escapes me. To talk first of the Constitution .and of the federal system as something sacred and to be preserved, and to produce then a document like this, is a contradiction in terms and in fact. On page “13 of the bill there is such detail as -
It is hard :to .imagine .more detailed instructions -to a -State government on what it has to do. This bill knocks a very large hole in .the Constitution and bowls out all the arguments of honorable members opposite about the restrictions that are placed on -Commonwealth Government action by con.stitutional -precedents. Those objections are completely .removed by ‘the very detailed mature of the bill. If we can have a detailed bill of this nature -relating to tertiary education, we can take similar measures -in -regard to education at every -other level and in regard to any other government activity. ‘We only have to turn ito .the arguments used on Tuesday, when the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth’s responsibility for education under the Constitution was limited to its territories; !but a few minutes later he proudly brought in this bill.
The position of primary, secondary and tertiary education in this country is desperate, and something must be done about it. My few remarks will not take much longer, perhaps - depending on how much I am stimulated by the lively audience. I hope that my remarks will be taken to heart and that some thought will be given ‘to them. Every child, adolescent, and young adult who can possibly benefit in any way from a university .education should ‘have the opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, this is -not so. I want to cite some of the current figures. The Murray report makes a prediction in relation to possible enrolments, and the figures are astronomical. Enrolments now total 36,000. In 1960 -they will have increased to 48,000, in 1961 to 51,000, and in 1965 to 70,000. But even these calculations, I believe, deny .the facts. The people of Australia, if given the opportunity and the universities, will use them for their children, if the children are able to proceed through the .courses. il made .some .calculations based on the number of births from -1945 onwards. I took seventeen years as the .age .on .entering university, and 15 per cent, or 16 per .cent, as the percentage of people who are able to do. a university course. For the purpose of simplicity, I divided the number of births by seven, which gives a result equivalent to about 14 per cent. This calculation does not allow at all ‘for any growth in population as a result df immigration. 1 found that in 1962 there will be 22,000 more people capable of doing a university course; in 1963, 25,000 more; in 1964, 26,000 more; in 1965, 26;000 more; in 1966, 26,000 more; and in 1967, 27,000 more. These “figures total, for a period of six years, 152,000 Australians in the normal age group for .university education and with the capacity, on statistical probabilities, to pass through a university .course. Here .is a tidal wave of opportunity, which we can seize at the flood or let drown us. The universities have no hope whatsoever of handling that .number. The .Murray report mentions 12,000 as the maximum possible number of enrolments in Sydney .and Melbourne. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out, .a number of 12,00.0 would turn a university into a great barracks, and it is a quite unsuitable figure. We should base our estimates on a university to every 500,000 of population, which would amount to about twenty universities in Australia now. This would keep the enrolment down to 5,000 .or 6.000 and would .overcome most .of the difficulties which honorable members .on both sides have discussed. We must seize the opportunity now.
One of the disappointing, features of” the bill is- the failure- to make a dramatic grant” to get the Monash University in Victoria under way. An amount- of: £150,000 is to be provided, of which £75,000 will be the Commonwealth contribution and £75,000 will come from State funds. The situation is urgent. If a student misses the opportunity to-day, it is gone forever. The number of personsable to get university education in their adult years is very small. After the war, of course, we were able to put thousands of people through universities. They made up for lost time - perhaps twenty years late.
I believe that these are some of the challenges offered to this Parliament. There is no question of interfering with some vital and Sacred part of the Constitution. It is a fundamental role of government to create opportunity for the people governed. We will not push anybody around, and tell them to be philosophers, scientists or engineers. Let us open the gates of opportunity. That; I believe, is a fundamental principle of democratic government, and it is where parliamentary, government comes in. It is not a matter of regimentation, bureaucracy, or centralism; it is a matter of creation of opportunities, and we have the resources to do it. We should develop the qualitative section of the community, so that it can give back whatever it gets.
University education is not a serious financial problem now. The total expenditure at present is only £10,000,000 a year. I have cited some figures from the defence votes - perhaps ad nauseam. This £10,000,000, after all, is much less than half the cost of the St. Mary’s project. It is equivalent only to the cost of half a dozen Lockheed Hercules transport aircraft. It is only a minute percentage, a fragment of what we spent on national service training in five- or six years. Education is a much -more fundamental and important part of our community life.
The principal reason for my. wanting, to speak was- to point out. the desperate position into which the teaching services have fallen through lack of recruitment and failure to build up the secondary education system to produce teachers; The Commonwealth Government could: step into the field of teacher, training in. a big way and relieve the States- of much of the financial burden. Teacher training, in Australia costs- about: £71000,000 a year. This does not mean much to the Commonwealth, but the short* age- of trained teachers is a very seriousproblem. Let us consider the position in. Victoria. Several journals have been sent to us, and one of these reads -
Any or all of a series of desperate expedients may be tried” by the Administration - the use of1 totally untrained’ teachers; part-time, teachers, teachers given shortened non-degree training, teachers untrained in secondary requirements borrowed from other divisions, the acceptance for. secondary training of students who are without sound prospects of completing their courses- the retention of obviously unsuitable personnel, theemployment of people insufficiently fluent in the English language - in an attempt to meet the needs of secondary schools.
That shows the conditions that exist in Victoria and those are the methods suggested to solve the problem of teacher training. From that spring some of the complaints that- have been made about the intellectual and professional standards of the teaching service. The teaching service, like any other large group of people in the community, contains some people of great ability and others of only average ability. We in Victoria are faced with the problem that in the secondary division of our teaching service 2,350 teachers are permanent and 1,147 are temporary. Of the 12,135 teachers in Victoria, 3,069 are employed on a temporary basis. About 20 per cent’, of the teachers in Victoria are temporary. Teaching is not their profession; it is not their career. They have been recruited into the service because of the needs of the service. Many of them are married women and, as was pointed out earlier, some are people just off the boats from overseas whose command of the English language is very meagre, to say the least.
Then there is the position inside the schools; New secondary schools in Victoria are being built to cater for 30 to 35 pupils in a classroom. In 51 per cent, of the classes in secondary schools in Victoria there are more than 40 pupils; 25 per cent, of the classes have more than 45 pupils, and 3.6 per cent, have more than 50 pupils-. The position, particularly in the country schools, is desperate. Because’ of inadequate, housing and’ the. failure to recruit teachers in the past, the secondary education system in Victoria is breaking down. 1 remind honorable members of some figures that were given on 29th April, in reply to a question about Commonwealth scholarships. They are very significant. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) made a great display of supporting the Victorian Government in its attitude to education in the past. These figures, which appear on page 1261 of “ Hansard “, show what has been happening. In 1956, the number of matriculation candidates in New South Wales was 9,044; in Victoria, 3,328; and in Queensland, 2,212. The remainder of the figures are to be found in “ Hansard “, and I hope honorable members will refer to them. They show that New South Wales, with one-third more people than Victoria, has three times as many students sitting for matriculation examinations. This is a legacy of the neglect of education in Victoria in the past. The figures for university education and for every other level of education are much lower for Victoria than for any other State.
We should be doing something to improve the Commonwealth scholarship system. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) referred to the financial difficulties of the students. In 1957 the number of applicants for new awards under the Commonwealth Scholarship scheme was 10,024, but only 2,981 new awards were granted. If we take the figure of 10,000 for candidates for matriculation and apply the ratio of passes revealed in the question to which I have just referred, we find that about 7,000 people qualified by matriculation to proceed to university courses, but of those 7,000 who qualified, only 2,981 were granted scholarships. In other words, 4,000 young men and women who had the desire to go to a university, and who had the necessary qualifications, were refused Commonwealth scholarships. This demonstrates how we have neglected our duty by not extending this system in the past.
At this late hour, I simply put these points. We must provide university education for all who are able to undertake it. This, I believe, means we must have twice as many universities. It means acceptance of the fact that in a few years’ time we will be numbering our university students by the hundreds of thousands. This is a great challenge. We have allowed the wastage of the past to continue. We have inherited that legacy. If there is one note of optimism that can be sounded as a result of this debate, it is that even though Government members are prepared to be stifled by the Constitution, at least they accept the fact that there is a problem. After the general election in December, we on this side will probably be able to fix these and other relevant matters ourselves.
Friday, 9 May 1958
– I take this opportunity to say that it has been very pleasing to sit at the table and listen to the several honorable members who have taken part in this debate, and to find that the House has reached such a high degree of unanimity on such an important measure. With one single exception, I do not think I have ever heard better speeches in this place. It was most unfortunate that there was a jarring note. Unfortunately and unhappily, it came from the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). He failed to take a lead from his own leader, who indicated that the Opposition was supporting this measure.
In the course of his general observations, the honorable member for Werriwa used the unhappy word “ fraudulent “ in a charge against the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The honorable member claimed that the Prime Minister is alleged to have said that the Commonwealth Government “ had no constitutional competence to make grants to the States for education “. That, of course, is a distortion of what the Prime Minister did say. It is my manifest duty to remind the honorable member for Werriwa, who needs reminding, what the Prime Minister did say. I quote now from what the Prime Minister said in his secondreading speech. It was -
I initiated in this House the first of such grants in respect of the universities. They occupy a distinct position in the field of education, partly - principally - because, after the war, the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme came into operation and it had a very marked effect. It greatly increased the number of those persons who wanted to attend universities and it presented to the universities, as a consequence, a very acute problem which has grown over the years. To that problem we directed our attention and we have endeavoured to put our assistance in that field on a regular and adequate basis.
If that were the only fault I could find in what the honorable member for Werriwa had to say, I might have pardoned it as educational licence, if not poetic licence, but the honorable member was still wrong when he said there had been no changes in the means test with respect to the granting of Commonwealth scholarships since they were inaugurated. That, of course, is quite wrong. There have been a number of changes in the means test since the Commonwealth scholarship scheme started in 1951. Allowances have been increased. The maximum allowances for a student living at home and for a student living away from home were £130 and £195 respectively in 1951. This year, they are £195 and £299 respectively. The means test changes were made in 1957, and they took effect in 1958.
The Prime Minister said in his secondreading speech that the Universities Commission was investigating the recommendations of the Murray committee. Those recommendations included scholarships and the operation of the means test. Of the other honorable members who addressed themselves to this bill, I should like to say something to the honorable member for New England, who has some cause for concern and complexity in his search for a solution to the problem that confronts him, as one of the founders of the New England University, as a result of the disaster that visited that university when the science block was destroyed by fire. The restoration of the New England University science block is, I believe, currently under consideration by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales. I am sure that every honorable member hopes that some satisfactory solution will be found to the problem. The same observation applies to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), who was concerned about the limitation of the grant to the South Australian School of Mines and Industries to grants confined to recurrent expenditure only. I have no doubt that appropriate representations will be made when the proposed universities grants committee is appointed and that the South Australian School of Mines and Industries will get the assistance that is its due under this proposal.
It must be a matter of great personal satisfaction to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who conceived these schemes to assist our universities, lt is certainly a matter of great satisfaction to supporters of the Government - and I now believe, from what Opposition members have had to say, that it is a matter of great satisfaction to the Opposition - that the Commonwealth Government has risen to this supreme occasion in meeting in this substantial way the emergency that has occurred in the universities and the ancillary university colleges throughout the Commonwealth. After all, the difficulties that confronted our universites and university colleges’ were known to the government of the day in 1945, at least, when a committee of inquiry was set up to determine what might be done to assist the universities. I am afraid that nothing very much was done until 1951 when this Government started with a contribution to the States for university purposes of £1,103,000. Then year by year, the amount was increased until, in 1957, the grant to the States for university purposes was £2,300,000.
A less valiant government might have been satisfied with that situation, but this Government was not satisfied, so the Prime Minister and the Government prosecuted their own inquiries and decided to appoint the Murray committee, believing that the best people available in the world should constitute that committee. It devoted itself to finding a solution to the problems that confronted our universities. No sooner was the Murray committee’s report presented than it was adopted in its entirety by the Government; and this bill is the direct result. The Government has provided for an expenditure of £21,370,000 in the next three years.
I was deeply touched when I listened to some of the speeches to-night, particularly when I heard the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), who addressed himself in support of the humanities and the classics. All my sympathies were with him. I have had to endure the
Scottish system of education which gave special emphasis to the humanities and the classics, and I should like to see it continued in succeeding generations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.I wish to direct a few words to clause 10, which deals with grants for expenditure on residential college buildings. The stress laid in the Murray report upon the need for more residential colleges has, of course, been recognized in this bill by the Government. I am sure this is most pleasing to most people. The recommendation regarding the provision of £600,000 over three years for this purpose has been embodied in the legislation now before the committee. I must confess that when I first read in the Murray report that an expenditure of £600,000 was recommended, I considered that it would go a long way towards meeting the need as indicated in the report; but when, on reading this bill for the first time, I turned to the details in the fourth schedule and found the maximum grants which are indicated there as distinct allocations to the States, I began to doubt whether the objective could possibly be reached.
In his second-reading speech, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made these points clear: First, it is the responsibility of the State concerned to disburse the money to the residential colleges attached to the State university. Secondly, only those independent affiliated residential colleges are to receive financial assistance, and there will be no grant to colleges or hostels administered by the universities themselves. The third point that was made clear by the Prime Minister was that the early limitation of £200,000, as recommended in the Murray report, has been removed. I think that that is quite a helpful feature in itself. With those points, I have no argument at all. I think they are quite helpful decisions.
Turning to the Murray report and relating certain recommendations to clause 10, paragraphs 191 to 196 of the report set out the committee’s assessment of the need existing for residential colleges, and the potential co-operation of the various religious denominations to provide those colleges, the need for which is so strongly stressed in the report. For example, paragraph 191 refers to the growing demand to accommodate country students; it states -
The deficency of residential accommodation is particularly serious owing to the location of all the traditional universities in the capital cities on the coast, so that country students are drawn in the larger States from distances up to some hundreds of miles.
Paragraph 192 gives us this reminder -
With some notable exceptions, the residential colleges at the traditional universities have, up to the present, received no capital assistance from governments or the universities.
I have been particularly interested to note what the Queensland Government has done in subsidizing funds raised by various religious denominations and the Council of the University Women’s College in that State. I direct particular attention to the fact that £75,000 for each college has been subsidized by that Government. In paragraph 196 of the Murray report, there was a definite reference to the urgency which the Murray Committee felt applied to more residential colleges.
Four distinct points are brought out in paragraph 196. First, there is the opinion of the Murray committee that there would be some founding of new colleges if assistance was extended to the various denominations or other bodies which were keen to set up residential colleges. Further, the committee believed that there would be quite substantial extensions to existing colleges. The second point I have noted is that the committee believes that any permanent universities grants committee or similar body that may be established will find it necessary to consider these problems and arrive at a considered policy without delay. The third point is the urgency of the matter which, to me, is most important.
The reference is that the need for further residential colleges is urgent. The last point is that, in the opinion of the Murray committee - . . the Commonwealth Government should make a special offer of capital assistance for the next three years, to encourage and facilitate substantial developments without delay.
I have laid stress on this point of urgency. In my own State of Western Australia, in relation to the University of Western Australia, the existing colleges, or those which are proposed, are combining to work as one in a public appeal. Therefore, they are adopting a practice similar to the practice that has. been so successful in Queensland. One denomination has advanced already some distance towards its objective to erect a college which will cost approximately £150,000.
When the Murray committee’s recommendations were announced and it was known that the Government would endorse in general terms those recommendations, that particular denomination anticipated that a £l-for-£l subsidy would be available towards its objective.. This confidence,I suggest, was supported when the denomination read in paragraph 197 of the report that the Murray committee felt that, under modern building conditions, without being extravagant, a sum of £2,000 could legitimately be set aside for each student place in such a residential college.. As this group in Western Australia anticipated accommodating some 75 students, it has not, therefore, exceeded this figure of £2,000 per student place in the college. Its confidence must be mis-placed, as in the schedule we find provision of only £40,000 for Western Australia. This is the point of concern that I want to stress at this stage of the consideration of the bill.
The Fourth Schedude provides an allocation of only £40,000 for Western Australia. The Western Australian Government will be immediately aware, therefore, that of several projects which I am confident will be put into motion in that State, one project alone will call for assistance up to £75,000. Now, I cannot establish the basis of the allocation as indicated in this schedule. I appreciate that the permanent universities commission, when it is established, will deal with problems of- this nature, but the adoption of this schedule of the bill in its present form will definitely take away some of the incentive and will rob us of the urgent action, the need for which the Murray committee has so definitely stressed, and to which I have directed attention. So I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is at the table, whether this schedule can be reviewed in order to provide a more realistic allocation to the University of Western Australia, a university where only two residential colleges at present exist.
The University of Western Australia is truly worthy of special consideration. The universities established in the larger cities of the Commonwealth, with a longer history, already have their basic residential colleges. These,. I admit, need expansion. An indication is contained in the Murray committee’s report that all the universities in the capital cities need greater residential accommodation; but Western Australia has to provide a college, or more colleges very soon. The point I want to stress is that this amount of £40,000 provided in the schedule, related to clause 10 of the bill, is not sufficient. I make this particular request that action be taken, preferably at this stage, to provide a more realistic allocation to Western Australia, rather than leave the matter until later.
– I refer to clauses 2 and 10, and I seek some enlightenment from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) as to whether a particular building project in regard to which I shall give details in a moment comes within the ambit of the bill, particularly those two clauses. Clause 2 provides, in part - (2.) Part II. of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight.
Turning to clause 10, I find that it provides - (2.) Subject to this section, if -
Obviously that includes this calendar year, 1958- on the purchase, erection or alteration of a building of the college; . . . and
Let me state the facts. I want to know whether the project I have in mind will come within the ambit of both clauses. I have consulted with the responsible officer in the Prime Minister’s Department and I hope that the Minister will be in a position to give me a precise answer.
I refer to the project set in hand by the Women’s College in the University of Sydney. It entered into a contract last year for the erection of a new block to house 31 additional students. The block is to comprise bedrooms, bathrooms and appurtenances, a students’ common room, three music-rooms and a flat for the viceprincipal. The total enrolment is about 100, and this block will increase the accommodation of the college very substantially - by about one-third. The contract price for the new block amounted to £56,500. I understand that progress was made with the foundations prior to 31st December last year and, indeed, the contractor was paid £14,500 before the end of last year. The present position is that the college has in hand £25,000 with which to pay a large part of the balance owing to the contractor. Thus it can spend that money within the current year to which this Part of the bill, as I understand it, applies. But the college also has to raise by way of overdraft another £17,000 to pay the contractor.
The point on which I seek information is whether this is an expenditure on the erection of a building within a year to which the bill applies, that is, 1958? As I have pointed out, the contract was let last year - not this year. Some payment was made last year. Probably that will not attract the subsidy for which provision is made in this bill, but as to the balance, part will be paid to the contractor, and I submit that is an expenditure on a building during the current year, 1958, to which the measure applies. As to the £17,000 balance which the college may have to get on overdraft to pay the contractor, and which may be paid off to the bank during the current year or next year, I submit that that, too, is money expended in the erection of the building. I express the hope - the very firm hope - that the Commonwealth Government will not indulge in hair-splitting and say that the £17,000 raised by overdraft is not am expenditure on the erection of a building, but merely the repayment of a loan, quite unrelated to the erection of the building.
I shall explain to the committee why I feel rather strongly about this matter. These people had the faith and the initiative to begin this project last year when other people were prepared to sit down, to agitate, and to hope that the Commonwealth would come along and assist them. They had faith, courage and initiative, and they went ahead. The question now, is whether they are to be penalized for qualities which would be a great advantage to this community if they were more widely spread. I know that there is a narrow point of view that because these people began the project themselves, this building is, so to speak, “ in the bag “; there is no need to bait the trap any further for them, so there is no need for a subsidy. There is a tendency to say, “ Let the subsidy go to some one else who has not risen from his posterior and tried to do something. He may be attracted by the subsidy, so let us keep the money to attract that person rather than give some advantage to persons who are already ‘ in the bag ‘ “. I hope that that narrow attitude will not prevail so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. To discourage people from using initiative and having faith is a very serious matter, not only with respect to future university building but throughout the affairs of this community. If the Government can find people with initiative, they should be encouraged. If it is going to discourage people like these, I would be amongst those who would say, if I happened to be present at any meeting where a project was under consideration, “Do nothing. Sit tight. Kick up a fuss. Agitate, and you will get assistance from the Government. But do not do anything now because if you do you will fall in”. If the Government wishes to encourage that attitude it can do so very readily by adopting a narrow view on this matter. I feel very strongly about this.
I fully understand that, as regards the £180,000 that has been allocated to New South Wales over the triennial period by way of subsidy for the erection or alteration of buildings and residential colleges, it is for the State to determine which colleges are to receive money and how much. The Commonwealth will not enter into it. I fully understand that, and I am not asking the Commonwealth Government or the Minister for Social Services to say now that the Government accepts this particular project. That is a matter for the State. What I want the Minister to say is that should the State decide to put up this proposition, the Commonwealth will not split hairs and say that it would not be covered by the bill. That is the simple point on which I seek enlightenment from the Minister.
– May I be permitted to address myself to the general observations made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver)? May I say to him that, in fixing allocations for each State, £300,000 was divided in accordance with university enrolments in each State. That would appear to me and, I believe, to most honorable members, to have been an equitable solution to a difficult problem. Also, the sum of £300,000 was divided in proportion to the enrolments in university colleges - another solution to a vexed problem. This helps those universities with considerable development of colleges already.
The Government has been more generous than the Murray committee recommended in that it has removed the annual bars to the Commonwealth subsidy for these purposes. It is impossible, I regret to say, to match, £1 for £1, all moneys raised by colleges and, at the same time, to maintain the ceiling of £600,000. Any variation in the ceiling would not improve the situation envisaged by the honorable member for Swan. What he and other people who share his views would want would be a blank cheque with regard to this grant for residential colleges and the like. I am quite certain, that, if we could be satisfied with the £600,000 ceiling, as it is at the moment, there is a prospect that, on the merits of the case, the Universities Commission will give due consideration to any future proposition put to it.
I know that the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) is particularly concerned over the construction of the women’s college within the University of Sydney. I believe, from what I have been told, that the construction of that very laudable project was completed before this legislation was devised and that there is a considerable leeway so far as the full payment of the total cost is concerned. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to give the honorable member or any other honorable member an assurance that any project submitted now or at any other time will meet with the approval of the Commonwealth Government because the Commonwealth does not, alone, make the decision in cases of this kind. It will have to collaborate with the State government authorities and reach conclusions from time to time on the merits of the case.
However, I believe that it may be of some importance to the honorable member for Bradfield and to other honorable members to know that the Commonwealth’s consistent attitude throughout the legislation has been to leave detailed administration as much as possible to the States and to the universities, within the general framework of the legislation. The Commonwealth will be as accommodating and as sympathetic as is possible. It would be unreasonable to expect the Commonwealth to give a ruling on any particular case unless it was referred to us specifically by the State government. We would hope that the States had been given sufficient guidance to determine these things for themselves. I think that, on the face of things, that meets the situation as it exists at the moment. It is now a question for representations to be made by the State authorities and for a resolution of the difficult problem to be made conjointly, by the Commonwealth and the States.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Roberton) read a first time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Public Service Bill 1958.
Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1958.
Judges’ Pensions Bill 1958.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I hardly think that I would win a popularity poll by rising to speak at this hour, but I wish to occupy the. time of the House for about three minutes. A few weeks ago, a public relations firm by the name of Testro advertised in newspapers throughout Australia, indicating that it was in a position whereby it could establish a link between members of this House and its clients. When that advertisement appeared, there were many people who were considerably concerned because of it. Yesterday, an advertisement was inserted in a newspaper of this city and is causing considerable concern, to say the least. It is an advertisement inserted under the name of J. Somerville Smith or, to be more precise, it invites applicants interested in the advertisement inserted by Mr. J. Somerville Smith to write to the principals for further details, through J. Somerville Smith. I think that the key word in the context is “ through “.
It is running in heavy rumour throughout this place that no fewer than ten members of the Parliament have applied for the advantages offered by Mr. J. Somerville Smith. This matter, Sir, is a very serious indictment of this Parliament, and I believe that it comes perilously close to a breach of privilege. It throws a heavy cloud of suspicion and doubt over every member of this Parliament. If there is any degree of substance in Mr. J. Somerville Smith’s alleged press statementlast night that ten members of the Parliament had applied for the advantages offered by him, then I believe that, prima facie, this is a case for the Committee of Privileges to examine.
– Has the honorable member any evidence that he has made this claim?
– No, but I remind the right honorable gentleman of what I said before - that it is running in heavy rumour. I hesitate to use that term, but it comes from a source of which one is bound to take some heed.
In the advertisement, Mr. J. Somerville Smith states -
Positions as Representative for Overseas and Australian Business Firms in Canberra are now available for eight Members of Parliament who may be interested in an additional position now . . .
I do not think that I am in. an isolated position, but when I return to my electorate later to-day I shall spend the afternoon in dealing with correspondence. On Monday, I suppose I shall have as many as sixteen people to interview about their various problems. I do not think there is at present in this Parliament any person who is in a position to accept Mr. Smith’s invitation to engage in an additional position.
Mr. Smith gives a box number in the advertisement. It is “ P.O. Box 300, Civic, Canberra “. I should like to know who owns that box number. I think that this case warrants thorough investigation by the Commonwealth Investigation Service. Mr. Smith’s advertisement and his alleged statement to the press that ten members of the Parliament have responded to it, are a slur on the whole Parliament, as well as being a slur on the entire Civil Service of this country.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has raised a matter which could prove to be one of some importance to this Parliament, although I confess that, with other members who have had some knowledge of Mr. Somerville Smith in his various capacities, and who know that his present one is to make publicity his stock in trade, I frankly did not take this advertisement very seriously when I read it. It can clearly have no relation to members of the Parliament while they continue to hold that office, unless they are prepared to place their positions in the House in jeopardy. There ,are specific provisions under the Constitution which prohibit a senator or a member of the House of Representatives from directly or indirectly taking or agreeing to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth, or for services rendered in the Parliament to any person or State. Should he do so, his place shall thereupon become vacant.
So, although the wording of this advertisement is somewhat ambiguous, in that it speaks of members of Parliament who may be interested in an additional position now, I think -that what Mr. Somerville Smith is trying to get over is an appeal to members lOt Parliament after they have retired from this place. If that is his motive, then it would seem - and it is the first time that such a thing has .come within the range of my experience in this Parliament - that he is trying to establish here something akin to the practice which, I gather, has obtained in Washington and, perhaps, also in mother legislative centres, and which, in Washington, led finally to a requirement that persons who purported to be public relations officers were required to register and make themselves known.
We are told -that there is a rumour current that already some ten members of this Parliament have made application for ^consideration. I for one am :not prepared to accept rumour in a matter of this sort. I think ,[nar it is well to say publicly to any business firms which may ‘be attracted by the wording of this advertisement, or by any proposition put ‘to them along these lines, that if they form the opinion that members of the Public Service -of .this -Commonwealth -can .be so persuaded as to give decisions contrary to the evidence or the true facts of the case simply because a request to do so comes from .either present or former members of the Parliament, .they are gravely mistaken. J think that all of us in this place have had, not once “but very many times, the experience of making submissions on behalf of our constituents to members of the Public Service. 1 think, too, that we all would agree ‘that the public servants deal with our cases on their merits, .and that .they can say “ No “ as firmly as :they can say “ Yes “. We have no cause for complaint in that, because we feel that the cases of our constituents are being fairly dealt with, on the merits that can be established. So, if anybody forms the impression that, by making some arrangement through an organization - whether it be one presided over by Mr. Somerville Smith or any other person - and by making use of the services of some former member of the Parliament, he is going to secure an advantage which would not be available to him by more direct methods of approach to his local member, then, I repeat, he should carefully re-examine the position.
I would like to feel, Sir, that this Parliament had a good deal more information, both as to the bona fides of the offer made and the nature of the duties that it is proposed that retired -members of the Parliament should perform. I suggest that we should be vigilant, not only in this instance but also in others that occur, to see that the position of members of Parliament, and of the institution itself, is not so misrepresented to the public as to bring opprobrium on the Parliament and its members, or in any way to damage the good name of an institution which 1 believe now stands, and I hope for all time to come will continue to stand, high in the opinion of the people -who -send us there.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned ‘at 1 a:m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Minister for External .Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister foi Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) 353; (b) 326.
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s. - On 15th April, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) asked the following question: -
Has an approach been made by the Premier of New South Wales, or by other States, asking for a conference to be arranged to consider expanded activities for civil defence organizations so that they can be used in national emergencies to fight bush fires and to help in times of flood? If an approach has been made, has any action been taken? If not, will the Prime Minister initiate early action so that in the event of any national emergency occurring in the future, adequate safeguards will be available?
As I promised the honorable member, I have examined this matter. I find that I have not had an approach for the type of conference described. However, I can advise the honorable member that the whole question of civil defence organization is under active consideration.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 May 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580508_reps_22_hor19/>.