22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation a question concerning the Adelaide airport, which was established at the direction of a former Minister, the late Honorable Arthur Drakeford. Will the Minister consider naming the airport the “Drakeford Airport “ in recognition of the part played by the late honorable member in founding it?
– I am afraid that the proposition put forward by the honorable member cannot be considered. By international agreement, all member countries of the Internationa] Civil Aviation Organization have agreed to name their airports after the city concerned, for obvious reasons. Because foreign pilots operating international airlines may not know anything about local people, local names, or local customs, it is essential that airports be named after the city where they are situated. Only one variation of this rule has ever been made, and that is in the case of Sydney airport, which is internationally known as Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs a question. What is the latest information regarding the Anzac Memorial at Port Said? Has it been located and, if so, in what condition is it? Has the Commonwealth made any decision on the request of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, that the memorial should be re-erected at Albany, Western Australia? Will the Commonwealth approach the New Zealand Government to secure its approval of this proposal, and if that is obtained, will the Commonwealth initiate a diplomatic approach to the Egyptian Government to release the memorial from its custody?
– The latest information with respect to the Anzac memorial at Port Said is that the damaged statuary is in storage under the control of the Port Said municipality. The Government is discussing at the moment with the New Zealand Government what steps should be taken to secure the release of the memorial, and after that, further discussions will be had as to the new site upon which it will be erected.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question relating to civil defence. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the recent report of the United States House Military Operations Subcommittee, prepared in conjunction with the Rand Research Corporation, in which it is estimated that a full scale thermo-nuclear attack on American cities would, if there were no civil defence preparations, involve the destruction of 70 per cent, of the nation’s industries with a loss of 160,000,000 lives, or 90 per cent, of the total population, whereas with adequate precautions the death roll could be reduced to 3 per cent, of the population and industrial plants could be substantially preserved? Does the Minister agree with the committee’s concluding comment that, in the face of the grim, brutal reality of the nuclear threat, an ostrich-like policy will not save lives and property? Does he agree that this applies with equal force to Australia? Will the Minister name the members of the committee advising him on civil defence, and indicate whether they have made any progress at all in their deliberations?
– I appreciate the comments made by the honorable gentleman and the figures he has quoted from an overseas report. I should say, of course, that the degree of threat in Australia is not nearly as great as the threat in some other countries. Nevertheless, the matter of civil defence has given the Government a good deal of concern. If the honorable gentleman looks at the Estimates for this year, he will observe, with satisfaction I am sure, after his long advocacy, that the amount allocated for civil defence has been greatly increased. A realistic appreciation of the need for civil defence is at present engaging a departmental committee, and within a quite reasonable time I am sure that the honorable gentleman’s keenness will be rewarded with the spectacle of action.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. As there appear to be conflicting reports about the erection of a new Parliament House in Canberra, will the Minister clarify the position and state what the Government’s intention is on this matter? If the intention is to proceed with the building, will the Minister say when the work is likely to be commenced and what is the estimated cost of the new building?
– In accordance with certain decisions which have been taken by the Government in recent days, I went to some pains during the early part of this week to draw the attention of the press to the present position, and most of the newspapers reported my comments faithfully. One of the decisions was a decision in principle regarding the location of a proposed new Parliament House. The point I made very clear was that the Government at this time has not given serious consideration to the form of the House or to the accommodation requirements. Therefore, at this stage, there is no idea of putting in train even the preliminary steps that will be necessary before the design of a new Parliament House can be instituted. It is true that decisions in principle have been taken regarding the lakes scheme, and the decision in principle regarding the siting of a new Parliament House has been necessary because certain hydrological studies must be made before we can know the size of the lakes and, therefore, the location of the lakes and matters of that kind. There is no thought in the Government’s mind at this stage of beginning even the planning, let alone the construction, of a new Parliament House, and, necessarily, figures quoted about it or any suggestions of what it might contain are pure figments of the press imagination.
– I should like to ask the Minister acting for the Minister for the Navy a question arising out of answers given to previous questions about H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “. We have been told that the vessel is in reserve - that is, I presume, it is not in commission - and that it is now lying at Athol Bight. What is the policy in rela tion to H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “. Is it intended to dismantle the ship or is it intended to put the ship in commission? I should like to know the precise position, because there is such ambiguity about it.
– If there is any ambiguity about the position of H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “, it results only from the persistent peddling of a false rumour that the vessel has been sold to the Japanese. The ship is in reserve. I am asked what is the policy about ships in reserve. It would be quite impossible for me, within the scope of question time, to describe to the right honorable member the consequences of putting a ship in reserve. H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “ is preserved for future use, as are a number of other ships in this Navy, the Royal Navy, the United States Navy and, for that matter, in other navies of which I know. There is no intention whatever to sell the ship. She is being retained for use in the future, if she should be required.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Social Services a question. Will the Minister give more publicity than has hitherto been given to the proposal to pay special rent allowances to pensioners, because there seems to be some uncertainty in the minds of many pensioners about the method of applying for this special assistance?
– I shall be happy to give favorable consideration to the suggestion that more publicity be given to the conditions governing the payment of the special rent allowance. Unfortunately, the information presently available to the Department of Social Services does not enable it to establish eligibility. For that reason, it is necessary for those who are likely to qualify for the special allowance to apply for it on the prescribed form. It is a simple form, and copies are available at post offices and at all offices of the department. I shall be glad, with the assistance of the honorable member for Gwydir and other honorable members, to give the matter the widest possible publicity.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Will the
Minister inform the House whether the Government intends to initiate a low-rental homes scheme in the Northern Territory for all citizens, similar to the schemes operating in all the States and in the Australian Capital Territory? As the Commonwealth Government finds the money to finance the housing schemes of the States, does not the Minister consider it is time that some effort was made to provide similar facilities for citizens under the Commonwealth’s own administration?
– A decision, in this matter was made by the Government some time ago and was announced some time ago, and provision has been made in the Estimates for such a scheme.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply in his capacity as representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to tests in America with an orange fluorescent paint on aircraft in order to lessen the chances of aerial collisions? Reports indicate that tests with this lightreflecting paint have been so successful that an entire fleet of 92 planes is to be treated. In view of the ever-increasing number of civil airline aircraft flying in this country, can the Minister state whether inquiries into this new development will be made?
– I have not seen the press report in question - if it is a press report to which the honorable member refers. The United States authorities have been greatly concerned about the number of civil aircraft collisions this year, last year and the year before. There is, however, a significant difference between air traffic control in Australia and in the United States of America. In the United States, any commercial aircraft is entitled to fly uncontrolled by the traffic control authorities if what are known as V.F.R. conditions exist; that means, if the pilot can see within visual flying range. Human nature being what it it, however, some aircraft captains consider themselves to be flying under V.F.R. conditions when perhaps they are not entirely V.F.R. In any case, under conditions of no control by the traffic authorities, it depends on the vigilance of the captains of aircraft whether or not collisions occur. There may be marginal conditions, as at
Yosemite, where one aircraft was completely in visual flying conditions and another came up through cloud, and, jus* through one of those freaks of circumstance, the two machines collided and many people were killed. But in Australia, by night or by day, whether the captain of an aircraft can or cannot see in the existing conditions, he is required to fly at a height and separation distance laid down by the traffic control authorities.
Although the painting of aircraft with the fluorescent substance that the honorable member has mentioned would be useful in this country, it would not have quite the same usefulness or significance that it would have in the United States of America. In any event, I should think that the scientific personnel of the Department of Civil Aviation would be well aware of the conduct of experiments of this kind, and would advise the treatment of Australian aircraft with this kind of paint if they thought it desirable.
– Does the Treasurer know that local government bodies throughout Australia are finding immense difficulty in obtaining any loan funds at all for their very vital works, despite the fact that the Australian Loan Council has authorized them to borrow reasonable amounts? Will the Treasurer make an appeal to financial institutions to help the local councils in their dilemma?
– I do not know that local councils, by and large, are finding it difficult to raise finance. Indeed, I know the contrary to be the fact. I have assisted very many of them. I have been prepared to give letters of introduction to financial institutions and underwriters in an endeavour to assist the local authorities concerned in obtaining finance.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air. A number of Newcastle airmen, members of No. 78 Fighter Wing of the Royal Australian Air Force, have stated that they were told last week that they would not be going to Malaya with the Sabre squadrons. Does this mean that there has been a reduction in the R.A.A.F. Sabre fighter force to be sent to Butterworth, in Malaya? Has a firm departure time been fixed for the forces that are to be transferred to Malaya?
– I have heard the suggestion referred to by the honorable member for St. George, and I can reassure him about it. It is incorrect. As the House well knows, two Sabre squadrons are to be sent to Malaya as part of Australia’s contribution to the Strategic Reserve. There is no change whatever in that plan. The first squadron will leave some time in November; the second squadron will leave early in the new year, probably in January. If the Air Staff or Home Command has fixed exact dates for the departure of these squadrons, I am not aware of it, but the intention still is that the first shall leave in November and the second early in the new year. The rumour to which the honorable member has referred probably arises from the fact that for a time the possibility of sending both squadrons together was investigated, on the grounds of convenience. As I am sure the honorable member will realize, the movement of a large number of single-engine jet aircraft over such a wide area of sea and such a long distance is by no means a simple undertaking. It involves arrangements for a good deal of navigational assistance by long-range bomber aircraft, the provision of air-sea rescue facilities and matters of that kind. The question of sending both squadrons at the same time was looked into, but this plan was rejected, and the original one of sending the squadrons at intervals of about three months was reverted to. It is possible that the rumour referred to by the honorable member has arisen through some misunderstanding of the investigation that was made.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to an almost revolutionary statement by the honorable member for Richmond, in which the honorable gentleman advocated an increase of the subsidy payable for the benefit of consumers of butter? Is he also aware that Labour has been advocating an increase of this subsidy since 1949? In view of the fact that a member of his own party has now seen the light, will the Treasurer con sider increasing the subsidy on butter in order that consumers may be able to purchase it at a reasonable price?
– In reply to the propaganda question asked by the honorable member, I point out that the matter obviously is one of policy which has been considered in conjunction with the Budget. In relation to subsidy, I direct the honorable gentleman’s attention to a little bit of political history. When his party was in power, the subsidy was only a fraction of the £140,000,000 subsidy that this Government has bestowed upon the dairying industry.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that on 21st July tenders were called for the supply of margarine to the Army? If so, can the Minister explain why this was done, the dairying industry being in its present position?
– Yes, it is a fact that tenders were called for the supply of certain quantities of margarine to the Army, but I remind the honorable member that only the best food available is good enough for the Australian Army. Therefore, he may be assured that Australian butter is supplied on the table for all the soldiers. The margarine is principally for cooking purposes. Much of it is used in training cooks and in demonstration work. None of it is used on the table of the soldiers. They use Australian butter, which is the best in the world.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that a landing licence for Air France to use the KingsfordSmith airport on its international services has been consistently refused by the Department of Civil Aviation? If so, why has the application been refused? Is this not one of the reasons why France is cutting down on imports from Australia, in retaliation for our selling nine times as much to France as we buy from her?
– The honorable member suggested that we have consistently refused to the French landing rights at Sydney airport. That is a fallacy, because when I was Minister for Civil Aviation - and I think the same condition obtains today - the French had rights to come into Sydney. They could not terminate their service at Sydney, but in my time we offered to them the right to go via Darwin, Brisbane, and New Caledonia to Sydney. The French, however, have always wanted to terminate their European service at Sydney and from there go to New Caledonia. That would have interfered with our agreements with the United Kingdom and the partnership between Qantas Empire Airways Limited and British Overseas Airways Corporation. In international civil aviation, such agreements are made on the assumption that a country gives something in exchange for something else. If the French want traffic rights into Sydney, they must be prepared to give Australia something in return. The Australian and British airlines, which work in partnership on the Kangaroo route, do not use any French port at all. They fly Rome, Frankfurt and London, and in some cases London, Zurich, and Beirut, but not to French ports. So the position of France and its traffic rights into Sydney itself must be related to something which the French would give us in exchange, in the field of civil aviation. I hesitate to think that this problem would be related to our balance of trade position with France, because the French are well aware of the requirements and provisions of international civil aviation agreements.
– I desire to address a question without notice to the Minister for Social Services. The Treasurer, in his Budget Speech, indicated a proposal foi a special allowance to pensioners who pay rent. The word “ rent “ has a narrow, technical significance, and it has a wider, popular significance. I realize that the Minister may not yet have finalized his legislation, but is he in a position to indicate to the House in what sense the word will be used in the administration of this proposal? Will the word be used in its narrow sense, or will it be used in a wider sense, so as to include any payment, no matter what its category, which a pensioner makes for his physical accommodation?
– Mr. Speaker, it would appear to be one of the flagrant weaknesses of democracy that the honorable member for Parramatta can address questions to me with impunity, whereas if 1 addressed a question to him I would render myself liable to payment of a fee of 6s. 8d. or some other amount. The hardship allowance is designed to relieve hardship. The payment of rent is one of the qualifications. There are other qualifications, but where rent is paid, the rent must, in the opinion of the Director-General of Social Services, approximate the true value of the accommodation provided. Similarly, where a payment is made for board and lodging, and rent is a component, the component rent must, in the opinion of the Director-General, approximate the true value of the accommodation provided. In the fullness of time, I hope to bring down the amending legislation, and in my second-reading speech I will endeavour to make adequate explanations of all the points that have been raised by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service give favorable consideration to the preparation for honorable members of statements showing the numbers of persons enrolled for employment at individual Commonwealth employment offices throughout all electorates? Could that information be supplied to honorable members during this sessional period so that they can get a true picture of the unemployment position in their electorates and in areas adjacent to their electorates?
– On occasions when individual members of the Parliament have asked me for the picture of employment enrolment in their general area, the information has been supplied, I think, without exception. The honorable member for Blaxland has asked whether I could supply that data in relation to each federal electorate. I can see some practical difficulties there, for the quite obvious reason that the service rendered by a number of Commonwealth employment offices is not confined to a federal electorate; it goes beyond the boundaries of one electorate into another. Therefore, the enrolments recorded at one office would not be confined to the federal electorate in which the office is situated, although it might extend over a fair part of that electorate. Any honorable member who wants to get a picture of the employment situation in his electorate will know the employment offices in that area. I suggest that he indicate to me the kind of information he would like to have. I will then see what can be done to supply it to him.
– My question is to the Treasurer. Has the right honorable gentleman seen a report that at the forthcoming meeting of the International Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which he will be attending shortly in New Delhi, the United States Government will propose a very considerable increase in the resources of those two authorities and in the subscriptions payable by members, with a consequent increase of the loans which the authorities may make? If he has seen the report, is he able to amplify the information which has appeared in the press?
– I have seen the report, and I am seeking further information in amplification of it. I have received nothing of an official character on the matter.
– I desire to ask a question of the acting Minister for Civil Aviation. I desire to ask the honorable gentleman whether it is a fact that all internal Australian air-line operators have been refused permission to import jet aircraft, especially the French Caravelle. Has any exception been made in favour of a company, or projected company, the leading figure in which has been making statements to the effect that he will be operating a Caravelle service? What is the reason for refusing permission to Australian internal air-lines to modernize their services in this way, and when does the Government envisage allowing jet services to be operated internally - or is the resistance of this innovation to be permanent?
– The honorable gentleman referred to me as the “ acting Minister for Civil Aviation “. I should like to correct him. I am the Minister representing in this chamber the Minister for Civil Aviation, and I think that the sort of question that he has asked is one that can be answered only by the Minister for Civil Aviation. Therefore, I suggest that he place the question on the notice-paper, or leave it to me to refer the matter to the Minister.
– I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister. I preface it by pointing out to the right honorable gentleman that margarine, when sold without a wrapper, is difficult to distinguish from, butter, and is frequently offered in various places for sale, for human consumption, as butter, to unsuspecting consumers. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will submit as soon as possible to the Premiers or to the Australian Agricultural’ Council a proposal for uniform legislation to provide that margarine shall be sold or offered for human consumption only in a distinctive colour. I suggest that the colour might be of a pink or reddish nature to indicate that it is a material which is likely to be used to sabotage a very good industry.
– I shall discuss that proposal with my colleague.
– Is the Treasurer aware that in an endeavour to obtain loans totalling £90,000 the Footscray City Council, in Victoria, has approached 31 different financial institutions in Melbourne, but has succeeded in raising only £57,000 from three of them? Will the Treasurer instruct these financial houses to open their coffers in order to help councils out of their difficulties, or will he supply councils with a letter of introduction to financial institutions? I may say that the municipal council of the area in which I live is endeavouring to raise £500,000 to do certain works in the municipality, and in order also to offset the terrific unemployment that exists there.
– The question gets down to an interpretation of the financial responsibilities of the States and the Commonwealth, a subject which, unfortunately, is too little understood. The responsibility in the matter referred to in the question rests on the State, because it affects a State instrumentality. Therefore, all the approaches and all the representations should be made to the State concerned, which is responsible for the welfare of its own instrumentalities.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. No doubt the Minister has read of the recommendation made within the last few days by a committee of bishops at the Lambeth Conference that Australia should allow the controlled entry of immigrants of any race or nation. Would the honorable gentleman like to comment on this significant and far-reaching statement?
– A point of order, Mr.
Speaker. Is the honorable member in order in asking the Minister whether he would like to comment?
– Order! The question directed to the Minister is out of order.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement made in New South Wales that, as the result of the increase of certain pensions by 10s. a week, the rent of pensioners who are living in government homes will be increased because of the Commonwealth Government’s demand that rents shall be based on income? Will he investigate that position, or inform me now, if he can, whether that is the case?
– My attention has not been drawn to this matter. It is the clear intention of the Government that there should be a net addition to the income of the pensioner. It is not, in any sense, our intention that any portion of it should be appropriated by a landlord, public or private. I shall be very happy, therefore - or unhappy, as the case may be - to look into the point that has been raised by the honorable member.
– Recently, I asked the Minister for the Interior a question upon notice regarding the provision of a Commonwealth administrative building in Toowoomba. The Minister replied that the requirement was recognized and that suitable land was available but that no indication could be given regarding the commencement of the work. Is the Minister aware of the number of Commonwealth departments in Toowoomba which are at present using temporary accommodation in various parts of the city? Also, as Toowoomba is the second largest city in Queensland and the centre of the principal agricultural area, will the Minister give further consideration to my request for the early provision of this building?
– In view of the constant advocacy of the honorable member for Darling Downs on this matter, I am sorry that it has not been possible to reward his efforts with something more concrete than a promise to look at the matter as early as possible. I know that the provision for Government departments in Toowoomba is not the best. Unhappily, that is not a condition that is confined to Toowoomba. The question is one of relative priorities and the amount of money available for the provision of Government accommodation.
– Is the Minister for Air yet in a position to reply to my representations for compensation on behalf of the girl, Kosky, who was injured at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Pearce in December, 1956? If not, when will he be able to give a decision, bearing in mind the anxiety and distress caused to the girl and her family, due to the delay in arriving at a decision?
– I very much regret to have to tell the honorable member that I am not yet in a position to give him a final answer about any payment to the parents of the girl, Barbara Kosky. who was hurt in the circumstances that he mentioned. I fully appreciate his sympathy and the anxiety of the parents of the girl, and I should like to assure him that I agree with the comment that he made in the House the week before last that this matter has taken an undue time to reach a conclusion. I, myself, had a’ conversation with the head of my department during the week before the honorable member raised this in the House. I wished to know whether we could bring the matter to finality. It does involve a very difficult question of law and administration which concerns more than one department. In fact, it concerns two departments besides my own. I hope very much that in the next couple of weeks we shall be able to resolve the question of whether or not the Commonwealth is under any liability to the parents of the child but, again, I can give him no assurance on that point. I can assure him, however, that I fully share his concern in this matter, and I am doing all that I can to bring it to a conclusion.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration, in emended form, the question which I previously addressed to him. A statement made by a committee of bishops at the recent Lambeth conference
– Order! Is the honorable member basing his question on a press report? If he is, he is out of order.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Chief Secretary of Victoria, in a television interview, stated that the reason why electricity charges have been increased in Victoria is that, owing to the actions of the Australian Loan Council presided over by the Treasurer, he is unable to obtain loan funds for the purpose of expanding electricity services, and, consequently, the cost of such expansion must be met out of revenue? In view of that statement, does the Treasurer still consider that the Federal Government has no responsibility in connexion with the raising of loans of a semi-governmental and governmental character for the States?
– I am not aware of what the honorable member states. I am aware that the Australian Loan Council consists of representatives of the Commonwealth and the six States. The States have a preponderance of voting power, and, therefore, control the decisions of the council.
– I ask the Minister for the Army: Is it fact that a retired lieutenantgeneral has been appointed to the newly created post of chairman of the Chiefs of Staff at a salary of £5,500 per annum? Can the Minister inform honorable members why, after Australia participated in two world wars with conventional staffs, it was found necessary in time of peace to appoint a retired officer to such a sinecure at this enormous salary? Does not the Minister feel that it would have been much better to increase rates of pay for the lower ranks and so give a much-needed stimulus to recruitment of Army personnel? Finally, would the Minister consider a further widening of the scheme to build homes to ensure peace of mind to married personnel in the lower ranks of the Army?
– The first part of the honorable member’s question should have been directed to my colleague, the Minister for Defence. With regard to the latter part of his question, I remind him that the pay and conditions of the services have recently received very full consideration by a special committee which was set up. The pay code which has been issued is very good indeed, and it cannot be called anything but generous. I remind the honorable member that this has involved an additional expenditure of £5,000,000. So the conditions of servicemen have been given the closest consideration.
The question of housing, too, has received a great deal of consideration. The honorable member is probably forgetting that this Government, last year, initiated a scheme under which a certain percentage of the production of houses in each State was allotted to servicemen. In addition to that, further money was allocated for service housing. Although the housing conditions of members of the services are affected largely by State legislation, they are, nevertheless, improving, and I should hope that within eighteen months at least all the difficulties in this respect will have been overcome.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker: Having regard to your ruling that a question asked a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Swan was out of order, are we to take it that in future you will not allow questions based on newspaper reports?
– The Chair will always use its discretion.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1958.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1958.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1958.
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill 1958.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 9th September, at 2.30 pin.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 27th August (vide page 840).
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. AdermannThe proposal is that the committee should discuss the Department of the Interior, the Department of Works, and the Department of Civil Aviation. Honorable members must understand that if the committee agrees to discuss those three departments as a group, there can be only two calls for any one honorable member. Two calls would be the maximum allowed under Standing Orders, except by leave of the committee.
– It is understood, then, that the course proposed by the Minister will be followed.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed Vote, £4,993,000.
Department of Works
Proposed Vote, £3,374,000.
Department of Civil Aviation
Proposed Vote, £11,389,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I wish to speak specifically with regard to the Department of Civil Aviation. Not long ago, the then Minister for Defence Production stated that the Government had rejected a proposal to purchase Britannia aircraft for use by Qantas on international routes. The Minister stated, and I think quite rightly, that Qantas would be facing competition from jet aircraft. He stated that the Britannia, being a turbo-prop aircraft, had come too late, and that jet aircraft had superseded turbo-prop aircraft on international airlines. Accordingly, he justified the heavy expenditure of dollars on the purchase of Boeing 707 aircraft. The Government made a deliberate - and, I believe, a correct - decision that Australia’s international airlines should be equipped with jet aircraft and not turbo-prop aircraft. That decision raises the interesting question as to why jet airliners have been rejected for use on our internal airlines, because every argument that can be advanced for equipping our international air services with jet aircraft can be advanced with equal force for equipping our internal airlines with jet aircraft.
The decision leads us to an interesting speculation as to the reason why TransAustralia Airlines was refused the right to purchase Caravelle aircraft from overseas. I think that there are some defence implications in this decision. It is obvious that, if Australian airlines were fully equipped with jet aircraft, we would have maintenance staffs and pilots more equipped to handle the only type of military aircraft which will be used in the event of international conflict. But the implications behind the Government’s decision seem to me to be deliberately reactionary with a view to maintaining a private airline service which has consistently made serious mistakes in the type of aircraft it has purchased. No good reason has been advanced for refusing T.A.A. the right to equip itself with Caravelle aircraft, except that, if it did, it would be highly inconvenient for Ansett-A.N.A.
Over the period that the two companies have existed, T.A.A. purchasers made two decisions which proved to be immensely popular with the travelling public and, also, wise decisions economically. They decided to buy Convair aircraft at one point of time and then decided to buy Viscount aircraft, while the late proprietor of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited decided to buy DC6’s. DC6’s, as a form of aircraft, are no doubt economical, running on international routes. I do not deny the efficiency and quality of the service of A.N. A.; it is excellent. I do not make any attack on the company. Nevertheless, thinking in economic terms, we are aware of the absurdity of travelling, as I have travelled, on a DC6 from Melbourne to Launceston - a magnificent aircraft of that quality making a flight of 290 miles! T.A.A. was running Viscount aircraft on kerosene, which cost lOd. a gallon, and A.N. A. was trying to compete with DC6 aircraft using high-octane petrol, which cost 4s. 6d. a gallon. It was a foolish decision on the part of the former proprietor of A.N .A. I understand that he was loyal to the Douglas Aircraft Corporation.
Now, a further decision is about to be made. A new proprietor has taken over the private company with all its obsolete and obsolescent equipment, in which an enormous amount of capital is involved. This includes a vast sum of Government capital, loaned in an attempt to sustain a company which had consistently made uneconomic decisions. No doubt it would have played a formidable part in assisting competition with T.A.A. If the Government has decided that the two airlines must be maintained and that it will not allow T.A.A. to run the other company out of existence, that is its decision, and, no doubt, if it makes that kind of decision, it must be prepared to pay the cost. However, if the cost to the community is that we will be forced to maintain for the next two years completely obsolete and inefficient air services, it is a highly regrettable decision indeed. If the Government wants AnsettA.N.A. to be in equal competition with T.A.A., then it should back the company with more of its money and let it buy Caravelle aircraft, too. I am not making an argument against the existence of the private airline. But 1 do not see why the mistakes of the former proprietor of A.N.A. and the fact that the present proprietor of Ansett-A.N.A. has invested a lot of capital in obsolete equipment should mean that the Australian community has deliberately to maintain an obsolete airline and to force the other airline to be obsolete as well.
The Government has deliberately chosen in its international air service, and rightly so, to switch from propellor aircraft to jet aircraft. Every argument that can be advanced for that decision internationally is equally valid for re-equiping internal airlines. It is a tragedy for Australia that we are going to maintain an air service that is running on high-octane petrol when in these days of jet aircraft there is absolutely no need to be running our air services on that expensive fuel. There is a second consideration. If Caravelles were operating between Perth and Melbourne, for instance, the present waste of aircraft involved in sending aircraft to Western Australia would be minimized. It is this waste of aircraft that causes both companies to have night flights to the eastern States. In that way, they get their aircraft, in the early morning, over to the more profitable eastern States where there is greater traffic between the capitals. Therefore, they keep to that night flight from Perth to make their air craft available for day services in the eastern States. A much faster form of air travel between Perth and Adelaide or Melbourne - say, at 580 miles an hour, which the Caravelles will do, instead of 320 miles an hour - would clearly mean a much more economical use of aircraft in the more populous centres.
It is not merely a question of waste of money on fuel; it is also a question of a failure to use aircraft to the maximum. There are greater problems of maintenance in propellor aircraft than there are in jet aircraft. Many other similar points arise, but no doubt they are well known to the Government through its advisers in the Department of Civil Aviation. It seems doubtful that the expert advisers of the Government in the Department of Civil Aviation, whose salaries we are paying in this appropriation, could have subscribed to the policy that the Government is now pursuing in civil aviation. Considerations of maintaining a company, which seems to be a favourite son of the Government, for purely political reasons have been allowed to override economic and technical considerations.
The Government professes to believe in private enterprise. One of the good characteristics of private enterprise has always been held to be that it is prepared to pay for its mistakes and to take the rap for them. The private company, in the purchase of aircraft, has made most serious mistakes. But instead of the company being called upon to face the consequences, the whole of Australia’s civil aviation has been kept obsolete or obsolescent to prevent more efficient competition. Australia, like most other countries, should by 1960 be switching to jet aircraft on internal routes. Instead, we will have further turbo-prop aircraft, Electras, which are as out of date in relation to the Caravelle as the Britannia is in relation to the Boeing 707.
– I want to speak briefly on that part of the Estimates for the Department of the Interior which concerns forestry. I believe that the time has arrived - it probably arrived some time ago - when we should establish a full scale forestry research institute. I am sure that honorable members will agree that our forests are a vital element in our total national resources. Our forests are not only our source of timber for use in housing and so on - timber which would otherwise have to be imported - but they are also, looking at the broader picture, an essential part of water and soil conservation.
Initially, we in this country were not well endowed with forest resources, contrary to a belief which exists in some quarters. The lack of natural forest resources is probably due to the small area of the continent in which the rainfall is adequate for the growth of natural trees of economic value. We have, as I have just said, Mr. Temporary Chairman, only small areas of natural forests of economic importance, and the situation has been made worse by two factors. The first was the over-exploitation, in our early history, of the forests that we did have. Oddly enough, this came from a genuine belief on the part of many people in those days that Australia’s forest resources were absolutely limitless. The second factor that has made the situation worse is that the land on which trees of economic value will grow naturally is equally valuable for agriculture.
Factors like these have made it necessary for States such as South Australia, which is probably the least well-endowed of all the States with natural forest resources, to undertake large afforestation programmes. South Australia now produces, artificially as it were, more softwoods than does any other State. Production from the pinus radiata plantations in the south-east of the State is expected to reach 130,000,000 super, feet this year, and it is increasing rapidly. In the same area, 10,500,000 super, feet of pulp is being produced annually. These forests in the south-east of South Australia, Sir, have had a remarkable effect on the development of the area and on the whole economy of the State. South Australia is now more than selfsufficient in certain kinds of timber, particularly flooring and case timber. Without the investment in forestry that has been undertaken in the south-east of the State, the post-war home-building programme, which has been more successful in South Australia than in any other State, could not possibly have proceeded at the speed at which it has done.
The point that I wish to make, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is that these forestry programmes, embracing the planting of artificial forests, and the prevention of depre dation of the forests in order to make the maximum use of our natural timber resources, are vitally dependent on research into problems associated with forestry. At the present time, we just have not sufficient knowledge to utilize our timber resources to the maximum in this country. Under the administration of this Government, research, generally speaking, has been pushed ahead rapidly. For example, I can point to the encouragement that the Government has given to research programmes in the wheat industry, the wool industry and many other fields. But, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, especially in terms of fundamental research, forestry seems to have been an exception. The importance of research in the forestry industry was emphasized as long ago as 1920 by the British Empire Forestry Conference held in that year. That conference, in a sense, set the pattern for forest development not only in Australia but also in other parts of the British Commonwealth. The importance attached to research has been reiterated again and again at every international and interstate forestry conference in the years since.
In the intervening years, we in Australia have developed a pattern in which it has become generally accepted that the States are responsible for the empirical, practical research, and that the Commonwealth is responsible for basic, fundamental research work. This pattern, of course, parallels the division between the Commonwealth and the States in many other fields of research, State departments dealing with the practical, everyday problems that crop up on the spot, and the Commonwealth undertaking the long-term arduous work of fundamental research, which is equally as important, if not more important. The States have been conspicuously successful in the field that they have covered, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but I do not think that this can be said of the Commonwealth in its chosen field. Basic, fundamental research into forestry problems has been neglected, not because of any deficiency in the Forestry and Timber Bureau, which does all the fundamental forestry research undertaken by the Commonwealth, but because of a lack of the resources required for the work that should be done. The work done has been of a very high order indeed, and has proved of great value.
This need for research has been acknowledged by the establishment by the bureau of research stations in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, and at Canberra. But all that those establishments have been able to do has been to keep up with the most urgent problems of fundamental research in the areas in which they are located. We have not yet achieved a situation in which scientists, working on their own in their particular fields, can engage in the vital work of fundamental research not immediately related to pressing problems that must be solved in a few weeks. This deficiency in the field of fundamental research is even more inexplicable when it is realized that the Forest Products Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is doing magnificent work, both in the empirical and practical field and in fundamental research, with respect to the uses of timber after it has been milled. This is excellent, but surely, in the long run, the effectiveness of this research, which also is done by Commonwealth instrumentality, will be severely limited unless prior basic research into forestry procedures and the growth of timber is done.
This whole question was examined by forestry authorities at the British Commonwealth Forestry Conference held in Australia towards the end of last year. That conference definitely crystallized the opinion that it is now a matter of urgency that the research divisions of the Forestry and Timber Bureau should be expanded into a fullscale centre for fundamental research into forestry problems. The conference produced a summary report and resolutions, which I have here. Any honorable member who reads the publication will see that, although expert foresters from all over the world complimented Australia on what it had done in other aspects of forestry, they again and again urged us to undertake more fundamental research as a matter of urgency. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) to give favorable consideration to the immediate expansion of the facilities and resources of the Forestry and Timber Bureau, so that it can be converted into a full-scale timber research institute and play its full part in the vital work of preserving our existing forests and developing new ones.
.- I appreciate very much the courtesy of my colleague, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), in making it possible for me to say a few words on these Estimates. Although I shall have to leave the committee almost immediately, I feel that I must say a few words about an urgent matter concerning the work of Commonwealth departments in the city of Adelaide. At present a great deal of confusion exists and inconvenience is caused to members of the public because of the fact that the different departments are housed in various buildings in widely separated parts of the city. Almost every principal building in Adelaide houses a section of the Commonwealth administration. This means that a tremendous amount of rent has to be paid to private concerns for the accommodation of Commonwealth departments.
For some considerable time it has been recognised that a Commonwealth building is needed to house all these departments. It is agreed that such a building should be Commonwealth property, so that we shall not have to pay the enormous amounts that are at present being spent in rent. After all, we must try to conserve the taxpayers’ money wherever we can, and to ensure efficient and concentrated administration.
When the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) visited Adelaide about twelve months ago he had this matter under consideration. A site was tentatively agreed upon, and I believe that since that time further negotiations have been in progress and a final decision has been reached with regard to the provision of a building in Currie-street. It has now come to my knowledge that it is rumoured that in the new building being erected at the corner of King William-street and Weymouthstreet by the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ newspaper company, six floors have been earmarked for a section of a Commonwealth department. I believe that the Taxation Branch has some thought of going into this building.
This seems to me to be a wrong approach to the problem of providing accommodation. My own view is that the site in question is far too important to allow a newspaper company to erect a building on it. I believe that something in the nature of a substantial public building would have been more appropriate to such an important location. This is not to be, however. I feel that we should press on with the construction of a building to house the various Commonwealth departments in Adelaide. By so doing, we will save enormous amounts in rent, and members of the public will have no difficulty in ascertaining where to contact Commonwealth officers. I feel that Adelaide has waited all too long for such a building, and I repeat that we should safeguard public finance by removing the necessity to pay exorbitant rents for some of the best office accommodation in Adelaide.
.- I wish to comment on the fact that the Commonwealth Government is becoming the biggest landlord in Australia. Some time ago this Government negotiated a new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and it indicated that this Government considered the people had a right to own their own homes, and that it would do everything in its power to encourage home ownership. With this end in view provision was made in the new housing agreement to allow people to purchase the homes provided under the home-building scheme. However, in the Australian Capital Territory no encouragement has been given to the people to purchase their homes. The Commonwealth Government, I believe, now has about 5,000 houses in Canberra which are being rented to the occupants at rentals that are far from economic and which are, indeed, subsidized by the taxpayers of Australia. I suggest that the Government should have another look at the situation, with a view to giving Canberra tenants an opportunity to purchase their homes on a similar basis to that which applies in the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
I realize that it is possible for the people to obtain finance for the purchase of these houses through private sources, but what I wish to advocate is that the Commonwealth Government should act as a foncier agent, just as the States act as foncier agents under the housing agreement, and as the Commonwealth does under the War Service Homes Act.
– The Government makes the same advances here as are available through the War Service Homes Division.
– That is true, but I suggest that the advance is insufficient. I assume, although I am not an expert on this matter, that the average value of a house owned by the Commonwealth in Canberra is about £5,000. If we advance only £2,750, which is the maximum available under the War Service Homes Act, we are not making a sufficient advance, because to find the difference between this amount and £5,000 is well beyond the capacity of the ordinary person, unless he is able to obtain outside accommodation, and that is not so easy to do. I suggest that the Commonwealth should be prepared to sell these houses on a deposit of, say, £1,000 or £1,500. As we know, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, a person is required to pay as a deposit, only 10 per cent, of the value of a home. I think that the Commonwealth could, perhaps, introduce some similar provision, even if the deposit required were slightly more than 10 per cent., or even up to 20 per cent. A deposit of 20 per cent, would mean that for £1,000 these people would be given the opportunity to buy a home worth £5,000. The Commonwealth would then be better off. Responsibility for care and maintenance would be removed from the Commonwealth and it would be liquidating its liability in respect of thousands of houses.
We know that in the immediate future the Government will be transferring the defence departments from Melbourne to Canberra. That means that the Government is required to find the capital to build a greater number of houses. If the Government now owns 5,000 houses here and plans are in existence for the provision of another 4,500 or 5,000 houses in the next five years, the Commonwealth Government will have to administer about 10,000 houses in Canberra. It will be the landlord and will be required to collect rent. Those rents which are being paid are uneconomic, and are being subsidized by the balance of the taxpayers throughout Australia. I consider that that is not a reasonable proposition. A great number of people in Canberra are anxious to buy a home. I believe that if the Commonwealth Government put to the people the proposition that houses worth £5,000 could be purchased on a deposit of £1,000 or £1,500, a great many would welcome the opportunity and take advantage of it.
Some difficulties can be envisaged, particularly in view of the proposed mass transfer from Melbourne of people in the defence departments. The proposition has to be put to them that they will be able to obtain accommodation at such and such a rental, which must be economic. Otherwise, if the accommodation and rents are not attractive, we shall lose people from the departments. Whilst it might be practicable to lose a few, it would not be practicable to lose a great number, because to do so would impair the efficiency of the departments. New officers would have to be trained, and I believe that that would not be in the best interests of the departments.
Whilst it may be necessary to continue to subsidize these rents, therefore, for some period, the Commonwealth must have as its ultimate objective the elimination of the situation that it is, or is rapidly becoming, the greatest landlord in the Commonwealth. Indeed, it is foreign to our political philosophy that the Commonwealth Government should be a landlord. In my opinion, that is socialism in the extreme. I believe that, as early as practicable, we should dispose of these houses.
If this is done, possibly there will be some feeling of resentment in returned servicemen’s organizations, because the Government would be advancing to Canberra residents more than it advances under the War Service Homes Act. It could be suggested that tenants in the Australian Capital Territory were obtaining a benefit which was not given to returned servicemen throughout Australia. To some extent, that is a specious argument, because the exservicemen of Canberra would also be able to take advantage of the purchase plan and this would relieve ex-servicemen in other States, in their capacity as taxpayers, of subsidizing the rents of people in Canberra. Further, as the Commonwealth has already advanced the total cost - say £5,000 - of building each of these houses, and as the rents are not economic, I believe that the ex-servicemen would not object if they were informed that the Commonwealth’s money - their money - was in the process of being returned. Also, there would be a continuing reduction in the capital outlay, which is not now being recovered because of uneconomic rents.
Next, I should like to make a very brief reference to the Commonwealth Electoral Office. This matter is also a hardy annual. Every year I have taken the opportunity to advocate that polling hours in the general election should conform with those in State elections, or that, if possible, throughout the Commonwealth polling hours should be not from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. but from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. We have never found any difficulty in Queensland State elections with those hours, even in the most outback areas.
– Even in the Barcoo.
– As the honorable member for Moreton says, even in the Barcoo. We have not any difficulty in State or local authority elections, wherein the polling hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and everybody who intends to vote can do so. The hours between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. are not heavy polling hours, and a reduction in the polling period would relieve the organization of the Commonwealth Electoral Office of a great deal of arduous work. The staff has to start, sometimes as early as 6 a.m., in order to become fully established by 8 a.m. From 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. is far too long for any one to be able to concentrate, sometimes working at great pressure, and still retain his full mental alertness. Also, the additional expenditure required because of the extra hours is completely unnecessary.
When a poll is closed at 6 p.m., voting returns come in much earlier, which is most commendable. I believe that to adopt this suggestion would not be to impair the efficiency of the poll. It is all very well for the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) to interject. There are in this chamber a great many members of the Australian Labour party who have had some experience of polling hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and who fully support them. Sitting right in front of the honorable member is the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson). I know that he is in favour of the shorter time. I am quite sure that any Labour man from Queensland will say that polling from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. is adequate, meets all the requirements of the people, and adds to, rather than impairs, efficiency.
There is another matter that I should like to raise. This is a parish-pump subject. It relates to the electoral office of Lilley, which, as I mentioned last year, is still located in a building which inspectors of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works have seen fit to condemn as unsuitable.
– You are getting good results out of it.
– We enjoy very good results, because the electors of Lilley are very discriminating and intelligent, as I can assure the honorable member. We have investigated the possibility of finding alternative accommodation for the staff, but it appears that suitable premises for renting cannot be found. Immediately opposite the existing electoral office is the Albion post office, and adjacent to this is an area of land which is owned by the Commonwealth. I suggest to the Minister that consideration be given to building on that area of land an office to accommodate the electoral staff of the electorate of Lilley. If this is not practicable, I urge that consideration be given to intensifying the search for alternative premises. There is no need to make further reference to the inadequacy of the present offices. That has been clearly indicated already to the appropriate officers in Canberra by the Works Department’s representatives, the electoral officers in Brisbane and the senior officers of the Department of the Interior in Brisbane who made an inspection.
Finally, I pay tribute to the work that is being done by the Commonwealth electoral officers throughout Queensland. In view of their intense desire to have the polling hours altered, I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to the suggestion. I hope that this time next year it will not be necessary to advocate again that the polling hours be changed. I hope that the Commonwealth electoral officers will see sweet reason and alter the hours throughout the Commonwealth to those I have suggested, namely, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) into the land of fantasy filled with artificial trees. I have yet to see a tree of that sort. I take it that the honorable member was referring to imported trees of various varieties. I support him strongly, however, in his suggestion that additional finance should be made available by the Commonwealth for research into problems of forestry, re-afforestation and the development of particular types of timbers for the benefit of Australia.
At this point, I wish to pay a sincere tribute to the work that has been done in the Australian Capital Territory by the Forestry Bureau, which is referred to in the Estimates as the Forestry Branch - which seems to me to be an inappropriate term. In this area, the Forestry Bureau is developing plantations of soft woods, not on country which is useful for agricultural purposes, but on the steep hills and precipitous hillsides of the southern areas of the Territory. I refer to the area south of Uriarra and the work which is being done in the Kowen area. The officers of the Forestry Bureau are men who are dedicated to the task of improving our forestry resources, and their work is very valuable indeed.
It is pleasing to see in the Estimates provision for increased amounts for field and laboratory equipment, materials for research and forestry scholarships. I am sorry that the amount available for the printing of publications has been practically halved from £7,000, expended in the previous financial year, to £3,700 in the proposed vote that is before the committee. When I spoke on the Estimates last year, I suggested to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) that more efforts should be made to publicize the work which is carried out by the Forestry Branch, or the Forestry Bureau, which is, I believe, its correct title. I am certain that if the information were available to them, the people would appreciate what is being done. I am not referring to the learned publications that are distributed to a limited field, but to public announcements through the press and the radio on the work that is carried out by the Forestry Branch in the Australian Capital Territory. J am certain that any instrument of government which brings before the people the work it is doing is more likely to receive recognition, not only from the public but also from the Department of the Treasury when the Estimates are being considered.
I commend to the Minister again the suggestion that more information should be made public on the work which is being carried out so well and unostentatiously by those who control the Forestry Branch and those who work for it. They are all men with a love of trees and dedicated to the tasks to which they have been allotted.
I am delighted to have the strong support of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) in my consistent campaign to persuade this Government to increase the amount of loan that is available to those who wish to purchase or build homes in Canberra. Over the years, the amount that is made available by the Commonwealth to tenants who wish to purchase homes they are occupying or to persons who wish to buy existing homes or build homes in Canberra, has lagged far behind realities. I have no doubt that when the loan was first established, it did represent something like 90 per cent, of the cost of a home. That probably remained true when the amount of advance was £1,750 or £1,800. It was lifted to £2,250, and, recently, to £2,750, but, as the honorable member for Lilley has stated, the amount falls far short of what is required to buy or build a home to-day. The average cost of building a home in Canberra now is £4,500, and that does not take into account the price which may be paid at auction for the lease of land or the development of fencing and similar construction.
I understand that the Government did have under consideration a proposal to increase the building advance to about £4,000. A similar proposal was then being considered by the State Government in Victoria. Since then, there has been an announcement from South Australia that the building loan will be increased to £3,500. In Tasmania, government homes provided through the Agricultural Bank are made available to tenants for purchase without deposit. I think there is considerable merit in those arrangements. If the Commonwealth Government can dispose of homes that it has rented to tenants, it saves itself the cost of maintenance from then on. I believe it is to the advantage of the people to have their own homes and also that the Commonwealth should get out of the field of landlord as quickly as it can.
The Commonwealth Government has done very well in disposing of homes in Canberra to tenants. If the honorable member for Lilley went to the Housing Branch of the Department of Interior and asked for a map of Canberra showing homes that have been sold to tenants, he would be staggered to see the number of houses that have been sold under the existing provisions. They are generous in relation to homes that were built many years ago, and the assessed prices generally have been fair. They are based on replacement cost less depreciation, which is calculated at about £100 a year over the life of the house. Those who buy homes that were built 20 to 25 years ago are getting a good bargain, but those who have entered into tenancy of homes which have been built in these days of high costs have no hope of buying a home. It is impossible for many to find the £1,850 deposit, or whatever it may be - the amount required above the loan.
– Would the honorable member be happy if the Government provided a larger advance for Canberra homes than it does for war service homes?
– I want increased advances for Canberra, but I realize that a government which is a federal government must have regard to the provision it makes for war service homes and for State housing agreements. I do not believe, however, that the Commonwealth Government should be inhibited by a fear that it will be criticized by the States for improved conditions in Canberra, or that it should be inhibited by any reluctance to increase the amount made available for war service homes. I believe in relation to both those matters that the advance available should represent at least 90 per cent, of the cost of the home which was the original provision for Canberra homes and under war service homes legislation.
The honorable member for Lilley is quite wrong when he assumes and states that the people of Australia are subsidizing the rentals of persons who live in Canberra. The facts are completely otherwise. It is a pity that the funds received from the rental of homes in Canberra are not paid into a fund related to housing. To-day, those funds are paid into Consolidated Revenue so that there can never be a balance of what is received against what is expended. Previously, the rental was based on 5 per cent, of the capital cost of the home plus a fixed amount for the construction of paths, but in the time of the previous Minister for the Interior, there was an arbitrary increase of rentals. The increase varied. It was 25 per cent, in some suburbs, 50 per cent, in others and 75 per cent, in others. Since then, there has been a variation in the rental system which is now related to the floor area, the type of home and its size. Out of every £1 that a tenant of a brick house in Canberra pays to the Department of the Interior for rental, 12s. 6d. is for interest, 5s. 3d. is for maintenance - there are smaller amounts to cover insurance, administrative charges and so on - and ls. 8d. goes towards the amortization of the cost of the house. The cost is deemed to be repaid in periods, I think, extending from something like 51 years for a timber home to something over 70 years for a brick home. The tenant who knows that from every £1 of rent he pays 12s. 6d. is for interest, 5s. 3d. is for maintenance and ls. 8d. for amortization, and who has been in a house for fifteen or twenty years, can quite readily assess what he has paid allegedly for maintenance and can, from his memory and observation, assess what has been spent on maintenance. If the receipts were paid into a fund from which subsequently we would build and maintain other homes we would get a clear picture; but I think it is incorrect to say - and I hope that the Minister will support me in this - that the people of Australia are subsidizing the rents paid by the people in Canberra. I think that I have disposed of the honorable member’s statements in that regard. lt is too common a practice for people to criticize Canberra and its people by saying that Canberra people get all sorts of advantages at the expense of the rest of Australia. I do not think that is true. I think that here we should strive for the very best that we can provide. It is surely the duty of the Government to provide the best for those whom it brings here to perform the public work of government and for those who have come to provide services in this Government community. We should not be led into being too timid, into feeling that we have to say that we must not do this because the States cannot do it, or that we must not build a school because if we do the States will ask for more money to build their schools.
We should be setting out to build here the national capital that the nation deserves. I believe that we are doing that. Under the present Minister, and with the National Capital Development Commission in operation, we are at least starting to build such a capital, and I believe that the people of Australia want us to build it and that we should build it. I do not think that we should hesitate to say, even though a general election is coming up, that a new Parliament House is needed and should be built pretty soon. We should get to work on it soon. I doubt that that job will be started before the election, but let us hope that it will be started as quickly as possible after the election is over.
I came into the chamber to-day intending to speak on other matters, but I have found it necessary to refer to the subjects with which I have dealt because they were raised by other honorable members.
Some time ago, I spoke on the need for publicizing the work of the Forestry Bureau. I want now to touch on another matter coming within the ambit of the Department of the Interior. Part of the work of the department is to build and maintain homes. I appeal to the Minister, because this is a matter that is so vital to the people already here and those who are still to come here, to take the people of Canberra fully into his confidence in relation to housing matters generally. To illustrate that point, I say to him that he will remember that in February, 1956, he stated that, apart from certain priorities, houses would be allocated strictly in accordance with the date of registration. Subsequently, there was a decision that all priorities would be abolished and that houses would be allotted only according to length of registration of intending tenants. But we find that priorities are in existence. There has always been a priority in relation to houses for church authorities and also for the diplomatic corps, to a certain extent, although we encourage diplomatic missions to buy or build houses for themselves. The Commonwealth Bank has priority in regard to a certain number of homes, and there is also priority regarding the provision of homes for headmasters, headmistresses and school teachers in certain subjects, because it is essential to encourage teaching staff of the desired quality to come here. In fact, a priority now applies practically to all school teachers in Canberra.
Houses have been allocated under a sort of dog collar provision to people employed at the brickworks. More recently, priorities have been granted to certain skilled tradesmen who occupy accommodation in what is known as the pre-fab area, or workmen’s cottages, at Narrabundah. Priority is also given to people with certain technical and professional qualifications, people brought here to work on the development of the city, and more recently officers brought here for the National Capital Development Commission. We also find that in certain special circumstances Cabinet itself has granted priorities. We have 25 priorities in housing allotted by the Cabinet, with the result that some departments can advertise positions here with the promise to provide houses to the successful applicants. So I hope the Minister will take the people of Canberra into his confidence, and let us know exactly what the system is on which priorities are given. If an alteration is made in the rental rebate system, let us know about it.
– Since the time allotted for debate on the group of proposed votes now before us is limited I shall not take up a great deal of it.
The debate on the Estimates provides the Government with opportunities to look into the minds of honorable members generally, and vice versa. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) have spoken of forestry research. In case any one should think that nothing has been done about this matter, and that the Government is insensitive to the need to assist work of this kind, it might be interesting to supplement to some extent the figures that those two honorable gentlemen have given to the committee. The estimated growth of timber in this country is about 6,000,000,000 super, feet a year. When we consider the fact that about 1,000,000,000 super, feet is lost in waste, and that there is a loss of about twice that amount due to the depredations of various kinds of beetles and borers, fires and that sort of thing, we readily see that timber research could help us to save a considerable amount of timber. As well as a great deal of actual timber being lost for various reasons, a great deal of potential growth is also lost. When all these factors are added together it may well be that increased production of timber, which will arise not immediately, but eventually, as a result of research, could bring the total to 9,000,000,000 super, feet a year, which could have a value of £25,000,000 in the forest. So nobody need have any doubt about the value of research in the timber industry.
Honorable gentlemen can readily accept the figures that I have given because there rests on my desk at this moment a proposal for the establishment in Canberra of a forestry research organization. The cost of this organization, including buildings and additional staff, may be, over a period of five years, about £500,000. But, in the face of the figures I have given relating to the saving in timber which might be made as a result of research, I do not think that anybody will doubt the value of expenditure in that field.
I am sure that honorable members will have read the documents accompanying the Budget, and will appreciate that the demands on the capital available for various forms of research are so extensive that work in some desirable fields of research has to be stood back for a period. As I think the honorable member for Barker indicated, we are making very great advances in research in connexion with wool, wheat and textiles. We have gone into new fields of research through the medium of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Last year, we established a bureau of hydrometeorology, All those things are taking us further and further into research activities. That is a very good thing, but it is very expensive, and the fact is that there is a limit to how much can be done in a country as big as this with the finance provided by 3,500,000 taxpayers. However, in due course these things will be done because they are extremely necessary.
Dealing with the submissions of the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), may I say that the Government is well aware of the great need to rationalize the office accommodation available to its Administration in various centres. lt might come as a surprise to many honorable members, and certainly to many members of the public, to appreciate that no Commonwealth Government since federation has built for itself a public building with the exception of post offices. We inherited, at federation, a number of buildings and we have added nothing to them since. Over the years, the Government has been prepared to undertake additional administrative responsibility but, for some reason, it has always been very reluctant to involve itself in the high capital cost of providing suitable accommodation for that Administration.
– What about the building in Canberra?
– I am coming to that. The inevitable result has been that in most of the capital cities where there is a multiplicity of government departments they are scattered from one end of the city to the other. It is true that, in Canberra, the administrative building, which is now nearly completed, was started a long time ago. 1 cannot even recall who began it, but whichever government began it, deserves the greatest credit. In more recent years, this Government - and the Labour government had the same idea when it made land reservations in Melbourne - has been able to commence and bring almost to completion the first unit of the Commonwealth Administrative Centre in Melbourne. That building will be ready for opening at the end of October and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will be glad to officiate, I know.
In Brisbane, the foundations are going in for a taxation building. I should think that, towards the end of this financial year, we will be in a position to begin the construction of a major office building in Sydney. Another building is under construction in Perth. Following along in that sort of pipe-line, there must inevitably be better provision for offices in Adelaide. This is a matter which has been pressed very strongly by honorable members and senators from South Australia. However. I remind the honorable member for Bonython that although the Government avoids paying out money in rent when it provides its own building, that does not mean to say that the cost of accommodation in its own building is very much less, if any less, than that which it would be obliged to pay for rented accommodation. Nevertheless it has the very great advantage of centralizing accommodation and, therefore, of increasing the efficiency of administration generally.
I should like to deal with the question raised by both the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) - the sale of government homes in Canberra. It is quite true that government homes sold in Canberra are sold on much the same terms as those which are offered to applicants under the war service homes scheme. We are prepared to make an advance of £2,750. I had before the Government for consideration very recently a proposal under which we might be able to expand the financial accommodation available to Canberra purchasers, and so off-load this growing burden which is indicated by the number of homes to be built here by the Commonwealth and therefore to be on the Commonwealth’s rent register.
I do not think there is anything secret about the fact that one of the points that dissuaded the Government from liberalizing its purchase scheme in Canberra was that we could not involve ourselves in the need to expand the advances under the War Service Homes Act at this time. If there is inherent in a proposal to give better financial accommodation in Canberra, a proposal also to expand by 50 per cent, or more the advances available under the War Service Homes Act, this would impose a financial burden which the Commonwealth would find itself unable, at this time, to carry.
– It is done under the Commonwealth and States housing grant.
– There is a great anomaly in that in many States the housing commissions, financed by Commonwealth funds, are able to offer purchasers conditions better than those which the Commonwealth offers here, in Canberra, although it is providing the whole of the finance here. In other words, within the area of its own administration in the Australian Capital Territory, the Commonwealth, for other reasons, finds itself unable to extend the same generous terms which the housing commissions in the States are able to extend.
I would also advance this point: Every home built or sold under the War Service Homes Act is immediately a sale. There is no maintenance problem in these cases. It is an immediate sale and some return almost immediately begins to flow. In Canberra, because a whole peculiar set of conditions does operate, and because peculiar demands are raised by the nature of the problem, the Commonwealth is required to commit the capital involved in building these homes but has to leave them on rent. I believe that there is every justification for the belief - and here I join with the honorable member for Lilley and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory - that the people of this country will appreciate the need for the Commonwealth to extend here in Canberra conditions which we would like to, but cannot extend into the field of war service homes.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has raised a most important issue which must continue to bulk large in the thoughts of Canberra people. That is the question of the allocation of homes built in Canberra. The honorable gentleman has pressed me, on a number of occasions, to make what might be called an authoritative statement on the number of homes becoming available, how they will be allocated, and that sort of thing. On a couple of occasions, I have been led, much against my better judgment, to give some indication as to when these homes will become available and how they will be allocated. If the honorable member will get a little closer to the problems involved I think that he will see the great difficulties which confront my administration in this respect. The Commonwealth, a year or two ago, was providing homes for a Canberra waiting list at the rate of about 500 or more a year.
I point out to honorable members that nowhere but in Canberra can people expect to get a home in due course merely by putting their name on a waiting list. Under the housing commission administrations in the States, sponsored by Commonwealth funds, there is a great hardship component in the allocation of houses. In Canberra, because of the peculiar problems which cannot be repeated anywhere else in the Commonwealth, we have been obliged to put enormous sums of capital into the provision of housing, not only for Government servants, but also for those who come to minister to Government servants, because the city has to develop as a complete entity. So I would have the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory keep in mind that nowhere else can you expect to have a house allocated to you merely by putting your name on a housing list and waiting for a period of time.
– I tell that to my constituents every time they come to see me.
– I am glad of that, because these facts deserve to be well understood. Two years ago, when the Government undertook the responsibility of transferring the Defence Services to Canberra, because of that particular need, it voted for that task the sums involved to provide houses, schools, roads, bridges and ancillary services. Because of that, we stated that houses coming off the housing production line at about this point in time would have to be made available on an absolute priority basis to those who were being transferred from Melbourne.
It would be a foolishly fantastic situation if we were to move 500 people from Melbourne in a group - and they have to be so moved to preserve the continuity of administration in their departments - and then find that we did not have houses available for them when they got here. I made a statement on this subject in reply to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory the other day and, later, made a correction of some figures. I said that we would expect, in this calendar year, to have made available 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, more homes than we were able to make available in 1957. Immediately the housing allocation to the defence services has been taken care of, of course, there will be a more rapid turn-off of homes to satisfy the Canberra waiting list.
I want to point to the great justification for priorities. It is popularly supposed that because people put their names on a waiting list they thereby establish a right. I have pointed out to various people in times past, and I am happy to repeat in the most forthright terms, that mere registration for a house does not establish a right or involve the Commonwealth in any obligation. Surely the first call on funds being provided for housing in Canberra should be to meet the Government’s own requirements. It is true, to-day, that as public administration is expanding, we need to bring key public servants here on transfer or on recruitment.
Once again it is a fair expenditure of public funds that money should be made available to house these key personnel. The best possible protections have been applied to this situation in that, as the honorable member mentioned, a number of houses were set aside for allocation on a priority basis. The applications for these homes are considered strictly on their merits by the Public Service Board and, on approval, these houses are allocated. It is quite true that over and above that, certain homes have had to be provided for officers coming into the National Capital Development Commission and those taking up key posts in engineering, town planning, architecture and so on, because these are the very people who are making the expansion of Canberra possible. It would be an odd circumstance if we allowed pressure to develop simply because we were unwilling or unable to provide accommodation to those who will give validity to the expansion of the Canberra project.
But when it comes to offering a precise statement as to how many homes will be available and when, 1 ask to be excused. When one looks at the physical problems involved in shifting 1,000 families and their effects from Melbourne and providing homes and various other facilities which will be required, I think the honorable member might develop a new appreciation of the tremendous difficulties. The Department of the Interior is obliged to wait upon the defence services. They, in turn have a great problem of fitting into their administration the number of people who are to come. Many are to be transferred; there will be many vacant posts which will have to be filled by recruitment. At this point we are not able to say, with precision, how many of those posts will be filled or when they will be filled.
In these circumstances there must always surround this sort of operation a good deal of lack of definition as to numbers, time and requirements and things of that kind. But I offer the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, who has been very keen on this matter, and to the people of Canberra, who have an intense personal interest - and that I understand - the complete assurance that we will get houses off as fast as we can. Over and above the priorities which we feel not only obliged but also completely justified in allocating, they will get the fairest possible allocation of homes according to priority of registration.
Sitting suspended from 12.38 to 2.53 p.m.
.- We have been assured on many occasions that this country is a democracy, that its Government represents the will of the people, and that the majority of the people decide who shall govern. I take this opportunity to point out that a lot of improvements could be made in the system of voting that operates with regard to our Senate elections, improvements designed to provide a really democratic government. For example, at the last Senate elections for Victoria 184,229 informal votes were cast. A gentleman whose name is, I think, McManus was elected to the Senate to represent the people of Victoria. He secured 186,706 votes, a little over 2,000 votes more than the number of informal votes that were cast in the Senate elections in Victoria. If those votes had not been informal they would probably have made a difference in the personnel elected to represent Victoria in the Senate.
Let us look at the electorate of Melbourne. There, the number of votes cast for the Senate was 39,724. Of these, 8,033 were informal; that is, more than one vote in every five was informal. Take the electorate of Scullin, which has the honour to be represented in this Parliament by me. Of 40,000 votes cast at the last Senate elections, 8,050 were informal - about 20 per cent, of the total votes. In the electorate of Yarra, there were 6,000 informal votes out of a total number of 40,000 cast for the Senate. Some people may say thai the electors who voted informally were determined to do so, and that they did not wish to vote for any of the candidates, but that proposition is proved to be false when we look at the votes cast for the House of
Representatives. In the electorate of Melbourne, where there were 8,033 informal votes cast for the Senate, only 1,645 informal votes were cast for the House of Representatives. In the electorate of Scullin, where about 8,000 informal votes were cast for the Senate, only about 2,000 informal votes were cast for the House of Representatives. The total number of informal votes for the House of Representatives in all the electoral divisions in Victoria was 36,054, compared with 184,229 for the Senate.
That is a most deplorable state of affairs as far as parliamentary representation is concerned. The reason is, of course, that there is a large number of candidates for the Senate, and there are so many ways in which votes can be informal. If a voter were to number his preferences consecutively 1 to 8, and then inadvertently place the figure 8 alongside his ninth preference, his vote would be informal. Any break in the sequence of numbering causes a ballotpaper to be informal. So even if a voter has clearly demonstrated to the electoral authorities the manner in which he desires his vote to be recorded as far as representation is concerned, if he breaks the sequence of his numbering at about the sixteenth or seventeenth choice of candidate, his vote becomes informal.
Mr, Chairman, I think that any government that believes in democratic representation should take action to remedy the position I have outlined. It is utterly fantastic that a person should represent the people of Victoria in the Senate of this Parliament when he has received only about 2,000 more votes than the number that were cast informally.
– You, yourself, were elected on fewer votes than the number cast informally.
– If the electors of Scullin who voted informally were given the opportunity to express their real intention, I should be the first to applaud such action even if all those informal votes became formal votes against me.. I am seeking a remedy to this situation. I do not find the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who represents some place in New South Wales that 1 can hardly recollect, supporting my contention. He, like his colleagues in the Australian Country party, is not concerned that the people should have proper democratic representation in this Parliament. Government supporters do not want government broadbased upon the will of the people and responsive to the people. Any means by which they can get into power is satisfactory to them. The only time that members of the Labour party, including myself, desire to get into power is when the majority of the people want us to do so. We believe first and foremost in democratic government. That is the basis on which we of the Labour party seek to build and to develop this country. The evasion of democracy is the means by which some of my opponents seek to perpetuate their unfortunate control of the destinies of this country.
Mr. Chairman, I know that you agree wholeheartedly with everything that I have put to the committee. I hope, also, that some members of the Liberal party and perhaps one member of the Australian Country party other than the chairman of the committee will agree with my contention. Something should be done before the next election to ensure that representation in the Senate reflects the desire of the majority of the people and that the cause of so many informal votes is removed. That can be done by the Government deciding simply that the recording of a vote for sufficient candidates to fill the existing vacancies shall constitute a formal vote. If that were done, there would not be 184,000 informal votes in Victoria; the number would be in the vicinity of the number of informal votes cast for the House of Representatives - 36,000 or under. I appeal to all members of this Parliament who believe in democracy - that is, every one on the Labour side and perhaps a few on the Government side - to support me.
.- It may be just a coincidence that the “Thought for To-day” in the “Canberra Times “ provides an answer to the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). It reads -
I must complain the cards are ill-shuffled till I have a good hand.
Labour has a very poor hand and, of course, complains that the circumstances are against it and prevent it from getting back into power, either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives. However, when we examine the circumstances, we find that the system of proportional representation, about which the honorable member for Scullin complained, was introduced by the Labour party. The honorable member complained about the means by which the vote for the Senate was recorded. His complaint should be directed against his own party and not against this Government.
Each year, in the debate on the Estimates, whether I have been in opposition or supporting the Government, I have complained about certain things. I believe that the only way to get some of my ideas adopted is to continue complaining about these things, whether I am supporting the Government or in opposition. One of my main complaints concerns the building of gigantic Commonwealth offices in the cities. I believe that it is necessary to have certain Commonwealth offices in the large cities so that people who wish to make representations will have access to the van.OUt departments. However, I believe that it is quite unnecessary to have the whole of the Commonwealth Service in a State housed in the centre of the capital city. As I have said on numerous occasions, it is necessary to have in the cities only that part of the Commonwealth Service with which the public comes in contact. There are, of course, many thousands of Commonwealth public servants with whom the public will never come in contact. There is no need for them to be housed in the cities; accommodation should be provided for them at least in the outer suburbs. Only small offices are needed in the cities. Much of the work of the departments does not directly touch the individual member of the public. Why take these departments into the middle of a city? That only causes congestion. The work would be better done if most of the departmental activity was confined to the outer suburbs.
Some smart members of the Opposition have interjected and asked, “ Why not put them in the Mallee? “ Let me say that I compliment the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) upon decentralizing his department. Sections of his department are established in the country areas of Victoria and New South Wales where the country people have ready access to them without going to the cities. Honorable members have referred to the fact that only one atomic bomb would be needed to blow the whole of a congested city to pieces. What could be worse than having the main departments of the Commonwealth blown to pieces in an atomic raid? If the departments were established in the outer suburbs and spread out they would certainly be safer than they would be if they were concentrated in a city, which, unfortunately, is the system being adopted now by this Government.
The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) has spoken about the new buildings that are being constructed in a prominent part of Adelaide. He has suggested that, perhaps, the Taxation Department and other departments should move into them. I do not care what Commonwealth department moves into these buildings; but I suggest that only those officers with whom the public must come in contact should be housed in these buildings. Let the main work be done in the outer suburbs. It is not necessary for the main portion of a department to be close to the city offices. I am sure that the people of Perth would approve of this suggestion as much as 1 do, although their member seems to be interjecting as though he were not in favour of it. I disagree with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), who suggested that polling should be conducted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Capricornia and the honorable member for Moreton-
– I have not opened my mouth; why include me?
– Very well, I will leave the honorable member for Moreton out of it. The honorable member for Capricornia said, “ Hear, hear! “ Apparently, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. suits Queensland.
– 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. suits Victoria, too.
– Evidently it suits Melbourne, too, because I can hear Melbourne members on the Government side saying that those hours suit Victoria.
– I represent a country electorate. They suit the country.
– Order! Even if the whole committee disagrees with the honorable member, it is still a democratic body in which he is entitled to speak.
– I have certain reasons for opposing the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I favour the present hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those hours have stood the test of time, and there have been very few complaints about them. Only recently, complaints have been received from Queensland about the present hours. It is well known that recent federal elections have been held in December. The forthcoming one is to be held in November. In the rural areas - in the southern part of Australia at least - that period of the year is harvest time. Honorable members who represent city electorates may smile as much as they like when I mention harvest time. If it were not for the harvests, the city dwellers whom they represent would not fare very well. The honorable member for Lilley said to-day that there is never any rush at polling booths between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. He does not know what happens in my electorate, where I have seen large numbers of voters visiting the booths between 7 and 8 p.m., often with quite a rush just a few minutes before 8 o’clock. I have even seen the doors closed with many voters still inside the booths unable to cast their votes until after 8 p.m., but, as honorable members know, that was quite permissible, so long as they were inside the building before 8 o’clock. At harvest time, it is necessary to get in the crops - particularly oats - as quickly as possible, and the farmers work in the fields until the last minute and rush to the booths to record their votes at about the closing hour.
In this great Australian democracy, why should we try to eliminate voting in the two hours between 6 and 8 p.m. and allow voting only between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. just to suit the wishes of certain members of the Parliament, some of whom, by interjections, have suggested that it is slavedriving to permit voting between 6 and 8 p.m.? Such a suggestion is highly ridiculous. I hope that I have been able to make my attitude on this matter clear, despite all interjections that have been made.
In discussing this matter, I shall speak about Victoria, the State that I know best.
– lt is the most important State, too.
– It is a most important State. In Victoria, the majority of the members returned to this chamber represent metropolitan electorates or constituencies close to the cities.
– They represent the people.
– All right. If the honorable member wants to be technical, they represent people living in the metropolitan areas. Surely that can be understood. Lately, there has been a tendency, in redistributions of electoral boundaries, in terms of area, to make the country electorates larger and the city electorates smaller. The size of the Parliament was increased in 1949, and, as a result, most of the honorable members who have been interjecting came into this place. Before the enlargement of the Parliament, there were twenty federal constituencies in Victoria, and there are now 33. Of the additional thirteen seats, nine are in the city and four in the country. In terms of area, city constituencies are now smaller and rural constituencies are larger.
– Country electorates were made smaller.
– They are larger comparatively, having regard to the fact that the number of electorates has been increased. That is not in the best interests of Australia. When the last redistribution of electoral boundaries was made, my electorate was made much larger. The point is that the great wealth of the country comes from the rural areas. May I make this point, Mr. Chairman: Ten years ago, primary products represented approximately 90 per cent, of our exports and the products of secondary industries represented about 10 per cent. With the passing of time, there has been a great expansion of secondary industries. The volume of secondary production has increased many times, but, still, primary products account for approximately 90 per cent, of our exports and secondary products for about 10 per cent. I emphasize, therefore, that the expansion of our secondary industries will not solve the problem of our overseas balances.
– How does the honorable member relate that matter to the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior?
– In this way: If there is more representation of country areas in the Parliament as a result of reducing the size of electorates, there will be increased production of those commodities that we export in order to build up our overseas balances. It is well known that the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides for a margin of 20 per cent, either above or below a quota of voters in fixing the boundaries of any electorate. For example, if the quota is 40,000, the boundaries of an electorate may be so determined as to give it anything between 32,000 and 48,000 voters. 1 suggest - and I shall make this suggestion at every available opportunity until the next redistribution of electoral boundaries - that the boundaries of rural constituencies should be so determined as to give them the minimum permissible number of voters - 32,000, on the basis of a quota of 40,000 - and that the number for city electorates should be the maximum permissible, or 48,000 on the basis of a quota of 40,000. If that were done, the country areas would be afforded the measure of representation in the Parliament that is so necessary if we are to foster increased primary production in order to maintain adequate overseas balances.
I consider that this proposition is only fair, and I submit it again as I have submitted it before. On the last occasion on which I made this suggestion, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, sprang to his feet and said he hoped that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who was then at the table, would take no notice of what I had said. Of course the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would say that. He does not want the representation of the metropolitan areas to be reduced, and he does not want the primaryproducing areas to have greater political influence. The effect of inadequate parliamentary representation for country areas snowballs. Where the parliamentary representation of a large district is at a disadvantage compared with a small city electorate, sufficient amenities are not provided, because there are not enough votes to command them. When amenities are lacking, people move to the cities, not in search of bright lights, but because they can educate their children better and enjoy more adequate amenities. Large numbers of country residents having moved to the cities, when next a redistribution of electoral boundaries is made, greater representation is given to the city areas, and so we get more members representing city constituencies. As a result, even more amenities are provided in the cities and even more people flock to the metropolitan areas. This trend has been so marked that, as all honorable members know, we now have a lop-sided economy.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has indicated in no uncertain terms that a split has appeared in this coalition Government. The Liberal section of it is warring violently with the Australian Country party section. This, on the eve of an election, provides excellent election ammunition for the Opposition.
I agree with the honorable member for Mallee that the voting hours in federal elections should remain as they are. In holding this view, I disagree with some of my colleagues. In Tasmania, the State electoral law has recently been altered to bring the voting hours for State elections into line with the voting hours for federal elections, by extending the hours for voting at State elections from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
My main purpose now is to discuss three matters concerning the Department of Civil Aviation, Mr. Chairman. 1 should like, first, to express my regret that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) has been so ill since the beginning of this sessional period. I know that many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber, although, like me, they differ from him in politics, would join me in expressing the hope that he will have a speedy recovery from his illness and will soon be able to return here from Western Australia.
I wish to speak, first, about the’ refusal of the Department of Civil Aviation to grant to Air France a licence to land their aircraft at the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome, the international airport in Sydney. 1 raised this matter this morning at question time. I asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), representing the Minister for Civil Aviation -
Is it a fact that a landing licence for Air France to use the Kingsford-Smith airport on its international services has been consistently refused by the Department of Civil Aviation? If so, why was the application refused?
The Minister took me up on only one point, and that was my use of the word “ consistently “. In other words, it appears that the department has refused Air France landing rights, even though it may not have done so consistently. The fact of the matter is that this international airline is not able to land its aircraft at the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome. To me this seems to represent an insult to a country in the Western world with which we desperately need to foster good relations. I cannot for the life of me see why this pettifogging attitude has been persisted in by the department. Air France is one of the great international airlines. We have allowed other airlines to operate here, but we have rejected the French application.
The argument put forward by the Minister this morning was to the effect that we must have some reciprocal benefit from France if we are going to let French aircraft land here. That is quite ridiculous. If we adopt that attitude, we put France under a severe handicap, particularly if we do not require any civil aviation rights that France can give us. The Minister would say to that country, “ Unless you give us an airport we will not give you one “. I do not know whether Australia has ever asked the French Government to allow Australian aircraft to land in Paris. Distances in Europe are very short by comparison with distances in this country. Obviously, an airline would rather send its aircraft direct from Zurich, say, to London than have them stop at Paris en route, unless there was some reason to have them land there. It is not very important for our Australian aircraft travelling to London to have landing rights at Paris. In this part of the world, however, where distances are so great, it is very important for French aircraft to have the right to land at Kingsford-Smith aerodrome, when they are nearing the end of their long journey from London to New Caledonia. This Government, for some crazy reason, says to Air France, “ We will let you land en route to New Caledonia, but we will not let you land if you wish to make Sydney the terminus of your flight from overseas “. The Government must be very scared of the competition that Air France could offer to Qantas, if it persists in this attitude.
I make this statement quite deliberately: The refusal by the Department of Civil Aviation to give Air France the rights that it gives to other airlines has definitely affected our trade with France. France has taken retaliatory action in this way: Let us consider the trading position at present between the two countries. We sell to France every year £80,000,000 worth of goods, and we buy from that country only £9,000,000. That is the extent to which we are in credit. Recently the French curtailed their trading activities with Australia. The quantity of Tasmanian potatoes purchased by New Caledonia has been reduced to nil, and we sold 40,000 bags a year to that country before the ban. We have it on good authority that the refusal to re-open negotiations with regard to trade between New Caledonia and Australia stems from our continual refusal to grant the French airline a licence to land aircraft at Kingsford-Smith airport.
I have asked the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) to take this matter up again with New Caledonia, and to try to restore some of this lost trade. I plead with the Minister and the Government to look at this problem afresh. I consider that we would benefit to an infinitely greater extent by letting Air France have these landing rights than we are doing at the moment by refusing. We would benefit not only in our international relationships but also in our trading activities. As regards trade with France, we are the boss cocky. Our exports to that country are nine times as great as our imports from it. We have the better end of the bargain, so let us show a little international Christianity, if I may put it that way, and give this airline the right to land aircraft at our Kingsford:-Smith airport. 1 wish to raise two other matters in relation to Tasmania. The first concerns the Devonport aerodrome, which was opened in 1950, having been built during the latter stages of the Labour government’s regime. Dame Enid Lyons and myself played a major part in getting the Government to build the Pardoe airport at Devonport in the years between 1948 and 1950. However, the aerodrome has only one runway, which runs parallel to the coast, and we have been battling to get another runway built there because of difficulties encountered with cross-winds. Originally it was not expected that these would cause a serious problem, but in recent years airline pilots have found that there is an element of danger in the cross-winds that are experienced’ close to the ocean. The airport is right on Bass Strait; in fact, it is closer to the sea than any other airport in the Commonwealth, as far as I know. It is a stone’s throw from the beach, just behind the sandhills, 5 miles from Devonport, and is in my electorate. I ask the Government to consider again this matter of the second runway at Pardoe, and I hope that it will arrange for its construction in the new financial year, so that this rapidly expanding airport can be used by all the modern aircraft.
The next point 1 wish to raise concerns Western Junction, our main northern airport, 10 miles from Launceston. For a long time the Government has been building a new air control tower, to be used in what is officially called the instrument landing system. This structure is well on the way to completion, but I have learned that not one penny has been spent on it in the last twelve months. The framework has been erected for this modern air control tower, which is urgently needed at Western Junction, but nothing has been dor.e on this work during the last twelve months. I have looked through the records that were placed before us during the Budget debate, and on page 16 of the paper entitled “ Civil Works Programme 1958-59” I find that expenditure of £28,936 has been authorized for this work, but that there was no expenditure on the structure last year.
I cannot understand why such an important aerodrome facility should be delayed for so long. Whether the department is waiting for more modern equipment I do not know, but it seems quite ridiculous to have all the money spent on this new building lying idle. I must compliment the designers on the plan of it. It is much taller than the present short and oldfashioned tower. It is a very modern one indeed, as far as I can see at present from the framework of it. I plead with the Government to push on with the work this year and complete this very necessary adjunct to the Western Junction aerodrome. As far as I can ascertain, there are only two other items in the civil works programme for the Department of Civil Aviation on which expenditure was authorized and on which nothing was spent last year. That is not good for business. It is very bad to see a structure begun, but not a penny spent on it in a year. Of course, in that time it deteriorates from the effect of the weather. I raise these three matters constructively this afternoon for the attention of the Government. The first relates to Air France being given the right to land at Kingsford-Smith airport; the second is the completion of the second runway at Pardoe aerodrome, near Devonport; and the third is the completion in this financial year, as quickly as possible, of the new, modern air control tower being built at Western Junction.
– I do not want to take up the time of the committee, but I think I should say a few words in reply to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), if only to put the record straight on one or two matters that he has raised. In regard to the use of Sydney airport by the French airline, there may be international repercussions from some of the things he has said, and I think we ought to have the record straight. First, he said that Air France should be allowed to come into Sydney, and that it had consistently been refused permission to do so. Let me say first that Air France does not fly to Australia at all. The French airline that comes to Australia is T.A.I., and that airline has been carrying on the service to New Caledonia for, I think, at least three years. Have we treated the French fairly, remembering that they have to offer us in return nothing that is any good to Australia? The proposition put forward by the honorable member for Wilmot is that Qantas Empire Airways Limited, the Government-owned airline, and British Overseas Airways Corporation, the English airline, which are in partnership on the Kangaroo route, should forgo substantial revenue to another airline which is in competition with them. That means that the taxpayers of Australia should give it away.
Let us have a look at how we have treated the French airline. First, we have given it landing rights in Darwin, which it wanted, and which we gave gladly. Then, the French asked us for landing rights in Brisbane, and we gave them landing rights in Brisbane. From there, they flew on to Noumea, in New Caledonia. That arrangement went quite happily for a while, and then the French Minister for Civil Aviation came to this country, when I was Minister for Civil Aviation, and he saw me. He said, “ I have a request to make in regard to our air traffic to and from Australia. Would you let us come into Sydney? “ This matter was discussed, and quite amicably it was settled. I agreed that French aircraft should come into Sydney after they had been to New Caledonia. The French run was then from France, through Saigon, Darwin and New Caledonia to Sydney. We had bent over backwards to help the French to get this traffic going. When the Minister said that the airline wanted the service extended to Sydney, we agreed. We said, “ You can use Darwin and Brisbane, go to Noumea, and then come into Sydney airport “. He was quite effusive in his thanks; he was very, very pleased indeed.
Then he went home, and a little later the French varied their request most significantly. They said, “We are quite happy about this arrangement, and grateful to you for allowing us to fly across Australia, into Darwin and Brisbane, to Noumea, and then to Sydney. B.ut we would like just a slight variation. We would like to fly from Saigon to Darwin, to Sydney, and then on to New Caledonia.” It was pointed out to them at that time, and ever since, that that was a completely different proposition from the one which they had put and to which we had agreed. I think that that disposes of that particular complaint.
If the French, in their wisdom or otherwise, have retaliated or attempted to bring pressure to bear on us by using such trade practices as the honorable member suggests, that is something that is for them to determine and is quite outside our competence. As the honorable member knows, we have done quite a lot through the Department of Trade in regard to the sale of Tasmanian potatoes in New Caledonia. As acting Minister for Trade. I happen to know a little about this story. The French agreed to let us put potatoes into New Caledonia for three months of the year, but for the other nine months of the year, understandably, they wanted to buy French potatoes. They agreed to let our potatoes in for three months, but then they said that they would get potatoes from France all the time. We are still trying to get them to reverse that decision. I disagree with the honorable member. I do not think that there is any relationship whatever, except in a most indirect or oblique way, between that matter and the matter of the landing rights of French aircraft in Sydney.
The second point he mentioned related to the cross-wind component on the air strip at Pardoe. First, let us recognize that he is a Tasmanian, and so am I. As Minister for Civil Aviation, I had the greatest difficulty in justifying the number of aerodromes which exist on the island of Tasmania.
– It is the most air-minded State in Australia.
– That is true. I agree with the honorable member. We have an airport at Hobart. Eighty-nine air miles away, we have the Launceston airport, and 40 air miles away we have Devonport airport. Twenty-two air miles away from that, we have Wynyard, and about 12 air miles away from that we have Smithton. In the other direction, we can go to a couple more places. I think that the less we say about the number of aerodromes in Tasmania, the better.
The honorable member for Wilmot, quite rightly, claimed some merit for having initiated, or assisted in the initiation of the establishment of the airport at Devonport He says that it has only one runway. About nine years ago, when he was on the job. perhaps he should have suggested that there be two runways. As with many aerodrome* outside the capital cities of Australia - and we have some 500 aerodromes - in this instance it was suggested that the aerodrome be developed to DC3 standard. We did not know what aircraft would come along in the future. We said, “ This sealed runway will go down at Devonport, and if an aircraft of the DC3 type has to use it. either now or in the future, in high wind conditions, we will be able to use the grass strips.” The DC3 is going out of service at present, but the Fokker 27 is just around the corner, and that will be a very suitable aircraft for that type of aerodrome. I know that Trans-Australia Airlines has in mind the purchase of these Fokker 27’s. For this, I think that T.A.A. and perhaps the Government too, should be complimented. These aircraft are intended to service aerodromes such as this one.
The third point that the honorable member made was in relation to the Instrument Landing System tower at Western Junction. The I.L.S., together with the glide path that goes with it, is a very highly sensitive and technical piece of equipment, and needs very highly skilled operators for its use. It is quite true that the building to house this equipment was built some time ago. I suppose the honorable member can be excused for thinking, seeing the outside, that nothing is going on, but what is going on is that that highly sensitive equipment that is to go into the tower in Launceston is in the process of manufacture.
There was one technical delay, I think, in the department of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). There was a hold-up in the acquisition of land that was needed on the glide path. With the I.L.S., you must have a certain consistent slope. This means that instruments have to be appropriately placed, as honorable members have no doubt seen them. A piece of land had to be acquired, and there was a certain amount of bother about it, but that has been ironed out. The honorable member asked when the installation will be completed. I am not suggesting for one moment that fogs or bad weather persist in Launceston, but there may come a day when the I.L.S. is needed. It should be in operation early next year, but at present the hold-up is in relation to the technical equipment, which is very intricate and highly specialized, and also the training of the staff to man the equipment. I am sure that in the New Year, if the honorable member is returned - and I fear that he will be - should a fog come down in Launceston, he will be able to sit comfortably in his Viscount or F27 and know that he is on a glide path that is as near perfect as this sort of equipment can be, and controlled by a man who is highly specialized in his job.
.- We are indebted to the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) for directing attention to the number of informal votes which were cast at the last Senate election in comparison with the small number of informal votes cast on the same day for candidates for the House of Representatives. I am not prepared to treat this matter lightheartedly. I think the electors at that time expressed an attitude of which this Parliament should take notice. I am convinced that the number of informal votes reflects the opinion of the electors concerning the Senate, and that more and more Australian electors are convinced that the Senate is a useless part of the legislative machinery of this Parliament. The people have shown their contempt of the Senate in thousands - almost 200,000 in Victoria - by refusing to cast a formal vote for the election of senators.
Only a few weeks ago, in the electorate of Griffith, a pre-selection ballot was held to select Australian Labour party candidates for the Senate in Queensland. Eight thousand people in the Griffith electorate were entitled to vote in that ballot, but only 140 cast a vote. We know that under the proportional representation system, at the worst from our point of view, two Australian Labour party candidates will be elected in Queensland to the Senate on 22nd November, but I am sure that three of its candidates will be elected. But the people are so disinterested in the Senate that although electors of Queensland will elect three Senators representing the A.L.P. for six years, only 140 electors in Griffith out of 8,000 entitled to cast a vote at the pre-selection ballot were interested enough to attend. Some went under their own steam and others were provided with transport.
I think the Parliament should take notice of this trend, Mr. Temporary Chairman. We all know the uselessness of the second chamber. The Australian Labour party is completely enlightened on this matter. We believe in the abolition of the Senate. There is ample proof within the British Commonwealth of Nations of the success of government by the unicameral system. In New Zealand, the Nationalist party abolished the upper chamber by legislation. In Queensland, in that State’s most enlightened days, the Theodore Labour Government abolished the Upper House, and that action has been endorsed on numerous occasions since then. The process of government has continued in streamlined fashion in Queensland and New Zealand, reflecting the success of a popularly elected House of Parliament.
It is my considered opinion that the people of Australia are becoming restive about the bicameral system of parliamentary government. They are showing their disinterest in the second chamber. I raised this matter only because the honorable member for Scullin directed attention to the large number of informal votes cast at the last Senate election, but as further proof of my contention, may I direct the attention of the committee to the results of the last Senate election in New South Wales. More than 100,000 voters went to the booths and, because the Communist team was in the first position on the ballotpaper, cast their votes for the Communist party candidates. Who, in his wildest imagination - and I direct this question to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen)- would say that there are 100,000 Communists in New South Wales? But if it is suggested that they were Communists, I point out to honorable members on the Government side that when they had to make a second choice, they gave their second vote to the Liberal party.
– To the Labour party.
– No, to the Liberal party. The Communist voters were responsible for the election on the unity ticket of the Liberal candidate, Senator McCallum. So, to-day we have a Liberal majority in the Senate through the Communist vote which was cast for the Liberal Senate candidate in New South Wales.
I turn my attention now to several matters concerning Queensland and my own electorate of Griffith. I wish to refer first to the public buildings which are being constructed by the Department of Works. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) is deserving of commendation for the drive that is so evident in the department under his administration since he became Minister for the Interior. He might well be proud of the building programme that is now under way in Brisbane, but I am at a loss to understand - although I am sure there must be some reasonable explanation - why departmental moves are taking place as they are now in Brisbane. We have the large Commonwealth Parliament offices in Anzacsquare. About half of those offices were taken up by the Department of Social Services. They are suitably sited for the whole of the City of Brisbane, which has a population of 550,000. Now the Prudential Life Assurance Company has erected a building near Victoria Bridge, and the Department of Social Services is moving out of the present offices to the new privately-owned building. But another department, the Department of Immigration, is moving into the office which is being vacated by the Department of Social Services. That means that two departments are moving, involving great dislocation. As a matter of efficiency, I think that if there is to be a move, it would have been better to have moved one department. The Department of Immigration could have gone to the new building and the Department of Social Services could have been left where it has been satisfactorily and conveniently housed for so many years.
– It is a matter of the sizes of the departments and the availability of space.
– I said that I thought there would be some explanation and I would be very glad to have it; but I am not prepared to accept the reasons stated by the Minister by way of interjection.
I wish to refer now to the siting of the electoral office for Griffith. As honorable members may know, the electorate I represent lies in a very old part of the City of Brisbane.
– lt is well represented, too.
– Modesty forbids me from commenting on the interjection. The electoral office is sited in a business area which can be regarded as a wholesale business section of the city. Consequently, there is not a great deal of movement of people in that area. I admit that when the site was selected, it might have been difficult to obtain suitable premises, but the office is in a part of the city which is not altogether convenient for all the electors of Griffith. They have to climb twenty steps straight up to get to the office. The building is so old that the floor waves something like a gentle surf at Bondi. The point is that, there is general dissatisfaction in the electorate over the electoral office. There is a need for the better siting of this most important office, which is connected with the conduct of general elections and byelections, and I hope that, as the Department of the Interior proceeds with its building programmes, it will consider this important matter.
Many citizens, Mr. Temporary Chairman, have occasion to call at Commonwealth electoral offices, so it is most desirable that these offices be not only conveniently located foi the general public, but also that they be on the ground floors of the buildings they occupy so that elderly people will not have to climb twenty or so steps, as in the case I have mentioned, in order to see electoral officials.
I have already communicated with the Minister on the matter T am about to raise, and he has suggested that I direct public attention to it. I refer to the system under which postal votes are collected from people in aged person’s homes, hospitals and such places. During my political life, I have had some personal experiences of this matter. I know of many cases in which Labour party canvassers have gone to some of these homes and have either been refused access to the inmates or have been told by the persons in charge that the ballot-papers have already been completed and returned. In other cases, canvassers have been permitted to supply forms to inmates, fill them in, witness them properly, and forward them to the returning officer. As would be the case with any good organization, canvassers usually arrive to give their services to the voters in such homes straight on the heels of the postman who has delivered the ballotpapers. They are often told by the superintendents or matrons of homes that the papers have been filled in and returned already. That may be true. The speed with which the votes are attended to surely reflects the amazing efficiency of the people who conduct the homes concerned!
I know of one case - and have had similar cases brought to my notice - concerning visits to such homes by Labour party representatives who have sought permission to attend to the requirements of inmates in connexion with elections. The matron has told them that all the votes have been attended to, and have been returned. On one occasion, at least one of my canvassers went to an inmate of such a home after he had been told this, and the dear old lady told him that she had not even seen her ballot-paper. What happened was that inmates were asked to sign their names on the certificate on the envelope containing the ballot-paper. I believe that somebody else filled in the ballot-paper itself. Such a practice destroys the secrecy of the ballot, and it also means that some people have cast more than the one vote which is their legal entitlement.
There are ways of remedying this abuse. The method employed by the Queensland Government in the last Queensland municipal elections is worth examining. Visiting officers are appointed to interview electors in their beds in old people’s homes, hospitals and such places, and the inmates vote there and then in the presence of the electoral officer, who may be accompanied by as many scrutineers as the parties desire. Under that system there is no intimidation of voters. I have raised this matter because I think it is of importance that we preserve the secrecy of the ballot and ensure that people are allowed to cast as they think fit the votes to which they are entitled.
I wish to join issue with the honorable member or Lilley (Mr. Wight). The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has asked me to associate him with my remarks. We believe that polling booths should be open on election days from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. only. We think that ten hours is ample time to give to the electors to cast their votes. One honorable member said that people came along just a few minutes before 8 p.m.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) has made some remarkable statements to the committee. According to him, there are only 8,000 people in the entire State of Queensland who are eligible to voice their opinions in the selection of the Labour Senate team for Queensland.
– He was referring only to the number in his own electorate.
– Well, I am not certain that the Labour party is so strongly entrenched in Griffith that there are 8,000 people there who have a voice in choosing the Labour Senate team for Queensland. Nothing, surely, could be further from the truth than a statement that there are 8,000 people in the honorable member’s electorate who exercise that right. The fact is that a mere 140 people have a voice in selecting the Labour Senate team for Queensland. lt is getting as bad as the situation in Victoria, where a mere 40 people on the State executive of the Labour party select candidates like the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters).
The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) has announced that he will not be standing for the next election, and the executive, with a membership of some 40 people, elected by members of trade unions - including one referred to by the honorable member for Darebin in which there is a fight on at the moment - will select the person who will come here in the place of the honorable member for Darebin. Everybody knows that such a system of sending people to this Parliament is not a proper development of either constitutional government or the party system. In fact, it is a complete denial of those two things. For the honorable member for Griffith to make a public declaration in tv.is chamber of this shocking state of affairs leaves me appalled.
– May I ask, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to what item in the Estimates the honorable member is addressing himself?
– The honorable member is addressing himself to the proposed vote for the Electoral Branch, which comes under the administration of the Department of the Interior.
– Honorable members opposite do not want to hear what I have to say. Perhaps the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) is in fear of his own electors.
– I am not frightened of anything much.
– No, and the honorable member for Griffith is not frightened of anything either, and that is why he has come here and made a statement about these matters, on which the people of Australia want to be informed at such a time as this. The honorable member for Griffith has said that 100,000 people voted for Communist candidates on the Senate ballot-paper at the last general election. He then made the extraordinary statement that, when given the opportunity to express their second preferences, Communist voters expressed them for the Liberal candidate.
– Indeed I did!
– That is quite wrong, and demonstrably wrong. The honorable member for Scullin could have demonstrated how wrong it is while he had that book of figures in his hand. We know from personal experience that Communists give their second preferences to the Labour candidates. I was candidate at a federal election in 1951 for the seat of Perth against the then sitting member, Mr. Tom Burke, who was a front bench member of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party. I got more first preferences than he did. The Communist candidate, a man by the name of Kelly, polled some 400 votes, and 90 per cent, of his second preferences went to the sitting Labour member, Mr. Tom Burke, who, I repeat, was then a front bench member of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party. That was the way in which the honorable member for Perth held his seat in this Parliament after the double dissolution election in 1951. That is a very personal example of the way that Communist second preferences go. I do not need to bring the question of unity tickets into this matter, although we know that they represent a very real and insidious force in the economy and the politics of this nation. We need only look at voting results in federal electorates in the last few years to see examples of where Communist second preferences go.
The honorable member for Scullin has suggested that there are too many informal votes. I agree. I regret that more people do not look at the type of candidate presented to them at election time, and express their opinions as they should. The honorable member for Wilmot suggested that the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) showed the first signs of a break in the Liberal-Australian
Country party coalition. Nothing could be more nonsensical, but we have come to expect such observations from the honorable member for Wilmot. If we were looking for such things we should look for a break in the coalition between the various sectors of the Australian Labour party which have merged in recent years. We need only turn to the recent speech of the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) in which he said, looking directly at the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), that that gentleman was either a fool or, what was worse, a Quisling of the Democratic Labour party. This is the sort of thing that we see happening in the ranks of the Opposition, yet the honorable member for Wilmot stands up here and says that there are signs of a break on this side. Sheer nonsensical chicanery!
The honorable member for Mallee, though he certainly could not be criticized on that score, perhaps merits criticism for his extraordinary views about the construction of Commonwealth buildings in our capital cities. I have in mind, especially, the magnificent edifice which is being raised in Melbourne, known as the Commonwealth Block. I am looking forward to its completion, indeed, to the ultimate completion of the whole project. There could be no greater tribute to this Government’s administration, or to that of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall).
I want to speak at some length on the Estimates for the Bureau of Meteorology. As my great colleague, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), has said, “It is desirable to know whether you are going to have weather which will permit you to do what you want to do, or whether the weather will not let you do what you want to do.”
– It is becoming complicated.
– It is a most complicated matter. That is precisely why I wish to refer to it. The Bureau of Meteorology is made up of very able and technically equipped officers, but what we need is a sound, dependable and regular weather forecast. Accurate weather forecasting is vital to Australia, from both the social and the economic points of view. However, an examination of Division No. 67 provides us with some remarkable information. The total estimate for the bureau is stated as £1,447,000 but, in fact, the actual amount to be spent is £2,256,000. Items 11 and 12 of the provision for general expenses reveal that the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Air contribute, in all, £809,000 in return for meterological services. Moreover, an examination of Division No. 217, Miscellaneous Services, item 10, reveals a provision of £497,000 for the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition. That sum, I feel, could quite reasonably be split up - as to half of it, for geographical and historical purposes and, as to the other half, for meteorological services. That is a very rough calculation, but I think that it might not be very far wrong. If we add to our total of £2,256,000 another £250,000 or so we arrive at a total figure of more than £2,500,000. To that total, postage, telegrams and telephone services shown in item 3, Division No. 67b, contribute £770,000. That is a remarkably high percentage of the total expenditure for the bureau. Conversely, the outlay for item 6, covering meteorological instruments and apparatus, is a mere £345,000. My point, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is that our meteorological services have too great a value to warrant such an imbalance.
If we have to spend more in order to get proper forecasts we must be prepared to do so. We have seen the advantages in Queensland of properly forecasting cyclones. Precautions can be taken in advance, and damage is reduced to a minimum. In Melbourne we are constantly the butt of criticism from our friends in other States who say, “ This is typical Melbourne weather. You never know whether it is going to rain or shine “. The fact is that the Bureau of Meteorology is quite incapable of giving an accurate forecast in that area. There have been some laughable incidents. The weather forecasters have stated that the next two days would produce beautiful weather but, in fact, the grey clouds have begun to arrive the next morning and before one could go to the office the rain has come down - and it continues for days. We then see the weather forecaster being brought before the television cameras or the microphone and being asked to say how such a colossal mistake was made. We have seen him with bent head, hand in pocket, and tongue lolling somewhat, saying, “ I did not have the necessary information. Everything seemed all right and then, quite suddenly, the weather came up out of the Antarctic “. The Antarctic seems to be the source of all our weather in Victoria and in southern New South Wales. We have meteorological stations on Macquarie Island and Heard Island, but no weather ships are located in the 1,200 miles between Macquarie Island and Tasmania, or in the even greater distance between the island and Victoria or southern New South Wales. I think that the provision of weather ships is a most necessary step.
At page 487 of volume 14 of Chambers’s Encyclopaedia one finds weather forecasting defined as -
An attempt to interpret the state of motion in the atmosphere in the immediate and near future in terms of the actual weather conditions to be produced in various localities.
We are certainly not getting that service in the southern States. Of course, we very often do, but when we are most dependent upon correct forecasting we find that the sun is out when rain has been forecast and vice versa.
– It is just the Melbourne weather.
– The forecasts in Sydney are better because the weather comes to Melbourne before it moves on to Sydney. In consequence, the New South Wales forecaster helps to spend this enormous sum of £770,000 for telephone and telegraphic services by profiting from what has happened down there. Chambers’s Encyclopaedia also says that weather forecasts are based on -
Weather data or synoptics received at regular intervals from land reporting stations, ships, aircraft and upper air ascents.
It so happens that the most significant area for the forecasting of our weather is the stretch of sea to the south of Australia. We have no regular airlines and we have no regular shipping lanes there. The answer seems to me to be that we must include in that area some weather ships in order to give the Australian people the proper forecast through the agency of the weather forecasting service.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I would hardly have interposed in this debate except to correct one or two points or, if not to correct, to add a little information to the remarks made by the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden). It is quite true that the figure of £770,000 does represent the estimated value, or nearly so, of the facilities supplied to the Bureau of Meteorology by the Postal Department. If the honorable member will consult the record he will find that there were halcyon days a year or two ago when no charge was made for this service. So the Bureau of Meteorology’s figures went up astronomically a year or two ago to include this figure. In fact, it is a bookkeeping entry which is merely designed to add the cost of the service to the Bureau of Meteorology and to subtract that cost from the Postmaster-General’s Department in order to get a better appreciation of the spread of costs between these two departments.
– The vote for the other departments is less than £100,000.
– Which other departments?
– The corresponding vote for the Department of Health is £81,000.
– For postage and telegraphs?
– Apparently the honorable gentleman has not given this subject any thought at all. His statements belie the intelligence that I have always attributed to him. He was trying to make a case to show that we were not getting sufficient reports from outlying weather stations. Surely the amount of this expenditure indicates that we are getting a tremendous number of reports from the weather stations all over a vast continent. I cannot understand the honorable gentleman at all.
– What sort of a split is this?
– It is a friendly argument. We shall continue it later. I draw the attention of the honorable member for Bruce to the fact that almost the whole of the information coming into the Bureau of Meteorology comes through the PostmasterGeneral’s channels. To-day, we have facsimile circuits, we have all sorts of synchronized circuits tied up on radar observations, particularly around the northern half of Australia, and we have a great number of weather observation points throughout Australia reporting only through the Postmaster-General’s circuits. I am not going to take that point any further. I merely say that the sum of £770,000 represents the inescapable cost of services provided by the PostmasterGeneral if we are to have any weather service at all.
I am the unfortunate Minister who has to apologize for the bureau’s deficiencies, and here may I digress to say that its notable successes are always overlooked but that its notable failures are kept firmly ensconced in the record. Unfortunately the bureau is always starved for funds. The honorable member for Bruce suggested that there was an awful lot of Antarctica between Heard Island and Macquarie Island and the ice shelf, yet weather observation stations were operating only at those points. That is true. But if the answer to the problem lies in weather ships, one weather ship will not be any good. We will need half a dozen. If the honorable gentleman can realize what they would cost I think that he will see that it would be almost impossible, at this time, to provide the capital required to do that job.
It is not true to say that the whole of our weather comes from the Antarctic. A good deal of it does come from that area. But there are very great weather systems operating elsewhere around Australia and about which we are equally deficient in information. My friends from north Queensland have some harsh things to say about the forecasts that we have been able to give in the field of cyclonic warnings. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is concerned with a similar deficiency in the north-west of Australia.
Here we have the biggest island continent in the world. It has 12,000 miles of coastline and it is surrounded on all sides by vast masses of nothing much. Further than that, the interior of the Australian continent itself generates some extremely odd weather patterns and over most of it we have inadequate weather reporting centres.
While that situation operates, there will be a very great deficiency in the information available to forecasters, and without information there can be no guarantee that weather reports will be really good.
If one were to be honest about this matter and add up the number of weather reports which are right and balance them against the number that are wrong I am sure it would show to the very good advantage and credit of the Bureau of Meteorology. Nobody would like to see more spent on instrumentation for the Bureau of Meteorology than myself. But we are already spending a considerable amount of money on the establishment of a radar cyclone watching system on the north Queensland coast. Here and there, we are building up modern scientific aids. We are increasing the availability of facsimile reporting circuits and that sort of thing. All that is being done to provide better and more reliable weather observation. It may be confidently expected that, in the course of the years, we shall build up a vastly increased reliability. In the meantime, I can only counsel patience.
– I have a number of matters to which I want to refer, but, first, I would like to reply to the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), who made several sarcastic allegations that a number of members on this side of the chamber had received their selection as party nominees te this Parliament from a very small coterie. He said that these members had been selected to represent the Australian Labour party by the casting of only a small number of votes.
In the preselection ballot at which I was selected as Labour party nominee for the electorate of Batman, 3,000 votes were cast, and that is about 30 or 40 times more than the number of people who were present at the Liberal party convention that selected the honorable member for Bruce. I can face anybody in my electorate, knowing that I was elected by a democratically appointed body and upon the exercise of a democratic right by all those who cared to cast a vote.
It has only been in the last year or two, when circumstances have been of a rare nature, that the Labour party has been forced, in Victoria, temporarily to change its method of selection. But that change was endorsed by successive Labour conferences over the last two or three years at which about 500 delegates were in attendance. To use the words of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) concerning the honorable member for Bruce in another context, I suggest that the honorable member gave no thought to the allegation that he made that Opposition members were not properly accredited nominees of the Australian Labour party.
I should like to support those members on both sides of the chamber who have suggested with a great deal of emphasis that the Government should proceed as rapidly as possible with the erection of Commonwealth-owned buildings in all capital cities. This matter is most important in every aspect in which it can be regarded.
– Are you in favour of centralization?
– In my opinion, the more centrally these buildings are situated the better. Centralization means that Commonwealth departments are easy of access to the members of the public who desire to do business with them from time to time. In addition, it is far easier for officers of government departments to go from one department to another if they are all centrally situated than it is if, in accordance with the theory of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), the departments are situated in the outer suburbs. I hope that when the second new building is constructed in Melbourne it will be centrally situated.
I congratulate the Government on having followed up the Labour government’s policy of having buildings centrally situated in Melbourne. I recollect that in 1942 when the Chifley- Labour Government acquired land in Melbourne there was terrific criticism from members of Parliament and from the Melbourne press, who said that the idea was absolutely outrageous. However, subsequent events have proved that the purpose for which the area was acquired was a perfectly fair and sound one. To-day, one does not hear a ripple of criticism in Melbourne about the Government’s intention to go on with the project. I am looking forward with a great deal of interest to the opening of the new building, which will take place shortly, and I hope to be there.
Secondly, I am looking forward to the Minister’s announcement that the Government intends to proceed with the second block of Commonwealth buildings in Melbourne. Five buildings are to be erected on one block that has been acquired, and the sooner they are erected the better, because Commonwealth Government activities in Melbourne will then be centralized, and this will be far more convenient for the public and for the members of the Public Service themselves. What has transpired, and what is in the process of transpiring, in Melbourne will be repeated in the other capital cities of Australia within the space of a few years.
Associated with this is the question of the reference of proposals to erect certain buildings to the Public Works Committee of this Parliament. I do not think that any member of the Parliament will deny that the Public Works Committee has examined with a great deal of care and attention - painstakingly in all respects - every proposition that has been referred to it. The committee has always carefully collected evidence before reaching its conclusions. I know that, since I have been a member of the Public Works Committee, it has saved the taxpayers of this country hundreds of thousands of pounds. I am not saying that I have been responsible for effecting that saving; there are nine members of the committee; and I am referring to the saving that has been effected by the committee as a whole.
However, speaking for myself - not necessarily for all members of the committee - I wish to make a complaint. Under the present system, the Public Works Committee may inquire into and report upon only those proposals that are referred to it by the Minister, who acts on the advice of officers of the Department of Works. In my opinion, a lot of money that could be saved is not saved because the Public Works Committee is not asked to examine many projects involving a large amount of expenditure - because the job is not given to the committee by the Minister. That is to be regretted. Up till 1932, the Public Works Committee was required to examine every project the estimated cost of which exceeded £25,000. Works costing less than that amount could be referred to the committee, but it was mandatory for the committee to examine every project estimated to cost more than that amount. As a depression measure, the committee was suspended in 1932 and it was not re-constituted until 1936. However, the mandatory provision of the act was repealed, the effect of which is that the Public Works Committee can deal only with matters which are referred to it by direction of the Parliament on a motion submitted by the Minister in this chamber. It is to be regretted that the mandatory provision was removed from the act, and I think steps should be taken to re-insert it.
While the Public Works Committee has carried out effectively the work that has been entrusted to it and has saved the country a lot of money, I think a lot more money could have been saved if the committee had been afforded an opportunity to study the plans, take evidence and submit recommendations on many proposed projects that were not referred to it for investigation. Therefore, I urge the Minister for Works to examine the possibility of restoring to the Public Works Committee the power that it enjoyed prior to 1932. I realize, of course, that the result of the restoration of the mandatory provision would be that the committee would have much more work to do, and would travel more frequently, but I point out that it is a public-spirited committee that wants to save the taxpayers’ money. I feel certain that if every project planned by the Department of Works and estimated to cost more than £250,000 were referred automatically to the Public Works Committee for examination, the result would give intense satisfaction both to the Government and to the taxpayers as a whole.
I wish now to make a few observations about the Electoral Office. I am not satisfied with the efforts that are being made to keep the electoral roll up to date. I understand that the present method is for the Electoral Office to engage the services of inspectors on a part-time basis. Their duty is to wander around various electorates in the daytime - when people are at work - in order to ascertain whether the people mentioned on habitat cards at the Electoral Office do in fact reside at certain addresses. This work is not done very efficiently, and it is easy to see why the electoral rolls are in a very unsatisfactory state. It is a most haphazard method of keeping the rolls up to date. lt is to be regretted that some years ago the Electoral Office decided to abolish the system under which splendid work in this regard was done by postmen. As we know, postmen daily go from house to house. They get to know the people living in the district, and if any of them change their address the postmen quickly get to hear about it - weeks and sometimes even months ahead of anybody else. I understand that the postmen were paid a small fee for checking the particulars on enrolment cards, but I am not sure of the amount. The opportunity of earning a little extra money provided an incentive for the postmen to keep the rolls up to date. For some reason that I do not know, the Electoral Office has abandoned this practice and has adopted the system of engaging a few temporary employees from time to time to go around the electorates spasmodically to see who is at home and who is not at home. Not all parts of an electorate are checked over; these inspectors pick out sections here and there. The result is that the work is not done so efficiently as when it was performed by the postmen. 1 should like very much to see the Electoral Office revert to the old method. That may mean the expenditure of a few more pounds, but certainly the rolls would be maintained in a more up-to-date state than they are to-day.
I should1 like now to associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) concerning the abnormally large number of informal votes that are cast at Senate elections. I think it is a travesty of our democratic system that there are so many invalid votes cast, and we should endeavour to correct the position. I believe that one of the reasons why a large number of informal votes is cast is that many people seldom vote the whole ticket in numerical order. When there are 20 or 25 names on a ballot-paper, a lot of people think, apparently, that it is sufficient to place numbers in squares opposite only about ten or twelve of them. In some cases, elderly people who have lost a degree of their power of concentration leave out a couple of numbers, and so their votes are invalid. The present method is capable of improvement. Why should we insist o. electors voting the entire ticket? What is wrong with providing that they shall vote for the number of candidates required, plus one? If we had an optional preferential system, people who wanted to vote for nominees of certain parties could quite easily do so ar.d leave the remaining spaces blank. Why is it necessary, for a vote to be formal, for the electors to place 23 or 24 numbers in squares? The majority of those numbers are never looked at, and I fail to see why they have to be inserted. If there were a system of optional preferential voting for the Senate, and if five candidates were to be elected, I should think it would be necessary for only the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 to be inserted in the squares in order to make the votes valid. 1 suggest chat the Government should give serious consideration to adopting this suggestion.
I think also that the Government should adopt the practice of some overseas countries; of showing party affiliations opposite the names of candidates on ballot-papers, particularly in Senate elections. I cannot see that there would be any difficulty from a constitutional point of view in doing this, because when people go to a polling booth they know the party for which they want to vote. At present, a great deal of confusion is caused sometimes when candidates of different parties have similar names. I am convinced that many people vote erroneously for this reason, and that that could be obviated if the party affiliations were shown. Usually electors know the party that they want to vote for - they have voted for it all their lives - but they may forget the name of a candidate. I urge the Minister to give consideration to the adoption of this suggestion.
In the few minutes remaining to me, I should like to make some comment with relation to the refusal of the Commonwealth Government to pay rates on property except in cases where the property is used for commercial purposes for profit. This Government has made some improvement in relation to government-owned properties. But the Commonwealth has not provided for the payment of rates on properties used for ordinary purposes, and this is bringing increased difficulties to municipalities throughout the length and breadth of Australia. As the Commonwealth expands its activities - and all honorable members want to see them expand as much as possible - sites are being acquired for the erection of buildings. This means that the municipalities which were previously receiving rates on this land now receive no rates at all in respect of it.
The Commonwealth Government should realize that it is becoming a very large landholder in Australia, and it should act Up to its responsibilities. It is receiving the same municipal services as the private householder receives. Therefore, it should give serious consideration to doing the right thing by the municipalities, lt has been estimated that in New South Wales alone, local government authorities are being denied income of £500.000 a year in municipal rates on Commonwealth properties. In other States the amount is not so large, but it is of unreasonable dimensions. Local governments are called upon to give increasing services in all directions, and their financial resources are so denuded that they are not able to do all that is expected of them. With minor exceptions the Commonwealth Government refuses to pay any rates.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not propose to go over the ground covered by preceding speakers on various subjects, but I want to support the contention of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in connexion with the decentralization of Commonwealth administrative offices in capital cities. I entirely agree that Commonwealth offices which deal directly with the public should be conveniently and centrally situated, but the administrative offices could well be dispersed throughout suburban areas. A strong argument in support of this suggestion is that if Commonwealth administrative offices continue to be centralized in city areas, that trend will only aggravate traffic problems.
The next question with which I wish to deal is that of polling hours. In the past, the period from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. has worked satisfactorily. I do not always agree that because a practice has been followed in the past it should necessarily be continued, but this spread of hours has proved most convenient to the majority of people outside purely metropolitan areas. Country people and those in suburban areas find it most convenient. The suggestion was made that the polls should close at 6 o’clock in the evening because the staffs at the polling booths would be very tired at 8 o’clock in the evening as a result of twelve hours’ duty and, therefore, could not do their job as well in the evening as they could do it in the morning. I remind honorable members that the officers and staffs of the Parliament are required to be on duty here for twelve, fourteen and sixteen hours, and even longer; and they perform their task as efficiently at the end of a sitting day as they performed it at the beginning. Surely, polling booth staffs can cope with twelve hours of duty once every three years.
– Are not members of Parliament in the same category as the officers and staffs of Parliament?
– Yes; and very often the wits of honorable members are sharper at the end of a long day’s sitting than at the beginning of it. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) referred to the service rendered by the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology. I hope that the Minister will take earnest heed of what he said. The only complaint I and many others have to make about that service is that it does not provide us with the kind of weather we want when we want it.
Provision is contained in the estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation for local government authorities throughout Australia to receive an increase in government assistance in order to establish aerodromes. This is part of a plan to improve air services in country areas, and it is most welcome. It will help to solve one of the main problems which has confronted many rural areas for a long time, particularly in Western Australia. In that State the position was that a centre could not have an approved aerodrome unless it was included in a scheduled air service; but, on the other hand, it was not possible for an area without an approved aerodrome to have a scheduled air service. This new policy on the part of the Government will mean that local government authorities will be able to proceed with the establishment of suitable aerodromes. If airline companies will agree to provide a scheduled service on condition that an aerodrome is constructed in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Civil Aviation, the result will be a major advance in civil aviation services in country areas.
I join with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in appealing for some consideration to be given to the needs of Western Australia for faster air services. The people in that State are astonished to learn that the speed of its air services has to be regulated to that of air services in the eastern States. Because it is not economical to fly high-speed planes short distances, Western Australia faces the prospect of being compelled to remain at the horse and buggy stage of air transport. Other countries can enjoy services provided by planes which fly at 500 miles an hour, but in Australia the speed is limited to 300 miles an hour because of the short distances of the air services in the eastern States. Do honorable members forget that Western Australia in area comprises more than onethird of the Australian continent and that there are vast distances between many of the centres served by civil aviation? Surely, this great State is entitled to more than a mere 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, of the civil aviation services of the whole continent.
– It gets more than its share now.
– That is not true. I do not think that all honorable members are fully aware of the advances and changes which have taken place in the Department of Works over the last few years. A considerable improvement has taken place in its organization and methods of operation and also in its relations with other departments. As a result, the justification for much of the earlier criticism of this department has now disappeared. That department is working efficiently and well. It acts as an agent for other departments, and through the cooperation of the Treasury and other departments it has evolved a splendid system of planning and operation. Where that cooperation is not forthcoming, the Department of Works naturally cannot give the service that it is now designed to give. Where blame is attached to the department for its failure to proceed with works - I say this as an individual - that blame will be found, in an overwhelming percentage of cases, to lie with the department that is responsible for the submission of proposals to the Department of Works.
Great strides have been made in the operation of the department. While there may be room for further improvement, the improvement that has taken place over the last few years is such that I am sure all honorable members in this committee will join me in commending the department. Honorable members have only to compare its operations three or four years ago with its operations to-day to see the vast improvement that has taken place in the organization.
I shall deal now with the News and Information Bureau, which is a branch of the Department of the Interior, although originally a department in its own right - the Department of Information. By policy decision of the Government the operations of the bureau were considerably modified. The Public Accounts Committee, prior to submitting its Twenty-eighth Report to Parliament, conducted an inquiry into the operation of the bureau. The schedule to the Estimates reveals a staff of one director and three clerks whose salaries for the year 1958-59 are expected to total £6,524, while the salaries of officers filling unclassified positions will be £9,231, a total of £15,755. It is estimated that the amount that will be incurred as allowances to officers performing higher-grade duties will reach £3,445, so the grand total of salaries for the bureau will be £19,200. An amount of £222,800 is being provided1 to meet the salaries of temporary and casual employees - this for the branch of a department which has an establishment strength of one director and three clerks! Something is wrong somewhere. If not, the Parliament should be fully informed of the total numerical strength of the officers in each departmental branch. The number of officers filling unclassified positions should not be more than, perhaps, five or six, but on the basis of the estimate of £222,800 to meet the salaries of temporary and casual employees, the number of such officers must be more than 100.
Facts such as these lead me to believe that the schedule of salaries and allowances is a completely deceptive document. If any honorable member were asked the number of Commonwealth employees, no doubt he would refer to the schedule which includes persons employed in business undertakings and the armed services, add the number of persons shown and give the total number arrived at as the correct figure. I suggest that if that were done the total would represent only a fraction of the total number employed, because temporary and casual employees in every department are not shown in the schedule. The document is completely misleading, and in no instance is it more misleading than in the case of the Department of the Interior. Instead of going out of existence, the Department of Information has only changed its colour. At one time that department had a staff of 350, but the number was eventually reduced to 170.
I am rot suggesting that the bureau does not carry out an important task. It does, but the whole position of these unclassified officers seems peculiar. The transcript of the evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee includes the following question asked by a committee member, and the answer given by Mr. Murphy, the head of the bureau -
Committee Member. - The positions are not actually unclassified, but in the main temporary people fill those positions? - (Mr. Murphy) 1 understand that to be the position. Those positions are in respect of permanent officers who are occupying positions which have not been permanently established.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The proposed votes under discussion have produced some amazing speeches from honorable members of the Government side of the committee. I listened carefully to the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) and was pleased that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) put him right concerning the provision of £770,000 for postage, telegrams and telephone services for the Bureau of Meteorology. On the surface, the honorable member for Bruce is one of those members who appear to have a degree of ability, but when one looks behind his superficial exterior, one finds that he does not have very much ability at all. He spends more time in reading comics than in ascertaining the facts associated with the administration of government departments. If he had bothered to read the report of the Public Accounts Committee he would have noticed that the item to which I have referred was inserted in the proposed vote for the Bureau of Meteorology, as the Minister has stated, for the first time this year because the committee had discovered that the Postal Department was itself bearing the cost of those services. In effect, one department was obtaining services at the expense of another department which was expected to make a profit - a difficult thing to do when it had to write off approximately £770,000.
The honorable member does not seem to have much regard for the ability of the officers responsible for the weather reports. He said that highly skilled and highly paid men in the Sydney office of the bureau telephoned the Melbourne office to ascertain the weather conditions there and then decided that the same conditions would apply in Sydney. If that were the case, Sydney would be subjected to continual rain and wind. So diverse are weather conditions at different places that .even if we were having rain in the vicinity of this Parliament House, the weather at Manuka and other places close to this building could be fine. The honorable member’s comments about those highly paid, highly skilled and highly specialized officers does little credit to himself, and causes us to place little credence on anything he might say on other matters.
He criticized also the method of selecting candidates for election to Parliament. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) took him to task on that point. It is true that the method varies in different places. I believe there is a great deal of democracy in having a wide range of citizens choosing candidates for the various parties. I think there is a lot to commend the American system in which the people at large, if they are prepared to put their name on the roll as a supporter of the Republican party or the Democratic party, may participate in the plebiscites of the various parties, and matters of that nature. There, in an electorate of 20,000 or 30,000 people, the selection of a candidate is decided by two-thirds or more of the electors. That is a most democratic approach to elections. The honorable member for Bruce came to this Parliament as the result of the method of selecting candidates adopted by the Liberal party, a method that is the most undemocratic of any in the world, possibly excluding Russia. I suppose he was selected by a committee of eight or ten individuals who were given the task mainly because of their lack of judgment and their inability to choose a suitable man to sit in this Parliament! That is the democratic method by which the honorable member is now here representing 30,000 or 40,000 electors. I think he ought to put his own house in order and have a good look at the Liberal party set-up before criticizing the Labour party and other organizations which nominate persons for election as members of the Parliament from time to time. In New South Wales, the rank and file of the Labour party selects the Labour candidate. That is a democratic method which gives the people who support Labour a say in the selection of their candidate and an opportunity to make a reasoned judgment of their candidate.
To-day, honorable members heard the triennial outburst from the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). When he was a member of the Opposition, he used to behave like a bull in a china shop and roar like a volcano, alleging that the Government was doing things that no democracy should stand for. But when he moved to the Government side of the House, there was a remarkable change in his attitude. To-day, he made his triennial outburst. He even criticized a member of the Liberal party. That was an outrageous step for the honorable member to take, but he took it on the issue of gerrymandering of country electorates. He is a man of principle. He believes in those things.
V/e shall hear nothing more from the honorable member now until the elections in three years’ time. If, by chance, he should be a member of the Opposition at that time - and that is quite possible - we shall again find him roaring like the old volcano, as he has done in days gone by. To-day, memories of the past came flooding in to me as I thought of those boisterous days when the honorable member hammered the Chifley Government, To-day, he is a sad figure as he rises to demand that the electorates be gerrymanded in the interests of the country people.
The trouble with the Australian Country party to-day is that it has too many members in this Parliament, and too many of those members are of poor quality. I agree that a change, is desirable, and I feel certain that we shall see that change in the immediate future, irrespective of the rigging that put the honorable member for Mallee and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) into Parliament.
It is interesting to point the hypocrisy of honorable members of the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Mallee wants Commonwealth offices taken away from the cities and placed in the middle of the mallee. He criticized the Minister for the Interior for establishing Commonwealth offices in the various cities of the Commonwealth. Why should not the Minister give effect to this policy? The Estimates show that the rent paid by the Commonwealth for the use of office buildings annually amounts to more than £1,000,000. That is dead money, which is going out every year and from which we get no return. It is just poured down the drain in many instances for inferior offices because better facilities are not available. Why should not the Government have offices in the various capital cities, and, if necessary, in the major country towns? We should have offices in which work can be carried out efficiently. Then the Commonwealth would not be at the mercy of landlords, who see an opportunity to exploit the Government and get as much as they can for the tenancy of their buildings. I cannot see any good reason for building Commonwealth offices on, for instance, the north shore, or at Parramatta, in the metropolitan area of Sydney. Why should not those offices be erected where the people can have easy access to them? How could an invalid pensioner get out to Mascot or Parramatta in order to see the Minister for Social Services? Is it not logical to have such offices in the cities?
The honorable member for Mallee advocated putting such offices in the suburbs so that they would be safe from atomic attack, but if an atom bomb were dropped on the Sydney General Post Office it would destroy any social services office at Auburn, New South Wales, or in any similar suburb. The honorable member suggested that the offices should be in the suburbs, and therefore out of harm’s way, but his reasoning was fantastic, lt is just the sort of reasoning we expect from a member who represents Mallee and the Australian Country party. He has no appreciation of the needs of city people. He has no idea about central administration and serving the needs of the people. 1 have seen the plans of proposed offices to be built in Sydney, and I can only say that they appear to be very good. They have been discussed in this Parliament. 1 understand that similar arrangements have been made for Melbourne, where suitable Commonwealth offices are long overdue. If the Commonwealth had built its own offices in the past we would have saved a tremendous amount of money that has been paid out in rent, which only serves to increase the profits of the owners of the buildings concerned.
A lot has been said in this debate about polling hours. Some honorable members have advocated a change in the hours. The honorable member for Mallee says that the poor man harvesting his crop has to rush into town covered with perspiration. He staggers from his harvester, rushes into town, and casts his vote at one minute to 8 o’clock. The honorable member went close to saying that those people voted illegally because they voted after 8 o’clock, but he hastened to say that they cast their vote at one minute to 8 o’clock. Surely those people can read and write. Why can they not obtain a postal vote? That is what postal votes are for. 1 have an open mind with respect to polling hours, but I think I know why the honorable member wants polling booths kept open until 8 o’clock. He likes these little country places where the boss sees that the people vote for the Australian Country party. He not only wants polling booths open for twelve hours; he would rather see them open round the clock in the little places in the country districts so that they will show voting completely out of character with what takes place in larger country towns where the people are able to vote in accordance with their own judgment.
I do not blame certain country people for doing as they are told. I realize that pressure is applied to them, and that their jobs are at stake. It is amazing that in some country towns voting may be fairly even between two candidates, whereas in one little town 20 miles away the vote may be 50 to 1 against Labour, or 20 to 1. In other words, the votes are gained by intimidation. No one can tell me that such a difference could exist in two country towns so close together unless the votes were rigged. The honorable member is in this Parliament because of such votes, and if I could get votes of that nature I, too, would not mind if the polling booths were open round the clock. It is for the reasons that I have stated that the Australian Country party opposes any restriction of voting hours. Honorable members on this side of the House are elected by the democratic vote of intelligent people who realize that the only way to .give effect to their views is by voting for Labour.
The honorable member for Mallee said that the country man was poorly represented in the Parliament. I do not think it would make any difference if the polling booths were closed a couple of hours early. I can see ulterior motives behind the attitude of the Australian Country party to this problem, and I think I understand why the Australian Country party wants polling booths open longer.
There is a lot more that I could say about the Estimates. I felt that I should make some constructive comments on the approach of the honorable member for Bruce to the problems of this Parliament. I also felt that I had to say something with regard to the matters about which the honorable member for Mallee has roared to-day, although he was very silent for a long time past. I say to the Minister for the Interior: More power to your elbow in respect of the buildings that you are putting up for the Commonwealth. Those buildings are badly needed. The Minister is one of the reasonably intelligent members of the Government. At least, he is always in the country, which is more than can be said for most of his colleagues. He is progressive, which must place him at a great disadvantage in the tory organization with which he fraternizes from time to time. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will continue with his policy of doing away with landlords so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, and establishing our own offices. Surely we can do what the Commonwealth Bank and other government instrumentalities have done throughout the Commonwealth - build offices which, in most cases, are the best in the city or town in which they are situated. The status of the Commonwealth Bank is enhanced, not only by its business activities, but by the quality of the buildings it puts up. If the Government follows a similar policy in establishing Commonwealth offices in various centres, even in the atomic centres that the honorable member for Mallee has fears about, that will, to my mind, be a forward step deserving of the support and commendation of all members of the Parliament.
.- 1 want to direct the committee’s attention to the Estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation. I am encouraged to do so by the presence in the chamber of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Townley), who was a former Minister for Civil Aviation and who has retained a keen personal interest in the subject. Earlier this afternoon, immediately after the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has made some reference to the department, the Minister participated in the debate, since he is representing the Minister for Civil Aviation during that honorable gentleman’s absence through sickness. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation will comment, in this debate on the Estimates, on the matters raised this morning, in a most lucid and brilliant speech by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), concerning the equipment of the chosen airlines in Australia - A.N.A. and T.A.A.
In particular, I should like the Minister to explain why the Caravelle aircraft has been rejected for service in Australia. The honorable member for Fremantle made out, I should think, a conclusive case for the choice of that aircraft, on the basis of its motive power, the fuel it consumes, its range and its speed. He pointed out that T.A.A. had chosen that aircraft and still wanted it, and that T.A.A.’s judgment in the past in choosing Convairs and Viscounts had been justified. I would go on to say that the choice of the Caravelle has been fortified by the opinion of Mr. C. A. Butler, the surviving pioneer of aviation in Australia. Independently of A.N.A. and contemporaneously with T.A.A., he chose the Viscount, and, also independently and contemporaneously, be has chosen the Caravelle.
One would think there is no economic reason for not having the Caravelle in Australia. France is one of our best customers. It is a country with which we have a very favorable trade balance. It is equal in scientific and engineering know-how and skill with any country in the world. In the Caravelle aircraft, by all accounts which are open to laymen like myself, it has produced a first-rate aircraft. Two operators want the aircraft. No currency difficulty would be involved in Australia acquiring it, yet T.A.A. has been stopped from getting it and Butler is being stopped from getting it. Butler has been stopped from getting it by two very shabby dodges, so I am informed. The Commonwealth has said that he will not receive an import licence to bring in Caravelles. If, however, he is able to bring Caravelles to the country by borrowing them, as distinct from buying them, he will be denied the possibility of getting premises - a hangar and so on - at an aerodrome. We cannot prevent him flying a Caravelle from an aerodrome in one State to an aerodrome in another State, landing on the second aerodrome and using navigational facilities, but we can, of course, stultify all his efforts by refusing him a hangar or an office at the aerodrome. I want to know why it is that we refuse to get these modern, suitable aircraft, which two operators have said they want to acquire.
– What about the Lockheed Electras?
– Apparently the honorable member for Forrest was not in the chamber when the honorable member for Fremantle compared the two aircraft. I will not presume to reproduce his comments, but it was quite plain that the motive power, the fuel used, the range and the speed made the Electra antiquated compared with the Caravelle. The comparison he made was between the Britannia and the Boeing 707.
– It was the Minister’s own comparison.
– I am reminded that it was the Minister’s own comparison. He, on previous occasions, has preferred the Boeing to the Britannia and, I would think, on that analogy, would prefer the Caravelle to the Electra. Why is it that we are to buy the older type of plane, with dollar currency, instead of the Caravelle, which is, after all, what the operators here want?
That leads me to my other point. What is now the Government’s attitude towards competition in the air? It is now restricting competition with A.N.A. We know what happened in the past when Ansett was an independent operator. His capacity to compete with T.A.A. and A.N.A. was handicapped to a certain extent by his being excluded from the Australian Capital Territory. Butler, similarly, was excluded from the A.C.T. I have explained how Butler may still be excluded by the denial of an import licence and the denial of hangar and office facilities at Commonwealth aerodromes.
– You are pleading for private enterprise.
– There are good Australians operating private enterprise and employed in private enterprise. I have never criticized the people who fly and service A.N.A.’s aircraft. I think the service they give, with the machines at their disposal, is very good indeed. What I am concerned about is that T.A.A., as the honorable member for Fremantle conclusively showed this morning, is being kept back to A.N.A.’s equipment standard. T.A.A. is being prevented from getting more modern aircraft, which are cheaper and faster.
– It can buy Electras.
– T.A.A. is buying Electras because it was told it had to do so and could not get the Caravelles. I would have thought that the honorable member for Forrest, representing as he does a Western Australian division in this Parliament, would want good equipment for Western Australia. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) said he preferred the Caravelle because it would give a quicker, smoother and cheaper flight to the west.
T.A.A. is being prevented from competing with A.N.A. in one other vital respect. We remember that the Australian Airlines Act says that, in accordance with section 51 (1) of the Constitution, T.A.A. can operate only between an aerodrome in one State and an aerodrome in another
State or in the Territories, but the act does say also that it can operate from an aerodrome in a State to another aerodrome in the same State if the Premier of the State asks the Prime Minister to permit it to do so. That has long been the position in Queensland. Queensland’s internal air services are provided by T.A.A. as well as by A.N.A. Recently the New South Wales Minister for Transport conferred with representatives of T.A.A. with the object of permitting T.A.A. to operate between aerodromes in New South Wales, so that people in New South Wales once again could be given competing air services. After Butler was absorbed by A.N.A., there was only the one air service available in large areas of New South Wales if the points of departure and of destination were both in New South Wales. That applied to the centre and the south. If you now want to go by air, you can go only by A.N.A. Previously you were able to go by A.N.A. or by Butler. Now New South Wales desires T.A.A. to provide a competing service with modern aircraft - in effect to see to it that in future not merely DC3’s will be provided for operation from country aerodromes in New South Wales, but that Fokker Friendships will also be provided, so that New South Wales can have modern, cheap, swift air services such as Queensland has, and such as operate between the different States.
I am told that the Trans-Australia Airlines representatives were later directed by the Government to discontinue negotiations with the New South Wales Government. T.A.A. can operate within New South Wales only if the State asks and the Commonwealth agrees. The State has asked; the Commonwealth has refused. That means, Sir, that because of this Government’s action, Ansett-Australian National Airways has no competitor within New South Wales. It is a monopoly operating within the State with money guaranteed and provided by this Government but using archaic or obsolescent equipment. This means that the country people of New South Wales will, until the Government changes its mind, have a poorer air service than they have had for many years.
.- I feel that I must say a few words in reply to the comments that we have just heard from the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). First, I must correct one or two of the statements that he gave as facts. He said that two operators - presumably Butler Air Transport Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines - have been prevented from ordering Caravelle aircraft and that, in the case of Mr. Butler, this has been done for various reasons. The fact is that Mr. Butler has not made any application to the Government for permission to import or to use Caravelle aircraft.
– Senator Paltridge made a press statement on this matter.
– The fact remains that Mr. Butler has not made any application to the Commonwealth for permission to import Caravelle aircraft. The second point made by the honorable member was that he had been told - he said that he had heard; he did not state it as a fact - that if Mr. Butler did obtain Caravelle aircraft, he would not be allowed to build his hangars on Commonwealth aerodrome property. That is quite wrong. The policy of the Department of Civil Aviation at present is that, if any operator wants to build a hangar on Commonwealth property at an aerodrome, he is allowed to do so. If Mr. Butler or any one else wants to construct a hangar at an airport, he can make his application to the Department of Civil Aviation and, subject to the plans being acceptable, he will be allowed to build the hangar.
– Could the department refuse?
– If there was not enough room at the airport or if the operator wanted to put a hangar where it could not be completed, of course permission could be refused. The Commonwealth must retain that power.
The remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and the honorable member for Werriwa contained an implication that somehow this Government had acted unfairly towards T.A.A. Anybody who knows anything about civil aviation in Australia to-day will know that from the day that this Government introduced the Civil Aviation Agreement Act in 1952, which established the fact that there would be two major operators in close competition, everybody - whether working for AnsettA.N.A., T.A.A. the Airline Pilots Association or any other organization - agrees that both companies have improved their services and their standards. T.A.A. has never been treated as well as it has been under this Government. That can be taken on any aspect of air line operation. The fleet of aircraft operated by T.A.A. has never been better than it is to-day. The standard of its fleet for the future has never been better. Its financial position and its management have never been better. The number of passengers and the freight it carries have never been greater. I believe that the freight carried by T.A.A. this year will be a record. Its air crews have never been better. Its training has never been better. Its staff, whether air crew or maintenance staff, has never been greater. Under this Government, T.A.A. has progressed at a far greater rate than ever before. I feel that it is only fair to say that in passing.
The suggestion is that T.A.A. approached the Government and said that it wanted two twin-jet Caravelle aircraft, particularly for the Perth run, and that the Government, because of a bias against T.A.A., said that it could not have them. Let us examine that suggestion. The honorable member for Werriwa, with his legal background, will be aware of the danger of taking something out of its context. Tn this instance, the question of using Caravelle aircraft had been taken out of its context and dealt with as if it were the sole factor in this whole matter.
What happened was this: Qantas Empire Airways Limited, a government instrumentality, said that it wanted to purchase Boeing 707 jet aircraft, but that on certain stages of its routes - for instance, from Athens to Rome - these aircraft would be completely uneconomic. With its background and experience, Qantas said that the Lockheed Electra aircraft was the obvious aircraft for these stages. Then, Ansett-A.N.A. said that it wanted two Lockheed Electra aircraft. T.E.A.L., which is a joint partnership between the Australian and New Zealand governments, also appeared to want Lockheed Electra aircraft. Altogether, these requirements added up to about 20,000,000 dollars worth of American aircraft, and quite clearly the Government had to take an interest. When I say “ the Go vernment”, I mean the agents of the taxpayers - the people who must provide the money. Do not let us forget that, lt is all very well for airline companies - whether Qantas, T.A.A. or Ansett-A.N.A. - to talk about the profits they make and so on; let us remember that the taxpayers provide about £10,000,000 each year to keep these airlines in operation. I know the argument that this is essential transport, but we do not treat many other forms of business in the same way.
I shall deal now with the aircraft itself. Here, I should like to say that, when the honorable members for Werriwa and Fremantle, or even myself, start talking about the technicalities of aircraft, we are getting into pretty deep water; we are getting outside the limits of our knowledge and away from our own fields. In speaking about aircraft, we must be guided by what the experts tell us. In this instance, T.A.A. came along and said that it wanted Caravelle aircraft. Far be it for me or, I hope, for any honorable member to dispute the opinion of a man such as John Watkins, who is one of the leading aeronautical engineers, I should think, in the world. At least, he enjoys that reputation overseas. However, other factors are involved in this problem; it is a problem of greatest complexity. I have mentioned that, when we added all these requirements, we found that 20,000,000 dollars of overseas exchange was needed.
– What was required for the Caravelle?
– I will come to that. Now, for the Electra itself. The honorable member for Werriwa said that this is an antiquated aircraft. The true position, of course, is that it was designed, test flown and manufactured long after the Caravelle. It is not an antiquated machine. The opinion of many of the major airline operators of the world is that economically, on the basis of the cost per mile or on any other basis, the turbo-prop will always beat the pure jet as we know it to-day on certain stage lengths. That is the first point.
The honorable member for Fremantle said this morning that I had said previously that clearly Qantas must have the Boeing. 707 in preference to the Bristol Britannia. Of course, I did say something of that kind, but I also said - I am sure the honorable member will remember this - that it was not for me to put forward a technical argument and that the Qantas advisers, supported by opinions that they had obtained from all over the world, had suggested that for their type of traffic, which is international traffic, they must buy the Boeing 707. We must remember that Qantas would be in fierce competition with other international airlines.
– T.E.A.L. wanted Comets, but the advisers told them to have Electras.
– We are talking about Caravelles and Electras at the present time. The requirements of the airlines added up to twenty aircraft, including four Lockheed Electras for Qantas, possibly four for T.E.A.L., two for Ansett-A.N.A. and two for T.A.A. There was another element in this particular problem, which involved the expenditure of vast sums of money. It has not been mentioned by the honorable member for Fremantle. I refer to the Fokker Friendship, or F27, aircraft. In this same set of discussions the purchase of six F27’s for T.A.A. was agreed to. So we find that altogether there were to be twelve Fokker Friendships for T.A.A., four Lockheed Electras for Qantas, two Lockheed Electras for T.A.A., and two Lockheed Electras for Ansett-A.N.A. So of twenty aircraft that were approved, two were to go to private enterprise and eighteen to government instrumentalities. Yet the proposition has been advanced that the Government has not been fair in its dealings with T.A.A. and other government airlines.
The question of speed has been discussed. The honorable member for Werriwa said that the Lockheed Electra was antiquated. My friend the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) said that in putting the Lockheed Electra on the Perth run we were going back to the horse and buggy days. I recall the following words uttered by Mr. Churchill during the war years - “ It is some horse and some buggy! “ If the honorable member for Moore can produce a horse that will move at 400 miles an hour, he ought to make a lot of money during the first week in November.
As between the Lockheed Electra and the Caravelle, there is a speed differential of as much as 35 to 40 minutes on a trip from Sydney to Perth. But that is not all there is to it. I have been in a turbo-prop aircraft on that run at 21,000 feet and have experienced head winds of 100 miles an hour. On the same night, another aircraft flying at 14,000 feet experienced head winds of 40 miles an hour. On another occasion, I travelled in a pure jet aircraft at 37,000 feet when the wind blew at 200 miles an hour. As anyone who travels frequently over that route knows, there is this built-in head wind on the way back to Perth. A turbo-prop aircraft flying at 21,000 feet and, we will say, 400 miles an hour possibly could cut down the differential between its time and the time taken by a pure jet aircraft flying 10,000 feet higher between Adelaide and Perth.
– When you have them flying the other way, what happens?
– You wait in Adelaide an hour and a half longer to join your onward plane! Those things must be taken into consideration. But the important thing I wanted to point out was that of twenty aircraft in question, only two went to the private operator. So I do not think any one can suggest that the Government was not fair in its approach to the needs of the government airline.
Since this Government assumed office, the real problem has been to obtain a rational approach to airline operations. The airline industry is a very expensive business, and it is becoming increasinglyexpensive as the years come and go. Immediately after the last war, most of the Australian airlines were equipped with DC3 aircraft. A lot of them were disposal aircraft and were placed with the airlines for £10,000, £15,000 or £20,000 each. Now aircraft cost ten times as much. The F27, a light feeder aircraft which is supposed to be a replacement for the DC3, costs the greater part of £250,000, with spares included.
What interests me and I am sure the Government itself is this: Who reaps the benefit from all this expenditure? I submit that it is not the taxpayer, who has to produce £10,000,000 year after year to keep our air services in operation. Some people are biased against T.A.A. and others against Ansett-A.N.A. Some people adopt an academic approach and say they prefer private enterprise, while others say they prefer government enterprise. To the people who work with the airlines, it does not matter two hoots what is written over the door of the airline terminal. One man may work for Ansett-A.N.A. and another for T.A.A., but they both have the same problem, which is common to all of us. They must educate their children, pay for a home, and clothe and feed their families, and they wish to live in a certain degree of comfort. Those two great airlines employ 4,000 or 5,000 very good Australians who are providing the best domestic air services in the world. I think we err if we turn one against the other, except in a spirit of healthy competition in order to obtain the best results for the money that is spent.
When we speak about the money that is spent, we as members of Parliament must remember that we do not pay our fares, but that we are simply given a ticket. But a very great number of people have to dig deep down into- their pockets to pay for their tickets. To my mind, it is critically important that we should ensure that we do not price air transport and air travel out of the reach of the ordinary man. Clearly, we will not be able to keep air travel within his reach unless we reduce overhead expenses to the barest minimum. As I have pointed out, the capital cost of aircraft is rising like a rocket. We cannot increase air fares beyond, a certain point and still do justice to the ordinary member of the travelling public. It is of no use for any one to try to persuade me that we are paying our air crews as well as perhaps they should be paid, or as much as we will have to pay them in the foreseeable future. So a saving, cannot be made there.
The only possible way in which air travel can be kept within the reach of the ordinary member of the public is to save all that is possible by eliminating unnecessary duplication and overhead. Until comparatively recently, there was a duplication of booking offices and there were parallel services and a multiplicity of other things which caused trouble and increased costs within this complex industry. So in 1952, the Government decided - it has since followed this policy - that there should be two major airlines and that some degree of rationalization should be introduced into the industry. That has progressed very well. I said earlier that there is no one in this country who knows anything about the airline industry who will not say that enormous benefits have flowed from this healthy competition between the two major operators.
Now, when we are just beginning to get rationalization, it is suggested that two pure jet aircraft, two orphan aircraft, should be placed with one airline. The Caravelle aircraft may be the best of their kind in the world. They are twin-engined and not four-engined aircraft. But there are other factors associated with the Caravelle which may not be commonly known. Although it is a good aircraft, let us remember how and where it is made. Parts of it are made in England and other parts are made in 250 different factories in France. The landing gear is made in Spain, part of the aircraft is made in Italy, part is made in Germany, the instruments are made in England, and the radio gear comes from the United States.
– The motors are British. Mr. TOWNLEY.- Yes. I had forgotten about that, but it emphasizes my argument. This aircraft is undoubtedly, to use the words of T.A.A. chief engineer, who knows the trade very well, a very fine aircraft; but there are those limitations to which I have just referred.
– Various parts of the Fokker Friendship are made in different countries.
– With great respect, I say that the F27 is a completely different proposition. I have seen it in the course of manufacture at the Fokker works in Amsterdam. The British engines that go into it- are being used currently in Australia, and they have been superb. I will argue both ways on this point, but whether a new aircraft like the Caravelle should be used when the same type of plane is not being used within a distance of 10,000 miles of Australia is something for the airline itself to determine. We as a government have to determine a policy. The first consideration that arises is this: If permission is given to T.A.A. to introduce two Caravelle aircraft, its opposition - Ansett-A.N.A. - is entitled, under the terms of the civil aviation agreement, to introduce other and perhaps better aircraft. Ansett-A.N.A. certainly would not bring in aircraft that were not as good. That would start all over again this mad race of ultra competition.
It would be just the same as if the honorable member for Werriwa and I got together and agreed that the Rolls-Royce was the best motor car in the world, but decided that we could not afford it. He would perhaps settle for a Holden, and I would settle for one of the little Vauxhall Victors. In other words, we would settle for the best that we could afford, both choosing good motor cars that would take us where we wanted to go. The situation is much the same with respect to the aircraft that I have been discussing.
AH sorts of advantages are to be gained by standardizing on the new turbo-prop aircraft that have been decided on, and all sorts of disadvantages would result from introducing pure jet aircraft at this point of time. The day may well come when we shall have pure jets in service with Australia’s domestic airlines. It may be that we shall have to choose some sort of jet aircraft for some internal services .and not for others, but, at this stage in the history of Australian aviation, when we are just beginning to get some measure of coherence in the airline industry, together with healthy competition and a degree of standardization of the aircraft types being used, it would just be folly to introduce yet another aircraft of a completely different and even revolutionary type.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.) Ayes . . . . . . 43
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Customs and Excise
Proposed Vote, £4,230,000
Department of Trade
Proposed Vote, £1,848,000
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed Vote, £1,593,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- Mr. Chairman, I should like to make some comments that are appropriate to the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry, covering what may be regarded as the two main branches of our trade administration. I propose to discuss the search for markets rather than to criticize the Department of Trade itself and the machinery by which it pursues the search for markets. An examination of the Estimates for these departments indicates that there is beyond doubt a good organizational web of officers and offices to assist in the searching out of trade, but on one fundamental issue the Government - and the Department of Trade, necessarily - falls down. I refer to the lack of appreciation of where likely new markets are and of the best way of gaining entry to them.
Time and again in this chamber, we have heard warnings about the manipulation of the future market in wool, which presents a great threat to our greatest export. An amount of fi 00,000,000 is alleged to be involved. We have heard also from the Ministers concerned with this very serious problem about the free trade area embracing the United Kingdom and certain European countries, and we must come to the conclusion that Australia’s markets in that part of the world have been curtailed, and that we must look nearer to our own shores for markets within our own hemisphere. That is almost basic. In fact, it is almost bathos to have to keep repeating it. “ But somehow and somewhere, not because of the trade drive but because of politics, it has not been fully realized.
That brings me back to the question of a proper appreciation by this House and this Government of the problem of trade with continental China. The latest figures released by the Minister appear to indicate that there has been about £6,000,000 worth of trade from our side with red China and about £2,000,000 worth of trade in return. I quote those figures from memory and they are subject to correction, but it seems that we are about three times up on them in the balance of trade. I am not complaining about how this trade has suddenly grown or has suddenly been accepted, but I am concerned with the general hypocrisy of the approach to trade with China.
Either we take the view of the great traders of the world, such as the great British traders who go with their ships, their men and their goods wherever trade is to be won, or wherever there is an opportunity to exchange goods with other countries, or we use some namby-pamby political nostrum and say, “You can trade with these people, but officially we are not trading with them. That attitude is of value to us in the political sense vis-a-vis our friends on the great American continent, so we do not proclaim ourselves as trading with China.” If you believe that it is wrong, that it is deleterious and against all principles to have any trade with the Communists of China, say so and be done with it, but if you feel that you should trade wherever there is trade to be won - and that is the philosophy that made the British Commonwealth the power that it is to-day and the power that it was in the past - then you must be rationalistic about it and go to it with all your might, because there are many other countries concerned and hundreds of enterprising organizations trying to trade with China. When the issue is finally resolved, why should we be left out on a limb? It seems that we shall be, because we have not even been courageous enough to decide whether we want none of the trade with China or whether we want to be integrated in a drive for trade with the Eastern countries. There is no trouble about trading with Japan, or with the countries that have missed being drawn into the orbit of Communist control.
In the matter of trade, which has no politics, surely we can, for the sake of the falling market that we are suffering to-day, take a logical and commonsense attitude. The value of our farm products is down by between £140,000,000 and £180,000,000. We have to recoup that loss from somewhere. We will not recoup it by uttering pious political platitudes. We have got to go chasing trade into every crevice and corner of the world. That includes the Communist-held countries as well as others. So much of our attitude is pure humbug. Much of it has to do with Poland and what we are to do with Hong Kong, instead of with seeing that our products get into China. Because of secondary considerations, we are losing markets. We are losing prestige because we are not sensible enough to say, in the matter of trade, that we want our share and that we are going out, with the goods of the primary and secondary industries that we have, to get our share of the world’s markets.
We have to decide either not to trade or to trade. If we decide to trade, we must adopt some sort of principle on which to act. This subject raises many matters for thoughtful consideration. The first one that I beg the committee to consider is our attitude in the past - a sort of Uriah Heap attitude, a rather disgusting and contemptible idea that you can have your cake and eat it too, an attitude that you hope lo get away with something but if there is any suggestion that your are running off with something that does not belong to you, you repudiate the whole deal.
The Minister has made so many statements, one at variance with the other, that it is about time - this is purely a political consideration - that either the Minister for Trade or the Minister for Primary Industry made a- solid statement in regard to trade with continental China. There is all this talk about strategic materials. There are some strategic materials that we have which no one expects us to sell, but when you talk about not .selling strategic materials you have to be sure that the idea has not already been shot to pieces. When I was in China, I saw the trading ships thronging the Whangpo River at Shanghai, the great trading port of China. I saw ships with Australian sugar, ships with Australian steel, and American ships loaded with nylon. Yet there is all this pious nonsense about no trade! Those ships got through the barrier some how and were able to get the first foot into the new and lucrative trade with China.
So, Sir, when we look at the rather terrifying figures showing a persistent fall-back in our export trade, we have to see how we can repair the damage. I suggest that one major way to repair it is to have a better understanding of the requirements of China and to conduct a further trade drive in the Eastern countries.
– Is the honorable member talking about free China or red China?
– I am referring to the continent of China. What we could sell to Formosa would be a flea bite compared with what we could sell to the 600,000,000 people in China itself. The honorable gentleman from Lilley (Mr. Wight) says that the figures are low. I agree that, for the time being, you are not going to have any immense amount of trade on either side, but you have to prepare your plans for the trade that will come. As the East rises, as the Asian man begins to consume goods which formerly were used only by European workers, he will create an immense market for primary products. The natural supplier, not only of primary products but also of a good deal of the products of secondary industry of a special kind that China may never make, is this country. I am not making any foolish asseveration that there is an immense market there at the moment, but there is a market there that must be tapped. For the time being, I suggest that it must be tapped by barter, so that eventually we shall have goodwill there. We must ensure that we have our share of the immense market that will exist in China.
– What about the political aspects of that suggestion?
– The political aspects, I suggest, are not to be considered when you are seeking trade. The British Government has representation in Peking. British motor cars are running about continental China. The products which Britain desires to sell to China are being exchanged freely from Hong Kong. The Conservative Government of England does not appear to think that there is any tinge of red in its composition because, as universal traders, the British have gone where there are markets and have been able to meet the demands of those markets. All that I ask of the Department of Trade and the Government in this matter is to be logical. There are no political considerations whatever in trade.
– But what about the red point of view?
– The Chinese are willing. They have sent trade delegations here to try to buy the things that they require.
– That was for political, not economic, reasons.
– The honorable gentleman says that that was political. What is the good of worrying about what you will get out of Formosa? What is the good of worrying about the smaller countries when there is an immense market to be tapped in China? Because of some pernickety attitude to political issues, you are not prepared to take advantage of that market. Anything that we do will not stop the development of China itself. We just cannot cut out 600,000,000 people and say, “ We will not trade with you “.
– There are not 600,000,000- people.
– I understand that since the honorable member for Lilley has joined the study group on foreign affairs he has become immensely well informed on these matters, and I bow to his superior knowledge on every aspect of them. All that I am trying to do is to present a simple proposition. Australia is a nation of just under 10,000,000 people, on the perimeter of Asia. This is a white race which, because of its secondary industries and its democracy, is looked to for some leadership by those countries outside the iron curtain.
We should do something more than just jib at the situation as we see it. We should Jj something more about improving our own situation and our friendships by means of universal trading.
– Why did you oppose the Japanese trade treaty?
– The Japanese trade treaty has different applications altogether. 1 shall deal with one of them immediately. If you only listen, you might get some knowledge. The Japanese trade treaty was anathema to me, because Japan employed child labour at the lowest wage in Asia. I presented photographs and statistics to the Minister for Trade, but he would not look at them. Everybody knows that in Japan to-day there is a pool of child labour such as is to be found nowhere else in Asia, lt is not to be found in India, Burma, or any other Asian country, but it is definitely to be found in Japan, because Japan is the archetype of the new capitalism.
– Is there no slave labour in Communist China?
– If there were any slave labour there, I would like to see the Chinese employ the Minister. I think I have shown the difference between trading with China and trading with Japan. There is no doubt, on the statistical evidence and on the evidence of those who have gone to Japan, including members of the Parliamentary delegation, unless they were blind, that child labour is still being exploited in Japan. Nevertheless, despite that, I do not say, “ Do not trade with Japan “, but I do say that we should protect our textile industries. Contrary to what I believed, there appear to be honorable arrangements whereby dumping will not be as exaggerated and dangerous as it was in pre-war years. T think that so far there has been a more or less honorable arrangement in relation to that. It may be that the Japanese have run out of commodities of that sort and have said, “ We will not dump any more of that stuff. We are terribly sorry “. That is merely by the way, and in answer to an interjection.
If we look to the future and are not blinded by the circumstances of the moment, we will realize that we have to trade whereever there are opportunities for trade in all parts of the world, and it must be obvious to the honorable member for Lilley and also the Minister for the Army that our trading opportunities are shrinking because of our high standard of living and because of other considerations. Around us to the north and in the south west Pacific there are opportunities for getting into trade, which should be followed up but which, I feel, are being neglected to-day. You can so easily blow a cloud of hatred over something. While our opponents in trade are taking off the cream, we are shouting slogans of hatred against people who, after all, are other human beings trying to get a living in the same way as we are.
Turning from China, I believe that we have many opportunities to foster trade in Indonesia. So far, what we seem to be doing in regard to Indonesia is to be watching cautiously and with a certain amount of concern the political implications alone. They are grave, I admit, but they can be solved. In Indonesia, to which we give, or did give, some measure of Colombo plan aid. we could asist the people to develop their standards so that in the long run we could get markets in that country too. The late Prime Minister Chifley many years ago showed me a list-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I refer to items dealing with the Department of Trade, and I should like to discuss just one or two matters raised by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I think the committee should accept him, a senior member of the Australian Labour party, as expressing on behalf of the party its policy in relation to trade with Communist China. He has made quite clear that the Australian Labour party desires to have full trade relationships with Communist China. It is of no use for him to refer to it as continental China, or any other type of China. It is Communist China, and I think he should make that quite clear. We accept the fact that the Labour party agrees that there should be full trade relations between Australia and Communist China.
On this side of the chamber the policy differs from that. We believe that there are some inherent dangers in a policy of full trade with Communist China in the existing circumstances in the world. Apart from that, on the purely trading aspect too, there are difficulties associated with some trading arrangements such as he visualized. It is a fact that the policy at the moment has inherent in it what is known as a China differential, which prevents the export from Australia to China of certain strategic materials which would assist the warlike efforts of the Communist world. I think it is very wrong - from a security point of view alone - of the honorable member to suggest that that policy should be varied.
Outside of the strategic list, which is adhered to most strongly by this Government, and by other governments in the world at present, trade with Communist China is quite open. In between the strategic list and the free list, there are certain commodities for which permits must be obtained. But apart from that, there is a range of commodities, including all of our primary products, which can be exported to Communist China by any one who wishes to export them. Indeed, as we know already, we have quite a considerable trade now with Communist China in wool and wool tops, and there are increasing possibilities of trade in grains and other foodstuffs. But there are distinct limitations on a purely trading basis alone, because Communist China has not available many materials which would be suitable for use in Australia.
I merely reiterate the policy that there is a restricted list of strategic materials to which this Government adheres. We think that that is the right policy in the world to-day, and we disagree entirely with the policy enunciated by the honorable member on behalf of the Labour party, of allowing strategic materials to be exported to Communist China. We feel that that would assist their effort, not only in the cold war, but also in a hot war that may follow some time in the future.
I should also like to take up the point that the honorable member referred to when he said that this Government was neglecting trade opportunities in other parts of Asia, including South-East Asia. I should like to refute that statement entirely. No other government in the history of this country has done as much to promote trade in South-East Asia and other areas as has the present Government. Honorable members know for a fact that introduced into this chamber have been motions seeking confirmation of such agreements as that with Japan. Statements have already been made confirming bilateral agreements with other countries, and only in the last few days the signing of a trade agreement with the new Federation of Malaya was announced. A few weeks ago the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) issued a statement dealing with an understanding obtained with Ceylon, whereby a further guarantee was given of access to that country of a large quantity of Australian flour which was being substantially threatened by subsidized flour from European countries.
So I think it would be only fair for the honorable member to acknowledge these things. I am sure that he knows them. At least he should admit them in this place. In addition, we have had two trade missions to South-East Asia, and we intend to send another one to other countries of South-East Asia in the near future. We have very strong and expanding trade commissioner services in those areas, and the results obtained from the services that the trade commissioners provide to the Australian business community are appreciated, I am sure, right throughout the length and breadth of Australia by people who are fair and are willing to admit that these things are actually being done.
There are one or two other matters in relation to the Department of Trade to which I wish to refer. In fact, they follow from what has already been said, especially by the honorable member for Parkes. I think it should be borne in mind that, in the complex trading world that exists to-day, governments themselves must play a very big part in stabilizing trading arrangements between countries.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was replying to some of the points raised by the honorable member for Parkes, who had been advocating additional trading arrangements with Communist China. I understood that he implied that the China differential list should be abolished and that there should be absolutely free trading. The honorable member has since informed me that he did not say or imply that. I regret that I drew that inference from his remarks, and I should like to correct the record at this stage.
At the same time, however, I think it very interesting to know that the Labour party is adopting the policy of advocating additional trading with Communist China. I fear that whilst, on the one hand, the Labour party’s intentions might be quite legitimate, there is always the thought that its present action may be an extension of its policy of closer collaboration with the Communist party in Australia, and with Communist countries overseas.
In the short time left to me, I should like to deal with one or two matters relating to trade agreements. I did mention before that international trading is now a very complex business and that governments do come into the picture to a greater degree now than ever before. That being so, it is necessary for the Australian Government to engage more than ever in trade negotiations with overseas countries in an endeavour to rationalize and stabilize our trading opportunities in order to maintain some form of stability in our export income. Indeed, the same pattern is being followed throughout the whole of the free world.
Perhaps it is just as well to point out here that Australia is a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and that under that agreement we have trading relations with 32 other countries. Those relations include exchanges of tariff concessions, so that most of our thinking on overseas trade matters is somehow or other related to this General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We have also a number of bilateral agreements in operation, many of which were signed before the war and a number of which were signed in the immediate post-war period. The pre-war agreements which are still in operation are those with Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Belgium and Switzerland, as well as a number of smaller trading countries.
Some very important agreements have been signed by this Government during the post-war period. These include the agreement with the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1955, a very important agreement with the United Kingdom in 1956, another important agreement with Japan in 1957 and the agreement with the Federation of Malaya, which was announced just a few days ago.
Time will not permit of my reviewing all these agreements in detail, but I should like to refer briefly to one or two of them. The first agreement which 1 think we should consider is that with. Japan. That agreement provided for a review at the expiration of twelve months’ trading. The review, which took place recently, proved that the trading had been most successful from our point of view, and, most successful, I suppose, from the Japanese point of view, also. The agreement has had the very definite advantage of stabilizing our trade with that country, particularly in respect of our major primary industries.
Let us examine the results that have been achieved since the agreement was signed. First, our imports from Japan have shown some increase. They have risen in value to approximately £25,000,000 during the first year of operation of the agreement. We feel that that is somewhere near the stabilized figure which will be maintained for some years. On the other side of the picture, we have the fact that during the first year of the operation of the agreement, we exported to Japan goods to the value of £103,000,000. We achieved those sales despite falling prices for many of the commodities that we exported. It is interesting to note that this figure is slightly lower than that for the preceding year, but it is still well above the £95,000,000 average for the three previous years. It is of particular interest to note that during this year the amount of wheat exported under the agreement doubled, while the amount of sugar exported increased to four times that of previous years.
Our agreement with the United Kingdom is of vital importance to our trading operations because it relates not only to our major market, which is the United Kingdom, but also to our trading relationships with many other countries outside. This agreement, which was signed in 1957, replaces the 1932 Ottawa Agreement, which had become lopsided against Australia. The new trade agreement maintains the original preferences given to Australia, but it reduces the level of preferences which Australia is obliged to give the United Kingdom.
Also it shows a cost saving to Australia because it gives us some scope for bargaining with other countries.
There are many other advantages under this trade agreement. Time will not permit of my mentioning them al! at the moment, but 1 do think I should point out to the committee that under the present agreement there has been a definite cost saving to Australia on over 800 items in the Australian tariff with the United Kingdom alone. Further, we have taken full advantage of the scope for bargaining with other countries because, during 1 957, we conducted negotiations with Indonesia, to. which our friend opposite referred, and with Austria, France. Rumania, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy and Belgium. Although it was never intended that the net result should be a formal trade agreement, and although such agreements were not entered into, improved trade relations have resulted.
This agreement also permits of further discussions in the future. Those discussions will be held. During this year, there will be discussions with Canada, and next year we hope to have some trade discussions with Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In 1959, there will be another review of the agreement with Japan.
Honorable members no doubt are aware that recently we did conduct some discussions with New Zealand reviewing the trade agreement with that country. Some of the obvious direct benefits enjoyed by us under the agreement with the United Kingdom are to be found in the fact that whereas the wheat equivalent exported - this includes wheat and flour - to the United Kingdom in 1955 was 621,000 tons, the figure rose to 727,000 tons by the end of 1957. That is one direct improvement resulting from that agreement.
A further advantage accruing to us is that the United Kingdom has agreed to impose some form of restriction on the importation of butter into the United Kingdom against such countries as Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Argentina. The benefit to be gained from such restrictions may be seen already in the slight upward movement of butter prices on the United Kingdom market. The United Kingdom Government certainly has assisted Australia and New Zealand in this regard.
Let me conclude by saying that the many important operations within the administrative jurisdiction of the Department of Trade cannot be covered in the time which is available to me. I refer to such matters as the trade publicity campaign in the United Kingdom and other countries, import licensing and the operations of the Australian Tariff Board. Suffice it to say that I am sure that honorable members will agree that the department is carrying out work of great national importance to the country and opening up splendid opportunities for future development.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As the time allotted for discussion of the Estimates is very limited, it is my intention to refer briefly to Australia’s wool production and wool prices. I have no doubt that every honorable member is conscious of the importance of wool to the Australian economy. It is notoriously true that every time the price of wool drops below a reasonable figure Australia is confronted with very grave difficulties indeed. It is also notoriously true that on one occasion when wool had reached a price so high that it was almost a shock to those who benefited, the Government was unable to handle the situation. It panicked and took such extreme measures to deal with the situation and stop the resultant inflation, that it imposed, first of all, a very heavy penalty on the woolgrowers themselves.
I recollect clearly the Budget of that period. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) brought down a Budget in which he said it was proposed to deduct from the gross income of the growers individually, 20 per cent, of their receipts for that season’s wool. The deduction was to be used as a credit against their taxes which were due for payment seventeen months later. That meant that one-fifth of their total income was to be deducted at a time when no action was taken by the Government to deal similarly with other sections of the community who also had been fortunately placed.
Now we have the reverse position in rela-tion to income from wool, and I am horrified to find from my observations over the last twelve months that, despite the importance of wool to the Australian economy and the impact it has on every phase of our life, and despite the unemployment which has followed a fall in our farm income, the Government is sitting by complacently and taking no action to deal with the problem.
– That is quite wrong.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs can talk later, if he wishes. Questions on this matter that have been directed in this chamber to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) have invariably elicited the answer that there are no cartels operating in the wool markets in Australia to-day and that there are no buyers’ rings operating at the wool auctions. The Minister has informed honorable members that he does not believe a reserve price is necessary to halt the downward trend in the wool market, and that he believes steadfastly in the auction system for the sale of wool. Every time that the Minister makes such statements he gives the all-clear, in effect, to the buyers in our wool markets to come here and buy, without any price protection, the wool they need for export to their own countries. Not once has there been a stiffening of the Government’s attitude, or a statement to the effect that this Government is conscious of the impact of wool prices on our economy. Our whole budgetary position is dependent on wool, but no attempt has been made by the Government to issue a warning to those who are trying to depress prices in Australia.
By virtue of good organization, we have 60,000 wheat-growers in Australia selling as one man through one agency. Alongside, we have the wool-growers - 90,000 of them - in an infinitely more powerful situation commercially, selling as individual sellers. They do not sell as one man but as individuals. They send their wool to the brokers. There can be no possible doubt that rings are operating in the market and that fewer than 100 wool buyers are competing for our product. The individual buyer can obstruct the seller. The woolgrower does not know what his fellow wool-growers are doing. He is at a complete disadvantage in selling on the market to-day, because he is up against the buyers who undoubtedly form themselves into a ring, split lots and depress the price of our wool.
– Is the honorable member opposed to auctions?
– I knew that the defender of the apathy of this Government would come in and ask, “ Do you suggest ceasing auctions? “ That is the very interjection I required, because it is notoriously true that, for the last ten years, supporters of this Government have stated throughout the country, in this Parliament and in the press, “ We stand for the auction selling of wool “. They have created the impression that the Australian Labour party, in government and in opposition, favours the abolition of auction selling of wool when the plain fact is, as the honorable member for Darling Downs knows very well, that when the wool contracts with the United Kingdom ended after the Second World War and there were 10,000,000 surplus bales of wool in the world, it was a Labour government which entered into a contract with two other dominions and the United Kingdom itself for the disposal of that large surplus. Moreover, the gradual disposal of that surplus coincided with the sale of the incoming season’s clip.
We returned immediately to the sale of wool in Australia at auction. The people should know that, and realize that the Labour movement has never suggested that the sale of our wool at auction should cease. If the honorable member for Darling Downs, who assists the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), and who is a sort of semi-minister in this Government, keeps his ears open and his eyes peeled, he will know that the wool-growers are on the march and want a system under which they will sell as one man so that some authority will set for them a reserve price which will indicate to the buyers that that is a price below which they are not prepared to sell.
They are in an infinitely stronger position than the wheat-growers, who operate in a market where there is a large surplus of their product. There is no surplus of wool. Australia is the largest seller of wool in the world. With South Africa and New Zealand, we form a solid bloc without which the world cannot obtain adequate supplies of wool for textile and apparel requirements. In that sense, we are in a stronger position than is the seller of wheat. If it is suggested that I am advocating some socialist scheme - and, apparently, that is the Government’s idea - let me say to supporters of the Government that already New Zealand and South Africa are operating reserve prices. Let me read to supporters of the Australian Country party, who are interjecting, an extract from the “Wool Record and Textile World “, a conservative journal printed in Bradford, in the United Kingdom. In its editorial in the issue of 6th March, 1958, it stated -
FLOOR PRICES FOR WOOL.
These are heart-searching days for the Commonwealth grower. In Australia wool prices have fallen to one of their lowest levels since 1949. In New Zealand the price-support scheme has been brought into action to stiffen the weak demand for certain types of crossbred wool.
The situation is the same in South Africa. Because the South Africans are relatively small producers of wool compared with our production, their price-support scheme cannot be as strong as a similar scheme could be in Australia if it were linked with the South African and New Zealand sales just as we were linked in 1945-46 and onwards until all the war-time stocks were disposed of. That was the result of the Labour government’s provision for our participation in that great scheme.
The wool-growers expect a lead from this Government. They expect it to indicate clearly that the time has arrived to issue some warning to those who are operating on the wool market as they are to-day. I am not blaming them. That is their business, but it is perfectly clear that this sort of thing is proceeding merrily.
Let me quote another extract from the “ Wool Record and Textile World “ of 16th January, 1958. Under the heading, “ Japanese wool bidding ‘ magnificent ‘ “, the following appears: -
Reports from most of the Australian centres speak of the Japanese as the principal operators, and Dalgety’s spokesman is quoted by British United Press as having described the competition among the Japanese buyers themselves as “ magnificent “. “ They could have combined as a syndicate, and seen prices fall below last December’s levels “, he commented. “ Their bidding and their trade ethics are a complete justification of the Australian - Japan trade treaty.”
They are being nice boys for the time being. “ By contrast-
This illustrates my point that these rings are operating - “information from Port Elisabeth shows that Russia has adopted the directly opposite attitude on the South African market. They abandoned the previous practice of having representatives of various Iron Curtain countries bidding against each other: now they all buy through one agent in order to force the market down.”
Of course it will not be very long before Japan abandons the diplomatic tactics that she is employing now, having various buyers actively competing, one against the other, and adopts the practice that the Rus.sions are now indulging in. It is undoubtedly true that the British buyers on the Australian market, and on the London market, have agents bidding, in some cases buying one lot to split up amongst a dozen or more Bradford mills. Wool futures trading is going on in London, New York, Roubaix and Tourcoing, and probably wool futures operations are being conducted by Russia with regard to supplies for her satellite countries. Yet this Government sits complacent, allowing a practice to continue that is playing havoc with the whole of the Australian economy. It does not suggest a remedy. It does not endeavour in any way to make inquiries of representatives of wool-growing interests to ascertain what their wishes are.
Let me direct the attention of honorable members to the situation that existed at about the time when the Joint Organization disposed of the last of out accumulated wool stocks. A section of the wool-growers realized that if they were to be protected in the future it was essential that they should band together for the purposes of selling their wool, and that they should have a protective organization to represent them. But what happened? They came to this Government. The Government agreed to take a poll of wool-growers, and said that if the growers signified their approval it would implement a plan agreeable to them. But what happened then? This Government brought into the Parliament a measure for the purpose of taking from the woolgrowers 71 per cent, of their income from wool in order to finance the proposed scheme. Then in the Budget that the Government brought down later provision was made for wool-growers to surrender 20 per cent, of their income from wool, the amount to be held and set off against their income tax assessment in the following vears. The Government’s proposals meant that the growers would have surrendered 27i per cent, of their wool income in one shot. The opponents of the plan got to work and said, “ Boys, if you want to save this 27* per cent., vote out the scheme that your leaders have devised to protect you in the years to come “.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As one would have expected, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has given us some distorted comments on the subject of wool, and has indulged in his usual calamity howling. 1 do not wish to deal with the subject of wool to-night. Let me merely say that 1 can only presume, from the fact that he does not want to abolish the auction system, that the honorable member for Lalor has some queer idea of a system of fair average quality for wool, so that all our wool will be reduced to some common denominator, and the world-wide reputation for quality of wool that we enjoy will go by the board.
To-night I wish to direct attention to the great complexity of functions of the Department of Primary Industry, which we are now discussing. The department is responsible for the administration of the Commonwealth marketing legislation and of Commonwealth marketing boards and authorities. These boards are very numerous. They include the Australian Apple and Pear Board, the Australian Canned Fruits Board, the Australian Dairy Produce Board, the Australian Egg Board, the Australian Meat Board, the Australian Wine Board, the Australian Wool Bureau, the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board, the Export Sugar Committee, the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, and the ill-fated Flax Production Commission.
The department administers all the stabilization agreements and arrangements, and is in liaison with the State departments on the co-ordination of agricultural policies. Under this heading it is responsible for all arrangements connected with the Australian Agricultural Council, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, the Soil Conservation Committee and goodness knows how many other such bodies. It administers the Commonwealth extension, research and efficiency grants. It also administers legislation on fisheries and pearling. In general, it investigates all the economic aspects of rural industries.
It is this point that I wish to discuss. Almost all of our primary industries have taken a very bad knock in the last three years owing to the fluctuations in world conditions. This Government has no control over world prices, but our Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is at present overseas, regards the stabilization of world prices for farm commodities and basic materials, such as metals, and also the elimination of dumping practices and unfair competition which we so often meet with these days in international trading, as among the major objectives in the negotiations in which he will be engaged.
Most of our primary products are able to command at least the cost of production in the home market. Most of them are finding that the home market is steadily improving. It is a steadily rising market on account of our growth in population. The fruit, meat, wheat, wine and wool industries are all enjoying a reasonable level of prosperity, although not as high as- that which they enjoyed at their peak a few years ago, in spite of an overall drop in world prices. This drop has not yet reached the point where production is unprofitable, although it is not as profitable as it used to be. The world level of prices has not reached the stage at which increased production leads only to reduced earnings. There are, however, three rural industries that are in difficulties, the egg industry, the potato industry and the dairying industry.
About eggs I will not comment, other than to point out that the Commonwealth can hardly be expected to try to stabilize an industry in which the State that produces 50 per cent, of the surplus chooses to stay outside the Commonwealth set-up.
The position with regard to dairy produce has become acute, because the main product, butter, is meeting such strong buyer resistance that the responsible leaders of the industry cannot bring themselves to the bold step of campaigning for more sales and, at the same time, raising the home price to allow the objective figure of the estimated cost of production to be achieved. The stabilization plan at present in operation does not work out in the way that the industry’s leaders expected that it would when they were negotiating it in 1952. In fact, it does not really bring stability into the industry at all. All it does is to give it price support to a degree that is established by the Treasury decision on bounty. The Department of Primary Industry then has the task of ensuring an adequate return to producers in those areas that are regarded as entirely suitable and desirable as butterfat areas.
Home consumption of butter is some 115,000 tons to 120,000 tons per annum, and total production is anything from 170,000 tons to 200,000 tons annually, dependent on the season. It is apparent, then, that when overseas prices are so depressed by over-production in every butter-producing country - as they are now - that the actual price received in our main market, London, is only the equivalent of ls. 5d. or ls. 7d. per lb. to the producer, the sensible thing would be to cut down the production in those marginal areas that are not considered suitable for economic production. I do not mean that farmers in the choice dairying districts of Victoria - Warragul, South Gippsland, Colac, Warrnambool - or even in the high-cost irrigation areas, where they should be producing butter, should scratch around for something else to do. It is possible that even they could help to alleviate the position by rearing vealers on 10 per cent, of their herds this season, and so reduce the actual quantity of milk going into the depots. It is certain that three vealers would give just as good a cash return as the milk from the cow allotted to rearing them - in terms of butter-fat.
One of the functions of the Department of Primary Industry is to negotiate with industry organizations on the level of bounty and local price. Any increase in bounty would only have the effect of worsening the already acute problem of the disposal of surplus production, because it would encourage more people to come in under the influence of the “ guaranteed price “, or those already in to increase their production. It would be far better for thedepartment to set aside a sum - it could be £1,000,000 or even £2,000,000, but I do not think it would need to be any more than that, and in fact I doubt whether it would go past £1,000,000 - to advance to producers and enable them to change over to some more attractive lines, or to complete developmental schemes that would take them out of dairying. Perhaps such money could be used to acquire extra land, or to bring uncleared land under pasture, so that the farmer could change over to beef, or to fat lamb raising combined with wool growing. These products are assured of ready markets at prices at least approximating the cost of production, for some years to come.
In Queensland it might be possible to change over to tobacco, or perhaps coarse grains - both products with more favorable future prospects than dairying. If districts with high sideline production could be reorganized by a departmental policy of assistance in this way the producers in our rich dairying districts would not be asked to carry on at 2s. 9d. per lb. below the cost of production. No other section of industry - certainly no secondary industry - would be left by the Government to carry on for such an unrealistic return.
The Department of Primary Industry is straining every nerve to find a solution to the difficulties of the dairy farmers, and the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee is examining every avenue of possible assistance for them. In this session the Government will introduce a bill to enable the Australian Dairy Produce Board to engage in research and sales promotion within Australia. This is expected to give a lift to the best market - the local market - but it is also hoped to find new ways of presenting the valuable elements of dairy produce and help nourish a foodhungry world in which so many well-fed people - well fed so far as quantity is concerned - are suffering from malnutrition because of their acceptance of cheap substitutes.
This is another way in which the Department of Primary Industry demonstrates its constant interest in the welfare of our rural industries. It is putting what pressure it can on State governments to discourage the further extension of dairying in the case of soldier settlement schemes. Bv making larger areas available so that settlers may engage in some other branch of primary industry more likely to prove successful in a reasonable time, State governments can help to alleviate the position. It is quite unrealistic for State governments to open up more land under conditions that force the holders to go in for dairying when the prospects of establishment on a -successful basis are so poor.
– What about soldier settlement?
– It will not affect that, only the products they go in for.
I mentioned potatoes, and I am afraid I have not left myself much time in which to discuss them; but I do believe that the Department of Primary Industry must interest itself in the welfare of this particular industry, even if it does mean having another board. The fact that State marketing boards have failed in their attempts to bring orderly marketing to the potato industry should not deter us from tackling this problem on a national scale. The problem must be so handled, if it is handled at all. In this industry we find that even in this year of low prices there is really no surplus. If there were more potatoes available than the market could absorb you could expect and understand glut prices of £7, £8 or £9 a ton as is the case this year - round about Id. per lb. - but as things are, these prices are quite unrealistic. It costs that much to dig and bag the potatoes, so growers are rightly most concerned about their future. What they need is a co-ordinating board that would control the marketing of the crop.
– Are you advocating another board?
– Unfortunately, yes. Although there is no export trade for our potatoes this is a problem that needs Commonwealth assistance because of the absurd notion held by the courts that, under section 92 of the Constitution, trade between the States must be “ free “ according to a certain interpretation of that word. The late Sir Robert Garran made it clear just before he died that the intention of the framers of the Constitution - and he was one of them - was merely to prevent the establishment of customs barriers along State borders, and certainly not as at present to enable unscrupulous traders to avoid their just responsibilities to their fellow growers by selling their products in other States and neglecting their home market - or, worse still, sending them over the border and then bringing them back to avoid their just dues. The Department of Primary Industry could adopt a national scheme involving the registration of growers with the proper dissemination of information as to the areas sown, expected crops and market requirements, so that we would know where the growers would stand. A fee of perhaps £1 an acre would give a fund of something like £50,000 a year to enable the scheme to function.
The figure of £1,593,000 set down in the Estimates to administer the Department of Primary Industry is indeed an extremely small one when we consider the very fine service that the department is rendering.
.- It might seem an absolute contradication that a member who represents a part of the City of Brisbane should rise in this important debate to criticize the speech made by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), who has thrown his hands up in despair over the dairying industry. He has said, in effect, “Let us apply birth control to our dairy herds “. He has abandoned the dairy farmers, and I am looking to see whether there is one in this chamber to fight for the dairy farmers, lt is left to the honorable member for Griffith - myself - who represents such a congested area as that containing Woolloongabba, South Brisbane and Bulimba, to stand up and say a word on behalf of those people who blindly support the Australian Country party at election lime. I am sure that honorable members are aware of my interest in this most important Queensland industry. I am disappointed that no worth while concrete plan for building up the dairying industry has come from Government supporters in response to the plea of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), a young man who came to this Parliament full of enthusiasm, honesty and a desire to help those who voted for him. He has been abandoned by his colleagues. The interests of the dairy farmers have been overlooked by this Government. Indeed, they have never received justice except at the hands of the Australian Labour party. I have in mind especially the period when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) wai Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government. I look forward to the day when my party will again govern in Australia, and the very worthy gentleman from Lalor will once more be guiding the destinies of our primary producers and marketing their products overseas. Then only can the dairy farmers hope for justice.
I should not have referred to this matter but for the provocative observations of the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan). My interest lies mainly with the processing and marketing of meat products. I represent in this Parliament an area of Queensland in which is situated the major meat works of the Commonwealth. To these works are sent for processing and export beef cattle from the Northern Territory, the Channel country and other parts of Queensland. I am very concerned about the drift that has taken place in our beef position overseas - indeed, in respect of all our exportable commodities. I am concerned about the fact that negotiations with the United Kingdom Government for the sale of Australian beef have, after proceeding for some time, now collapsed altogether because of the attitude of shipowners of the conference lines.
– They have not collapsed. Who told you that?
– 1 am quoting from the Melbourne “ Age “, which is a strong supporter of this Government.
– The report is wrong.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs is the one who is wrong. On this occasion, I subscribe to the view of the Melbourne “Age”. We know that the conference shipping lines have demanded an increased freight rate on beef exported to the United Kingdom. This is a very important matter. If we cannot send our beef abroad at reasonable cost, many of my electors from Woolloongabba, Bulimba and South Brisbane will be thrown out of work - so that the beef producers of the Argentine may prosper! The Australian Graziers Federal Council is most concerned and has protested to the Government. It has demanded that the Commonwealth legislation which has given this shipping combine a monopoly of the right to carry our primary products to the United Kingdom be amended. These shipping companies claim that they have been carrying our primary products, including beef, at less than cost. I think that that suggestion would strain the credulity of most people.
My authority for stating that negotiations have broken down is, if I may use the term, the tory press. The Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “, the “ Sydney Morning
Herald” and the Melbourne “Age” all assert that negotiations have broken down because the shipowners have demanded an increase of 30 per cent, in the freight on beef to the United Kingdom. I hope that the Government will be big enough to stand up to this attack by the conference lines. Over the years I have heard the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) stand up here and say, “ Only over my dead body will the shipping lines get an increase in freight”. He was, of course, speaking politically.
– Do not become too dramatic!
– I cannot help being concerned about what may happen to certain workers in my electorate, and to the Australian primary producers as a whole. I understand that the Minister for Trade has been given a concession of 1 per cent., and that freight rates will be increased by, not 15 per cent., but 14 per cent, or something of the sort. I feel sure that if the matter is left in the hands of this Government the rates for the carriage of beef will be increased - with its full approval.
– What are you going to do about it?
– I can do nothing. Mr. Brimblecombe. - What do you suggest?
– That the electors have it in their hands on 22nd November to make a change, and should take advantage of that opportunity. This is a democratic country. What the people want they get. They have the right to ensure that on one day in each three years. Do the primary producers subscribe to the policy enunciated by the honorable member for McMillan? They have a choice to make. Under the present Government the dairying industry faces bankruptcy and starvation. The Australian Labour party proved itself in days gone by in this matter of marketing primary products. I have already referred to the success of the Chifley Labour Government in that field. If the primary producers want a return to that state of affairs, they will seize their opportunity on 22nd November.
I am sorry that more time is not available to speak on the very important subject of trade. I refer to it now in the interests of the producers and workers of Australia, and propose to begin by quoting what was said some two years ago by Mr. Giddy, the chairman of the National Bank of Australasia Limited. He said, “ Get out and sell our products “. I am afraid that the Government has not heeded his advice.
– Why did you vote against the Japanese Trade Agreement?
– Because, as subsequent events proved, it operates to the advantage of Japanese manufacturers only. Japanese goods are coming into this country twice as fast as they did before the agreement was signed. We are now selling less to Japan under the trade treaty than we sold then. Our sales on overseas markets are decreasing. Our sales to the United Kingdom are falling at an amazing rate.
The Minister for Trade has boasted that this year we will embark on a selling campaign in the United Kingdom that will cost £1,000,000 more than it cost last year. Let me quote the figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician in relation to our trade with the United Kingdom. In the financial year ended 1955 we exported goods worth £285,000,000 to the United Kingdom; in 1956 that figure dropped to £257,000,000; in 1957 there was a slight increase to £277,000,000; and in 1958 the figure dropped to £220,000,000. In other words, our exports to the United Kingdom dropped from £285,000,000, in 1955 to £220,000,000 in 1958.
We are failing in our marketing campaign in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, our imports from the United Kingdom are rising at an amazing rate. We know that the Government has imposed import restrictions. But our deficit in trade with the United Kingdom is something of which this nation and the United Kingdom ought to be ashamed. In the year 1954-55 we imported from the United Kingdom goods worth £93,000,000 more than we exported to the United Kingdom. In the trading year ended June, 1958, our trade deficit with the United Kingdom was £104,000,000. I do not know how much longer this can continue but the signs are that if this Government comes back to office after 22nd November - for the sake of the nation, heaven forbid - early in the life of the new Parliament there will be another “ horror “ Budget such as was introduced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) early in 1956. I feel it is my duty and that I am bound, in conscience, to warn the people of Australia of what they can expect from this Government even though the members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party will not tell the people of this impending supplementary Budget.
We have to face this most important matter because we have to sell to live. If we do not sell our commodities overseas we will die economically in Australia. Where are we going to look for markets? I shall quote the trade returns because they are reliable. They are published under the hand of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) by the Commonwealth Statistician. I know that the ardent supporters of the Government on the other side of the chamber are horrified when I and others suggest that we should trade with Asian countries. They still live in the dark ages. They think that Australia must always look to Europe for its livelihood.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is interesting to hear what the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) has to say in connexion with these Estimates. If I may be permitted to use a term which is commonly used on the racecourse - although I am not a racing man - he appears to have made his run too late. To be concerned at his own personal fate at the next election is one thing; but to be concerned about the fate of the Government is an entirely different thing. I would suggest to the honorable member for Griffith that if he wanted to serve his electorate and the party that he represents in this place he should have begun at the beginning and not at the end. It is quite impossible, at this late stage of the proceedings, for the honorable member to convince the people of his constituency that he has applied himself to the task of correcting some of the disabilities and disadvantages that his constituents appear to suffer from.
But I did not rise to reply to the honorable member for Griffith. I rose to reply to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I speak in the unfortunate absence of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon). He has ministerial duties elsewhere and it is not physically possible for him to be present during this discussion. I am sure that if he had been here he would have been delighted at the amiable approach of the honorable member for Lalor. It is not often that we see him in an amiable frame of mind when he is addressing himself to the Estimates or to important discussions of any kind. But he did, on this occasion, conduct himself in a way that can only be described as exemplary.
Indeed, for the first time in our long association, he showed a very generous concern for the primary producers of our country. I have known the honorable member for Lalor since he was a very vigorous and distinguished Minister in the socialist government. He did whatever lay within his power, from time to time, to socialize the primary industries of our country. The primary industries were saved from the honorable member for Lalor and saved from socialization by the good sense of the Australian people who rejected the philosophy of the honorable member for Lalor, rejected the philosophy of socialism, and returned the MenziesFadden Government in 1949.
Nor was that just a single miracle. I say this for the benefit of the honorable member for Griffith. Time after time, since 1949, the people have been given an opportunity to change the Government, and time after time the people of our country have returned the Menzies-Fadden Government with increasing majorities - with increasing numbers in this House and, from time to time, with increasing numbers of members in another place. I have no doubt that that splendid state of affairs will continue in the future.
The honorable member for Lalor made generous reference to the wool industry. He referred to the importance of the price of wool in the economy of our country. Every member of the committee will agree with me when I state that it is true to say that the economy of our country is founded on wool and that when the price of wool is remunerative to the producers, wc are fortunately situated so far as our economy is concerned. But if and when the price of wool falls below a remunerative level, we have to face up to the economic consequences and difficulties that are almost insuperable. That has been our experience.
I have only to remind the committee that the range of the price of wool in the last few years has been so fantastic that it is really extraordinary that our economy has remained as stable as it has done. The average price of greasy wool in 1950-51 was 144d. per lb. - to be precise, Mr. Chairman, 144.19d. per lb. That was the highest price, and it has ranged from that high level progressively down to 62.47d. per lb. this year - that is, from 144.19d. to 62.47d. per lb. in 1957-58. I am speaking, Sir, of the selling seasons. You will see from that range, how difficult it is for a government to stabilize an economy that is subjected to price convulsions of that kind. Yet this Government has done so. lt has done so year by year - and in the course of the next few weeks I hope to be able to say decade by decade - by the devices that are available to a truly democratic government that tries to hold the balance fairly between all sections of the community.
The honorable member for Lalor referred to the high prices prevalent and then, in an unkind moment, he made reference to the action that had to be taken by this Government to protect the economy of our country from the high peak of wool prices - an average of 144.19d. per lb. The impact of that price on the economy of our country, with the quantity of wool that was being grown at that time, could have been disastrous to the whole of our people, including wool-growers.
The honorable member forgot to remind the committee that it was the socialist party that introduced provisional taxation, it was the socialist party that introduced taxation on the pay-as-you-earn basis. And payasyouearn, in respect of the primary producer is translated into the provisional tax. Every primary producer is called upon to meet his provisional tax. This provisional tax is based on his income for the previous year. And so, Mr. Chairman, when the price of wool rose to that fantastic level of 144.19d. per lb in a single year, quite obviously the provisional tax paid by the woolgrowers was wholly inadequate to meet their personal commitments. So they, as individuals, were in deadly peril - I was one of them, and so was every other woolgrower in this chamber at that time - having sold in the previous year at a much lower price and having paid provisional tax on that basis. When the average price of wool was 144.19d. per lb., the situation was perilous for the individual. It was perilous also for the entire economy. To allow these millions to be fed into the spending potential of the community, measured against the scarcity of goods and services available at the time, would have been the height of folly on the part of any responsible government. It was generally recognized that something had to be done. And something was done! The socialists suggested a complete solution to the problem. They said that there should be export tax of 25 per cent, on the gross proceeds from wool.
– That is a lie.
– It is a lie.
– Order! The honorable member cannot continue on that line.
– That was their proposal. But this Government would have nothing to do with a proposal of that kind. So, after a great deal of travail, a scheme was devised to meet the situation as it affected the producers and the community, by imposing what came to be called a wool sales deduction tax covering 20 per cent, of the gross proceeds from wool. A bill to do that was brought down. The tax was imposed. It removed from the spending potential 20 per cent, of the gross proceeds of every wool-grower in our country, and in that very process it saved every woolgrower personally from the consequences of inadequate provisional tax in the previous year. It saved the economy of our country. An assurance was given by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that as soon as the temporary situation passed the 20 per cent, would be restored to the woolgrowers, to whom it rightly belonged. That was done - I was here - and indeed, if this Government has cause to be proud of any performance - I believe it has cause to be proud of countless performances - then this is surely its greatest. For a Treasurer to remove 20 per cent, of the gross proceeds of wool at a time when the average price level was the highest that wool has ever reached and then, having safeguarded the position of the producer and safeguarded the economy, to restore it to the woolgrower is surely cause for pride by any man’s standard.
The honorable member for Lalor drew a most unhappy analogy when he made reference to the fact that the auction system of selling woo] had been retained against the system that has been adopted by the wheat industry. There is, of course, Mr. Chairman, no analogy whatever between the wheat industry and the wool industry. All our wheat, no matter what quality, is sold on an f.a.q. basis. There is one quality of wheat for the export trade. It is comparatively easy to devise a commercial mechanism to sell the wheat crop because of the very fact that wheat is of a common quality for the export trade. It does not matter very much whether the export crop is 100,000,000 hushels or 200,000,000 bushels, because a comparatively simple system can be devised to sell that wheat to the best advantage in the interests of the wheat-growers. The wheat industry knew that - and knows that - and it was the people engaged in the wheat industry themselves who made the decision that they would sell their wheats in that particular way.
Now, my friend and colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), has a proposal current for the continuation of that system of selling wheat. Tt would be competent for the wheat-growers of our country to ask for a ballot if they were in any doubt about it. And if they were to ask for a ballot, they would get a ballot and. again, they would make their own decision. The wheat stabilization scheme meets with the approval of the people engaged in the industry.
But the wool industry is different. There are 900 different counts and qualities of wool produced for sale and exported from our country. It is not an easy matter to devise a system for the wholesale export of our clip on a commercial basis, meting out justice to all the growers producing that range and quality of wool. Admittedly, at the outbreak of war, to safeguard the general position, the United Kingdom decided that it would be necessary to acquire the total wool clips of this country, of New Zealand, and of South Africa, and entered into an arrangement that was constitutionally possible at that time for the acquisition of the total clip. But that could only be done under the national security regulations. In normal circumstances, this Government, a socialist government, or any other government, owns no ‘wool or any other commodity. The production of our land belongs, in its entirety, to the producer, subject only to the discharge of his local obligations; so it is for the woolgrower, the wheat-grower, the dairyfarmer or anybody else producing any primary commodity to decide how it ought to be sold.
The wheat-growers have decided to sell under a stabilization scheme. The woolgrowers have decided, by ballot and by common consent, that the auction system should be retained. They are the only people who have any right to alter the system of marketing wool. Admittedly, in periods of national emergency, under national security regulations or some other extraordinary powers taken to meet the situation, it might be possible for the Commonwealth Government to enter into processes of acquisition; but as soon as the emergency passed, then, of course, we would have to return to the status quo ante - the wool or the dairy products, or whatever it was, would be returned to the full ownership of the people who produced them.
The honorable member for Lalor has the great advantage of knowing that it is so long ago since the socialists were in office that a great many people have forgotten. But he also knows, whimsically, judging by the smile on his face, that I have not forgotten, because we were very closely associated in those days. Allow me to tell the committee the story of how the socialist government functioned with regard to wheat in 1945. In that year the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who was subsequently succeeded - successfully. I may say - by the honorable member for Lalor, convened a meeting to see what should be done with the accumulated stocks of wheat after the war. I was one of the representatives of the industry invited to attend that most important conference. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, with the approval of the government he represented, addressed himself to the repre sentatives of the wheat industry and told a most grim and terrible story of the immediate future of the industry.
He said that he had been in touch with Washington, London and the International Wheat Committee, and his opinion was that there would be the most catastrophic fall in wheat prices the world had ever known. He turned to me and said, “ It will not be a question of selling wheat for 15d. or 18d. a bushel; it will be infinitely worse than that. We will be crawling all over the place trying to sell it for 7d., 8d., or 9d. a bushel “. He was followed by all his experts at that time and they reiterated what the socialist Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had to say. Then, in a moment of mental aberration he called on me to reply. I gave some semblance of assurance to those who were present by saying that for a long time I had known the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and also a great many of his socialist experts, that I had always known them to be wrong and I had no doubt that they would be wrong again.
They put forward a proposition for a stabilization scheme that would guarantee a price of 4s. 8d. a bushel - that was the original proposal - because there was going to be a catastrophic fall in wheat prices. Fortunately, the growers, who owned the wheat - and I repeat that - rejected the proposal. But the great point in the story is that, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was speaking, the price of wheat began to rise. It rose from day to day and from week to week until it reached 20s. 6d. a bushel, and it remained at that price for nearly six years. These were the devices that were used by the socialist government at that time to get control of that industry. Other devices were used to get control of the wool industry. Although the wheat-growers and the wool-growers have their faults, like most other people, they are most knowledgeable people and they reached their decision in their own personal way as to what should be done with their own commodities.
I just add this: The question of the auction system of selling wool has been challenged on a number of occasions. The most recent challenge was during another period of international emergency. I refer to the Korean war. When the Korean war broke out, 26 of the importing nations were requested to attend a meeting convened by the Government of the United States of America to build up adequate stocks of wool to meet that immediate emergency and any emergency which might arise from it. They reached a unanimous decision that one of the things that had to be done was to end the auctioning system in this country, and they decided to ask this Government to pre-empt the quantities and qualities of wool required by those 26 importing countries to meet the emergency.
Fortunately, this Government was in office and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture as he was then - he is now the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) - was immediately sent to London and Washington to correct the fallacious position. He was able to point out that neither this Commonwealth Government nor any other Commonwealth Government had any power to pre-empt wool or any other primary commodity - that all our primary commodities were the exclusive property of the producers and that it was the producers themselves, accepting there was a grave national emergency, to decide how their commodities should be sold. He pointed out also that it was impossible for this Government or any other government to acquire wool except at its true value, or just price; and that that value had been interpreted by the High Court of our country to mean the value, of that which is acquired, at the date of acquisition. As soon as that simple explanation was made to that international conference, the delegates could see the injustice of the proposal for the Government to decide to end the auction system of selling wool and also of the proposal that an arbitrary price should be fixed for pre-empted wools in a range of qualities exceeding 90’s. I make these explanations because they need to be made for the benefit of the honorable member for Lalor.
Reference was made by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) to the comparatively new honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). The honorable member for Griffith, perhaps, forgets that the honorable member for Richmond succeeded his late father to the seat of Richmond and that that electoral division has been adequately represented in this Parliament for a great many years.
It was represented by a man who understood the dairying industry from beginning to end, and now is being represented by his son who, in the fullness of time, also will understand the dairying industry from beginning to end. But the electorate of Richmond is not the only dairying constituency in the country. There are a great many dairying constituencies which have all been represented adequately in this Parliament. I say that with deference to honorable members opposite who may represent such electorates. My colleague, the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), for example, represents a dairying constituency, as did his predecessor, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Most of the Australian Country party members represent constituencies interested in the dairying industry, and at no stage has that industry, or any other primary industry, been neglected if it has been within the power of the honorable members to safeguard them against the fluctuations, a rise or fall in prices and, indeed, the convulsions of export parity price levels, which, of course, reveal the faults, frailities and fractures in our economy.
.- The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has his back to the wall. I accuse this Government of taking no steps of any kind to protect the Australian woolgrower and the Australian nation against the disastrous fall in wool prices that commenced over twelve months ago and is still continuing. The Minister, after spending a considerable amount of his unlimited time dealing with other matters - compared with the fifteen minutes allotted to me - resorted to a falsehood as a means of defence.
Government Supporters. - Chair, Chair!
– I can substantiate that statement, and if I were not in this Parliament I would use another term.
– That is most unparliamentary language.
– Things are coming to a pretty pass if, when a falsehood is told, whether in Parliament or anywhere else, one cannot say so. The Minister said that, when the price of wool reached its peak in 1950 and 1951, the Labour government - he called it the socialist government; that does not matter - proposed to deal with the problem by imposing a tax of 25 per cent, of the value of wool exports. That is a lie and the Minister knows it to be a lie.
Government Supporters. - Chair, Chair!
– -The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– It is a falsehood.
– Will the honorable member withdraw the word “ lie “?
– That is an unparliamentary expression and it should be withdrawn.
– It is a falsehood. Does the honorable member for Balaclava deny that it is a falsehood? Does he deny to anybody the right to call an untrue statement a falsehood?
– You should behave yourself.
– The honorable member does not know how to behave himself, otherwise he would not be interjecting. The Minister deceived this committee by another astonishing statement to the effect that a scheme to deal with the problem of the sale of our wool, such as operated after the war, was the kind of scheme that could be implemented only under National Security Regulations or war-time powers.
– At the whim and pleasure of the growers.
– The Minister now adds the reservation, “ at the whim and pleasure of the growers “. But he did convey to this committee that the scheme could be implemented only under National Security Regulations or war-time powers. The plain fact is that the Government of which he is a supporter endorsed the plan proposed by the wool-growers, after it had been considered by the growers of South Africa, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, all of whom agreed to participate in the scheme.
– That is what I said.
– The implementation of a plan of that character did not require the legislative backing of National Security Regulations.
– It was at the whim and pleasure of the growers.
– Do not quibble out of it. The Government actually endorsed the proposal that was submitted, but I suspect that the honorable gentleman opposed it with the usual reactionary attitude with which hs opposed the wheat stabilization scheme introduced by the Labour government during the war and endorsed by every State Government irrespective of its political colour. The Minister was always against such plans.
– I only devised it!
– The Minister devised it, and then stumped the country announcing his opposition to it - a strange contrast! When this scheme was put to the people in 1951 it was defeated by a vote because this Government crucified its own scheme - I believe willingly - probably in conjunction with those behind the scenes who were opposed to it. The Government crucified the scheme by imposing a li per cent, tax on receipts from the sale of the wool to finance it in the first instance, and by the 20 per cent, deduction from receipts which the Minister called a prepayment of the wool-growers’ income tax commitments. In that particular year the growers paid their normal provisional tax and then were walloped by a deduction of 20 per cent, on the gross proceeds of the sale of their wool.
– That is so.
– That is true. That meant that for seventeen months the Government had the use of the wool-growers’ money without paying any interest on it. When the Minister talks about Government policy designed to halt and prevent inflation and protect the wool-growers and the people against the results of inflation, he is talking poppycock. Instead of placing the £100,000,000-odd of the wool-growers’ money in a separate trust fund where it would be out of circulation and could not be touched by anybody, the Government promptly spent the whole of it within twelve months. That money had no more impact on the overall economy of this country than if it had never been taken from the woolgrowers at all. In contrast with that manoeuvre by the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government took similar action, but locked away the whole of the money collected and kept it until such times as it was needed by the wool-growers. Not one penny piece of that money circulated through the New Zealand economy during the inflationary period.
The Minister does not know what he is talking about when he refers to the action of the Government as a deflationary measure. In fact, it was scandalous. In the same Budget Speech as that in which the deduction was announced, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stated that steps would be taken to deal with other sections of the community which had been placed as fortunately as the wool-growers. That promise was never honoured and no attempts were ever made to deal with the other fortunate sections of the community.
Let me now refer to wheat. At no time did I ever plead with the honorable gentleman at any conference, personally or otherwise, and say that the time would arrive when wheat would be 7d., 8d. or 9d. a bushel. I do not have to resort to falsehoods to state my case.
– I did not say that.
– The wheat-growers have the advantage of a wheat stabilization scheme for the first time in a peace-time era as a result of legislation introduced into this Parliament by a Labour government, and supported by every State government. On that occasion also the honorable gentleman stumped through the length and breadth of Australia endeavouring to destroy the scheme. But the best test of the success or acceptability of that so-called socialist legislation is that since that time a scheme based on that principle has been continued in the Commonwealth. I shall say r.o more.
– Tell us about the New Zealand wheat deal.
– If the committee will grant me an extension of time 1 shall give the honorable member for Petrie the full story about the New Zealand wheat agreement and I shall make him look the thorough humbug that he is, and I shall show up his absolute lack of knowledge about this subject.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. I want to make a few comments now about the statements made by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan). He came into the chamber bemoaning the fate of the egg producer, the potato grower, and the unfortunate dairyman. With regard to the egg producer, the honorable member threw his hands in the air and said, in effect, that there is no hope for him. He does not tell the egg producers in his constituency that the fact that the Government has no power to deal with interstate marketing is one of the basic causes from which the egg producers suffer to-day.
Then he turned his attention to the dairying industry. His remedy for the problems of the dairymen is that they should start producing veal. Fancy the dairymen in the honorable member’s constituency-
– I was not talking about my constituency.
– Well, in the northern rivers. Ninety per “cent, of the dairymen have dairy cattle - not beef cattle. Fancy producing beef profitably from a type of cattle not suitable for that purpose! In the honorable member’s constituency the dairymen have a Jersey type of stock, which is quite unsuitable for beef production. To change over would1 take two or three years, and by that time probably the world’s markets for butter products would improve and the dairymen would find themselves out of what was once again a profitable business.
If the honorable member contrasts that situation with the attitude of the Labour movement towards the dairying industry, he will know that the industry owed until recently its absolute stability and prosperity to the fact that for the first time in the history of the industry a Labour Government had granted it the found cost of production for the whole of its production. But that system has been discarded. The system operated for five years ur.der a Labour Government. When it was due for renewal this Government brought in legislation of a similar character, but the guarantee was modified and to-day it applies to only 20 per cent, of the amount exported. Last year, the dairy producers in the honorable member’s constituency were faced with the fact that Australia had an exportable surplus over the guaranteed quantity of about 30.000 tons, for which there was no alternative but to take the London price. They are the facts.
– Under Labour’s plan the amount would have been 60,000 tons.
– In other words, the honorable member for Barker admits that our plan did such justice to the dairymen that it provided an incentive to produce 60,000 tons of butter for export. In effect, the honorable member says that our scheme would have had the dairyman producing more butter, which would have been very desirable.
The Labour Government did something else. For a period of five years we provided £250,000 per annum, to be distributed among the State Governments for the improvement of the efficiency of the dairying industry. The honorable member for McMillan says that the present Government did that, but in reality it only completed what we commenced. That is the position.
When I accused the Government of remaining complacent about the wool selling system, the Minister for Social Services, with his back to the wall, engaged in diversionary tactics. Having twice my permitted time at his disposal, he talked a lot of nonsense and uttered a number of untruths in order to divert the attack which had been made on the Government, and which so far has remained unanswered. I leave it at that.
.- The solicitude that has been revealed in this debate by members of the Opposition for the welfare of primary producers is not only fascinating, but in many respects is fantastic. The whole history of the Labour party in this Parliament strongly suggests that it has been anything but the friend of the primary producer. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was the architect of the New Zealand wheat agreement - that magnificent socialist planners’ accomplishment. He endeavoured, in a casual but highly unsuccessful way, to refute the charge made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) that in negotiating the wheat agreement with New Zealand the honorable member dealt a singular and heavy blow not only at the wheat-growers but against the entire community.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr.. Coutts), in what I think can be described; as his opening campaign meeting *for the federal election, referred to the difficulties of the primary producers. His solicitude is not only fantastic but intriguing, because I doubt very much whether one would find’ one heifer in the whole of his electorate. I think that all members of the Opposition, apart from a few isolated exceptions, would very easily get lost in a horse paddock.
But I do not want to pursue the feud that was commenced by the honorable member for Lalor with the Minister for Social Services. I wish to refer to a far more significant feud that transcends this small and, in the overall scheme of things, very insignificant row. I propose to address myself to the economic warfare that is involved in trade between Australia and other countries on the one hand, and between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other countries on the other hand.
When I first entered Parliament, I suggested that the Government could well give some consideration to setting up a committee to examine the form that the economic war was taking. I am not so unsophisticated as to imagine that every time I make a suggestion the Cabinet should, with rapturous excitement, assemble to examine the proposal. Nor am I so cynical, however, to turn away from the fact that nothing has been done about my proposal. That is why I want to stress, with reinforced determination, that a committee should be set up to examine the nature of the economic warfare being waged by the Soviet Union, which is not only complex but exceedingly dangerous. This warfare has developed in various ways. I shall briefly discuss the form in which it has developed.
From 1945 to 1948 the Soviet Union carried out, as far as its satellite countries were concerned, a policy of looting and gathering up the reparations of the war. Then in January, 1949, when the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance was formed, consisting originally of the U.S.S.R., Hungary, Rumania, and Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union turned its attention to the industrialization of eastern European satellites. From 1953 until the beginning of 1956, when the twentieth conpress of the Communist party of the Soviet Union was held, the U.S.S.R. set about a policy of consolidating what had been achieved. Then, in 1956, the Soviet Union launched a trade war, the nature of which seems to me to be either completely misunderstood or completely ignored. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Shepilov, in 1956, made clear what the nature of this -economic war was and the intention behind it. Some people, who are labouring under some heavy form of innocence, still believe that the Soviet engages in trade for commercial reasons. There is no such trivial motive behind Soviet trade activities; they have a far deeper significance. I believe that in the last two or three years there has been unleashed in the world a trade war the like of which the world has never known before. It is fierce; it is intense. It is a trade war in which the Soviet Union is taking no prisoners. Trade to the Soviet Union is as much a weapon of war as is the atomic bomb.
Every trade mission sent from a Communist country to a democratic country is, in the first instance, a military mission, not a trade mission. Every trade agreement that the Soviet Union or any other Communist country negotiates is in essence a military offensive. Every pound of wool and every pound of butter that we sell to a Communist country is, in effect, a bullet aimed at some one in this country. I know that this is a matter of great contention, and no doubt there are some people who sit on this side of the chamber who do not completely share my view. But this is not a view formed by me overnight; it is a deeprooted conviction I have come to after a genuine effort to try and understand the problem. I submit for the consideration of the committee and of the Government that we can trade ourselves into serfdom just as readily as we can blast ourselves into eternity by the unleashing of a nuclear war.
On a number of occasions I have referred to the great attachment of the Soviet leaders to the clear-cut doctrines of Marx and Lenin. There are, I know, some people who dismiss that idea and do not attribute to it the significance that I do. That being the case, may I refer the committee to an editorial that appeared in “ Pravda “ on 9th May of this year? I hope that senior officials within the Department of Trade will give some consideration to it. The editorial stated -
The Soviet people are far from maintaining a purely commercial attitude towards their relations with other countries … In their policies, in their relations with brotherly socialist countries, they guide themselves by the interests of socialist construction, of the strengthening and development of a world-wide socialist system.
Relate that to what Mr. Khrushchev had to say when he delivered the report of the Central Committee to the Twentieth Congress in February, 1956. He made the clear-cut statement -
Fidelity to Leninism is the ground of all our party’s successes.
Yet there are some sweet innocents, some dangerously minded individuals - regrettably, in high places - who just throw into the ashpan these Khrushchev statements and do not attach to them any importance, or do not bother to understand what they are about. This is Mr. Khrushchev; it is not Killen, it is not Wentworth or some one else. This is Mr. Khrushchev’s statement - “ Fidelity to Leninism is the ground of all our party’s successes “.
What did Lenin have to say on the matter of trade and negotiating trade agreements? This is what he had to say -
We know exactly our gains and our losses, our rights and obligations. We know exactly the periods for which we grant the concessions. We know the terms of redemption before the expiration of the agreement, if the agreement provides for such redemption. We pay a certain “ tribute “ to world capitalism; we “ ransom “ ourselves from it by such-and-such arrangements and obtain immediately a definite increase in stability in the position of the Soviet Government, and improvement in the conditions of our economy.
Who has benefited from trade with Communist countries? The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), earlier in this debate, by implication said, to my mind, that there should be more or less unfettered trade with Communist China. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), with great courtesy and charity, said that the honorable member for Parkes did not want us to trade in strategic materials with Communist China. I believe it is a disagreeable play on words to distinguish between strategic materials and nonstrategic materials as far as trade with Communist countries is concerned.
– We are selling steel to Communist China.
– Whether we are selling steel or wool to Communist China, I deprecate that. I do not apologize for my attitude. The whole policy of the Soviet Union is to build up a commitment within a democratic country. When that commitment has been built up, at the appropriate time the ground is simply cut from underneath you. “ That happened in the case of Egypt, when Czechoslovakia negotiated an arms agreement with Egypt, spurred on by the Soviet Union. To-day we find that the Egyptian economy is solidly anchored to Soviet intentions and Soviet ambitions. The same thing happened in Syria, when Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Bulganin paid a visit there before their trip through South-East Asia. We have found, not only wreckage, but the creation of Soviet outposts in all of these countries. A trade agreement was negotiated with Afghanistan. In India, in front of the Taj Mahal, Mr. Khrushchev declared, “ We of the Soviet Union will not deny to you one crumb; you can count upon us”. He then gave to the people of India a £132,000,000 steel mill, on extremely easy terms. To-day, the Indian economy has a dependency upon Soviet will and Soviet ambition that it should not have.
I believe that this is a problem that warrants attention and calls for examination. If I were to ask the Minister for Trade how many senior officials within his department have given any attention to what Lenin has had to say about trade, or how many people have examined what Vladimir Shabinsky, a high Soviet economic expert now living in the United States, has written about Soviet economic methods, he would think it presumptuous of me. No doubt, he would be entitled to think that way, but the sooner the form and nature of the economic warfare that is being waged against us is understood the sooner it will be that the democracies will be able to return to a position from which they will be able to launch their offensive.
.- I want to say a few words to-night about primary production, and to refer particularly to the subject of dairy production. It is significant, and in accordance with the mixed-up condition of affairs in the Ministry of the Federal Government, that to-night the
Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) is not present. We have been told by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is handling primary production - and not very efficiently at that - that the Minister for Primary Industry is engaged .on ministerial duties. In order to complicate matters further, with the Estimates for the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Primary Production and the Department of Trade under discussion, we have the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) in charge of the committee, to answer all questions. It is, I suppose, directly in line with the policy of this Government in making the whole thing a hotch-potch. We do not know exactly from where we can get the right answers, because the Government has put Ministers in charge of departments about which they know nothing.
I would have thought that at least one of the Ministers whose departments are under consideration would be present, so that we could address our questions to some one who knew something about one of the departments. I think it is a contempt of the Parliament and of objective criticism that we have in charge of the committee a Minister - there is nothing personal in this - who knows little about the Army and nothing at all about the subjects we are discussing to-night. I make these comments in advance.
It is significant that when things go wrong this Government blames the elements and everybody but the persons who are responsible. At the present time, there is a slump in primary production. Government speakers have gone back about fifteen years and have tried to load on to the Labour party the responsibility for the poor condition of the dairying industry, the fall in the price of wool and various other matters. The truth of the matter is that there were no stabilized markets, no guaranteed prices and no prosperity for the primary industries until the Chifley-Curtin Government came into office and established them on a sound basis. The real prosperity of the primary industries existed under a Labour regime which believed not only in fair returns for producers but also in fair prices for consumers. This Government, by its incompetence, maladministration and bad ministerial control, has completely destroyed the prosperity and the stability that these industries enjoyed under a Labour government.
Let us consider the position of the dairying industry, which has been discussed, in this chamber. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) a few days ago made a speech which, from the point of view of the Australian Country party, must be regarded as revolutionary. He is a member of a party whose thinking is only up to the turn of the century. Yet he, in what was undoubtedly a very constructive speech, criticized at great length the policy of this Government in regard to the dairying industry. He said, in effect, that the dairy farmers had been forgotten by a government which is supposed to be protecting them. He also advocated that the Government should increase the amount paid in subsidies to the consumers in order to reduce the price of butter, lt is no good begging the question; an increased subsidy is necessary not only to increase the production of butter but also to make it available to the people at a price that they are able to afford.
This Government must give effect to the promise it made in 1949 to increase the subsidies on vital commodities. Instead of that, the subsidies on dairy products to-day are only £13,500,000 - a fraction of what was paid in 1949. They are worth much less in real value than the amounts paid by the Chifley Labour Government. To-day, butter is selling at 4s. 6d. per lb. At the time of the Chifley Government, it sold for about 2s. 7d. or 2s. 8d. per lb. In 1949, effect was given to the principle of a fair return to the producer and a fair price to the consumer.
Government supporters criticize the production and distribution of margarine. Let us have a look at the position. This Government boasts that it favours free enterprise and open competition, lt says that this policy reduces prices and gives a fair return to the producer. This is a free enterprise government which believes in open competition; yet the Minister for Primary Industry and every member of the Liberal party and of the conservative Australian Country party advocates and gives effect to a policy restricting the production of margarine so that it will not be sold in competition with butter. The Government makes butter so costly that few families can afford to buy enough of it and at the same time refuses to allow pensioners and others to buy margarine. It says, “ As a free enterprise government, we will make you buy butter, no- matter what the price may be-“. How can Government supporters justify telling the people that they believe in free enterprise and open competition when- they restrict the- production of goods that are competitive with butter?
Every family is entitled to have butter on the table, but the experts say that margarine is equally nutritious. A member of the Australian Country party has stated that margarine should not be manufactured at all simply because the dairy-farmers and others must be protected. By all means protect the dairy-farmers, but do not protect them at the expense of those who want butter but cannot afford it. The wealthy interests, such as Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which made a profit of £9,000,000 after paying taxes, should be asked to pay additional taxes to subsidize the production of butter for the poorer sections of the community, and in that way make a contribution to a higher standard of living for them. Subsidies mean, in effect, that taxation is taken from those able to pay and given to those on lower incomes.
This Government deserves to be condemned for its false approach to the problem of the dairy-farmer. It should increase the subsidy on butter, as the Labour party has advocated and as the honorable member for Richmond has advocated. A subsidy well in excess of that being paid to-day would increase the production of this basic commodity, bring more security to the dairy-farmers and in every way provide an impetus which would revive the dairying industry - an industry which, we are told, is in a distressed state to-day. So long as this Government gives lip service to a policy of free enterprise and competition, but at the same time restricts the production of a commodity which competes with butter, I believe it must be condemned for hypocrisy.
It is idle to say that margarine is not a high-quality product. When I was in America a few years ago, I tasted margarine, and I would defy any one who did not know to say that it was not butter; it tasted almost the same as butter. I do not decry the quality of margarine, nor do I decry the need to protect the many thousands of people engaged in the dairying industry. However, as the representative of a big section of the community, dependent entirely on wages - many on lbw wages and many on social services - I am not prepared to stand by and watch this Government squander millions of pounds and at the same time refuse to increase substantially, from taxation on higher income groups, the subsidy on butter in order to give it to wage-earners, pensioners and others, as the Chifley Government did, at a price that they can afford. Until the Government adopts such a policy, it must accept falling consumption of butter and dire results in the dairying industry, such as are being felt to-day.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) may mumble as he sits in this chamber. But why does he not stand up and defend the Government’s policy? He cannot defend the policy of a government which makes pensioners pay 4s. 6d. for a pound of butter. He will boast about how the Government gave the pensioners an increase of a few shillings a week, but he will not mention the fact that the Government is taking back half the increase because it will not pay higher subsidies. I make this observation because I am sick and tired of the approach of the Government to this problem. It should be doing as the honorable member for Richmond suggests, and that is paying increased subsidies for this commodity. That would make it available to the consumers at a reasonable price and give a reasonable return to the producers.
There are other problems in the dairying industry, and the Government deserves to be condemned for its failure to deal with them. We have the amazing situation in which a member representing a metropolitan electorate is appointed Minister for Primary Industry. He may know something about primary production and he may study hard, but one would think that some members of the Australian Country party would know something about the industries that they are sent to this Parliament to represent. It is a sorry commentary that not one member of the Australian Country party is capable of holding the position of
Minister for Primary Industry. A King’s Cross farmer, who has a few pot plants on the window sill, a plastic hose and an old chook, is given this portfolio. That is the set-up in the Parliament to-day. The Australian Country party is unable to discharge its function by deliberating on the great issues associated with the primary industries.
I have not the time to go through the list of members, but we all know that there is not a practical farmer in the Australian Country party. Its members include radio announcers, doctors, ministers of religion, auctioneers and all sorts of people except farmers. Yet they are supposed to represent the primary industries in the Parliament! The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) is a motor mechanic, and not a good one either, but he is a member of the Australian Country party. Then there is a former Tamworth radio announcer. He is another man with pot plants on the window-sill, and he is a representative of the Australian Country party here. As we go through the list of members, we realize why the dairying industry is in dire straits; why rural production is falling all over the country; why our overseas balances have never been lower; and why we cannot find trade outlets for our primary products. This country needs a change of government or at least a change of ministers in charge of vital portfolios. It needs people in this Parliament who will plan and act, and not merely make promises and then, for the sake of political expediency, refuse to honour them.
The same things are happening in the Department of Trade. We have a Tariff Board to protect Australian industries. I suppose it has one of the biggest staffs in the Commonwealth, but it has probably the longest list of waiting applicants that one could imagine. There are delays of up to twelve and eighteen months in the hearing of applications. But, in many cases, when the experts submit their report the Government will not give effect to it if it is contrary to what the Government thinks ought to be done. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) said, the Tariff Board is just an appendage of a government department; it has lost its independence. Therefore it is not in a position to give effect to policies that would protect Australian industry generally.
Much more could be said. The Government does not like criticism on these important matters. Throughout Australia, people know that the prosperity of the country depends, in the main, on the prosperity of the primary industries. You can blame the weather, you can blame the seasons, you can blame whatever you like; but the fact remains that it is the incompetence and maladministration of this Government, and bad ministerial control backed up by a collection of supporters in the Parliament who give lip service to policies instead of speaking their piece, that are responsible for the present parlous condition of the primary industries. The Government deserves to be censured, and I think it will be defeated on 22nd November.
– The honorable for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is always delightful to listen to. He has a very charming wit and a very delightful habit, when he has nothing to say, of expending that wit on his political opponents.
– He has no sincerity.
– I was about to say that, if what he said about the Australian Country party was true, it is equally true that there are no workers in the Australian Labour party. I think he admits it himself. However, here are one or two statements that he made with which, following the very thoughtful and and I thought excellent speech of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), I agree. One was that in the past both primary industry and secondary industry have had a fairly good time, but now primary industry is taking the brunt of the recession in world prices. Secondary industry does not seem to be suffering from a recession in prices.
I would not have risen to speak had it not been for the extraordinary performance of a senior member of the Labour party, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I was not quite certain what “ parks “ were involved. I felt that they may have been Luna parks, because the honorable member took us for a ride on the roller coaster and the merrygoround and hoped that by the time we had finished we all would be so dizzy that we would not understand the purport of what he was saying. I take it that the honorable member, as a senior member of the party, was stating that the Labour party, as part of its policy at the coming election, was in favour of all-out trade with red China. I am staggered to see the party which opposed the Japanese Trade Agreement, with all its safeguards against any malpractices that any one might fear, suddenly say that it favours trade with red China.
During the debate on the Japanese Trade Agreement, the Labour party, through its main spokesman, said that there was a lot of child labour in Japan. That was denied by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). The honorable member for Parkes, on that occasion, quoted the ceramics industry. The Minister for Trade said that he had been in the Noritake factory but that there was no child labour there and that in fact it was not allowed by law. Even supposing there is some child labour in Japan, will any honorable member deny that working conditions in Japan at the present time are infinitely superior to the slave-labour conditions of red China?
– There are 25,000,000 slaves in China.
– There are 25.000,000 people in slave labour camps in China, as has been revealed in the report of the International Labour Organization, to which reference has often been made in this chamber. Are members of the Labour party, who said they were not in favour of a trade agreement with Japan, now saying that they are in favour of importing into Australia the products of slave labour in red China?
– That is their policy.
– That, I take it, is their policy, as enunciated tonight by the honorable member for Parkes.
– The Government is exporting wool to red China.
– I know that, to a certain extent, we are trading with red China, but my fears are exactly the same as those expressed by the honorable member for Moreton. It may be of interest to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to know that at the present time red China is buying almost the same quantity of wool that Russia was buying from us before the Petrov case and the cancellation of her buying contracts. Most of that wool is now going through to Russia.
In the short time available to me, I merely wish to emphasize what the honorable member for Moreton has said. There was laughter on the other side of the chamber when he said that the Soviet trade was mainly political and not economic. Let me quote, for the benefit of the doubting Thomases on the other side of the chamber, the following words of Mr. Aneurin Bevan, a former Minister of Labour and National Service in England, in a speech delivered before the Economic Club of New York on 28th October last: -
I don’t believe that the primary threat of communism to the world exists in the military field. I think that such military threat as exists is secondary. I believe that the threat was, and is, to be fr-v- id :n the economic and political and social spheres.
That is merely another way of expressing what I said in this chamber last week.
– As a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite.
– The honorable member did not like what I said about him on the last occasion, but he cannot refute that statement. It is a direct quotation, and it backs up what I said on the last occasion when I spoke in this chamber - that is, that I believe, and I think many others are coming around to this belief, that aid and trade is the red weapon of annihilation and conquest and not the nuclear bomb.
I think Australia is in for a very difficult time with her export trade. During the debate on the Japanese Trade Agreement, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) asked, “ Why are you selling sheet steel to Japan to enable her to manufacture ships more cheaply than we can build them in our own yards? “ I have not heard a single member of the Labour party object to selling sheet steel to red China as a strategic weapon in her economic or trade war with Japan.
– The Government is selling steel to China now. What a lot of humbug you are talking!
– I said that we are selling it now. The honorable member does not understand it. He has visited Japan, and I should like to know whether he considers that it is wise to trade with and help a country which, so far as I am concerned at present, is trying to fulfil its international obligations and observe the principles of the democratic way of life. Never mind about the past! We are dealing with the present. Japan certainly has improved working conditions in its manufacturing industries very greatly as compared with pre-war.
– What country is not doing that?
– I can refer the honorable member to red China, where, for the peasants and vast majority of the people, conditions are far worse than they were pre-war - and they were bad enough then, goodness knows. The Communist Chinese sell their goods, not at an economic price, but at any price. All through South-East Asia one can ask businessman after businessman at what price red China is offering certain goods that the Japanese also offer for sale, and receive always the same reply. The answer always is that the Communist Chinese ask what price is being paid for similar articles bought from Japan, and, when they are told, they say, “ You can have them for 10 or 20 per cent, less “. Red China, in other words, sells goods, not for an economic price, but in order to gain a political objective, both in the country to which the goods are sold and against Japan, whose trade is stolen. And I can assure members of the Australian Labour party that the people who pay are the workers. The cost is met out of the percentage of the national income of red China that otherwise would go to the workers. Yet the Opposition, through its leaders, advocates in this place a policy that would encourage this kind of trading by red China. The Labour party must have changed very considerably from the party that it -used to be in the old days.
– It was, in the honorable member’s eyes, a bad Labour party even then.
– And it is getting far worse.
Having emphasized these facts, I want to tell honorable members, in the few minutes that I have left, what is happening in relation to trade in South-East Asia. The dairy farmers and other primary producers in Australia feel that they must sell their produce somewhere. The dairy farmers, for example, say, “Let us sell butter to red China “. This is where an understanding of red China is important - and, if I may digress for a moment, I may say that I do not think the honorable member for Parkes knows very much about the Far East or the Middle East.
– He has been there.
– I know that he has been there, but he apparently did not learn that even if your enemy comes within your doors, if you are his host, you do not insult him. I was very sorry to hear the honorable member for Parkes gibe at guests of this country who were present within the precincts of this chamber this afternoon and who could not reply to his attack and probably did not understand the import of it. The honorable member’s attitude merely shows that, whatever he may have learned, he has not learned much about the Far East. The truth is that the Chinese do not eat butter. They do not make butter. If our butter is bought by red China it will be bought for the same purpose that Russia buys Egyptian cotton, which is now being sold by Russia in Egypt’s own markets in the Western world, thereby earning for Russia foreign exchange that Egypt could have had for itself if Egyptian cotton had not been sold to the Russians.
During my recent travels in the Far East, I was in the office of the Australian Trade Commissioner in Hong Kong four days after I had made a statement in those terms about purchases of Egyptian cotton by
Russia. A man in the Trade Commissioner’s office whom I did not know and to whom I had not mentioned the matter told me, “ I bought 1 lb. of first-grade yellow butter in Kowloon yesterday in a wrapper branded Product of Peking ‘ “. I know that that is only a minor instance, but it is the same sort of thing that is happening with cement, sugar and many other products. Before red China stopped its trade with Japan, it bought Japanese cement in the north, took it further south and under-sold Japan in the traditional Japanese markets. The same thing is happening in respect of rice from Burma, and Cuban sugar. China is trying to ruin the market for sugar from Taiwan. This sort of thing is happening everywhere in SouthEast Asia, and all I ask is that every member of this Parliament should study this subject, because it contains the seeds of the most difficult problem that we have yet had to face. Probably, the gravest danger of all stems from the ultimate effects of infiltration and subversion through Communist trade missions in South-East Asia. As I have said before - and as I say again - the efforts of these missions may result in the isolation of Australia unless we wake up and move very much faster than we have been moving up to the present.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, we have listened this evening to an attack on the Australian Labour party made as a diversion designed to cover up the weaknesses of this Government’s agricultural policy. Every time the Government gets into difficulties about anything, it trots out in this Parliament the old Communist story that it uses in relation to every subject under the sun. Apparently, Government supporters look under their beds every night, and even in their wardrobes, to make sure that no Com. is there.
The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) is not the only member of this Parliament who has been to Asia. I resent being talked down to in this chamber by a gentleman who believes in his own mind that he knows more about everything than I or any other Opposition member can know. I spent a fortnight in Japan, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I have not been to continental China, but I have visited Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. I agree with many of the sentiments voiced by the honorable member for
Chisholm, but 1 do not like the way he expressed them. I believe that trade with Japan will eventually be of great benefit to Australia’s rural community. Why should we hide our heads in the sand in our consideration of that trade? I represent an electorate in the north of Tasmania which is entirely rural, and where the best merino wool in Australia is grown. The woolgrowers in my electorate are benefiting from trade with Japan. They will benefit also from trade with China and with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But I have not heard the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is himself a wool-grower, attack the trade in wool with those countries; doubtless because they will buy some of his wool. Why is there so much hypocrisy in the Government’s approach to trade with Communist countries? I should think that if the Government really had the interests of Australia’s primary producers at heart it would open up every available market, and would even sell our products to Iceland if such a trade would benefit us.
All that we have heard from Government supporters in this chamber this evening has been speeches on communism. All this talk of communism, which is designed to camouflage the realities of the situation, will not rub from the minds and hearts of the producers of Australia the deep-seated conviction that the situation of our primary industries has never been more grave since World War II. than it is at present. The farmers are looking to the Government for an answer to their problems and, if they do not get it pretty soon from this Government, they will get it from another government.
The trend in trade with Britain in the last five years has been alarming. Since 1952, the proportion of our total export trade represented by trade with Britain has fallen from 40.7 per cent, to 27.1 per cent, -from £345,000,000 a year to £220,000,000- although Britain is and always has been our best customer. Yet, in the face of this trend, Government supporters this evening are content to discuss side issues. In the last twelve months, our export income has fallen by £164,000,000, and farm income by £180,000,000. What is the answer to the problem? That is the question that we ask the Government this evening.
Much has been said about trade with red China. Up to a few years ago, we were trading with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to which we sent £22,000,000 worth of wool a year at one stage. Just because we had a “ blue “ with a man called Petrov, trade with Russia was stopped. All of our wool-growers have benefited from trade with Russia. A lot of wool is going to Russia now, indirectly, through other channels. You cannot stop it. Australian butter is being sold in Denmark - butter that we sold to Great Britain. You cannot stop that either. This kind of thing is going on with every country. Goods are going in through the back door if traders cannot get them in through the front door. What is the good of blinding ourselves to what is being done by America, France, Great Britain and every Western country? Honorable members opposite set themselves up as the only people in the world who have never made a mistake. That is another sign of the hypocrisy and humbug of the Government. Why, at this moment we are selling £9,000,000 worth of goods to red China, and we are getting back only £3,000,000 worth. That trade is already in existence.
To listen to honorable members opposite, one would think that we were not selling one pennyworth of goods to red China. We are sending more and more steel to red China. An honorable member opposite spoke this afternoon of our sending potential war .materials to red China, and he asked us to consider what a dreadful thing that would be. We have trade now with red China, with the connivance of this Government. Nevertheless, we hear this hypocrisy and humbug that has poured from the lips of honorable members opposite to-night. Why do they not come out in the open and tell the people of Australia that we are selling goods to red China? Why try to hide that fact and say that it would be a dreadful thing to trade with that country? Are we scared of the reds? One would think, listening to honorable members opposite, that we were scared of red China.
I know that the Communists use trade ideologically. They have been doing so ever since the war, although we have not been fully aware to it. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) spoke on that angle earlier to-night, and I agree with him entirely. Of course they use trade ideologically, and why cannot we do the same? That would be the answer. Have we not enough common sense and sufficient belief in our principles of democracy and the Christian way of life to hit back at communism with trade? If the Communists can use trade ideologically, so can we use it in that way, or in any other way that we like. But no! It is a case of, “ Hands off. Do not use trade as an ideological weapon.” The Communists are winning all the time in this field because we have not the courage to fight back with the same weapons.
Labour says, “ We will trade with ied China if we become the Government “, and we say that to the whole world. We do not hide behind the kind of smoke-screen of hypocrisy that we have seen to-night from Government supporters. I propose to tell the people of my electorate that if we are returned to office we shall trade more and more with red China. We have to sell our products overseas. Our markets are slumping disastrously. Government supporters have told us time and again that primary production is the very essence of our economic system. All right! I will agree with them on that point, but that being so, should we not be doing everything possible to keep it that way?
I answer the honorable members opposite who have spoken in this strain to-night by challenging them to come straight out in the open and say, “ We are against trade with red China and we will not send one article to that country “. They would be dinkum if they said that, and if they stuck to it. But of course they are not dinkum, because they are trading with red China and talking against such trade at the same time.
Our primary producers are suffering seriously because of the weakness of the Government in not trying to beat communism with the weapons that the Communists use. To indicate just how serious the position is, I propose to cite some figures from the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure 1957-58. Let us take 1953-54 as the base year, because that was the year in which the producer, in the dairying industry particularly, received his highest returns. We find that, since that year, on a national basis, wages have increased by 27.5 per cent. Company income has risen by 21 per cent. The income of unincor porated businesses - not primary producers - has increased by 24 per cent, income from rent and interest has increased by 64 per cent. ‘but, Mr. Temporary Chairman, farm income, the very basis of our economy, according to Government supporters, has fallen by 32 per cent, and is stili falling. Yet, we have this talk of communism, such as we have heard to-night, as if speeches of that sort were the answer to this terrific problem that we are up against. The dairying industry has not been mentioned so far to-night by honorable members opposite.
– Yes, it has been.
– Not in any great detail. That industry has been hit the hardest of all our industries, and it is one of our most important. The dairying industry has contributed 5 per cent, of our total overseas funds. The manufacturing industries have contributed only 7.7 per cent., while industries such as those that produce refined petrol products, have contributed 1 per cent.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made a courageous speech in this Parliament recently but was not congratulated by even one of his colleagues in the Australian Country party. That was the expert speech of a man who represents a dairying electorate. 1 have it here before me now and it will go with me during the forthcoming general election campaign. The honorable member gave facts and figures from documents that are available to us in order to show how this industry has gone into a tailspin and that the Government has done nothing about it, except for one thing: It has increased the price of butter to the consumer by an average of 2d. per lb. The consumption of butter will go into a tailspin, too, and up will go the consumption of margarine. That, the Government says, is the answer to the dairyman’s problems. If the consumption of butter in Australia falls, it will be necessary to try to sell more butter on depressed markets overseas. The honorable member for Richmond said - i am not asking for an increase in the sub sidy to the producers, i am asking for an increasein the subsidy to the consumers.
This Government is pouring in £16,000,000 a year by way of subsidies to keep down the price of butter to the consumer. It could have added in this great Budget an additional £2,000,000 or £4,000,000 to the subsidy and met the increase in that way, instead of allowing the burden to fall on the consumer, who is already hard hit by the high prices of foodstuffs. The honorable member for Richmond said that what the Government had done was not the answer, and the dairy-farmers also say that it is not the answer to their problems. The honorable member also stated -
The result of such an increase in subsidy to the consumer would be a decrease in the margin between the price of margarine and the price of butter, and we would be able to sell more butter on the home market.
Let us see how margarine consumption has increased. In 1950-51, 25,981 tons was consumed in Australia. In 1953-54, consumption jumped to 32,000 tons, and last year it jumped still further to 36,000 tons. For the nine months of this year it has already reached 33,000 tons. So consumption has been climbing at an alarming rate. I say “ alarming “ because margarine is made from products not all of which are grown in Australia. It is a substitute for butter. It is true that margarine is cheaper than butter, but the increased consumption of margarine is not helping our great dairying industry. We should try to reduce the difference in price between margarine and butter. If we raised the price paid to the producer and gave a subsidy, the price to the consumer would be lower. More butter would be eaten, and the industry would be saved.
Because of the importance of export products, the dairying industry cannot be neglected. More and more people in Tasmania have gone into dairying since the potato industry collapsed last year. We are now growing a smaller acreage of potatoes than at any time during the last 80 years. Those persons who have gone into the dairying industry include many soldier settlers. If ever men needed assistance, those soldier settlers in the dairying industry need it. I charge this Government with neglect of this great industry, the by-products of which are increasing every year.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to deal chiefly with the speech made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr.
Pollard), but before doing so, perhaps I should refer to one or two matters in other speeches that have been made. While the speech of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) is fresh in my mind, perhaps I should mention one or two statements that he made. He cannot accuse me of being one of the members who deals with communism, because I suppose I have hardly mentioned the word since I have been in the Parliament. The honorable member for Wilmot said that we were selling wool to red China. Suppose we are selling it. What was the main theme of his story? Was he saying that if we sell to red China we should officially recognize that country?
– I did not mention that.
– No, but did the honorable member mean it? Of course, he did not mention it, and he interjects hurriedly now to say so. What he did not say is important. What did he indicate? He said that we should sell to red China and try to build up our market. Did he mean that we should in some way recognize red China? I am not prepared to advocate in this Parliament action along those lines. What can be done for the woolgrowers? When the price of wool reached its peak, the rate per hundred of shearing sheep rose to a figure that had never before been known in Australia. Now, when the price of wool has fallen by 30 per cent, or 40 per cent., is it not fair that the cost of shearing should be reduced? That was asked recently of a Labour member, and he replied, “Certainly not. The primary producers can pay it. They are wealthy people”. Whichever way the political situation is shaping, Labour makes its case accordingly.
I listened also to the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts). He said it seemed a great pity that it was left to members representing city constituencies to put the case for the primary producer. That may apply in the Australian Labour party, and I believe it does, because although the honorable member for Lalor has some little knowledge of primary production, he depends on his majority for election to this Parliament on constituents in the city of Sunshine, which is a major part of his electorate. The rest of his colleagues are absolutely devoid of any knowledge of primary production. As a matter of fact, on many occasions when they have spoken of primary production, they have made statements that were really laughable. The honorable member for Grayndler has asked, “ Why does the Australian Country party not put the case for the primary producers? “ In this chamber, the Chairman calls members in turn from the various sides .according to the numbers of their respective parties in this chamber. This is the first opportunity for an Australian Country party man to make a speech. Five or six members of the Australian Country party are ready and willing to enter this debate, but the honorable member for Grayndler was so unfair to ask, “Why does not the honorable member for Hume rise to speak?” The reason, as he knows, is that the honorable member for Hume will not have an opportunity. But the honorable member for Grayndler thinks that by asking this question he may disparage the honorable member for Hume in some way. Behaviour like this is the height of insincerity, and I deplore it very much indeed.
The honorable member for Grayndler asked what the Government had done for the dairying industry. He may have a very short memory. Has he ever heard of the Paterson equalization scheme, which is the foundation of the good deal which dairymen have had over the years? Mr. Tom Paterson, the former Country party member for Gippsland, brought into being the Paterson equalization scheme, which has provided the basis for everything that has been done for the dairymen since. Has the honorable member never heard of that? He may have heard of it, but he forgets conveniently in order to make such statements.
In relation to the next matter, I want to come right out in the open. The honorable member for Grayndler said, “ There is an auctioneer in our midst somewhere.” I am proud of having been an auctioneer. As a matter of fact, I was brought up on the land, and for most of my life until the age of about 22 I lived on the land; but after that I did go into the auctioneering business. Through being in the auctioneering business, in the course of travelling around the country, I acquired a knowledge of the marketing of stock and all sorts of other primary products. No farmer in Australia could get that knowledge because he could not leave bis farm in order to go round the country. Some people believe that auctioneering is a game that is open to some practices that are cot honest. I want to say that I could go back and do business again tomorrow with any man with whom I did business as an auctioneer 18 or 19 years ago, when I was last in that profession.
Let us get on with the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor, because he is the only man on the Labour side who spoke some common sense, although he tried to cover up a lot. He asked what the Government was doing about the support price scheme for wool. Only on Tuesday, in answer to a question, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) said that if producers put up a proposal to the Government for a floor-ceiling system in the sale of Australia’s wool clip, it would, of course, be carefully considered, but he reminded honorable members that in about 1951, as a result of the advocacy of woolgrowers, the Government put forward a scheme for a support price, but when votes were cast by woolgrowers, it was found that 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, were against the scheme. That is not encouragement for the Government to institute a scheme. In the past, ministers for commerce and agriculture in Liberal party-Country party governments and the present Minister for Primary Industry have said that schemes of that nature would not be implemented unless the primary producers asked for them and approved of them by a vote. The honorable member for Lalor said1, “ I suppose that I shall be accused of suggesting another socialization scheme when I suggest that we have a support price for wool “. Certainly not, as far as this Government is concerned. But some members of the Labour party say that a wheat stabilization scheme is socialist in character. That is a scheme that has been put to a vote of growers and approved by them. But if the Government put into effect, as Labour would do, a floor price for wool, without the consent of the growers, that would be an act of socialism of the very worst order.
The honorable member for. Lalor said that he would preserve the auction system. Labour is under suspicion regarding its attitude to preserving the auction system. We know that, back in 1946, at the great Newmarket’ auction sales in Melbourne,
Labour forced the adoption of what became known to stockmen and others as the onebid auction. What was the one-bid auction? Very few people in this chamber know anything about it. The honorable member for Grayndler and the honorable member for Griffith have never heard of it. Mr. Scully was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when I came into this Parliament in 1946, and that matter came up for discussion two days afterwards. I had to speak on it, because it was a subject of vital importance to the primary producer. Men were marketing fat stock, fat sheep, and fat lambs. This Government, under National Security Regulations, put into the Newmarket sale yards certain men who went along the pens and valued the stock They valued one pen of lambs at, say, £1, another at 21s., and another at 18s. In an auction, the highest bidder should be the purchaser, but in those days that principle did not apply; Labour did not worry about that. The auctioneer came along to a pen of lambs worth £1. If the first bid was £1, or when the bidding reached £1, the lambs had to be knocked down at that figure, irrespective of whether the bidders would have been prepared to pay 25s., 26s., or 30s. for them. It was a one-bid auction. Would Labour again bring in a one-bid auction? In relation to this system of a floor price at auctions, Labour is under suspicion for this very reason, and everybody knows it.
– You are- under suspicion.
– The honorable member for Darling says that I am under suspicion. Let me tell the committee what he said on the occasion to which I have referred. He said -
The action of the graziers is unpatriotic. Indeed, their patriotism is conditioned by their anxiety to make profit.
That is what he said, as reported in “ Hansard “ at that very time. To-night he is interjecting, not knowing that I know these things and have the record in this book of the Commonwealth Parliament in my hand. He cannot deny that he said it. Here it is. 1 shall hand him the “ Hansard “ record, if he likes. Of course, he does not want it; he knows that the record is there. He is satisfied to take my word for it. Honorable members opposite always make personal interjections when things are going against them. We have heard the honor able member for Lalor making personal remarks, and likewise the honorable member for Grayndler and other Labour members. When that happens, it is the first sign that a debater is losing his case. I shall not be drawn into making personal remarks. Somebody said to me, “ I believe you are a great hater of Labour “. I said, “ No, I am not. I have good friends in the Labour party.” But I would regard with pride, being the greatest hater of the Labour party’s policy of socialism, though not of the members themselves. They are a good lot of fellows, but evidently they have been led astray by the wrong system under which they work.
The honorable member for Lalor went on to say that wheat was sold as if it had one owner. Wheat is sold in bulk and shipped in hundreds of thousands of bushels, but every wool-grower has wool of an individual character. That is a well-known fact to buyers who come from overseas year after year.
They look for it in the catalogue, and it is on record in the great wool-selling centres of Australia that certain buyers have bought certain wools for years because those wools suited their type of spinning. If the wool were sold in bulk, this selective buying could not be done. I believe that it would not be in the best interests of the primary producer to abolish selling by auction. It is my belief that the auction system will have to be preserved. But it has been suggested in Western Australia that selling by auction be abolished and that the wool be sold on the appraisement system, as it was during the war years. We all know that when we had overcome our war difficulties and returned to the auction system of selling, the price of wool skyrocketed.
Having mentioned that the price of wool skyrocketed, I take this opportunity of answering what the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) had to say about the Wool Sales Deduction Act which was introduced when wool prices went to their peak in 1950-51. The true position is that the Government realised that, because of the high prices being paid for wool, the woolgrower may not have enough money in hand to meet his income tax assessment. Why was that? The reason for his not having sufficient money was that in the previous year wool brought a normal price, and, uddenly, the price rose to record levels.
Every one should know that under the system of provisional tax, a person is required to pay to the Taxation Branch against the next assessment of the current year’s income an amount based on the previous year’s income. The wool producers had not paid enough provisional tax to meet the tax they would be required to pay on the higher income resulting from a sudden jump in the price of wool to the highest level known in Australia. Actually, the provisional tax paid amounted to only about one-fifth or one-quarter of the actual amount of the assessment in respect of the year of extremely high wool prices. The Government then decided that 20 per cent, of the proceeds from the sale of wool should be credited to the Taxation Branch in the names of the wool-growers concerned, in order to build up the provisional tax payments to approximately an amount sufficient to meet the income tax assessment. Every penny of that money taken by the Taxation Branch was paid back to the wool-growers by meeting their taxation payments. The honorable member for Lalor stated that the Government claimed that this money was taken by it as one means of defeating inflation. Of course it was! But the honorable member for Lalor complained that the Government did not lock this money up in a safe, and that it spent the money.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) quoted a statement by Mr. Aneurin Bevan on the subject of the ideological aspects of trade with Communist countries. I heard Mr. Aneurin Bevan speak when I was in the United Kingdom during the Coronation year. In that speech, he made a very strong attack on Australia, and also said that there were vast potential markets for the United Kingdom in red China. I asked him subsequently what trade he expected the United Kingdom to derive from red China, and he indicated that he expected it to rise from about £8,000,000 to £20,000,000 a year. I also asked him whether he knew what Australia’s purchases from the United Kingdom had been in that year, and he had no idea. That happened to be the year in which Australia bought £697,000,000 worth of goods from the United Kingdom. It was the year when our sterling balances were gravely depleted by the free importation policy of the Government. The United Kingdom’s trade with Australia was 35 times greater than that which Aneurin Bevan expected from red China!
There is no plot in that. The truth about us as a nation, and about the United Kingdom as a nation, is that the kind of goods that we produce and sell will always be sold mainly to countries which have a western style of dress, a western standard of living and a western standard of expectation. In the year in which we spent £697,000,000 in the United Kingdom, we bought something like 158,000 cars and 180,000 motor vehicles from the United Kingdom. Nobody expected that China would do that. It is not part of the standard of living of the ordinary man in China to expect a motor car or many of the other things that are now part of the ordinary standard of expectancy in this country.
Recently, when the Russian ship “ Zaria “ was in Fremantle, the captain noticed on the wharf a line of motor cars in which the waterside workers had driven to work. In conversation with one of the most prominent citizens of Fremantle, the captain indicated that he assumed that those cars were for export. When he was told that they were owned by the waterside workers, he did not believe it. He watched at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, at the time of the change of shift, and registered great surprise when he saw the men drive away in those cars. It was an eye-opening experience for him, and certainly something vastly different from what had been represented to him about the downtrodden workers of the non-Communist world.
What I want to emphasize in connexion with this question of trade is the fact that it is not ideological preference on the part of the Government that induces Japan to buy £147,000,000 worth of wool a year from us. Japan has the most western style of life in the whole of Asia. She was the first Asian country to industrialize. She has a tremendous demand for Australian wool, because the Japanese people have adopted the western habit of dressing in woollen clothing, and Japanese industry is geared to meet those clothing needs. It is doubtful whether China will ever have similar style and tastes in clothing.
I do not want to enter into the controversy that has taken place to-day about butter and margarine, but I do feel that we ought to recognize that we cannot subsidize every industry in the country. We must realize that certain industries must be subsidized at the expense of others. If we tried to subsidize all of them, we should simply be shifting taxation from one industry to another, and have the impossible position in which we should be attempting to make our industries subsidize each other. That is an impossible position. Basically, very large numbers of our industries are subsidized out of our basic commodity which is wool. If we ever get to a position where we have to subsidize wool, we can forget the Australian economy as it is to-day. So, there is not a possible indefinite policy of going on subsidizing everything.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) indicated that there is a rising consumption of margarine. Everybody who represents a dairying constituency has risen and nobly deplored that fact. We can watch them nobly deploring it; but the Commonwealth Government has not one shred of constitutional power to restrain anybody from manufacturing margarine any more than it was proved in a High Court case that it has one shred of constitutional power to restrain any person from conducting the business of banking. I am not arguing that it should have that power; I simply say that it has not the power.
If the tastes of the Australian community are such, as the honorable member for Wilmot has said, and we have reached a stage where 46.000 tons of margarine are consumed yearly and consumption is increasing by 7,000 or 8,000 tons a year, nobody can do anything about it. The dairying industry may get bigger subsidies to enable it to compete with margarine, but if there is a shift in the Australian taste in that direction, the blow will fall on the dairying industry precisely as it fell on the coal-mining industry following the fall in the demand for coal, which has been one of the spectacular features of the Australian economy. That change is causing coal mining to disappear steadily as an occupation in Australia. Coal is going out of use. lt may be that with improvements, such as increased vitamin content, margarine will become a powerful competitor with butter. Incidentally, margarine does not contain chloresterol which medical science seems to be indicating to be one of the disadvantages of many dairy products in its relation to heart disease. A different set of people will get a living out of a different commodity just as the coal-miners are ceasing to get a living from coal and are shifting to something else.
The valuable feature of the speech of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) is his indication that trade is one aspect of our international demeanour, and that it wins men either to like us or dislike us according to how we express our attitude to them through trade. I believe that that is the true ideological significance of trade, and I believe that this Government has made very many grave mistakes in that respect. I believe also that that has not been the fault of the men on the spot. I have been profoundly impressed, as I have gone round the world, with the calibre of the men that the Commonwealth Government has as trade commissioners. Very often they have been men, in my opinion, who have much more knowledge and have won much more respect in the communities to which they are accredited than have the regular diplomats of the Australian diplomatic service.
I also want to say that the impulses coming from the Minister down through those channels to the rest of the world have been most unwinning. I remember that during the coronation year we all received through Australia House one of those dreadful screeds from the Minister for Trade about what he called the dumping by other countries of their surpluses in the United Kingdom. This was shocking to everybody of any significance in the United Kingdom Government and to the 60,000 Australian visitors who were in the United Kingdom. We were in the United Kingdom when it was critically short of food, and official statements were emanating from Australia as to how we were resisting, tooth and nail, the despatch of American food surpluses anywhere on earth lest that should cause prices to fall. It would have done the Minister good to hear the comments that emanated from people who were short of food and who read this stuff that was being pumped out by the Australian Government into the United Kingdom itself.
A year later, the food situation in the United Kingdom had been transformed, but if you go to countries which are short of food and where statements by the Minister have frequently gone declaring that the greatest concern of the Australian Government is against somebody despatching their surplus food there lest the price should fall, you will find that whilst you may be championing the cause of your own primary producers very ardently, you will not be doing much to win the affection or respect of other people.
The honorable member for Chisholm has pointed out that manufacturing prices are not falling at, present, commensurately with agricultural prices. Of course, a war drives everybody back to basic subsistence and food becomes progressively more and and more valuable. It becomes the central feature of all black markets. The more stable conditions are, and the more agriculture can get back to normal production, the greater is the tendency for prices of food to fall. That, I am afraid, is what we are suffering from in Australia to-day. But the consuming countries do not regard that as a bad thing. They regard a downward movement in the price of food as a welcome sign that the world’s standard of living is rising. Their capacity to consume is increased.
The other aspects of the Government’s trade policy over the years - since we have been raking over them - have been represented by many Government spokesman as an endless summer of success. I advise them to look at Keasing’s Contemporary Archives. They will read there that after this Government had forced all Australian firms to repudiate contracts in the United Kingdom, the British Minister for Trade, Mr. Thorneycroft, said, “When is a contract not a contract? When it is an Australian contract”. It took our people a good many years to live down in England the effect of this Government forcing many Australian importers, who had been encouraged to import in the previous year, to repudiate their contracts, particularly large numbers of contracts in the textile industries of the United Kingdom. We have had a good deal of comment by the Minister for Trade in violent criticism of those countries which have a strongly favorable trade balance with us. There have been “ hear, hears “ from New Zealand saying that they are glad to see the Minister for Trade converted. What do we propose to do about the 7 to 1 trade ratio in our favour with New Zealand. It would be well for this Commonwealth, which enjoys an 11 to 1 trade ratio in its favour with France, a 12 to 1 ratio in its favour with Japan, and a 6 to 1 or a 7 to 1 ratio in its favour with Belgium, if it were to speak much more softly on the subject of these balances of trade.
The Minister gave assurances to France about the importation of goods into this country freely if there was a demand for French products in Australia. Yet, we have just had the astonishing example of the knocking back of a demand for the French Caravelle aircraft in our trade with France with which we have an 11 to 1 trade ratio in our favour. That again is not an extremely winning demeanour for Australia to present to those western countries with whom we do trade.
The United Kingdom is having an unpleasant and embarrassing controversy - and I think it has an ideological origin having regard to the statements by the Minister in Iceland who started this controversy - concerning the 12-mile limit. It has been a standard practice over many years to regard territorial waters as ending at the 3-mile limit. Iceland has claimed a 12-mile limit, and the United Kingdom is arguing against that point of view. At the same time, this Government in its international demeanour, is making a far more outrageous claim by claiming control of all fishing on the whole of the continental shelf of Australia. I understand that Japan is challenging that claim in international law. If there is any international liability arising from the controversy between the United Kingdom and Iceland, Iceland has a perfect example to cite in that claim made by the Government of Australia. I hand that to the honorable member for Chisholm as one of the indications of the ideological consequences of the Government’s public demeanour in trade at the present time.
.- I listened with a great deal of respect to the comments of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I always listen to him attentively, because I am sure that every one in this chamber will acknowledge that his comments in the Parliament are always thoughtful and critical, and frequently very constructive. I have great admiration for the contributions that he makes to our debates. His comments- to-night were vastly different from the observations made by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). It was in regard to the statements made by the honorable member for Parkes that I wish .to make some comments.
The committee will have observed that the honorable member for Fremantle completely avoided making any comment on the statements of the honorable member for Parkes, which were referred to and answered so competently by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). The honorable member for Fremantle merely alluded to the matter of trade with Russia and the statements of Aneurin Bevan in the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Parkes this afternoon was very specific in his condemnation of Australia’s trade with Japan, and he suggested that if would far more become this country to trade to the very limit with Communist China, or mainland China, as he called it. The honorable member for Parkes*- and he was supported by the honorable member for Wilmot - suggested that the Labour party was opposed to child labour, which, he alleged, was used in Japan. The Labour party claims that its basic policy is to ensure a high standard of employment, a high wage structure and a great degree of freedom for all employees. These are claimed to be the basic principles of the Labour party.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Kingsford Smith says, “ Hear! Hear! “, but I did’ not hear him contradict the honorable member for Parkes when that gentleman suggested that Australia should trade to the utmost’ with’ Communist China, although it is widely known, and has been written in the United Nations reports and stated by the International’ Labour
Organization, that in Communist China there are no less than 25,000,000 workerswho are working under the barrel of a rifle and under the lash of a whip- 25,000,000 slave labourers. Yet the honorable member for Parkes suggests that we should accept them and do our utmost tosupport a system under which the workers are driven by the lash and work under the threat of a rifle. How can any membersof the Labour party reconcile their viewswith those of the honorable member for Parkes and still remain true to the principles which they claim to be inherent in. their basic policy?
The honorable member for Parkes was invited to Communist China as’ a guest of Mao Tse Tung, and evidently the hospitality that was lavished on him by this Communist leader has so influenced him that’ he has returned to Australia frantically endeavouring to pay his debt to the Communist power- in China by completely sacrificing the basic principles of Labour.
I think it must be clear to every one in this Parliament that the Communist powersare sticking rigidly to the principle enunciated, first by Khrushchev and secondly by Mao Tse Tung, that trade is not a matter of economics. The Communist powers trade only for political purposes. Surely this was made completely clear to every observer of events in Japan during the recent’ election campaign, when the radiostations in Communist China were cutting in immediately after the news sessions broadcast in Japan, and threatening the Japanese- people that unless they destroyed’ the Kishi regime and elected a government’ that- would be friendly to Communist Chinaand would, in fact, subject itself to thedictates of Communist China, that countrywould destroy the industries and the economy of Japan. Because the people of Japan did not heed these threats, Communist China has- now embarked on that threatened policy. All trade between Communist China and Japan, which previously was responsible for 10 per cent, of Japan’s total’ export- income, was stopped* immediately. Of course, this caused economic confusion* in the country. Of course it” caused unemployment in Japans
But’ this was not the end’ of the war. Communist China is- using trade as- an- instrument of war, as the honorable- member for Moreton suggested, just as much as it is using the threat of the atom bomb. Only the other day we had the opportunity of discussing the situation in South-East Asia with some visitors from countries in that area - members of the diplomatic corps. We were told that in those countries the Chinese populations - and we know that they total between 12,000,000 and 13,000,000 - have received instructions, which they may or may not obey, from Communist China that in no circumstances are they to buy anything made in Japan. We know that Communist China is buying all the commodities that it possibly can from Singapore, from Hong Kong and from any other available source, so that she can dump those goods on the traditional Japanese markets, for the express purpose of completely destroying the economy of Japan.
Is there a nation in the world that relies more upon exports than Japan? Japan must collapse if it is not able to continue to sell its goods. How can it possibly sell those goods and maintain its economy if Communist China, by exploiting her 25,000,000 slave labourers, is able to use the product of that slave labour to buy commodities, from any source in the world, at any price, which it can then sell on the world’s markets at a price less than the price of the same commodities manufactured in Japan? Slowly but surely the markets of the Japanese people must be destroyed throughout the South-East Asian area. It is freely admitted by the people and the merchants in those countries that Japan is being frozen out of the markets. Communist China does not care how much it will cost to achieve this end. Of course, it has the advantage of 25,000,000 slave labourers. It matters not what commodities may cost Communist China; she will pay any price to get the goods merely so that she can dump them on the market at 10 per cent, less than the merchants are paying for similar goods manufactured in Japan. This is part of the strategy of the Communist powers, which has been outlined to us time and again in public statements, not only of Khrushchev and Stalin, but also of Mao Tse Tung and Chou En-lai. If we are prepared, as a nation, to continue to allow this practice to go on, then I say that we are contributing to our own destruction. Most certainly, Japan is only the first of the victims in Asia who will fall to this well-organized conspiracy emanating from Communist China. The next countries to fall will, of course, be those to our immediate north. Surely nobody in this Parliament can deny that those countries of Asia - of which we must consider ourselves one - can be likened to a bunch of grapes, and that slowly the hand of Communist China is plucking those grapes and getting nearer and nearer to our own country.
If we are to survive as a nation it is time that we took the initiative to stop this weapon of trade being used for our destruction and the destruction of the other nations of Asia. It was implied only a few moments ago by interjection that Australia had sold steel to China. Yes, that is true; but that does not mean that we on this side of the chamber agree that we should continue to trade with red China. We believe that trade with red China should cease.
– Why did you let them sell the steel?
– As the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is so anxious to know why we on this side, as Government supporters, did not raise our voices on that occasion to prevent the firm of Lysaght’s from selling that steel, let me tell him that had Australia not supplied the steel it would most certainly have been sold to Communist China by the United Kingdom. The fact is that the United Kingdom has given de jure recognition to red China. The United Kingdom has recognized that it made a mistake when it gave de jure recognition to red China. It is being freely admitted by a great number of people in the United Kingdom who know the facts, and the United Kingdom itself is frankly admitting that British trade with red China is not to Britain’s advantage. With every year that the United Kingdom has been trading with Communist China the deficiency in the trade balance has grown greater and greater. In order to try to bring about some state of balance into the trade, the United Kingdom Government made an official approach to Chou En-lai, Premier of Communist China, seeking permission for a British trade mission to go to Peking. The Communist government in Peking refused the British Government permission to send a trade mission.
The United Kingdom has made the further mistake of continuing to throw good money after bad in a bid to recover the situation. Because she is doing this, and also by her action in trading with Communist China, the United Kingdom is subsidizing the ultimate destruction of the free world, and particularly the destruction of Australia. So I ask, Mr. Chairman, that our Minister for Trade and our Government should initiate an approach to the United Kingdom Government to point out the dangerous situation in which we in Australia are placed. They should quote to the United Kingdom Government as an example the situation that has developed in regard to Japan. Should the British doubt the reality of our fears, cannot we easily refer them to the situation in Malaya? Cannot we point out to them that Soviet Russia, with a surplus of tin itself, was buying more tin from South America, and then flooding the world market, thereby doing great injury to Malaya, another country to our immediate north?
If we are to survive as a nation, if we are to continue to control our own destiny, if the self-determination of this country is to be continued, we must take the initiative to bring to the notice of the free world the fact that the weapon of trade is ultimately going to be the cause of our destruction. If we fail to do this, if we fail to recognize the facts, if we fail to make an approach to the United Kingdom then, I say emphatically, I see no hope for this country of ours, because it will be only a matter of time before the Australian economy will collapse in exactly the same way as the Japanese economy will collapse. Let us make no mistake about the terrific impact that the collapse of the Japanese economy would have on the free world.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not propose to reply to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) except to say that we are supposed to be discussing the proposed votes for the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Trade, and the Department of Primary Industry. I think that the honorable gentleman’s speech came more within the category of a debate on foreign affairs. The honorable gentleman seemed to think that we should be very concerned about changing the government of another country. Unfortunately, the people of Australia have not been very successful about changing the government of their own country. The majority of the people who cast votes at the last general election nearly three years ago, voted in favour of the Labour party but, because of the distribution of votes in the various electorates with the present boundaries, Australia has had an anti-Labour Government in office since that time. I do not think we should worry about trying to change the government of another country. We should be more concerned about changing the government of our own country.
My criticism to-night will be directed mainly to the deplorable way in which the Government has handled our export trade and the industries which supply it. The Government has failed in many respects in that field of activity and, by its actions, has depressed the prices of our primary products. Unemployment has increased because of the reduction in the income of our primary industries.
We recently read in the press about the fall in wool prices at the recent sales. An editorial in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said that last year the wool cheque was based on an average price of 62d. per lb., and that the present average price had fallen to 46d. per lb. The editorial also said that it was estimated that this year the physical clip would be down by about 2.8 per cent. The market has opened with average prices about 25 per cent, lower than the average for last year’s clip. The article said further -
The export price of wool is the lowest since early 1949. . . . The £A has been devalued on the foreign exchange. It has lost some 60 per cent, of its internal purchasing power and operating costs have risen substantially.
At the same time, I point out, the incomes of primary producers are substantially lower because of the depreciated value of the money they receive. The article says -
Yet the Government in its last Budget did not raise a little finger to encourage the industry.
The point I want to make is that the United Kingdom is one of the countries that have bought substantially less from Australia in the past twelve months than in the previous year. Our trade with the United Kingdom in the last twelve months showed a deficit of £104,000,000. The United Kingdom’s purchases of wool were £30,000,000 lower in value than the previous year’s purchases. I was a member of this Parliament at the time when Australia did a great deal for the British Government in Britain’s time of need. I think that we supplied to Britain, free, £45,000,000 worth of goods produced in Australia. With our marketing outlook as it is, we are entitled to some consideration from the British Government in respect of trade. Britain should buy more of our exports instead of looking all round the world in order to find places where she can buy things a little cheaper than she can buy them from us.
If we had a policy of trading more with the countries that have deficits in their trading balances with us, if we bought more of the products of those countries in Europe, I think we would have greater competition for our primary products and would receive much better prices for them. I am quite sure that if these countries found they had to buy our products in order to share our market here they would be inclined to buy more from us. One thing that the British Government did which substantially reduced the price of Australian wool and of many other primary products, including minerals such as lead, was to increase the interest rate in 1957. On 4th November, 1957, the following comment appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “:-
So far from a higher Bank of England rate indicating the need for a rise in Australian interest rates, there is a strong case for suggesting it does the very opposite.
The point needs making because there were some signs of apprehension and holding off among foreign wool buyers yesterday at suggestions that bank credit would become dearer here, in line with the United Kingdom.
If Britain is tightening up her economy, and affecting our export markets as a result, the correct policy here is to that extent a reflationary one, and reduced interest rates would be consistent with such policy.
The article suggested, further, that buyers should be encouraged to stock up as cheaply as possible, using Australian bank credit. If we made credits freely available we would be improving our market prospects. Sir Douglas Copland said quite recently that when the Bank of England had raised its interest rate to 7 per cent, the Australian
Government had imposed a credit squeeze and had maintained it for several months after the level of export prices had fallen. He said that Australia could have started immediately on a policy of expansion or, at least, adopted a policy of relaxing restrictions. He added: -
You would have known that, with a 7 per cent, bank rate, the price of wool and metals would fall.
On 12th November last, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether there was any truth in the rumour at present circulating that the Commonwealth proposed to increase interest rates in keeping with the rise that had occurred recently in the United Kingdom. He made the simple reply that this was the first he had heard of it. On 20th November I repeated my question on the basis that I had had a circular from the bank stating that interest rates on the financing of wool purchases would be increased to 8 per cent. I asked whether the Prime Minister knew that, on 2nd December, the bank rate would be increased from 6 per cent, to 8 per cent. He still said that he had not heard of it, except from me, and1 that the matter would be dealt with by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the following day.
By increasing the interest rates as it did the Australian Government helped to depress the value of our wool. When purchasers have to meet high interest charges they are usually prepared to pay less for a particular product, and are discouraged from stockpiling it. The natural tendency is for them to carry on on a hand-to-mouth basis. That can only result in lower demand and a falling market price. In short, the Government has contributed to the destruction of wool prices and the instability of the wool market by acquiescing in the desire of the private banks to increase interest rates on the financing of wool purchases. If the Government were to put an export tax of ls. per lb. on wool the prices which it brought would have to fall in order to cover the impost. It is equally obvious that a government impost in the form of increased interest rates cannot fail to lower wool prices. The wool market is very delicately balanced; the balance may be easily disturbed. It is even more so with the present weak buying position of France, the United Kingdom, the United
States of America and Japan, all of which have their own internal financial problems.
We have recently witnessed the Government pressing for banking reform at the instigation of the private financiers. Many primary producers were shocked to find that the Government had acquiesced in this attempt to exploit interest rates on wool purchases. It is most unfortunate that the wool industry, upon which Australia’s stability and prosperity so greatly depend, has been singled out for this impost. Does this Government stand for national progress and the assisting of primary producers, or for the benefit of the private banks only?
I believe that we should develop, by way of agreement, direct trade finance arrangements with foreign Powers and ignore the London loan market. Our national bank should offer to finance the purchase of Australian produce. This would increase our visible and invisible trade income. I direct the attention of honorable members to the effect it would have on such things as interest and commission, bank charges and freight costs. The money saved could be used to establish shipping lines and otherwise attempt to assist the primary producer. We are an island continent. We have to bring our imports across the seas, and send our exports away in like manner. It is most important that we should have a national shipping line. I am sure that its creation would be one of the first acts of a Labour government - especially now that there is such great advocacy in the shipping world for substantially increased freights. If they are agreed to our trade balances must suffer still further.
We should arrange finance for the grower through the rural section of the Commonwealth Bank. The money would be made available to the grower, would go into circulation and would in due course return to the Commonwealth Bank. That would eliminate exploitation by the London loan market. It could not fail to improve our trade balances and provide a more static market for wool, with consequent benefits to the wool-grower, producers of lead, zinc, and so on. The prices for these products are fixed on the London exchange. We have to sell at that price, but when we want to buy goods from Britain we have to pay the price which that country demands.
It is high time that the Government had some concern for the welfare of the people of Australia and ensured a reasonable price for our primary produce. Instead, it has meekly followed the financial policy of the United Kingdom and has destroyed the producer’s prices and markets. I repeat, Australia should finance the purchase of her produce. Countries like Poland are anxious to see that happen. They would like finance to be arranged until the goods reach their markets. At present, such finance is available through the United Kingdom only. One reason why the interest rate was raised in the United Kingdom was a desire to prevent the Australian banking instrumentality from financing exports - an attempt to force all buyers of our primary products to employ the British financial machine.
We have been exploited for far too long by the financiers on the other side of the world, and by the anti-Labour governments of this country. Members of the Australian Country party, who claim to represent the farmer, sat idly by and said nothing when the interest rates on finance for the purchase of Australian wool were raised. That action was undoubtedly a prime cause of the depressed price which has since been offered for our wool. Shortly after the increase occurred, the following statement appeared in the “Sydney Morning Herald “:-
Steep falls in wool prices at Australian sales this week sent rates close to the lowest points of the 1957-58 season.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We have just been treated by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), to the most extraordinary speech on trade I have ever heard. Here we have this gentleman saying that the Government has depressed our own wool prices, and suggesting that we should finance the sale of our own wool. But he did not explain how it would be possible for us to establish overseas balances if we supplied the buyer of our wool with our own money. In all my life I have never heard such confused thinking. He said that the high price of our finance prevented people from buying our wool. But how does that effect the price of wool sold in South
Africa, Uruguay, Argentine and other woolproducing countries? This is a most extraordinary statement from a possible minister of a future Labour government. Even the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) could not make a mistake like that. 1 was very refreshed as the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) was by the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) coming after the speech of the demagogue, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). The honorable member for Grayndler chided the Australian Country party about being a farmers’ party and not looking after primary production. He said that there were no farmers in the farmers’ party. That, of course, is very subtle propaganda. The Australian Country party is not a farmers’ party. That is a sectional idea that Labour tries to palm on to us. We represent rural people generally. That is why we have a broad section of the community in our party. lt was quite obvious that the honorable member for Grayndler had not the faintest idea of the problems of the dairy industry. He dismissed it very casually. The only interesting thing about his argument was the statement that the Labour party would take taxes from the wealthy Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other companies in order to subsidize the dairy industry. That statement indicates an increase in taxation if a Labour government is returned to office. It will be remembered that the Labour party wanted the Government to give more money for education, for roads and for other purposes. So we begin to understand the Opposition’s policy of more taxation to solve our problems.
The honorable member cannot chide the Government because the overseas price of primary products has fallen. Wool prices have fallen not because through the involved financial wizardry described by the honorable member for Darling, but simply because of a fall in the consumption of wool. Each of the main wool consuming countries consumed about 20 per cent, less wool than usual in the last three quarters. That is the reason why the price of wool has fallen. The extraordinary financial ideas that were voiced by the honorable member for Darling are too astonishing for words.
The dairying industry is a very important industry. The honorable member for Grayndler should realize that it represents the living of some 600,000 Australians and that to dismiss it as a bad joke will not encourage the primary producer to have much confidence in the Labour party. There are important problems facing the dairying industry. Our traditional market for butter is the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Government, by a system of subsidy, has increased the butter production in that country. That is why butter is now difficult to sell in the United Kingdom, and it is why the price of butter has fallen. The making of a careless, joking, demagogic sort of speech will not help this country. The farmer does not think that it is a good joke to laugh at his problems.
A thoughtful speech was made by the honorable member for Fremantle, but I should like to make one correction to it. He accused the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) of saying that no surplus foodstuffs should be given to the starving people in different parts of the world. That has never been the policy of the Minister or of the Government. The Minister has maintained that any surplus produced by a policy of price support should not be placed on our traditional markets. That argument is a very different kettle of fish. The Minister has never objected to surpluses being given to alleviate starvation, an action which would not affect our traditional markets, but he has opposed unfair practices in trading. For instance, Ceylon has been a market for our flour. We lost it because Ceylon obtained subsidized wheat from Germany and France. We have corrected that position. No government in the history of Australia has made greater endeavours to promote trade than this one. These are some of the problems affecting primary industries. The fall in world prices has been brought about by economic conditions over which this Government has no control. The interesting point is that although the fall has been heavy, our economy has become so stabilized that it has not yet felt the effect of it. So, gradually, an understanding of the Budget will come to our opponents who now criticize it so strongly. It will be understood that the purpose of the Budget is to deal with these matters. At the end of this year people will begin to realize how clever has been the Government’s action in bringing down a Budget of this sort.
An extraordinary statement was made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He was talking about the 20 per cent, wool sales deduction which he said never went back into circulation. That money went to pay the wool-growers’ taxation when it was due. The money was taken out of the economy to safeguard the living standards of every other person in the country. Had that money been allowed to go into the economy it would have had grave inflationary effects. Honorable members should not forget that at the period when the price of wool rose so high and inflation had already started under the Chifley Government, there was further money to be placed in circulation. War gratuities totalling about £67,000,000 had to be paid. That amount was to go into the Australian economy, over and above the fantastic returns from wool. This would have been highly inflationary, perhaps not according to the method of finance of the honorable member for Darling, but certainly according to the methods of normal finance.
The Government had to pay £67,000,000 in hard cash. The Chifley Government had put £37,000,000 into reserve, but not in cash. The cash had to be found by this Government. The wool sales deduction legislation, a fine piece of legislation, stopped the enormous flow of money into the economy at that time. That is quite a different story to the one given by the honorable member for Lalor. The fall in the price of primary products is not the fault of this Government, nor can it be charged with having failed to promote trade. Falling prices are a world condition and I think that the Government has done its best to meet the situation.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Why has no date yet been proclaimed for the Commonwealth Police Act 1957 to come into operation?
– The Attorney-General has supplied the following information: -
Before the act can be brought into force, extensive regulations are necessary. In addition, the terms and conditions of service of Commonwealth police officers are to be determined by the Attorney-General under section 5 (4) of the act with the concurrence of the Public Service Board. The Attorney-General has pointed out that these considerations involve the establishment of an administrative structure operating in all States of the Commonwealth. He had hoped that these administrative steps could all have been completed before this, but unfortunately the work involved, taken in conjunction with the other commitments of his department, has not permitted this to be done. However, the matter is being actively pursued.
y asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The present position regarding enlistment applications is -
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following reply: -
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) In the period 1st July, 1957, to 30th June, 1958, the Department of the Army pur chased the following houses and flats in the city and suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane -
The following houses and flats were purchased in Melbourne and Sydney during the period 1st May, 1958, to 30th June, 1958. No purchases were effected in Brisbane in this period -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) Floor area - Twelve houses each 1,650 square feet plus 250 square feet for garage; five houses each 1,820 square feet plus 250 square feet for garage; one house 1,925 square feet plus 250 square feet for garage.
Cost of each house type estimated at - Three-bedroom, £8,570 (including garage and store); four-bedroom, £9,313 (including garage and store); five-bedroom, £9,755 (including garage and store). 2. (a) Total number of dwellings at present planned is eighteen, (b) Total cost, £158,295.
i asked the acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - (The following details concerning imports and exports to and from Australia during the year ended on 30th June, 1958, are taken from statistics prepared by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. The figures include iron and steel in crude form such as ingots, blooms, slabs and billets, as well as basic shapes of iron and steels, e.g., plate, bar. strip, angle, pipes and tubes, etc., but excludes ores of iron and steel.)
The remaining 24 per cent, of the total was exported to 59 other countries.
The remaining 8 per cent, of the total was imported from 16 other countries.
Should the honorable member require further detail in respect of any country not named, I would be pleased to let him have that detail.
e asked the acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Trade with China.
m asked the acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Australia’s imports from the mainland of China were -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What has been, and is expected to be, the value of freight concessions by the Australian National Line on the carnage of wheat between the States during 1958?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
Freight concessions totalling £90,041 have been made by the Australian National Line on wheat transported in its vessels to relieve drought conditions in New South Wales and Queensland. As the Australian National Line had no experience in moving large quantities of wheat over long distances on the Australian coast the original rate quoted by the line was based on estimates only and included the cost of fitting out the vessels. As the wheat lift progressed the line was able to effect economies in the operating costs involved and reduced the rate by 5s. per ton on 1st January, 1958, and by a further 2s. 6d. per ton on 1st March, 1958. The £90,041 referred to represents the savings resulting from these reductions during the emergency wheat lift which has now been concluded.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply:-
In addition tenders have been called for a 2,000 dead-weight ton roll-on Strait trade. roll-off cargo ferry for the Bass.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: - 1. (a) Under the Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement provision is made for the State of South Australia to convert to standard gauge its 5-ft. 3-in. gauge system, the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge lines in the South Eastern division, and the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge lines of the Peterborough division. The Commonwealth also undertook responsibility for conversion work on the Central and Northern Australian Railways, and to take steps to ensure that the Silverton Tramway is acquired and vested in the South Australian Railway Commissioner. Clause 33 of the Silverton Tramway Act of 1886 empowers the State of New South Wales to purchase the Silverton Tramway at a price fixed in relation to company profits, alternatively by clause 3 the company is required to alter the gauge when the Governor with approval of Executive Council considers it expedient to do so. Preliminary discussions were undertaken in 1952 between the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and directors of the Silverton Tramway Company concerning the proposed acquisition or conversion of the tramway. No further discussions have taken place pending a decision concerning the Broken Hill-Port Pirie railway. Regarding standardization of the Broken Hill-Port Pirie line, the Premier of South Australia wrote to the Prime Minister on 12th June, 1958, indicating that his Government was now willing to undertake standardization of the northern narrow-gauge system m his State, and requesting the provision of Commonwealth funds for preliminary work. The Prime Minister informed the Premier of South Australia on 11th July, 1958, that the Commonwealth was willing to give his proposals careful and prompt attention as soon as details are worked out. (b) The Premier of Western Australia wrote to the Prime Minister on 23rd June, 1958, asking that work on standardizing the Perth-Kalgoorlie line be put in hand during 1958-59. This submission will be considered having regard to rail standardization policy and current commitments in respect thereto. 2. See 1 above.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Are any experiments being conducted in Australia or overseas in the use of hydrofoil equipment for small cargo vessels?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: -
I have no knowledge of any experiments being conducted in Australia on hydrofoil vessels. Much experimental work has been carried out overseas since hydrofoil small craft were first developed about 40 years ago and both the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Shipbuilding Board have kept in touch with progress being made. A considerable number of German and Italian small craft are at present in operation using hydrofoil for fast passenger services. At the present stage of development, the use of hydrofoils has advantage only with comparatively light highspeed vessels and it seems unlikely that it will be applied to cargo vessels.
d asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
What was the estimated value of the section of the work, the completion of which was deferred until a later date?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
son asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The auction sale held at St. Mary’s on 26th, 28th, 29th and 30th April, 1958, comprised over 1,500 lots or 94 pages of auction sale cataloguing. I do not consider that the expense and time involved in the compilation of the information asked for would be justified. The greater percentage of the items sold represented second-hand plant and equipment, &c, which had been used during the construction of the factory and the total amount realized was £185,743. The prices obtained were generally good and in many cases exceeded the original purchase price.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following reply: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 August 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580828_reps_22_hor20/>.